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December 2nd, 2009

10:16 pm - why girls go for bad boys
I don't know how perfectly this video answers that question or not, but: Jakob from So You Think You Can Dance. Melts me in a puddle in this dance. Aah, make it stop! This number is so twisted and yet not a moment of it is funny, as even the slightest bit of incompetence would make it. I don't know. But this is brilliance, brilliance.

He can't even give it up and stop smoldering after the stupid dance! Anyway.

In other news, this semester needs to be done. For any parents of mine reading, I am rather thinking of moving at semester from this house... just wasn't what I thought it would be. A girl I know from student government posted asking for roommates to move to Courtyards at semester... potential?

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November 16th, 2009

10:54 pm - Words I have learned (or at least am in passing terms with) from a 900 level English grad class
Plus many more.








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November 3rd, 2009

10:48 pm - a shoulder to cry on - or something like it
Just five minutes ago, I was listening to one of my roommates crying across the hall. She had taken a long shower earlier - I assume to muffle her tears, but still they weren't spent. Now the girl she shares a room with is making her laugh, and I don't hear sobs anymore.

Two nights ago I attempted something I've never done before, comforting an emotionally distraught guy friend. With girls there's no weird touch barrier. I can sling an arm over her, rest my head against hers. If I know her well, perhaps some motherly stroking of her hair or a hand. But this? - a guy friend standing on my porch at night, who came over immediately after a movie night because he said he needed to see me "right now." I thought it was some kind of romantic come-on until I got a look at his face up close, and saw pain written all over his eyes.

We've had personal conversations in the past, and last summer he asked me out (I said no, not feeling like I wanted to stray into romantic territory with him just then). We haven't talked in months. And yet here he is, falling apart on my porch.

We're standing because the two wicker chairs on the porch are divided by a little wooden stand - too far apart. Yet as he talks and cries my legs begin to cramp, and the annoying outdoor cat jumps on one of the chairs and nuzzles me in the butt.

I suggest we sit down on the porch, leaning against the wall by the door. A couple of my roommates pass in and out during the course of our conversation, and from their expressions I can tell they're intrigued: Ooh, it's R on the porch with a guy... They should have looked at his face closer.

Now sitting, I've solved the proximity/comfort issue, but that doesn't mean decision-making is over with. At one point he leans his head against the wall, eyes squeezed shut and tears straggling out, face contorted in a grimace. I know I have to do something, but a hug or a hand squeeze feels wrong, crossing an impossible barrier I've never had reason before to break. I wait a couple seconds to see if the moment passes. I doesn't. So I break the touch-barrier with the only appropriate option I feel like I have: the manly shoulder squeeze. Almost instantly he expels breath and chokes out, "Thank you for listening."

"Sure," I say, still squeezing his shoulder. I figure that now that I'm here, I can keep doing this for another 5 or 6 seconds before it becomes potentially awkward. I feel so bad for him that I want to hug him, be much closer than the hand on the arm, but since he's bigger I would probably end up with my head on his shoulder, and I don't want the focus of the moment to switch from unloading/me listening to a sudden hyper-awareness of our closeness.

I talk a little bit, but he says over and over that all I really have to do is listen. So my words are generally no good, unless they can dissuade him from killing someone's cat in vengeance. Touch speaks more.

He leaves somewhat calmer, thanking me. I feel as if I've done something. Yet all the way up the stairs to my room, I'm wondering: did I do it right?

It's amazing how much of our lives - particularly when it comes to guy/girl stuff - is scripted for us by movies. There are the cheesy moments that scream out for a kiss, or the dramatic ones that call for a slap. A sometimes non-gendered scenario is that of comforting someone. In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo loses it in front of his adopted son, Frodo: "I'm sorry I brought this upon you, my boy... I'm sorry for everything!" The elderly hobbit begins to weep, and in Jackson's film Frodo silently approaches him from behind and - does the manly shoulder squeeze. Bilbo instantly responds, reaching back to hold on to Frodo's hand.

The other iconic "comforting" scene I can think of is from When Harry Met Sally. Definitely gendered/sexualized. Harry is comforting his good friend Sally in regards to another man. Because they are very close, Harry can engage in intimate comforting behaviors: full-body hugs, stroking, even little kisses on the mouth. This is where the tone of the scene swings in a very different direction. Sally becomes aware of his close, in-drawing presence, and the pleasure both of them derive from these kisses. So she goes for a more serious one, and the scene winds up with the two "best friends" having purportedly a "great" time in bed, even though Sally had been inconsolable only half a minute before. This example is strange because although Harry should have realized that comforting his friend with a kiss wouldn't be the wisest action to take, he was "right' by the movie's logic that views anything that brings the two together as "right." I realized that any judging of the porch encounter by this film one would give me almost no criticism, except perhaps as to the closeness of me and my friend. The scene is too specific to individual people.

I'd still say that we use cinema as a way of scripting things like comforting someone correctly. But I also believe doing something is better than nothing.  You can screw up every part of comforting a person, I figure, and yet your presence, your being there will still be a powerful something. You don't have to follow the manual, if there is one outside of therapists' offices.

It's still quiet across the hall. 

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October 15th, 2009

10:59 pm - breaking the silence, or, watching When Harry Met Sally

1. Billy Crystal is not a conventionally handsome man. That said, there were at least 5 meltingly good moments where he was incredibly sexy, compared to, say, Twilight in which I'm being hit over the head by Robert Pattinson (sp?)'s cheekbones and yet remain totally unaffected.

2. That said, knowing his voice first from Monster's Inc. is very, very, very strange.

3. Everything Harry said about men and women - they can never be just friends, but they might be able to if both are already in relationships - is my dad's own philosophy that he's been telling me for the past two years.

4. I don't know that Meg Ryan is a really fantastic actress, but I give her all the props in the world for getting through that "faking it" cafe scene.

5. I think I like You've Got Mail a little more. Something clean-cut, less depressing and less questioning. You know that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan stay together, because the cosmic universe deems it. But in Harry and Sally? They could really still end up hating each other. The one point against this is that they showed up in the montage of dim-witted, happily married couples.

6. You have to be incredibly slim, like Ryan, to pull off the hideous jeans and dresses she wore in this movie.

7. Finally, I am really, really getting tired of this particular movie-shorthand for a man proving his love to a woman: list, at the very least, 5 specific, totally random quirks or facts about her. No matter what they are, she is thrilled by your specificity and throws herself into your arms. Example:

"I love that you pick your toenails constantly and don't care where the pieces go. I love that when you eat cake, you always insist on having the last piece. I love all the little pock-marks on your forehead you try to cover up. I love that you always order pasta and then have bad gas for an hour."

Extreme, but, come on, it's overused. Disturbia may be the worst example of this I can remember. "I'm stalking you, but because I'm only giving you non-sexual details about what I'm noticing, that means I'm not creepy and also worthy of your love." GAH!

As for my relationship with this blog - I don't care, and you almost certainly don't, whether I "keep this up," or not. But yet, like a random fall leaf, here you are.


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August 22nd, 2009

12:00 am - weirdness
Okay, so all my friends are getting engaged and married! Well, not really; mainly people whom I measure my aging by. I've already been to three weddings in that many months; have two more to go (one in which I'm a bridesmaid).

My best friend from junior high is engaged. We don't hang out anymore; the most I've seen her recently was on her way out of a class as I was coming in. Quick hellos, all that. Back in the day, though, we were tight. We filled notebooks with our girlish drawings and back-and-forths. No one could make me laugh like she did.

All a good memory now. She was never longing to get married or anything, though; that's another trend in all this friends-pairing-off thing. I even remember her - many years ago - saying the idea of sex was "gross."

And yes, I did learn of the engagement on Facebook. As I've said before in similar posts, if I announce such a thing to the world in that particular way, please shoot me. I'd rather have people never know I'm seeing anybody than having to watch the actual contortions of my "relationship status" over time until it hits the golden ticket of "engaged" or "married." That's just me. Maybe I'm a snob.

But getting away from the point. All these people that were awkward and little when I was awkward and little are now taking the ultimate maturity-step of marriage and engagement. (Well, perhaps it isn't that for certain celebrities; but generally in real life).

Echoing the title: so weird!


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August 1st, 2009

11:00 pm - wedding music
This weekend I was thrilled when the opening notes began for the processional of a friend's wedding. I recognized it immediately as my favorite track from the post-rock group Explosions in the Sky's album, The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. The song in question, "Your Hand in Mine," is the final track of the album, and one of my favorite songs. I've thought before that a section of it - in the previous video, from 2:30 to 3:06 - sounds like "Canon in D," or another wedding march. The song builds really nicely, and could probably be used for a lot of things. (This is a string version; interesting.)

Wedding music is an intriguing 'genre,' if you will. You have songs like that, and the classical favorites, and then... Shania Twain's "From This Moment On." Sometimes people employ the oldies, as did the aforementioned couple, with the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" for the recessional.

I'm not sure what I would pick. Something unique, something that sends chills down my spine but hasn't been done to death. "Canon in D" is a timeless melody, and I remember playing it over and over as a kid, but to me it feels overall more portentous and somber than celebratory and enthused.

YouTube is replete with suggestions. Through following classical links, I hit upon Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, which is just amazingly lovely. Indescribable.

I wish I knew more about classical music. I hear great things about Stravinsky from my literary theory class. I've looked at the classics section of CDs at the library, but with such a thicket of names and titles it's hard to know where to start. I did pick up Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony once - it felt safe because I watched Fantasia a fair amount as a kid. But that's the thing; I keep seeing flying pegasuses and baby colts swimming in rainbow pools instead of the music. Perhaps too iconic?

In any case, I am glad I am not planning a wedding. One thousand and one decisions to make, over half of which I'm sure aren't remembered permanently. Music is key for emotional atmosphere, though, and not a segment to be completely brushed off. Maybe one could just say "screw it" and walk down the aisle to the 1812 Overture. I dunno.

In conclusion, go give Tchaikovsky some love and listen to the Piano Concerto, or something else, and tell me about it.

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July 9th, 2009

10:21 pm - things are looking up (plus book reviews)
I won't be living at home this fall. *Score!* We've talked about it and as long as I have a job, it's financially feasible for me to move in this house with five other girlfriends. The two jobs I'm going to apply for both fit my major, English, so that's awesome. And I get to sing some more with a songwriter I know - she's heading up this night of songs inspired by the Psalms at the church coffeehouse. I'm singing three of her pieces, which we started work on today. All so good.

I can't think of much more to say, beyond the fact that my new main icon inspires me to say a little about books I've read in class that I recommend:

  Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler (Seven Stories Press)

Okay, so I only had to read the first story, "Bloodchild." But once you understand what is going on in this story, you're gripped by what the narrator ultimately decides. It's rather graphic in parts, but I'd argue that those sections are crucial for understanding the choice involved in the story.

Very unusual science-fiction, I think, and an able and powerful author.

First sentence: "My last night of childhood began with my visit home."

A collection of short stories by the fabuous Sherman Alexie (Atlantic Monthly Press).

All of these stories are quality. The place you start out at in one of his stories is never close to where you are when the story ends. And Alexie has a gift for character, I think. The book flap claims that in this collection "we meet the kind of Indians we rarely see in literature." Nobody's a caricature; everyone has the quirks and unexpectedness that a real person has.

Some stories, particularly my favorite, "The Sin-Eaters," have a kind of dreamy or surreal feel to them, woven into Indian tradition, which is all beautifully done.

Read something by this man, I don't care what! Probably everything is about this level of quality.

First sentence: "Regarding love, marriage, and sex, both Shakespeare and Sitting Bull knew the only truth: treaties get broken."

Kim by Rudyard Kipling (Barnes & Noble Classics)

I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book, but Kipling shows himself to be a master of prose. His depiction of India rings true. It's not an easy read - many people in class disliked it - but it's meant to be a long story, slowly taken in.

Also you'll want to follow the characters, youthful Kim, the aging lama, or spiritual leader. I have a feeling I need to re-read it; the book is dense with information and ideas.

First sentence: "He sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammah on her brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Gher - the Wonder House, as the natives call the Lahore Museum."

  Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale (Anchor Books).

Oh, this is sooo good. I love me some dystopian novels, and this one's right up there. The narrator is practically a female slave and we never learn her "real," or former name; she is called Offred - "of Fred," and is used basically as a vessel for pregnancy, producing children.

Quiet though she may be, Offred is blazingly intelligent, and beneath her restrictive clothing she muses on her captors, the world around them and what it would take to be free, or simply survive. Once read, I assure you this book isn't easily forgotten.

First sentence: "We slept in what had once been the gymnasium."

That's all for now.

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June 20th, 2009

11:58 am - In the Library
(A piece from last semester I found in one of my notebooks. Enjoy!)

People's faces here are like books. A little weather-battered, too many flapping pages. A bit of a breeze will knock us over privately, and then we return to our pages with the gravity of a monk, checking and re-checking to see if all the old words are there.

In this quiet space, we see - we cannot help but see - one another, and in the spark that is eye-contact a page may shudder, shine or melt into itself (they call this shyness).

That boy clutches his phone, the necessary escape-pod. That girl wears long white socks, reaching up past cargo capris. She will never be cool, I could tell her that, but she had somewhere to be.

"Did you get your information?" a desk librarian asks a man in plaid, wearing a cap. He said he did, something about the census, and then apologetically joked about "someone asking a weirdo question like that."

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