Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Public Service Announcement

This is a post written on behalf of all of those with birthdays during the holiday season. You all probably know someone with a Christmas or Christmas Eve birthday, or perhaps a few days before/after. As soon as you find out, you can't help but ask the same questions every time:

*Was that hard growing up?
*Do you get fewer presents?
*Do people forget about your birthday?

Well, I am here to set the record straight and layout some guidelines for you regarding birthdays in the holiday season.

1. DO NOT EVER GIVE A GIFT AND SAY IT IS FOR CHRISTMAS AND THEIR BIRTHDAY!!! You would never give a gift to someone with a June birthday and say it was for both occasions, and you would probably be offended if it happened to you. There are probably some special circumstances, such as someone receiving a house or a college education, but that is probably settled with the old "Don't expect any gifts at all for the next X years" cover-up. Totally acceptable. Also acceptable: Just one gift. Sometimes, there may be someone that ou would give a Christmas gift but would not give a birthday gift. That's fine! Than don't give them a birthday gift! I assure you, they do not expect you to give them extra gifts just because their birthday is near the birth of Christ. The key is to be confident in not giving them a birthday present. If they seem expectant for another gift, that is their own atrocious manners; resist the temptation to tell them that the gift is for both!!!

2. People with birthdays during the holiday season do not expect all festivities to go on hiatus to make time for a birthday. Just make the effort to quietly remember them. I don't think anyone is trying to upstage Jesus on his special day. Essentially, let them know that they haven't been completely forgotten. A Christmas party does not need to be double-themed just because someone happens to have a birthday. In fact, don't double-theme it; that can fall into the same category as doubling up on gifts if you're not careful.

3. Don't get eaten up with guilt for forgetting that Christmas/Christmas Eve/etc is someone's birthday as well. It is a well-known fact that people forget birthdays all the time, and brains are a little more frazzled than usual during the holiday season. It's ok. They understand.

4. Try not to wrap birthday gifts in Christmas paper. That's just a personal pet-peeve.

5. Don't put birthday gifts under the Christmas tree. That's just common sense.

6. I am not sure how universal this emotion is, but a lot of people with Holiday birthdays actually enjoy them! It isn't considered a "bummer" or a "cruel dealing of fate" to have a birthday in late December. It is such a happy time of year, so full of celebration! It's much nicer to have happiness surrounding your birthday than to have it fall on a drab, emotionless day of the week during some arbitrary month. Plus, for those with birthdays especially close to Christmas, you practically never have to go to work/school on your birthday and you're almost always with loved ones.

7. For those of you who wish someday to have children, and one of them happens to be born in late December, do not give them a Christmasy name. Most of those names are silly, and the name should be picked based on the person, not the season, right?

There you have it, world. I am fairly certain that most people in the not-as-unique-as-you-might-think situation of having a birthday near Christmas would concur with most of the points I've made. Ok, the last one was definitely personal preference. If you want to name your Christmas baby "Carol Holly" or "Nicholas Joy," that's your call.

jo (christmas eve baby)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

If You Really Love Christmas, Come On and Let It Snow

I saw Santa Claus today.

He wasn't quite what I expected.

I was raised with images of a jolly rotund cliche clad in red from head to toe and sporting white whiskers.

But the Santa Claus I saw didn't have any whiskers, nor was he wearing red. He had a simple tan jacket and a black cap, and he was on the slim side. But I knew it was him right away.

There were two women struggling to lift a heavy parcel into the back of their car, and they were obviously coming to the ends of their ropes. And then he appeared and lifted the box easily into the car, put a finger to his cap, and walked away unceremoniously.

People are quick to say that Santa is an invention of toy manufacturers and retail outlets, but that is not true. Some say that Santa takes away from the "reason for the season," the birth of Christ. Also not true.

I say that Santa is one of the truly pure things left in this Holiday season. Not plastic effigies of St. Nick that dot front yards, and not the character with a list that is used as a threat for misbehaving children. The Spirit of the season is manifest in the person of Santa Claus, and Santa Claus exists everywhere.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Hey, Hermano

I am learning Spanish one phrase at a time. My goal is to learn a phrase per day. Lazy, no? I am not anticipating being fluent anytime soon. I'm cool with it.

So how does one pursue the Spanish language if one is jo? There are two avenues:

1) Stephanie, the Ecuadorian who lives with me, is wonderfully patient and kind and willing to teach me. Almost everyday, I will ask her to translate something into Spanish so that I can learn it and forcibly insert it into my day to day rhetoric. This technique ensures me that the phrases I am learning are ones that I would actually use on a day to day basis.

2) I am addicted to the local Spanish radio station. I listen to "Rumba! Ciento Cuatro Punto Cinco!" all the time. It is difficult to follow everything that they are saying as my vocabulary is very limited, but I love it anyway. And though the phrases I pick up from the DJs' banter and stations IDs are not nearly as applicable as those I learn from my live-in mentor, I still find plenty of oppurtunities to say them with all of the Latin bravado I can muster.

So here's what I have so far. See if you can tell which ones I learned from Steph and which I picked up from Rumba 104.5:

Mi piel está muy secca y mis labios están muy partidos.
My skin is very dry and my lips are very chapped.

Me puedes traer salsa de tomate, por favor.
Please bring me the ketchup.

Y muchos más!
And much more!

Santo Dios, es mucho dinero!
Good Lord, that's a lot of money!

Más musica, menos comerciales
More music, fewer commercials

Mucho gusto.
Pleased to meet you.

Señor Perro, para perros pequeños.
Mister Dog, for small yappy-type dogs.

Orgullo Latino!
Latin Pride!

There are so many more still to come! I am well on my way to being bilingual. Look out, world!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I Am an Evil Herbivore

I am sorry. I really desperately want to be a consistant blogger. And i say that a lot. Which is just downright hypocritical. I'll stop apologizing and just try to do better. I'd be much better off if the wireless card i spent $65 on wasn't a dud... oh well. Anywho...

It used to really irritate when people said "anywho." I would glare at them once they turned their backs and sneer at them, mockingly mouthing the word they had dared utter in my presence. Then, one day, probably in winter because winter is the time to make such discoveries, I realized that "anywho" was a completely acceptable (in my book) typo for "anyhow." I like the word "anyhow" because it offers a pleasant change of scene from the all too over-used "anyway," and who can be blamed for switching the last two letters to a word every now and then? That's all it took for me to drop my inexplicable grudge. I kind of have a soft spot for typos that look and sound like they could be real words. I imagine that is how the great thinkers of the literary world, people like C.S. Lewis, J.K.Rowling J.R.R.Tolkein, create new languages and invent new vocabularies. I think they also had a leg up on the competition because they don't have first names. When you don't have a first name, it allows your mind to move to other levels of thinking that many of us will never access, wieghted down, as we are, by our cumbersome monnikers.

Some of the most fun I have is giggling at the words that spell-check offers as alternatives to words it doesn't recognize. I would give you some stellar examples right now, but spellcheck doesn't seem to want to work. Not only does that cut back on giggling, but now you have to suffer through my frequently atrocious spelling. I like to pretend that I am a good speller. This is a bad habit. I sometimes catch myself making fun of someone for not knowing how to spell something when I, myself, am ignorant on the same count. It's one of my more caustic traits, I guess. Alas, I will never be Akeelah, but sometimes, when I'm alone, I like to spell antidisestablishmentarianism out loud, tapping my side with the rhythm of the letters. Akeelah rocks.

This blog needs a picture. I'll get to work on that.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I'm Watching Sis Go Pitty-Pat

If you ever read this blog (which, i guess, it's apparent you do), you probably recognize that I am still having a hard time with the whole concept of a blog. I have severe blog envy. There are some blogs that I read quite religiously (note the side bar), and quite a few others that I make it a point to stop at every now and then. And I don't know if those people know that I stop by or not, unless I leave a comment, in which case it's pretty obvious that I've been there. But further more, I don't know how many people stop by here. I am fairly certain that there is a special blogger way to find this out, but darned if I know what it is! A lot of blogs have hit counters on them, but I am way too template-ignorant to figure that one out. Some times I like to pretend that there are people out there that just love my blog, people I've never even met, that get kind of sad when I don't update all the time and that do happy dances when I do. Maybe these people read what I have to say and howl with laughter because they have so often thought the same thing. Maybe they're doing that right now because they have the same blog insecurities that I have. Maybe they-- ok, I'm starting to feel like little orphan Annie imagining her parents. Snap out of it, jo!

Ok. You obviously know what you're doing. Give me some pointers. I want to play with the big kids. Besides, all of my imaginary devotees are waiting!

And for those of you who do wait on tenderhooks for every update, please accept my apology for being a little distant. I am participating in NaNoWriMo and am falling quite far behind (2785 words and counting!), so the blog thing is slipping to the side a little bit.

Chocolate ice cream goes in the freezer.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

This is Halloween

Happy Halloween, everyone!

I had forgotten how much I love this holiday. It is much different on college campuses than it is here in the real world. I was driving one of my younger sisters to a friends house so that they could go trick or treating together (they both dressed up as mimes, my sister the talking version, and her friend of the traditional silent persuasion), and I was suddenly filled with the excitement I felt when I was her age. I wished that I could throw together a last minute home-made costume and traipse around to strangers' houses and get loads of candy. Whose idea was that anyway? And have they one a Nobel prize yet?

Anyway, I have been filled with the Halloween spirit, and in honor of this glorious holiday, I have been compiling a Halloween mix CD. As is true of most mix CDs I compile, they will never actually be made. The truth is, I don't have most of the songs on there and I try to do my part to avoid pirating music, etc. But without further ado...

Jo!'s Halloween Mix CD

1. "This is Halloween" from Nightmare Before Christmas
2. "Spooky"
3. "Hungry Like a Wolf" by Duran Duran
4. "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" from Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
5. "That Old Black Magic"
6. "I put a Spell On You" from Hocus Pocus
7. "Thriller" by Michael Jackson
8. The song from Disney's Beauty and the Beast when their hunting for the Beast
9. "The Pusher" from the Easy Rider soundtrack (that song freaks me out!)
10. "Monster Mash"
11. "Addams Family Theme"
12. "Theme from Young Frankenstein"
13. "Were-wolves of London"
14. "Ghostbusters Theme"

I admit I was getting lazy toward the end and I didn't put tons of thought into the proper order to get the best flow. I do have an excuse: I am just too darn excited for NaNoWriMo to start! less than an hour now (my clock says 11:10pm), and I am rarin' and ready to go! I finally have an idea that I like and am feeling up for 50,000 words!

So, in conclusion, listen to your cableman.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Why is six afraid of seven? Seven eight nine!


I have spent the past several days trying to come up with my own personal list of top ten musical artists. This was inspired by the list compiled by 88.5 WXPN of the top 885 musical artists mentioned over in Gale's blog. I quite disagree with most of their top 20 or so, therefore I felt it was my responsibility to make the "right" list.

I am notoriously bad at coming up with top ten lists.

The first problem I ran into was "musical artists." How can one say that the Beatles are #1 when they have to consider the genius of the likes of Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi and others. So I am changing it to "Musical Recording Artists." The next problem I ran into was how many different eras of music that includes. How can one put the Rolling Stones at #3 and leave Glen Miller and Ella Fitzgerald out. What about the classic crooners like Bing and Deano? So I limited my own list to Musical Recording Artists from the 60s on, specifically anything considered "oldies/classic rock" and onward. There was one last stumbling block. My instinct is now and always will be to put Stephen Sondheim at the top of any list of this variety (he's my favorite), but but he just did flow with the rest of the list. I felt that this had to be limited to recorders of "popular" music only; in my mind, that is defined as anything you might hear on the radio if you actually wanted to listen to that kind of station. After I set up those guidelines, I was able to spend hours and hours agonizing over my list. Here's what I came up with:

1. Queen
2.David Bowie
3.Paul Simon
4. Billy Joel
5.Creedence Clearwater Revival
6.Aretha Franklin
7.System of a Down
8.Elton John
10.Alanis Morissette

There it is. I kind of had to force myself just to make some decisions and there is a good chance that my personal list will change drastically in the next few minutes, but it feels good to have a list written down. These kinds of things are important to me. A lot of classic rock in there, but I gotta have some System... sometimes I just love punk! Especially SoaD! They make me kind of giddy. If you're not familiar, check out "Chop Suey" (my personal favorite). And I like that I have it sandwiched between Aretha and Elton. That's pretty telling about my musical preferences.

I was going to be cool and have images of my favorite albums from each of these artists for illustration. The Blogger gods do not seem to like that idea, so I will leave it alone... for now.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

9 Weird Things

Boy, when it rains, it pours, eh, comrades?

The amazing Gale from over "fancy french title" way tagged me for this meme, and I am in a Blog state of mind, so thought I might as well do it now.

Weird Meme: You simply list NINE weird things about yourself and then tag nine others.

It's funny. Gale mentioned in her post that she had a hard time coming up with 9 things. I cannot say that I had that problem. So these things are just the first 9 that came to my head, in no particular order...

1. I cannot spell "weird." Seriously, this is a real problem. Thank the good Lord for spell check because I would be truly embarrassed a lot of the time. For whatever reason, it always comes out "wierd" and I always have to go back and fix it. This entry is a real challenge, that's for sure!

2. When I was in grade school, probably 4th and 5th grades, I had serious crushes on both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. That's right, the presidents. Or former presidents, more appropriately. It stemmed from my obsession with the movie-musical 1776, about the writing of the Declaration of Independence. I loved everything about them for a long time. There are some truly entertaining anecdotes from this era in my life, but they can wait for another time.

3. I love bad jokes. I can hear the same lame jokes over and over again and I will always laugh just as hard. I am a sucker for "A ___ walked into a bar..." jokes. My two all time favorites:

A grasshopper walked into a bar and said "Hey, bartender! Give me a drink!" "Sure, buddy! Hey, ya know we have a drink named after you." And the grasshopper said "Why would anyone name a drink 'Bob'?"

A piece of string walked into a bar, and said, "Hey, bartender! Give me a drink!" The bartender replied, "Sorry, we don't serve string here." The piece of string walked out onto the street and tied himself into a knot and walked back into the bar. He said, "Hey, bartender! Give me a drink!" and the bartender replied, "Sorry, we don't serve knots here." So the piece of string walked back out onto the street, and started scratching his head with thought. Suddenly he got an idea and scratched his head a little harder. He walked back into the bar and said "Hey, bartender! Give me a drink!" And the bartender said, "Sure, buddy! Anything you'd like! Say-- don't I know you from somewhere?" And the string said, "I'm a frayed knot!"

(kills me every time!!!)

4. I completely believe that Champ exists. For those of you who don't know, Champ is the lake monster that lives in Lake Champlain, nestled between eastern upstate New York and western Vermont. He is sort of an American version of Nessie. I swear to God I felt him brush past me one evening when I was enjoying a late night swim under starry skies at a friend's Vermont camp. True story. He's real.

5. I am very rarely seen without sunglasses on top of my head. Sometimes they are on my face instead, which I feel is acceptable in exceptionally bright situations. In my room, I have a gift bag filled with the corpses of past sunglasses, 40 or so of them, that have met untimely ends over the years. Other pairs I have simply lost. It's interesting: for someone who can't function properly without shades, I break/lose them awfully frequently.

6. I often find myself talking in movie quotes. If I get into the movie Clue, I will not stop until there is some sort of physical interruption, usually a sibling launching themselves at me from across the room, hands extended toward the general throat area. Possibly more common in my speech are Eddie Izzard quotes. It is an addiction that I share with my room mate/"sister", Steph. We will have lengthy conversations without an original thought between us.

7. Speaking of Steph, she and I eat at "Riendl" at least twice a week. You may be wondering "What is Riendl? Is this some restaurant I am missing out on? Is it the next big thing? Sounds German. How's their bratwurst?" Well, Riendl is no more than another name for the popular chain of family restaurants, Friendly's. The alternate name came about about when I was trying to convey my desire to eat in code. "Hey, I think we should go to a place that starts with an "F", ends with an "y's" and in the middle is Riendl." (Those of you dedicated to SNL may recognize the syntax from a particularly clever "Superfans" sketch.) Well, the name stuck, and it has become a regular haunt of ours. And we order the same thing every time: Honey Barbecue Chicken Strips platter and Honey Barbeque Chicken Supermelt. And we always switch halfway through. Always.

8. I have an echo mic on my desk in my bedroom. Sometimes, when I am sitting there alone, I will serenade the empty room, belting my little heart out with the colorful plastic toy clutched in my hand, rockstar style. But usually, I use it to address anyone who comes into my room.

9. I name everything. If you have been following this blog, you know about my cars, the late Toby and the current Vincent. I also name plants (Clyde and Ursula live in my office). I love giving people nicknames and they usually stick, at least for me. My friend Dustinopolisbruley Joseph Ticonderoga Smith-Jones can attest to that one. I like to give names to rooms of the house and areas of property. I love naming animals. The mouse who, until very recently (RIP) lived in our basement was lovingly referred to as Eskimo, and the squirrel who lived outside of my freshman year homeroom in high school was known to all as Voltron* (he had a blond tail).

Those are my mandated 9 things. I don't really like tagging people for things, but people who read this who want to do it, will do it. I don't actually know how many people read this anyway, so it probably doesn't matter much in the long run. I hope everyone's happy and healthy!

*I just wanted to share that the word spell check come up with to replace "Voltron" was "paltriness"... isn't that great?

Graffiti, eh?

It feels like forever ago that my friend Gale suggested I "graffiti my blog". Here's the truth: I am still embarrassingly intimidated by the blogging world. I traipsed over to Foxxfyre's Black and White Art Blog more times than I can even count, every time with the intention of graffiti-ing, and every time I chickened out. Isn't that ridiculous? I have a feeling that I will get reprimanded for this post. Certain people will be saying "Jo! Don't be silly! You are always welcome in the world of blogging!" And I know I am, but sometimes I feel shy. If you know me at all, that probably sounds ridiculous and possibly a little disconcerting. It's just one of those things, I guess. Sometimes even Jo! feels shy.

But today, triumph! I went and graffiti-ed! I am happy with how it came out. That is 100% original art-work, world! Here for your enjoyment!

Super big thanks to Foxxfyrre for supplying the medium! It was uber mad fun! (yeah, I said it... don't think less of me).

love to all!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

This Is Getting Ugly

There was a time when my office was always orderly and presentable. There was a time when you could easily recognize the pieces of furniture tastefully arranged in the window-less room. There was a time when people could stop by and sit a spell and I would engage them in conversation in a professional but personable way. There was a time when I could sit in my office and think, "Yes, I am a responsible professional who can function like an adult in the real world."

That was a long time ago. (I think it lasted about a month after I started here). Now, I look at my office and am ashamed. What happened? I had turned over a new leaf but now...

Ok, in all honesty I have always been organizationally challenged. I have a tendency to let things build up. Couple that with an acute case of procrastination, and there is potential for serious health threats. My office was hanging on by a thread. Until a week ago, I could still find things and explain the clutter to my boss as my own personal organization technique. "I know where everything is," I would insist. Then I get the brilliant idea to have a fabric drive to make ugly quilts for the local homeless. Within 24 hours of coming up with this idea, my office was filled to the brim with donations of fabric.

Some people cannot see the forest for the trees. I could not see my desk for the papers. And now I cannot see the floor for the bulging garbage bags of scraps of fabric. At least I can still see the chair for my weary self.

I don't know who among you are religious, but please, if you are so inclined, add my office to your list of prayer intentions. It is a desperate situation.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Have Another Cookie

Hello, Blogger World! I have been eaten up with guilt that I haven't been able to update with any kind of regularity. The fact of the matter is that I do not have internet at my house, so I have to all of my surfing at the office. I have justified checking other people's blogs while at work, but I just cannot justify updating during work hours. Hopefully, I will be getting internet in the next few days (keep your fingers crossed for me), but in the mean time, I would like to share some fiction writing with you.

My friend Gale has introduced me to Flash Fiction in the form of a weekly contest. Each Friday she posts a random word and the contestants have to enter a 350-word piece of fiction containing the word of the week. The word for Friday the 13th was "puppet," and my story "Have Another Cookie" tied for first place. So I am sharing it with you. Hopefully you will get a real post soon! Love to all!

Have Another Cookie

"Here, sweetie, have another cookie."

"Thanks, Mrs. Puppet. Your cookies are as good as ever."

"Oh, Paul, I will never forget when you were a boy. Everyday, after school you would be tapping on my door, pleading for cookies. But that was a long time ago. Now it seems that I never see you! Where has my Paulie been?" Mrs. Puppet's very being exuded cheerfulness; everything about her smiled. Even her gentle chiding was done with pure love.

Paul shrugged guiltily. "Mrs. Puppet, I come as often as I can..."

"I know, dear. How is Amy? I still say she was the loveliest bride I have ever seen."

"She's as lovely as ever." Paul's broad shoulders sagged as he forced the words out, but managed a slight smile.

"When are you two going to have children? They need to taste my cookies!"

"The... The timing isn't right, Mrs. Puppet."

"You can at least bring your beautiful wife by. I haven't even seen Amy since the wedding day. How long has it been now?"

"6 years, 5 months, 14 days." Paul bit his lip ferociously and stared determinedly at the ceiling.

"That long? My, the days do fly! Why haven't you brought her to see me?"

"Mrs. Puppet..." He hesitated on the verge of baring his soul to her. Everyday he sat in her apartment at the Green Valley Assisted Living complex and told her the same story, and it never got easier.

"My dear, you look so distressed! Here, have another cookie and tell me what's wrong."

The newspaper clipping Paul took from his pocket was discolored and well-worn. He handed it to Mrs. Puppet and held her hand as she read the article, dated exactly 6 years, 5 months and 14 days before. ...accident resulted in tragedy... woman in passenger seat died on impact... driver in critical condition...other passenger unharmed...

Silent tears ran down Mrs. Puppet's face. Paul allowed his tears to claim him as he sat down next to her on the bed and welcomed her hug.

"Here sweetie," she choked, "Have another cookie."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I Wonder As I Wander

Many times in our lives, often multiple times per day, huge life questions get hurled at us and we often find it easier to just brush them aside. I personally find it far more productive to do so, because if I stop and think about them, I find it difficult to concentrate on anything else. For example, "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" It is far simpler to just rattle off the tongue twister than to put thought into it, but it seems to me that if we never stop to consider the question, we will never find the answer. This particular question gives birth to a whole litter of other questions on closer acquaintance. What exactly is a woodchuck? I, for one, immediately think of that delicious brand of hard apple cider, but it must have gotten its name from somewhere. I have never been one to sit in the dark, and have always demanded answers. Why should this be so different? Why should I follow everyone else's example and let this deep and complex question slip by to allow for the pursuit of the mundane?

Do you know what a woodchuck is? It's a GROUND HOG! Possibly one of the least interesting animals in the world that has garnered fame from ruining peoples back yards and keeping our roads populated with road kill!

That was unfair of me. I've actually always liked ground hogs and spent one summer trying to convince my uncle there were more humane ways of getting rid of them than sitting on the porch with a rifle. Granted, those were mutant ground hogs, the size of beagles and completely undeterred by any threat of human interaction, but still! A rifle? Plus, They have, on occasion, provided endless entertainment, scurrying away from my curious pets and siblings and the like. It's funny, sometimes, how easy it is to lump my pets and siblings into one group... Anyway, it's not that I have something against ground hogs, or woodchucks for that matter. The question would probably not have persisted through the decades had it been "How much wood could a ground hog chuck if a ground hog could chuck wood?" It loses something for me. Also, I am not sure that I would trust a woodchuck's forecast come February 2, but I blindly follow whatever a ground hog will tell me, be it 6 weeks 'til Spring or 6 more weeks of Winter. Also, I wonder if sales would be as good for the previously mentioned manufacturer of draft cider were the brand name "Ground Hog Cider." I got a mental image of a pig being ground up and bottled as a liquid... eeeewwww!

If I were The Pink Shoe, I would probably take this opportunity to do "facts about ground hogs/woodchucks," but she would do it so much better. I'll stick to what I do, not that I'm sure what that is, but I'm pretty sure it's not doing "facts about."

Given the fact that neither woodchucks nor ground hogs chuck wood anyway, it is probably in all ways fatuous to even pursue the question. And yet here I am and here you are. And we will both spend more time than is healthy trying to figure it out.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Life Is One Long "Kevin Bacon Game"...

I have this habit of getting unhealthily attached to movie actors. I have never "stalked" anyone, but there are several people for whom I have such a deep admiration that I forget that I don't actually know them. Some would call it an obsession, but I do not think that it is anything that serious. I am a mediocre movie-buff; nowhere near an expert, but I can crush anyone I come up against in Scene-It, and what else matters? I don't do any real research and I certainly don't subscribe to anything Don Lockwood would sneeringly call a "fan magazine;" I just absorb whatever IMDB hands me on a silver platter. And I do watch a lot of movies.

One cluster of actors that I have always been particularly fond of are those that grace the screen in Christopher Guest's mockumentaries. I am addicted to them! I love all of the movies and all of the actors in the movies and all of the other movies the actors have been in... Let me give you an example. I love Best in Show. John Michael Higgins is in Best in Show (and a lot of the other ones, but I am trying to make myself clear). John Michael Higgins has a bit part in Bicentennial Man. Therefore, I love that movie as well. I recognize that it was exactly "a shimmering star in the Hollywood firmament," but I still love it. Because John Michael Higgins was in it. This, of course, is a simplified example; my love is much more complex. In actuality, I also love the movie Matilda and Miss Honey is in Bicentennial Man as well, and Matilda featured little Mara Wilson as the title character (I would not put her in my list of favorite actors, though. I am picky about child actors), who was in a Simple Wish with the amazing Martin Short and Kathleen Turner . Kathleen Turner was in Undercover Blues, which I thoroughly enjoyed and which opened the door to my love of Stanley Tucci and Larry Miller, Larry Miller who was also in Best in Show... I could go on for hours. Literally. I have kept notebooks where all I have done is connect movie to movie with all o my favorite actors. I admit that it is not entirely healthy. I can quit whenever I want to, I just don't want to...

A lot of the mockumentarians have been guests on my favorite TV show of all time, Arrested Development, which is ironically and very sadly in a state of arrested development. Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Michael Hitchcock, Ed Begley, Jr.... they have all appeared on the brilliant show, which, in this particular case, increases my love of a show I already love. Plus, I now appreciate everything that each cast person has done individually a lot. Even though I had seen Muppets From Space years before this chow aired, I like it more now that I have more of an attachment to Jeffrey Tambor. Sometimes this web even confuses me.

The point is that I am very excited to see this movie. I already know that I will love it, so I am just looking forward to actually seeing it.

This is not the only time this general topic will come up in this blog. Even if I was giving an 18 month lecture series, I could not plumb the depths of it all. So in my quest to find exactly what will go into this blog, I have established what will probably blossom into a beanstalk such as Jack could never hope to surmount. (God help us all...)

Monday, September 25, 2006

All That Glitters

I have always thought that advertising would be a fun career to pursue. I think that it was this attitude that deterred me from the field; there are few things more depressing than finding out that something you always thought would be fantastic and glorious is, in reality, dull. So rather than be disappointed, I veered off on a different path of life and am able to still revel in the imagined romance and excitement of advertising.

Advertising is a real art. There are commercial jingles from my childhood that I still hum, and quite often sing at the top of my lungs, all the time. The chewing gum commercials were always the best, in my opinion:

Double double your refreshment!
Double double your enjo-o-oyment!
Oh, no single gum's gonna freshen tonight-
Double mint double mint gum!

Juicy fruit, it's gonna move ya,
Hit the spot and get right to ya!
Juicy fruit, the taste the taste the taste is gonna mo-ove ya!

I have a very distinct memory of listening to the Mattress Discounters jingle in the car on the way to kindergarten one day. "Have a good night's sleep on us, Mattress Discounters!" The beginning of the jingle was a litany of the uses for their better-than-the-rest mattresses. I remember, as young as I was, parodying it to my own endless glee: "Jump on it, sleep on it, drink on it, eat on it, swim on it, fly on it..." I thought I was the funniest person in the world and my dearly devoted imaginary friend agreed, so what more did I need?

Actually, that is still making me giggle. I crack myself up!

I had one very memorable bill-board experience. Kool cigarettes* ran a campaign in the mid to late 90s where they altered the spellings of some common words to attain a swanky ,cutting edge slogan. One example was "B kool." Get it? They spelled "kool" with a K, just like the brand name! They were so darn clever back then! I'm surprised I didn't pick up a pack and start puffing away that moment. Another equally witty slogan was "Nu look" (instead of "new look," I guess). Yes, yes, very witty and droll and blah blah blah. Except that the first time I saw the bill-board, with the obligatory skinny girls and sexy guys, was in a rear view mirror. The words were on two different lines, so instead of "Nu look" it read "uN kool". (Get it? They spelled "kool with a K, just like the brand name!) The memory is fuzzy, but I assure you that if I was drinking anything at the time, I snarfed it. How on earth did the execs let that one slip by!? I think someone in their ad department had a vendetta against the dangers of smoking and wanted to get their message out to the world. Maybe it was a mole from truth (though I'm not sure they existed back then).

But the best advertising I have ever seen in my whole life is a small, hand-lettered sign somewhere on a back road in a small Pennsylvania town. I stumble across it occasionally, but I couldn't tell you where it is. It's message is simple:

Trailer full of sparkles just ahead

How marvelous! No graphics, no slogans, not mascot, no colors even. It leaves so much to the imagination! How big of a trailer? What size sparkles? Is it like the confetti my aunt insists on putting in every single birthday card? Do the shimmer with their own iridescence? Is the trailer on the left or the right? The kicker is that every time I've driven past the sign, I have been so lost in my own musings as to what it could possibly mean, I never remember to look for the trailer! I am left with a mental image of a tractor trailer overflowing with multi-colored specks of glitter, more glitter than you could ever fathom. We're talking a mole of glitter, here. If that's not a trailer full of sparkles, I don't know what is.

It's kind of a metaphor for life. You can be driving along a bland, run-of-the-mill road, longing for some excitement, when you suddenly realize the next bend could lead to a trailer full of sparkles! It gives life more zest when you have that to look forward to. And you can imagine your very own trailer full of sparkles and it will always be just ahead, something to look forward to, to get you through the dull drive. There's always a trailer full of sparkles just ahead.

*I was going to link to the Kool website, just to give people something to reference, but when I saw that the URL was "smokerswelcome" I couldn't bring myself to do it. I just couldn't give them that kind of endorsement. You can google it if your curious.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Fully Loaded, We Got Snacks and Supplies...

One of my all time favorite past times is taking road trips. In college, my friends and I would routinely set out on ambitious road trips to such destinations as Vegas or the moon; we generally made it as far as the 24-hour grocery store. Some day I will drive to Vegas, just to say that I finally did it, but in the mean time I am no slouch as a "road warrior." Shocking my whole family, I opted to go to school in Vermont, an 8 hour drive from my central Pennsylvania home. It took some adjusting, but got by alright. I managed to come home on long weekends, as long as I had a couple of days between 8 hour drives. I can hear you mumbling "That's not that far..." I admit, I was young and cocky. I thought that 16 hours over 4 days was pretty good. Well, life is not static, and change is constant. Between my freshman and sophomore years of college, my family moved from PA to sunny North Carolina. It was my turn to be shocked. I didn't mind having an 8 hour trek, partially because it was my choice and partially because it was, well, only 8 hours. Now the trip was 16 hours one way. Ah, but I was young and impetuous. I felt like the kid on top of the high dive trying decide if it was worse to retreat and, in clouds of humiliation and embarrassment, crawl back down the ladder or to simply embrace the imminent death. I just had to take the plunge. So on the day I was driving home for the first time, I got up at 3:30am, got on the road by 4am. and was pulling in the drive way at 8pm on the dot. It was sort of a coming of age thing for me, probably not as profound as the situations in, say, the Bildungsroman, but it's up there. After that first epic drive, I could do anything. For one Thanksgiving, I did 32 hours of driving in 4 days maybe? 5? The point is not a lot. My unswavering companion through all of this was Toby, my beloved light blue '97 Mercury Sable. We did everything together and were really there for each other. Yes, we had our spats (The only time he ever ran out gas, we didn't talk for days, but I eventually apologized and it never happened again), but the good times far out-weigh the bad. I bought him at the end of 2001 and put close to 80,000 miles on him before we had to part ways this past Summer. It was a tough time for both of us, but I think we both knew it was for the best. And if it hadn't happened now, I may never have met Vincent, my shiny new silver '07 Nissan Versa. We have a good time together and (no offense to Toby), Vincent gets much better mileage, which is a good thing in this day and age. Now, I am unstoppable. I love driving, especially long distances, and this penchant has come in handy in my post-graduation life. I imagine most people experience the sudden disconnectedness of leaving college permanently; you go from having everyone of your friends contained in a tidy one-mile radius. Then May Commencement happens and BAM! you're lucky if you have a friend within a couple hundred miles. Lucky for moi, I have no problem whatsoever jumping in the car, driving 6 hours, hanging out, crashing on a couch for a couple of hours, and then driving back. I thrive on those kinds of weekends. Add that kind of drive (no pun intended) with the fact that I actually got a "real" job out of college (with a paycheck and paid vacation and everything), and there's simply no stopping me. Now I have friends all over the country, Oregon, Illinois, Washington, Tennessee, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina, California, all of New England.... It's only a matter of time before the big one, the transcontinental road trip. One of these days. Besides, I still have to make it to Vegas.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Not Enough Hours in the Day

I have always been fascinated by numbers. Please don't mis-read that. I loathe math and can just barely get by on the simplest arithmetic. But I really truly love numbers. Integers and all of the different things they represent to different people. I was very influenced by Sesame Street as a kid (who in my generation wasn't?), and while all of the major plot lines have since been replaced with more important things in my cramped cranium, I often refer to the Socratic wisdom gleaned from the vignettes between scenes. One Ernie and Bert sketch featured Ernie asking Bert what his favorite number was. Bert, true to form, replied in song, singing the praises of the number 6. The number 6 meant something different to him than it did to anyone else.

I wonder if other people have such passionate positions on what their favorite numbers are. I have a special place in my heart for the number 36. Always have, always will. I like the symmetry of it, divisible by so many other numbers (1,2,3,4,6,9,12,18,36--I have just exhausted my arithmetic capacity for the month!). Also, if I am not mistaken, 36 is 6 squared, so it is sort of a homage to that old sketch that had such a profound influence on my life.

It just occurred to me how random a topic this may be to the wondering blog-reader. One thing that you will learn quickly is that I am only random on the outside. If I suddenly change topics, it is following a very rapid succession of connected thoughts in my head; it's all connected. If you would ever like to know, don't hesitate to ask! I would never expect you to guess how my brain works. It's a complicated thing... But I digress.

I came upon this topic when I was reflecting on the number 24. 24 is a number that means something to almost everyone, definitely everyone I know. What gets me is how much it changes depending on how you look at it. Sometimes I am intimidated by how large and daunting a number it is. Other times I get anxiety attacks over how small a number it is. Sometimes I am swimming in the luxury of it and other times I am choked by the structure of it. How does one number inspire such diverse reactions?

I imagine most people, when thinking about the number 24, immediately think of the number of hours in a day. With good reason. We are a civilization governed by time. Everything we do or hope to accomplish is within the confines of a complicated time table. We allow ourselves to focus on the limitations; only so many hours in a day, only so many days in a month, only so many months in a year, only so many years in a lifetime... Doesn't that just make you curl up in a ball and die? It suffocates me, just thinking about it.

So I try not to think about it that way. Instead of saying "I only have 24 hours in a day" I tend towards thinking "I have 24 whole hours in a day!" It's much more uplifting, much more open. It feels like there's tons of time to just experience the world! To live life! It makes me want to throw open the shutters and rush into nature full speed, and fly headlong down a hill, limbs akimbo until I rest, panting, at the bottom, exploring the depths of the clouds above me. There is something so appealing about limbs being akimbo. I connect that with being a kid again. Because when I was a kid, I didn't cower before the god of time, the dictator of the adult world. When I was a kid, time was nothing and limbs were akimbo.

Of course, I have had that mentality backfire occasionally. The most obvious example is the day before vacation. To have to wake up the day before such a thrilling adventure and realize that you still have 24 whole hours to go! I find that kind of ache unbearable. I once did a 24 hour fast for hunger and homelessness awareness week. It was a good experience, very humbling, and I am glad that I got to do it. But that was a loooonnngg 24 hours. I didn't want it to be 24 "whole" hours. I probably could have handled 24 quarter hours (you see, I like to eat a lot and on a regular basis). But I made it and I would do it again, that's not in question. Just another perspective on the many many faces of the number 24.

From another perspective, 24 animal crackers sounds like just the right amount for an afternoon snack, but the prospect of 24 pancakes makes me want to wretch. 24 tootsie rolls would be heavenly, but 24 glasses of milk would have a very similar effect as the pancakes. Ugh... I can't even think about that much milk without feeling queasy...

24 years old. From my perspective, that seems like a new level of adulthood. It is the next level, in my opinion. It is adulthood. I am 21 and I have an adult job and an adult title and adult responsibilities, but I still feel like a young adult. I feel like this age is still too young to be really taken seriously. Fresh out of college, no world experience, no real appreciation for responsibility and duty... No matter how untrue these statements are, I can still feel the imagined whispers when I turn my back. 24 seems like the next plateau. Moving from "post-teen" years into true adulthood.

In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that. Okay, that's not entirely true; I could say a lot more about that, but am quickly losing my grasp on articulation and think that it is best to quit while I'm ahead (excuse the cliche). In closing, thank you, Ernie and Bert. I would not be the person I am today without you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Falling down the rabbit hole

I have been reflecting lately on what I would like to do with this blog. I have had online journals before, but I cannot imagine there are that many people interested in the daily details of my life. So I am leaving that particular fantasy world and entering a bright and new fantasy world. Maybe, just maybe, people will be interested in things that I find interesting, and I can tell them about that and sometimes use it as a guise for talking about myself (which, I warn you now, I like to do far too much). So you will all be privy to my own perky and quirky perspective on life.

(psst...that was your cue to do a little happy dance of joy)

I now stand on the very precipice of the realm of Blogging, poised and ready to dive in, but nervous excitement still rooting me to my spot. I don't know where this will go, but I will go any distance, follow any rabbit to make it interesting for you, whomever you may be.

Monday, September 11, 2006

This is me

I have a blog now. Aren't you curious?