Sunday, July 27, 2008

Geeks R Us

First things first: a link to the Sunnydale tee for Ashley, who's been deserted by her "google fu"---a term that is now my very favorite and I shall use it often and only cite her part of the time.

Next: a funny thing happened to me on the way to the checkout at the grocery store today. I'm waiting for my turn behind the dude who's clearly doing the weekly shopping for his family of 300, when I hear a voice:
it's really the case that it's always day, because that's in the name. Sun-DAY, Mon-DAY, Tues-DAY. All of them! See, so that's why I always tell people 'have a good day' even at night. Because it's always DAY, since it's in the word. So when the correct me, and tell me that it's night, I tell them that it's in the WORD, right?
The eminent source of this linguistics/logic lecture is, of course, the bag boy, who looks like he's related to McLuvin', only not as nerdly cute. Or as tall. With more acne. His target audience, it appears, is the poor checker, who looks to be all of 15. [Sidenote: aren't there child labor laws? And shouldn't at least one of them involve not exposing young folk to the great unwashed of the local grocery store? I'm including myself here.] Miss Thing looked like a deer caught in the headlights---a deer with a box of cereal in one hand and an avocado in the other. Clearly, this firehose of wordage had been going on for quite awhile. She never looked at him directly, and occasionally answered non-commitally, in some sort of Churchillian appeasement strategy.

There was a brief respite for all involved when Not-McLuvin' was called away to another lane, but he returned to us when I got to the checker. He was talking as he approached, so imagine this with a Doppler effect:
...when it's on a show. I don't think anyone in real life talks like that. No one I know talks like they do on tv. The language people use comes from tv, not the other way around. I think that writers sit around in a room and decide what they want it to sound like on MTV or whatever, and then we all start saying it.

Do you think that's the way it is?
I can't remember the last time that I had a moment of intergenerational oneness, but when the checker handed me my receipt, I met her eyes and commiserated with the length of her shift, the way that this incarnation of the Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons was all over her. She got it. I hope she also got my telepathic message that these guys grow up.

Not-McLuvin' knew that something had happened. No dummy, that kid. He was particularly subdued as he told me to "have a good day" (I choked down my desire to tell him "goodnight."). I so desperately wanted to grab that kid by the arm and tell him: "Look, I'm a 33 year old woman, and I LIKE geeky boys, so let me give you a few pointers. Maybe you could try asking her what she's interested in. I know, it's totally out there, but give it a go. First the net, then the trident."

I thought about my little imaginary speech all the way back to my car, where I loaded my groceries, cued up the soundtrack to the Buffy musical, and drove away.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

RBOC, Haters Edition

•If my backyard is any indication, then any second now Morgan Freeman is going to show up and demand that I build a very large wooden conveyance for the animals. Even if he required that I grow the Noah beard, I'd do it, and for two specific reasons: first, I could get Lauren Graham as my wife, and then I could give help her get in a major motion picture that's a hit, which she so richly deserves, because she's super, and we could be the bestest of friends because I too love Amy Sherman-Palladino and can talk really fast. Second, because building a fucking ark is preferable to finishing this god-forsaken article.

•What the crap happened to the bulleted list function in Blogger? Did it disappear? Do I have to hand-code it or something? Screw that!! Although, again, preferable to
finishing aforementioned article.

•Clearly, I need to get writing, and I'm looking for inspiration. So, I've been thinking that upon the increasingly-slim chance that I ever finish, I am going to fully embrace my (not so inner) geek girl and buy this t-shirt, despite the fact that it has cap sleeves, which have the delightful tendency to make my arms look like stuffed sausages:

•You people who write all the time and are super productive? What's your stinkin' secret? And what's the deal with nothing ever being done? I keep finishing stuff, only to have to do revisions. Writing is like No Exit, only with words.

•I really really need to buy an external hard drive and back up my computer, but damn things are expensive. In the Fluff calculus, they're roughly equivalent to a really beautiful pair of fall boots. Who chooses storage over that? The people who don't lose their documents, that's who.

•Dammit. I'm running low on hatin' and thus it must be time to write.

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Friday, July 18, 2008


As I left my office yesterday afternoon, I said the fateful sentence: "The internet has ended my scholarly activity." Well, sure, because if you surf the web for two hours, it doesn't leave you a whole lot of time to work on your article, now does it?

So, the Fates must have been listening, because as I sat down to work today, the modem died. A quick call to a humorless 'net provider yielded the "emergency visit" of a technician to decide whether the modem or the signal are at fault. The protocol for the emergency visit is this: sit by the phone and wait. They'll come today, but we can't give you a time. Not even a window. They'll call 15 minutes before they come, but if you don't answer, they'll take you off the list.

In the meantime, of course, it's come back on, but since I had this exact same problem last week, I'm gonna let them come. Will it cut out again? Who knows!! All I know is that half of my sources are online, so writing without internet access should be approximately four times as frustrating as it usually is!

In the never-ending saga of the painters and their music, did you know that Depeche Mode has made it onto the soft rock channel? Be still my 80's lovin' heart! I'm drowning it out with The Goldberg Variations, which is weird in two ways:
1) It's kinda pretentious, don't you think? "Oh yes, I've been listening to Bach to drown out the simply dreadful clamor of the workmen's music! Heaven forfend!"
2) It's ironic, as it's essentially a tool to enable my progress on a work about the poppiest of pop culture topics.

There should be 32 of me.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Homeowner Walk of Shame

Once I got out of college, I pretty much assumed that I'd be done with the Walk of Shame. You know the one: wander back to your dorm in the early morning hours wearing the clothes you left in last night, except now they're rumpled and stained, and you have indentations on your face from someone else's pillow, and inevitably some goody-goody who lives in the room next to yours is up and working on her thesis and chirpily asks you where you've been? [This is just a fer instance, feel free to add your own humiliating details to get in the psychic space.]

Right, so I thought all of that was done. No one told me that owning a house would set you up for reliving those precious college moments of deep and abiding semi-public humiliation. Because it's one thing for your neighbors to whisper behind your back that the paint is peeling off and the gutters need to be cleaned and the driveway needs to be re-paved and you don't take care of your yard (front or back) and check their children constantly to make sure that they haven't been consumed by the man-eating plants that propagate like Jurassic Park 15--Vegetal Revenge. I can mostly live with that.

It's another thing altogether when the painting crew, humming along to Bon Jovi's greatest hits, has to clear brush in order to get the job done. I was desperately trying to get out of the house this morning before they arrived, but since the head painter arrives (along with the Eagles) at 7, there's no way I'm out the door before then. So instead, I sheepishly slink out the front door and come face to face with the carpenter who has essentially downed the three feet of scrub maple in our side yard so that he can get to our rotting rafter tails. Later, I hear, he's going up on the roof to trim back the overgrown tree that is growing over our roof.

And then there's the fact that I haven't cleaned our windows since we moved in. Five years ago.

As I look back on it, dorm life wasn't really so bad. At least I wasn't responsible for the exterior of the room.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How Can You Talk to an Angel?

That's what I've been asking myself since about 7:30 this morning, when the painter arrived to start work on the exterior of our house. I've also contemplated Sailing Away, whether my neighbors would like to Hit Me With Their Best Shot, for being awakened by this kind of music, and now I'm "enjoying" Whitney Houston's remake of "I'm Every Woman." When did that happen? And more importantly, if Whitney is everywoman, then I gotta go get more drugs and an egomaniacal husband.

Over the past four years of living in our ramshackle fixer-upper, I think I've learned a good deal about different kinds of handydudes---contractors, tile layers, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and now painters. Apparently what holds this brotherhood together is A) their collective preference for big Ford trucks and B) a devotion to soft rock of the 80's and 90's. [Spirit in the Sky, anyone?]

Is this an occupational hazard? Is it required for the contractor's license? Moreover, in this, the age of the iPod, is it necessary to broadcast it to the universe?! Don't, don't they want one? You know I can't believe it when they say they don't need one? [Cue the switch to the Human League, which I could totally get behind, if it were midnight at the local dive bar on retro night, but it's 8:45 a.m.]

The irony, of course, is that virtually every single one of these dudes has commented on what a quiet neighborhood we live in. Right. UNTIL YOU GOT HERE!!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Savage Idols

Over the holiday weekend, Senor Fluff and I took a drive around the surrounding countryside---you know, while we still have meager petroleum resources to flaunt. [Let me note, for the record, that we drive a 3 year old Japanese car with 20,000 miles on it. We are not in the same class as the Hummer-driving jackhole I saw the other day with a bumpersticker that read: "Buy a hybrid---I need your gas!" Fuckwad. If there were ever a need for a consumer-grade rocket launcher, that would be it...]

Digression aside, after we had exhausted an ipod playlist, we listened dug into the stream of podcasts that I've been downloading forever, but seldom listen to. For the first time, then, I had the great pleasure of listening to Savage Love in audio form.

Everyone knows Dan Savage, right? The guy who writes the sex column for Seattle's The Stranger, occasionally appears on This American Life and Bill Maher's Real Time? I know that he squicks some people, but I lurve him, lurve him. [And I particularly love listening to him talk about the positions, accoutrements, and psychological issues surrounding anal sex while driving through the most Stepford of East Coast towns---but that's a different story.]

I find myself at times shocked, delighted, and moved by Savage, and if the size and variety of his audience is any indication, I don't think I'm alone. And as I try to put my finger on what it is of his that does it for me (does everyone who writes about Dan Savage begin to realize that all of her metaphors sound dirty?), I think it's his bizarre combination of incredible ability to withhold judgment about those things that American society is often SOOO judgy about, while at the same time having very definite ideas about what he thinks is healthy and "right." For instance, in the podcast I listened to, he fielded a call about disability and sex, in which he addressed the idea that "everyone wants to feel like an object sometimes." Whoa. Beware the lightning strike of disapprobation and ethical reproach! And yet he delivers this statement as if it is the most banal of ideas, the most basic of concepts. Earlier in the show, however, he responds to a 23 year old man asking about sex on his wedding night with a rant about how no one, gay or straight, should be getting married at 23. Amen, brother!

It could just be the case that I tend to agree with Savage's bent, however, it's perhaps more the case that I adore his ability to embody what I have always imagined to be opposite impulses: the avoidance of judgmental behavior and firm beliefs. Savage does a fabulous job negotiating between these two positions. If there is some sort of complicated emotional calculus that underpins it, I'd love to know the formula.

Come to think of it, the other person that combines these traits well? Tim Gunn. Should I be worried that my two idols of ethical behavior are gay men in the media?


Thursday, July 03, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

Someday, I'll write about something that matters, but right now, all of my brain power is wrapped up somewhere else. (If you're guessing "in your article?" you'd be wrong, btw.)

It occurred to me a few days ago that I'm going into my sixth year of living in Urbania. On the career side of life, this is a crucial year: it's the tenure application, it's the promotion application, it's the "who am I and what am I doing with the rest of my life" year. I'll have all year to panic and obsess about that.

Year six is also significant in another way: it marks the longest span of time I've spent in any one place other than my city of birth. I was holding off on this realization and its import by playing the rationalization game: well, technically, my first year I didn't live in Urbania proper; it was more like an outlying town. So I don't have to count year 1. That means that it's technically only been 4 years, going into 5, and thus, I don't have to really consider this until the end of next year!

But let's get real: the outlying areas of Urbania are, to some extent, suburbs of Urbania. Call it. I've lived here longer than undergrad town; idyllic post-grad city with the Big Red Bridge; Mid-Western podunk grad school town (for which I'm not complaining; I couldn't get out of there fast enough, and I wouldn't go back if you paid me); and even longer than I spent in teensy weensy Dissertation Village, where Senor Fluff had his job. [Dissertation Village is the home of what Frenchie has named Cornfield College, which is just too right.]

So what does that mean, exactly? Does that mean that this is now "home?" Certainly birth city, the neon jungle, no longer counts. If linguistic conventions tell me anything, I suppose it's significant that I tell people that "I'm going to neon city to visit my parents" and when I'm there, I tell people "I'm going home in a few days" (meaning Urbania).

But I've written about this before, (and whinged incessantly about it to everyone I know)---Urbania certainly doesn't feel like home. I've never quite gotten over the way people talk, the pronunciation of words, the social conventions. And then there are the other things: the seasonal lack of fresh produce that is abundant in the West year round, the creepy summer fecundity of plant life here. I miss desert, and mountains, and dry air. I miss Valley Girl talk and excessive use of the word "like" and sometimes, deep in my heart of hearts, I even miss women with obviously fake breasts. They're ornamental, you know?

So is "home" defined by duration or by affinity? And is there a point at which the first becomes the second? Or is it just a matter of course that I will always feel a bit like Dorothy, dropped into this place and wanting to go "home", only to discover that I was "home" all the time?

[And you were there, and so were you!]