Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I particularly worry that I'm forgetting something. Internet, you could help assuage some of my worries if you would kindly answer me this...Internet, what in the blue blazes am I forgetting?
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Black Ice? Really, this is the name they came up with? Mmmm...smells like crisp winter mornings, the first snow of the season and ohmygodlookout!!!!!!!!
You know, I wish I had been present at the meeting were someone thought naming the new auto air freshener scent "Black Ice" was a good idea. Because I have a few suggestions of my own to propose:
Smells like panic and summer rain.
Smells like pine forests, musk, and melted rubber tire tracks on peaceful country roads.
These would be sold separately from my Puppies 'N' Rainbows Value Pak.
Yeah, I spent ten hours in a moving truck yesterday, this is the best you're getting from me. Happy holiday, all.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
When I started reading this book, my first thought was, haven't I read this before? It turns out I had, only instead of The Romantic Movement it was called On Love, and instead of Alice and Eric it was Chloe and the unnamed narrator. In both cases, de Botton writes with exquisite detail and insight describing the rise and fall of a relationship. The genius of de Botton is his accessibility; in both books the reader is sure to recognize himself or herself in the characters, again and again. The interesting thing about The Romantic Movement is that it is told from the woman's point of view, which leads me to wonder how exactly de Botton manages to be so spot on in his description of a quirkily neurotic, cultured and intelligent yet insecure, and loveable yet mostly unlucky in love woman. How could de Botton, as a man, possibly understand what it's like to be a woman waiting for a man to call her back, or how it feels to have one's attentions rebuffed by a distracted and remote control-wielding boyfriend? And yet he does, somehow, delving so adeptly into the female psyche that it leads me to wonder if men have been playing the bumbling male card for centuries now, when actually they know exactly what they're doing. Perhaps, and this is just a theory, but perhaps they are not the clueless apes they are sometimes made out to be. Perhaps they know exactly how it makes us feel when they don't call, or when they cancel plans at the last minute to hang out with the guys, or when they flirt with the waitress. Perhaps they know, and they do it anyway. Or maybe de Botton is possessed with writerly insights and male intuition above and beyond those of the average man. The world may never know.
De Botton peppers his prose with insights from philosophers, artists and writers from throughout the ages, mostly French (bien sûr), with names dropping off of every page: from Oscar Wilde to Andy Warhol, Plato to Proust, and Rousseau to Rimbaud, with a smattering of Descartes and a healthy helping of Flaubert for good measure. You don't have to be an expert on Greek mythology, German philosophy, pop art or 19th century French literature to enjoy this book. But having at least a passing knowledge does help. If, like me, you've spent the last two years in a grad school literature program, spending day after day in lectures where it's all "Hegel this" and "Schopenhauer that," then de Botton's style will sound completely normal to you. If not, then he may come off as a bit, and I'm just guessing here, but possibly maybe a bit pretentious. In fact, I'm imagining what it would be like to go on a date with him, and I'm thinking it would go a little something like this: "Mmm...this burrito is so good, it's like Plato's perfect ideal of a burrito. It's like...it's like Proust's madeleines, I'm suddenly overwhelmed with childhood memories of sitting in our local burrito shop and eating burritos with my mother. And yet for Emma Bovary, this burrito would represent the exoticism and romance of the cosmopolitan existence that she always yearned for and was ultimately never able to attain." And I would smile and nod politely, thinking, "Just eat the damn burrito so I can go home and blog about you, you cheapskate. Burritos indeed." On the plus side, de Botton's is a sort of philosophy lite, mostly accessible to the lay person, and punctuated with bursts of irreverance, like in this gem where he refers to Hegel as "ultimately only a most average thinker possessed of two or three good ideas and an atrocious inability to express himself." Which gives us a point of reference for this book: de Botton borrows the good ideas of great thinkers and rewrites them with an eloquence that creates an impression of ingenuity. The themes unearthed in this book are nothing new, but the way de Botton writes about them is.
In addition to the exstasies and agonies of relationships, there is also an entire chapter dedicated to travel, hinting at his 2002 book The Art of Travel (packed in my carry-on as we speak), and perhaps lending weight to the impression that if you've read one Alain de Botton book you've read 'em all. I suspect that this may be an injustice, but as it stands I haven't read enough of his works to decide. I plan to fix that, though, working my way through The Art of Travel and following that with How Proust Can Change Your Life. While I run the risk of it being more of the same, I hope and suspect I'll be pleasantly surprised. I've got de Botton in my veins and I'm craving more.
You should read The Romantic Movement if you've ever been in a relationship that failed. (And if you haven't, I don't even want to talk to you. What are you doing here, anyway?) You should read it if you've ever mentally picked someone apart and are fascinated by what makes people tick. You should read it if you've ever sat around wondering why he or she didn't call. This book may not answer your questions, but it will make you feel less alone, knowing that other people are wondering about exactly the same things.
So how about you? Does this sound like something you would read, or would you not touch it with a 10-foot pole?
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Internet, as much as I admittedly love this apartment, it appears that I am getting out just in time. Because this cannot be tolerated.
On the plus side, at least now I know who's been pooping in my frying pans.
I'd also like to mention that these somewhat menacing twin towers of boxes are composed only of books. So, you know...Now I can start packing everything else. Whee.
Monday, May 19, 2008
This is my "if I have to so much as look at another cardboard box my face might permanently freeze like this" face.
Oh, and packing is going swimmingly, by the way. Swimmingly.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
I'll be staying here in La Rochelle:
And here in Paris:
I'm going to go ahead and assume that every room comes with this view. And this basket of bread and wine.
I'm getting just the teensiest bit excited.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Somewhat bemused and a bit perplexed, I thought back to an afternoon a few days ago, another sunshiney day like this one, when I was walking to Whole Foods to meet my friend Canaan. Minding my own business as usual, I was walking on the sidewalk when a shiny black pickup truck full of assholes slowed down going the opposite direction. They loudly hurled liscivious suggestions at me, as I made use of my dark sunglasses and studiously ignored them. They took advantage of a red light to continue to spout their most explicit and far-fetched desires, the kind of male chauvinst verbage which would have made any mother within earshot clap her hands tightly against her offspring's head in horror. They speculated as to my preferred sexual position, settling on one and insisting, loudly, that I liked it, didn't I? As proof, the driver, as the chosen emissary of the group, probably due to his location closest to the window, shouted, "You like it! I can tell by the way you walk!" Having had just about enough at this point, I turned my head and faced him, and uttered a choice phrase of my own. And while I said it just a shade softer than normal conversational volume, the succinctness and ubiquitous nature of this particular expression renders it highly lip readable, even across two lanes of traffic. Which unfortunately just seemed to encourage him, as they all appeared utterly delighted by my recent attentions, however negatively intentioned. At that point, however, the light turned green, and they were gone, presumably continuing their roving construction worker routine. I breathed a sigh of relief and spotted Canaan walking towards me about half a block away. "Hey!" she greeted me. "These guys just-"
"I know!" I said. "Me too!"
And so we were able to work through our mutual trauma together, before settling in for an evening of pasta, Boggle, and Thursday night t.v. But still though, the asshole's knowing glance and his confident statement, "I can tell by the way you walk," stuck in my head. How do I walk? And how does that say anything about what I like in bed? And honestly, I myself didn't even know if I did or didn't like what he said, as it's been so long at this point that I can quite confidently say I can't remember. But my walk...what was it about my walk?
And then I thought back several years to 2001 and the semester I spent abroad in France. Our study abroad group was made up of thirteen students, all girls. Eight of us were good friends and hung out together regularly, and in the four intensive months we spent together there, we formed a closeness that would normally take at least a year to cultivate in the "real world." One of our favorite things to do was to analyze each other's quirks, pointing them out and pinning them up for the general amusement of all. The New Englanders, for example, delighted in mocking my mid-Atlantic "accent," provoking me by saying, "Hey Rachel, say boots! say...room!" and breaking out into guffaws, confident in their own accent superiority. As I was the lone Marylander in a sea of four New Englanders and three Southerners, I was forced to submit to their good-natured ribbing due to lack of anyone else to back me up. I was unaware that I would later move to the heart of New England, where I am happy to say that in five years, no one has yet made fun of my accent. In any case, accents as a source of entertainment, while unfortunately never losing their appeal for some, were at some point replaced with a detailed analysis of each person's particular walk. Anne Marie, we decided, walked with purpose. Leading with her forehead, arms pumping at her sides, wherever she went she was a woman on a mission. "What about me?" I asked. Ann, perhaps the most perceptive and sensitive member of our group, and thus designated analyzer of walks, studied me thoughtfully. "Hmm," she said, with her finger pressed against her mouth. "You walk...You walk like walking's fun."
And so I continued my walk home today, smiling a little, thinking, you know what? It is fun. And while I may occasionally freeze up on a dance floor, for the moment I am quite satisified with my new self-appointed title: Queen of Prance.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I wanted to write about this movie while it's still somewhat fresh in my mind, though I have a feeling it's one of those that will continue to be with me for quite a while. This movie is truly heartbreaking, which I always feel is a good thing. Any movie that can make you feel something that deeply, feel anything that deeply, has got to be worth the price of admission.
This movie hit a bit close to home for me. There's the fact that it takes place in Boston, of course, and my bus, the good old 47, the same bus I take to school every day (or used to) makes a cameo twice. Granted, I get off well before it continues on to South Boston, and I am generally nowhere near the neighborhoods pictured in this movie. But all the same, I recognize those places, I recognize those people. I was a Big Sister to an eight-year-old girl for a year and a half, and while she lived in Malden and not in Dorchester, I could see the same themes reflected in this movie; the same cycles of single parenthood, of drugs and neglect.
This movie is heartbreaking for all of these reasons, and for the moral and ethical questions it raises. It presents a system that is deeply flawed without offering any solutions. I recommend this movie to everyone with the stomach for it, to anyone with the ability to see the good in the bad, because otherwise it can be quite overwhelming.
That being said, this movie is good for all the typical reasons as well. It combines all the best elements from your favorite action/adventure movies, police films, and good old fashioned, sensitive, deep-thinking dramas, and packs enough plot twists to keep you on the edge of your seat for the full 114 minutes. Casey Affleck is amazing in his role (and having already professed my undying love for Ryan Gosling I might as well admit that, fine, I'm a sucker for a pretty face, so sue me). I've loved Casey Affleck ever since 200 Cigarettes, a movie no one seems to have heard of, but which turned me on forever to guys in eyeliner, kilts, and combat boots. In Gone Baby Gone Casey proves he's not just eye candy, presenting a portrait of a man caught in the middle of something he can't get out of, for no other reason than he can't let it go. His character is stubborn and yet conflicted, with a deeply ingrained sense of absolute right and wrong. Michelle Monaghan, who plays his girlfriend, provides an interesting foil to his character, allowing the audience to identify with both sides of a contentious and highly divisive issue. Her character, Angie Gennaro, quite frankly kicks ass, unflinchingly facing situations that would have me peeing my pants in terror, and she shoots 'em up with the best of them. And yet, at certain points in the film she reveals a side that is staunchly and beautifully feminine.
I love this film for its heart, for its accurate and gritty portrayal of real people and real places that aren't often seen in Hollywood. And I particularly love it for the very important questions it raises. I was left questioning the nature of morality and the existence of an absolute right and wrong, and even the very idea of what constitutes a happy ending.
Have you seen it? What did you think?
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Lars and the Real Girl
Ok, so superficially this film is about a mentally ill man who falls in love with a sex doll he buys over the internet. I hestitate to mention that first thing, knowing it might drive people away, as it presents a sort of slapstick, Weekend at Bernie's-type image, which is not at all the case. This movie is not about that. This is a quietly soulful movie with heart. You may not laugh out loud, and you may not cry actual drippy tears (though I did), but it will keep you smiling throughout, even as your eyes well up and threaten to spill over. A touching movie about loneliness, community, and family, it's guaranteed to make you want to pick up and move to a remote Canadian village, volunteer in a hospital, and go to church every Sunday.
I loved Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson, and his complete 180 degree departure from that role in this film just attests to his brilliance as an actor. He plays Lars with sensitivity and humor and real affection. (Watch the special features on the dvd to hear how he prepared for his role). Emily Mortimer also gives a brilliant performance; it's obvious how much all the actors in this film truly love their characters, which only makes sense- the characters are so damn loveable. (Possibly too loveable, as I was left thinking, now where can I find a painfully shy, mustachioed, beige sweater-wearing, possibly delusional man of my own?)
So, have you seen this movie? If not, would you see it now, after reading this? Have any movies of your own to rave about? Do share. I have a Netflix account and eighteen days (and counting) of nothing better to do.
Friday, May 9, 2008
I'm sick of my time not being my own. I'm sick of working constantly, days, evenings and weekends, seven days a week for eight or nine months out of the year.
I'm sick of people saying, "Oh, but you have summers off." I don't have summers off, because I don't get paid during the summer. So I have to go straight from end-of-semester, exam-taking, exam-grading, and term paper-writing hell, to cover letter-writing, resume-sending, job search-if-I-want-to-pay-my-rent-next-month hell, with not even a moment to take a deep breath in between. I'm sick of spending my summers working menial, low-paying, meaningless jobs. I'm sick of the all-or-nothing of brain overload during the school year versus the brain drought of working mindless monkey jobs during the summer.
I'm sick of trying to balance my teaching with my own studies, and feeling like I'm failing both my students and myself. I'm sick of the constant, never-ending stress. I'm sick of feeling like no matter how much I do, it's never enough.
I'm sick of being forced to devote myself to topics that are of no interest to me, while not being allowed the opportunity to pursue interests of my own, or the opportunity to find out if I even have interests of my own.
Grad school, you have taken away two years of my life and forced me to live in near-poverty. You have made me doubt myself, constantly wondering if I'm good enough, and you have contributed to the demise of a three year relationship. But you will not take anything more from me, grad school. For all these reasons and so many more, grad school, I'm quitting you. There's a whole wide world out there, and I want to explore it.
So long, grad school. It's been real, but for now, I choose myself, I choose my future, I choose travel, I choose France. I choose long walks and chocolate croissants and language barriers. I choose jet lag and lost luggage and and being all alone in a big city. I choose warm sunshine and cold drizzle, cobblestones and soft grass, Côte du Rhone and Stella Artois. I choose scandalous exchange rates, long train rides, and living out of a backpack, I choose buying baguettes that will never make it home with the end intact. I choose myself, I choose my future. I choose life.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
When a date gets hot and sweaty, and not in a good way
Of motorcycles and machismo
How to guarantee you won't get a second date
A Thanksgiving day threesome goes thud
Wine, and a birthday surprise
Ahhh...good times, good times. And now, coming up on a year from when this whole crazy dating experiment started, I look back fondly and think...Wow, do I not want to do that again. And so, I'm done. I've threatened it before, but this time I really am done with dating. I even took down my Match and my Okcupid profiles today. I was worried that giving up dating altogether would leave me depressed, or bored out of my mind, but instead I'm feeling...well, I feel...
I feel a little like this, actually:
And while I'm at it, I would just like to state for the record that when I return to the French Alps this summer, I would really like to recreate that moment, if at all possible. Because nothing makes up for the fact that you just climbed 2,000 vertical feet up a snowy mountain in your loafers and with no winter coat, because it's June, like sliding all the way back down that mountain with no winter coat, in your loafers. Also, nothing will make you hate your loafers more than hiking up and back down a snowy mountain in inappropriate footwear, leading you to wonder what the hell you were thinking bringing loafers to France anyway, god, and finally disposing of said loafers in a fit of rage in a hotel room trashcan in Aix.
And I never looked back.
Monday, May 5, 2008
And suddenly my visions of skipping tra la la down the Champs Elysées disappeared, poof, in a cloud of Gauloises. Because this trip? This trip is going to be a hell of a lot of work. Just some of my duties will include daily phone calls to the home office, trip reports, and daily logs; keeping track of students' emergency money, travel home money, and advances; recordkeeping, ledger balancing, recording expenses, and tracking receipts; talking to parents and homestay families; upholding a zero tolerance drug, alcohol, tobacco, and sexual activity policy. (I signed up to be a French teacher and now all of a sudden I'm the sex police. I bet you can't put that on your resume). Then there are quotes, toasts, words of the day, team-building exercises, pep talks, rituals, reflection, round table discussions, LODs, FVCs, and DCSs, and people, I do not even know what most of these things are. Also in addition to my own five-plus weeks' worth of apparel, accessories and accoutrements, I will also be expected to carry, on my person, the following: students' passports, paperwork, medical records, and emergency cash; company-owned digital camera, company-owned laptop; a comprehensive and most likely quite large first-aid kit; instructor manual, academic manual, and daily quote book. (Daily quote book?!!!) And my question is, when can I expect to receive my personal company-provided scherpa?
But I'm sure all my questions will be answered during the weeklong training prior to departure. Just a light orientation session that takes place from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. *Gulp.* On the plus side, they're letting me leave about a week early, which means I have time to visit mi amiga Molly in Madrid, which I am so excited about. I leave for NC on May 29. I leave for Paris on June 7, and for Madrid on June 9. I'll arrive back home sometime around July 18, exhausted, totally spent, but hopefully also really happy. Though after it's all said and done I may never travel again.
Friday, May 2, 2008
*writing thank you notes
*organizing my files
*hand shredding millions of old bank statements armed with a pair of scissors, an aching hand, and a boatload of determination
*balancing my checkbook
*learning how to bind my own books
*deciding which of my birthday presents is impossibly cuter
Seriously, I can't decide! Is it the mini-journals?
Four impossibly cute mini-journals and a matchbook (size comparison again). Any one of them is exactly the right size for say, tucking into a carry-on and bringing to France. But I have the new journal fear! What can I possibly write that's worthy of the adorably funky fabric covers and the pristine blank pages?
Impossibly cute present #2: cupcake-shaped mini-lipglosses! And they smell just like your Strawberry Shortcake doll from the 80s!
I'm also afraid to use these. They're just so adorable and doll-sized. The last time I had a tiny adorable lipgloss that I loved, I left it in the pocket of my pants and sent it through the washer and dryer. That was a sad day. A sad, sad day. Did you know even tiny adorable lipglosses leave stains that will never, ever come out?
I also got a bracelet made by hipsters in Brooklyn. This one I'm not afraid to use, probably because unlike journals and lipglosses, I can't use it up.
And I love it. Thank you Tal!!!
Anyway, have a good weekend everyone. I'll be here, thinking about touching a pen to the blank pages of my impossibly cute journals, and sweating and shaking in terror at the thought. Oh, and writing about twenty pages of various papers. Due Monday. *Gulp.*
Now if you'll excuse me, I think I can find some bills to pay, or some...carpet lint to...sort. I can't be expected to work in an environment with unorganized carpet lint! First things first, people.