Friday, March 19, 2010

The Wasteland as Expressed through a Salon and Hairstylists

Ever get the feeling that the person who cuts your hair has stopped seeing you?  I mean, really SEEING you? You've been going to them long enough that they now think of you as an assembly part on the conveyor belt: their eyes are tired, they've been looking at heads of hair all day long, and your hair is just another batch they have to cut?

That's how I start to feel if I don't change things up.  

A few years ago, in college, I went to this chick, let's call her Kimberly (most girls who cut hair have names that end in a long /e/ sound, am I wrong?).  We always exchanged the usual pleasantries.  She told me the names of her kids in the pictures surrounding the mirror at her station.  I pretended to care.  Maybe I did care, I don't know.  It's hard to get attached to a picture.  Pictures tell you nothing about a person, especially posed pictures.  I mean, a picture of someone doing something, like walking along railroad tracks?  That tells you something.  That tells you the person is trite and uncreative—the exact opposite of what they intended the image to express: thoughtfulness and depth, an understanding of the intricacies of transition and the movement of life (the railroad tracks are a metaphor!).  

Anyway, Kimberly was great.  At first.  She listened to the vast and deep desires I had for my hair.  I explained my long prestigious college career with her.  I cracked sarcastic jokes about the vagaries of college towns.  I talked about my misgivings concerning hair and highlights.  She listened with her fist to her chin, nodding at the appropriate times, scissors clenched in her fist (safely) away from her chin, brow furrowed.  I came away looking like a New Woman.  

Two years later, after keeping that relationship with Kimberly and never diverting much from the hair style I'd developed with her, I had a mullet.  I had become Redneck Woman.   

Mullets weren't yet back in—oh they're in now.  I see women everywhere with the old mom Brady do, looking real stylish in their skinny jeans and tattoos.  But that hadn't come into vogue yet.  I got a lot of razzing for my mullet from my chic coworkers before I finally accepted that they were right, I had unintentionally developed a mullet.  

Presently, I have a new hair person and that person is a guy.  Our relationship started out great.  It was almost love at first sight—hairstylist/client love, that is, a variety all its own. Communication regarding hair has now broken down, however, and I have no idea how to veer away from the path we've trod.  When I try to steer him differently, he blinks and says, "Uh hmm, uh hmm," hands poised over my head, scissors ready to lop off two inches here and there until . . .  unintentional mullet.  AGAIN.

I say, "I want this part to be slantier.  Pretend I'm going to wear it straight, not curled [I have naturally curly hair], and then cut it like a pixie."  He feigns understanding, and I sigh inwardly, knowing it's going to look the same way it did the last time, but not the way I long for.  

I love my hair guy, but I see no way to break through this stalemate without hurting his feelings or finding a new stylist.  I start to feel like we're just voices talking through each other, not hearing what the other is saying; our laughter is forced and false; the hug when we meet again is cold, merely a token of friendship intended to mask the reality: that I am just another detached head of hair and he a robot with scissors.  

Change is futile, it seems.  I have learned the hard way, through my relationships with hairstylists.  If you and I should chance to meet after a few years of separation and I still have a mullet, know that I tried to break out of the cycle but the Universe has found a way to trap me in this rut.  Thank you Universe!  Thank you.  

Monday, March 15, 2010

How Dragon Age: Origins Interferes with Real Life

I made a huge mistake this weekend.  I purchased and began playing Dragon Age: Origins.  Game Informer reviewed it and said that it was awesome with the caveat that the PS3 version plays like a completely different game, therefore it only gets an 8 compared to the PC version's 9.  I guess I should feel lucky because I don't know if I'd be able to pull myself away from the PC version, as it is I could go without sleeping, eating, and breathing just to play the PS3 version.  

If you want to be great at anything, according to Malcolm Gladwell, you have to put in ten thousand hours to get there.  You see how Dragon Age is interfering with that?  And not just Dragon Age.  The PS3 is interfering with all of that.  You have no idea the time I've spent lamenting the gradual re-socialization back into regular society I've gone through since leaving college in 2004.  First I let television back into my life, then it was reading books not having to do with my major, then it was marriage, then it was computer games and video games.  

Ok, in all fairness, the marriage was good.  And the books, they're good too because for reasons beyond me, reading does something healthy for a person—something television and film can never do.  I don't know what it is, but I typically come away from a book feeling just a bit more intelligent.  I never feel that way after watching an episode of "How I Met Your Mother," though I really love that show.  And gaming is incredibly addicting and I feel that it IS rewarding in some ways, but . . . it's not healthy to be sitting here pondering what will happen next in Dragon Age and hoping to spend the next five or six hours finding out.  Is it?

To be honest, I understand that I've really got to control this absurd desire.  I wish I'd never gotten the game in a way, it's too good!  I had Assassin's Creed II to get into still, and that was the plan, because I just finished Batman Arkham Asylum so I could trade it in (awesome game) and get a different game, which is where Dragon Age came in.  

But what I want more than Assassin's Creed II and Dragon Age is to be the pied piper of writing.  What? Yeah, I want hypnotize people with my mesmerizing stories so totally that they'll follow me off a cliff, but in a good way.   

It's easy to look at people around you and see their success and think, "Man, they're so lucky."  Ha ha ha! Reason tells you that the majority of people didn't just arrive somewhere satisfying in their career without a struggle, and reason is usually right.  But man is it easy to think lazy thoughts like that.  Even my thoughts are lazy!  That's my main problem.  Laziness. Which also contributes to my gaming addiction.  Much, much easier to create a satisfying story by taking part in it, in a game.  

I read an interview with Orson Scott Card about the Hidden Empire series and he spoke of his love for video games.  He said he eventually had to give them up because they interfered with his writing.  It's true. Life can interfere with the things that matter to you.  You have to hold onto them and you have to think hard about them, otherwise you can easily get swept away in the current of prime time sitcoms and dramas, ridiculously awesome video games, and surfing the web.  

I guess what I'm saying is that Dragon Age: Origins is an awesome game and it might just be my undoing. So good job to Bioware, you geniuses you. And also, sorry this post is all over the place.  It's probably because I'm thinking about what's at the top of the mage tower.  Will I be able to beat whatever's up there or should I have waited to be a higher level before doing the quest?  Should I have killed that stupid blood mage or was it OK to let her live?  I tend to be so merciful it's sick.  I'll probably be killed by one of the characters I let go free—stabbed in the back in the midst of battle.  Betrayal is so bitter!  

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Great Day for a Pilgrimage

Spring days like this remind me of college, especially the years that I read the Canterbury Tales, which, looking back, seems like every year in college. I was in college for eight years. And what do I have to show for it?* Hahaha. Oh the humor, oh the enormous student loans.

If I could go back, of course I'd NOT take out student loans. But hey, who I am today has been shaped by the weight of those student loans. Right? It's a compression chamber. I'm stuck in it and I'm looking beautiful. The gray hair, the wrinkles, the advanced old age and I'm barely thirty! (I can still say that at 31, right?)

Well anyway, it's an awesome day and here I am at the a coffee house working on a short story, that is, I'm not outside enjoying this absolutely GORGEOUS day. I've been extremely absent from blogging and at this point, I don't feel like a moron when I tell you that it's largely because I've spent every spare writing minute working on a novel. And now I have two novels, and it only took me . . . three years to get to this point. Three? Or two? I'm not about to try to figure out the exact length of time on that, but you'll understand when I say that spare time doesn't just happen. A person has to rob other parts of their life to get it, and when one does that, whatever one uses that time for better be for a good cause.

Maybe it was different for you, but when I was in elementary school, there was a spot on my report card for a grade regarding time. It read like this: "Uses time wisely." And I think we were given a number grade, like 1 for good, 2 for ok, 3 for "thinks eating paste is a good use of time." I never stop hearing that terrible voice in my head (your report card didn't have a lording tone to it? Hm. Weird. Mine did.), "Uses time wisely." And I'm constantly being judged. I can't even sit down to play Assassin's Creed II on a Saturday morning without hearing the damning echoes of the elementary school report card all around me. Back in elementary school, I think I always got 1s on "Uses time wisely" because I ruled in elementary school. If only it had carried over into the rest of my life.

But it didn't and that's why I'm using one of the most perfect Saturdays of the year to sit indoors and finish a short story. I could be halfway to Canterbury Cathedral by now. I could be laughing my pants off at the Wife of Bath and her gap-toothed smile. I could be spinning my own tale of tragedy, romance, or heroism, and maybe I could win. Well, I guess sitting in a coffeehouse, writing a short story is the closest any of us will get to a story-telling contest on the way to a holy shrine.

Yes, I'll sit here while others laze about in the sun, soaking up the rays and reading the paper, and others roll leisurely by on their bicycles. I'll just pretend I'm going to win a contest. I'll just tell my story-telling guts out. Maybe I WILL win and this day won't have been a waste after all.

*Just this:
Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote/ The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote, / And bathed every veyne in swich licour, / Of which vertu engendred is the flour; / Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth / Inspired hath in every holt and heeth / The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne / Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, / And smale fowles maken melodye, / That slepen al the night with open ye, / (So priketh hem nature in hir corages: / Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, / And palmers for to seken straunge strondes, / To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes; / And specially, from every shires ende / Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende, / The holy blisful martir for to seke, / That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke.

Beautiful? I know. Thank you, Geoffrey, thank you. Worth eight years of my life? No argument there.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Gaile Owens, Death Row, and Abuse

Abuse is a weird thing.  It's hard to understand it if it's never happened to you, it's hard to imagine that people you know and love might be experiencing it, and it's even more difficult to assess a situation where abuse is happening and make a judgment on it.  

I come from a line of strong women.  Frontier women, pioneer women who dealt with hostile natives (not to pass judgment on native peoples, but you know what I mean), survivors who did what they had to do.  So of course I look at a situation where a woman has been abused and has stayed in the situation and think, "What? Why would she put up with that?  Why wouldn't she stand up for herself?  She must be weak."  

I'm not going to share the details of the situations in my family where it came to light that there was abuse happening, but it did, and it was shocking and upsetting, and I experienced rage like I've never known before. The women in my family, my sisters and my mother, are tough.  They eat nails for breakfast and pick their teeth with machetes.  But they're also the kind of women who stick to their guns, which would explain why a bad situation could escalate.  

All I know is that after my experience with abusive husbands, I feel compelled to rush to the defense of Gaile Owens.  This is a woman in Tennessee who is on death row for arranging the murder of her abusive husband in 1985.  She's 57 now and has been in prison since then.  The state attorney general's office is asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to set a date for her execution.  There are many details about this, but I won't list them all here.  To read more about it, visit the Friends of Gaile website, read about it, sign the petition if you disagree, write about it, share it with your friends, and do all this even if you don't live in Tennessee.  

It's unjust, as I see it.  I'm not opposed to the death sentence and there are times when I feel that it may be the most merciful thing for a criminal for various reasons I don't care to go into right now.  I don't think murder is justified, but as her defense points out, what kind of escape existed for an abused woman in Memphis in 1985?  Was there somewhere she could run to for protection?  Things like that exist now.  But I don't think they did then.  And what about Mary Winkler?  Remember Mary Winkler?  She murdered her husband, ran away, and eventually was acquitted of the murder.  

What I'm saying is that the justice is not equal.  Gaile Owens pled guilty to the charges after accepting a prosecutor's offer to do so in exchange for a life sentence.  I can hear you, yes, you're saying, "What's that?  You mean, they did the old bait and switcheroo?"  Yeah, they did.  Sounds like dirty politics to me.  It's just shameful.  

Well anyway, all her defense is asking for is that Gaile's sentence be commuted to a life sentence and not death.  I hope for the best.  I hope Tennessee doesn't end up with Gaile's death on its hands, because I don't want it and I live here too.