Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tina Fey

While we're on the subject of talented actors, it's a little late to say this, but Tina Fey was brilliant as Sarah Palin.

Keira Knightley

I've long thought that people who think Jim Carrey and Ashton Kutcher are dumb are foolish. Just because you can successfully play a dumb character doesn't mean you are dumb. Maybe it was easy for me to realize that because I've also seen both of them in more serious roles. I fell into a similar trap today. Watching Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice, I was thinking that I don't like her so much. She is so haughty. Immediately after Pride and Prejudice, I watched Bend it Like Beckham. Keira Knightley was in that too. She played a radically different character. I had no idea they were the same person until I looked up the actors afterwards. So it's not that she is haughty, it's that she played a haughty character so convincingly that I believed she must be haughty. And the fact that she could do that and also convincingly play such a radically different character in Bend it Like Beckham indicates that she must be very talented. Not like some actors (like Meg Ryan, Jack Nicholson, Hugh Grant, and Julia Roberts) who seem to be basically the same person in all their movies.


It's not that all my friends have abandoned me. It's true some people have chosen to move away from me. But I have also chosen to move away from people, or not to get close to people in the first place. I once thought friends were great, and then something changed, it was like the ground beneath me was no longer there. I've changed. I've changed in terms of what traits I value in others. I've found that I no longer appreciate people I once chose to be friends with. It's not a change that I wanted. It's just something that happened. Another change is that now that I'm tired all the time, going out gallivanting no longer appeals to me. One thing about friends is that in order to get them or keep them, usually you have to go out and do things with them. I've changed, against my own volition, into a solitary person, but if this is who I must be at this time in my life, then this is who I must be. I can't help but be saddened by it at times, but at the same time, I can still make the most of the life that I've got. I can embrace the fact that this is a time of quiet and reflection.

The changing social landscape

In the past, I've written about how my different birthday observances over the years reflect the changes in the people in my life. The same can be said at looking at different unusual occasions -- I'm thinking of events that could be called disasters or emergencies, but did not have disastrous effects on my own life.

I was okay living without power for the first 24 hours or so, but after a while it got kind of old, and I speculated about whether there was anyone whose house I could stay at if they had power. Locally I have one friend and one person I don't quite call a friend. I thought of them, and I discarded the idea of calling them to see if they had power and a place I could stay. The options that I saw before me were: living in my cold, dark apartment, living in my office, going to the Red Cross shelter, staying in a hotel, driving two hours to my mom's house, or driving two hours to my dad's house. I chose living in my office.

I thought back to Sept. 11. It didn't personally affect me, but they closed work early that day. What to do with myself? I was feeling edgy because of the events of the day, so I didn't really feel like going about my normal activities, whatever they might have been. I checked with my two friends, and we decided to go for a hike. I think it was a good way to spend the occasion -- to be with friends, and to do something that reminds me of the beauty in the world.

The people who are in one's life are the people one instinctively checks in with and makes plans with whenever such an occasion occurs. And I spent the power outage alone because there was no one locally that I felt like checking in with.

A few days later, the aforementioned person I don't quite call a friend said next time there's a power outage, call him, and I can stay at his house if he has power. But the thing is, I knew it wasn't true. Maybe he and I both want it to be true that I could call him, but the truth is, I can't. Because I expect that his most likely response would be along the lines of, "Oh, there's a power outage? I didn't know. I've been in Vermont on a ski trip with all my friends. We'll be back the day after tomorrow." That's his lifestyle. It's full. Most likely, at any given time, he is busy doing something and doesn't have room for whatever I would need. I can't call him because I can't take yet another reminder, after the thousands I've gotten already, that he always has more important things to do than be there for me. And he can't take it either -- it would make him feel guilty, and less comfortable about me.

November and December, 2008

November and the first three weeks of December have been a strain. I have this equilibrium where as long as I don't have anything extra, I can get through my life. But since the beginning of November, I've had a series of extras.

First I went to a conference. Then my landlord decided to paint my apartment. It was a lot of work to pack up all my stuff so the painters could paint. Then came Thanksgiving break. Four days in a row off from work. I was feeling so worn out, and really looking forward to having those four days to rest. I also wanted to spend the time putting my apartment back in order after the painting. The first two days of Thanksgiving break, I got some things done, but also felt really worn out and felt like I was coming down with something. On Saturday, I came down with it. I was in bed with a fever and cough Saturday through Wednesday. Thursday, one week after Thanksgiving, I got up and returned to my normal life, but I was still weak and coughing, and even now have not fully recovered.

Then last weekend, we had the power outage. That was also wearing for me, running around town looking for food and shelter, going back home to check whether the electricity was back, and when I found that it wasn't, packing up some stuff and going somewhere else. I slept one night in my office. It was not the restful weekend I needed.

This week, having not had a restful weekend, I felt all week like I was at the point of collapse. Monday night after work I got groceries. Tuesday night I went over to my friend's house to write Christmas cards. Once those obligations were out of the way, I rested as much as I could on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings. I had a lot to get done, but I knew I was too much of a wreck to be productive. I felt raw and worn and tearful.

So the past few days, when I got home from work, I retreated to the cozy comfort of home -- reading novels, watching TV, drinking herb tea, wrapping myself in blankets. And now it is Saturday. I'm not recovered yet, but hopefully I can get enough rest in the next few days to start feeling like a normal person again.

I'm taking the next two weeks off from work to visit my family for the holidays. I figure I'll be home Saturday through Tuesday doing all the things I need to do, and then leave on Wednesday. I don't know if four days is really enough. Here is my agenda for those four days:
  • Get rested, so I stop feeling so raw and worn and despondent.
  • Prepare for and do a radio show.
  • Revise and submit my article about folk music.
  • Apply for the class I want to take next semester, withdraw from the program I've been taking classes with, and figure out about my future studies.
  • Put my apartment back in order. Since I move things for the painters, it looks like a tornado hit it.
  • Make sure all my bills and other such things are taken care of before I leave for my travels.
  • Go into the office to take care of all the loose ends at work before I leave for my travels.
  • Finish Christmas shopping and wrap Christmas presents.
  • Finish sending Christmas cards.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Secondhand Lions

The point of Secondhand Lions has to do with the idea that these guys lived life to the fullest, that they had wild and exciting lives. But most of that exciting stuff they did consisted of physical fighting. Why does that have to be considered so heroic and glamorous? Can't you have people be exciting and glamorous because they grow food for people to eat, build houses for people to live in, educate children, or try to figure out how to eliminate poverty? But no, those are conventional occupations, and the heroes in our TV and movies are the ones who rebel against conventional occupations and do something more glamorous, like sword-fighting.

American Dreamz

While I was sick, I watched part of American Dreamz on TV. I liked the sense of humor. It was satirical. The sense of humor reminded me of Zoolander. I usually find that most so-called comedies are just dumb. Other things I've found funny are Moonstruck, Boston Legal, and Fierce Creatures. I think sometimes the funniest movies or TV shows are the ones that are also saying something serious, maybe because in order to say something serious, they have to treat their characters with some respect. What I don't like are the "comedies" about people just being idiots, or those based on misunderstanding and deception.

In American Dreamz, I felt that Tony Yalda stole the show, though he played a caricatured minor character. He was just so full of life. I wanted to see more of him.

Soap operas are underrated

I think soap operas are underrated. When I first had mono almost three years ago, I became quite familiar with the daytime TV schedule, and figured out which shows I wanted to watch. One soap opera, General Hospital, caught my interest. The reason that it caught my interest was because it had a geek on it, Bradford Anderson as Damian Spinelli. I started watching it for him, and gradually figured out bits of the rest of the plot. Since then, I would check in again whenever I was sick. Thanks to the internet, over the past few weeks (starting before this most recent time I was sick), I've watched most of the episodes that have aired in the past 4-6 weeks. After you watch a bunch of episodes and really figure out what it goes on, it comes across differently, because things cohere as a whole. When you just watch a few episodes here and there, you take in a lot of loose bits of information, but they don't fall into place to create a whole picture in the same way.

When I see a soap opera I'm not familiar with, it still looks the same way soap operas always did: melodramatic plot lines trying to make up for weak acting, weak characters, and weak sets. But now that I've come to know General Hospital, I look at it in new ways. I am awed by the complexity of the history. A relationship between some people was said to parallel the relationship between their parents about 20 years before, and that wasn't just something made up for the story as it would be in a movie, it was something that actually happened on the show 20 years ago. And can you imagine what a challenge it must be for the writers to write five episodes a week, and for the actors to learn lines for five episodes a week?

When relationships change, when a new love interest develops, things evolve over time. One thing I've complained about in primetime shows is that it's just like boom, person X loves person Y, and you don't see any reason for it other than because the writers thought it was time for a new love interest. In General Hospital, you see the bonds gradually growing, the bonds devolop first, before the love interest is declared.

Soap operas are supposed to have bad actors. It's true I'm not terribly impressed with Maurice Benard, but it was Bradford Anderson's ability to exude his character that first drew me to the show, and now I find that Sarah Brown and Kirsten Storms sparkle.

What it takes to wear me out

I was thinking, "I'm doing great for someone who was bedridden the day before yesterday." Then I had to make two trips carrying things up from the basement to the third floor. So much for that. It was a real challenge to my congested lungs and I'm all worn out now.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Returing to the world of the living

I am back to the world of the living, at least physically, if not mentally. I'm back at work, but still feeling a bit like I'm in a fog. Upon my return to the office, I found that at least five other people in my building are sick. At one point when I coughed, I heard two other people also coughing. It was like a symphony of coughs resonating through the halls. It was nice to know that I wasn't the only one sick. It makes me feel like less of a slacker.

The life of a sickie

I have not left my apartment for a week. The first two days, I was functional, just feeling under the weather. But for the past five days, I have been knocked out. It is kind of like being asleep. Well, a lot of the time, I have been asleep, but even when I'm not, it's kind of like being asleep. Like being in a cocoon. Warm, cozy, oblivious to the outside world. Not joyful, not miserable, just asleep.

The past few nights, I'd go to bed early because I was too tired to do anything else, but then find I wasn't sleepy. Last night I went to bed at 7, but it was too early. I tried again at 8, and had no trouble sleeping then. I slept until about 7:40am. After sleeping nearly 12 hours that night, I then napped during the day 11:30-2 or so. I was drifting in and out of sleep during that time, so I wasn't really fully asleep the entire time. With all that sleep, it's not that surprising that I'm still awake now after midnight. It is surprising that I am forming coherent words. I have not done much of that these past five days. Maybe I am getting better.

I have been eating about 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 meals a day. I have not been hungry, and it takes a lot of energy to go all the way to the kitchen. I try to make myself drink water, because I know it's good for me. But mostly I'm not interested in eating or drinking.

My abdominal muscles are sore from all the nose blowing and coughing, but they only hurt when I use them.

I am supposed to take albuterol when my lungs are clogged. I took it once. Going down it irritated my lungs, giving me a coughing fit and causing me to gasp for air. Then after a little while, it had its usual side effect of making my feel shaky.

Friday morning, the last day I was functional, I took a shower and got dressed. I put on my pajamas Friday night, and did not leave them until Monday night, when I took a shower and changed into a different set of pajamas. Now I've been in those for over 48 hours.

Sometimes when I'm awake, I watch TV. Watching the news or watching reality TV reminds me that there are a lot of people out there I want nothing to do with.

I feel guilty about missing work.

There is so much to be done in the world. Beauty to be enjoyed, people to be loved, communities to be nurtured. Every day that I'm here in my cocoon is a lost opportunity to be out there living. But I don't feel too sorry for myself. I remember how other times I've looked upon illness as like being in a monastery. A time for quiet. A time for realizing what is important in life. That's not a waste.