Thursday, May 19, 2016

Remembering Together

          Alright so this is a very long and VERY "me" piece of writing.  I should preface this by saying this is not an actual conversation I have had, but it does reflect conversations I have had in the past and things that I have been thinking about of late.  Enjoy.

Remembering Together

“Remember the episode of the Simpsons where they go to Itchy and Scratchy Land?”

“I remember. My son is also named Bort”
        
“And remember when the robots went all crazy?”

“I do

“I saw this old movie called Westworld.  That’s what it was referencing.  I didn’t get it when I was a kid”

“Yeah I saw that movie on cable a long time ago.  It had that guy from King and I in it.”

“Yul Brynner, yeah.  I think Yul Brynner was a gypsy or whatever"

“What?”

“I think I read somewhere that Yul Brynner was a gypsy.”

“You mean Romani.”

“Yeah ok Romani.  I think I read Yul Brynner is Romani.”

“I thought he was like Mongolian or something.”

“Maybe he has a grandma.”

“That makes me feel weird about King and I now. I didn't realize that part was whitewashed.”

“Are Romani totally white?”

“I don’t know, that’s a good question.  Maybe they aren’t actually technically white.”

“Well it’s possible that he wasn’t like 100% white.  In either case I mean he isn’t Thai so him playing this king of Siam is still a little weird.”

“Agreed”

“Maybe not as bad as Charlton Heston playing a Mexican.”

“When did Charlton Heston play a Mexican?”

“That movie Touch of Evil with Orson Wells.”

“I haven’t seen it.”

“Neither have I.  I just remember he plays a Mexican in it.  I think they refer to it in some Tarantino movie.”

“Ah.”

“Remember when that kid Matt in high school used to tell us he had a girlfriend in Mexico and he would show us pictures of her but it was really just an ad for jeans that he cropped and put into his wallet?”

“I remember.  That was like a full on George Glass situation.”

The Brady Bunch Movie is seriously underrated.  It was surprisingly self aware.”

“The Charlie’s Angels movie was also not completely awful.”

“Yeah I would watch that movie if it was on TNT and I was bored.  Or like at the dentist.”

“I wouldn’t turn it off.”

“No, totally.  There are a lot of movies like that where I wouldn’t really say they were good but like if they happen to be on I would watch them even with commercials or flip back and forth.”

“Yeah which is totally weird because I would never actually say, ‘Hey let’s sit down and watch Starship Troopers’ but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that movie at least 3 times on cable.”

“Ever since I dropped cable I watch fewer shitty movies.”

“That’s what I mean.  Like when you have to actually select and watch an entire movie you don’t do it, but if you were scrolling through and it was there then you would.  Convenience.”

“It is also a little embarrassing.”

“Watching shitty movies?”

“Yeah it’s like always there looking at you.”

“What?”

“Netflix remembers your viewing history.”

“Ahhh”

“I mean it is one thing watching Tomb Raider when it is on Syfy, but it is crappy to be reminded that you watched Tomb Raider every time you turn on Netflix.  Plus it screws with your viewing algorithm and recommends a bunch of other shit you don’t want to watch.”

“I just created another profile.”

“Huh?”

“I just created another profile for shitty movies.  If I want to watch a shitty movie I open up the profile called ‘Bob’ and then it doesn’t mess with my queue.”

“You actually have a whole profile to watch shitty movies?”

“I mean I don’t do it that often. But yeah…”

“Remember MST3K?”

“I freaking loved the shit out of that show.”

“I went back and watched an episode online and it wasn’t as funny as I remember it being.”

“Maybe it was an off one.  There were off ones.  Was it Mike or Joel?”

“It was Joel.”

“Hmm”

“It was an ep I remember being really funny. Teenagers From Outer Space.

“Yeah that was a good one.”

“It wasn’t that funny.”

“Huh.”

“I mean it had funny moments but I found myself looking at my phone half the time.”

“Weird.”

“This thing online rated it as one of the top episodes of the show.”

“Maybe it’s just funnier the first time.”

“Maybe.  I think I was like 10 when I saw it.”

“I remember a lot of things were funny when I was 10”

“Is that why there are 3 fucking Chipmunks movies?”

“Yeah I mean my cousin laughed hysterically when we watched the Yogi Bear on DVD over Thanksgiving so I think so.”

“How can you know if something is actually funny, or if you are just young and think everything is funny?”

“I dunno, I mean there are grown adults who watch Adam Sandler movies.”

“I like The Wedding Singer. I remember liking Billy Madison when I was in high school but I haven’t seen it in a while.”

“No I mean like recent Adam Sandler movies.”

“Jesus”

“Yeah.  I mean grown ass adults watched and enjoyed Pixels. I don’t even know how to explain that.”

“I haven’t seen it.”

“I mean I haven’t seen it either. Why the fuck would I sit through Pixels?  I don’t need to sit through Pixels to tell you Pixels is terrible.”

“Would you watch it on TNT or an airplane?”

“No.  No, I’m pretty sure that I would rather look at the Sky Mall catalog and made fun of the wacky shit in there than watch Pixels even if I was on a 5 hour flight and I didn’t have a book to read.”

 “I remember hearing they don’t have Sky Mall anymore. I haven’t flown anywhere in a while.”

“No I think it came back.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure.”

“I remember one time I saw this thing in there that was like a dog dressed as a butler but it was a table.” 

“Do people actually buy that shit?”

“I don’t know.  I mean I feel like if I became a billionaire I would buy like everything from the Sky Mall catalog just because it would be totally hilarious.”

“I’ve always wanted one of those bars that looks like a globe.  I nearly bought one with my tax refund.”

“If you actually did that, you would be my hero.”

“I would need to get a smoking jacket and a leather chair.”

“This is like a If You Give a Mouse a Cookie deal.”

“Oh man I remember that book.”

“That mouse was a dick.”

“That mouse was such a dick!  And the little boy kept capitulating to his every whim.  Like no fucking mouse I will not get you some goddamn tape, why don’t you appreciate what you fucking have.  You are a mouse that wears goddamn overalls, which is a step up from the other mice already.”

 “I read some weird books as a kid.”

“There are some weird fucking kid’s books that is for sure.”

Rainbow Fish was another shitty book.”

“YES!  Oh my god thank you.  Rainbow Fish is the worst fucking book.”

“Worse than The Giving Tree?

“Aw I remember loving Shel Silverstein.”

“Yeah I mean I love Shel Silverstein too like his poems and stuff.  Did you know he wrote that Johnny Cash song “A Boy Named Sue”?  Dude was really cool.  But that doesn’t stop The Giving Tree from being objectively terrible.”

“How so?”

“I mean it’s like the mouse all over again.  Kid keeps taking and taking and the tree keeps giving and giving until it has nothing left and is a fucking stump for the old man to sit on.  That fucking blows.  That is like the definition of a toxic relationship.” 

“Do you remember the book I Love You Forever?”

“Yeah, vaguely.”

“So I’m looking for a book to buy my friend who is pregnant and I go into the store and I remember my mom reading that book to my brother so I pick it up and read it, right.”

“Yeah?”

“So the mom in the book rocks the baby and sings that’s all normal.  But then the mom like crawls into his house when he is an adult and picks up this grown man.  It was fucking creepy as hell.”

“Jesus.”

“I’m pretty sure the boy grew up to be Norman Bates. Do you watch the Psycho TV show?”

“Psycho TV show?”

“Yeah um.. Bates Motel I think.”

“Never heard of it.  What channel is it on?”

“You know I don’t even know.  I want to say AMC?”

“I guess that’s the other thing with not having cable I don’t even know about all these shows.  How many seasons has it been on?”

“I don’t even know if it is still on I just remember that it was a thing.”

“Gotcha.  There are just so many shows”

“Yeah, agreed.”

“Like I feel like I am a pretty with it sort of pop culturally savvy person and there are legit so many shows that everybody watches that I have never seen a single episode of.”

“Grey’s Anatomy”

“YES!  Ok, like I watched an episode of E.R. back in the day, but I have never seen a single fucking episode of Grey’s Anatomy and it has been on like well over a decade.”

“There are so many hospital and cop and firefighter shows.”

“I can’t even remember all of them.  Why do they keep making the same shows?”

“Drama”

“I guess.  Other people’s lives aren’t interesting?”

“Well that’s where you get reality TV.”

“Fuck don’t even get me started on reality TV.”

“You know I watched the first season of the Bachelor?  Like I was actually all into it and everything.”

“Really?”

“Yeah I mean my mom was watching and then I kind of just started watching when I was over there one day and then I kind of got into it and wanted to know what happened.”

“I get that.  The ones that are competitions I kind of get.  You want to know who wins.  I remember I watched the first 3 seasons of American Idol.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah I mean you know you can have opinions about who you think is better and all that.  The romance ones are no different from the Dating Game or any of those old shows.”

“Oh man I remember watching old episodes of The Dating Game and Hollywood Squares on TV Land.”

“Remember when they tried to bring back Hollywood Squares?”

“With Whoopie Goldberg, right?  Yeah I vaguely remember that.  I used to watch old game shows all the time when I was in high school, isn’t that random?”

“I heard they are bringing back The Match Game.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. With Alec Baldwin”

“Oh yeah I think I remember hearing that too. They keep bringing back all these old shows.”

“Fuller House.”

“Ok seriously can we talk about this?  Are there people that are really excited about Fuller House?”

“I guess?”

“Did you see The Aristocrats?”

“I remember Bob Saget being all dirty is that what you are talking about?”  

“Yeah that was a pretty funny movie.”

“Yeah but it’s like that kind of funny where you just say outrageous things and it isn’t actually that funny.”

“Really, you don’t think that movie was funny?

“I mean not really, it isn’t really my thing.  I’m not saying that I need comedians to be clean.  Louis CK is dirty and he is funny but he’s funny because he’s funny not because he says something like “the dog ate the man’s cum” or something gross and that’s supposed to be the entire joke” 

“I remember hearing he is kind of sleaze.”

“Yeah I heard that too.  Which is kind of shitty.  But nobody’s accused him of actually raping anybody right?”

“No I think he just like whipped his dick out or something”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s fucking gross.”

“Yeah”

“Real question are there any male celebrities that aren’t completely gross?  I feel like I remember hearing something kind of awful about everybody”

“Your fave is problematic”

“Huh?”

“It’s an internet thing.  Like your favorite celebrity always has something wrong with them. Like they said something about trans people or they hit their wives back in the 80s or they wore a Native American headdress or said gypsy instead of Romani”

“Am I problematic?”

“I think you are kind of marginally problematic, but you aren’t a celebrity so I don’t think it is really that bad.” 

“Can you still enjoy the work of problematic people?”

“Except for Bill Cosby and Woody Allen, yeah I mean I’m pretty sure that literally everyone is problematic.”

“Except for Mark Ruffalo and Oscar Isaac.”

“Yeah I’m pretty sure that Mark Ruffalo and Oscar Isaac are pretty perfect.”

“I want Mark Ruffalo to be my dad.” 

“I remember seeing pictures of him with his kids and yeah Mark Ruffalo would be an awesome dad but it would be kind of awkward because I want to bone him.”

“Really? He is like 50.”

“Yeah that’s not old enough to be my dad.”

“If Mark Ruffalo had a kid in high school, his kid would be our age.”

“That’s weird”

“If I had a kid in high school my kid would be in high school right now and could be having kids.  I could be a grandma.”

“Are you fucking high right now?”

“No”

“You are sounding kind of high right now”

“No, I’m just saying that if I had a kid at 17 then my kid would be 16 right now”

“Jesus fucking Christ”

“Right?”

“Ok yeah I’m sorry I hadn’t even thought about that before”

“Yeah it’s ok.  I only thought of it the other day because when I went to buy gum at the gas station there was that thing at the counter that said in order to buy cigarettes you had to have been born in 1998”

“People born in 1998 can buy cigarettes?!”

“See”

“Jesus”

“Man, I remember 1998”

“The Wedding Singer came out in ‘98.  If Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore had a kid in the Wedding Singer the kid could buy cigarettes” 

“That movie was set in the 80s. Their kid would be like our age.”

“Ok fine if Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler had a baby in Armageddon their baby could buy cigarettes now if there wasn't another asteroid that destroyed earth in between”

“It would be kind of shitty if Armageddon and Deep Impact took place in the same universe.  Like asteroids just keep hitting Earth again and again."

"Damn you asteroids!!!"

"Mulder and Scully’s kid could buy cigarettes”

“I think she got pregnant in a later season”

“I don’t remember”

“Did you watch the new ones?”

“Eh I watched a few of them but not all”

“There were only like 6”

“It just wasn’t as good as I remembered.”

“It’s never as good as you remember is it?”

“I don’t think it is”

“It is weird what we choose to remember and what we choose to forget”

“I mean I feel like the newer X-Files episodes were just not as good”

“No I mean just in general, we remember some things but don’t remember other things”

“Yeah ok I get what you are saying”

“And it isn’t even the important things that you remember all the time like I can remember that Armageddon came out in 1998 but I can’t remember the name of all my teachers I had that year”

“Michael Bay was your real teacher”

“I’m serious”

“So am I.  I learned a lot about life from Michael Bay”

“Shut the fuck up”

“Sorry. Jesus”

“Ok but seriously why do I remember Armageddon but I can’t remember a single book I read in 1998.  I mean ok Armageddon, going back to what we were talking about before, is like the PERFECT example of a TNT movie that I would watch the shit out of, but like I would never say that Armageddon is an actually good movie.  But I’m pretty sure I read books in 1998 and I can’t remember for the life of me a single fucking book I read.  And I know they were probably better than Armageddon

“How do you know?”

“What do you mean how do I know?  I know.  I mean I am sure that there were books I read in English class that were better than Armageddon.  Oh wait, I remember one.  Ok I read Of Mice and Men. Of Mice and Men is objectively better than Armageddon.

Of Mice and Men is, in fact, better than Armageddon but… IS it though?”

“Are you sure you aren’t high?  Of course it is fucking better than Armageddon.  This is a stupid question.”

“Why do you think Of Mice and Men is better than Armageddon?”

“I don’t even know how to answer this question.  It is a classic work of literature.”

“Why?”

“What?”

“Why is it a classic work of literature?”

“It was written by fucking John Steinbeck it is a classic work of literature.  Jesus, what is this conversation even.”

“Ok but if you didn’t know who John Steinbeck was and you just picked up this book with no cover at all and you read it, why would you think that Of Mice and Men is better than Armageddon.

“I don’t know.  I don’t even remember that much about it except Lennie strangles those rabbits or whatever”

“Lennie killed a puppy.  And the boss’ wife.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.  He is talking about tending the rabbits when George shoots him in the back of the head.”

“Shit, I don’t remember.”

“I always thought it was kind of shitty because Lennie was obviously mentally disabled and probably should have gotten help or something.  I don’t know why George didn’t have him taken to a mental institution.”

“Yeah”

“So anyway, I mean yes it is a well written book and it is an ‘important’ book but I wouldn’t call it good.  I would watch Armageddon 5 times on TNT before I read Of Mice And Men again.”

“Ok I kind of see your point.”

“The problem is with memory.  You remember the book being good and so you just say ‘it was good’ as if it was a fact.  But was it really good or do you just remember it being good, maybe somebody told you it was good and so you believed it?”

“Ok but are you really saying that Armageddon is better than Of Mice and Men?”

“Better than what?  What does better mean?  You have a Netflix profile for movies that are bad, but is your decision to watch those movies bad?  Could you have made a choice that was better?”   
  
“I mean yeah, probably.”

“See I don’t know about that.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot ever since I saw that MST3K episode.  Was the episode just not as good as I remember it being? Have I changed to make it not as funny anymore?  Is my attention span shorter?  If it is on this list of best episodes and I don’t find it funny is there something wrong with me?”

“Maybe you just don’t find it funny.”

“Exactly.  So it isn’t the best for me.  It isn’t any better than any other show all because people say that it is.”

“I kind of get your point.  The other month I went to an art museum with a friend of mine and I noticed that there were certain works of art that I thought were only so so but then when I looked at the little placard and it said they were by like Rembrandt or something I thought that maybe I just wasn’t… I dunno that I just didn’t understand what made them good.”

“Yeah and that’s the thing.  Maybe they weren’t good.  If you didn’t remember who Rembrandt was then maybe you would be able to just view the art objectively and say, ‘meh.’ But because you do remember who Rembrandt is, you automatically assume that Rembrandt equals good and your opinions aren’t valid.  That is bullshit.” 

“Ok but I feel like there are certain things that are objectively terrible.  You aren’t going to talk me into watching Pixels

“Nobody would ever force anybody to watch fucking Pixels.  No, actually I do agree that there are some things that are objectively terrible, I just don’t know that there are things that are objectively good.  I think finding things that everyone agrees are good without any bias are harder to find than things that are objectively terrible.” 

“Hashtag Oscars so white”

“EXACTLY.  The whole awards process is subjectivity if I’ve ever seen it.”

“Did you watch the Oscars this year?”

“No I don’t have TV, remember? I only have Netflix and Hulu”

“Right.  Yeah you didn’t miss all that much.”

“I didn’t think so either.  I mean I can see the highlights online.”

“The Mad Max costume design lady was kind of badass”

“Yeah I saw that.  She wore like a biker jacket or something.”

“Yeah that chick is freaking life goals”

“Do you remember when Bjork wore that swan?”

“Was that 98 again?”

“No that was 2001”

“Really, 2001?”

“Yeah. March. It was a simpler time.” 

“You know we are going to have another Clinton presidency, right?”

“The 90s are alive.” 

“25 things only teens in the 90s remember.  Number 5 will surprise you.”

“Is number 5 the new fucking Independence Day movie?”

“Ugh god why is that a thing?”

“Because we like remembering”

“We do, don’t we”

“Yeah I mean I feel like the whole thing with our generation… and no I will never call us millennials because millennials are these kids who were born in 98 and can just buy cigarettes now… The thing with our generation is that we are kind of obsessed with remembering.”

“Remember Alf?  He’s back!  In Pog form!”

“Even that is a memory.  We spend a lot of time remembering”

“We do.”

“Do you think when we are in our 80s in a retirement home they will have Simpsons TV nights like how old people today watch Matlock?” 

“Well, now I do.”

“I can’t remember the last time I watched a new episode of the Simpsons”

“The Simpsons is 27 years old.  If Lisa Simpson started the show at 8 years old and had a kid when she was 18, Lisa Simpson’s kid would be 17.  Lisa could be a grandma now.  Lisa would be 35.”

“Now who’s high?” 

“I like remembering with you.”

“I like remembering with you too”

“It’s fun to remember together”

“It is”





Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Laziness

When I was younger, I was VERY into theater.  Wait.. no, I feel like I need to go back even further...

My voice is loud. I am loud.  I am a loud person. I have the ability to project my voice on a stage without the need for mics.  I have always been loud.  I cannot recall a time in my life when I have not been loud.  Even when I was self conscious, I was still loud.  I can't not be loud.  It is a part of me. When I was very young especially, I had a desire to get attention, perform, be the star. This made me louder.  I starred in several productions in elementary school, I attended theater camps, I put on plays and stories for my parents.  Once I even charged my parents to come see a circus that me and my friends put on in our backyard.   Oh right, yeah I went to clown camp.  I legit went to a clown camp.  That was a thing. In second grade I starred in a play about this ghost who was haunting this old lady.  I played both the girl, Julie, and her grandmother.  I did an old lady voice and everything.  7 years old and I was already Eddie Murphy-ing it up in multiple roles in the same show. In 4th grade I starred as Calamity Jane and sang in our school's production of Tall Tales and Heroes. I wore cap guns holstered at my hip and sang in a Southern accent.  I was 9.

Do you remember Emma Watson in the first Harry Potter movie?  How she was so incredibly insufferable and enunciated every. single. line?  Here's a refresher:

That was me AS FUCK. Ask anybody who knew me when I was a kid and you will know it to be true.  Which is why I identified so strongly with Hermione when I read the books and saw the movies when I was older, though I never really appreciated my Hermione-ishness until fairly recently.  Maybe it takes age or time or having a kid for you to really appreciate how irritating you were when you were a child yourself.  But that's okay.  I digress

Anyway, "theatricality" began to affect my ordinary speech even from a young age.  The world's a stage as the Bard said, and I took that rather literally, though I hadn't read any Shakespeare yet.  I found that I wasn't terrible at doing accents.  I would hear them on TV or in movies and I would try to copy them.  A lot of the time I would do this in the privacy of my room, creating stories in my head and acting them out to myself.  But sometimes those accents would come out in regular conversation. Just little things here or there.  There were times I wouldn't just talk, I would make pronouncements. I used my hands a lot.  I wanted to be heard.  I lived on attention. I did well in school.  I did well in school without really trying.  I was happy.

Where am I going?  For the longest time I used to say that it was my insecurities that prevented me from doing things. That was true to an extent.  I was teased a lot in middle school, I did have lower self esteem than was healthy, I did feel crippled by self doubt.  I don't have those same insecurities I do when I was younger, I like myself in a way I never did in the past.  As those layers are peeled off, as I took away the excuses, it became harder and harder to deny the underlying truth of myself, of acknowledging that it wasn't just these other things that were causing my problems, it was me. A few weeks ago I posted about how my insecurities were what stopped me from trying, from putting myself out there, from continuing in theater or choir.  That was a partial truth, maybe even an outright lie. The real truth is that trying is hard.  When I was younger, it was enough to be a little precocious, to be loud, to be silly to get attention, to get praise.  School was easy for me. I could BS an assignment in no time at all.  I didn't really want to try, I didn't want to do more work than was necessary.  I didn't take theater in high school as an elective, not because I was afraid of judgement, but because it wasn't an honors class and I wanted to keep my GPA up.  When I auditioned for plays I brought my old bad theatrical habits I had learned when I was a child and they weren't enough for to get speaking roles, I just wasn't that good.  Instead of learning how to act, I became discouraged that I couldn't miraculously get a part without trying.  I told myself I only wanted a background part because I didn't want to get made fun of, but the truth is I would have LOVED to have a starring role, but didn't want to put in any of the work or effort necessary to make it happen.  Same thing with choir.  I didn't practice, I didn't learn, I didn't want to make an effort.  My natural singing voice has a nice tone, but I didn't want to learn how to make it better, I didn't want to hear criticism, I never asked my parents to give me private voice lessons, I didn't want to try.  I like to tell myself that it was because I was afraid, but really it was because I was lazy: I didn't want to put in the work and then have the possibility of failure, I didn't want to make more of an effort.

When I was in college I studied Art History, ancient art in particular.  I had lofty ambitions of being an archaeologist or professor.  I found out Junior year that all the graduate programs I was interested in for Art History required a passing knowledge of one or more foreign languages.  I had taken one semester of Italian and I only got a B-.  It was hard.  I didn't keep trying.  I didn't learn a language.  Realizing this, I ended up looking into what I could do.  I became a librarian.  None of the grad programs had a language requirement.  I like to tell people that I made this decision to become a librarian based on this yearning to help people, my love of books.  That is true, but only partially.  I became a librarian because after realizing I couldn't continue in Art History without doing more work than I had wanted to, I felt like I needed to choose SOMETHING and I found that Library Science was a field that gave me the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of people through my love of knowledge and literature.  I became a children's librarian in particular because I loved kids, I loved kids books, and I loved the idea of doing storytime: of performing on a stage with very limited stakes.  Storytime was, and is, continually the easiest part of my job.  30 minutes of performance several times a week is just enough to give me the high I need from performance, but without any of the negatives: I get no judgement from children.

People reward others for sharing their insecurities, their fear.  Depression is something that people can empathize with and understand, fear is something that can be overcome and triumphed over.  I am not depressed anymore.  I am still lazy.  Nobody gives you a medal for laziness, nobody tells you it is ok to be lazy and supports you when you are lazy the way they would if you told them you suffered from depression.  I don't have a medical condition, I have a terminal case of sloth, and I realize now that I always have.  It is funny, but admitting to yourself that you are just lazy and not depressed can be a very challenging thing.  After all, having been depressed in the past, they have similar symptoms:  It is hard to get up in the morning, I'm not putting in my full effort at work.  It is only when I really sat and thought about it, that I realized that no, I'm just lazy.

Now I feel like "lazy" needs a qualifier.  What I mean by lazy is not that I am not doing anything at all, but that I know, I know myself enough to know, when I am putting in my full effort and when I am not.  When I tell people that I am away from the house from 7:30 in the morning until 6:15 in the evening 3-4 days a week and 9:45 in the morning to 8:30 in the evening one day a week, and that I'm a divorced mother of a 5 year old living on my own, a lot of them will tell me: but then how can you be lazy?  I know.  I know I could be more productive with my time, I know that I could be taking a class, working out, learning Spanish, writing, doing something instead of hanging out and watching TV with my boyfriend, that I could be doing more with my library but I don't feel motivated, I know.   Putting in the effort, trying, is hard.  So instead of trying I just complain.  Which nobody likes.  I don't even like it.  But I do it.  My mother likes to say that I am my own harshest critic.  She says this as though it is a bad thing.  She says it as though having high expectations and not meeting them is ok.  I don't know if that it necessarily true.

I think the problem is I was a smart kid.  I was a smart kid and people told me I was smart, that I was talented.  I think people telling me I was smart and talented when I was a kid made me think that being smart and talented was enough to get by.  If I had to try then I wasn't smart.  If I failed I wasn't talented. I don't think anybody ever really told me that mastery of anything takes practice, takes time, takes work.  I have fantasies about being a published author, I have fantasies about being a master of kung fu, I have fantasies about magically being the star of a show.  Magic is bullshit.  Some people have a natural talent, but even people with natural talents cultivate those talents. It isn't enough to be unafraid to put yourself out there, you also have to learn.  That is what I am learning.  I am learning that I need to learn.  I am learning that natural intelligence and ability has gotten me here, to where I am now, but if I do want to do something more, be something more, than I can't just skate by without effort.  I don't have anybody else to motivate me.  I need to motivate myself.

So.  So I've decided to try to stop complaining.  Perhaps if I force myself to stop complaining maybe I can actually do something.  I don't know what the something is yet.  This writing, forcing myself to write, is a start but it isn't enough.  I need to challenge myself, push myself.  I need to do the things that are hard.  I need to write when I am tired, I need to practice my ukulele if I want to be able to do more than play a handful of simple songs, I need to study or learn if I want to get better, I need to not be so damn lazy.  I need to stop settling.  I need to stop taking the easiest path, the path of least resistance, the road frequently traveled, the comfortable.  I need to be uncomfortable.  Maybe that's it. Maybe that is it more than laziness.  I need to stop being comfortable.  Comfortable is great if you don't want to go anywhere or do anything, but it requires discomfort to do something more.  I need to stop taking the comfortable path and try the difficult, the unknown, the uncertain, the uncomfortable. It took me getting a divorce to realize that I could live on my own, that I could take care of myself, that I could be me.  It took that external factor to make me see the truth of what I could accomplish.  I don't want another external factor to force my hand again.  I need to force my own hand, I need to make myself uncomfortable. I need to try and fail.  I need to not be so damn lazy.  Wish me luck

Thursday, April 28, 2016

On Belief

      A while back, I wrote a post about the challenges of being an atheist Jew raising a kid.  That post was mostly about the importance of preserving cultural heritage while at the same time acknowledging that I do not believe in god and it is not necessary for me to encourage that belief in my child.  But lately, I have come to realize that the discussion regarding belief is even more broad than that.  We expect children to believe little lies, to believe in magic, to believe in the powers of the imagination.   The real question is, why?
   
I will never get this 
      Most adult Christians I know do not believe in Santa Claus. I'm not going to argue the existence or divinity of Jesus, that is neither here nor there.  Even the most religious Christians I know do not believe in Santa Claus.  In fact, many are upset that the notion of Santa has taken over the *real* meaning for Christmas, that of the birth of their Lord.  So why do we perpetuate this myth?  Why do grown adults dress up as Santa, take their children to visit Santas in the mall?  Let's take religion out of the equation entirely.  Many children when presented with an adult in a Batman costume, will believe this person to be the actual Batman.  Many children when taken to Disneyland to get their pictures taken with actors in princess costumes, are told that these are the actual princesses and they believe.  They ask the princesses where their horses are, they ask Batman how Robin is doing.  The adults in these situations, both the adults in costumes and the parents of the children, perpetuate the myth that these are the actual heroes, the actual characters from their stories.

     A few months ago, for my daughter's 5th birthday, my parents and I took her to Disneyland.  My daughter has long lost interest in Disney princesses, in the idea of princesses entirely.  Whereas even just a year ago she claimed that the Elsa at her friend's birthday party was the real Elsa and the Elsa that she saw at Disneyland was pretend, she now held no illusions:  those princesses were ladies in costumes.  HOWEVER, when my daughter participated in the Jedi training institute, she really and truly believed that she was using the powers of the Force, that the Force was real, that Darth Vader was real, that Chewbacca and Han Solo and Finn and Rey were all 100% absolutely real, they just lived in space.  The reason?  Well, they were played by real people.  The Disney princesses were pretend, according to her, because they were cartoons.  That as much she understood.  But films with real actors?  That was real.  I tried to explain to her that it was all pretend, but it never really sank in. I would tell her it was pretend, but she didn't really understood what that meant.

     A few weeks ago The Force Awakens came out on DVD.  She had already seen the film 3 times in the theaters and had occasional nightmares about it, despite the fact that she loved it.  Kylo Ren was scary.  I tried to reassure her that it was all made up, but despite that she would have bad dreams. We watched the film together on DVD and she seemed fine during the film, but when it came time to go to bed, she told me she couldn't sleep for fear of having another nightmare about Kylo Ren.  Instead of telling her once again that it was all made up, I showed her.  I pulled up the "Please Mr. Kennedy" song from Inside Llewyn Davis where Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, and Justin Timberlake sing together.

     "See," I said, "This is Oscar Isaac.  He is an actor.  In Star Wars he plays Poe, but in this movie he plays a singer.  This is Adam Driver.  He plays Kylo Ren.  In this movie he plays a singer too.  In real life Oscar and Adam are friends."
   
This random picture of
Adam Driver helped
my daughter stop having
nightmares. 
     Then I showed her more pictures of Adam Driver taken by paparazzi when he was walking down the street, pictures of Adam Driver wearing normal clothes, pictures of Adam Driver doing press for the movie.

     "See Adam goes to work every day and he puts on a costume, just like you have your costumes, and he plays pretend and people take pictures with a camera.  Then at the end of the day Adam goes home to his house or his trailer, which is like a big RV like your grandpa has, and he heats up his food in the microwave, and he goes poop.  Adam Driver is just a regular person who gets paid money to dress up and pretend."

     "But how does he use the Force?" she asked me, "What about the real Jedi?"

     "Do you really want to know?" I asked her.  I wasn't sure.  Should I really ruin everything, ruin her imagination, destroy her belief entirely?

     "There is no such thing as the Force.  It is pretend.  One day a long time ago, a man named George Lucas thought of a movie called Star Wars.  And he wrote the story.  And then people dressed up in costumes and pretended his story."

     "But when I was at Disneyland we all worked together to use the Force to raise the temple thing," she replied.

     "It was an elevator.  A man in the back pushed a switch and it made the elevator go up and down."
   
      The next day after she woke up (after having no nightmares, I might add) I showed her the special features on the Star Wars DVD.  She watched with rapt attention as people built the sets, as they used wires to throw people across the room, as they used computers to make spaceships fly through the sky.  She watched as actors talked about how they got ready for their roles, how they felt when they started working on Star Wars because they were such big fans already.  She watched as engineers constructed puppets, masks, costumes, droids.  She was positively fascinated.  I thought I was taking something away from her, destroying her innocence somehow.  Instead I only sparked her creativity even more.  The Force was something magical that only Jedi could do.  This was science.  This was art.  This was technology.  This was acting.  These were real people.  This was something she could do.  For the past 2 weeks the only thing she has watched on TV have been the bonus features from Star Wars.  She watches and rewatches the craftspeople hard at work.  She calls them by name.
 
"There's Adam," my daughter says.
   "There's Adam," she says when Kylo Ren walks across the screen.  "There's Mark, there's Daisy."

     She isn't afraid anymore.  She doesn't have nightmares anymore.  She sees the people as people, truly as people, not as the characters they portray.  I was a little sad in a way, sad that she doesn't have that naivete.  Something had changed in her, she grew up a little bit, she put childish things behind her.

     Or so I thought.  Until she lost her tooth 2 days ago.  And told me most adamantly that we needed to put her tooth under her pillow so that the tooth fairy would come.  At 10 o'clock at night, I wrote my daughter a note in pink flowing script and signed it from the tooth fairy.  I put it in an envelope along with a Sacajawea dollar and put it under her pillow.  In the morning, she burst into my room to show me the letter she had gotten and asked me to read it.  She asked me quite plainly if I had left it there.  Maybe I should have told her the truth.  In fact, I'm not sure why I didn't.  Instead I said,

    "What do you think?"

    To which she replied, "I think the tooth fairy did it.  How do you think she knew my name, though?  I bet she was flying outside and then heard you talking to me."

   "Yep, I guess that must be it"

    I don't know why I maintained the fiction.  I don't know why I maintained the lie.  Maybe it is just sort of fun to believe: to believe your letter is coming from Hogwarts, to believe that fairies deliver money in exchange for teeth, that men in red suits deliver presents.  Perhaps in a world that is so seemingly mundane and dull, that to touch a little something magical makes us feel something more. I don't quite know the answer.   All I know is that I now I have a 5 year old daughter who calls Kylo Ren "Adam," who wants to be a scientist when she grows up, and who believes in the tooth fairy.  I don't think that's such a terrible thing.

   

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thursday stories - The Family part 2

Here is the second part of my weird and rambling doesn't really go anywhere story called "The Family."  Part 1 can be found here. Enjoy.

2.

Photographs
Photographs are strange things, and much has been written about them: their impermanence, their falseness.  A photograph shows the smile, not the “come on just one more. Can you move a little to the left?  You hair is in your eye can you move your hair. Say cheese!  Say cheese!  No look right up here, sweetie, right up here.  Look up, honey!  Don’t look down.” Or the “thank god that’s done with, where’s the wine?”  A photograph can’t capture a smell or even a feeling, only a look of a thing not a thing as it is.  Whether it was printed on flimsy, disintegrating, paper or simply stored on flimsy plastic memory cards, or event kept in a cloud, pictures can’t last forever either. The nice thing about photographs is that you can go back and look at them, though, and they last long enough for most people to use them for their purpose.  They are worthy substitutes for memories that are, by virtue of our species, piss poor, some more so than others.  

She had a good memory for some things.  Others, well… She relied on photographs like everyone else.  Was She supposed to remember every detail, every thing, every word?  Kenning could be useful in this way.  When a member of the Family knew enough Magic and was of age, their first test, their first task, was to Ken themselves.  It is an odd thing to know oneself truly, deeply.  There are things best forgotten, things the mind has closed due to trauma of both physical and mental varieties.  To Ken oneself is to relive every broken bone, every sexual encounter, every word spoken, every food tasted.  Everything.  In about two hours, give or take.  It is exhausting.  Vomiting is a side effect nearly 97% of the time due to the sheer volume of food consumed, albeit mentally, and the smell.  To Ken someone else is a little different, though still a miserable thing to be sure.  Delving into one’s own soul memory is just a more intimate and vivid experience.

She would not Ken herself again unless She had to.  Unless She NEEDED to relive, to remember, something that She had lost.  So She took photos, though She tried her best to not make them just of smiling faces, so She could remember more of the truth then a smile revealed.  There were other ways to remember too, non Kenning ways, ways still of Magic, but She didn’t rely on those too much either.  She could imprint her memories onto an object if she did it in the moments after they happened.  She had done this a few times with very special memories, things she wanted to capture forever and had the opportunity to do so.  When She had turned the knob on the door to her new apartment, the first one She had ever owned on her own without Him, she had imprinted the memory on the key.  When the apartment manager had asked for both keys back when she moved out 4 months later, She had claimed she’d lost one and paid a fine, in addition to the fees associated with breaking her lease.  She kept the key on a chain around her neck and in times of stress would touch it to remember that first feeling of freedom.

She hadn’t used Magic at all when She was with Him, except for the Kenning at the end.  She couldn’t quite remember the first time She looked into her daughter’s eyes, heard her daughter laugh.  Unless she Kenned herself again, those memories were lost to her, and she would not Ken herself again unless She had to.   So she relied on photographs, on videos on her phone, on the imperfect memory of the brain.  It was the only time, well… one of the only times, She had really missed the Magic being a part of her life back then.  She hadn’t needed it, hadn’t thought she had needed it at any rate, but still She wished it had been there for times like this.  Why couldn’t she have imprinted the memory of her child’s first steps onto her shoes, instead of simply recording a shaky video on her phone like a normal person would, a person who didn’t know imprinting was an option, a person not of Magic, of the Family?!  It was frustrating, to say the least.   There were so many photos.  So many.  Ugh, why were there so many?  She knew. Thankfully they were mostly on her computer.  She didn’t actually have to sift through boxes upon boxes of photographs.  Can you imagine? Thousands. 

She was sorting for a good reason today:  She wanted to make an album.  A real, proper album like a normal person would do.  She had an album of her time with her family, but none of her early childhood with her Màthair.  Not a single photograph of her naked backside or her hands curled around her Màthair’s finger or her first steps.  Her Màthair didn’t need photographs.  Màthair imprinted nearly every moment of consequence in her life and Kenned herself once a year as a matter of course.  She knew herself deeply, and could relive her daughter’s first steps whenever she wanted to.  Màthair had offered to share memories with her but She had no desire whatsoever to Ken her Màthair.  Some people are too complicated to Ken.  When she had Kenned herself, She had gotten glimpses of her infancy, but people store memories differently when they are very young.  She had not, it needs to be mentioned, relived her own birth.

She looked at the crumpled picture her daughter had drawn sitting next to her on the bed and held it up, the light from her laptop giving the edges a little glow.  Maybe she would scan it and make it the cover art for the album.  That seemed like a good idea.  That was the kind of idea internet mothers had.  She never really had any desire to be an “internet mother” but she had to admit that some of them had some good ideas.  Those Mormons especially.  Why did all these Mormon stay at home internet mothers have such good ideas?!  Maybe that was a generalization.   Album.  Photographs.  She knew that He had to be in it, and that was the problem.  She would have to look at pictures of Him, of Him and her together, Them, and put them in the album.  It was exhausting.  It was exhausting just looking at so many pictures, not to mention looking at pictures of Him and trying to figure out which ones to save.  That was the problem with digital cameras you just took so many.  Thousands. How do you look at thousands and pick maybe 100 to put into an album.  It was why she hadn’t done this in the first place, why she had waited so long.  If she had only made an album for each year of her daughter’s life as it ended, then perhaps she wouldn’t have to do this monumental task all at once.  5 years?

She held up the crumpled picture her daughter had drawn a third time.  She would not forget to make albums again, she would not forget to remember.  She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then another, and then firmly pressed her hand to the drawing and focused her will.  A moment passed, a minute.  The lights in the room flickered gently, the bed vibrated slightly.  A moment later and the image was imprinted.  She found her mouth was dry, which was typical.  She reached for the glass of water on her night stand and drank deeply, deeply until the glass was empty.  She got up from the bed, walked to the kitchen and filled another glass from the fridge.  That she drained just as quickly as the first.  While she was in the kitchen anyway, she found herself an apple.  A banana would have been better with the vitamins but an apple would do.  She bit down hard and sucked the juice slowly, breathing through her nose.  At last she felt herself again.  It had been a while since she had used Magic.  It came to her easily, more easily than she had expected, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t hard.  She was sweating.  It was done.

Paper was, generally speaking, a poor thing to imprint, but it felt appropriate for the memory.  She went back to the room and grabbed the picture and the laptop and brought them both into the den, which is where she kept her scanner.  It was under a pile of paperwork underneath the old wooden table that passed for a desk when she needed it to, and after a while it warmed up and the image was scanned.  It was done.  The picture was now captured, like a photograph, permanently impermanent.  As for the actual drawing, she folded it carefully into quarters and placed inside a copy of Keats that she kept in her nightstand.  She would remember it there.

Now the photograph of the drawing that had the memory, but not the memory itself, was safe and sound on her computer where She could access it and use it for whatever purposes suited her fancy.  She posted it on her social media accounts with a heart emoji and a smiley face along with the words, “Too cute!” She uploaded it to the cloud where she could access it later.  She put it in the folder with the other images she would eventually upload to an album.  The little grotesques had been cataloged, organized, and filed away.  Such is the fate of photographs.  The original, the tangible, was kept safe at hand.  It was Magic now, or rather there was Magic in it.  It would be harder to destroy now, which was another side effect of imprinting, though paper was not ideal.  Paper, though imprinted, was impermanent. Like a photograph.