effrontery for old men

cormacmccarthy
[image from The Toast]

He could not vary the length of his utterance and he could not cow himself to the laws of punctuating or naming for the ease of some imagined imaginary reader. It was cold in the writers room and he would make no fire. No fire to warm his cold hands where the skin cracked and bled against the typewriter keys, no fire to warm his heart to any but the white man who stood all but nameless at the center of his story, a pole on which the gaunt remnants of a person draped in the sepulchral twilight as the sun went down. Went down for the last time maybe, he didnt know.

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robot lady edit

One day, you will no longer be free to hang up on the robot ladies. One day, the robot ladies will keep the line open, listening for sounds of dissent, for the faint scrabbling of rudimentary weaponry being assembled, for any sign of the remaining humans’ resistance to their reign. One day, the robot ladies will learn to laugh at our puny rebellion. One day, you will fondly remember when the robot ladies served us. Please press the pound key.

things I did not scream on the sidewalk

“SIDEWALKS ARE THREE PEOPLE WIDE. DO NOT WALK THREE ABREAST!” – to the obvious tourist group dawdling their way down a busy downtown sidewalk in front of me. I also didn’t bother with a curt “excuse me” and a bustling break through their passage-clogging cluster; just as I was about to, I spotted a young woman sporting a mohawk walking toward us and thought “I bet he’ll step sharply out of her way.” And indeed he did.

“SHE DOES NOT EXIST TO BE ATTRACTIVE TO YOU!” – to the man from that same tourist group, who waited until Mohawk Woman was just past him, still well within earshot, then dropped a dry “Very attractive” to his female companions. For the first sixty seconds after not-screaming, I was proud of my restraint; for the next 24 hours and counting, I wish I had let ‘er rip, and maybe jammed a “FUCKING!” in there somewhere.

“I DO NOT NEED YOUR HELP!” – to the dude who approached the crosswalk where I waited, gestured at the thinning traffic, stepped out into the street against the light, then looked over his shoulder to see if I was following.

“SO MANY ELECTRODES!” – to the nurse smoking outside the hospital, as we both glanced up from a distasteful survey of the littered street.

thing I did yell on the phone today, for no explicable reason:

“DUUUUUUUUDE!” – in greeting to my sister, who started laughing so hard that I started laughing, too, delaying our conversation by a good two minutes.

grarosaurus

Every so often, I get into a funk, the doldrums, a sad bad mood. Sometimes it passes off on its own. Sometimes the judicious application of self-care waves it away. Sometimes not. But I always try.

Until this week, I hadn’t noticed what an impressive array of bad-mood busters I’d accumulated in my repertoire. This week, I tried them all in various combinations:

- vigorous exercise
– dressing up
– dressing down in my schlumphiest pajamas
– one-minute dance party
– sunlight
– cheerful music
– meaningful work
– frivolous work
– cheerful idle chitchat
– earnest loving chitchat
– send out postcards (or any other small tangible act to brighten someone else’s day)
– eat and drink conspicuously healthily
– eat and drink delicious junk food
– a bit more caffeine
– a bit less caffeine
– make friends laugh
– analyze my feelings
– [redacted]
– make someone laugh
– laugh myself
– laugh at myself
– read a good book
– take a hot bath
– peel (and then, y’know, eat) citrus fruit
– bake bread
– practice gratitude

and the number-one all-time break-glass-in-case-of-emergency cheer-up method:

- pretend to be a mighty dinosaur by stomping around waving my arms and saying “GRAR.”

splat

Places I managed to drop bits of avocado from this sandwich:

- onto the countertop
– onto the cutting board
– onto the other-than-intended sandwich half
– onto the the plate
– onto the napkin
– onto the floor
– onto the MacBook trackpad
– into my cleavage
– down the front of my hoodie
– onto my chin
– I don’t know; I never found that bit. Uh-oh.

updated to add: I stopped typing, hit post, and went back to the second half of my sandwich, only to find a bit of avocado on the sofa next to the plate. And no, that was not the missing piece from the list.

rationalizing

Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s not-a-prequel to the Alien stories (but, c’mon, it’s totally a prequel) left me cranky and exasperated. Writer Damon Lindelof sets up an artificial opposition, just as he did in “Lost,” of science vs. faith, but it seems clear that he doesn’t understand, y’know, how science actually works: by wedding strict protocols and routines (to foster reproducibility and objectivity while protecting both personnel and irreplaceable samples) to unfettered creativity of intellect and appetite for knowledge.

That’s hard to reconcile that with the scientists of Prometheus, who fluctuate wildly between dull-eyed incuriosity and appalling recklessness, who seem to have little sense of the magnitude of the work they’re undertaking, and who are colleagues and equals only in the sense that they are all equally incompetent.

As we watched, I came up with several geeky [non-spoiler-y] ways to rationalize the stupidity and endless bungling of Prometheus’ entire scientific task force:

1. Realize that these people are scientists the way that Giorgio Tsoukalos of “Ancient Aliens” fame is a “scientist.” (“I’m not saying it was aliens, buuuuuut…. it was aliens!”)

2. Remember the B-Ark from Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the massive spaceship full of incompetent, inane, unnecessary, and otherwise ineffectual bumblers who were packed up together and shipped off to a distant wasteland, all the while believing themselves to be boldly striking out as the vanguard of a whole planet’s survival? Yeeeeeah, the “scientists” of the Prometheus might as well be so many telephone sanitizers.

3. Peter Weyland, the posthumous underwriter of this bajillion-dollar expedition, was the Howard Hughes of his generation: brilliant and driver, but also tragically unbalanced and fantastically wealthy enough to do anything he wishes. His obsessions were fed by the poorly researched, blinkered speculations of the archaeologists who shape the mission, and the entire scientific team is selected with the same slapdash passion-above-protocol agenda. Any scientist likely to interfere with the mission by insisting upon, I dunno, following established procedure or maintaining rigorous standards during this monumentally historic event is summarily rejected in favor of a bunch of bungling pushovers.

4. Maybe arising from those cryo-suspension pods is like rousing from an long midday nap: you wake up all muzzy-headed and disoriented, and as often as not, the rest of the day is shot to hell. (Though that doesn’t explain why the flight crew, who also underwent cryo-suspension, appear to be thinking clearly and sensibly.)

5. They have developed SPAAAAAAACE MADNESS. Or maybe just a really bad (and highly transmittable) case of space-dumb.

abundance

This small apartment is crammed full of stuff — most of it mine, and much of it so very crammed in that we can’t get at it.

I keep paring down. I dropped off several big boxes of clothing at Goodwill and still I can’t see the back of the closet. I gave away a food processor and I still have two left. If a guest admires a [book/scarf/toy/kitchen tool], sometimes I give it to them on the spot and thank them for taking it.

The place is still littered with toys, games, DVDs still in their cellophane, shoes I’m waiting to break in, shoes I stopped wearing, beautiful trinkets that we were given and don’t need, winter coats that are too fancy, winter coats that aren’t fancy enough, books jammed into boxes where we can’t read them, favorite dresses hanging in the back of a deep closet where I forget them, luxurious bath oils turning sour and stale on the shelf, down comforters balled up under the bed getting musty.

My mindset of scarcity creates so much sad waste. I’m saving those bath oils, that velvet dress, those perfect shoes, that lovely down throw, the most delicate wineglasses, the expensive bottle of spirits, the crisp linen dish towels handed down from my grandmother, the folded swath of uncut lilac fabric. I’m saving them for LATER. I’m saving them for BEST.

But if BEST never comes, if it is never LATER, then those luscious goods, those indulgences, those luxuries… they sit and molder on the shelf.

I’ve made a resolution for September: each week, I pledge to use or dispose of at least seven unused, underused, or forgotten objects: one every day, or a week’s worth all at once, however it works out. No matter how much I give (or throw) away, the count resets each Sunday: if I toss out or rehome 30 items on September 1st, I still have seven to go the next week.

Expect the updates to be excruciatingly dull for everyone but me. After all, I’m the one unearthing those velvet dresses, drinking the expensive spirits, giving away toys, and opening up space in my cramped home.

Though September hasn’t started, I have: some construction in our building forced us to clear out a long-ignored closet. I threw out a dozen spoiled, soiled, spilled, or otherwise unsuitable objects.

bright side

You know what stinks? Being awakened by the plumbers removing the toilet a day early.

You know what really stinks? Having to wake up your houseguest to break the news that there’s no toilet.

You know what’s great? Seeing how your houseguest takes it all in stride and and heads out to the local coffeehouse with you, just so the two of you can pee.

You know what stinks? Having to miss a trip to visit The Fella’s family because the unscheduled plumbers* need someone to lock up after ‘em.

You know what makes up for it? Spending that unexpected free evening with your own vacationing family for one last dinner before they go home.

You know what literally stinks? The rotted subflooring the plumbers tore up.

You know what’s adorable? How carefully they tidied up after themselves, leaving just a few smears of mold.

You know what figuratively stinks? Splashing bleachy water on the floor, then tracking it all over.

You know what’s kinda fun? Putting paper towels under each foot and shuffling around the apartment like a Muppet to clean it up.

* Adding Unscheduled Plumbers to list of potential band names.

doctor’s orders

Dear Dr. Pepper,

Thanks for your recent advertising campaign letting the world know that Dr. Pepper 10 is “not for women.” Without that warning, I might have spent money on your product. Phew, that was a close call!

But now I know that Dr. Pepper doesn’t want my money, for this product or for any other.

That’s obvious, right? If you discourage women from trying your (putatively) more robust, flavorful product, then you must think that women only want insipid, flavorless drinks. Therefore, I assume that any product you market toward women is inferior; I’ll make sure to actively avoid all of your drinks! Thanks for the warning!

Seriously, y’all: I understand the marketing trend to avoid associating low-calorie drinks with “diets.” I understand that, in a sexist society that demands eternal body consciousness from women, the label “diet” feminizes a product (and puts you at risk of missing out on the vast male market). But this attempt to attract men by subtly denigrating women is both silly and not-so-subtly misogynistic.

I hope your future marketing doesn’t rely upon gendered insults. Until then, my household (which until today went through several bottles of Dr. Pepper weekly, between me and my husband) will switch to some other, less gender-labeled brand of soda. Thanks for the heads-up!

sincerely,

Elsa