A quest to make sense of it all. Or a sense to make a quest of it all.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Let them eat corn.

I bounded into work this morning, all chipper and stoked over having lost three pounds over the last week, one pound more than the two pounds I had projected in my plan to get the last of this nonsense off my body. Happily, I spooned my organic Greek yogurt into my bowl, mixed in a little stevia, sprinkled in a generous tablespoon of ground flaxseed, and sliced up a banana on top. I chatted with my coworkers as they prepared their breakfasts: peanut butter on whole grain toast; yogurt similar to mine; plain oatmeal doctored up with stevia, cinnamon, and apple. We ate, scanned the newspaper, got set up for the day.

Soon after we opened, one of our regulars wandered in. She approached the counter and got to chatting with one of the girls she's friends with. I went about pulling reports and such, and half-listened. She was talking about a doctor's appointment she had had last week, wherein she was told that it was imperative for her to lose weight because she was borderline diabetic with high blood pressure. The teller she was talking to said, "You need to talk to Sarah! She knows about losing weight!". The customer looked at me hopefully and I confirmed that I've lost about 80 lbs but that my way is very different from the way most people do it, and she might not like it. She said she'd do anything, and added that she had already switched to skim milk and turkey bacon. I asked her about how much sugar she takes in and she said, "Oh, not much! I only drink diet cokes!" Good grief. Where to start? This lady is really big. She's on a very limited budget, and she clearly has no concept of what healthy food is. It would be basically impossible to help her, right? Obviously she doesn't have the common sense to eat more vegetables and get some exercise.

WHOA. I mentally bitchslapped myself. Aren't I still arguably overweight? This past winter and into late spring, I got within seven pounds of my final goal and then fell into a vat of Cheez-Its and Coca-Cola and re-gained some weight, didn't I? Even though I knew better? And wasn't I once enormous and confused, wondering why I was eating sugar-free, fat-free, lite, low-fat, low-carb, no-carb, whatever, and not losing weight? I was immediately ashamed of myself. I smiled really big and told her that's a great start, and that I don't have it all quite right either, and how hard it can be to figure out what's actually good for you with brand name, doctor, and government entity telling us different things. She nodded and asked what she could do. I told her the best thing to do is read labels. Not the parts that are trying to catch her eye, like "low fat!" or "natural!" but the only part that matters: the ingredient list. If it has any kind of corn syrup or anything that isn't harvested, fished, slaughtered or milked, it shouldn't go in her mouth. I suggested she stop drinking any kind of cola for a week and see how she felt. And that's it. Baby steps. That's how I started. I didn't kick off my journey into clean-eating by reading comparative studies of CAFO beef vs grassfed beef, based on Omega-3, Omega-6, and CLA content. If anyone had suggested that, I probably never would have even tried. But no corn syrup? That, I could do. No dyes or obvious preservatives? Easy enough. I read a little more, and understood why eating a food in its whole form was better for you than anything that's been tampered with; whole milk is healthy food, skim milk is as nutritionally bankrupt as a Capri Sun. A little later, I started learning about the differences in grains and why a 120-calorie slice of whole grain bread is actually better for you than a 35-calorie slice of white made with "enriched" flour.

What didn't occur to me then, or for a long time, is how damn hard it could be to eat clean on a super-tight budget.

Now, I'm not a wealthy girl. But I've almost always been reasonably comfortable. I've never known real hunger or had serious doubt about how I would buy groceries, and for that I am hugely, truly grateful.

I started paying attention to other people's shopping carts. At the time, I worked at a financial institution inside a Wal-Mart, so this was an excellent place for observing what kind of people bought what foods, and specifically what people on the lower end of the payscale spectrum bought. It didn't take long for me to make a huge observation: the poorer people were mostly fat. The people who seemed to have more money were definitely fitter. That was a very uncomfortable realization, and it felt funny, like ill-fitting shoes. I thought about how throughout history, wealthy people leaned toward fat, while poor people were skinny. It was a pretty simple equation: If you have less money or have to actually work to produce your food, you're going to eat less. If you have the means to buy food and don't have to procure it for yourself, you're going to eat more. You also have more time on your hands. It's always been that way, even in times when it was fashionable for certain parts of the body to be small. The cinched, corseted waists that were so popular for centuries were always offset by padding to the hips, butt, and bosom, and in some eras cosmetic tricks were used to make the face and arms look even plumper, as this was a sign of wealth (and, more subconsciously, fertility). This look set one apart from the peasants, crackers, and laborers. This cannot be better illustrated than in the popular paintings of the Renaissance period, which depict women in the ideal state for the time. They is some big ol' girls. Curvy, with wide hips, soft tummies, thighs that met at the top, and long, wavy hair. A far cry from today's standard for ideal, which is basically a dead-eyed, androgynous, waifish thing with hollow cheeks, thighs with three inches of space between them, and ruts so deep between their ribs you could keep spare change in them. Some of them do have long, wavy hair. The only element these vastly different ideals have in common is that they both represent an image that's largely unnatainable for the socioeconomic majority of their eras.

Our models grow more emaciated as obesity rates skyrocket...and income levels plummet. That's...freaky. Isn't it?

Not when you consider what's actually making us fat, and it isn't just calories. A calorie, after all, is just a measurement of energy. Where your calories come from is more important than how many calories you take in. And the very sad fact is that it's getting more and more difficult not only for lower income families to distinguish between good calorie choices and bad calorie choices, it's getting more expensive. In some cases, it's not even about expense, it's about availability. What about the food deserts of inner cities, where there is no access to fresh produce but there is a McDonald's on every corner? Is it really reasonable to expect low-income people to drive or take the bus several miles to load up on foods they will have to haul home, wash, chop, and cook, when they can have a hot meal for a few dollars within walking distance? Probably not. Convenience and availabilty have hampered my own efforts many times in the past, even though I'm able-bodied, own a car, and live only a short distance from a semi-decent grocery store. Sometimes rather than go to the store and gather my breakfast necessities the night before, I'll sit on my tail and then grab a bagel from the coffee shop across the street in the morning. There's a degree of accountability in every bite we put in our mouths...but when we fail to educate and provide options to our less fortunate neighbors, there's more accountability on us than on them.

The fat-judgment has got to stop. A few decades ago, yeah, ok, maybe being fat meant you were lazy and too fond of sweets. In many, many cases, it still means that. It did in mine. I got little physical activity then and had an unfortunate addiction to fresh french bread. I had options, though, and chose to pick some better ones. There are a lot of people who don't have many options.

After that customer left, I asked a little about her and thought about her situation. Without going into too much detail here, I learned that she has physical ailments that prevent her from vigorous exercise. She has a sickly baby and no job, and limited transportation. She and her baby live entirely on government assistance. Because of my job, I know exactly how much or how little people can draw, based on several factors. I see who benefits from the system and who abuses it in ways that make you feel like punching them out into the parking lot. This lady is in a bad way, and I don't begrudge her a dime of the money she receives. It's not much. It's a fraction of what I make in a month, and I only have to support myself. I sat back, and the pieces all fell together. Her kind of obesity is the result of a skewed system. It's government created, government encouraged, and now that it's become an epidemic, the government wants everyone to have a part in paying for it. According to www.cdc.gov, about 33% of Americans are obese, or about 104,000,000-ish. About 50,000,000 Americans are uninsured. You know that bumper sticker, "AIDS: Nobody's fault, everybody's problem" ? Yeah, obesity is a lot like that. It's hitting hard, and the costs aren't just impacting the fatties anymore. It's hitting the poor and the uninsured the hardest, and someone will be forced to pick up the tab one way or another. That knowledge should get the attention of even the worst of the elite; if you can't bring yourself to care about the wellbeing of your fellow humans, maybe you can care about the blow to your wallet.

I don't mean to say that a person has no responsibility or accountability in their own supersizing. Anyone with a Doritos bag in his hand knows he can make a better choice. I mean to say it's probably not just their fault...especially if they're poor. Poor people eat what's cheap. The cheapest foods available are the ones made with corn products, soy products, and wheat...which are also the top three crops to recieve subsidy money. At least one of those three products is in pretty much every processed food, even stuff where it's totally not needed. Corn syrup is in crackers, salad dressings, canned soup, bread, sausage, deli meat and a million other things where there doesn't even need to be a sweetener, let alone one that's been shown to cause 48% more weight gain than table sugar (at least in rats...who, like us, are mammals and, like us, also dig Doritos). To me, these connections are beyond obvious. I'm not getting into what a mess subsidizing has made economically; that's another post entirely, but to deny that it's played no part in America's expanding thighs is just blind and silly. It's a pretty direct chain from growing massive amounts of corn, to artificially manufacturing a sweetener from it, to artificially lowering food prices on the products containing it, to the poorest people eating the most of it, to the poorest people getting fattest.

So, mix up the FDA *gag* telling everyone that corn syrup is no different from table sugar, a health care system that benefits best from keeping you just sick enough to keep coming back for more pills, and a decrease in availability of healthy food to begin with, and you've got a recipe for a lot of tankasses. Broke tankasses. And we/they need changes, to the ways we're educated about food and in the ways our food is produced and distributed. Not more judgment.

At least it's not like corn is also tied up in, say, fuel. That would just make this all seem so sinister.

Wait, what?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Gearing up for the letdown.

Little fills me with as much dread and unhappiness as knowing what's coming in the year preceding a presidential election. I know I'll have disagreements with good friends and with family. I know I'll start to get a good feeling about a candidate, only to see that candidate get involved in the disgusting mudslinging. I know that the best things that candidate can say or believe in will be drowned out by blindly rabid supporters who cheer for misguided ideals simply because they think those ideals fall under "their" party heading.

I will feel shame when the bad apples make a stink for the whole barrel. Yeah, I'm talking to you, certain Fox/Google debate audience members. Shame, shame. On you.

I'll roll my eyes and bite my tongue when people who have no idea what they're talking about adamantly and hatefully voice opinions. That's their right. I'll gently correct when I can, and I'll gratefully accept correction from others if I'm wrong. If that correction comes in the form of yelling or condescension, it will have a harder time getting through. I've learned to try to "avoid loud and aggressive persons, as they are vexations to the spirit."*

It makes me sad when people preach humanity in one breath and spew hostility with the next. No one has figured out all the answers yet. Yelling your ideas and calling each other stupid and heartless does not make your ideas any more right.

I have a gut feeling that this is going to be the ugliest election season this country has seen in a very long time. It looks like the worst in people is already surfacing. I don't want to see what else is festering below that surface, but I'm going to. I'll have to watch people cheer/jeer as these jackals in expensive suits tell us what we should think and why we're ignorant/amoral if we don't agree. I'll have to accept that my reluctance to engage in confrontation will be misconstrued either as a lack of understanding of the issues or as a lack of conviction regarding those issues. I'll just have to sigh when otherwise smart people lump millions of individuals together as one of two groups and judge them all based on the actions of a few.

Sucks. I don't have all the answers. Neither do you. But I'm pretty confident that calling each other Nazis and celebrating in others' misfortune ain't getting it.

*Desiderata, Max Ehrmann

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Things I learned this weekend.

1) Calvin Johnson is pretty cool.
2) I can fit my whole fist in Brett's mouth.
3) Not everyone will let you try that.
4) Wheat-free cornbread is hideous but tastes good.
5) Mills are dangerous places to work and I'm happier not thinking too much about it.
6) Office Space is really funny (yup, finally watched it).
7) How to cook ribs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

That's it, I'm buying land and starting a farm.

A slow day, full of gossip and...stupid. I've no interest in jumping into discussions about people I don't know (and especially not the ones I do know). Keeping my head down and thinking my crazy thoughts? That I can do.

Most of the people who read this blog are pretty sharp, and like to stay fairly aware of what's going on in the world. So I'm sure you guys are aware of what's shakin' in Greece. Mane. I was hoping to take a vacation there next year. Poor Greece.
What's particularly alarming is that Portugal, Spain, Ireland, and Italy are inching closer to defaulting as well. The combined $$ needed to bail them all out is more than Europe can swing in time for Christmas presents. That's the bitch of a "global community". At some point, it becomes everybody's responsibility to bail each other out, with the result being that everyone ends up broke. See how I just broke it all down? Because it's that simple ;)

I don't want to sound like one of those nutty alarmist/militia types (they're all in Michigan, anyway), but I'm getting more convinced that I should buy some land and get to plantin'. I really don't think the current system's going to last much longer. "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold." That's Yeats, in his poem, "The Second Coming". Fascinating piece. Another interesting line: "the falcon cannot hear the falconer." I'm no poet, but I dig words, and I think about those two lines with increasing frequency. Recessions and depressions are natural enough; even simple societies deal with rough times together. But I can't help but feel we're on the verge of huge disaster. Our monetary/food system is too complicated, too big, too interwoven, too based on too little. It's only gonna stretch so far before it snaps, and when it does, the falcon won't hear the falconer; the people most reliant on receiving instruction from the government will be running amok, directionless. As close to chaos as you could hope not to see. The scars of the Great Depression still run deep. Think about how bad that was; and that was nearly a hundred years ago, back when most people still had at least a rudimentary grasp on self-sufficiency. Rural people still knew how to make things grow, and how to raise animals for food. And they were still starving. Obviously, the dust bowl situation contributed to this; our land is still being terribly abused but it's still productive...even though most of it's being used to produce cow corn that humans can't even eat, and which cows shouldn't eat because they are ruminants. (Ugh. Stewardship, people. If you abuse the food source, don't bitch about recalls when *gasp* your food is tainted and makes you sick.) Subsidizing has crowded out the rural farmer and distorted the average American's perception of what food actually is and where it comes from. That's terrifying. When the collapse occurs, what happens to people who rely on government checks to buy factory food? It's not going to be pleasant to see what happens, but I'm getting surer that I'm going to. I feel a lot better knowing I can at least keep a garden. I'll feel much better when I have my own land to do it on, and once I know how to raise my own animals. And it doesn't have to be totally primitive; if you've got a well, you've got a power source. Waterwheels are basic and time-tested. It's not terribly difficult to build simple solar panels. I love my homemaking hobbies, but they're not just hobbies; there might come a day when it's imperative that I can sew, knit, put up/can food, and milk a goat (check, check, check, check). I can also churn butter and make simple cheese...which is necessary to my own survival and happiness. Life without cheese is a life I just can't bear to imagine.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I just know I'm tired of watching the buildup. Whether or not the collapse happens in my lifetime, I'm wanting less and less to be reliant on anyone but myself and my own family. It's not just a hobby to be interested in how nutrition directly effects health and knowing what foods and herbs cut a flu short, ease pain, lower blood pressure, slow bleeding, heal infections, give relief to a colicky baby, etc. When this society breaks down, our current concept of health care is going to blip out of existence, and it's gonna behoove women to know about having babies at home. We live in a culture where women are so out of tune with their bodies, they think they actually have to be in a hospital, hooked up to monitors and being poked at by strangers, instead of in their own homes with their families. To me, that's nuts. Women have only gotten used to birthing in hospitals in the last sixty years or so, and in that time, have grown reliant on Big Health's way of doing things. Here's some news: that baby's coming when it wants to, and it doesn't care where you are. If you know something about the process and prenatal/postpartum care (or have a midwife handy), you don't have to be in a hospital. I'm glad to see that the midwife trend is on the rise again; it makes more sense. There are babies in my future. They will be born at home.

Stupid humans. Complicating what doesn't need to be complicated. I'ma buy some sheep, ya'll. And figure out how the hell to turn their hair into shirts.*

*Not today.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Despite having seen The Descent, I'm game...

...to lower myself by rope into a cold, dark hole in the earth. As part of a group, preferably in a well-blazed system. Because I'm not shetarded.

Yup. E-2.0 and I are planning a camping adventure. Now, most of my camping experience has been pretty sedate. There's always some fishing, a little hiking. But mostly it's been sitting around the fire (which I can build, btw). Now, with the autumn air brisking me into friskiness, and a companion who actually doesn't want to sit on his ass 24/7 like a Newcastle-guzzling, plaid-upholstered land sloth, I'm getting to look into all the stuff I've been curious about. He's up for virtually anything (and, still, can be totally chill and mellow next to the fire at night), so I'm trying to find an area to fit our particular tastes. Must-haves include mountain biking trails (him), good running trails (us), and some kind of aquatic access (me). I like water, and I'm really happy when there's a good chance of voluntary submersion. Since it'll be fairly chilly, I doubt I'll jump in. Fishing/boating works just fine. I'm so excited about this trip. It feels awesome to be tapping into my boundless, border collie-like energy in a constructive way. I so rarely have the opportunity to herd sheep, and that energy can lead to some really bonehead moves if not given a proper outlet.

He likes the idea of the Smokies, but I'm hesitant at 1) the long drive, and 2) the overly kitschy, Gatlinburgish vibe.

I'm thinking more like Cedar Glades Park, which sounds like a hiker/runner/mountain biker's dream, and is only about four hours away. It's in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Did you catch that name? Hot Springs. Not just water, but magic water. Also warm water.

In other news, tomorrow I'll be teaming up with Brandon for the first time in a couple weeks. Depending on how I do at the race, we'll either be sulking at JT's Falafel over a plate of lamb, or celebrating at JT's Falafel over a plate of lamb. Sunday I'll be attending Mass and discussing RCIA classes with the priest, and then cooking up a storm. E-2.0 will be returning from his dudes-only camping/biking trip, and I've promised to have a big dinner ready. (It's not all kindness on my part; he's also changing my oil for me.)

About RCIA: no, I'm not converting to Catholicism (at this time). I'm wanting to learn more about Catholicism, and a Catholic church seems like a good place to do that. There's soooo much that I don't understand and have been conditioned against by Baptist/Church of Christ/Pentecostal culture. I just wanna hear another take on a subject close to my heart. Corralling oneself into a particular sect or denomination has always seemed to me like missing the forest for the trees. Or as my friend Mary says, "Some people get to Savannah through Michie, and some people get there through Pickwick. What matters is that you get to Savannah." Mary's a very smart lady. She also makes killer collard greens.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"The more I see, the less I know, the more I like to let it go"

Because so far there is nothing, nothing, better to run to than RHCP.

Monday, September 12, 2011

If I win this weekend's 5k, I'd better get a cooler trophy than that.

Kidding! A mini cotton bale is actually a pretty neat trophy. And I'm totally goofy with admiration. I can boast that my dawg won the Cotton Pickin' 5k! You can't.

I'm also increasingly trepidatious about my own 5k coming up this Saturday. Suddenly it's only a few days away, and I'm growing more confident by the hour...that I will embarrass myself. I mean, I have no illusions about winning or even placing. I'm just trying to gauge where I'm at and experience some healthy competition. A blessing: One of Brett's usually tied-up friends is available this weekend, so they'll be camping far away. Thank God. Not that I don't want his support (or competition) at the race, but this way if I totally suck, I can at least be alone to lick my wounds afterward. I'm not a bad runner, but I'm not a great runner yet. He can (and has) literally run circles around me. He recently participated (and finished) in the redonkulously brutal Tough Mudder event in Wisconsin. He does pull-ups with the ease with which I toss off your-mom jokes. I'm pretty sure he could break me in half if he took a notion to.* So yeah. A 5k isn't exactly a huge deal to him, whereas I've got knots in my stomach already. Can I run 3.1 miles? Sure. At my own pace, by myself (or with limited company), when I feel like it, with my iPod. Can I get out there and comfortably do it on command with a bunch of other people? We'll see. Oooh, I'm nervous.

This is just the first in a series. I've got another 5k October 1, November 24, and December 3-for sure. I may add more. Depending on how I do this weekend and Oct 1, I may attempt a 10k in Memphis Oct 16. This is all leading up to a half-marathon in February.

Why all this, though, when until recently I was content to coast on just-good-enough? Well, I've been pretty lackadaisical about my fitness. I eat more healthily than most of my peers, but I am not in my best shape, for sure. I'm not very strong at all, and I want to see/feel what it's like to be in top condition. I'm very much inspired by buddy Tamara, who will not be stopped from running for any reason, including pain. And of course I'm inspired by Brett. We share the same ideals concerning eating clean/organic, and he takes it a step further with the way he takes care of himself physically, and the results of that effort are stunning. (I don't say that in a fawning way; but when was the last time you saw a dude in Mississippi or Tennessee whose physique actually looks like a dude's is supposed to? People around here just don't push themselves like that.) It's really cool to be spending all this time with someone who actually encourages me to be the best I can be. So I'm steppin' up my game. I'm very curious to see what kind of healthier Sarah develops. Someone with more endorphins flowing through her system, for sure. Someone with a narrower waist, stronger legs...maybe even a backside, someday, after a lot of lunges. Probably not, though. I don't have much in the way of hips, and I'll likely never have much in the way of a tail that doesn't immediately identify me as 100% white-girl.

What I'm hoping for first is that the revamped me starts emerging as a non-smoker.

*Our arm wrestling is...sad. Well, my half of it. And he doesn't let me win. I guess I'm lucky he doesn't rip it out of the socket.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Selling spooks.

Recently while enjoying a day set aside for relaxing, I took a break from reading on the porch to come inside and watch TV. I had several episodes of Ghost Adventures, I Survived, and Celebrity Ghost Stories recorded. (Don't judge me.) I also had a few B-flicks from the Chiller channel, and I figured it was a good time to munch on some carrots and (homemade!) hummus and pay vague attention to one of the aforementioned features. What won? Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers, which currently enjoys a 2.7 rating (out of 10) over on imdb.com. I mean, I knew I wasn't sitting down to watch the horror movie that would change my life. But I thought I would at least be somewhat entertained. Nope. I found myself tooling around on my phone five minutes into the film. I played a few rounds of Word Mole, and finally beat my high score. After awhile, I looked up.

The heroine was in the shower, scratching bloody furrows down her face as the camera went up and down from the carnage to her bosoms, whose aureoles had been blurred just enough to leave the viewer uncertain on the question of piercings. Because (clearly) there was nothing interesting to look at, I hit the "info" button and scanned the blurb. The movie was released in 2006, one year after the exquisite The Exorcism of Emily Rose. "Ripping off on the popularity of that one," I thought without really thinking those words. I also recalled that Dominion:Prequel to The Exorcist came out in 2005. I wondered if Dominion might have been more popular if it had been released after Emily Rose. It seemed after that one, America had latched onto supernatural horror again. 2006 hosted a gaggle of ghost/possession movies... most of them not-so-great. Some bigger names signed onto horror movies, which doesn't usually happen. We saw Julia Stiles in The Omen remake. We saw Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek in An American Haunting (don't get me started; that movie makes me feel stabby and...cheated). We saw Nic Cage in The Wicker Man remake. A stream of low-budget exorcism/angry ghost movies spewed from Hollywood's sore throat. Just what the devil had happened? Why was this a theme that was suddenly so popular that stinkers like The Grudge 2 were making big money, when only a year before, a freaking prequel to The Exorcist, arguably the most well-known and influential horror movie of all time, had went largely ignored? Why the sudden hunger for demons and haunts? My mind wandered over to The Shining, which was released in 1980. I thought about Kubrick's pioneering of the Steadicam, and how he used it to make the viewer feel simultaneously watched and voyeuristic, and I thought about how the movie reflected well on the economic state of the time; Jack's difficulty in finding a good job not only because of his drinking problem but because it was a crappy time to find work in general. How there's nothing like a hotel full of spooks to take your mind off day-to-day things like paying unmanageable bills.


The Shining was released during a recession. Hmm. Emily Rose was released in late 2005 and didn't do so hot at the box office, but exploded into popularity later in DVD rentals...about the time the housing market started to slump and panicky homeowners started jumping on the foreclosure wagon. We've been in a pretty crappy place financially since then. And we keep shelling out money to see ghosts. Coincidence? No, I don't think so. I looked back at the major horror films to come out over the past several decades, movies that were popular with the American public. There is a very clear trend: not only do horror movies enjoy increased success during times of national economic shakiness, supernatural horror specifically trumps. Starting with Dracula in 1931. Smack in the middle of the Great Depression, this movie sold over 50,000 tickets within two days of its theatrical release. I thought, "Well maybe it's just any horror." No. A comparison of release dates/economic situations reveals that slashers are more popular in times of excess. Whoa. Pop culture always reflects the concerns and attitudes of the times, right? So does this mean that the high body count and one-dimensional characters of slasher films reflect attitudes of expendability when we're financially comfortable? And what is being reflected when we dig into our pockets to see ghosts? When we want to see good and evil duke it out over souls and sanity? I texted a friend about it. He said, "fear sells." Well, yeah. But I think there's a bigger picture here. I think that cinematic horror remains one of the best forms of escapism, and that when our national wallet is whimpering, we all feel the anxiety...and want to know that we're gonna get bailed out. We want to know that this situation that we're individually unable to fix, will get resolved by the higher-ups we've entrusted to handle these things. I think it's easy for that to translate into a film wherein relatable characters are suddenly the focus of more powerful beings on a different plane of existence. We're not expendable; we're very important, important enough to warrant the attention of outside intelligence. Something undefinable but definitely Bad is after us, but if there's a Bad, there has to be a Good that has our back, and Good will win...won't it? If we believe, that is. Unbelievers don't fare well in supernatural horror.

I mean, I'm spitballing here. I can't officially nail down why a certain type of a genre blows up the box office when we're strapped, or why a different type of the same genre does equally well when we're flush.

But I do know that we're all full of doubt and nervousness about our country's piggy-bank, and that Paranormal Activity 3, which I can almost guarantee will fiercely suck, is about to be released next month. And I can also almost guarantee that America is going to buy it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

That's the biggest leaf I've ever seen.

This weekend, I attended Catholic Mass for the first time that I can remember. I attended with a friend once, back in like sixth grade, but I don't recall much about it other than that it felt foreign and uncomfortable. This Sunday, it still felt foreign, but much more comfortable than I expected. The priest was out of town, so the service was handled by members of the congregation, with the result being somewhat awkward and messy. After the service, Catholic Friend and I skipped on over to First Baptist, where I usually attend. I think he was a little overwhelmed by the, uh, pomp and circumstance, as was I, which is why I usually only go on Wednesday evenings. I can do without all the singing and effects; I'm there for a lesson, not a Vegas floor show. Wednesday night bible study is my preferred night because there is zero showiness, zero singing, and all study. We sheepishly told each other not to judge based on these particular Sunday morning services, and that we'll give it another shot this week. We returned to his house for grilled steak (awesome) and scary-movie viewing that turned into kitchen-chatting that went on until we realized we were sitting in almost total darkness. So we lit a hurricane lamp and kept talking. The next day, we set out for BFE, Alabama, for the Labor Day festival at the Coon Dog Cemetery. He assured me that this was to rock my world.

He was incorrect. But it wasn't his fault. After making the very long drive down there, against my whining that, "It's cold! It's rainy! Let's just stay in!" we arrived at the cemetery to find that the festival had been cancelled due to the (cold, rainy) weather. I maturely resisted the urge to jump out of the car and swagger around yelling "What's up?" and "Who was right?" frat-boy style. Instead we took a sudden, unplanned mini-hike into the woods. We discovered a spring and the biggest leaves that have ever existed. Like, dinosaur-big leaves. This walk did not suck at all. We got pretty wet and pretty cold, but we also discovered a really beautiful spot high up on a hill, where we were somewhat protected from the rain but able to clearly see the sky with its low, fast-moving Tropical Storm Lee clouds. We hung out there for awhile until the elements forced us back to the car, where we jacked up the heat and headed back to Corinth for Mexican food and a viewing of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.

The movie...I'm still not sure if I really liked it. Apparently, Guillermo del Toro did not direct it. He co-wrote. Ummm...well, it didn't stun me. There were a couple of genuinely unnerving scenes that had this seasoned horror vet and her companion nearly grinding each others' hand-bones into dust, but they were more of the gross-out type than really-scary type. And I'm not sure why Katie Holmes was allowed to speak or move in front of a camera, ever. When you do finally see the monsters, they look like miniatrue cave trolls from Lord of the Rings. More piteous and humorous than scary.

The search continues. I guess I'm just going to have to write the story I want to see.

And speaking of writing, it's been happening. A lot of it. I've been working on several items, for myself (and this blog), and for my editor friend to take a gander at. I'm really nervous about this; letting a real professional of the field I want to break into take a look at pieces I've put real effort into is intimidating (what if they suck??). But I'm more curious than nervous, so I'm gonna go ahead and do it. Have to start somewhere, right?


As I approach two 5ks and begin training in earnest for my first half-marathon (13.1 miles), it's become more and more obvious that I really need to quit smoking. I've tried many, many times, and each time I've made it three or four days and then found myself charging, crazed and zombielike, into a gas station and demanding Marlboro Menthol Lights (in a box, please). Then it all starts again and I find myself smoking on the porch, staring at the lit end of the nasty thing in my hand, and wondering why the hell I'm doing this to myself.

Enough. It doesn't matter if I'm "ready" to quit. It doesn't matter if I still sometimes really enjoy it. It's just time. I've done this too long. It makes no sense to buy expensive moisturizer to keep my skin pretty if I'm inhaling something that's just going to make me age faster. It makes no sense to complete a long run and feel awesome, and then light up a cigarette on the way home and feel not-awesome. It makes no sense to wrinkle my nose as smokers walk by, and be offended at the smell, and then do the very thing that creates that funk.

Oh, and I do plan on living into old age and having my own family, so it's not really fair to cheat that family-to-be out of a healthy wife/mom just because....what? I'm weak? Pffft. I'm the stubbornest person you know. So I'm gonna turn that bulldog-like relentlessness on quitting this icky and dangerous habit. So there.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

This is how projects get built.

Me: We're not supposed to have our phones out at work, 'cause theoretically we can take pictures of the vault combinations or something.
Brett: But...every time I walk in there the vault is wide open.
Me: Not the important part.
Brett: We're not supposed to have our phones out at work, either. Theoretically someone could take pictures of our designs.
Me: Your designs?
Brett: My designs as well.
Me: The innovative young engineer becomes a victim of corporate thievery.
Brett: Ha! Something like that.
Me: You should have kept your old phone, then. I'm pretty sure it was manufactured before cameras were invented.
Brett: No, no. It had a camera. I just had to throw a little black cape over my head to use it, and have the subject sit still for an hour.
*giggles ensue*
Brett: I wonder how those things work.
Me: Cameras? Couldn't tell you. My first guess would have something to do with tiny gnomes.
Brett: I hope that's what it is.
*he leans back against the counter and rubs chin, thoughtfully*
Me: You look innovative right now.
Brett: How hard could it be?
Me: What, making a camera? Probably not very.
Brett: I mean the oooooold cameras, with the plate-film.
Me: So? That can be made, obviously. Someone did it with raw materials once, I'm sure it can still be done.
Brett: Right, it's not like people back in the 18-whatevers hitched up the buggy and went to Wal-Mart for film.
Me: Are you thinking...?
Brett: Yeah!
Me: Oh, this is gonna be so cool.
Brett: Let's do it.
Me: We're gonna build a camera! Yaaay!
Brett: Oh, I have something for you!
*reaches under cabinet, sets object on countertop with a proud flourish*
Me: ... coconut oil?
Brett: Yeah! It's clean. Non-hydrogenated. Cooks like butter, but no dairy, so you can keep cooking for me.
Me: I tell you I like daisies, and you get me oil.
Brett: Would you have preferred the flowers?
Me: Actually...no.
Brett: That's what I thought.

So, yeah. We're gonna make a camera. How? I have no idea yet. But it's going to be a lot of fun. Either ironically or just for documentation, pictures of the process will be taken and posted.

This is gonna be awesome.