Friday, October 22, 2010


My writing assignment for today a short autobiography/personal statement. The reason isn't important, but I want to sum up my story into a paragraph or so. I am not having a lot of success. This is both too long and too short. I am staring at the page, coming up with the occasional phrases here and there, most of which I delete almost as quickly as I write them.

How will I introduce myself? I start to wonder how other people approach this. When you meet someone, what do you tell them about yourself? I know it depends on where you meet them: interview, party, PTA meeting, but let's pretend you've been invited to be on "Oprah" (and for her last season! What an honor!) What is she telling the studio audience before you come onstage?

To add to the frustration of this task, I also made up cards: sort of business cards with my contact information. I figure it would be easier to have a card with my phone number, email address, blog address, that sort of thing, rather than roaming around in my bag, looking for a scrap of paper to write down the information. Some of it was easy: address, phone number, but then: title. Hmm. Title, what would you put as your title? I went back and forth with this for a bit, but decided that the best label was none at all.

Maybe I'm still sorting things out. Maybe I don't want to be labeled just yet. My story is still coming together. I am a scientist, a writer, a reader, an ex-wife, a sister, an explorer, a sleeper (late note: a snorer), a fan of low-brow television, a friend, a photographer, a stubborn pain-in-the-ass, an aunt, a dreamer, a realist. And the best thing is that there's more to come.

But I still am not sure how I should write my autobiography. A whole paragraph.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I've been thinking about why I write. I'm sure there's an aspect of selfishness: telling my story, my way, with my point of view. But I wonder, is my story that different from anyone else's? And that, deep down, is the question: how different is my story and, frankly, how different do I want it to be?

I realize that I want people to feel something when they read what I write. I want them to relate or, if nothing else, think about an issue or a time in their lives. But at the same time, I want to own that story. The emotions tied to these stories are mine, and I wonder if I'm giving up something by sharing a story. Am I giving away a part of my self? Even if I am, is this a bad thing?

The answer, of course, is that this is not a bad thing at all. I completely want the reader to take this part of me and pull into into themselves. At the same time, these emotions I have surrounding what I write, they are mine. The reader may have their version of emotions tied into the story, and that's alright. In fact, it's better than just "alright." If I can write something that stirs someone's emotions, I have succeeded. And I can't think of anything better than that.

Friday, October 8, 2010

In the air tonight

I thought I was done with being annoyed at Phil Collins when the '90s were over. Alas, he is back, with an album that is only interesting when you are debating if it is mostly self-indulgent or mostly just lazy?

If you haven't heard about this album (which I find hard to believe -- the guy is everywhere! [Note to self: hire Phil Collins' publicist.]), it's an album of Motown covers. Now I have nothing against a good cover. In fact, a good one can bring a song to a new place. But for this very special album, Phil wanted to recreate the songs note for note, so he worked to get all the music and background to sound exactly the same as the original songs. Let's think about this for just a moment. Say you're flipping around that radio dial and "Heatwave" comes on. Is this what you're thinking: "Man, this is one great song! Well, except I'd much rather have Phil Collins singing it. That Martha Reeves -- her voice is weak. I need the nasal twang of a British drummer!"

It's karaoke, plain and simple. It's lazy and vain. If he didn't have a name (and, really, I thought he was over), there's no way he'd get away with this nonsense. In one interview, he said that this going back to older music speaks to the current state of music. Isn't he supposedly a singer/songwriter/musician type? If you don't like what's going on in music today, do something about it. You have the means to push it a bit. You don't need a big hit. But, no, you'd rather just whine and rerecord something no one needs.

And, seriously, Phil Collins, get your own pop culture. Did you know he has one of the largest collections of Alamo memorabilia? That's weird, right?

I swear, if he touches the Stax catalog...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

We beseech thee!

Let's address the Jesus debate here. Not the "did he exist one" -- that's for lightweights and late night talks in college. No, let's hit the hard one: who is the cooler Jesus: "Godspell" Jesus or "Jesus Christ Superstar" Jesus? I am shocked to learn that some of my friends (or, should I say, former friends) are actually saying it's Godspell Jesus! I know! They are wrong.

I am not dissing either musical (although I could). Of course "JCS" lead to the monster that is now Andrew Llyod Webber, but this happened when he was young and hungry and the world wasn't tired of his overblown nonsense. The real-life story of how they got this show into production is actually kind of cool and scrappy. They only had enough money to record the title track single, which, lucky for them, became a top-40 hit. This gave them enough money to record the entire album (fun fact: the whip songs of the 39 lashes were recorded in a bathroom), which also became a hit, which allowed funding of the actual musical.

"JCS" shaped how I viewed religion. These characters were real people. They got angry and scared and unsure of what they were doing and crazy. They made choices about what they were doing. They weren't magical or perfect, and they had to work at what they believed. I loved that Jesus was afraid to die and that Judas wasn't sure if he should sell out Jesus (spoiler: he does). As a kid, when you learn that sometimes adults don't want to do certain things, that's a big deal, but when you learn that Jesus didn't want to do what he was expected to do, well, that blew my mind a little bit.

If you're not familiar with "Godspell", then you haven't been attending folk mass. Growing up Catholic in the '70s as a child of parents who love community theater, I probably saw roughly 216 versions of "Godspell." If "JCS" was the angst-ridden, moody version of religion, "Godspell" gave us the joy of religion. "JCS" was a Production; "Godspell" was a bunch of kids jumping around in make-up and crazy outfits, getting you to sing and clap along. "JCS" is a rock opera; "Godspell" is fly-by-the-seat-of-your-(striped)-pants.

Here's an awesome thing they both have in common: Jesus doesn't rise from the dead. Both shows end after Jesus is crucified. You have to decide what happens next. You get to tell the rest of the story.

But we're not here to debate the shows; we're here to address the Jesus question. The only "JCS" Jesus I accept was the original, and that was Ian Gillan; "Godspell" Jesus is shown below, and if I have to tell you who is cooler, I can't help you.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A quick nerdy story from my past

When I worked at Rohm & Haas, these were the mornings that Chol would come into our lab, look up from his coffee, smile sadly at my boss, and say, "I didn't get the call this morning either." He'd shake his head and go back to his lab.

(I also have a story where I was talking on the phone to a professor at Cornell and we were getting all excited about comparing upright freezer to coffins, and we both realized how nerdy we sounded so we quickly hung up.)

Ah, the memories of a science geek...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Oh, Glee, why can't you do it right?

I want to like "Glee." I really do. I really should. I was not a cool kid. I was in band and the honors classes in high school. And just in case you didn't get the dork memo, I played bassoon. I may have even had a year I was in the show choir. I've had a serious debate with a friend over which was the cool Jesus: Jesus Christ Superstar Jesus or Godspell Jesus. I love the idea that someone wanted to do a show that features talented kids bursting into song and dance. But "Glee" misses the mark.

Before we go any further, I want to point out that I am not a loyal viewer of "Glee." I've seen about a third of the episodes, so I have a pretty good idea as to what's going on, but, no, I don't know all the details. I can't sustain watching it because of the issues I have with the show. First of all, it doesn't know what it wants to be. Are you a serious high school drama? Are you a cartoon? Are you a musical? I don't want to force anything into a box, but it feels like the show doesn't really know what to be, so sometimes there is a real reason to break into song but sometimes they have to come up with fantasy sequences and it just feels forced. Either give into the crazy of the football team breaking into "Single Ladies" or only have the performances when it makes sense.

It's even more forced when they have the "theme" weeks. The Madonna episode, the Britney episode -- just a series of stories twisted in a way to get certain songs in. Maybe everyone else thought Sue Sylvester doing "Vogue" was hilarious, but it just didn't fit with who she is on the show. And I am over just re-doing the videos. What is the point in that? I get that Heather Morris is an amazing singer and dancer, but when I watched the Britney episode, it took me a few minutes to realize that they weren't simply showing the actual videos. The sad thing is that when they take the songs and do something interesting with them, it is incredible to watch. The best thing I've seen on "Glee" was the Cheerios on stilts with Kurt and Mercedes doing "Four Minutes." Stilts! And it's also the kind of thing that a squad would actually perform at a pep rally. That shows me what "Glee" could be but instead they seem to be content with stringing redone videos together and trying to put together a storyline.

There are good characters and obviously talented actors but the show isn't using them right. Most of the characters want to be something, maybe even want a real storyline, but are forced into situations to fit songs. Would Emma, after being a virgin for so long, with all the questions she must have about her relationship with Will, really give in to sleep with him at that point in their relationship, or was it convenient to allow her to croon "Like a Virgin" because they happen to be doing the Madonna episode? There's so much back and forth: "I'm empowered! I'm not!" that seems to be tied to when they get the rights to a song rather than actual character development.

Oh "Glee," I really want to like you. But I'd rather see the original videos for now.