Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 28 - Question

There have been dozens of comedy routines written about the travesty that is the hot dog to bun ratio imbalance at the grocery store, but not one about the chip to salsa disparity that plagues this great nation. Why is that? And why is there never enough salsa for all if the chips? Why?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 27 - Women

I have all of these thoughts floating around in my head about what it means to be a woman and what it is like to be a woman in today's American society and the crap we have to deal with and the things that make us great and I want to be able to write a brilliant, well-researched, well-organized post about all of these things that helps all of my girl friends love and celebrate exactly who they are.

I am not that organized. And I have not done all of the research.

So instead, I'm going to throw a couple ideas out there with no background, no supporting evidence, and maybe we can talk about them:

  1. The idea that a perfect woman in American society should be petite is a way to devalue and dehumanize women, to steal their power.
  2. The idea that a strong, powerful woman has to "normalize" herself so as to not appear threatening is a way to devalue and dehumanize the woman, to steal her power.
  3. Those women who feel it necessary to "normalize" themselves, or tout their flaws (real or imaginary), in order to be likable are doing a disservice to women everywhere.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 26 - Needs

There were things I had to do last night, and things I probably should have done, and things other people would have liked it if I had done, but last night, I needed to dance. I still did my laundry, I still did some cleaning in my apartment, I still spent time with my cat. But I heard that a couple of my friends (including one of my favorite dance partners) were going to be out dancing, so I thought I would stop by and say hello.

For those of you new to this blog, first of all, hi! Welcome! Did you know you can subscribe? Secondly, I used to lindy hop all of the time. Five or six nights a week. I traveled, did exchanges, organized an exchange, took workshops, studied, bought every vintage dress I could get my hands on, was part of a semi-professional lindy troupe for a short while, and was on the Chicago Shag Team that took second place in the Cabaret Division at ALHC. All of my friends used to be dancers. All of my free time used to be spent dancing. All of my spare brain power used to go into lindy hop. I'm not saying I was amazing at it - a lot of the top dancers in the country at that time didn't know who I was and if I asked them to dance socially, they would often spend the dance scanning the floor to see who they could dance with next. But in certain circles, I was known as a good dancer, and one with whom you would have fun dances.

But then life happened, and I had to do other things (be in plays, rehearse with my band, etc.) and the dancing kind of fell by the wayside. I would go out every now and again, but for the most part, the people out social dancing didn't inspire me to dance the way my contemporaries had, so I'll admit it - I lost interest in going out. I don't mind dancing with beginners - the way you learn is by dancing with those who know what they are doing. But I want to be challenged and have fun and be free to dance the way I dance when I go out, too. And starting from scratch to build up a reputation once again as a good dancer when the people you're dancing with are still struggling with finding the beat is exhausting. So I lost interest.

Last night, though, I decided I wanted to go see my friends. I was hoping for one good dance, and sort of psyched myself up to dance with as many people as possible. I was going to ask people, I wasn't going to turn anyone down. My first dance, I was asked and it...left some things to be desired. So I asked another partner for the next dance and had a lovely time. And then more and more of my friends from back in the day came in and it was so lovely to see them. Another of my favorite partners showed up and we had a lovely dance and a half. The dj played a bunch of old songs - things he knew I liked ten years ago - and a dance jam broke out. We did probably the worst sailor kicks I have ever done in my life because I was laughing too hard. And I have to admit, the current crop of dancers are pretty good. There were people having great dances all over the place. They were fun to watch and they made me want to dance with them. A few of them even asked me to dance, once they saw I wasn't a complete newbie. It was fun. I had fun. I needed to have that kind of fun.

My ankle was not pleased with me having that kind of fun, but it was worth it. I didn't realize how much I missed my friends until I saw them. I didn't realize how much I missed the joy of that kind of physical expression until I was on the floor with a solid, yet gentle lead. I didn't realize how much fun dancing could still be until I was out playing on the dance floor being silly and stupid. Of all of the things I needed to do last night, dancing was the most important. And thank you to my friends who danced with me, played music for me, and reminded me that I really am a dancer, even if I have to go live my life elsewhere from time to time.

Monday, February 25, 2013

February 25 - Kitty's Rants: Lint

Someone who lives in my building put notes on the dryers in the laundry room saying, "Please be courteous and kindly remove your own lint after the dryer cycle." These signs have been there for a while now, but they still make me giggle. And here's why.

It's lint. Someone is completely grossed out by the thought of touching someone else's lint. Which is ludicrous to me. And here's why.

It's lint! It's fucking lint! It is little tidbits of someone else's clothing that came off in the dryer and stuck to the screen in the dryer. It is fabric. You are grossed out by fabric. Now, there are those who would say, "But it's bits of someone else's underwear - I don't know where it has been!" Yes you do! It was just in the washing machine! Being cleaned! With likely the same detergent you use on your own clothing which you trust to wash your own underwear! If this detergent is good enough to clean your clothes after, say, someone else has borrowed them, why is it not good enough to clean someone else's underwear to the point where the lint in the dryer is not gross? I could see being grossed out by the lint in the washing machine - that has all sorts of dirt and whatnot in it. But by the time clothing gets to the dryer, it is clean! Therefore, the lint coming off of it is clean. So what's the big deal about cleaning someone else's lint off if the dryer screen?

I know dryer screens need to be cleaned between loads to help prevent the dryers from combusting. I don't need a sign reminding me to be both courteous AND polite by cleaning up after myself. And if the person who used the dryer before me didn't clean it, I do not think them discourteous or impolite. I think they had other things to do with their day besides clean a lint filter.

Thank you. Join us next week for another exciting episode of Kitty's Rants.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 24 - Theater Insights

I think the other thing people don't necessarily know about the theater is just how choreographed it is. I don't mean that in a negative way, and I don't mean to imply that spontaneous brilliance doesn't happen on stage. It does. In good theater, spontaneous brilliance happens all of the time. But before it can happen, everyone needs to know what they are doing and where they are going and what props need to be where by what line and how all of the fights and physical interactions happen. It's like that lovely bit in "Waiting to Guffman" about how that actors have to learn it and learn it and learn it and then forget it. That is very true (as is the following line about how the actors in the play in "Waiting for Guffman" skipped straight to the forgetting it part). But if you don't know what you're doing, you can't do it as if you don't have to think about it.

I'm at rehearsal today for the show I am understudying, and there was a great piece of time dedicated to the dance of two women setting two tables for dinner, and a nice chunk of time dedicated to figuring out where to set down a radio, and a piece of time spent figuring out which side of a door one character should step to so another actor can walk through it unobstructed. They seem like silly questions, simple questions that shouldn't matter that much, but they do. If I walk in and set down a prop somewhere that I never walk again, but I have to take that prop with me when I leave the stage, something really awkward is going to happen. So you have to take the time in rehearsal to figure out where to set things down, what traffic patterns cause the least potential for collisions, and how to set things up during the show so they will be where they need to be for the next bit.

And then you forget about it so you can look like all of these highly choreographed motions happened without a second thought. Ah, the magic of theater.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23 - Artistic Expression

I went to a collage workshop today. We were supposed to focus on something we would like to manifest for ourselves, so I focused on my acting career. And this is what I made, presented without further comment.

Friday, February 22, 2013

February 22 - Bus

For some reason, I decided to take the bus to work today instead of driving. See, it snowed last night in Chicago and I think at that point, I started psyching myself out of wanting to drive. Granted, the snowstorm was not as big of a deal as was anticipated (which seems to be happening a lot this winter), but I still kind of decided I didn't want to deal with digging my car out this morning and then finding somewhere to park and all of that rot. So at some point last night, I started talking myself into taking the bus.

Now, I feel it is important to mention here that I have a peculiar aversion to Chicago city busses. In general, I love public transit. I think it is a fantastic thing. I will take all sorts of public transit in other cities. In Chicago, I love riding the "L." But there is something about the bus that has always turned me off. Maybe it is from too many years driving behind them, or the fact that people on the bus often look so much sadder than people on the train. I don't know. But I'm not a fan of the bus. Last summer (almost two summers ago now) when I did the nine-person Hamlet (side note: I love that my acting career is going to require that I distinguish between the nine-person theatrical Hamlet and the YouTube Hamlet), the best way to get to the theater was on the bus. The theater was almost a straight shot east from my apartment, and there is no train that goes that way without major re-routing. There was also very limited parking and it was just a smidge too far to walk comfortably in 90+ degree weather. So I started taking the bus. Still didn't enjoy it, but gave in to the necessary evil.

I also don't mean to say mean things about Chicago city busses. They're relatively clean. I've not been on one that smelled as bad as the bus I took in San Francisco once. And some of the drivers are actually kind of nice. People have all sorts of irrational fears - I have an irrational dislike of Chicago city busses.

But for some reason, I decided the bus was the way to go this morning. I'm not in a hurry to get to work (I'll still be there on time), I'm not in a hurry to get home. I didn't want to dig my car out. I didn't want to have to fill my car with gas today. So I left my apartment at 6:50am and am currently on bus number 2 that I have to take to get to work. So far, it's not so bad. And I get to get my blogging done early today. So we'll see - maybe I'll start taking the bus more often.

But probably not.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 21 - Fashion

I got a copy of Harper's Bazaar at work the other day. This is odd to me for several reasons.

  1. I never subscribed to Harper's Bazaar.
  2. I don't usually get random magazines at work that aren't work related (I don't work in fashion).
  3. I'm not at all fashionable.

I had to think about it - when was the last time I read a fashion magazine? I don't even really look at them while at the dentist's office or anything. I might pick up a gossip rag, but I avoid the fashion articles like the plague. Honestly, everything I know about fashion, I learned from the Fug Girls. And I hope to one day be famous enough to get fugged by them. I will totally wear a cracked out dress to the Oscars someday that has "Heather and Jessica - this is for you!" bedazzled across the bodice if that's what it takes, because I seriously want to get fugged by them. Anyway.

My thoughts on fashion are these: people need jobs, people need creative outlets, so they make all kinds of things for other people to wear and they tell us certain things are cool and trendy and hip so we have to buy new clothes all the time in order to keep up because people need jobs and creative outlets. Think about it - if someone were to invent a fabric for making, say, trousers that would instantly conform to the wearer to make him or her look fabulous all of the time, nobody would ever need to design another pair of trousers again and millions of people (designers, drapers, stitchers, weavers, store sales clerks, etc) would be out of jobs. So the fashion industry exists because without it, lots of people would be out of work and/or creative outlets.

Now, I know there is that lovely bit in The Devil Wears Prada where Meryl Streep schools Anne Hathaway on her insistence that fashion doesn't really apply to her because the fact that she is wearing a cerulean sweater was pre-determined for her years ago by designers showing cerulean gowns and the trickle-down theory of colors in fashion. I get that. What I don't get or don't like about the fashion industry (and why I try not to participate in it) is this: for that collection of cerulean gowns, for example, the color cerulean was chosen on the whim of the designer, knowing full well that cerulean does not look good on everyone. The trickle-down theory of colors also happened knowing full well that cerulean does not look good on, nor appeal to everyone. And what happens is we get stores full of cerulean clothing that only appeals to or flatters a certain segment of the population, yet we are all told that in order to be cool and hip and trendy, we have to wear cerulean. So people are left with the choice of look like an idiot in the wrong color, or don't be cool. Which actually sounds like a choice between don't be cool or don't be cool in my book. But what do I know?

Things get worse when we branch out from colors into styles. Hip huggers can actually be physically damaging if you wear them too long or too often. The only people who look good in skinny jeans are Ewan MacGregor in Trainspotting and cocaine-addicted rock stars from the 1970's like Iggy Pop. Cropped t-shirts only look good on people with strong abs. Long t-shirts and sweaters do no favors for those with high waists. Vertical trouser pockets make those with wide hips look wider. Pleated trousers make everyone look pregnant or bloated. The list goes on and on, yet these are all fashion trends that have come and gone (and come again) in the last 15 years. And people buy into them, all the time because the fashion magazines tell us this is what we have to wear in order to be cool, likable, attractive, and socially acceptable. When in all truth, when you see a woman who is 5'1" and weighs 160 wearing shin-length pleated cargo pants, a cropped sweater, and a big chunky necklace, you laugh at her behind her back and wonder if she looked in the mirror before she left her house. She is trying to be hip and trendy instead of dressing to her body type.

Dressing to your body type. Such an ugly phrase, but such a useful tool.

We're all stuck in the bodies we're stuck in. Some of us have yellow undertones to our skin, so if we wear yellow, we look jaundiced. Some of us have really wide hips so sheath dresses never fit right. Some of us have narrow shoulders, so suits look slouchy and even t-shirts of the "right" size can look too big. Some of us have big boobs, so button-up shirts always look snug. Some of us are naturally petite, so we have to shop in the children's or junior's section and have a hard time finding office-appropriate attire. People literally come in every shape and size imaginable. The fashion industry designs things that fit women who are significantly taller than average and significantly thinner than average, and expects those trends to trickle down to the rest of us, still somehow flattering our myriad different shapes, sizes and colors. It is a ludicrous idea.

Which brings me back to why I am not a fashionista. I'm learning how to dress for my body type. I know my hips are ginormous, so I don't buy trousers with vertical pockets or pleats, and I don't buy skinny jeans because they make me look like a sugar cone with ice cream spilling off the top. I don't buy neon because nobody looks good in neon. If I find a piece I like - a sweater, a pair of jeans, etc. - I will hold onto that piece until it literally falls apart and I will wear the hell out of it because even though the fashion industry would like me to believe that I need a whole new wardrobe every three months, I know my body doesn't change so drastically every three months that suddenly, a whole different style of sweater or jeans or whatever will look better on me that what is currently flattering to my shape. Yes, my personal style changes a bit over time and I might go through phases where I prefer dresses to trousers, but I'm still going to pick dresses in styles and colors that are flattering to my shape, no matter what style the magazine tells me I should be wearing. And if I can't find anything that fits the bill in the stores, I won't buy anything. I'd rather go home empty handed than spend lots of money on something I'll never wear, or won't feel good about wearing.

So I got a copy of Harper's Bazaar in the mail at work the other day. I honestly don't know what to do with it. It is ginormous - probably weighs two or three pounds - and full of things I'm sure I won't like and wouldn't look good on me anyway, and/or tips on how to turn myself into someone I am not. I feel guilty throwing it away because people worked really hard on it, and that is a lot of paper to dispose of, even if it is recycled. I guess it is a good thing I am going to a collage workshop this weekend - it can be fodder for images and words I need to make my art.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February 20 - Words

Probably the number one question non-actors (non-theater people) ask actors is some variation of "How do you memorize all of those lines?" This is also probably an actor's least favorite question to answer.

Acting is about so much more than memorization. Yes, the words are important. Yes, the playwright chose that word at that time for a specific reason and would therefore appreciate it if you said that specific word in that specific spot. So yes, memorization is important. But the similarity between acting and recitation ends there. Recitation ends there, actually. Acting requires the performer to figure out why this character chooses to say this specific word in this specific spot - what inspires him or her to react a certain way - and to build up and embody a human being who would naturally respond that specific way to that specific situation using those specific words in that specific order. In other words, there is a lot to it.

Generally, I memorize as I rehearse. I will put in the time with Shakespeare to learn the words separately, or if my character has a monologue, I'll work on the language there. But in rehearsal is where it all comes together. The words inspire movements, which help solidify the words in sequence. The other actors feeding me their lines sparks reactions which make the words come out in the proper sequence. And the repetition of doing scenes over and over in rehearsal is what allows me to memorize things so quickly. It is a full body, full mind process.

Except when I'm understudying. As an understudy, you have to get all of that down on your own time, watching someone else rehearse, and with little to no rehearsal time of your own. You have to sit with a script and go through word by word and just burn the language into your brain so that just in case you are called on to perform, you're good to go. It is a full mind process, without the benefit of having the movement and muscle memory of rehearsal involved.

I always consider it an honor to get to understudy someone - understudies are just as important to the theatrical process as anyone else. But it is a different mindset and a different process than being cast outright in a role. I don't know if I completely have that process down yet (I've only really understudied three shows, while performing in more than I can count off the top of my head). Something for me to work on. As I turn back to my script to commit another few pages to memory before rehearsal tomorrow night...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19 - Public Speaking

Public speaking is a lost art, and one that I would like to see recovered. I'm not exactly sure what caused the decline in oration skills. If you look back to Kennedy and Dr. King, you'll find a decade full of great speakers. When Shrub Jr. was president, I cringed every time he opened his mouth, afraid of what idiocy was going to come out. What happened?

I know that a lot of our current communication is done electronically, and that may be the culprit. It is easy to edit out the incorrect words and stutters and guttural noises when you're typing. There also seems to be a move toward brevity, as nobody has an attention span longer than three minutes anymore. If you can't say what needs saying in sixty seconds, it's not worth saying. I think there are times, though, when good public speaking skills are important, and they may not even be the times you're thinking about right now. Yes, if you're running for public office, you'll have to make speeches and it would be nice if you didn't sound like a nincompoop. If you are an expert in your field and you are invited to do a TED speech, you're going to want to practice what you're going to say before you get there. But what about when you lead a team meeting at work? What about when you're walking a colleague through a new piece of software or a new work procedure? What about when you're toasting your friends on their birthday? I think that all of these situations count as situations wherein oration skills are important. You spent three weeks putting together a PowerPoint presentation at work to demonstrate why your ad campaign is the best way to go, and when you get up there to speak about it, you stumble and fumble for words, spit out "um" and "er" and "ah" every third syllable, and you let your sentences get away from you to the point where you start and end them with the same prepositional phrases. Why? Why shoot yourself in the foot like that? I think this sort of presentation or teaching opportunity is much more effective if the presenter sounds like they know what they're talking about. Which is where public speaking skills come in very handy.

I took a public speaking class in high school. It was more an intro to theater class than a public speaking one - we played theater games and did improv. But I have picked up a few tips and tricks along the way when I have had to present myself appropriately to people whose respect I was seeking. Ready? Here we go.

  • Breathe. Number one in importance is to breathe. Nobody expects you to spit out your three hour presentation in one breath or in one sentence. If you breathe normally, you give off the impression you know your subject so well that this public speaking opportunity does not rattle you in the slightest. Breathing equals confidence. It will naturally slow down your speaking rate, and it allows you time to think of the next words that are supposed to come out of your mouth.
  • Don't be afraid of silence. I'm not talking about taking a six minute pause in the middle of a sentence. I'm talking about those guttural noises we all make to fill up the dead space we use to think. The "um"s and the "er"s and the "ah"s, or whatever your noise of preference is. You don't need them. They actually get in the way of your message, by giving off the impression that you are unprepared or "winging it." I realize a lot of us make these noises without realizing it. That's okay. The way to fix it is to start realizing it. Tape yourself talking. Talk to yourself in the mirror. Every time you hear an "um" or an "er" or you feel an "ah" coming on, make the conscious choice to not make that noise, but to take a breath instead. The breath serves the same purpose - it takes up space, it gives the impression you are not done speaking, and it allows you a moment to think of what you are going to say next. Finish the breath and keep speaking without uttering the "um." If you practice this in your everyday life, the next time you have to teach someone something, you will naturally avoid the guttural noises and sound more knowledgeable.
  • Think first, then speak. Again, think first. Then speak. Another common misconception in presentational situations is that you have to have an immediate answer for every question. You should have an answer for every question. If it takes a moment (not a minute, but a moment) to figure out how to properly formulate the answer, take that moment. Think about how you are going to answer so that the inquiry is satisfied, take a breath, then speak. You will give the impression that you honestly listened to the question and gave the answer some consideration before responding, as opposed to spitting out some prefabricated response to similar questions that have been asked before.
  • Enunciate. You have this whole beautiful mouth and throat full of muscles that can help you pronounce words in a way that makes it easy for other people to understand what you are saying. Use them. Warm them up beforehand if you need to. But take the time to enjoy the feeling of all of these words in your mouth, and let the people you are talking to enjoy hearing them pronounced correctly.
  • Forget the thing about imagining people in their underwear. I don't know who came up with that idea, but I think it is a terrible one. I, for one, am not made more comfortable by the thought of my colleagues, coworkers and superiors running around in their skivvies. I am made extremely uncomfortable by the thought of being in the same room as my coworkers while they are severely underdressed. That is not a mental image I want. What helps me is to remember that everyone I am talking to is a person. They all got up and had breakfast or coffee that morning. They all went through the "do I need to press this shirt before I can wear it out?" dilemma. They all want the meeting or the presentation or the class to go well. They are on your side. They are rooting for you. They are hoping the information you have to give them is useful and well organized. And since you took the time to prepare beforehand, it is. So there is nothing to worry about. And go ahead and compliment your boss on her new necklace because it really is dazzling and everybody likes a compliment.
I hope these tips are helpful. Breathe. Be aware of your "um"s so you can stop them. Think. Enunciate. Relax - we're all just people. Public speaking doesn't have to be scary, and it doesn't have to be difficult - if I can do it as in introvert, so can you. And remember - I'm cheering for you, too.

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 18 - Trying Again

I find I get cranky when I'm not eating well, and while there have been many things going on lately that could be contributing to my crankiness, eating better is one thing I actually have control over. Which may sound like a scary statement since a lot of people with eating disorders have the eating disorders because it is a control thing. What I wouldn't give for an eating disorder from time to time.

I'm totally kidding. Eating disorders are terrible and horribly damaging and if you have one or know someone who has one, please seek help or make sure they get help. Food is your friend. When you eat it right.

So I shopped this weekend, and made a soup and a pasta salad yesterday. I also make these cheesy biscuit things that were just weird, so I will not be eating those. But the soup and the pasta salad are really yummy, and they're from one of my favorite cookbooks which is full of tasty, filling, low-fat, low calorie vegan recipes. Because yes, it is that time again. Time for Kitty to start keeping track of what she eats, how much of it she eats, and how often she exercises.

I know I will never be a size 2. I'm okay with that. Since November/December-ish, though, I've lost about nine pounds to bring me down from my all-time high weight. I know it is not the number on a scale that matters - it is how you feel about yourself - and lately, when I'm looking in the mirror, I'm really not liking what I see. I think part of it is brought on by the very large mirror in my hotel room in Orlando, in which I saw myself in various states of undress every day I was there. Normally, I can avoid the full body mirror angle when transitioning from shower to clothed. In Orlando, I couldn't. So I'm paying attention again.

My thought this time around is that if I do this in little segments, maybe it won't be so bad. If I look at the scale and think, "I need to lose 20 pounds," that feels like a lot, and like a goal that is very far away. If I look at the scale and think, "I need to lose five pounds," that feels manageable. It also helps keep me from getting so down on myself because there is a huge difference between feeling twenty pounds overweight and five pounds overweight.

So I'm paying attention. I'm going to make sure to keep my house stocked with yummy, nutritionally sound foods that are low in calories and high on taste. I'm also going to try to get more exercise, meaning yoga tonight. I think I owe it to myself to take care of me. And maybe if I'm a little nicer to myself, I'll stop being so cranky so much of the time.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

February 17 - Teaching

Good teachers are national treasures. They should be respected and revered and paid the astronomical salaries that professional sports players get. They excite students and inspire young minds to change the future. Good teachers are worth their weight in gold.

I have been fortunate to work with many great teachers in my life. My elementary school started me off right with teachers who recognized that the regular curriculum wasn't challenging enough for me and came up with other ways to stimulate my intellectual growth. My second grade teacher got us all excited about science and the world around us. My third grade teacher excited us about life. Our music teacher made sure our lives were full of artistic creativity. To this day, I feel like I was blessed to go to the elementary school I went to, and I wish every kid could have the same elementary education that I did.

As I've gotten older, though, I have found good teachers to be fewer and farther between. Not to say there haven't been amazing ones - I had excellent English and History teachers in high school, a couple of amazing acting and theater professors in college, I found probably the best independent acting school in Chicago, and the most amazing Shakespeare teachers one could hope for. These people have done their jobs and done them well. They inspire me to this day, and I carry the lessons they taught me with me everywhere.

But in trying to find these teachers, I have also run across quite a few who just don't care. Those who focus on the wrong information, those who are so hands-off they might as well be absent, those who do the absolute minimum that is required, those who forget they are working with human beings who want to learn things. It makes me sad that these people have lost their passion for knowledge, and it makes me sad that their students have to pay the price for that. I try very hard in my daily life to stay in the moment and focus on the relationship at hand - if I'm angry at a coworker, I try not to unleash that anger on my friends. If these teachers who are supposed to be inspiring the next generation to do great things can't prevent themselves from unleashing all of their frustrations from students past on present students, what can present students really learn from them?

To all of the amazing teachers I have worked with in my life, thank you. Thank you for helping make me who I am. To all of the teachers out there who have lost their way, lost their drive, lost their focus, or lost their passion, I hope you find it again someday. You are not only letting your students down, you are letting down the version of you that once loved the pursuit of knowledge. I hope you find a way to inspire your better self again.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

February 16 - Intentions

Saturdays are born of the best intentions. We face the day off from work with a list of things that need to get done - laundry, shopping, cleaning, chores, errands, social engagements. Saturdays are full of potential, when we get to do all of the things we can't do on weekdays.

And sometimes, Saturdays need to be just that. Full of intention and nothing else. Sometimes, they are for catching up on sleep and resting the vocal chords. They are a day off from make up and hair styles, a day off from responsibility and social interactions. They are a day that breaks with the week that just ended so we can find the courage to face the week ahead.

Today is one such Saturday. Full of unrealized intentions. Good thing there is a Sunday still waiting in the wings.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 14 - Kissing

While there is no one right way to kiss, there are plenty of wrong ways. Now, since I don't want to fill a blog post with oodles of negativity, I'll give just a couple little hints.

  • Lips first, then tongue, then maybe a little bit of teeth (if you're into that sort of thing). I cannot stress this enough - lips first. If you're leading with anything else, you're doing it wrong.
  • Moisture is a good thing (nobody likes being kissed by chapped lips). Excess saliva is not (nobody likes having to towel off between kisses).
  • Lips first, then tongue.
  • Nothing in the general facial/oral region should be rigid. Ever. Except teeth 'cuz they can't help it, but you're welcome to move them out of the way or give them some time off.
  • Lips first.
  • Mix it up - tempo, pressure, duration. Mix it up.
  • Lips first.
You are now ready to spend the rest of your Valentine's Day kissing someone or something. And to all of my friends and family members, I love you guys dearly. Thank you for being a part of my life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 13 - Update

I feel like it's time for an ankle update because something kind of cool happened this morning.

Now, I have been sort of cautious with my ankle still, wearing the compression sock whenever I'm going to do some physical activity that might put stress on the joint. When I was setting up and tearing down the trade show booth, for example, I wore it, or if I know I'm going to be walking more than a mile at a go. The compression sock is not very fun on it's own, as it squishes the whole lower half of my leg and after a while, my calf muscle starts screaming at me. Taking the sock off and itching where the elastic band of it was, though, is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Anyway.

Yesterday, I did not wear the compression sock. I don't think I wore it Monday, either. This morning, when I went to put on my regular sock, I noticed the tendons in my ankle for the first time in three months. You know how when you flex your foot, you can see the tendons on the top of your ankle and they give it definition? Yeah, I hadn't seen that in three months because of swelling and fluid retention, but I saw that this morning.

Maybe it's time to not be quite so careful with my ankle again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 12 - Series Seven

I'm telling you right now, this blog post is going to be supremely geeky. I am also telling you right now that this blog post will contain spoilers for Series 7 of Doctor Who. I presume most of you who like Doctor Who will have seen these episodes already (up to and including "The Angels Take Manhattan" but not the Christmas episode as I have still not seen that one), but if you haven't and you plan to, stop reading right now and come back tomorrow.

Fair warning? Fair warning.


I know this is going to be a wildly unpopular opinion, but I was disappointed in Series 7 and I was glad to see the Ponds exit, even though it was a really stupid exit. Really stupid. The Doctor has problems landing the TARDIS in New York because there are too many time disturbances, so when Amy and Rory are zapped away by the Weeping Angels, he can't come get them, so he'll never see them again. Question: why don't they leave New York and go somewhere that has fewer time disturbances so he can pick them up there? Question: How come he has had no problems landing in Cardiff which is on top of a GIANT RIFT IN THE SPACE TIME CONTINUUM, but New York is a bit sketchy? Question: How did the angel take Rory and Amy with the Doctor and River Song looking directly at it? Question: If the angel can zap Rory and Amy with the Doctor and River looking at it, why didn't it zap the Doctor and River, too? How did they get away from it? Question: If you're going to point out the fact that New York is the city that never sleeps, how do you work it so that the Statue of Liberty can get from the island on which it resides to a hotel in downtown Manhattan before anyone looks at it to freeze it in place? Question: If the Doctor can land the TARDIS in a graveyard that is just across the river from Manhattan, why is it so freaking sad that Amy and Rory get zapped to an older New York? I mean, seriously. It's set up so they don't even have to get back to England for him to be able to land there; they just have to get to Jersey. That's walking distance. If the New York City skyline is visible in the background of the graveyard where the TARDIS is parked, and they can get into New York to do the things they have to do in the episode while the TARDIS is parked in the graveyard, there is absolutely no reason why this should be goodbye forever. None. It was a stupid, lazy exit.

Now, maybe there are those who want it to be a stupid, lazy exit so that the characters of Amy and Rory can come back in some future episode. I was glad to be rid of them. I liked Rory - he kept the show going for me in a lot of ways in a way that the lack of chemistry between Amy and the Doctor didn't. And I know, I know, there are those who are going to say the Doctor and Amy had great chemistry. Well, let's look at the episode with all of the little black boxes for a minute, shall we? I was enjoying that episode for a while - it had intrigue, mystery, some big plot (I like the idea of a slow invasion) - but then it all got wrapped up so quickly with a little quick fix that it felt rather anti-climactic to me. I think it could have easily been a two-part episode with some nefarious plan that required some tricky resolution, but they just had to wait for the hologram to go away and reverse the energy signal. Really? That's it? Also, how did the hologram shoot lasers at them? But anyway. At one point in this episode, the little boxes open and become attuned to the closest human heart so they can make it stop beating, killing loads and loads of humans all at the same time. The Doctor is affected by one such box. Which, first off, neither of his hearts is a human heart and if the boxes didn't affect birds or fish or squirrels, why did they stop one of his hearts? And as neither heart is human but they somehow stopped one of them anyway, why didn't they stop both of them, sparking his regeneration? But putting all of that aside, the Doctor is sitting there in the middle of a pretty severe cardiac episode and Amy rolls her eyes at his pain. She ROLLS HER EYES. There is a specific shot of her rolling her eyes at him. Does she not care that half of his circulatory system has shut down? Does she not care that he is in pain? It happened in a previous episode that one heart stopped and the companion at the time (Martha Jones, a medical student) did everything that she could to get it beating again immediately. Whereas Amy rolls her eyes. And waits through two or three minutes of screen time (which probably translates to ten minutes of real life time) before doing anything about it. Which amounted to noticing that she was passing a portable defibrillator while walking down the hall and using it on him once he finally collapsed. This is chemistry?

This is what was lacking in the entire Pond run for me. I never felt like the Doctor and Amy truly cared about each other. I never felt like Amy truly cared for Rory, either, despite the writers doing their best to make sure we knew she would pick Rory over the Doctor any day. There was a deleted scene wherein the Doctor told Amy that he brought her with him because he wanted to see the universe anew through her eyes, which (for me) implied that he could have taken anyone. There was nothing special about Amy. In the episode with all of the little black boxes, he said he wasn't running from anything (which previous incarnations of the Doctor said they were running from things, so I wonder when that changed), but instead he was running to Amy because she was the first face his new face saw. Which (for me) implies that this is a companionship of convenience, not of mutual respect, admiration, attraction, etc. He keeps bringing her along places because she is there. Which also explains why it was so easy for him to ditch her at the end of every episode, so at the beginning of each new episode, we have to waste all of this time with him getting her from somewhere, them rehashing what has happened since they were last together, before we can get to the story. If they just stuck together from one episode to the next, maybe we could have spent more time on an interesting resolution to the situation at hand instead. (I also think they could have done without the bookend voice overs in every episode this season, but that's another issue.)

I hope the writers allow the Doctor to become invested in his new companion on some level. I don't care what level - he can fall in love, he can feel like a protective father figure, he can find a new best friend. But I didn't see any of that happen with Amy, and I didn't see Amy invest in the Doctor, either, which made the whole tone of the show feel very...non-committal. I want to be invested in the characters I watch. I want to watch dedicated actors being dedicated to their craft. If I want to watch apathetic people bumbling around together, I'll turn on some reality TV. I want my Doctor back. A Doctor who cares about something. Preferably his companion. And I want stories that make me think and analyze what's going on, that don't have giant plot holes in them.

I hope they change things with this new companion. I love the Doctor too much to let him go, but it's killing me to watch him not live up to his potential. He's the freaking Doctor, for crying out loud. He's better than this.

February 12 - February 11

I did not blog yesterday.

My goal was to blog every day this year and I did not blog yesterday. I could offer up excuses about it being a travel day and how I needed sleep and time with my cat when I got home and blah blah blah blah blah but the fact of the matter is, I did not blog yesterday.

Now, I do not necessarily see this as a failure. As much as I love you, my darling readers, I keep this blog for me. I wanted to write every day this year to get myself back into the habit of writing. I'm not saying I wouldn't love an audience and feedback and a community and all of that stuff, but if that stuff doesn't happen, I still want to write in this blog for me. For my own reasons and my own sanity. And the fact that I did not write yesterday must mean that I needed to not write yesterday. And I'm okay with that.

Now, on the off chance one of you is keeping score, I am already up on the year because there have been days when I have posted more than once. I may try to make today a day wherein I post more than once, too. In any case, I'm not beating myself up about it. And I'm also not giving up. One day off does not mean my goal of getting back in the habit of writing is squished. It means I took a day off.

I'll be back tomorrow, though, I swear.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

February 10 - Tourism

I'm a terrible tourist.

I love to travel. I love going new places and seeing new things. I really love going places where people don't speak English and trying to figure out how to make my way. I say I'm a terrible tourist, though, because I'm not good at doing all of the things you're "supposed" to do when you go somewhere. I've been to New York City more times than I can count and I've never been to the Statue of Liberty. But I have been to the bar that has a TARDIS for a bathroom.

I'm in Orlando for one more day, and I'm done with my work obligations, so I thought about what to do with the rest of the day. Orlando screams Disney, but I just can't make myself do Disney World or Epcot on my own. There will be tons of people walking slowly and taking pictures of everything and standing in lines and I just can't do it. My preference would be to find a cafe somewhere where people who live in Orlando go and just sit outside for some tea. What I like about traveling is seeing how other people live in other places, not seeing what other visitors want to take pictures of. I'm sure when I have a family and I travel with my kids, I'll show them that stuff because you should see that stuff once in your life. But now, as I am, I am more interested in how other people live than I am interested in tourist attractions.

So I did my one tourist-y thing today and am taking it easy the rest of the day. Disney World will still be here next time I'm in Orlando.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

February 9 - The Trick

In a lot of ways, I still feel very young. There are a lot of "grown up" milestones I haven't hit yet - I'm not married, I don't have kids, I don't own property - which makes me feel...young. And as a person who feels young a lot of the time, I also find I'm the sort who, I dunno, looks to others for guidance or lets people tell me what to do.

And then, every now and again, someone older than me who is in a position in their life where they should be able to offer some guidance says something so ugly that I remember how much farther along I am in my journey than I give myself credit for. The trick is to not become as ugly as their comments.

Ay, there's the rub.

Friday, February 08, 2013

February 8 - Courtesy

Okay, smoking. It's a habit, it's an addiction, I get it. Well, actually, I don't. I think it's gross. But whatever. I know smokers are feeling very put-upon because they are not allowed to smoke inside because it is gross and a health issue, so really, outside is smoker's domain. I get that.

What I don't understand is the guy who sees me sitting outside eating and decides to sit immediately upwind of me and lights up so the smoke blows directly into my face. To that guy, I apologize if it looked rude to have me promptly stand up and walk away, but I don't like smoke-flavored hummus. Sorry.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

February 7 - Lists

I know a lot of people create lists of things that they would like to accomplish within a certain amount of time - 25 things to do by age 25, 30 in 30, that sort of thing. It was suggested that I do a 50 by 50 list, which was only mildly insulting in that the insinuation is that the next age milestone I have to hit is 50, which is not true. But I have thoughts.

I like the idea of setting goals. I do it all of the time for myself. And I accomplish those goals, too. At least in situations where I have control over it. I wanted to go to Australia, so I did. I wanted to study theater, so I did. I wanted to play the guitar, so I did. And I did all of these things in part because I learned a long time ago that nobody else was going to do them for me, so if I wanted them to happen, I'd have to do them myself. Yes, it means I went to Australia by myself. But I knew if I waited until someone was available to go with me, I'd never go. I had a blast while I was there and met awesome people. So I'm glad I went. And I take pride in the fact that most of these challenges I set for myself, I am able to accomplish.

What is a little harder to coordinate, though, are the goals that involve other people. For example, I want to work with David Tennant. This requires that someone who is casting or has cast him in something will first allow me to audition and then believe in me enough to cast me. These are things that are out of my control. I can do my best to try to get the audition, and I can do my best if I get the audition, but ultimately, the decision is someone else's. Hell, David Tennant may decide that he doesn't want to work with me. So if I set the goal that I have to work with David Tennant before I turn 50 and we run into one of the above scenarios, then I'm just stuck with this goal that will never be completed. Which just leaves me with an opportunity to be down on myself or consider myself a failure, and why would I want to do that? Why set myself up for lifelong failure?

Now, I'm not saying that I'm going to scratch "Work with David Tennant" off of my list of things I want to do with my life. But for those goals that require the participation of another, I have to file them in the "I would really love it if this happened, even though it probably won't" category. That way, if it happens, bonus! If it doesn't, I knew it wasn't going to anyway so no harm done.

So what do I want to accomplish before I turn 50? A lot of things that involve other people. And I'd maybe like to strengthen and tone my arms so they look like Madonna's, and my abs to look like Pink's. Gotta know what I have control over and what I don't.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

February 6 - Badass

I don't know if you've ever been to a trade show or a convention in a convention center, like an auto show or Comic Con or anything, but they are an odd beast. It's almost like it's own subculture - the trade show circuit - and it varies only slightly from city to city in it's culture.

I'm also guessing that if you have been to a trade show or convention, you have gone as an attendee. Someone who walks up and down the aisles looking at all of the stuff the exhibitors brought with them, trying to avoid eye contact (as that invites conversation) as you look for some stuff that you would like to look at more than all of the other stuff you just walked past. They're kind of fun when you can meander and are allowed to leave whenever you want.

It is a totally different beast when you are an exhibitor. And yet another beast when you are the one setting up the booth. It's a whole other world.

The thing that gets me about me setting up a trade show booth is that it is a male-dominated occupation. There are guys who do nothing but work at convention centers, setting up and tearing down trade show booths. There are guys who "moonlight" on weekends. There are guys who bring bicycles to get around because let's face it, convention centers are huge and a bicycle is an easier way to get from one end to the other. I thought about bringing my roller skates, but I'm not totally confident on them yet to be able to jump and dodge all of the garbage in the aisles. Setting up and tearing down trade show booths is a dirty business - you get sweaty and grimy and cut your fingers and drop things on your feet. It is hard manual labor. And I can tell that there is a weird sort of respect for the girl that walks through the convention center with a tool box, knowing where she's going, ready to uncrate heavy equipment. Maybe not respect. But a something. I get noticed as a woman setting up a trade show booth.

Today, I was walking through the convention center carrying gallon jugs of water in each hand, wearing sunglasses and a Doctor Who t-shirt and I felt like a badass. So just for fun, I did bicep curls with the gallon jugs of water as I walked. And I noticed the heads turning, the guys watching as I walked down the aisles, very sure of myself. I think I could like that world. I think I could like feeling like a badass on a regular basis.

I certainly like it better than the world that involves pressed shirts and slacks and schmoozing with salespeople all day.

And I promise, this entire week will not be trade show ramblings.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

February 5 - Injuries

I'm not the sort that gets squeamish at the sight of blood. As evidenced by my disappointment that the first episode of "The Following" was not more gorey, one might say I've built up a tolerance for that sort of thing. Yes, this could be construed as a sad commentary on my life, but whatever. I don't get squeamish at the sight of blood. Not even my own. I don't like to watch someone put a needle in my arm when I'm giving blood, but I'm honestly kind of fascinated by it. Not in a creepy "I'm going to start cutting myself" way, but in an "Isn't science cool?" sort of a way. Does that make any sense? At all?

Great. I wanted to write a blog about the fact that I cut my finger today while setting up for this trade show, and how I always manage to get some sort of superficial injury at every trade show I work, and instead, I've now alerted all of you to the fact that I'm odd. Not like you didn't know that before, but my "hey, isn't this a cool thing?" intro took a rather dark turn there for a second. And that's not what I meant at all. I think anatomy is interesting, I think chemistry is interesting, I think biology is interesting. And as my finger didn't seem to want to stop bleeding for a bit there today, I have blood on my mind. And a bandage on my finger. The wound itches.

Anyway, I always manage to injure myself in some stupid way at trade shows. Blood blister on my palm. Cut my finger on an industrial staple. Dropped a crate on my toe. Something. I always do something to remind me that I did actual manual labor at these things. I guess it's a good idea I got it out of the way early at this show, so hopefully it can heal enough that I don't have to wear a bandage while working the show floor.

Sorry. Bad post today. I'll hopefully have something interesting to say tomorrow.

Monday, February 04, 2013

February 4 - Thoughts From Places

I wonder if other people are as acutely aware of other people as I am.

I remember when I was a kid, flying somewhere in a plane was fun because we got to see the people, cars, and houses get smaller and smaller on take off and then bigger and bigger on landing. The thing that gets me about that same view now is that there are people in all of those cars. People in all of those houses and buildings. Every single one of them is having a day. Every single one of them has things that they need to do that day, places to go, things that are important. They're all making phone calls and sending emails or texts, having conversations, doing things that make them feel like they are a part of the world. And to them, I'm just the plane flying overhead that interrupted their phone call for a few seconds. They don't know what I'm doing or where I'm going or why or what makes me feel like a part of the world. And as crazy complicated as my life is, each of the them has their own beautifully crazy complicated life, too.

And to take it one step farther, we flew over some lakes. Lakes large enough that if you fell off a boat in the middle of it, it would be a challenge to swim ashore. And in those lakes live fish. And bacteria. And all sorts of critters I've probably not seen before. Critters that will spend their entire lives in that one lake. Critters that spend their days eating, trying to not be eaten, trying to reproduce. They don't know and don't care about all of the things we do on dry land to try to make ourselves feel important. They have their own things.

There is so much life on this planet. And so little of it is about me.

Are other people so acutely aware of this?

Sunday, February 03, 2013

February 3 - Super Bowl Sunday

There are those who say sports allegiances are based entirely on the uniforms - players, coaches, staff, stadiums change, but uniforms stay fairly constant. At least team colors do. I'll agree with that, at least to some extent. And seeing as I have no allegiances to either team in the Super Bowl this year, I kind of have to root for the uniforms. Except I can't. The Ravens look like they're wearing leggings and the font of their numbers is all wrong. I'm not a fan of the 49er's kicker wearing mismatched shoes. I'm reaching for the silliest thing to pick a team to cheer for, and I just can't do it. I'm sorry. I think this counts as a sports fail.

At least the commercials are fun.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

February 2 - Yes

I'm a credits watcher. When a movie ends, I stick around and watch the credits. Making movies is a very long process that involves hundreds of people sometimes, and most of those people, you've never heard of. You know who the actors are, and the director, sometimes the writer. But who is the last great key grip you knew? What's a key grip? Exactly.

Actually, I know what a key grip is. It's a bit of a gopher job, but still. The key grip contributed to the movie and was probably over the moon the first time she saw her name roll up the screen. So out of respect for the hundreds of people who work together over the course of several months, I watch movie credits. They all deserve recognition, I think, and watching credits is my way of doing that.

I've also been watching a lot of bad movies lately, though. My best guy friend and I try to see the worst movie in the theater on major holidays, so I've seen some real crap lately. Which has moved me away from my desire to watch the credits. I know it's mean and dismissive, but when I'm praying for a movie to end five minutes after it started, it is a relief to be able to bolt as soon as the credits roll. To the people involved in those movies, I apologize, both for the fact that you had to make that movie and that I didn't stick around to see your name roll up the screen.

Tonight, though, I saw "Warm Bodies." And I had to stay to watch the credits. I would have watched twenty minutes of credits for that movie. I don't want to gush about themes or lessons or whose performances were amazing and why. I just want to thank every single person involved in the making of that film for making that film. Watching "Warm Bodies" was the kind of experience I've been missing in going to the movies for quite some time, and I didn't realize how much I missed good, fun movies until I watched this one. So thank you. To the stars, the director, the writers, the key grips, the gaffers, the effects team, the music coordinators, everyone. Thank you for making a really fun movie. Thank you for reminding me why I watch the credits.

Friday, February 01, 2013

February 1 - Focus

Happy February! It's cold outside!

The weekend has officially started, so I am focusing on pushing the negative thoughts and feelings from the day out of my mind and I choosing to instead focus on how marvelously wonderfully weird my life can be sometimes.

I get to learn sport fencing for "Hamlet." And the person I am fencing with is, I believe, a very talented performer. So right now, I'm choosing to be giddily happy about the thought of learning a groovy new skill with a talented partner.

Now, how do I get less negative and more weird in my life?