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This (Particular) American Life

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Since I spend six hours a day working at a job where headphones are as common as book jackets, I’ve been listening to a lot of This American Life.  I’ve listened to at least eighty episodes since the beginning of the month, along with the occasional episode of Car Talk.  The ratio isn’t as even as I’d like it to be. Car Talk’s archives are pay-only, while TAL allows you to stream theirs from your computer for free.  As a result, I probably get one episode of Car Talk for every 25 of This American Life.

I have to hand it to the Magliozzi brothers for coming up with this scheme.  I know they came up with it, too, because it’s simultaneously brilliant and diabolical, plus you can hear it laughing and snorting if you listen very closely.  Here’s how they get you:  their weekly podcast is free, but all episodes posted prior to your subscription to the podcast are not.

Who did they get the idea from, drug dealers?  They give you just enough free stuff to get you hooked, then they crank the prices through the roof and bleed you dry.  At 95 cents a pop, they could easily get the entirety of my minimum-wage paycheck almost before it’s deposited.  Sometimes I’m tempted to do it, but then I remember I need things like gasoline and spending money during the long unemployed stretch of the school year, and I abstain.  But man, they really must need to make that boat payment.

It seems like an obvious choice:  to forgo Car Talk in favor of This American Life, which is equally entertaining at an infinitely kinder price.  And I will, but I don’t do it carelessly.  As the fifth straight hour of Ira Glass’s excessively thoughtful and morose narration draws to a close, I really miss Click and Clack.  I wish I hadn’t already listened to the week’s podcast, which I do first thing on Monday morning, to take the edge off.

It’s not that I don’t like This American Life.  I do, really, very much, despite the well-publicized opinions of The O.C.’s Summer on the matter.  It’s just that in real life I’d rather hang out with the Magliozzis.  Ira Glass and his crew would probably find me sweet, in the same way that one finds a spaniel sweet, and there’s nothing that pisses off twenty-year-old white girls more than finding them sweet in that way.  Most of us would rather you found us fat.

Tom and Ray, on the other hand, are more like my family members than anything else.  Replace “Italian” with “Southern” and “mechanics” with “truck drivers”, and you’ve got the Boland clan.  Sure, they’d probably find me sweet too, but being thought of that way by a pair of grandfathers is infinitely less galling.  My own grandfathers feel/felt that way about me.  It doesn’t prevent me from tossing out whatever crazy or stupid thing comes to mind in conversation with them.

I went to high school with kids who will grow up to be the types of people Ira Glass hosts on his show.  Even after two years of class three hours a day with them, just ten kids and a teacher in a room, things were still tense between us.  Part of it was the competition, and another big part was the premature development of overblown egos.  But still another part was that the more pretentious, elite clique found me lame.  And no wonder:  they cited Walter Benjamin, while I wrote about how much I love my cat.  I’m prone to awkward outbursts, making oversized gestures when I talk, and actual pratfalls.  I’m like Charlie Chaplin, if Charlie Chaplin’s jokes fell flat too.  Ira Glass would be as exasperated by this as Katie, Allen, Andrew, and Tori were, as his crew would have to spend hours editing my faux pas away.

But the Magliozzis are as lame as they come.  I think they’d be more forgiving of my shortcomings.

I only snort when I laugh REALLY hard.


Written by Estie

June 16, 2010 at 3:24 am

Rules for Orifices

with one comment

Okay, whew.  My may class is over, I made an A in it, and the library job still rocks.  There are sixteen days until my family leaves for our wonderful and fabulous adventure to England and Scotland.  As I remarked to my mother last week, I am so happy at this moment that something disastrous is sure to befall me soon.

More importantly, though, I have time to have thoughts again!  So I thought I’d share my thoughts on orifices with you all this evening.

Because I lack religious conviction, I’ve been left to the inconvenient task of figuring out a belief system for myself.  I’m still working on a lot of it, though for the most part it seems to include boring philosophies like moderation, relativity, and not being a complete asshole to your fellow sentient and non-sentient beings.  However, there are a few things I feel very strongly and specifically about.  The following rules are some examples which, if followed, I believe will result in a safer, cleaner, and more harmonious existence.

1.  If you previously removed it from one body cavity, it should not under any circumstances be inserted into another.

I cannot stress this enough.  Whatever it is, if it came out of you, it’s probably a waste product.  Allowing it to re-enter your body is therefore detrimental to your overall health, regardless of how fresh it is.  (I’m looking at you, kids who let your snot drain into your mouths instead of wiping your noses like civilized beings.)

An exception to this rule is the replacement of said substance into the SAME cavity from which it was removed, under the following FEW AND SPECIFIC circumstances:  dental work, organ prolapse, errant hearing aids or other medical devices.

2.  Orifices should generally be regarded as one-way streets.

This rule is more flexible than the previous one.  I understand the need to allow two-way traffic in some orifices under some circumstances.  However, two-way traffic should only occur for a CLEAR and LOGICAL reason, not simply because you were bored/curious/itchy.

3.  Please, for the love of God, DO NOT examine the substances that exit your orifices.

As mentioned earlier, these are generally waste products.  Your body has no use for them, and neither should you.  Anyway, bad things happen when you examine non-personal waste products.  To wit:  lingering to examine fresh bear waste usually results in the nearby bear returning to eat you.  Lingering to examine nuclear waste results in acute poisoning and/or cancer.  And lingering to examine waste in dumpsters results in your appearing to be homeless, an antique dealer, or Freegan.

4.  I can’t believe I have to actually say this, but guys?  KEEP YOUR ORIFICES CLEAN.

A friendly reminder:  pores are orifices too.  So take a damn shower every once in a while, and USE SOAP.  Would it kill you?

Written by Estie

June 8, 2010 at 2:03 am

Poisson d’Avril!

with 2 comments

Thursday marks four years that my boyfriend and I have been dating.  Yes, you read that right.  Since my sophomore year of high school, I’ve been the ol’ ball and chain for the same boy.  And for the umpteenth time, no, we’re not getting married.

We didn’t do it on purpose, officer.  It just happened.  One year passed after another, and we somehow didn’t get sick of each other. We went to different schools, lived in different states, and somehow didn’t grow apart.  We meant to do the adult thing and break up after high school, but when it came down to the wire (read:  the day before I went to Millsaps), we couldn’t go through with it.

(We didn’t pick that inauspicious anniversary date on purpose, either.  It…also just happened.)

He’s a computer programmer, and I’m a history junkie; if we had to switch majors for a day, we’d have our pants bored off us by the second hour.  I love to shop, and he damn near has a panic attack every time he remembers that the mall exists.  He likes typography and philosophy, and he eats meat.  I’ve never had a good eye for design, I find philosophy rather arbitrary (except for Sartre, but everybody likes Sartre), and I’ve been a vegetarian since I was fourteen.

It embarrasses him when I talk about Harry Potter as if it is real in public, and when I get involved in arguments about literature on Facebook.  It embarrasses me when he skips in public, and when he wears the “Vagina is for Lovers” t-shirt he screenprinted himself.  (I do have to admit that it’s a nice color, though.  And is as tastefully done as a “Vagina is for Lovers” t-shirt can be.)

He likes to save, I like to splurge.  He’s a morning person, I’m a night owl.  He works hard, I like nothing better than sitting on my ass and procrastinating.  He’s very neat, and I’m a mess.

We’re different.  But we’re also very much the same.

We like to compromise.  We don’t like to shout.  We like giving gifts better than receiving them.  We’re addicted to the Internet.  We both like the mountains better than the beach, and we both have trouble with our swimsuits falling down.  We have similar taste in movies and TV, and we both like to cook—he thinks I make a mean avocado sandwich, and I think he makes killer scrambled eggs.  Oh, and his espresso is to DIE for.

We like cats, Asian food, and blowing things up.  We both speak Toothbrush, and we both drive like grannies.  Each of us knows exactly what the other is talking about, even when the other isn’t making any sense whatsoever (and this is a common problem, because we both have the same bizarre sense of humor).

My roommate, who is a year and a half older than me, got engaged a few months ago.  When I informed my boyfriend of this, he said matter-of-factly, “Good for her.  I’m not engaging you, though.”  When we finished our dinner, he congratulated her, then we retired to his dorm to discuss just how crazy she is.  I like that we can agree on this.  I also like that we can agree children are annoying, and partying is vastly overrated.  This means that, if we so desire, we will be able to continue to get along for the foreseeable future.

It does not, however, mean that we’re obligated to declare ourselves stuck together for life.

People think that we have the strangest relationship on the planet.  They simply cannot understand why, if we have been together for so long, we are not “engaging” (ha, see what I did there?) in the horrid activities most other couples do, like naming our future children (gag) or planning our wedding (ugh).  And it seems that no matter how many times I say to those people, “We’re nineteen, okay?  WE ARE NINETEEN,” they never seem to get it.

This is the way I see it:  if you don’t want children, why should you legally tie yourself to another person?  I’d rather live without a commitment that requires lots of messy paperwork to dissolve, and know that when I am in a relationship, I’m there because the other person wants me to be there, not because it’s too expensive and too much of a hassle to make me leave.

Especially now, when I’ve got at least sixty years left on this earth—if average life expectancy is any indicator of my own—why should I arbitrarily push even more of my life’s milestones into the first twenty-five years of my life?

It doesn’t mean I love him any less.  To be honest, I probably love him more for it, because he feels the same way.

So here’s my acknowledgment of our momentous anniversary, because come Thursday we are going to New York City with my mom and brother, and with all the traveling hullabaloo, I’ll probably forget all about it.  =)

(Seriously, that has happened before.  We both forgot our second anniversary, because it was during our senior year of high school, the day after my dog died and my colleges rejected me, while he was devoting every second of his life to his school play.  My friend Sheri reminded me of the occasion three days later.  FAIL.)

Yeah, I know, it's lame that this is from prom. But we have shockingly few pictures together. He's always behind the camera.

Written by Estie

March 30, 2010 at 3:43 am

Flabbity Flab Flab

with 3 comments

A confession:  I do not like my legs.  Depending upon the time of year, I fluctuate between resigned dislike and open hatred, as fashion swings from pants and tights to shorts and miniskirts.  The only time I am pleased with my legs is when they are covered in thick, baggy ski pants and are preventing me from zooming off a cliff.

Even when I was little, before I hit puberty and filled out over approximately one month of sixth grade (I have the stretch marks to prove it), I didn’t like my legs.  I have a mole on my right thigh, halfway between knee and hip, that used to bug me to no end.  I have skin so fair it borders on albinism, so it’s not hard to spot imperfections.  And in summer, every time I looked down, that mole was there, looking right back at me.

It’s not an ugly mole or anything.  It’s about half an inch across, uniformly oval-shaped, and doesn’t protrude, flap in the breeze, or have hair growing out of it.  My irrational hatred of that mole was probably an early indicator that I’m better off with a little Sertraline in my bloodstream.  But I digress.

When I hit puberty, the lower half of my body got totally out of control.  I didn’t wear shorts for five or six years, preferring to suffocate in the South Carolina summer rather than subject the world to my hideous legs.  And bathing suits?  Hah!  I can’t believe I remember how to swim.  I still prefer to have a pair of shorts handy as a cover-up, though that comes with its own set of problems re:  pseudo-albinism—shorts rub my sunscreen off, which means that if I don’t reapply constantly, I end up with a really weird-looking sunburn.

The real trouble is that women in my family look like Sid from Toy Story built us.  We have short limbs and long torsos.  We have broad shoulders, broad hips, and narrow waists, which would be great if we came with anything resembling the BOOBS we were PROMISED in sex ed.  We tend to have an extra helping of junk in the trunk, too.  Our asscracks decide to liberate themselves from our jeans all too often, and thanks to that pasty-white skin, it’s extra-obvious when it happens in public.

In the seventies, a dunk-tank carny yelled at my mom, “Baby, you got an hourglass figure, but all the sand done run to the bottom!”

Nice of her to pass those genes on.

Here’s my body’s catch-22:  it’s not fat.  I’m not a sample size or anything—I wear a four or a six, typically—but I am at a healthy weight.  I’m five foot five, and as of this afternoon I weigh 126.7 pounds.  My body just naturally stores all of its fat on my hips and thighs.

I do eat too much junk food, but do you know what happens when I stop eating junk food?  My boobs become practically concave, and my damn legs stay as gelatinous as they ever were.  Same thing happens when I exercise compulsively.  Even though my muscles do become more toned, they’re still covered with a blanket of good old pudge, so you can’t really TELL.  Oh, and on top of that, I’ve got those stretch marks on my hips and the backs of my thighs.  With cellulite poking out in between, like a prisoner reaching desperately from between the bars of an old-fashioned jail.

I’ve read every women’s magazine in existence, and I know what they all say.  Think about your body in terms of what it can DO, not what it looks like, and unless you’re a quadriplegic, you’ll feel a lot kinder toward it.  But you know what I think about that?  I think it still doesn’t change the fact that my legs are ugly.

I’m setting myself up for a life among the non-affluent.  I want to write, and I really don’t want to do anything else with my life.  I enjoy plenty of things, but writing is the only thing that feels real and true.  So unless I marry for money (gag), I won’t ever be able to afford anything like liposuction, even if I do decide that one vain, shallow act is worth not feeling self-conscious and frustrated every time temperatures climb about 70 degrees.

I’ve done research into the different surgeries offered, pricing, and even those freaky compression garments they make you wear so you won’t go all weird and lumpy while you’re healing.  The bruising I can deal with, as I fall down about as often as I stand up, and I don’t see how compression garments are that different from heavy-duty Spanx.  It’s more the philosophical issues that bug me.

Is it ethical to have plastic surgery when people around the world are dying for want of simple surgical procedures?

Is it ethical to spend thousands of dollars on a procedure to improve my outward physical appearance, rather than on travel that would expand my mind, or something more practical like rent?

Will I lose the respect of people whose opinions I value if I work to conform more closely to our society’s unrealistic image of physical beauty?

I’m not a controlling or type-A personality by any definition of the term.  In fact, my grades would probably improve if I stressed out about things a little more, or gave more of a shit in general.  It’s just this one, insignificant, infuriating thing.  Oh, how it plagues me!

I hear sale of body parts is forbidden on Craigslist, but this is Estieslist.  In conclusion….

For sale:  one pair of legs, slightly used but in good condition.  Functional but utilitarian.  Willing to trade and/or pay cash for more aesthetically-pleasing replacements.  Shin splints and freckles OK, peg legs NOT OK.  Similar skin tone, please.  Serious inquiries only.

Leave me my voice, though, please. I use it to snark with.

Written by Estie

March 25, 2010 at 4:15 am

Robert Pattinson and the Myth of the Byronic Hero

with 4 comments

Okay, so Dad’s on an airplane to Dubai, en route back to Bagram, and things are back to normal at my house.  I’ll be going back to my dorm tomorrow night.  In the meantime, I thought I’d try to alienate a potential audience.

Better writers than me have puzzled out Twilight’s confounding popularity.  I’m not here to do that.  I have never read the books, though I have read excerpts online, and can confirm that Stephenie Meyer’s prose has a chemical makeup similar to ipecac.  I have also never seen the movies.  When I was at Millsaps, several of my friends saw the first movie multiple times, and I considered going with them just to see what the fuss was about.  Ultimately I decided not to, partially because I knew I’d be a huge wet blanket, and partially because I was a wee bit frightened of its strange power.

I’m a teenage girl too, after all.  Nobody seems to understand why Twilight has the effect on people that it does.  What if I turned into another glazed-eyed zombie fangirl?  I’m not immune to guilty pleasures.  I’m sitting here now writing about Twilight, so clearly I’m fascinated by it.  I’d like to think that my fascination with Twilight comes from the same place as my love of “Manos” The Hands of Fate, but what if I’m wrong?  What if there’s something hormonal or evolutionary in women that causes them to irrationally adore such tripe, regardless of their otherwise feminist beliefs and empowered lifestyle?

Regardless, I can tell you that the blogger Miss Banshee’s recap of the New Moon film is hilarious on many levels, and I highly recommend it to anyone not quite curious enough to subject him/herself to actually seeing the damn thing firsthand.

For honesty’s sake, I should probably admit that I, too, find Robert Pattinson attractive.  When he has been manhandled into a shower and through a hair and makeup department, he’s almost knee-weakening on a physical level.  I can understand why a lot of lonely teenage girls (and mothers, ew) have photos of his brooding face plastered on everything they own.  After all, when you don’t have anything better, what’s the harm in a cheap thrill?  I’m lucky enough to have a very nice boyfriend (and in any case, I prefer Cillian Murphy), but to each her own.  I’m only bothered when these fantasies affect real life.

Robert Pattinson obviously has an army of stalkers because they think he is Edward.  These stalkers are not necessarily the same people who have his face plastered on their belongings, but the two groups do overlap.  Rationally, most of them know that Pattinson ≠ Cullen, but they just want it to be true so badly.  I know this because I was once horrified (embarrassment alert) to discover that Elijah Wood was far from the noble, innocent character that Frodo is (I was twelve, okay?!?).  I learned my lesson about celebrity hero worship, and someday the sane among them will, too.  He’ll get old and saggy, and so will they, and the world will continue on its merry way.  This is the way celebrity crushes have gone since women flung their petticoats at Henry VIII’s passing litter [citation needed].

Pattinson is a particularly acute case.  Taylor Lautner is less remarkable, because he is, frankly, a boring person.  His life doesn’t provide good paparazzi fodder, with the exception of that romantic interlude with the equally boring Taylor Swift, and it doesn’t remotely resemble that of his Twilight stereotype character. Robert Pattinson is a totally different story.  Every news story that details his exploits with Technicolor vividness fuels the fire of the Pattinson mythos.

He is simultaneously the polar opposite of the character that made him famous, and eerily similar to it.  He matches the alcoholic exploits of Lindsay Lohan with the tortured persona of Edward Cullen.  Fans love him, and they want so badly to save him from himself, a la Bella.  So they read every article about him, even the unflattering ones.  The paparazzi profit, so they continue to publish embarrassing stories about him.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Some people speculate that Pattinson encourages media coverage of his foolishness, in an attempt to repel his legions of stalkers.  If this is true, DUDE, IT’S NOT WORKING!  Instead, he’s turning himself into a Byronic hero.

So here’s where I’m truly confounded.  I can tease out some information about the dynamics of Twilight fans, but I’m totally in the dark about the larger appeal of the Byronic hero.  I’ve read Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights, have seen the movie version of Jane Eyre with Anna Paquin, and even went through a brief stage of being obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera.  The Phantom was sympathetic to me mostly because I know what it’s like to feel like a freak, but I only find Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy attractive once he begins behaving like a non-shitty human being, and Mr. Rochester (as played by William Hurt) mostly makes me roll my eyes.  As for Heathcliff, I’d prefer that he be pushed from a particular tall specimen of his namesake geographical feature.

I guess nice guys really do finish last, because I seem to be in the minority in my opinions of these and other literary bad boys-cum-romantic icons.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why this is true.  Does it just not register that one of the most appropriate synonyms for “Byronic hero” is “asshole”?

If anyone happens to read this, I beg you, TO THE COMMENTS!

And in the meantime, leave Robert Pattinson alone.  He’s pathetic and, furthermore, really bizarre.  If he gets any worse, he’ll be the next Britney Spears.  And who wants that?

Written by Estie

March 23, 2010 at 3:57 am


with one comment

Meet Punky.

She’s not your normal cat.

She is my cat.

Punky was raised by Oreo, despite Oreo’s best attempts to have nothing whatsoever to do with that upstart kitten who dared to nuzzle all over her face and purr.

We’re not sure Punky thinks she’s a dog, but we’re pretty sure she doesn’t think she’s a cat.

She likes to chase her tail.  When guests come over, instead of hiding, she jumps into their laps.  She doesn’t mind being turned upside-down, cradled like a baby, or poked repeatedly.  She comes when called.  She licks people a lot.

She’s afraid of my fake beard and my pink gorilla suit.

Halloween 2009 was my personal best.

Not much else fazes her, except for falling in the bath.

Oh, and the reindeer cat hat I purchased for her this Christmas.  She didn’t like that either.

My friends tease me for going home on the weekends, especially when I tell them that it’s to see my cat.  I mean, I love my family and all, but I can deal with seeing them, like, once a month.  I miss Punky.

She’s beeyoutiful.  Even though she has a fat, saggy belly that swings like a church bell when she runs.

When the other girls who live on my residence hall talk about how many kids they want to have someday, I talk about how many cats I want.  (No more than five, with a dog or two for good measure.  I fully plan to be a crazy cat lady.)

But I know there will never be another one quite like Punky.

Written by Estie

March 2, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Posted in Me, Not College

Tagged with , ,