30 November 2008

I Love Me Some People

I'm reading the nonfiction book "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer, and the main character is a young man who forgoes his privileged background to live off the land in the wilds of Alaska. He burns his money, abandons his car, cuts himself off from his parents and tramps across the American West before deciding to head way up North.

The author spends some time in the book discussing and describing other young men in this century who have done the exact same thing - shrug off the norms of society for the untamed, often cruel, wilds of nature. A common thread in all these adventures (besides the fact they usually result in death or disappearance) is that each of the men were middle class, somewhat privileged, young, and completely disillusioned with the human experience. They all came to the conclusion people lied, cheated, stole, and were generally oppressive. There was nothing redeeming about being part of the human race. However, nature was none of those things...she was heartless, yes, but at least that was known up front. No illusions.

The author then goes on to explain that these young men have been lauded as brave and spiritually superior; they were willing to dig past the capitalist trappings of current society to pursue truth. Others have criticized them for stupidly underestimating and disrespecting nature. It is not my goal here to dispute any of this, but I will say that I do not understand the ideas of the former.

To me, people are one of the main reasons we exist on this planet. I know I wake up each day because of people. I wake up to see my husband first thing in the morning, my children at the breakfast table, my colleagues in the workplace, my students in their desks, my parents at a restaurant (or wherever), and my friends everywhere.

Just about everything I do revolves around others. Maybe writing is the closest solo activity I can think of. I do enjoy solitude...no doubt that...but I know I would feel emotionally adrift if I were not connected to people in some way every day of my life.

One of the best children's books I have ever read is Jon J Muth's "The Three Questions." It's an adaptation of a Leo Tolstoy short story, in which the protagonist, a young boy, is attempting to find answers to his three most important questions:

1. When is the best time to do things?
2. Who is the most important one?
3. What is the right thing to do?

After visiting with a wise, old turtle (hey, it's a parable), the boy eventually discovers the answers:

1. The most important time is now.
2. The most important one is the one right beside you.
3. The right thing to do is whatever's best for the person/people around you.

Two of these three answers have to do with people and taking responsibility for their well-being. I think about the Dungeons and Dragons get-together last night...good food, good friends, good times. I don't need the Alaska mountains or Arizona desert to find meaning in life - it was in my kitchen.

27 November 2008

The Early Bird Gets The Screwed-Up DNA

I am my father's daughter.

As a youngster (like in my early 20s), I laughed right in my dad's face every time he told me rising early was GOOD, because then I had "a whole day to do everything I wanted". He chided me for "sleeping my life away." And I would laugh with the arrogance of youth at him, and his old-fashioned notions.

"You're not a farmer, Dad," I'd say. "You don't have to get up with the cows, man."

It was always a spirited bone of contention. "Early to bed, early to rise," was my dad's credo. So was "The early bird catches the worm." So was "Early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." Me, I didn't understand that. I WAS NOT going to bed at eight o'clock. And I'd get up when I freakin' felt like it.

But, you know, Mother Nature and her lover, Time, have a way of ruining a perfectly good young person.

As I rose through the ranks of the college-educated and career-searching, I became accustomed to waking early. In fact, I *needed* to wake up early...to feel like I'd gotten off on the right step. Pretty soon, six-thirty was no big deal. Then I had children, and time was precious, and the more of it I had, the better. So, when I could, five forty-five marked the beginning of my day.

Slowly, but surely, I have morphed into a female, less cantakerous version of my dad.

I arose from my bed this morning at 3:51 am. My mind was ready to go and start the day's tasks, but my body refused to comply. So I lay there in the cloud-like warmth of my down comforter, lounging, I guess you would say. That's when my father's words drifted into the consciousness of my mind. "...early to rise, greet the day, get some things done..."

*Mental Groan*

As it turns out, I only achieved two of the above three. I did rise early, but I did not get some things done. I flipped on the TV, and laid on the couch. I surfed...and learned there is nothing on television at four o'clock in the morning. After forty-five minutes of mind-numbing programming, I felt tired enough to go back to my bed.

So, there it was. The thumb-my-nose gesture back into the face of my upbreeding...I "wasted" three hours in bed after my paternal DNA had jolted me into a senseless early-rising.

05 November 2008

History Lesson...I Hope

Congratulations, Barack Obama!

I went to bed last night before the final votes were in, and my husband informed me this morning history had been made.

I cannot even explain the feeling in my heart - I think it might be hope.

Even though I'm only in my early-thirties, I'd consider myself pretty jaded and cynical about the state of our country. I won't launch into those various diatribes here, but suffice it to say, I just felt America the Beautiful...wasn't. I know it's unpatriotic, and people would condemn me for saying it, but I know I'm not the only disillusioned young person (!) out there.

This presidential campaign even further bolstered my belief that the American people, for all their self-proclaimed sophistication, was nothing more than a mob of backward-thinkers. I could hardly bear the juvenile mudslinging and sniping.

Last night, as I watched the electoral map change from gray to red and blue, I became disgusted. It seemed like a racial battle. The solid line of blue abruptly halted at the Appalachian states, and the red waves of grain flowed south to the Gulf of Mexico. I thought to myself, "this is what it's going to be. People are so prejudiced that we can't separate color and quality, and we might be doing this country a huge misjustice, all because we can't get past the stupid, narrow-minded issue of someone's skin color."

In an effort of self-preservation, I even went to bed trying to convince myself I didn't want Obama as president, because the American people would just be horrible to him...like when students misbehave when there's a substitute teacher.

So I woke this morning and received the good news, and a ray of light shot through my little jaded heart. Maybe there's some redeemable qualities still there...maybe we can get out of this funk we're in. Maybe things can change.

Maybe. It's a step from where I had been.

HSM 3 Leads to Suicidal Thoughts

OK, I'm not really serious. At least, I don't think. It depends.

Kirby and I had a special girls' night out tonight, and we went to see High School Musical 3. For those of you who are blissfully unaware, HSM3 is Disney's attempt to corner the pre-teen movie market, and is, I might add here, doing a good job of it. Good enough that they've been able to make mountains out of molehills in the merchandise market (how's that for alliteration).

But really, Walt the Third, enough is enough.

About twenty minutes in, I wanted to beat my brains out on the row of seats in front of me. I wanted to drown myself in the eight inches of diet soda in the paper cup I was holding. I wanted strangle myself by my purse strap. I'm usually not given over to such fits of passion, but tonight, I was feeling it.

It's too bad, really, because I honestly enjoyed the first HSM. It was a cute plot with a few fun songs thrown in. HSM 2 was OK. The plot was still clever, the songs were OK, but the scene where Troy and Gabriella were breaking up and singing their goodbyes to each other gagged me like a plate of overcooked liver. HSM 3, however, was above and beyond. My gag reflex worked overtime. The plot was lame and trite (seniors contemplate final year's big decisions - whoa). Despite that, the plot *might have* worked had the director let the actors ACT instead of breaking out into song every ten minutes.

The songs! Oh, the songs. I think a drunken college student in a stupor slapped together some lyrics and pounded them out on his eight-year-old sister's Casio keyboard's demo track.

Zac Efron managed to look pissed throughout most of his singing numbers.

And while I'm thinking about it, here are a few other minor things that bugged me about this movie:

1. What's up with the big graduation scene (the play within the movie) where Troy announces he's going to Berkeley. His best friend, Chad, totally leaves the stage (in the middle of a show!), all pissed at Troy for not going to University of Albuquerque. Troy chases him to the basketball court, makes a few limp "friend-type" comments, then they run back to the play, friendship fixed. WTH? Chad has been living under the assumption the both of them are going to college together, and now Troy's just dropped the biggest, stinkiest turd of a bombshell on Chad's head...and Chad is angry enough to storm out in the middle of a theatrical production. Chad is a idiot. Troy is an idiot. So is Ms. Darbus. So is Troy's dad.

2. In one scene where Troy is torn because he's doesn't know what to do with his life, he drives to the high school, somehow entering the building, where he proceeds to run and dance around the entire school grounds trying to "find his way." WTH? In any other American high school, the cops would have arrested him, no holds barred.

3. Every scene Gabriella is in, she's wearing some gauzy spring dress number. And high heels. WTH? I know it's the Southwest US, but where are the more realistic sweatpants and flip-flops for god's sake? Everyone at my high school would want to kick her little fashionista ass.

4. We were duped by Sharpay. Again. WTH? In the end of every HSM, it seemed the bitch was going to change for the better and maybe act human. But, nooooooo. She went off her meds or something and suddenly became the East High Bitch Troll Queen once more. I just don't get why she's so popular.

5. Huh. As it turns out, all 1200 seniors at East High can dance, and hey, they all know the same dance routine. They also somehow know to break out into said routine at the end of Troy's graduation speech. Quelle surprise. Who knew? Maybe if my graduation had been intricately choreographed like that, my class reunion attendee turnout would be higher.

God, I'm exhausted. I haven't ranted like THAT for a long time. Of course, I don't think I've had ammo like that for a long time. God bless Disney...but seriously, please stop the HSM train now. Quit riding trying to ride on its coattails and let it go to college to become productive young adults. Please. Do it for all of us who parent an impressionable young girl.

If my daughter gets older and wants to relocate to New Mexico and become a "Wildcat", I will mercilessly persue you, Walt Jr., to the ends of the earth. For your blood.