Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The women in my family need to chill and stay put

My grandmother had a stroke in February. And in the last 4 weeks, my sister and my mom have had overnight stays in the hospital with mitral valve prolapse palpitations and stroke-like symptoms, respectively. Everybody needs to calm down and get their circulatory systems under control because I need them around for at least a century or more, or they're going to give me a god-damn heart attack. Damn! (Positive thoughts are requested. If you pray, you can do that too)

Monday, May 21, 2007

This American Life goes Televised

Ira in the middle of nowhere

I'm slightly obsessed with the public radio show, This American Life (TAL). I was first introduced to the show when I was employed at the University of Michigan. There wasn't enough work to fill the day, and I noticed my co-worker often had her headphones on. I eventually learned that she was making her way through the free online archives of TAL as a way to help pass the time. And it has become my habit to stay sane by doing the same in my illustrious career of mindless data entry.

For me, TAL is kinda like that certain band that you love. A band that isn't exactly unknown, but is far from mainstream. When you meet a fellow devotee, there is a certain kinship you feel with that person, while at the same time you suspect they couldn't possibly experience it as you do. When people haven't heard TAL, you feel sorry for them for missing out so long. At the same time you email links of your favorite audio to the unenlightened, you kinda think new fans are posers that just jumped on the band wagon. And you secretly fear you yourself are a poser because you only started listening in 2000, and TAL has been around since 1995.

7 years later, I've shelled out $30 on three separate occasions for a Sarah Vowell reading, an Ira Glass radio demonstration and a David Sedaris reading/book-signing. And at each performance I was simultaneously incredulous that the venues were sold-out because TAL is my thing, but also not really surprised either, because TAL is so awesome. I bought Davy Rothbart's book of short stories based solely on his affiliation with TAL (he should stick to nonfiction). And when I found out a college friend got a job as a production assistant on TAL, it was all I could do not to grill her for every detail, from the layout of the studio to what she knows about Ira's wife. I find myself repeatedly saying, "tell me again about the time Ira borrowed a can of soup from you". If it weren't for the fact we were friends well before her production assistant days, she'd probably think I'm only friends with her because of her TAL connection.

And then there is the day your favorite band sells out. At least it looks that way. The band is on MTV, their ticket prices go up and the venues are larger. In this case, my favorite public radio show was not only becoming a TV show, but a cable TV show. Not basic cable either, but effing Showtime. And when TAL went on tour to promote the television version, tickets cost 50 bucks. And its probably the first time in the history of the Twin Cities that the NPR venue of choice wasn't the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, but the Orpheum in Minneapolis. I can't afford Showtime and I can't afford $50 tickets. But I still really wanted to give TAL the benefit of the doubt regarding this whole TV scheme. And that's where my production assistant friend came in. She received an offer for free tickets and was nice of enough to share a free ticket with this TAL super-fan.

Ira's not dumb. He's knows fans are skeptical of the TV show. So he addressed the issue to the Minneapolis audience, where someone in the audience reportedly yelled out, "Judas." I missed that. The Judas shouter was drowned out by the guy on my side of the theater who yelled out, "What were you thinking?!". Ira attempted to quell our fears and put us at ease with humorous tales of how they too had doubts and stumbled along the way in converting to a TV show. He admitted that elements of stories that had worked well on radio didn't translate well to the screen. He specifically cited the example of how the power of the emotion in the voice of one of their regular interviewers ended up somewhat lost when matched with her appearance. I left thinking that at least Ira was honest and hoping that the opposite could also be true: that an image could possibly enhance the power of the audio.

So I finally got to see an episode. My girlfriend's parents were out of town and she'd been at home every night to watch the dog. And they have Showtime. I emailed my friend who used to work on the show and this is what I said:

P-funk and I watched an episode of This American Life last night (that is a strange sentence. Watched This American Life). We watched episode 2, which had the story of the middle schooler who doesn't believe in love that was previewed at the live show.

I didn't dislike the show, but I can't say that I really liked it either. It was just weird. Ira is sitting at this late-night-talk-show-host-type desk in the middle of nowhere, and you can imagine people who haven't heard the radio show thinking, "who the hell is this guy? And why is he sitting in the middle of the mountains.... at a desk?". One thing I hadn't realized until last night is that the TV show is only 30 minutes per episode (compared to an hour long radio show). The episode had three acts and was only 28 minutes long. It is strange in television to have a half hour program that has three separate vignettes with no overlap and no wrap-up at the end. There is just nothing out there to compare it to, which could either be exciting or just leave people going "what the hell is this?".

I'm sure some of my uneasiness comes simply from knowing the radio show so well . I kept turning to P-funk last night, saying, "This is weird, isn't this weird?". And she kept reminding me that she's never really listened to the radio show (other than a few stories I've forced upon her), so she couldn't really comment.

I will say one thing: one of the Acts was about a photo journalist who had the choice to spring into action and try to save a drowning woman or continue to act as an observer/photographer. He chose the later (there were other people trying to help her). They showed a series of photos as he described the scene and at one point the story takes a dramatic turn and the corresponding photo literally made me gasp out loud. And there is something about that image that never would've fully translated on radio.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Definition of Covet


What comes between a quarter and mid-life crisis?

Cuz I think I'm there.

My 29th birthday, job dissatisfaction, and a conversation with my girlfriend regarding a hypothetical move to Chicago seems to have combined into a mind-racing restlessness.

In terms of the 29th birthday, I have this personal notion that it is one thing to be a nomad with an unstable career when you are in your 20s and "just out of college." It is another thing to be pushing 30, with a 10 year high school reunion under your belt, and holding down two jobs that have little hope for upward mobility. When I say this is a personal notion, I truly mean for me personally. On the spectrum of stability desired, mine is stronger than my ex's, but less than say, my sister's. And it is firmly rooted in my history of depression and anxiety. I like a certain level of predictability. But playing it safe can get boring. While I was in desperate need of more stability a year ago, now that I have it, I'm feeling like I could take some risks. I'm a little tired of the status quoness of my life at the moment. The problem with that it, I'm trepidatious of rocking the boat should it capsize into depression if I change too much too fast, or take a risk and fail.

Random aside: Stability shouldn't be confused with spontaneity. I've been accused of not being spontaneous. I can be very spontaneous and fun, dammit.

Anyways, on to the job satisfaction (or lack thereof). Let's review my post-collegiate career path. I'd say said path resembles a course akin to the path an R2D2 with faulty wiring would take. Since graduating from college in 2000...

2000-2001: Lived in hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan: First job out of college was as a patient advocate at a women's clinic. Later worked as a research assistant at the University of Michigan. Volunteered with NARAL during the 2000 election.

2001-2002: moved to Berkeley, California and held 2 jobs (with several temp jobs when I first got there). Worked as a fundraiser for another women's clinic and did customer service in a crunchy granola solar panel store. Very Berkeley.

2002-2003: Back to Michigan, 2 jobs: Customer service in bookstore. Data Entry at a environmental compliance software company.

2003-present: Minneapolis. 2 years of temping at multiple jobs (mostly data entry, but some accounting) in two corporations. At the same time, I worked as a house manager for the Fringe Theater Festival for two summers. Spent three weeks in Louisiana with Red Cross after Katrina. Presently holding 2 jobs: full-time job in the admissions department of a university and a part-time job at a non-profit professional theatre.

I got the admissions job during a time of much-needed stability. I'd been unemployed for several months, very depressed and my relationship was on the rocks. I needed a reason to get off the couch everyday. I went after the admissions job because I thought I could get it, period. There was no particular dream to work in Admissions or even academia for that matter, although I was glad to be leaving Corporate America. I can't really complain about the job. It fulfilled the requisites I needed at the time. It got me out of bed every morning, gave me a regular schedule and enough money to be autonomous. But now that I'm out of that bottomless pit of depression, out of debt and out of the rocky relationship, I'm think my needs in a job are changing.

The pros:
Work with a great group of people (not the whole department, but the 4 people I work with daily)
Don't take my job home with me
Flexible Schedule
$, benefits, 401K

The cons:
As a cynical, low-income lesbian, working at a homophobic Catholic university for rich kids sometimes makes me feel like a sell out.
My group is the low man on totem pool within the dept and we can tell.
Work is not meaningful in any way, boring and mindless actually
Little hope for upward mobility
Money is enough for paying bills, but have to have a 2nd job to buy luxuries such as contact lenses.

Don't even get me started on the part-time job. Recently, when is comes to scheduling, my boss has royally screwed me. Screwed is too polite, it's more like getting pummelled up the arse with a splintered broomstick.

As for the move to Chicago, while it is purely hypothetical at this point, it brought up a bunch of other life stuff. Do I want to stay in Minnesota? My reasons for moving here no longer exist, but that doesn't mean there aren't reasons to stay. I considered moving to Chicago a year ago when my ex and I split (especially when a room opened up in the apartment of a fabulous drag queen across the street from my friends). But I ultimately I decided not to make anymore major life changes (there's that pesky desire for stability coming into play). Do I want a relationship to be the major motivating factor behind another move? No. At least, not yet.

Moving to Chicago Pros and Cons:

Live in the same city as my nephew, sister, brother in law and 2 of my closest friends (and girlfriend if Chicago is where she decides she needs to be).
Live closer to my parents (who are in Chicago all the damn time now, visiting their grandson).
I'd be down south where the weather is balmy. :-)
I'm a Midwest girl.

I have reservations about living in that city (size, quantity of concrete).
Have to leave the friends I have here.

Ultimately I need to decide what my goals are and then prioritize them. Education, career, family. You know, the little stuff. When I try to picture my career, I have a tendency to dismiss my dreams as unrealistic. The whole fear of failure leading to the Smitty that can't get off the couch problem. Family is difficult to picture too, especially as a gay lady. I go back and forth on whether I even want kids, let alone how I would attempt to procure them. But let's not even go there, my brain is fried as is.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Spiderman 3: Spidey Goes All Emo on Your Ass

Why is it that when Peter Parker is flirting with the dark side, he looks like he's on his way to a 30 Seconds to Mars concert? This movie is absolute crap, btw.

Friday, May 04, 2007

But I wanna touch the caulk NOW

Received an email at work yesterday entitled NEW TOILETS!!! Having already heard the news regarding this improvement to the women's restroom, I didn't bother opening the email until I heard several of my nearby co-workers giggling. This was the text of the email:

The engineer of Toilet Installation came in to ask us not to touch the caulking around the bottom of the toilets for several days. For those anxious to do so it should be good by Monday.

I'd be embarassed if I still cared about the job.

Tonight, at the theatre where I work part-time, I helped stuff envelopes for a mailing being sent out by the theatre's education department. The letter was so poorly written it was laughable.

These are letters sent to teachers in hopes they'll bring their students to the theatre on field trips. I'm sure they're going to be impressed with what our director of education had to say in her letter.

This was the second sentence:
"We are thrilled to offer this American Classic to you and your students as so many of you have requested that we do so."

Huh? First of all, none of the letter recipients care how many requests were supposedly received. So the sentence would've been most straight forward and effective this way:

"We are thrilled to offer this American Classic to you and your students." Period.

If you just can't help but brag about this deluge of requests you've received, then phrase it this way:

"We are thrilled to offer this American Classic to you and your students as many of you have requested." (No, not SO many)

But under no circumstances was it necessary to continue beyond that. But again, if you just can't help yourself...

"We are thrilled to offer this American Classic to you and your students as so many of you have requested that we do." You simply cannot end that sentence in "so."

Onto the next cringe-worthy statement. In a description of one of next season's student matinees:

"When a young nun is found unconscious and bleeding with a dead baby nearby...".

Dead baby? Revolting. Doesn't that seem a little crass? Let's consult a thesaurus and replace "dead baby" with less visceral wording. How about, "deceased infant'?

In another description:
"The central character is a performance artist who is about to present a performance art piece".
So what is it that performance artists do exactly? Performance art you say?

On the actual subscription form, the educators were offered the opportunity to sign up for an "Immersion Day*".

Were you hoping I would explain what an Immersion Day is, perhaps in a corresponding asterisked footnote? Yeah, well, so are the teachers attempting to fill out the form.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Nike Venom

My lesbian credentials were put to the test yesterday when my girlfriend made the following requests of me:

1) Will you practice softball with me?
2) Will you go to Sports Authority and help me pick out a bat?

Other than the briefest of forays into tennis and golf, I've strictly avoided any sport that involves catching, throwing, running, extreme physical contact or hitting balls or other objects with sticks (and any combination thereof). Which left me with swimming and synchronized swimming as my only options unless I wanted to take up competitive jump rope or perhaps rhythmic gymnastics.

I was a competitive swimmer from age 5 through middle school. Picked up synchronized swimming in middle school and continued through high school, which culminated in a Michigan state championship in 1996. Oh wait, you thought I was kidding when I mentioned synchro earlier? Nope. So it's not that I've never been athletic, I've just always shied away from sports where there are strategic plays that require me to successfully complete my portion of said play for the benefit of the team. Too anxiety-provoking.

With swimming, you get to be on a team but the strategy starts and ends with "swim as fast as you can." Which I always did and did well. With synchro, the whole point is for the routine to look the same every time. It is predictable, aside from the occasional nose clip mishap (and one unfortunate incident in which I suffered an asthma attack during a meet and had to be pulled out of the pool). With enough skill and practice, you pretty much know how things are going to go down in the water.

Since high school, my athletic exploits has mainly been limited to dancing at nightclubs.

Anyways, about last night...

Request Number 1
I first had to cajole my girlfriend into moving softball practice to the back yard, rather than the PUBLIC park she had planned. It is one thing for me to make a spectacle of myself in front of P-Funk, subjecting strangers to my flailing is another thing entirely. I'd heard there was a 50/50 change of thunderstorms, so used the potential for lightening to keep us close to shelter (and surrounded by a privacy fence).

Tossing the softball around started off positively enough; I was catching and throwing with ease and accuracy. Just when I was getting cocky, she threw a fast one. I caught it, but it stung a bit. That's when I realized that "playing catch" had just been a warm up and the plan was not to keep standing only 10 yards apart and throwing softies. I decided I needed to throw harder if I was actually going to help her practice before the first game of the season on Wednesday. All consistency was gone the second I tried to really throw the thing. P-funk was gracious as she ran all over the yard chasing my sporadic tosses: "In a real game, the ball doesn't always come directly to you, so this is good practice." Luckily we were rained out before things got any uglier.

Request Number 2
The only equipment required in synchro are nose clips, waterproof make-up, sequined bathing suits and Knox gelatin*. So I was fairly confident that when P-funk said "Help me pick out a bat," she actually meant, "Watch me pick out a bat." The extent of my advice was "Don't get a pink one." I also proved useful in keeping an eye out for possible blunt-force trauma victims as she took practice swings. Then we abandoned the strange land of sports bras and for my apartment where we spent the rest of the night sorting my arts and crafts supplies. How quaint.

Random aside: This isn't the first time I found myself in a "mixed marriage." I previously dated a softball dyke my senior year of college. I was the only lesbian not on the field during warm-up. I could be found in the bleachers reading "The Prostitution of Sexuality" by Kathy Barry for my Women's Studies Seminar, occasionally looking up to drool over the forklift operator playing shortstop (who wasn't my girlfriend, but that's another story).

*We used unflavored gelatin to hold our hair in place during competition. No, Seriously.