Sunday, November 30, 2008

Things I Ought to Be Doing, Reminders of Which I Can See From Where I Sit

Strangely enough, I always thinks of these things on a day of rest. Thankfully.

1. Send half a dozen knitted quilt squares to Warm Up America.

2. Write a publishable and thrilling seminar paper about service-learning and written instruction and pragmatic approach to both.

3. Write a publishable and thrilling seminar paper about Ales Debeljak's use of Burkian identification to write for both an American and Slovenian audience and merge the priorities of both through his book The City and the Child.

4. Study Latin.

5. Buy some sort of Latin-studying aid--maybe Rossetta.

6. Read more of the epistles if I want to finish them by Christmas.

7. Study BSC--heck, maybe, again, Rossetta.

8. Buy the last of my sister's Christmas presents--which is an entirely genius with a capital G package, but I can't mention what it is specifically because, while it's unlikely, she might read my blog.

9. Write a publishable and thrilling personal essay for the David O. McKay contest that manages to bring me: a) fame, b) riches and c) no one mad at me for how I write about them. I'm wondering if I'd settle for two out of three.

10. Email the IBR people to find out what the heck happened to my application to use human subjects in an experiment.

11. Finish grading my students' ten-page papers. Yeah, it takes its sweet time, but this is the only truly heavy-weight assignment of the semester and it drives at me that I can tell what grade they're getting on it by the end of the introduction.

12. Get asked out on dates more often--do they sell a Rosetta for that?

13. Go to International Cinema more often. I've had the poster on my wall all year and I think I've only gone once, maybe twice this semester.

14. Lose 10 pounds.

15. Paint the last picture in the series I started this summer. The first one ,Two Trees After the Fall, is quite good. The second, Death and Hell, less so. It's the redemption painting that'll be a doosy, and if my trend continues...well...

16. Write more sketches for DC. I have a dozen ideas, but I talk about them more than just sit down and write them. Also, I need to put up posters, hand out fliers, etc, etc.

17. Call nursing homes to see if we can carol for them next Sunday.

18. Vaccuum my room

Hmm. I guess I should be pleased that I can only find 18 things in my room that remind me of things I need to do. I tell you what, though, I'm not going in the kitchen.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Surprisingly Good Holiday Movie of the Week

The Holiday.

A real scriptwriter's script, witty and risky (don't worry--it does work out in the end as all good romantic comedies do) and very demanding on the two leading ladies, who spend a lot of time on screen alone. Far better than its previews led me to believe.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Twilight at Midnight

Okay, so I am not ashamed of the fact that I went to the opening night showing of Twilight. Mostly because I went to Divine Comedy, we took up a row and giggled during the entire movie. (It is not a comedy.)

Classic moments from the movie:

A constant flow of references to Google (product placement, ho!)

Most awkward term of endearment: "Hold tight, spider monkey."

It's one thing to read about Edward watching her sleep; it's a whole nother level of creepy to watch him do it.

Bella sputters in coherently for 20 seconds straight, easy: "Wha--? won't--...but..." etc, etc.

"Here's your veggie plate, Stephanie." Yes, Stephanie Myers is in the restaurant in the movie! Is she seeking to emulate the runaway success of M. Night Shyamalan?

The random "apple catching" pose that reproduces the cover of the book. What are they going to do with the other books? "Look, I found some flowers..." "Would you like to play a game of chess?"

Yes, yes, indeed this is setting itself up for a DC headliner parody. A little too well, a little too well.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Woody Allen on Creativity

"The problem is, I feel there's so little you can teach, really, and I didn't want to be discouraging to [the students]. Because the truth of the matter is, ou either have it or you don't. If you don't have it, you can study all your life and it won't mean anything. You won't become a better filmmaker for it. And if you do have it, then you will quickly learn to use the few tools you need. Most of what you need, as a director, is psychological help, anyhow. Balance, discipline, things like that. [...] Many talents artists are destroyed by their neuroses, their doubts, and their angst, or they let too many exterior things distract them. That's where the danger lies, and these are the elements that a writer or filmmaker should try to master first.

"[The students asked him how he came up with the ideas in Annie Hall] and all I could asnwer to them was "Well, it was my instinct to do it this way." And that, I think, is the most important lesson I've learned about filmmaking: that for those who can do it, there's no big mystery to it. One should not be intimidated by it or get caught up in thinking it's some kind of mysterious, complex thing to do. Just follow your instinct. And if you have talent, it won't be hard. And if you don't, then it will be impossible."

So what do you all think? Is it this in-born or does creativity come from that 10,000 hour "tipping point" of experience that Gladwell proposes? Nature, in other words, or nurture?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Turns Out David O. McKay Was Right

... at least irritation in the apartment is a big frustration in life. (I don't know how that compares, exactly, to failure in the home.) This has not been the best week of my life in a lot of aspects (by which I mean I haven't riden any rollercoasters lately, eaten fresh margarita pizza, or wandered around a large European city's downtown.) but nothing really got to me until my roommates started being irritated.

Everyone's been irritated lately, actually. Me, I blame a combination of midterms, regular roommateness, the lousy weather and the whole false community/real community thing that my freshman RA explained to me. Let me expound on the last one (because the others are easy to find): she said that it's easy to be nice to people for a little bit, for the honeymoon period, if you will--you can just be civil to each other for a short amount of time. Eventually, though, it wears off and you get more and more frustrated with the little things that bug us. Then it comes to a point of crisis/imputous and depending on how you handle that point you either break it up or become real community. I think this cycle explains a lot, but the point of crisis has never been so pulpable.

Here's my theory of roommate relations. Everyone has things that irritate them, especially as per cleanliness and noise levels. For example, at home my room is a holy terror, especially my desk, which seldom anything like a usable writing surface. But at college I sleep better if my desk and floor are clear. I don't know why--it's probably becuase I have so little space, so my side of the room is like my world. Things like room cleaning, though, are neutral in roommate relations, unless you share a room and your roommate really takes issue with your side, but that's a little crazy.

But what if the difference isn't over room cleaning? What if it's about dish-doing or countertop-wiping or coat-up-hanging? That's where it gets ugly. In our apartment, I suspect (but I'll find out for sure on Sunday when we've planned to discuss all this) that the one who hates dishes in the sink is the one who puts the crumbs on the counter that the one who doesn't wipe out the sink hates which the one who leaves her books on the table hates. It's like the circle of irritation. That's why I have a two-point system that I've always employed with roommates.

1) First day you meet find out what's their pet peeves. One frustrating thing about this situation is that I did this, but then, it's hard for people to think off the bat that they hate when people put their food on top of the fridge. But if you know, then you can avoid it because you know how much it bugs them. Jamie Z. hated dishes in the sink and we all knew that, so we tried to always keep it in the dishwasher.

2) Fix what you care about. I learned this lesson while living with roommates who seldom did the dishes; worse, they would let them "soak" in the sink for three, four, five days at a time. I was sick of being the person who yelled at others. Then I read that quote about marriage, about how both sides can't give 50%, they have to give more like 80% because we all overestimate what we're doing. So I started doing the dishes. It was such a relatively easy process. It was soothing to get my hands all warm and soapy, I felt like I was providing service to my roommates and I didn't have to worry about mountains of dishes in lakes of dishwater. This is a rather liberating philosophy. Unfortunately, my current roommates don't seem to share it. I'll have to bring it up on Sunday.

Which leads me to what may be point three that this apartment may teach me--communication. (This may just be an expansion of point one.) For example, I kept putting the cups that I found by the side of the sink in the dishwasher, until this morning, when I discovered two tersely-worded labels on them reading "In Use by _____." Oh. Those are water glasses. I didn't know that's why they were there; I just assumed someone was by-passing the no-dishes-in-the-sink rule by leaving things on the counter. I honestly didn't know.

So I'm really looking forward to Sunday and getting this all done with. If we could all be together earlier, I'd eagerly push it up a few days. With an extremely high-stress and last-minute Divine Comedy show, conference paper deadlines and my student's biggest and most frightening assignment, not to mention my own poor health this week, I'd feel a lot better if I felt better at home.

Friday, November 7, 2008

In Praise of Low Voter-Turnout

Okay, so this was an exciting election. In some counties in Florida and California, voter turnout was as high as 80-85% of registered voters. When you consider how many people may be double-registered, this is a dizzying amount. Overall voter turn-out for this election may or may not be higher than any since the sixties, but even then, highest voter turn-out in fifty years is nothing to sneeze at.


When the voter-turnout was higher, the 1960 and 1964 elections, the U.S. was experiencing extreme turmoil--a generational gap was redefining conservative and liberal politics, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were entering a new phase of the Cold War, the Vietnam War was starting, the Civil Rights and Women's Rights movements were forming. Voting mattered.

In fact, if you look at the instances of high voter turnout, it's not always a positive sign. Countries like Kosovo and Argentina have high voter turnout; countries were everything could go wrong. In fact, there's an economic equation for voter turn-out:

PB +D > C

C is, of course, cost. D is any warm, fuzzy democratic civic feeling you get from voting (and, presumably, those "I Voted" stickers) while P is the probablity that your vote will have an impact and B represents the benefit you'll derive from your vote. So looking at these factors, how do we describe the high voter turnout in this last election?

Probablity of vote having an impact in the national election was low, both for chronic and current reasons; the electoral college system always keeps individual votes low and as more people vote, the impact of an individual vote goes down. Civic warm fuzzies may be higher, especially with the "cool factor" of Obama's campaign, but so is the cost as voters have had to wait as long at seven hours to cast a vote. What's left? Perceived benefit.

People saw this last election as vital, which is good for the individual candidates, but bad for American democracy in general. This is ironic, I know, but there is a compelling argument that says that low voter turnout reflects a faith in our leaders. When Bush was running against Gore, I remember telling my arguing family that it doesn't matter who wins--the country's run by experts and committees and the president doesn't have that much power, really. Now, I feel a little different about that statement.

It's possible, I suppose, that before voter turnout was low (especially among some demographics) because they felt that their P or B was so low from perceived inequality that it wasn't worth voting before, but I think that there's sufficient rhetorical evidence that people think this election was more vital than perhaps earlier elections. And that means we're scared of the consequences of the election of the other guy.

If we weren't, we would have just stayed home.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

actual burning questions

What's going to be on the front cover of the magazines now?

What will become of SNL post-Palin?

Can we, actually?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Blog for blog's sake

Don't even bother reading this post.

I have nothing particularly interesting to write. Maybe this:

School is coming dizzying to a close. Since I'm in the grad program, this means that my semester papers, on which everything in my classes is based are shortly to be due and I not writen a lick of either of them. I have an idea of what I want to do with one, but the other is a murky beast. This is especially a problem because I have this goal to write TWO fantastic papers for each class. Ugh. I'm far more overwhelmed by what I should be doing than what I have to do. The key, I think, to feeling better about this is just to plug in and get stuff done. I've had a very antsy Sabbath, which is usually a sign that I haven't been working hard enough on the "six days thou shalt labor"--I had three nights of staying up past 2:00am, so that could be part of it and the sugar-orgy that is Halloween. So if I give up Monday-afternoon movie (hard to do, hard to do) and instead run errands during my sleepy time, I might be able to feel like I'm actually getting something done.

What would that feel like?