Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Don't you dare laugh, even though that entire paragraph was set up to induce a chuckle. It was terrible. If there was an instrumental expression of the kind of oppressive, gummy, muculent atmosphere we were trying to swim through, it would be layers of thrumming didgeridoos, sending out walls of white noise in waves that simulate our own deadened world of endless malicious heat. Overlaying that would be a group of discordant basses getting sawed to bits by their players, much like our minds were rapidly being shredded by the fiery gasps of air we desperately tried to eek out of our infernal atmosphere.
It was bad enough that we tried to eat, talk, move, and entertain in our stifling surroundings, but sleeping was just out of the question. I did everything short of actually dismembering myself to insure that my limbs wouldn't accidentally touch any other part of my body and through that contact be the last bit of friction between me and spontaneous combustion. Not that the conflagration of my fevered extremities would be spontaneous--it was almost inevitable.
You'll notice that in my efforts to capture this atmosphere, not once do I use the word "sultry." This is because any positive connotations present in that word have no place in the airless, bleached-out world that was our house. Sultry is a word you use to describe eating seafood outside while swatting away a cloud of mosquitoes, Peggy Lee's "Fever," or the crowded amphitheater of an outdoor summer rock concert when everyone's enthusiasm for the music makes the press of bodies and slick bare skin only a supplement to the experience.
All of these enticing, amiable nuances were banished from our ravished perception of the world until Jose the AC guy came on Friday and brought back to our scrambled minds the words draft, cognition, moderation, breeze, and animation.
God bless speedy repair service and controlled climates.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
The facts are these: at work when my last pen met its demise--ran out of ink or disappeared into that damn crack in my desk, I can't remember which now--I was in a rush to complete my task and just grabbed the closest one to my desk, a standard blue Bic pen.
This is the root of my drab month. Not only did I continue to use this pen, I used it until it ran out of ink. This is the danger of accepting mediocrity, even for an hour of wire logging: once you temporarily compromise yourself to blandness, you lose the will to assert yourself again (ref. the last two years of my high school career).
I am not a blue Bic pen gal. I'm not much for blue ink ever; I prefer black and red with the occasional green to mix things up. But if it's blue, it had better be smeary and inky and automatically make my messy boy handwriting look more interesting by bleeding everything together into pleasing Rorschach designs. To accept less is to lose the spark, to drop the torch of proclaimed personality in favor of the sputtering penlight of whatever-is-in-front of me. Let that be an inspiration for everyone reading: with enough dedication, neurosis, and sleep deprivation, you too can discover the meaning of life, the universe, and everything by a pen choice. You're so lucky.
Through a couple of mild and honest dissings on my lack of comprehensive knowledge of current bands and the frequent blank looks I have to give my roommate Cassie when she references a top 40 song, I've begun an examination of my music emphasis and the "why" behind it. I demonstrate that I have the patience, interest, and motivation to do a fairly thorough investigation of popular music (with an emphasis on jazz and rock and complete disregard of disco) from 1920-2000, but when the millenium hits I have an inexplicable drop in interest/retained information.
Why is this? I don't hate modern music, Postal Service, The Darkness, Muse, The Killers, Death Cab, The White Stripes, they're all top notch. I just don't have the breadth of overall knowledge or interest that I do in bygone days. Which initially troubled me: am I already one of the old people who just call music today noise? No, that can't be it, I'm the Spirit of Youth personified, how dare I even think such a thing. But I still fretted about the implications until I struck upon an elegant explanation that also works as a description of the motivation for my chosen career/education plan:
I am very interested and intrigued by what is going on currently in music. I really love some specific bands, but there are quite a few trends that I'm equally repulsed by. This can be mirrored in my passion for and Bachelors-in-progress major in International Relations. But in both academics and recreational music, the nature of current events and radio hits is that information is always incomplete. Data is still be collected, subterrainial trends could emerge at any time and upset my whole concept of what I do and do not like about what is going on. Essentially, they lack a clear context by being current.
Now let us turn to music of past decades and my chosen career goal of getting a Ph.D. in Art History. These two are closely linked. I like both music and art on an aesthetic level, but what makes me love them is the understanding of where the artists came from, why and how they chose to change the status quo, how that affected everything around them forever. I need the history to come into play, just a good ten years of perspective, before I get firmly attached and opinionated about what is going on around me. I'm so glad I found an occupation that'll facilitate that over-the-shoulder-longingly look of the world that I have.
I just realized I spent four paragraphs essentially saying that I'm a nostalgic person by nature. Oh well, brevity isn't that great. Also, "All Along the Watchtower" is to Michaelangeo's David in that they're both heavily referenced but worth every moment. Conversely, most songs by the Rolling Stones are to da Vinci's Mona Lisa in that the hype was largely self-perpetuated until the masses were duped into caring.
I think it's cleansing for the soul to at times attempt to be "smooth" and fail utterly. I adopted this philosophical perspective after yesterday's debacle: as I passed my coworker walking in the opposite direction with receipts that belonged to me, I made the motion to snatch them playfully out of her hands without breaking my stride. But I stopped 85% of the way into the action with the concern that maybe that would startle her/we aren't there yet in the playfulness. Unfortunately, she had already correctly read the trajectory of my intended action and tried to hand off said receipts, which I subsequently fumbled in my surprise and then stumbled into a nearby desk.
Like I said, this is all cleansing for the soul--it puts what is important in life at the forefront, like office shoes with just a leeetle traction. It's just too bad that the price for my catharsis was my coworker discovering that I am fundamentally incompetent.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
This has been a frustratingly long week of post attempts. I open the page every day, jot down a couple keywords for incandescently brilliant discourses that are already half-formed in my head, and then . . . I get onto xkcd.com and spend five hours clicking the "random" button. This is the final proof: it's out there, innocently lurking on a random server, enticing me with guarantees to delight me again and again. My digital kryptonite has been discovered. For someone as low-tech as I generally am, I didn't believe there was a temptation on the webbytubes strong enough to distract me from something so enthralling as this site that is solely commited to continuous minute examinations and sideways praise for myself. But by the sheer volume of links I have shared from that website in the past week, I've had to face the facts. I, too, am a vulnerable, easily impressionable, obsessive compulsive mortal who has an ever growing appetite for little nuggets of wildly nerdy and sarcastic observances.
Sometimes I pity my future children for the influences their parent has been under in her youth, and how that is going to inevitably damage them. Sometimes. Mostly I just think about the ridiculous names I'm going to stick them with just to make sure they're required to develop a personality to pull it off.
So, Canada Day was last Thursday. And I love me some Canadians--my dad's one, many of my favorite relatives hail from there, visiting there has been some of the best times I've had. Alberta could take Quebec any day of the week, by the way. But with that all said and done--and while you'll frequently hear me say that I'm half Canadian in an effort to obtain some distinctiveness--I'm now going to have to trash them.
Not to say that they aren't a nice little country. But when you put Canada up against US for sheer balls-awesome history, US takes them in a single 20 year period. Because the story of the revolt of the colonies under British rule and subsequent successful establishment of themselves as an independent nation? Freakin sweet. I've read an embarrassing number of biographies and historical accounts about the founding; nothing gets me as riled up as North America in the late 18th century. And that's all before you factor in the musical 1776, which aids by adding a snazzy soundtrack to the events surrounding the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
And Canada? Not a catchy tune to be found about their gradual and respectful steps towards autonomy from their benevolent and still revered ruler. There just isn't anything very stirring about a series of treaties that released the United Kingdom from the obligation of keeping Canada financially solvent and permitted Canada to take control of it's destiny after it ever so politely and docilely requested it. So, yeah, love western Canada, but USA all the way!
And if any of you humble readers take from this the opportunity to post a snarky, condescending and/or sardonic comment about the founding fathers/US history at large/the despicable naivete of those who get so excited about such a failed nation, I swear I may go Cujo on you. I was speaking in a deliberately histrionic display of my real patriotic feelings because as a political science major I can never ever get away from those who validate their puny, grasping existence by making cutting and belittling remarks about events of the past. I'm not saying that as a citizen you shouldn't be informed of the real history of any time period, quite the opposite, but I do say that I find nothing wrong with taking positive lessons from my history and choosing to emulate admirable moments of imperfect lives. Ok, that's all for the venomous lashout at all past classmates that equated intellectual superiority with how little idealism they personally hold on to.
Do you know what I love? Really fantastic science fiction writers. Like our comrade Isaac Asimov. The singular quality about great sci-fi writers and great sci-fi shows (shout out to Star Trek, word to your mother) is that they take the world, throw it lightyears into the future, and bust the restraints of human potential right open. In the future, nothing is outside of humanity's grasp. Former ethical, social, medical, and technological shortcomings have been tweaked, twiddled with, and resolved into neat little packages. It's such a refreshing outlook on the ever-present-but-forever-in-the-future "what comes next." My friend Grant reminded me of this love of mine by having me read Asimov's essay "The Last Question," and my mind has been cycling around my admiration for the strength of his optimism ever since. I also maintain that it's only the true storytellers, like Asimov, who choose to give ultimate power to Thought instead of a more mundane tactile force.
On Friday I was reminded of yet another long-lost love of mine. It was an incredibly high-stress day at work: everything that could go wrong did, and even though I had my own specific task relatively in hand I was feeling the pressure of every coworker's stressed-to-the-limit auras. Laugh all you want, but put that many panicking individuals in cubicles and try telling me that there isn't an almost visual presence of their collective freak out. So anyways, I'm buckling under the pressure, blood is pumping far too fast and vessels in my eye sockets are bursting under the strain, when I was inspired to add an opera channel to my Pandora station.
Wow, what a moment of clarity. It's an even better match than listening to hard rock when you're in a rage or country when you have a fit of unbearable melodramatic cheesiness. Not only do the vocal expressions in opera emote on a scale no tiny individual could ever achieve alone, the orchestral arrangements sweep whatever messy emotions you've been unsuccessfully dealing with right out of your system. Crisis averted, I typed up my little wires in a bubble of serenity while lovers were betrayed, fathers perished, and villains triumphantly travailed in my headphones.
I'm going to close with this beautiful parody of Forrest Gump. Not because I agree with the sentiment--my world view has far too much bounceability to be so exquisitely cynical--but because it's a quality bit of writing by my close personal friends of the X-files 'verse:
"Life... is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable, because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So, you're stuck with this indefinable whipped-mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there's nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while, there's a peanut butter cup, or an English toffee. But they're gone too fast, the taste is fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits, filled with hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts, and if you're desperate enough to eat those, all you've got left is an empty box, filled with useless brown paper wrappers."