Monthly Archives: July 2010

Knowing the Ending

When I was little, I used to get to go to the movies with my mom. She LOVED movies, and liked to have somebody go with her. If she had a fight with my dad, sometimes she would storm out of the house and drag either me, or Patty, or both of us, along with her while she cooled down. We’d drive downtown and look at the marquees of the movie theaters (there were 3 in Provo, all within a block of each other) and we would go into the one that most appealed to her.

Notice that nothing in this pattern of behavior had anything to do with what time the movies started. It didn’t matter. She would pay for the tickets and in we would go–90% of the time at some other point than the beginning. We would watch the movie until it ended, and then watch the beginning until we got to the point where we came in. Then we would leave. I thought that was how everybody went to movies.

I had no problem with this method of movie watching, and in fact I have tried to replicate it. It doesn’t work very well these days. The theaters don’t seem to like it.

I think this has helped give me a very high tolerance for ambiguity. I don’t need to know exactly what is happening in a movie or tv show–I know I will eventually figure it out. I also don’t mind knowing the ending of movies before I see them. It doesn’t spoil them for me in least. The ending doesn’t necessarily need to come last, I always think. My enjoyment of movies or books doesn’t depend very much on surprise.

That is completely different from my friends B and M, a married couple. They have an absolute aversion for knowing the ending. They prefer to go to movies without even knowing the titles! If they should happen to be there for the previews (which they try to avoid), they literally put their fingers in their ears, close their eyes, and do a sort of “la la la la” sound to avoid hearing anything about the movie.

I went with them to see “Reasons to be Pretty” by Neil LaBute at the Phoenix Theater in Indy on Saturday, and I looked at the playbill and asked Paul, “Do you think I’m pretty, or do you think I’m regular?” It turns out that the protagonist has told his friend that his girlfriend has a “regular” face as opposed to saying it is “pretty.” It basically causes WWIII in the play. But me asking that question caused it in the foyer. They were really mad that I was “spoiling” it for them.

I won’t tell you how the play ends (although I will say I thought it was a deep and thought-provoking drama), but if you tell me how a movie ends–even “Inception”!–it won’t bother me in the least.

It’s so hot!

How hot is it? Hot enough to fry an egg? (I tried that once and it didn’t work.) Hot enough to kill frogs if you left them in a bottle in the sun? (I did that too, but not on purpose.) The heat index is 105 degrees. 93 actual degrees. It’s hot. And yet I felt compelled to walk to Chauncey Hill Mall to meet my friend for lunch (it’s not really very far, but in this heat, it felt like miles). On my way, I passed this merry bunch of people outside my building. They were definitely having more fun than I was!

The air conditioning was out in my building when I got back to work. It’s not too bad yet, but I don’t know how it will feel in a few hours if it isn’t fixed. The fountain is tempting, and I am not saying what I might do at the end of the day.

My book groups

I’m in two book groups. One with women in my church (it tends to be much more conservative and people get antsy if there are “bad words” in the books–please see my post entitled Hell’s Bell’s) and one with women who work with me at Purdue. I’m going tonight to the church group to discuss The Heretic’s Daughter, and I am almost finished with Trollope’s Can you Forgive Her? (and by the way, I can’t–she’s too silly in ways that are inexplicable. WHY is she engaged to her no-good cousin who is spending her entire dowry to get into parliament? WHY did she break off her engagement to the noble John Gray? WHEN will I ever be finished with this 1,000 page plus book?)

Why do I like book groups?

1. There are usually good refreshments (I’m so shallow!)
2. There are usually smart comments (and some others that are more annoying–don’t get me started on the ending of The Life of Pi).
3. We get to talk about the men in our lives (sorry, but this is just what happens when women get together–it’s just so fun!)
4. It makes me go outside my comfort zone of books that I would pick, so that I read things I normally wouldn’t read–ok, some of them are dumb, like Twilight and anything by Rosamunde Pilcher, but others I probably wouldn’t have picked up have been great.

So I think The Heretic’s Daughter falls somewhere in the middle. I think it has moments of brilliance and absolute pathos, but other times it seems contrived and steeped in bathos. The Salem Witch trials are completely horrifying (especially to me, who would certainly have been hanged–I definitely need more social capital!) I think Kent started out really well telling the story from the point of view of Martha Carrier’s daughter, but ultimately, there wasn’t a true climax. Yes, she’s in jail and her mother is hanged, but that was obvious. What else was there at stake? Her relationship with her cousin as the crux seems strained, as does the idea that her father was the King’s executioner in England. It just didn’t pack the punch that I was expecting (and I expect a great deal from literature!)

So I will go and try not to bully everyone else, and try not to be too irritating when I point out that “ass” was not used as a word for the posterior until the 19th century (even though this was supposedly written in the 18th), and try to be nice if somebody says something I don’t agree with (I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.)

And I hope there is something chocolate!

“Huge” is good TV

I’ve been intrigued by ABC Family’s “Huge.” When I was a teenager I saw some ads for weight-loss camps and yearned to go to one–especially if it was “back east,” somewhere exotic (compared to Utah)–like New York or New Jersey. Even better would have been Maine. I asked my parents, and there seemed to be just two things between me and fat camp–money and the fact that I wasn’t really fat (although I honestly thought I was!) Here is a photo of me at about that time. I think we are in the petrified forest. I’m on the left, my dad is in the middle (I love and miss him so much!) and Patty is on the right:

I was 13 or 14 in this picture–see what I mean? What I saw as fat was actually puberty.

Anyway, I think the idea of teenagers at a weight-loss camp is great. And ABC is doing a good job at showing teenage angst and the kind of thing that is so weighty (no pun intended) as a teenager–like losing your journal, wanting a boyfriend, wondering if you can be included. I like Nikki Blonsky, and she is doing a great job as “Will” or “Willamena.” But Becca is even more interesting–Becca, who is shy and retiring, and yet can yell at the tennis camp kids when she is larping in medieval clothing.

I don’t think it is a very good weight-loss camp, mind you. I hope the parents aren’t paying too much for this neurotic director, sadistic coach, and salty chef (not to mention the lax supervision in the woods–somebody’s going to end up pregnant at the rate they are going!)

But it’s good–catch it if you can.

Why are some smokers such litterbugs?

Wow, babies advertising cigarettes. We’ve come a long way.

Son of a biscuit! (Thanks, Chris!)

First, let me make it clear that I do not care if you smoke or not (unless you happen to be my offspring, in which case, I care a great deal). If you smoke, what I do care about is where you throw your butts. This morning I was following a car with a woman who was smoking. She had the window open and periodically tapped ash out the window. OK, I thought, that’s not too bad, although presumably she has an ashtray in her car. Soon, however, I saw her flick the butt out the window onto the street. I am not sure whether smokers who do this think it is not litter, or know that it is litter but don’t care. Who do they think will clean it up?

When Mike, Greg, and Liz were little we used to camp at state parks fairly regularly (it being the only vacation we could afford!) You could be a Junior Ranger and get a badge if you did some activities. One of them was always taking a bag along on a trail hike and picking up litter–and guess what was always a good portion of the litter?

I know it’s a terrible addiction and I try really hard not to judge (because I certainly have my share of compulsions), but I do throw away my Snickers wrappers after I surreptitiously have a snack from the basement vending machines! If smokers want more sympathy for their plight, couldn’t they clean up their act?

The marshmallow test

In Widtsoe I made some awesome s’mores–with gigantic marshmallows. These big marshmallows are four times bigger than the regular ones, and I have to say, they are pretty grotesque. I can imagine one of them being big enough to roast me (as per the image). I think s’mores are one of those things that aren’t really that good, but they are traditional–you go camping, you gotta eat s’mores. In Zion National Park in the gift store I actually saw a s’more kit for about $15. It contained some chocolate bars, some graham crackers, and some marshmallows. Didn’t even have a bent wire hanger. I guess that’s better than this one for $23! I mean really, can’t somebody figure out how to go to the store to buy 3 things?

Anyway, marshmallows reminded me of an interesting experiment conducted by Walter Mischel. It was a pretty simple experiment. He had 4 year olds sit in a chair and gave them a marshmallow. He said they could eat it right then, but if they waited for him to come back, he would give them two marshmallows. It turns out that the ability to defer gratification is positively correlated with higher SAT scores. I wonder if I’d have eaten it as a four-year-old? I wonder how good I am now at delaying gratification? Not very good, sometimes. If you want to see some kids trying to not eat a marshmallow, just click here. Some of them have some very good tricks for distracting themselves.

What is the opposite of tornado?

Last night we had a microburst in Lafayette, which, as it turns out, is sort of the opposite of a tornado. In a microburst, a shaft of cold air presses down, making the wind blow (in this case at about 70 miles an hour) in all directions from the center. It was weird to see the wind change direction fairly suddenly from blowing east to blowing south. Lots of trees down and people without power. Here’s a diagram for your edification.