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Staying In and Getting Real Night, Part 7

I haven’t had the inspiration to write much recently (either here or on my dissertation), so I decided to look back, and the last time I did a post like this was exactly one year ago today.

But here I am, once again on February 19th, once again staying in and getting real, albeit in different apartment, in a different zip code. And I still have trouble concentrating on writing when the TV is on and not muted.

Things here have been pretty normal, I guess. But only here.

Ever since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school massacre last week – a Columbine for the 21st century – things have felt as eerie as they did back in the 1990s. Granted, I was only in elementary school and I did not understand its impact on American life as much as someone a few years older than me would have, but even so, the topic came up in my fifth grade classroom. I remember how it opened up an entire conversation of violence in schools. I remember the images from the news; the low-res CCTV camera footage of the shooters walking down the halls in trenchcoats, the still image of the library window, the video on the news of students in sweatshirts and turtlenecks running away from the camera, their hands covering their ears.

Things should have changed then, but obviously, they didn’t. It’s happened so many times since, at all types of schools, most prominently universities, but something of Columbine-like proportions occurring again – in almost the same manner, just at a different school in a different state – just makes a person feel like they live in an illogical, unfeasible, chaotic world, a world where something like this, which shouldn’t happen, happens. It’s interesting to note that once again, most of the deceased and most of the people speaking out are white, but that’s beside the point. At least this time, social media has captured the unseen angles, the perspectives of the students who were there, in clear and concrete photos, videos, and tweets, and it’s actually done some good for once, helping to spread the word of how these teenagers feel. Who knows what will come of this – sadly, probably nothing – but at least the higher level of visibility is keeping the issue afloat for longer, and reaching farther than Columbine did.

Today, at my office, the fire alarm went off. I didn’t pay much attention to it; I was packing up to go home anyway, so I just hustled a little bit to get my things together and get out of the building, but for a split second, I felt this weird fear, the same kind of fear I felt in the first fire drills after Columbine, and 9/11 (the day which, by the way, the electricity shorted out in my high school and the fire alarm set itself off and everyone went crazy for about ten minutes), and I silently wondered what it would have been like if it was something unthinkable. What would I have done? Hiding under the desk wouldn’t have done much good, at least had I not slammed my door shut first, which is locked from the outside, but who knows if I would have even had the time. All I would have had to defend myself would be a backpack full of books and my students’ work, and maybe two chairs if it came down to it. It’s a thought that now, sounds silly and strange. But due last week’s event, that fire alarm kicked in a reminder, if only for a few seconds, that we still live in a world where things like this can happen and do happen.

Say what you will about guns, mental illness, bullying, but point blank – whatever the reason, there is no excuse for mass shootings.

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Bad Luck Chuck

Over the past 24 hours…

  • My iPhone battery life keeps evaporating quicker and quicker in the cold. I walked up Bascom Hill at 65% and by the time I got to the top it was 17%.
  • A piece of plastic chipped inside my computer, and now the power button won’t connect. Also, possibly, due to the cold weather. So it’s a brick and I’m typing on my phone until Friday (best case scenario) or next Wednesday (worst case scenario unless it’s unfixable).
  • My blender almost caught FIRE. basically, it just whirrs and generates smoke/dust and sounds like an old vacuum. And it’s only a few months old. Now all I can smell and taste is burning metal.

So that’s my life right now. Send some good luck if you can. And maybe 20 degrees of warmth.

Please and thank you.

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Pajama Drama

So, last week, my red pajama pants split down the middle one night, so I decided I needed new ones.

I went to Target yesterday to pick up some new ones, and found…myself in a pickle.

Every single pair of pajama pants I saw had some sort of character or logo on it. Marvel, Batman, Harry Potter…all I wanted was a pair of pajama pants, soft and in a solid color. I already have a pair of Family Guy pajamas, so I’m covered on that front, but how much is it to ask for some plain pajama bottoms? And not ones that are shorts or sweatpants? Corporate branding has gotten pretty preposterous. Grown men should not wear Marvel comics on their pajama pants as much as they should wear a yellow tuxedo.

Anyway, I settled for a pair in blue plaid. Not exactly what I wanted, but hey, it’s 2018. This is the year of “I guess we can’t all have what we want.”

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Flip the Script Friday: Howard Brenton, #aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei

Today’s Flip the Script Friday comes from my play collection. Here’s a contemporary play about a controversial and misunderstood real figure – the late Ai Weiwei of China. Accordingly, this play is called #aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei, by Howard Brenton.

Basics

#aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei by Howard Brenton, based on Ai Weiwei’s account in “The Hanging Man” by Barnaby Martin, premiered at London’s Hampstead Theatre on 11 April 2013.

Characters

  • Ai Weiwei
  • Airport Official
  • First Police Guard/First Army Guard
  • Second Police Guard/Second Army Guard
  • “Minder”, an interrogator
  • “Professor”, an interrogator
  • “Sportsman”, an interrogator
  • Thin Young Man, a recorder
  • and B, high officials in Zhongnanhai
  • Other policemen and security men

Setting/Plot

2011, Beijing Airport. Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist, is about to fly to Taipei, when he is detained by officials for questioning, and subsequently held captive for 81 days.

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Always Fresh, Never From Concentrate

Flip the Script….will be back soon (I know, everyone’s favorite), but I’ve been doing a lot of reading and have not posted a book review for awhile, so here goes. Forget V8 and wave Ocean Spray goodbye, because today’s blog post is all about Alphabetter Juice by Roy Blount Jr.

Cover photo from Amazon.com

It’s not a cookbook or a guide to cleanses; rather, Alphabetter Juice is the sequel to a book by the same author which I haven’t read yet. I saw it on the shelf at Dollar Tree and it looked interesting, so I got it, read it, and sent it off to someone in California via PaperBackSwap. I can’t say it was the most thrilling read, but if you’re into words, etymology, and tangents, this one is for you.

Blount breaks down the chapters by alphabet letter, selecting five or ten words from each letter and writing a short entry about their etymology and the curiosity of their existences. A lot of it has to deal with the way the words sound when the come out of the human mouth. For example, when we say the letter “o”, our mouths form the same shape, and the unpleasant hardness of the “nk” sound leads to words like yank, spank, wank, and shank, all of which have connotations of something taboo. I’d be interested to hear what a vocalist or a dialect coach had to say about some of these examples.

Probably the weakest part of the book is the author’s tendency towards long, rambling stories that, after a certain point, are utterly uninteresting. The best entries are the ones which are succinct and to the point. At a certain point, I felt like I was glossing over a lot of the stories, looking for some interesting key words and going off of those.

I did learn a few interesting things from Blount’s book. For example:

  • Beans – They are only mentioned twice in all of Shakespeare’s writings, leading the author to believe he wasn’t fond of this vegetable.
  • Elephant – The term “white elephant” may have come from the King of Siam, who reportedly would gift a rare white elephant to someone he didn’t like. Anyone who would turn down a gift like that from such an illustrious person would be looked down upon, but elephants are quite hard for the average person to take care of, especially one of a rare breed.
  • Knee – The English language has no word for the back of the knee. The author suggests “eenk.” I couldn’t care less.
  • Pun – He introduces this entry with a pun about a transit strike in Manhattan. When asked how to get around, one man said “diesel.” The asker looked confused, until the man pointed at his feet and said…wait for it…“Diesel get me anywhere.” So bad, it’s…not too bad.

The best thing about this book was that it actually helped me get a question right in HQ Trivia. I had just read the entry on cleave, which talked about words that have two meanings which contradict each other, and cleave was the exact answer to the question. I still lost at question 6 or so, but thanks, Roy Blount Jr.!

This book review was brought to you by words. You can’t read without them.

 

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Social Media Saturation

So this year’s been off to some kind of start, on the blogging front…anyway, greetings from Milwaukee, where I just went to an APO meeting at Marquette University and am now procrastinating before I have to drive the one and a half hours home.

My parents came into town on Sunday, and since today was my mom’s birthday, we drove 2 hours north to Stevens Point, where one of my mom’s best friends lives, for a birthday lunch. As is traditional these days, I took pictures with my phone, immediately texted them to everyone at the table and posted them on my Facebook with fun captions. And watched the likes and comments roll in. Fun.

Last week, my wonderful friend Kate was in town from Australia, and I got the chance to sit an have a coffee with her for two hours. We had an amazing conversation, about school, life, religion, friends, everything under the sun. As I was walking down the street after we hugged goodbye, I realized that we hadn’t taken a picture together. Part of me wanted to turn around and chase her down to get one, but ultimately, the part of me that was frozen solid and just wanted to get to the library before my fingers fell off won out. Once I was in the library though, I logged onto Facebook, and was going to post something on my page about it, sans photo, but then I realized…

Who am I really posting it for?

Do I care that people know that we had coffee together? Not really. Do I want to make people jealous? No. Was this a crazy, momentous, life-changing event? To me, and hopefully her, it was, but…who else needs to know? And a photo? I know what she looks like and she knows what I look like. Is it like…if it’s not on social media, did it actually happen?

The answer to that one is yes. Remember the days when we didn’t have cameras at the ready 24/7, places to share pictures with everyone in the world, and even cell phones to know if someone was going to be late/cancel or not? In those days, no one cared if every little event in your life was documented. It says so much about our society today that we need to document every little thing, and hashtag it, and link it to every single platform and profile we have. True, I have a blog here, and I have a Facebook, but I mostly use Facebook because I like its interface, I like to use it to communicate with friends who are cities, or states, or countries away, and I have to admit, the way it organizes photos is neat and clean. Even though I feel like I’m always on social media, I still don’t have Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, or even Twitter. It’s like…do I really exist?

The not-so-much-of-a-point-point (aka whatever-don’t-listen-to-me-I-don’t-know) of this story is:s sometimes, it’s OK just to have happy memories of things, without all the documentation and self-paparazzi. Do what you want, but at the end of the day it’s about your experience, and not what you document of it, that makes it worth the memories.

Anyway. I ended up sending Kate a private message, just saying thanks for meeting up with me, I had fun, and I hope you did too, and then logging off and going back to (attempting to avoid) writing.