Wednesday, March 31, 2010

16 Years Later...

Finally found the cord I need to move my Nebraska pictures over from my camera to the computer, so here they are, though a little late and not in the most chronological order.Most of the photos I'm featured in have me wearing the same expression and sporting the same white streak in my hair that I suppose I could take on as a trademark, since no amount of dye really seems to absorb the color.

The following two photos are of me and my Aunt Margaret.

Me and Stephanie's dog. I have some video of him and Taylor, but I'll save that for another day. He is on a diet, in case you're worried.

And this would be my mom and Aunt Margaret at lunch one day.

My 91 year old grandma and me.

Taylor Jo, Grandma, and my mother, in her natural state.

This is Krista Detor, who gave the concert for everyone and was wonderful.

Mother and me. White streak: intact.Where do you think I get it from?

My second cousin, Ellie. Cute as a button and knows it.

The birds.

And more birds.

A photos of the house I used to live in with my grandma and grandpa and mom and uncles. Taken from car window, clearly. We did not have the snowman up when I lived there.

Oh, and this is approaching the house from the other side.

Last one of the birds. I believe they are geese.

Ellie and dog.

My cousin Steph with mom, dog, and Ellie.

 Dog, solo.

Dog and Ellie. I just can't remember the dog's name.

And Steph and mom. This is on my Aunt JoAnne's front porch, in case you're wondering.

Stay tuned for tomorrow. Easter window pictures are on their way.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lost Underwear, Doom, and Writing Contests

Jenn Bing and I discussed the possibility of starting a new blog about Philadelphia called "Found Underwear." Really, a day doesn't go by where I don't see a pair of trashed up women's underwear somewhere along the city sidewalks or gutters. We rethought the blog; Philly gets a bad rap (warranted, for the most part), and I don't want to contribute to making that even worse, especially since I have been begging my friends Liz and Luke to give up Park Slope and move to the city of Brotherly Love/Panties.

I also have to confess that I'm reading Stephen King's Under the Dome, which I checked out from the Penn library. I feel guilty reading him...But like, kind of guilty and defensive at the same time. He can tell a good story. After reading the first hundred pages before turning out the lights, I had an apocalyptic dream inspired by what I had just read (it didn't directly correlate, but the same fear was there. This fear that the world was ending or that I was in imminent threat of harm or death. The thing that was stalking me in the dream was a panther.Here's what it means according the reliable web: "to notice a panther in your dream denotes hidden perils and foes out to do you harm. It may likewise symbolize elements of darkness and death in your life. On the other side, panthers may also represent authority, loveliness, gracefulness, and rebirth"). In this 1,000 + page book, a small town in Maine gets locked down by an impenetrable dome that descends, shutting the residents off from the rest of the world, possibly permanently. What's scary about it isn't that idea (which seems implausible at best), but it's more this kind of fear of things ending on a global scale due to terrorism or war or some other kind of attack that you can't control; which seems to reflect the culture now, especially with the economic collapse, wars in Iraq, fear about change, etc. Anyway, you can read a decent review of this book as it appeared in The New York Times in November 2009 here.

Okay, and finally, all youse writers out there should think about submitting to NPR's Three-Minute Fiction Round Four...There's no cost to submit your work and it's essentially a short-short (around 450 words). The trick with this particular contest is that you have to use these four words somewhere in the story: plant, button, fly, and trick. I did a little writing earlier around these ideas. I don't want to do the typical stuff; like the words trick and fly seem too easily linked to something to do with magic. What's interesting about these four words (aside from the fact that they don't obviously link up) is that they can all be used as nouns or verbs. Deadline is April 11, so read the rules now

Monday, March 29, 2010

Today in Cats

Because I am lazy and unimaginative today, I'm just going to post this video I stole off of Cute Overload. I will try to think of an interesting topic of conversation later on.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cheating on America's Sweetheart: WHO cares?

Dan noticed last night at the grocery store that Sandra Bullock's face appeared on all of the tabloid magazines. He's not much of a pop culture follower, so he said, "What happened? Did she die?" No, she got cheated on by her husband who formerly dated mostly strippers and porn stars and who's notorious for his tattoos. A bad boy. So, but, how can this be a surprise? And anyway, who cares? I honestly don't care about Tiger Woods cheating either. I just don't think celebrities should try to be married; not until they're old or their careers are over. Fame is such a weird thing and it screws people up and I'm sure there's tons of temptation and people who are dying to sleep with you and get on TMZ to tell the world about it and post camera photos on their various blogs.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dear President Obama: Please Stop Trying to Make My Life Better!

Much Heterosexual Love,

The Conservatives

So now the argument is that giving health care to Americans is a violation of human rights. Like, how dare you mandate that I be protected against illness, debilitating disease, injury, or epidemics!  You know what else we should repeal? Seat belts. Why do I have to wear a seat belt? What if I have a large stomach or am pregnant and wearing a seat belt is uncomfortable for me? The government has no right to tell me that I must wear something that could save my life at the expense of causing me some discomfort. It's my life! And while we're at it, let's do away with drunk driving laws or legal blood alcohol limits. Hey, it's my body; if I want to drink 10 beers and then speed down the highway, why can't I? If I die, it'll be my fault and I'm okay with that. And also, don't tell me that I have to register my gun. Haven't you heard of the second amendment to the constitution written 200+ years ago when it was also okay to keep slaves wherein our forefathers gave every man, woman, and chirren the right to bear arms? It's right next to the still valid third amendment, which prohibits the government from using private homes as quarters for soldiers during peacetime without the consent of the owners. And now that I'm thinking about how the government can't tell me what to do, I wonder why it is that if I'm gay, I can't marry whomever I want? Or why it's still considered illegal to be non-hetero in the military? Or why the gov't would have any say in whether or not I have an abortion? Again, it's my life, and my body. I should be able to do whatever I want with it, regardless of how it might impact my own well-being or the health of others.

Remember who ran the tea party in Alice and Wonderland? A bunch of crazies who spouted nonsense and contradicted rational thought at every turn.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Details

We talked in class last night about what details you should give to illuminate character. This discussion was sparked by a story we were going over that gave only one significant physical detail about a guy; that he had a copy of a porno in his living room. I suggested that unless we have more to go on than that, we're going to just assume he's perverted or really into something kinky. The reader has to believe that this is a significant; some details that show who this person is and that make him specific or real and not a generic stereotype. That made me think of the NY Times Magazine photo spread on Sunday called "The Shrine Down the Hall." It's a collection of black and white photographs of the bedroom's of American soldiers who were killed in Iraq. You can see the details of the lost person there---the posters they hung on their walls, the way their shoes are lined under the bed, their stuffed animals, their high school trophies. Each one is this photo of who they were.

The picture that upset me the most was the photo of a boy's bedroom with the dog still lying on the bed. It would be horrible to have your pet outlive your child and to then also see the dog waiting around for him to return, and not being able to explain that no, he's not coming back. You should look at the whole piece. It's incredible.And here's a link to the story behind the collection. How one mother can't bear to wash the clothes of her dead son, and so his laundry basket still has his unwashed clothes in it, the ones he wore before he left.

Monday, March 22, 2010

That's Write, Bitch

Part II of my article on "How to Become a Writer" is in Philadelphia Stories newest issue, which you can read online here. It's aw-right.

Also heard back from Carlin Romano that they are moving forward with the Philadelphia Noir book, so my story, "Princess" will appear in it when it is out this fall. The premise of the book is based on this series produced by Akashic Books where they choose a city (they've done everything from Paris to London to Manhattan to Mexico City) and then ask writers to set their stories in a particular neighborhood in that geographic region. So, for instance, the Philadelphia book will include stories set in Fishtown, Rittenhouse Square, and, in my case, South Philly. Hearing that the project is moving forward makes me really happy, because I thought maybe it wasn't going to get made. Will send you links to it as soon as I can. The story isn't that great ("not Pushcart Prize material," as my mother reminded me, but it's kind of funny and it was a challenge to write.

Now if I could only produce something new...

Friday, March 19, 2010

As if, Like, Fer Sure...

We will talk on Monday in the writing class about how not to use metaphors and similes. They are so hard to write well, because many are common cliches and others just don't work. Examples of bad similes:

She smiled at him like a snake charming a snake charmer.
Her eyes danced like two shooting stars across the sky.
He felt as heavy as a 550 pound barbell 400 feet beneath the ocean.
The dog's tail wagged like a tsunami.

Another thing to be really careful of in fiction at all costs is personification. It's hard to do well. Examples of bad personification:

The scissors cut angrily into the paper.
The graffiti on the brick wall gloated boldly under the streetklamp.
With a quick jump, the dice hurled themselves across the table like two tiny square soldiers running from war (hey, bad personification AND a bad simile).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

5 Crazy Things Before Breakfast

I've been trying to walk to a farther subway stop each morning so as to get a teeny, tiny bit of exercise. It also requires me to have more exposure to Philadelphia, which means I have the opportunity to witness numerous bizarre acts in 20 minutes or less. Today, I ran into the same homeless crazy lady who I saw on the train Monday night. She gestures and hoots and tugs at the waistband of her jogging pants. And another woman, seemingly sane, who was wearing a short blond wig on top of a long black wig. Like, just placed on top. I wish I could find a picture for you.Then, a guy wearing headphones, and gesturing as if conducting an orchestra. More likely a theater person vs. crazy. And two toothless elderly people sitting on a front stoop in their pajamas smoking cigarettes and saying hi to everyone who passed. Even the city birds are a little off--the one I passed near the fire station was trilling in a way that sounded just like a fire truck.

While I was in the waiting room for my doctor's appointment, I sat by a grandma and grandpa and their seven year old grand kid (I know this because they told someone else in the room how old he was). He had a handheld computer game and was playing some kind of word association thing where he had to fill in the missing letters to spell the rest of the quote. He said, "Life is like a bowl of...what?"

The grandpa said, "Cherries."

The kid filled in some letters and then said, "No, the answer is gas."

The grandma said, "Life is like a bowl of gas? That doesn't make any sense."

"It's supposed to be cherries," said the grandpa.

Grandma said,"What kind of gas? Gasoline?"

The kid said, "No, like farts." I laughed.

The grandpa scolded the kid,"That is not a nice thing to say. You don't talk about things like that."

The grandma turned to me and said, "Kids say the darndest things, huh?" But really, life sometimes is like a bowl of farts.

Friday, March 12, 2010

La Te Do

So, this video is probably like 20 years old, but I just saw it for the first time last week at my Aunt Margaret's. I love it. It's a public performance piece and I swear, I am not a person who gets chills and I get goose bumps when I watch this. I may be coming down with the ague, or it may be that this is just really cool. I'd love to try this in 30th Street Station.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Three Generations and More

Here you have my Grandma, who was born on December 3, 1918, which I suppose makes her 91 years old or so (if only I could do math). She lives in a retirement community in a two bedroom/two bath apartment. She still has a good sense of humor and says things like, Well, now we're in a pickle!

And this is my mother and her mother. Mom is making a tuna casserole with whole wheat noodles for my Uncle Francis. She can whip up these meals lickety-split. It is not a genetic trait, nor is her sewing ability.

Me and my Aunt JoAnne. I'm staying at her house and Mom is at Grandma's. JoAnne has this great guest bedroom that gets really, really dark so you feel all safe and secure. It also has a ceiling fan. I like to sleep with the sound of the fan whirring. Even if I'm cold, I will still put it on. You'll notice from this photo that I am having a patch of white hair on my forehead. I'm trying to resist pulling out those hairs because I'm going to go for a Stacey from What Not to Wear Look--this streak of white that I think is kind of sexy. In this photo, it looks as though my head is eclipsing JoAnne's, but I promise that both of us are of normal human proportions.

And my sweet Uncle Franny who has been known as the sensitive one since forever. In high school, he played the trumpet and was on Giltner's Hornets football team. He looks exactly the same to me as he ever did.

Tonight, we will go to a concert at the Giltner Community Center where Krista Detor is playing. Last time I was here, JoAnne gave me one of her CDs. She's really good--a little on the melancholy side. JoAnne has spent hours making food for the event as well as a batch of frozen sangria. Can't wait!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Made It After Only 14 Hours

Woke up this morning a little before 5 AM as Henri was doing is trick where he bangs on the closet door and then jumps on my head and then gets down and meows in a pitful mournful way, all in the name of being helpful in getting me up for my 7:30 flight. Drank some coffee, drowned the cat, called the airport taxi and made it with time to spare. The flight to Chicago was uneventful--a few crying babies that made me wonder why there aren't more cases of child abuse reported. This one woman was traveling alone with four boys between the ages of 2 and 7. I never would have been able to do it. I probably would've given them all adult cold nighttime medicine. Weird to be back in Chicago, if only at the O'Hare airport and I wondered if maybe I would see someone I used to know--maybe Christy or Bennett Weiss or Becky. I called Dan and was so engrossed in talking to him that I completely missed my connecting flight. Totally. I went up to the desk at 10 (the flight was supposed to leave at 9:48) and said, Has this flight been cancelled? No, the woman said. Are you Aimee? I've been paging you for the last half hour. What? So, she generously put me on the next available puddle jumper at 12:30 and I bought a Will Shortz Tuesday level crossword puzzle and hunkered down for another 2 hours. Was happy to find that I had a seat all to myself. We didn't crash. I always wonder if the plane will blow up on take-off or landing or like if I would be heroic or cowardly in the case of a hostage take-over.

My aunt JoAnne picked me up with little incident and we ate at the Cracker Barrel (they have the best mashed potatoes ever) and then drove to Giltner. It looks mostly the same except for the new community center; still remember the playground we had picnics and the miles and miles of cornfields and silos and the occassional cow dotting the field.

Now, I'm sitting in a computer class with JoAnne and my cousin Stephanie--they take classes every Thursday night. I don't know how long I will last, as I didn't sleep on the plane plus there's a one hour time difference (earlier) here. May just put my head down on the keyboard for the slightest, tiniest moment.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Soon to be Visiting Grandma!

And mom will be there too! So here are a few photographs to prepare you for that visit. I am certain grandma will not approve of the one of her in her brassiere with a cigarette.

Here she is as a young mom. Four more kids and countless grandchildren to follow.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I Sort of Love You and Would Like to Marry You on TV in an Amazing Way

Once again, I am tuning in only for the second hour, which really means I only missed 10 minutes of actual new programming and about 40-50 minutes of commerical breaks and recaps.

Here's what I've garnered so far. Vienna believes she loves Jake with all of her breasts. Yes, she was married once for three weeks to a friend of hers, and yes, she was sickened when she realized what a mistake she made, but mostly, she was upset because she disappointed her daddy. Said daddy had given her a promise ring, which she would like to give to the man she's going to marry. Does this mean she had to get it back from her ex-husband, or did she just never promise it in the first place? It's unclear. Vienna says she knows that she and Jake have this amazing chemistry, but do they have enough amaziness to last them a lifetime or at least a couple of months to milk as much publicity as possible out of this reality show before she ends up as the 3 AM d-jay for MTV 3?

She then shows Jake her true lovingness by given him...what is that? A huge joint in a box? Yes, a huge joint with her promise ring around it. She has just promised to get him totally high.

Up next: Tenley, another divorcee who is also an amazing woman and who loves him with all of her (smaller) breasts. Aside: both of these women talk in terrible baby voices. Jake says that he is on cloud-9 (see previous paragraph and read "stoned"). Jake explains that tomorrow, one of these amazing women will be his fiance and he just can't even make up his mind, because his date with Vienna was amazing. He really does say "amazing" in every sentence.  Both women like to lay on top of Jake with their legs draped over him. Jake tries to explain the difference between chemistry and lust. "they're different," he explains. "With Vienna, I just want to amazingly rip her clothes off, and with you...I just have this emotional connection that I can't explain..." (i.e. I think of you like my little sister).

Tenley is completely confused by Jake's confesssion that he doesn't really like her all that much. Jake says that he loves her totally curly ringlets, her pasted on smile, her fake honesty, her forced spirit, her huge eyeballs, but not, like, her as a whole package. Jake says that the emotional bond is so incredibly strong that it's pulling them through these awkward moments where he realizes that she's amazing, but only amazing as a friend. A friend with a baby voice. Tenley reads him his future from a fortune cookie and it says, "I am a girl with a heart of gold, but I would be a terrible spouse" (add: "in bed"). Cue romantic generic music and kissing noises as they lie plastered together in a forced embrace on the Holiday Inn floral bedspread (once again, I'm in the other room, not actually watching the show on screen except in these sneak peeks every five minutes). I don't think I'm missing anything.

We now get to watch Jake as he pretends to agonize over whether to buy the Princess ring or the non-Princess ring. Or the promise ring with a fat joint in the middle of it. Jake forces tears as he acts like he can't decide what to do. Tenley is so joyful and her hair is so curly, that she would make a totally amazing wife (for someone else). Vienna is so exciting and her Hooter boobs are so amazing, but Jake has now made his decision and he knows in his heart that he's made the right one. Both women have given Jake their respective hearts and are so scared that they will be rejected. Jake knows he has both women's hearts in his pants pocket and he doesn't know what to do with both of them; look, he's a pilot, not a transplant surgeon. Jake reads the script perfectly, "This is the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my life previous to the other twenty really hardest decisions I've ever had to make in the life of this TV show." The words "heart" and "fairy tale" and "incredible journey" have now been said no less than 12 times. 

Whoops, sorry, missed the beginning of this rejection due to laundry. Jake is sobbing and telling Tenley that he just doesn't feel it for her, even though she's amazing and reminds him so much of his kid sister. Tenley takes it graciously, though she's crying so much, I can't really understand what she's saying. It sounds noble though. Noble, though in a baby voice. A noble baby voice. They embrace, multiple times, leaving snot trails on one another's shoulders as remembrances of good times gone bad. I'd rather have her as the next Bachelorette, but it'll be Ali. Tenley says that she thinks Jake made a mistake, but she's grateful that she has been able to feel again, even though what she feels totally sucks. In an amazingly sucky way.

For 31 years, Jake has dreamt of a moment like this (really? since he was born?). God, I wish Vienna would say no. Please let her say no and tell him that she is engaged to a fry cook at Hooters. Nope, she says, okay, let's give it a shot. End of this amazingly fake story.