Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Celebrity Deathmatch: Miss Manners vs. Emily Post

Has the practice of proper etiquette just plain died in this country? Have good manners fallen completely by the wayside, to be replaced by the First Amendment? Do we say whatever the hell we want just because we can with blatant disregard for others' feelings or appropriate context? It seems to me that people are just plain rude, and are raising generations of rude little people who think that they can say anything to anyone just because they have First Amendment rights.

Don't get me wrong - I'm happy to live in a country with Free Speech. People can say whatever they want, and I'll support their right to say it. But, would it be too much to ask that they think before they speak, and spare a thought for those they might offend? I try to teach this in my classes - yes, boys and girls, not only is what you say important, it's how and when you say it that gets the message across.

I have one student who just personified this appalling decline in manners. Let me set the scene for you: Early September, new teacher, new students, everyone dressed in the school uniform dress code (khakis, collared shirt). One student in particular stands out, as no one can really tell if this student is a boy or a girl. Seriously. See, this student would make a cute girl, or a heart-rendingly beautiful boy: big blue eyes, impossibly long eyelashes, flowing shoulder-lenghth golden hair, clear skin, rosy cheeks, and ruby-red mouth devoid of cosmetics. To make matters worse, the student has a name that works for either gender. Even I'm not sure of the cherub's gender. I had planned on visiting the nurse to check the student's emergency card for gender when the incident occurred.

It's obvious that the other students are puzzling over this student, when one just asks "Hey, kid, are you a boy or a girl?" The class was divided in reaction - half were staring at RudeGirl, openmouthed with shock (as was I), and half were laughing like loons. Obviously, I shut her down, but the damage had been done. The poor student flushed and mumbled "I'm a boy" and everyone settled down. I was heartsick for the poor boy to be called out in front of the class like that.

It seems that middle-school students are not the only ones lacking in manners. My friend Dave sent me a story from the LA Times about a juror who was taken to task for yawning loudly during the juror selection process. This juror then, without apology, told the judge that he was bored. The judge held this man in contempt and fined him $1000 (later reduced to $100) for the offense. If you don't think yawning loudly is an offense, you should hear Dave yawn. I could hear him clearly through a concrete & cinderblock wall every school day for 4 years.

This is clearly my personal opinion, but I think that it's time for everyone to take a course in manners and etiquette. Yes, even tactless me thinks it's time for everyone to learn basic courtesy, elementary etiquette, and common decency. You can tell me your opinion, too. I promise I won't laugh in your face. After all, that would be rude.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Idolize this

This season, I've really gotten into American Idol. It was never a really big thing for me before - I used to watch the first few episodes to hear all of the people who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket get insulted by Simon.

This year, however, I fell under its spell. Two weeks ago, I was heartbroken when Nadia was voted off. She rocks! Last week, my heart completely cracked in two when Anwar left. Such an amazing voice on that man, and he's totally easy on the eyes. So, I'm not really heavily invested in anyone this week.

That being said, I really want to weigh in on this week's performances. I think this week's standouts were Vonzelle and Anthony. Yes, Anthony. Vonzelle's performance gave me goosebumps, especially when she hit the bridge. Scott was not so good, and surprisingly, neither were Constantine or Bo. To give him credit, though, the lyrics to Bo's song really said it all about him "I don't want to be anyone other than what I've been trying to be lately." I can totally buy that. Carrie was consistent - it was a good performance.

Who do I want to go home this week? Scott. I've been wanting him to go home for ages. I hope that this time it's for real.

Monday, April 25, 2005

No Shame in My Game

Another thing I've been reading recently are blogs. Usually, I go to one of my daily reads (check the list on the sidebar) and read their daily reads. The newest one is one I got from The Anchored Nomad - it's called Petite Anglaise. It's where I got the thought cities have gender.

You see, Petite Anglaise is an English woman living in Paris. She had a flyer on her blog announcing a meeting of Parisian bloggers, and the name of the event was "Paris blogue-t-il?" (Literally, "Paris, does he blog?"; colloquially "Does Paris blog?") It made me think that Paris is not a man for me. She is an elle, not an il. Other than raising intriguing points of grammar and culture, she is an excellent writer who never fails to hit the observational nail squarely on the head.

Another hilarious britblog is My Boyfriend is a Twat. C'mon, with that title, it had to be funny. And it did indeed deliver. The post in "french" just about made me spew yogurt on my computer. I'll probably add that one to my daily read list...

Anyway... back to real life, where I have laundry to do...

Busy Bee

That's what I've been. I've been reading, of course. That, or scrapbooking, is usually what causes these huge gaps in my blog. I have some recommendations:

If you're a fan of the supernatural, I recommend the fourth installment in Laurell K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series, A Stroke of Midnight. It's very graphic, in terms of l'amour, so if you're not a fan of "romance," I suggest you steer clear. It features fairies, goblins, brownies, and the demi-fey (which I will not explain, as it would take too long!). Have fun!

Also in the supernatural vein, no pun intended, is the latest vampire novel from Charlaine Harris: Dead to the World, her latest Sookie Stackhouse mystery. It's quite enjoyable, but fast reading. It only took me about 2 hours to complete it, but I still have that rosy good feeling inside.

Romance was definitely in the air when I read Lynn Kurland's most recent book, Dreams of Stardust, which was a vast improvement over the last few. I find that I tend to be loyal to one author until her last 3 books have sucked. Lynn's time was almost over with me, but this one definitely pulled her out of the pit currently inhabited by Catherine Coulter, Jude Devereaux, and Rita Mae Brown. This last book was the same genre of delicate romance that I first loved, with the added bonus of time travel. Definitely a keeper.

I've also been rereading the Lucia books by EF Benson, which I read first in high school and my freshman year of college, oh those many years ago (17, if you'd like to be precise). I find I have a vast deal more insight into the characters now... With age comes wisdom, I suppose, and wrinkles... They were made into a TV series by the BBC, starring Geraldine MacEwan, Prunella Scales, and Nigel Hawthorne. Both the books and the series (Lucia and Mapp I & II) are recommended.

Not recommended (by me) are LA Banks's Vampire Huntress series. I found the first one hard reading. The second wasn't bad - I understood more of the heroine's complicated world. The third, though, was excruciating. Banks writes beautifully, don't get me wrong, but it's at the expense of advancing the plot at a rate that will hold the reader's interest. I got bored halfway through this book and just couldn't take it anymore.

Just 80-ish days until the next Harry Potter. Then another 60-ish days until Diana Gabaldon's next masterpiece, A Breath of Snow and Ashes. Interspersed therein will be one by Sherrilyn Kenyon and a Nora Roberts, and possibly a JD Robb. I should have an excellent summer... You'll be the first to know.

Luck be a Lady

Isn't it funny how cities have personalities?

I've always thought of Las Vegas as a woman - Lady Luck, to be precise. A full-bodied, wily charmer with a throaty voice and a raucous laugh. New York, however, is a masculine city - a hurried businessman in a grey pinstriped suit, taking no notice of his surroundings or neighbors, intent only on his next deal. Hollywood was a hooker, and an aging one at that, prostituting herself for whomever would pay for her next cosmetic surgery. Beverly Hills is a high-class version of that same hooker - a coldly mercenary call-girl, hyperfocused on appearance and status. Philadelphia is a young man - cocky and callow, with attitude aplenty, but a big heart if you're a friend.

Internationally speaking, Paris is a woman: a seductive, worldly courtesan who counsels you to mind your manners while you take your pleasure, as good manners are de rigeur in her fair province. Angers, where I lived briefly (oh too briefly), was a man - a mechanic with dirty hands but a disarmingly beautiful smile. London, where I long to go, is an older and wiser version of New York to me. I pray I will one day be introduced to him, as his accent brings me to my knees in a quivering jelloid heap.

Wilmington, where I live, is a curious young girl in love with Philadelphia and desperate to keep up with his big-city ways. How about you? Where do you live, and what's it like?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Oh, I get it now...

Fifteenish years after trying to read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and putting it down in perplexity, I picked it back up yesterday. I was at home with my poor sick Peanut, so what better to do than read? After all, the movie is coming out soon, and I want to be among the festive throng flocking to the theater to shout "42!"

I finished the book at about 5 pm yesterday, having been interrupted to take a 4-hour nap with the poor sick Peanut. (I love naptime. I truly do.) And I get it.

I don't know for the life of me why I didn't get it the first time, or more precisely, why I couldn't get into it the first time. It's a hilarious book. I mean, who could possibly not love the names Zaphod Beeblebrox or Slartibartfast? (Especially someone burdened with a moniker like mine?) Or the subtle twist on the mice in mazes? Or Marvin the depressed robot?

I guess I'll have to continue the series now. Oh goody, more books!

Monday, April 11, 2005

42! This one's for you, Jeremy.

42 more days of school ! Then blissful summer vacation!

Now, I wouldn't ordinarily announce the number of days left unless there was some kind of significance to it. 42 is one of those significant numbers - readers of Douglas Adams will undoubtedly concur. My association with the Hitchhiker's Guide is peripheral: I tried to read it, and could not get into it. My friend Jeremy, however, was a Hitchhiker's maniac 42 times over.

It was back in the misty spring of 1988, our senior year of high school, when Jeremy did his legendary "42" collection. It was a day I will never forget.

You see, by our senior year, Jeremy already had a reputation as one of the most, uh, entertaining members of our class. For his birthday, in November, our friend Stephanie bought him a sign. It was a 9-inch square of white plastic emblazoned with a large 42 in black. You could see it hanging around his neck for many days thereafter. That was also the year that Jeremy sold his shoes.

Nothing unusual in that, you say? Well, it wasn't the fact that he sold them, it was the manner in which he sold them: like plots of land. Jeremy sectioned his white sneakers into plots and sold them to various classmates for about a dime a plot, according to size. I purchased a few pieces, and since they were mine, I painted them in bright acrylic paints. Jeremy was none loathe to allow it. Indeed, he enjoyed it. Other people did different things with their pieces. At the end of the year, Jeremy cut his shoes up according to the plots and gave them to their rightful owners. I still have my pieces in a ziploc sandwich bag in a box of memorabilia from high school. You'd also have to understand the significance of the Goofy Hat.

Unlike my parents, Jeremy's folks believed in taking their kids to Disney World. In our junior year, Jeremy got a hat that looked like Goofy's head, complete with ears flapping at each side and buck teeth hanging from the brim. He wore it every day. I swear. I asked him to the prom that year, being quite forward, and he said yes, as long as he could wear his Goofy Hat. Never one to shy from the unusual, I agreed enthusiastically. Our picture was put in the yearbook.

Anyhoo, I could tell Jeremy stories all morning, but I'm digressing. This is not an Ode to Jeremy, but an explanation of the 42.

You see, at the inordinately preppy and uptight private school that we both attended, we didn't have anything as plebian as homeroom every day. We had three days of homeroom, punctuated by two days of "collection," where we all "collected" in the auditorium for announcements and a short program. I was, in my senior year, co-chair of the collection committee. If there was a day without a program, I pitched in and played the piano for the 10 minutes that was blank. One day, Jeremy came to us with an idea for a collection in April. Here's how the program went:

The morning announcements were read, and the program turned over to me. I went to the piano, began playing, then stopped, tossed my music over my head and said "Wait a minute, it's not my collection it's _________'s" passing it to another person in on the program. After doing a few seconds of his specialty, he passed to someone else, who passed it to someone else, and so on, and so on... until it was passed to Jeremy. Jeremy stalked up to the front of the auditorium, climbed up the risers, strode to the center of the stage, and lifted his 42 sign high above his head.

It doesn't sound like much to you, but the audience roared with laughter. Jeremy had just that effect on people. I can only imagine what kind of litigator he is today, if he has the same effect on his jurors. So, my friend, 42. The answer to all questions in the universe.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Reality TV

This is the first season that I've watched American Idol past the tryouts. I've always loved the tryouts - people make colossal idiots out of themselves, thinking that they sound like Whitney Houston, when they really sound like a tone-deaf cat being strangled.

Anyway, I've been enjoying it a lot. Strangely, so has the Mister (who incidentally, is tone deaf, and sounds like a howling mutt when he sings.). I really like Nadia, Anwar, Bo, and Carrie. I don't like Scott or Vonzelle, although her voice has definitely gotten stronger the last few shows. This last show when Fantasia made an appearance, I practically had to mute the set, though. I don't know how she was voted in, as her voice is reminiscent of a tone-.. need I rehash the simile?

Survivor, however, is my all-time favorite Reality Show. I've watched every season but the first, and even then, I caught a couple of episodes. I loved the Australian Outback season. The All-Stars were a real kick - go Rupert! This season is bewildering, though. One team has been almost completely annihilated - there's only one member left, Stephanie, and she's at camp by herself. And my girl Steph is completely solid - I think being the last one standing in her tribe speaks well for both her strategy and her strength. The other team annoys me, especially this last week with Tom's autocratic behavior. Whatever. We'll see what happens come the merge, if there's to be one.

I don't really watch any others. The premise of the Bachelor and the Bachelorette put me off completely. How is that any way to identify the love of your life. I suppose it worked for Krista and whats-his-name, though. Joe Millionaire was another one that just turned me off completely. And Fear Factor? Ugh - eating cow eyeballs, buffalo testes, and bull rectums is just waaaaaaay too disgusting for me. The Mister LOVES Fear Factor, so every now and then I catch some of the action when I'm passing through the room. The Amazing Race is interesting, but not enough for me to watch it. I caught the first season, or at least part of it. What I observed are the vast cultural differences that exist in our world. Big Brother - I don't think so. I've got two words for that: Cabin Fever.

The ones on Bravo get the award for the most original reality shows, though. Like Boy Meets Boy, a gay Bachelor; and Project Runway, which was actually quite interesting, though highly subjective in judging.

There are soooo many reality shows nowadays - it would seem to point to our culture's fascination with stardom. Anyone can be a star on a reality show - isn't that the point of them? Do you watch any reality TV? Which ones and why? or Not?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Not much going on here...

It's quite boring being me this week. Back to work, back on the diet, back to reality...

I don't have anything exciting to report or anything profound to impart.

Hmph. Leaving now. More later.