14 June, 2011

Eight Reasons Why Glee Doesn’t Completely Suck

Last week, after spending two years convinced that a brain-eating human-age-regression virus was sweeping the world, it happened.

I got sucked into Glee. And it doesn’t completely suck. Well, it does, because it sucked me in. But not in the bad way.

Follow?

Here’s why I don’t hate it as much as I thought I would. (Like, not at all. Like, I kind of like it.)

1. They based a whole episode on a Fleetwood Mac album.

The Chain. Go Your Own Way. Dreams. I grew up on this stuff. Stevie Nicks is pretty much my vocal idol. So any show that takes Fleetwood Mac and makes it accessible and cool, thereby making me less of a freak for preferring the classic rock to just about anything produced since I was born? I’m down with that.

2. Shue’s abs.

Damn. Just… damn.

And he sings. And dances.

And is in love with a woman who has OCD.

And mentors troubled high school children.

And did I mention the abs? Not that it would ever really be appropriate for a teacher to strip off his shirt in front of impressionable teenage girls. But still. Damn. My last chorus teacher was a middle-aged woman with thick bangs and a propensity to wear calf-length church dresses. So. Not. Fair.

3. Brittana.

They’re pretty. They care about each other. They like women. They like men. Brittany makes me giggle. Santana has a spectacular rack.

Just saying. I am an equal opportunity ogler.

They sang Landslide. It was awesome.

And mostly… they’re just really cool together.

4. The characters have depth.

Even Sue, the epitome of evil, has a soft side. No one is 100% good and no one is 100% bad. I get annoyed watching shows where morality is absolute — we all have our less than appealing qualities and everyone makes bad decisions sometimes.

5. The cast is diverse. Like, REALLY diverse.

Okay, so Glee plays on stereotypes. But what the show is really good at is taking the stereotypes and turning them on their head. And EVERYONE is represented. Black, white, brown, purple. Gay, straight, bi. Disabled. Popular. Christian. Jewish. And what’s so cool is that despite this, no one is cast into a box. The diversity is great — and the fact that the story line is more important than the attributes of the characters playing it is even better.

6. There is an obsessive-compulsive character. And she isn’t a freak show.

I admit, whenever I hear tell of a character with OCD, I cringe a little. I’ve seen it done so poorly. Comedies use OCD as fodder for jokes. They make fun of the anal-retentive properties without ever addressing the fact that OCD can be a serious problem. That said, I’m all for laughing at our problems — just not at laughing at the people who have them. There is a difference.

And Glee manages to find it. Emma is cool. Having an obsessive-compulsive character like her on prime time can only do good things for awareness. Glee sees her go to therapy. It sees her trying medication. It acknowledges the fact that individually scrubbing grapes is quirky and a little funny, but also part of a larger problem. It doesn’t make her a freak or hyper-controlling. (Monica Geller comes to mind.)

Basically, the show just handles it really well. That alone makes me respect it.

8. The ratings are good, so it probably won’t be canceled.

Always a plus. Nothing worse than getting sucked into a show only to see it canceled just one season after you really get into it. *cough* Veronica Mars *cough*

So yeah, okay, it’s not too bad. Even if I’m developing an inferiority complex as I realize that every one of those little snots is a better singer than I am. And even if the musical dubbing REALLY annoys me. They could definitely improve on that. And even if I still don’t really buy the premise that people from so many cliques would come together striving to win a singing competition, (We weren’t that united in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, for God’s sake), or that football players and cheerleaders would give up their popularity just because of a few songs.

It doesn’t completely suck after all.

*Bobs

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9 June, 2011

Exploits in Washington and the Search for the Pointy Thing

It sounds like the start of a really bad joke.

Q: What happens when you unleash six Texans on Washington DC?

A: [insert conservative Texan stereotype here] [deliver punchline with a distinct drawl] [make sure to include one of the following: guns, dogs, dogs with guns, hats, dogs with guns and hats, boots, cows, dogs and cows wearing hats and boots while holding guns] [finish with a good poke at Liberalism]

I’ll stop now. I suppose I can’t say much. I am, after all, a proud Texan who owns a dog, a hat, boots, and a gun. No cows. But I know where I can find some if the urge strikes.

I shouldn’t perpetuate the Texan stereotype, I know, but I’m willing to bet that “Texans in Washington DC” sparks some kind of mental hilarity for almost everyone who reads it. The reality of our visit to the capital city is almost certainly less amusing than whatever bad joke you have in mind. Nonetheless, our exploits were amusing in their own right.

So… What happens when six Texans go to Washington?

1. They promptly get lost.

In Texas, as in much of the south (where I was born and bred, and thus can comment on with authority), this is how one typically gives directions:

You’re gonna want to walk to the gas station on the corner – the one that used to be the Citgo – and make a right turn onto Smith Lane – but the sign won’t say Smith Lane, it’s going to say Farm Road 1844 and if you get lost you’ll need to tell ’em that you’re looking for Loop 3, because they’re all the same thing – and then after you get onto Smith Lane, keep walking until you see a big tree on your left, by the water tower…

If you’re lucky, all of the landmarks in question still exist. I swear, I’ve been told to drive to where the gas station used to be.

Naturally, we spent a good portion of our time wandering around DC and the University of Maryland completely and utterly lost. On the UMD campus, all of the buildings look exactly the same. I once made a wrong turn trying to get back to our dorms, and upon calling Ganiva to explain my predicament, could only tell her, “well, I’m between a bunch of red brick buildings…. no… I don’t know which ones…”

Luckily, Ariel had her trusty iPad and our trip to the cafe quickly turned into something resembling The Amazing Race: College Edition. (I’d totally watch that show.)

2. They claim the land as their own.

“I hereby claim this patch of sidewalk in the name of Texas!”
The Nation of Texas expands into the northern territories.

Actually, I think that this arm waving might have been prompted by me asking a random question about cartwheels.

But claiming the land for the great Nation of Texas sounds like so much more fun. But even if we don’t claim the land, Texans visiting anywhere know that there is one requirement that can not be avoided. When Texans go traveling…

3. They search for things that might be bigger than they are in Texas.

This is a tree. We don’t have these in Texas.
If there were turtles this big wandering around Texas, I’m sure there would be a hunting season for them.

It’s like we feel it is our duty to locate anything that could infringe upon the idea that everything is bigger in Texas. Naturally, once we’ve located this giant objects, we promptly pose with them. It’s all a part of our secret plot to relocate them to a small town off I-35 and turn them into a tourist attraction. “Come see Manny, the giant turtle! Biggest in the world!”

I don’t know why the turtle in this scenario is named Manny. Just go with it.

4. They take a lot of pictures. Of each other. Taking pictures. Of each other.

Thing 1
Thing 2
Crikey! It’s a photographer in her natural habitat! We’ll have to walk quietly or she’ll steal our soul with her magic picture machine.

I never go anywhere without my camera. As it turned out, Christine’s camera was nearly identical to mine. This resulted in the two of us taking dozens of pictures of each other taking pictures of each other. It also resulted in mild annoyance  from everyone around us as we slowly morphed into Thing 1 and Thing 2 – the camera paparazzi twins.

We took, between the two of us, 608 photos.  I think there may be a program for people like us. I’ll research it just as soon as I can pull myself away from photoshop editing the pictures we took.

5. They recruit new Texans.

Hint: Only 5 of the people in this photo are from Texas. We started our evening out with just the six of us, but – perhaps because of our undeniable Texas charm, or perhaps because we were just the loudest, craziest group in the crowd – by the time we got to dinner, we’d collected five more people.

The one in the back wearing the white t-shirt is Tabitha. She grew up barely ten minutes from me in Newton, North Carolina… and we’d never met before.

We, of course, invited everyone to come to Texas at their earliest convenience. They were all such great women, we knew we wanted them playing for our team.

6. They assert their Texanism.

Christine, Ariel, Chi, and Me with keynote speaker and UT Austin grad, Shelby Knox

Asserting one’s Texanism can be done in many ways. Flashing the Longhorn hand symbol is a quick and efficient way to let people know you’re a proud Texan. So is squealing with delight when you find the Texas statue in the WWII memorial. Not that I would do that. Then, there is the ever popular shouting, clapping, whooping, and hollering when the keynote speaker says that she went to UT.

Longhorns REPRESENT!

7. They practice their performance skills.

Here, for example, MinAe, Ariel, Chi, and Christine pose as four of the lesser known dwarves: Yawney, Pouty, Smiley, and Bored.

This could also be attributed to the fact that I’d been snapping photos for fifteen minutes straight. But I prefer to think of it as creative performance art.

8. Most importantly, when Texans go traveling, they Search for the Pointy Thing.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Washington Monument. We all know that, of course. And yet, as we walked around DC downtown, we made a conscious effort to “locate the big  pointy thing.” And thus, the Washington Monument was called “the big pointy thing” all night long.

Why, you ask, would Texans do this? Why would we call such a lovely monument by such a name? And why would we care where the pointy thing was located?

It didn’t dawn on me until the next day.

See, at UT, we have this tower. You might have heard of it. There was a sniper there about forty years ago and we haven’t ever lived it down. If you go to UT, you spend a good portion of your day orienting to the tower. When giving directions on campus, you do it in relationship to the tower. Lost? Not if you can see the tower from where you’re standing. And if you happen to forget that the tower is there, bells ring from it every fifteen minutes.

We LOVE our towers.

Naturally, when we find ourselves in an unfamiliar place, the first thing we do is look for a point of reference. The tallest building. Doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it’s tall. And pointy. It is, from there on out, the pointy thing and it is how we find our way around.

When Chi, Ariel, and Tabitha got separated from Ganiva, MinAe, Christine and I as we walked around Washington DC at 1:30 in the morning, the first thing we did was to call them up and ask “Can you see the pointy thing? We’re in front of the White House, and it’s behind us here.”

I’m sure George wouldn’t mind his monument being referred to as the big pointy thing.

Just as long as we didn’t leave out the “big.”

We did, by the way, eventually find each other. And we stayed out until nearly 2:30, running from monument to monument, snapping pictures, and slowly growing delirious. By the following morning, my feet felt as if someone had taken a two by four to them.

But it was TOTALLY worth it. I haven’t had so much fun in a long time. Or so many pictures.

*Bobs

3 June, 2011

We’re Women

Yesterday, I arrived in Washington D.C. for the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. After being greeted in Washington by an immediate hail storm, I have to admit, I wondered if Murphy was planning yet another vacation-from-hell for me.

I should have known better.

After all, Murphy is a man. He wouldn’t last ten minutes here. At a conference like this, there’s no man who could hold any of us back.

There is a kind of power here. It radiates from the concentration of strong, passionate young women at NCCWSL, enough to power a city. Enough to make me dizzy with hope and excitement; to light up my mind with possibility.

But this power doesn’t really come from the fact that we’re all women. It doesn’t come from the fact that we’re all intelligent or that we’ve all found ways to make a difference at our respective schools. Though we come from all over the country, in those ways, we are the same. And this power, this energy that I’m so drunk on…

It comes from our differences and our willingness to explore them.

Marsha Guenzler-Stevens talked WITH us instead of TO us.

That was made strikingly clear from the first moment of the opening session. Instead of simply giving a speech, the keynote speaker, Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, asked us all to get involved. She turned the tables on us. She didn’t tell us what feminism was — she asked us. She asked us a lot of things.

Do you think that, in your lifetime, a woman will be president?

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Do you feel that you have ever been marginalized or discriminated against because you are a woman?

The result was amazing. Though we did not all share the same opinions, we did share the floor, the space, and the time. We considered one another’s reasoning. No one slung hateful words at the people who didn’t share their point of view. Quite simply, we listened, we absorbed, we shared, and we learned.

Just imagine if we could get congress to try that approach.

In every day life, sometimes it feels as if I’m talking to a wall. I go off on comparative social linguistics or start talking about language and identity, and people — at BEST — smile and nod politely. More often than not, they seem to simply tune me out. If I want to explore the intersectionality of language, disability identity, advocacy, and gender discrimination, I usually have to do it all in my head. (You all know already, of course, that it’s confusing enough in there without my having full blown debates with myself.)

Here, my words matter. Everyone’s words matter. Here, people want to hear what I have to say, and I want to hear how they respond. It challenges me to think more clearly and to incorporate new ideas.

Here, everyone cares about something. And even if we don’t care about the same things, we all care about each other. Here, you’d be hard-pressed to find apathy.

That is the kind of passion it takes to change the world.

Tonight, I had the privilege of hearing some amazing women speak. Women who have already used their passions to change our world for the better. I look at them and I see what I could become, what I could accomplish.

And in a way, I think they look at us and see that we are their accomplishment. They gave us this future. They lit a fire in us that won’t be put out.

It was a great honor tonight to meet and speak with these women. Natalie Randolph, the only high school varsity football coach who is a woman; Swanee Hunt, whose work with Bosnian War refugees nearly brings me to tears and is only one of the many ways she’s served us; Lisa Jackson, whose science skills are put to use  leading the EPA; Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, who reminds me that working in higher education is absolutely worthwhile; and Connie Chung, who paved the way for women in media.

Connie Chung, as it turns out, is funny.

And brilliant.

And nice.

Me with Connie Chung

I am so glad that I got the chance to listen to her.

She challenged us all to take credit for our accomplishments. To stop being afraid to grab success with both hands. To laugh out loud. To persevere.

We will, of course.

We’re leaders.

We’re women.

*Bobs

2 June, 2011

Notes From Maryland

Last night:

I stayed up all night packing.

I lost my credit card and had to back track it to the restaurant where I’d eaten dinner.

I made a two hour round trip to Lockhart to drop off the Cooper Puppy.

I played hide and seek with Murphy. Items still missing include car charger for laptop and purple nail polish. I’ll be printing the likenesses on milk cartons as soon as I get home in the homes that they turn up.

Do people still drink milk from cartons?

I dont’ trust em. Drinking out of cardboard doesn’t seem all together sane. Cardboard is paper. And when paper gets wet, it often disintegrates. Just saying

Today:

I left my house at 6:30.

I went to Houston so that I could fly to Washingon D.C. with the Inspire girls for a conference on women student leaders.

There was a problem with the check-in desk and our first flight was delayed. We took a later flight.

I got on an airplane for the first time in three years. The back of the plane. Middle seat. Between two strange men. One of whom had a cough.

I cried. Literally.

I HATE airplanes.

But I still use em.

When we got off the plane, it hailed. Immediately.

I suppose, in that small way, we were lucky it was after and not before.

Tonight:

I am lying in a dorm room at the University of Maryland.

I had a piece of homemade chocolate cream pie at a diner.

I had more fun than I’ve had in ages hanging with my friends.

Tomorrow:

I will develop blisters walking around Washington D.C.

Too much information?

Sorry. I’m going on my 37th hour without sleep and passed coherency ages ago. Forgive my nonsensicalness. Nonsensibility. Nonsense.

Purple Pancake. Lemon grass. Bedsheets. Brain no longer workey.

Until tomorrow,

Bobs