I like to read. I like to write. I like to travel. So, when I called National Geographic Magazine a few months back to start my subscription, I decided to accept the offer the operator made me: for an extra $5, I could also receive National Geographic Traveler. To be honest, I'm still not sure I really like the magazine, I do very much like one of the regular contributors, however: Daisann McLane. It's her easy-going writing, with just enough quirk to it that I long to throw it all away and gallivant across the globe. For instance, in this month's issue, she talks about how wonderful it is to have your laundry done (or to do it yourself) in foreign countries. I'm used to stuffing my dirty undies in the plastic bag the hotels give you for laundry service so they don't touch the clean clothes in my bag. Since I travel to FL so much and may be stuck there for longer than I anticipate, I have come to regularly pack more than I need...it never occurred to me to actually let strangers do my laundry. I think I might have to try it the next time I'm away! Thanks, Daisann!
Yea, so, it's been yonks since I've written anything, so I decided to start writing and see where it takes me. I'm not really sure what I'm planning to write in this post, but we'll see what comes out.
I've been worrying lately that I've completely lost what little shred of talent I have for writing and being creative. I've been saying it for years now that NASA has been making me dumber, and now I'm completely convinced. I've not written anything since last year, and I've had nothing to write about. I've tried; oh, believe me, I've tried. I sit on the Metro and look at the goings-on around me and think, "What is going on here that I can write about?" I thought about blogging about the wedding and preparation and all that, but nothing (not to mention that the Sabra didn't want me to write anything personal on the blog). I just didn't have the ambition.
Now that we're separated, you'd think I've got loads of time to write...but again, what do I write about? I could blog about me trying to find a job in Beantown, but who wants to read that crap?
I finally got around to buying Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so I decided to start back at the beginning and read straight through. I thought that that would be cool to write about...my feelings after reading each of the books--not my opinions of what's going on or anything like that, but the beauty of reading entertaining books, of the feelings, emotions, and memories that J.K. Rowling is able to evoke from me. But, nope, nada, nothing doing. Oh, that's not to say that I'm not experiencing emotions and feelings and memories from reading the books again, but I'm not writing about them...can't be bothered.
I'm going out tonight...maybe something exciting will occur to me to write about them.
Well, wish me luck!
I just finished reading A Pigeon and a Boy, by Meir Shalev. Shalev is the Sabra’s favorite author, so when we heard that he was speaking at the DCJCC a few months ago, we went to hear him. Afterwards, they were selling his book, and he was signing autographs. So, even though it was still a few months to Chanukah, and even though I was standing there, the Sabra bought me the book (in English, by the way) for my Chanukah present, and had Mr. Shalev sign it (also in English). I was a little surprised by how aloof he was while we were getting the book signed. The Sabra told him (in Hebrew) that he was her favorite author and that she had read every book he has written; she was buying this one for me so she could introduce me to him. He said, in sum (and in English), “thanks,” and pushed the book back to us. He did smile, so maybe he’s just a moody artist.
Superficially, the book is about Yair who is frustrated with his life and decides to build a home for himself. He is a tour guide, and while ferrying around some American dignitaries, he discovers that one had served in the Palmach, and had fought with a young pigeon handler nicknamed the Baby. Half the book is devoted to telling the love story of the Baby and the Girl, while the other half deals with Yair’s life, his estrangement from his American wife, Liora, and his subsequent love affair with “his contractor who is a woman,” whom he has loved from afar since they were young children. Obviously, the two stories are intertwined, but I will leave it to you to read the book to discover the story.
According to Shalev, the idea of the book came to him as he and his wife were driving to their new home that they were building, and he decided then and there that he wanted to tell the story of building a home. He described in detail, towards the end of the book, Yair’s journey from Tel Aviv to his new home, and it is almost word for word with how Shalev described the journey he and his wife took to their new home when he revealed to her that he intended to write the book.
The problem with all translations is that it is difficult to tell how much of the poetry and beauty in the choice of words strung together to form sentences are the original author’s and how much are the translator’s. Shalev has been called the Israeli Gabriel García Márquez, and after reading the book it is understandable. He paints his canvas with the same pigments that Márquez uses: the muted greens of a feminine voice, the bold violets of love, and the stark reds of hatred. Likewise, he uses the brushes of sarcasm, innuendo, sadness, and depression. And, again like Márquez, there is clear evidence of broad strokes of humor throughout, albeit with the hue of bittersweetness. At any given point throughout the story, you find yourself smirking or laughing aloud as your eyes water and that uncomfortable lump in your throat prevents you from swallowing properly.
Like a Vonnegut novel, there wasn’t much of a plot in A Pigeon and a Boy, but unlike Vonnegut, Shalev keeps your interested in his characters. You want to read more about their memories, about their lives, about their fears, and about their dreams. I would argue that there is a little Yair in all of us, and that is what makes the character so universal. No matter who you are, there are skeletons in your closet; for some those bones will haunt, for others, they are merely the remains of the past. Yair finds a home of his own, one with empty closets, one where he can start afresh, and that is not too different from anyone else. We all dream of starting over and starting fresh.
And therein lies the problems I have with Shalev’s book. It is not actually with his book per se, but with the genre in general. I do not enjoy watching—or even reading, but less so with books—horror films. It is not that I don’t appreciate the skills of the authors, or the talents of the makeup artists, or even the skills displayed by the actors. No, it is much simpler. I don’t like to be scared. There are so many things in life that already scare me, I don’t want to see my fears made manifest on the Silver Screen. If I am going to the movies or to read a book, it is for escape, to escape from the fears and worries and concerns that I face every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment. This is why I prefer comedies and action and adventure films. For an hour and a half I can escape into a world of make-believe where some unimportant average shmoe (like me) can rise up and save the damsel in distress/country/planet/galaxy/universe. So, too, it is with books that are sad. A friend of mine would say that being sad is wonderful sometimes and that it’s good and cathartic to cry. I agree, but these are not the feelings that I look forward to on grey, rainy days, as I curl up on the couch with a book and hot cuppa. Like fear, there is enough sadness in my life, and especially on wet, dark days, that I do not want to read about misery and dysphoria. I prefer to read something that will make he happy, smile, and even laugh. I like to laugh.
There are, of course, exceptions to this reticence of mine to frolic in the River Melancholia, and when the mood hits me to sail upon her warm, inviting waters, a book like A Pigeon and a Boy is the perfect vessel.
I realize that I haven’t really posted in quite a while (well, to be honest, I’ve posted more recently than between other posts in the past). So, I’ve been hunting around for something to talk about. I recently completed Lynne Truss’s book, Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door. It was exactly what was to be expected. I find her writing engaging, inspiring, and refreshing. She writes (generally) how I strive to write: in a carefree, laid back, yet sometimes pedantic manner, but never losing sight of the fact that pop culture references are OK. Sadly, while I found myself at times laughing out loud and at others nodding my head emphatically in agreement, I found the book to be rather disappointing. Where Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation was educational and fun, Talk to the Hand was more of general ranting with little scholarship behind it (not that her intention was to be scholarly in any way—in fact she says in the beginning that it won’t be). In general, I find that comediennes tend to focus their humor on a) men/relationships, 2) being fat, and III) periods. While she didn’t really talk about any of these, there was still, at times, that feel of the safe fallback routines for women, if that makes any kind of sense.
Or, if I didn’t want to talk about that, I could discuss either or both of the other books I’m reading, Spunk & Bite, a book that I hope will help me to write in the aforementioned style, and Cursing in America: A Psycholinguistic Study of Dirty Language in the Courts, in the Movies, in the Schoolyards and on the Streets, which the title pretty much says it all. The former is really little more than bathroom reading at this point, and the latter is actually more engaging than I expected. The author’s not much of a writer, but the topic is interesting. I’m sure he picked it for no other reason than to be able to say such words as fuck, motherfucker, cocksucker, and cunt at academic conferences…but that’s just my guess. In case you are wondering, I just finished Bill Bryson’s book, Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, and in there he mentioned Cursing in America as one of the only books on the history of cursing, so I thought I’d pick it up. (Also, in case you’re wondering, I really didn’t like Made in America. I found the title misleading; it was more a brief history of America than anything to do with language. True, he did mention at the end of each section or chapter that words came out of whatever specific moment in time he was discussing, but it really wasn’t about the words as much as it was about the history of the United States.)
Then I thought about the book I’ve been neglecting. I started reading Gabriel García Márquez’ semi-fictional Love in the Time of Cholera, but I have to be honest, it’s not terribly exciting, and I’ve been reading other stuff in between pages. The Little Sabra bought me One Hundred Years of Solitude for my birthday, but I haven’t started it yet. I will, though, I promise.
Speaking of the Little Sabra, I could talk about her, but we haven’t done anything too terribly exciting since we got back from Boston. I think the most interesting thing we've done recently was go to Baltimore to meet my folks for snow balls.
There’s stuff going on in the news, but it who really cares that Paris Hilton got out of jail?
LtL and I are embarking on a new website, so that’s sort of got me jazzed, but as neither of us know anything about Drupal, the site is rather slow going. I don’t think I want to talk about it here, though.
What else? I joined the Smithsonian Institution a few weeks ago and just got my first issue of thier magazine. I started reading that, and there are some very interesting articles about very interesting people.
Finally, I should wrap this up with a general bitch about how there are so many people out there doing amazing and interesting things, and here I am sitting on my ass fantasizing about doing amazing things. How do they do it? Some kid (well, 23—gee, I’m feeling old calling a 23-year old a kid) just flew around the world in a plane he built, someone else is feeding the hungry, and still another citizen of the world is building mud huts in the middle of Africa, and here I sit on the 9th floor of NASA HQ, cooled by the A/C, typing away at my computer with little actual work to do, fantasizing about articles I could write, TV shows I could produce, non-profits I could start, websites I could develop, and still I sit while others do.
I just finished reading Rich Smith’s You Can Get Arrested for That: 2 Guys, 25 Dumb Laws, 1 Absurd American Crime Spree. I was at Borders in Silver Spring a few weeks back, and I saw this book lying on the table. I picked it up on a whim and bought it. The premise on the back reminded me of a crazy little adventure I’d like to partake it one day.
There is much to say about this book. Mostly, it’s one of those books that forces the reader to utter one of two possible things:
1) “How come I can’t get published?”
2) “I could have done it better!”
Now, I have to say that usually this is just Monday-Morning-Quarterback talk, and most of the people who utter such comments couldn’t get published if the publisher begged them to write something, and no, most likely they couldn’t do it better. Admittedly, I have yet to get a book published, but believe you me, I definitely could have done it better.
Technically, Smith is a fine writer (in fact, he is [as of publication] majoring in journalism, and I’m sure has already written his share of short stores). The book flows from event to event, and he crafts some fine analogies and metaphors. Ne’ertheless, where he falters is in the story, not the storytelling.
Basically, the premise of the book is that Smith decides that he is going to come the US (he’s British—Cornish to be exact) and break 25 laws in this great country of ours. The catch is (and there is always a catch, isn’t there?) that he is going to break ridiculous laws that there is little reason they are still on the books (apparently, in one town it’s illegal to kiss for longer than 5 minutes while in another it’s illegal to drink alcohol out of bucket while sitting on the curb). He succeeds at some and not at others. Still others he decides to avoid (e.g., somewhere it is illegal to tie your giraffe to a streetlamp). He and his mate, Bateman, travel from California to New York, stopping in rural America to attempt to break the law. Along the way, they meet some interesting folks, and we get to hear a brief snippet about them.
As I said, I think I could have done it better. Apparently, there are a shit-ton of laws still on the books. Why did he pick the ones he did and not others? Why not attempt to break them all? Or at least try to break some that are more interesting than the one in Boston, where it’s illegal to wear a goatee. I would have liked to have seen him give a little more background on the laws he was breaking. Why were they created? What happened to force the powers that be to write such absurd legislation? Likewise, he could have spent a bit more time telling us about the preparation that he needed for some laws instead of recounting each drinking bout he and Bateman partook in (I think that Hooters or WalMart sponsored the spree). Likewise, some of the details leave you wondering if he in fact did make this trip. They are in Georgia or the Carolinas at one point, and they decided to go to Baltimore because they don’t want to travel through West Virginia to get to DC. I was a little confused. This wasn’t the only time this happened. The whole leg on the Eastern Seaboard seemed to go rather oddly. Now, it’s possible that he just didn’t have the days right and was writing after the fact, but a simple look at a map will tell you that
1) they jumped over states just to backtrack,
2) they took way out-of-the way routes (maybe the were relying on Mapquest), and
3) they wasted a lot of time.
He also says things that just didn’t really make a lot of sense. He says that while they were in Ocean City, Maryland, they traveled back over the bridge a few minutes away. If he’s talking about the Bay Bridge or even the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, they are more than a few minutes away. Perhaps he’s talking about the Route 50 bridge over the Assawoman (yea, that’s really the name of it) Bay. Later, they are in DC, and he’s looking for a kite. He heads down to the Golden Triangle to look for a store that sells a kite. There are folks who walk around the area and help tourists find things. Interestingly, they are unable to help him find a kite shop. It isn’t too surprising that there isn’t a kite shop in that area, but what is surprising is
1) that he was in the Golden Triangle when he was trying to break a law on the National Mall. True, the White House is a borderline for the Triangle, but the White House is pretty far off the center of the Mall.
2) None of the people he spoke with (people who are trained to help tourists, keep in mind) thought to send him the to the National Air and Space Museum, where the shop does indeed sell kites (at least as of this publication).
About 3 years ago, I had thought about writing a book on all the dumb laws still on the books, but I must admit that it never occurred to me to actually try to break them. Kudos to Smith for thinking that one up. I think it would be fun to try and do this, but I fear that now everyone would see me as nothing but a copycat (which, I guess, I would be). But my story wouldn’t be the same as his, so it doesn’t really matter, does it? Who’s up for a road trip? We could try to beat him at his own game. He never succeeded in breaking all 25. Of course, who knows if he really broke any of them. Supposedly, Bateman was taking pics of his law-breaking buddy, but none of them appear in the book.
Anyway, I would love to go out and try this and see if I could get my version of the spree published. Would a publisher be willing to publish a book like that if someone else already did it?
What is my crazy little adventure? I’m not telling. But I will let you know when it hits the bookshelves.
I have been riding the Red Line on the Metro for nearly 3 years now, so I know exactly which car to be in and which door to stand by to expedite my transfers or arrival home. Unfortunately, my timing isn’t always such that I can easily get to the right door and still make the train. Sometimes, I will just say the hell with it and stay where I am, other times, I will switch cars at each station until I get to the desired car. I did the latter this morning.
The train pulled into Fort Totten, and I got out and headed to the next car. Some dude comes barreling up the escalator and runs at full speed toward the door. He nearly knocked some young woman over as he pushed her out of the way to get on the train before her. Clearly, this guy was way more important than anyone else on the train. Then he slammed into me from behind. No apologies or anything. He tried to squirm his way around me, but there were people in the aisles, so he couldn’t. The person in front of me was going pretty slowly, so I couldn’t go anywhere. This was not good enough for the guy behind me. He is still walking at high speed and pushes into me. Naturally, I turn around and, while I don’t say anything, I give him the ole What-the-Fuck-Asshole glare. At this point, just for the record, the doors close. There was absolutely no need to muscle his way on to the train, and he’s already ON the damn train, what’s his friggin’ hurry at this point.
Now, I need to pause a moment to give a little background. Jo Cose was cursed with 2 things that are being wasted at the present moment: intelligence and a burning desire to learn. As such, I consider myself to be a veracious reader (albeit a slow one), and, like many who commute by mass transit, find the 30 minutes (yea, I know, I’m lucky that way) in the morning and evening ideal reading time. I am currently reading Made In America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, by Bill Bryson. That, however, is for another post.
So, to recap, I am walking slowly down the aisle because the person in front of me is walking slowly down the aisle. Although I had my book in hand, I had stopped reading it while I switched cars. I wouldn’t look down at the book again until I had reached the far end of the current train car. Meanwhile, I have a very rude, very impatient man behind me who just walked hard into me. As you will no doubt recall, I have just turned back around from giving the man the What-the-Fuck-Asshole glare. This guy, however, is much better at this than I, and gave a retort worthy of the best of them. I’m sure that he felt he got the last word, and I just didn’t care enough to argue; it really wasn’t worth it. He says very loudly, “You’d move faster if you weren't reading a book. This ain’t no dame lieberry!”
I just finished reading two very different books, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed both of them:
Since my days in grad school, I have prided myself on my skill with grammar. In fact, when I ran across Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves, I thought that I had identified my clique: the sticklers. I proudly added that to my name (much like a newly barred barrister would add esq.): Jo Cose, stickler.
Fortunately, while perusing the shelves of Books-A-Million in Dupont Circle, I came across Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies. I realized that 1) I’m not really enough of a grammarian to point out others errors, and 2) the old adage is true: “it’s better to have everyone believe you are a fool than to open your mouth and prove it.” So, I admit it, I’m a reformed stickler. While I still cringe when I hear bad grammar, and I will still post things here in a snobby fashion, I will try harder not to be quite so verbose in pointing it out (unless it’s truly necessary—like when I’m writing a letter at work and the illiterate secretary tries to argue with me).
Casagrande uses lots of self-deprecating humor to point out problems, and uses many current pop culture references that I fear will not be so cute, clever, or identifiable in the not-too-distant future. Nevertheless, she does a good job selecting the more important grammatical issues that plague most people. She has a wonderful sense of prose that comes off as conversational (stand-up actually at times), and it’s almost like listening to someone tell a story of how they discovered something wonderful (or solved a frustrating problem).
Not to sound like a grammar snob after saying that I’m going to try harder not to be one, but I did find that I knew almost all of the rules she discussed, which actually made me feel good, as that means that I’m learning and retaining this stuff…so that made me feel good about my grammar skills.
If you are at all moderately interested in English grammar and always wanted to know why you say “it is I” when someone inquires “Who is it?” or why, when someone calls me and says, “May I speak with Jo Cose?” I always answer, “this is he,” then this book is definitely for you!
The other book I finished this evening was Cirque du Soleil® The Spark: Igniting the Creative Fire that Lives within Us All by John U. Bacon and Lyn Heward.
I’m not normally into motivational books, but a friend recommended it. He is a fellow NASA employee, and his division all read it (the bosses, I’m sure, thought it would help morale). Knowing that I’m extremely unhappy with my job at the moment, he thought that it would help me as well. As I just mentioned, I’m not normally into motivational books, but this one was really good.
On the surface, it’s about a guy named Frank who is a sports agent for a major company. He has become complacent in his job, and one day he realizes that he is just going through the paces and getting nothing out of life. He is in Las Vegas on business, and decides to wander through the casino. He finds himself in an empty theatre where folks are rehearsing. Before he can leave, he is met by Diane, who is some big wig with Cirque du Soleil. She offers him a free ticket to see the show, and of course he’s sucked in. He is inspired, and finagles his way to getting to become a part of the Cirque family—to experience it from the inside.
Of course, it’s all really just a metaphor for how you should look at the world. You should love your job, and it should inspire you to be creative. He meets the most interesting people who spew motivational anecdotes like so many drunken frat boys spew dinner after binge drinking.
While I didn’t really get motivated to love my job (that’s the biggest problem for me; the book is based on the premise that you actually enjoyed your job at one point in time), I did get more out of it than I thought. The basic message is that you need to take the bull by the horns, be willing to try things (even if you fail), and force yourself out of complacency and get out of your comfort zone once in a while if you ever want to achieve anything.
Yea, yea, it’s basically the same message that all books in this genre teach. Maybe it was the theatre leitmotif that made this one different for me, or perhaps it was that it was a work of fiction (not one of those “I was there too, and I know what you’re going through” type of books), but I really enjoyed it, and was able to see that some of the lessons they were trying to teach apply to life and not just work. I was happy to see that one of the lessons was that deadlines were good because they force you to work fast, be creative, and (dare I say) think outside the box. When I told MO (my old professor) many years ago that I wanted to go back for my Ph.D., he said, “Why? If you have a book, just write it. You don’t need to be in school to do that.” My response was that I need real deadlines, not self-imposed ones. It is too easy to push off self-imposed deadlines, but when someone else gives them to me, and there are consequences to missing them, well, that’s motivation for me. I work well under pressure. It’s nice to see that others think that way as well.
Anyway, if you are interested in Cirque and/or are interested in the motivational book genre, I definitely recommend this one. It’s a quick enjoyable read that will at the very least make you want to go to the theatre.
Did you ever have one of those days? Today was one of those days for me.
I got sucked into Stargate SG 1 last night and was up until 11 pm. ¼ to 6 in the morning rolls around pretty damn quickly, especially when you were tossing and turning all night. I was so tired last night, I couldn’t wait to get into bed, but as soon as I did, I felt like I was ready to run a marathon. I kept waking up, too, because my ear was hurting really badly. All this is to demonstrate that I was very tired this morning, and got up a few minutes later than usual.
I decided that I wasn’t going to go to work, and I was ready to call in sick when I remembered I had an important meeting, so I dragged my ass out of bed and got in the shower. I took a longer than usual shower, and ate breakfast at a leisurely pace. I usually leave the house between 7 and 7:15; Today, I was having trouble deciding what to wear (I have on my new pants that are a size and a ½ smaller than my other pants, a new shirt, and a new tie). I couldn’t get my tie to tie right (in fact, it’s still a little long). Finally, I somehow managed to get out of the apartment. It was close to 7:30.
I wanted to get out early because there was apparently a broken rail somewhere around the Dupont Metro Station. Because I was running so late, I caught the local news break and learned that the trains were once again running smoothly. I got on and my train crept along from Takoma to Gallery Place/Chinatown. When we finally got to Gallery Place/Chinatown, the platform was a mob scene. There was nowhere to stand, let alone try to walk. I was in the front car and the stairs to the lower platform were all the way at the opposite end of the platform. The trip from one end of the platform to the other should take maybe a minute. I think it took me about 6 or 7 minutes. I finally got to the lower platform and got on the next train.
I was standing there minding my own business reading my book and listening to my iPod when all of the sudden I was attacked by sunlight. Now, I shouldn’t ever see sunlight from Union Station to L’Enfant Plaza, but there it was in all its radiating glory. I completely missed my stop. So, I got off at Pentagon and hopped the train going the other way. Well, I forgot that Pentagon is a transfer station, so I got on the Blue Line instead of the Yellow Line. So, next thing I know, I’m not pulling into L’Enfant Plaza, but rather into Arlington Cemetery. I had to double back.
Finally, I made it into work about an hour late. Oh, well, now I know how Charlie felt.
I just finished reading Susan Bordo’s The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private. I saw it at Barnes & Noble months ago, and I finally got around to buying it and reading it. I’m conflicted in my opinions of the book. When I first began reading it, I really enjoyed it; however, as I progressed through it, I found myself liking it less and less. I did not like the final bit (Coda, as she titles her final chapter).
The book addressed the larger idea of the male body and images of it in popular culture, but there didn’t really seem to be a thesis or unified theme. It had the feel of several individual articles, lectures, or musings put together in the central theme of the male body. Overall, I found the lack of unity a little disconcerting. On the whole, she is a pretty good writer, and the prose flows smoothly, like you are sitting across from her listening to her tell you the story. I like that ability in an author. I guess it’s really just the content of the book that bored me.
I think I may have figured out why I am not interested in gender or masculine studies. Throughout the book, I learned all about Bordo’s struggles and triumphs as she came to accept her body for what it was, came to accept men’s bodies, and came to realize that even though she is a woman, she is strong and can be whatever she wants to be (thus the ardent feminist that she is). Likewise, men who write on the male body also seem to be using their research and writing as some sort of therapy in their efforts to become comfortable in their bodies.
I was raised in a home where both of my parents loved each other, freely expressed their feelings towards each other, and equally loved me and my siblings and showered us with affection. My mother and father shared everything and neither was dominate in any sphere. True, my mother typically cooked dinner and cleaned the dishes, but my dad washed the clothes and tucked the kids into bed. If my mother ever needed someone else to cook for any reason, my dad could slip into an apron as easily as into his suit. My mother was able to get us up in the morning and make us breakfast or mow the lawn and prune the bushes if my dad’s back was hurting. They shared their lives, and they shared the chores. I suppose that many of the responsibilities fell within cultural gender roles, but both could move in and out of those roles when necessary. This last point is the most important. My siblings and I were raised seeing both of our parents doing both things. My mom and my dad worked and had careers. They raised their children (2 girls and 1 boy) to believe that we could be anything we wanted to be, regardless of sex (or gender).
As such, my sisters never needed to come to grips with being girls who were told that they should go to school, find nice men, and have babies. I was never encouraged to play baseball, whistle at women, and work while wifey stayed home bare-foot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. We were raised by a strong independent woman who went out and worked and was the head of the departments she worked in. We were raised by a man who was strong and independent and was a manager and supervisor in the division he worked in for the federal government.
This is why I think that I’m not interested in the discussions that go on within the gender and masculinity studies world. I know who I am, I’m comfortable with my body, with my being a man, with my interactions with women, with my sexuality, with me. I don’t need to read other people’s testimonials of how they learned to accept who they are or how they came to handle being a man in an era where there are women in the workforce. I can’t relate to the stories Bordo tells about men objectifying women (I don’t mean to imply that don’t do this, because this is human, but I don’t do it all the time, nor do I do it with every woman who walks past me—I would argue that this is where a healthy obsession with pornography is a good thing. Here one can objectify women, not feel guilty, and still be able to interact in a mature, professional manner in the real world. The myriad issues with the porn industry not withstanding, of course).
Having said all of this, I recognize and accept that I am probably in the minority, and I must stress that I don’t think that gender and masculinity studies is a waste of time or that it isn’t viable research topics, I’m merely elucidating why I am not interested in the genre. Having said all of that, I also recognize that I have little choice but to delve into it somewhat if I really want my dissertation to be the best it can be; I just don’t think that it needs to be the lens that focuses all of my research or the theories that I carry with me for the rest of my scholarly career, nor does it need to influence every idea that I have.
Hmm, I just noticed that every time I have one of these long, crazy weekends, it seems that Shining Starr9 is involved somehow.
Anyway, today started out OK; I got a late start but who cares. I went over to the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland to use the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library. I was looking for an article that Bobzilla suggested I look at. Wouldn’t you know, there was a football game going on. Now, as all of you know, in an ironic twist, I am not a sports fan, least of all college sports since they always come before academics, and I think that this country just doesn’t have its priorities right when it comes to education. So, I had to park a freaking mile away and walk and walk. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day, so it wasn’t all that bad in the end.
I finally made it to the Library, got the journal I was looking for with no hassle, and read the whole article without falling asleep, which was no easy feat. This last bit is actually unfortunate; it was really an interesting article demonstrating how British music halls moved from sometime performers running the theatres and circuits to professional businessmen running the corporate business. He, the author, argued that this shift was simultaneously occurring in British big business and that the parallels are indicative of trends in late nineteenth and early twentieth century business practices. Sadly, he writes like an academic and it was just very boring to read.
As I was leaving the Library, SugarDaddy called me and said that he was interested in going out later in the evening. I told him my plans and he said that he would definitely be interested.
I met him at the Freer Gallery of Art, a Smithsonian Institution museum, to see an independent film called The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam. He was a Chinese magician, juggler, acrobat, who played in vaudeville houses around the world. It was really good and quite interesting. I think that a lot could be done on him if he really is as important as the filmmaker (his great grand-daughter) says. I think I need to look more into him!
The film was preceded by two shorts, the first of which made absolutely no sense whatsoever. There is some guy preparing a dead woman for her viewing (I’m assuming) and a young boy is watching (I presume that he is the son). The mortician finishes clipping the corpse’s nails and washing the body. Then the boy asks to be alone, and when the mortician leaves, the boy picks up all the nail clippings. The scene cuts: it’s dark, so I assume it’s later, perhaps that night and the funeral is completed. We see in the darkness that we are in a kitchen and the boy comes in and opens the refrigerator. He is clad in sweats and tee shirt; I guess I’m meant to believe that he is ready for bed. He digs through the fridge, finds something wrapped in foil. He fixates for a moment on the aluminum-covered package, and just as he begins to open it, he scratches his head. (I wonder if this was planned or if he really had to scratch his head and the filmmaker just liked it.) He finally gets the foil off and it turns out to be a huge turkey leg. He begins to eat it slowly, then a little quicker. After another scratch on his noggin, he starts attacking the turkey leg, biting off pieces quicker and quicker. He never swallows or chews any of it. When his mouth is completely full he stops, leans his head back on the open refrigerator door, breathing heavily and wheezing. The credits roll.
The second short is actually by the same woman who wrote The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam (she is in the audience this evening incidentally). Before the films began, the filmmaker gave us a little background on this particular piece. She said that it was written and filmed shortly after the events of September 11, 2001. Because she was still working on The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, this piece is heavily informed by that research, and it is a sister piece, so she is grateful that they are being shown together. The short is called Blue Skies, after the Irving Berlin song of the same title (from the play Betsy in 1926). This piece begins with a close of up of someone’s eye as tears pour out. The sound track is nothing more than this person sniffling, whimpering, and, making all those other irritating noises. Then the view cuts to a close-up on the person’s mouth. Then, to break the monotony, there is a knock at the door, and a white woman enters, goes to the crying person who we discover is Asian. The white woman pours water into a basin, and soaks some cloth. She wraps the crying person’s hair up, and begins to pull out clothing from drawers. She then helps dress the crying person, who is no longer crying, and finally pours a drink, the Asian person doesn’t drink until the white woman first sips it. There are scenes of the Asian person donning make-up: eyeliner, lip-gloss, and paint for eyebrows. The screen goes black, and with the sound of an old-time spotlight turning on, we see bright blue skies. Our Asian person, who turns out to be what I can only assume is an onnagata, appears and begins singing (well, lip-synching actually) Blue Skies as the credits roll.
After the movie, SugarDaddy and I decided to head out to Cleveland Park and have dinner at Ireland’s Four Provinces, or the 4-P’s as us yokels call it. I’m really not a big fan of the 4-P’s, but I haven’t been there in ages, so that’s where we go. Well, as is usually the case with Irish bars, there was a live band playing (The Sean Fleming Band to be exact). They were mediocre, but we stayed very late, and I consumed lots of beer. All in all it was a fun time.
Anyway, it’s almost 4 am and I need to go to sleep…peace out y’all.