Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Story About Walking to Work, or I Am A Big Fat Narcissist

Now that I'm gainfully employed once again, I find myself wanting to walk to my job on nice days. My job is located several blocks away from where I live. Many, many blocks. 14ish or so. I'm trying to count in my head. Anyhow, when the weather looks delightful, I usually don a pair of flats (so I don't murder my feet by trying to walk in heels).

Yesterday the weather looked delightful, so I took a pair of brown flats (that had never before caused me grief or pain) out of my closet and slipped them on. They were perfect, because they coordinated with the brown accent stripe of my red dress.

Then I proceeded to walk. And walk. And walk some more. The longer I walked, the more often I noticed people looking twice at me. Periodically, I would feel something cold and wet hit the back of my right leg, but I just assumed I'd walked by sprinklers then.

I kept walking. People kept looking.

As I rambled down South Temple, several people honked. And because I am the narcissist I am, I thought, "Man, I hate it when people do that. But I do look good in this dress." Then, as I stopped to wait for a signal so I could cross the street, I happened to glance down at my right foot.

And was dismayed to realize I'd rubbed a good deal of the back of my heel raw. Not only that, but that periodic cold wetness I felt? Most definitely not sprinklers. Nope. It was my own blood. After realizing the situation with my right foot, I looked down at my left foot to find that it was having the opposite issue: the blood had run downward into the back of my shoe until it had started to run over. (Yes, my shoe ranneth o'er)

Once I arrived at work, I calmly requested a couple of Band-Aids and nicely asked that they call my manager so he'd know I'd arrived on time, but I'd been held up by the teeny tiny detail that the back of my feet were bleeding like crazy and I needed to please take care of it, thank you. And then I washed, cleaned, and bandaged.

They have stayed safely covered since then, and I have learned my lesson: next time someone honks at me, I will check myself for injuries before congratulating myself on how good I look.

TV That Makes Me Happy, Part 2

Some stories never get old. People do not tire of their different incarnations. (Usually...) They carry on through years and years; sometimes they are told traditionally, and sometimes the storytellers see fit to tweak the original details. These types of stories, I think, may be the only things that have shelf lives longer than the shelf lives of Twinkies.

One of these stories, and today's topical show: BBC's Robin Hood.

I watched this show, from its beginning, back in the day when I lived at home and I had access to cable. (Specifically, to BBC America.) Its reviews were glowing; although it contains echoes of the original story, this Robin Hood isn't (to use a cliche) your father's Robin Hood. He's not much like the Kevin Costner incarnation from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, nor is he much like the Cary Elwes incarnation from Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

This Robin, originally a landed noble, has come back from the Crusades to an England much different than the one he remembers. And this Robin makes a choice to become an outlaw. While he could reclaim his title and lands, he also has a fine-tuned sense of justice and cannot stand to live in wealth while people around him suffer. Ergo, he becomes an outlaw and forms his "gang" of men.

His right-hand man, Much, fought with him in the Holy Land. And both of them have come back different men: the show recognizes the effects of PTSD anyone who has fought in a war may have suffered. And this Robin Hood, with his fine-tuned sense of justice, has come back wondering whether the Crusades themselves are justified: he wanted to understand his enemy, so he's read the Qur'an.

Maid Marian is delightfully anachronistic as a feminist character who has become independent; while her almost-betrothed fought abroad, she has been fighting (in secret, of course--she's not stupid) for the people at home. When he returns, she is far from ready to fall swooning into his arms and madly declare her love. (Instead, she tells him when he first starts fighting the sheriff, that he's being stupid. And she's right.)

But enough background. This is why I like this show. The Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisborne are just the sort of deliciously campy villains that you love to hate. (And, in the sheriff's instance, that you will often find yourself laughing at.) It plays out much like a traditional serial, with the exception of the anachronisms. (Which the show doesn't try to hide, something I find incredibly charming. The show isn't out to stay true to nitpicky details.)

The bad guys wear black. The good guys wear earth colors. The bad guys tend to use swords; the good guys rely first on bows and arrows, staffs, and axes. Nary an episode passes by without Robin delivering several cheeky one-liners and a few wonderfully bad puns. And Guy of Gisborne is delightfully complex: while he looks black and greasy (and I do mean black and greasy...the Sheriff frequently jokes that Guy should bathe himself and change his clothes periodically; Guy always sports greasy dark locks and a suit made entirely of black leather), he occasionally shows surprising spurts of humanity.

Very few episodes end in a surprising fashion, but I've found that the older I get, the far more I'm interested in how a show reaches its resolution. Not whether a show reaches resolution. And this show twists just enough in surprising ways that I can't help smiling.

And it's not just Robin, Marian, Much, Guy, and the Sheriff who are worthwhile characters. The other members of the gang: Little John (who wields a staff), Will (a handy carpenter who wields and ax), Djaq (a Saracen woman who joins them partway through the first season), and Allan (a cheeky thief who starts most of his sentences with the phrase "I'm not bein' funny, but...") each have their fair share of comedic moments (a personal favorite of mine is an exchange between Allan and the always-so-serious Will when Allan asks Will if he--Will--is thinking what Allan is thinking and Will doesn't hesitate at all before saying, "No. I don't think like you.") and of dramatic moments (a woman in camp, especially one as enterprising as Djaq, leads to problematic love triangles).

I readily acknowledge it's campy. But it's campy in the best way possible. Trust me. You'll see.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TV That Makes Me Happy, Part 1

I've made an executive decision: for the next few Tuesdays, I will write a recurring series about TV That Makes Me Happy. To be more specific, individual shows that make me happy. I suppose, if I feel an urge, I could morph it after I've finished discussing TV that makes me happy into discussing TV that makes me annoyed, angry... or even TV that I find downright stupid. But that won't be nearly as fun for me. So I think I'll stick with TV that makes me happy.

To begin, I'll mostly be discussing TV you can find on DVD. (So, you know, after reading what makes me happy, you can add it to your Netflix queue. Or if you don't have Netflix, you can rent it. Or if you don't want to rent it--and you live near me and are reliable and trustworthy and won't keep my DVDs for twenty million years--so you can borrow it from me.) Because I'll be discussing TV that makes me happy no matter how many times I view the episodes.

Today's show: Psych.

The basic premise, once you've heard it, sounds completely ridiculous. In the pilot, Shawn Spencer (James Roday), who has called in one too many police tips, uses his hyperobservance to convince the police department he is a psychic so they won't arrest him. (Ergo, the first season tag line: fake psychic. real detectives.) Spencer has a track record: though incredibly intelligent, he has the attention span of a gnat (which, honestly, may be unfair to gnats) and has worked several jobs "for the experience." Or, in certain instances, "for the free hot dogs."

But as ridiculous as the premise may sound, it translate into a funny, funny television show that--deep down--is part cop show, part parody, part buddy comedy at its very best. In the pilot episode, Shawn Spencer ropes his buddy Gus (Dule Hill) into becoming his crime-solving partner, citing their desire--ever since they were eight!--of opening a private detective agency.

Each week introduces a new police case that Shawn and Gus manage to sneak into; in the end, they inevitably end up getting paid. Shawn and Gus, together, piece together details of the crime: as they reveal information, Shawn inevitably finds a "psychic" way of expressing their findings to the police. All of his comic "psychic" shenanigans are usually hilarious physical comedy (a particular first-season favorite involves him dancing a ridiculous "Dazzle and Stretch" routine around the police chief's office as he supposedly channels a cat telling them that a supposed murder victim wouldn't have killed herself, since she was due to open in a play entitled--you got it--Dazzle and Stretch).

But the rest of the cast--Maggie Lawson as Juliet, Lassiter's more trusting and believing partner, Kirsten Nelson as the sometimes skeptical but usually won-over Chief Vicks, and Corbin Bernsen as Henry Spencer, Shawn's retired-cop father who shares the love-hate-sometimes-vague-amusement-and-surprise relationship with his son--all play their characters with flair and surprisingly straight faces. (I'd be a rubbish actor; this show is so well-scripted, I'd be laughing every other line I attempted to deliver.)

And as I mentioned, the relationships are believable and they provide some of the best moments: flashbacks assist in the establishment of the long-time nature of the relationship between Shawn and Gus, and between Shawn and his father...and they also illustrate why the main character in this show inevitably proves so funny: while he has grown more intelligent, he steadfastly refuses to completely grow up. (Although by the end of the third season, he has made strides toward growing up--not so many strides that the show isn't funny, but enough strides to make his character that much more human.)

I don't promise that you'll learn any life lessons by watching this show; but if you find any of the following funny--clever cultural references, a willingness to mock anything and everything (including, periodically, it's own premise), sarcasm, wit, two grown men jumping up and down like little girls when they solve a case, comedic pratfalls, spastic movements of the best variety--then this show will make you laugh.

This show airs on the cable TV channel USA (when it's airing; since it's a cable show, it has an airing schedule that generally starts mid-summer, breaks off for a few week in January, and then runs roughly February-ish through April-ish...if I'm remembering correctly). Anyway, the channel (which also airs Monk) prides itself on being a channel with "Characters welcome."

And I, for one, think these particular characters should be welcome in everyone's home.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Princess Band-Aids and Prayer

Yesterday my family gathered for Father's Day festivities. And since I don't drive, my older sister generously offered me a ride home. Anyway, my almost-three-year-old niece has a small blister on her toe, and not too long after we had entered the freeway, she asked: "Mommy, when we get home, can I have a princess Band-Aid?" My sister replied that they would see about the Band-Aid when they got home.

A few minutes later and a few decibels louder, my niece repeated the question: "Mommy, can I have a princess Band-Aid?" Again, my sister told her daughter that they'd see about it when they got back home.

A few more minutes and a few more decibels louder, we heard the question a third time. Megan repeated her answer again. To be honest, I have no idea whether or not my niece received the much-requested Band-Aid by the time she got home.

Someone mentioned prayer today in church, and it suddenly dawned on me: sometimes when my prayers go unanswered, I do to Heavenly Father the same thing my niece was attempting to do with my sister last night. I think if I pray longer, louder, harder, or more earnestly, that I somehow might speed the process of getting an answer to prayers.

Whether or not my niece received her Band-Aid didn't matter much until she got home; it's not as though my sister keeps Band-Aids in the car. Heck, it's not as though my sister even knew which types of Band-Aids she had left at home. The answer needed to be postponed to fit my sister's timing.

In the same way, prayers go unanswered until the answers fit into Heavenly Father's timing. And I just need to remember: sometimes I don't need that Band-Aid as badly as I think I do. Sometimes the blister, the scrape, or the perceived injury is not in need of the quick fix I want. Sometimes I have to wait to see if I even need the Band-Aid as much as I think I do.

And I need to remember that He always gives me a Band-Aid exactly at the time I need it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Guide to Romance--As Learned from the Bard

Once upon a time, a naive first-year master's student (okay, fine...me) decided to take a Shakespeare class because a) she had never taken such a class and b) she likes Shakespeare. On those rare occasions she found the money to travel down to the Shakespearean Festival and take in a few plays, she always enjoyed them.

(So, incidentally, did her family. Switching out of the third person now: I remember my dad intensely worrying about understanding A Comedy of Errors the first time we traveled southward. But as I explained to him, Shakespeare done well doesn't sound like archaic language at all--the actors speak it so well and so naturally--and also include all sorts of appropriate comic shenanigans to match the dialogue--that the audience members forget they're watching Shakespeare. They come out of the play, and realize--voila!--they understood pretty much everything. I doubt the same goes for Shakespeare done poorly, but I've never seen a bad Shakespearean production with bad actors. I'm sure they exist somewhere. Maybe one day I'll try to see a really bad Shakespearean company just so I can compare and contrast.)

Anyway, my class--unfortunately--may have temporarily turned me against Sir William. I didn't want it to! Suffice it to say: that class may well rank among my least favorite classes of all time. After I established that I wouldn't be speaking much in that class, I started a list to pass the time. So here you have it.

All of the Different Ways for a Woman to Catch a Man: Shakespeare-Style

1. Cross dress
1a. Pretend to be your brother...which obviously involves cross-dressing
1b. Pretend to be a manservant
2. Mouth off
3. Argue (which could, I suppose, be a subset of "mouth off"...but not always)
4. Arranged marriage
4a. If you're clever, you can influence the arrangement
4a1. The cleverest always manage to get a king's say-so
4b. If you're clever, you can persuade an unfaithful arranged spouse to stick around
4c. If you're not clever, you'll probably opt for dying instead
5. Ironically enough, be clever
6. Doesn't hurt to be witty, either
7. Act as a crucial part of a treaty/alliance
8. Enter a drug-like trance

And there the list stops. Perhaps, someday, I'll add on.

Or better yet, you can!

P.S. I'm pretty sure I have another list about guaranteed ways for the men of Shakespearean plays not to impress the women they woo. I'm relatively certain number one on the list, in all caps, is BAD POETRY. . . Funny how some things never change . . .

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The New Routine

Time flies when you're having fun.

Or, you know, once you get a job and you start working again. Even though my training only happens for four hours in the afternoons, I forget how quickly time can pass. I've been good about keeping a routine since Monday. I wake up. I exercise. I eat a lovely breakfast.

Then I shower and get ready. After that, I do what needs doing. What needs doing varies on a day-to-day basis: invariably, I clean something. I edit something. And then, I find that it's time for work. After working for four hours, I come home to discover that I'm just as tired as I might be from working a full day.

On the bright side, my morning hours are occupied: I don't bum around the house. I don't feel as though I'm killing time until I leave. On the slightly more dark side, I'm all out of energy by the time I get home. Unless, like last night, I hit a second wind around ten and I start doing oblique crunches while I'm talking to my roommate. And then, once I tire of that, I decide to do some silly kicks.

Yes, yes, yes: I'm weird. And this schedule will become even more interesting once school starts again. But I just wanted to announce: I'm using my time wisely. And I'm proud of it.

Let's see how long it lasts.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Recent Exchange with My Parents

Last Thursday and Friday, I spent some time with the parents. Delightful time, really. Good meals. Good fun. Good movie. (We saw Up. And if you see it and don't enjoy it, please pay attention to what I'm about to say to you: you have no heart.)

Anyway, we discussed my master's program at least twice. One of the conversations was rather short, i.e. my dad asking "What happens when you're done?" and me shrugging rather noncommittally. I've decided I don't have to make any decisions in that regard just yet. I aim to make it at least halfway through this coming fall semester before I even acknowledge a future beyond my master's degree.

The other discussion was more a reminder. My mom, it seems, felt a hint of disappointment when I didn't walk for my undergraduate degree. (But seriously: December. 600-ish people. Or more. I hadn't the patience. Besides, they mail you the diploma, anyway. My mom would shudder if I told her I never framed mine, and I'm relatively certain it's occupying a very minute amount of space in one of my desk drawers.) Anyway, when I was accepted to my program, I promised her (I italicize, because I felt compelled to promise rather vehemently) that I would allow her the delight of seeing me walk then.

So she reminded me that, come next spring, I would be walking for her. And my dad said they'd be sure to cry.

I replied: "Sure. Mom will cry because she's proud. You'll turn to whoever you're sitting next to and cry that you wished I'd gotten an MBA instead of an M.A. in English."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Did I Move to Seattle?

One of the perks of living in a desert should be that its residents need not cope with an overabundant amount of moisture; after all, it's a desert. Not, mind you, that I don't remember the drought years. The years where we were required to carefully monitor our bath water usage, where we were severely scolded if we left the sink running a second too long...

But I'm wondering where, exactly, my June is. Where is my sunshine? Where is my late spring and my sprouting sunflowers and my happy, happy brightness? Where is it?

It's been raining here. Rather a lot. And while, with the best of 'em, I dearly love a good rainstorm...well, you know what they say about too much of a good thing.

I want my Utah back!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Extra Season in Utah's Roster

The influx has started.

Every year, slightly after Memorial Day, my mail multiplies and replenishes. It's not bills; I don't annually feel obligated to receive myriads of catalogs; and it certainly isn't personal letters. (Does anyone actually write personal letters anymore? I write notes, but I usually write them to people I can just slip them to. Of course, I've always thought of postage as a hassle, and the range of communication options that are available to me only reinforce this particular idea.)

No, I'll tell you why my mail multiples and replenishes: it's the cost (well, to the senders, really... but I do have to look at the mail) of living as a young, single woman in Utah. I tend to have young, single friends. And they do not stay single (or young, for that matter) forever.

As I observed last week, Utah has five seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter, and wedding.

To be fair, I'm unsure whether wedding season should count as one entity or two: the shower invitations, announcements, and solicitations for gifts peak during all of the summer months. But they also peak in December, when people decide they'd like a Happy Wedding! to go with their Merry Christmas!es. Also, to be fair, people get married then because most of them--the sane ones, anyway--are not usually attending summer classes.

Some people enjoy this extra season Utah has gifted its residents with: they purposefully take long walks by Temple Square, they study various brides to see what their dresses look like, note what sorts of poses the photographers of wedding parties encourage... Don't get me wrong. I am not one of the people who does such things. But I know those who have. Those who do. Those who live vicariously.

Meanwhile, I sort through my mail. I put the important announcements on the fridge. To help me not to forget that I actually care about attending the festivities. I find that keeping reminders near food is a wise, wise idea.

And then I carry on my single life, wondering how much paper I recycle every time I put another announcement I don't care about into the recycling.