Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lost By a Nose: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Perception is reality. Seriously. When you think that someone is flirting with you, you feel sexier, and you open up or close off, depending on your attraction to the person. And when you realize that the person in question was smiling and nodding at the charmer behind you…well…you get the picture.
Try these statements on for size: Christmas is wonderful. Christmas is horrible. Christmas is spiritual. Christmas is secular. Christmas is materialistic. Christmas is magical.
Any of them ring for you?
Christmas, is a crazy collection of traditions and new ideas. But if you take them separately, they’re a little nuts. And I’m taking them on. Of course, the fair minded liberal in me will also defend the crap out of Christmas. Let’s get it on.

MoTheThird vs. Christmas (Round One)
: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

O.K. A head lit reindeer swoops in and saves a Christmas in peril, triumphing against all odds to illuminate the sleigh path to happily ever after. What’s not to love?

I’m left to wonder; in the history of Santa, was there NEVER a “foggy Christmas?” An entity such as Santa, who delivers gifts to the world, over the course of a day, magically altered or otherwise, did not have the foresight to see bad weather in the cards? I’m not impressed. Greek fire, famous for it’s ability to withstand the elements in battle, has been around for a really long time, and should have been ideal for Jolly Old St. Nick’s purposes. You’d think he could get his hands on some. Alternative lighting would have eliminated the need to break another member onto the team; which seems like an unnecessary risk, at the last minute. If Greek fire, other torches, and headlamps, etc. aren’t an option, what will happen when Rudolph isn’t an option either? This seems like a precarious point on which the entire Christmas tradition teeters.
And I know that you’re thinking, “Rudolph will just live forever with Santa’s other Reindeer.” If that’s the case, then the whole thing becomes less explainable, because…If the reindeer live forever, where did Rudolph come from? And won't the world be, eventually overrun by immortal reindeer (Sarah Palin notwithstanding)?
Silly little details like, severe internal logic gaps aside. I’m going to go ahead and assault the story of Rudolph from the moral high ground. Yup, I’m getting high and mighty on a favorite tale. Santa, the very model of love, the rewarder of good little children, and perpetual threat for parents of naughty children to hold over their heads. Santa, who is so concerned with fairness and justice, that he has a list of children, which he checks twice, to assess their gift worthiness. Either ignored, was ignorant of or, worst of all, was complicit in the exclusion of a reindeer from “any reindeer games.” According to the movie, this exclusion included necessary life and job training. This is unconscionable.
A sick extension of this repression, is the hero status which he enjoys after the foggy night. None of the reindeer appear to have experienced any psychological evolution. The entire body accepts him only as a solution to a deficiency of the collective. I know I use this example with some frequency, but Rudolph is Christmas’s X-man. They don’t want him ‘til they need him. And they don’t mention him after that. And, while, I don’t think that they created Sentinels to hunt down the exceptions, I’d imagine that the next reindeer who comes down the pike who is a little different won’t be joining in reindeer games either.
I have to give the story one thing, though. Rudolph, as a protagonist is a little simplistic. Nevertheless, he serves as an amazing example of, the Ubuntu philosophy and forgiveness. Rudolph, against the backdrop of years of what amounts to psychological torture, is surrounded by panic stricken colleagues and even the negligent boss man, holding all the cards in his hooves. With the opportunity to give everyone the middle…never mind, he lets it all go, and comes to the rescue of the world’s children.

So we have an incredibly heroic hero in a world where Santa, the elves, and the reindeer are the bad guys. Some Christmas that is.

So who gets this point, Mo3  or Christmas?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Better Boyfriend 101 (Cont'd)

The MoTheThird School of Love is back in session. 
It's our privilege, class, to have a guest lecture and case study of sorts. Today we’ll feature the story of a young man who pays attention like very few men I’ve ever known. In this one story, he successfully incorporated elements I, II, III, and X, from our first class, which was a basic primer for Boyfriends who wish to take a step toward exceptional. And I’m sure that if I had included an VIII on my original list, he would have done that one too.

My dear friend Tess, an art teacher with whom I went to school, has been seeing Brandon, a nice enough young man (even though they’re never really good enough for your “dear friends”), for something like three years. Living in the hills of central Pennsylvania (a redundancy I know), they were prone to picturesque walks. On one such walk, along a trail, Tess sees another classmate of ours Greg, a fellow artist, “What a crazy coincidence,” she asserts.
“Not at all,” Brandon replied. “I asked Greg here, to paint a portrait of us in the park.”

So, they set up in a cute little hand holding pose, and Greg gets to work sketch, sketch, sketch, paint, paint, paint. Bam! Done. He turns the painting around for the subjects to admire.
“Wow, this is incredible. Brandon, this was so thoughtful. Wait…I don’t have a ring?” Greg takes the painting. And Brandon takes a knee, and asks Tess to be his… forever.

O.K. Just maybe, he’s good enough for my dear friend.
I’d say that he understands that God is in the details.
Do you?

Homework? Tell me your story.
Class Dismissed!
 Photo by: Ashley-Danielle

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Waxing Poetic (Again)

This remains one of my favorite poems. It's nice to think of the beauty in the everyday.

Written by Sara Teasdale

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Better Boyfriend 101

10 Tips For Boyfriends Who Want To Be Above Average

With a few notable exceptions, my closest friends are women. I get along with them better. The complexity. The self-reflection. The fashion senses. There’s just more room in the ranks of women for all of my idiosyncrasies. So, ever since forever I’ve been one of the girls. As a direct result, despite the immense complexities among individual women, I’ve had the chance to observe a lot of overlap.  The overlap provides me with information. And my friends provide me with a cabinet of wisdom so great that any president with equivalent depth would add world peace, and the cure for cancer to his or her resume.

So, between this life experience, and the ocean of insightful pages I’ve read? I don’t suck. That’s all we can hope for, I think. I make a good friend, and, I believe, an okay boyfriend. The women in my life have, joked, asked, and at times flatly insisted that I teach a class on women in which I help guys of all ages to make themselves the men that women want to date… or at least, not to suck.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love women. I respect women. And think to myself, perpetuation of the species or no, I don’t know how women put up with most of the garbage pulled by boys masquerading as men…or something. Most guys joke that women should come with an instruction manual. The problem with a manual on women is that most guys, who should read it? Won’t.

So here’s a little something that even the laziest boyfriend or suitor can muddle through if he has an actual eye to being a better man.  Most of it, you’ve seen, read, or heard before, but I promise, it bears repeating. Others are personal tips and bits of experience I’ve garnered through life experience. So, here are your ten tips. Do not take them lightly. They are intended to be used by men, or the masculine partner, with a woman or the feminine partner, who are seriously intending to improve a long term relationship. If you use these tips for any other ploy, trick, scam, or whatever, the Universe will come in and drop a monstrous…batch of karma on you.

I. There are three photos you should have. (1) Get a print of you and her. Put it in a frame. Make it prominent. It should be visible within five steps of the entrance to your space, house, apartment, or room (if you have roommates without much useful shared space). It should be a brightly lit shot, not more than half a body, ideally a head shot ending around the shoulders. (2) Grab a nice shot of her alone. Ask her to provide you with the picture so that a) she knows it exists and b) it's a picture that SHE is confident about. Full body, if you can swing it. It should also be printed. This one goes in your room, also in a frame. Keep it visible, but it doesn’t have to be as much so. (3) The third shot I recommend is THE action shot. This one comes with you wherever you go. It could be printed or on your phone. It could be her, or both of you, but no one else. It’s only important that you have an excuse to show it often, preferably a story that’s not too mind numbing. Make it happen.

II. Do something ordinary. Awesomely. A personal favorite of mine was having a picnic with my girlfriend in my living room. A cheese tray, a basket of fruit, and a bunch of flowers went a long way. Another few options: You love sports. She loves kids. Take her to a little league game. And if you can swing it, go to a game from her hometown or school. Bring coloring pages to the restaurant with you and have a coloring contest. Let the server judge it and figure out a prize of some sort.

III. Create something about her or for her. A poem, a story, a painting, a drawing, a song would be a nice gesture. You want it to exist permanently, and be referred to for reasons greater than practicality or function.

IV. Heads up! Your girlfriend has a thing she hates. It’s totally irrational. And guess what? You don’t even know what it is. One of my best friends, and closest advisors, positively hates the smell of…candle smoke. You know how, when you blow out a candle, a wisp of dense smoke slowly creeps up; it bothers her to no end. Do you want to be her knight in shining armor? Lick your two fingers and stop the smoke.

V. Stick out your arm and open her door. When you’re walking with your partner, stick your arm out in a way that recalls European High society. Amazingly, it is less inconvenient than holding hands (by keeping them from getting cold). It looks cool. And your girlfriend’s friends will think it’s nice. By the same vein, open the door for her. Don’t “happen to be walking in front of her and grab the door.” You have to, “do the awkward double time step to beat her to the door and hold it open while she walks in, before you.” And though my sources tell me that getting out of the car is less important, when you’re getting IN to the car, make sure you open her door. You've been warned.

VI & VII. Listen & Respond

These could have been numbers One through Ten. I’ll drop them in as two very centrally located numbers, with a slight twist. Listen to her. One hour per week. Not four 15-min sessions. Not two 30-min sessions. Not even a 55 and a 5. Sixty uninterrupted minutes, you can find it in your schedule; it’s the length of a TV Drama. Get two chairs, point them at each other, and listen to her talk about her day, her dreams, the neighbors, it doesn’t matter at all; just do it. Just as important, you have to talk back. Hitch was right. Sorry guys, there’s no good way around it. Your partner wants to hear your voice. Even if you have to write your talking points on your hand. That I, “communicate, clearly and effectively,” is one of my best qualities, according to my dear friend. Turn off your phone, and Duty will still be Calling when your hour is up. There is a massive amount of value hidden in conversation. Dig.

IX. Take a cue from Barney Stinson. “Suit up!” Well, you don’t have to suit up entirely, but once a month, you have to take it up a notch. A button-down shirt with full length sleeves, and a pair of dress trousers, and an honest to goodness tie are your uniform for the night. If you look special, she feels special. She can take you out with pride, instead of buyer’s remorse. So button your shirt, all the way to the top (no faking). Dust off/Salvo/borrow a tie. Sorry, no polos or jeans allowed. Shy away from khakis, even.
For a value bump: Get a haircut. Let your significant other or someone better than you with clothes to create your ensemble.

X. God is in the details.
The same way that protecting her from the little things she hates, is important, it’s a million tiny things that make you the boyfriend that she talks about with her friends. Brush her hair away when it falls into her eyes. Carry an umbrella that you hold over her when it rains. Slip a hair tie in your briefcase, sometimes she’ll need it. Write “thinking of you” on a post-it and stick it in her glove box, or the bottom of her laptop, or inside her jacket pocket. You’ve heard that it’s the little things…I’m telling you, it’s true.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Does God Care If I Eat Chocolate Ice Cream (Part 2)

Does God Care If I Eat Chocolate Ice Cream (Part 2)

Picture yourself sloughing through the line in your dining hall at school (work, camp, wherever, use your imagination). All afternoon, you’ve wanted chocolate ice cream. Your overwhelming desire for a chocolate treat is stymied when as you arrive the last scoop is scraped from the bottom of the container. The people behind the counter promise more in the very near future. And your hankering will not be ignored. So you wait. And as you wait you strike up a conversation. Your conversation reveals a similar destination after dinner, (a guest speaking at a lecture, perhaps?) to which you walk together. You’re introduced by your ice cream buddy to a group of people, one of whom shares your field of study. You share classes. Over the course of your time together, you grow to love one another. You’re off onto an adventure to happily ever after.
So, if you hadn’t stuck around for the ice cream, you’d have missed the person, who introduced you to the classmate, who brought you love. How does this penchant for ice cream fit into God’s grand design? And if it doesn’t, were we really supposed to meet?

O.K. So the hypotheticals are always fun but let’s run down a real live scenario.

2001- I write my first entirely voluntary short narrative for a writing contest, a surrealist piece where people can battle with music.

2002- A spritely 60 something substitute teacher in my AP American History class, flails about, coffee in hand, going on about the nature of history as fact and story. Almost frightening in his enthusiasm for learning I learned more that day than in the rest of the class. And despite seeing him from a distance across hallways and through classroom doors, throughout my entire time in high school we never speak again.

2003- My friend’s mom mentions a new coffee shop in downtown Canton. Muggswigz proves to have the finest tea selection I’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s beautiful. And I evangelize the daylights out of the place. I drag every willing person there; and even the odd unwilling person. Regular game nights, meetings, pretty much everything could be held there.

2005- I apply for a job in the banquets department of the Marriott McKinley Grand Hotel, setting up and tearing down rooms for events. After a quick chat with the woman behind the desk, I ask to whom, “Attn:” should be given. “Well, I’m actually the manager of the front office. I could use a personality like yours.” And just like that, I’m a bellman.

The Marriott McKinley Grand Hotel provides the background for the most absurd roller coaster of sexual identification and misidentification in my entire life. A stack of funny stories start to pile up and I become a hit at parties, “the almost but not really gay man.”

2008- Living with another guy in a tent, to teaching dance, to being stalked for weeks, my stories begin overflowing my memories. I start writing down my adventures.  

2009- The pile of notes, stories and ideas is not close to being a book. I start a blog to get a sense of accomplishment.
August 2011- After something of a slow spell, I read the incredible 33 Million People in the Room by Juliette Powell, and redouble my blogging efforts and focus.

October 2011- My blog revived I read, Everything YouNeed to Know About Blogging, the author’s idea of writing books for digital publishing in a effort to get attention to your sites, resonates with me, I start dusting off ancient notebooks and getting my book back in order.

 November 1st, 2011- Three days after reading the book, sitting in Muggswigz working on my writing, I see my quirky sub from history class, looking as spry as ever, and wonder if he’s still scaring the little highschoolers. That’s not what I said though. I asked him if he was still overwhelming the minds of the future. He laughed, and he told me that he was not. And though he didn’t remember me, he then asked me what may be the most off the wall question of my month (or more), “So, do you have anything that you’ve written that you’re looking to get published?”
WHAT?!? Who asks that? That’s the kind of timing reserved for the movies. Not even good movies, Deus ex machina, B movies, pull this kind of craziness. I stammered and stuttered,
“Actually, I’m working on a book right now.”  Why would he open such an odd line of inquiry? Oliver substitute is now OliverHouse Publishing. Back at his table, he proceeds to introduce me to his business partner, who loves my idea and excitedly. I receive an enthusiastic invitation to an event which the publishing house is having. After which, “if you like what you see. We can work out some details.”

Even if I don’t sign a huge book deal and become the next ______ (insert your favorite widely published, yet poignant and challenging author here), this was a very life affirming event. So, here goes.
I know that there is no way that I would have been able to engineer even half of those things in such a way as to achieve this result. I believe, and even like the idea, that God leant divine influence to the proceedings. And I am wildly appreciative.  But where does the “will of God” start? Was it a part of the plan that I went to Muggswigz, that hour? If I hadn’t said hi to Mr. Oliver would I have been in defiance to God? What about reading those books? Or having fun living the almost gay life? Or blogging? Or moving to DC? Or teaching dance? Or living in a tent? Or working at a hotel? Or being chatty with the person behind the counter? Or trying out the new place in downtown Canton? Or entering a story contest? And there’s no way I made myself have Mr. Oliver only once as a sub, in my three years.
So if I’m not acting to deliberately do these things, and God just seems to move them about, where do I actually fit in?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Me, Myself, and The Fat Girl's Guide To Life

In a response to my post on the attitude of flirting, a friend of mine took on the ubiquity and ambiguity of the word "Curvy" in an honest and indicting post on her own blog. It is a part of an ongoing body and image based discussion. So, I figured that with a link and the original comment for context we can keep the party rockin’.

Hi, I'm the author of the linked post. And, yes, the word curvy has become ubiquitous. Moreover, a lot of guys do use it as a way to say they like big boobs, without saying they like big boobs. What can I say? Guys are cowards.
Full disclosure, I do like big boobs. Nevertheless, I meant "Curvy," the same way, I believe, that the group creator did. I like real women, and the actresses who come as close to them as the media will allow. Sarah Ramirez (Dr Torres), Jeniffer Hudson (pre-Weight Watchers), Queen Latifa (Anytime and always), Kirstie Alley (circa: Fat Actress), and Brooke Elliott, to name a few.
I debated using "fat." But there are two things that went into my final word choice:
The first I'm a skinny guy. I'm the guy for whom everyone always says, "You never gain weight." And I didn't want to sound like the person who says, "Some of my best friends are ____." 'Cause let's face it, even if it's true, you come off sounding like a dick.
Second, the vice of "Curvy" is also, its virtue. It covers a HUGE range of people and body types. I've said it before, and I mean it every time I say it, I love women. I love the full range of women.
More to come in the further adventures of MoTheThird

The very fleeting and occasional, purely physical, bout with infatuation, notwithstanding, every woman I’ve ever fallen for has one thing in common. Each woman is herself or is on a clear path to becoming her. Sometimes it presents as pure confidence. At others, it’s her unbridled intellectual curiosity. Occasionally, it’s just her mastery of a skill or tenacity in an area. I’ve fallen for globe trotters, newly liberated women with everything on the horizon, warriors in the fight for global justice, stage actresses, nurses, artists, librarians, athletes, and scientists in the course of my years. I have fallen for every skin hue, every body type, glasses, 20/20, snappy dressers, uniforms, even sweat suit chic. I’m just a fan of women on the move.

                        Can we at least try to evaluate beauty on our own terms instead of the terms
                        we’ve decided to accept from Vogue and Hollywood and your aunt Gertrude
                        and the girl who won “Best Booty” in high school? Shouldn’t we teach men
                        to lust for something other than women with little-girl bodies and Playboy
                        Bunny breasts?

OK, so there’s this book (by this woman with whom I might be in love. I have a little problem of falling in love with women who write awesome books), The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life, which is on my top ten “Coolest Books I’ve Ever Read” list. And the above, from the introduction, is one of a number of great declarations in the book. The author, Wendy Shanker, who self describes as, “not a doctor [or] a therapist, [but] a professional ex-dieter with a chip on my shoulder and a mission on my mind,” writes the ultimate expose against… the anti-fat social and industrial complex, in a hilarious work full of scientific fact made accessible for the layperson.

Is everyone uncomfortable yet?
I am. Wendy Shanker, however, is not at all uncomfortable. Actually, she’s a little pissed, because people, “think fat means ‘loserish’ and ‘lame’ and ‘disgusting’ and ‘hopeless.’ But, “fat” she contends, is nothing more than an adjective. So, she’s turning “fat” into “Fat.” 
“Fat girls tell mean people to mind their own business. Fat girls fight back.”

Her work covers many aspects of 21st century United States living. In the complex worlds of fat science, she indicts the medical industrial complex for the distortion of science with the Body Mass Index and a host of other things. Talks about fat media portrayals (their notable absences and just as notable occurrences). She cracks open the trials of dating fat and the realities of fat in bed. Challenges fashion and similar constructions. And she, brilliantly, suggests that skinny people are jealous of the fat people in their lives:
They spend their free time at the gym, they deny themselves the food they want to eat,
they wear shoes that hurt their feet and clothes that restrict their body movement.
Then you come along: jiggle-jiggle-jiggle. Damn you, don’t you understand that just by
your very fat existence you are breaking all the rules! You are like someone who has 
cut into line at the movies.”

I am skinny. I’m of average height. I’m a nerd. And I’m African-American.
Some days I power down egg after egg, crossing my fingers for magic bulk.
Or, cross my fingers for an extra couple of inches.
Or, that I wouldn’t ALWAYS say the nerdiest thing ever.
I want to blend in, and stand out at the same time.
Be something I’m not.
Some days I’m a Fat girl.
Though, I’ll likely revisit this book for a post in the near future, I’d recommend that you pick it up for yourself. But to send us out, I’ll turn again to Wendy:

You can choose to be a mom or an executive or both. You can choose to be happy or
healthy or none of the above. You can choose to be fat or you can choose to be thin or
you can choose to be in the body you’re in today. It’s not about what you choose, it’s
about the fact that you have a choice. So make one. Choose to be yourself. 
And may the results never be typical.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Does God Care If I Eat Chocolate Ice Cream (Part 1)

This post is the beginning of a series called, Does God Care if I Eat Chocolate Ice Cream. This is how I think of questions related to things like divine intervention, and destiny, and things along those lines (which is odd considering my distaste for both chocolate and ice cream). My goal is to explore things like decision chains, and predestination. There will of course be a bit of cross over to other topics. But when you get deep by choice, you get wide by necessity. The post is a little long, but I’d like to think it’s worth it. The underlying themes I'd like you to consider are, the persistence of love and the confluence of events.

Part one: Over a Cup

Shortly after I settled into my DC digs, I stopped going to church. It was a decision, part antagonist, part apathy, part internal conflict. But for more than a year, I wasn’t attending any church regularly. When I was in a church it was as uncomfortable as a badly cut suit. If I was lucky, there was the awkward visitor glad handing, big toothy smiles, knuckle crunching greetings, and the stilted conversation which shields us from penetrating conversations, deep thoughts, or worse? Silence. You have to give them marks though. Enthusiastic, but a touch overwhelming. The other option is even less appealing. You walk in alone. You sing the songs. You listen to the message. And you go home alone. No greetings. No goodbyes. And lucky for the congregants, you didn’t upset the balance of their days. You could have watched a TV church service to the exact same end. After a few such visiting experiences, I settled into a regular living routine, and the church wasn’t a part of that routine. Work, write, sleep, play, repeat.

   Life goes on and my roommate and I moved from our little place on the outskirts to a microscopic place, right in the thick of it. I was still workin’ near the old place, so on a regular day, getting to work was an hour long trip of a train and a bus. On an irregular day it was three busses and two and a half hours of think time. And on those irregular days, I passed this church called Mosaic. It reminded me of a cool looking church I’d read about, over on the west coast. I thought about stopping in some Sunday. But, the people on the bus go up and down, and it was never more than a thought.

   Half a year elapses and I’m living and working in the thick of it, but some of my friends and thinking spots were still in the outskirts. So, every once in a while I found myself repeating my “irregular days” on purpose. All the while Mosaic sat at the side of the route, beautiful older architecture and an inviting new sign. I was going to go on Sunday, but I overslept Sunday School, and didn’t want to make myself, “that guy” as soon as I walked in... Maybe next week.

   Days and months roll on and I’m headed up to New England to be in the wedding of two very good friends. 688 miles from my childhood home, Canton, and 436 miles from DC. So the bride introduces me to her former roommate from her off campus semester in Michigan, of whom she’d spoken years ago, because she was attending Malone College in Canton where I grew up. And now when she introduced us at her wedding, the roommate is living in…DING! Our nation’s capitol. Our shared connections get us started, we chat over the course of the festivities,
“Do you go to a church in the area?”
“No. I visited a few. I’m kinda passively looking, at this point.”
“Well, you should visit my church, it’s called Mosaic?”

Let’s recap, shall we? So I went to New Hampshire for a wedding, met a girl who grew up in my hometown, who roomed with my friend, who studied in Michigan and, who lived in DC, AND attended the only church I’d considered going to. That’s a little much to be just a coincidence. So, immediately, upon my return, I didn’t go. I waivered and waffled, and stayed home.

I decided to go to church again, one Saturday night, the same way people give up smoking. Only this time, when I woke up late on that Sunday morning, despite my guarantee of tardiness, and at the risk of being, “that guy,” I dusted myself off and hopped on the bus, for the longest trip of my life.

I rolled along, as uncomfortable as anyone can be. While on a purely social level, large groups are my favorite, there’s something raw about being in a church. All the more, for a church one has no knowledge of, save the captivating sign, and the hope that a single familiar face may be among the gathered.

When the bus arrived at my destination, I didn’t know what to do. I walked over to the front of the building and just stood there, staring up at the building. The doors were open and I gazed through the foyer into the sanctuary. And I started in. Every step a hesitation. Not sure why I’m here, and not sure where to go next. Starbucks and the book in my bag are sounding more and more appealing.

I stepped through the foyer into the back of the sanctuary, and I just stood there. My head on a swivel, I teetered on the edge. A stiff breeze and I was gone with the wind.  The people in the church weren’t doing the typical pre-service milling; they were gathered around two large round tables eating breakfast. They’re eating. I’m standing. And I don’t know what to do.  There’s a young woman, maybe thirteen years old, standing in the corner rocking out on a by the cup coffee maker. I watched her for a second, “HI! Would you like some coffee?” She offered, with a smile that did not say, “Welcome to our church.” Her smile greeted me like family, “We’ve been expecting you. We’re so glad you made it.
I will never be able to encapsulate, the warmth that washed over me, in words. I felt what I can only express as God’s love radiating off of her, like the light of the sun off of the moon. Years of cynicism and disillusionment came off like the armor of battle which has been won. And, for the duration of my time in DC, the church enfolded me into its body.  Mosaic is a collection of broken pieces that come together in their brokenness to create something bigger, something beautiful, something eternal. Being a part of that community, reminded me why I want to be a Christian.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ugly Betty and the Differentization of the Media

Ugly Betty and the Differentization of the Media

So, I don’t really like watching TV. I like TV shows, because they allow  for real story and character development. But I can’t really stand being anchored to the tube at the same time every week. I live a crazy life, not exactly conducive to that plan…plus a lot of times I just forget. My solution? DVDs of shows that I stumble upon, mostly through the recommendations from friends. I can watch them in my odd free hours, and semi-ignore them while I write. White Collar, Pushing Daisies, and Psych are some of the great recommendations I’ve taken up.

So, one of my closest friends (A life diver currently working in Africa and sculpting her Rising BFD status) has had a perpetual bug in my ear to watch the TV show, Ugly Betty. I was a little excited, because I loved the movie (and book), The Devil Wears Prada, which has many similar concepts. And it seemed like a bit of an interesting spin on the coming of age story. I had my doubts, however, because she also introduced me to Smallville, which is the only show that I’ve stopped watching mid-season.   I am muddling my way through the series right now (Season 4, disc 2). And, well, it’s a little bit crazy. There enough things about the show to enjoy, and even be challenged by, that I made it into the final season. But on the other hand, there enough things that are so ridiculous that once per episode, it seems, I’m pausing the disk to let the awkward tension pass (I get involved in stories).

Ugly Betty Rocks Because:
1. America Ferrera. Seriously, this woman is amazing. She’s absolutely engaging, animated, stunning, and despite being made-up, touched up, and retouched, she looks a little like a real person.
  And Betty's character is loud, and mismatched, a little dense, and clashy, but we love the living daylights out of her.
2. A protagonist who is, ostensibly, morally sound. And, moreover, serves as an ethical guidepost for the people in her life, as much as possible.
3. The costumes are absolutely fabulous. I mean, it’s really nice to see men and women dressed to the nines. I haven’t been this excited for media wardrobes since the Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13.
4. Interesting relationships and the dynamics thereof. Emotionally stunted boss and more than able, assistant/friend.  Neurotic parents and resentful children. And how can we leave out, romantic partners and the cadre of issues following them (jealousy, resentment, infatuation and unrequited love).
5. There’s also the huge issues of capable underdog, conquer your fears, be your awesome genuine self.  Papi gets on a cooking show. Hilda starts a boutique. Justin is crowned homecoming queen. Daniel finds love and a soul.

Ugly Betty Totally Sucks Because:
1.  Whenever Betty is in a crisis which requires judgment in her personal life, she turns to her egocentric short sighted, if not well meaning sister. With recommendations ranging from, revenge, to theft, to violence, Hilda’s advice consistently leaves Betty in a much worse situation than the one in which she began.
2. Excessive use of cliffhangers is not a device, it’s nauseating.  There’s no need to drop a major bomb in EVERY episode. In poetry we’re taught that you shouldn’t accent every syllable. If you do, the impact of the accent is lost. No one told that to the writers and producers of the show that.
3. Maybe it’s my unquenchable optimism, but there seem to be a preponderance of people who are totally obtuse, and not in the, “ignorance is bliss,” type of way, that’s more Betty’s deal. Amanda and Marc accept the goodness of Betty without noticing it at all. Wilhelmina Slater absorbs the help and goodwill of others like a black hole of decency. There’s enough narcissism in this show to leave me with a sucking sensation right around my humanity.
4. This series is four seasons of “The Murphy’s Law Show.” It’s one train wreck after another. My boyfriend starts to mature/ man up and dies/discovers his son. My boss’s admiration of me perpetually alienates me from my co-workers. The thieving friend gets in league with your sworn enemy, right before you lose your wife. I step up to parenting my lost son, right in time to discover…You get the idea.
 Like life, there’s very little in the line of real resolution, but these people never get so much as a breather, it’s exhausting to watch.

O.K. So Ugly Betty tries to leave us with a good message but at the same time, drags us through a surrealist nightmare to get there. If you’re a Soap watcher, or an addict to straight shots of drama, you should get Ugly Betty, tonight.
If it doesn’t exactly fit, maybe go with, The Devil Wears Prada, and Finding Forester, and maybe You’ve Got Mail, to get the range of personal ethical questions, emotional upheaval, and fantastic clothes.
You will have to go elsewhere to get your America Fererra dose (I’d say go with, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, or maybe, Real Women Have Curves).

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