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Monday, April 30, 2012

XYZ is for xyzlophone (no, that's not how you spell it)

When I was in sixth grade, I signed up to take percussion in junior high because the boy I'd liked since fourth grade said he was going to, too. (He ended up taking saxophone.)

Percussion and I were not a great fit. I was a shy kid and the idea of being the loudest person in the room was terrifying -- in fact, I could never decide which I found scarier, the junior high band teacher or a timpani solo.

The summer after seventh grade, I was seriously considering quitting and taking something nicer, quieter, like art. This was a pipe dream, since I had never quit anything in my life (and for some reason believed that my parents would force me to keep taking percussion, which was clearly not true since years later Charlie quit trombone and Alpha quit French horn with their full support). But the idea of never having to walk into the junior high band room again was intoxicating, and I daydreamed about it like other girls daydreamed about boys.

And then my family went down to the Kaysville 4th of July Parade and I saw something that literally changed my teenage life: the Davis High School Drumline.

If you've never seen a really good drumline in person, you're missing out. No, the movie doesn't count. I'd highly recommend you go check one out at your earliest convenience.

Suddenly, suffering through percussion class in junior high didn't seem so awful if it meant I could be on drumline in high school. So I stuck with it, and eventually learned that I did like it, after all, despite never quite losing the feeling that I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Because no matter how much I eventually learned to love snare drum solos, runs on a marimba, or the way the way a suspended cymbal could send chills down your spine -- no matter how much I coveted that Davis High Drumline jacket -- the one characteristic that defined teenage Ru was "TERRIFIED OF MISTAKES."

There is no way to hide a percussionist's mistakes.

You might think that taking percussion was therapeutic, that forcing myself to continue the one path where all my failures would be revealed in a very public forum would help me overcome my fears. That was not the case. If anything, life as a percussionist highlighted how crippling I found failure, to the point where if given a solo, I would freeze up and not hit a single note rather than go for it and make a mistake. By high school percussion ensemble class, this eventually turned into finding excuses to not practice the solo at all.

Shockingly, high school drumline didn't work out how I wanted, either. Long story short, you have to try out for drumline, which meant sophomores were automatically in the marching band pit (the section at the front of the field with the non-moving percussion instruments, like xylophones and chimes) until spring tryouts.
My sophomore year in pit was not so bad -- pretty fun, actually. I made new friends, since Davis took kids from three different junior high schools, finally lost some (but not all) of my fear of the crazy-loud instruments, and seriously improved my muscle tone. (1. Percussion instruments are heavy, and guess who was in charge of loading them up on the trailer every day after school? The pit. 2. Every mistake in marching band was rewarded with 25 pushups. I was one cute little sophomore, albeit one who still didn't know how to apply eyeliner, by the time the Davis Cup rolled around.)

My junior year in pit was pretty awful.

See, I didn't make drumline as a sophomore. Out of 40 or so kids who tried out for 20 or so spots, I was fourth alternate.

And then, when drumline added six spots (five cymbals, one tenor drum) at the beginning of summer, I still wasn't on drumline. Unlike percussion, I was naturally pretty good at math in high school, and I knew that a fourth alternate should have taken one of those six additional spots.

But I was too terrified of the drumline instructor (who was a perfectly nice guy) to go ask him why I had been skipped over. In fact, I'm coming up on my 10-year high school reunion, and I still don't know why, or how, my name was passed over when six spots were added to drumline between the school year ending and summer marching band beginning -- because I never got the guts to just ask him.

Instead, I just suffered through pit again, a junior among sophomores (since all the other juniors who had tried out for drumline and not made it had the good sense to try something else instead of flogging themselves for another year), wishing that I had the guts to ask the drumline instructor what had happened, or better yet, just quit percussion and go join the color guard with my friends.

I wish this story had a really happy ending, that by my senior year I was playing tenor drums (my dream position all along, I'll confess) in the Davis High Drumline.

But instead I made cymbal line. The position for kids who was good ... but not quite as good.

And even though I was finally part of the group I had dreamed about since I was 13, I felt crushed. Cymbal line? I was the only other senior on cymbal line other than the section leader -- there were even sophomores in our section, because by then the rule on ninth graders trying out while in junior high had been loosened.

It certainly didn't help "Super Annoying Percussion Girl," who also made cymbal line and decided to quit before practices even began rather than suffer the indignity of it all, decided to come tell me how much she "admired" me for being able to take the humiliation. (Seriously, band kids. Take the drama down a notch, okay?)

But I didn't quit, because quitting at that point would have felt like I had wasted my time from seventh grade until my junior year. And I have I mentioned yet that I didn't learn how to quit anything until college?

Fortunately for me, not-quitting was a great decision in this instance, because cymbal-line or not, that one year of drumline was the highlight of my high school experience. I'd list the reasons why, but this post is already far too long.

After graduation, I did not keep up with percussion, unlike a lot of my peers. The fact was, I was never really cut out for it. More to the point, the sight of that drumline jacket did make me feel proud ... but also slightly embarrassed, and that's not something I'm proud of. Because for me, high school was not defined by my successes (AP classes taken and passed, scholarships earned, science competitions won, miles run, volunteer projects completed, short stories written), but by the thing that I tried so hard to achieve, and only kind-of-did. In fact, until I began typing this post, I had actually forgotten about being a National Merit Scholar and winning Science Olympiad awards because drumline overshadows all of it.

I've always thought there are three kinds of people -- those who hated high school, those who loved high school, and those who look back on high school with a sort of vague, awkward fondness.

I'm in the third category all the way, and here's why:

Because of high school drumline, when I realized in college that medical school was the wrong choice for me, I immediately quit and became pre-law.

("Why did you decide to go to law school?" "Because of drumline." It makes no sense, but it's true.)

Because of high school drumline, when I found out my boss at the student newspaper thought I wasn't doing a good enough job, I stormed into his office to ask why.

(And from that moment on, when he had a problem with me, he told me so himself.)

Because of high school drumline, when the junior associates at my firm decided to prank the summer associates by telling us that a partner was angry about our goofing off at firm events, I told them in no uncertain terms that was bullshit, and if they didn't want us to have fun, they shouldn't have taken us golfing in the first place.

(Not the reaction they expected.)

Because of high school drumline, standing up in front of a professor or judge and making an argument has never seemed scary to me.

(No judge or client will ever compare to being a lone cymbal crash during a rest note in front of a stadium full of people.)

The thing about life-lessons is, you generally don't realize you've learned them until a decade later.

TBK.

(It's a drumline thing.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for whatever

I've got travel fever, friends. And you know what doesn't help with travel fever?

Commercials like this:


Is it just me, or would the sea not sound like a middle-aged Justin Bieber fan?

If the sea ever called me, I suspect it would say something along the lines of, "THIS IS THE MOTHER-FU****G SEA! COWER AT MY SPLENDOR AND WORSHIP ME LIKE THE ANCIENTS! THE SEA IS HUNGRY FOR SACRIFICED CHILDREN! RAWR!"

And I would still want to go on a cruise.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for very disturbed

Remember Bondage Barbie?

He's now emailed Hannah, asking to clean our house.

For the record, yes, there are pictures of me with Hannah on Hannah's profile, and Hannah with me on mine. (Rule for life: Never date someone who doesn't have group pictures of them and their friends. Never date someone who has an ab pic online.)

How wrong would it be ...?

(I know, I know. Pretty wrong.)

(But it is spring cleaning season ...)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

T is for timeout, U is for umbrage

What the what, blogger? I am confused and disorganized due to all your many changes. Drafts are missing and/or not posting correctly, and most importantly, I can't seem to figure out how to get anywhere! This is entirely you, and not me.

I think you need to go over to the corner and think about what you've done.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for red herring

But you already know what that is, don't you?  So I don't think I'll talk about them.

(In a way, this blog post's titles is, itself, a red herring.  GASP!)

As I was preparing my taxes a few weeks ago, a thought occurred to me. When we refer to the federal government, we say "Uncle Sam." So when I paid my federal taxes, I say, "Uncle Sam really screwed me over this year."

But when I pay my state taxes, shouldn't I shake my fist and mutter something like, "Damn you, Uncle Brigham"?  (Yes, shocking I know. "New Denver" is in Utah somewhere. Minds blown.)

I shared this theory with the roomies, along with my suggestions for other states. (Nevada = Uncle Kit. Massachusetts = Uncle Massasoit. Rhode Island = Auntie Anne. Hawaii = Aunt Liliuokalani. And so forth.) 

Hannah responded sadly that Uncle Sam hadn't been so bad, but Uncle Brigham had really taken things out on her this year. (References were made to Khal Drogo, if you know what I mean.)

All joking aside, I really think that we should all try to make this happen. I mean, once upon a time in New York, people decided to start abbreviating all their neighborhoods, and that eventually became a thing. (Last night as I helped him prep for trial, Diego kept referring to a town called "West Jordan" as "WeJo." I think we can all agree this would be a big improvement for the residents of WeJo. It just sounds way cooler.) If they could do it, why can't we?

What do you think the patron aunts and uncles of the 50 states should be? Or at the very least, will you commit to referring to West Jordan as "WeJo"?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for ... questions?

So I don't have much for today. (So sorry.)

So instead, if you have any questions for me (at all), hit me up in the comments and I will answer all of them at least somewhat truthfully.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for prudish

I received an email from a guy on a dating website. (This is how my best stories start, and this one is the best of the best.)

He's a cross-dresser who wants to experiment with submissive/dominant role playing and wanted to know if I would be open to having him come over and clean my house while I yelled at him. "Nothing sexual," he insisted. "Just light degradation."

Not going to lie.  I considered it.

Realistically, given that Hannah and Diego enthusiastically offered to join in on the bossiness ("Scrub that sink! SCRUB IT!"), he could have gotten a lot out of the experience. And I would have gotten some sparkling floorboards.

Instead I just decided that the universe is telling me I am definitely not going to find love (or anything vaguely approximating love) online.

I've suspected this might be the case for some time now, but Bondage Barbie (hometown: Provo, Utah) just made it official.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for over-exaggeration

I periodically tell Spence that if he ever poops on the rug again, bites me, runs in the opposite direction when I tell him to come, or proceeds to hide in Diego's room (both Spence and Charlie consider Diego's room, and particularly under Diego's bed, a place of magic and wonder), I will slit his throat, skin him alive, and wear his pretty little fur as a scarf. Sometimes just one, sometimes all of them.

I sure hope I break this habit if I ever have a kid. I don't think CPS would understand my penchant for drama.

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Noooooo!

Was that a vague enough blog post title?

Go see Cabin in The Woods.

Do not google it first.

Do not watch the trailer first.

Report back here with your findings.

If I find out you googled beforehand, I will greet you with this:

Adding this image might get me sued!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Meet Mary Sue MacGuffin, she's a Manic Pixie Dream Girl

(TWO POSTS IN ONE DAY?!?!?  Madness, I know.)


What's a MacGuffin, you ask?  Precisely.

A MacGuffin is an Elder Wand, a Horcrux, a sword of Shannara, a briefcase, a notebook, a sled, a baseball, a diamond, a ring, a bike, a few million dollars, a Maltese Falcon, uranium, arguably Pamela Anderson, or the blueprints for an outer space battle station.

Any questions?

What's a Mary Sue?  Actually, I won't provide any examples for that one -- too easy to offend people.  (I've already hit my quotient for that today. Badumpching!)  In short, a Mary Sue is a character that is simultaneously bland and perfect, a substitute for a someone with real quirks and foibles. If you're worried you may have created a Mary Sue, please go here and assess the situation.

What is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl?  Why, she's a delightful creature who exists solely to make grim, dull creatures delightful themselves!

Maybe she gets you out of a rut after you've designed a hideous shoe.

Maybe she makes coming off anti-depressants that much less depressing.

She's probably dying of cancer, but at least she wears some very flowy skirts.

All-in-all, a delightful girl.  Have we mentioned yet how very delightful she is?

So here's my question.

Without turning this into a Twilight-bashing session ... could Bella Swan be considered a Mary Sue-MacGuffin-Manic Pixie Dream Girl?

TRIFECTA!



(Bonus points for people who identify additional MacGuffins, Mary Sues, Manic Pixie Dream Girls, or tell me which books/films I've described above.

PS, you get nothing for knowing that the Maltese Falcon is from The Maltese Falcon.)

M is for mothers

By now I'm sure you've heard of the Ann "Stay At Home Mother" Romney controversy. (PS, are you shocked that this is my second blog post referencing Ann Romney? Because I am.)

In short, a Democratic advisor said on CNN that Ann Romney was not a credible voice on women and the economy because she had "never worked a day in her life." Boos and hissing ensued. The President and First Lady went to bat for Ann Romney and candidates' families in general.

And while it took a little while, the original critic eventually apologized, saying that her real point was that Ann Romney was privileged enough to marry a man capable of supporting their family on his paycheck alone, entitling Ann the option of staying home if she chose, and therefore she cannot relate to other women who are less privileged.

Which I still think is a bullshit opinion.

Here's the thing--I don't believe that staying at home with your kids is a job. (Boo! Hiss!) And honestly, I suspect everyone who doesn't want their cars egged secretly agrees.

But it just isn't. A job is something you do for money, and stay at home parents don't get paid. If they were, they'd be called nannies and babysitters.

I really dislike studies that argue a stay at home parent would earn X amount of money if all their duties were outsourced because it perpetuates the idea that something must have an economic value to have societal value. (Also, it's just baloney. Calculating how much it would cost to have someone else buy your groceries and cook your meals? I have to do that anyway to live and I don't have a kid, so why does the same activity suddenly have monetary value when a parent does it? End tangent.)

There are many things I do that have no economic value. I shovel my walk in the winter. I vote. I do volunteer work. These things are not additional "jobs" to my actual job--these are the duties of a good citizen. The responsibilities of an adult. 

Someone who has a child and then cares for that child is not doing a job. I don't know why society insists on pretending otherwise.

Back to Ann Romney.

Ann Romney raised the five kids she had. She did volunteer work. She battled cancer and MS. But she didn't have a job.

Since when does that, and that alone, mean she can't relate to those who do have jobs?

What if I were to argue that as a woman, Callista Gingrich is not capable of relating to men? Or as a black person, Michelle Obama is not capable of relating to white people? Clearly both of those statements rely on a thousand incorrect assumptions, the biggest of which is that a person must endure every circumstance personally before being capable of relating to others.  

But that's clearly not true.

Now, it very well may be that Ann Romney cannot relate to the problems of a poor mother who works two jobs and still has to take food stamps for her kids. But please offer some evidence for that other than the mere fact that Ann Romney has never needed food stamps herself.

Sometimes it feels like the whole country is infected with a case of the Ricki Lake guest "You don't knooooooow me"s with a serious dose of "And you neva can!"s. And it's time to come down with a case of the FDR "Maybe I'm super rich and my legs don't work, but I can still see why coal mining would be a rough gig"s.

So from now on, let's all start from the presumption that President Obama, Michelle Obama, Mitt Romney, and Ann Romney can all relate to all of us until you have evidence (not speculation) to prove otherwise.


 

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Leuly

My sister Echo (not her real name, we've discussed this before, yes? email me if you need her real name) works at a new company called Leuly. Leuly creates websites for businesses that are easy to update yourself -- so no outsourcing your day-to-day web needs. Leuly sets everything up for you, teaches you how to use it, and lets you roam free, free as a bird!

If you or anyone you know has some website-creatin needs (established businesses as well as those looking to start one, like a writer wanting to promote your work or a new college graduate thinking of alternatives to slaving away for the man), contact Leuly, follow them on Twitter (@leulyweb) or like them on Facebook. Right now they're giving away various free service to loyal followers in an effort to build up their clientele, so toady up!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for knuckling down

Three weeks from today, I will be attending a writing boot camp as part of a conference. T-21 days to get my booty in gear and decide what I will be sharing.

Go team!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for just ... so ... hungry ...

Have I mentioned that I am pretty much perpetually on a diet of some kind? I am, usually with mixed results due to some pretty haphazard efforts on my part.

Fortunately this time I have joined forces with Hannah and Diego.  Our fridge is constantly stocked with fresh veggies and other boring things, and whenever I want to splurge on gelato or cupcakes (both dangerously available within walking distance of the casa), I have a man with perfect hair to glower at me and remind me that swimming suit season is just around the corner. So it's a win-win.

Also in my dieting corner is my faithful Android phone, complete with weight loss apps. According to my friendly "Lose It!" app, if I want to achieve my weight loss goal by mid-June, I can consume 1,300 calories a day. If I want to achieve it at the end of May, I can eat 1,100 calories a day and Lose It! does not recommend a caloric intake of below 1,200 calories a day but here's how one might hypothetically go about it! Oh technology, what would I do without you?

Dieting is definitely the worst, there's no two ways around it. But the one good thing about dieting at 28 versus dieting at 18 is this: now I have the perspective to accept that things will probably not get better in the immediate future than they are now.

Is that a depressing thought? I don't mean it to be. Of course I want to achieve my weight loss goal (ideally by the end of May, but I will take mid-June if means my bones are still capable of holding me up), I want the flat abs I had in high school, I want to be able to run an 8 minute mile again. I suspect I am capable of achieving all these things.

But I no longer want to lose 30 pounds just because I weighed 105 pounds when I was fifteen.  (Did I kinda-sorta just reveal my weight online? I kinda-sorta did.) Now I will be happy to lose 15, 5 of which has already been achieved. (Booyah and thank you.)

Do I want to get rid of the cellulite on my thighs? You betcha. Will I happily shell out money someday if they ever invent a plastic surgery that can achieve a lump-free aesthetic? Absolutely. Does that make me shallow? Probably. Do I care? Nope. (I believe in the kind of feminism that promotes accepting people the way they are, while giving them the leeway to change what they can't accept about themselves if they want. SUE ME.)

But the difference between 28 and 18 is that at 28, I've realized that my thighs at this moment are probably the cutest they will ever be. My legs will not be less-cellulitey the summer of my 29th year and there's a chance they will be worse. So unlike 18, when I never wore shorts in public because oh gosh I am so hideous!, now I wear shorts whenever I feel like it, chubbiness and all. 

Because yes, my thighs aren't perfect, but damnit, they aren't bad. They're mine and they get me where I want to go and if the sun is out and the breeze is nice, they deserve to enjoy it. I already lost my chance to wear shorts over my 18 year old thighs (and 19, and 20, and 21, and so on until around 25 when I finally, mercifully, began to get over myself) because I was self-conscious. I'm not losing the chance with the 28 year old versions.

When I go home tonight, I'll water my garden, take Spencer on a walk, and then Hannah, Diego and I will head off to Gold's Gym for a Zumba/Power Flex double header. I'll probably wear shorts and not worry so much about the fact that I am the awkwardest Zumbaer in the world. (Really, it's pretty bad.)

And then I'll grill some shrimp and sweet peppers for dinner with the roomies, because if you can't have cupcakes, spicy shrimp ain't bad.

(Spicy shrimp marinade, if you're interested:
 1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice of 1/2 lemon
Mix it all up, spoon pour over shrimp, grill, discard the rest.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

G is for Geeks Who Drink, H is for Happy

G

If you live in a town that hosts a Geeks Who Drink trivia night, I would strongly encourage you to attend.  Good times are had by all!

H

Yesterday was Easter and my best buddy Spencer's first birthday.  All in all, far too much festivity to keep up with the blogging challenge. Will be back tomorrow with a stronger effort.

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for feminism

1. This is what feminism means:

Men and women deserve equal political, legal, economic, and social rights.

and

Women and men benefit from a reduction of societal inequality.

2. This is not what feminism means:

Women should be treated better than men.

or

Men and women are the same. (Equality does not mean "sameness." I know it's really hard to understand without a fourth grade grasp of vocabulary, but trust me on this one. If it's hard, pretend I said "white people and black people" or "old people and young people" or "Christian people and Jewish people" or "poor people and rich people" instead of "men and women" when I say that they deserve equal political, legal, economic, and social rights despite not being the "same." Not so hard to tell the difference then, is it?)

3. If you are still unclear about the meaning of feminism, please re-read points 1 and 2.

4. If you think you are not a feminist after reading points 1 and 2, please go away.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for everything is relative

I went out to lunch the other day with my law school friend Sally. She told me that a secretary at her firm recently became engaged to and married a Jordanian after a whirlwind courtship of a few months.

After my initial shock (exact words: She's seen the Sally Field movie, right?) Sally and I discussed the various complications that come from marrying someone in an entirely different legal system.

No domestic abuse laws.

The possibility of unilateral divorce.

He can stop her from leaving the country with a court order. He can take another wife without her permission if he has a court order. (By the by, do you know how easy it is to get a court order in America? Pretty damn easy.)

The custody of their children will be determined by the gender and ages of the children -- not a "best interests" analysis.

And the U.S. State Department's official position on marrying a Jordanian in Jordan? "We can't do anything to help you if things go south. So don't ask."

Sally took her friend out to lunch and tried to explain these things to her -- that no matter how great a guy seems initially, even in America divorces generally involve pulling out all the stops to hurt the other party. Why on earth would you agree to the possibility of divorce in Jordan after seeing the Sally Field movie?

Finally the secretary looked at Sally and said, "Fine. Is there a possibility I'll go over there and wind up in some kind of basement dungeon? Sure. But he's my soul mate."

(Question for the peanut gallery: What percentage of possibility of ending up in a dungeon would you be willing to accept for true love? Because mine and Sally's is zero percent.)

Things are getting rough in the New Denver dating scene if girls are running off to the Middle East to get hitched.

But then again, I already knew that.

The day after lunch with Sally, I got notice of my 10 year high school reunion.  Activities include a "family picnic" and "family 5K fun run."

Do you think they emphasized the family enough? 

(I mean, that's not enough pressure to put "dungeon" back on the table, but you could see where a girl might start getting desperate.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for deus ex machina

Deus ex machina: literally meaning "God in the machine," where an outside force appears at the final moments of a story to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem.

Usually when people talk about deus ex machina, they're criticizing a writer for painting him or herself into a corner, plot-wise, and using any method possible to get out of it. Certainly, it's probably not the most satisfying ending in the world to have a cop suddenly show up and shoot all the bad guys, despite no one having called the cops.

But some deus ex machina works, in my opinion:

When a flood saves the Soggy Bottom Boys at the end of O Brother, Where Art Thou?

When Larry and Ralph are being crucified in The Stand just as the Trashcan Man returns from the desert with the nuclear warhead he'd been sent to find.

When it turns out the magic shop already had the weapon of a god--Olaf's Hammer--before Buffy's big fight with Glory in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

When John arrives after the gates of hell are opened in Supernatural, giving his son Dean time to find the Colt and save the day.

When Jack sets the island on fire in Lord of the Flies, which allows a naval ship to see the island and rescue all the boys.

Of course, there are times where it doesn't work. For every person that likes the ending of The Stand, there is another person saying, "God saved them? Really, God saved them?"

And as much as I love Hamlet--pirates? Really, pirates? Well, thank goodness that the ending makes up for it.

What examples of deus ex machina work for you, and which ones don't?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Chekhov's gun

If a gun is introduced in the first act, it must be fired by the third.

The theory of "Chekhov's gun" comes from a Russian playright named Anton Chekhov. It's a method of foreshadowing what is to come -- if something that seems irrelevant pops up in your story, you can be fairly certain it will become relevant by the end.  (Or it won't. In which case the author/screenwriter/playright was just dicking with you.)

The most obvious example of Chekhov's gun that comes to mind is Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. I was a summer associate in Fake Austin in July 2008, and I kept hearing about a book that was being released. I was vaguely aware of the Twilight phenomenon, thanks to my sister Echo, but I had never before experienced the kind of hype and mania that accompanied the build up to Breaking Dawn. It was like the time my friends and I got tickets to a midnight showing of X-Men 2 freshman year in college to celebrate being done with finals and we were surrounded by nerds who gave standing ovations throughout the movie--only worse.

The night of its release-party, my firm was holding an event at a Dave and Busters, and after an evening of buffalo wings and Dance Dance Revolution, I decided to pop over to the next-door Barnes and Noble to see what all the pre-midnight fuss was about.

It got weird.

It got real weird.

Needless to say, I left that Barnes and Noble without a copy.

But then the next day I was at the gym and I noticed (I kid you not) a 6 foot 6, completely ripped guy my age ... reading Breaking Dawn as he worked the stair-stepper machine. I watched him as he tore up and down the stair-stepper, working up a sweat ... only to inexplicably slow down as he became more and more engrossed in the story.

Well, after that I drove straight to my nearest bookstore and bought a copy. You would have too, if you'd witnessed what I'd witnessed.

As I sat by the pool in my complex that afternoon, stubbornly enduring the 110 degree temperatures, I read the section where Edward tells Bella, apropos of nothing, about the prohibition on making children into vampires.

BOOM.

I knew in that second, roughly 20 pages into the book, that by the end of Breaking Dawn, someone was making or having a vampire baby. (And since Stephenie Meyer is Mormon, probably having. We do love us some procreation.)

No wonder that kid had been unable to focus on getting his shred on.

Another example of books that drop early details that become incredibly relevant later is the Harry Potter series. Anyone else remember a Harry Potter and thinking, "Of course he's a werewolf! Of course the rat is really a person! Of course the diary is evil! Of course he's not really a professor! Of course the wand belongs to someone else! Of course she knew Snape from before! Why didn't I see that?"

Because JK Rowling knows how to scatter her guns amid all the other world-building details that she provides to make the world of Hogwarts come alive. She lulls you into a false sense of wonder with tidbits on pumpkin pastries, floating candlesticks, and the history of witchcraft in the Bronze Age -- meanwhile, don't pay attention to this detail, it's just the remedy for an accidental poisoning.

OR IS IT?

Do you have any memories of a book, movie, or film where suddenly you knew what was coming -- or better yet, the delight you felt at the end of a book, movie, or film where you realized you should have known, but didn't?

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test is designed to measure the amount of impact women have in a film.

It's very simple.  You only have to meet three steps:

1. Are there at least two women with names in the film?  If yes, proceed.

2. Do those two women talk to each other in the film?  If yes, proceed.

3. Is at least one of their conversations about a topic OTHER THAN a man? If yes, then HURRAY!  Your film has met the bare minimum requirement for representing half of our population.

Women! It's almost like they're people!
Despite how easy it should be to pass this low bar, only 4 of the 9 films most recently nominated for Best Picture pass: The Help, The Descendants, Midnight in Paris, and Hugo.  In Midnight in Paris and Hugo, the third requirement (having named female characters have a conversation about a topic other than a man), the required conversation happened once and it lasted for less than a minute in a full-length motion picture.

Women! As it turns out, they are people -- just 0.8% of the time!
I've been thinking about some of my favorite movies (and some movies that I just happened to see) and how they fare.

Gone with the Wind passes.

The Godfather does not.

Knocked Up squeaks by.

28 Days Later passes.

The Departed does not.

Watchmen does not.  (For a moment, I thought it did.  Then as I mentally replayed all the conversations Laurie has with her mother Sally, I realized they all involved talking about men: an anonymous comic collector in Mexico, the Comedian, and Dr. Manhattan.)

I could not think of a single romantic comedy besides Bridesmaids that passes, which is a depressing thought.   

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (yes, I saw it, despite my protestations) does not pass.  What's more, despite it ostensibly being about FEMINISM, not only does it fail, but it fails steps 2 and 3: not a single, named female character in Girl With The Dragon Tattoo ever has a conversation with another female character, regardless of topic. Every woman who speaks in that film speaks to a man or a woman without a name (hello, lesbian bar hookup).

Paranormal Activity 2 and 3 pass.

True Grit barely passes.

3:10 to Yuma does not pass.

The Dark Knight does not pass.

The Big Lebowski does not pass.

No Country for Old Men does not pass.

Thor passes.

The Hunger Games passes.

And the funny thing is, as far as I can tell, this is purely a film issue, because television programs (good, bad, cheesetastic alike) inevitably pass.

The Vampire Diaries passes.  Lost passes.  Modern Family passes.  Game of Thrones passes.  Downton Abbey passes.  Revenge passes.  Jersey Shore passes (I assume).  Hell, even The Bachelor passes. (Sometimes they talk about how much they hate the other women.)

I don't bring this up to make people feel bad about the movies they love, but I think it's important for people to be aware of the media they consume. Most viewers are aware that the women they see in magazines and movies have been altered -- digitally enhanced to remove flaws and whiten teeth, the film stretched in editing to make them appear both thinner and taller -- and if you didn't know that, seriously, you can hop off the treadmill now. You're comparing yourself to something that doesn't exist.*

But most of us just accept the way women's personalities are also marginalized in film. Most roles for women in films fall into the wife-or-girlfriend-of-hero category, or bitter-type-A-personality-single-shrew category, not-conventially-attractive-but-at-least-she's-funny-comic-relief (if she's lucky) category, or Lifetime-original-series-staring-Meredith-Baxter-Birney. Any role that doesn't fit one of those four molds is heralded as REVOLUTIONARY (see, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo--gasp! a woman can be badass! Bridesmaids--gasp! women can be funny!) despite any other failings it might have.

So the next time you're out for a picture show, raise your jumbo-sized Diet Coke to the Katniss Everdeens, the Margaret Thatchers, the Skeeter Phelans, the Kristy Reys, and the Annie Walkers of filmography. They may not be perfect, but at least they sometimes think about survival/politics/civil rights/demonic possession/unemployment, respectively, in addition to men.


*For some more (more educated, more interesting) reading on images of women in pop culture, please see Beauty Redefined

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for apologies in advance

(I know I'm cheating with this post, but what the internet doesn't know won't hurt it.)

I greatly enjoyed the A-Z Challenge last year.  I found a lot of new blogs and a lot of new bloggers found me.  But since then, I have discovered one of a few downsides to blogging.

The follower function.

More followers made me happy.

Fewer followers made me sad.

And paranoid.

And a little resentful.

What I had done to make them follow me and then un-follow me?  Was it posting too much, or not enough? Was it that post or this one that made them annoyed enough to delete me from their daily reads?

I've finally gotten to the point where I don't really care.  Follow me, unfollow me, it doesn't matter.  I write this because I enjoy it, and the fact that I think some other people enjoy it as well is just a nice bonus.

Here's where the advance apologies come in.

I suspect that over the course of April, I will gain some new followers. And I will find some new blogs to follow. But there won't be a perfect overlap.

Yes, sometimes I get a new follower and I don't immediately click on their blog to find out who they are. First, some of you have made that surprisingly difficult by not linking your blog to your picture anyway. Second, sometimes I'm just forgetful.

And third, yes, sometimes I read your blog, and as appreciative as I am that you think I am amusing or interesting enough to follow, I just don't think your blog is my cup of tea.

I follow a boatload of blogs as is, folks. I never get a chance to read all of them every week, and as a blogger who has hit critical mass, I am a little pickier at this point on who I choose to follow back.

So if you are planning to follow me just to get me to follow you, I'm sorry, you really shouldn't bother.  The likelihood of it happening hovers around 25 percent, and that will probably decrease over time.

(Feel free to seethe here. And then read on, please.)

But if you really do think that your blog is a gem that I have merely overlooked, don't get bashful about it. Comment on my blog.  Tell me to go look at yours. If you were willing to unfollow me over my faux pas, shouldn't you be willing to say, "Hey missy! My blog is the cat's pajamas and you are missing out!"

Then I guarantee I will click over, and if it's as spanking and awesome as you think, then I'll probably think so too. And when and if that happens, you will gain another follower too. Yay for everyone!

But little heads appearing and disappearing under my followers tab?

Doesn't get my panties in a twist anymore.