This is not how I want to go

This Final Destination deathtrap sits in my grandmother’s living room. It has for the entirety of the house’s existence, dating back forty some years. The worst part of it is that this blue recliner is the only comfortable chair in the house. The rest are straight-backed dining chair tables and squat, cushy rocking chairs created in the late 60s to dump people backwards out of them, so that visitors actually fight over who gets to sit under that overhead light.

I will probably spend 80% of my weekend in that chair, blithely chatting over cookies and milk and not thinking about it. If you never hear from me again, you know why.

The X Denials

I just finished watching the first season of the X Files, after years of planning rather nebulously to give it a shot. I can trace my interest back to eighth or ninth grade, when my family rented and watched a couple of episodes. I specifically remember one episode in which a nice old lady meets her untimely demise at the hands of her tenant, though it’s the image of this guy’s teeth falling into the sink that really stuck with me. At the time I couldn’t handle the show (in fact I found out, years later, that I was the reason we stopped watching; I was both sorry and glad at the time that we stopped, but it would have shamed me to know it was my fault), but I’ve always wanted to re-explore the horrifying intrigue I associate with the X Files.

Twenty-four episodes on and I certainly like it (it’s entertaining, which is what I look for in, you know, entertainment), but I wouldn’t say I’m “into” the show. Not when the basic premise makes me laugh and/or roll my eyes, depending on the situation.  I just can’t get on board with the super-secret government conspiracies. Not that governments don’t lie to their people – history, for one, says otherwise, and I know enough of human nature for another – but the fact is you cannot keep a secret between that many people for that long. Someone would blow the whistle eventually, either purposefully or accidentally. You can’t kill everyone.

That and, though magically omniscient (and able to clear top-secret lab facilities in point six seconds), they cannot, for some reason, kill off Mulder and Scully, despite the fact that Mulder commonly breaks into secret government facilities whose military personnel should be trained (and legally allowed) to remove trespassers with extreme prejudice. The last time I checked the military doesn’t laugh off breaking-and-entering. They don’t even yell. I’m pretty sure they just shoot. Mind you, if they did, the show would go something like this:

I’ve actually come up with my own pet theory about this. At first I suspected that Mulder was basically the government’s version of that crazy conspiracy-theorist Uncle everyone seems to have, the kind you humor because they served in Vietnam and Mom gives you a look across the dinner table if you don’t. Unfortunately, there are too many extraneous scenes that don’t involve our crime-fighting duo that imply otherwise. Fortunately, after Scully started cottoning on to the fact that everyone and their moms know that Mulder is extremely gullible because he wants to believe this stuff, I realized that the X-Files is the government’s version of a long-standing prank. Forget humoring the crazy Uncle, they’re going to encourage him to go on elaborate cross-country chases. Why? Because between all the political wrangling and the wars that constantly break out across the globe, it’s nice to have something to laugh about. Oh that rascal Mulder’s at it again.

My favorite episodes are the straight-up monster-of-the-week mashups. The season starts off with two aliens are among us episodes, which were entertaining but not particularly frightening, so I thought I was in for a long wait until we got to teeth falling into the sink. But then the third episode started in. Camera focuses on people. Camera focuses on an empty storm drain. Camera focuses on people. Back to the empty storm drain. At this point you know the storm drain isn’t empty, but I still wasn’t prepared for that moment when you suddenly realize there are eyes – in fact, an entire man – standing in that drain. I watch the X Files after the sun has gone down, alone and with the lights out, but that episode drove me out of the room to the kitchen (where I made myself a smoothie, as any creeped out person would do). I watched the rest of the episode with the light on. I’m going to need to get safety locks for all my toilets.

Special shout-outs to the two episodes that surprised me: the logging one and the Montana one. First off: Eco terrorists. And not romantic we-love-nature-and-we’re-totally-nice-guys-the-rest-of-you-evil-tree-cutting-capitalists-suck terrorists. Both loggers and tree huggers ended up hoisted on their own petards, as it were, and I appreciated the fair shake. Same thing on the one set in Montana. I was immediately on my guard anyways, and I stared rather suspiciously at the screen when it started off as a Rancher vs. Reservation situation, but that ended up being an interesting background to the real story. I particularly appreciated the rancher’s son’s speech on life and death, and the proper pronunciation of “coyote”: “Kai-oat,” not “Kai-yo-tee,” in these parts. Even if his dad did pull out a few “this heres” and “git goin’s.”

(Also, Mulder shot off the snout of a stuffed bear; I don’t know why I thought this was so funny, but I did.)

Faith for Fools

But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

~Luke 18:16-17

I absolutely love apologetics. Apologetics (from the Greek apologia, meaning “to make a defense”) is the discipline of defending the faith by using rational arguments backed by reason and information. It appeals to the part of me that finds it extremely satisfying when all the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle fits. I also like proving that I’m not an idiot, despite what Richard Dawkins may say.

But the fact of the matter is that the basic tenants of my religion aren’t reasonable to anyone who lives in the physical world. God as man? Life eternal? Not to mention that the math is all wrong. Three, as anyone can tell you, is not the same as one. But I’ve gone ahead and added a “Religious Poems” subsection to the Poetry tab anyways, and here’s this poem:

Apples are Apples

Acknowledgment where acknowledgment is due: This was inspired in large part by the Lutheran Satire video “St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies” (found here – I originally sent this poem to the creator of the youtube channel as a thank you for all the laughs, which he graciously posted on his Facebook page), but also by my Sunday School teacher from many, many years ago. She was a dear, loving woman who felt compelled to explain the Trinity to her class using the apple analogy. I still remember thinking that, while interesting, I already got the whole three-in-one, one-in-three thing, apples aside.

Adults so often like to rationalize concepts to children who have already accepted the unexplainable as fact.

The Good, the Bad, and the Lego

Yesterday I received my new license in the mail and good gracious. Of the many things I like about myself, my face shape – square with a rather prominent forehead – is not one of them. Unfortunately, the state of Montana is apparently into extreme close-ups; I look like the bust of a Lego. I also had the added misfortune of clipping back my bangs into the kind of hair bump that went out of style last fall, which is a shame considering I’ve got eight years to go before I try again. In the meantime, this is what I get to enjoy every time I open my wallet:

I just realized that I’m going to have to move to a different state in the near future.

(And I’m not kidding about those teeth either – I always smile like I’m about to take a bite out of crime in official pictures. Next time I hope they just go for the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly eye zoom-in. I think I could live with the Spaghetti Western style squint-eyed glare. I have very nice eyelashes.)

At least my signature is semi-respectable, considering I signed it with the kind of credit card machine pen designed to make it impossible to emulate your actual handwriting. 15 or 20 years ago, standing in line with my family at an embassy in Thailand while we renewed our Visas, that wasn’t the case. Back then I signed my paperwork with a flourish: two dots right above the swoosh I’ve always squeaked out of the last “a” on “Andrea,” to make it look like a smiley face. When my parents spotted it they made me start over, despite my protestations that that’s how I signed my name in my day-to-day life. Not that I signed a lot of official documents in middle school, but my friends and I liked to practice our autographs, mostly to compare them with one another. I can’t remember now who started the smiley faced umlauts, but we all agreed it was about the best idea ever. It only took a couple of years to figure out that my parents knew what they were talking about.

The other restriction at the time was the fact that we weren’t allowed to smile for our renewal pictures. Though Thailand’s official tagline is “The Land of Smiles,” the government frowned on (I wish I could say that pun wasn’t intended) frivolity in official photographs. When I asked my parents why, the answer was “because they don’t,” which, when translated, actually meant, “It’s been a long day, honey, please stop asking questions.”

Mind you, I don’t think that would’ve helped this travesty any. Next time I want a mugshot of myself I’m going to the county jail.

Wax Long and Throw the Bull

I’ve always wanted a platform from which I could share my unsolicited opinion. Now that I have one I find that I’m not sure what to say. Goodness knows I’ll come up with something – I’ve always had a knack for filling empty space.

Actually, this is what made me so successful in school. Multiple choice questions made me want to weep because I could think of several different ways to argue that the answer could be a, b, or c, depending on the motivation of the teacher who wrote the question in the first place. Unfortunately, I didn’t study quite enough to know my information down cold, so I’d end up second-guessing myself and later discovering that I should have gone with my gut. I can hear my sister yelling at me from across a couple of states that you should always go with your gut on multiple choice questions, but experience has taught me otherwise; every time I chose to un-second guess myself, it turned out the second guess was correct and I’d end up gnashing my teeth over my answers later, annoyed that I had gone with the wrong gut feeling.

But give me an essay question and I’m golden. I could answer a question I didn’t know the actual answer to and end up with full points. I did this by pulling out every piece of information on a subject I knew, and wording it in such a way that the teacher would assume that I’d known the correct answer all along and just padded it with extra information. It used to make my sister burning mad when I trotted out this skill. She’s a science writer by nature, which means that she studies hard and answers questions in succinct, simple sentences. The fact that I could not know an answer but convince someone that I did annoyed her – and made her laugh too, more grudgingly than admiringly, I think – to no end. At the end of the day she had the better grades, but I was just half a step behind her with less effort.

Of course, when I finally did have to take a couple of labs for my biology minor in college, my TAs destroyed my papers. I absolutely loathe science writing because it doesn’t allow me to say anything with the remotest bit of color. I would explain the methods that I used to obtain my results like I was writing an English paper, and I’d get back comments on comments written in red ink telling me to say it straight. Unfortunately, they had discovered that I didn’t have enough to say to fill ten pages. Fortunately, no one else ever did.

Point in fact, the science paper version of this little story should go: Andrea likes essay questions better than multiple choice questions. This is because she knows how to throw the bull.

So, uh, fair warning. I can make a short story very long. You’ll undoubtedly discover that soon enough.

Another From My College Days

Anyone who writes rhyming poetry has to write at least one nautical poem. Here’s mine.

Honestly, I have no good reason for it, except that I tend to read old authors and many of them wrote of the sea often, and with beautiful imagery. I wrote this one back in college and though it’s not my favorite poem (it comes off as somewhat generic), there are some lines in there that are enormously fun to say out loud. Say “screamed their spite against the tempest’s scope” five times fast – it’s fun to spit out, and you sound really angry when you do it.

The first. Hopefully of many.

My first (and thus only) poem on this website can be found here. Originally I intended to add both poems and stories to the site as posts, but after several days of hair-tearing frustration, I gave up trying to make the pages and categories on WordPress do things they didn’t want to. Since I’m not willing to learn code, adding them as static pages will have to do. It’s a clunky way to set up a website (and won’t allow comments under the actual writing itself, so if you have anything to say it’ll have to go here), but there you go.

This is the one and only poem I have ever untitled. I always feel obligated to title the things I write – a carryover from elementary school, I think, when putting a title at the top and “the end” on the bottom meant I was done – but this one…well, this one fits. The other option was to call it “The Poem That Only Starts to Scratch the Surface of My Love Affair with Notebooks,” but that was nearly as long as the poem itself. I went with the shorter version.

Enjoy!