Sunday, April 29, 2007

"And I went in seeking clarity..."

I have had a dream. I am aware that my tendency to post here about my dreams along with comments such as "Is this a sign?!" might lead some of you dear readers to believe I am all new-aged out and susceptible to visions. Well, no. I just think our dreams tell us what we want. It's like, "I now yield the floor to my colleague from the subconscious."

Last night (and this whole week) (month) (semester) I felt restless. I'd been fretting about my lack of clarity. I went out with Lillian, my ex-roommate from USC. I think that maybe when you decide clarity is overrated, then you get some. I have become increasingly dismayed trying to determine the Right Answer to the question, "Do I want to remain in law school?" I have become further increasingly dismayed (that sounds redundant, but it isn't) by the fact that I seem to have let my subconscious take over this semester and do what it wants (i.e., not really keep up on all the reading). Has my subconscious been trying to tell me something? Let's see...

In my dream last night, a friend and I were at some sort of dance event, as in prom-ballroom dance, where there were assembled many people from "the university" (unidentified) we apparently attended. All our professors were there. Among them, sitting next to each other in the chairs that lined the walls, were two professors I have had in real life. One we'll call Professor Law School. He is my Criminal Law teacher from last semester, his class was one of my favorites, I got an A+ in it, he's hilarious and unconventional but also traditionally brilliant, and I am doing a bit of research assistance for him now. In other words, he seems to be all the things I like about law school and representative of me actually putting forth effort here. The other professor we'll call Professor Cuba. He is my undergrad Comparative Lit professor born in Cuba raised in Puerto Rico then came to Los Angeles who during my last semester at USC inspired our life-altering spring break trip which then led to my post-graduation summer which is the subject of the Cuba book I am currently trying to finish. He seems to represent the writing life that I really want to lead if I could just do it instead of finding every reason in the world why I can't lead that writing life.

The friend, who was a familiar amalgamation of good friends from various periods of my life, had some sort of crush on one? both? of them, and wanted to ask them to dance but was too shy. Various other people were dancing; the room and the dance floor were neither crowded nor empty. I was like, "Whatever, I'll ask them, I'm not afraid. Here, I'll go with you and ask and then we'll all dance so it doesn't look like your idea." It was unclear to me which one she wanted to dance with or which one I wanted to dance with. We walked over and I enthusiastically greeted, "Hey, Professor Cuba! Hey, Professor Law School!" Hugs and such were exchanged. I suggested we all dance. They both stood up and there was a bit of shuffling in which I thought perhaps she was going to dance with Professor Law School, whom she then seemed to really like in that moment. But then he chose me, and she disappeared with Professor Cuba.

Professor Law School and I danced. I never saw the other two again before I woke up.

"I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry, or see a B-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind,
got my paper, and I was free.
I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
There's more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive,
the closer I am to fine.
I stopped by the bar at 3 a.m.
To seek solace in a bottle, or possibly a friend
And I woke up in the morning like my head against a board
Twice as cloudy as I'd been the night before
And I went in seeking clarity..."
--indigo girls, 'closer to fine'

Friday, April 27, 2007

Letting the mystery be

Here is something I love, repeat, loved this week: Grindhouse. Oh my. It was a fantastic and glorious moviegoing experience. I laughed so much I cried. It was pure genius, there for my viewing pleasure, and it felt almost sinful to be enjoying something so much. This also reinforced the lesson that sometimes I should just stop listening to what other people say about things (Borat and Harry Potter are other examples) and just see for myself whether I love them or not. (Borat and Harry, no. But Grindhouse, decidedly yes!) The only thing that delighted me more than watching the movie was finding out after that Machete of the fake trailer is going to get his own full-length direct-to-DVD film. Yes! The wrong Mexican, baby!

If you haven't seen Grindhouse you perhaps have no idea what I'm talking about. But that's OK, too.

There's probably a lesson somewhere in there about law school. But I've already analyzed (or attempted to) my law school thoughts in today's Literary Supplement.

Man, I need to study for my finals. Maybe I should start a betting pool and all my friends could try to predict just how bad my grades are going to be. That would be fun. And nice and distracting. Who's in?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dangerous blogging

I suppose it's unwise for one to blog when one is feeling cranky and irritated with Long Island and disgusted by the general state of humanity and the world, but then again, if you can't vent to the blogosphere, to whom can you vent?

There are two kinds of people in the world. (i know, i know: those who say there are two kinds of people and those who don't. yeah. what i meant was...) There are people who always have to finish a book once they've started it and people who can put it down and never return to it. Oh wait, three kinds of people. There are also people who don't read. You know, like our so-called Commander in Chief.

Anyway, for a while I used to feel that guilt if I started a book that I should finish it. Therefore, in my past, I have finished books that I didn't like. And not in a Prozac Nation-didn't-like way (infuriating, but decent writing) or in a The Life of Pi -didn't-like way (WHAT?! how can you end it like that?! but years later I come to like it revisionist-style because it only pissed me off because it was brilliant) but I mean in a I-really-don't-like-this-book-but-I-simply-have-to-finish-what-I-started way. I don't do that anymore.

I've had this discussion with a lot of people. I forget who once put it so simply: life is too short to waste reading things you don't like. On the other hand, sometimes a challenging book or other work of art does need time to fully develop its potential. Just as we should not judge a book by its cover (although, sometimes, a cover can really intrigue you, and no one seems to have a problem with that, so maybe the cover-judging should just go into the "If EVERYONE jumped off a bridge, I might, too" files) we should also not necessarily judge a book by its first few pages.

Take The Corrections. By Jonathan Franzen. Which is totally in my top 5 and is just one of the best things I've ever read ever (and, I might add, my greatest Pulitzer disappointment in recent memory). The beginning of that book is weird. But later you realize how brilliant even the weirdness was! Oh, that book is so brilliant. But I know some people who started it and were like, no, man, that book was too weird. "I couldn't get into it," they say. Yet, everyone I know who has read it loves it. Because it's phenomenal. I tend to use the 100-page rule. If I am reasonably interested in a book going in, I'll give it 100 pages before I throw it across the room in a strange fit of passion. (she said, alluding to the Anita Shreve book she finished but despised, which made her seriously question Joe's and Jodi's judgment and has steered her clear of Ms. Shreve ever since) (but that was just a blip on the radar, Joe and Jodi and I have read many things together and we are so cool with agreeing to disagree!)

I've discussed this with Brian, too. His take is interesting. He says he rarely (never?) dislikes the books he reads and movies he watches because he knows himself and his own judgment and he never really goes after the things he doesn't really want. (And yes you can apply that last statement on many levels.) Which is interesting. Brian is also extremely easygoing. I suspect those two qualities are related. There was a time when I would not have been described as easygoing. Well, actually, I should say there have been situations in which I would not have been described as easygoing. Most of those situations involved either Borders customers with egregious senses of entitlement or conservative/religious people who are uncomfortable discussing radical things like truth.

Maybe I've mellowed with age. Actually, I rather think teaching in Korea made me more easygoing, too. After living in Korea you just can't be fazed by some things that would have fazed you before. In fact, I wanted to start a club called "I've taught English in Asia so I can't possibly go ballistic over my law school classes" but I've found only two other potential members.

But I digress. Handily! My point is: law school. A mere week from today, I will be done with my first year classes. A month from today, I will be DoneDone, with all my finals, and with the journal audition writing competition, and everything. And that's fun to contemplate, being one third of the way through. But of late I've also been contemplating less fun things, like how much I hate Long Island, and whether I'm wasting my money (because despite the scholarship I am taking out loans for living expenses, you know), and wasting my time?

So, you might read the above paragraph and think, "Wow, Linda's thinking of dropping out of law school!" To which I would reply - well, duh. We all think about dropping out of law school, all the time. A couple times a day. It's part of the fun. What's new and exciting is that I have been thinking about how much I like to read things and how I read lots of different things and how even when they're good for me if I get to that 100-page point and I still so don't care (that's right, Harry Potter! I. Don't. Care.) then I put the book down.

So the real question, it would seem, is this: Law School - do I want to find out how the book ends?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spear Shakin'

Today we celebrate Shakespeare's birthday. Just now while I was trying not to pay attention in Property I amused myself by attempting to list Shakespeare's plays. And I listed only a dozen!!! What!

I feel strange. In fact I would say that for the last few weeks I have felt more unsettled than I have in a while. Maybe years! But in the last day or so I have figured it out. (I think.) It is a law school thing, but maybe not what you think.

It's as if there's this law school Linda who has taken over the English major Linda. In a Jekyll-and-Hyde-ian sort of way, I can't seem to even get back poet Linda by night anymore. (Or, well, wait. Mr. Hyde was at night, right? And he was the evil one? But my classes are during the day, so my evil one has to be during the day, OK?)

I am more interested in Shakespeare, and his birthday, than the following: Contracts. Property. Transnational. Civ Pro. Appellate. Frankly, final exams. Law firms. The Buffalo Creek Disaster. Just to name a few. Which is not to say I am not interested in those things at all. Take The Buffalo Creek Disaster. I'm reading that book for Civil Procedure class but have found myself totally interested in reading it, like, the whole thing (it's short) and not just the required to get by as I do with most of my law school reading this semester. But while I am engrossed in the story of this lawyer who helped the victims of the 1972 Buffalo Creek coal mining valley disaster in West Virginia, the book is simultaneously convincing me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I do not want to be a lawyer.

What's that you say? We already knew that? Well, exactly! But somewhere along the way I apparently forgot!

For the last month to six weeks I have found myself caught up in the maelstrom in which all of my classmates are currently swirling: looking for a summer job. And as people have found summer jobs I have been elated for them, or sometimes even a bit jealous maybe ("Wow! That really great firm? Fifteen dollars an hour? Good for you!" etc.) The handful of remaining classmates who, like me, have not secured their summer gig are stressing. And that stress, that palpable law school stress that emanates off of people and that I ignored so well for so long here, has really found its way into me lately. Shudder.

Not to mention registration. Provided this law school is ever going to sort out all of the issues with which its online registration system is currently plagued, we are registering any day now. Which leads to conversations like this.

Me: "What are you taking?"
Them: "Business Organizations."
Me: "Ewww."
Them: "But I heard it's really helpful for the Bar."

Me: "I so have no interest in taking Wills, Trusts, and Estates."
Them: "But it's really helpful for the Bar."

Them: "Well, we have to take Ethics. And Evidence..."
Me: "We don't have to take Evidence! That's not required?"
Them: "But it's on the Bar."

I even told two of my friends one day I was going to start counting the number of times I heard people say that. I've been making little tic marks in my notebook. I only wish I had started counting months ago, when I also started counting the number of times my Civil Procedure professors say, "In any event..."

Here's what I don't get about the Bar thing. While it's all very practical of course for people who want to be lawyers and take the bar exam to take courses to prepare for it, and while I realize I'm one of only a few people here with no desire to be a lawyer (but there are others! oh yes, there SO are others! I've found them! I've spoken with some of them!), the thing is that after slogging through the three years of law school, everyone takes a massive, lengthy, expensive, intense, time-consuming, mind-numbing bar review course ANYWAY. Without which, apparently, no one would ever pass the bar. (She said with requisite skepticism.) So if you're going to spend oodles of time and money learning Evidence and all that other crap immediately upon graduation anyway, what ever is the point of enduring it now when you don't want to?

Another typical conversation:

Them: "Why are you taking Bioethics and the Law?"
Me: "Because I want to. I'm interested in it."
Them: "Why are you taking Sports Law?"
Me: "Because I want to. I'm interested in it."
repeat ad infinitum

I have more to say about this, but I am not going to say it all now. Stay tuned for the continuing unfolding of one of the bigger realizations I've had in a while.

And, by the way, here are some of the ones I couldn't remember while I was in class: The Merry Wives of Windsor. Two Gentlemen of Verona. Cymbeline. All the Henry VIs. And, perhaps most tellingly, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and All's Well That Ends Well.

Happy biiiirrrrrrth-daaaaay deeearrrrrrr Wi-illllllll....!

Friday, April 20, 2007

The 4/20 update

I have completed my oral argument in Appellate Advocacy class. I frankly put very little stress and time into it. It was so much less painful than researching cases for a brief. Man, I hate writing legal crap. I so much prefer writing my own crap. *smiles* But, having a conversation in which I argue with someone and think on my feet and rationalize my point of view in the face of whatever he throws at me? Um, yeah. That's what I do.

Finals are a-comin'. Perhaps I will regale you blog readers with tales of my procrastination, which you will breathlessly await, I'm sure.

Spring seems like it has sprung, but I'll give it a couple days to make sure.

I'm 90% sure I'll live in Boston this summer, with the rest going to about 9% New York and 1% a Hofstra study abroad. I also really do want to go earn some cash in Korea, but not the whole time.

I would have registered for my next fall classes already, but our registration date has been pushed back several times, proving that the law school administration is as good at procrastinating and blowing deadlines as the students.

I'm off to the City!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Disbelief and guns and such

Like everyone, I can't believe what's happened at Virginia Tech. I've been following the news intently, particularly the international coverage of it (plus NPR...there's been amazing coverage on All Things Considered, no surprise there). And I'm pretty tripped out by the fact that the shooter was Korean. Korea things resonate so differently with me ever since I lived there. (I think that country is about as misunderstood as Palestine.) I was fascinated by this story anyway but now am even more ratcheted up trying to follow how it's being perceived there.

Oh, and by the way, the emphasis on him being "from Korea" is a little out of proportion. I mean, he's Korean, but he's also been in the U.S. since he was 8. Which, I might add, makes him probably as judged, and as accused of being different, in Korea as he probably has been in the U.S. Because that's such a valuable way we humans like to spend our time, of course, pointing the "you're not like me" finger at one another.

Among other things weirding me out about the story is the creative writing angle, how one of his English teachers was concerned enough about his disturbing writing to report her concerns. This is doubly intriguing. As a law student, we studied in Torts last semester the duty or lack thereof of university officials to report potentially threatening students. It's so complicated. As a writer, I have sat in creative writing classes and informal writing groups listening to some pretty disturbing things people have written. You never really do know what's an outlet and what's an indication.

As I said the other day, I'm happy to acknowledge if I ever see George W. Bush do something right, and I was thinking today that I might give him and Laura kudos for heading to Virginia Tech for the memorial. But just now I was considering these words he spoke at the memorial:

"It's impossible to make sense of such violence and suffering. Those whose lives were taken did nothing to deserve their fate. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now they're gone, and they leave behind grieving families...a grieving nation."

Interesting how you could apply those very words to so many innocent Iraqi lives that have been lost in Bush's "mission accomplished."

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (so to speak) a few months ago I watched the movie American Gun, and I highly recommended it when I did, but it is suddenly even more bizarrely, horrifyingly, sadly relevant. I invite you to seriously consider watching it. It should go without saying that you can get it from Netflix. (And I reiterate, my friends, that if you're still not Netflixing, just tell me; I'll send you a free trial.)

Sad, sobering, shocking. Sad sad sad.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Napikoski Code?

"Which famous historical figure are you?"

You are Leonardo Da Vinci.

You are artistic, and incredibly intelligent. You look at the world in a different way than most people, and you are very imaginative. Things that seem impossible to most people are easy for you.

Take this quiz at

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Here's what I think, summarized. If you want details, just ask.

  • I wish Bush could be fired instead of Don Imus.
  • I agree with Keith Oberman: don't we already have a "military czar," and isn't that position called Commander in Chief? Hello?
  • I had no idea how very many friends I had who were so deeply into Kurt Vonnegut.
  • I'm excited about the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's major league debut, in which number 42 will be un-retired for the day and worn by various players. Andruw Jones will be wearing it in the Braves game.
  • Speaking of my Braves, can we say, "Best record in baseball!" Huzzah! What a hot start.
  • Wait, remind me. We're surprised by the bombing in Iraq and the insecurity of the Green Zone because...? Was it our stellar record of providing security and stability there? How smoothly things have been going? Perhaps our general peaceful demeanor worldwide?
  • White House e-mail is the new 18 1/2 minute gap in the tape
  • No, really. Don Imus. He, at least, is taking responsibility for what he did.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Viva mi inner spanish chica

Your Inner European is Spanish!

Energetic and lively.
You bring the party with you!
Who's Your Inner European?

Hmmm, I have actually been asked if I'm from Spain multiple times while traveling. That's it, I'm clearly meant to go to Spain this summer. Er...right?!

Monday, April 09, 2007

In which Linda praises Wal-Mart, and the blogosphere tries not to pass out from the shock

I am all about acknowledging when someone -- the enemy, if you will -- who is consistently wrong actually breaks from tradition and does something right.

And this is a big one! One of the "W" enemies. (I have noticed they tend to be "W"s...Wal-Mart, "Dubya" Bush, etc...)

Wal-Mart has committed in writing to a nationwide Emergency Contraception policy, in which it will stock EC and dispense it without discrimination and without delay. (see: this Planned Parenthood blog)

Now, it is important to note a few things. There may still be problems getting emergency contraception at Wal-Mart, as there have been in the past. Additionally this policy only promises to stock the over-the-counter version when "one or more" customers has requested it. However, they have committed to make the prescription and any number of prescribed/requested refills of the prescription or the over-the-counter product available without refusal, harassment, etc. by the pharmacists, without regard to their personal feelings about birth control.

The most distressing thing of all? With this move Wal-Mart joins CVS, Eckerd's, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Kmart among others in committing to protect women's health and access to birth control. But Target -- Target!! of all places! -- has not yet made the commitment.

I, however, am part of Planned Parenthood's "Pill Patrol," a nationwide effort to make this happen by contacting our local Target stores.

No, this hasn't changed my opinion about the other insidious crap Wal-Mart does/has done (of which crap there is much). But I am all about acknowledging when they do something right. (I would acknowledge when Dubya Bush did something right, too, if he ever did.)

I am very pro-EC. I myself have taken Plan B, also known as "the morning-after pill," and so totally not to be confused with the so-called "abortion pill," as Plan B is simply a high-dose hormone pill, kind of like The Pill amplified. It is a very high dose of levonorgestrel. It, similar to the regular daily birth control pill, works by preventing release of an egg from the ovary, or preventing fertilization of a released egg or attachment to the uterus, but not by interrupting a pregnancy if an egg is already attached. It won't cause an abortion. You can learn more here. I am very pro-knowledge about contraception, too. I was fortunate to have a doctor who prescribed it in Massachusetts as well as helpful CVS pharmacies there, and more recently to have it available at the Hofstra Wellness Center. I don't usually share such personal information on my blog. But I am very, very pro women's health and women's contraceptive choices. Some other big ones we have to work on, besides Target, are Safeway and Winn-Dixie.

Here's to Wal-Mart doing something good, Jesus rising, chocolate bunnies, and other Easter miracles.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

And now, for something(s) completely frivolous...

This amuses me: Night of the Living Roach

I also found it amusing that my Columbia Records e-newsletter says: "It may be early spring outside, but here at Columbia Records, it's as hot as summer baby! It's like August in Phoenix up in here with our artists..." Woo-hoo Phoenix heat!

Still more amusing is this ashes to ashes, dust to dust story, as I like to think of it...

Tiger Woods, on the other hand, did not amuse me when he talked about playing golf with John Smoltz, Jeff Francoeur, and Adam LaRoche. Not because he made fun of Smoltz, but because of precisely what he said: "'John Smoltz, I hope he's watching this right now because he's my ATM machine,' Woods said." Aaaaagh. I cringe so much. It hurts me to even put that on my blog. That is my ultimate pet peeve. THE 'M' STANDS FOR MACHINE! Why, Tiger?! Why must you be redundant and say things twice? (ha)

So, to recap: the score was Amusement: 3, Pet Peeves: 1. It was looking good for amusement in the home stretch. And then I discovered MyCyberTwin. No, really. Go have a chat with my cyber alter ego.

Amusement so totally carries the day.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Resistance. I heard it's the secret of joy.

I'm sick and should crawl into bed very soon but I absolutely must tell you about the film I just watched, My Country, My Country.

The "country" in question is Iraq. The film is exquisite. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. No, it did not win. For those of you who have been living under a rock, An Inconvenient Truth won. You know, the Al Gore film. I have already told you that it did not deserve to win, but now, heartbroken, I reiterate.

For starters, I've just about had it with all these Al Gore supporters crawling out of the woodwork. Even suggesting he run for president! To them I can only say, where in god's name were you seven years ago? The man DID run. He WON. But you were all content to sit around and let Dubya and the Warmongers usurp the White House, because, I don't know, I guess that a little healthy outrage might have disrupted your Prozac/remote control regimen.

Next, I hate to belabor the point (wait, no I don't, just kidding) but An Inconvenient Truth was really not a good film. I mean, seriously. It was a great lecture. Far more interesting than some lectures I've attended recently. But not a film. And can we talk about how the "cinematic" touches they added were things like Al Gore flying to his next gig, looking down from his plane window, forlorn, presumably lamenting that the Earth upon which he gazes is being destroyed. Well, for god's sake, man! How about you park your private jet! If I were a documentary filmmaker, I would be deeply offended by the award going to that film.

As for what should have won, I still don't know why the far superior film about raping the earth for oil was not even nominated. That would be Who Killed the Electric Car? Brilliant. And this is to say nothing of the triumph that is Jesus Camp, which was nominated, but sadly did not triumph on the big night.

But now, I declare that neither Jesus nor Electric should have gone home with Oscar. Because now I have seen My Country, My Country.

It took me on a journey. It showed me humanity. It did so in quiet, subtle ways. It made me remember when those elections were held, those elections Bush et. al. heralded as a sign of triumph, of the Iraqis embracing democracy. What does that mean? no really? I'll give you a dollar if you can give me an honest to god explanation of how those elections were "embracing democracy." That doesn't mean anything; it's a catchphrase. It's useless. Like "family values." All the meaning has gone out of those words because of how they are bandied about by people intent on manipulating other people who might vote for them.

The January 2005 elections in Iraq, as we are reminded in this film, had an alarming tendency to go the way Bush wanted them to. That is to say, the Sunni voices were not exactly heard. Of course, the Bush Administration is pretty good at that here, disenfranchising voters, so why not be good at it there? It's astonishing to watch the election observers, the Iraqi Election Commission Workers, the ballot convoys, the bags of election supplies getting loaded onto planes. The preparation meetings. Preparation for the "show."

This is not the only point the film makes though. In fact, what the film does is show us Iraq, a place we never see. It shows us one of the most inspiring people I've seen in quite some time, Dr. Riyadh, who is trying desperately to do some good while on this planet. He's a doctor, a friend and leader and support to his community, a candidate in the elections. He's inspiring. I watch him and I remember that I have good intentions to "help people" and "change the world" and all that jazz. Well, we clearly know the road those intentions pave.

The filmmaker, Laura Poitras, knows the power of people and images. She weaves them together subtly. It is tremendous. I cannot emphasize this enough. Do yourself a favor and watch this film. If you STILL haven't tried Netflix, just tell me. I can send you a free trial invite, you know.

I can't remember reacting this strongly to a film about what we're doing in Iraq since I saw Gunner Palace.

It occurs to me that some people have not watched either film. Or any other film about Iraq. That some people have watched no documentary films, whatsoever. I think they do have their televisions, though. And their remote controls...gotta have my remote control...gotta have my pleasure...don't make me think...don't make me feel something...least of all some untidy emotion like outrage...where's my pill...where's my soma...where is it...?!

"Oh, brave new world, that has such people in it!"
-- from Shakespeare's The Tempest

Monday, April 02, 2007

Under the Radar

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear y'all. Today I have made a discovery that is infinitely shocking. It is this: I like Carrie Underwood.

I know. Right?! What! What is happening here! As if last Friday night hadn't sufficiently demonstrated some questionable music taste moments on my part! Here's how I came to this latest revelation.

The first step was a few weeks ago. There I stood with a magazine in hand, one of those trash-ola celeb rags, on whose cover were three or four celeb pictures identified by first names only, along with some headline, you know, like "Britney: Back in Rehab" or whatever. And while I recognized a couple of them and could mentally provide the left-out last names, one baffled me, and I actually had to ask two co-workers, "Who's 'Carrie'?" They informed me it was Carrie Underwood and upon closer examination of the picture I realized she looked familiar and that fell into place. Naturally enough, this prompted a conversation about American Idol, which I have watched exactly never, and I was pretty content to just wander off and leave it at that, that Carrie is a figure whose name I know but not any music, until one of the helpful co-workers (it was you, Brian, wasn't it??) volunteered the information that Carrie sings "Jesus Take the Wheel."

Oh, well, I know that song! That played in frequent rotation on AFN in Korea. For those who don't remember the good times that were my Korea radio listening, I spent a lot of time on the Armed Forces Network, mostly because it was one of my main contacts with the English-speaking world until I got a computer in my apartment, and the habit kind of stuck even after I could listen to other things online.

Because AFN has to cater to the tastes of everyone on the military bases, they play different genres at different times. What was particularly funny about this is WHEN they play them. Mornings, as I got ready for work, I was treated to hip-hop, Top 40, and the like. Friday and Saturday nights were hard rock or classic rock. I could just picture all the Army boys sitting around with some beers blasting the tunes in their barracks. Sundays, however, were given over to Christian and country. Isn't that hilarious? I mean, the Christian I understand, because after all there are a lot of God-fearin' folks in the Army so it makes some sense to play Preacher Whatsit's weekly broadcast (I often woke up after a late Saturday night out with the other expat English teachers and lay there for a while listening to his little ramblings about various scriptures and why the Bush Administration was better than Michael Moore or whatever. Ugh) but the Country? How hilarious is that? Sundays= the heartland! God and Country. Love it.

Anyway, that's when I first heard "Jesus Take the Wheel." Only, as I typically do with country and have done since childhood (growing up in Arizona, you unavoidably listen to country as well, it predated Korea for me) I don't really pay attention to the artists. I mostly just recognize songs here and there. And when I heard "Jesus Take the Wheel" I remember thinking, This has got to be one of the most ridiculous songs I've ever heard. So country-pop. Not to mention it's one of my favorite kinds of country guilty pleasure: when there's a later-verse twist on the first-verse's words that really packs an emotional punch, often about God. You know, like in George Strait's "Love Without End, Amen" or who was it, Colin Raye? who sang about "If you get there before I'm through" or the one about the boy who says "Please don't take the girl," at first talking about fishing and then in the end meaning don't take her from this earth. I love those. Pure sap. Brilliant.

Even so, I moved on from my recent magazine, co-workers, yes-I-know-who-she-is-but-no-I've-never-watched-American-Idol moment thinking nothing more of it. Until today. When I innocently decide to listen to the Napster Top 10 and as I'm multi-tasking in various windows I see that Carrie Underwood is in there and I idly think, "Hmm, wonder if I'll recognize this song, 'Before He Cheats.'" And lo and behold, it's THAT song! The one about the girl who scratched the holy hell out of her cheating rat bastard of an ex's car! I heard that while I was in Phoenix over winter break and loved it! It was so -- delightedly vengeful. And I, who experienced the motherlode of cheating rat bastard exness last year, was wholly amused. Even though I'm not the physical revenge-seeking sort, it's fun to sing about at the top of your lungs while driving around the Valley of the Sun in Mom's car.

In fact, my friend Marcia called me the other week to ask if I knew "the hilarious one about the woman singing 'I just keyed his car...'" and that I just HAD to hear it, and I enthusiastically told her I in fact knew it. (Marcia keeps up better with the country-listening than I do, as she is equal parts NPR and country radio, but she is no better at identifying artists than I am.) But what I didn't know was that "Before He Cheats" was Carrie Underwood, too! Suspicious after learning that today, I moved on to checking out the full album Some Hearts. Realizing, wait a minute, I think I know that title track, too. And, yes, I sure do. (And the title track is SO poppy and so totally NOT country, by the way.) Furthermore, I know yet another one on the album so far, another sapfest called "Don't Forget to Remember Me." I might also add I am particularly delighted by the countrified "I Ain't in Checotah Anymore" in which she sings about New York City and how you can get "anything you want here, except a Wal-Mart store." Indeed.

Well, folks, that's how it happened. You know, I'm not sure I can say objectively that Carrie's all that bad. Her voice strikes me as part Jessica Andrews, part I'd-be-Shania-ish if I could, with a hint of like a Wynonna or, no, a Martina. Nonetheless, Ms. Underwood is clearly getting filed under Guilty Pleasures. For myriad reasons. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Partying like it's 1987

Here's a great way to kick off spring break: On Friday evening, after everyone has sufficiently finished classes, taken power naps (if they're the napping sort), and otherwise attended to their various issues, head to the liquor store with a friend, your task being to ensure there are copious amounts of rum, vodka, beer, pineapple juice, or whatever strikes people's fancy, on hand. Bring said party supplies back to the laws students' residence hall, which has for the most part emptied out as people spilled forth in spring breakdom. Commence drinking. After multiple conversations, philosophical discussions, science lessons, a failed attempt to remember just what ARE the four cardinal virtues, and even a game of "Never Have I Ever," accompany your friends on a smoke break outside, at which time somehow get Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time" in at least two people's heads, enough that immediately upon returning to someone's room your first priority is to find the song online and listen to it while singing at the top of your lungs and dancing like fools (carefully avoiding the pizza box open in the middle of the floor with several slices remaining).

Once the Cher act is complete, decide that nothing beats playing a few flashback 80s tunes. Have the friend in whose room you've ended up start playing all manner of random 80s songs she has on her computer. Get more and more into it, as she transforms into quite the killer dj, with an amazing playlist of flashbacks from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Dance. Dance a lot. Dance because you can, damn it! Squeal with delight, often. Help your friend up when she falls on the floor, narrowly avoiding catastrophe, but laugh heartily as well.

Repeat as needed until at least 5 a.m.

Discuss the following:
  • "Luka" is a great song.
  • "Could Have Been" really is not, despite the fact that we owned it on cassette/vinyl.
  • The bee girl from the Blind Melon "No Rain" video is probably a law student now, too.
  • When you "share a drink they call loneliness" on Long Island, home of Billy Joel, it's clearly some sort of cosmic message.
  • The Gourds can make you see "Gin & Juice" in a whole new glorious light.
  • Eighties music is meant for interpretive dance.
  • What everyone's really been awaiting all this time is for someone to choreograph a ballet to Foreigner's "I Wanna Know What Love Is." No, really.
  • "We Built This City" doesn't belong on a soundtrack. It basically IS an 80s movie, in itself.
  • Singing the opening lines of "Angel of Harlem" when you're just a few miles from Kennedy Airport and Harlem is rather inspiring, turns out.
  • Not to put too fine a point on it, but is there a little birdhouse in YOUR soul?