X-Files Thanksgiving

I made some more Thanksgiving coloring pages! (They're generally mashed up from other people's work on the internet.) I hope you print them out and color them. Happy Thanksgiving!


How to Look Amazing in Photos

I've been doing this Stitch Fix thing, where they pick out clothes and mail them to you. (It felt like an adult thing to do, but I'm realizing while I write this that I'm kind of paying someone to replace my mom.) They also email me fashion tips, and one of these was "Ten Simple Tips to Taking the Best Selfie." They are:
1. Natural lighting is everything.
2. Tilt your head at an angle.
3. Always shoot from above.
4. Stand at a three-quarter angle.
5. Put your hand on your hip.
6. Look for simple, clean backgrounds.
7. Get big, bright eyes!
8. Find a favorite pic and copy it.
9. Wear a little makeup!
10. Be yourself!

I just think that this list isn't taking into account the variety of pictures I want to see. Sure, beaming radiant women shown from above and at a slight angle, tilting their chins, and hands-ing on their hips is wonderful. But what if I want to see more of them than that?

I want to see my friends, family, and celebrities at their most compromising and obscure angles. I want to get a dentist's POV or see up their nose or capture them as I might driving a car while they crash into the side of me on their bicycle. Why not post an endoscopy picture of their ACL surgery? I want to see that, too, don't you?

So, I will propose my own list:
1. Have something funny lodged under your nail? Take a picture of it.
2. Extra sexts? Sure.
3. Definitely while you're sleeping.
4. Make sure there's one photo in your portfolio of you overheated;
5. And underheated.
6. Put your hand on your dog's hip.
7. Split ends.
8. Upside down with all the blood rushed to your face.
9. Trying your best to psychically connect with people throughout time and space.
10. Be interesting.

If you have a list of your own, feel free to comment below!


High School Reunion

It's going to be ten years - shit, it has been ten years since I graduated high school. They're doing a reunion at the end of the summer good ol' graduating class of 2005 at Manitou Springs High School.

There were four schools in our district total: two elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. So I had been in school with about a third of my graduating class since kindergarten. I've been thinking about my high school career (since the reunion thing) and how I came away with a sum total of one friend, and even she I haven't talked to in years.

What happened?

It's an astonishing failure on my part, isn't it? It wasn't that I had no friends at that stage in my life - my best friends are people who I've known since I was born. Our parents were also friends, and we knew each other through church; we just didn't go to the same school. Still, how was it possible that I spent that much time around kids in my class and yet connected with them so little?

College went much better and the places I've lived since then, as well. I've put more effort into meeting people; it's become more important to me. And there was the introduction of alcohol into my life and social circles. (If I had partied at all in high school, I feel like things would have looked a lot different.)

The other thing, on top of that, was that being an aspiring Christian girl, trying to do things right, had me only consuming Christian, church-approved media. Plus, we only got two and a half channels of TV at my house. (I want to be a television writer, now, and I've had to do a lot of catch up on my pop culture, my influences really starting probably senior year in college.)

Mitch showed me this the other day... I've started to get on something of a Jack Black kick.

Tenacious D came out with this album in 2001 - when I was a freshman in high school! (Also, Mr. Show is amazing amazing amazing.) I love this so much, and I needed it so badly as a little freshman. Something weird and funny that I could connect with other people about. I instead was spending my time being a committed but mediocre athlete, focusing on "right-living", and, you know, school. I guess I got an education.

Recently, somebody in my writing class was doing a spec episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt where she was just learning to masturbate and realizing that she could have masturbated her way through her 15 years in the bunker if only she had just known about it. The angst! The regret! That's how I feel about my relationship to pop culture, comedy in particular, in high school.

I'm not going to my ten-year high school reunion. It's mostly because Mitch and I can only do so much traveling, and we'd rather go visit our friends in Chicago, but. But I have been tempted to just go see what re-meeting those people would be like, see if I can do some last-minute reclamation of relationships I failed at making for twelve years.

I suspect that going back would make me feel like my high school self, that it would be too much. That earth is salted, man.

No. I don't know. It's just this large block of my life where I think, the fuck was I doing? Subject to altered memory, of course, and hindsight bias. But anyway.


Kinky Narrow Roads

It's been awhile since I've lived inside of hard-core Christian culture, and today I've been thinking about a metaphor the church used to described Christian culture versus secular culture. (I'm sure you're familiar with it.) It said that the Christian life is like traveling on a path that is straight and narrow, while the secular path is a highway, broad and filled with people. It's probably based on a thing Jesus said:

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."

Good ol' cryptic Jesus.

Anyway, I was thinking about how being away from Christian culture has allowed me to seek out/investigate/consider many more ways of doing life. There's no more need to keep a running ledger on who is living incorrectly, always fearing the possibility of leaving that single narrow path.

Secular culture feels very far from the broad crowded boulevard the church described. Maybe it's due to the popularity of the internet, but it feels like there is no more monolith of culture. There aren't just five bands and ten shows that people like, anymore. It's not the church versus Elvis. It's church versus genre (horror, comedy, romance, fantasy), versus a smorgasbord of sexualities and gender identities; there's so much now for the church to be against, such variety, that the end times are surely upon us.

I forget where I heard this, but somebody was saying that, in the future, artists and creators will be making things for their rabid fanbase of 15 people. That sounds awesome to me.

Secular culture is fractured into a million possibilities; all paths are narrow, but hardly straight. They twist and turn and are full of surprises. You never know who you might meet on them or who might turn out to be your people.

If there is a remaining monolith of culture it's - ironically - probably conservative/evangelical Christianity. It's hard to fit everybody on a single path unless you make it a highway.


Family Table

The Ralph's by my work has been undergoing some construction/ remodeling. I'll go there during lunch time to get some food and to work on my writing. There's a Starbucks inside and some tables to eat at. During the remodeling the table space was greatly diminished and they threw one of those big Starbuck-sy tables in there to make up for it.

I usually try to avoid sitting next to people when I'm out in public, but because there were so few places to sit, I'd share the big table with four or five people. There were always a bunch of strangers mushed together there.

On two separate occasions, another of the table's occupants said out of nowhere that this was like a family table. That we all shared.

I said nothing and didn't break eye contact with my laptop screen.

The table make-up tended to go like this: an elderly couple (always different and always very old), a talkative Ralph's employee, a dour-looking woman in her forties, and me.

"This is like a family."

When I went in to Ralph's, today, I noticed that they had finished their remodeling. They had taken out the family table and had, instead, a bunch of little tables for two. These were all filled with well-adjusted looking professional people chatting with friends they already knew.

I kind of miss the family table, Ralph's. We shared, you know?



Three-and-a-half Channels Rant

I was trying to write a statement of purpose for an application I'm working on, but I ended up writing this instead:

When I was growing up, my parents were too cheap to pay for cable (“I don’t want to pay for all those channels - you know how many channels there are - I just want the History channel or what’s-it? Discovery?”), and, living in the mountains as we did, the only channels we got via antenna were ABC, CBS and half of Fox. (If you think Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns look gritty and dark how Joss intended it, then you should try watching it through the snow flurry of television static.)

An additional hangup in my early on-screen education was my dad’s habit of recording on-air movies rather than actually buying them. Not only is the televised version often altered, my dad wouldn't plan ahead about it. So the movies I’d watch over and over with my brothers often started somewhere near the middle, were cleared of their more racy scenes, and were dotted with early nineties commercials. (My introduction to the word “sexy” was by one of these commercials. It was for cream cheese.)

Many times, there being two or more recordings per tape, the last one would cut out, and we’d have to search through a trunk full of barely-marked VHS tapes trying to find where it picked up again. An added pitfall to this whole endeavor was that on one of the tapes was the footage of our cousin Zach being born, and you didn’t want to accidentally run into that. There was an ending to a particular Star Trek: The Next Generation episode (the one where Deanna turns into a swamp creature in the bathtub) that I looked for in vain until it came to my Netflix queue in 2010. I’ve seen Zach’s birth twice. 
Willow was a family favorite due, in part, to the fact that it all fit on one tape and was clearly marked.
Alright, the shirtlessness might have factored in, too.
So when I set out on my own, in the world, I went in for all the TV imaginable. I got cable (all those channels), Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO, Amazon Prime and friends with DVD collections. Got to make up for lost time.

My parents still don’t pay for cable, and they have crappy internet that they share with the neighbors (which its own whole rant for another day). But recently my dad discovered that he could take the antenna outside and run a cable to the television, and now they get, like, five channels.



Valentine's Day for Psychics

Our next-door neighbors are psychics. At least, that's what the neon sign says - $5 for a reading. (The outside staircase to the second-floor business even has one of those powered seats that slides up the railing.) We're not sure how capable they are at telling the future, but we're pretty sure they're not the best at regular living. A few generations and a couple of nuclear families live next door. Their patriarch is a man named Archie whose voice sounds like gravel having sex with a litter box. When Tyson goes outside to smoke, sometimes Archie will talk to him. Tell him about his bouts with various drug addictions, with his struggle to deal with and care for his family.

Somebody from next door is always hanging out on the sidewalk in front of our apartment, and they're always yelling. Yelling at one another out on the sidewalk, yelling from the sidewalk to upstairs. Cars pull up outside and honk - one guy routinely screams at his pregnant wife to "get the fuck out here!"

Last night, everybody was outside, yelling on the sidewalk opposite our kitchen and living room windows. Children were screaming and running around in the streets. Archie lead the rhythmic refrain of "Cut it out!" to the kids about twice a minute.

This morning, as I was standing at the kitchen sink, I saw Archie laboriously making his way up the sidewalk. His arms were stacked high with boxes of chocolates. Tyson thinks Archie's a good guy somewhere in the midst of all the fucked up events of his life. And anyway, it's nice to see him up early doing something nice for his family. I was surprised. But I suppose they, as psychics, won't be.


Ten Qualities of Women Who Could Be Murderers

Mitch showed me this article today, "10 Women Christian Men Should Not Marry", by a pastor in NYC. I know I shouldn't read stuff like this because it's provocative, inflammatory, and while I'm a Christian, I'm not a Christian like that. I'm not a member of that congregation or community (nor will I ever be). And, to some extent, what they believe is none of my business.

But I did read it. And I think I have something interesting to say about it. So now I'm writing a blog post about it and wasting my morning.

According to the inverse of the list, the ten qualities of women who men should marry are as follows:

Modest Dresser
Willing to have kids
Dislikes Travel
Committed to Family

Based on this list, what I realized is the limited scale of evil the author must have when it comes to women, Lady Macbeth comes to mind, a woman very committed to her family. This list does not denounce lies, cheating, murder, torture, tyranny, imprisonment, manipulation...

Our imaginations are stunted. When we think of women being bad or deserving punishment (in the case of this article, the punishment being stamped "unmarriable") we think of, at the very worst, a woman who seduces a man to get what she wants. Otherwise, our judgement is reserved for women who step out of line, who don't conform to the lesser rank of "female".

But think of some great villains from literature: as before mentioned, Lady Macbeth, who conspires to commit regicide in support for her husband's career; Madame Defarge, the constantly knitting blood-thirsty revolutionary from Tale of Two Cities who is described as being "absolutely without pity"; or Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest who tyrannizes the wards of a mental institution.

All three of these villains conform to the gender requirements of being female, even of being female and Christian. They are devout, modestly dressed, non-feminists, and they are amazingly, potently awful.

The list of the 10 women Christian men should not marry actually gives a pretty good recipe for a quality villainess. She is someone who is squeezed and squeezed by her community until she is altered, unhealthy, in need of outlet or revenge. Or maybe she's just bored because of her wasted education or brainspace, fielding children all day that she didn't truly want.

And even better - she is a devout believer. She has a creed that she can use to justify her actions, that she can twist until her conscience quiets. As Charles d'Ambrosio says in his essay Hell House (about visiting a Christian haunted house in Texas):

"Very often I felt the tour wasn’t about conversion but enlistment, and as such, it was a test of loyalty, with anyone who was the slightest bit recreant banished. Loyalty — in its darkest form, which left so much death as its legacy to the twentieth century — rids the divided self of anxiety and guilt, so that murder smiles."


More Sex and the City

I was thinking about Sex and the City, this morning. Not sure why. I watched an episode over Christmas - the one where Charlotte gives up Christmas because she's becoming a Jew - and it seemed less impressive to me than I remembered it, coming into and out of my last years of college.

Back then, my roommates would gather round, we'd even get the neighbors, to watch Sex one disintegrating disk at a time. It was amazing, about women in their thirties - older women! The potential future! And it was smart and explicit and frank, which were qualities not commonly found elsewhere in our Christian college experience. It sounds corny, but I felt like my eyes were opened and world expanded by watching that show.

The "aspirational" nature of the show has been called out a lot as to sort of why people like it. All the women have nice things, are able to live glamorous lives. The opening scene of the movie is set to a song called "Labels or Love", after all.

And I do think people, in part, like it because they aspire to the material lives of these four women, but for me the aspiration was in the fact that women, in a future turn or phase of life, still hung out with their friends. It was a special hope and possibility, for me, coming out of college.