Confession: Party Times

I drank too much on Saturday. (This is going to be one of those stories.) It was like I was in my senior year of college, again, on a Tuesday.

K-bag on her average Tuesday
We had a beach party. It was cold out, and there was Dry Fly Gin. (Way to go, Spokane!) And Maria was pouring shots, and those are my excuses. We eventually got too cold and carted all the stuff the three blocks back to the apartment. Mikey was carrying our card table and allegedly said, "I'm glad I'm always drunk when I do this kind of thing. Otherwise, people might judge me, like: what's that guy doing carrying a table!"

I remember telling Julie about my new favorite thing with ending sentences in "so". It allows the listener to fill in their choice of suggestion or sass or doubt. E.g. We were, like, going out for hamburgers, so. I was telling people all sorts of things. I told John that I was, in my estimation, 30% gay. 15% for Julie (understandable, if paltry), 10% for somebody we couldn't later recall, and 5% for the rest of the women on Earth. So ladies, I am 5% gay for YOU. (Or I could be 10% gay for you if you happen to be the woman we can't remember. It's possible.)

I'm kind of a hunk, so...
Then my birthday present from Mitch arrived in the mail - it was an e-cigarette just like I wanted! They come in no-nicotine, so don't worry. Except that Mitch accidentally got the high nicotine ones, so. (Mom, don't tell Dad.) I was getting everybody to try it with me.

We turned out the lights and were dancing in the living room. Jess (bus-accident Jess) was leading us in some salsa. (I was really good at it, so.) Then we started other dancing. Apparently at one point I jumped on Mitch's back - he might have prompted it, I'm not sure - and then he flipped me head-first over his back and onto the ground. It was later described as a body slam.

That's not the worst of it. That's not what made me feel really ashamed the next day as I nursed the bruise on my left hip bone. I called Emily Palmer to give my confession and get some sympathy. I told her, in a voice that had started sounding like an 80-year-old smoker's, that what made me look really bad was the fact that when I hit the ground, party-goers standing around me, looking down, I didn't feel pain at all.

She said that that was nothing. One time, the day after she got drunk, she found her sock drawer was soaking wet. The first thing she did was to smell it to make sure it wasn't pee. It wasn't. It wasn't pee.

I still felt a bit out of control. (Mom, really, don't tell Dad.) But that did make me feel better. She's a good friend.


We're All From Fucking Earth

There’s an ongoing thread of conversation in various media about the differences between men and women. Men think this way; women think that way. Men are from Mars; women are from Venus. 10 Things Your Boyfriend Wished You Knew About Sex. Etc.

I bring it up, now, because I’ve bumped into that conversation a couple times, lately:
Here, in this cracked article.
Louis C.K.’s standup: Oh My God
This episode of the Nerdist Writer’s Panel.
An article in the Atlantic that is satirized here.

A caveat I often see in these arguments is the “I’ve never been that other gender” statement. In the cracked article, David Wong says, “I don't know what it's like to be a woman. I haven't been one in a long time. So as a result, it's not easy for me to describe what it's like to be a man, because I don't know what you're using for context.”

The thing that’s most often left out of this conversation is something that I think is major part of the human experience. I have never been and never will be any other person. I will never be outside my skin. I will never know what it is like to think and live as another person. Wong says he doesn’t know what women are using for contex? David Wong doesn’t know what any other man uses for context.

The fallacy that I see most often in the men v. women conversation is not that men and women are different – they might inherently be. The fallacy is that whoever’s talking knows what it’s like to be anybody else, much less half the world’s population.

Because I never get to be outside of my own head is my single greatest motivation to be moral, and it’s the number one reason I seek out complex communication and expression like art. It’s part of the reason that other people are so valuable to me. And the fact that the men v. women conversation gets that wrong makes it almost always a waste of my time.


Why I'm Not a Mom

I got my hair cut today, and while trying to look like Carey Mulligan from Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, I'm afraid I got more of a mom haircut. In case anyone's worried like me, I made a list in order to soothe you. Here's how I know I'm not a mom:

  • I'm 25 
  • I allow the words "butt", "butthole", and "Harry Potter"
  • I do not make spaghetti
  • I like pointy things
  • I have job
  • Was never pregnant for, like, year
  • Did not live in shoe
  • Am not nice
  • Am not named "Theresa"
  • Have not confused uterus with belly
  • Mom and Dad are not grand


My Friends are Doing Cool Stuff: Nic Vargus Podcasts about Twitter

Nic was something of a phenomenon in the Whitworth English department - he was getting paid to write stuff. He was freelancing articles about tech and video games while the rest of us were just completing homework assignments. He's talented and driven and energetic. He'd keep after editors until they'd let him write for them.

After he graduated, he did some things that I'm hazy on. (I'm, number one, not great friends with him. And, number two, I feel like his career trajectory is genuinely difficult to keep track of.) Writing related, tech related stuff. Now he works for Mac Something - it's impressive whatever it is - and lives in San Francisco.

What I do know is that he and his friends have started doing a podcast, and I listen to a lot of podcasts. (I'm at my desk eight hours a day, and my work doesn't require all of my brain. So I listen to stuff on the internet almost all day. I'll do a run-down, sometime, on fantastic stuff to listen to.) It's called "The Only Podcast in the World", and you can find it at this link: http://theonlypodcastintheworld.tumblr.com/

As of this writing, they only have three episodes (episodes zero through two). To some extent they're still figuring out who they are as a podcast and what they want to be about, but for now they've been talking a lot about twitter. (They've forayed a bit into LinkedIn, but I'm not interested in that.) They're expressing their twitter theories and experimenting with unconventional ways to get more followers.

One of my favorite bits has been Dean's strategy of tweeting very little in order to get more followers on the rational that people will enjoy his "nice quiet feed." Another has been Nic's expressed satisfaction at the number of twitter followers he has now: "I have enough followers that I can tweet a question or thought and get responses from a diverse group of people. Because otherwise what's the point of Twitter? It's just to be able to hear people who aren't yourself."

That's why I like Nic. He's an advocate of a lot of stupid stuff - like standing on street corners and asking for twitter followers via cardboard sign - and will do whatever and be brazen about it, but he's also a pretty good thinker and has good ideas. He's worth watching for, is what I'm saying.


Crush Story

I still should really be writing my outline/ first act for my TV drama pilot. I have that class tomorrow. It's due. And cranking these things out is what I want to do for a living, so.

I was stalled on it earlier today, and I called for reinforcements. I sent the following text to eight of my friends (six guys and two women, if that matters to you):

"I’m having trouble. What would need to happen for a high school guy to get a crush on a quiet, generally unnoticed girl and for him to initiate something? What event? This is for the TV pilot I’m writing. Out of ideas."

I wasn't sure if anybody would get back to me, but I got a flurry of responses. So much so, my battery died. I enjoyed the responses so much because of their range of candor, creativity, and thoughtfulness. (Thank you!) Here are some of them:

  • "I think there would need to be some rumor about her once going to a party with someone famous. Or a rumor that she gives great blow jobs or something."

  • "She accidentally hits him with her car. And she feels a sense of obligation to the boy."

  • "Opposite each other in a play?"

  • "Girl that does something particularly memorable (like express a strong opinion really intelligently or really nerd out about a thing she loves that the boy also loves, like a sports team or video game) when she thinks no one sees her would do it. But you’d have to mix it with something like the boy seeing her v’s secret undies while she’s stretching in PE."

  • "Maybe they have a random conversation about sports when they’re sitting next to each other in English class and she blows him away with her sports knowledge."

  • "She wears his favorite band T-shirt, she draws something cool, maybe she says something interesting or insightful in a class discussion. Maybe he asks her for a pencil and she says no."

  • "Expert opinion: anything. It’s normal enough for high school dudes to develop crushes that almost nothing will seem unbelievable. That could sound like bad news bc the scene won’t just write itself, but it’s actually good news bc you can base what happens on your characters, not narrative necessity. Another way of saying the same thing is that it takes almost nothing to get an audience to accept that one character is attracted to another (even if she is a dork!)"
  • "He accidentally walks in the girls bathroom while shes putting on makeup (happened to vince)"

Sports affiliations showed up twice on the list, and T-shirts did once. Mitch talks about how the first time he had a crush on me was the off-campus barbecue junior year at Whitworth. I was wearing my mom's old IU sweatshirt that I had found in the closet over the summer. He was like, "She likes IU, too!" Then we got married.

Seeing George Saunders

George Saunders is like the Jack White of short story authors. Maybe even of writers in general; he is a rock star. He teaches in the MFA program at Syracuse, and he recently published Tenth of December, which has been widely hailed etc, etc. He came to Northwestern last week for a reading and two different Q&A sessions, one about writing and one about the value of higher education.

He was funny, utterly gracious and charming, summarily the best. Here's a clip of him talking in lieu of having any footage of when I actually saw him:

Some of my favorite things he said, in response to various questions, was one: I'm a fiction author so I don't have to think so thoroughly about things, which is nice. (That's not verbatim, but it's the gist.) It was in comparison to being a philosopher, a theologian, or something like that.

Another: "At each stage of your education, you're liberated of your own nonsense." I like how he said nonsense instead of bullshit, which is the word I would use since I'm not entirely out of my gratuitous-swearing phase. He didn't mean something as hard-line as bullshit. We build our understanding of the world and of ourselves around us, and much of it is nonsense. He talked about how education can be what helps us push open our understanding, letting ourselves out and other things in.

He also talked about how, with writing, he has thought, "Anybody helping me... no? Everybody want me to quit...yes?" I feel like I'm running into that first part. The idea that maybe if I hang out long enough in front of my computer, somebody will do the hard parts for me, has been hard to shake. Because being in the presence of a great writer like George Saunders, even being best friends with him, won't make writing any more easy. At some point, nobody can really help you write.

My last thought on the experience is that it was a little disappointing. He couldn't have been a better person to listen to, and he answered questions well and was funny and seemed to genuinely care about students. He was great, but his writing is so much better. Having read Tenth of December meant that I spent time, thought, and emotions on something that he created (and spent lots of time, thought, and emotions on) - I was so affected by the story "Victor Lap" that it took most of a car ride to Milwaukee for Mitch to talk me down from it. I was surprised that meeting him didn't inspire the same deal of connection that I felt with his book. I guess that's how it goes.

Read Tenth of December, though. And meet him, anyway, if you have the chance.


Status Update

This is a follow up post to the one I did back in February called A Guy on Facebook. A recap: he is a guy that I went to high school with; we weren't great friends or anything, but our school was small and we had classes together, and he struck me as an interesting and decent person. We could have been friends, but I was too preoccupied with fitting in a certain crowd and with school and with playing basketball and soccer. So it goes. It's fine.

Anyhow, this guy - I'll call him A - has been continuing to post on Facebook and hasn't fallen in to basic self-promotion like I thought he would. I've continued to be impressed with his voice and his honesty. Facebook gets a lot of flack, and I think its users have, on average, some level of disdain for it. I do. But I think while we're eager to "figure out" the internet - call it bad or good or whatever - it's as bad or good as what we put into it.

Recently, on A's wall, a post went up, to which people's responses made me feel really good:

Those people who responded are people from my high school, and for the most part, we weren't friends with one another. In addition to A being surprised at the relatability of his post, I was surprised that I wasn't the only one who found them relatable. 

It makes me feel great that other people are trying to figure out humanity and are also having an anxious time of it. I like it when people are good to each other and how they don't always punish vulnerability. Like. Like. Like.


Mind the Gap!

Last night on the train, there were four guys standing by the doors. Kind of tough-looking guys, they didn't appear to know each other. One of them was an older black guy, there was a white guy, and two Latino-looking guys. They were just standing, not talking. It was around ten thirty at night.

We stopped at Belmont, and the black guy, facing the door, pulled an iPhone out of his bag. In pulling it out, the phone got away from him, and it bounced its way out the open door of the train. Between the train and the platform there's a gap that's plenty large to fit an iPhone. It didn't fall down that, though, and the man was able to step out of the train, retrieve his phone, and step back in before the doors closed.

The other three guys empathized with him immediately. They were visibly relieved when the man got his phone back. The white guy gave a recap of his emotions throughout the ordeal ("Then I was like, oh no! And then there was the crack and the door! And, like, wow.") The black guy told the others that it was a new phone on top of everything.

It was nice to see people on the train empathizing with one another so spontaneously, even if it was over an iPhone. Sometimes people are alright.


Thought on Last Week's Game of Thrones

Season 3 Episode 6, "The Climb"

Toast with jelly. Baileys nightcap. Sparkling Ice Mountain natural spring water, lemon essence. Delicious. (Getting my keyboard sticky.)

Okay, can we all agree that this last episode was the best one so far in season three? The Brienne and Jamie story line is really rolling. Last week we had the somewhat-strange bath scene between the two of them, roiling in platonic intimacy. And this week we get them at a dinner table, Jamie trying to cut his steak with one hand and Brienne wearing a dress (pink). They're facing across from the head (I think) of their captors, while they're fate is doled out. Brienne, ever stern, slams her fork into Jamie's steak, pinning it down for him to cut. Afterwards, the head captor says something at which she takes offense. Her hand on the table, she instinctively grips her steak knife. Jamie is busy smooth-talking and, without missing a beat, briefly places his hand on Brienne's. She calms down.

Bravo! Wonderful! Amen! It was a major pay-off, for me. I feel like I could watch those two actors together all day.

My complaint of the week is those darn reoccurring torture scenes. Nobody knows what's going on, and it's almost the same scene week to week. I just can't see, at this point, what they add. I don't think when we find out why this person is being tortured we'll be like - oh, you know it was a good thing I saw that fifth one. Finding out what was going on would have been so much less rewarding if I only saw torture scenes one through four.

Alright, til next time. And, remember, dismemberment is bad for the economy.

Edit 5/10/13:

I also meant to point out that this episode passed the Bechdel Test. The two women with Bran (who have names I can't remember. Ask Mitch; he knows them.) have a conversation with one another about skinning rabbits. All the more reason to like this episode.


A Bit About My Day Job*

*or 50 Pounds of Cat Food on a NASA Grant

I really should be writing something else right now. (Homework!) But I'd rather hang out with you all, real or imagined readers.

We were shown this in a meeting at work on Friday, and I thought it was interesting (and, wonderfully, short of 2 minutes). I'm an assistant grant officer in the central office of a research university. One of the things we do is make sure that researchers aren't misspending grant money. This video is a small bit about that.


Thoughts on Last Week's Game of Thrones

Season 3 Episode 5,  "Kissed by Fire"

Actually, I'm going to write about two of my thoughts on GOT up to this point. Two complaints, really. (I do like the show overall.)

First, the sides competing for the throne are unbalanced. Daenerys is too strong to make that interesting. She has dragons, a super-trained army, and I haven't seen her make one bad decision as leader so far. So unless she made one in season two (which I haven't seen), she's set no precedent for making mistakes. She's more of an icon than a real person. The only obstacle preventing her from taking the throne is her distance from it. The biggest thing going on is us waiting for her to get there, to finish her road trip. This makes Rob's concerns about winning the war seem small. He's only fighting to be interim monarch. I feel like the only thing to thwart Daenerys is either some act of god - flood, accidental spearing - or the White Walkers descending upon her. If it's the White Walkers scenario, then, in the meantime, we're still just waiting for the big players to get somewhere.

And I had something else...

Oh yeah, this last episode was dangerously close to being just a collection of scenes. Some of the scenes survive alright - Papa Lannister telling his adult children who they have to marry, Jamie and Brienne in the tub - but others don't. John Snow's and what's-her-name's sex scene in the cave felt supremely unimportant (even though he was breaking his vows) because their through line has been so spotty. We haven't seen them  together since maybe the first episode. We've lost the sense of their romantic tension, and so we don't feel the pay off. They're still an entertaining collection of scenes, but if they lose those through, lines it's going to be increasingly difficult to keep those scenes feeling important.

Corn Rockets

My boss’s boss told me a lovely (yes, lovely) story, yesterday. His sister owns a hot air balloon. She’d take him up in it – they could go a mile high if they wanted to. They could touch down on lakes, the surface tension of the water keeping the basket afloat, and drift steadily according to the wind. But what they liked to do was land the balloon in a cornfield and pull in all these ears of corn; then they’d take off. They’d fly really high above the rural towns and take the ears of corn, shuck them, and then drop them out of the basket. They called them “corn rockets.”

In my mind, I make this into an animated short or maybe draw it as a comic strip. The first beat is the balloon steadily filling up. Doing that thing where it lies limp, then teeters on its side, and finally expands enough to be respectable and upright. It’s all in bright colors. Then the people get into the basket. They fly up high. They land in the cornfield. They go back up and drop the corn rockets, whose pulled-back husks make them spiral like helicopter seeds. In the town, when the rockets hit, they immediately explode into popcorn. Air pop, most likely.