Thursday, January 29, 2009

how i ended up with a hopeless romantic

...actually, i'm not sure how. he is one though. and how! allow me to provide some examples to bolster my case (if you know him though, i think you'd agree that the prosecution has this one in the bag.)

we've got these giant icicles that have formed off the gutters (like, 4 ft long, cerebral cortex-piercing stalactites) and the dotytron is super-worried that one of us is going to get beaned in the melon with them, on our way through the driveway to the back door. he even called me at work one day to leave me a message telling me to be careful, because he had passed one that had already fallen and the shattered 2" diameter chunks totally wigged him out. as we were trudging back under them one day carrying groceries, i stopped to look up at them, to gauge whether any were likely to come splintering off. "don't look up!" the dotytron told me, "it's like the never ending story, you have to be true of heart to pass through unharmed" lol!

example numero deux. my mom is getting her cochlear surgery done on tuesday. i was explaining to the roomie about how the rehabilitation process is the most challenging part, because people with cochlear implants don't hear what we hear - sound is turned into an electrical signal that their brain has to reinterpret and assign to you're basically learning how to hear again. at which point the dotyron, who had been working on organizing his binders, pipes up from the living room, "i would like to be able to hear what people with cochlear implants hear, and then compose music for them, that only they would get" *insert the dotytron's excited, bigeyes face* how is he so the best?

him being so best didn't exactly stop me from turning apocalyptica last night when he started watching that hilary swank teaching movie, "freedom writers" (he has basically downloaded every teaching movie ever made and is watching them all, one by one.) it's about hilary swank as a teacher in a multi ethnic, downtrodden, torn-apart-by-gang-violence community, trying to reach out to the youths. it's based on a true story. the kids published a book of their poetry in real life. somewhat true to form, i became INCENSED with the fact that he was watching such derivative, sentimental, racist, cliched pap. the roomie had already seen the movie (but she's susceptible to that kind of stuff) and they were both defending it and i kind of lost my s**t. especially when he said, "you object to it on artistic grounds, and you're kind of lagerfelding out right now" at which point i almost had a CONNIPTION because not only did i find the treatment of the scenario intellectually offensive, i found it offensive that HE didn't find it offensive.

i told him that this was a just a new version of shuckin' and jivin'. it was a film based on a PERFORMANCE of "black" "latino" and "asian" "inner city" "youth" for the benefit of a primarily white audience, to see how the benevolent, plucky WHITE WOMAN (hilary swank) overcomes her own squareness and RAISES THESE KIDS UP. this movie isn't about THEM. it's about HER! it's a mealy mouthed pandering platitude that reinforces the power stereotypes between white people and minorities . you want to see a great movie about teaching? "half nelson." there. or, that documentary we watched about the kids debating, "resolved." speaking about movies about teaching, in a weird convergence of events i heard about a movie called "the class" yesterday, and then had it brought up to me by no less than 3 other sources through the course of the day: the dotytron, my sister, and entertainment weekly. it looks good! i'm going to try to see it next week.

okay okay. what have i been reading lately? i finished curtis sittenfeld's first book, "prep." sittenfeld published a highly acclaimed, thinly veiled fictionalized account of laura bush's life this year, called "american wife". i tried reading "american wife" only to put it down because i was promised (by a review in entertainment weekly) racy sex scenes and a cursory thumbing through of the pages yielded bupkes. i made it all the way through "prep" but it wasn't an effortless journey. i think the teenage point of view helped temper my dissatisfaction with major elements of the novel.

"prep" follows 14 year old lee fiora, daughter of a mattress salesman from grand bend, indiana, through 4 years of high school at a tony boarding school on the east side (close to boston) called ault. the book was hailed when it came out, although the reviews weren't unremittingly positive. i pulled it out in the lunch room one day, when i was only about 50 pages in, and K (who knows a lot about all things literary and new york times/new yorker book review-y) said, "i heard the main character is kind of annoying." which was the catalyst for one of those epiphany moments when you're finally able to articulate that niggling feeling of distaste that's been lurking at the hinterlands of your aesthetic appreciation.

the main character IS annoying!!!!! i think she's supposed to come off as detachedly observant and smart ("prep" is often compared to "the catcher in the rye" another book about alienated teenagerydom that i find sublimely overrated...and boring), but she's actually quite stupid, kind of racist, and not very endearing. she refuses to make friends and alienates herself from her peers in a way that's supposed to be because she's so acutely aware of her class and how she's an interloper moving amongst the best and brightest of the moneyed society dons' progeny. that doesn't come across. what you have is a kid who's totally a neurotic weirdo freak who kind of doesn't DESERVE to be befriended, and moreover, looks at people with such scorn that she alienates people who seem to be genuinely nice. she's also stupidly hung up on this unattainable dude (named cross sugarman, believe it or not) who treats her like crap. the most annoying thing is that the narration seems to be the voice of an adult lee, looking back on her life...however, she doesn't learn a thing! she STILL seems to be as detached, awkward, and dumb as when she was a teenager!!! she STILL pines for cross sugarman or cross sugarman types! it's infuriating. this didn't stop me from finishing the book (which is also kind of narratively devoid and disjointedly episodic.) but i can't say i would recommend it.

i also read "the key to the golden firebird" which is a YA novel that's pleasant enough, though not quite as enjoyable as e. lockhart's work or sarah dessen's. it adheres to the standard YA plot, awkward teen finds love shortly after some kind of traumatic experience/personal tragedy (in this case, her dad dies from a sudden heart attack.) the writing is decent...but the characters are kind of weak and it's slim (even by YA standards.)

"the bottomless belly button" is a GIANT comic that i found because it was recommended in one of those "if you like ___, try ___" lists in a magazine (who am i kidding? probably entertainment weekly.) in this case, the first part of the equation was alison bechdel's "fun home" which i adored. the author, dash shaw (i know, it totally sounds like a made up name) has a very simple, naive drawing style. the story follows the loony family as they reconvene at the family's beachside home where their elderly parents announce that they are getting a divorce after almost 50 years together because they're not in love anymore. it's kind of sad and quiet and awkward. i don't really get the comparison to "fun home" - i think alison bechdel is way more accomplished and skillful, both at drawing and in creating very realistic, human characters. this comic was one of those ones that's fiendishly popular with those types that insist on calling them "graphic novels" - the indie types who seems to like it when everything is kind of downtrodden and there's always a malignant unnamed force and sense of foreboding overshadowing the story (this malignance tends to find its' apotheosis around graphic depictions of sex - don't ask me why.) i didn't really get it, to be honest.

last night i finished reading guy delisle's newest book (i've reviewed his works before), "the burman chronicles." he's also the author of "shenzhen" and "pyongyang" and like those other two, this follows his slice-of-life observations living in a highly repressive, censored, asian country - in this case, burma. he's followed his partner there (she works for medecins sans frontieres) and they have a small child. i love his work because it's a very subjective travelogue that doesn't seem overly preachy. he's quite critical of the expatriate community and NGOs but it's doesn't come across as didactically ideological - as in any situation where you live in a place for a substantial amount of time (he's there for over a year) and are an open and curious person, you tend to adjust your observations as you get to know people better. compared to his depictions of life in north korea, you get the sense that the people of burma are a lot less resigned to their isolation and the censorship and brutalities of the junta. the people he encounters seem much more aware that their emails/newspapers/media are being carefully edited and culled for anything remotely controversial. this could be because burma seems to be more economically stable, with the major jewel trade. there is some interesting dissection of the work of NGOs and of the private companies that do business with the military dictatorship. i also enjoy the expressiveness of delisle's drawing style and his own sense of self-deprecating humour.

okay. that's enough out of me for one day. but i think i'm dropping my project management class. winter is NO time to be taking a night class. i think i'm going to hold off on it until the fall. i DEFINITELY don't want to be taking a night class in the summer (not when there's eating outside to be doing, and ice cream missions to be executing.) i think fall is a good time to take on some studies...i'll still be motivated to go and it won't feel so soul crushing.


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