Sunday, August 30, 2009

Further Revelations About My Amazing Dog Birdie.

My little dog Birdie, as anybody who've been reading this blog for the past few months knows, is a 12-year-old wondermutt rescue dog. She's deaf, she's blind, she's missing most of her teeth, and she's practically anorexic. Her tail has been broken and badly set in three identifiable places, and her hilariously long legs manage to be simultaneously bow-legged and splay-footed. She looks like a cross between a muppet and a Dr. Seuss character, has difficulty keeping her tongue in her mouth, is allergic to nearly every food group on the planet, and is generally the most awesome little dog in the world.

In spite of her multiplicity of handicaps, anybody who's ever met my sweet petunia could tell you that she's a champion at an astonishing number of things. These things are, in order of importance, 1. being cute. 2. melting my heart with her cuteness. 3. loving to ride in the car (cutely). 4. following me around like I'm her personal guru (guru, to her, being the person who feeds her lamb, the only food she will eat). 5. loving me with her cute little eyes. 6. hogging the bed (not so cute).

I know, I know. She's pretty amazing. But in spite of all this greatness, I still haven't told you what her number one skill is, the skill that elevates her out of the realm of mere "champion" and into the stratosphere of OLYMPIC champion. That's right, I said OLYMPIC. I mean, I knew she was cool, but really. Imagine my surprise when President Obama called me up the other day.

"Hello Ms. AmazingPants," our commander in chief said to me. "In times of need such as this current economic crisis, our country needs a hero - somebody the people can look up to, a goal our children can dream of, a greatness for which we might strive. It has come to my attention, and I know this must come as a surprise to you, but we believe that your dog Birdie might be such a hero for the American people. Will you allow her to serve her country in its hour of need?"

"Of course, Mr. Obama," I replied, "but I must confess I'm a little in the dark. What exactly is Birdie supposed to do?"

"Well perhaps you've heard that the International Olympic Committee has recently added a few new sports to its Summer Olympic roster? You know, boxing, golf, that sort of thing. Well one of the new categories is Long Distance Sleeping, and we've heard from our sources in Texas that Birdie is a vastly talented sleeper."

It's true, blog. Mr. Obama had heard correctly. Though Birdie is all that is sprightly and adorable when she's awake, that is a narrow window of time, indeed. At Mr. Obama's urging, I did some quick calculations. Birdie is generally awake only from 4pm to 11pm every day, with brief windows of awakening for a morning walk and subsequent delicious snack. That is 7 hours. If you multiply 7 times 7, you'll find that Birdie is only awake for a cumulative total of two days out of every seven. Framed in another way, Birdie sleeps for FIVE DAYS out of every week. Faced with these impressive statistics, there was really only one thing I could do.

"Mr. President," I said, "You may consider Birdie and myself at your service. I ask not what my country can do for me, but what my amazing dog can do for my country. We will proudly join the American Long Distance Sleeping Team in 2012. The Stars and Stripes will wave proudly above the winner's podium, I can promise you that."

I got off the phone and ran upstairs to tell Birdie the news. Naturally, I had to wake her up from a delicious nap.
"Oh yeah?" she yawned, "That's cool. Can I go back to sleep now?"

One year ago on Amazing Cheastypants.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Unders In My Icebox

When I was a kid, my sainted mother had what, at this far remove, seems like endless patience with us children. All one hundred and five of us. During the summers when she was in graduate school we'd all be home for summer too. We'd have friends over. We'd have fights with those friends. We'd laugh and cry and break things and paint on the walls -- ACCIDENTALLY. We howled and galumphed, shrieked and sang, ran and fell and crashed into things, and through it all Captain Mommypants kept her cool. Though she'd often look up at the ceiling and announce to the heavens, "That's it. I'm changing my name and moving to Australia," we all couldn't help but notice that she never really did change her name. Or move to Australia. Nope, she stayed right there with us in North Carolina, and on the days when we were truly unruly, she simply locked us out of the house with a cooler full of water, a handful of plastic cups, and a roll of toilet paper.

"DO NOT COME BACK IN THIS HOUSE UNTIL I RING THE DINNER BELL, YOU BUNCH OF BANSHEES!" she'd bellow, steam billowing from her ears.
"But Moooooooooom," we'd whine musically, en masse. "What if we get hungry, or get a cut on our knees, or have to go number two?" (Frantic batting of very cute eyelashes, dimpling of plump and pinchable cheeks.)
Mom would take a deep breath and cast about for the frayed remnants of her patience. "If you get a cut, you may come inside to clean it. If you have to go number two, you may come inside to use the toilet. But if you flush before I can verify that you did indeed go number two and weren't trying to pull a fast one on me, you will spend the rest of your life folding laundry. Now GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY." And the door would slam rather emphatically and we'd be stuck outside in 94 degree heat and 80% humidity for the rest of the day. Which, in the end, I'm awfully glad we were. Sure, my knowledge of pop-80s television shows and music is sadly deficient, but we had so much fun playing in the woods that, really, who cares. Plus, I built up a rather nifty and thoroughly useful immunity to the heat.

Did you catch that last bit? The part about the rather nifty and thoroughly useful immunity to the heat. Yes, well. Ahem. About that. (Commence noisy weeping.)

We here in Austin are on our 66th day of over-100-degree heat today. SIXTY-SIX DAYS. That's NINE WEEKS. TWO MONTHS AND A WEEK. We have broken, at this point, every known record for egregious heat conditions on the books for Austin since they first started keeping records back in 1854. Hottest June on record? We killed that record. Hottest July? Mark it down. Hottest August? Already done it, and the month isn't even over. Hottest summer? You betcha. That's 66 days, and that's not even counting the dozens of days where the temperature stayed at 99 or 98, which is still effing hot. And that rather nifty and thoroughly useful immunity to the heat I once possessed? It is currently lying on the ground outside, a badly-beaten quivering pulp of jelly, having offered what turned out to be futile resistance to the overwhelming ass-kicking Mother Nature is handing it this summer.

In my never-ending quest to find an adequate coping mechanism, I've tried just about every trick on the books. I soak a bandana in cold water and drape it around my neck when I walk the dog. I spend inordinate amounts of time at Barton Springs, submerging myself in the perpetually 68 degree water (ooooh, shivers of deliciousness). But you know where the best help has come from? You're never going to guess:

Marilyn Monroe.

See, told you. I bet you didn't guess Marilyn Monroe. I know, who would've thought it, but it's true! Have you ever seen The Seven Year Itch? Here's a really short scene that captures the ethos of my life this summer: the desperate search for ways to stay cool.

Marilyn offers a few other solutions over the course of that movie, most of which involve traipsing about New York in all of her scantily-clad glory (remember the subway scene?). There is one solution, however, that I've found quite effective, and I'm here to share it with you today, my sweet petunias, so that the next time you're concerned that the blood in your head might boil your brains, you too can try it. Marilyn Monroe recommends keeping your unders in the icebox."(Imagine it: breathy voice, suggestively waggling eyebrows, twitching lips, sultry smile: "Oooh, I keep my unders (pant, pant) in the icebox! (Squeal, giggle.) It's simply delicious!")

Unders in the icebox, I thought, the first time I saw that movie. Why that's preposterous! Whoever would do such a thing? Well I'll tell you who, blog. Me. I finally got hot enough that I thought, hmmm, what was that thing Marilyn Monroe said about keeping your unders in the icebox? Why I think I'll try it!

And it was lovely, blog. Just lovely. For the 3.5 nanoseconds before my body heated them right back up again, those cool unders were amazing. However, I recommend not freezing bras that employ... how shall I say this delicately... gelatinous structural supports for the poorly endowed? They turn kind of lumpy when they freeze. Not that I would have any experience with that, mind you. Pure speculation, that's what that was. Harumph.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

So I know what you all are wondering. What on earth does a girl as intelligent, talented, sophisticated, and unspeakably beautiful as Amazing Cheastypants do when ennui creeps in? Oh many many things, I assure you, my darlings. Occasionally I will author a Pulitzer Prize winning book. When the excitement from that wears off, I've been known to fly to exotic locales in my trusty Piper Cub to set up enormous nature preserves which, naturally, I endow with a hefty bank balance to ensure long-term viability. I remember fondly one winter vacation when a film I made won both the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals, and then there was the unspeakably wonderful time when I spontaneously tried out for Madame Butterfly at the Paris Opera and was cast as the lead soprano. Oh, the applause was thunderous, and the critics' reviews were thrilling to read! But alas, being a first-rate opera singer was not my destiny in life, and so I left it behind to continue pursuing my dream of becoming a jewel-bedecked professor of History. This summer, however, I started to feel that tickly feeling again, that get-out-and-conquer-a-new-world impulse that has so often driven me to greatness. You'll remember, of course, that I took a brief hiatus from writing this blog? Well, my sweet petunias, this is why: I needed a little free time to practice for the 2009 European Indoor Cycling World Championship, which (it almost goes without saying, really) my partner and I won. Naturally.

Would you like to see the video? Yes, yes, I thought so. Well here you go, poppets. Enjoy! I'm the one on the left.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Overheard In Austin

The other evening as some friends and I were walking back to our cars after a lovely late-night swim at Barton Springs, I overheard something I cannot get out of my head. Has that ever happened to you? You hear somebody you don't know say something you don't understand about somebody or something you are completely unaware of, and WHAM! You're hooked. Well it happens to me all the time.

For example, a few months ago I was in the airport and I spent an eternity trying to figure out what on earth a certain young lady had done to the older gentleman by her side when i heard him to say to her, "I cannot believe you just did that." I think it was the way he said it that grabbed my attention, really. No disgust, no excitement, no quiet resignation. It was completely flat, as if he were a robotic voice. "I-can-not-be-lieve-you-just-did-that."

Well? WHAT?! WHAT DID SHE DO?! Are they related? Is he her father? Maybe he is her father's best friend and they are embarking upon a torrid and taboo affair of love. And she... I don't know. Left her parents a note, telling them what she was doing... AND WITH WHOM. "Oh great, now not only am I going to jail, but your father will kill me. I cannot believe you just did that." Maybe he's her science teacher and they were on the way to the National Science Fair Championship of the Universe and she... I don't know. Forgot to pack the baking soda. "Oh, great. Now the model volcano won't erupt. I cannot believe you just did that."

Ach. So many possibilities, so few answers.

Well this is what I heard the other day, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out what they might have been talking about, so I'm enlisting your help, blog. It was a group of men and women in their twenties, slightly hipster-hippie looking, and one poorly-shaven young guy said, in tones of incredulous certainty, "No, sex makes it worse!" Got that? Incredulous certainty. That's what's got me going around in circles. I mean, if it were... I don't know. Something that OBVIOUSLY sex would make it worse, then he wouldn't have sounded so incredulous, would he. Moreover, his comment sounded as if he were answering somebody's suggestion that perhaps sex would make "it," whatever "it" is, better. Like he's tried it and, much to his surprise, sex made it worse. I am truly stumped.

So.... what were they talking about? On your marks, get set..... Go.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Little Wonderment For Tuesday

Normally I find inspirational posters and videos and cross-stitch thingies completely annoying. Especially that one with a kitten clinging desperately to a branch that says, "Hang in there!" That one makes me gag and want to hit things repeatedly with a crowbar. I mean, for God's sake WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE SAVE THAT LITTLE KITTEN FROM DYING.

This video, however, is a different story because it's COOL! I mean, yeah, you can totally ignore the last 20 seconds where they gently lecture you that if you have not failed you've never really lived - because honestly, I'd prefer to believe that I will encounter nothing but uproarious success in my life, over and over and over again. But all the stuff they tell you as the build-up to that? WOW. I mean, really. Who knew? Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go write that novel I'm always saying I'll write one day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Here's a Little Secret

Today I'm making soup and cleaning house, and it occurred to me that I might be sitting on the greatest secret of all time. You want to know what makes house cleaning fun? I put on my favorite musicals while I do it, so as I'm on my hands and knees scrubbing the wooden floor, I'm singing along at the top of my lungs with Fraulein Maria as she yodels "I Have Confidence." While I fold my laundry I dance along with Marion the Librarian, and while I dust the furniture or rub leather conditioner into my battered old couch I'm humming along with Judy Garland as she finds love during "Clang Clang Clang Went the Trolley."

What can I say. I might be a nutter, but at least I'm having fun. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm about to miss "76 Trombones," and so I must run. Want to watch it with me?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grant Me One Wish...

So here I sit, putting myself through the nauseating and slightly self-abasing process of applying for grants, fellowships, and other forms of funding for the next year of my graduate schooling. I can never decide whether I find the process amusing in a "hey, let's all play make-believe and imagine how marvelous this project could be!" kind of way, or whether I find it depressing. Because instead of actually working on my dissertation, I'm spending inordinate amounts of time convincing people to give me money next year so that I can continue to work on my dissertation. I mean, if I weren't working on grants, I would be working on my diss, so maybe if I weren't doing this I could finish this year and therefore have no need for money for next year? Yeah, well. Wishful thinking.

My anorexic dog Birdie, on the other hand, recently discovered a food she likes (hint: baaaaaaa) and ate herself into a coma this morning. So far she's been sleeping curled up on the sofa in the exact same position for 4 hours and 20 minutes, and that's only counting from when I first noticed that she hadn't moved in a long time and got up to check her for a pulse. All's well, but the Great Birdie Watch of 2009 commences. I'll let you know if she ever regains consciousness, or if she will happily snooze forever, dreaming of all the little lambs that died to feed her carnivorous appetite.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Great Face for Radio.

Ok, so the radio idea I mentioned in my last post. This is a work in progress, and believe you me, I am open to suggestions of any and all sorts. Here's my plan. The world is huge, right? It's huge and diverse and has fascinating histories of all sorts, so wouldn't it be cool to learn about some of the coolest stuff on the planet? People all over the world spend their professional lives digging up obscure things to write dissertations, articles, and books about, and the vast majority of those dissertations, articles, and books sit on shelves and collect dust, except when some other person researching an obscure topic reads them to further their own work. All in all, it's a great big world of knowledge that nobody outside the ivory tower is actually learning, and that is just plain wrong. Because while each individual article or PhD topic might sound a little abstruse ("Notes on a Balinese Cockfight," anyone?), when you take the time to ask a few questions, it often turns out to be fascinating, informative, and widely applicable to the world we live in today.

Here's an example: my sister Umulu wrote an honors thesis in college called something like, "Changing Concepts of Time in Post-Bolshevik Russia." When she first told me her topic, my initial reaction was, "Gawp. What the eff does that even mean? No, never mind, don't tell me, it sounds boring." Well I couldn't have been more wrong. It was fascinating. I just had never thought about what it might mean for an agricultural society to be forced - literally forced by a powerful central government - to make a rapid shift towards industrialization. Their concept of time, which previously had revolved around seasons, cycles, and circadian rhythms, became immediately subject to factory whistles - minute and second hands on a clock. In short, looking at thematic portrayals of time in literature, periodicals, propaganda, and art illustrated a greater point about how Russian peasants acclimatized to rapid industrialization and profound social change. Or, if that doesn't tickle your fancy, I have a friend that's studying astrology in 16th century Mexico, and another that's writing about PIRATES!

So that, in a nutshell, is what I want to do. I want to find people that are researching cool ideas in history, anthropology, art, musicology, science, etc, and interview them. Nobody is going to read their dissertations, but if I can get them to simplify the ideas, take it out of academic jargon and just talk about it in every-day normal human language, wouldn't that be cool? We could talk about their research process, future plans, and how the whole shebang applies to modern life. What an amazing way to learn!

So here's where I need your help, if help you are willing to offer. I'd like to know the following things:

a) Whether the idea sounds good, or like a giant snooze. If it sounds like a giant snooze, how could I make it more interesting?

b) What should I call the program? I had an early plan to call it "Shit You Didn't Know About Places You've Never Been," but then I realized you can't say "shit" on public radio, so there went that idea. I also toyed with calling it "A Great Big World," or maybe, "The Continued Adventures of A Great Big World." Or... yeah. That's all I've got for now. Help?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rejuvenation Station.

Anybody out there? (Tap, tap, tap).

Is this thing on?


Testing, testing, sssssibilance, sssssibilance...

OH! There you are! How nice.

My precious petunias! Many thanks for waiting patiently while I sorted out my general state of ennui. Now I am better! I had a little bit of a personal crisis of confidence, or maybe it was a crisis of inspiration? Definitely it was a crisis of OH MY GOD I've been in grad school for four years - FFFFOOOUUUUUURRRR YYYYEEEEAAAAAAARRRSSS - and I'm still a freaking gee-dee emmer-effing student. The following are the ways I would have defined my current job recently. STUDENT: one who is in no way in charge of her life. STUDENT: one who is in the process of being beaten down to a quivering intellectual pulp, only to be awarded a fancy degree when the last smidgen of resistance has collapsed. STUDENT: one who occasionally freaks the hell out and needs to regroup so as to maintain the illusion of control over his or her own life. The problem with a PhD program is that by the time you've been in for FOUR YEARS and are ready to just about scream bloody murder, to say screw this, I'm out of here, is it all right if I just turn in a one-page summary of my research findings... well, that's when it's got you by the short and curlies, because for the love of all that is holy, are you really going to walk away from four years of work? I mean, come on! You're over half-way there! Just duck your head down and keep plugging away. So I had to deal with that.

Want to know what I came up with? OK, I'll tell you. I am not a student. I mean, yes I am a student, but I'm not a STUDENT. The problem was that in the past few years what with master's thesis and comprehensive exams and 9 month research trips in Nicaragua that I really couldn't wait to be over, I'd gotten so good at keeping my eyes down and my steps plodding that I forgot all about HOW AWESOME life is, and, concomitantly, how awesome I am. I am Amazing Cheastypants! This world is a crazy and excellent place! I love to travel and learn! I have a fantastic family and wonderful friends! I am so lucky! I love to dance! The air sparkles when I walk through a room, and my acres and acres of beautiful bouncy hair bring gasps of joy and wonderment to people everywhere! Naturally, I have a biased opinion of my own grandeur and excellence, so feel free to disagree, but this is my blog, and if I can't toot my own horn here, then what's the freaking point.

Anyway, this is what I came up with. I will continue to work on the dissertation, and in two years folks will be calling me DOCTOR Amazing Cheastypants, but in the interim, I need to do something to harness my creative juices, celebrate the things I think are awesome in this world, and build a space in my professional life in which I AM THE BOSS OF ME. So I think I'm going to start a talk radio show. I'll tell you all about it in my next post.