Thursday, June 30, 2011

Orlando's Last Prank

Yesterday, a friend came over to help with the packing as I get ready to move. My bound thesis was sitting on my desk, so she picked up a copy to glance at it. When I looked over her shoulder, something funny had come over Orlando.

First I saw this:

Yep, *cringe* it's Orlando.

Then this:

Wait, what?

Then this:

Title: The Thesis Jen Wishes She Had Written.

Although Orlando may have shrunk 23 pages in length, my illustrious thesis now has a section called: "Wandering Monster Tables." Brilliant!

If only I had gotten this copy before my defense. This could completely revolutionize the teaching of Shakespeare.

All the same, I can't help wondering if someone, somewhere, is now desperately trying to find the Foucauldian Heterotopia on level 5 of Labyrinth Lord, all the while wondering why the character "Pericles" has yet to show up...

Well played, Orlando. Well played.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Life in 10 seconds

I'm getting flashbacks to sitting in an unfurnished living room, reading Terry Eagleton, and feeling excited about getting a new ThinkPad.

Two years go by pretty fast.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stress Craving (2)

...and also waltzing.

...times a million.


Stress Cravings

I'm moving this week. Like the majority of normal human beings, I don't consider moving a particularly enjoyable endeavor. In fact, it's downright stressful. Pressed for time, frustrated with packing, there must be a logical stress reliever. Right?

So what do I do?

I go outside when it's getting ready to storm and I weed the garden-I'm-getting-ready-to-leave-behind.

Logical? Not exactly. But it works.

I douse my nostalgia about the tomato plant that grew from last year's rotten tomato seeds (and is 20 times healthier than my potted heirloom tomato) in a hefty dose of overgrown mint and spiky weeds.

I wax poetic about the next residents who will let the place go to wrack and ruin in my absence while stabbing my finger on a rose thorn and putting a restraining order on the imperially minded morning glories.

Then I go inside, get a drink, and sit on the couch to watch the storm while I pack my silverware.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Literary U

This week, my sister got married! (!!!!!!!!)

In the lead-up to the big day, I spent a lot of time driving around Richmond. I discovered anew the poor state of my distance vision while I attempted to find my way to 102 locations around the city. Google Maps was my friend. However, this week I learned something about the aforementioned friend.

Google Maps loves extraneous U-turns.

The simple answer, looking at a map, might be to make a left turn and then another left. BUT, you could shave off 2.374 seconds by making a U-turn at the light, turning right on an unmarked access road, and then turning left onto your target street.

Google Maps: Do it!
Why, Google Maps, why?

Thankfully, as a Master of English, I know that any number of explanations is possible. It all depends on your theoretical framework. For example...


The shape created by a U-turn speaks for itself. GPS devices are associated with the feminine because they often speak with a female voice, so the obsession of GMaps with U-turns is a manifestation of penis envy and the early stage of an Electra complex -- female drivers are particular targets of the software's ensuing rage.


Mapping is traditionally a masculine endeavor to control the land, which is portrayed as female. Demanding a U-turn is GMaps's attempt to inscribe a phallic shape on the terrain.

New Historicist

Powerful institutions attempt to contain drivers within a regimented system of roads, and technology like GMaps was invented to serve this end. However, unmarked access roads are traces of an earlier system of roads, so U-turns that utilize these older access points represent the geographical subversion of today's technology.


The term "u-turn" represents a collision between the inability of language to account for movement that does not conform to prescribed directions, producing regression to verbiage based on representative sounds and shapes, and the underlying demand of language for an illusion of simplicity as demonstrated in the rejection of the precise term "hyperbolic turn" on the grounds that the adjective "hyperbolic" constitutes a point of contamination between the literary function "hyperbole" and the mathematical shape "hyperbola."

The list could go on and on, endlessly deferred toward the void...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Open Letter from a Escalatorphobic

Dear WAY TOO YOUNG TO BE THAT GOOD suit-clad piano player in the department store,

Your playing is beautiful. Make no mistake. But like 99% of your mall-walking listening audience, I did not expect live music while I wandered through the makeup department. I did not approach the women's accessory department mentally or emotionally prepared for your rendition of "On My Own" from Les Miserables.

That song should come with its own set of user advisories: Do not listen to this recording if you are A) a romantic, B) single, or C) likely to become single. Most importantly, do not listen to this song if you are any of the above and in the process of stepping onto an escalator.

We timing impaired down-escalatorphobics may be few and far between, but there's no need for you to shake our equilibrium right before we step onto a relentless mechanical cliff-walking instrument of doom.

That's all.

But the last arpeggio -- beautiful.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Final Chapter

(Last week's news): Print copy arrives! I give a copy to my parents!

Two minutes later, Dad finds a comma error in the introduction. I think it was on page 3.

He prefaces disclosure of the error with, "I'm assuming it's not actually a mistake, since at this level I would assume..."

Haha. That's funny.



Life in 10 seconds

Working a lot of hours on ever-evolving projects. House hunting before my lease runs out: lots of "exotic animal print" themed rooms and 1948 original fuse boxes. Pool time. Getting ready to celebrate my big sister's wedding. Not reading much, but currently Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet. Very good. Watching (falling asleep during) movies, including The Science of Sleep, I Love You Man, Bridget Jones's Diary, An Education, The Dark Knight, and 27 Dresses. Dancing infrequently. Frisbee-ing.

Just have to make it through June.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Proverbial Wisdom

It is a false logic to presume that love of an activity precludes the consideration of extenuating circumstances when determining the wisdom of the aforementioned activity.

I love to run barefoot. Usually, running barefoot is a great idea. Yesterday, I consulted this logic and went for a short run barefoot, on the sidewalk, at noon. I neglected to consider extenuating circumstances such as 95-degree weather and the thermal conductivity of cement and asphalt, not to mention the delay of temperature-based sensation in the feet due to the concussive effect of running barefoot.

Rather large, rather painful blisters on both feet.

Lesson learned, proverb. Lesson learned.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Stories We Tell

It's ironic. I finished writing my thesis, swore I would never speak to Orlando again, and now find myself pondering some of the same questions it forced me to ask.

Namely, who has the right to tell someone else's story, and to what end?

I've been stuck on a particular passage from Dave Eggers' Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I won't repeat it in full, but a few lines stand out. Out of context, this may not make much sense, but the novel is something like a metafictional fictionalized autobiography, if that helps.

Okay, continue.

"We're not talking about me."
"Yes we are, of course we are. We always are. In one way or another, we always are. Isn't that obvious? ... I mean, how much do you really care about me, outside of my usefulness as some kind of cautionary tale, a stand-in for someone else, for your dad, for these people who disappoint you ... I'm just another one of the people whose tragedies you felt fit into the overall message. ... But see, you cannot move real people around like this, twist their arms and legs, position them, dress them, make them talk--"
"We are all feeding from each other, all the time, every day."
"Yes. That's what we do, as people." (423-5)

Telling someone else's story and making it part of your own seems natural. Sometimes, with permission and in context, it can do a lot of good. But I think the temptation, for writers as well as storytellers, is to use people as characters and fit them into a narrative of our own design.

I know I do that.

Without getting too Derridean for a Thursday morning, I think there's some truth in saying that every testimony carries the possibility of fiction. Being aware of that propensity -- call it exaggeration, manipulation, embellishment, what you will -- shouldn't stop us from making sense of events and relationships or sharing experiences, but I think it does require a pause, a second thought to consider the effects of our storytelling on the real people whose stories we tell.