Thursday, February 26, 2009

Speech Wars

My new favorite website has a rather enigmatic title: Speech Wars. It contains a plethora of information just begging to be used by rhetoricians, political scientists, and other word-crazy individuals like myself. 

Pick State of the Union, Inaugural Addresses or Election 2008 campaign speeches. Type in a word. Choose percentages or counts. Click go. All of a sudden, you can see exactly how many times presidents have used the word 'government' in their state of the union addresses since 1790. 7,036 times.
  • The word 'government' was in much higher demand in the 1800s, peaked around 1945, and then again around 1985. Since then, although government is once again growing, presidents are much less likely to use the word. 
  • 'Freedom' is another fun case study. Since 1942, the numbers rose considerably, went through a low point in the 70s, then swooped in the 1980s and again in the 2000s. Total: 695 usages.
  • 'Genocide' on the other hand, has been mentioned only three times: 1950, 2006, and 2008.
  • 'Abortion'? Five times. Not one since 1988.
  • 'Consumerism'? Zero.
  • 'Mistake'? 32 times.
  • Teddy Roosevelt used 'wrong,' 'moral,' and 'sin' more times than any other president. 'Sin' has not been mentioned since 1911.
I could go on all day. Needless to say, you should check out the site. Now I want to go back to political science class. This would have helped my course link paper on political rhetoric in state of the union addresses IMMENSELY.  Hindsight. Good stuff. Check it out.

(Giving credit where it's due, I came across this site via Freakonomics). 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Google Knows What I Need

Because it's all the rage on Facebook to pass around funny surveys, I've decided to skip Facebook and bring this one straight to the blog.

The scoop: Google " ~ needs," inserting your first name for the tilde. Write down the first 10 different phrases that pop up. 

Just for kicks, and to see how well Google really knows me. It's a little frightening, actually. My Google horoscope/fortune cookie is thus:
  1. Jen needs a session or two with a therapist.
  2. Jen needs a break.
  3. Jen needs a muzzle.
  4. Jen needs to a get a grip on her life. 
  5. Jen needs to find a self-righteous, conspicuous, "I'm better than you" charitable position so she can keep charming the sheep into thinking she matters.
  6. Jen needs to wise up.
  7. Jen needs human anatomy lessons.
  8. Jen needs cheering up.
  9. Jen needs to get off Facebook.
  10. Jen needs you. 
1 - yep, probably. 2 - hear, hear! 3 - okay... 4 - I think I have a stranglehold already, actually. 5 - you can't beat that for a fortune cookie, let's be honest. 6 - probably true. 7 - um, no thanks. 8 - sometimes. 9 - absolutely 100% true. 10 - you know it :-). 

All or Nothing

"Is it all...or nothing at all? There's nowhere left to fall, when you reach the bottom, it's now or never..."

Congratulations to me. I now have that good ol' O-Town song stuck in my head.

I've been reading Richard Winter's book Perfecting Ourselves to Death, and one of the most interesting ideas he challenges readers to consider is the "all or nothing syndrome" that a lot of perfectionists suffer from. 

"Every time." 
"Not once."

It's so easy to start using these words out of context. 

I didn't get into one grad school? I'll never be good enough. I made a mistake in my job? Every time I try something new, I fail. I said something I regretted? I always say the wrong thing. Someone let me down? Not once have they been there for me.

One of my biggest challenges this year is learning to be realistic in a positive sense, not just a pessimistic sense. To learn how not to be so deeply wounded by every failure or every mistake. To be okay with improving in baby steps. 

"Baby steps to the steps onto the elevator" ... now I have What About Bob stuck in my head as well. I hate that movie. And what a combination.  "Is it all, or baby steps down the hall? There's nowhere left to babystep when they lose the power, it's stairs or nothing."

I'm going to stop now, and go start charting my next set of baby steps. Although, I still think it might be all or nothing when it comes to the amount of love or hate people feel for the Oscars. Just a thought, y'all. 


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Acceptance #1

Emerson College, Boston. It's really cold there. 


Somebody wants me. :-)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rejection #2

Northwestern. Happy Monday.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Watch for Flying Forks

Theater people are superstitious. New Years Day is full of "do"s and "don't"s to get the year off to a lucky start. Friday the Thirteenth? A full moon? Political correctness. He/She/It? Ahhh!!!


Oh no, my friends. What you may not realize is that these days and situations have nothing on the most tenuous of days when friendships can be destroyed, tears evoked, luck ruined, and the wrath of an entire gender brought down upon your head in a single instant. 

Valentines Day. 

I doubt it's an accident that the name sounds like "flying [fork] tines."

If you read my post on New Years Resolutions, you may have realized I don't put much stock in cultural taboos. Or at least, I try not to. 

My challenge to you this Nightmare-of-Flying-Fork-Tines Day is to walk bravely under the ladder of Valentines taboos, reflecting that the color red is, after all, just a color, and Walmart has already started decorating for Easter. 

To help you on your journey, I've compiled a list of Valentines taboos just dying to be broken: 
  • Wear absolutely nothing red. Or pink. Or rose. Or maroon. Or magenta. Or fuschia. Or plum. Or salmon. Or strawberry. Or raspberry. Or fire engine red. Or even lavendar, because it's a pink wanna-be. OR...
  • Wear every shade of pink and red. At the same time. Not because it's Valentines Day or Broken-Heart Day.

  • Watch a sappy chick flick and scoff loudly at the most romantic moments. OR...
  • Watch a sappy chick flick and DON'T scoff loudly at the most romantic moments. 

  • Eat a piece of chocolate cake for dessert without offering to share with a friend. OR...
  • Start a no-chocolate diet.

  • Change your relationship status on Facebook at least twelve times, allowing time for "aww" comments in between.  OR...
  • Send all your friends who use the Li'l Green Patch application on Facebook a red rose, regardless of their relationship status.

  • Re-gift your leftover Christmas candy. OR..
  • Re-gift last year's Valentines and candy.

  • If you're on a date or spending your first Fork Day as a couple, add Frank Sinatra's "Love and Marriage" to your dinner playlist. And sing along. AND...
  • Drop shameless hints every time you see a diamond commercial. OR... 
  • At that fancy restaurant, get down on one tie your shoe.

  • Stage a protest of alternate Valentines Day nomenclature: Singles Awareness Day and Un-Valentines are just going too far. Fork Day is okay. OR...
  • Wish them all your single friends a happy "Singles Awareness Day." AND...
  • Create a personalized relationship plan for each of your single friends. Present it to them with a little "Bless your heart" thrown in for good measure.
And above all else, have fun showin' some love to the people you care about. After all, you've just survived a full moon AND Friday 13th, so you should be all warmed up to dodge some flying forks.

Me, I might just check my mailbox for all the incoming relationship plans; then sit down and watch Titanic for the first time and have a good cry at the end. Oh, Rose...Wherefore art thou (un-drowndest) Rose? The world will always wonder...

Rejection #1

They don't even dignify it with a paper copy of the letter.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Life in 10 seconds

Lots of dancing (+4). Way too little sleep this weekend (-2). Too much coffee (-1/+1). 13 combined hours in the car (-3). Fun friends (+5). Beautiful warm weather (+2). Not a bad weekend overall. :)

Now reading Perfecting Ourselves to Death (Winter), Love in the Time of Cholera (Garcia-Marquez), Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (Bloom), and Rescripting Shakespeare (Dessen).  Also listening to Huckleberry Finn (Twain) on CD in the car.

No word from grad schools yet. Another visit coming up next week!

...and it's only Monday...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

An Apology to the USPS

Dear Mr. or Ms. Postal Delivery Worker, a.k.a. Mailman/Mailwoman:

It is February. It can't be a pleasant month for you. Riding in a vehicle whose heat-holding powers appear relatively low, and then repeatedly opening the window to let in more cold air cannot be fun. Delivering perfumed pink and red cards dripping with glitter must be horrible, especially if you have allergies or wear anything that glitter sticks to, like fleece.

There are more dead skunks on the road, so the odors wafting in with each stop must be loathsome. And dogs left out in the cold are cranky and probably more willing to bite than in their usual pre-programmed-anti-mailman state.  I feel your pain.

So I am writing this open letter of apology for contributing to that pain.

It is February. It is not a pleasant month for me either, or for the many high school and college seniors, or the unintentional-gap-year students like myself. 

We are waiting desperately to hear our fate spoken by the college and graduate admissions committees. Most of them choose to communicate with us via the U.S. Postal Service.

We may appear threatening in our ragged sweatshirts and too-tight jeans, crouching behind the row of mailboxes when you drive up. But we are generally harmless. Just place any envelopes with an academic return address in the box and back away slowly. You'll be perfectly safe, unless you bury the letter in a sheaf of advertisements or begin to put it in the wrong box. I promise. 

If it's good news, we might even shake your hand. Or give you a hug through the window of your very cold postal vehicle. If it's bad news, you may want to come back later to finish putting the mail in the boxes. A kick to your hubcap probably won't hurt it, but we wouldn't want you to face a lawsuit over our broken toes. 

So we ask your patience. February will soon be over. And March. And after April 15, you will see us no more, with the exception of a few poor souls who were waitlisted. 

Thank you, dear, kind Postal Worker. Come back soon. And consider flying a blue flag on the days that you are carrying that ill-fated envelope.  It will give us a running start to snatch the letter from your hand as you drive past, and the color will look beautiful with your eyes.


A Well-Meaning Haunter of the Mailbox