Category Archives: ramblings

enthusiasm

My apologies for the long absence, internet. Sketch writing is hard. REALLY HARD. Like, opening a document and staring at it for nine straight hours hard. Kind of like academic paper writing, come to think of it, but without the ability to quote from giant stretches of someone else’s text. A pity, that.

But here I am, with thoughts. And my chief concern is about tonality. I stress all the time about striking the right tone, especially when I get excited. And I don’t see any virtue in adapting some kind of jaded hipster attitude and pretending that I think everything is shit. I certainly don’t feel that way at all. I genuinely like a lot of stuff, and some of it I get downright Dug-enthusiastic over.

I was trying to hammer out some kind of piece on America– why, despite the Tea Party and vasectomy-reversal billboards, it’s kind of an amazing place. That contrary to what Fitzgerald said, there are second acts in American lives. I’m not a nationalist, nor am I a patriot, really, in the modern sense of the word. But I believe you can recognize that modern nation-states are ideological abstractions and still feel affection for them, as this Onion piece would have it.

But the tone. The tone is what’s tricky. So I shelved it.  Because I am not Sarah Vowell. I find sincerity quite hard to transmit without sounding twee, or over-intellectualized, or facetious. It’s why I also have difficulty striking the right balance when I like something.

Right now I am watching The Thick of It, an amazing show about political spin in modern UK politics. I am attaching a clip, but it is sweary beyond compare. So NSFW, unless you happen to work in a mine or a pirate ship.

I fucking love it. The swearing alone rivals The Sopranos. (And we know how I feel about epic baroque cursing. It is one of my greatest joys in life. This stuff could be Slavic in its morphology, I kid you not).  Granted, the camera work, which is done in that jolty docu-cam style, does make me a little sick to my stomach. But if you power through (and you should, you should, you should) you will be rewarded.

I like to think it rivals Mad Men in its nuance, especially with regard to the constructed nature of masculine worlds. It’s like that feminist revelation, that men have a gender, too. That it’s all just one great big pissing contest. And it’s funny. Ridiculous, awkward — bilious and bizarre simultaneously. It bristles with an amazing ensemble energy; it’s spectacularly cast. I cannot enthuse enough. I could write a whole post that consisted solely of CAPSLOCK SCREAM FLAIL OMG WTF !!!!. But I don’t want to sound like a maniacal tween girl chasing R. Pattz down the street any more than I want to sound like these guys.

So that’s that, then. I hope you are all well.

still not nick hornby

Things I want, right effing now.

1. A cigarette, recessed filter, Parliament for choice.

2. A perfectly pulled double espresso.

3. Tickets to Oaxaca for DoD things.

4. Not to have to go to campus and see people I’ve been avoiding all summer.

5. To have perhaps not eaten 2 loaves of bread in a single weekend (ow)

6. An oxygen facial (to offset smoking)

7. To somehow be paid for writing something. Anything, really.

8. For the property management to turn on the radiators.

9. To not be getting a cavity. More ow.

10. Indian pudding with Ciao Bella vanilla gelato. Or a gingersnap.

11. This dress. And the arms to go with it. (Angela Basset’s would be ideal).

12. To perhaps not think that every comment in every medium is a personal fucking attack.

oh, america

Sometimes I get this niggling urge to go live in Europe, take public transit everywhere, enjoy raw milk cheeses, and explore cities established more than a few centuries ago. I like bridges, you see, and winding streets and architecture that’s had time to crumble. If I ever get my shit together, maybe this will happen. In the meantime,  I will admit to a deep and profound love of Americana in all its forms. This love, by the way, is completely without irony. Is sincere.

Chicago is sort of great simply because of its mid-century signage — oh, terminus of Route 66, how I appreciate your existence. Nostalgia for the west, the closing in of the prairie. It’s so spectacularly beautiful, even now. Totally the best thing about the Northwestern suburbs. Remember, guys, this used to to be the fucking frontier!

Now, while I do not love the back-and-forth trek to Kentucky– and please, no comments on Indiana as the great corn-growing crossroads of America, because while I like a tenderloin sandwich and GNR as much as the next girl–

It is still a fucking balls-ache of a state that takes HOURS to traverse in any direction, assaulting your senses with bad country music stations, billboards encouraging you to reverse your vasectomy and remember that you’ll meet Jesus after you die, and also the relentless smell of cow shit. And corn fields stretching to the horizon, industrial farming that makes me weep for the loss of the yeoman farmer (shut up, I’m allowed to romanticize just a wee bit here), and profoundly sad about the reach of agribusiness and the thumbhold of King Corn.

Last trip back, though, I did make a spectacular purchase at a truck stop. Possibly ironic, but it pleases me immensely.

WOLVES ON A DREAMCATCHER, people. It is no three-wolf moon shirt, I grant you, but it is my new writing talisman and I CHERISH IT.

a journey of self-discovery OR soul death?

National unemployment is still kicking my ass, as is the fact that, despite having almost no skill set (no, snark and an autistic-like ability to recite stretches of dialogue from 80s movies are apparently not in demand with the corporate set, who knew), I am vastly “overqualified” for all positions out there.

It’s to the point where I am considering lying outright and telling potential employers that I’ve been backpacking around Southeast Asia or living in an ashram just so I don’t have to go through the rigmarole of explaining that, no, you really can’t have a job when you’re enrolled in a full-time doctoral program, and yes, if something better comes along than this nine dollar an hour data entry soul-killing horrendousness,  I will, in fact, quit. I mean, people are into that Eat, Pray, Love shit, aren’t they? Maybe they will think I am noble rather than someone who keeps aggressively pursuing higher education for no other reason than it seems to be a bastion of marginally sane secularism in our increasingly batshit country.

So that’s fun. Except for how it, you know, totally isn’t.

Also fun? Cover letters, the genre of quiet fucking desperation and self-aggrandizement.

Part-time marketing work also provides me with words that make me think academic jargon is pretty, by comparison:

  • Leverage
  • Learnings
  • Webinar
  • Build out
  • Incentivize
  • Advertorial
  • Game-changer
  • Impactful

Good times can be had with this corporate buzzword generator.

*****

A playlist to stave off suicidal thoughts brought on by pleading job apps and marketing twats

Hedwig and the Angry Itch — Midnight Radio

David Bowie – Rock and Roll Suicide

Boston — Peace of Mind

Eliot Smith — Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud?

Supertramp — Breakfast in America

Wilco — Shot in the Arm

The Verve — Bittersweet Symphony

Tribe Called Quest — Rap Promoter

Beastie Boys — Super Disco Breakin’

Frank Black — Headache (listen to this last one at least six times running.)

listing

Things I like

Country roads + 5th gear + Boston.

Everyman actors who can carry a sitcom.

Physical comedy.

Texas Red Chili.

Physicists.

Fro-yo. Pinkberry and all its imitators.

Interracial couples (esp. with children).

Carbon & Carbide Building.

Melodic hooks.

Things I do not like

When classic rock DJs decide to “improve” a song by adding running commentary to it.

Times New Roman.

Racism masquerading as patriotism.

Litter.

People who think reading is elitist practice.

Needlessly expository dialogue.

Shoe boots with toe cut-outs. WHY?

Upselling.

Philosophy majors, for the most part.

Watching sex scenes with parents. Still horrible.

Proselyting in any way, shape, form.

Job applications only accepted in hard copy. In 2010.

Pic from the ever-awesome Allie Brosh, who’s got fashion posts at The Gloss here.

the great american novel and the internet

So, here we are, internet.

Brief pause to fangirl Jonathan Franzen, because, not only is The Corrections an amazing book– one I would very quickly nominate for Great American Novel, because, OMFG– but, until I saw him on the cover of Time, I sort of did not realize that he is ADORABLE.

What interests me most, though, is as I Try To Write Non-Academic Things, is his relationship with technology. It is Luddite at best, as this snippet from an interview makes clear:

AVC: A lot of writers—if they don’t use typewriters or write longhand—claim to only use computers without an Internet connection, because the distraction is too readily available, and no work gets done.

JF: Absolutely. I have one of those nine-pound Dell laptops you can get for $389 because nobody ended up buying that model, for obvious reasons. I took the wireless card out immediately, and I plugged up the Ethernet hole with superglue. The biggest struggle was getting Hearts and Solitaire off of it. I did work on a DOS machine until about five years ago. It ran WordPerfect 5.0, which is still the best software ever written for a writer, I think. But now, obviously, I work on a Windows machine, and Windows just will not let you de-install a Solitaire program. It puts it back whenever you try to remove it.

I am going to hazard a guess here that JF’s  disabling of the internet is no doubt part of the reason why he has written Great Important American Novels, whereas I can barely make it through a 400 word blog post without falling into internet rabbit holes so deep it’s a wonder I don’t end up in Pyongyang. Actually, just to digress, have you ever seen a picture of North Korea from space? It’s pitch black, hemmed in by the lights of South Korea and China. I don’t know why, but more than the military marches, more than the terrifyingly outmoded Communist regime, that darkness frightens me more than almost anything.

And since there are no traffic lights, of course, this is how they direct the flow of vehicles in Pyongyang–

Um, okay. So back to the matter at hand, which was– I cannot afford to purchase Freedom right now. My ass is broke, and even at twenty or thirty percent off, I so cannot afford a hardback. Which brings me to my next point — not “don’t smoke crack,” although that is sound advice, too. Possibly the only sound advice ever to emanate from an Adam Sandler movie, come to think of it — why are publishing houses even bothering to release hardbacks at all?

According to the Times, Kindle downloads outpace hardcover sales 143:100, a gap which I’m sure will only increase in the future. Stephen Fry just released his new autobiography (WANT!) in electronic and print formats, but the e-version is only available for Apple devices. That seems a bit Not On, if you ask me. Also, why the hell would you want to read an entire book on an iPhone?

All this is by way of saying: Franzen: amazing. Technology: a bitch.  Erin: violently broke. If you’re done with your copy of Freedom, will you lend it to me? Stellar.

You can view Ron Charles’ hilarious video review here, since HuffPo seems to hate embed codes. Whatevs.

You can read the whole interview here.

second city

Author’s note: I am full aware that I am not Nick Hornby. My record collection is far less impressive, for one thing. But what is the point of blogging if you can’t play with narrative conventions, right? So today you can have a list.

Have signed up for sketch comedy writing class at Chicago’s Second City. Class has met twice thus far. They made me do improv, which I have not done since…oh, 8th grade, I think? It’s weirdly fun, kind of zen, insofar as it takes you out of yourself and clamps a damper on your constant internal monologue (just me, with that? doubtful). You have to listen. Not like talking with other people, where you’re just sitting there anxious for it to be your turn again, but truly attentive and in the present moment.* Terrifying, but weirdly exhilarating. Also all about fostering ‘hivemind.’

So I did that, met a bunch of children. Sort of shocked at how many of them had moved to Chicago for the sole purpose of  taking classes there. It felt like the first day of school, I had to amp myself up with horrible tunes. And then had drinks with delightful and funny anthropologists in my OWN AGE BRACKET the next day. Good times.

  • Notebooks purchased for writing class (2, pink, slightly pretentious)
  • Iced teas consumed before class (4 )
  • Times Miley Cyrus’ Party in the USA was played as incentive to walk into classroom (3)**
  • Times Rough Riders rap (Biggie, Eve, L’il Kim et all) was played (10+)
  • Times I remembered Second City’s “no refunds” policy (more than once?)
  • Number of people in sketch comedy writing class (14)
  • Number of girls in SCWC (4)
  • Number of girls in SCWC who went to Harvard (1, not counting my own horrible stint at summer school)
  • Times debated asking this girl whether I could call her “Toofer” (2)
  • Number of guys in class who claim “not to read” (5)
  • Number of guys who clearly want to be the next Andy Samberg (3)
  • Number of guys who actually look like Andy Samburg (0, and a DAMN SHAME IT IS)
  • Drinks consumed with semi-adults (4)
  • Plates of french fries eaten (3)
  • Excellent puns made (1)
  • Excellent puns heard (6, including the fabulous Ms. B’s title for a Marxian porn– “Come Oddity Fetish”)
  • Cigarettes smoked (0, +10000 points of awesome!)
  • Stabbing pains in calves (well over two dozen)
  • Bottles of vitamins purchased (2)

http://widget.nbc.com/videos/nbcshort_at.swf?CXNID=1000004.10045NXC&widID=4727a250e66f9723&clipID=727504&showID=61&configXML=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbc.com%2Fservice%2Fvideowidget%2Fparams%2FdmlkZW9faWQ9NzI3NTA0%2F&initXML=http://www.nbc.com%2Fsaturday-night-live%2Fvideo%2Fepisodes%2Finit.xml?videoId=727504

Single best thing about this clip? Animal reaction shots.

*Russell T. Davies has a great quote, which I will paraphrase here. Namely, that when two people are talking, it’s very rarely a conversation. It’s two monologues happening simultaneously. Which, whoa. But, true?

**I know it’s been autotuned to all hell and that it’s atrocious, but if Rivers Cuomo says it’s okay, it’s okay. (From Details: “Miley Cyrus’ ‘Party in the USA” kills me with jealousy.’ The melodies are out-of-control beautiful.” )

DO NOT JUDGE ME, PEOPLE.