Thursday, June 18, 2009

Persistence Gives Up

Ironic, no?
So, I was writing something for work the other day and I had the impulse to use the expression "stick-to-it-iveness". In my defense, writing for work is very different from when I really write, so I use words (and ideas) that I would no more use than let snakes in turtlenecks visit my house. I, and I assume most people, naturally write towards my audience, and it can't be helped. In addition, I never even wrote the word (for lack of a better...well...word) down- I'm not completely lost. It did bring me up short, though, and make me wonder when that expression became so common that a vocabulary crank like myself would even consider, for the most infinitesimal fraction of a second, using it? I looked it up online: it only had 1 dictionary definition, and it was classified as colloquial, but I really wanted it to be officially declared Not A Word. Its irregardless all over again! What's wrong with saying persistence? Or determination? Why do we have to invent a clunky, inelegant, awkward alternative? And why do I let it bother me?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

So the last post? On From Hell? I rewrote the entire thing about 10 minutes ago. It was better. More cohesive, focused, some bull like that. Then the website erased all the changes and published the old version. So, don't judge me too harshly for that 1st draft that got published. I only have 30 minutes left on my lunch break and I'm going to use it to sit in the sun and read about happy people rather than keep giving JTR my time and attention. I've hanxed him.

Monday, June 15, 2009

From Hell

Would it be better if I wrote this blog about the books I read? All of the time? Some of the time? Thoughts? A while ago I read about a study of how many books people read in a year, and the vast majority of Americans read less than 10. In a year. I found this horrifying and incomprehensible, and I am more than ready to admit that my feelings are very colored by my own habits. I knew that I read more than that. A lot more. But how much? Only a year could tell. So I tracked how many books I read. I numbered them, noted the date, title, author and brief notes to myself. That was over a year and a half ago. I ended year one at exactly 150 books (granted, I was reading until like 11:56 cause I wanted to end on an even number). Then I realized that having this book journal was kinda interesting to me, so I'm still cranking. How many books will I read in year 2? Check back end of September.

Last night I finished From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. It was terrific, and I went to write about it in my journal. I had spent most of the afternoon finishing it, however, and it had taken up residence in my head in a scary way, so I kept my remarks short and promised myself I would write about it on my blog in a well lit room. I really should stay away from serial-killer-related literature.

I did love the book, though, before it gave me nightmares. I'm not a huge fan of the black and white art, graphic novels can occassionally be confusing to me when I can't see something in the pictures, and black and white makes it worse. But in this case it was chillingly effective. When Mary Kelly dies (and I really don't think I'm spoiling the ending for anyone) there are pages and pages with no words, and nothing graphic in the pictures, just people going in and out of a dark door. Scared the poo out of me. Also the notion that someone would have warned her, so she knew what was coming was horrifying. In a related story, though, I didn't get that mystery bit at the end, Alan. Does that make me stupid? Did Mary get away and go back to Ireland, and her buddy Julia was the one who got sliced up? Or was it a ghost story thing? Its going to remain a mystery, I suspect.

My only other problem, which really isn't one, is that I don't but the royal-marriage-conspiracy-theory story. But who cares what I really believe here? Not even me. It makes for a good story: gruesome, horrifying, and much to imagination stoking for me, but great nonetheless. Alan Moore made a particularly crazy craziness seem almost...understandable, but still unfathomable, and never pretending for a second that the Ripper might really be doing the right thing.

Oh, and then I couldn't sleep last night. I had to watch loads of West Wing episodes before I could even try.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I just read a dead serious essay on how the old Battlestar Galactica was just as relevant to society as the new one, and that no one will acknowledge that because the old message was conservative (Reagan-era Peace Through Strength) and all of the left wing Hollywood intellectuals would rather think about lily livered moral relativism than hardline weapons stockpiling and insane defense spending. This was in a BOOK. The author seemed quite miffed that people keep calling the old BSG "campy". My question would be "has he SEEN it?" I can't argue that the old BSG didn't have any social or political relevance, as it was applicable to the Cold War and all that, but I CAN argue that it was badly written, had special effects that were already behind the times, and hasn't at all stood up to the test of time. Now, I have no way to tell if the new BSG will last once the glow wears off, but at the very least its better written and doesn't bother with many special effects, which drastically reduces the danger of becoming dated.
On a more serious note, the Cold War dilemma of the original Battlestar Galactica crew has a clear right answer. Peace loving Adar is wrong. Reluctantly militaristic Adama is right. That's the end of the discussion. Its been proven. Its done. That's why the new series is better. Its over. I own every episode you can legally purchase, and I STILL don't know who was right and who was wrong. There isn't really a bad guy. My favorite characters did things that I detested, and nearly convined me that they were in the right. Gaius Baltar was responsible for really bad things, but was he also the hand of god? No one really knows. Well, maybe Ron Moore and David Eick do, but not anyone I talk to on a regular basis. And I wouldn't want to know. It would spoil the entire experience. These people face the situations we face everyday, and, just like us, they rarely get to find out if their choice was the right one.
The original may have tossed around the ideas of mutually assured destruction and Star Wars (the missiles, not the movies), but did it ever grapple with such heinously divisive issues as abortion, religion in government and suicide bombing? And did it ever toy with the notion that we, as a country, might be wrong? Its an uncomfortable thought, and I don't like thinking it more than anyone else, but I can't look myself in the mirror every day unless I'm willing to at least entertain the idea. The new BSG not only entertained it, it took it out to get to know it better, and whatever those characters decided, they learned to live with themselves, just like we do. What makes the new cylons so scary isn't just that they LOOK like us....its that they ARE like us.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Katharine & Emily's Epic Illinoisian Adventure: Day 4

Today rocked! Other than the part where this website wasn't letting me post anything, anyway. I started off the day watching a tv show about a $1000 ice cream sunday and then we went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. It was good. Thats really all there is to say about it.
Then we went to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, or ALPLM for short, and that isn't even that short. The first guide we met told us that we HAD to watch the Ghosts in the Library movie, it was a "must see". The he pointed at Em and said, "Well, YOU know." How did she know? Why her? Its a mystery.
In the first half of the museum we checked out Lincoln's boyhood and early political life. I personally enjoyed what I like to think of as "Pimp Lincoln", which is a wax figure of him wooing Mary Todd. He has his arm on the back of the sofa and he's looking at her like "How you doin?" I had the disturbing experience of watching a mother explain to her child about slavery- I won't even go into her word choice there, but it weirded me out but good. And then Tim Russert gave a us a presentation on the election of 1860 as it would have run today. Obviously he wasn't really there. It was a video.
In the second half we saw Lincoln's White House life and death. The reproduction of his funeral was eerie and effective. The Ghosts in the Library movie? Not so much. The Sixth Sense had already spoiled the ending for me. That historian/soldier at Vicksburg was already dead! In a side note I new every song they played over the loudspeakers from my Civil War Ballads CD. Talk about nerds.
Next was Lincoln's actual house. The parking was free because the machine was broken. This prompted a discussion on the ethics of paying for your parking if it was an honor system to begin with. I argued that our consciences were supposed to make us pay, seeing as we were visiting Honest Abe here. Sean contested that Lincoln would never have charged for parking. WWLD?
The Lincoln house was not attractively decorated inside, although it was pretty on the outside. The tour guide was not awesome, but I loved the fact that when someone stepped outside the designated area an alarm went off. I wish we'd had that when I was a tour guide. I also found Lincoln's shaving mirror where Sarah Vowell said she tried to jump up and see herself and set off the alarm.
After lunch was Lincoln's tomb. (Anyone sensing a theme here?) The Museum of Funeral Customs is only open by appointment, so I had to settle for getting my picture taken with the sign. The tour guide caught us on the way in, and made us listen to the history of the tomb itself. Lots of symbols, but none of them particularly subtle, I must say. Gee, what does that eagle stand for?
It was one fine tomb, I will say that, and I think Lincoln deserves it. But what I want to know is: where exactly is his body? Under that slab with his name on it? In it somehow? Behind the wall? Under the whole structure? What about the rest of the family? These questions plague me. On the way out I rubbed Lincoln's nose for luck, and that may have been the best Lincoln thing of all. I think Abe and I had a moment there.
On a whim, to move past the Lincoln theme, we checked out a coffee shop Shawn had just read about. It was INSIDE the Goodwill store. It was amazing. I got a speech from the baristo (or is a dude a barista too?) about how he was there because he didn't want to be a corporate drone anymore, and then got to drink a $4 coffee while watching folks shop at Goodwill. Wrong? Maybe. But it was interesting.
At the end of the day we checked out the University of Illinois and Springfield Lake, and then we came back to Urbana. Now I'm listening to Emily play banjo while I wrestle with the computer and its just like the old days.


This is a test. It is only a test. This blog is driving me nuttty. When I finally get some initiative and start to write every day, it won't let me.

Katharine & Emily's Epic Illinoisian Adventure: Day 3

I've tried this once already and it failed. That sucks. It'll probably be shorter this time around.
Sunday we got up early and went to get the oil changed in Emily's car. It was supposed to take ten minutes, it took over an hour. We waited in a soul crushing and dingy room where Emily graciously saved me from a giant bug. The thing had PINCERS. She smashed it under a vending machine and, I have to believe, caused its death.
We got on the road to St. Louis later than we meant to. It took a while, and was still flat. It was broken up, however, by an enormous cross by the side of the highway. Hilton big. Skyscraper big. I got some pictures. I've been told they really love Jesus around here, and I guess its true.
I don't have much to say about St. Louis itself- I didn't see much. The Arch was impressive, but the Mississippi just looked dirty. We were headed to the Missouri Botanical Gardens, and it wasn't in the best part of town. The gardens themselves were amazing! Every bit was living art, particularly the Japanese and Chinese gardens. The maze was a little lame, being really low and not difficult at all. Nice try, Missouri, but I've been in harder corn mazes.
After the gardens we drove to the Cahokia Mounds. We were too late for the visitors center and the video, which I hear is spectacular, if less 70s-tastic than I could wish. I did, however, get to see Woodhenge, and climb Monk's Mound in a short dress. I wouldn't recommend the second part. Although Em and I got complimented on our lovely outfits at the top it wasn't worth my concern that I was flashing Illinois.
Finally we headed for Springfield where we were spending the night in a hotel, because Emily had always wanted to stay in the hotel right next to the Cracker Barrel. As good as any reason, I guess, and a lot funnier than most. We went to dinner with friends of hers and I had the famous Springfield Horseshoe I'd heard so much about. (Actually it was a ponyshoe, smaller than the horseshoe). It was delicious, and terrible and gave me a stomachache. To finish the night we went out for drinks, which was pretty quiet on Sunday night. Eventually someone stared playing Johnny Cash songs live and we had a really good time.
My favorit quote of the day? " I could have taken the horse." Thanks, Shawn.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Katharine & Emily's Epic Illinoisian Adventure: Day 2

The midwest is kicking my ass. I've heard that "the waving wheat, it sure smells sweet," but its the damn waving wheat preventing me from smelling anything at all.
Today I got a good look at the post office and organic food stores of Urbana- there was free chocolate. Only at the organic grocery, but I guess that's really for the best. Emily is the perfect host and friend. She ironed my clothes and vacuumed the house (that was to help me breathe). I told her she didn't have to, several times, but I wasn't going to wrestle the iron out of her hands...that's just dangerous.
We also went to Allerton Park, which was beautiful. I got to see the Fu Dogs (Chinese AND Korean) and loads of trees, which suddenly seems like a novelty. Also there was a great story about an intense "father-son relationship" that I can't wait to submit to Anna's gaydar. I have an opinion on this one, but I'd like it confirmed by an expert witness.
We had Korean for dinner, and then went to a cupcake shop. There was an entire trendy cafe devoted to cupcakes! They also had gin fizzes, but we didn't get those (with this amount of antihistimines in my system, I could have DIED). The cupcakes were delicious. And we capped off the day listening to a Cuban band with no name and no discernably cuban members. I definitely saw, however, what looked, to me, like a potentially real hippie. Is the claim that Illinois has no native hippies a false one? It would explain why that was the guy that Em kind of knew. The weird thing was that in this cozy, friendly, pub-like place we appeared to be the only two people who didn't know one another. That gets unsettling fairly quickly. Solution? Come home and watch videos on Youtube, then convince Emily that her life is incomplete without Arrested Development. My mission here is complete.
Oh, and I would like to thank my commenter (commentor? Commentator?), you know who you are, for the interest in my doings. I totally got you- not just a pamphet- its a whole BOOKLET! You can thank me later.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Katharine & Emily's Epic Illinoisian Adventure: Day 1

I made it to the great state of Illinois! It is, as advertised, full of corn.
It all began with a ridiculously early awakening, and a surreal pass through Portland's security line- the personnel were all so homogenous and cheerful. Where do we find them? The plane ride was uneventful, although I got to watch the flight attendant fabulously quash a self-righteous hipster, and I think Masi Oka was actually piloting.
We got a little turned around trying to find the car, but Em didn't have any problem navigating Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry is enormous (don't) and we decided to poke around until it was time for our date with Harry Potter (again, please, don't). There was an entire exhibition on poo, culminating in how many wheelbarrows full of poo it would take to power your laptop (two if you're wondering). The miniature fairy castle was amazing, but the line to go through the realistic coal mine was to long. We did pay extra to see the greenest house in Chicago; it was very well decorated, and, they tell me, energy efficient. The home and garden channel, not to mention my mother and sister, would approve.
Finally we got in line for Harry Potter: the Exhibition. They made people shout and answer trivia questions before we went in, and they even had a sorting hat. Despite that, it was a great show, and I got to see one of Sirius Black's waistcoats- yay!
The South Side of Chicago is really interesting.
The ride to Urbana took a while. I stayed awake, which is really all there is to say about that.
After an excellent dinner Emily took me on a mini tour of the city. There are quite a few chuches here- our favorite being the Korean Jesus-Love United Methodist Church (Hey, Mel!)
Best of all, when we got back to her house and I slumped onto the couch exhausted, instead of making me do something else Emily said "Hey, have you ever watched WKRP?"