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.