They grow culture in a petri dish.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mr. and Mrs. Glitz

Here's another round of my hella-late movie reviews tailor-made for those of you who watched a movie, formed an opinion, but want to reconsider. I finally got around to watching Mr. and Mrs. Smith just recently, and my principle reaction is that this movie should have had its own catalog. My, there are many intriguing suits, coats, dresses, turtlenecks, shoes, boots, and sunglasses for one to wear! Where can I buy these items!?! If I were a wee bit crazier myself, I would max out the credit cards, get a snazzy fake gun, and go "on the lam." Who needs to blow things up really or kill people really when life's all about running around stealthily in snazzy clothes or strolling around nonchalantly in snazzy clothes, or, indeed, dropping cavalierly from a high-rise building in a coat under which one is wearing snazzy bondage gear? Sign me up!

I must say, I did not begin my viewing with this interpretation in mind. What lured my attention in this direction, though, was the ubiquitous drink. In nearly every shot, a main character is imbibing coffee, champagne, a martini, red wine, juice, etc., etc. What the hell? I'm no actor, but I can just envision the script directions: lift cup to drink coffee; ponder marriage; take another sip of coffee. Certainly, beverage intake is situation appropriate, as are beverage containers. In a sweet, after trying-to-kill-one-another session, Brangelina drink fruit juice poured from a tomato-juice stained pitcher into two broken glass tumblers. You know, 'cause drinking from a broken glass container isn't dangerous or anything! Capital!

But I can't help feeling that beverages, clothes, and hairstyles are used as character development tools for characters who achieve no development whatsoever. Now wait a minute—you might say—these characters are supposed to be mysterious and remote! Nope: these characters are plain and boring. If it weren't for all the fighting, I'd have called this Mr. and Mrs. ZZZzzz. But what about the white-hot sex scenes—you protest. I don't consider violence sexy; I consider it scary. But, hey, that's just me—someone who used to volunteer to help abused women some of whom do consider violence sexy. Here's the upside of it all, Brad's "character" has a smirk; Angelina's has a squint...ok, ok, and purs-ey lips. If that gives you enough "story," then my hat's off to you. As for me, I kept thinking I'd rather go shopping.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Someone's in the Hurricane Safe-Room with Dinah

I looked outside a few minutes ago, and it looks like rain—hard, heavy rain and a lot of it. As I did this, it occurred to me that I haven't been keeping track of hurricanes lately, so I'm forced to ask myself: is this "hurricane" rain or regular Florida rain? Unfortunately for me, my usual source of weather information—my dad—is out of the country right now. He's at that age where he and the Weather Channel have some sort of interface that makes him part of said channel. I mean, he'll call to ask me how I'm enjoying the weather up here because he knows exactly what kind of weather I'm getting. But I digress.

I've got hurricanes on the mind now because I've been working on my hurricane provisions. By default, my bathroom is my hurricane safe-room (no windows), and, thus far, I've stocked it with small cans of Spaghetti-Os, green beans, baked beans, and chick peas as well as those small packages of biscuit, corn bread, and bran muffin mixes and 4 jugs of water. (Lest you think I'm short-sighted, I've also stored up 2 weeks worth of cat food, baby wipes, batteries, matches, candles, and a flashlight.) What might really come in handy, though, is an Easy Bake Oven. You know, for kids! If I remember correctly, the EBO cooks baked goods using of a low-wattage bulb. Have people not considered this invention for hurricane usage? Take a memo!

So, yeah, short of figuring out how to bake items during a soul-and-property- destroying storm, I'm not sure how much fun I would be to ride out a hurricane with. I'm all about the planning, but I haven't thought out what I'd do during a hurricane to pass the time. Plus, I'm not really set for company; more emphatically, I'm a hurricane barricader, not a hurricane party-ier. I don't even have the "fun food" that Hurricane Food Advisors say that you should have to buoy your spirits (I'd eat any hidden "fun food" before a hurricane could leave the African coast). BUT...if I were to prepare for a major storm and were needed to house guests, here's what I'd do:

1) Get a house with a bigger "safe-room," preferably a "safe-suite" with a bathroom, large-ish common area, and one or two smallish additional rooms.
2) Stock Baked Lays rippled sour-cream-and-cheddar potato chips and Little Debbie Fudge Rounds.
3) Invite selected friends and family, Kevin Meaney, Alimi Ballard, and Alan Cumming. I choose these particular celebrities because they are easy-going, funny, and (of course) attractive.
4) Stock Balderdash, Apples-to-Apples, enough pens and paper for people to write out Decameron-type stories, and a few really great (and long-ish) reads.
5) Maybe stock ingredients for amaretto sours.

This is good list for starters, but, of course, I'd need to add to it as a threat became more imminent. I wouldn't want people to experience a double disappointment of life-altering devastation and a poorly-planned week-long party. Until the next go-around—stay dry and safe!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Adventures in Purchasing

During my recent mini-vacation, I got out of my normal routine and decided to do a little shopping. While in Orlando, I stopped by the Barnes and Noble on Colonial to use my birthday gift card. I had no idea what I wanted to buy until, traipsing through the DVD section, I remembered that I'd been wanting the Sledge Hammer! Season One box set (our Borders has Season Two, but I wanted to re-watch it from the beginning). Sledge Hammer!, a TV series from 1985, chronicles the career of the eponymous violence-loving police detective who sleeps with his gun. All I remembered about this show was that Sledge is cocksure, dangerous, and ineffective (longer review to follow). I was in luck—they had the hammer! Purchase made.

While visiting my brother, I saw a purse Kinya'd put in with his yard sale items. Mmmm...yummy purse! I thought it would be mine for the low, low "friend" price, but it turns out her bag wasn't for sale. So, I looked around Ross for a new handbag and found a really great Tommy Hilfinger for around twenty bucks. The "purse that was never to be" turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I realized that what I really wanted was a summer bag. And, in changing into my new blue turquoise purse, I realized that I have four black purses and one brown purse. Man, do I lack adventure or what!?! Note to self: be more adventurous with yearly purchase of new purse (Ha, ha! "Adventurous"..."yearly purchase." Ha...ahem.)

At Ross, I found another item of interest—a "Glitz and Glamour" all over body moisturiser ("lotion" for the uninformed) from Pennington's of Bath. While I don't necessaily need a new lotion, this one smelled fantastic! It took me awhile to figure out the fragrance (which wasn't listed on the package). I kept thinking "! ginger ale" until I realized that it smells like cherry and ginger ale which is...? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? That's right—a Shirley Temple. Now, this may not sound like the most compelling fragrance in the world, but I liked it enough to buy two more containers of it at the G'ville Ross after I got back. I've decided that I want to smell like a Shirley Temple in perpetuity. (As opposed to, you know, smelling like the Shirley Temple in perpetuity—my guess is "Youth Dew.") Since I found this lotion at Ross, I'm guessing that it is being phased out. Bummer.

So, yeah, that's what the "consumer" me is up to...i.e., nothing much. And, since I broke my pair of casual-dressy black shoes at the wedding, you should stay tuned to the Great Casual-Dressy Black Shoe Replacement Purchase of 2006. It's sure to be harrowing...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Here Comes the Pride

This weekend, I am going to a friend's wedding. This is my second friend to be married this year. Oddly enough, last night, I caught a Sex and the City episode which featured a wedding. So now, of course, I have weddings on the brain. How do I feel about them? At this point, I'm pretty ambivalent. How do I handle them? I'm happy to hear when people have "found" each other, but, if a wedding were an argument, I don't think I'd be convinced that I, myself, am "lost." I used to have vague daydreams about getting married, but the older I get, the pickier I get (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).

For interesting critiques of weddings, and, by association, marriage, I think some comedies are performing good work. Old School starts with a wedding in which two of the groom's best friends provide examples of relationship pitfalls. Halfway through the movie (and after the friends have started an all-inclusive fraternity), Frank and Marissa are living two separate lives and begin to discuss divorce. Though Marissa is fed up with Frank's juvenile actions, it's clear that marriage doesn't suit Frank at all, a point that I believe is under-read within the film. What's more, I would love to have seen this premise pursued from a woman's point of view, but women are typically the "straight men" in this kind of comedy. Besides, all women want to be married—right? Right!?! Don't get me wrong, Julia Roberts' Runaway Bride gave a woman's point of view, but the outcome didn't truly challenge the institution's relevance to women's lives. (Plus, I am 84% sure Julia Roberts is animatronic, so I don't trust her point of view.)

Building on the lure of the wedding ritual, Wedding Crashers shows how weddings benefit those other than the married couple. Personally, I love to go to weddings! It's exciting to see my friends get married, especially when I know and love the person they're marrying, too. And, as I've become more comfortable with the prospect of being forever single, I am able to have more fun and be more emotionally generous. Come to think about it, maybe I want a wedding more than I want a marriage (bitchin' good time!).

Finally, I love The Wedding Singer. Who would have thought that Adam Sandler would come up with one of the most compelling relationship comedies ever? In this movie, Robbie falls in love with Julia while he helps her plan her wedding to her creepy Wall-Street-workin,' two-timin' boyfriend, Glenn. Robbie and Julia develop real affection for one another as they discuss their lives and their dreams...then they fall in lurv. This movie succeeds by relying less on sex than it does on the premise of shared respect and mutual emotional support, both of which the principals conveyed convincingly.

This brings us to what happens after the cake is eaten and the champagne goes flat. Married people get presents, tax cuts, possibly children, and the right to create and delimit their own families. As for single people? In the SatS episode "Right to Shoes" (I think), Carrie reflects that married people are given multiple celebrations and gifts whereas single people are never celebrated. Of course, being single is its own reward, but her point is more telling: our society is constructed to support and nurture the very people who have already partnered into supportive and nurturing relationships. This is not to say that one should smother the singleton with overattention, as many of us have created systems of supportive and nurturing friends. On the contrary, I would urge understanding. In many ways, our alternative kinship system makes up our family, though this isn't readily apparent to society's marriage-privileging one-track mind. Single people aren't only desparate leftovers who have failed at dating (though, to be fair, that does describe some of us); many of us are so happy with our lives and fulfilled in our work that we can't find time to fit others in, or we simply don't look.

So here's a gift which keeps on giving: if you're having trouble interacting with the singles, treat us as if we were already complete, with the same respect that is afforded married couples. Listen to us as if we were talking about something you care about even if you can't understand what we are talking about. Believe me, we already do this willingly for married people and those who've had children (i.e., people unlike us), and we deserve no less consideration in return.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being an Academic

10. Keys to the building; "secret code" to the mailroom.
9. Co-workers and family don't necessarily know what "you do" without the hassles of physical and firearms training of the Special Forces, top security clearances of CIA and NSA, or pesky fictional names/histories of the Witness Protection Program.
8. Choice of anonymity in university phonebook—got a "D" in my class and want to egg my car? Tough luck finding me.
7. When writing papers for publication, using words that MS Word doesn't recognize.
6. Free booze at keynote speeches.
5. Ivory Tower not made out of real ivory.
4. Occasional free review books from publishers and guaranteed free desk copies of books I teach in class.
3. Do most of my work in 'jammies specifically purchased for at-home work.
2. Get to make a living formulating and supporting my ideas about stuff I read or movies I watch. Y'know, like my possible article on Zoolander and Melville's "Benito Cereno"?
1. Midnight: you're asleep or watching TV; I'm getting some serious work done.

Friday, June 09, 2006

If a Tree Grows in the Forest, then You'd Better Keep My Dangerous and Awe-inspiring Intellect Away from it, 'Cause that Mother's Gonna Come DOWN!

As you may have already surmised, I'm having a pretty laid-back summer. I'm studying...a lot. Because I'm so busy, I have little time to create drama or observe drama being created. Or so I thought.

A week or so ago, I started to create some pretty serious drama. From my office sliding door, I began to hear the time-worn evidence that my finely-tuned intellect is kicking into high gear. That's right: nature began to implode. In the lushly wooded lot next to my complex, tree after tree after tree has fallen. I regret to confirm that my mind is, again, simply that strong. Each day, I am treated to the gut-wrenching crack-and-crash that mark the falling of once-noble, majestic trees.

How do I know I'm briging them down? Every time I settle in for an extended period of ostensibly quiet study, the same...thing...happens. In my master's program, I wrecked havoc. As I wrote my thesis, I cleared a minor forest. No less than three apartment complexes were built on the areas that were were cut down around my apartment as I studied. When I moved back with my parents, the destruction was more minor, but just as psychically scaring. Though I begged them to wait, one major tree had to come down in the yard and many more lost branches. In the most cacophanous, ear-bleeding way imaginable. See? Even when I don't want it to happen, I am powerless to stop it.

Sometimes, I wonder if I should be punished for my awesome mental power, for the danger I present to society. Then, as I listen to the searing, alternately loud grating and whiny, high-pitched grinding into mulch—seriously, folks, from 8 a.m. to around 4 p.m. (half-hour lunches) every weekday—I think to myself, "I am. I am."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I Inadvertently Decide to Become a Steroid User

So, this weekend, my old nemesis returned in full force. That's right: strep throat. I consider myself a pretty healthy person with a high pain threshold, all neuroses aside. But when it comes to strep, I am a cowering schoolgirl, quivering behind closed drapes for good reason. Strep hates me. Strep wants to take me down. Strep knows what I did last summer, and the call was coming...from inside my throat.

Friday night, Andretta and I went for dinner. Afterwards, I was feeling a bit sleepy. A bit too sleepy. Instead of going right to bed, I stayed up to watch a movie. Bad idea. As soon as my head hit my pillow, I could feel that tickle in the back of my throat. That first tickle is strep laughing. I got on ok that night only because I buy the Halls cough drops that are sugar free so you can stick them to the top of your mouth and vaporact all night without worrying about tooth decay.

The next day, I was feeling well enough to sleep all day, though I could have also chosen to fry eggs on my superhot, super heat-conducting, fevered body. I was so hot the cat wouldn't come near me, and they run hotter than we do. I managed to eat a bit of food and decided that, if I wasn't better by Sunday, I'd go to the infirmary on Monday. That's the thing about G'ville: if you're sick on the weekend, you may well get financially screwed. By Saturday night, though, I figured I was going to die and should maybe go to the emergency room, even though I was really too weak to do so (no wonder they provide ambulances). I called Andretta, and she advised me to get the fever down. Since I was too weak to take a bath, I took an ice pack to bed and sort of systematically rubbed myself down.

This worked out well enough to hold me over to a Sunday "after-hours" clinic appointment. The clinic I went to was great. I used the same place last illness-plagued summer. It seems to be run solely by a receptionist and two redneck medical professionals, a doctor and nurse. Everybody was really kind and the doctor was really cute and really kind. I was surprised that I'd forgotten this, but the doctor's office sort of takes the flirt out of you. How do you flirt with a guy while asking him to examine your raw, pustulated throat through your almost certainly fetid breath? Yeah...not the sexiest proposition in the world. Anyway, he gave me a perscription for antibiotics and gave me one antibiotic shot and one steroid shot to make my uvula smaller. I should mention that a principal discomfort of this illness was that my uvula was like a t-bar down the back of my throat.

Yesterday, I felt well enough to clean up and disinfect most of my sick area, take out the trash, and do some laundry. I was really relieved that I didn't have to involve anyone in taking care of me, though I'm glad I have friends who volunteer to do so. Even so, when I'm really sick, I miss having someone. I want safety, prepared meals, and a cold washcloth on my head. Most of all, I want affection, love, and, oddly enough, the sex-based (versus the mom-based) kind. Who knew?