Sunday, August 17, 2008

Holy Super Blogger, Batman!

I've decided that my vast beauty, intellect, and athletic prowess are just not enough in this life: I also want to save the world. "But Meg," you say, "you have already saved me. Isn't that worth something?" Well, loyal readers, no. No it is not. The thing is, we all consider how we would make decisions differently from politicians. We ponder how we would solve the problems of famine, sarvation, the spread of disease, and unfair treatment of others. But then all we do is sit back and smugly make fun of our president and the silly things he says. If only there were a simpler way to fix everything without exerting too much energy. I know! Genetics! Why can't I just have some magnificently powerful, useful, and cool genetic anomaly? I seem to have basically inherited my mom's eyes and my dad's grouchiness. Why not also the ability to fly? Or superstrength? Maybe just laser vision? Actually, no offense to Cyclops, but that was never a trait I desired. Then again, I'd take it over nothing. And if mutated genes aren't the way to go, I'd be willing to get electrocuted, nuked, or pushed into a vat of acid if it meant I came out bigger, better, stronger. The good news? Last week I was bitten by a spider (no, really). The bad news? So far the only outcome is a disgusting oozy mess. I'm still waiting...

Top 5 Super Powers

1. Bamfing

This is the clever word used to describe what Nightcrawler does in X-Men. I don't exactly want to be a blue, devil-tailed Mensch, but when it comes to teleporting, we can't be too picky, can we? After much deliberation about the rules and scientific possibilities of such an attribute, I came to the conclusion that you couldn't travel through space in such a way, without also being able to manipulate time similarly. Apparently Tim Kring thought the same thing when he created Hiro Nakamura. This is totally a double-whammy superpower. I could go back in time, travel the world, and I'd absolutely never, ever have to sit in traffic. Heck, I wouldn't need a car. Or pay for an airline ticket. I could jump off buildings and bamf out of there before landing. I could explore under the ocean for the 47 seconds I'm able to hold my breath. I could freak people out by waiting for them in their living rooms as they open the front doors of their just-unlocked homes. Okay, maybe not that last one. Thing is, I've always put teleportation at the absolute top of my list. Just imagine a typical lazy Sunday. I could vacuum and then take a walk around the local park. Productive and nice, but why not bamf over to Paris for the day and shoot right back home before bedtime?

2. Sponginess

I'm still working on a name for this one. Help me out. This is basically the ability to absorb all knowledge. I would know anything the first time I heard it. I could read books very quickly and understand everything about them. Learning languages would be a snap. (Useful if I'm heading over to France for the afternoon.) There is something very sexy (and nerdy) about infinite knowledge. Just think what I could invent. I would be great at diplomacy and every type of problem-solving. People would line up for my advice. I would write thoughtful, inspiring books on every topic. I could truly examine all sides of an issue and know which was best. People would demand that I run for president, but I would turn them down, because I know that with knowledge comes wisdom.

3. Shapeshifting

Who doesn't want to transform her physical being? One day I could try blonde hair, and the next double as a celebrity for a day. I could look like anyone. This doesn't sound that cool at first, until you think about what it would be like to be absolutely anyone. Although shapeshifting wouldn't change my mental self, appearing to be other people completely changes how others treat you. I could conduct psychological experiments comparing beautiful vs. ugly, agile vs. disabled, male vs. female, black vs. white. I could see what it's really like for a starlet to deal with papparazzi, for an athlete to run the 4/40, or for a senior citizen to deal with youth. Truly, this would be a lesson in perspective with endless possibilites. Plus, Halloween would be a snap.

4. Regeneration

This power prolongs life. It would be difficult to watch those around you age more quickly and die (especially those you love), but how interesting to be able to watch the world change to such a large degree. This is a power that allows a lot of fun, as well as risk, in one's life. I could climb mountains with lungs that don't suffer from asthma, travel through Africa knowing my immune system would beat nearly any disease, and maybe even play Russian roulette every once in a while. I wouldn't even need health insurance, because my body would take care of itself. I still don't think I'd take up smoking, but it might be fun to learn how to throw knives.

5. Badassness

Technically, this is the only one on my list that isn't so much a super power as a statistically nigh impossibility. We are talking Ghost Dog, here. Batman. Lone Wolf. Badassness involves lightning-fast reflexes, intense focus, physical perfection, strict moral code, mind-blowing coordination, impeccable timing, and a clear, zen mind. I am a loner at heart, but that is where the similarities end between my biggest fictional heroes and myself. Since this could arguably be achieved in real life makes it somehow the most difficult power to truly imagine attaining. Why? Because I'd have to count on myself instead of a freak accident or genetic coincidence.

And that's the thing. How much did I really talk about helping other people and bettering the world? Perhaps super powers don't exist because some higher being knows we'd only use them for selfish (albeit mind-expanding) reasons? I'd save some poor souls, but oh, wait, I'd like to visit every country in the world before I started that whole crime-fighting thing. Perhaps we should view many of the things humans can do as super powers. After all, we are the only animals on Earth who can invent new ways to communicate. We create art. We have learned to enjoy recreation beyond survival. We have realized our own mortality, and think where the human race would be without that. You think we have problems now? Thing is, man is a very well-intentioned creature. We all want to save the world, but we have such different ways of seeing how to do that. The really super power would be figuring out how to organize large groups of people who all understand one another. In the mean time, we'll just have to marvel at those individuals who really do seem to have a slight evolutionary edge over the rest of us: Albert Einstein's brain contains levels of chemicals different from the average person; Michael Phelps is--physically--a freak; and Socrates chose hemlock over exile. Blessings and curses run hand-in-hand. I'm really not a fan of Spider-Man, but we must all remember that "With great power comes great responsibility." Keep that in mind with whatever you do.

Friday, August 15, 2008

No Top Five -- Just an Update

Inspired by the "50 Reads Challenge" on Shelfari, I'm adding a list of the books in my sidebar that I've read (all the way through) this calendar year. That's 2008, people. I invite you to comment on these books or my choices, etc. As you can see, I'm a bit behind schedule, but I'm hopeful. Also note that I've added my Top 100 Movies and Books of All Time. Do not be fooled: they are in alphabetical order, not ranked in any way. My Top 100 Albums of All Time is coming.

What have YOU been reading this year?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Consistency, I Have Yet to Master Thee

I've never claimed to be good at blogging. In fact, I never wanted a blog in the first place. Ironically, that is because I thought that if I ever had one, I was for sure going to waste hours and hours doing that instead of other productive things. Over the past couple months--okay, FOUR months--I've had tons of entry ideas, from my Top 5 drummers to the Top 5 songs that kept me company while living in Europe. I hope to one day get to those topics, but for now, I think I just need to let everyone know what's been going on in my life.

Top 5 Things I Should Have Been Blogging About Since April

1. The Job Search

I've had a rough time securing employment before. When I moved to Ames, Iowa after teaching in Prague, I spent the entire summer trying to find a job--any job--just to pay some bills. I even went store to store at the North Grand Mall, before finally landing a primo spot hosting at Carlos O'Kelly's Mexican Cafe. Yeah, I know you're jealous. After graduating from Bemidji State with an ever-useful degree in creative and professional writing, the best I could muster was three jobs: writing for Static, coaching lacrosse, and dealing baked goods at Panera. But I thought it was different this time. I did everything right. I got into a top-ranked M.Ed program, got good grades, did a nice job student-teaching, and then applied to 23 different schools and districts with absolutely no phone calls or communication from prospective employers. Former instructors have admitted that hiring teachers this year is slower than usual, but with no explanation. Apparently getting a job is like going to a restaurant, however; you know how whenever someone goes to the bathroom, your food arrives at the table? If you go out of town, that's when people call you for interviews.

It's been a frustrating (understatement of the century) summer trying to find a job, but I would now like to announce that I will be teaching at at a nearby suburban high school this year, and I am super excited. Oh yeah, their mascot is the
Trojan, and their school colors are blue and yellow, just like my high school in Austin, Texas. Let's not think of how much I hated that school as any kind of omen. Now, I'm only worried about my friends and fellow cohort members still searching for a teaching position--I'm here for you guys--I wish you the best.

2. Roadtrip
After spending almost a decade in Los Angeles searching for her big break in film, my sister decided to go back to school to study medicine. From actor to doctor: what a natural progression! Either how (that was for you, Lisa), long story short, my sister got into the University of Chicago MD Ph.D program, which means she is locked in for eight long years of cutting up dead people. I flew out to L.A. to help her finish packing her things, and then we drove from the shallow hell hole that is Hollywood to the windy city, with a few stops between.

The first day was a short six hours into Las Vegas. A friend of my sister's got us a great steak dinner at half cost, and then free tickets to a show. Unfortunately, that show was the
Blue Man Group, which is possibly the dumbest thing I have ever seen in my life, and I've sat through The Butterfly Effect starring Ashton Kutcher. I only managed to keep myself out of a coma by imagining George Bluth and Tobias Funke auditioning for this ridiculous performance troupe. Seriously, why do people go so nuts for these guys? All I could think as I prayed that a balding blue freakazoid would not choose me for audience participation was, "Some things are inexplicable--the French love Jerry Lewis."

The longest drive was from Vegas to Denver, but I got to briefly see Taylor, one of my favorite people in the whole world, and definitely one of the coolest. Next day, we drove to Des Moines and stayed with my friend Sarah, another favorite. On the drive we helped rescue a
stray dog, and we marveled at our now two-story high school from days of yore. We finally made it to Chicago on the last day's drive in our Penske (MUCH better than U-Haul), only to find that my sister had no mail box, no washer, no dryer, no storage space, no air conditioner, no microwave, but many, many workers who didn't speak very strong English. Nice guys, though. She seems to be thriving in med school, luckily, but she's still on the phone with her landlord every other day. To put it bluntly, he sucks. She's pretty happy at least, because her school gives her lots of free stuff, she's dating a tall, skinny redhead, and she lives three blocks from Barack Obama.

3. Moving

Brian and I have had some landlord issues of our own. The original plan was to stay in our duplex until I had a job for a year or so, and then we were going to buy a house. We really liked the last place, living on the top two floors of a hundred year-old Victorian style in Minneapolis. Over the past year living there, our landlady never really fixed any of the problems in our house, including a leak in the roof, loose light fixtures, and exploding doorknobs. We chalked it all up to casualties of renting until a few months ago when she decided she didn't want our dog going to the bathroom in the yard anymore. You know, that place which she referred to as a dog yard when we were moving in. She said it was okay if the dog was still in the yard, but Zelda just wasn't allowed to poop OR pee in it. Oh yeah, and the guy who lived downstairs was moving out for the exact same reasons. We came to two conclusions about our landlady that day: 1. She has never owned a dog and 2. She is an idiot. The day we decided we'd have to move out, Brian and I went for a walk to eat at the nearby
May Day Cafe, and found a "for rent" sign outside a house. Our new place is a disaster, as we're now putting everything away, but the move was not bad, since it is LITERALLY (tee hee) one block away from our old place. No, really. And, despite a leak here, our new landlord has already dealt with it, and we no longer have dripping water. Much better, thank you.

Disney World

We were saving money to go to Germany and the Czech Republic, but then the value of the American dollar went down the crapper. Then, we thought we might go on an Alaskan cruise, but it was just out of our travel budget range that we'd have to wait until next year to go, so Brian and I decided on Disney World. Snicker if you like, it really is the happiest place on Earth, and we had said a long time ago that we'd really like to go once before we have
kids (if that ever happens). We stayed for eleven days/ten nights, which you would think would have been plenty of time to do everything, which was the original plan. In the end, we spent a couple days alone, then Brian's parents came for a while, and the day they left, our friends Mike and Andrea joined us. The trip was much crazier than when first planned, but we had so much fun seeing everyone. Disney World is the one place I feel I can completely let go and embrace the cheese. I would never go see something called Finding Nemo: The Musical anywhere else, but it wound up being really impressive. The actors are controlling puppets while singing, prancing around, and sometimes doing wire work. My favorite new attraction since I last visited Orlando is probably Fantasmic!, the nighttime park-closing show at Hollywood Studios combining projected movie images on water, fireworks, boats, and live-action sequences including the cutest dance by Mickey Mouse, you can't help but smile. Mission: SPACE was also very cool, since the simulator is likely the closest I'll ever get to actually achieving my lifelong dream of breaking the stratosphere. Expedition Everest is a pretty sweet coaster in the Animal Kingdom. This park was brand spanking new during my last trip to Disney nine years ago, back when it was tiny and all the animals were dying. It's much nicer now, tree-lined and shaded all the way through. The Tree of Life truly is a beautiful work of art, and our party got to see a lot of active animals close-up, such as white rhinos, tigers, gorillas, and even a baby giraffe. They've done a really nice job with that park. My favorite ride since I was a little kid is still Peter Pan's Flight, which we went on a total of four times during our trip. You get to float around in your very own Jolly Roger while witnissing the narrative of the classic Disney film.

And the food. We ate breakfast with Cinderella in her
castle, watched fireworks from the top of the Contemporary Resort, and racked up the most expensive single meal bill of our lives at Victoria & Albert's which is on many Top 10 lists of restaurants in the U.S. Clearly, I'm still a kid at heart, because a lot of adults think Disney World is lame, but I loved every second of it. They say Las Vegas is Disney World for grown-ups, but I hate Vegas, and have no desire to ever go back. (Except maybe to Red Rock, because it's gorgeous and away from the strip.) The main thing about Disney is their attention to detail. Whether people like working there or not, they are super friendly, and really want to make your trip feel special. We spent a lot of time searching for hidden Mickeys, to little avail, and it really was nice just to look around and point out signs on Main Street and Lady and the Tramp cameo brooches at Tony's Town Square. Where else is it actually interesting to wait in line? I felt a real respect for Walt Disney while on the trip. Sure, the company has taken some missteps since his unfortunate demise (The Swan and Dolphin, anyone?), but they have primarily kept his sensibility in mind. He was clearly a curious man with genuine interest in animals, technology, traveling, storytelling, and just the idea of being happy. I know it's not perfect, but even getting stuck on It's a Small World wasn't so bad. I don't really appreciate people who only go to Disney World for vacation, but it's definitely worthwhile. Oh, and in case I didn't have enough other desired destinations in mind, the World Showcase in Epcot really makes me want to visit every country represented.

5. The Olympics

They have begun! Brian has already worked out his schedule for the next two weeks, which includes going to bed at 1:00 AM, getting up at 7:00 AM, and running both the television and online feeds at all moments. I make fun, but really, his obsession just means I don't have to do any work to see the Olympics. I don't know why, but I love watching the games. Sure, George Bush was a complete moron during the opening ceremonies, and I'm not thrilled that our tax dollars have paid for a vacation to Beijing for him and every relative you can name, but it's still just too cool. Sadly, Mr. Must from Estonia was crushed during his badminton match in the wee hours of the night, but who knew the Americans would sweep women's sabre? What a love story between the Emmonses of air rifle fame! How about that guy from Africa who couldn't swim in 2000? I bet someone else won't know anything about their sport and NBC will do a human interest story on it! Even though I prefer the winter games because I get to watch a lot of biathlon (not joking), the summer Olympics are cool, too. I can't wait for gymnastics to start. I don't really like most sports with such a level of subjective judging, but gymnastics was my childhood love, and I dreamed that I'd one day compete in a world arena such as this. No such luck, but I still get to watch it on TV. Oh, and even though lacrosse is not played by enough countries to be a sport included, I get to watch stuff that's never on ESPN, ESPN2, or The Ocho, like hand ball, water polo, and rowing. Now I just have to make sure Brian bathes in the next fortnight.

So there it is. What's up with you? I hope you haven't completely given up on this blog. I'm going to try to do better. If a chick can run a marathon in under three hours, I'd like to think I can sit my butt on the couch and type for half an hour every once in a while. Vote for next week's topic!