They grow culture in a petri dish.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Guess My Alarming Facial Disfiguration

Those of ya'll who know me know that I can be a bit neurotic about my health. I am not ashamed to say, though, that I have brought hours of pleasure to members of the medical community through the sheer creativity of my self-diagnoses. For example, I'm the only person I know who has had a case of dandruff medically verified. And though I'm not usually sick with anything impressive, I have had some rather bad bouts of sickness, even this year. Here's a comprehensive list of both ailments that I've had and ailments that I've thought I've had within the last 3-4 years:

the flu
blood clot
ingrown toenail
yeast infection
breast cancer
urinary tract infection
strep throat
ear cancer
ingrown hair

Unfortunately, I'm in the awkward position of needing to self-diagnose again. I have a growth on the side of my face that popped up just yesterday. Yeah, yeah, it could be a pimple, but if this sucker is a pimple, it's like the Louisiana Purchase of pimples. What's strange is that it is shaped like a raised saucer (as opposed to a volcano) about the size of a dime, and it hurts like the guy who abused your mother. Since I've been warned off of WebMD (Jolanda), I'll ask you all for advice. Personally, I'm banking on spider bite, knot (did I hit myself?), cyst, or mutant rouge pimple. Suggestions?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I am 80% Sure that Don Cheadle is Stalking Me Via the Internet

For the past few weeks, I've been feeling a little awkward—you know, like someone is following me or watching me. As I check my e-mail or type up notes on texts, it seems like someone is just there—in the space around me. In my computer maybe. Yes, I've been whipping around quickly in attempts to catch this person. I've been putting on my makeup in nervous anticipation. So, you can expect how surprised I was to find that this person is Don Cheadle.

Yeah, we all perceive of him as a good man—a gifted actor, a humanitarian, and a family man. But those aspects of Don's life do not seem to have stopped him from stalking me. In fact, they may actually be carefully-construced covers for his outrageous and inappropriate behavior. My proof? Well, I didn't know he was stalking me right away, but things have added up pretty quickly. First, he does a sexy British accent in the Oceans movies. This might not appear odd except that I love both heist movies and sexy British accents. Check, check. Second, he's married with children. Right, good ploy. Plenty of guys have used these reasons as excuses for not dating me. Been there; not done that. Ok, ok, maybe he's just "doing an accent" and is "happily married." I could have easily dismissed this evidence if I hadn't found the damning evidence that I like to refer to as "that cowboy picture." While most pictures of Don Cheadle look relatively straightforward and present him as a fairly attractive person, this picture is the WMD of sexy photography. It's like he declared a lust war on my nether-regions. As you can see from the picture, he's looking right at me. Freakin' stalker! I had this same problem in elementary school with a poster of Bo and Luke Duke in which, no matter where I moved in the room, they were looking right at me (I know; I did extensive tests). A little extra detective work on his website shows that Don's got Violet on the brain. In his introductory text, he says: "Hey now. It's been a long time and I'm backed up on responses, I know. But thanks for keeping the comments and questions coming. I'll be doing a marathon session this week to answer many of you. Many new projects in development. Look for changes on this site and Stay Up. DC." A complicated and highly-accurate algorithm shows us that what he's really saying is this: "Hey now. It's been a long time and I'm backed up on responses, I know. But thanks for keeping the comments and questions coming. I'll be doing a marathon session this week to answer many of you. Many new projects in development. Look for changes on this site and Stay Up. DC." And I don't even want to comment on the Freudian implications of "marathon session" and "Stay Up"...

I know, I know—this is all so shocking and unexpected! The most troubling part? That he hasn't even tried to contact me directly. Man, how frustrating! Stop beating around the bush and call me already! Didn't you think I'd be interested, Don? Here's a pictorial token of my regard. That's right, I'm ready to put on cowboy hats and get to down business. You know, even if that business only involves helping out with your philanthropic efforts in Darfur. Tell you what, you take off your shirt, oil up, and recline on a chaise lounge, and I'll work the phones—I'm socially-minded like that! And I swear to God I'll never, never report this to the police.

Friday, July 21, 2006

This Week in Rhetoric

Just recently, I saw a car which carried a bumpersticker which proclaimed:

My Child Saves Lives
AAA Crossing Guard Safety Council

While I'm sure that this declaration was meant to soothe and impress me, it had quite the opposite effect. Your child...saves...lives? I am appalled! What has happened to our civilization that warrants children leaving their haven of childhood to save the lives of those in danger? Tyler! Out of control Hummer—shoot out its tires! Sally! Speeding Mazda—get that blind nun out of the way!

I draw your attention to syntax here to note the seeming disparity between the word "child"—which usually constitutes a very young person—and the concept of "saving lives"—which is usually a task reserved for older people. Might it be more palatable to exclaim "My Child Preserves Lives?" I mean, that's what a crossing guard does, right? Take perfectly good people and enable them to cross intersections? But, you might argue, the streets are more dangerous than they once were. I am perfectly willing to believe that, but I won't believe that this fact justifies continuing to place children in traffic. Here's an idea for a bumper sticker:

What's more this bumper sticker's proclamation—"My Child Saves Lives"—is made within an organizational setting "Crossing Guard Safety Council" sponsored by AAA. This means that the person sticking the bumper sticker is smug and happy putting his or her child in certain danger. Where's Billy? Out saving lives. Isn't he eight!?! Ok, ok, you might argue, this is just a syntactical slip and doesn't mean anything. Well, a trip on over to the AAA Newsroom will show you that, between 2003 and 2004, they went from awarding "Patroller of the Year" awards to awarding "Lifesaver" awards. That's right, kids, prepare to die. Call me crazy—I'm so overprotective of my kids that I won't let them out of the womb—but that doesn't mean that I want other people's children in harm's way, either.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Putting the "Thumb" in Dysfunctional

So, as you know, I've been a little bummed out this summer. And there's nothing to cure a case of the downers like watching someone else suffer and, you know, get well or just suffer less elegantly than you (whatever*). To this end, I decided to watch Thumbsucker this weekend. Released in 2005, Thumbsucker enjoyed a wide-ish theater presence (which is to say we got it in G'ville), but some people may have been turned off by its "arty" feel. The characters have a spongy, organic presence, and most of them are clearly hurting whether or not they acknowledge their pain. This pain is diffused throughout the movie via a slowed-down storytelling pace (think The Virgin Suicides) and groovy downbeat original music courtesy of Tim DeLaughter (Polyphonic Spree) and Elliot Smith.

Indeed, the movie is full of interesting promise. Lead character, Justin (Lou Pucci), sucks his thumb and dreams. As he attempts to break this habit, he turns to hypnosis, Ritalin, and marajuana. His nurse mother (Tilda Swinton) is obsessed with a movie star, and his store-manager father (Vincent D'Onofrio) is a failed football player. Plus, he interacts with his loser debate coach/therapist (?) (Vince Vaughn), tree-hugger classmate Rebecca, and motivational orthodontist (Keanu Reeves). While the plot itself is adequate—Justin is trying to fight depression—something more substantial seems lacking, which is criminal, given the combined talents of the cast. The movie feels as if someone has created a massive and elaborate set only to play out one scene on it. One might not be surprised, then, that the movie is adapted from a book. Even so, I think the material is either poorly adapted or the book just sucks. Case in point: Justin's depression is embodied principally in his having long hair and looking kind of greasy which makes the viewer think—hey, this kid doesn't need drugs, he just needs a haircut and some astringent. Note to director: give Lou some direction!

Speaking of "sucks," I find it incumbent upon my review to discuss who really sucks in Thumbsucker. You know who you are Keanu Reeves. I...I...I don't know who to blame more for your awful, awful portrayal of an orthodontist—you or the casting director. I know that this orthodontist is special because he hypnotises people or gives motivational advice, but, when you say something like "the real answer is that there is no answer" it activates my gag reflex. Really honey, what made you think you could convincingly play a member of the medical profession? I would take a hot glue gun, piano wire, and pliers to my own overbite before I would ever let your big dumb fingers in my mouth. The gentle, insistent sucking in the background of this movie? You.

Surprisingly, the guy who sucked least in this movie was...ta-da! Vince Vaughn. Who knew that an actor who is so good at playing cocky, self-assured guys could play a loser so effectively? I admit, I could have just been surprised by this offbeat casting, but Vaughn's debate coach (is he also a therapist?) is captivating. He thoroughly embarrasses Justin during a debate class and holds a co-ed debate team meeting in the men's bathroom. He buys beer for the kids 'cause, hey, he's just trying to fit in. But when Justin leaves debate and Ritalin behind, Vaughn's manipulative, wheedly character is emotionally hurt, and I hurt a little bit for him (sigh!).

Though it's less angsty and artistically beautiful than Donnie Darko and less narratively coherent and satisfying as Saved!, Thumbsucker is worth a watch, if only to put your own pain, quirks, and/or medicants in context.

* Yes, you're supposed to laugh at this.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I Attend Hawaiian Luau Party, Become "Vegetable" of Said Party

From my hermit-like study of the past few months, it seems I have emerged as a pretty popular item on the G'ville party circuit. I've now been to two—count ‘em, two—parties in two consecutive weeks. Take a minute to let that bad boy sink in. And while I wasn't actually invited to the second party, I feel certain that I added a certain je ne sais quois, a certain "why is she here?," to the proceedings.

Andretta invited Jolanda and I to Juniper and Carl's Luau Party this past Saturday which promised the attendance of some grad students but many faculty and staff members from UF. We were the first guests to arrive except for Carl's brother, Kelvin. We were sitting around, having some drinks (Juniper makes a divine pina colada) and making introductions. Turns out Kelvin was visiting from Louisville, Kentucky, a place I know little or nothing about. In an effort to rescue him from the embarrassment of being from Kentucky, I commented that one of the bloggers I read just moved back to Louisville— lame comment, I know. But then Jolanda blind-sided me with a, ten minutes into the party. I don't know what my face registered, but I felt like a baby who had just been punched in the pie hole. I'm pretty sure it showed 'cause Jolanda followed up with a "she can give it as well as she can take it" comment, and I recovered. (And, in general, of course, she's right).

From introductions, we proceeded to the food which consisted of Asian fusion pasta salad, veggie tofu burgers, and red beans in walnut sauce. It was quite yummy! Whilst we were eating, the other guests started showing up. But it seems like I have a bit of a dilemma in the "people meeting" department: I'm fine meeting and talking with one new person at a time but I get spooked by many. Personally, I blame the alcohol. What's really funny is that I compensate for nerves by trying to be funny. This often turns out being more humorous than intended—I'm talking people laughing at you not with you funny. Which is ok because I deal in "failure based" humor—when you lose, you win! At any rate, I didn't circulate much and ended up talking with my peeps as well as Markle, a fantastic guy I met at the Oscar Party.

As the night wore on and the bulk of the people left, we decided to play Scene It: James Bond Edition. At this point, I loudly proclaimed that I was going to kick some ass! (third pina colada). This boasting was great for me 'cause I've seen a lot of James Bond movies and have no long-term memory. As I crankily lead my losing team, I got to talk at length with Chank, a faculty member at UF (not my department). He and I comiserated together so well that we're thinking of opening a pub called Lower the Bar. We fared a bit better at the regular Scene It in which I got Midnight Cowboy from the picture combo and he got Bolero from out of nowhere—rock on! Our team missed by the narrowist of margins. Then we moved into some Karaoke Revolution. At this point, I was getting sleepy, so I can't actually remember what I sang. I do remember getting a fabulous backrub from someone whose name escapes me and who acts excactly like another Merk I used to work with. That's how alcohol-comfortable and sleepy I'd become: asking for a backrub from a stranger, shameful! Anyways, relaxation + relaxation = vegetable.

Nevertheless, I totally enjoyed the party and have resolved to banish the nerves and meet more people when I am, again, at a swank party with such cool people.

Monday, July 10, 2006

July 4th Party: the Lost Picture Edition

Hot came through with a pic from his party—check out these cuties!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Home and Work; Leisure and Me

So, I woke up today at around 10 o'clock, laid around a bit, checked out some Book TV on C-Span2, caught the last game of the Wimbledon final (congrats R-Fed!), watched a TV Guide Channel home remodeling show (who knew?), and saw the end of In the Army Now (my former Bad Movie Club pick). It's now 3 o'clock, and, if you asked me what I've gotten done today, I'd answer in a two-word phrase which sounds an awful lot like "ack sit."

Usually, I'm really anxious about being productive, even on weekends. As I often tell people, academics run on weird time schedules, sometimes working long into the night or weekends. From this ensues the paranoia, the Paranoia! Am I getting enough done? Am I using my time wisely? Of course, this anxiety isn't just the province of academics, everybody who works requires a sort of time structure which can seem unnatural or make you crazy at times. This is something Jeanne Boydston discusses in her brilliant Home and Work (1990). In this book, Boydston shows how changes in labor, paid employment, and the structure of work interacted in and around women's home-making. She notes, "As husbands and children increasingly answered the call of factory bells and office schedules, wives necessarily found their own work reorganized to conform to the timetables of early industrialization. Women's work had always been influenced by the comings and goings of the rest of the household, of course, but the prescriptive literature of the antebellum period suggests a new time consciousness, one directly tied to the discipline of the paid workplace" (104). Catharine Beecher's Treatise on Domestic Economy (1841) and many, many other books "trained" women for a job that was similar to the one their mothers had performed but, in new ways, critically different and time-dependent.

What's my point? Mainly, that our conceptions of "time" and how it "should" be arranged are shaped by our culture which is shaped, in turn, by history. We consider these arrangements of time and duty "natural" only because we aren't always offered alternatives and often don't know the history of this revolution in planning. I find this fascinating first because so many people don't have the option to control the timing of their days. Been there; hated that. Second, I wonder why I should be so nervous about being able to control my time. Sure I study hard but not every minute of every day. Then again, why should I? A colleague of mine recently reminded me that art only comes about through access to leisure time. So maybe, just maybe, when I write, I can attribute part of my art and my labor to a morning of simply loafing around.

Friday, July 07, 2006

So You Think You Can Tell?

During the past few weeks, I've been watching this season of So You Think You Can Dance? (Without getting into reality-program justifications and such, let's just assume, for this entry, that watching RPs is ok.) Anyway, as the cast formed, I had my eye on one particular guy who perplexes me—Benji. On the one hand, he's talented, funny, expressive, and cute as hell. On the other, I think he's gay. I don't make this observation because of any antipathy toward gay people; indeed I'm accepting of alternative lifestyles (though even saying "accepting" implies inequitable power structures and lack of civil rights protections—quite frustrating and a whole other blog entry in and of itself). On the contrary, I make this observation for two reasons: 1) I'm kind of crushing on him, and 2) I don't think he has any idea that he comes off as homosexual.

So, these are my interior arguments about why he might or might not be gay:

Maybe: he's non-masculine in the way he dances...
Maybe not: but in a pre-pubescent way.

Maybe not: he said he was engaged and that his girlfriend left him.
Maybe: did she leave him because he's gay?

Maybe not: he's religious...
Maybe: but he could be Episcopalian

Maybe: he collapsed onto the floor crying when the judges accepted him...
Maybe not: but his legs could have just given out.

Of course, in answer to my first point, whether or not Benji is gay, I can still crush on him. I learned this lesson long ago by liking Alan Cumming, who I later found out is bisexual. As for my second point, I think that Benji needs to own the gay aesthetic if he isn't gay or own up to gayness if he is. I think this distinction explains the confusion he seems to generate on the show. Plenty of dancers on the show are gay and have no problem with their sexuality. Then again, Benji could be just plain goofy. Either way, I love his quirky style, but y'all know how I love the humor.

All of this speculation brings up another point about SYTYCD that I find fascinating. Most of the time when the dancers go to learn a new dance, they are asked to portray some idealized aspect of masculinity or femininity. Benji isn't the only dancer who has been asked to be "more masculine" and has occasionally failed to do so. This really gratifies my sense of "gender as performance" in action. Judith? Judy B? Are you watching SYTYCD? Call me! From my sense of the dances, only krumping and possibly hip-hop don't ask for traditional femininity which I find totally cool; perhaps contemporary doesn't ask for traditional masculinity... except for the lifts. As the dancers learn what nuances of gender they are expected to portray, it's clear that they don't all fit into traditional categories themselves except perhaps Joy and Aleksandra who are pretty feminine (and who've been voted off) and Dimitri and Musa who are hella-masculine (and are still competing).

Ultimately, I am of two minds about this show. I think it is inherently, though unknowingly, subversive because it presents dancers with a range of sexual preferences and gender performances. Even so, it presents them in order to standardize their behavior to the expectations of dances, many of which are patriarchal cultural expressions. You're never going to flip on the TV and see two men dancing together or two women dancing together on Dance. You're probably never going to see people dancing in drag. For as much as I love dancing and the premise of SYTYCD, to me, at least, this is a bummer. Gay or straight, bi, trans-sex or trans-gender, or asexual: we should all be dancing.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Party to a Party

As you may well know, I haven't been getting out much lately. Then, to my surprise, I was invited to a Fourth of July BBQ by Hot and Daniel (fake names: real love). They put on an enjoyable 'Q-party with a generous spread, eclectic music, and interesting guests. We ate and talked, talked and ate...and then had some cake. And, while the ideas of a spontaneous sleepover or Uno didn't take, I had a great time. Here are some observations:

1. We didn't get any pictures, dammit! I have no photographic representation of my cool new acquaintances or of Byron's (potentially) last G'ville outing. Plus, since I haven't been going out as often, I try to look real sharp when I do, and I'm getting no pictures to prove it. I'm like a celebrity with nothing to be famous for and no paparazzi. Oh yeah, and I eat carbs.

2. If you are or ever were a server and you meet someone who is or ever was a server, you become each others' new best friend. It's an axiom! Hot's friend 'Roar and I swapped server stories with relish (and mayonnaise on the side). Even so, I forgot my best "drugs and the restaurant" stories. D'oh! Rueing day...

3. Why don't adults ever have sleepovers? Is it because we're weirded out by the prospect of an orgy? Is it because we're too cranky to sleep on the floor? Is is because we sold our Holly Hobby sleeping bags? We shouldn't have to give birth to children to feel like kids again. I'm going to go buy Leggos—who's with me!?!

4. Since I ate a soy-substitute chicken patty sans barbeque, does that mean the terrorists have won? I don't think this dinner option would qualify as an "American" in Texas. It was good, though.

I hope that this will be one of many potential outings for the month ahead...I know a Pirates of the Caribbean viewing is imminent, and I've heard tell of a luau, not to mention the fact that Marlin and I are working on a trip to Jax for ice skating. Stay tuned as people give me something to blog about!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Divining My Future Dreams

In my last entry, I outlined certain sleep problems I've been having lately. And, while I avow that I've done a good deal to rectify said problems, I fear that I will soon be forced to take the ultimate step. That's right—I need a new mattress. How am I sure of this? I enter into evidence the huge coil-inflicted bruise on my ass. Certainly, I would share a picture of said bruise if I were not fully convinced that such a picture would lead to a) dismissal from a cherry tenure-track position years down the road; or b) temporary blindness (on your part).

In anticipation of my major purchase, then, I went online to look at mattresses and realized that they actually constitute a colossal purchase. Some of them cost thousands of dollars. Since I don't have thousands of dollars, I have a few options. I could always make a mattress like the homemakers of yore. In yore, the mattresses were made of rags. Since I don't have any rags, I'd be forced to buy lots of clothes, wear them until they fall apart, and stuff them into a fabric shell. This plan would probably be more costly than an actual mattress and would take a long, long time to effect. In my second plan, I go to the mattress store, follow around the cutest single guy who's buying a firm full-sized or larger mattress and then ask him out to dinner. The drawback of this plan is that my sleeping proposition would probably come off pretty skeevy, and there's no telling how clean his house would be. Lastly, I could try to hit a holiday sale in order to declare my independence from high prices. Guess you all know how I'm going to spend my 4th...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Why I Hate The Fourth of July

A friend recently asked me if I was doing anything on the fourth, and the only reply that I could think of was "trying to get some sleep." The Fourth of July, like some other notable holidays, is distinguished by celebratation, loud celebration. While the fireworks themselves are loud enough, at least they end at a reasonable time. And they are nothing compared to the racuous, illegal firework-heavy entertainment that people cook-up themselves. As a result, I think I can confidently say that I hate all such holidays (New Year's Eve, UF winning the championship, Fridays...Saturdays). It's not that I don't like celebration—I'm fine with your loud, drunken party until around 11 o'clock. Then, I'd thank you to shut the hell up because I'd like to get some shut-eye.

If I haven't already mentioned this, I have a devil of a time getting to sleep. What's more, my apartment complex seems peopled with the kind of clueless college students who don't consider a 2 a.m. drunken hoot-filled swim disturbing. Hell, a middle-of-the-night ride in which one loudly proclaims "The British are coming!" is disturbing, but at least I'd feel as if I'd been wakened for good reason. "Damn colonists and their cups...What?!?...The British...right-o! ...let me grab a broom handle and some lye and I'll be right with you. Better yet, I'll just grab a drum..."

Let me just say that the sleep aids I have tried (and some of which I am currently using) include nasal strips, earplugs, not drinking a few hours before bed, a tempurpedic bed topper, locking my cat out, and a sound machine. It's not like I'm blaming this whole sleep-deficiency thing on the neighbors. Still, the biggest variable in my acquisition of a sound sleep are my obnoxious and unpredictible neighbors (ok, ok, and ass-early construction in the lot adjoining our complex). Yeah, I've called the police on these late-night partyiers, but it doesn't seem to have much lasting effect. I partly blame the booze, but making celebrities of them on G'ville's Police Beat doesn't help.

So, as the country celebrates its independence, I will, again, be contemplating my personal independence from insomnia (and the ensuing and persistent bad mood that tarnishes my otherwise sparkling personality). Who knows—I might actually persuade my neighbors to do something taking the party inside.