Friday, November 14, 2008

Piss-Poor books

I have this theory about some of the books I read. You know, that trend book you pick up at kroger and breeze through in a few days and then end up donating 2 years later when you realize you'll never read it again. Or even that book that you know has no intrinsic value, but that you still go back to year after year until the cover lies in shreds and you have to get a new copy or use copious amounts of clear tape to hold it together. Beloved by the masses, hated by English professors, these are the books that shoot people to the top ten lists and then dump them back into their original tax brackets a year later. These books, my friends, are like cheap beer.
Cheap beer is the kind of thing you pick up because you're bored, tired, or too poor to buy the nice stuff. You buy it because you don't feel like agonizing over the flavor it will impart to your taste buds and you don't want to spend a lot of time and effort on keeping it at just the right temperature. And it doesn't require that of you. Cheap
beer is exactly what it promises to be on the box - a fast high that won't break your wallet and can leave you miserable the next day. So you buy it and
you drink it all as quickly as possible, not paying attention to
anything but the growing pleasant fuzzy sensation and pushing to the back of your thoughts the mounting queasiness you feel as you continue to drink... until you're finished.
And many novels are the same way, at least if they're being
honest with themselves. They don't want to fundamentally change your
thinking or your lifestyle. They're simply there to do the best they can to give you a
story, a cheap high that you can enjoy 'guilt-free' as it were,
requiring financial but not mental investment. And that's a great
thing - if you ask most people why they read they'll say they do it to
escape and some of the best literature has been written with no
greater prospect than pleasing the masses and making a buck.
So the next time someone tries to feed you bull about how a novel
has no "literary value," ask them to define what their literary values
are. If great literature has to be utterly incomprehensible, impossible to sell, and end tragically or at least with an impending sense of the hopelessness of life, then chances are you're talking to a literary tool. Avoid them, and get back to your copy of Twilight.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Masculinity Asserts Itself Early

*No babies were harmed by fire in the making of this post.

I went to my brother's house this weekend. I would show you pictures but I still don't have a digital camera at my disposal - he has an incredibly cute son named Nate. Nate takes after his dad in many ways; I can already see the macho welling up in him (and the intelligence to use it well). This is a one year old who will already make a muscleman pose if prompted by Mom and Dad. I love him.
So at one point in the evening I see Nate fixated on a gallon jug of distilled water. I figure he's just going to maul the purple cap (I mean, if I were a one year old that's what I'd do) but he just stands there and stares, like he's trying to understand this new creature at its deepest level. Then, with the intense focus one usually only sees in Olympians, he squats into a perfect lifter's stance, grasps the base of the jug and lets out a wild "Ay-yi-yi!" war cry as he attempts the lift. He was a little disappointed that it was beyond him but comforted himself by gnawing messily on the delicious-looking purple cap.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Heating, Lead Paint, and General Silliness

So yesterday Ben rushed home from school so he could be there when the gas got turned on (MUCH more exciting than it would be normally since it's November and our hot water heater is gas-powered). To understand what happened next I will need to give some horribly boring and realistic background, so prepare to snore!
When we originally made an offer on the house, it was with the understanding that a) everything would be up to code and b) all the chipping lead paint would be painted over, since we have a government loan that doesn't want us to feel gradually worse and worse until we die of lead poisoning. Reasonable enough. The lead paint got taken care of after some fighting and shuffling between the realtor and then the seller hired a man to bring the heating up to code, which he claimed he did. An inspector came in and said he couldn't approve it but our realtor and the man who "fixed" the heater produced a signed document saying it was up to code and the inspector didn't know what he was talking about. Being young and naive, we accepted it.
So when the gas man said the heater wasn't up to code, Ben quietly became very angry. (He doesn't do anything loudly except teach, which he apparently does at full volume with great animation. I'd pay to see that.) Anyway, long story short, the seller will pay for our repairs to the heater. But it again will take 10 calls to our realtor to have her call the seller and have them call her back and forth and so on and so on.
Which brings me to the point of all this nonsense. Our sellers seemed like reasonable, calm people to me. It makes sense to have a realtor in place to broker a home selling (even though we made the mistake of not getting our own, but having the realtor play dual roles). But it seems a little ridiculous when both parties have agreed on what needs to be done to continue to have a go-between. Seems like it just creates more anger than just speaking with each other would at this point. And i'm not saying it's always like that - I can think of many personality types that need that buffer between tempers. Damn bureacracy.
In other news, today I get to go stand in line to vote! Yaay! Ben's been in line for about 15 minutes and says he'll be there for awhile.

Monday, November 3, 2008

My New Job

Now don't get me wrong - I adore Americorps and I love what I do each day. But for the last three days I've been captivated body and mind by my new job; homeownership. Boxes have been packed, stacked, moved, cursed at, moved again, and unpacked, and flaws have been discovered in the guttering, the dishwasher, and of course the paint job (chipping lead paint in the closets!).
After a three day marathon of moving, kicking, cursing, and making biting comments about my husband's desire for rugs that wrap around the base of the toilet (anathema to my idea of bathroom sanitation, which rivals the scrubbing up of surgeons), you would think that my only desire would be to flop down on the couch or go to work to escape from the madness peeking out at every turn. But no - I want to go buy batteries for the amazing Monty Python talking grail that one of my friends bought us. I want put shelves into our too-narrow-for-anything else closet. I want to rip down every shred of multi wallpaper in the bathroom and trim the pine tree and mow the lawn and any number of other tasks which shouldn't occupy my thoughts while I should be encouraging volunteers to do their thing.
And i'm sure there's nothing new about this - it's the classic working woman's grumble. "I don't have enough time to do what I want to do at home." But it's more than that, I think. I find myself more and more needing to be doing something to be mentally stimulated. If I want to write, I need to go for a walk, inevitably forgetting writing utensils and ending up frantically repeating phrases to myself only to have Ben interrupt with "what are you thinking?" I'm sure the mental benefits of physical activity have been plastered in every health magazine in America, but why is it so hard to find work that incorporates the best of both worlds? I would say my dream is to stay at home (work my butt off) and write freelance (then work some more) but then the quality of the writing in my blog might drive away potential employers. I took this year with Americorps (yay Americorps!) to think about what I want to do, and it's been great. Now I just have to find my way there.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tentative Beginnings

It still seems so adult to me, so strange to say "I've had a rough year." It doesn't seem like I should say that; only men wearing overalls or women with fake fruit on their tables say that. Yet it seems like the only accurate description for a blank section of time that one feels is almost behind. I'm looking forward to the time when I can say "oh, that was a rough year" casually, almost flippantly, with the buoyancy which only a number of happily spent (not perfect, just happy in one way or another) years can give.
Anyway, that's not the real reason for me writing. I write, as I did before, not because I expect anyone to read it, nor because I expect the world to ooh and aah over my carefully crafted sentences, but because i'm selfish and secretly enjoy the sound of my own literary voice. Also, with a blog one can succumb to the illusion that somebody else MIGHT read it, and therefore regular posting could be necessary to maintain that invisible and non -existant audience. I'm taking a writing class right now - the instructor says that blogging is good for you if you like to "churn something out on a regular basis" and "are ok with putting unpolished work out there." He didn't say it as negatively as that might seem on paper but honestly enough its true. But i need the practice so i'll try it again for a bit - God help you if you stumble across a page which is more or less scribble in a nice readable 12 point font.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

This argument with my friend has been englightening. We went a few more rounds on politics - he wanted me to define an alternate view of mankind to the two proposed by D'Souza and I told him I thought that there was evil in people, but that people weren't necessarily evil or good by nature - they're human, so they're both. Doesn't mean there aren't rights and wrongs in the world, but that's just my worldview. Anyway, he exposed some of my own assumptions and in the end I felt like I learned a few things (I doubt he learned anything - he's as stubborn as I am and much more self-assured) and it was very nice to at least talk about it with someone willing to get in there and make the effort.
But it did make me wonder - was it really worth it to discuss? Deep down I say YES! Dialogue is always better! But I'm an idealist, and I'm sure most Americans would say I should've just left it alone. But I can't. I really do feel like a lot of the problems in the US are built around a lack of dialogue and thought. And yes, I realize that the vast majority of the population is too busy living life to think about things. But I don't think that's a good excuse. The information is there, and honestly the time is there - its just turning off the latest episode of "What's my tie?" and bothering to take the 5 minutes to do some research. Maybe its because we're not taught to ask questions as kids. Who knows. Anyway, I'm nothing if not persistent... even when it gets me nowhere.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An Argument in Favor of Abolishing Certain Words Altogether

Frankly, friend, I cannot agree with what D'Souza is calling the difference between "liberals" and "conservatives". From what I can tell in the article, he is simply restating the buzzwords that society is using right now in defining (and widening) the split between the American people and the issues that really matter.

 “…liberalism has become the party of anti-Americanism, economic plunder, and immorality. By contrast, conservative policies are not only more likely to produce the good society, but they are also the best means to achieve liberal goals such as peace, tolerance, and social justice.”  I note here (and throughout the rest of the letter) a focus on division. He has created his own idea of a “liberal” person and in his reality, that is all there is – this straw man who exists in opposition to everything he believes.  Also, I note that I am behind in the times – liberalism is a party now. I had no idea!

Let us pretend, for a moment, that these two words do not exist to annoy the subconscious with vivid images of hippies and tie-wearers. That we are simply American people (though that in itself is a loaded word) trying to make life better for each person living here. What do our issues then become? Food, clothing, shelter for all - I should think these would be the issues of immediate importance. Health care would be a big one. The opportunity to work for a living. These are the life issues at the core of Christ’s message to “love God” and “Love your neighbor.”

I have met "conservatives" and "liberals' who have these values at their core, who make positive decisions for the good of others every day. I am offended by the sweeping generalizations this man makes - for what purpose? How does the statement that "Conservatives know better" help anyone in this world live their life more happily, or even make better decisions at the polls? As far as I can tell, Zach, he seems to be feeding off a large, dead, smelly carcass of assumptions, none of which will make him, or anyone else, a better human being. Note his focus on the "decline" of liberalism - all his statements are against this image which he himself has built up in very prettily worded sentences that don’t end up saying much in the end. I don't hear him make one positive statement throughout the whole narrative which convinces me in any way that he has issues that matter in his heart. I am offended not only for the people he pegs “liberals”, but the “conservatives” too. Does "conservative" automatically mean you support capitalism? Do I need to drive an SUV now if I want to consider myself a conservative? If I think socialized medicine is a good idea but I’m not sure about abortion, do I have to register as a “durn fence-straddler”?

I’m not actually trying to rile anyone up (though I am a bit riled myself) – I’m just trying to show how ridiculous I think it is to focus so much on the difference between two words that ultimately do no one any good. If we really want to make a difference in our country, we obviously have to cast a vote for someone – but it doesn’t have to be about their label on some randomly defined spectrum. If a person’s decisions reflect a desire to benefit humanity, to show love and caring to the poor, sick, hungry, and broken of the world, THAT is who I want to plant my flag under. Sometimes that person will be labeled a conservative, and sometimes that person will be labeled a liberal. But these labels have never, and will never mean as much as the things that really value – the things that do not have anything to do with my “leftness” or “rightness”, but who I show the love of Christ, and how I spend my time. 

So to make this a Christian issue, I think it is our moral imperative as Christians to fight the divisions in society that make it more difficult to fulfill Christ’s desire for the world.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, naked, and you gave me clothing, in prison, and you visited me.” These are the words that Christ uses in his story telling how he plans to judge people. That seems to tell me it’s pretty darn important, and I know you agree. Christ’s life points to a life of uncompromising love – and that definitely didn’t get him much respect from society at the time. “This man associates with sinners”, “This man talks to tax collectors!” Here is a man who offended across the political spectrum with his radical love – neither right nor left, but love.

 I guess what I’m really trying to say is that I think there is a middle ground, and that it is crucial that we strive to be mediators for the good of all. And that means that we may all fall under different labels when society looks at us. But the importance for you and me as Christians is that no matter how society sees us politically, they cannot escape seeing that Christ’s love is glorified in our lives.


Successfully Scanned by the McAfee SIG 3200 Appliance.

Hoo boy.

So i've been privileged (in the sense that I get to hear a LOT of VERY different perspectives) to have friends from all ends of the political spectrum. Some I agree with. Some I don't. Some I grit my teeth and smile at because in the end it does no good. Buuut.... today I got a little angry. A very dear friend of mine posted in a note on facebook that he had read the following letter and "generally agreed" with the following open letter by Dinesh D'Sousa:

Now I don't know much about this Dinesh guy. But I found him offensive (though admittedly well written (grammatically and stylistically only, i swear)). Perhaps I got even more offended because this type of political-speak has really gotten on my nerves lately. Here is my response. Warning - some Christian-related language will follow, as both he and I are of the same faith, and my main audience is him. Let me know what you think, fellow angry people! Well crap i'm going to have to retype all this. I'll post it all later.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Nonsense. Absolute nonsense.

It's strange to feel like an automaton all day - as though each action makes me a cog in this groaning, creaking machine of a university - an old machine, with outdated parts and bits, but one that continues to crank on nonetheless, molding and mangling the creatures that run through it like small herds of merino sheep - quality wool but sheep all the same. Its like walking through a dream all day - that detachment you sometimes get in dreams. Its a waking plodding that makes me feel like a cow chewing its cud. I'm pretty sure that a job one enjoys doesn't feel like this - doesn't dull the senses or stifle the mind - but I wonder how many people are out there, screaming in silent rebellion. I'm pretty sure that's a quote from something, but I'll claim that I'm stifled from work to keep from entering the five keystrokes it would take to look it up. I guess you have to be careful with this kind of feeling - it'd be an awfully convenient excuse to sidle out of life and into a delirious rotation of work, tv, and food.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Scene in Makers Gold 1

The bourbon was making it all slick - too slick to pick up successfully. That and the blood - gripping the edges of the broken bottle was difficult with one's vision obscured. Looking up, she realized that he had walked in and seen her like that, hands bleeding all over the glass, red blood on red wax on bourbon, like some horrifying travesty of luxury and velvet. She held her hands out to him, letting the shards drop from her open palm, as if in testament to her innocence - as if the bottle's presence was somehow capable of exonerating rather than implicating her.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Post the First

It's amazing how often we open our mouths only to make fools of ourselves. Even at our most cautious moments, those times when we think most fervently to ourselves, "this is an entire room/building full of people here I do NOT want to think I am an idiot," that need to express ourselves, that passion gets the better of us. And if we are smart enough, or verbally competent enough creatures, we come out relatively unscathed, or even the better, for our folly. But people like me, with no verbal (or physical) gymnastic skill to veil us, we end up nervous, our voices quavering. We are the idiots at school in the goofy silk pajamas that only our dreams can concoct for us, sweating in ways that only silk allows. And yet we continue.
Stubbornness, then, has been and will continue to be the ultimate ruling factor in my desire to write, and in the continuance of this strange new media outlet they call a "blog." Maybe i'll learn something along the way.