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?