Thursday, June 16, 2011

in which I move to tumblr (I think)

I've decided to continue the Watermelon Shirt Type over on Tumblr. I think this will lead to more posts (and also the ease of reposting things that I like and that you might like, too), and less feeling that I need to "sit down and write a blog post," and the community aspect is pretty neat. (Yes, I call things "neat." You can take a lady out of the Midwest, etc.)

But before I go -- a word about the origin of the watermelon shirt, since I told a friend I'd write a post about the name.

Photo: Fall 2009, Nashville, TN -- taken during the trip that inspired my Ridin' the Dawg manuscript.

This is the watermelon shirt. I tie-dyed it myself at an event at Sarah Lawrence, sometime in the spring of 2009 (I think that's right). The seeds are drawn on with Sharpie. It is remarkably un-hip, and is hence one of my very favorite articles of clothing.

Last spring, my boyfriend at the time and I were getting ready to meet up with a new friend, and I was rummaging through the drawers of my ugly green dresser, trying to decide what to wear. After casting aside a few rejected t-shirts, I came across the watermelon shirt, which had fallen to the bottom of my drawer during the winter. I picked it up and looked at it for a moment, and considered.

"She seems like the watermelon shirt type," I said of my new friend, correctly assessing that if she was the kind of person who would appreciate the watermelon shirt, our friendship was much more likely to last. I decided to wear the watermelon shirt.

I think, though, that the idea of "the watermelon shirt type" has also come to refer to the best version of myself -- the person that I want to be, but so far have only managed to be on a part-time basis. This person is brave and completely unconcerned with anyone else's opinion, often to the point of being unapologetically (not tragically) un-hip. This person does things that brings her and the people around her joy, and doesn't get bogged down with the details of adulthood. This person manages stress well, does not shy from confrontation when necessary, and is an open-hearted, fearlessly vulnerable communicator. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

in which I am an honorary galaxy defender

One of the things I like about New York is the sense that anything can change in a moment. Well, I guess I should say that I usually like it, since it works both ways. But tonight turned beautiful unexpectedly, with a launch party and reading for the first issue of the Milan Review (and can I just say: good friends are those who will stop at Old Navy to bring you sandals on the way when you've made foolish footwear decisions and decided to go out after work). Lovely words and food and drink, and then walking through DUMBO back to Brooklyn Heights to get the subway home, and we stumble on this:

I know, I know, I need to get an actual good camera so I can take real pictures of things. There were gorgeous classic cars lined up along Court Street all day today, but the timing was such that we got to see them in action, because they were filming a car chase as part of Men in Black 3.

The scene that we got to watch was done by stunt doubles, and involved classic cars & taxis driving rather normally, and then the heroes (presumably -- or maybe villains?) darting through on a motorcycle, chased by what look like police. They did this exact same thing three times (while members of the crew called out that we couldn't take flash pictures and cross the street, occasionally tacking on the fact that it was stunt doubles on not actors, possibly out of bemusement toward the assembled crowd of onlookers).

After watching the third take, we cautiously made our way to the subway, stepping over cables and briefly talking to a man standing on the steps who said he was an extra. On a whim, I asked if I could get my picture with him.

I sort of can't wait for this movie to come out so I can look for my random extra-man friend.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bravery & Lack Thereof

Despite my habit of writing compulsively, I have a distinct tendency to neglect this particular outlet. I think partially because I feel like I need to have something fully-formed and coherent in order to put it out into the world, maybe because I've been gaining an increased awareness of how public the internet is (very, super public!). But I've also been pouring my writing energy into a few other endeavors:

* In April, I participated in Script Frenzy and wrote the first 100 pages of a screenplay.
* I was accepted into the MFA in poetry program at City College of New York.
* I have two things-I-wrote coming out in the next few months -- a short story in the Fox Cry Review and a poem in Wisconsin People and Ideas magazine. (I'm excited about both of these, but one thing I have to say regarding the latter -- when I worked for a large bookstore chain, I really wanted something that I'd written to be available because it seemed like a way to be undercover, sort of like a spy. I liked the idea that customers could come up and, while I was serving them coffee and they were treating me like I was nothing, that some visible reminder of my humanity was available in the store. Anyway, this particular magazine is sold at this particular large bookstore chain in Wisconsin, so I'm pretty tickled that my undercover-spy fantasy is being realized, albeit after it's no longer fully applicable.)

* I also had the ridiculously amazing chance to sit down and have coffee with a famous poetry translator and get some feedback on some of my translated poems. (I'm afraid to say her name in case she finds it and I have to be embarrassed by how starstruck I am, and because I want to say that I'm amazed by her work and also by her kindness. It takes a really good teacher to inspire them to keep going while giving them things to work on, while also making them feel like they already have some talent.)

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of public vs. private, especially with the things-I've-written coming out in print. These are probably the first things that I've published that people who know me are likely to find accidentally, without my direction. There's something scary in that, to be sure -- and maybe that terror is part of the appeal. As someone with a distinct tendency to want to keep anything important private, why in the world would I want to publish anything? I'm not totally sure. And even when whatever poem or story is not personal, not really -- something always seeps out with it, and I wonder if I've admitted something that intangibly condemns myself.

So maybe that's why Lena Chen's article on Slate yesterday struck me in some way, at least the pervasive sense of melancholy inherent in the loss of some of the positive qualities of a former self, even a flawed one. I'm not talking about the subject matter, but rather the honesty that is owed whenever we try to talk to each other as human beings, no matter the medium. We've learned to trade real bravery for brave faces, and become cowards in the process.

I mentioned several weeks ago that I was going to see Marianne Kirby and Lesley Kinzel record their podcast, FatCast Live, at Re/Dress. Well, I did, and it was amazing, and Marianne Kirby complimented my shoes. (And lady has mad style, so -- hello, claim to fame.) I'd like to get into some reasons why I think she's awesome, and how I think the Health at Every Size movement is integral to a cohesive form of feminism that makes sense as a world view, but that's a post for another day. (In the meantime -- check out her blog, which is not only super rad but also I really admire her writing, in that she does not mince words. She says what she means and packs a punch. Me? I mince words all the time. You see that? Words being minced. So I have a great deal of respect for those who manage to leave their words un-minced.)

Oh, and relatedly but in the category of things-I-want-to-write-about-but-right-now-I-have-to-go-buy-wine-and-put-on-my-Settlers-of-Catan-gameface, Lesley Kinzel just wrote a relevant Thing over at xoxojane and here I am linking to it. I hear people say things like "ugggh, (type of person deemed by speaker to be unattractive) just should NOT wear (type of clothing deemed to be only appropriate to be worn by people deemed to be attractive by the speaker)". So, basically, you are saying that other people have the moral necessity to adhere to your personal standard for what they should look like? Huh. That's not arrogant at all!

(No, really, though! I can't get into it right now. There is wine to buy, and Settlers to play.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

in which I discover my favorite things in the faraway land known as Queens

So, a few weeks ago, I started a new volunteer position helping out with Gallop NYC, which is an organization that teaches therapeutic horseback riding lessons to people with disabilities. Right now, I'm most useful with the horses, since I'd never worked with anyone who had special needs before very recently, but I hope to gain some experience and then look to get certified as an instructor with NARHA. All in all, it's pretty rad and also pretty exhausting, but I feel like I'm doing something, and there are a lot of moments in which I wonder if it's more therapeutic for me or for the riders.

The only catch is that the volunteer opening was not at the Brooklyn location. It's in Queens -- and no matter which public-transportation option I exercise (all involve two trains and a bus), it takes me about an hour and a half to get there. So, to be there at 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday, I have to leave at 7:30 (7:15 if I want to buy coffee and a bacon wrap, which isn't really an if, let's be honest). For those of who you know me even remotely well, you know that takes a Herculean amount of effort for me.

So, suffice to say, that while I was setting out on my first weekend volunteer expedition, I was beginning to question my sanity.

But then! I reached the final leg of my journey, and right when I got off the bus to begin my 15-minute walk to the stables, I saw them: all of my favorite things.

A Panera (yes, please, I would like some bread on the side of my bread sandwich), a Five Guys, a library, and a Michael's (craft store), all within about a two-block radius.

Clearly, it was a sign. (Addendum: I have other favorite things too. But these are some of them. I'm like Oprah in that way.)

On my way back from the stables, I walked through the Michael's parking lot and inhaled. It all seemed so nostalgically Midwestern -- the families with kids getting into cars (cars! existing, and being owned by normal people who use them to get places!), and the teenage girls with big bags of colored t-shirts and puffy paint (I, once, was one of you. Confession: much, much more than once).

Then I walked in and saw this:

Isn't it beautiful?! High ceilings! There's just so much space! And no mirror on one side to make the place look bigger!

I didn't buy this, but I admired the fact that it existed:

I was tempted to get a row of these to put on my windowsill (SO TINY AHH), since I really want to try to grow something either pretty or useful (like dudes, it seems that plants are generally one or the other) (j/k, you guys, pretty dudes can totally be me). But then I remembered that I can't stand the sound of clay pots, so, I was relegated to simply admiring them, like the zebra-print hot glue gun.

This is probably just as well, since I usually just bring a small amount of cash for lunch and a Metrocard when I go to the barn. I did, however, manage to budget $3 to go towards buying two spools of ribbon, one of which is hot pink with skulls & crossbones. But this, too, is a good development because then I can continue to add to my ribbon collection whenever I'm out there, and it will help to act as an incentive. (You guys -- what should I do with all this ribbon? I just think it's pretty. I use it for bookmarks, and to tie around wine bottles to make them look fancy, and I have an idea that I will bring back hair ribbons. However this is unfortunately at odds with my goal of looking more like a grown-up on a day-to-day basis, and less likely to be mistaken for an intern.)

This is unrelated, but maybe someone can help me solve the mystery -- I was walking down Atlantic Ave. sometime last week or maybe it was the week before, and it looked like they were filming something. Everyone seemed busy plus I was on the other side of the street, so I didn't ask what it was. Instead, I took a low-quality cell phone picture (keeping it real, like all the other photos I post on here) and told myself I would figure it out later. How I imagined I would do this, I'm not quite sure.

Any ideas? (Either what it is, or how in the world I thought I was going to figure it out from that picture.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

heart, don't fail me now -- courage, don't desert me

This song will never stop being awesome. 1997 forever.

It seems like mainstream music videos used to be a lot less glossy. I miss that quality. I also love that Aaliyah is wearing a drawn-on eye patch here.

So beautiful, so talented, and such a tragedy -- she was definitely a class act.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

new desktop? MAYBE

Via Nina

...and what is possibly my new most-visited website.

Someday I would like to own a herd of corgis. And then I'll throw a frisbee and they'll all run to catch it, with their tiny little legs moving like cartoons and their tongues flopping in the wind.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Why I Am Bad at T.V. (but also great)

I recently made the decision, which may or may not have been influenced by a hearty amount of wine, to participate in Script Frenzy, a yearly event during which people from around the world attempt to write a 100-page play during the month of April. I should point out here that the last time I attempted to write a play was about 10 years ago, when I was a first-year at the Renaissance School for the Arts and took a playwriting class with the late Fred Gaines. I learned from this experience that writing a play is actually really, really hard -- especially if you write like I do, by which I mean if you find dialogue extremely challenging to write and rely heavily on description and pretty language to make it seem like something is happening when you write narrative. However, I'm coming back to give the medium another try for a number of reasons. I've been exploring the idea of dialogue and monologue within the medium of poetry recently, and also the idea of human voices acting as both a time marker, an instrument, and a mode of transportation for words. My friend Monica and I were discussing recently how exciting it must be to write a play and see it come to life through the eyes of directors and actors, and how in the case of film, the director has the privilege and responsibility to allow his or her imagination to become canonical. Think of books that you've seen remade into movies. If you read the book first and then saw the movie, are you able to remember what you thought the characters looked like before you saw the movie? Are you able to remember what you imagined the world to look like? I find that, in many cases (Harry Potter, anyone?), I can't. In a way, the director's imagination has superseded my own. I was telling Monica about the poem that I have fermenting that involves two parts, which I've recorded as my own speaking voice as a duet. Certainly, the choice (in this case made out of the necessity of 3 a.m. alone in my bedroom) to record both parts myself creates a certain canon effect. But what would happen if the voices were a man and a woman? Two men? What if the voices were very old? What if they had accents other than American? What if they had speech impediments? I've enjoyed imagining how actors would create the characters in my poems.

I've also been considering the role of good writing in TV, film, and stage. What makes it good? I might argue that what makes good writing is the ability to connect -- but how exactly does one accomplish that?

Consider the case of the show Huge (you can, and I recommend that you do, watch the whole thing on Hulu). After close to a year of hearing wonderful things about this show, and reading reviews by pop culture critics who hold similarly radical ideas (and how I wish these ideas didn't have to be radical!) as I do about the importance of diverse forms of media representation for minorities of all conceivable categories, I finally got around to watching the show. And I was totally floored. (This, right here, is why I am both good and bad at TV: I don't own one, and I don't watch TV all that frequently. It often takes repeated and persistent nudges from varied sources to convince me that maybe I should watch something. But, when I do and if I love it, invariably the show will have been cancelled by then. See: Arrested Development, Firefly, and now Huge.)

The show takes place at a "fat camp," and deals primarily with the friendships that form among the teenagers that are the campers. But I don't think that description would have compelled me to watch the show -- after all, I've never been overweight, and I've definitely never been to fat camp. What makes Huge extraordinary, though, is that on some level, I could identify with every single character. Especially as someone who has gone through the different stages of camp life -- from camper to counselor to program director -- there was so much that rang true for me, or reminded me of someone close to me. There are some scenes that are so true that they were sometimes difficult to watch. There's the fickleness & fidelity of close teenage friendships and the heartbreak that so frequently accompanies it, the goofiness of being a camp counselor and putting on a happy face and jazz hands through the most challenging of situations, the conundrum of what to do when a camper's parents just won't leave, and how to tell a camper sensitively that he or she needs to employ better hygiene. There's the utter fear that the boy you like will read your journal. There's the feeling of ascending in the camp hierarchy to feel the pressure of living up to those that came before you. There's the navigation of making peace with your body, despite whether it conforms to what's accepted culturally as acceptable.

And Huge's ability to make all the characters ring true is its triumph. And I think that's a big part of good writing, and something to shoot for in my own screenplay. How do you make the audience ache when your character makes a bad decision? How to make them grieve for failures and celebrate for victories? It all seems like both the hardest and the most important thing (amazing how many times these two categories seem to overlap).

For those of you who are going to watch and are interested in reading some commentary -- I recommend Lesley Kinzel, who writes the blog Two Whole Cakes. You can read her comments on Huge here. She's an extremely perceptive and funny writer -- I'm actually going to see her live with Marianne Kirby (event info here) in a few weeks. Occasionally, she writes something in her recaps that makes me cackle with glee, such as her description of George, the counselor on Huge who is the most conventionally-attractive male character, as looking "about as tough as a baby lemur." (Funny because it's true, and also, how cute are baby lemurs?!)

Oh, also, as a very important PS -- Gina Torres, who plays Zoe on Firefly, plays the director of the camp. I think she is a totally spectacular actress, and it seems like she picks great projects, so I look forward to seeing what she does next. (Although, it is probable that in everything I see her in, a part of my brain will say, "Why, Zoe?! You're supposed to be with Wash!") Also, one of the campers is played by Hayley Hasselhoff, who is David Hasselhoff's daughter. And if I'm mentioning that, I definitely need to mention that the show's main character, Will, is played by Hairspray's Nikki Blonsky. And Gina Torres's character's dad is totally the dad in Sixteen Candles, and his character is awesome because it's very reasons-why-your-dad-is-funny. The cast is overall spectacular. There are just so many reasons why this show is awesome -- beyond what I've mentioned so far, it's so refreshing to see race, class, disability, sexual orientation, and gender expression explored in a sensitive way on a mainstream TV show. It's what Glee tries to be, but fails. Oh, also, when was the last time you saw a TV show take a nuanced view on eating disorders, and even showed that in order to have one, you don't have to be thin? Never? Yeah, me either.

This concludes my diversion from screenplay-writing! And now, back to work/play.

EDIT: Oh, and just one last thing! Somebody found this blog the other day by Googling "I have so much street cred..." I have never been so proud of anything. Srsly. #streetcredFTW