Movies I’ve Never Seen [I’m ashamed to admit]

I’ve seen a fair number of movies, but I wouldn’t say that I’m a connoisseur. I’ve never seen anything directed by Godard. I’m not really up on famous arthouse directors. I just spend a lot of my time enjoying movies, and a lot of them are indie flicks or foreign films. To people who only watch blockbusters, I might seem like I know a lot about film, but I actually don’t know shit. (My first and only date from Match.com tried to have a conversation with me about Fellini and “8 1/2” and it was one of the more painfully awkward conversations in my experience. It’s always so sad when people try to impress you with their knowledge of stuff you don’t give a shit about.) Movies are just for fun for me.

But there are several films in particular that I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never seen. It’s a fun question to think about for yourself, and it’s a strange thing to be embarrassed about, but I am. When people bring them up, I quietly smile and nod, but I have no idea what the fuck is going on. I wouldn’t say that I pretend that I’ve seen them, but I don’t proactively bring up the fact that I haven’t. People get really loud and outraged about it. It’s frankly amazing that I’ve lived to be 25 in the environment that I did having never set my eyes on any of them. There are certainly more than the 3 that I’m going to bring up that I haven’t seen, but tonight these are the ones that come to mind.

1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

I know I’ve seen scenes from this movie. Sometimes there’s a ferrari…..
Ok, no, seriously I’ve never seen this movie. I’m not even sure I know what it’s about. He skips school and borrows a ferarri that he shouldn’t. That’s all I know. Maybe that’s the entire plot? I don’t even know whose ferrari it is.  There’s probably a school principle involved. Or maybe I’m juxtaposing from The Breakfast Club?

This movie is iconic for people in my generation, and they talk about it a lot and quote from it frequently, but somehow I’ve never had the pleasure of being exposed to it. I think I would watch it if someone brought it over for me, but I’m also afraid that it might be like The Goonies, which I didn’t see until I was 21. I think people like The Goonies so much because they loved it as children, but it’s a terrible movie to watch for the first time as an adult. It’s horrendously bad. This fear of awfulness is what keeps me from seeing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. What if I hate it? I’d rather not know, for the time being.

2. Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.

Nora Ephron just died, which is what inspired this post because I haven’t seen many of her movies. I’ve entirely missed the onscreen chemistry between Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks with these two films. (She really liked Meg Ryan, eh? It’s funny how directors do that. Yeah, I’m talking about you, Tim Burton). These, I think, I would really enjoy, and again, if someone played them for me I would gladly watch them, but I have no desire to seek them out on my own. I’ve just go this general sense of ennui towards Sleepless in Seattle. (I don’t think I’ll ever use the word ennui again because it’s fucking pretentious. Yuck! I take it back! I’ve been reading too much Count of Monte Cristo!).

I’ve never seen the Count of Monte Cristo either, but that doesn’t embarrass me, and I’ll probably watch it soon. As soon as I finish the book, which is 6 billion pages long.

3. The Big Lebowski

This one is ridiculous considering the number of male friends I’ve had who have been obsessed with the Cohen brothers. I’ve seen every other movie by these guys, but never The Big Lebowski. This is probably the movie that I’m the most embarrassed to admit that I’ve never seen. I know I would like it. I even kind of know the plot. There are white russians and something about carpets? And milk mustaches?

I also had a painful date moment in regards to this movie. I don’t know what it is about guys trying to tell me about movies I haven’t seen on dates, but it’s happened on every single real date I’ve ever been on. Obviously, I am doing things wrong.

This time I didn’t even know I was on a date. We met for coffee, but then he was “hungry” so we went for Thai food instead, and then he paid for it, and then I realized I was on a date. Tricky. And he spent probably 5 full minutes trying to explain something about milk mustaches, even though I’d said I hadn’t seen it. He insisted on quoting and explaining the whole set up to me, all the while laughing and laughing. It was…ineffectual.

I still want to see the movie. Just not with him.

Those are mine. What are yours?

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Books and Literature q & a

Lynsey tagged me in this, it’s hot as fuck right now, I’m sitting in my underpants with nothing better to do, and so here are my responses.

Rules
1. Post these rules.
2. Post a photo of your favorite book cover.
3. Answer the questions below.
4. Tag a few people to pass the Q&A on to.

My favorite book cover: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I loved these poems and I loved the illustrations. Cover is no exception.

What are you reading right now?
The O. Henry Prize stories from 2010 and The Cookbook Collector  by Allegra Goodman. The Cookbook Collector is not good. It’s a modern retelling of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I don’t like Sense and Sensibility to begin with, so I don’t know why I thought I would like a retelling.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?
I’m waiting on a lot of digital books from the library. Whichever comes in first, which will probably be Looking for Alaska by John Green

What 5 books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got around to? 
When I want to read something, I read it. I don’t have any books waiting on the back burner.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now?
I don’t read while I poop. It’s much less comfortable than other places one could be reading. If I did have a magazine in there, it would be The New Yorker.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?
Twilight.

What book seems really popular but you actually hated? 
Twilight.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone? 
The Harry Potter series. It’s an epic story with such rich and complex characters. I think everyone can be entertained by it and I find it ridiculously enthralling. I once had a friend try to tell me that she hated Harry Potter because all the characters were one-dimensional. I think she’d only seen a movie. Or maybe she’s just an idiot.

What are your 3 favorite poems? 
This question is not fair and is impossible for me to answer. Why only three? I’m listing 11. A nice odd number. Nowhere near the number that I would like to list, but I guess I have to wait for a poetry meme.

  1. Lies I’ve Told My Three Year Old Recently – Raul Gutierrez
  2. The Ubiquity of the Need for Love – Ronald Koertge
  3. Photograph – Andrea Gibson
  4. The Sun Never Says – Hafiz
  5. Untitled – Michael Glaviano
  6. Untitled (In the Slaughterhouse of love) – Jalaluddin Rumi
  7. Catch a Body – Ilse Bendorf
  8. The Straighforward Mermaid – Matthea Harvey
  9. Scheherazade – Richard Silken
  10. The lesson of the moth – Don Marquis
  11. Something Else – Christian Barter

 

Where do you usually get your books?
From the library. If I love it so much that I need to own it, I’ll download it to my kindle.

Where do you usually read your books?
On my kindle. On the couch in my living room. I don’t sleep very well, so I reserve my bed for sleeping purposes only.

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits? 
Probably.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?
I stay up late reading books every time I get into the story. I constantly fuck my sleep schedule up because of books; it’s what I’ve always done. Add that to my peculiar childhood reading habits. The most recent time was for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Have you ever “faked” reading a book? 
Nah, I admit when I haven’t read or finished a book.

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?
That’s the only way that I choose books from the library. But I generally don’t buy books unless I’ve already read them and loved them.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?
The Dark is Rising  by Susan Cooper. This is the book that got me into reading in the 2nd grade. It was my gateway drug to reading.The librarian, who was just somebody’s mom who volunteered in the library, wouldn’t let me check it out. She said, “This book looks a little too tough for you, why don’t you try reading something else?” Which pissed me off, even at age eight.

Bitch, please, don’t tell me what I can or can’t read. [Of course it was a little too difficult for me]. Nonetheless I loved it to death.

It’s an epic battle between forces of good and evil with an 11 year old boy as the protagonist. He develops powers on his 11th birthday. Can’t think of why it sounds so weirdly familiar……

It hurts my soul that they made such a ridiculously awful movie out of it. I don’t think it even got released in the U.S., praise the lord.

What book changed your life? 
The Dark is Rising, for the reasons stated above, and probably The Fountainhead, which I read at a very impressionable age. Undoubtedly, I was an insufferable asshole for a while as a result, but it’s an important book in the formation of my ideas about a lot of things, either in agreement or opposition.

What is your favorite passage from a book?
This is from Night of The Avenging Blowfish  by John Welter

I felt exhausted and anxious, which could have been symptoms of some new and culturally fashionable disorder called chronic white guy’s syndrome, or whining fatigue syndrome. It was in the newspapers and on TV, some recently discovered disorder where white people in their mid-twenties and thirties exhibited symptoms of just generally feeling like shit all the time, although shit wasn’t the precise medical term. It had the word “syndrome” in it, so all you had to do was randomly add some adjectives or adverbs to it and there you were with a puzzling and ominous new syndrome such as “being alive syndrome,” which was what I thought I suffered from.
I could use my medical insurance to go to the doctor and say, “Every day I wake up with the same frightening condition.”
“And what’s that?”
“Consciousness.”

Even the Bible announced in the first book that the first thing you could expect in life was trouble, followed immediately by sorrow, and concluding in death. None of this would have mattered except for consciousness. That’s what Adam and Eve got when they ate the apple. So that was my disorder—being aware of my life. And when you fell into the blessed forgetfulness of sleep, it didn’t last. You had to wake up. It was odd that while the Bible said sleep was blessed, it didn’t say the same thing about being awake.

On the notepad on my lap, I started writing a list that I titled “Things That Are Wrong With My Life,” as if by listing my major flaws and problems, I might get a pathetically vague insight into how to live well.

  1. Not sure how many things are wrong.
  2. Is the glass half full, or half empty?
  3. What glass?
  4. Sometimes I drink too much.
  5. Sometimes I drink just the right amount.

Who are your top five favorite authors?
In alphabetical order:
1. Jane Austen
2. Jonathan Safran Foer
3. Neil Gaiman
4. David Sedaris
5. Kurt Vonnegut

What book has no one heard about but should read? 
Night of the Avenging Blowfish. It’s absurdly funny. Also sad and ironic. But always hilarious.

What are your favorite books by a first-time author? 
To Kill a Mockingbird, Everything is Illuminated, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Harry Potter

What 3 books are you an “evangelist” for? 
Harry Potter, Cat’s Cradle, and probably The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged.

What is your favorite classic book? 
Persuasion by Jane Austen.

Fairy Tales. Old & New

I’ve always liked the retelling of old stories. There’s an art to taking the essential themes of a story and fitting them into a new time or a new setting. No narrative does complete justice to every character, and I love modern adaptations, or spin-offs from the original work, because they give the reader a chance to learn about and experience the characters more. Everyone knows Mr. Rochester had his batshit crazy wife living up in the attic, but who the heck was she and where did she come from?!? This is barely addressed in Jane Eyre, and that’s exactly what makes Wide Sargasso Sea such a cool book. Wives-in-the-attic always deserve their own narrative, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ll admit that I’m a fan of just about every modern movie adaptation of Shakespeare [You should admit it, too. She’s the Man is a funnier movie than one would have any right to expect.] I like Austen adaptations as well. Clueless is amazing in its own right, but to top that, the movie is such an imaginative way to redo Emma. I didn’t even know it was based on an Austen novel until I was in high school, but it’s a blatant retelling. And despite being a little inane, the movie still manages to highlight the rigid rules surrounding social class structure, which is the important theme running through the novel.

I think these retellings work because the original story and characters were so phenomenal to begin with. I will always be impressed by how clearly Jane Austen saw people. [At least people of a certain social class and breeding]. She never married, spent most of her short life in the same small town, surrounded by the same people day-in and out, and yet she provided such rich, deeply psychological portrayals of human beings, their motives and their feelings.

And I think you can lump fairy tales in with this literature; in any case, I have a special fondness for them so I consider them to be literature. I don’t know specifically where my interest in the genre came from. I think I might just have a general bent toward fantasy. But fairy tales have all those archetypal characters and story lines. Plus, they’re fascinating with all the incest and murder, gore, brutality, magic and sorcery. There are some really haunting images from  fairy tales.

In Donkeyskin, the king wants to marry his own daughter. He’s willing to kill his favorite pet and have its skin turned into a dress for her. That’s how much he wants to bang his own daughter. Disney doesn’t do them the justice they deserve, and I think their version of the tales might do more harm than anything else.

But the original fairy tales were meant to be lessons. Be docile. Be an obedient child and wife. Don’t question, don’t think, & don’t snoop in your husband’s shit. Be happy with your meager life and don’t be greedy.

I read a book of retold fairy tales when I was in high school, and I still think it’s one of the most interesting and best written books of short stories that I’ve read. It was Kissing the Witch, by Emma Donoghue, and it had a serious influence on my desire to write and my conceptualization of how short stories should be told. [She also wrote Room, which has been getting a lot of buzz lately. If you recognize her name, that’s probably why.]

The stories in Kissing the Witch are all the familiar ones, Donkeyskin, the Little Mermaid, Snow White, but they are decidedly twisted. The heroines leave the princes and decide they want something else, something better instead. Or the evil step mom turns out to have her own horrible story, her own fairy tale which explains everything.

Every single story in the book is connected seamlessly to the story before it and the story that follows. It’s a seriously impressive little book. They’re beautiful and weird, sometimes subtly erotic, often sad. The book is well crafted. I wish I had thought of something even half as clever.

When I went to undergrad, my first year seminar was called Telling Stories [and it was with Mimi, for anyone who understands what that means.] The class was all about narratives in our lives and all of the different shapes they can take. We often focused on fairy tales. You could do anything for the final class project, as long as it somehow related to narratives, and so I wrote a short story, which was heavily influenced by Kissing the Witch.

I deleted the story after that semester, or maybe I lost it when I moved from my desktop to a laptop my sophomore year. In any case, I remember thinking it was good, and I’m sad to no longer have it. From what I remember, I had Cinderella or someone similar as the heroine, finding out that Prince Charming isn’t so charming after all, and he doesn’t want her to have a job or work. He wants a caricature of a wife, not an actual woman. So she leaves him and wanders into an inn in another town where there’s a whole table of heroines from other tales discussing their stories and how their happy endings weren’t so happy either. She joins the table and they all get drunk. I liked the story. I liked writing it. I did not like having to read it aloud to the class.

I remember it being a really not-enjoyable experience for me. I don’t like sharing my writing with people, especially not a whole group of people who couldn’t possibly have been more apathetic about it. I am a very nerdy lady, and I fully admit that, but having to read a fairy tale I wrote to a class of 18 year old boys seemed dorkier than I could really deal with, psychologically. But Mimi loved it. She raved, and I got an A in the class even though I’d skipped at least one day a week for the entire semester. [It was a 9 Am class. I liked to sleep.]

Recently, I came across a new book of collected fairy tales. There aren’t enough of these, in my opinion, so I’m always happy to find when a new one is published. The title sucked me in within the second that I saw it.

My Mother she killed me, My father he ate me: Forty new fairy tales. The title comes from an old fairy tale called The Juniper Tree, which I think was written by H.C. Anderson. The title is essentially what happens in the story, except a creepyass juniper tree brings the kid back to life in the end. Some of the stories in this book are new interpretations of old tales, and some are translations from Russian, African, or Japanese fairy tales.

The stories were scary, sexy, moving, provocative. The book is psychologically fascinating, which is always a plus for me. Sometimes it was difficult to guess which fairy tale was being retold, but what I liked the best was that the stories had the author’s commentary at the end: their inspiration to write the story, what they were attempting to accomplish with it, etc.

Many of the stories in this edition are by really well-known authors. All of them seem to share a strong interest in the genre, which makes me wonder if writers are all the same. Some of them, like Neil Gaiman and Joyce Carol Oates, you would expect to be writing weird adapted versions of fairy tales. But all of the stories were excellent.

If you have the time and want to read some creepy, scary, sexy stories, this is your book.

Itunes lyrics game

I’m weirdly obsessed with my itunes play count, which is strange because there are very few things in this world that I am anal about. When I hang up pictures, usually they’re not even and they end up hanging at a tilt. If it’s a group of frames, they all end up slightly off. I eat food that I drop on the floor or food that’s slightly expired or has been sitting out for a while. [It’s good to introduce foreign antibodies into your system. Erinellis taught me that once when she was blackout.] I turn in papers late all the time; professors give me a deadline, and then I usually end up turning them in approximately a month later. Or sometimes it’s a year. Whatever.

The point is that I’m as opposite from anxious, Type A as you can get. But I have an obsession with my play count. If I listen to a song, it has to make the counter go up by one. I end up doing this manually a lot of the time, which takes a lot of effort for the number of songs that I have. Sometimes I’ll adjust the play count even if I hear the song on the radio or at a friend’s house.I know it’s excessive, but it’s what I do.

I think it all stems from the fact that I want the play count to reflect how much I like the song so that I can organize my music by how much I enjoy it. Obviously, I’ve put more thought into my itunes than pretty much every other human being on this earth, but it is what it is. It’s incredibly handy to have all the songs I like the best grouped together, that’s all I can say.

Today I found this itunes meme that I thought seemed fun and tricky. The rules:

1. Put your itunes on shuffle.

2. Take the first line from the first 30 songs that play. You can’t skip songs. [But I had to because several songs with no words came up, which hardly seemed fair.]

3. People guess what the songs are. You can’t google the lyrics.

4. I guess I’m then supposed to bold out the ones that people guess,and put the answer, but I doubt anyone is actually going to play.

Nonetheless,

  1. What will grow crooked you can’t make straight.
  2. The carbonation in my drink, the bubbles rise while my heart sinks.
  3. How I wish you could see the potential, the potential of you and me.  -I Will Posses Your Heart: Death Cab For Cutie
  4. Think about it, there must be higher love.
  5. They come, they take, it’s never enough because they can’t relate to the real world.
  6. Sorry ‘bout the things that I had to say, and I’ll make it up to you right now at the penny arcade.
  7. I am sitting in the morning at the diner on the corner.
  8. A falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyes.
  9. Wake up, Maggie, I think I’ve got something to say to you.
  10. The butter melts out of habit, you know, the toast isn’t even warm.
  11. I lost myself on a cool, damp night.
  12. Ma chambre a la forme d’une cage, le soleil passe son bras par la fenêtre.
  13. You know you can’t keep letting it get you down and you can’t keep dragging that dead weight around.
  14. All the old paintings on the tomb, they do the sand dance, don’t cha know.
  15. How the heart bends, and summer, she sends a sky that refuses to die.
  16. Treated me kind, sweet destiny, carried me through desperation to the one that was waiting for me.
  17. We come on the Sloop John B, my grandfather and me
  18. Won’t you be good to yourself, and don’t you feel like coming home?
  19. They’re gonna send us to prison for jerks, for having vague ideas of the way to turn each other on again.
  20. When the night has come, and the land is dark, and the moon is the only light we’ll see.
  21. On the way to your brother’s house in the valley, dear, by the river bridge, a cradle floating beside me.
  22. Where do we go, nobody knows.
  23. When I wasn’t nothing but a child, when I wasn’t nothing but a child, all you men tried to drive me wild.
  24. I wouldn’t know what to do with another chance if you gave it to me.
  25. It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting’ down trees, they’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace, so I wish I had a river I could skate away on.
  26. I could have been a sailor, could have been a cook, a real live lover, could have been a book.
  27. Mucho gusto, me llamo Bradley, I’m hornier than Ron Jeremy. Caress Me Down: Sublime
  28. Love me girl, won’t you stay, won’t you stay, stay with me.
  29. I’ve been trying to get you to see things all my way.
  30. I’ve been tried and I’ve been tested, I was born tired and I never got rested.

I find this game to be very enjoyable. It taps into my desire to constantly post bits of song lyrics, which I refrain from doing much more often than I would like, seeing as twitter is such a good platform for it.

If I’d been allowed to pick the songs, none of these would have made the list. I’m not sure I would even be able to guess some of them, and it’s my music. Some of them are easy peasy. My apologies for the French one, but it’s a good song.

Luck

My mother is forever telling me about how lucky I am, and usually it pisses me off to an enormous degree because the things she’s referring to aren’t luck but involve this huge amount effort on my part. For example, when I was accepted to grad school with free tuition and a 5 year stipend, that was, according to her, incredibly lucky. And while I fully admit that it’s a fortunate circumstance that not many people experience, it wasn’t fucking luck that I got in. [Fucking luck—say it out loud. It rolls nicely off the tongue.]

However, I was fucking lucky—there are no other words for it—on Friday night because I missed this terrible episode at work by a grand total of 30 seconds.

I do HR/accounting work for an enormous corporation, and one day I will write more about my exploits there, but tonight is not the night.

I was doing the training session for a woman who just started work. Friday was her first evening. And something was off about her. Human communication is so subtle and intricate, but somehow I only ever think about that when I see someone doing it wrong. The best I can describe it is that Suzanne takes slightly too long to respond. I would say a sentence and she would wait a beat, and then another, and then another, and then respond. English is her first language, so it isn’t a translation issue. Or maybe it is. I guess I don’t know. But it’s unnerving, having someone look at you without speaking, all fidgety, after every sentence you say. But I pegged her as being a nervous lady and left it at that.

Suzanne finished her training and then went out to start her shift. I didn’t interact with her for the rest of the night, but I clocked out at 9:00 and said goodbye to her on my way out of the building. And that was the end of my night, though it wasn’t the end of Suzanne’s. Had I dicked around the office before I left, sent some texts or ate a piece of candy, I would have landed right in the middle of a veritable shit storm. Instead, I was on my merry little way out the doors and goodbye.

Suzanne tried to clock out as well, but couldn’t remember how to do it, so she asked another employee, Sylvia, for help. Sylvia is short, and she wears very nice suits every time she works. She has some form of mental retardation, but she is highly functional. As a side note, she also shaves her eyebrows and then pencils skinny black lines where they should be.

I just don’t know about that. It’s frightening, to be honest. However, Sylvia is kind and sweet, so no one talks about her eyebrows. I find it interesting about myself that kindness works as a buffer against ridicule. If someone is a nice human being, I won’t make fun of them, no matter what they have going on. I find that I make fun of people who are mean and cruel, almost exclusively, and usually about their physical appearance. “Look at her weird face. She is a mega bitch.”

Suzanne asked Sylvia to show her how to clock out, and then fainted onto Sylvia, who didn’t understand why this tall blond woman had suddenly started leaning on her. Sylvia backed away, and Suzanne fell like a motherfucking elephant, hitting her head on numerous surfaces and busting her lip open. At this point, Sylvia began running wildly in circles, hollering “Aaah! Aaah! Aaaaaaaah!” , which was enough to catch just about everyone’s attention.

Suzanne began seizing, blood everywhere from her lip. Another employee held her head so she wouldn’t hit it on the ground and the manager called the paramedics. What an awful, ghastly scene, right? Except it gets weirder and worse. Suzanne came around, but it was her first day of work—she didn’t know or recognize anyone—and she was surrounded by a circle of people in full black attire. She started to attack the person who was holding her head, yelling, “Who the fuck are you? Get the fuck OFF of me”, then trying to fight her off with her bloody hands and bloody hair and bloody face.

When the paramedics came, she couldn’t remember her name or where she was. When they asked her how old she was, she said 30. [She’s not 30]. She hit her head multiple times when she fell and when she started seizing, so the confusion and disorientation were not surprising. I’m always astounded by how fragile the brain is and how fragile we are as humans. Cartoons and movies make it seem like we can withstand much more than we actually can. All it takes is one little knock on the head in the right location.

They took her away, and her car has been in the parking lot ever since. From what I heard, Suzanne has a full time job as well. She didn’t eat on Friday at her full time job, and then she came to work her part time job and didn’t eat either, and at 9:00 her body said, ‘I quit, asshole. You didn’t feed me.’

30 seconds.

30 seconds was the difference between me driving away in my car and Suzanne falling on me instead of Sylvia. [Although I imagine that I wouldn’t have let her fall or ran around like a half dead chicken while she seized on the floor. But one never knows.]

So, all right mom. It is Mother’s day, and I will let you have this one. That was dumb luck.

The wisest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say

I think to myself pretty often about dropping out of graduate school. There are times when I mean it more seriously than others—times where I’ve actually started the job search—but it’s a more or less constant thought of mine. I picture going to do data analysis for some giant, soulless corporation instead of the giant, soulless University system that I currently do research for. ‘$50,000’, I think to myself. ‘Woweee’. [This is how much money I make in my fantasy world. It’s not all that great of a fantasy, but somehow it’s still better than grad school].

It’s been on my mind lately because I’m not really sure how I’m going to pay my July rent this summer.  Also, it would be incredibly easy to quit. I do data analysis all day already, so in my head the only difference is that it’s someone else’s data now. Data about the company’s energy consumption or a profit projection or some such nonsense. I wouldn’t care what the numbers were about because I would have a 9-5 job with weekends and evenings free. And I would have no soul, probably. And no intellectual stimulation.

But it’s difficult to think about intellectual stimulation when I need a new washer and dryer, and when I want frames for all of my paintings and posters, and when I want a window air conditioning unit for my bedroom because I live above a garage and I’m going to boil like a lobster this summer. It’s difficult because I am so tired of being so fucking poor.

I never do it though. I don’t quit; I keep doing research and teaching and I slide a little bit more into debt every month. I think it must be because I love what I’m researching, and somehow it turns out that the intellectual stimulation is worth more than my image of all the money I could have and the debt I could be paying off and the clothes I could be washing in my front-loading washer and dryer.

Because, to tell you the truth, I’m doing the coolest research. I study autobiographical memory–the memories that we have and share about ourselves. Why do we have a memory system that allows us to recall past, personal events so vividly, and for what purpose? And I’m about to start a study and collect massive amounts of data, which mostly involves meeting with old people and having them tell me their life histories.

And old people are so cool. Beneath all that wrinkly, papery skin and liver spots are people who lived through the most amazing shit. Interviewing them is like talking to secret agents. They all have these pasts that you could never have guessed from their appearances. They were young, and some of them were gorgeous, and they had these vibrant lives.

I did my first interview the other week, and the woman I was interviewing said probably the wisest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say in real life. And she was so offhand about it. I don’t think she had any idea that she was dropping a knowledge bomb on me. I can’t quote her directly for ethical reasons, but she was reviewing her life and we were almost done with the interview and she said, [sort of]

“I have these threads running through my life that have come together in completely unexpected ways. They all braided together and worked out, and I never could have imagined that happening.” And then she looked at me all old and smug and knowing and said, “When I was your age, I had all these ideas about how I had to make everything work. I had all those threads in my hands and it was up to me to make all these different threads of relationships and ambitions and hopes all come together correctly. And it does take a little effort, but mostly everything just ends up coming together on its own, without you having to do anything.”

Like life would be better once you let go of the reins. And I’ve thought about her saying that ever since. I can see her point; even at 24 I know that she’s right. I’ve had friendships that went south, injustices, embarrassments, fears, a boy I thought I would never get over—that I was going to be bitter and sad about forever—and without me doing much of anything except living, it all just panned out. And I’m not bitter, and I’m not sad, and the friendships that went south…came back north? They worked out fine, too. All of those threads braided together and came out with a pretty little pattern in the end. [Or in the beginning of the middle, I guess. 24 had better not be the end].

I think there’s a freedom in thinking about things from that perspective. And this lady’s life was not great; she had some big shit go down in her life, and despite that, the message was still that miserable things can happen, but even they work out somehow. I don’t know if it’s possible to think about things that way in the moment, but it sure would be helpful if we could. What a useful way to get your head out of drama. We get so wound up in things; our small dramas become the center of the fucking universe and I think we would all be a little cooler if we could think about how much things actually matter. Because some things do. They really do. But so many things don’t, and I feel like we can’t distinguish between the two most of the time.

Or maybe we can’t live in that way. Maybe you have to be almost 70 to have any kind of grace about human interactions.

I’m planning to do about 40 more interviews, and maybe I’ll end up being really wise. But probably not so much.

The other project I’m working on is about vicarious memories—memories that other people have told you, and you weren’t there, but you can picture the memory as vividly as if it were your own. For example, while parking his car, this guy I used to know lightly bumped into the curb and it caused the airbag to pop out and smack him in the face, even though he just sitting there, parked. And there were people all over the parking lot who witnessed it. I wasn’t there, but I can picture it like I was.

I know that people can do this easily for their friends, but I’m curious about whether people can do this for their parents or for their children, and what kinds of memories people come up with if they can. I was quizzing my mom about this, to see if she could come up with any, and she gave me possibly the funniest story I’ve heard about my maternal grandmother.

Mamaw, as I knew her, was fat, and she always wore these sleeveless vests as shirts and her boobs were just enormous, so she’s just this very fleshy kind of person in my memory. She had cataracts, and so she also always had on a visor–like the green visor that people wear when they’re dealing poker in the 1960’s.

This is pretty much exactly what it looked like. Also, how creepy is this dude?

And she was loud and she lumbered around everywhere just talking and talking and talking. [When I was a small child, I used to talk so much—just this nonstop toddler monologue—that my mother taped my hands together. I got so interested in getting my hands free that I shut-up. So the talking gene is from that side of the family and it terrifies me that I will one day also be lumbering around in sleeveless vests and green visors]. Mamaw worked a factory job, which, from personal experience, is the perfect occupation for someone who likes to gab. And this woman was always late. Every day she would have to run into work; she’d sprint to the punch clock in order to make it on time, and all the other factory girls would heckle and cheer as she ran to make it.

But in this memory that my mom gave me, Mamaw was a child. It is so difficult to think of your grandparents as children. I end up with a fat, vest-wearing little girl in my head, even though I know that’s wrong. Mamaw lived with her parents and grandparents, and the grandparents were fresh off the boat from Germany and very stoic and solemn and German, apparently. Only German was allowed to be spoken at the dinner table and it was this very serious dining affair. Not the kind of situation that children do well in, and especially not my grandmother.

This is my great-grandmother. Please look at her crazy hair and understand why I also have such thick fucking hair.

They ate this thick, dark German bread for dinner and Mamaw hated the crusts. She would pick out the soft insides, roll it up into tiny balls, and then finally eat it. She made such a production out of eating the bread that the rest of the family had cleared from the table when she was done. And when no one was looking, Mamaw would take her bread crusts  that she didn’t want to eat and stuff them under the tablecloth in between the leaves of the table, in the cracks. And she did that for a long time, so there were many, many dinner’s worth of crusts in between those table leaves.

One day, my great-grandmother went to dust the table or add another leaf and out fell 50 stale, half eaten old bread crusts from in between all the cracks in the leaves where Mamaw had shoved them.

This happened about 90 years ago, but I can picture it so, so clearly. I have no idea what they were wearing or what the room looked like. But I can just see the expression on my great-grandmother’s face as all the bread crusts fall out from the table, and how much trouble Mamaw probably got in, and even her expression when my great grandmother confronts her about the crusts, like “Vera! Did you do this? Did you stick all these crusts in the table?” only in German and Mamaw being like “Nein. Never seen those before.” Just lying and probably getting smacked in the face for it.

But I see it. Across 3 generations and about 90 years.

And I guess this is the whole reason that I don’t think I’ll drop out of school and make money crunching numbers for some company. Because, although I am dirt poor and will continue to be for at least two more years, I get to hear the most interesting stories all day, every day.

This is about books.

I love reading. I know everyone lists reading as one of their interests and it’s a common thing for people to say that they love, and so I either love it in exactly the same way as everyone else, or when I say I love reading, I really mean it, and I mean it in a way far and above just listing it as something that I do because I couldn’t think of anything else of interest to put on my facebook page.

As a kid, I did other things, too. I played soccer and the clarinet. After school, I would spend hours at my friend’s house doing god knows what: nothing singular comes to mind. I think I must have done my homework during class when we were supposed to be listening, or otherwise I didn’t have homework because as soon as soccer practice was over and my clarinet lessons were done and I was back home finishing dinner and grudgingly putting the dishes away, my mind was on reading. It was that thing—the thing I waited all day to get to, the thing that I would choose to do above all other things, the thing that made me hate any and all chores that I had to do because they took away from my books.

My mom would ask me to do things for her, put away the dishes, fold laundry, vacuum the living room, and I would oh-so-cleverly tell her that I would get to it as soon as I finished the chapter I was on. Then I would read 4 or 5 more chapters—as many as I could get to before I heard her coming back to yell at me. I assumed she thought I was a much slower reader than I was, but now I know she was probably just humoring me. She knew exactly what I was doing. And how do you tell a kid to stop reading?

I recently joined a website called Goodreads, and it was nostalgic listing and rating all the books I read in my childhood and adult life. I quickly came to the realization that I could spend 6 hours on that website trying to list and find all the books I read as a child and it would never be enough time. I honestly have no idea how many books I’ve read, but it’s a stupidly huge number. I used to read a new book every two to three days. I was that kid leaving the library with a bigass canvas bag packed with 20 books, hoping it would last me until the next time my mom would take me to the library.

We lived a few miles away from the library in my hometown, and I refused to ride my bike there as a child because there was a portion of the trip where the sidewalk curved around a small cliff. There wasn’t a guardrail and I was terrified of falling off my bike and down the cliff. I wasn’t all that great at riding my bike anyway, so this obstacle, though far fetched, was insurmountable. So in the summer, my amazing sister would walk with me the whole trip to the library. We would stop at the store on the way and I would get a chocolate Yoo-hoo and she would get one of those flavored Crystal Light drinks. Those trips are easily some of my favorite memories of all childhood.

I was non-discriminant in my books, although I did have my preferred genres, of course. Horror books were the best, for a long time. R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike especially, but if it was YA and made any attempt to be terrifying, I was into it. Epic fantasy stories caught my fancy, too. The Prydain Chronicles, A Wrinkle in Time, The Dark is Rising series, Harry Potter. [I can’t explain how angry I was when I figured out that my magical powers weren’t ever going to develop.] I also had a thing for the Newbery medal books. Holes, Ella Enchanted, The Midwife’s Apprentince, Walk Two Moons, Catherine Called Birdy, Number the Stars, The Giver, Hatchet, Jacob Have I Loved….all those good books plus a billion more.

So I think this is the reason why I hate Twilight so goddamn much. Because most YA literature is actually literature and Twilight is a piece of crap that 12 year old idiots laud as the best book of all time. They’re young so I can understand, kind of. I don’t want to think about the adults who love Twilight. I get the entertainment value inherent in trashy TV, and trashy books can be entertaining as well, but jesus christ, don’t tell me it’s your favorite book.

Because Twilight is bad. It’s really bad. Like typos and grammar errors bad. And I don’t even blame Stephanie Meyer for this because typos are the bane of all writers’ existences. I’m sure there are typos galore in my posts. So I blame her editor, or rather the fact that no one appears to have edited her books for her. Where were the editors? Where were they?

Why did no one have a conversation with her like, ‘Hey Stephanie, when you’re talking about dust, it’s ‘motes’, not ‘moats’. And why don’t you try a different word besides smoldering? It’s a little cliche. And hey, I’ve noticed you’ve talked about Edward having white skin a few times already—how about pointing out some other characteristics? Yeah…but not his smoldering eyes…maybe try something other than the fact that he has white skin and smoldering eyes; I think people got that already. And actually, why don’t you develop all of your characters a little bit more? You say Bella is clumsy—maybe you should show it instead of just talking about it. That’s good writing, right? Show; don’t tell? And hey, maybe consider rethinking her major character points. Do young women really need to read about a weak, clumsy heroine who falls apart without a man in her life? Kinda anti-feminist, don’t cha think?’

Why didn’t this conversation happen? Twilight could have been good. The story has tremendous potential which is squandered in the crap writing and character development. Lynsey posted this link in her ‘Things I Love’ Thursday post and it’s pretty hilarious and accurate. Because by any other author, Twilight sounds like a pretty kick ass book.

For a long time now, I’ve been avoiding all hyped-up YA books because I can’t read anything else like Twilight ever again until I have dementia.

Enter The Hunger Games. This book isn’t new, and I’ve been actively avoiding it for about 4 years because so many people liked it. And that’s a pretty telling personality trait, isn’t it? If other people really like something, I try to avoid it. (Until NPR and my older sister tell me to check it out, as both are excellent sources of stuff-I-will-like.) So I read the series a few weeks ago, (1150 words later, and I’m finally getting to what I meant to write this post about, yikes) and it reminded me why I like YA lit so much.

The books aren’t perfect, but the writing is good. They’re wildly entertaining and suspenseful. I read all three within a few days. The political backdrop of the story is one of the more interesting aspects. It’s a YA book, so we don’t get the full history, but the post-apocalyptic, fascist regime is the perfect setting for this kind of dark, bloody story. Collins wrote the books in the first person, which is the one tense I find impossible to write fiction in, and thus I admire any authors that can pull it off. The novel requires it, as the main character does a number of horrible things which only make sense if you’re privy to her inner thoughts, as we are. Katniss is only likeable because the audience knows how much she hates the things she has to do.

And Katniss is a badass lady. No misogynistic undertones in this book. She shoots animals through the eyeballs, kills unflinchingly when necessary, blows up shit, and carries out insane political assassinations. She also becomes incredibly psychologically damaged as a result, which is one of the better aspects of the book.

I killed two lobsters recently and it was pretty damaging to my psyche, so I can’t imagine killing people—a ridiculously large number of people—without losing all my marbles. Katniss begins the books as a relatively normal 16 year old and ends, unrecognizably, as a completely different person with an appropriate amount of PTSD symptoms. I like that Katniss is flawed. She’s manipulative and bitter, even at the beginning. She holds grudges and she can be cruel. She’s also any number of good things: brave, strong, fierce, compassionate.

What I dislike about The Hunger Games is the main male character. He’s annoyingly good. Too good and too one sided. The only time I like him is when he gets brainwashed into being a psychotic, sociopathic bastard, but even then he snaps out of it and becomes a good person again. Lame. I wish Collins had given as much dimension to Peeta as she did to Katniss. The story deserves it.

The movie is coming out soon, and I can’t wait to see what they do with it. How are they possibly going to show all of the things that happen with a PG-13 rating? I think the movie will be a big hit, even if they only remotely follow the plot. The book taps into all the things we like as human beings: arena-style death-matches, fashion, love triangles, and food—oh-so-much-food. The movie will only have to hit a few of those in order for it to be good. I’d personally be set if it were just the death matches and the fashion.