Saturday, July 16, 2011

"To Know Yourself Is The Ultimate Form Of Aggression"--Freud

I have always held fast to the belief that the true determinate of a person's value system lies not (as many sadly and wrongfully surmise) in that person's religious affiliations, personal professions or even actions. Nope. If you want to know the truth about what a person values, you need only ask one question: "Who is your favorite super hero."

Uh huh. You heard me. Favorite. Super. Hero.

And Tarantino agrees with me. (See Kill Bill Vol. 2 you cinematic Philistine!)

You see, the hero one picks says less about the hero itself and more about the person doing the choosing. The choice provides a clear outlook on the virtues (or lack thereof) of the person answering and can therefore serve as an unsuspecting (and unguarded) window into said person's very soul. As an added bonus, it can also serve as a starting point for deducing the person's innate fashion sense, views on spandex, and desires from a romantic partner. But more on that in the novel I plan to write...

Speaking of novels, I have had another in my back pocket for many years, and, for those of you who know me well, you know it is dangerous for me to allow an idea to fester for long. The outcome could go one of two ways--1. It could age as a fine wine and delight the palate or 2. It could build like the pressure of the fat kid in Willy Wanka's tube of chocolate, eventually spewing out in a yummy lard mess that only little orange and green men would ever want to sing about.

Either way, the fat kid dies.

Here Piggy, Piggy.

Sorry.

Lord of the Flies reference.

In any event, the title of my back-pocket book is How Disney Ruined My Life and the tale would be a chronicle about the hidden negative messages in classic Disney films that have lied to us about the nature of life since we were young, presumably innocent, and wide-eyed enough to believe them. WARNING: If you steal my book idea, I swear to every pagan God that has ever demanded the slaughter of a farm animal, you will be punished. Oh yes. Fear me.

Now--warnings out of the way--(I am serious BTW. Thought theft is punishable by violence. Mark my words, infidel!), I had an epiphany yesterday. Seems I had been taking rather a negative view on Disney, and, in what could only be described as divine revelation from one of the various aforementioned pagan deities, I received this insight: You can judge a person's values by their favorite super hero, but you can judge their approach to life by their favorite Disney film.

There it is, ladies and gentlemen. Divine truth.

Now let me lay this smack-down on ya.

Say the person you are questioning under police-grade interrogation lights says that his or her favorite Disney film is Aladdin. Easy. You know the story. Riffraff streetrat finds blue genie who sings incessantly; streetrat then wishes to be a prince so he can woo the princess, and BAM! All hell breaks loose.

Lesser mortals may be confused by the revelations behind this tale. Still others might be humming "Never Had A Friend Like Me." Either way, Disney has distracted your fragile little mind with CGI-enhanced spectacle. So let me go Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on ya. Or Daniel, for those of you partial to "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin."

Aladdin follows a boy, born of low stature and no means, from his childhood of theft, irreverence and "easy living" through his coming of age--a journey he must undergo to rectify the consequences of his deceit. Those who are drawn to this movie (Prince Alis, if you will) see themselves as having come from a less-than-desirable circumstance--an excuse they have used since puberty to justify their less-than-reputable behavior. Thing is, behind the veneer of loose-living lies a good heart and a nagging desire to make a positive change. And Prince Alis would do so "if only this or this or this would change/happen/be different..." The bad news? This way of thinking keeps Aladdins in a holding pattern of destruction in their youth. The good news? P.A.s believe they have the capacity to do a complete 180 if given the chance. This hope is frustrating for an Aladdin youth, but encouraging for an Aladdin adult, who may just decide to do that 180--and will come out an amazing human being on the other end. The ride is never easy though. Such transformation usually comes from an Aladdin harming someone they love--a friend or lover. To ensure the 180 in an Aladdin, the P.A. must determine that it is more painful to remain the same than to take the steps necessary for change. When the P.A. makes that decision, his or her recompense is genuine and permanent. An Aladdin adult won't make that same mistake twice.

Impressive, no?

By this point, I know the truth of my formula is dawning on you like a beacon in the pitch. But I see the others--those of you rolling your eyes and sighing "bubkis!" Either way, I'll give you more.

The Little Mermaid: young fish lady/full time dreamer yearns for a realm outside of her humdrum home. So naturally she visits a sea witch who offers her the olde "legs for voice" swap, which our red-headed heroine naively accepts. After all, what could possibly go wrong? If your quandry is a member of the Ariel Nation, he or she is idealistic and values the power of dreams--most likely because, for him or her, those dreams often come true. An Ariel enthusiast often realizes dreams through actions. Rather than just singing about what he or she wants, an Arielite believes the dream will come true, and behaves accordingly, often, ironically and Oedipally, ensuring through his or her own actions the outcome he or she seeks. Throughout life, the Arialist may remain naive--and why not? Nothing is impossible, even with physical, spiritual and emotional limitations.

Snow White/Cinderella
: oldies but goodies, these two tales parallel each other in meaning. Simply, the two lovely lasses were ill-treated by those who were supposed to raise, love and care for them--and all for no other reason than that they just happened to be born astonishingly beautiful. (Boo hoo. Life is hard.) But, rather than live a life devoid of positive reinforcement, each pretty lady overcomes the hardships of childhood by relying on her plethora of friends for aid (salvation?). In the end, through the help of friends, White and the Cinder Girl are swept away by a prince (who is given no personality and very few lines, but is gorgeous, which, really, is the most important thing...) So there you go. Snow White/Cinderella fans identify with being given a hard deal, and are keen on the idea of someone swooping in to save them. On the positive side, they value friendships highly, and are always willing to clean the dishes if you are the one to prepare the dinner. And they sing. A lot.

Sleeping Beauty
: If the person you inquire of pulls a Briar Rose, RUN LIKE HELL. This pretty princess has nothing going for her aside from her stunning face and impossibly small waist. That and she has three annoying aunties, each of whom seems to make it a point to live the term 'busybody' to its fullest extent. Briar Roses should be herded up and confined to one area, "Escape From New York" style. But them's just my two cents.

Mulan:
In a male-dominated society, Mulan, who fails at all things 'feminine,' (therefore bringing dishonor to her family) chooses to take her father's place in war when the Emperor calls his soldiers to fight the invading Mongols. As women are not allowed, Mulan must disguise herself as a man, fighting, struggling, and surviving amid the bravest men in all of China. When she proves herself brave and cunning in battle, Mulan brings a new and unprecidented honor to her family. In short, Mulan is a feminist and a badass. Those who choose Mulan as a favorite value individualism and embrace, though not always willingly, the challenges that come with remaining true to oneself. Despite obstacles, Mulan teamsters will persevere for honor and for family, but be damned if you're going to make them wear a pretty dress!

The Lion King: Ahhhh Simba. From the day he arrived on the planet, and blinking stepped into the sun, he knew he was destined to be king. But destiny is not always a straight path, and when evil uncle Scar scams for the throne, the young cub shows his weakness--pride. LK fans are prideful. They value station and very early on they realize--if only mentally--their place in the world. Unfortunately, like Simba and so many others, LK fans sometimes find out the hard way that pride comes before a fall. When burned, Simbas can retreat from their destiny, losing themselves in hedonism and laziness, and it often takes a strong kick in the ass to get them back in gear. Once catalyzed, however, their return to destiny can be awe-inspiring. If you meet a Simba, hope you are present for the climax. It'll take your breath away.

Beauty and the Beast: And now we come to my favorite. Remind me to tell you sometime how a dream about Belle actually changed my life. And speaking of dreams, B&B enthusiasts are dreamers through and through. Often oblivious to (or bored by) the banalities of reality, Belles bury themselves in books and ideas and often reflect on "the way things ought to be." Idealists, Belles can be disenchanted with the world around them, and as a consequence, often miss the everyday magic going on just under their noses. Conversely, as they are 'thinkers' to the core, Belles can often see both sides of any situation and are caring and empathetic to those they see as mistreated. B&Bs are disgusted by arrogance, and are naturally drawn to the less fortunate, as 'rescuing' them appeals to the Belles' sense of justice--a virtue which, B&Bs believe, is sorely lacking in the world. A Belle will be the most loyal friend you have ever had, and will rise to your defense under any circumstance. They--we--love with all of our hearts and hurt desperately if that love is not returned. This tendency, though admirable, often gets Belles into trouble though, as B&B folk genuinely believe in the transformative power of love. In other words, "If I just love him enough, he WILL CHANGE." For this reason, Belles may spend their entire lives diligently chasing after what everyone else has the common sense to see is a lost cause. Belles are often disappointed and take it personally when their efforts fail to yield results--but in the rare cases where the Belle's love prevails, you can be sure that love's recipient has experienced a powerful, beautiful, life-altering change. And transforming from a beast to a prince ain't so bad either.

So there you have it folks. Your guaranteed personality analysis, straight from Walt Disney and Yours Truly. Given more time and study, I may also link these personality profiles to certain star signs, but, as it is, I have a lot of things to cross off my list today, and I cannot be bothered to solve all the mysteries of the universe and the human condition in one Sunday.

And for those of you left in wanting because your fav WD film wasn't featured: take heart. You are not forgotten. I realize there are those among us who place The Rescuers, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmations or The Great Mouse Detective at the top of your "To Watch Repeatedly" list. For you I will contemplate a follow-up. After all, I would not want to leave you out. To do so would be unjust, and justice--well, that's just what we Belles do!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Go Fuck Yourself" and other stories for children...

Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself.

Like when you nearly set your house on fire by microwaving a shirt.
Or when you almost get arrested for stealing a "Christ For State Senate" sign.

Or, like today, when you have to rush home from your commute to work.
Twice.

The first time was innocent enough. I was already running late, but knew if I punched it in the V6 that I'd still make it to the office with time to spare. So, cursing under my breath, I went home and nabbed the cell phone I had ironically left on my makeup counter "so I wouldn't forget it."

Simple enough. Happens to the best of us. But then...

Well, first let me give you some background.

I have been having some, um..., difficulties at work. Namely in that my students love me (one even made me a papier mache lotus blossom today), but the administration has no idea what to do with me.

*Ahem, ahem.

I experience this A LOT.

So, needless to say, being late to work is uber-low on my "things Erin should be doing with herself right now" list. In fact, I'd say it ranks just below abusing methamphetamines and asp juggling.

Back to the story...

Phone in hand, I sprint to the vehicle and once again begin my journey to the land of questionable teaching practices. It is while in said vehicle that I realize that driving is proving a particularly enjoyable activity on this early morning--likely because pressing the clutch pedal is far more comfortable when done WITH FLIP FLOPS ON!

God. Dammit.

If there's one thing my employer hates worse than opinionated teachers with actual personalities and brains, it's teachers who show up in improper footwear.

Back to the house I go...

I don't think I have ever run so fast in the entirety of my existence. The fact that I did not get pulled over (again) is a sheer testament to the fact that I may have been traveling faster than the speed of light. At any rate, I know it was faster than the posted speed limit. Much. Much. Faster.

Scheduled to arrive at 8 a.m., I peel into the parking lot at 7:59.

I park illegally.

I run inside.

And while the next 30 seconds are a blur, I know I somehow managed to clock in, secure my watch, check my student schedule for the day, prepare my teaching supplies and make it to my student's desk just as the bell rang.

And wouldn't you know it? My student was late.


Now let's jump ahead, shall we?

9 p.m.
I am sitting in my living room with a friend, scanning Craig's List for a suitable place intown that is both a. affordable and b. NOT located in an area known for homicide or gang violence (not as easy as one might initially surmise), when, suddenly, my gmail alert informs me that I have new mail. "Hazaa!," I say. "Someone from Craig's List must've emailed me back already!"

Excited about my new home prospect, I check the email.

It came from user 678773****@txt.att.net (**** replacing the actual digits. You know, to protect the innocent.) The email reads: Ur dAd iz renting a pontoon boat sATurdY @ lake ARROWHead fr\1 to 5 f/my birthday. Wanna come? Dinner @ clubhouse After.:-)

Given the wacky username, unruly capitalization and adherence to text speak, I make the snap judgment that some delinquent 14 year old is attempting to plan an ill-advised weekend booze fest with his friends and has accidentally included me on the invite.

So, naturally, I respond appropriately:

"Who the fuck is this?"

And send.

Moments later I receive this response:

"Sorry."

Uh-huh. Damned right you're sorry. Low-life punk! Good thing I showed him!

The night progresses without a hitch, and, before making the hike to the grocery store for my organic Omega 3 enhanced milk, I pick up the previously-mentioned cell phone (this time from the kitchen counter) and prepare for my journey.

"Oh look! I have a text message!"

Happily I check it.

And my face falls...

It's my stepmom.

Inviting me to come out.

With my dad.

This weekend.

On a pontoon boat.

At Lake Arrowhead.

FOR HER BIRTHDAY!

Oh my Gawd. The message had been from my stepmom!

Like a time bomb that won't stop exploding, the truth of the situation continues to dawn in ever-increasing waves of fiery destruction as I realize: I HAVE JUST TOLD MY STEPMOM, via email, to GO FUCK HERSELF.

And did I mention it was her birthday?


This is where I had my panic attack.

Not one of the pretty ones where, with bloodshot eyes, you shadow box unseen predators from the corner in which you are crouched, crying and screaming incoherently about the "bats poisoning your bicycle."

No, this was the ugly meltdown. You know the one--where Life ninja-kicked you to the avenue asphalt and, as you are preparing for the upcoming curb check, you do the only sensible thing you can do in this impossible situation---laugh.

You laugh hysterically.

You laugh until your sides hurt.

You laugh until the tears come streaming down your scarlet cheeks.

You laugh until the neighbors pound the walls and ask you to "Keep it down over there!"

You laugh until Life itself, still clad in its ass-kicking ninja suit, bends down to stare at you quizzically. You laugh until Life finally musters up the courage to ask, "Um...what the hell is wrong with you?"

And so I laughed.

Two phone calls and two texts later, I think I have at least been able to convince my father that I believed his wife to be an ill-mannered pubescent male. Whether or not my stepmom believes me? Well, the proverbial jury is "still out."

I guess I will find out on Saturday.

At her birthday party.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On The Edge of Glory

Let me start by saying 'I love Alabama.' I have ALWAYS loved Alabama. And what's not to love? The accents, the incredibly sweet people, the 10-years too late fashion with a disturbing reliance on anything John Deere, the questionable dental hygiene...For my dime, you can't get a better state.

Which may be one of the reasons I was STOKED about the prospects of this weekend's road trip to the barbecue festival at Alabama Adventures--an apt and ironic destination, as what ensued yesterday was most definitely an 'adventure.'

The day began hella early as, with crusties on my eyes, I drove to Vinings for the scheduled carpool rendezvous which included my bestie Joe, my lovecup J.M., and her S.O. Justin, for whom I should have some sort of embarrassing monicker but have not yet found one that 'sticks.' Three hours, 4 chicken biscuits with bacon and a CD of impromptu car karaoke later, we arrive at the amusement/water park.

An hour before they open.

Seems we forgot to account for the time change.

We. are. awesome.

With an hour to kill, we decide to check out the local scenery. Let the adventure begin!

Stop #1: the local outlet malls.

For those of you force-fed AP Lit, picture Alas Babylon. For the rest of you literature Philistines, think "I Am Legend" meets "Zombie Apocalypse." With a cow sweater.

Yeah.

Every store was eerily vacant, and I had this sudden and odd urge to prepare myself for a reinactment of Mad Max. Good thing I wore my skulls and roses bathing suit!

Already delirious from the sweltering heat (post-apocalyptic civilization is rather warm at 10 a.m.), the gang and I decided to follow the lonely sounds of what seemed to be gospel music on an ancient PA system to the back of the shopping complex. What appeared over the horizon--an oasis in our Bessemer County desert--began as a haze, and soon materialized into cultural gold.

My first discernible image? A woman walking a lizard.

Bliss.

As the scene solidified, the crew and I approached in awe. Terrified awe. But awe.

Seems we had unwittingly stumbled upon the cultural event of the season--a yard sale. In an outlet mall. Is it possible to literally beam with delight? Pretty sure I managed it. Though none of my party can confirm, as I was off like a shot. First stop, the bathroom, where they literally had a sign posted that said, "Please remember to flush." Apparently this is not a given in central Ala. As I turned to point out this treasure to J.M., I realized the rest of my party were huddled in a corner in fear. It was up to me to guide them through this Bible Belt land o' plenty.

I took their hands and gently lead the three--the only three dressed in matching apparel of the appropriate size and from the current decade--through the Land of Glee. First stop, the clothes. Where I found this treasure trove of wonderful: Yes, my friends, it IS a cow-print sweater with tablecloth-checked sleeves and...wait for it...crocheted cow buttons! Would that there were two in the world!

Onward to the toys...where I found two Elmo dolls, out of the box and questionably displayed in what is either 1. a mugging scene or 2. a red and fuzzy demo of S&M. It was like Muppet Rorschach. Either way, Joe, J.M. and Justin all fled when I squealed and began taking pictures. Seems no one appreciates a good toy mug/scrump anymore...

As I scurried to meet my fellows at the exit, I noticed that the trio had taken up refuge by the coup de gras of Alabama culture and class: a wedding chapel. In the outlet mall. Next to the yard sale. Within feet of the lizard lady, the cow sweater and the violent and sexually active Elmos.

I can only imagine--a proud tear in my eye--those wedding photos. What a proud day for the happy couple!

Joe, J.M. and Justin had seen enough. They began to make their way to the car. But I decided it was in my best interest to befriend the lass with the lizard. She was just telling me about her albino snake with pink on its face when Joe literally dragged me to the car.

I pouted all the way to Walmart.

Stop #2.

Now one would anticipate many things about the Bessemer Walmart. My friends and I? We were on a mission of cultural significance (ie. gathering photographic testimony for peopleofwalmart.com) and, secondly, for water, beer and a cooler. Cameras at the ready, we enter the store with a game plan: do one lap around the periphery, eyes peeled for the multimedia jackpot. We were but inches inside the door when I found it: not in the form of an extremely overweight and underdressed Walmart patron, but on the front page of The Birmingham Times, where ran two 'lead' stories:

1. HIV Dad Rapes Infant Son

and 2. Mom Kills Son; Shops With Body

Welcome, my friends, to Alabama.

In what will no doubt be seen as a quick cop-out ending to an otherwise verbose blog, I can tell you that the remainder of the trip consisted of many rides, interesting people, and a barbecue coma--all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. But to whet your appetite for all things 'Roll Tide,' I will tell you this:

1. In our bathing suits with bbq bellies, wet hair and no make-up, we were SMOKIN' HOT representin' the Atl.
2. No amount of rickety rollercoaster ride can justify 2.5 minutes of a teenage boy burying his head in your lap. Yep. This happened. And, of course, to me.
3. Paw's Avenue 'Q' has the. best. damned. bbq. ever.
4. The wait is officially over! Faux snakeskin lycra hotpants now come in rainbow colors! And when you purchase them (as I know you will) the tag reads: "You are welcome America! Courtesy of Alabama."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Nearly Naked with Jason Bateman," Or, If You Prefer, "To Touch a Natalie Portman"

In the Kubric-esque reel of my mind, my life and the lives of others are literally played out on the stage. It's lurid, really. Surreal. The curtain rises to lights, music, costumes, ill-timed sound cues and a spotlight--the latter of that list being where I spend most of my time, sweating under the spot for a crowd I cannot see, but for whose eyes and approval I pour out my scripted soul.

And believe me, it IS scripted.

I have no idea what's in the actual soul. And, to my credit, there really is no place for one in the theatre. For what good is my soul to me, when my innate goal is to put on the show that YOU, the audience, wish to see? No. To recognize a real soul would require that I exit the spot and venture backstage, where the sets are revealed for what they truly are--random bits of haphazardly-constructed scraps. The wigs and makeup are off, costumes cast aside.

Somehow I never seem to make it that far...

The blinding light is so much nicer--it's harsh glare blots out my imperfections and hides the techs running around just out of sight, desperately gesturing to one another to raise the flies or place the props.

...

I got the proof of my most recent commercial from my talent agency today.
And, like any other desperately insecure artist, I watched it.

And then I had a nervous breakdown.

...

The remainder of my afternoon was spent between sleep and self-righteous self-loathing. You know, those gratuitous displays of utter disgust flung at the mirror because it simply REFUSES to reflect the you that you want to see? Yes. All my imperfections held aloft and picked apart under the magnifying glass of my own gaze. Knowing all the while that if I just looked like Adriana Lima, SOMEHOW things would be different.

It's a child's tantrum. An indulgence little different than Lindt Lindor Truffles and equally as guilt-ridden.

...

I get cast for nude or implied nude roles.
A lot.

Know that movie that's coming out--The Change Up--with Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman? Yeah. I was cast to do the nude work for the woman playing J.B.'s wife. And that sexy guy from True Blood? Yeah. I was cast as his mistress (implied nude scenes) in a movie he just filmed.

Seems everybody wants to see my ass.

No one wants to see my face.

...

As the oldest of six kids, I am well-aware of the fact that everyone has their place. Me? I am the funny one. The pretty one? Well, that'd be my sister Cason. She's the face...the pretty, pretty face...

...

Know what my mother said to me once? She said that there are women in this world with beautiful bodies, and women with beautiful faces. "Erin," she said, "You have a beautiful body."...

...

Black Swan. Mila Kunis. Natalie Portman.
Mila radiates sex appeal, but Natalie...Natalie is the face...

Like Helen who launched the thousand ships, Natalie Portman's face is a symphony of grace, elegance and intelligence. To see her is to stare endlessly. And stare is all one can do. Much like a porcelain doll, Portman's delicate beauty is off limits to oafs like myself. To touch her is to break her, and to break such beauty is a sin akin to killing a mocking bird.

...

The spot is bright as I write this. I sense you in the audience. I feel you losing interest. Time now to change gears. Time for the variety show or the comic relief. Send in the clowns...