Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Ok, someone needs to help me figure this out, because I swear that I’m not a math nerd.

It’s physically impossible—I haven’t even taken a math class in almost seven years: I was always proficient, but it’s not like I really got math. When I had to take the compass test at UVU, I couldn’t for the love of Dr Pepper remember the slope formula.

In fact, anytime I want to put myself into a there-is-no-spoon existentialist dilemma, all I have to do is think about the 360 degrees in a circle and wonder why the hell some Greek guy came to that conclusion and somehow brainwashed humanity into thinking it was a truth (360? Could there be a more random number?).

I have a delightful sense of humor, I listen to rock n roll, in many cases I believe that the form of something is infinitely superior to any function. I’m able to carry on interesting conversations with others. All of this points to the conclusion that I am nothing akin to a math nerd.

I should be more comforted by this, but there’s unfortunately some more information that I haven’t disclosed that might leave you less than persuaded of my innocence.

Like the fact that when I was counting up my spare pennies to turn them into larger coins for soda consumption, I did things that no self-respecting non-math-nerd would do. 

First, I sorted them into piles according to the decade they were minted. I then recorded the number of pennies in each respective pile. Before I even added them all up for my grand total, I first found the percentage increase of pennies per decade (i.e. there is a 600% increase of pennies minted in the seventies compared to those minted in the sixties, but only a 50% increase from those minted in the eighties compared to the seventies). It was only after I had crunched the available data in every conceivable form that I got around to finding my grand total of pennies and turning that total into soda purchased.

Do you understand the significance of that? I was more intrigued by the stats than I was in replenishing my soda supply! I’m gravely concerned.

Do not, I repeat DO NOT ever bite down on a big chunk of peanut brittle with your front teeth. They just weren’t built for that kind of abuse.

In my down time at work I was reading someone’s reflection on Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” (my favorite of her novels) and my eyes started to well up. 

I was alarmed, thinking a) I cannot start crying at work, that's both awkward and unseemly. Plus I work with women who would probably try to, I don't know, talk it out with me or something. And that is not the Shurtz women way. b) this is very disconcerting, I feel like I'm having an out-of body experience, because I don't feel particularly sad for Anne and Captain Wentworth's plight right now. Am I that out of touch with myself that my physiological responses are this drastically out of sync with where my mind is?  

Then I realized that the welling of the eyes was due to the fact that I needed to sneeze. Emotional crisis averted.

Friday, December 18, 2009

When Doves Cry

Rick Springfield is such a sex god. He successfully rhymed "cute" with "moot." He could wine and dine me anytime.

Ok, so I started this blog to rant about music, but then I ran out of steam about three sentences in.

Suffice it to say, I believe that people who think that my love and appreciation for artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Nirvana is a demonstration of my degenerate nature and hints at hidden desires to die of an overdose or drown in my own vomit are horrendously off base.

I believe in knowing the history of the music I claim to be a fan of, I think it’s important to know what statements artists were making in the cultural context of their times, and I’m not naïve enough to think that their lifestyle had no effect on their creations. However, just because I know all these details of their personal life, I don’t consider that a reason to either a) stop listening to their music or b) follow their example and shoot up. I would think that all of these tragic early deaths in the music industry would serve as deterrent enough.

What it comes down to is that I don’t consider rock artists to be different from masters of any other art form—they are people, messed up more often than not, who have an ability to create something that transcends their own small context as an individual: what they create speaks to people that the artist has never met, have little in common with, and who in the end will be alive much longer than they will.

Despite my scholarly desire to meet any of the great artists of the past, when you get right down to how I spend my life and my priorities other than art, I doubt I would have much to do with Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Mozart, Poe, Dali, Beethoven, David, Dickinson, or Rossetti.

Except Edna St. Vincent Millay. I bet we’d be buddies until she started hitting on me.

But that’s besides the point.

All of these past masters have histories of mental instability, difficulty in and with society, immoral behavior, and other eccentricities—if eccentricities isn’t too mild a word. And they certainly aren’t the only people in the world to have such messed up lives. But, each one of them possessed a gift of creation. Instead of condemning those creations to obscurity as a statement that I disapproved of their personal choices, why wouldn’t I treasure them as a sign that even in a dark and troubled mind there is still a spark, a glimmer of genius, a way for someone to rise above what would be a life of insignificance and despair and still say something. This presence of creation in such a hostile environment should be celebrated, not looked upon disapprovingly.

So when I’m wearing my tattered Jimi Hendrix Purple Haze t-shirt, I don’t think it is beyond the potential of my peers (and more significantly my parents) to believe that I am not peddling a lifestyle of crack and promiscuity. I’m honoring the fact that Jimi combined rock n roll guitar with blues to create a sound that is both stirring and profound, soulful and adrenaline-pumping. I’m wearing it to say I'm glad that he lived until 27 so that his works could influence the works of other serious musicians for generations. Also, it’s a colorful and aesthetically pleasing graphic, why wouldn’t I wear it?

Hey, look, I didn’t run out of steam after all! How fortuitous for all of you, you didn’t miss out on being lectured and sneered at. By the way, Poison is just one of the best things that ever happened to the 80’s. Anyone who can sing the lyric “look what the cat dragged in” and follow it with a feline yowl is just golden in my book.

Also, my first real exposure to the season this year was from the proprietor of Osakas who last week handed me my take-out order and in her warbly old voice and broken English startled me right out of my bad mood with a sincere, simple, and painfully enunciated "Merry Christmas." It was beautiful.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Denial Twist

Possible indication that I’ve been watching quite a bit of Heroes recently: I quickly stood up from my desk and through whatever strange combination of how I moved my head and the drafts in the basement I heard a very quick whoosh and felt a bit of pressure on my eardrum. My immediate thought? Oh my gosh! I bet there’s an invisible person in this basement who had to move out of the way so that I didn’t run into them! The only thing that convinced me that that maybe wasn’t the first possibility? I realized that if someone could be invisible there is no way they would hang around at a credit union. Unless they wanted to use my system to wire loads of money to their various bank accounts . . . oh no, I’ve started it off again.

As an awkward sidestep away from my neurosis, I’m going to abruptly change the subject.

I’ve been contemplating the subject of simplicity for a week now, ever since Zach and I went to a concert that featured the King Singer’s performance of the Shaker’s Hymn with it’s opening lines “It’s a gift to be simple, it’s a gift to be free/It’s a gift to come down where we ought to be.”

Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of the song or the sentiment—mostly because the very idea of ever being identified as simple has been abhorrent to me. I’ve always considered the key feature of myself and other “interesting” people (yes, I consider myself interesting, someone has to) was how complicated we are. I like peeling back layers of sentiment and motive, and one of the things I love best about myself is my clashing and confusing lists of interests and priorities.

To a certain extent, I still stick to that attitude. It’s sorta left over from my teenage obsession and present latent reaction to anyone trying to “label me.” But for the first time, during that concert the idea of the gift of simplicity really stuck, and I think for the very first time I paid attention to the next two lines as well.

Because it really would be a gift to know where you ought to be and to be there, and it would be so freeing to be “simply” yourself: no need for subterfuge, justification, or long long blog posts overanalyzing every corner of your psyche. Isn’t the definition of freedom the power to determine action without restraint? (It is, cause I just looked it up). So based on that, it really would be the greatest gift to live life simply, to react honestly to news and people, to pursue what makes you happy whole-heartedly, to shun things that repulse you without apology.

Just to clarify, this is not me throwing up the white flag and surrendering the quirky aspects of my personality. I would never be the spokesperson for slapping a coat of paint over the tiny details and intricate graffiti that individual experiences have left on our souls. Far from it. What I’m talking about is a conceptual foundation for the utopia I will someday build, a world where contradicting terms within a person don’t provoke anger or dismissal but are "simply" accepted as a part of one’s unique makeup. Someday, in this perfect world, people are going to find that niche in the world where they should be and throw their hands up in a rock fist of joy and celebrate the gift that simple clarity and honest acceptance of our strengths and weaknesses have left us with.

So to reassert what I’m talking about, I am not campaigning for the abolishment of nuance or the banning of individuality and eccentricities. I’m promoting the idea that the ideal to strive for is honesty of purpose and candidness of motivation. To truly know thyself, and to trust that same duty to everyone around you, to not take it upon yourself to pin others with what it is they should want/be. The dream is to be so certain in your own place that the wants, expectations, and demands of peers and parental figures don’t buckle you down or make you doubt that what you are is worthwhile.

That was a little more abstract and high-falutin' than I usually go for, must be all the Aimee Mann that has been popping up on my Pandora station. I’ll kick back with some Portishead and decompress.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Though They May Gang A' Kennin' Wrang, To Step Aside Is Human"

I am a Koala bear. Here me roar. No, but really, there are some startling parallels going on. About a year ago Patrick told me that of all the animals in the land, I looked the most like a Koala bear. I liked that comparison--they're small, cute and cuddly, so I really had no reason to argue with his astute assessment. But now the similarities have become so much more than skin deep! I will now include an excerpt from wikipedia’s page on Koala bears, with only a few minor adjustments in wordology in order to illustrate my point:

"The Koala lives almost entirely on Diet Dr Pepper. This is likely to be an evolutionary adaptation that takes advantage of an otherwise unfilled ecological niche, since Diet Dr Pepper is low in protein, high in indigestible substances, and contains compounds that are toxic to most species. Koala has a very low metabolic rate for a mammal and rests motionless for about 16 to 18 hours a day, sleeping most of that time. Koalas spend about three of their five active hours eating. Feeding occurs at any time of day, but usually at night. An average Koala eats approximate 4500 g (140 oz) of Diet Dr Pepper each day. The liver deactivates the toxic components and the gut is greatly enlarged to extract the maximum amount of nutrients from the poor quality diet. The Koala will partake of a wide range of diet sodas, and occasionally even some non-diet sodas such as Dr Pepper and Mexican Coca-Cola Classic. However, it has firm preferences for particular varieties of diet soda. Koalas that are disturbed during their resting state are known to be violent, their teeth and claws capable of causing considerable injury to others."

I rest my case.

And you know that even if Koalas don't actually roar, they would totally sneeze like me.

I had an uneasy experience last week on the bus home that is prompting me to make an apology and a promise. I solemly swear, with a hand upon my bosom to show my sincerity, that I will make the utmost effort not to hum in public ever again. Because despite my belief previously that it was a harmless habit coming from boredom or happiness, it turns out that when you don't know someone and you're in a public place, it's just downright creepy.

Roommates: don't hold your breath, this does not mean that when I take my occasional leisurely afternoon shower that I will stop belting out arias and torch songs. That's just too much to ask for, and besides I'm sure you already find me creepy to some extent or another.

Sometimes the Universe just hates you. And when that happens, the Christian maxim of “turn the other cheek” should be the very last option you consider. Cause when the Universe sucker-punches you, the only rational response should be to punch back whatever way you can. My most recent tactic has just been to scream as loud and as long as my substantial opera-singing-trained breath support will allow.

This is facilitated by the fact that I live off of Geneva Road now, which is possibly the perfect pastoral setting for verbally gutting oneself of frustrations. It's best to be in a car while doing this: partially because feeling your breath get whipped out of your mouth by the raging wind adds to the experience, and also because then if the 3.87 people living in the area look up from their cinderblock-bound trucks to see what's going on, you're already out of the area.

But, if you are frequently carless, or the Universe decides to smack you down while you are in the comfort of your own home, I can now testify that it works just as well to scream your bloody guts out in a standing position.

Because when I dropped on the floor my entire helping of yet-unsampled-over-processed-deliciousness-still-slightly-steaming bowl of mac n cheese on the floor, shattering the bowl and sending pasta everywhere, I just let out a rebel yell. I wasn't quite crying 'more, more, more,' though, it was more of a barbaric yawp or bellow of disdain for everything the Universe stood for when they picked my midnight snack as their target.

Speaking of barbaric yawps and our own Mr. Whitman, my favorite part of that quote is actually the line just preceding: "I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslateable/I shout my barbaric YAWP from the rooftops of the world" Untranslateable is a narcissistic but appealing concept, the idea that you are so much an entity unto yourself that you can't be dissembled by the passing examinations of your peers.

And I would rather walk across hot coals discalced than allow the thought stick that I am 'tamed.' I know I'm fairly normal in most respects, I follow the rules of hygience and some of the nods toward social graces, but it's incredibly uncomfortable to apply to yourself a term that can also be applied to a parakeet or a pit bull.

And yet all the same I have no trouble at all proudly proclaiming that I am the epitome of Koala bears.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Post-Mortem Modernism

Nature shoved its face into my world, uninvited, and I didn’t like it one bit. I popped into the break room to grab my morning Diet Dr Pepper and after I had put sixty cents into the machine, there is was. Staring at me. Twitching it long inelegant limbs, twirling its antennae. Mocking me with its very presence, daring me to do something drastic, like move at all. A bloody huge white praying mantis was in my break room, crawling up the side of the soda machine and making its way to the buttons on the front.

No, I didn’t have any sappy reactions, like being struck by it’s alien beauty, and the sight of nature and the cold office world side by side didn’t make my lifestyle seem hallow. No no no, I was thinking what the hell is this doing anywhere near my perfect, pristine, not-remotely-tied-to-nature world? Except that sentence had a lot more profanities in my head.

What I did next is a pretty telling statement about my personality—don’t ask me what it tells, but I’m fairly certain it’s significant, whatever it is. What I did next was: nothing. I didn’t squish it, I didn’t gently catch it up in a cup (yeah right, like that great beast of an insect would have fit) and set it free, I just slowly pushed the Diet Dr Pepper button (with my extended toe, keeping hands and face as far away from the machine as possible), grabbed my soda, and ran—well, stumbled rapidly down the hallway in my heels—back to my cubicle, telling no one of what had happened.

I’m sorry, but I couldn’t touch it! If I had, I would be completely incapable of working right now. I’d be going through some sort of weird cleansing ritual over and over, or trying to scratch off the top layer of my skin, either way making myself like unto an insect. If you touch them you become like them, and that’s what they want!! I had to stand strong.

As a sidebar, the effects of this encounter are insidious in their far-reaching impact. As if it wasn’t hard enough to keep my legs smooth after shaving when I wear a skirt to work in a frigid basement, after this morning’s invasion I’ve just given up. The prickly legs aren’t going to be stopped, what with me thinking about that unholy praying mantis (pun partially intended) and every time getting covered in goose bumps by the thought. Also, I'm quite caffeine deprived.

This entire incident is reminding me of the X-files episode “War of the Coprophages.” David Duchovny and I had very similar thoughts on bugs. Mmm Mulder is so my man. That epic X-files marathon I had this summer has possibly done some permanent damage to my brain. Nothing serious, I just go weak at the knees if the combination of a strong jawline and a vague conspiracy theory presents itself.

I don’t know why I’m suddenly becoming more prolific on this here slice of the blogosphere. Maybe it’s the oncoming of fall that is restoring rigor to my blood and brain. Maybe it’s the books I’m reading. Or maybe it’s the so-early-morning-it’s-late-night two hour commute to work that gets me so bored I’m forced to think of abstract subjects to distract myself. That's right, thought other than motor functions has apparently become a last resort.

But this schedule is pretty much opposite of what my life was like all summer—sleeping in until four, realizing the time, showering just in time to show up at the diner, work until I’m stupid with tiredness, watch TV until dawn, sleeping again. Didn’t really leave much room for ponderings or philosophizing, which is how I got into the bad habit of allowing the status quo to rule my head.

But that's all changed now! Once again, I think everything that passes through my consciousness has a kernel of profundity and even if it doesn't, how can we be sure until we've shared it? I’ll let you decided whether or not that’s a good change.

Or maybe we can blame all of this on the return of Becca to Provo! Maybe she’s my muse, like Xanadu! Except she doesn’t have cankles like Olivia Newton-John. I can guarantee that Becca would be very embarrassed/distressed if she knew I was accusing her of being my muse, but that’s what a best friend gets when she takes a stand against ever ever reading my blog. What a punk of a muse.

The world needs order! In this chaotic time of strip searches at the airport, an economy crashing around our ears, a political climate about as friendly as the surface of Mercury, and a decade that seems entirely bereft of my favorite childhood snack (graham cracker Dunkaroos with the chocolate frosting), I cling to any semblance of a Grand Plan. And I promise you, if there is any grand plan, not only would it have me swimming in a lake the Dunkaroos frosting, The Plan would make sure that my box of paper clips would not constantly be meshing together to form one huge net of paper clip bunches.

When I have a deadline to get wires out by the end of my shift and I still have twenty different papers to collate and send hither and thither, the very last thing I need is to try to detach eight different paper clips from each other in order to finish my job. We aren’t making office jewelry, people! If we can split the atom, then we as a society can get the right people on the job to figure out how to store paper clips in a way that they won’t be tempted to join together and, I don’t know, mate or something. Maybe that’s why my paper clips always come in assorted sizes, they’re self-perpetuating. Gross. Paper clip sex.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sackcloth and Ashes

Damn you Joseph, this is all your fault.

The subject is: Art and the holier-than-thou approach that actually perverts only your own soul and experiences, and saves no one.

Scenario 1: First day of a college-level art history class, the teacher puts up a slide of “The Rape of Persephone” by Giardon. The teacher then procedes to inform the class that the human figure is so paramount to the development of art that even BYU is not going to have a curriculum that doesn’t include some nudes. A few students stand up and leave the class immediately, shaking their heads and hiking their self-righteousness up higher onto their shoulder.

Scenario 2: An art history book is bought second-hand at the bookstore for a class and, after it’s brought home, it’s discovered that on every applicable page of the book various cartoon stickers (obviously left over from someone’s scrapbooking project) have been placed on prints of masterpieces wherever “offensive” bits of anatomy are being displayed. When the new owner flicks to the title page again to find out what the hell is going on, they find that in addition to the title “Art Through the Ages” there’s a neatly written subscript just below that says “edited by Paul’s mom, because she loves him.”

You should be aware that when both of these scenarios occurred, it produced a strange physiological reaction from me. Lots of sputtering and fist smacking and red-faced evil eyes, with half-formed words spewing out of my mouth. It wasn’t pretty, it was even humorous to some, but most tragically it wasn’t a coherent way to communicate. This will be my attempt to provide a more structured demonstration of my frustrations, in hopes that I can let you understand why I react so violently.

Nudity is not always about sex. Even when it is in reference to sex, this does not make it automatically pornographic. The Greeks devoted themselves almost exclusively to the depiction of the nude because they believed that they were formed in the image of the gods, and that to carve out a perfect model of the heroic physique was to celebrate all of the beauty and gifts the gods had given them in life.

Renaissance artists who revisited the nude form pinpointed a place in history when man’s mind chose to shun the medieval belief that this life was only a trial to be endured, and instead became open to the infinite possibilities of mankind’s potential: embracing our time on earth as one of discovery and knowledge. The flat depictions of medieval art gave way to vibrant anatomically accurate forms that showed an arrival of perception, and a hope for growth. The use of the nude at that time demonstrates a celebration of man’s own great potential, and it was that attitude that made the Renaissance one of the single brightest moments in our entire earth’s history.

The nude (and let us be clear here that there is a difference between nudes and naked people) is important. More than that, it’s beautiful. It evokes emotion, it gives clues to the ideals and dreams a civilization had, and it’s mastery is the highest level of skill an artist can demonstrate. And if people refuse to--or are incapable of---being able to distinguish between the intent behind the creation of The Discus Thrower and a Playboy pinup, not only are they showing a shocking level of ignorance and lack of judgment, but I genuinely believe that they are causing themselves irrevocable damage to their souls and their outlook of the world.

Because if you can’t discern that one photo is exploitative and an ugly distortion of the human form while the other sculpture is a celebration of the strength and capabilities of man, then you are bringing ugliness and perversion into the world. It cuts both ways—thoughts are as powerful as actions, and when you see ugliness where there is none, you have made yourself a darker place to reside in. You have shut out potential enlightenment and inspiration, and instead remain sullenly determined to view only the worst intentions in people.

So go ahead and glory in how much more ‘sensitive’ you are to evil influences, how you are just so much more pure because your constitution can’t handle such crudeness, because all you have flaunted with that attitude is the sad state of your rapidly spoiling mind.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Gaps And The Spaces

Of the many beautiful marvelous and of good report movies out there in the universe, one that particulary stuck with me was "High Fidelity" starring John Cusak. Oddly enough, the main struggle of the film wasn't a draw for me at all. It was all about Rob Gordon (John Cusak's character), and the fact that he was the closest any character has ever come to being me.

His obsessive analytical approach to everything resulted in scads of "top five" lists that he had scattered throughout all of his monologues. So in the spirit of Rob Gordon, I have a completely random list of "top threes," just categories that I've been making up throughout the day while I wait out the end of my extended Friday shift. I'm going to expound upon and explain some of my choices, and some I'll be deliberately enigmatic about.

So you'll just have to deal with my selective vagueness. Not that you'll mind, you'll probably do a dance for every time I actually just let my initial words speak for themselves without the over-explainer muscle coming in to my writing.

And don't worry, these lists will in no way resemble anything you could find on facebook in people's "notes."

Top 3 Songs I Want Used to Woo Me At Some Point In My Life:

-"My Funny Valentine" sung by Frank Sinatra
-"Something In the Way She Moves" by The Beatles
-"Talk Dirty To Me" by Poison

Top 3 Female Rockers Who Made Me Face The Fact That I Will Never Rock:

*Joan Jett
*Janis Joplin--she just makes me want to live off whisky and cigarrettes so that I can sound like her
*Pat Benatar

Top 3 Foods That I Indulge In When I'm About To Have A Nervous Breakdown:

+Sour Cream and Onion Chips
+Haagen Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Top 3 Attributes That I Like Least About Myself (subject to today and not an all-encompassing scrutiny):

^My inability to admit I don’t know something.
^My callousness toward awkward boys who like me.
^My tendency to rationalize all of my actions into a moral-free zone.

Top 3 Songs I Listen To When I Want to Wallow In My Discontent

~"That I Would Be Good" by Alanis Morissette
~"Paper Bag" by Fiona Apple
~"That Day" by Poe

Top 3 Songs I Sing In The Shower

#"Guess I'll Hang by Tears Out To Dry" by Sammy Cahn
#"Summertime" by George Gershwin
#"O Mio Babbino Caro" by Giacomo Puccini

Top 3 Irish Songs I Sing In The Shower (yes, they earned their own category):

"O Danny Boy"
"When Irish Eyes Are Smiling"
"Molly Malone"

Top 3 Authors Whose Writing Style I Wish I Had

>J.M. Barrie
>Ralph Waldo Emerson
>Charlotte Bronte

Top 3 Women In History Who Kick Serious Ass And I Want To Emulate

=Eleanor of Aquitaine--ok so yeah she was a horrible person but her ambition, wilyness, dedication to education, and strategy just make me want to be her one child that she actually liked.
=Abigail Adams
=Elizabeth Cady Stanton--my home girl.

Top 3 Poets

-Edna St Vincent Millay
-Robert Burns--My overly romantic Scottish side.
-Edgar Allen Poe

Top 3 Paintings That Changed My Life And Perspective On What Art Is

*Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald
*Improvisation #28 by Vasily Kandinsky
*Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya

Top 3 Sculptures That Expanded My Belief In Man's Potential

+Bird in Space by Constantin Brancusi
+Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna
+Nike of Samothrace

Top 3 Kinds Of People That Make Me Want To Rip Them To Shreds Even If I Love Them

^People who can’t keep their lives in perspective and so inflict their moods on innocent bystanders
^People who instead of sympathizing always try to one-up the person who is venting and put the focus back on themselves.
^People who think that someone having a different opinion than their own makes them stupid.
^Honorary Mention: People who don't think I'm funny

Top 3 Things That I Believe Are Destroying This Society

~Reality TV--not because it's immoral. Because it makes us stupider.
~Digitality--the fleeting nature of objects freaks me out! Sure have a digital camera is awesome but it also means that everything you hold dear can be wiped out by a magnet. It keeps me up at night. Ish,
~Twilight. You laugh, but it's like five big steps backwards for women. She doesn't even know who she is seperate from this boy. Gross. Sure, yeah, let's not spend time developing our own talents and personalities, let's just become the perfect mate. Don't get me started, this could be an entire blog unto itself.

Top 3 Aspects In Life That Upset Me To The Point That I Usually Cry Because I Don't Know What Else To Do

#Anything that has to do with the elderly losing their ability to access their memories and think clearly.
#Women in an abusive, subjugated situation. I can never watch "Revolutionary Road" again because of it. It makes me physically ill.
#Veterans who have lost limbs.

That's all. It's a rough draft but I bet it stays more true if I don't polish it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hyphenated Altuisms

I’m surreptitiously blogging at work. Go ahead and judge me, but I really put myself under the pressure cooker to look busy at all times, and sometimes there really isn’t anything to do! This is a pretty unfortunate occurrence less than half an hour into my work day. So in a desperate move to keep my nimble fingers going I pulled up a “compose new message” tab in my Outlook to disguise my hopefully much more consistent blogging habit as a legitimate business venture. That’s right, I deal in smoke and mirrors, I’m a dangerous element to society, and I am so very very tricksy.

Alas and alack, I am no longer cool-hipster-sleep-all-day-late-night-waitress-in-funky-fun-diner-bohemian-spunky-babyface-crummy-jeans-old-skater-shoes-with-completely-eroded-bottoms-that-I-still-stubbornly-wore-awesomeness. I am now slacks-skirts-solid-colors-jewel-toned-tops-minimal-makeup-no-big-jewelry-up-and-at-the-bus-at-half-past-Satan’s-hour-sensible-flats-office-paper-pusher-slug.

It’s a little unnerving, and it’s been quite a switch. But I’m at heart a grasping, money-grubbing, soulless capitalist, so I content myself with rolling my eyes at all the frumpy women in my office and dyeing my hair as bright a red as I think they’ll allow. Plus, being in front of a computer all day can only do good things for my pristinely alabaster (some people would just call it freakishly sallowly pale) skin.

Most of the systems that we use in my office require that all data be entered in on a Caps lock, which is all very fine until someone sends me a friendly little inter-office e-mail and they forget to take the Caps off. So about four or five times a day I shrink into my chair a little further, feeling thoroughly shrieked at and persecuted by questions such as SEND ME THE GL FOR THAT OUTGOING WIRE. SO HOW ARE YOU DOING SO FAR, HUH? DO YOU LIKE WHERE YOU ARE? ARE YOU FIGURING THINGS OUT? I’M GOING TO USE THIS STAPLE REMOVER TO GENTLY EXTRACT YOUR EYEBALLS FROM YOUR HEAD COMPLETELY INTACT AND MOUNT THEM AS A TROPHY IN THE BREAK ROOM NEXT TO THE LEAN CUISINE. Ok maybe that last one hasn’t been sent (yet), but it’s certainly implied. In order to soothe my rampant paranoia in these cases I’m starting to develop the capability of squinting my eyes and tilting my head a little to the right (akin to how you look at those ISpy 3-D images), to try to pull the harmlessness into the forefront of the image.

People don’t like facts that don’t fit. This is going to sound like a teenage rant against the system, but I’ll try to avoid the clichés like “you don’t know me!” “I’m not just a cog in the machine!” “I’m under no obligation to work for the system!” and “people don’t fit in boxes!” and try to actually address the real issue that bugs many more people than just self-centered teenagers searching for a cause.

Because truth be told, people really don’t like facts that don’t fit, and they despise outliers of uniqueness that interfere in the way that they view a person. They don’t like it, they try to reject it when they can, and when those stray marks inbetween their columns stubbornly won’t be erased away, that is when words like “weird” get thrown about in great earnest.

In fact, I would almost argue, with absolutely nothing to back up this supposition except that it appeals to my poetic nature, that words like weird were invented solely to give a quantifiable position to attributes in people and the universe that are otherwise unattached to any line of reasoning.

People don’t like to see friendships with odd and indefinable dynamics, they don’t like to see a pretty girl that has never been kissed, they don’t like the kid with pink hair to be politically conservative, and they hate to have in-depth conversations about jazz and early rock and have one of the enthusiastic contributors to concluded with a shout-out to Justin Timberlake. I usually use this weakness in people for my little home-job laboratory experiments—I’m like a little kid with matches, and usually nothing is more entertaining than watching someone else’s brain explode from a lack of comprehension of complex personalities—but there are moments when I get so thoroughly exasperated with the awkward look of shock in the other person’s eyes that I want to shake them until all of their supposedly perfectly fitting pieces break loose and get jumbled up somewhere around their knees so that they can be just as confused and confusing as the rest of us without throwing out label lassoes into the primordial soup of contradiction and trying to snare others to pull them out and stick them into their “weird” categories.

Because how arrogant, I almost want to use the word ignorant, is it to suppose that in a universe of infinite possibilities and combinations of events there is any measurably predictive way of how an individual will develop? Of course there are trends, you can pluck patterns out of sheer chaos, but doesn’t the law of large numbers, or some other equation that I’m completely ignorant of but like to reference anyways because it makes me sound smart, provide for the possibility—even the requirement—that every person is going to collect stray bits of likes and dislikes that are uniquely their own?

Whew. There. Was that angsty enough for you? I almost deleted it, it was far too dramatic for my usual blogging fare, but I figured you readers were up to something a little more substantial after such a long fast. And besides, now I can segway into my next rant because I just used the word angst.

My generation is more than a little messed up. Not that there is any generation that doesn’t have their own baggage, but I don’t know if we are fully aware of ours yet. Ex: Luke and I were watching Reality Bites (one of my favorite movies ever) and when Ethan Hawke with no real prompting announced to a table of strangers that his dad was dying of prostate cancer, Luke laughed, because he assumed it was a joke. Because who would randomly volunteer that information? And who wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to proclaim something epically terrible in order to get a gut reaction from their audience, only to retract it moments later as just a ruse?

Don’t get me wrong, the movie also demonstrates that the early 90’s had an overdose of angst and a tendency to take themselves far too seriously, I’m not so far gone to be yearning for that dramatic of a setting. But I don’t know that we really take anything seriously. I know that I personally feel like I need to have a long preamble declaring my sincere intent any time I want to actually discuss something serious, that if I just dived right in I would make the person I was talking to very uncertain and uncomfortable.

And nine times out of ten I revert back to sarcasm or hyperbole moments after an emotional moment, just to escape the consequences of actually settling into a highly charged environment, full of messy things like earnestness and conviction and . . . feelings. Shudder. You see? I just did it again. It’s quite distressing once you put it on your radar. Maybe we do this as a society in reaction to the “emo” minority. We want to be so far removed from that subculture that we have resorted to the gameplan of “nothing is sacred.” We are becoming victims of our own flippancy, not even exercising the contra posting muscles.

People should be aware that when I walk down a hallway or through a room, even if I am ambling along at a regular innocuous pace (well, regular for me, I always do walk crooked), I am actually mapping out all the different ninja moves I could be doing at any given moment with the furniture around me as my obstacles/assisters. This is mostly harmless, or it was harmless until I told all you people about it, but the reason I’m confessing is that for the last week straight every time I’ve walked from my cubicle to the printer I’ve had the almost uncontrollable urge to do a cartwheel.

I’m pretty sure this would be ill-advised. There are many many readily apparent issues with executing such a whim, namely I’m often wearing a skirt, and sometimes heels, and I haven’t tried to do a cartwheel in roughly six years, and I’m supposed to be working on dispelling any uncertainties that my coworkers have about me and my work ethic/sanity. But the impulse isn’t going away!

If you’re calling me “weird” in your head right now, read the above paragraphs and be ashamed of yourself. And then listen to “Li’l Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. Just because it’s a first-rate song.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Inbetween the Lines of a Sane Monologue

Winter sucks. I've been it's defender, it's champion, it's constant companion for so many years, but we've had a final falling out, and the truth must be revealed: winter is a sorry excuse for a season. It throws off my concept of time so that since I never wake up before 11 I get about five hours of daylight, it chaps my lips and face and hair and hands so that I'm not nearly as cuddleable, it makes me an incredibly tiresome mooch to all friends with cars because I just can't bear the idea of being out in the elements, it ruins all of my jeans with the mud streaks from the slush, and I've fallen down on the ice so much I think my butt is getting as misshapen as my head already is.

And to add insult to injury (literal injury, I wasn't kidding about how often I've fallen dow
n), now winter is doing a strip tease that's going to last for at least three months. Friday was an absolutely incredible day; the sun was shining without excess glare, the temperature actually matched the appearance outside my window, the air felt clean and crisp, pretty much there was a rip in the veil between this life and the next and it resulted in that day.

But it is freaking February 23rd. And despite the fact that we kne that that moment in time was pure bliss, we also know with even greater certainty that we're going to have at least 5 more snow days. To this I say humbug. I should now post the disclaimer that my bitterness toward the season probably wouldn't be so pronounced if I had the money to go skiing.

Oh, how I wish I had put my former days of leisure to better use. Says the self-important girl of 22 years. I spent my time in early adolescence doing all sorts of crazy things that I'm glad happened, but the thing that makes me cringe and hate myself is the soundtrack that my life was set to back then!

To this day, I can sing every lyric and provi
de every musical cue for the original *Nsync album. Pretty crazy embarrassing. But even worse? I could do the same for both 98 Degrees CDs, plus the first albums of Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears. Painful, shameful, hateful, it's true.

That was when I had both the time and inclination to sit in my room after dinner and just listen. The inclination is still there, and with my slacker status intact is quite often indulged, but this used to be part of my routine, for crying out loud. And I used to sit and pompously ponder about how these lyrics really spoke to me! Yeah, because a 12-year-old has so much life experience that relates to "Genie in a Bottle."

I just wish that I had had the wisdom in my sinful youth to focus on The Smashing Pumpkins, The Rolling Stones, The Who, AC/DC, or at least a band that I could name without preemptively rolling my eyes. Hell, at this point I would take The Offspring, at least that had a little edge.

Woe be me and my misspent hours memorizing all the wrong tunes. That, kids, is one of the many many reasons why I today have such a complex about not being cool enough. It's a Shurtz family trait already, but the wayward ways of the teeniebopper only serve to torment me all the more.

I was idly texting Jason yesterday and ended up articulating what I believe is my problem with finding datable guys much more succinctly then I ever had before: I'm too messy for the good guys and too principled for the bad eggs. Doesn't actually lead to any solution to the problem, but at least I have it defined now, which helps my brain rest a little bit.

So a few weeks ago I was down and out sick, so sick that the idea of drinking Diet Dr. Pepper was reprehensible to me. Basically I was at death's door. And no it is
not a good idea to try and infect me with the flu just to keep from drinking. So put down the syringe and just keep reading.

From this bout of flu I have discovered that I am attached to my beloved DDP in more than one way: not only do I get headaches from the lack of caffeine, but I think I have adde
d an emotional component to my habit as well. Basically, to my twisted brain, DDP=comfort. Because I really wasn't craving the taste, and I was too drugged up to feel the headaches, but I missed the sound. The kuh-shhhhhh of a newly opened can of perfectly chilled soda.

I have been a soda junkie for so long that I now rely on the consistency of my consumption as a crutch for the mess that is my day-to-day life. Yes, I did notice the crazy-awesome alliteration going on in that last sentence, and it made me very happy.
Just not as happy as I would be with a Diet Dr. Pepper in my hand.

This obversation of mine may explain why I get really defensive when people jump all over me for how unhealthy this habit is. Because my brain doesn't interpret criticism as an attack on aspartame or phenylalanine, instead it sees it as an attempt by others to take away my portable mug-shaped safety blanket. So if I snap the next time you remark on my excesses, please take into account the fact that I'm a crazed person who thinks her best friend is a wholly unnatural liquid. No offense, Becca.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bubbles of Plasticine

I have always heard people reference or complain about living/working under florescent lights, about how it makes them feel sickly or tense, and I just want to tell them to man up and accept this new century. I mean, I've been living in cheap apartments largely lit by florescent tubes for three and a half years. But then there is the rare occasion when I have been up all night and my vision becomes like a horror movie based on the flickering of a bad home video--everything shifts slightly to the left and then back into place at an average of 2.7 milliseconds. That's when I want to go old school and pull out the gas lamps like unto the nightlights that ineffectively watched over the Darling children's sleep in Peter Pan.

Sorry, that reference is probably a little obscure. It's possible I've gotten to that scary place where I could recite that book backwards now that Becca gave me a classy hardcover copy for my birthday. It's too pretty not to read! Plus I really hate homework, and where else would you want to escape other than Neverland? They have ticking crocodiles AND natural light!

I've had a few weeks of searing lyrical moments. Wow could I sound more ridiculous? But that's how to describe it. I've been listening to the old standards once again, to my nearest and dearest friends of 30's-50's jazz, but this time I've been skipping my favorite songs in order to appease my inner weighing system of fairness to give all the songs the same "chance." Which when you think about it is rather ridiculous, it's not like these songs have feelings. But that doesn't really hold much sway with my inner dialogue (yes I meant to put dialogue, not monologue).

And the result of this experiment? I have new favorite songs. It's incredibly strange, but when driving home from work one day--it ought to be clarified for my tough girl persona that this was close to four in the morning after a double shift--and the song "A Kiss To Build A Dream On" made my eyes well up. The wistfulness and simplicity of the plea totally got me! I blame the overt sentimentality of the season. It turns us all to mush--that and the eternally slushy streets that get my jeans wet up to my knees after two minutes outdoors can make one rather easy to squish down.

Walt Whitman said "I celebrate myself." I don't know if I know how to do that. Or if I do celebrate myself, it's from a sideways approach. Basically the way I celebrate what I am from day to day, whatever that may be in the moment, is by celebrating my friends. Because they are by far the best part of me.

Seriously, I know some of the coolest cats in town. Some of them--not Becca--don't even mind my archaic slang that makes me sound like I should be in a movie with Bob Hope (dude that would have been so awesome why oh why wasn't I born in the 20's?!).

Jessica makes fun of me for having all of these little pockets of friends, little groups that stay within their own universe, unaware of their close quarters, with me as the only point in the Vinn diagram that pretends to have anything in common with all of them. But isn't that how it should be for someone like me who on average goes through an existential crises every .6 months? If I can dye my hair for every mood, why can't I have enough corresponding friends to call to make fun of each different color?

I would say that every single one of the friends whose company I seek out regularly have only one thing in common. They can be warm and friendly, socially awkward and hugely judgemental, alienating or clingy, their interests and humors can be all over the map, but the one thing that they all share even if they don't know/like/pay attention to/care for each other is their complete comfort within their own skins. They are all, without exception and regardless of massive difference of behavior, the most unabashedly individual people I know.

And I love it. I love it, I want it, I crave that specific quality from everyone I get close to. So here's looking at you, kids, your self-confidence makes it that much easier for me to pretend that I really mean the "what you see is what you get" attitude that I throw in everyone's face.

And after that little tribute to friendship, I am now going to alienate all three people reading this by saying something that is going to sound incredibly arrogant: Is everyone constantly thinking, or is it just me?

Ok before you click out of this page with a roll of your eyes at my level of self-importance, let me clarify that I did not say I was better at thinking than anyone else. Far from it. Everywhere you look are people who utilize their brains and thought processes to much greater effect than I do--Andy Samberg, Demetri Martin, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are just a few prominent examples (ha, you totally thought I was going to be get all stuffy and name off a bunch of philosophers and authors, didn't ya?).

So the idea is not that I'm the best thinker in the room. The concern is that I can't turn my brain off, and it would be comforting to know that that is a common malady. But empirical data based on my own observations suggest otherwise: i.e., the look of bewilderment from most friends when I launch into another incredibly detailed analysis of why this type of breakfast cereal is better suited for munching on while watching cartoons than the other. I don't know where to stop! My brain isn't a finely tuned machine, it isn't an instrument to be applied with surgical skill, it's an often misfiring constantly running blob that consumes anything and everything in it's path. My brain is the villain in a fifties Armageddon film.

So are there people out there who really have times of non-thought? Not a lack of brain activity, those are people in comas, but do people go through the day and just watch things happen without applying a motive or seeking to deconstruct it's machinations? That sounds like it would be a cool thing to be able to do on command. Perhaps opium is the answer.