Friday, May 13, 2011

12-point self-improvement plan

1) Use a manual typewriter for composing writey things. I won't be able to get as much done, but damn, will I be able to ramp up my sanctimonious quotient.

2) Stop making rape jokes. Some people don't find them funny.

3) Always do what I love. Like making rape jokes.

4) Stop giving a fuck whether people like me. And stop liking other people. They don't like me anyway.

5) Stop making self-deprecating comments. It's obvious I was born and/or destined to be ugly, friendless, a professional failure, and in general useless to society & humankind, and repeatedly verbalizing these facts won't change them.

6) Make money. Enough to abandon my family and live a Lohan-esque lifestyle. 

7) Have some more children. That way I won't get my period. Menstruation is gross.

8) Get involved in a cause I care about. Possibilities: The plight of me, the lack of money of me, the lack of fame of me, me-awareness.

9) Eat more kale. 

10) Fucking Blogger went down and the rest of what I wrote got erased. They were fucking funny, though.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kat On Kat: Children's Lit Hey, it’s me. What’s going on?

YK: We had a nice conversation the other day. It was nice catching up. I’m not really in touch with my inner self, so it was just…nice.

GK: Nice, yeah.

YK: I thought we could do it again sometime.

GK: Yeah, maybe someday.

YK: Like, now.

GK: Well, I’m kinda trying to finish –

YK: I thought the topic for today could be –

GK: Wait, we have to have topics? What is this, Tyra?

YK: Here’s the topic. Um, the other day you mentioned how we used to read Sweet Valley High novels?

GK: You’re employing a liberal definition of ‘novel,’ but yes.

YK: I thought we could discuss, like, what you read when you were a kid, and what influenced you.

GK: Where is this interview format coming from?

YK: Well, I was thinking…no one’s ever interviewed us before.

GK: Why should they?

YK: A lot of people get interviewed. Why shouldn’t we?

GK: Because we don’t contribute to society in any appreciable way?

YK: But no one takes us seriously.

GK: I’m kinda fine with that.

YK: …Don’t you want to be taken seriously like James Joyce?

GK: No. That’s not really what I’m going for. I never liked James Joyce.

YK: What?

GK: I don’t know, I opened one of his books and he was talking about moo-cows and tuckoos and it just lost me. He’s one of those people I’m supposed to like. Any time I’m supposed to do anything, I get resentful. It’s a flaw.

YK: Hm. That’s a good way to deflect your responsibility as a reader. In any case, I want to interview you. I want us to interview each other.

GK: Whatevs.

YK: So, you used to read Sweet Valley High.

GK: Oh, yes.

YK: Did you identify with Jessica or Elizabeth?

GK: Liz, obviously. I couldn’t relate to Jessica as well, because she was best friends with Lila Fowler and Lila was such an insufferable bitch. That took Jessica down a few notches in my view. But at the same time, I wanted to be like Jessica. She dyed her hair black and shit.

YK: Yep, in The New Jessica. And you eventually dyed your hair black, too.

GK: Yeah, I became Jessica in a sense. Tried to, anyway. She seemed to have more fun even as she lacked scruples. Meanwhile, Liz had scruples and was kind of an uptight bitch and miserable.

YK: What did you think of Sweet Valley Twins?

GK: You know, I didn’t like it as much. I think because I was closer to that age [Sweet Valley Twins was a prequel that took place when Elizabeth and Jessica were in middle school. -Eds.] it seemed phony to me, whereas high school was so far away that all the nonsense seemed plausible. Like, I just assumed that all teenagers got to drive Fiats and were always falling into comas and having boyfriends die and shit.

YK: And getting kidnapped, don't forget.

GK: That's right, Elizabeth got kidnapped that one time. It all seemed true-to-life.

YK: Yeah, ‘cause we didn’t know any better.

GK: No, why would we? The only teenagers I knew were my babysitters.

YK: Did they drive Fiats?

GK: No, but they smoked and swore and talked on the phone all the time. I assumed they’d be in a coma sooner or later.

YK: Hey, speaking of babysitters, we read a whole lot of Baby-sitters Club.

GK: Oh, yeah. But that, I read with a kind of horror. I mean, it was so bad.

YK: Worse than Sweet Valley High?

GK: Well, SVH was horribly written, I knew that even then. But again, there was a distance, which made it palatable somehow. I knew SVH was horrible, but it had the redeeming feature of all that tragedy. Baby-sitters Club was just weird.

YK: Yet you read it.

GK: I don’t know why. It was something I couldn’t look away from. Part of the reason may have been that I never quite fit in when I was going to Edina schools–

YK: Can’t imagine why.

GK: --so Baby-sitters Club was like a conduit that allowed me to glimpse into other people’s lives. The people who shunned me. Even though I knew my real-life peers weren’t as wholesome as the Baby-sitters.

YK: No?

GK: No, they were racist as shit. And materialistic and generally unpleasant. But the Baby-sitters were sickeningly wholesome. And they, like, loved babysitting. I hated babysitting. I only did it to earn money to buy Chic-o-sticks and Bobby Brown cassingles. I remember in one book, one of the girls – Kristy, maybe – told her charge that she liked him so much she’d babysit for him even if she didn’t get paid, and I’m like, bitch, please. Are there really people like this? Or is this book bullshit and just designed to make me feel like a shitty person?

YK: We wasted a lot of time reading crap.

GK: Yeah. I think it upset my mom.

YK: She tried to get us to read Hermann Hesse and shit.

GK: Yeah, I did read Siddhartha at her behest, but I didn’t really get it. I liked it, but I couldn’t have told you why when I was 13. I ended up really liking Hesse in college. I guess I read crap because it was easy. You know, sometimes you're in the mood to watch a bleak Ingmar Bergman rape scene; others you wanna watch Will Ferrell rub his balls on John C. Reilly's drum set.

YK: Or sometimes you want to eat sous-vide quail egg yolks topped in yuzu foam, while sometimes you just want a corn dog.

GK: Exactly.

YK: So did you read any lit-lit as a child?

GK: My favorite books were the Alice books, hands-down.

YK: You’re speaking of Lewis Carroll?

GK: Of course. Utter magic. I read those two books over and over and over again.

YK: What about them appealed to you?

GK: Well, they weren’t, like, traditional novels. They didn’t have the whole predictable structure. Stasis-conflict-resolution.

YK: Well, they kinda do.

GK: Not so much though. The book never works in service to the plot. It’s a pure reveling in words and language and nonsense. Carroll was a master of playing with language in a way that highlighted its absurdity.

YK: Can you offer any examples to back up that statement?

GK: Um...not off the top of my head, I guess.

YK: Huh...

GK: Are you rolling your eyes?

YK: Sometimes you say stupid things.

GK: So do you.


YK: What else did you read?

GK: Madeleine L’Engle. Loved her. C.S. Lewis, all the Narnia books.

YK: Really? Even with the Jesus stuff?

GK: Hey, I had no idea it was about Jesus. I thought they were clever and fantastical and very well-written.

YK: Did you ever read the Bible?

GK: Never did. I've read parts. Once my babysitter’s mom read to me from a picture Bible and it scared the shit out of me and I knew right then that Christianity was bullshit. She told me God loved me more than my parents, and then said He might send me to roast in eternal hellfire if I, say, masturbated.

YK: She said that?

GK: Well, she didn’t say ‘masturbated,’ I added that part.

YK: I like how you capitalized ‘He.’

GK: Thanks. Oh, and Choose Your Own Adventure, of course, and all the copycat versions. There was even a Narnia version.

YK: Yes, loved all that. So you mentioned a lot of fantasy books, did you read any non-fantasy?

GK: Oh, yeah, Judy Blume, the Little House books, Beverly Cleary, uh…Maud Hart Lovelace…. Nancy Drew. Christ! Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Another without a traditional novel structure. Just delight in nonsense and words. Love it. Oh, how could I leave out Roald Dahl?

YK: Encyclopedia Brown? Two-Minute Mysteries?

GK: Yeah, I loved those. I was horrible at solving them, though.

YK: You just didn’t have the patience. You went and looked at the answer right away.

GK: That’s true, in a sense.

YK: In an absolute sense, yes. Remember how you used to cheat at solitaire?

GK: We don’t need to drag anyone’s name through the mud.

YK: Why would you even do that?

GK: Can we talk about something else?

YK: Can I say one more thing before we wrap up?

GK: Yeah, okay.

YK: I find it interesting that you can’t tolerate usage of ‘moo-cow’ and ‘tuckoo’ but you’re fine with ‘mome wraths’ and ‘O frabjous day.’

GK: Hm. You’ve got a point.

YK: Care to comment?

GK: I’ll think about it.

YK: ‘Till next time, then.

GK: Uh, I’m not going anywhere.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Conversation With Me. to*: Hey!

Yahoo Kat: What's up?

Gmail Kat: Nothin'. How 'bout you?

YK: Well, obvs the same thing, since I'm you. We're both doing the same thing. Always, necessarily. Why are you talking to me if I'm you?

GK: Eh, I'm avoiding writing. What're you doing?

YK: Same thing.

GK: Really? That's amazing!

YK: No. No, it's not.

GK: Yeah, I guess not. Where are the kids? 

YK: Next door, playing with the neighbor kids. 

GK: Nice.

YK: Yeah. I'm glad I live in an open neighborhood where kids play outside all day like in the olden days. Nowadays parents are expected to spend every fucking second with their kids. I'm not a nostalgic type, but there is something nice about kids being a little independent. My kids spontaneously make maps and invent new instruments and shit. Just from boredom! That's the way to do it.

GK: Well, but....

YK: What, you disagree? 

GK: I don't know. Were things really better then?

YK: No, no. I'm not saying that. You're confused. But I drive into these suburban neighborhoods and --

GK: You do? When do you ever go into suburban neighborhoods? 

YK: I do. Sometimes.

GK: I think you're just pulling shit out of your ass. 

YK: There's plenty you don't know about me, okay? 

GK: But I'm with you every second and I've never known you to drive into the suburbs. 

YK: Kat. H&M, Sephora, Michael's, Jun Bo, these are all in the suburbs. Sometimes I need to patronize them. 

GK: You need to? 

YK: Yes. I need to. I cannot obtain disposable clothes or artificial kumquats within the St. Paul city limits.

GK: Maybe. I think sometimes you just make shit up, though.

YK: Can I finish?

GK: Yeah, OK.

YK: My point was, I go into these suburban neighborhoods and the streets are empty. Completely bereft of children. The kids like never play outside. They have huge yards and they go unused. The kids are in, like, organized activities.

GK: Lame! 

YK: Yeah, or they're on their fucking Wii or DSI. So there are benefits to being poor, too, because I can't afford that shit so my kids teach themselves cartography instead. Well, maybe I could afford it, but I'd rather spend the money on wine.

GK: Why are we not drinking wine now? 

YK: Point taken, let's schwill. 

GK: Bueno.... Anyway. What did you do when you were a kid? Were you the outdoor type?

YK: No. I mean, I preferred to sit indoors, but when I did venture out I had more freedom than kids typically do now.

GK: Expand on that.

YK: I frequently walked alone to my best friend Laura's house two blocks away, starting when I was like 6. 

GK: Oh, yeah, I remember that.

YK: And, when we were 7?

GK: Uh-huh...

Both: Olson's!

GK: Fuck yeah, Olson's drugstore. We went there with no adult chaperons. We bought shitloads of candy and Sweet Valley High books, when we had extra money.

YK: I mean, we had to cross Vernon Avenue.

GK: I know! Four lanes! I live near West 7th [comparable in size and traffic to Vernon Ave. -Eds.] and I can't imagine my kids crossing it until they're like 13. 

YK: Really. Is there any more cold beer? 

GK: Should be...yeah, grab me one, will you? 

YK: Anyway, we went off on a tangent. 

GK: Fuck yes, we did. I was gonna ask you, since we're doing this for a writing blog, like, are you working on writing anything?

YK: Well, I was trying to. But you kind of interrupted. 

GK: Oh, sorry. 

YK: Yeah, well. Shit happens. But it's okay. I have, like, nothing to write about. Nothing.

GK: It's hard to find shit to write about when you don't go anywhere or do anything. 

YK: Exactly. Total Catch-22. I used to have tons to talk about back when I earned a wage, but no time to write about it.

GK: Life is unbearable.

YK: It really is.

GK: Well, I'll let you get back to your "work." 

YK: Why did you say that sarcastically? 

GK: Well. Let's face it.

YK: What do you mean? 

GK: Kat. You don't really work.

YK: I don't get paid, but --

GK: No, you don't work.

YK: Fuck it, whatever. I gotta go.

GK: Damn, why'd you have to mention Jun Bo earlier? Now all I can think about is turnip cakes.

YK: I gotta go. 

GK: You don't work.
*Not my real email addresses.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Words/phrases that need to be retired

I can sympathize with cliché usage. Clichés get used a lot because they’re clever, at first. I mean, a lot of them come from know-it-alls like Billy Shakespeare: “a rose by any other name,” “one fell swoop,” “into thin air,” “foregone conclusion…” These were all, when Shakespeare used them, and mayhap for 300 years thereafter, interesting.

But, their initial cleverness does not make cliché use acceptable. Particularly in our hypertime era, words & expressions move from clever to meme to played-out very quickly and subtly. You might miss the transition. I certainly have once or twice; I’ve caught myself saying annoying shit. Anyway, here are some once-pithy sayings that are now dead in the water (and some that have always been dumb).

1)    Meh. I think even the first time I heard this, I experienced a sensation that I imagine was a bit like having an unpleasant voltage applied to my nostrils.
2)    FAIL. Never been funny. Never never. Related: Winning.
3)    Facepalm/headdesk, etc. Okay, there was a time it was kinda cute.
4)    Head explodes/asplodes. To simplify this list, let’s just all agree that cute verbalizations of IRL actions aren’t that cute.
5)    Stabby. As in, "Blogger's formatting issues make me stabby." I could get behind this a year or so ago. Let’s change it to “shooty.”
6)    <<<THIS! I guess we just get tired of seconding someone’s opinion with things like "hell yeah!", "cool!", "sing it, sister!", etc. Hence, THIS! I'm still fine with "cool" after all these years.
7)    Wait for it…. Nah. Don’t think I will.
8)    First! This appears in comments sections by people who think it’s an accomplishment to be so un-busy that you read blog posts/articles before everyone else.
9)    Really? Really? Just shut up.
10)  That’s what she said. See, sometimes there are layers of comedy. So you might laugh at someone laughing at someone who would laugh at someone saying this, but you wouldn’t laugh at the sayer or the laugher at the sayer, just the laugher at the laugher at the laugher at the sayer. Oh, you are laughing at the laugher at the laugher at the sayer? Oh, I guess you’re ahead of me. Maybe it is clever, then.
11)  See what I did there? Yes. Yes, I did.
12)  Y’all just jealous. No, wait, keep using this. It’s funny that you think I’d be jealous of you.

And, one high-brow cliché that I’ve been begging everyone to stop fucking using for years: 

13)    In spite of, or perhaps because of… Look, New Yorker staff writers. Make up your mind about whether the thing that happened was in spite of or because of the circumstance you are naming. Then tell us, and leave the other part of the equation out. That is your job as a journalist.