Thursday, July 24, 2008

Will the real Miss Claire please stand up?

Not to get all deep on you, dear lone RazRazz reader, but lately I've been thinking about me.

Hopefully not in as selfish a way as that sounds.

Now more than ever (and by "ever," I mean "in my teenage years") I am wondering who I am.

Teenage Claire was subject to bouts of melancholy, but on the whole pretty carefree. Teenage Claire had no overarching mission, but she tended to be happy and fulfilled doing the youth group thing. Life was so simple. I was pretty darn irresponsible.

Now? Well, I'm twenty-mumblemumblemumble. I am irresponsible and I balance the melancholy with the carefree. I am a strange combination of apathy and analysis and entertainment. (I'd like to point out that this new combination tends to lead to stupid decisions. Since college started, I have watched more really lame movies than ever before.) (And sometimes, I've really enjoyed them.) I read more Dorothy Sayers, Blaise Pascal, and Kurt Vonnegut than I did when I was in my teens.

And the other thing is this. I knew, at fifteen or sixteen or seventeen, that I had no idea who I was.

And now, as my youth meets a fledgeling adulthood, I have little sparks of ideas of who I might be and it's vastly frustrating. I am convinced--I don't just believe this; I am convinced--that somehow, somewhere, a loving deity dreams up people. An ultimate Creative Mind and Personality, the Unmoved Mover, the God of the Universe, has designed me, what makes me tick, what movies make me cry, what songs make me go nuts, and how I can uniquely worship Him.

This means that I need to accept the things that I know I am. I like absolutely everything about art... I like to engage in slightly dangerous activities... I like nerdy stuff like words...

So... that's part of me, anyway. Who are you? Or, at least, who do you think you are? I'm really curious.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Family Reunion 2008 By The Numbers

96 or so attendees--most of us with oddly similar large noses.

2 sightings of perennial presidential hopeful John Edwards. I can tell you that his hair looks nothing less than amazing in person. He looks like a "Just for Men" ad.

11:53 or so:
the time I got to the theatre for my first-ever 12:01 movie event. I watched The Dark Knight. Um, epic.

I think the best way to go into this particular movie for the first time is not to know anything, not to be aware of the lauds and surprises--it's what I did--but I will say that I am impressed with the Nolans' growth as screenwriters and filmmakers. It's so not The Prestige (which I did like, by the way.)

5 en-route Peter Kreeft audio lectures on philosophy and religion. I really like philosophy and religion. Faith is so transcendent; so natural; so weird. Religion is either the greatest lie or the greatest truth known to humanity; why do people believe? why don't they? It's interesting, and it gave me an idea for a sci-fi/fantasy in which finite matter exhausts every possibility in an infinite environment.

3 dreams about The Dark Knight. This phenomenon was eerily foretold by Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. I only really distinctly remember one, in which I was tauting the merits of the movie to a very macho guy friend of mine. "I, I can't go see it," dream-macho-man-friend said, with emotion evident in his low, dream voice. "Heath Ledger... it's too much. Too soon." I've thought about this dream since. I wonder if any real person actually feels like this; if, somewhere, some of Heath's friends and family are quietly, sadly trying to block out the sturm und drang surrounding Ledger's iconic, nuanced portrayal as the Joker, waiting to be reminded of his incredible talent and craft until they're ready.

1 trip to the hospital, an actor's occupational hazard in the wild, wacky world of summer theatre.

3 cans of Diet Mountain Dew.

2 en-route pit stops at Big Lots.

7 group family photos.

3 episodes of "Psych" and 2 of "Shear Genius" thanks to a killer bout with indigestion that left me incapacitated and unsocialized.

poem recitations, a family tradition.

2 ventures on winding Cherokee paths, 1 in the dark.

4 kids discussing and/or playing Pokemon at one time. It's happened. Pokemon is retro. Only one of the kids--my uber-cool but enigmatically serious, blond bowl-cutted cousin Sam--had the trading cards, though.

Countless references to "tony ja" and places to tattoo it.

Countless rehearsals my father needed to master "Have You Ever Seen A Penguin Come to Tea?"

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Just call me Dr. Doolittle 4.

No, I am not Rex Harrison (question: why was dude in so many musicals? Talk-singing should really only get you through once or twice. "Talk to the Animals" was just a painful experience; sorry, Rexy) or Eddie Murphy (I am not potty-mouthed, male, or black). Or whoever that kid was who did Dr. Doolittle 3, the direct-to-video sequel.

I was exhausted from a morning spent with Peter, paint, and three little girls (but mostly Peter and paint) but instead of spending my very lengthy lunch break on lunch and a nap, I decided to eat and go to the neighboring pet store. It was up there with "deciding to chop off over a foot of my hair" as the best and most fulfilling decision I have ever made.

My pet-store excursion first reminded me of this vital truth: fish are boring. They can be pretty, but all they do is open and shut their mouths vapidly, with their glassy little fish eyes. Unfortunately, they remind me of some girls I know.

I also realized that when I grow up and am single with my own apartment or married with half of my own apartment, but no kids yet, I would like a mildly expensive pet. Namely, a ferret or a parrot. (Oh, my gosh--that sort of rhymed).

Ferrets are stinky and a pain; but they are cute and spunky. Cute and spunky can cover a multitude of sins. Just ask Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Kind of comes across as jerky, but the spunk! the zip! I feel like I would have to raise a ferret from a small baby so it thinks of me as its mother and will love me for the rest of its ferret life. I would put it on a leash and name it Charles Bukowski--Charley for short, but I would pronounce it "Cholly," like the kid on the "Charlie Bit My Finger" video.

I would want a parrot because I spent, literally, not figuratively, fifteen minutes in front of the cage of a four-month old Quaker Parakeet. His name was Scooter, and he stole my heart. If I had the means, I would've stolen him, because I certainly cannot afford his 259.99$ price tag. My internet research on Quaker Parakeets tells me that 259.99$ is highway robbery.

Anyway, Scooter spent fifteen minutes of his parrot life proving to me that he is the cutest, most affectionate bird in existence, merely by expressing interest in me. He, like any other four-month-old baby, played an absolutely killer game of Peek-A-Boo. He nodded voraciously at me and followed each of my movements with his crazy little side-eyeballs or by climbing on the ceiling of the cage. We definitely had a connection; I felt like The Bird Whisperer. His description on the cage indicated that he is very loving and is a good kisser. If you have room in your heart, wallet, and home for an expensive, flirtatious green bird, I recommend Scooter. Apparently Quaker Parakeets can also learn to talk, which I think is so cool. So yeah.

And then I spent the rest of my afternoon with ten rugrats, including a very, very jaded five-year old. (Five years old, a freckled nose, a pout, and he says, "Give me a break, woman!" He's so precocious; he drives me crazy but I can't stay mad for long--he's just too precocious and pouty.)

Mom, I'm sorry for all my childhood sarcasm and disrespect. I assure you that I'm getting it all back fivefold, in two-hour increments; like I said, karma is not cool. (Grace, on the other hand, is. Unlike karma, grace is not fair. It's grace.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tales from the Crayola Gallery

If you were to ask twelve-year-old Claire, or ten-year-old Claire, or fifteen-year-old Claire, or current Claire, who she kind of wanted to be when she grows up, Claire or Claire or Claire or Claire might very well say, "I kind of want to be a blond Seattle native with a nose piercing and corduroy pants." Which is to say that I kind of wanted or want to be my art teacher, Ms. Patti. She sort of reminded me of my aunt and sort of reminded me of Julie Andrews and sort of reminded me of all that was good in the world.

Not only is Ms. Patti a consummate artist, but she's also a consummate art teacher. Those two things do not always go hand in hand.

My brother used to cry havoc and unleash the dogs of war in her classroom, and she took it all entirely in stride. And she made me feel brilliant.

Well, life hasn't exactly come full circle, but I am now an assistant at another consummate art teacher's art camp. I spend four hours with kids from ages 5-13. This experience reminds me of why I love kids and why I vow to never have more than five.


When Peter, with his large brown eyes and high cheekbones, crawled under the table yet again, I remembered my brother (another set of large brown eyes) and Ms. Patti, the Mother Theresa, Audrey Hepburn and Nadia Comaneci of the art world, and how graceful and non-condescending she is. I remembered and I said, "Hey, Peter, you drew a terrific picture of Wall-E and Eve. Will you please sit up in your chair and draw me something?" I didn't lie. I never lie to kids. His picture of Wall-E and Eve was royally good, unusually accurate in shape and proportion, especially for a five-year-old artist. He drew me a pink and yellow Super Soaker in five minutes and then started climbing on the chairs. I love little boys.

The classes were full of precocious kids and quiet kids and talkative kids and kids that made fart jokes. And combinations of the four.

This one seven-year-old used the word "bloodcurdling" twice, along with a host of other words that take five minutes to spell. I was impressed. Even for a homeschooler, she was good.

I don't want this to turn into a Kids Say the Darndest Things entry, but thinking about the funny things that happened today reminded me of babysitting on Saturday night. I went over to my pastor's house to watch his kids. His three-year-old is notorious for getting up after she's been tucked into bed. She treated me pretty well; she only came to the door once. I knelt down to her eye level. "Hey, what's up? Do you need anything?"

"My nose hurts," she said.

"What do you want me to do about that?" I'm still a little hard at reading kids' expectations. I really want them to spell it all out for me. Luckily, she can.

"I need a nakkin to wipe my nose."

I returned with toilet paper wadded up in a little ball. She touched the tip of her nose and said, "I can't get the boogies out. Can you help me get the boogies out?"

I said that I was sorry, but I didn't think I could help her get her boogies out. I then told her that maybe if she went to sleep, they would come out easier. (Remember how I said I don't lie to kids? I don't always lie to kids.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I'm on to you, aliens

Dear extra-terrestrials,

I have not read the entire Agatha Christie spectrum of mystery for nothing. I can use those little gray cells. I have made the following observation.

All of our VHS chick flicks are AWOL. Sleepless in Seattle (complete with Rob Reiner and Rosie O'Donnell)... Sarah, Plain and Tall (complete with cheesy 90's Hallmark commercials from when we taped it)... Little Women (complete with Christian Bale.) (I know! This is a tragically tragic occurrence!)

From this observation, I can make several deductions.

1. We were not burgled. All burglers now have DVD players.

2. If we were not burgled, the videos were either confiscated by my father or brother... or abducted by aliens.

I have questioned the male members of my family carefully and threatened them with horrible things: dragging them to shoe stores, making them sit through Sense and Sensibility, interrogating them for their manpinion on my nail polish choices (ok, I make them do that anyway). I am confident that they have not taken my chick flicks. Therefore, I can deduce...

3. The particular brand of alien who has made off with Winona, Meg, and Glenn (and possibly others who have slipped my mind) owns a video playing device.

4. The particular brand of alien is probably female.

I'm sure this limits my suspects considerably. Until I find you, Girl E.T., I assure you that I will be guarding my remaining girly media with all the powers I have in my persuasion. You will NOT take my Jane Austen.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Wimbledon 2008

I do not follow sports very well. I'll watch the Olympic trials like a good American citizen, listen to the commentary, and regurgitate the same information, slightly rephrased, two minutes later, hoping to impress my family with my knowledge of all things athletic. Generally, this does not work. Generally, my sister will look at me as if I've sprouted two extra heads, roll her eyes and then level her gaze at all six of my eyeballs. "Yeah, I know, Claire," she'll say. "Bela Karolyi just said that."

So pretty much all I know about tennis is that it's not the one with touchdowns, alleyoops or home runs. It's the Hamptons kind of sport. It's the one with white outfits. Okay!

But I tend to pay attention to Wimbledon... if only for the cheeky name... I mean, really... it's Wimbledon... especially this one. It was so epic. For real. You have the Williamses duking it out and then you have yet another set between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

I started to watch Federer vs. Nadal. I was turned off by the rain delays, which made more time for replays of women's doubles. When Serena and Venus are on the same team, it's like a wall of tall woman and it's pretty indestructible. They have individual clothing lines, for the love of Pete. I'd sure as heck be intimidated. I already knew they'd won, but I doubt there would have been a lot of suspense in store for me if I'd been in the dark.

Besides, Roger and Rafa played for a very, very, very long time. In order to watch all of those hours of tennis, I'm pretty sure you have to understand the rules of the game.

So I was pretty clueless. Does this mean I did not have an opinion? No, it does not. In fact, I was totally rooting for Rafael. (Sorry, Roger, I'd absolutely give you The Best Hair Award... and oh, ok... Most Swiss.) The reason was simple. I had absorbed enough commentary to understand how historic this year's Wimbledon was, and I didn't know about Federer's bout with mono until after I had decided to support Rafa. I felt like it was time for Bjorn to be displaced a little bit and, thanks to the wonders of replays, I had to give props for how thoroughly Rafa has made over his game. He puts a smile on John McEnroe's face. John McEnroe! And, because of his trophy-biting habit, Nadal reminds me quite a bit of a Spanish version of the muppet Animal.

Furthermore and most importantly, I think Roger's monogrammed cardigans look doofy.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, United States

I'll let you in on a little secret. I almost sympathized with Michelle Obama back in February when she said she was proud of the United States for the first time in her adult life. I didn't sympathize, because I thought it was a stupid thing for her to say under the circumstances, which I didn't feel warranted the statement, either. She is proud of America merely because Democrats like her husband? Um. Ok.

But other than that, I personally find national pride overrated. "Pride," to me, means either a degree or two of hubris or a group of lions.

(Hubris means overweening pride. I think pretty much all pride is overweening.)

I just think there's a fine line between the prideful version of patriotism and jingoistic narcissism. Like George Bernard Shaw said, "Patriotism is your conviction that the country is superior to all others because you were born in it."

I'm not always happy with the actions the citizens of my country take, both on personal and governmental levels. Not ok with the KKK. Not ok with Roe v. Wade. As a country, we are pretty much everyone else's wretched refuse and we make a lot of good decisions, a lot of controversial decisions, and a lot of bad decisions.

The question is, is it safe for me to be not proud of my country? Can I live with that? Yeah, sure, I can deal. I will never be a threat to the U.S.A. I love its bigness and its variety and its melting-potitty. I love the Southeast and its culture, although I'm probably going to leave it soon. I will undoubtedly always be loyal to my country because my ancestors chose to live here and I was born here and it's afforded me a lot of opportunities, such as the chance to get a B.A. in a truly sucktacular economy. (Really, I can deal with that. I promise. Cardboard box? Check. Really old army jacket? I think I gave that away freshman year. Stubble? Check. [No, not really.] Am I upset that panhandling is now illegal in my state? No, not really. That stuff is dangerous for hobos and drivers.)

I will stand by the U.S.A., even through a wide variety of governmental leaders I don't like, floods, hurricanes, Hollywood, and the exchange rate. (I have like forty euro left over from my trip to Italy, just in case.)

And I wish it a happy birthday. I may not say that it's the greatest nation on God's green earth, but it's the nation I hail from and it's the nation I will call home, maybe not forever, but for a while.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The One Where I Rant About Walmart

I'd like to preface this by saying that I know substantial numbers of people who work at Walmarts across America, and I wish them well and I hope they all always have jobs. That said...

. It's an oversized monument to what I don't like about capitalism. Even its supporters are kind of embarrassed to admit that they shop there. (It's like you might catch a glimpse of me in a Walmart, but I might not say hey.)

It's kind of like the corporation version of Dick Cheney.

The other night it was in the news. For changing its logo. From the familiar stamp-ish looking "WAL*MART" to the kindler, gentler "Walmart (with a sunburst)". If you've missed this, you can go to the Walmart website and see it. Soon stores will gradually have the WAL*MART removed from their behemoth building fronts, to be replaced with "Walmart (with a sunburst)."

Walmart-with-a-sunburst, your logo looks like it belongs to a daycare, or, worse, Kinderfoto. Fail.

Get some people on your side who know about marketing and can live with the self-hatred that probably comes with being in an upper-level office position at Walmart-with-a-sunburst.

Realize that no, you cannot be Target. Targets will just always be more aesthetically pleasing and have better commercials. Realize that you do not actually want to be Target, because your "target" audience default-shops at Walmart anyway and the people who hate you generally also hate Target. At least where I live, the Target looks like a stylized ghost town with inexplicable big red metal balls in front. Because it's right next to the Walmart (which currently is still WAL*MART, by the way.) This is also kind of inexplicable, but I digress.

I'm still harping about the Kinderfoto. What were you thinking?