Thursday, November 29, 2007
Also I will never stop being amused by the "hostile" option on the "how interested were you in taking this class" question. It's so inadvertently hilarious that a college evaluation is asking students if they were openly hostile to taking a class. I filled it in once for my Images and Issues of Contemporary Arts class, and it gave me an endless source of happiness.
Two more classes left and it's the end of my last fall semester in college. Although I'm still very happy to be living in the land of denial when it comes to such things. You should visit sometime. It's lovely.
Random Side Notes:
30Rock makes me giggle uncontrollably, and Tina Fey is sort of my hero, or maybe it's just her character Liz Lemon who I think is the one of the best female characters on television, ever. Either way she's awesome.
Annd one last thing. USA v Spain David Cup Final starts tomorrow! There's a distinct chance I'm sleeping in my Winston Salem Davis Cup Quarterfinal T-Shirt tonight. I'm not going to affirm or deny, just putting it out there.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
1) Some things never change. I went to UVA on Saturday to visit one of my best-friends and see the UVA/Tech football game. It was the first of these games I had ever been to, though of course being a native Virginian I had heard plenty about the rivalry. I knew that things could get pretty heated, fights could break out, etc, but I somewhat naively thought things might be different this year considering what happened last spring at Virginia Tech. And I was, of course, completely wrong. There were boo's a plenty, jeering, name calling, the works. Even at half time when the poor VT marching band played, the UVA kids let 'em have it. And honestly I don't even know how I feel about it. It's true that in a lot of ways it was comforting, that on that day these weren't victims or survivors but just college kids, intensely involved in a decades old rivalry. And I don't think anyone wanted for the rivalry to go away. But at the same time, it creates a difficult question. How do you move on without forgetting? How do you find normal again when normal has been shattered? I'm not even sure if there is an answer to either of those questions. All I know is that I was both happy to see the full fledged animosity between the two teams and uncomfortable all at the same time. And I must admit, even though I was cheering for UVA the whole time, that it was nice to see all the Tech kids there go crazy at the end of the game when their team won. They deserve to have something to be proud of, something to cheer about, after everything that has happened this year.
2. Football is really, really not my sport. I had a wonderful time at UVA, and since CofC does not have a football team, it's always nice to experience that whole crazed, college sporting atmosphere. But seriously? I stood up for more than four hours! I could never give my heart to a sport requiring so physical a commitment just to watch it. In tennis you sit politely until a truly spectacular shot, and that's when you leap to your feet and go crazy. It's much more fitting my personality and physical laziness. Also tennis is not about the jeering and the boos. I don't know what it is, but I get so uncomfortable when anyone is booed. It doesn't matter who they are, I immediately start feeling sorry for them. Maybe because I picture myself getting booed and I want to cry, because well, who wouldn't? In everyday life, booing is not except able. You're not going to be walking down the street or shopping for groceries and suddenly be faced with a line of booing strangers. But my point is, I do not have the spirit for football.
3. Even fake snow makes me absurdly happy. I went to one of the Richmond outdoor malls when I was home, and although I had heard about their tradition of making it fake snow in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I had never actually been there for it. One of my best friends and I were just running in to grab a few things when all of the sudden I noticed a crowd of people gathered, with Christmas decorations and lights everywhere and carols coming from the speakers. And then looking up into the dark sky, there it was, snow, tons of it, pouring out of fans from the ceiling, coating the air. I'm not ashamed to admit that if I had been by myself I may have started twirling (snow for some reason always makes me want to twirl). But so as not to embarrass my friend, I restrained myself. But still, it was absolutely lovely. Charleston doesn't really provide me much snow, and the last time I got a genuine, ground coating snow fall was in high school. This may not have been that, but it still made me as giddy as a five year old. I don't know what it is, but snow is perhaps the quickest, surest way to my heart, even apparently if it is fake. I obviously don't discriminate when it comes to precipitation.
4. I actually like Jane Austen. Up until now it has been one of my deep, shameful secrets that I sort of hated Jane Austen. I had only read Emma, but that alone was enough to make me never want to read any of her work again. It was so dull and tedious and boring. But I felt awful about this. I loved the movies so I couldn't understand why I didn't love the books. Plus Jane Austen just seems so necessary to any girl who wants to be a writer. What was wrong with me if I would pick Hemingway over her any day? But on the way back from Charleston I started Pride and Prejudice for one of my classes, and within a few pages, I actually, kind of, liked it. And within a few more pages I started to really like it. Now half way through, I can genuinely say that it might end up being one of my favorite novels. I don't know why, but even though Pride and Prejudice was one of my favorite movies I always assumed that the film version fleshed out the Elizabeth Bennett character and made her a lot more cool than she could have been in early 19th century print. But I was so wrong. Elizabeth Bennett is such a strong and amazing character in the book, especially considering when Austen wrote. She's quick and smart and decisive, and I sort of have a literary girl crush on her, as well as Jane Austen.
So those are the life lessons I have accumulated over the past few days. Clearly I've been very busy. Also this is an aside, but as I was in Harris Teeter this evening I realized that no other grocery item makes me feel quite so adult as deli lunch meat. Maybe it's because I saw my mother order it every time I went to the supermarket with her, or because it took me a while to be brave enough to order it myself, but for whatever reason I felt very old tonight when I placed my order for a 1/2 pound of Oven Roasted Turkey Breast.
So now I'm off to walk Summer, my roomate's dog (my fake dog) and then forcing myself to cook a healthy chicken dinner even though I'm exhausted and would much rather order something unhealthy for delivery :)
Friday, November 23, 2007
1. Tennis is all about human drama. I love stories, of all sizes, shapes, and sorts and tennis is the ultimate sports vehicle for stories. And not stories in the inspirational sports movie way where you find out about the plot points after the event has happened. In tennis, every single match is a story about two people (except for doubles) standing across the net from each other, with no team to shield them or helmet to hide their emotions. As an avid viewer of tennis you know about the lives of the players. There are a lot of tennis players but only a small number consistently at the top. And through press conferences or post match interviews or the commentators, you find out the subtle details of their characters and lives. And so when you watch a match you're not just watching anonymous guy in shorts, you're watching a person who's gone through emotional struggles or spent a while recovering from injury, a kid whose on their way up or a fading legend trying to stick around for a few more years.Players can't hide in tennis. Every frustration or triumph is out there for view. And it creates these matches, usually at least one a tournament, so rife with human drama.
What other sport could create the emotion of watching Andre Agassi beat Marcos Baghdatis in the 2nd round of the 2006 US Open, Agassi's last tournament. Here's Agassi, 36 years old, a legend, but one who has been let down physically by his body. It's obvious he loves the sport because he's stuck around that long, but it's also obvious he's in pain. And Baghdatis is 21, an up and coming player, young and talented, and it's a huge tournament, so there's a lot at stake for him. And it's more than a sporting event, it turns into this 5 set epic, lasting well into the night, but the crowds are packed until the very end, everyone in New York cheering Agassi on, not ready to say goodbye to him. It goes to a fifth and both players just smile, knowing that its past them now. It's all come down to this tiny fraction of points. Agassi wins and it's phenomenal. He's more than a decade older than Baghdatis, obviously struggling physically, but he wins, and everyone in the place is on their feet like its the final. I remember watching that match in my bedroom, staying up into the wee hours to see it finish, and knowing that it was about more than tennis then. It was about this individual fighting with everything he has not to leave, to play one more match, one more point. It was beautiful in a way sports rarely are, because it was about more than the ability of the body, it was about the tiny, impossible, oh so human struggle of having to face change, to move on from something you love, knowing its for the best but still not quite willing to say goodbye.
Or what about the drama of Pete Sampras playing after his coach has passed away, literally crying during the points, pushed beyond his emotional limits, but not giving up, winning the match. There's James Blake coming back from a year filled with injury, sickness and the loss of his father, his rise back to the top of the game. Or the Serbian players who are in the top 10 now, whose early lives were marred by war and struggle but who found a way to overcome those challenges and do what they love on an international stage. I've seen players playing their mentors, their best friends, their siblings. Or the times players bring personal dislike onto the court, the gloriously outrageous trash talking and bad behavior. Tennis is not driven by teams or organizations but by individuals, and because of that it will always be about the human stories behind the players. And for that I love it.
2. In tennis you follow players, not teams. Some might say that is a drawback because while teams can go on for decades, players sadly cannot. Some players have very short careers, ending before they are even 30. But there's something about sticking with a player, seeing them go from an awkward teenage kid to a graceful and classy man in his early 30s that makes the sport latch onto your emotions in a way few others can. You feel an affection for players because of this, because they're out there for public consumption, on their own, and all of their ups and downs and failures and successes are going to be seen in a harsh and unforgiving light. The first round upsets, the times players get beaten badly by guys much less talented than them, all of these are hell on a fan, but it's a gradual process. Following a player through the bad stuff makes it all the more sweet when they achieve success. Not to harp on Agassi too much, but in the middle of his career he spent a year in the bottom of the rankings, losing a lot, almost out of the sport, and then he comes back and wins the French Open and starts winning majors again. And for someone who has followed his career, it's an incredibly emotional and rewarding thing.
3. The dramatic comebacks. One of the greatest things about tennis in my opinion is that it is never too late for a player to win a match. It's not like basketball or football where things run on a timer, the length of tennis matches are determined by points. A player can be one point away from losing, having not won a single set or game, and it is still not too late for them to win it all. Some of the greatest matches I have ever watched have been the comebacks from two sets down. I remember Andy Roddick facing a break point in the 2003 US Open against Nalbandian, and coming back to win the match and go on to win the tournament. These are the matches that have fans shredding their nails in anxiety, almost ready to throw in the towel because it seems hopeless, but the thing is it is never hopeless. A player can find his game or a second win or a purpose and start to fight well into the match.
4. Late night matches at the US Open. Matches that start past 10pm and go till almost 2am, sitting up in bed in the dark with my eyes glued to the TV screen, not even thinking about turning it off until its done. Some of the greatest matches I've ever watched have been US Open night matches, the aforementioned Agassi/Bahgdatis match, the classic Agassi/Sampras match from the 2001 Open, one of Andy Roddick's first big matches against an equally young Lleyton Hewitt also at the 2001 Open, James Blake finally getting the monkey off his back and winning his first 5 setter against Fabrice Santoro at the 2006 Open. And far too many other great night matches that have me sleepwalking the next day.
5. Early morning watches at Wimbledon, getting up early and watching live tennis over coffee and breakfast. In my mind summer and tennis are always connected, with Wimbledon right in the middle at the end of June and beginning of July.
6. Because great tennis moments stay with you, no matter how small. James Blake looking up to the sky and smiling when he and Agassi went into a 5th set tie-break at the 2005 US Open. Andre Agassi at 35, after winning the US Open semifinal, walking back into the locker room with a huge smile on his face and finding his baby daughter there to greet him. 19 all in the 5th set of the epic 2003 Australian Open Quarterfinal between Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui, both players utterly exhausted and to the point of collapse, Roddick hands his racket to the ball kid and El Aynaoui follow suit, the ball kids play while both players sit down on the court and take a rest. John Isner, a 22 year old kid, fresh out of college at Georgia, taking a set from Federer, possibly the greatest player of all time at the US Open, a look of pure, sheer jubilation on his face. Rafa Nadal quietly acknowledging the greatness of Agassi when he beat him at his final Wimbledon match, allowing Agassi to take the moment. The embrace between Novak Djokovic and Baghdatis after their 5 set 2007 Wimbledon match, both players exhausted and drained, Dkokovic the winner, but both holding onto each other, out of respect and admiration. Rafa Nadal, covered in clay, holding on to his parents and for the first time in hours looking like a teenager instead of a tennis great. The small waved apologies after let cords, the way tennis players have the class to acknowledge win they win a point out of sheer dumb luck. Tennis players smiling to themselves after playing a great shot, unable to hide the simple joy of doing something cool. The classic moments from before I was born but which thinks to Tennis Channel and rain delays I've been able to watch, Jimmy Connors 1991 run to the semi-finals at the age of 39, all of the great Borg and McEnroe matches, so many other classic moments in tennis history. Which brings me back to what inspired me to write this blog in the first place, reliving one of my favorite tennis moments, Andre Agassi's farewell, him sitting in the chair after his match, looking with red eyes out into a standing crowd who would not sit down, even as the minutes began ticking away. I live for the tiny things in life, and they don't get much better than that. Tennis is my passion, and I hope I've done it some justice.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
If you don't already know watch and learn.
On a more serious note, I saw this really cool thing on the evenings news last night about this girl who started a program to thank our troops through text messages. She started it in high school, which I thought was amazing because who does things like that in high school? I was still trying to get over a horrifying box dye phase and trying not to fail Chemistry. But then that got me thinking, of all the issues that young people should care about right now it should be our troops. It doesn't matter if you support the war or not. Because to be honest, the phrase "supporting or not supporting war" is pretty idiotic in and of itself. How can you simplify things that much? I think this is a sad and increasingly hopeless war. I think the reasons we got into it our muddled at best. I don't think there was an evil conspiracy behind it though. I do think the leadership failed. The planning failed. In essence my thoughts on this war are a confusing stew of confusion. As most of my thoughts are. But back to my original point. Regardless of your feelings, our soldiers deserve our compassion. Because they signed up for a job that pays shit and that most people would never do. Because they are currently involved in circumstances that I cannot even fathom. Because when they are finished they are expected to come home and go back to how everything was before they left. Because on average they're close to our age. I wrote about this in a much clearer fashion minus all the turkey sleepy drugs or whatever that tripto-thingy is called. So instead of trying to force my full and sleepy brain to express my thoughts I'm just going to paste what I already wrote here.
"Most people will tell you that Halloween is the definitive college holiday. More than New Year’s Eve, more than any of those family-oriented holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, Halloween belongs to the young.
A little less than two weeks after Halloween though, there is another holiday. It is one that can easily go overlooked, but with every passing year ties itself closer and closer to our specific generation. Veterans Day is November 11. In Charleston this year there were a series of events to mark the holiday. Yet I can’t help but wonder how much of that falls on deaf ears when it comes to an age group born long after the last, futile years of Vietnam. On more than one occasion this year I overhead students my age casually asking what the American flags in Marion Square were for. If we’re honest with ourselves Veterans Day is not a holiday the majority of young people take much note of. It seems to belong to graying men with sad eyes standing near memorials or on beaches, thinking about their wars, wars that we acknowledge and honor, but do not, can not, remember. How can a holiday devoted to honoring veterans have anything to do with our generation? It is for our parents maybe, our grandparents definitely, but not for us.
4,320 US soldiers have been killed in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan at an average age of 27. 30,270 have been seriously injured. Yet these statistics do not even touch on the more than 1.6 million US servicemen and women who have come home uninjured, yet with incalculable mental and psychological scars. Advances in medicine have produced the blessing of fewer battlefield deaths, yet once these wounded soldiers return home they are greeted with a system that has not caught up. A report by the Institute of Medicine found that more than 90 studies involving drug and psychological therapies have failed to produce reliable results about how to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, despite the fact that an estimated 12.6 percent of troops returning from Iraq and 6.2 percent returning from Afghanistan will suffer from it. The consequences from this lapse in adequate treatment are staggering. According to a recent five month investigation by CBS news, more veterans have killed themselves after returning from Iraq than have been killed in battle in Iraq. Similar studies point to a rise in homelessness, substance abuse, and divorce rates among recent veterans.
These statistics categorically affirm that we are and always will be a generation of veterans. It is an ugly and uncomfortable reality, but it is one we must acknowledge. The men and women who are fighting and dying in these wars are our peers. The men and women coming home from these wars with physical or emotional wounds are our peers. To recognize this simple truth would mean more than empty salutes or flag waving ceremonies. It would mean allowing ourselves to extend compassion to the members of our generation who need it most right now. It would mean not resting until they receive adequate treatment; not letting the same tide of homelessness affect our veterans in the way it affected the veterans of Vietnam. And perhaps it could mean something even greater. To recognize that returning veterans truly belong to us, are a part of us, could galvanize our generation in a way nothing else has, to challenge our representatives and leaders to find an end to this miserable war and bring them home."
So there it is, my little essay or rant or what not. I thought it was especially relevant tonight, because as cliche and corny as it is, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. And I would personally like to give thanks to the people who in my view deserve it most right now.
On that note, I was thinking the other night about how whenever I used to be upset when I was little I could make everything better by piling stuffed animals on my bed. I used to put as many as I could fit, all surrounding me. And without fail it always made me feel better, like I was less alone or something, or just comforted on a really basic level. I really wish I could go back to that. If for the last few nights a pile of stuffed animals could have made me feel better my life would have gone a lot smoother. Instead I had to watch Three's Company until I drifted off to sleep because my mind was moving too fast to fall asleep otherwise. There's a lot I wish I could go back to just for a day or so, to take a vacation from my life. I want to be eight again. I want to be lying on my bed with stuffed animals heaped around me listening to Mariah Carey's Daydream CD. I guess for right now I'll have to settle for an adult bed in an adult apartment. But I do still have my panda and I think if I look hard enough I might be able to dig up some Mariah.
So there are animals in the walls of my house. And I only wish this was some kind of metaphor. I don't know how this happened but every night for the last week I have been woken not once but several times by frantic scurrying and occasionally squeaking right near my head in the wall behind my bed. I have to calm myself down and convince myself that there is no way a small rodent could punch their way through a plaster wall. There's not right? What does one do in this situation after the landlord has been alerted? Buy a gun and go hunting? I'm all for animal rights but once those little creatures are in my domain I'm a little less friendly. If a squirrel got onto my bed I would have no qualms about sending it right to squirrel heaven. I sincerely hope this does not make me a bad person. However last night it was kind of pathetic. I woke up around 3 am to what sounded like an animal running from one end of the wall to the other. It was squeaking hysterically, and I kept hearing loud thuds that must have meant it was ramming itself into the walls. I can't think about this too much or I will start to envision a poor little squirrel in one of those little helmets with a flashlight on it, separated from his squirrel buddies, trying desperately to make his way to the surface. And now I feel bad for the squirrel. Precisely why I try not too think about it too much. I just really am tired of nature sounds in my city apartment.
I was thinking about it the other day and when does a guilty pleasure stop being guilty and start just being a pleasure? Because I'd feel a lot better about myself if so many of my pleasures weren't guilty. How great would it be if a Matchbox 20 song came on the radio and instead of loudly intoning "lame" as to impress my friends, I could fully admit my love for Matchbox 20. When I am alone you better believe I'm blasting that stuff like there's no tomorrow. Also Sherryl Crow - I'm sorry but I love her music. I even love her music when she steals it from Rod Stewart. I downloaded The First Cut is the Deepest and still get excited when IPod shuffle chooses to play it. See, my IPod doesn't discriminate. And sadly it doesn't end there. The first song at my wedding WILL be Bryan Adams "When You Love Someone", even if I haven't necessarily admitted that yet to most. Also I have several High School Musical songs in my music library. And I know them well. Like all the words well. And sure I pretend to love them ironically in a "its so bad its good" way, but really I just love them. They're so joyous. Plus it makes me thing of Zac Efron - yet another guilty pleasure but I don't care. It's confession time right? So yes, I love Zac Efron and his feathered hair. I also loved Jesse McCartney before he disappeared or went to rehab or wherever pretty, non-threatening actor/singer/dancers go. It doesn't end with music though. My favorite TV programming block is on Soap Net weekday afternoons; two hours of 90210, followed by the OC, followed by One Tree Hill. Yes, One Tree Hill. One of my favorite movies of all time is Newsies, yes Newsies, about singing and dancing newspaper boys in New York who go on strike. And before admitting these things might have made me feel a rush of shame and dread, but I am ending that now. I will no longer feel guilty about my guilty pleasures. I am embracing the cheesy and the low-brow and the sappy.
Matchbox 20 rocks. Yes you heard me.
Also in the time I wrote all of this I could have been working on either of the two ginormous papers I have due this week, or studying for my Politics of Africa test on Wednesday, or working on my internship work. Clearly my priorities are in order.
I also have admitted to myself that I live far too much inside of my own head. I am a shy person, which to outsiders mean I am quiet, but the truth is I am only quiet externally. Internally I never shut up.I think all the time, and sometimes my brain seems ready to implode with the weight of all of these thoughts. This is not to say I sit around pondering the deep mysteries of life, or challenging myself with existential dilemmas. I'm not that deep or pretentious (hopefully). Really I just think about everything, little things like what I saw on TV last night that no one else seemed to catch thus I have no one else to obsess about it, or that new great song that I secretly listen to over and over again in my car. I think about my plans for the night, for the next day, for the next ten years. I think about what an idiot this or that politician is and how stupid people are who believe him or her (sometimes my inner self can be very judgemental). I just think too much. So maybe by writing some of these thoughts out I can give myself a break. Blog me can take over, and my brain can go hang out by itself for a while. God knows it deserves the rest.
So here goes. I only expect two things from this, to become a better writer and to lessen my internal chaos. So clearly I am not aiming too high.
We'll see what happens.