Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eight Days a Week.

Dear Blog,


My semester of insanity is almost over. My last 6 day work week ended yesterday.

I have this rosy idea that once I am done with this semester, life will sort itself out. This is a little delusional, since I still haven't really decided what I'm going to do with myself. Life will probably never get sorted out completely.

One thing is for certain: I need a reboot, and I need some new inspiration.

I blame my feeling of dullness on a couple of things:

1.) Too much work. Teaching six classes, six days a weeks was not fun.
2.) Too much Interwebs. I waste too much time online. It's embarrassing.
3.) Too little almost everything else: Besides not getting the chance to do fun things, I also didn't really get the chance to do things like cleaning the house, going for walks, reading good books, writing something-or-another, things like that.

Needless to say, I haven't exactly met those goals I set for myself back in August. But that's okay. Hopefully I will still get to them... someday. What I am more worried about at the moment is that I am getting a little bored and antsy.

There are things that need to get done that aren't getting done. There are things I want to accomplish that aren't getting accomplished. There are projects I want to do but haven't, for whatever reason. Also, I have a giftcard for Forever 21 that I haven't used up all the way yet.

But those three reasons I listed above are more indicative of a different problem that I have been avoiding for a while: I could have taken initiative, and I could use my time more efficiently, but I don't because underneath it all, I am sabotaging myself. I see this sabotaging more clearly when I am teaching: the students usually know when they're aiming a gun at their feet... and yet they just pull the trigger. It's frustrating to watch... which helps me understand why some people get a little frustrated with me when I say that I just can't do something.

How, though, does one go about getting back into that general productivity? I think that a clear mind helps. Having a break from work will help. I think it is possible to be creatively productive when you are bogged down by a job you hate, but I haven't seen it really happen in my life. The winter break and summer months are when I get the most writing done... and the other times of year that I do get writing done is usually a result of shirking some of my more pressing responsibilities.

So here's to the end of the semester: Good riddance. And hopefully, here's to a productive month of writing, and so on.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pain in the Neck.

Dear Blog,

I should post something, because I said I would, and I said I had goals. (Despite the fact that I get a bit impatient with goals as a concept, they're good things overall).

The trouble is finding something worth writing about, especially after a long day of work. It's also a little bit tougher when your neck hurts.

This neck pain is, it seems, a result of a couple things. I am a tense and intense person, apparently, and grind my teeth at night. And yes, I do have one of those awful mouth-guard things, but my unconscious asleep self knows that this thing is terrible and it's inevitably found on the bedside table, on the floor, across the room, something, by the time morning rolls around.

I also keep my shoulders kind of hunched and tense as well, like I'm about to tackle someone or something.

Maybe I am.

The other trouble is that I use my computer a lot, and not the right way, and that makes pain in my neck, too. My computer is a pain in my neck.

So I opened up one of my writing works-in-progress in Microsoft Word in the hopes that I'd actually get some fun kinds of writing done, but my eyes feel like they're about to fall out of my head, and my neck hurts, and I'm not feeling particularly inspired. Actually, I feel kind of like I want to play video games.

Which leads me to ask this question: how do people create when they've worn themselves out?

People do it. There are artists and writers who somehow manage to squeeze out masterpieces after 40 hour workweeks, don't they? But how? Is coffee the answer? Is the right music the right answer? I can't write half a sentence, and when I look over my work, it sure ain't a masterpiece, by any means.

I think what's more disconcerting is the fact that I have this need to get writing done, and it's not getting met. Perhaps that is the bigger issue. I don't care if it's complete garbage, but I need to get some kind of writing accomplished in some form, or else something unfortunate might happen. I think that is the source of spontaneous combustion, by the way. Unmet writing needs.

So this is the crappiest post of all time, but I've got videogames other stuff to write.



Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hello There, Blog.


So it's been a while.

Like, a little more than half a year.

So you all can forget about that series it seems I thought I was going to post way back when. Not going to happen. (Who cares about novels, anyway?) (Well, maybe the vampire story will happen, since I ought to finish that one anyway.)

But basically, my blog as a vehicle for my own creativity and writing kind of crumbled around March, and I just dropped it. That wasn't good, but it happened. It's easy to drop a blog.

But I still like that idea, that a blog could do this for me, somehow.

What's next, though?

This is a question that's a sticky one for me. The future is not my favorite thing, since it's so uncertain. And then on top of that, I'm not normally a fan of goals, either.

But now it's half a year later.

And I'm going to try again.

Someone said to me that the thing that's great about goals is that they're always in the future, and it's okay that you haven't reached them, because that's what goals are. Something you're trying to reach. This is kind of not the way I usually think; the Eeyore in me keeps that from happening. But this person was right.

And I made a list of goals. One of them: keep on with the blog business. Maybe not five days a week, but at least a couple.

I'm the busiest I've ever been just about, and so now I think it's even more important that I set aside time where I think about and cultivate this kind of thing, something that has nothing to do with essays, grammar, stuff like that.

I need to keep at it, or it'll happen: I'll become boring.

I probably already am boring. At any rate, I felt boring. That was what motivated me to create that list of goals. Because I was getting boring. I could just feel it. When you become predictable and afraid of the future, you become boring.

So I'm going to try again.



Thursday, March 17, 2011

Novels are Best Because: They Tell a Story.

I think truly good stories are starting to become less and less appreciated, generally speaking. I mean, check out the box-office numbers now and then, and you'll soon find how true this is: top grossing movies need not have a compelling story to make money. 

And I am usually not one of those: "back in the day" kind of people. But this time I am, because I think it is  possible we are starting to believe the lie that stories are not all that important: escape is important, fantasies are important, explosions are important, flashes of light are important, but stories: not so much.

We tell stories every day, and they are important. That thing I said about cat vomit, and how it has become ubiquitous in my house as of late? Yeah, that was a story. Sorry. But it wasn't a very good one.

I pose this question to my students at the beginning of the semester: "Why would it be an outrage if a school decided not to teach its students how to read anymore and just focused on Math and Science? I mean, really, you don't need to read to survive, right? Humanity could get by without the written word, couldn't it?" Sometimes they can't wrap their minds around this possibility, because we exist in a literate world, and it is nearly impossible for them to imagine a world without the written word ("But.. how would you pay your bills?!")

And maybe that's the same point I'm trying to make about stories. It's kind of hard to imagine the world without stories, because I think they've existed much longer than the written word. And my friend Ed made a good point on my last blog: God communicates through stories. And if Christianity isn't your cup of tea, I think most religions have some form "story" surrounding them.

Novels just take those little stories and make them a little bit bigger, a little larger, and a little more full. They embellish. And if the author is a good one, he or she will use nice words and image to accompany these stories. A novel isn't just a story, after all.

And a story isn't just plot points, either. Man, that would totally suck:

Hamlet's dad got offed by his brother. Hamlet has an existential crisis. Hamlet kills uncle, but also dies. Oh, also: some people think he wanted to bang his mother. The end. 

It is a little funny to me when people get upset when someone gives away the ending to a novel, like that is what it's about. This isn't the Sixth Sense, people: your experience should not be dependent on information, but how information is relayed. I mean, in some of the greatest works ever written, nothing really happens, anyway. People mope around and think about things. But it's still a story.

Which brings me to my last point about stories. And yeah, it's the most cliched. I apologize in advance. We are all stories. Some of us are exciting stories. Some of us are lame-o stories. Some of us are gross stories. Some of us are inspiring stories. Some of us are tragedies, or comedies, whatever. But we all start the same: we're born. We end the same: we die.

One of my favorite novels is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and part of that is because it is James Joyce's story. And while I relate to his story, it is different enough, and clever enough, and transcendent enough, that it makes for a good story. It has a beginning, right when Stephen Dedalus is a little boy, and it follows through to his going out to encounter the uncreated conscience of his race as a young man at the end.

What a great story. And it happens every single day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why I Think Novels are Best.

Philosophy will clip an angel's wings, Conquer all mysteries by rule and line, Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine - Unweave a rainbow
Oh,  I heart you, Keats. 

For the past few years I've been lazy about reading. I suppose I'm not really one to go about extolling the virtues of novels and literature when I, myself, often hesitate the crack the covers of a book and just read. But I've decided to come to terms with the fact that my hesitance stems from grad-school trauma, and not from a rational place. Plus, I do read, just not as voraciously as I used to.

And so I think it's okay that I'm going to go on a little novels are awesome kick, despite my poor behavior in this area.

So I've decided to make a list and then write about each item a little bit every day.

Really great novels are awesome because:

1.) They tell a story.
2.) They describe human nature.
3.) They are self-contained.
4.) They end, but continue to exist.
5.) The ending stretches out forever.
6.) They are subjective.
7.) They try to make sense of things that don't make sense.

This list is not so exhaustive, but I feel like I need to remind myself of why I loved novels in the first place from time to time. You may read this and think: "How the hell can studying literature cause one hate literature?" Well, I can't really answer that question very easily, because I am me, and I am verbose, and I am my own person with an individual reason for it that probably doesn't account for others, but that was what happened to me.

Video games don't really help here either, let's be honest.

As a writer, though, this fear of novels is kind of a problem, too. At one point I used to think: Novels matter. My life wouldn't be worth living without them. And now I find that I can get through my week without finish some novel or another, and I do not have an overwhelming desire to read. Life goes on without literature.

Ergo: Why write?

For a while I used to say: I write because that's all I've got going for me. But that's kind of a poor excuse, too, and ridiculous. (I mean, hello? I can also boil water and chew gum at the same time). But after a while, like all band aids covering larger problems, this excuse stopped working.

And I stopped writing as much, because it also seemed kind of pointless.

But here's the good news: I'm coming around a little bit, starting off with a "fuck you" to the side of me that is 1.) Depressed. and 2.) Believes the overwhelmingly pragmatic vibe that exists in this sad, scientifically-obsessed age we live in, that reduces us all to genes and atoms and animals that just do things for physical satisfaction, because that stuff is soul-crushing.

(See: Keats, Fig. 1).

My sister went to art school in Boston, and the Christian fellowship there had this little motto that went something like: "We Create Because We Were Created." Perhaps that is part of my problem: I don't think of creativity, the act of creation, as something we humans were designed to do, mainly because that is something that is not often on people's wavelengths. It doesn't come up in conversation, most of the time. It can be easy to forget about what our soul needs, since Omega-3 fish oils won't help supplement that problem

And I shouldn't think of writing as something that serves my purposes, exactly. They serve a purpose outside of myself. As does all art, all literature, all music. At least, that is what it should do. Maybe that is the problem with Rock Stars, yes?

So novels may not seem to serve a purpose on the surface, but they do matter. They do fulfill a purpose. And my idea of what purpose this is may not be extensive or academic*, but oh well. And so I am going to explore the items in my list for the next few posts (and maybe finish that damn vampire story).

There you go.

...And, okay, full disclosure: having a "series" might help me be a little more disciplined in posting, too.

*caveat: This is not to say that the academic study of literature is bad/useless/no good. On the contrary: I'm all for the promotion of English Departments, and the study of English Literature... You'll be fine as long as you do not wish to get a stable and well-paying job. Kidding, kidding: it is terrible that the humanities are dying. Seriously. We need them. If you don't agree: re-read post.

Monday, March 7, 2011

My Excuse for Buying Moleskine Notebooks Today.

So I am a horrible blog poster.

There's my self-flagellation for now.

I think I'm already over it.

Today, before going to my sister in law's bridal-dress-trying-on-thingy, I had a few extra minutes, so I swung by Barnes and Noble to buy myself a datebook, because I have things I need to do and go to, and yet I do not have a place filled with the months and days of 2011 in which to write these things down. As it turns out, neither does Barnes and Noble; they only have these things around Christmas, apparently.

What they do have, though, are a small selection of Moleskine notebooks, which, if you weren't aware of this already, are the thing that every hip, artsy writer-whatever type must have in his or her possession in order to be legit in the hip, artsy writer scene.

I already have some small, pocket-sized Moleskine notebooks that I write random information in every now and then. But I decided I should buy some larger ones to write actual real things in.

Because I realized something kind of recently:

I am not a good writer.

The reasons for this are many. But I don't necessarily want to go on and on about the personal things that make me not a good writer. We'll leave that to Anne Lamott. Her stories are way more interesting, anyway.

But one reason, though, has to do with the Internet. I used to only write longhand. I never wrote first drafts on the computer. I thought that was completely insane. It felt unnatural, somehow. But then graduate school happened, and I wrote first drafts on the computer, and then this carried over into my creaive writing life. It's unfortunate, but true.

Really, it's ridiculous. I mean: I go from writing a page of whatever, and then I check my email, and then I check to see if someone might have updated their status on facebook, or whatever. It's amazing I get anything done at all.

So it's all well and good to realize my faults (I'm pretty good at picking up on those... maybe a little too good...), but I realized I am out of practice. When I buy a random crappy notebook at CVS and get ready to write, I am a bit confounded as far as what I should do.

The written page feels a lot more permanent than typing on a computer. I can type faster than I speak, or at least, I can type the same speed at which I speak, which is much better than my writing. And when I type something I don't like, I can get rid of it without crossing stuff out. It just disappears. Forever.

But I don't know if that is a good thing, necessarily.

I decided something must be done about this. The CVS notebooks weren't cutting it. I needed something better. More Hip. Something Hemingway and Picasso wrote in. And they were drunk geniuses, so that means something. So I got the Moleskine notebooks, and I will try and write first drafts long hand first, again.

We'll see how it works.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Creative Nonfiction: WTF is that?

So I haven't finished my vampire story. I am working on it, but I want it to be good, so I am not about to just throw something together and then post it without it being decent.

But I will post something that might be considered "Creative Nonfiction." Which is, basically, blog posts. So it works, right?

The Vampire Story will come soon enough.

            When I was younger, I once saw the Invisible Man in a dream. He was standing in the kitchen, but he was only a pair of trousers and a buttoned-up denim shirt in the shape of a human being. He was just leaning over the sink. It terrified me, and I woke up. I kept my eyes open as long as I could, because the possibility that a body can disappear and leave its clothes behind, and then that person could remain an ethereal presence in a kitchen was horrifying.
            It was around this time my great grandfather died, and when I tried to get my sister to explain this concept to me, she said that it meant that your body stopped working. It just stopped. As far as I knew, a “body” was the trunk that your legs and arms and head attached to, and it was strange to think that if this part stopped, then your limbs and your sight and everything else did, too, like a car that blew an engine gasket.
Somewhere, tucked into that unconscious corner of my four-year-old brain, I already understood that death was unfair. And then I started to consider the possibility of ghosts. It was a love-hate obsession: they terrified me, but they seemed like the only way to make death a little more balanced.
It made a little more cosmic sense for our ancestors to come back as disembodied flaneurs, sitting on front porches in the empty chairs, or peeking out attic windows, watching the others that still had pulses and a sense of touch and taste carrying on without them, and because of them.
Someone once told me that people who claimed to be abducted by aliens might have actually been possessed by demons at the time, since a large proportion of them had dabbled in the occult at some point before said abduction took place. Whether this insight is correct or not, I used to apply this reasoning to ghosts as well. It was possible that ghosts were actually devils straight from Hell.
But then again, who’s to say that being a ghost couldn’t be kind of like heaven, anyway? The vague answers, that heaven is “above” and hell “below” never made a lot of sense to me anyway. This may sound awfully Eastern-religion of me, but maybe these two places exist together on earth, side by side.
At any rate, I’m well aware we’re not supposed to believe in ghosts, despite how scared they make us. But I do, anyway, mainly because I’m fairly certain I saw one last summer while on vacation.
I suppose I was lucky this was my first run-in, but it also makes sense. The house I grew up in wasn’t filled with these ghosts, like other people’s houses, because it was built in the 1980s, and its only inhabitants that have died were dogs, cats, and innumerous hamsters. I am fairly certain those don’t come back.  No people had died yet, and even if someone had, they probably wouldn’t have stuck around anyhow. There was no space or quietness for the spirits to hang about in anyway, with all the children running around the carpeted halls, past the empty, white walls.
The house that we stayed at for summer vacation, though, was a different story. The place stank of earlier generations.
It was built in the 1930s, by my mother’s grandfather. He had built another one before that, but it burned to the ground. It was unsettling that the arts-and-crafts reincarnation was just as much of a firetrap, but at least this one had some outdated fire-detectors, so that was a minor improvement. But it still had that half-finished quality. Nails from the roof stuck in through the walls in the upstairs bedrooms, crooked and menacing.
For a while, we all thought that this house was terrible: there wasn’t a television, the roof leaked on rainy days, we had to wear flip flops if we used the cramped shower, and you could feel the springs sticking into your backside when you sat on the dilapidated couches. But the lake that seemed to stretch out for eternity, or, at the least, to the coast of England, straight off the front porch, made up for it. And, as we all grew older, the space that allowed for a week without work, and without the outside world, which made up for it, too.
My Mom showed us the outhouse in the side of the garage, and she said that was the only toilet they had when she was little. And there was a cast-iron sink in the kitchen with a rusty water pump at the side, with a red rusty residue left along its spout, and a large, pot bellied stove dusted gray with fifty year old cinders that we’d put the cat’s dishes on, so the dog couldn’t get at it. The floor was hard, crusty linoleum, with faded flowers running along its edges.  It was peeling away along the edges. Like the rest of the house, it was a diminished version of what it once was, frozen in place, but slowly going back to whence it came. Like people, kitchen appliances and iron come from the earth, too, even if they last longer than we do.
The bedrooms on the second floor were never finished, and when you lie in bed, you just stare at the bare rafters right above your head, and listen to the other bodies around you shift on their creaky mattresses. The walls make for visual privacy, but otherwise, only exist to push an old bureau against, or nail an antique photo up.
Even the lake reminded us of a long-dead age. During the first half of the twentieth century, a paper mill would dump all of its leftovers into the water, and it would slowly creep into our little nook and bog, creating a dark, mushy mess, perfect for leeches. We’d wade out to the yellow, clean sandbar, feeling the decay squeeze between our toes, squinching up our faces in disgust. Later, I found out that the paper mill closed down over forty years ago, and yet more of that pulpy debris would come and stack up every year; it wasn’t until a couple years ago that it seemed to subside by degrees.
My mother never minded these kinds of things. For her, this was where life became complete and whole again.
Maybe it’s because she knew that it was the perfect place for ghosts, and her mother died when she was thirteen years old.
It really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. There were so many hiding places, dusty corners and cob-webbed ceilings. They didn’t even need an attic, or an empty front porch. They could sit on the empty rafters upstairs and stare down at their sleeping grandchildren, great grandchildren, in the antiquated beds below, two per mattress. They could mill around their familiar kitchen. The twenty-first century hadn’t crept in yet; they’d know how to pull the string hanging from the bare bulb, and use the stove, or pump some water, but they wouldn’t need to.
            The bathroom was on the first floor, so I knew I’d have to pass them all if I had to pee in the middle of the night. This is why new houses make sure there’s a bathroom on both floors, and why they had chamber pots before. It’s not because people didn’t want to go outside to the outhouse in the cold, or because they were lazy. It’s because they knew that night’s the best time for ghosts in their houses to come down and mill around.
            There were chamber pots still under the creaky old beds, but that didn’t mean I was about to start using them. 
And that’s when I saw her. I stumbled down the stairs, eager to finish what I had to get done, and safe back upstairs, but there she was, on the front porch steps.
            The front porch was where everyone spent most of their time, between the lake and the tame, screened indoors. When we weren’t swimming or eating, we were waiting around for something, playing board games, or reading books, or listening to music to pass the time. It’s strange that was the case. We were in limbo during vacation, and we wanted it that way.
            She was sitting there, ephemeral and pale, and yet very rooted to the spot. And she stared out at the lake, expressionless, empty, and yet not sad. You would think that ghosts are sad things, missing out on something that they never fully appreciated while they were alive, but I think that death does something to a person. It takes the sting out of things. 
            What made it worse was I recognized her, somehow. I could only see her back, and her head, and her shoulders, but the shape and posture were familiar. Perhaps it was from another dream, a familiar one that came back to me night after night. I couldn’t be sure. But that was what kept me from running. That was probably the problem; if you see a shadowy, faint figure of a person you recognize in a vague sense, you shouldn’t just stand there and stare.
            She wasn’t surprised to see me. Maybe she knew that I had been standing there, watching her, for several minutes.
I felt the goose bumps rise on my arms, and I stared out at the black night, and the occasional shimmer of light against the black lake water. I couldn’t help but consider the possibility that this was just as real as my eighteenth birthday, or my wedding day: days that would happen, possibilities that loomed ahead, very concrete and real, but a little hard to grasp for sure.
            This woman was not from our time. I could tell right away. People don’t look the same now as they did then. And they all probably said the same thing about their grandparents and their great-grandparents. My mother once showed me pictures of the woman I was named after, and she had her hair done up, held away from her face in a bun, pinned and neat. She wore a blouse that went halfway up her throat. A pin near her collarbone.
She was almost another type of human. The texture of her skin was different. Her eyes had a different kind of sheen to them, as though they were paler than our eyes. Her features weren’t like ours. They were rounder, softer, like many of the other people I’d seen in old photographs. The twenty-first century created different people than the twentieth, and the nineteenth. We kept evolving. We became harder, maybe.
            And this woman was from yet another, softer age. Her lips were dark, painted on. Her dress flared out from her hips, emphasizing her small waist, and her sandals were tall, and a little clunky, the straps secure around her ankles. The imaginary smoke from her cigarette curled up towards the porch rafters
            I crossed my arms. It was very cold outside, despite the heat during the day. I blew out my breath, wondering if it would come out in puffs of smoke, like hers. But it didn’t. And she didn’t have breath, anyway, I didn’t think. When she moved, the creaky floorboards of the porch remained silent.
            “Sometimes I think life lasts forever,” I said, confessing something that only teenagers think. “Sometimes, I think that tomorrow will always come, and I will always have a second chance.”
            And she disappeared.
            My mother once dreamt that my grandmother hadn’t really died when she was thirteen, and she had been waiting, underground, for over forty years, waiting for something to let her out. She was patient, and somehow, once the mistake had been realized and she was released from her prison, it turned out she hadn’t aged a day since her burial.
             They went shopping, and they went to Portland, and that was when my mother realized that my grandmother’s skin had started to turn gray. And my mother said to her mother: “Don’t go yet. Stay with me. I can take care of you. You don’t have to go.”
            And that night I knew what she meant.
Because all I want to do is take care of everyone, and keep them stored up, safe, in the rafters of the camp, or around the stove in the old kitchen there, in the dusty, cobwebbed corners. There will always be room for more. We can layer them on top of each other, my grandmother, my grandfather, my great aunt, relatives I’ll never meet, people whose names I don’t even know; everyone can fit, and I can take care of them.
            Ghosts don’t take up any space at all. They’re light, and they don’t have to eat.
They aren’t empty, though. They’re full of things, of the past, and they matter, somehow. Because without them, I wouldn’t exist. The house wouldn’t exist. The house was built on that fragile foundation of past lives, stacked up and fading away.   

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Vampire Story, Part II.

So here is the next part of my untitled and unfinished vampire story. Soon, I am going to be completely out of already written material and will have to actually finish it... Oh dear.

Anyway, on to Part II:

            It had always been eerie and strange to her, the way public spaces changed at night, when all of the lights were off. During the day, there was nothing unnerving about the library. The fluorescent lights killed off flights of fancy and creepy shadows in its unflattering glare. At night, though, it was different.
            In a way, it was a little exciting.
            For this reason, the librarian kept the lights off for the time being. Everyone should be allowed some excitement in his or her life, however ill advised it might be. She also figured the young man could not have gotten far.
            This is insanity, she thought. But, she also reasoned, he cannot be a thief. If he was, he would’ve stolen something by now. He could have stolen the one hundred dollars in the register. He could have taken some of the library’s more valuable books. But this had not happened. Everything was always exactly as it had been the night before. At least, the daytime librarian had never said anything about it.
            It was silent and still inside, but she could make out the faint glow of a lamp toward the back of the store.
            All she had to do was go to the front desk, pick up the phone, and call the police. It was simple. And yet, instead of doing this simple task, the librarian made her way towards the light. It was unclear what drew her back there, if anything. In one sense, she had complete control over her faculties. However, she also felt an almost imperceptible pull, coaxing her forward, one foot in front of the other, until she stood in front of the man from the street.
            He was seated at a table, a book opened in front of him, his head in his hands as he stared down at the typescript pages. He didn’t know she was there, even after she cleared her throat. Finally, she stepped closer.
            “What are you doing in here?” she asked.
            He immediately lifted his head so his face was pointed in her direction. In his new surroundings, the man appeared a bit different. The yellow glow from the lamp gave his features a less gaunt and pale look. 
            “You aren’t supposed to be here,” she added, in case he wasn’t sure what she meant.
            “I know,” he said. His voice was low and gravelly, as though it wasn’t used to speaking.
            “You have to go,” she said.
            “This is the only time when I can come here,” he said.
            “I’m sorry,” she said, “But the library is closed. We might stay open later, if we can get the budget passed. Maybe that would work out better.”
            “That does not make a difference,” the man said. “I still could not come during opening hours. It is just not possible.”
            She crossed her arms. He wasn’t angry, but it was clear he was not happy either. She didn’t know what he was. If there was such a thing as an emotionless being, he was one. Even animals convey their emotions a little, the librarian thought. He, though, was blank. Not robotic, and not bland, but blank.
            “Do you not like people?” she asked. “Is that the problem?”
            “No. People do not like me,” he replied.
            The librarian looked him up and down, briefly. He was a handsome man, despite his coldness. He was thin, but well dressed, as though each piece of clothing was tailor-made for his body. That was unusual: she didn’t know when she ever saw each little seam lined up perfectly with each contour and edge. His jacket was made out of faded black material, not cotton exactly, and not canvas. She wasn’t sure what it was. His shirt was odd, too. It was a brown, collared shirt, but its collar was turned up. He even had a buttoned deep maroon vest layered underneath. An undone tie hung from his neck.
            How had she not noticed how meticulously dressed he had been? Perhaps it was the jacket; it was usually buttoned up. And he usually had a scarf wrapped around his thin neck.
            “I’m sorry,” she said again, “But we can’t just go and make accommodations just for you. Then we’d have to do it for everyone and stay open all night.”
            “I was not asking you to make any accommodations whatsoever,” he said, crisply.
            This was true. There wasn’t anything she could say to that. She shifted from one leg to the other. “I’ve seen you,” she said. “I noticed you hanging around here for a week.”
            The man watched her. He was very still. He was the most static person she had ever met. He was about as animated as the chair he was sitting in.
“And if you’ve been breaking into the library at night… well, you can’t do that. I noticed you doing that for a while, and you can’t do it anymore. This has to stop, right now,” she continued, wondering why any of this needed explanation.
            His black eyes glinted at her confrontation. “I noticed you as well,” he said, finally. The librarian caught her breath. But he lowered his gaze back to the book. “And I may do as I like,” he added.
            She had just about enough of their conversation and his haughtiness. “We’ll see about that,” she said, turning on her heel and walking towards the front desk. But before she could take another step, she felt something metal grip her arm and yank her back. At least, she had thought it was metal. When she looked down, she saw it was the man’s hand. It was cold and hard.
            “Have a seat, please,” he said.
            The librarian did not want to have a seat. She was startled by his strength and his speed; how had he managed to stop her that quickly? Her back had been turned to him, but he had managed to slip past her and grab her by the arm in a split second. Her throat had gone dry.
            This was a mistake.
            But she sat down, her body stiff and inflexible as she dropped into the wooden chair. The man took his seat again, across from her. He put one hand on the book, but he didn’t resume reading.
            “You gave me no other choice,” he said. “Hasty actions lead to trouble, you know. It is better to take pause, reflect upon what consequences your actions may have, and then act.” She stared at him, dumbfounded, but he didn’t seem to notice. He just kept talking. “This may surprise you, but I am somewhat observant. I’ve noticed how people these days seem to think that decisions must be made quickly. Everything is so very hurried. Automobiles move so alarmingly fast, and yet bystanders are still dismayed by the wreckage of a collision. The human body was not meant to move in that fashion, at such speeds. But everyone moves so quickly, and everyone tends to make foolish decisions, without for a moment considering what the outcome might be. But the latter is not particular to today. Mankind has always had a hard time grasping consequence and mortality.”
            This sudden monologue startled the librarian almost as much as his forcefulness. She wasn’t sure what to think. One minute, he was using his strength to stop her from doing what she legally had a right to do, the next he was lecturing her on the downfalls of civilization.
            “Let me go,” she said.
            “I cannot allow you to leave,” he said. “I already told you: this is not my fault, and this is not how I wanted my night to begin, but you gave me no alternative.”
            “You are breaking the law,” she said. She had started to shiver, but she wasn’t cold. She was afraid. She wasn’t sure if that had ever happened to her before in her life. Perhaps he was right: she had never truly grasped her own mortality until that moment.
            “No I am not,” he said.
            “You broke into the library,” she said.
            “I did not,” he said, looking back down at his book.
            “What do you call this, then? You’re in here,” she said.
            “I did not unlock any doors,” he replied.
            “Yeah, that’s right. How did you do that anyway?” she asked. She wasn’t shivering anymore; her courage had come back with her curiosity.
            He didn’t answer, though. He held his head again as he continued reading. 

(More to come...)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Vampire Story.

So, a few years ago when my husband told me I should start a blog, he said I could use it as a vehicle for putting out my fiction. I kind of balk at that possibility, especially when it comes to my long novel.  But on the other hand, this might work a little, especially on shorter pieces I need to finish up.

My friends know how I feel about Twilight. At least, most of them do. Without going into the long diatribe I usually go into whenever this popular series is brought up, let's just say I'm not a huge fan.

I also think Vampires are a little overrated these days. At least, they are in Twilight, since there are no drawbacks to being a Vampire. Being a Vampire in Twilight is basically the best thing that could ever happen to you. The only downside is your skin sparkles in the sun. But really, who says that's a bad thing? It's interesting, anyway. Not a curse.

Anyhow, I've recently read a lot of different vampire stories and books, because they're ubiquitous. And pretty much all of those novels or stories sucked. (But I also saw one good Vampire Movie!) I have to say, I agree with Neil Gaiman: Vampires work best when the story is not all about being a vampire, or is at least subtle about vampires (for example, Silas in the Graveyard Book).

And yet, on a kind of lark, I decided to write my own Vampire Story.

I have to apologize to some of my friends in advance: it is, unfortunately, not an Amish Vampire Novel.

And this is only a portion of the story. It's not finished, first of all, and second, it's too long to fit into one blog post. Hopefully this will motivate me to finish.

Here goes:

            The librarian began to notice him after daylight savings. She wasn’t sure if he even existed before then. It was possible he was a strange, uncommon plant that sprouted out of the sidewalk overnight once the frost set in. This classification didn’t come out of nowhere; she had a hard time determining whether he was animal or vegetable, since he hardly moved from his spot near the streetlight while she unlocked her car door. He just waited, immobile, and aura of impatient stillness surrounding him.
            She knew he was watching her.
            She was the assistant librarian, and so she was the one who had to close up every night, while the more established, important librarian went home to her family, cats, and nighttime drama television shows.
But she couldn’t come up with a reason why this closing shift was so terrible. It was relatively early in the evening, nine o’clock, and would she, if given the opportunity, even go out for an evening of raucous fun? With which friends? She wasn’t even certain whether or not she had friends. Friends were people you actually saw once and a while, and spent time with, weren’t they? And she hardly spent time with anyone besides the library patrons.
In fact, she got the sense that the only person in the world who really noticed her at all was the man under the street lamp.
His eyes were shadowed, and appeared to be black holes sunk deep under his heavy brow. His shoulders hunched forward, perhaps against the cold, or perhaps due to years of improper posture. His clothing was also dark and shadowy, his hands sunk deep into the pockets of a black wool jacket, his heavy feet contained in worn leather boots. He didn’t even blink.
The first night she noticed him, the librarian didn’t think twice about it. She briefly observed a gaunt, solitary young man beneath the lamp across the street, and then got into her car and drove home. The second night, she did think twice about it, since she remembered him. The third night, she became a little more nervous. After four nights, she was terrified.
But once a week had passed, she was merely curious.
If he had wanted to hassle her or stalk her, he could have easily followed her home. But it didn’t seem he had a car. Besides, he hadn’t spoken two words to her. He kept his distance, and he waited, but he did nothing else. He wasn’t there for her.
The librarian knew this made sense: she was, after all, a forty-three year old bespectacled single woman who bought her clothes from online catalogs and went to bed around ten o’clock at night at the latest. She was short, and had noticed lately that her form was expanding in a strange, imperceptible way. She found a single white hair in her comb the other morning. And clothes that had once been loose were now becoming a little uncomfortable, a little tighter around her arms and legs and waist than they used to. She hadn’t changed any of her habits, though, so when she looked in the mirror she realized it was simply a side effect of the ailment that affects all: age.
Still, before she did her final walk through the shelves, she slipped into the bathroom, applied a light layer of lipstick, and ran her hands through her short, cropped hair. It was only while she was halfway through this ritual that she paused and realized that she was doing it for the skulking figure under the street lamp.
This night, she decided, she would change her routine. She wouldn’t go home at all. She would get into her car, drive away, but then loop around the block, and pull around to watch what he did once she was gone.
The librarian drove slowly down the side street near the streetlamp, and switched her headlights off. The man still hadn’t moved from his place, although he had straightened. His movements were slow and painful, as though his limbs and joints were frozen stiff. He pulled his hands out of his pockets and she saw he didn’t even have gloves on. It was strange, how underdressed he was when it was only twenty degrees outside. And he was cold, that much was clear.
He took a tentative step towards the street, and then stepped down from the sidewalk. He was frail, and moved like an elderly man, although he couldn’t have been more than twenty six or twenty seven years old. Perhaps he was ill; people with cancer often looked decades older than they really were. For a brief moment, the librarian felt a pang of sympathy for him.
This sympathy, though, dissipated when she saw him swiftly walk across the street and up the front steps of the library. He became graceful and smooth, as though his joints became lubricated after the initial jolt of movement. He gained some momentum. And then he disappeared into the shadows around the front steps.
The librarian moved forward and squinted into the dark. Then she flicked the headlights of the car on. Fully illuminated, the steps were empty.
“What?” she asked.
She wasn’t given to talking to herself often. She was too levelheaded for such a thing; speaking out loud when there was nobody to hear was pointless. Yet she couldn’t stop it this time.
            It was her responsibility to find out what was going on. She grabbed her cell phone out of her bag and flipped it open. The battery was dead. Of course she had forgotten to charge it. She sighed and set it aside. Then again, whom would she have called anyway?
            She walked up the steps and took the heavy, brass door handle in her hand. She tugged, but the door remained firmly shut. For a minute, she just stared at the door, unsure if she was imagining things. She had seen that man walk across the street, walk up the steps, go to the door, and then disappear. It was only logical he had entered, somehow. She knew she had locked it, but some people could pick locks. She didn’t know they could pick them that quickly, but she knew it was a skill some people possessed. Maybe, she thought, he walked down the street without going inside, and I didn’t see him slip away.
A dim light flickered in the window, and she knew there was someone inside. She sighed as she took the key to the front door out of her pocket.

To be continued...

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Hate My Dreams.

Like about half of the American population, I went and saw Inception over the summer. I really liked it. When we were leaving the theater, I started going on and on to my friends about how I thought Nolan really captured what it's like to dream lucidly, and how it is to make yourself die in a dream just so you can get out of it. 

And they kind of looked at me like I was a little crazy and said things like: "What the...?" Because apparently, most people haven't committed suicide in their nightmares so they could get out of them. That's the stuff movies are made of.

I think the first time I had a dream like that was when I was about six or seven years old. In the dream, my mom had taken my little brother to be on some clown-game-show, like Bozo, and left her daughters at home in the house, which had somehow inexplicably acquired a large, ravenous alligator in her absence. For some reason, going out the front or back doors or windows wasn't an option. So most of the dream was about my sisters and I trying to escape, while looking at the TV every now and then to shout at the screen for our mom to come home and save us. 

Then I realized: "Oh. If we just let the alligator eat us, I'll wake up, and this super-scary and stressful situation will be over!" So I ran over to where it was waiting on the stairs and flung myself down. And I woke up. 

More recently, I've been disturbed by how my dreams don't seem to mesh with the current situation I'm in as far as life goes. For instance, last night I had a dream that Jeff and I had to give up our cats and Bella (who, if you haven't been keeping up with this blog, has been dead for almost 2 months), which probably has something to do with the fact that we had to give up a dog we had recently adopted. 

I've also had dreams about teaching. And they aren't these super happy dreams, either. They're just filled with this tense feeling, like I'm totally unprepared, and the students are asking these impossible questions, and they don't understand a word I'm telling them. 

Once I woke up screaming from a dream, because the cats were having a hissing-and-spitting-and-screaming fight out in the hallway. I almost gave my husband a heart-attack. I was just screaming and pointing a finger at the bedroom door, completely freaking out. And I'm sorry to say, while that is the most dramatic instance of me waking from a dream, it isn't the only one.

I can't remember the last time I had just a nice, happy dream. 

I mean, is that too much to ask of my subconscious? 

But that's the thing. These nightmares and miserable dreams come from something going on in the back of my mind, keeping me from just letting go of things, or enjoying life, even when I'm completely unconscious. And that totally sucks. 

And it totally throws off the rest of my day. Instead of waking up, feeling like it's a fresh and new day, ready to start, it's like my day's already been off to a bad start. Something is off, and I want a do-over. It's too bad I'm not the kind of person who listens to herself: no matter how much I tell myself it was just a dream, it still affects me.

But what do you do about it, anyway? Meditate? Take lots of Tylenol PM? Drink? Pray? I'm already an intense person, even when I am awake, and I find that most of my conscious efforts to relax, breathe deeply, stop obsessing or thinking about things too much, do pretty much shit-all as far as getting me to be a more zen kind of person. So forget about it when I'm sleeping.

Did I mention I also grind my teeth in my sleep?

Freud is kind of full of it a lot of the time, but maybe some of his theories are right: having subconscious thoughts/desires/issues kind of sucks. (I'm almost positive Freud said that, too). And it wreaks havoc on your sleeping life.

Let's just get rid of it. And yes, by "it" I mean our subconscious. Other creatures seem so happy without it, and just have dreams about chasing things. I'd love a dream where I'm just chasing something.

A Sun Came.

Yes, I understand this is lazy blogging.

But this song somehow felt right for today.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Inspiration vs. Foolish Consistency.

Everyone knows Platypuses are the most inconsistent and wise creatures out there. 

So I think I should write a blog post because of that lame resolution I came up with a couple months ago, not because I really want to do it.

Is this okay?

I hate writing when I have to do it, or if I am not feeling inspired, and it shows. The writing itself is terrible, and uninspired. But if everyone only wrote when they were inspired, a whole lot of trees would be saved because they wouldn't be used up by being turned into paper to hold a bunch of crappy, useless, uninspired words...

Oh wait. Shoot.

Should my resolution/revolution really clutter up the already way too cluttered interwebs? I mean, really. It's like it actually matters what I have to say on such and such thing, and what I had for breakfast yesterday, or what I think about certain political or cultural bric-a-brac. But we all know that isn't really true.

Since all men are like grass, and their glory is like flowers of the field that wither and disappear.

And if that's about men, then this little bloggy-blog is doomed, right?

The sad thing is: sometimes I think I do have something to write, and I sit down and get started, and I've got all these ideas and possibilities in my head, and something happens. I don't know what the hell it is, but it's not good. Maybe it's life. It just gets in my head and makes my head all cluttered up. And instead of focusing on what I need to do, I know in the back of my head I've got student worksheets to grade, carpets to vacuum, clothes to fold, groceries to buy, people to call, statuses to check, and on the larger scale there's worse things, like the horrible sense that there are jobs to get, babies to have, goals to reach, and I'm just tossing them all aside for this one constant in my life: sitting at a desk and writing stories.

So I want to write because I need to, but then life makes me not want to write, even though I must write to live. Wow. How very sucky.

But I guess I should keep on with this foolish consistency, even if it starts to acquaint me with hobgoblins in my little mind.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Love/Hate Relationship: Organization and Structure and Creativity.

When I was a little kid, I used to thrive off of structure. My parents ran a tight ship, and I was a little OCD. It all evened out. If things deviated from the usual structure, all hell would break loose. Jeff thinks this is a little funny. He laughs about the story where I had a conniption because my jean cuffs weren't the same size. (What's funnier is that I called "jean cuffs" "rainbows," but that's another story for another day...)

Needless to say, I've grown out of that way of living. I think the real break came when I went to college, and I could do whatever the hell I wanted whenever the hell I wanted. No, I didn't cut loose and get drunk every night. I slept in, I did homework at the last minute, I stayed up late. I wasn't a total rebel.

But I kind of liked being the master of my own schedule. I still had a Joe-Job, so that came with some restrictions. But at least I could eat dinner whenever I wanted.

And now I am married and have my own house, and a non-Joe-Job. And I've become the opposite of my 5 year-old self. I have almost no structure at all.

When you are an adjunct instructor, your schedule is kind of all over the place. You have classes that meet twice a week for a couple hours. This makes prep time pretty loose. It's still got to happen, and you've still got to grade, but you can determine where and when and how this gets done.

This also allows for a certain amount of free time, which is great for me. If I am busy all day, I am not going to write. I just cannot get into that frame of mind when I've got other things to worry about. And I am a big believer in decompression time. And writing, while it is a lot of fun and my passion, is still work.

But a lack of structure is not good either, because I don't actually get much done. As in, I don't get anything done.

I am a little averse to the words "structure" and "rules" and "schedule." These things make me roll my eyes. These things make me want to play video games.  I admit this pretty freely to my students, along with my hatred of words like "math." (I probably shouldn't do this, but it just slips out).

This past fall, the pastor of our church asked if I would write these monologue-thingies for the Easter service, which I was all over... but didn't actually do right away. And I even had deadlines. I had several. First it was December 1st. Then is was January 1st. Now we're meeting February 14th with the group.

And I got it done!

But only after I said one morning: Okay, Monologue #1 is getting done today, no excuses.
And then only after I said another morning: Okay, Monologue # 2 is getting done today. Maybe a couple excuses...

I think part of the issue is the fact that I don't see writing as a "serious" thing. It's not "real work." This is bullshit, actually, but because I don't get paid to do it, and because it doesn't really "matter" in a real sense, it's easy for me to just shrug it off and put it on the back burner, even when I have obligations. And when life gets really hectic and sad and crazy, I am even less likely to get work finished.

I think another part of the issue is this idea that Creativity and Structure do not mesh. To a degree I think this is true: You cannot force creativity or writing, because then it can just kind of suck. But that doesn't mean you should just sit and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and eat Doritos until the Muse descends.

Something that my students and I often talk about is this feeling we get when someone tells us we have to do something. When a teacher tells a student he or she has to write a paper, the instant reaction is: "Damn it!" That's my reaction, a little. Maybe less PG. I have this sense that I cannot write something unless I came up with it, or unless I just have this sense that I need to do it.

Part of this, admittedly, is an attitude problem. I don't like doing work that I don't feel passionate about. And I won't pretend to be passionate about something (books, music, movies, food, etc.) just to impress people or get along with them. I can do what I want, and it doesn't matter what other people like. The world's not going to end.

There is some comfort in structure though. Habits can be a good thing, too. That's why children like structure: it reassures them everything is okay, that one thing will follow the other, life is predictable.

(Isn't it lovely how we lie to children for their own good?)

When you write, this is not the case. It is unpredictable. One thing does not always follow the other. Especially when you write pro bono.

Starting this blog was supposed to help introduce some more structure into my writing habits, and it has done something to get me writing in some sense at least a few times a week. But still, most of the time spent working on my novel(s) is going through and tweaking things I've already written.

Maybe this is writer's block.
Or maybe I'm not making writing a "job."
(The pay is terrible, but for me it's a job.)
(And I am not treating it like one.)
I don't treat it like one, because writing is more than a job.
It gives me something to think about, mull over, read, do.

Part of this issue with writing is something that has always come naturally to me. I've been "writing" stories since before I could write; I would draw pictures. Writing, or being a writer is not this thing I aspire to do. It's just something that I am, that's part of who I am in the same way I have a big nose. I can't really separate it from myself.

What really needs to happen is this: I need to acknowledge that I write for the sake of writing, but this is still something that needs to be taken seriously. It is something I need to make time for. And I need to get to the point where I will go OCD-crazy if I don't take that time to write.

I need to set a schedule or a goal. I need to organize my time to fit writing in, not just as an afterthought, but as an appointment that must be kept.

My five-year-old self would be so proud of me. Or else busy fixing the cuffs on her jeans.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I've Got the Hots for The Idiot Boksen.

I <3 Danielson.

So I decided recently I need to stop it with the TV. 

The sad thing is, we don't even have TV!

Okay, so we have Netflix Instant Play.

I think it is funny how some people seem so smugly proud of themselves when they tell other people they don't have television or cable or anything, but then add that they've completely caught up with their five favorite shows using Hulu. Seriously. Who do you think you are, anyway? It's the exact same thing. 

At least, for me, Netflix is basically television without the commercials, which means I get to watch even more with less interruptions. 

I've watched entire seasons of television shows in a couple weeks' time. I mean, that's about six months of programming finished in less than half of the time. 

I really love TV. I always have. I used to watch a lot of TV as a little kid. My parents called me EmTV (which is kind of clever and/or cute). I'd like to think I used to love TV because I loved stories, and it lead to me becoming a person who likes to spend hours of time writing extremely long novels and the like. But that would be a little too easy and convenient. Who the hell knows why I loved TV so much back then. 

One thing is for sure: I still like it. But it makes me feel like crap. 

So it doesn't always make me feel like crap. And it doesn't always make me feel like crap right away. Forty minutes of television watching is fine. It's great background noise while I'm correcting student work, or checking my email. Or basically anything; it's just great background noise. Not as great as music, but whatever. In normal doses, television does some good. 

But I am a little freaked out by how I use television.

It's different than watching a movie with someone. When I watch television by myself, it usually serves a slightly different purpose. Kind of like drinking by myself. Or dancing with myself. Okay, maybe not the last one.

Maybe this is a little bit morbid and sad, but what the hell: the first thing Jeff and I did after we put Bella to sleep was watch TV. We cried for a while, and then we were like: "Now what? Hm. Netflix."And it wasn't that we were callous, and it wasn't that we had gotten over it. I still haven't gotten over it. But Netflix was something to distract us from thinking about what just happened. It was easier to just not think about it, or anything else. 

When I was in grad school, it was the same thing. If I was feeling miserable and unhappy (which was probably about 80% of my experience at grad school), I'd drink. All right, just kidding, most of the time I'd just watch television. It was a way to avoid papers, work, the world, all of that stuff. Nothing on that screen was real. Even the news was kind of fake. There's a couple degrees of separation: the actors/people, into the camera, onto film, into electrical signals, into little fragments of light and patterns on a square panel in my living room. (Did you all like "Emma's highly scientific explanation of how televisions work"?) 

I don't think anybody likes TV because it's "real" or "raw." It's an escape from everything that is real.

But like all substance abuse, once the initial pleasure is over, it makes me feel like crap. Especially if I choose to watch the wrong sort of thing. I watched the first two seasons of Veronica Mars last fall, and it did not make my life one ounce better for it. It actually left me feeling inexplicably like: "WTF..." in kind of a let-down sort of way. Recently I've been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Maybe that has added a little more than an ounce to my life, but it is not something that I feel elevates it at all. 

Fluffy TV is fine. This isn't anything against fluff. A friend told Jeff and I we were watching way too many "heavy" shows, and suggested we started watching Chuck, and I was just like: "Imma let you finish, but Mad Men and the Tudors are some of the greatest television shows of all time!" ... Which is true. But those shows make me feel like crap for a different  reason: they're effing depressing! After watching Anne Bolelyn's execution, we decided we needed to lighten things up a bit.

So I've decided to add to my 2011 Revolutions: No Alone-Time TV. 
I don't know if I can do it, but I'm going to try.

Because you know what: television, when it comes down to it, is a real time waster. And when I add up the numbers of hours I spend watching these shows, and then also consider the amount of time I feel like crap while I am watching, it's pretty clear I am wasting my life by filling it with something that doesn't matter. 

And I think my life is already a little crowded by things that don't matter already, just due to the complicated nature of modern American Life. Why add to it? 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Last Month was a Terrible Month.

Hello Everyone.

So I have been on an unofficial hiatus for a week. So much for New Year's Resolutions...

Last week was horrible. In case you haven't noticed, I have deleted the previous post about adopting another dog because Jeff and I no longer have this dog. We decided to give her back to the rescue.

It wasn't because she was a bad dog, or because she had done anything wrong. In fact, for the first three days, everything went well. But in the back of my mind I was worried because she is a mutt... as in part something like a dalmation, part pit-bull, and our condo association has a no pit-bull policy. But we asked a few people, and decided this didn't apply to her because she was a mixed breed.

But as soon as I took her out last Monday morning, my next door neighbor started yelling at me for having her as a pet because of her breed, telling me he wouldn't live next door to a pit bull, among other things. He also told another neighbor that if he ever saw her off her leash, he'd call the police on us.

Jeff went over and smoothed things over with him, and he said he was "fine" with us having this dog, but the damage was already done: I cannot stand the possibility that I might upset or offend someone. It was an unfair characterization of her: Lacey was the sweetest dog without the least hint of aggression towards anyone or anything. But it really bothered me that my dog could do nothing and yet make people that angry with me. Angry enough to yell and threaten me. I became anxious whenever I took her out because I was convinced someone would interpret her actions as somehow hostile or uncontrollable, even if she just really wanted to meet them, wagging her tail and jumping around. I didn't want to take her for walks, and I worried about coming across other people in the future who would be afraid of her.

Yeah, I'm a neurotic and anxious person. And being in a neurotic and anxious state is not good if you are trying to train and take care of a young dog. So we decided to give her back to the rescue for all of our sakes. It was very sad, and I am still very sad about it.

So, add that to the other stuff that's happened this past month, it it becomes pretty clear that the past 30 days have been very shitty.

Maybe I should re-do this resolution thing and start from scratch here. Over the weekend, I've felt so unhappy and so miserable and discouraged. I felt defeated. I still feel defeated. I feel like I failed. In case you haven't noticed, I am very hard on myself.

But this has to stop. It is warped and messed up, really. First of all, it is just damaging to me. And second of all, it's calling God a liar. Holding things against myself and being angry with myself, sometimes border of self-loathing is pretty much telling God that his decision to value each person individually isn't good enough, or true. At least, this is what people have told me.

New beginnings are a good thing. The day after we gave the dog back, my sister, brother in law, and almost-one-year old nephew came to visit, and I am glad they did. My nephew always brings such joy and happiness everywhere he goes. He's a happy little guy. Almost the entire day, we were laughing at the funny and cute things he would do. I think the reason why babies bring that kind of happiness with them is because they represent a new start, a new life just beginning. They are fresh and new, and everything is fresh and new to them.

That's how I want things to be again: fresh and new.

This is the beginning of a new month. January was a let-down. It was stressful. It was heartbreaking. It was miserable. But it is over now. I'm going to start my new year now. It is new again, and everything is starting over.

Plus, Valentine's Day is coming up. And for me, that makes February infinitely better than January, even though Valentine's Day was made up by greeting card companies to make other people feel like crap.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Categories: I Cry Over Dying Dolphins, and I Choose to Swat Mosquitoes.

This Guy Really Hearts Flipper! Yeah! Yeah!

So last night my husband and I finally watched The Cove. I didn't want to watch it for a while, so I kept putting it off. It wasn't because I was afraid it would affect my inclination to eat sushi with my sake, and it wasn't because I hate documentaries. It was mainly because I knew it would make me cry. And it did, so I was right. But sometimes you just can't put off crying-and-watching-a-movie forever. It just had to happen. 

It was kind of your typical moral-type documentary that seems to be pretty in these days. But, like Food Inc., I supported this team's moral agenda. I've always been a little creeped out and grossed out by Sea World, and the idea of training wild animals for our entertainment. More recently, while reading up on that Sea World worker getting mauled to death by a mentally unwell Killer Whale (and yes, there is such a thing as mental wellness in whales, it seems), right after a performance in front of hundreds of people, I've become even more creeped/grossed out. 

Anyhow, to be quick about it, The Cove is about this place in Taji, Japan, where a handful fisherman catch some dolphins to sell to parks such as Sea World, and then slaughter the rest. Although there seems to be a discrepancy in the official number, the documentarians claim that approximately 23,000 dolphins are slaughtered in this cove in a seven month period. It's a secretive business, because the fishermen know people would be outraged if they were made aware of this. 

This is what the cove looks like after the morning slaughter.

Part of the reason why people would be outraged is because of Flipper. It's a vicious cycle, because Flipper is the reason why this is common practice in the first place: we all love Flipper and want to see him on TV and at amusement parks, so this place in Japan has to do this, supposedly, to make some money. 

And people like to anthropomorphize animals: Flipper', I mean, Mr. Dolphin, is so awesome because he's so much like a person! He talks! He can play soccer! He'll let us pet him like a dog! He'll do weird, cheesy things, like waving! Yay! 

So we get sad when we see Mr. Dolphin die, because he's our buddy. But that's what he gets for being so damn cute! 

It's pretty horrible, the whole thing. 

I'm not really going to go much further into the moral aspect of this whole thing. Enough has been written about that, and people on both sides of the fence can get kind of ridiculous about it without actually communicating with one another. 

I think a lot of this film was dedicated to convincing us dolphins aren't just fish. Dolphins are self-aware creatures: they can recognize their reflections in the mirror, they play just to play, they recognize complex signals, and they have a complex system by which they communicate (and yeah, I'm hesitating to use the word "language"; blame Noam Chomsky). But dolphins are not the only creature in the world who exhibit this sort of behavior. Primates do as well. But primates look a little more like us, so it isn't so hard for us to accept their self-awareness. Dolphins don't like like us. Well, they don't look like most humans, anyway:

(Anyone who recognizes this guy gets 10 points.)

Anyway, I think it would be difficult to watch a film like The Cove and not feel some compassion for these animals. One scene was particularly heart-wrenching: one dolphin managed to escape from the cove and tried to swim away, but it had been stabbed already, and whenever it came up for air, blood just poured out of a gaping gash its side. Eventually, it just sunk below the surface and didn't come back. 

When I watch something like that, I wonder how people can think evil does not exist. 

And then, right after I think that I wonder: why the hell don't I wonder that when I eat sushi? Or squash a bug when it's about to bite me (or already has)? Or threaten to give my cat a one-way ticket to Guam after he's been scratching at my door for an entire night?

I think there are two reasons. 

Reason One (and I know not everyone believes this): There is a difference between abusing an animal and using it as a food source. I think factory farms are disgusting, but I have the utmost respect for livestock farmers who raise their animals humanely. And yeah, I know that might not make a lot of sense to some people, but it's the conclusion to which I've come. 

But Reason Two is a little more interesting, I think: I categorize. We all categorize. I know some Vegans who think this is just plain wrong, and maybe they are right. But I would also argue they categorize as well, in different situations, perhaps. We cannot live life without separating things into groups. 

We do not value all movies the same. 
We do not value all art the same. 
We do not value all countries the same. 
We do not value all food the same. 
We do not value all music the same. 
We do not value all cultures the same. 
We do not value all animals the same. 
We do not value all people the same. 

And it has to do with connection. 

I love my mom more than I love other people's moms, because my mom has her own special #1 Mom category. I am saddened when I see a dead cat on the side of the road, but I just go "meh" when I see a dead squirrel on the side of the road. Actually, the squirrel's lucky if he even gets a "meh," to be honest. Because I put cats into the "pets" category. I feel worse about a dolphin getting speared than a tuna fish because I put dolphins into the "interacts with humans and saves them from sharks occasionally" category.  

Does this make me a bad person? I'm not sure. Is it something I can change? Not sure about that either. Maybe it goes back to the whole "humans are basically bad" kind of thing: as long as I'm a human, I'll inevitably favor some things over others just because of my connection to it, and its special category. 

Even PETA knows this, hence the Sea Kitten Campaign