Tuesday, November 25, 2014

For Ryan in Iowa

Did you ever have one of those days where you spend half your time putting off the things that you know you need to do? Or are you like me and those days are every day; this Scarlett O'Hara mantra playing out again and again, "I'll think about that tomorrow..." That is how I am about some of the promises I make to myself, like eating better, exercising, responding to emails right away, pursuing my life's dreams, etc.  This blog, for instance. I keep telling myself that I need to do a post, and then I go read an article about procrastination. For real, because I just found this blog called Life Hack that is rife with lists of ways to improve your life or things to avoid or ways to be happy. And a part of me hopes that if I read enough of those articles, one or two if the ideas will stick. At the same time, it reminds me of this article from The Onion that reads "Man has life changing epiphany and forgets it on the ride home."  No matter how many inspirational quotes I put up around my desk, not a one of them will likely provide the tipping point needed to actually do those things I keep putting off.

However, I do know myself well enough to understand that though I have trouble keeping promises to myself, I don't have that same difficulty as much when I make a promise to another person. Two weeks ago, I went to Iowa to give reading with several other writers as part of Writer's Harvest at Drake University (thanks, Megan Brown!). While I was there, I met some students in a writing class I attended, and a few of them also came to the reading later. A week or so later, Ryan, who I sat next to in the class and who shared his laptop screen with me, sent me an email thanking me for coming and telling me how much he enjoyed my story and my blog.  This poor, sad, neglected blog filled with posts about pillow-buying. But whatever. I promised Ryan I would write a couple of posts a week from now on, at least until January, when you can count on Bachelor posts (coincidentally, the new bachelor is an Iowan farmer named Chris), and so keep checking back.

In the meantime, let me know if you have any essays that you teach about why writing is important. We're talking about that in my last class next Tuesday.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gone Girl, the movie

We don't often go to the movies, and when we do, I almost always get to pick what we see and Dan goes along for the ride.

The last few times, I've chosen movies that are too long and ultimately dissatisfying. The one before Gone Girl was the Tom Cruise blockbuster where he keeps having to live the day over and over, an action packed version of Groundhog Day, minus any attempts at humor or logic. We didn't hate that one--but it was another in a long line of what I call dick flicks, where the cast includes hundreds of men and two women. In this case, the two women neatly fell into the mother/whore dichotomy. One was the mommy of the evil doer and the other was a lovable prostitute. There may have been a third who was a little stronger--the main ninja trainer or whomever, but ends up not being quite as smart or wily as TC, and I think he gets to save her in the end.

There's this thing called the Bechdel Test developed by a woman comic where the movie isn't totally sexist if it meets the following criteria:

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

In the TC movie, the women don't talk to each other at all--they live in different time spheres.

For more on this test, you read this link which will of course lead you to other links. You would be amazed at the number of films where this occurs, and the problem with this, says Bechdel and others, is that the women are essentially foils for the men's adventures. They don't really have any of their own inner life or agency or much of anything to discuss other than what's happening with the man/men in the movie.

But I digress...Gone Girl was one of these suspense films where they leave you to wonder if perhaps Ben Affleck really did kill his wife, but then about halfway through, they reveal that he did not kill her. Instead, we learned that she has cleverly framed him for her murder. This revenge comes about because she is angry about him losing his job and dragging her away from their life in New York City, for gobbling up what's left of her inheritance to open a crappy bar, and then for having an affair with younger woman with much less gray matter.

The problem I had with the film is that the framee, Amy, was completely unsympathetic and the framed, Ben A. wasn't enough of an asshole. So, the film seems to want you to root for him, not her, because what she has done is so out of line with his actions and because she seems to be without real emotion--like, you don't get the sense that she's lost it all and has no other recourse. On some level, you have to be rooting for the anti-hero--a more interesting conflict would arise if we felt like both were justified in their actions, and not just that she was the one who took it too far.

Also, don't have her stab Doogie Howser in the neck while having sex. It's kind of hard to root for her after that moment or to see her as anything more than an utter psychopath.

I did like the ending though, because they at least didn't pull this crazy twist ala Basic Instinct  or Fatal Attraction where the super smart and organized femme fatale makes a dumb mistake and gets caught. She doesn't get caught, regardless of how implausible and easy to disprove her kidnapping story would be. Her punishment is to end up with Ben Affleck.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

House decor

Dan's mom visited last weekend, and she and I went to West Elm, because we both felt we were in need of more things to make our lives complete. In my case, I was looking for decorative pillow cases. I told myself that I could not actually buy yet another throw pillow (we have a dozen), but I could buy a cover. But then I saw a pillow that completely matched the other two I got at West Elm a few months ago (go figure). It had a tag on it that read $34 and another that read $12. This made me think that the pillow was on sale for $12, in part because the helpful worker told me that though the insides of the pillow weren't included in the price, they also weren't that expensive. Imagine my surprise when I checked out to discover that not only was the pillow not on sale, the cover itself was $34 and the stuffing was $12, bringing this impulse buy to $46 plus take for something you can't even really rest your head on. He gave me a chance to reconsider, but I still mistakenly thought that the cover was $12 and that I could maybe find the stuffing at Home Goods. After thinking it through at a distance, I realized that this was not the case. So, for the rest of the weekend, I debated whether or not to return this pillow. Such is the life of the American consumer who has no other real anxieties regarding survival..

But really, it fits right in. 

Dan and I also purchased curtains for a mere $40 per panel at West Elm. That guy was more helpful, as he gave us the student/teacher discount without even knowing that I work at Rider. Now the question is whether or not to add curtains to the other window in the room. You see how one purchase leads to another to another. I think we are done for a while.

Dan's mom also helped us move things around and so now our bookshelf is in a corner in the kitchen---despite my initial weak protests that the function of the furniture should take into account the room it's in. In other words, it's unlikely that I'll be standing next to the stove, and realize I want to read a novel while cooking. But whatever. I think it looks nice.