Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mind Your P's and Q's

Have started taking this 8-week meditation class through Penn Medicine.  We meet every Wed. from 6-8:30 and then have daily meditation homework. This week, we're supposed to practice twenty mindful breaths four times a day and do a daily 30 to 45 minute sitting meditation. I can manage the 4 small meditations, but the longer one is more intimidating. The class includes mp3's to guide you through the process, but like yesterday, I had a hard time not peeking at the line signaling how far along we were in the meditation, becuaes I was thinking, Okay, I'm ready to be done now. And then it's easy to get distracted by the nosies of the cats--their nails clicking on the wooden floor as they do their cat things and I feel like I have to look to see what's happening, so that I don't miss Emma Carol licking herself or Henri cowering under the table for the hundreth time. I'm going to try to sit on the floor today when I do it, and I imagine that the cats will be even more present for that one, as they seldom get to see me right down on their level. But one of the things I keep reading/hearing about the practice of meditation is that you shouldn't judge or be critical of the process; that it's not about getting it perfect but at recognizing when you're mind is wandering and acknowledging it. For me, this means that I spend most of the time noticing how often I plan for other things--how I am constantly creating to-do lists or lists of concerns or worries about bad things that might happen. Because, you know, if I anticipate it, I can prevent it from occuring. That's the power I have over the universe.

Don't worry--I won't turn into a flakey-flake. I won't start wearing my hair in braids or buy a prayer shawl or stock up on tofu or "ohm" on the subway. But I do think I could use a little more stillness.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Late tune in

To sum up: "Connection. Connection. Amazing! Amazing connection! Most difficult rose ceremony ever.I get lost in your eyes (cue 80s song). I want that rose. I want to have the most difficult rose ever. She's a bitch. Not here for the right reasons. Her reasons for being here are not right, they are left. She's slutty. Why is that one girl's face so flat? Are you talking about me? Huh? Which one are you? I'm the blond. No, I'm the blond. We're the blond (in choral unison)."

Missed the first hour because of teaching a writing class. I'm going to like these students a lot--very intelligent and dedicated and open. Polite, but also willing to disagree with each other, I think, which is also important. I don't know if I'll be able to make a Bachelor video b/c Dan's not here and I also am already in my pjs and not really safe for video. Also, the camera is out of juice, so there will be nothing to record.

Jake must let someone go. Who will he choose, Ella or Kathyrn? I don't know which one is which, but I think he should get rid of the girl with the fake eyelashes and the fake nails and the fake son. He'd like to talk to Ella outside. Okay, Ella's the mom. He's going to let her go. She will cry almost real tears. He says that she's amazing, but he's developing feelings that are stronger with other women (those without the fake nails). She takes the rejection well, but will probably lose it when they film her on her own. Shake it off, Jake, come on, you're dressed like a lumberjack. Now he's talking to flat-faced Kathyrn, who has such an honesty to her. Oh, he's going to let her go too! Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe she shouldn't have thrown a tantrum about him not looking at her enough. She's mumbling something...Can't understand it. Should confess that I"m only listening to the show, not actually watching it. He knows that neither woman is right for him. She says, You're making a mistake (setting us up for her return in a later episode). Oh, the women are freaking out that he sent both of them home, but are also probably screaming for joy inside. Less competition.

Seven girls are left, and one of them will be going home tonight, leaving...uh...wait, one second...Eight girls?Four?

Jake is saying how he has to let people go when he knows that they won't be the right wife for him over the next 60 years. Two of the women already have roses, so they're safe. Corinne wants to know if she makes him nervous or awkward. He says no. She says, But you're supposed to be nervous if you like someone. Whoops! Why should he be nervous when he knows that the girls will hang on with their fake nails until the very end whether they like him or not. He may be kissing someone right now--not sure since I'm only listening. Jessie wants to have alone time with him so she can tell him that Deanna isn't right for him. She too is wearing five inch long eyelashes. I don't know that he's going to respond to this approach, though he does thank her, so much. He finds Jessie to be so incredibly sweet and a good friend. He also feels a little chilly from her fluttering her eyelashes so much. Deanna is asking him if he thinks that his family will like him; because the girls don't like her...She explains that that's because she's jokey and the other girls are so uptight. A strategic move, Deanna, by acknowledging the obvious.

Clink. Chris Harrison announces that it's time for the rose ceremony and for him to put more mousse in his hair. Jake pretends that he has no idea how he's going to make this decision though I feel like he really is thinking, Damnit, I don't like any of these women.

Rose ceremony: Jake is giving a semi-touching (not really) speech about how it's so hard for him to hurt anyone and it means the world to him that ya'all would put your lives on hold, it really hurts his heart and groin to let someone go.

Roses go to:

Alli? Ellie? Didn't Ellie go home? Cue dramatic music and fifteen to thirty minutes of waiting for the next name.

Cory. Cory will you except this fake rose? She surely will.

WTF. He needs just a few minutes to gather himself together because he doesn't like any of them. Jake asks Chris his advice. Does he have to give out the remaining two roses or can he just send the rest of the bitches home? Chris says, I don't know. Which choice do you think will make for better television?

Final decision: Jake keeps stupid Deanna and sends home these other women who are nondescript. This is totally staged. Oh, whoops, her name is Vienna. She looks more like Deanna to me.

Next week: They are headed to San Francisco and he's falling for someone. Cat fight. Vienna is hated. I hope she wins. "It's not about sex appeal; it's about heart appeal." What?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Video, revised, Part 10

Due to the previously mature content of the video first posted, I've reedited to make this one a little more palatable (though not much). This Monday, I'll teach the first fiction writing class and so Dan won't be able to come over and consequently, we won't be able to make a video. I guess I could just tape one myself, but that might be weird. Anyway, here's the PG-13 version of last week's video.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Bachelor Has Found 145 Meaningful Connections

Have missed a lot of the first 45 minutes--but in just turning it on for two seconds, I've already seen two women cry, Jake say, "This is so difficult," and "We have a connection," and the crazy girl explain how she wants a gran-baby to give to her momma. But she's not desperate, she adds. They are all here to find true love, and fall in love, and make love, and be lovely, and be around love, and love ya like a rock. They are obsessed with the roses.

Why is Michelle so angry and why does she have tears in her eyes at every second? The Christian girl just took her on. She is crying about not being able to give birth to a grand kid right away. Elizabeth believes Michelle needs a therapist more than she needs a nanny or a husband. Michelle is explaining that she is honestly, 100% here for love, whereas the other women...And she just really, really, really, really wants a husband. She is crying in front of Jake, her nose getting redder. She needs to know if he is feeling the same way she is. She is crying and snot is running down onto her upper lip and she wants to know if she feels anything for him by giving him a kiss. He agrees with a slightly digusting look on his face. They kiss. He disengages with a string of her snot stuck to his cheek. He is rolling his eyes. She will be gone soon. He says that he is almost ready for this night to be over. Michelle understands and she would like to tell him that she can't stay. Because she she is too emotional. It hurts her that she can't really kiss him in the way that she wants to--which is that she wants him to kiss her in a way that will automatically give her a grand baby. He tells her that she should leave and she can't believe that he's kicking her off! Even though she asked to be kicked off, she says that she had no clue this was going to happen. She wanted to kiss him in a real way and he couldn't do it, even though she had snot running down her face and was crying and even though the shift from crying to kissing was ridiculous. Jake says that he feels he has made the right decision. Good job, Jake. She will be back at some point in another episode.

Jake is too upset to give a rose out and he would like to "thank you guys for being here tonight." Guys, thanks.

Viena broke down for some reason. Now he's taking Ella on a date to see some kind of animals. Ella has the best fake Southern accent. She also has an unfortunately giant zit on her face. The big surprise is that Jake brought her son to the park. She is covering her entire face with her son, because she is so upset that this little brat is going to ruin the rest of their fucking date!!! They are all in wet suits and Jake is also trying to be a dad by helping Ethan zipper up his jacket. Ethan seems a little bit psychotic. He wants to covder the penguins in snow and beat them to death!! Aw, mom is so proud of her li'l baby.

Final rose ceremony: Ella and somebody else are safe because they already have roses. Elizabeth is going to ask him a really hard question. Are you good at back rubs? Oh, okay, she is a tease. She's the Queen of Mixed Signals--she's touching his tie and curling up on the couch with her panties off. He says that she's really confusing. She does want to kiss him,  but the reason it's hard is b/c she does have a jealous side. Not sure what that means. He wants to know if it's a not kissing thing b/c of a spiritual belief or what. Now, she's giving him a hard time. And she doesn't make any sense. I guess she was flirting with him while they were at the fireworks. She is playing games. She's wearing a low cut dress.

She is now lying to the other girls by saying that what happened is that he wanted her to kiss him, but she refused. She is confused about what's confusing about her being confusing, you know? Omigod, she is going to kill Deanna.

Deanna has these weird puppy dog eyes and she just kissed him in mid-sentence and her teeth could not be larger or in more of a perfect line. She believes that Jake is perfect, he is absolutely perfect, perfect for her, but not for the other girls. (Dan would like to note that when Elizabeth says that she is "not just vanilla, but all colors of the rainbow," that vanilla isn't actually a color in the rainbow). Uh-oh, cat fight. Elizabeth is pretending that Jake has been pressuring her to give him a kiss when he didn't even ask for it. Elizabeth is not just some fish in a pond waiting for a hook--she is...She is, a, she is...A pond in an ocean that will be part of a continent that is bigger than the universe.

Connection, connection, connection.

Yes, he and Elizabeth are already in a fight even though they haven't gotten to know each other at all. He thinks that Elizabeth is scared and felt like if she controlled the situation, it would be less painful. Omigod, an actual insight on this show.

Roses given to:
Corey in glitter
Kenelly, named after a vacuum cleaner
Alli, with the bikini straps
Katherine, with a cute flat face
Last rose goes to...............................................They are smiling with tears in their eyes.
Ashley, Omigod, thank god, Ashley is hyper ventilating

Going home: Elizabeth, someone who is whispering--uh, Valishia. Made up name. Pull up that dress. She's used to things not going her way, and she's used to smiling through her tears and it's something she's learned to live with. Gee, why didn't he pick her.

Elizabeth is still flirting with him and giving him a great big hug. She is a phony. she is upset b/c she felt like ther was a connection. She has a feeling like she knows what kind of man he is, it hurt her feelings, but she's still smiling. She just doesn't know. She will have to go pray on it.

Next week: Everybody thinks that everybody hates everyone and two of them aren't going to be allowed to stay. Can't wait!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Bachelor: On the Wings of BS

Missed most of the first hour b/c we were messing around with a video, but one of the highlights we caught was the one on one girl going, "It was so beautiful to hear the sound of the grasshoppers..." Dan said, "Doesn't she mean crickets?" There has been an unbelieavel amount of bad music on this show--including Chicago and "On the Wings of Love." We're about to find out the big secret that's not a secret wherein one of the girls was supposedly flirting with one of the producers. Who cares? these women are pretty aggressive. I wonder how much time they actually have with him one-on-one...Like, it seems from the editing that it's only ever fifteen seconds. Vienna has admitted that she almost married her pastor's son and then married someone else and got unmarried. He gave it to Olivia, who must have confessed something great. Vienna is pissed off. He gave it to her because she asked him not to kiss her and htat's why he likes her. She did let him feel her up and touch her chastity belt with his tongue, but that's IT!

Oh, an explosion just went off (in his pants and in the sky) as he is being cock-blocked by the one girl who won't let him do more than kiss her forehead.

In case you weren't sure, the reason that Michelle is here is the reason that he is here and she's here for the same reasons (?).

Okay, so they kicked off this person because she had a conversation with someone from the production crew. This show makes women look completely stupid. I wish one of them would go, "This is ridiculous! Are you all serious!' Why are they all crying? Is this show sponsored by Maybelline? How puritanical are these women? It's not like she had sex with him and who cares even if she did--they're all unattached.

The term "right reasons" has been said more than 200 times.

Chia will accept this rose, so will Temple ?, Ella (someone's mom?), Felicia (never saw her before), Cory (soon to be gone), they must have told him to pick only the girls with strange names, Jessica (who again?), Ashley H. (bad long hair and hung out with him in a bikin), Michelle (voted most likely to stab him in the heart), and finally...........................................................................Katherine. So bug eyes and the teacher are going home. Ladies, say your good byes. One of the Ashley's got sent home. She's not sure why she's being sent back to Pittsburgh. Christina is disappointed and able to almost cry about it. She has either a tatooo or a day-old bar stamp on her wrist (or maybe it was a suicide attempt). I am so happy that all of the blondes managed to stay in the game. Like, almost all of them are blond. He feels very lucky and very blssed to have possibly one or two real blonds on the show.

That's it. Sorry I couldn't give it more time--it's just not interesting enough.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Raymond Carver

I had lunch with a co-worker the other day who is also an avid fiction reader and we were talking about teaching the Philadelphia Stories' fiction workshop. He asked me what stories we would be reading for class and I listed off a few of the ones I love to assign, including Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried," by Amy Hemple, "Love is Not a Pie," by Amy Bloom,  Lorrie Moore's "Terrific Mother," and pretty much anything by Raymond Carver.

My friend then told me that there had been all this controversy about Carver's work--that much of the final story was the work of significant edits and cuts by his editor, Gordon Lish. He sent me this link to the New Yorker article, "Rough Crossings: The Cutting of Raymond Carver." Basically, the article describes how Lish slashed huge chunks of Carver's writing, paring it down into the sparse prose that's been compared to Hemingway because of its brevity.  So, then he became famous for what the article calls this "K-mart realism." But in a later short story collection, he asked Lish to give him more freedom and that collection was considered another success in part because it was more expansive (had more of his original descriptions and language in it). The Guardian also published a piece on this topic in Sept. 2009: "Raymond Carver: The Kindest Cut."

This piece is more about the new book Tess Gallagher (Carver's wife when he died) wants to publish that contains Carver's original drafts vs. the ones cut and published by Lish. Here's a quote that summarizes the central conflict:

Carver hated to be called a "minimalist", and he was called one often. One wonders if he disliked the term because he knew that minimalism was the aspect of his writing that was least his own. If you are a Carver reader who mainly associates his work with a certain style, then you may be surprised to find that the style itself – his sentences and paragraphs, the blunt, mid-air endings of his stories – was in many cases engineered by Gordon Lish. If, however, you take Carver's world as a whole – the brutality of intimacy, the unplaceability of anxiety, the mess any and all of us can make of love – you may think that Lish saw something in Carver, rather than imposing something else on him, and helped find a form to fit the content.

Unfortuantely, the article doesn't have any means of comparing versions of the story, but I'd be interested to see what a full Carver story reads like vs. some of his heavily edited ones. 

Maybe it's a matter of growth as a writer or gaining confidence or something, because I remember editing a story I wrote lots of years ago about 9 times or more. I kept giving it back to my teacher, and she kept pointing out what was wrong with it until I managed to cut it down to its bones. And then it got published in Scribner's Best of the Fiction Workshop, which I am sure it wouldn't have been if it weren't for my teacher's edits and insistence that I keep trying to get to the core of the story. Then again, you can overwork a piece until it just becomes this huge mess completely devoid of your original intent.

Monday, January 4, 2010

"Come Find Me Inside"

That is what Jake has said to every single Bachelorette that he's met in this brand new, yet seems so familiar episode of The Bachelor. I missed the first hour, but I don't think it matters, because they all seem to do the same thing, except now they have gimmicks like bringing jelly beans or pretending to trip or bringing him aviator sunglasses or fake-speaking Vietnamese or coming at him like she's flying an airplane or wearing a dress the size of a napkin. Also, the girl who says that she is there to win. How much longer can this show go on? Dumb girl with the raspy cheerleader voice just fake tripped and ripped her dress. Oh, his three priorities are "dogs, fumbling, and flames." Or he may have said,  "God, fambly, and friends." The Asian girl said, "Jake, you can land your plane on my landing strip any time." Like he's never heard that before. Hey, here's an idea, don't wear your hair in a side pony tail past the age of 14 or the year 1982. He is going to be so confused because 10 of the 25 girls are named Ashley. One girl brought a flight attendant outfit and wore it to get his attention. It's all T and A, ya'll. This woman in the red dress has brought out a football and is throwing it to him, and he almost dropped it. God, please let him break the nanny's nose. Girls scream too much. They are chasing him across the concrete trying not (?) to let their boobs fall out of their ball gowns.

This blond girl is on crack cocaine. She is making him feel her up and kiss her ankle. This brown haired girl is about to cry because she's sure that he won't pick her since he has never even looked at her once. The other flight attendant is a total kook--wears a fake engagement ring around that she just gave to him. Hi, I know we just met, but I want you to have my grand mommie's diamond 20 karat ring that I pried off her dead fingers when no one was near the coffin, ya'll. Another girl in a tiny dress is teaching hm how to dance the cha-cha. Michelle, the basket case, has given up everything to come to meet Jake. Everything! Like, an entire days vacation. (Dan is now doing push-ups. Not sure why. From Dan: I'm training to be on The Bachelor). Oh, hey, Jillian and Ed are making a cameo appearance. Jillian looks like she just got off the stage in Las Vegas. Side note to Ed: Enough with the hair gel. Why do they get to come back and why does Jillian get to ask what kind of animal she would be in a bedroom? Christina is asking him to lie on the round so she can do airplane with him. Please, fart, please fart.  She says she's getting aroused from having his feet on her abdomen while being up in the air. Red dress is a very spiritual person and crazy psycho girl is giving a soliloquy--does not seem to realize that she's one camera. Tenley (fake name) has a gimmick too! She has written down a few things about herself on a card. There are only 10 things to remember, so why can't she just remember them. She just kissed him and he was smiling in the middle of it. She calls herself a cuddlebug.Now she's confessing to the camera that she's only been with one man and so she's not sure that she can get over her ex-husband and she is crying. How long have they even been around---like 15 minutes?

The first rose also goes to Tenley, the biggest SLUT on the show. Who has only been with one man before. How can there possibly be an hour and a half left on this program? Michelle tells Jake that she has so much to give to someone that she can't believe it and she knows he can see it in her eyes, which are filled with tears. This may be the first Bachelor that we've ever seen who is completely Jesus-y.

We missed the most important rose ceremony ever because we were making our own spoof videos. I think all of the Ashley's got a rose, but I'm not sure. Omigosh, Michelle the crazy girl, got the last rose. She also kissed the rose. All the other girls have to go get on the bus now. That was their 15 seconds of reality TV fame. Hopefully, no one will cry--oh, girl with the gaped tooth cried. It hurts so much for her. Kimberely is shocked too. And crying. I don't like Jake. he seems totally boring.

Oh, okay, we don't have to watch the rest of this--the next hour is previews of the following season. Welcome back.

Holiday Visits

Jodie came into town last week for the MLA English interviews and so we got to hang out a couple of times. Here we are in a restaurant. She would not give me her hat to keep, not matter how much I begged and pleaded.

After dinner, we went back to the Sofitel, where Jodie bought me a chocolate martini for about $35 and we listened to someone go on about how life is the same for everyone around the world. At one point, he even said, "What is life?" We were not amused nor impressed.
I took this picture of the matching cats b/c they remind me of Paul Skoles and Piper. Same cat family.

My mother stayed to help me when I first broke my arm. Mainly, she just served as a place for the cats to sleep on.

Not a job she took to with gusto.

The blob on her stomach in the below photo is Emma Carol, in typical slug-shape.

She attaches herself to anyone and everyone who walks through the door.

I took this picture while exiting the Snyder subway stop earlier this fall. How many dogs do you see for this ONE woman to walk?

And your snow windows.

Plus one for happy new year.