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.