Saturday, March 06, 2010

TV Tropes

So, you know how you find time-wasters on the Internet? TV Tropes is the paragon. It describes all the conventions of fiction, from Getting Crap Past the Radar to Crowning Moment of Awesome to Genki Girl.

Enter, and beware. For you may never recover. Or, even worse: you may never want to.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The First Weekend of D.C.

Well, I'm finally here in D.C., coming to you after a long weekend of pounding the pavement, riding the Metro, and meeting a lot of new people. A lot of things are strange to me here: the concept of a Metro, for example, or the advice to not go about by yourself, stay away from certain areas, among others, but I think the one that gets me the most is the complete amnesia of a new place.

Save two people, no one here actually knows me, either by face or name. It's a curious thing, the ability to re-present yourself to an entirely new group, rewrite who you are.

That isn't to say that's what I'm doing. Lying isn't on the agenda here; taking the opportunity to try new things is. Like being a good roommate, or being willing to talk about stuff you were either too embarrassed to talk about before. It's fantastic when new people become new friends, and those friendships develop--it's equally as good when you're just getting to know each other and your slate is empty.

Consider this: how often are we trapped by our own self-conceptions? Everyone sees themselves a certain way and act accordingly. At times, this becomes a license to continue hurtful habits. Hopefully, I'm not much into the practice of hurting people, but the example stands.

I've conceived of myself in the past four years as the cynical, sarcastic friend. These habits haven't managed to rid me of my friends, thank goodness, but the possibility of something else, of being a friend without being a cynic, or maybe genuinely expressing happiness or hope--with new people, that doesn't have to be known as the exception.

Perhaps in four months, when this is all over, I won't have changed a bit. I'll still be the cynic, the snarker, but as for right now, I like not being anyone at all.

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Year, Same Problems

I was trying to figure out what, exactly, should be the topic of my first entry of the new year (not to mention the first after a long hiatus). There've been quite a few things that have caught my eye, either positively or negatively, over the past weeks, but I settled on the one thing I can rant about: money.

I feel secure enough to say that at this point in my life I hate money. I hate bills. I hate the yawning gap of money that makes some feel as though they are worth more than others. I hate the lack of money that inspires desperate crimes. I hate that it is money more than anything else that makes me unsure about my future.

An English major isn't a ticket to security; my sophomore thought journalism would perhaps be a stabler option isn't exactly foolproof. Journalism is going through pains to define itself as an entity, and through this process jobs are being lost all over the world. The credibility of journalists has plummeted. Example #1: I don't watch CNN, NBC, or FOX for my news--I watch the Daily Show. And you know what? I trust Jon Stewart and that team more than the mainstream media. Yes, clearly, I have chosen a field rife with possibilities and secure in its foundations.

In ten days, I am expected to be in Washington, D.C., as an intern with a professional publication. Three problems: (1) I don't have a way of getting there. (2) I don't have the ability to pay for the deposit, or the books, or the food. (3) I am probably the least-experienced member of the internship program.

When I learned I was accepted into the program, I presumed that (3) would be my biggest problem, and it did plague me during the introduction season. But that's been pushed aside in the anxiety ring for the unfailingly consistent problem of money. I don't have it. My family doesn't have it. My bank doesn't have it. And I am tired of having a doubtful future because money rules the world.

I'm sighing, right now. I'm not an economist. And I know that right now is difficult for everyone, and far worse for others--in comparison to them, I should have no complaint. I live under a roof and have food to eat. And I know that money has to exist for a multitude of reasons in this world. But I'm sick of it, and sick at the prospect of what should be a great career opportunity being turned into another opportunity to fail financially.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Narrating a Family

How do you write a family? There a certain expectations with families--but is there a right way to communicate that?

Take, for instance, coming home from a long trip. You meet your parents at the airport (or, maybe, for some readers, your kids), take the car ride home, shoot the breeze, whatever. And adjectives like "comfortable," "familiar," "cozy," "warm" come to mind, and it's assumed that everyone will know what you're talking about. Like your describing a blanket. What's the point of saying it's a seven-foot by five-foot piece of cloth designed to help you retain body heat? Everyone knows that. And if the blanket isn't like that, there's something desperately wrong. And if the family isn't like that, the same conclusion is drawn.

I had to write about my family for, shock of shocks, expository writing class. We were given this assignment over Thanksgiving break, a time when all those familial adjectives are in full force. Naturally, such an environment should foster nostalgic, congenial feelings, and I suspect the turned-in papers will likely reflect that (I could be surprised).

I began with a not-so-happy subject: the death of my grandfather. As I wrote this relatively short piece out, it became apparent to me that I wasn't writing about family so much as one man's quest to avoid it, as well as another's quest to create it. It became a comparison and contrast paper, as I think about it, detailing where my grandfather and father differ. It is still a family, after all, but like the torn-up blanket, not one you would intentionally create.

Family celebrates life, but it is often created or encouraged by death. Intimacy is constantly shadowed by the suggestion of drifting apart. People on the cusp of leaving on a long trip soak in all the company and high times they can cram in. On the occasion where friends and family have lost someone (which has become so often to become darkly ironic), it is the cruel twist that I know them the better for it. I think this suggestion permeates the narration of any family: it is not just the good times that define us, but the bad. This has been a long post to an almost-trite conclusion, but the writing of this narrative encouraged it.

My professor has read it, and called it painful. Family should never be composed out of pain, but it is the unfortunate truth that it often defines it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Defending Eliot

There are times when I don't want to be an English major. These are the times when I get tired of analyzing, of theorizing, of victimizing poor novels to the whimsies of seniors who just need to get a paper done. When you find yourself incapable of reading a book without wondering about the thematic relevance or contextual meaning of some incident or some line, if you're not looking to do that, it can jolt you right out of your reading.

I can already hear some of my professors' protestations: "It's good to detect themes. To be on the look-out for those is exactly what we have been trying to teach you!" And they succeeded, in that way. But it can be disconcerting when all you want to do is lie down with a book and read for fun. Somehow there gets to be a disconnect between the two: reading for fun and English Major Reading.

T.S. Eliot is a poet you wouldn't expect to be pleasure reading. He's long, allusive as all get-out, and seemingly incapable of writing simply. And, heaven help me, I read "The Wasteland" just for kicks only two weeks ago.

To be fair, I didn't read the footnotes. I didn't read his biographical intro or any theories on the poem itself. I just wanted to read it.

Eliot is musical. I don't understand a word of Italian or French or German, but the excerpts in "The Wasteland" are integral to me. They may come across as pretentious--I don't care. In words I've just defended Eliot with, I get caught up in the imagery and sound of the poem itself. It's not that the content is unworthy: it's beautiful, too.

But that's the point: it's beautiful. And sometimes you need something beautiful to carry you through the day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Laughing Out Loud

So, I've been perilously close to not finishing A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court for about a month now. Over the summer I made a resolution to finish every book I've started--even making pictures of each book my background on my phone to remind me. This has been successful in that I have finished every book I've started. Unfortunately, this also led to me reading a quite dreadful book, frankly.

This is not the case of A Connecticut Yankee. I've read Mark Twain before--Huckleberry Finn in my American Lit. class was a must, naturally--but never for fun. Leisure reading is so much easier for me to languish on and enjoy, to be honest. I feel like I'm betraying my English major-ness, but it's true: the book that you have to have finished by a certain date, be prepared to discuss, and analyze--that is the book that is work. When you are forced to study something, even if it is otherwise enjoyable, it quickly becomes tiresome (Sorry, Professor Dengler).

Anyway, I'm actually enjoying this book--not just enjoying, but actually laughing at. This book makes me giggle, chuckle, snort, guffaw. I've missed that; I've missed the book that can get me to cry, to gasp, to snarl in outrage. That is the reading experience, that is the quality book. A talented author doesn't just provoke thought, he or she provokes emotion.

Thanks, Mark Twain. If I choke back a laugh in the library, it's because of you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Prepping for the Week

As everyone in the region is bound to tell you, it's snowing, quite a lot. There's slush and everything. Even the natives are letting me know that this is unusual and odd and plenty of other synonyms, and I'm taking a moment to be mystical and wonder what kind of portent this would be.

On the one hand, snow is pure, clean, white. It's drifting from above in laziness--no blasts stinging the eyes today. It's innocent and fun, propelling gleeful snowfights and creative efforts that range from the homey to the impudent (there has been more than one snowman on campus impaled by sticks or screaming in silent terror).

On the other hand, snow this early has taken the place of Indian summer--the last wistful remains of vacation freedom and lolling about on the grass. It also is fairly deceitful: there are at least five people this morning who have referenced Christmas. First snow points to the ending of a semester, to the release of going home--that's not for two months.

Or I could just throw out the whole concepts of portents, and settle myself back to enjoy the snow that dusts my shoulders and shoes.

I like the last option the best.