Monday, March 22, 2010

Barbara Kingsolver's Jabberwocky.

Even though Richard Hoffman at Emerson continually told me how annoying disclaimers were (I have been heeding your advice Hoffman, except for today), I want to preface this entry by warning you that it may be kind of rant-y, and more akin to a Livejournal post than a Things Jill Likes blog post, but, considering it is my blog, I suppose I can do what I want. I typically write in here when I am feeling happy and in the mood to be sassy, and feeling clear headed about wanting to document small things in my life. This is always a good feeling. Yet lately I have been feeling uninspired to write even though I know there is always a never-ending list of things I like, which in itself is the reason that life is good and worthwhile. But feeling good enough to actually write about those things takes a dedicated effort to actually celebrate those things, which is better even than just knowing they're there. Throughout the last month or two I have literally just been too busy to write, but I've had quite a few days of relaxing spring beak time now and still nothing. And then tonight, I have been super duper cranky all night, and Kathy has told me that I should also use this blog to write not just when I'm in a good mood, but to write myself out of a bad mood, so, here I am.

There is no good reason for my super duper cranky mood: Kathy and I had breakfast with Erin at Helser's on Alberta today which was super duper awesome, and should be added to my Good Breakfast in Portland list, and then I got new jeans at the Gap outlet. Good day! And then I came home and, after Kathy left for work, tried to read in bed but, as often happens when I try to read in bed, I fell asleep instead. And let me tell you, I am not a nap person. Instead of making me feel better and refreshed, they always make me feel wacky and out of it, like I have just wasted time and will not actually feel awake for the rest of the day. And today it just made me super duper cranky. In addition to the nap, I was trying to pinpoint the origins of my super duper crankiness because every other logical part of my brain told me that I should be feeling awesome. And--okay, this is going to sound silly, but I'm just going to say it--I think it's probably because of this political Facebook kerfuffle I got myself into today.

I have got myself into a few of these. There are those people I'm friends with that I'm not really friends with, but that I had a few classes with in high school, and since I have guilt issues about not being connected enough to my hometown, I always friend them, and then every now and then they write something that gets me all hot and bothered. There is only one person I have ever de-friended, and it was because I just couldn't stand his repeat posts of that video telling us as white Americans that we have to keep having babies or else Muslims are going to overpopulate the world. Yeah. Seriously. Anyway, so I saw a few posts today about health care and how Obama has turned us into a communist nation, etc., etc., and even though I've been hearing this from Fox News for months, something about seeing it on my friends page really just got me going. So I replied, and then replied again to another comment from someone I actually don't know, etc., etc. I always tell myself that I shouldn't get involved in these things because it's pointless and time consuming but I almost always can't help myself anyway. And then I feel bothered by the whole thing for awhile. It's stupid. The truth is I just hate conflict. Then, this afternoon I saw that the stranger I had kinda yelled at had responded in a not-hateful, thoughtful way. He's just a libertarian and believes that all things should be privatized, including public roads, and he had clearly been closely following the debates, so, fair game. I clearly don't agree with him, but, he showed rationality and intelligence, and so it could actually then just be a healthy debate, and I felt so much better. And I could also stop hating myself for wasting too much emotional stress over Facebook. Phew! Then this other person I don't know commented basically saying that it's "humerous" that we are all acting like we know what we're talking about and are all pretty much stupid. That's it. No details about what her actual opinions are, just nasty rhetoric. I wanted to make a snide comment about her spelling after just calling us stupid, but I held back.

This is what has been bothering me for awhile: all this nasty rhetoric. I know there was a lot of nasty rhetoric on the opposite side during the Bush administration, and a lot of the jokes about Bush's intelligence and the like probably were just nasty. But the other issues, for instance, all the anti-war protesters--at least they had an actual cause, you know? They didn't want lots of people from our and the other countries to die. But I don't know what these people are actually fighting against: communism? There are just these phrases, these ideas, this rhetoric floating around that doesn't mean anything, that isn't based in any reality except for Glenn Beck's reality, and people are getting really angry about them, to the point of hatred and violence. And in the end it all gets mixed up with racism and religion-ism and a whole host of other bad things, and reading things like this just make me feel so sick to my stomach. The state of this part of the nation is literally starting to scare me. It's also hard for me to not feel emotionally upset about the health care stuff. I know the bill isn't perfect, but, it's hard for me to feel like these people who are railing so hard against it and just equating it to communism are thinking about the actual issues at all, and I also feel like most of them have health insurance. It's people's freaking lives, people. There's a lot of politics involved in the bill and I won't go into it that deeply, but in the end it's about people's freaking lives. Their cancers, their simple infections, their bankruptcies from medical bills, their lack of medical care when they're poor. It's hard for me to not get emotional about it.

So I'm doing the dishes, feeling super duper cranky, trying to think of how I can make myself feel better about all this. And then all of a sudden I realize what always makes me feel better when I am feeling emotionally upset about politics: Barbara Kingsolver's Jabberwocky.

I love this woman. I have loved this woman since I read The Poisonwood Bible in high school, but as I have gotten older I have appreciated her nonfiction even more. I have to admit I was just slightly disappointed in Animal Vegetable Miracle, her most recent nonfiction bestseller. I still loved it and was inspired by it; there were just a few parts I had issues with. She also has a wonderful collection of essays about the natural world, Small Wonder. But when I look back at my tattered, used copy of her first collection of essays, High Tide in Tucson...this is the stuff, man. This is one of those books I will never, ever sell, that I could read again and again and still be inspired by. She is smart, and she can write. I love this woman. And in this collection there is Jabberwocky, a pretty well known essay by her about her protest of the first Persian Gulf War. The essay covers a lot of issues, including how she exiled herself to France during that war, and some really powerful passages about the importance of art and literature in perilous times. But it is the ending, where she talks about returning to the US, that gets me, that I always remember so vividly. Every time I read it it gives me the chills.

I came back because leaving was selfish. A country can be flawed as a marriage or a family or a person is flawed, but "Love it or leave it" is a coward's slogan. There's more honor in "Love it and get it right." Love it, love it. Love it and never shut up.

So. I won't. And I felt better.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010.

Okay, so listen, I KNOW I am like twenty years behind on this, and no one cares anymore. In fact this is how the Olympics work: no one cares that much the second after the closing ceremony ends (and it was a pretty excruciatingly long ceremony this time: big plus for Michael J. Fox and Alanis Morisette, big minus for Avril Lavigne singing two horribly performed songs along with a plethora of other not-Olympic-worthy musicians), and no one (other than Olympians) really cares about the Olympics right up until the moment the opening ceremony begins. At which point everyone suddenly cares a lot. I don't know what it is - even with me, when I KNOW these types of things make me irrationally emotional and excited, all I kept hearing about in the weeks up to Vancouver was how much money NBC was gonna lose, and how overall no one cares that much about the Olympics anymore, etc. etc., and I was like, eh, probably right. Shrug. And then it starts and BOOM. Me, glued to the TV for two weeks, keeping track of these random sports I only watch every four years like it is my job, and crying every other medal ceremony. The Olympics = a big weird weepfest for Jill.

But even though I know it's been over for awhile and people have moved on, I have been too busy with life to even contemplate the existence of this blog, and now that I'm back, I want to commemorate my favorite bits from Vancouver just so I don't forget.
  • Shaun White. Okay so this guy blows my mind. And it wasn't just his tripledeckersomethingorotherIamsofreakingawesome move he made up that everyone was freaking out about, which looked more or less like all the other ridiculous moves snowboarders make, all of which my brain doesn't comprehend. It was just seeing how high he can propel himself into the air somehow, so much higher than anyone else in the world. Like, terrifyingly high.
  • That Russian ice skating dude being such a little crybaby over getting silver, and then that American ice skating dude with the silvery snake around his neck who got gold being so darn classy about it. Even Bob Costas seemed to disbelieve how classy he could be.
  • Bob Costas. Who I believe has halfway morphed into Dick Clark in the weirdly-never-aging category.
  • Joannie Rochette, the Canadian ice skater whose mother died a few days before she won the silver medal. So this is what happened: Kathy and I turn on the TV in the middle of her first performance. We're like, yeah, that was pretty good. And then when she's done she is CRYING and heaving and the crowd is SO LOUD in their applause and Scott Hamilton and That Other Ice Skating Lady Commentator are stunned into silence until That Other Ice Skating Lady Commentator is all, "She has given us a GIFT tonight," and we are beginning to kind of be like, what the heck, I mean it was pretty good but REALLY, and then eventually we hear that her mom just died. And we were like, oh. On another note, she carried the Canadian flag into the closing ceremony and they showed this clip of her where there was this swarm of drunken Olympians waiting in line to get their picture with her, one after the other after the other, and as much as I love me a good drunken Olympian, she just looked miserable. She had the most forced smile I may have ever seen, and you could just hear her face saying: Okay, I did my thing. I'm done now. Let me be. Okay.
  • Mary Carillo and her host-country-snapshot pieces. Kathy and I have been in LOVE with this lady since Beijing. True story. You can tell me about mounties and sled dogs every day of the year, Mary Carillo.
  • Stephen Colbert.
  • Alright, I just want to say that almost all of the things all these crazy people do on skis is absolutely terrifying.
  • THAT MUSIC, all while panning over those white capped mountains! So glorious! So dramatic! So ridiculously awesome! I love you, Olympic theme music!
  • That really long segment I watched about the anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, which I knew nothing about before, which made Kathy pretty disgusted with me, but which made me cry like a little baby. And then, when I realized that all of it was really just about hating Russians, made me feel slightly uncomfortable.
  • And I think that's it.
Also, I just want to note that when I really sit down and think about what the Olympics is, the fact that it is the ONE THING in the entire world that (almost) everyone in the entire world agrees is a good thing, agrees that they will come to and all be joyous and celebratory together at, and that it is just about wanting to be really good at something and making your country proud - that's it! It's simple!...After a few years now of being a newspaper subscriber and reading the World News section every week and learning about how many terrifying and awful things everyone in the world does to each other every day - well, I don't know. I don't even know what to say about it. It is too big, too good and big.

See you in London, y'all.