Monday, September 19, 2011

Word Salad

First of all, did you know that "word salad" is actually a medical term to describe when someone's verbal speech sounds like, well, a word salad? I love that. I think it's my favorite medical phrase I've learned so far, well second to micturition (look it up).

But I thought word salad would also be applicable to this blog, because it's going to be a bit jumbled. First of all, I have been missing. I am very sorry for this. The last few weeks have been beyond busy, and I would lie and say that it won't happen again, but the next few weeks may be even busier so I will probably vanish from the interweb once more.

But I wanted to write, even if in jumbled fashion, because I miss it. I write professionally and get paid for it, but at the end of the day I really love blogging, even if it's for free, even if there's only three people out there reading it (hey guys!). Because it helps to corral all the neuroses that live in my skull and get them to stand in a straight line for a while at least. And if that sentence made no sense to you than clearly you are a more sane and together person than I.

So in no particular order, my thoughts of the moment:

-The absolute best part about the weather getting colder is drinking red wine. Does that make me sound like Courtney Cox's quasi-alcoholic character from Cougar Town? Okay I might be Courtney Cox's quasi-alcoholic character from Cougar Town. But at least I don't have a candle holder doubling as a wine glass that I've named "Big Jo".


-I went to Wrightsville Beach for a weekend to celebrate my lovely best-friend's bachelorette. The house was very cool-an old 1930's beach house a stone's throw away from the water. The only problem was that when we arrived, other than the house being lovely, it also looked like a frat house. I wish I were exaggerating. There were dozens of beer boxes on top of dozens of pizza boxes stacked up all over the place. In one room not only was there a pair of man's boxers, but also a lady's bra (presumably these did not belong to the same person). There was sand everywhere. There was probably bodily fluid everywhere. We were a black-light and a David Caruso away from it being a crime scene. Now my first thought was, "Oh well guys, let's get a vacuum and an industrial strength jar of bleach and clean this place up ourselves." Luckily my much more assertive friend was there who immediately called the owner, let him know not only were his former occupants the Canadian equivalent of Jersey Shore (did I mention they were Canadian, I mean WHO KNEW?) but that the cleaning people had not come and that we would not accept it. NO SIR WE WOULD NOT. I SAID GOOD DAY. It was literally like that. And it was awesome. Not only did a cleaning lady arrive about 5 minutes later and scour that house to within an inch of its life, but the owner agreed to write us a check for our trouble. This was truly a life lesson. My way of doing things would have ended up with us scrubbing floors for two hours and probably catching Hepatitis. My awesome, assertive friend's way of doing things had us on the porch sipping champagne while our house was professionally cleaned, and getting paid for it to boot!

Also I now wonder if everything I've ever presumed of Canadians was a lie. Because these boys were dirty. And also I'm assuming smoking hot if they were getting ladies in and out of their house with such frequency that they forgot their under garments.

-I'm learning skills in school this semester. Skills! I know that sounds a little obvious, but let me remind you that my first degree was in English. Oh and I loved it. Book nerd that I was, I was in heaven. I didn't even care that the knowledge filling my head was useless, that if the apocalypse came and we were forced to rely on street smarts that I'd be that idiot who died while trying to lug around a stash of Jane Austen novels. I spent semester after semester learning things that were beautiful and lovely but that had literally no practical purpose in life. I mean for God's sake, I took a class dedicated to the novels of Tim O'Brien, Kurt Vonnegut, and Hemingway. And it was awesome. And I loved it. But really? What am I going to do with that people? If you know you're clearly more inventive than I, because I quickly realized about a week after graduation that unless I wanted to teach (which I don't, thank you 500 Thai children for consolidating that) my college experiences would never serve me in real life terms. They would help me to be awesome at trivia and pretentious at dinner parties-but no one was going to pay me for that.

But this, this is new. After just a few short weeks, I now know how to manually take a blood pressure (so much harder than it looks), take various pulses and respiratory rate and other vitals. I can miter corners on a bed (kind of) and put gloves on using aseptic technique. And my hardest learned skill of all-I can give someone a full bed bath and CHANGE SHEETS WITH A PERSON IN THE BED. That may sound easy, but I assure you it is not. I learned this at my first hospital clinical. Because I'm terrified of HIPAA, I won't go into any details, other than to say it was the scariest thing I've maybe ever done in my life, and there were points I was sure I was going to be that girl, the one you hear about in rumor and myth who was sued for malpractice on her first clinical, for giving someone a BATH. But I was not sued. That bed was changed and it looked fabulous. I've never been more proud of changed linens in my life.

But seriously these are honest-to-God skills. This is a trade. If there were a zombie apocalypse now I would probably not be the first one to die. Not really sure how taking vitals and changing beds would keep me alive, but I know it would have a better chance than being able to write a lengthy term paper on English Romantic poets.

-I've been catching up on all the drama over at my fellow theater critic, Dave's, theater blog (, and long story short, some of Richmond's theater critics have apparently come under some pretty strong criticism by various and sundry people, some official, some internet commentators who probably wrote their posts in their underwear (not that there's anything wrong with that, I do some of my best writing when I'm not wearing real pants). There are a lot of layers to this things, and I can't speak for anyone, but personally I love reading my fellow critics' reviews. I think we're all different and all write differently, but at the end of the day we all have only good intentions, to write reviews that are readable and insightful.

My reviews, while not as prominent as Dave's or the RTD writers, have been criticized in the past for various reasons, and while I don't think it's a good rule to respond to message board"haters," I do want to explain something. One criticism that stung was a ways back and someone online said my review didn't go into the technical details of the play enough. And I unfortunately took that criticism too much to heart and let it influence my writing, which was a mistake. Because here's the thing:

I am not an expert in theater at all. I didn't seek out a job as a theater critic. It happened by chance. I filled a slot, and I know for a fact I was not hired because my editor thought I was a theater expert. I am continuously learning about this world that until recently I knew very little about. So for me to devote space in my reviews to sound design and lighting design is disingenuous at best and completely false at worst. If I'm writing about sound design it means that sound design was so obvious that it distracted from the story, and luckily that hasn't happened yet. I just can't speak to that stuff. Other reviews in town can, and if you want that in your review go read them, because they're pretty great. Me, I know story. Remember earlier in this blog when I said that what I learned in college had no practical purpose. Well I lied. Because spending four years learning about plot and character and dialogue and rhythm and voice and tone did prepare me to be able to write about that aspect of a play. And so that's what I focus on in my reviews. I, of course, talk about acting and directing and costumes and set, all of the things that I feel like someone without expertise can talk about without sounding like it's coming straight out of their you know what.

But I'm not going to get technical. That's not my jazz. When I write a review the number one thing I think about was if the story of the play moved me. The number two thing I think about is how to make my review readable, enjoyable for the reader who hasn't seen the play, who isn't an expert on theater either. And that probably would make some theater purists mad and sniff their noses at me and call me names. And that's fine. In the short time I've worked professionally as a writer I've gotten a little thicker skin. It doesn't bother me as much. I want to be honest in everything I write, and the way I write reviews allows me to do that.

So anyways, that's my little defense. It may seem out of the blue, but reading all the back and forth over at Dave's blog really had me thinking about the role of a reviewer and the role of reviews. There's no clear answer. And I will always be looking to improve and get better. But for now I play to my strengths and try to create something that people will enjoy reading. If you still want to call me names, feel free to use the comments. But at least make them witty.
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