Friday, May 30, 2008

It Would Seem I Have A Few Things To Read Before I Die

Someone recently referred me to this list.  I forget who.  Somebody who knows I read a lot, because they thought I would have demolished more than half the list by now.  Here are the ones I actually have read and what I thought of them:
Saturday was one of the most beautiful and riveting things I have ever read.  I loved the contemplative tone of the novel.
Everything is Illuminated was so well-structured.  And clever!  I've never enjoyed an author playing with language as much as I loved the incorrectly idiomatic ways Alex (Alexy-don't-spleen-me) learned and employed.  As an added bonus, this book served to illustrate that while language doesn't always transcend boundaries, human nature certainly does.
Atonement wasn't my favorite book in the world.  I liked the premise, and I liked the execution.  But it still somehow felt lacking to me.  Perhaps it had been talked up too much before I read it.  I don't know.  I much preferred Saturday.
For my thoughts on Cryptonomicon, travel back in archival time to here.  I'd love to re-read it at a time I have someone I can discuss it with.  Right then.  Provided, of course, that someone fulfills all necessary intellectual requirements.  (If you read my blog, you're qualified.  Just in case you were wondering.)
Possession is one of my all-time favorite books.  Thanks, Petra, for the introduction to it.  If I could be anyone, I would want to be A.S. Byatt.  Not kidding at all.
Though I've yet to read The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, I have no doubt I will love them to pieces when I get there.  Why?  Because I have read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Douglas Adams is one of those people on my mental list of those I want to hunt down and have long, hilarious conversations with after I die.
The Handmaid's Tale ended just as it should have.  Hooray for ambiguity!  (And if you don't think the ending is ambiguous, well . . . don't rain on my parade.)
Ragtime was entirely too scattered for my tastes.  Wait, which protagonist are we following?  Where are we?  What are we doing?  Then again, I read it at 18.  Maybe it's worth another attempt.
Slaughterhouse-Five: Ah, the joys of Vonnegut.  Exactly the right thing to read after you've read so many happy, fuzzy, brain-light books that you need to become grounded in reality again.
In Cold Blood was the first non-fiction book I ever read that I just could not stop reading.  I was too enthralled and horrified.
I had to attempt Wide Sargasso Sea twice before I could make it all the way through.  The first time, I just hadn't the attention span.  The second time I found myself frequently pausing to marvel at the fact that I was empathizing with a crazy person.
To Kill a Mockingbird is the Great American Novel.  All other American novels pale in comparison.  Even Steinbeck.
Breakfast at Tiffany's was better as a movie.
A Town Like Alice was nice at the time, but decidedly forgettable--since all I can remember is that it was set in Australia and that it was, at its heart, a love story.  Maybe it would be more memorable now?  (Actually, as I recall, this is the first book my mom recommended to me that had hints of sex in it.  I remember being astonished.  She had always seemed so persnickety and uptight about sex in literature.)
Come on now, listmakers.  Who hasn't read The Lord of the Rings?  Especially since it was one of the first fantasy books with great story and real depth I read.  Ditto for The Hobbit, which I think is best read after reading LOTR.
Lolita is amazing and disturbing.  The first book, actually, that caused me to realize that you don't have to place absolute trust in the character chosen to narrate the book.
Of course I've read Lord of the Flies.  Of course there's a lot to think about.  Of course I would never voluntarily read it again if I could help it.
1984 is, without question, one of the best dystopian novels written.  With some of the best characters.  And with the worst--yet inevitable--ending.  This is the only book I've ever physically thrown across my bedroom once I finished it.  Yes, I was that mad that Winston gave in to Big Brother.
Cry, the Beloved Country bored me to tears.
Like many Utah seniors, I was forced to read The Grapes of Wrath.  I didn't like it.  But I have a distinct impression I would be amazed if I took the time to go back and read it.
With Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier had me from "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."  I read it in under a day, gasped at the climax, and ended it wishing that more modern mysteries were crafted that artfully.
I didn't have any definite opinions about Their Eyes Were Watching God.  Other than the opinion that the essay I wrote on it should have received an A.
Gone with the Wind was the first seriously huge book I tackled.  I read it in 3 days.  And no literary character has ever frustrated and annoyed me more than Scarlett O'Hara.  (Sure, Scarlett--you act strong-willed.  But in the end, you're just a pansy.  Yeah, I said it.  You're a pansy.)
The Great Gatsby, while indisputably well-crafted, just couldn't hold my interest.  Especially since I had a desperate desire to strangle Daisy the whole time I read the book.
Does anyone truly like The Awakening?
"The Yellow Wallpaper" changes every time I read it.  In subtle ways.  Which means, I suppose, that Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a genius.
The Picture of Dorian Gray was difficult to muddle through after becoming accustomed to the lighter side of Oscar Wilde.  But it was worth the wading.  Especially because it made all references to it that much better.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has a lot of impact for something not too long.  Brevity.  It's a good thing.
After The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, nobody else should have been allowed to write in dialect.  Because it's just so darn bad in comparison.
Treasure Island as book: meh.  Muppet Treasure Island: makes me laugh every time.
The Brothers Karamazov is one of the best books.  Ever.  And it incorporates so many different ideas into it that you could teach yourself philosophy, psychology, and all sorts of other lessons just by reading it.
Anna Karenina is so lovely.  Also so depressing.
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are fun at any age.  Also, I never fully understood chess until I reasoned my way through all of the moves Alice made.  Strange.  But true.
I love Little Women.  As the first "classic" I ever read, it holds a special place in my heart.  And on my shelves.  My copy is well-loved.  (Well-loved=held together by packing tape)
I've read the abridged Les Misérables.  But it doesn't count.  I want to read the unabridged.
Fathers and Sons is amazing.  Amazing, I tell you!  But it doesn't work well as a book on tape, because there's far too much to think about.
A Tale of Two Cities has always been my favorite Dickens novel.  (Because A Christmas Carol is a novella)
The Scarlet Letter has never been a favorite.  Hester bores me.  Pearl drives me nuts.  And self-flagellation is always, always horrifying.
Jane Eyre is one of my favorite literary heroines.  Precisely because she's remarkable due, in large parts, to individual traits that are individually unremarkable.  And she has quite a lot of spunk for her times.
The Three Musketeers helped me to understand that all classics are not boring.  And that some are, in fact, a rollicking good time.  Plus nobody else can write sword fights like Dumas.
I've never come across a version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame that I liked.  Sorry, Victor.
Frankenstein was not at all what I expected.  It was better.
Northanger Abbey: meh.
Persuasion: I love Anne.  And I love the new BBC adaptation.
Emma, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility: I liked the movies better.
Pride and Prejudice is sheer genius.  Satire at its best.  And funny.
I remember that some of the students in my class took "A Modest Proposal" seriously.  It gave me quite a good laugh they thought Swift was actually pro-baby-chopping.
I had an undergraduate professor who argued that all modern literature stemmed from Don Quixote.  After he said that, I couldn't not read it.  And what's not to love about a crazy old coot chasing windmills?  But if Cervantes had the idea that chivalry was dead then, then how much more dead is it now?
Of course I've read Aesop!  What kind of kid do you think I was, anyway?
Still, that's only 54 out of 1001.  That's 5.4% of the books on the list.  I'd feel like a reading failure, except most of what I've read isn't on that list.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Have SUCH a Guilt Complex

I thought that handing in my resignation letter would be the hardest part about leaving my job.
But I was wrong.  Oh so wrong.
The absolute worst part of quitting is that, for the next three weeks, I will have to endure looks from the people who like me.  Normally they would just look at me and smile, but by indicating a small amount of delight--yea, even a hint of glee--that my days here are numbered, I have betrayed them.
At least, that is the feeling I get from them when they gave me the look.  You know the one--the "You killed my puppy" look.  The deep sadness mingling with absolute betrayal that makes the look-ee feel like their insides should rot and they should just disintegrate on the spot.
Some of these people who like me--well, to be frank, I never got as attached.  But some of them.  Well, getting that look from them makes me want to hide under my desk for the next three weeks.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Being Led

Last night, after finishing dinner, my roommates and I were talking.  Those, in my opinions, are always the best times.  The run-of-the-mill conversations that lead to interesting topics and places unanticipated when the conversation started.  Anyway, one of my roommates asked the following question: "How do you know how to be led?  How do you let yourself be guided?"
She was, of course, talking about divine guidance.  So we started discussing how we knew when we were being guided and how we knew when we were headed in the wrong direction.  And then I found myself saying that I often have to take steps in any given direction before I feel that I am being led.  (Or not led, as the case may be.)
Elder Scott (I found the reference--I'll have to show my roommate) gave a talk about answers to prayers where he talked about the efforts required in order to achieve an answer.  And how sometimes, when we don't get an answer, it is Heavenly Father showing that he trusts us to make the decision.
I realized this about myself later than I would have preferred, but it's something I implement now: I think out and start doing something before I kneel down and ask if it's the right thing.  Then--usually--as I keep doing what I'm praying about, I get a feeling about whether I should continue or not.
None of my pleas have ever been completely answered until I implemented a solution I thought could work.  Just as I never visited a friend for math help until I'd done the homework, I personally cannot justify begging for help until I've tried to figure out a solution.  I was given a brain for a reason, after all.
As I was telling my roommate about this last night, I suddenly realized that lately I have not been practicing the pattern that I know works.  Especially when it comes to matters regarding my job.  So this morning before I left for work, I said a quick prayer indicating that I was handing in my resignation letter today.  That I would be committing to leaving my job on June 20.  And then I came into work, and I did exactly what I prayed about.
Want to know something?  It feels good.  And even though I do not have my next place of employment lined up at the moment, I have faith that I've taken steps toward getting new jobs as well.  And I know something will work out.
I've also remembered I have to take steps before I feel a guiding influence.  I plan to keep walking.
Unless it feels wrong.  Then I'll stop.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Recently, I have been thinking about following.  In fact, the train of thought all started when I played the "organ" in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday.  (I say "organ," because I go to church in the Institute building and our "organ" is actually a digital piano.  And may I say . . . I don't like it.  But then again, I don't know how to play an actual, honest-to-goodness organ)
It's not the first time I've played it, but it's the first time a goodly number of people commented on my tendency to play quickly.  (Okay, okay . . . that's a euphemism.  I believe at least two people actually called me a speed demon.  And doesn't it seem odd that I got called a demon based on the way I did something in church?  But that is neither here nor there.)
As I evaluated my reasons for playing as quickly as I do, I came up with two.  Reason the First: I am an impatient person.  Reason the Second (and the one that got me thinking): Sound travels slower than light.  And nobody in any LDS congregation I've ever been in--including myself--actually looks at the chorister in order to be led by the chorister.  Most people glance up periodically, as if to reassure themselves that the chorister is still standing there and waving his arm about.  And since most people follow the sound, the congregation ends up singing almost a full beat behind the organ.  (Or, in my case, "organ")
This fact leads me as organist to believe I'm playing entirely too slow.  So I pick up the pace.  And then I practically exhaust the congregation as they try to keep up with my rendition of "Welcome, Welcome Sabbath Morning."  True story.
It struck me how important to following it is to actually look.  If we lose the focus point, we fall behind.  And unintentionally, we end up spiritually and emotionally out of breath.  Thankfully, the Eternal Organist knows our weaknesses well enough to help us compensate . . .but since He's also paradoxically the Eternal Chorister--we have to look first.
I think there's a reason eyes crop up in the scriptures more than ears.  What do you think?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Families Can Be Together Forever

So if you know me at all, you know that my older brother got married yesterday. And if you know me extraordinarily well, you know that yesterday was a particularly long day and that I was decidedly irascible by the end of it. Downright cantankerous. Most definitely no longer my usually even-tempered self. But that is neither here nor there, since this is a post I meant to write before my brother got married.

I taught Primary for two years before I started going to singles and student wards again, and kids are always intelligent and usually surprising. Anyway, I remember teaching a lesson about eternal families and watching one of the little boys in my class wrinkle his nose and say, "You mean I'm stuck with my older brother forever?"

After that class, I wondered if I'd ever had a similar reaction. Especially since my older brother and I only started to get along recently. (By recently, I mean "in the last couple of years or so, and even then he still has no sense of boundaries and tends to enjoy stepping over the line periodically") At the time of that lesson, he was just beginning to show hints of being a semi-decent human being. In my estimation, anyway.

So I went back and looked through one of my old journals. From my teen years. Melodrama, angst, and many entries about my relationships with my siblings. Once such entry read, "Today we had a lesson in Young Women about how families can be together forever--and that, by definition, is heaven. Well, I think that having to spend eternity with [older brother] would be hell." (Well, actually . . . the word hell was underlined many times and there's just no way to duplicate that on my blog.)

But now that I'm beginning to get older, I can see how eternal family could be the definition of heaven after all. Especially when I think about how my brother is a better person when he's around his wife. Not that he was an entirely bad person to begin with, but this whole concept of eternal family with her . . . it obviously has an effect. A good one.

So for today . . . though yesterday was long, though the evening went longer than planned, though I had the beginnings of a splitting hunger headache when I left the reception--I'm glad that he's married to her forever.

Because that means I get to be around nice people for eternity.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

And This is How I Entertain Myself at Work (Excerpted from E-mail to Co-Worker)

Per the dictionary of Katie.  It’s the one to have:


snarky (adj.): prone to poking fun at any and all people in any and all circumstances in a pointed way.  Or not pointed way.  But usually pointed.  Therefore, Katie poking fun at passive-aggressive co-worker when she’s highly annoyed with said co-worker is being snarky.  Katie poking fun at most anyone else is being either sarcastic, a smart aleck, sassy, or facetious.


sarcastic (adj.): prone to dry humor at other’s expense.  See also “Katie’s main mode of verbally expressing herself in a funny way.”


sassy (adj.): can either be of the rraaar come-on-to-me variety, or the I-can’t-take-anything-seriously-and-I-talk back variety; Katie employs the latter definition, of course.


facetious (adj.): not serious at all . . . in other words, Katie’s permanent state of being at work when she talks about anything not related to job functions.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Movie Review

I saw Prince Caspian last night. And I enjoyed it. But as my roommate put it, I enjoyed it as a stand-alone movie. When compared with the book, it fell short. Extremely short. But as I said, it's excellent as a stand-alone movie. I could even, after a little while, forgive the fact that Prince Caspian's accent put me so in mind of Inigo Montoya that I half-expected him to approach his uncle at any given point and say, "Hello, my name is Prince Caspian. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

In addition, there was a highly unnecessary friction between Caspian and Peter. One that is most definitely not palpable in the book. My roommate, thinking aloud, said, "Well, perhaps they thought they needed conflict." And then we laughed. The whole movie is one big fat conflict between two races of people.

But I could forgive its shortcomings in relation to the book, because it still served the ultimate purpose of all of the Narnia books. It did a good job of showing me the parallels between us and our relationship to God, Lucy and her relationship to Aslan. The filmmaker did an excellent job of allowing the teaching nature of the books to come out natural.

In fact, the English-major and gospel-analyzer in me was bouncing up and down (metaphorically) in my seat at everything I was seeing. And since the whole spirit of Narnia is, well, spiritual . . . the movie succeeded. I walked out feeling replenished, which isn't a norm for me after seeing a movie.

P.S. We also executively decided the coolest Institute class ever would be called "The Gospel and Narnia" . . .

Thursday, May 15, 2008

On Politeness or, I'm Sorry--I Just Don't Know

My mother taught us to be polite children.  Burping was heinous.  Chewing with your mouth open--nigh unto a crime.  Okay, maybe it wasn't that drastic.  But I'm not even really talking about manners.  My mother taught us to be fundamentally polite to everyone.
Let me define just a little further what I classify as being fundamentally polite: by word and deed, she taught us to do the following things:
  • Say "please" and "thank you," and also "excuse me" whenever we bumped into someone or needed to move past them
  • Smile at people
  • Reply when spoken to
  • Speak with those serving us . ..
Which leads to my point.  She taught us to be polite to anybody we were requesting help from.  To keep our frustration at bay and not take it out on the person on the other end of the phone line who, honest to goodness, is trying their best.
I thought everyone had a mother who taught them such things, but my experiences today filling in for the receptionist have proven me wrong.  Apparently, people have no qualms about yelling at me about their problems--problems, incidentally, that I didn't create and that I would solve if I could.
Being on the receiving end makes me feel very glad that I've never been on the giving end.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

If They Didn't Think Me Odd Before . . .

Yesterday, as it has been noted, was the day I finally received an acceptance letter. Hooray for the U! (And no, Mom, this doesn't mean I will be more likely to attend their football games now)

Anyway, I decided I want to look information up online right away. When do I register? How many credit hours make a full load? When are class scheduled for? (Will I still be able to work full-time and take the classes I want, or will it be necessary to become a part-timer?)

This led me to a marvelous web page that lists the master's classes being offered in the English department this fall . . . registration is not open yet, but I was getting a serious high from reading the descriptions.

Composition Theory and Research! Introduction to Critical Theory! Pragmatism and 19th Century American Literature! Their titles fill my soul with joy and their descriptions bring a little bit more dazzle into my life.

And apparently, I got excited enough that I was bouncing up and down. Literally. Actually physically bouncing up and down. Something I didn't notice until my co-worker asked why I was so bouncy.

"Oh," I replied offhandedly, "I'm looking at the courses I could possibly take this fall for graduate school, and I'm excited."

His raised eyebrows said it all.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Final Graduate School Update

When my mom called me at work twenty minutes ago, I'm pretty sure she was trying to restrain herself.  Keep from squealing.  She held my fate in her hands, after all.  My final letter--the letter from the University of Utah--had come.
And she knows how to read such letters through their envelopes.
In short, the University of Utah has accepted me.  And I, in turn, accept them in favor of not retaking the GRE, not paying more application fees, and not waiting around to see what I can make of myself.
The only person happier than me: my mom.  It's at moments like these that I'm pretty sure she's glad she learned how to tap dance.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Back Doors

I have a difficult time in scenarios where I don't have enough to do.  I'm the sort of person who prefers to feel occupied for as much time as humanly possible.  But my job, at the moment, is just the type of scenario I hate.  Too little to do.  Too much time to do it.
And nothing extra to do, though I've hunted.
It results in admonitions to go back to my computer and look busy.
Funny how deceptive appearances can be.  It's quite easy to look one thing and be quite another.  Anyway, I discovered a major roadblock to my success in looking busy today: the Internet filter.
We changed filters recently and the settings have still not quite resolved themselves to the IT department's satisfaction, but this morning it blocked my gmail account and I got irked.
Until I remembered something my dad and several other people have told me about such instances: there is always a back door.  A way to where you want that is not blocked because of the way the information is--or isn't--identified.

Google Reader wasn't blocked.  So I logged into Reader, looked through some excellent material . . . and followed the link straight into my gmail account without a hitch.
I've been thinking about it ever since, and this is why: in my life, I think I get far too preoccupied when the front door is not functional.  I get so used to attempting one entrance into the building, metaphorically speaking, that I forget that there are other points of entry--namely, Heavenly Father pretty much always provides a back door.
As a matter of fact, I think one of my biggest problems, if I continue discussing my metaphorical building, is that the front door is my preferred method of entry.  It's how I want to get to where I want to be.  And sometimes Heavenly Father wants me to arrive at the end I'm wishing for--but He has a different door He wants me to go through.
Sometimes . . . well, sometimes I'm at the wrong building entirely and I'm too stubborn to recognize it.
When it comes to recent events, I wonder if I haven't been exerting all of my energies trying to open the wrong door.  Because sometimes I expend an awful lot of effort.  I'm the sort of person who both literally and figuratively attacks the door with everything in my open-the-door arsenal--crowbar included.
Which has got to make an omniscient being--who knows the back door is not only there, it's unlocked and it's open--get a kick out of me sometimes.
I think I've been banging at the wrong door.
So I'm going to look for the one that is actually open.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Post for My Mom

It seems only fitting that I write a post for my mom. I would post it on Mother's Day, but I will be at my parents' home for most of the day and we will be having family gathering-ness going on.

Besides, I also got her a gift and a card.

So without further ado, here is a bulleted list of things I've learned from my mother--by word, deed, and example:
  • Don't talk with your mouth full.
  • If you decide to tell a lie, try to make it at least a little believable. But even if it is believable, it won't matter. Mothers always know when you're lying.
  • A laugh can turn a day around.
  • Sometimes all it takes to make a body laugh is the right newspaper clipping.
  • Even if the pun is not funny, your reaction to the pun may be so hysterical people will laugh anyway.
  • It's possible to learn a whole heck of a lot when you have a desire to learn it.
  • You take a 'picture' (pik-tchur) with a camera. You pour water from a pitcher (pit-chur).
  • has some excellent recipes.
  • The best books leave you feeling better when you've finished reading them.
  • It's good to live near relatives.
  • Singing and dancing make the work go faster.
  • Even if singing and dancing sometimes cause others a certain amount of aggravated embarrassment.
  • Sometimes it's just best to ignore the annoying sibling.
  • Your attitude determines a lot of your life circumstances.
  • Mothers always want to be near their children. Even when their children are being pesky.
  • Don't burp. Even if it's funny. Even if it's funny when mom burps.
  • Pay attention to dad.
  • Good relationships involve excellent communication. Such excellent communication that it's possible to play Mom against Dad. Or vice versa.
  • Cinnamon and cocoa look and smell remarkably different.
  • You can't add garlic to just anything.
  • Self-rising yeast has different properties than regular yeast.
  • It feels good to give things away.
  • Having sewing skills makes for some pretty darn cheap formal dresses. Also matching shorts. But the matching shorts came long before the dresses.
  • Books can never replace people.
  • Musical talent should not be wasted.
  • Talking about it makes things better. Yelling about it--not so much.
  • Staying at home to look after munchkins is not ignoble.
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness.
  • All of the neighbors love surprise zucchini. But they love surprise zucchini bread even more.
  • Shoes are optional during the summer. Feet need to breathe.
  • Playing in the dirt can be fun. Especially when it involves enjoying the vegetables of your labors.
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Always be polite.
  • Speak to the people serving you. You never know what you'll learn from a random conversation.
  • Everyone loves the person who knows everyone's name.
  • You can't settle on the first sweater you see.
  • Smiling makes even an ugly person's countenance pretty.
  • Reading your scriptures every day will make life easier.
  • If you bake five loaves of bread, give one of them away. Someone needs it.
  • It's never a burden to watch the neighbor's kids or pick up their newspaper while they're on vacation.
  • Prayer works.
  • Prayer works even better when an earnest mother is praying for some of the same things you are.
  • Scripture power does keep us safe from sin.
  • The scriptures will never get old.
  • The prophet and apostles are all nice old men and we should love them. Even if they ramble.
  • It's not cool to sleep through church. Except it's kind of inevitable to nod off a little during the last session of General Conference.
  • Some church-wide revelation is given just for us.
  • The right spouse can do wonders for a difficult child.
  • It is not completely heretical to laugh before, after, or during family prayer. Heavenly Father has a sense of humor.
  • It is also not heretical to add, after saying amen, "And please bless the Jazz."
  • Priesthood blessings make coping with life easier. Even when they don't make life itself easier.
  • Questioning the doctrine is sometimes good, as long as it's done with a prayerful and open mind and a desire to understand.
  • Worrying about the "deep doctrine" is pointless. Even if it does make for interesting dinnertime conversation.
  • Families can be together forever. And that, by definition, is heaven. (I believe it when I think about my mom. I get a little iffy about the propositions sometimes about my siblings . . .)
  • God and my mom love all of their children equally.
  • Living a gospel-centered life means never being dissatisfied with how you're living.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Collecting Thoughts

I suppose that, for me, it is inevitable.  Now that I'm more or less bored out of my head for seven-and-a-half of the eight hours of my work day because there simply is not enough to do around here, blogging provides an excellent outlet.  Which means that all of you who read my blog are about to get the joy of having at least one blog per work day.  More if there's more material in my brain than can be fit into a tidy blog entry.
(And by tidy, I mean somewhere around six paragraphs.  I tend to lose patience with long blog entries unless I'm very intrigued with the ideas presented therein.  So if I've ever left you a comment and you thought, "Hey, she sort of misinterpreted what I was saying!" Well, um . . . it's possible I reacted without reading the entry all the way through.)
Anyway, today I shall treat you to a number of random thoughts and questions that have been running through my head:
The word 'epistolary' is usually used to refer to a work comprised entirely of letters.  Is there an equivalent for something comprised entirely of e-mails?  E-epistolary, perhaps?
It's amazing how much my readership numbers spike when I mention a movie star.  My review of Shattered Glass spawned more hits in a day than anything else I've written.  Either that, or people like to google Hayden Christensen far more than even I would have thought possible.  (Maybe they're doing what I'm doing--hunting to see what he's done well.  Poor lad has gained such a reputation from his turn as Anakin.)
Sometimes, I dig myself into a hole because I aim too low--and hit the mark dead-on.
Happiness is a state of mind that is harder to achieve when my head hurts.
"Going out on a limb" means there is a higher-than-average probability that the branch will break.
Is there a reason I'm not writing a novel right now?  (Heh.  I almost wrote 'write now' instead.)
How does a person get past the 'If only I had done (or not done) x, life would be different" mentality?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Oh Yeah, THIS is Why . . .

Back in the day, when I worked at the glorious WSU Writing Center, I found myself more or less constantly befuddled at how I managed to gain the status of the resident Femi-Nazi. I'm no Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan.

My boss at the time rejoiced in having a kindred spirit--and though you could hardly call her radical, she seemed like--well, Gloria Steinem--in comparison to me.

I will readily admit that I believe there are certain contexts where women can perform as well as men, given the chance. The business world. (The glass ceiling, unfortunately, does exist. And far too few women shatter it.) The academic world. In certain arenas of the sports world.

Women are even on the rise in politics. (Not that I am particularly fond of most of the women on the rise in politics, but that's a different blog for a different day)

Anyway, last night I think I figured out why--aside from the aforementioned ideas I may have been a little vocal about--I became labeled as such a feminist. And it kind of made me laugh a little.

I refuse to ask a man to help me do anything I'm sure I can do myself.

But this doesn't make me any sort of feminist, because this behavior isn't restricted to just men. I refuse to ask anybody to help me do anything I'm sure I can do myself.

So here's the situation: my roommate and I have a new roommate moving in next Wednesday, and she is moving into my room. I am moving into the same room as my current roommate. We like having three roomies, because rent is cheaper. But that involves sharing, and our new roommate (who we dearly, dearly wanted to be the one to move in with us) had one requirement: her own room.

Anyway, I was more than happy to accommodate, but I didn't think about how I'd have to move my furniture. My bed, desk, and dresser will relocate to their new home in the other bedroom. And the bookshelves would have to be removed to the living room. (Which makes them a conversation topic for everyone who visits, because everyone is guaranteed to ask "Who reads this much?")

A week ago, I had removed all of the books from my bookshelves because my home teachers were supposed to visit. And since I was recently informed that men like to feel "manly useful" (which involves moving things and not, say, showing someone how to use a fickle digital piano as an organ for sacrament meeting), I thought I would help boost their egos by asking them to help me move the shelves.

Except they rescheduled. And so the books have rested, lined up in tidy rows on my floor, for a week. I didn't want to re-shelve them until the shelves were in their new places. Besides, the home teachers had rescheduled to four days in the future. I could wait till then. And by boosting his ego, I would feel I'd restored some of the confidence I'd unintentionally shattered when I talked to the new home teacher. (I may have--unintentionally--implied that he was wimpy, out-of-shape, and ignorant. Let me again emphasize--unintentional!! Don't worry--it has been duly noted that I need to exercise my filter a little more than I did.) But then they canceled.

Anyway, last night I decided that the bookshelves needed to move. They needed to move right then. And I could hardly expect my home teachers to show up spontaneously. Besides, I had a distinct impression I could move them on my own.

It would be a lie to say that moving them was one of the easiest things I've ever done, but it would also be lying to say it was one of the hardest. And they are tall shelves, so calling it a little awkward might be employing a little litote.

But I moved them. What can I say? As I told my roommate, I was having an I-am-woman, hear-me-roar kind of moment. And I didn't want to have to wait for a man in order to do something I could do perfectly well all by myself.

I blame my parents. They raised us to be as independent as we could possibly be. But let it be known: independence and feminism are not the same things.

(And unfortunately, I do need help to move the desk. So I'll try to be a good child and help my home teachers feel manly useful.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sorry, Carpenters but . . .

Rainy days and Sundays do not always get me down.
I actually appreciate Sundays more than I appreciate any other of the weekdays.  They are mellow days.  Morning is occupied by church, and then the rest of the day is mine.  To be filled with walks.  With reading.  With naps.  With long, winding trails of conversation traversed by my roommate and me.  With baking.  With delivering baked goods.  With visiting and being visited.  And most importantly, with no set schedule.  Structure, on Sundays, seems like the sort of thing that only happens in dreams.
And while I don't always appreciate rainy days, rainy days in the spring tend to have the most remarkable calming effect on me.  Early snow storms have the same effect on me.  Fewer people are out and about, and the world is quiet.  So still.
So still--and yet, growing.
It gives me hope.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Talk is cheap.

Except, I imagine, for the people who pay the salaries of Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Sean Hannity, et al.
And yet, we live in an information-driven society.  A society that, by virtue of its information-as-currency model, places a great deal of value on information.  In talk.  Because that is how we receive information, after all.  By communicating it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say."  These days, I think some of us are talking so loudly that nobody around can tell if there is anything we are actually doing.
It's a society increasingly devoid of people willing to stand up and admit accountability for their actions.  Because after all, we just said that. 
What an engaging paradox for me to think about.  (And trust me, I've had a lot of thinking time lately.)  We value information; we respect and acknowledge those who know more than we do (while, of course, we simultaneously hate that they know more than we do).  And yet we devalue our main methods of exchanging that information.
After all, how many times do you act on a serious conversation you've had?  Or on something you've read.
To be frank, I'm far better and also far worse when the information affects my immediate existence in some way.
I'm far better when I'm feeling threatened.  And far worse when I have gathered data indicating I need to change something in an existence I have started to find otherwise comfortable.
And here is what I've learned about myself: self-talk is especially cheap.  Especially because the commitments I make to myself are the easiest to break.  The chasm between what I say to myself and what I do is roughly forty billion times wider than the gap between what I say to and do for others.
I would resolve to be more accountable to myself, but . . .

Monday, May 5, 2008

Because Even Movie Stars Deserve a Fair Shake

Who knew this guy could actually act? I had no idea.

That is, I had no idea until 3:30 Saturday afternoon, which was when I finished watching Shattered Glass.

Shattered Glass is the story of Stephen Glass, an up-and-coming young journalist who worked for The New Republic in the late 1990s. Think of him as the precursor to our newest generation of journalists/writers-with-issues. (Think Jayson Blair and James Frey for a more recent parallel.) When he published a piece called "Hack Heaven," and a reporter busted the piece wide open by discovering nothing or nobody cited in the article checked out, Glass tried to defend himself but ended up burying himself in lies that became so obvious that his editor connected the dots.

Anyway, because I'm me, and if you know me at all, I have to read up on someone or something before I watch a factual movie about them. And what I read had some very clear identifiers about Stephen Glass: an effeminate man, bordering on the seemingly gay. Not just self-effacing, but more or less a paranoiac who constantly asked "Are you mad at me?" And someone who transformed himself any time he spoke about one of his stories in meetings.

And I have to say--Hayden Christensen was masterful in this movie. He displayed the appropriate tics. Asked "Are you mad at me?" with just the right tinge of paranoia and pleading in his voice. And could transform himself, literally from a snivelling sycophant ("My story's not that good. I'll probably scratch it.") to a workplace rock star--as he enacted situations that had never existed and people who were born and thrived only in his head.

It was fabulous, as well, to watch his decline. As the movie started, you could see this peculiar blend of mild paranoia and confidence. In fact, the character was such a paradox to begin with--this desperate desire to please with this near-perfect confidence that whatever he wrote would be well-received.

And as the movie progressed, the dark circles under his eye grew and you could fell the character being more taut. More tense. More strained. And increasingly ready to defend himself and his writing and to insist that anyone who attacked his writing must have some type of personal beef.

As you can tell, I'm not the most spectacular reviewer. But I've got to wonder why this guy has made some of the career choices he has. Sure, toward the end, I could see hints of the ever-angry Anakin. But they fit. And this was, by no means, a one-note performance. I think that I could maybe--maybe--call his turn as Anakin a two-note performance. (Mostly because he looked more or less brooding to me throughout Episode II, and then he seemed angry throughout Episode III. And though I know they weren't intended this way, they came off as more comedy than drama. In fact, I think I laughed harder during those two films than I did through films that were billed as comedies)

As I said, everyone deserves a fair shake. Even movie stars.

What is now completely incomprehensible to me is that he doesn't seem to be giving himself a fair shake.

Either that, or he's opting for roles that amount to: "Hey, Hayden. Please just stand in front of the camera and look good. We'll pay you well to do it."

I sincerely hope he realizes he can do more. And he has.

P.S. Seriously, watch this movie. And then watch the Sixty Minutes interview included as a special feature and tell me if you think the real Stephen Glass really seems contrite to you. I'm curious.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Life: It Keeps A-Changin'

When I took AP Biology in high school, I remember a deep sense of anticipation when I realized we were soon going to be studying Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.  My school, and particularly my AP classes, were predominantly LDS.  And only the most liberal among us had the nerve to even speculate about being descended from apes.
And then, much to my surprise, I agreed with Darwin on something.  Part of the premise of natural selection is that those who are most adaptable are those who are most likely to survive.  And this idea of adaptability as success and survival tool made a great deal of sense to me then.
This idea makes even more sense to me now than it did to me then.  Ever since graduating from college, my life has been a steady barrage of change.  First a break-up.  Then a job.  A move.  A shift in job responsibilities. A test.  Graduate applications. Three sets of home teachers.  Another move.  Job changes.  Roommate changes.
In fact, if nothing much changed for a sustained period of time, I would begin to suspect I had died and somehow not realized it.
Whenever people used to talk about how the only constant is change, I used to snort; as a teenager, I was a particularly inflexible sort of person.  Everything in my world was supposed to go the way I expected, and change was completely unacceptable.  Especially change I had not orchestrated.  I needed to feel in control then, and that was how I thought I controlled my world best--by refusing to accept anything outside of my rigid life view.
My mother used to recite one of her favorite proverbs to me: "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape."  I would roll my eyes, thinking "I'm solid steel.  No bending here."  (I found my views on steel shattered later, when I learned that the hardest types of steel are also the most brittle.)
The transition from my freshman year of college to my sophomore year beat any ideas of inflexibility out of me.  A transfer from one school to another required a great deal of flexibility, an adjustment of certain mindsets, and a near infinite amount of patience as I transferred records and mapped out my new path.
After that, I decided fighting change was a losing battle.  Those who can surf the wave of change are those who find themselves staying on top of the situations instead of folding under.  Better yet, the best change surfers find ways of directing the wave.