Friday, July 28, 2006

Five things I do not understand

Do I need to keep providing an intro each week to explain this Friday Five thing? Is anyone dropping in these days who hasn't been here before? If so, hi there. Welcome. Stop by any time. Read this for the scoop on what this is about. Got it? OK then; here we go.

The topic I picked this week is a dangerous one for someone as easily agitated as I, because forcing myself to think about things that annoy or confuse me is bound to have a troublesome ripple effect. The items below are just the first ones that occurred to me when I started pondering this yesterday, but I can guarantee that in the coming days, my mind will continue to build this list (and more than likely, share the results with anyone who'll listen). Word to my real-life friends: I'm sorry.

Anyway, here we are--Five things I really just do not understand:

  1. Why people are so utterly baffled by time zones. I cannot tell you where I work, because we all know that would violate the First Commandment of Blogging. I will, however, use some vague terms and say that part of what we do is host online "sessions" of some sort* that are attended by various people across the U.S. The instructions e-mail that the session participants receive clearly lists the start time of each event, followed by a note in all-caps, boldface, bright and flashing text that says "All times are in Central Daylight Time. Please convert to your time zone as appropriate." OK, so I may be embellishing a bit with the "bright and flashing" part, but the point is that the note is quite clear. And yet, every day of my life, I take phone calls and answer e-mails from supposedly grown, functioning adults in professional business positions who seem entirely unfamiliar with the concept of time zones.

    I'm not even talking about people who aren't certain off-hand whether Mountain Time is one hour or two hours off from Central. (I do think those people should be aware of all the helpful sources out there where they could find that information without bothering me, but that is not really my point.) No, the people who make my brain hurt are the ones who don't know what time zone they themselves are in. A few weeks ago, a very confused woman called me very disturbed that she arrived at her online session at entirely the wrong time. I told her the listed start time was in Central Time and asked what time zone she was in. "Central," she said. I asked where she was calling from. "Boston," she replied. Boston. As in, the city with that great big ol' harbor where they dumped all that tea. The great big ol' harbor that eventually flows right on into the Atlantic Ocean. I am no expert in geography, but I do know that the Atlantic Ocean borders the eastern coast of pretty much the whole damn nation. You really can't get much further east than Boston unless you live on an open-seaworthy houseboat. And yet, this woman thought the Central Time zone was where she was. Seriously, I have no words. Except, yes, I do, actually. What I want to ask these people is how they've watched television promos for their entire TV-viewing life without being familiar with time zones. Sure, I suppose some of them are the highfalutin "I avoid the idiot box" types, and likely more of them have gotten spoiled by the magic and wonder of Tivo, where every show is miraculously at their command, but surely at some point in their lives, they've heard the words "Thursday at 10/9 Central" and had to figure out just what exactly that means to them. Have they really turned on the WB at 8:00 instead of 7:00 every Monday for the past 11 years expecting to get their Seventh Heaven fix and muttered, "Damn! Foiled again!"? Have they resorted to watching nothing but Law & Order and CSI on the sole grounds that one or both can be found on at least one station at all times of every day? I really need to stop thinking about this, I realize. Item one was not meant to be a post in and of itself. But really. Time zones. People, it's not that hard.

    * This is an entirely inconsequential and obscure reference in an already too lengthy rant, but does anyone else remember the episode of the UK version of Coupling where Steve thought that Jane's therapist was using the word "sessions" as a euphemism for lesbian sex? Does anyone else think of that every single time they hear the word "sessions"? No? That's just me? Yeah, I thought so.
  2. The Black Eyed Peas. Maybe I'm hopelessly out of touch and out of date here, and I should instead be feeling perplexed by The Pussycat Dolls or some other more current make-believe band, but as my cable-viewing has been pretty limited the past nine years or so, I'm not always up to speed with these sorts of things. Therefore, I'm still stuck on the Black Eyed Peas. Really, I'm all for being eclectic and individual; I'm not saying matching outfits and uniform choreography is my schtick of choice for modern music acts. But I do think (crazy as it sounds) that all members of a band should sort of look like they are in the same band. One member doing frenetic movements in the corner while another one sways side to side in the front really doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I don't think that, while watching a group perform, my first thought should be of that old Sesame Street bit--the one that challenged you to "guess which kid is doing his own thing," except in this case, the bit is modified, because in fact, every one of these kids is doing his own thing. I should point out, by the way, that my whole opinion on this matter is likely based on one Saturday Night Live musical guest spot and perhaps a single video I once happened across at a friend's house. I don't claim to be any authority, so feel free to try turning me around if you must.
  3. Why it takes people so damn long to proceed through the intersection of New Brighton Boulevard and St. Anthony Parkway. OK, I know this one is ridiculously geographically specific and means nothing to anyone but me,** but seriously, what is the problem?? Light turns green; you press the gas pedal. It really is just that simple, folks.

    ** And possibly the hundreds of other people who drive through this intersection every day of their lives, but I'm pretty sure none of them read my blog.
  4. How [insert name of nearly any disagreeable, unpleasant, dull, or frighteningly stupid person I have ever known] has a relationship and I do not. I assure you I really am not just desperate for a husband or boyfriend; if I wanted one that badly and at any cost, I would have stuck it out with any of the several men I've tried to connect with in the past several months. I'm just saying; I don't get it. And I know, I know; this particularly pompous and know-it-all rant does not exactly highlight my patience and charm, but I assure you that I really can be quite delightful at times. I can provide references if necessary; I swear.
  5. Why bubble skirts are back in style again. Or leggings under skirts and little dresses. Or, barring retro fashions and focusing just on the present, how brightly colored rubber garden clogs became acceptable footwear to sport outside of one's yard. Or why it's cool to wear your belted pants an inch below your ass. I'm going to stop now before I start enumerating every other fashion oddity I can muster, because frankly I do realize I'm starting to sound like my grandmother. She's a lovely old broad, really, but I don't take my trend cues from her.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dating me: a brief primer culled from recent events

How to charm me:
  1. Tell me I have no idea how gorgeous I am.
  2. Tell me I'm not just smart, but "fucking brilliant."
  3. Listen and laugh attentively, even when I start talking about punctuation.
  4. Tell me I never have to pay for anything with you.*

How to annoy me:
  1. Tell me you can't remember if you voted for Bush.
  2. Get sloppy, slurred-speech hammered on our first (and second) date.
  3. Claim that because I have no brothers, I can't possibly have any sympathy for men. Fail to realize the double standard of this statement coming from a man who has no sisters.
  4. Brag that you pretty much always get what you want.

How to terrify (and henceforth ruin your chances with) me:
  1. Send 13 consecutive replies to a single e-mail, so that my Inbox looks like this.
  2. Turn into near-violent, angry, jealous guy at the mere mention of a male friend's name.
  3. Ask me to change my display name in Yahoo to the shortened version you prefer.
  4. Tell me approximately 12 hours into our acquaintance that you're certain I'm exactly who you're looking for.**

* What? Sure I'm still a feminist, but this is just a damn good deal. You don't have to be "fucking brilliant" to realize that.

** I know, I know; this should have been sweet. But considering some of the prior red flags waving wildly, my question was "Looking for me for what?"

Friday, July 21, 2006

Five movies that have traumatized me to varying degrees

For this week's Friday Five, I turn to movies. I don't even know why I saw most of these, as I've always, always, always hated anything the least bit frightening or creepy. In all but one case, I'm pretty sure I had no say in the selection. Oddly, I can blame a boy for only one of them; family, friends, and babysitters are at fault for the rest.

Oh, and Red? You're probably going to want to skip this post. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  1. The Serpent and the Rainbow - My memories of this movie are fairly hazy, but one small part is etched in my brain forever. Someone drops a seemingly invisible speck of something in the female lead's powder compact right before she uses it to freshen her makeup. For the next several days, a nasty red welt grows larger and puffier on her face until finally the whole sore bursts open and hundreds of tiny spiders crawl out. I have no idea why this occurred or what it had to do with the plot, but I don't intend to see the movie again to find out.

    As a side note, I was so terrified of voodoo lords or cult masters or whoever the evil element in this movie was that I couldn’t sleep well for weeks afterward. In another shining example of the strange and inexplicable ways my brain works, I somehow rationalized that these evil things couldn't get me in my sleep as long as I wore socks to bed. I have no idea why that made sense in my head at the time, but I remember it was ages before I went to bed barefoot again.

  2. The Amityville Horror - Once, when I was in first or second grade, my parents left us with a babysitter on a night that some apparently legendary horror movie was being aired on network TV. I had no idea what the movie was, but I remember my mother explicitly telling our babysitter not to let us see it. Naturally, she turned it on. To this day, I'm not entirely sure what the movie was, but after describing it to several people over the years, I finally found someone who said, "Oh yeah. That's Amityville Horror." So I'm just trusting that whichever friend finally solved this for me was right; I'm not going to rent it myself to find out.

    I remember only two scenes from this movie, but those two scenes were the sole source of the completely irrational fear of both walk-in closets and double-hung windows that I developed shortly thereafter. In the movie, a child's arms are crushed when she rests them on a window sill and the window slams shut. Luckily, we didn't have this sort of windows at my house, but it was years before I would touch the windows at my grandma's house to slide them open or closed on my own. In another scene, a young woman goes to retrieve something from a walk-in closet, and the door quickly shuts behind her. She spends the next several hours (days? I’m not sure...) pounding and clawing at the door hoping that someone will let her out, until finally her fingers are broken and bloody and she's an emaciated and emotional wreck. Again, we had no walk-in closets in our house, but when my parents built an addition on to the room I shared with my sister, I actually willingly took the old half rather than fighting with her for the new side on the sole basis that the new side would have a walk-in closet. Even years later, when I moved into an apartment that featured a walk-in closet in my bedroom, I still felt a little leery about stepping inside. It's funny how things like that can stick with you if you're terrified at just the right point in your childhood development. Therapy isn't a multi-million dollar industry for nothing, right?

  3. E.T. - I was a fairly sensitive child (read: great big ol' scaredy cat), and my mother knew this about me. (It was the reason she so seriously instructed my babysitter NOT to watch a horror movie in my presence.) When E.T. came out, she decided it'd be best to screen it herself first to make sure there were no scary parts that would traumatize me in any way. So my parents went to see it, and when they returned, my mother warned me very specifically about the cornfield scene--the scene where E.T. is being chased through a field and suddenly the camera stops and a flashlight fixes on E.T.'s screaming, terrified face. She was worried this one scene would startle me out of enjoying the rest of the perfectly sweet and kid-friendly movie, so she described it to me in great detail in the hopes that I would be prepared. When we went to see the movie together, my mother waited for the cornfield scene and then leaned over and whispered, "Now, it's coming up soon. Don't be scared." I will never understand why she so carefully prepared me for that one potentially frightening moment and yet completely failed to mention the scary space suit men charging through Elliot's plastic-draped house. Oh, and gray and clammy, mottle-skinned E.T. in those particular scenes of the movie? Yeah, she could have made note of that as well. Live and learn, mom. Live and learn.

  4. It - Do I really need to explain what was so terrifying about this one? If you somehow didn't already think clowns were creepy before seeing this movie, did you actual emerge from it entirely at peace with clowns in any way at all? Yeah, me neither.

  5. The Ring* - Earlier this week, Red talked about how she's often interested in the plot of popular horror movies, but knows that actually seeing the movie herself will ruin her life for a little while. I completely relate. Such was the case with The Ring. The cryptic ad spots and general buzz among those who'd seen it had me really curious about the film, but I knew that if I saw it, it would terrify me no end. I refused to see it in the theaters, but when my then-boyfriend ordered the movie from NetFlix, I agreed to watch it on the grounds that I would be staying at his house that night, and my burly, loving boyfriend would protect me and let me sidle up beside him all night, thereby canceling out my inevitable post-movie uneasiness.

    I actually did OK for most of the film, looking away or hiding my eyes only momentarily here and there. That is, until that one part. If you've seen the movie, you probably know what part I'm talking about, and if you haven't seen it, I apologize if I'm ruining anything for you here. The part that did me in with this film was when they've let us believe that the plot's been finally tied up in a neat little bow; everyone's safe and the evil's been eradicated, and then suddenly, without warning, the undead, ratty-haired, gray-faced girl STEPS OUT OF THE TV and into Naomi Watts's apartment. Yeah, that's the point where I crawled right into my then-boyfriend's nearby armpit, which--trust me--isn't a place anyone would generally want to be by choice.

Notably absent from this list are the two Exorcist films that some boy forced me to watch and my horrifying Silence of the Lambs experience (my supposed friends at the time tricked me into seeing that one, and I still haven't fully forgiven them for it). This list has only five slots for a reason, and this week, that reason is that I need to sleep tonight.

* Sorry, Red. If you actually did read this far, I know this is The Movie That Shall Not Be Named, and I should instead have labeled it “The one whose two-word title rhymes with The Swing.” Sincerely, I do apologize.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

What's the point of having a blog if you can't share stuff like this?

I had a dream last night about the last guy I went on a date with. In the dream, I ran into him somewhere, and he told me he was engaged... after the second date... to a woman who was several months pregnant with another man's baby.

What the hell??

I have no idea how my brain works sometimes.

Friday, July 14, 2006

(Hey, won’t you play) another somebody done somebody wrong song

I decided to go with a "five songs" list for this week's Friday Five, but when trying to decide which subcategory to choose to narrow it down, the only songs I kept recalling were ones I've identified with at not-so-happy times in my life. More specifically, (and ever-so-originally), they were all songs that reminded me of some foolish boy who, for whatever reason, didn't quite think I was as fabulous as he should have. I do generally try not to dwell on the negative, particularly in this forum. A spirited rant every now and then is fine, but I really don't want to make this the Blog-of-Sadness or anything like that. Since I’m not feeling particularly positive or chipper this week anyway, though, I decided to just go with it. Here we are, then...

Five songs that have made me cry (plus two more because apparently way more than five songs fit into this category)

  1. Groovy Kind of Love (Phil Collins)

    My first major crush of adolescence was in ninth grade, on a boy named Jason Grooby. (That is not actually how you spell Jason's last name, but the real spelling is not phonetically obvious, and correct pronunciation is important to this story. Also, by spelling his name incorrectly, I hope to avoid any possibility that he will track down my blog the next time he decides to vanity-Google himself.) I went to a Catholic grade school, and by eighth grade, I had known the eight boys in my graduating class for so long and so well that even considering a crush on any one of them felt like incest. So when I entered public school as a freshman, I was entirely excited about all the additional options around me, all the fourteen and fifteen-year-old boys who I hadn't seen wet themselves in first grade and who hadn't known me through my awkward, gangly, brace-faced phase of late middle school. For whatever reason, Jason Grooby was the one I zeroed in on the most strongly. My best friend Jeni and I sat next to him in US History, and we ambled around the base of the bleachers looking for him at every football game. A girl named Amy who I actually couldn't stand found out I was interested in Jason, and she and I inexplicably bonded over the fact that we were both enamored with the same guy, a guy who apparently had no interest in either one of us beyond the major stroke to his ego we provided.

    This was the fall that Phil Collins’s version of Groovy Kind of Love was released as a hit from the Buster soundtrack, and Amy and I used to sit in the art room, singing that song, replacing the word "Grooby" for "Groovy." It was pathetic, I realize, but cut me some slack; I was fourteen.

    A few months later, Jason finally did ask somebody out. (Of course, this was ninth grade, when none of us could drive, so by "ask out," I mean he asked someone to "go with him," and by "go with," I mean that they were established in some way as a couple, but they actually rarely went anywhere together at all.) It wasn't me who he asked out, however. It wasn't even my pseudo-friend and rival, Amy. It was my best friend Jeni. I remember she told me about it very tentatively, knowing it would crush me, but I couldn't hate her; I didn’t have enough friends to spare one like that. So I just went home, locked myself in my room, and played Groovy Kind of Love on repeat while I cried and cried. And a week or two later, I shifted my attention to some other boy, and found a new theme song for myself. His name was Jesse, and as such, the words to Rick Springfield's greatest hit changed in my mind to say, "Oh how I wish that I were Jesse's girl!" But that's a whole other story, and item 1 in this list is already entirely too long as it is.

  2. Save the Best for Last (Vanessa Williams)

    I also spent a good portion of my high school years entirely smitten with a guy named Shane. He and I were actually good friends, but I had a habit, apparently, of falling for some of my male friends. Junior year, Vanessa Williams's Save the Best for Last came out, and I instantly thought it could be our song. If only Shane could realize that I was actually perfect for him, that he should stop using me as a sounding board for his frustration with other (cuter, blonder) girls and just date me instead! I wanted to walk right up to him and ask, as Vanessa had, how he could give his love to someone else and share his dreams with me. I wanted him to forget about those other girls and realize that, indeed, "sometimes the very thing you’re looking for is the one thing you can’t see."

    Alas, the likelihood of this happening, of course, was about the same as the snow coming down in June or the sun going 'round the moon. At prom that year, I watched him dance this very song with another girl--a girl who wasn't even blonde or cute and didn't even date him beyond that night. She also wore some sort of weird dress pants underneath her formal prom gown, so clearly there's just no accounting for taste in this case.

  3. Nothing Compares 2U (Sinead O'Connor)

    I knew from the start that things with Jimmy weren't going to work out. He was a pothead, after all, and while he liked having me around, he was just as content smoking weed, drinking beer, and playing PlayStation hockey on his own. It shouldn't have affected me so much when the inevitable breakup occurred. But I still found myself feeling somewhat devastated. I didn't logically and seriously believe that nothing compared to Jimmy; I didn't really believe that "nothing could ever take away [those] blues," but at that point in time, I was sad, and I wanted to honor that and immerse myself in the sadness for a while. So I put on the saddest and loneliest song I could think of, a song on an album I hadn't even listened to since the lonely, angst-filled days of my late teens. I put on that song, and I let myself cry until I really couldn't cry any more. I remember asking my friend Julie when it was going to stop hurting, what it would take to feel over this guy who didn't fully deserve all this attention in the first place. "Time and another guy," she said. And she was right. A month or two later, I started feeling drawn to someone else, someone who, for better or worse, ended up being significant enough that the next three songs on this list are for him.

  4. I Can't Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt)

    My last boyfriend and I had a good run for a while. We were best friends and had a hundred and one things in common. We never fought. My friends liked him. He liked my friends. For a long while, I figured this was the one that was supposed to work out, the one that was supposed to be The One. But about two months before our eventual breakup, I knew things weren't right. I knew something was missing or "off," but I didn't want to acknowledge it or talk to him about it because I wasn't ready to admit that we were done.

    One of the local radio stations has a Sunday morning program they call Acoustic Sunrise, where they provide lovely mellow and folky and acoustic music as a soundtrack to the low-key and gradual weekend waking-up routine. A standard on this program is Bonnie Raitt's I Can't Make You Love Me. Despite the large canon of appropriate songs the DJs could pick for Acoustic Sunrise, this one makes the cut nearly every week. I've never been much of a Bonnie Raitt fan anyway, but at this point in my life, this particular song seemed to be taunting me, to be drilling into my head exactly what I already knew but didn't want to face. Bonnie would start her song of sad resignation, and I would cry and turn off the radio. I didn't want her telling me what I already knew. At one point, I actually got angry with Bonnie, and yelled at the radio, "I know! Leave me alone already!" This was only one of many signs that I was probably not entirely well just then.

  5. Not Pretty Enough (Kasey Chambers)

    When we finally did have the breakup talk, I was OK for a while. Maybe I was in denial; maybe I knew it was really for the best. In the months that followed, however, every sad song of lost or unrequited love seemed to resonate with me more strongly than ever. Kasey Chambers’s Not Pretty Enough is the one I remember affecting me most strongly. It wasn't just because this one boyfriend hadn't cared enough; it was that the loss of that relationship had me feeling so sad and defeated that I felt like no one could ever possibly love me again. I was, as Kasey sang, not pretty enough. I cried too much. My heart was too broken. I was (and still am, I suppose), far too outspoken. This song still gets to me in a way that not a lot of other songs have, and for that, I can’t decide if I love it or hate it.

  6. I Fall to Pieces (Patsy Cline)

    I really didn't intend this [now rather quite long and detailed] list to be a full recap of my last breakup, but as it turns out, I could probably come up with an entire play list of songs I identify with that single relationship. This is the last one I'll mention, however. Working in the same office as my ex-boyfriend is something a lot of people do not understand. "How can you do that?" I've been asked, time and time again. My answer, initially, was that it was actually easier that way. When someone is a part of your life for so very long, it's hard to just lift them out completely and never see them again. Particularly since our relationship didn't end in any ugly or angry way, it seemed comforting to have him around, to try to stay friends, to still see each other daily. But months down the line, I realized that seeing him every day really wasn't particularly conducive or helpful to the moving-on process. Oddly, it was Patsy Cline who helped me to see this most fully. I'd heard Fall to Pieces countless times, of course, but never, apparently, really listened to the words. On the way home from work one day, however, the ever-eclectic Current played this song, and for the first time, I really heard what it was about. And I cried, right there in my car, driving down Highway 36 all blurry-eyed and sobbing. Thanks, Patsy. And to any motorists who saw me dabbing my eyes at the stoplights, I say, "What? You never had an emotional breakdown mid-commute?"

  7. One True Love (Semisonic)

    I already mentioned this one once, a few months back. The feeling still holds true, and I still identify with a whole lot of what this song is about. But when I see Semisonic for free in downtown Minneapolis this weekend, I hope not to dwell on that, really. The guys of Semisonic are great story-tellers, and I need to try identifying with some of their other stories instead.

OK then. That was undoubtedly a much longer and more open-hearted post than I ever intended for a simple "Five Things" list, but so it goes sometimes, I guess. Now if anyone needs me, I'll be looking through old photos and journals and drowning my sorrows and bitterness in vodka.

I'm kidding. (Mostly.) I'm really fine; I swear.

Monday, July 10, 2006

(Really not) Bookin' it

If you'll notice over there in the sidebar, I finally changed the "What I'm reading" slot for the first time since I think May. Not that I actually think anyone really cares what I'm reading or how long it takes me to read it (because hello, how self-absorbed would that be?), but the past few weeks, I couldn't help remembering a post Nabbalicious wrote a few months ago, where she revealed that she'd gotten (from I think more than one person) an email message asking, "Dude, are you STILL reading Lolita?"*

I am not here to do a book report, but I will share a few thoughts on just why it took me damn near two months to get through an easy read that was less than 300 pages total. (Well, why, I mean, aside from all the various diversions in life that routinely keep me from reading: the socializing with friends, the landscaping my yard, the Internet addiction, the super-secret baby-gift knitting... (which really doesn't need to be a secret, as the mother-to-be never ever reads my blog), etc., etc., it's always something, right?) Anyway, first up, The May Queen. This came highly recommended by a few different people, though I don't remember for sure exactly who they were at this point.** Whoever it was raved about it a bit, and I read those raves, and I read the subtitle about "pulling it all together in your 30s," and I thought, Yes! This is the book I need! This is what I need to read right now, when I'm feeling all lost and directionless and like I'm just sort of letting my life pass by... When I'm feeling like I actually identify with Colin Hay when he sang about waiting for his real life to begin, even though I have no idea what I'm really waiting for or what would constitute a "real life" for me. This book will connect me with my kindred spirits, I thought.

Um, yeah. Not so much. I didn't hate it; in fact there were several essays in the book that I enjoyed a great deal. But on the whole, the book was about the very typical and traditional 30-something experience--the husband and kids and "my life changed and began when I finally became a mother" experience. That is not the life that is relate-able to me. That is the life I am seeing all around me and trying not to feel like a social deviant for not living, but it's not the life I needed to read about to help me "pull it all together in my 30s." I suppose I was looking for some proof that I'm the new norm, that the alternate and modern 30-something life of delayed decisions about marriage and children and of friends replacing family in your immediate circle (you know--the life I see in TV land) was the life many women my age are living. And I still do believe that many women my age are living that life and feeling just like me. Those women just aren't included in this book.

On to the other book that spent more time at my bedside than most of my ex-boyfriends: The Middle East for Dummies. Sadly, despite how long I held on to this one (I finally returned it to the library today, after renewing it at least two times), I can't even in good faith add it to my "Books I've read this year" list, because I really just couldn't bring myself to finish it. I honestly do want to understand the conflict in the Middle East--the current situation as well as all the many facets of history that have led to the current situation--and I thought that if a "Dummies" book couldn't help me with that, nothing could. Unfortunately, I apparently need to go even one easier than a "Dummies" book. I need the Cliff's Notes on the Dummies book. I need a compelling and polished and entertaining documentary on the subject. I've never read the Lord of the Rings books, but from my understanding, the first 1100 pages or so are all about establishing the map of Middle Earth and the various conflicts that developed before the "real" story ever actually began. I certainly don't mean to trivialize or belittle the massive history and culture of the Middle East by comparing it to the huge chunks of text cut out of the movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring, but my point is if I haven't even brought myself to read Tolkien, I have no idea why I thought I'd read this. If someone makes a movie version starring Viggo Mortensen, however, well then we'll talk.

Despite my struggle and disinterest, however, I had a hard time abandoning this book. It wasn't just because it was "good for me" (vegetables are good for me, and I still have no problem slighting them); it was because I have this thing where once I start a book, I have to finish it. I slogged my way through American Gods, cursing Neil Gaiman fans the whole way. I may have skimmed a few chapters in the last third of the book, but I finished it no less. A few years ago, when I was traveling a lot for work, I remember dragging a very large, very hardcover, very not-airplane-friendly copy of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams with me on flights all summer long. It came highly recommended by the Book of the Month Club and various Amazon reviewers, but I hated damn near every page of it. And yet, I persevered. In fact, the only novel I can remember actually abandoning for good was Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I'd read The Fountainhead, and I thought surely I could finish that one as well. I've tried three times, and I don't think I've ever made it past page 100. I'm convinced I'll finish it someday, but I'm starting to wonder what is the point. Life is short, and reading should be enjoyable. I can be a smart and thinking woman and still not enjoy Ayn Rand. Maybe it's OK to accept that.

This insight didn't just come from my disdain for Ayn Rand or my inability to get absorbed in The Middle East for Dummies, however. It came from Nancy Pearl. NPR listeners may know Pearl from her spots on Morning Edition. Novelty store shoppers may know her as the model for the Librarian Action Figure (with amazing push-button shushing action!). I heard Pearl speak at the Minneapolis Public Library a few weeks ago, and one of the many things I took away from her talk was the "Rule of 50," which, according to Pearl, goes something like this:
If you're 50 years old or younger, give every book about 50 pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it, or give it up.

If you're over 50, which is when time gets shorter, subtract your age from 100--the result is the number of pages you should read before deciding whether or not to quit. If you're 100 or over, you get to judge the book by its cover, despite the dangers in doing so.

It's not a monumental idea, but it is somewhat liberating. I'm hesitant to agree with the 50-page rule, however... If I gave every book only 50 pages to grab me, I never would have given Jane Austen a shot. After 75 pages of scenery and setting development, I was about ready to toss both Emma and Pride & Prejudice aside. By page 100, though, it was getting good, and I'm glad I didn't give up. Going forward, then, I think I may have to enforce a "Rule of 100" for the books I choose to read. Kazuo Ishiguro, look out; I'm keeping my eye on you.

* Incidentally, Nabbs, if you never actually finished that one but just quietly removed it from your sidebar, then I do heartily apologize for bringing it to anyone's attention yet again.

** GG, was it you? If so, I feel the need to mention that even though I didn't love this book, I still think you're witty and fabulous and I'm in no way distrusting your future recommendations just because I didn't entirely agree with you on this one. And I still totally want to drink a bottle of wine
(or two) with you while we talk about books and anything else on our minds. If it wasn't you, then, um, never mind. (Except for that part about the wine. That part's still valid.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Oh my; has it been a week already?

Pardon the absence, but it seems I have stepped back into 1995 for a bit. (You know--back when I was all "The Internet? Yeah, I think I've heard of that...") It's not just my own blog I've been ignoring (because really that's nothing new); lately I haven't found much time to catch up with what the rest of you are talking about, either. (Though a quick stroll through just a small sampling of sites indicates that many of you are on an official or unofficial break from online life this week as well. Good for you, I say. It's summer, right? Get outside a bit or something.) And email? Yeah, I used to be a good and prompt replier to messages, but I apologize right now to any of you who still have an unanswered note sitting there waiting for me in my Inbox. I really will get back to you soon; I promise. (Incidentally, what does it say about my priorities these days if I feel worse about neglecting emails from blog friends I've never met in person than from real-life, local men who might potentially want to be my new boyfriend? Actually, I think all it says is that I've had enough of online match-meeting at the moment.)

Anyway, my point is I've been busy. With what? Oh, you know--all sorts of important stuff, like visiting old friends, seeing bad movies at the drive-in (I know many will argue with me on this, but believe it or not, Jack Black really is capable of making an unfunny movie... shockingly, Adam Sandler is, too), continuing my efforts to make it look like someone who actually cares about aesthetics and curb appeal lives in my house, and ever-so-smartly baking cookies in 85-degree weather (my fellow campers and cabin-dwellers better appreciate that sweaty suffering this weekend).

In any case, it is Friday, so before I head out of town again this afternoon, I have for you the second installment in the new Friday Five feature I so enthusiastically introduced last week. Have a great weekend, everyone!


Five things I've learned from TV
  1. When you're given just one wish, be specific. This comes courtesy of the kids on Kidd Video, who, in the midst of a near-death moment, wished they were safe at home. They got the first half of the wish and found themselves removed from danger, but "at home" was considered a second wish, so they still didn't manage to escape The Flipside or any future trouble from the Master Blaster. (Does anyone other than me remember this show, by the way? No one I've ever mentioned it to does, so I was beginning to think I'd imagined it.)

  2. You cannot make grape jelly by putting a bunch of grapes in your dad's new juicer. If you're going to try, you should at least make sure the juicer's lid is on securely. (Thank you, Rudy Huxtable, for that very important lesson.)

  3. Despite how cool flying would undoubtedly be, hands-down the most useful superpower would be the ability to stop time.

  4. Annoying and insufferable as they can be at times, the girls on Sex & the City really do have some useful and accurate insights to share. It really does take half the total length of a relationship to get over a relationship (or, it generally does for me, anyway). Single girls really should get to announce that they're marrying themselves in order to get some reciprocation on all the wedding and baby gifts they've bought over the years. Breaking up with someone via a Post-it note really is entirely unacceptable. (OK, we probably didn't need Carrie and Berger to demonstrate that one, but still, I think you see my point.)

  5. The meaning of life is not as elusive as philosopers think. According to Mallory Keaton, it's as simple as this: "Be happy, try not to hurt other people, and hope you fall in love."

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Friday Fives

Compiled in one place for posterity and ease of perusal--an archive of all Friday Fives...