Friday, May 14, 2010

A Tragedy in One Act: When the Roommate Left, Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire

Me: I dreamt about pizza last night, because I was craving it.
Michael: Interesting! Freud would say... that you are a pizza.

When he moves to New Orleans, this man will be living by himself, and conversations like this might occur less frequently. I think that's sad.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

RIP, Baby. You were a good car.

"First of all, I'm okay." - Me (talking to just about EVERYone)

This morning, while I was driving to church, I rolled my car. It was scary. I drifted onto the shoulder, over-corrected, lost control, went into the opposite ditch, where my car rolled over once and ended up back on its wheels. It sounds cheesy and cliche to say, but I feel incredibly fortunate. Not only because I walked away from this accident with only minor cuts and bruises, but also because -- this might sound weird -- the worst thing that happened to me today was that my car got totaled. Which, all things considered, is not actually that bad. I have a lot of things to be thankful for.

I'm thankful for the people who stopped to help me while I was waiting for the police, especially for the woman who held my hand while I was on the phone with 911 and the large man who pulled my car door open so I could get out.

I'm thankful for the police officer who didn't write me a ticket (huge sigh of relief) and reminded me in a humorous way how lucky I am to have survived: "Well, your car is pretty well fucked, so the fact that you're walking around and talking to me is pretty amazing."

I'm thankful for the ER doctors and nurses who were very nice as they looked at my bruised dome and explained that I had avoided a concussion.

I'm thankful that I avoided a concussion.

I'm thankful for my parents, all of whom managed not to totally freak out when I called them to let them know what had happened and really needed them to be calm.

I'm very thankful for my car, Baby. If you were to look at her now, you probably wouldn't guess that her driver made it out okay, but she kept me very safe.

And -- this is a biggie -- I'm thankful for Jake. Without gushing too obnoxiously much about how great my boyfriend is, I will just say that not only did he come and get me from the accident site and take me to the hospital, he also took me to Tom & Jerry's for lunch (plus, bonus Starbucks for some coffee, to keep me awake). He did a bunch of other really great, emotionally supportive stuff. I won't go into all the details, but he took really good care of me. He is good.

So, I have no car. I'm gonna be way sore tomorrow. I have a class presentation to get ready for and I have a lot of paperwork to fill out.

Thank goodness! :)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Blogging about Football? Yes, it's still me.

"Your quarterback [Jay Cutler], he has a tendency to throw the ball to guys that don't work for your team." - Bill Cosby

I don't know a whole lot about football, but I've been watching the Bears pretty regularly this season and I'd like to make a couple of observations:

  1. We don't knock the other guys down fast enough. We almost always knock the other guys down eventually, but I think we take a long time to do it. When we play other teams, they seem to knock us down pretty fast. And then they tend to win. I'm not saying there's definitely a causal relationship, but there seems to be a pretty strong correlation.
  2. Jay Cutler is not that good. See above Cosby quotation.
  3. The Fox Sports robot thingy is weird. As far as I can tell, he serves no purpose. He confuses me. I say get rid of him.
That's all I got for now.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Where it all began.

I'm currently working on a final project for my previously mentioned 1st Person Narrative writing class. My final product will be about my relationship (so-called) with stand-up comedy and will be comprised of 3 separate pieces. This is the beginning of the first part, a memoir about my life as a performer. Enjoy!

“Make 'em laugh! Make 'em laugh! Don't you know everyone wants to laugh?” – Singin’ in the Rain

When I was 4 years old, my father taught me how to tell a joke.

To be more specific, he taught me how to be the straight-man so that he could tell jokes. My aunt and uncle – his sister and brother-in-law – were coming to visit from Florida and my dad decided that we were going to put on a vaudeville-style comedy routine. For the first bit, he’d say “Think the rain’ll hurt the rhubarb?” Me: “Not if it’s in cans.” Him: “What, the rain or the rhubarb?!” Hilarious. I’d say “Can you tell me how to get to the post office?” and he’d go into a complicated explanation of how to get there, which involved a lot of backtracking and starting over, and end with “Naw, you can’t get there from here.” Comic gold. The third one was a little different, though, because it was my job to tell the punch-line. He’d say “Lived here all your life, farmer?” and I was supposed to say “Not yet!” But I’d always mess it up, and say “so far!” which isn’t so much a punch-line as it is an answer to the question. The thing is, when my aunt and uncle got there, and we did these jokes for them, they laughed. Even when I screwed up. In fact, they laughed harder because not only did I get it wrong, but I was an adorable little four-year-old.

This is my earliest memory. Of anything. I have literally been a performer as long as I can remember. And I learned one lesson from this experience: If you can make someone laugh, they’ll forgive anything. Nearly every experience I’ve had in life has been somehow based on or informed by this singular lesson. It’s gotten me into trouble, but it’s also helped me to deal with some of the most difficult situations I’ve faced. And – most importantly – it explains nearly everything about me.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why "Clueless" is my Fave Film (or at least on the list of Fave Films)

So, I don't want this blog to become one of those failed projects where my life gets so busy that I stop posting stuff. However, I am in grad school. As such, I spend a lot of time teaching, coaching, and studying. This really cuts into my blogging opportunities. Sad day. However, I have also (until now!) failed to use my graduate school life as a supplement to my blogging life. Today, I fix that. This is a piece I wrote for my 1st Person Narrative writing class. Enjoy!

"Okay, so you're probably going, "Is this like a Noxzema commercial or what?" But seriously, I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl." - Cher Horowitz

Maybe this has happened to you – it’s happened to me many times – that experience of loving something as a child, being totally devoted to it, perhaps a movie or a book or a band, but then someone who has no idea about your devotion to that thing makes a casual comment and you’re never able look at it the same way again. For example, as a teenager I loved Margaret Cho. In fact, she was the first stand-up comedian of whom I would ever have called myself a “fan.” Her satirical commentary on gender, the LGBT community, and eating disorders are both insightful and hilarious. It wasn’t until someone else pointed out that she almost always goes for the easy joke – making fun of her immigrant mother or the sexist pig trying to pick her up – that it even occurred to me that she could be anything other than totally awesome. I’ve never been able to see her with the same reverence or awe that I did as a silly little thirteen-year-old. And this has happened to me multiple times. My devotion to things like Boyz II Men, Seinfeld, and even Iron Chef America have all suffered as a direct result of some off-hand comment of some unknowing critic.

There are some things, however, that have the unexpected power to endure. The movie "Clueless" has held up against the criticism constantly flung at it by those who believe it to be a shallow, simple high school comedy. And it some ways, it most certainly is. For those of you who, due to your lives as – I don’t know – hermits may have missed this quintessential 90’s cinematic experience, "Clueless" follows the day-to-day life of Cher Horowitz (played by Alicia Silverstone). Cher is a fifteen year-old valley girl who seems to be only concerned with the implications of her wardrobe. When the new girl, Tai, comes to town, Cher takes it upon herself to teach Tai how to get along in her new high school. And, as is so often the case with high school comedies, hijinks ensue.

What people tend to miss along the way is the insightful social commentary hidden among the “as ifs” and “whatevers.” When Cher’s bff Dionne gets angry at her boyfriend Murray for calling her “woman,” he responds with the comment “Okay, but, street slang is an increasingly valid form of expression. Most of the feminine pronouns do have mocking, but not necessarily in misogynistic undertones,“ and then he sticks his tongue out. Cher makes use of an extended metaphor during a speech in her debate class about why the U.S. Government should try to make room for “Haiti-an” immigrants. Cher’s narrative monologue provides constant criticism of her peers, her generation, and her life of privilege. And of course, in the end of the film, she ends up with the man of her dreams because of the fact that she has learned to stop thinking too much of herself, and put the concerns of others first. Plus, let’s not forget that this film is actually a modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma.

I think this is why Cher, Josh, and the whole gang manage to stand up to the derisive comments of people who don’t see the significance of this film. Ultimately, I think it is the critics, and not the characters, that are “clueless.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'd like to teach the world to sing. And by "sing" I mean "debate."

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead." - Thomas Paine

"Yeah, and this guy and the guy on before him are our only line of defense." - Michael Steudeman, On Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart (respectively)

I've been thinking about writing an entry about why I decided to go into teaching. This will actually only kind of be about that.

I wish I could say that I had some beautiful moment of inspiration where I suddenly felt a higher calling to teach. You may be picturing a scene from Stand and Deliver or Mr. Holland's Opus
. In reality, it was much more like a scene from Daria:
Picture a 13-year old Marj (at this stage, she actually looks a lot like a boy). She's sitting in her 8th grade Algebra class, hating everything. Especially Algebra. Strike that. Especially her Algebra teacher. See, the thing is, she understands Algebra. She's understood it since her dad explained it to her when she was, like, 11. What she doesn't understand is why her teacher is so terrible at explaining it to everyone else in the class. She's so upset with some of the events of her life (that's a whole 'nother blog entry, if not a whole 'nother blog), and so frustrated with the teacher and her classmates, she could scream. She doesn't, though. Instead, the following thought pops into her head: "Jesus Christ! I could do a better job than this bitch and I'm only 13 years old!"
It was in this moment that I decided to go into education. Not inspiring at all. Not even slightly warm and fuzzy. It was a bitter, angry moment in which I decided that since I could do a better job, then I should do a better job. The world (or at least Huntley Middle School) needed my help. At the time, though, I was under the impression that I was a terrible writer, I had no interest in science, and (most importantly) I was still two years away from my first public speaking class. Interestingly, I thought I would end up either as a Math or Music teacher. I was way off.

Between then and now, there have been a few heartwarming moments which have helped to shape my passion for teaching and reinforced my belief in myself as a capable teacher. These are very touching stories indeed, and you won't find them here, because - more often than not - I find myself reliving the frustration that led me down this path to begin with. This happens to me a lot when I watch "The News" or try to talk to people on "The Facebook."

Two recent examples of people - journalists, even, who
should know better! - completely wrecking the national conversation that immediately come to my mind include the "Birthers" (who recently seem to have shut up, for the most part), and the so-called "Town Hall Rioters." Don't know what I'm talking about? Where have you been? For a quick recap, please watch this and/or this. Now, I understand that both of these movements represent positions with which most people would just automatically assume I disagree (and most people would be correct). But here's what drives me crazy: the problem here is not a simple difference of opinion. The problem here, as I see it, is a total disregard for the rational standards necessary to construct a legitimate argument.

Evidence. Reasoning. Impact. These things aren't that difficult to comprehend. Tell me where your information comes from, please. Link it to your assertions. Tell me why it matters. Hold yourself to a high standard and represent your position in the best way you can. I'll do the same. If we don't agree, at least we'll move the conversation in a constructive direction. Please, don't call people names, use scare tactics, or (and this one's a biggie) make things up. And remember: being the loudest doesn't make you right, it makes you the most obnoxious. Not only do these fallacious methods piss people off, they also completely destroy the possibility of actual debate and informed decision-making. You know, those little things that some call the cornerstones of democracy.

So, here I am, again. Remembering why I decided to go into teaching to begin with. I want to try to teach these important skills to the "next generation" of politicians, journalists, and facebook users. I only wish I didn't have to get all pissed off to remember how I got here.

Here's the sad part: this is what I watch to make myself feel better. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lists about the last month.

"Rollin' with my homies..." - Coolio

"Tardiness is not something you can do on your own. Many, many people contributed to my tardiness. I would like to thank my parents for never giving me a ride to school, the LA city bus driver who took a chance on an unknown kid and last but not least, the wonderful crew from McDonalds who spend hours making those egg McMuffins without which I might never be tardy." - Travis,

As recently noted by a dude I know, it has been over a month since my last blog entry. This is the result of multiple factors. The month of July was an interesting one for me. I did lots of things, made a lot of new friends, saw a lot of old friends, and generally lived my life without writing about it that much. In order that my readers (if there are, in fact, more than one of them) might know what's what, here's a list of lists regarding the last month of my life. (Blogger's note: These lists are incomplete, but representative.)

Things that I did in July:
  • Moved
  • Attended MUUSA (Midwestern Unitarian Universalist Summer Assembly, spiritual content in entries to follow)
  • Rode a zip-line
  • Played Volleyball
  • Worshiped / Meditated / Prayed
  • Attempted (and failed) to chase a possum out of a building
  • Laughed
  • Cried
  • Made friends
  • Went to the Chicago Pride Parade
  • Went swimming
  • Worked (A lot)
  • Made up a word: Luttery
  • Partied with co-workers
  • Mastered Bloons TD 3
Things in my life that changed during July:
  • My address and the location of all of my belongings
  • The number of people with whom I live
  • The amount of groceries in the fridge
  • The number of bathrooms to which I have regular access
  • The amount of Television I watch
  • The number of Netflix accounts I have
  • The kind of music I listen to (has expanded, really, not changed)
  • The amount of marching band music in my life

Things that I watched in July:
  • Fireworks (twice!)
  • Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series
  • Clueless (like, four times!)
  • Rocket Science
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
  • Funny People
  • A lot of TV
People I met for the first time in July:
  • Anna
  • Emmett
  • Jennifer
  • Maya
  • Meredith
  • Mike
  • Nat
  • Nukahh
  • Raina
  • Ron
  • Suzelle
  • Tim
People I got to hang out with (that I already knew) in July:
  • Zoe
  • Jim
  • Robyn
  • Vic
  • Andrew K.
  • Taryn
  • Jeremy
  • Brent
  • Hilary
  • Michael
  • Laura
  • Bug
  • Andrew P.
  • Andy
  • Chris
  • Dan
  • Elise
  • Justin
  • Laurel
  • Nick
  • Nic
  • Pamela
  • Rachael
  • Trevor
It was a really great month. Alas, now it is over, and August has begun. So, I believe one more brief list is in order.

Things I'm looking forward to about August:
  • The return of Chase and Hilary
  • Classes starting again
  • Coaching
  • My 23rd birthday
  • The end of my summer work with ITS
  • The end (we can only hope) of the birther "debate"

Friday, June 26, 2009

Open Letter of Recommendation

Blogger's note: In case you hadn't noticed, I like epigraphs. So, even though this entry doesn't really call for one, I'm including it. After all, it is very appropriate.

"Ooh, I'm da bomb like, tick.. tick..."
-Lil Wayne

To Whom it May Concern:

I am excited to have this opportunity to highly recommend the services of the BestDateEvar escort company. I was recently accompanied to a wedding by BestDateEvar's founding escort, Meta Physics, and can say from experience that this was, indeed, among the best dates I've ever had.

Before the date had even been scheduled, Mr. Physics's services were both timely and immensely helpful. I contacted BestDateEvar when I found out - last minute - that my originally scheduled wedding date had encountered transportation issues and was trapped in Albany, New York, unable to make it back to DeKalb, Illinois in time for the wedding. Nervous, I quickly sent a text message to Meta, asking if he would do me a favor and make the trip to DeKalb from BDE's headquarters in the northern Chicago suburbs. Within the hour he had called me back, assessed the situation, and agreed to be my date, free of charge. All of this occurred less than 24 hours prior to the wedding itself. This willingness to help out a friend in need on such short notice is one of the many convenient services offered by BDE. Other such services include (but are not limited to):
  • Pre-date wardrobe consultation
  • Included umbrella
  • Frequent trips to the bar
  • Extensive and fascinating conversation with myriad wedding guests
  • A variety of photo ops (see enclosed)
  • An in-car cooler stocked with food
  • Extra care in securing vegetarian meals
  • Dancing like you would not believe
It became immediately apparent to me that Mr. Physics took this "fun" stuff very seriously, and as such I fully recommend his services for anyone in need of a date and a good time.

Thank you for your consideration,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another list, plus bonus spiritual content

"Pray? No. I communicate." - Maude, Harold and Maude

"And I'll keep on saying prayers of thanksgiving. I'm not sure whom I'm thanking, but I've become addicted to the act of thanking."
- A. J. Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically

Yesterday, I finished the book from which this second epigraph was taken. The Year of Living Biblically is a fascinating book that everyone - both religious and not - can learn something from. For those of you unfamiliar, A.J. Jacobs undertakes the massive project of spending a year (which ultimately comes to a year + 2 weeks) of living his life by the literal commandments of The Bible. He refrains from shaving his beard, he wears tassels on the "corners of his garments" (whatever that means), he stones adulterers, and - most interesting to me - he prays. Multiple times a day.

Now, don't get me wrong, this book didn't convince me of anything I didn't already believe. I think that would have been missing the point, actually. But it was fascinating that Jacobs, an agnostic who describes himself in the beginning of his journey as "Jewish in the same way that the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant," finds himself trying to connect, to communicate with some Higher Power that he may not even believe in. To me, this is the ultimate act of Faith. That's right, people: capital F, Faith.

Not to give too much of the book away, but his favorite prayers are the prayers of thanksgiving. In order to be thankful, one must, by definition, be thankful to someone or something. Somehow, Jacobs puts it all in perspective; it's important to be grateful for the multitude of things we recieve in this life, because it doesn't all come to us just because we deserve it. And to be thankful to someone or something whose existence you may doubt? That, my friends, is Faith.

Here, then, is a list of things for which I am grateful to Whoever's In Charge Around Here:
  • my family
  • my friends (special shout-outs at the moment for Zoe, Mary, Hilary, Chase, Michael, and Brent)
  • my jobs (special shout-outs for my students)
  • a roof over my head
  • food in the fridge and in the cupboard (such abundance!)
  • the educational and experiential opportunities I've been given
  • music
  • NPR
  • books (both religious and secular)
  • coffee
  • the Internet
  • the people who do certain jobs so that people like me don't have to (for example: cleaning public buildings, caring for the sick, teaching math, etc.)
  • forensics
  • stand-up comedy
  • my church, my Faith
  • air conditioning
  • language
As before, it's not an exhaustive list. It is, however, nearly everything I could come up with off the top of my head in the last 2 hours.

Thank You.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Obligatory Blog Entry

"You're welcome, Internet!" - Whitest Kids U'Know

I used to be on MySpace. I canceled my account about a year ago for a number of reasons. The biggest: Spam. I'm over it; I'm on Facebook and Twitter - and now I'm a blogger, apparently. MySpace became both redundant and annoying. I did have one MySpace friend, though (I want to note, she was my Real Life friend, first. Just sayin'.), who was almost enough to keep me plugged into that particular online social networking scene. You see, in RL conversation, she has the kind of smart, quick-witted cleverness that leaves one with the impression that she's got someone writing her dialogue for her (someone more like Tina Fey than David Spade). But, where I think she truly shines is on the Internet. That might sound like a dig: it's not meant that way. What I mean is that she's a wonderful writer. Her wit and humor combined with the kind of self-reflective and other-critical irony that characterize her writing style just play so well in an online setting. And while I always loved reading anything she put out there, I was always slightly jealous.

Case-in-point: The very first blog entry she wrote on MySpace was entitled "Obligatory First Entry Where I Defend My Presence On MySpace." I don't actually remember any of this "defense," but the title resonated with me. Especially when it comes to online writing, I frequently feel a strange burden to justify my presence. So, here it is. This is my obligatory blog entry. It's not the first one, but I tend to be bad at doing things in order.

In ten, brief words, my witty friend was able to both exemplify and mock one of the inherent paradoxical problems of the Internet. I may take several steps to explain it, so stick with me. First, there's the innate human desire believe that whatever it is that you have to say is actually worth reading. Second, there's the Internet, an outlet in which everyone can publish whatever they want for everyone to see with the oft-mentioned "click of the mouse." Third, there's the opportunity (and it would seem, the compulsion) for friends, family, and strangers alike to "comment" on anything you put out there, regardless of whether they happen to agree with you. And finally, there's the strange cultural belief that "there's no such thing as bad press." Somehow, even when we get negative responses to the things that we say, we end up strangely affirmed in our own, original (unchallenged) ideas. What we have here, my friends, is the perfect storm for a vicious cycle.

As such, the participation in online social networking media (blogs included) has become a hip, convenient, borderline necessary way to communicate with everyone in your life. Paradoxically, though, our sense of self-importance is pretty dependent on the idea that we are special and unique snowflakes. Thus, participating in these very same online social networking websites has simultaneously become cliche. In order for your avatar to stand out in this 6 billion strong crowd, you must demonstrate that what you have to say is unique. Like, really unique.

Pressure's on.

So, in the face of all this, why am I here? On, the home of "Push-Button Publishing"? Because I wanna try. I have a few goals that I would like to accomplish by blogging. Here they are:
  1. I would like to improve my writing. This is goal numero uno. Top Dog. I'm actually a pretty confident writer. But I know that there's always going to be a lot for me to learn. I mean, all the best writers are known to have been frequent journal-ers, as well. I've never been into the idea of writing in a journal or diary, and I think that I'm missing out on some important practice.
  2. I would like to promote discourse. This is a very close second priority. Despite the seemingly problematic contradiction discussed above, I still think that the Internet is a really nifty thing! It creates a venue for complex and necessary conversations that would otherwise be somewhere between difficult and impossible. This matters to me. For a better explanation of this principle, watch this video when you have a chance. It's worth it. You'll see what I mean.
  3. I'm up for the challenge. I want to challenge myself to maintain that tenuous line between the significant and the cliche. In order to even rationalize blogging, I have made myself the following promise: I will only ever publish something if I feel that it's something no one else could write. This will be the hardest part. I'll probably fail, in some ways. But it's worth a shot, right? Worst case scenario: no one reads it anyway.
Recently, someone whose opinion really matters to me, told me that he liked the writing that I had produced on this blog so far. So, I think I'm gonna keep trying - See? This is the cycle I was talking about. There's something especially powerful, though, in the opinion of those whose writing you truly respect.

Here I am, Internet: Marj, the blogger. Enjoy.