It’s been almost a year since I last posted anything to this blog (and as I look at the last post I made, with all it’s grammatical errors, I remember now why I stopped using that “talk-to-type” program). My cage of air turned back into one of pure iron and crashed to the ground amidst comp exams and job stress.  Now that I’m dissertation bound, I can’t promise that my cage isn’t still more iron than air, but I’m hoping that it’s back on the rise at least.

I won’t lie – this past year in a PhD program has been up and down, and even though I passed all my exams the first time & am now on the road to graduation with my dissertation, the stress has been hard to overcome. I still have PTSD-comp stress nightmares, where I dream I haven’t taken the exams, or worse, I have, but the faculty made a mistake with my results & I have to take them again. And I’ve had several moments this summer where I didn’t want to do anything even remotely academic – a rather serious problem when one is supposed to submit a prospectus at the start of the fall semester. There have been times when I decided it’d be easier to move to Canada and be a hermit than finish this.

But that little voice that got me into this in the first place just wouldn’t shut up. I want this degree. I am the first member of my family to get a Master’s degree, and I want to be the first to get a doctorate. And so I shall. And in less than 10 days, with the start of the semester, I’ll be back in that hunt.

But for now, I’m going to enjoy a few last days of freedom to read fiction not found on any PhD exam (perhaps the last two of the Hunger Games series, or the new Simon Greene novel), to watch TV (the new series Revolution looks fascinating, as does Last Resort) and go to the movies (if you haven’t seen Bourne Legacy, I recommend it, and there’s also Paranorman and The Odd Life of Timothy Green coming out in a few weeks).

Perhaps a little fun is just what the doctor ordered to put a little air back into my cage.


It’s harmless, really…

I need another word for fetish.  Obsession, inclination, fixation (the thesaurus was even helpful enough to suggest “thing”) – all of these words fit perfectly for what I have, but they all have such a nasty connotation.  Okay maybe not inclination, but when I say the phrase, “I have a hand inclination,” it just sounds wrong.

I have a hand fetish, a hand fixation, I am obsessed with hands.

While I’m sure this obsession is not new to me, my realization of it is.  I was watching one of my few reality vices a few days ago, “So You Think You Can Dance,” and Christina Applegate was a guest judge.  She was speaking to one of the young dancers and she told her, “you put your finger against a wall and you break my heart.”  It was a beautiful sentiment for a beautiful dancer and a beautiful dance.  And it made me realize just how much attention I had been paying to the dancer’s hands.  I wasn’t the only one.  The more I listen to the Judges, the more I realized how many different times they made mention of the placement of hands in the dance.  No matter what dance was going on, the hands weren’t important factor.  They were part of the frame.  They were part of the movements.  From something as simple as knowing what angle the wrist should be benched when placed on the partners back in a Viennese waltz, to the intricate trick work of a hip-hop routine, the hands were oh so important.

Just watching the hand placement of a dancer is not exactly enough to diagnose myself with a hand fetish.  It was enough, however, to make me start paying closer attention to how many times I focus on people’s hands.  While watching yet another show, this time the Big Damn Fan Film’s production of, Browncoats: Redemption, I realized I was paying closer attention to the hands of the engineer but I was the actual storyline of the film.  Don’t get me wrong, I was certainly enjoying the movie, and indulging my geeky side while despairing yet again over the loss of Joss Whedon’s, Firefly, but the engineer’s hands kept drawing my attention.  His hands were particularly beautiful or amazing in any respect, but I was mesmerized all the same.  He had long slender fingers, the better for dealing with wires and circuits and switches, I suppose, and since he was still somewhat young, probably 19 or 20, his wrists were somewhat small and delicate.  Wrapped around one wrist was a white bandage, and he had small pieces of white medical tape wrapped around different fingers, as though protecting burned skin.  Throughout the film, these pieces of medical tape would disappear and reappear in different places on his fingers.  Occasionally, in the background, we would see him working on some switch and he would stop, put his finger in his mouth, and in the next scene, he would have a new piece of tape on his hand.  It was character dressing, consistency.

My obsession reappeared while I was, once again, indulging my geeky side (I’m beginning to notice a pattern here).  I was watching SyFy’s new show, Alphas, when I noticed it.  The youngest character on that show, a young man named Gary, has the ability to see and read any type of digital signal.  The signals are in the air all around him and he manipulates them with his hands opening them.  Closing them, sending them on their way, stopping them, joining them (I’m beginning to sound like a Dr. Seuss poem gone bad).  He doesn’t just stop and stare off into space, however, because that would get boring in a hurry, even with the somewhat simple yet effective special effects that SyFy uses.  It would also get fairly expensive for the show if the only way we knew the Gary was manipulating the fields around him was by using said simple yet effective special effects.  So instead, he uses his hands.  A flick of the wrist shows that he sending something on its way.  Raising his hands and twirling his fingers about lets us see that he is manipulating a connection.  The movements are consistent every time.  In this way, Gary can be in the background of a scene, but not look like he is just sitting there.  His hands are constantly moving and we don’t have to see his eyes to know that he’s looking at things.  He can become a part of the action.  Gary is easily my favorite character on the show, and it’s not just because of his hands (I’m not saying that I’m not shallow, because I can be, but in this case there’s more to it).  The movement of Gary’s hands is part of what made him who he is, part of his kinetic self.

 The next time you watch your favorite show, watch the actors’ hands.  Do the ones playing cops know how to hold the gun?  Do the doctors fumble with their gloves or their surgical instruments?  Do grifters swipe wallets with their fingertips like they are supposed to (don’t ask me how I know that)?  Do the fighters make a proper fist?  Do the cowboys loop the reigns around their fingers?  Are the military salutes correct?

An actor can have the most expressive face in the world, but I’m finding that if they don’t know what to do with their hands, I don’t believe them in their role.  I’m finding this is also bleeding over into reality.  People hesitate with their hands.  A person’s first day on the job at the cash register, their hands will always hesitate over the keys.  They’re not sure which ones to press, they’re not sure how it works, and they don’t want to make a mistake.  When my students hand in their papers, I can always tell which ones are confident in which ones are.  The confident ones dropped their papers on my desk with a way (or just casual indifference), while the less confident ones often hanged by the desk.  They hesitate before they put it in the pile.  They rearrange the pile.  They straighten it up.

Hands can tell a lot about a person.  Blisters, callouses, rings, even the color of their fingernail polish – all hold stories.  The force of a handshake, the hesitation before the entry of a security code, the selection of a soft drink.  Perhaps I’m putting too much emphasis on hands and what they can tell me, but isn’t that part of the definition of fixation?  Or fetish, obsession, inclination?  Maybe the thesaurus was right – “thing” isn’t such a bad word for this, after all.  It certainly covers all the bases.

 So I guess now I just have to figure out the syntax.  Which sounds better as an introduction: “I have a hand thing,” or “I have a thing for hands.”?

 Or, maybe this is just something I shouldn’t mention during the first handshake.  It might make people nervous.

Driving Angry (or, Inconsiderate People Should Walk)

I’ve come to the realization that I could be considered an “angry driver.”  I have very little tolerance for stupidity and inconsideration (is that a word? I deem it so) behind the wheel.  But I’ve also realized that the person doesn’t even have to be behind the wheel to make me mad.  So I thought, perhaps, a little airing of anger might help.  So, here are my top 3 car-related peeves.  How many make your list?

Peeve #1 – Parking: Some people take up more than one parking space because they don’t want to risk someone parking next to their pretty car and dinging it up.  In true Poe-form, this makes the little “imp of the perverse” inside of me just want to hit their car.  Even if I have no option of parking next to them (assigned parking/paid parking, etc), it still ticks me off when I see them parked that way.  But I’m not sure if they’re better or worse than the people who take up more than one space simply because they can’t park (or just don’t care).

Peeve #2 – Turn Signals: I miss them.  When did it go out of fashion for people to NOT signal when they’re planning to turn in front of you or cut you off in a lane?  While I don’t really like it when people do cut me off for whatever reason, I at least had a few moments to prepare when they used a turn signal.

Peeve #3 – Smokers: This may be especially obnoxious to me because of growing up in an arid country and knowing that tossed cigarettes cause forest fires (Smoky wouldn’t lie to me, would he?).  If you want to smoke in your car, then smoke in your car.  Don’t roll down the window and flick ashes out the crack.  I don’t want to smell the smoke or catch the ashes while driving behind you.  If you’re trying to be nice to a non-smoking passenger, then be super nice and just don’t smoke until you reach your destination.  And when you’re done, please do not flick your cigarette butt out the window.  That’s why you have an ashtray in your vehicle.

Even though I’m fairly positive that none of the people who read this are actually in need of knowing this information or need to correct these behaviors, I do feel a bit better having said it.  Or, at least, I will feel better until I have to get out and drive again.



New respect for the Mississippi…

I grew up on stories that talked about such and such person being the best/worst/etc “west of the Mississippi.”  Some of those folks back in the day were even my relatives.  I never really thought about it much (the Mississippi, not my relatives – I had enough distance that I always thought it was cool to be related to John Wesley Hardin).

Of course, that was before I ever really saw the Mississippi.  Being a desert person, no matter that I lived in the “Pecos River Valley,” I never really had any conception about such a river.  It’s huge.  It’s mighty. It’s powerful.  I can see why it’s such a delineating line, now. 

Tomorrow, I’ll get to cross the Mississippi once again as I actually cross over into the state of Mississippi.  Crossing the river, traffic willing, will probably take me all of three minutes.  I can’t even imagine being an explorer or settler, moving West, and then coming upon the Mississippi.  If I’d been one of those first arriving (or, let’s be honest, even if I was one of those with an experienced guide), I’m not sure but what I wouldn’t be settling for being known as the “best/worst (fill in the blank) EAST of the Mississippi.”

Growing up, I never had any thought of living in Louisiana or going to Mississippi.  But here I am and there I go.  This weekend, I’ll drive by the house of Eudora Welty.  I’ll visit Ole Miss and the Faulkner House and will have my picture taken at the Tallahatchie Bridge (you know, the one Billy Joe McAllister jumped off).  And I’ll get to see what life is like east of the Mississippi.

And then I’m going to get myself west of the Mississippi again just as quickly as possible.  I think I’d rather be known as the “best/worst (fill in the blank) west of the Rio Grande” any day.

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

I’m intrigued by the use of mirrors in film and literature.  In children’s literature (fairy tales or young adult stories), mirrors are gateways or they reveal the truth.  Alice, Harry Potter, the second gate in The Never Ending Story, Snow White’s evil stepmother… These are all tellers of truth.

For adult stories (not that kind, gutter minds), mirrors are places of hiding or danger.  The horror movie Mirrors, or the two-faced purpose of mirrors in Hitchcock’s Vertigo… Any others?  I had a hard time thinking of mirrors in adult genres.  But even in reality, mirrors aren’t just the “show the real you inside.”  They’re two-way glass; they’re for hiding people and secrets and misleading information – the house of mirrors or reverse angle shots.

What happens between childhood and adulthood that corrupts this view of mirrors?  They stop being for truth and revealing inner beauty (or ugliness, depending on the truth) and become cheap tricks in film for easy scares/reveals and places to hide behind and spy from. (Okay, that sentence needs severe grammatical help – sorry).  But still, the point remains.

What do we see when we look in the mirror?  Do we look into them for truth and revelation, for gateways to knowledge and understanding, or do we look into mirrors with suspicion and worry – that the mirror may be lying to us?

Between spaces…

I have been inspired by the writers in my life who blog or write every day.  So, I figured – why not?

The title of this blog is inspired by one of my favorite quotes from Gaston Bachelard about hanging metal sculptures: “To me, these works of airborne iron are somewhere between cages and birds, as if cages were on the point of taking wing” (The Right to Dream 40). 

The sculptures  are neither cages nor birds, but something between – a meeting place of ideas, concepts and imagination.  This blog will (hopefully) be something similar.  It will contain tangents and meanderings, writing exercises, plot snippets, character outlines, and who knows what else.  It will (with any luck) be a meeting place of ideas, concepts and imagination.

Or, who knows – it may just be a place for inane ramblings, mumbled thoughts or stuttered concepts.

But it will contain writing, at least. Right?