Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Productivity tangent

In the effort to get back to the kind of writing I loved before I decided to become an academic, I was looking at a creative writing prompt and it directed me to write my coming of age story.  I just sat and stared.  My mind a complete white space (which is rare considering that in the space of a 5 minute snooze this morning my mind jumped from bee-keeping to circus to high school reunions to last week’s date night to movie reviews to yoga to lunch).  This prompt assumes that I have ‘come of age.’  I guess in a way I have.  I am well beyond adolescence (although the acne has only just left me) and getting closer to the cut off at which I would be considered a ‘mature mother’ in terms of pregnancy (which is still a way off).  I got married and finally finished the academic journey with a (seemingly useless) PhD in the last few months.  I have lived abroad for four years now, but I am just as lost now as I was at the age of 18, the beginning of supposed ‘coming of age.’  Maybe that is the real purpose of the prompt.  It’s not a writing exercise but a self-therapy session. 
I have been thinking lately about what led me down my last two major journeys, marriage and PhD.  The PhD was something I decided to do when I was coming of age in University.  At the exact same time, I was sure I would never get married. Of the two, I am more happy with the marriage than the PhD.  It feeds me more and gives me much more joy.  I was willing to take pretty scary risks when it came to the relationship that led to marriage (a trip to backwater Croatia to meet a family that didn’t speak English and a semi-illegal move to London which involved selling almost all my possessions and sharing a room the size of a large closet for two months) and am much less enthusiastic about the PhD journey and what I am willing to do to continue on the path of academia. 
Perhaps some evidence that I have come of age, I have a fairly large collection of bathroom reading.  In one of these volumes I read a piece about what advice three women would give their 18 year old selves.  A common piece in women’s magazines.  A celebration of coming to terms with who we really are and being comfortable and confident as we age.  I am not comfortable and confident in who I am, but it made me wonder.  What if I really could offer some advice?  Would I?  If I had told my 18 year old self to stick with the Journalism degree because it would offer more job prospects later in life (as opposed to the three degrees in Geography I currently hold), I may have given up my Geography and Geology degree.  Which means I never would have met a dear friend and we never would have endured those all night study sessions memorizing fossils in which we pledged to go to Africa some day.  Which means that I wouldn’t have gone to Africa with her in the summer of 2005 and wouldn’t have met my husband on safari. I wouldn’t give up that experience and all that came after for anything. 
But it got me thinking.  As painful as ‘coming of age’ was, is, the best part of my life is directly related to events that took place in those years.  If the tables were turned and my 18 year old self had the opportunity to give my present day self advice, having seen how the next ten years or so turned out, what would she offer up?  What have I forgotten about myself? 
When Ariel met Sadie coming soon to a blog near you. 

Passport Stamps

I live an international life. I don’t travel that frequently and can usually be found in my living room watching daytime TV.  That in itself can be an international life in the ‘Global Sense of Place’- sense.  (As a professional free-lance Geographer I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that in fact all of us live a life full of international influences based on current commodity chains, etc.  And as interesting and eye opening as those chains can be, that’s not the international I’m dealing with here). 
I am originally from Cleveland, OH.  I currently reside in London, UK.  I am married to a New Zealander with full Croatian heritage.  We met on Safari in Africa. 
This is what I mean about my international life.  The cultural influences of Midwest America (with touches of psychedelic California), Croatia, New Zealand and London combine in a flat where time begins. Literally.  We experience midnight one minute before the Royal Observatory. 
This apple & prosciutt pie with silver fern motif is a surprisingly yummy mix, but there is the odd flavour  burst that can make the mixture a bit more surprising. 
This blog isn’t about that, necessarily.  But it helps to give background.  This blog is the opportunity to write about my everyday journeys.  I don’t tend to go far, but my head tends to go a lot further.   

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Carrie, Maverick and Rachel go to the movies

The other self-indulgence of yesterday was a viewing of Sex and the City 2.  I didn’t see this film in the theatre for a few reasons. First, I didn’t want to view it alone in a theatre because I am an active viewer in that I laugh very out loud, applaud, and tsk.  In England this probably doesn’t matter because the British audience would never think to tell me to be quiet, just like they don’t confront the line jumper even though they have been waiting for 30 minutes to get to their current position and the jumper just can’t be bothered to walk to the end of the line.  But I digress.  Second, my husband would sit through the movie with me, but he would hate every minute of it and then I might have to sit through something like ‘Family Guy-the movie.’ Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Stewie and Brian but I can barely make it through a 30minute episode, let alone a movie length feature.  Third, the reviews were just awful and I didn’t want to spend over £30 for a potential bomb. 
But here’s the thing.  I loved it!  And it makes me wonder, what were the reviewers expecting?  It’s Sex and the City.  It’s meant to be extravagant and escapist.  That’s why we love it.  I vaguely remember that the big issue was that it was an extravagant movie set in the Middle East when the audience was dealing with a world-wide recession and conflict in the Middle East and that the script failed to deal meaningfully with the issues of motherhood, job satisfaction, spousal satisfaction and Arab women’s lives presented in the film.  Again, what were they expecting?  It’s Sex and the City.  As much as many women may identify with elements of each character and their shenanigans, they all realize it is a fantasy!  It delivered exactly what it promised, decadence and fashion.  An escape when things in the real world are a bit depressing.  If I want a film that deals seriously with issues of recession, conflict in the Middle East, motherhood, job satisfaction, spousal satisfaction and issues of Arab women’s lives, I will seek out a documentary or independent film, not Sex and the City.  
It makes me wonder about movie reviewers.  These are people that should be well-versed in film genre and the abilities of particular players (actors, directors, etc.)  Why would they ever expect Sex and the City to be a serious discussion of contemporary issues? A silly, or even witty, commentary maybe (even that might be a long shot), but serious?  Not their style.   I had similar feelings about two other movies this past season.  Neither received great reviews and were labelled predictable and flat.  After viewing them myself I wonder, again, what the reviewers were expecting.  The first was Knight and Day.   It was exactly what I expected, ridiculous action sequences, questionable one-liners, blonde reluctant side-kick that helps Maverick save the world.  Exactly what I expected and as enjoyable as I expected.  The second was The Switch.  Jennifer Aniston rom-com.  Rachel decides to have a baby and her witty male BFF tweaks the situation in his drunken jealously and everyone lives happily ever after.  Exactly what I expected and was pleasantly surprised by Jason Bateman and Jeff Goldblum.   
If you are expecting more from Sex and the City, a Cruise action flix or a Jennifer Aniston rom-com, perhaps your role as a movie reviewer in the free papers has gone to your head.  Take a step back.  I’m not asking for a five-star rating, just be realistic.  It’s Carrie, Maverick and Rachel doing their thing, not necessarily a commentary on the plight of the common man.

Sun Salutation

I am nursing a ‘sort-a cold’ today.  This means a bit of self-indulgence and some writing.
For a while now I have been having a bit of a ‘what now’ re-thinking phase.  Part of that is about getting fitter.   1. Because it seems cheaper than buying all new clothes.   2. It’s probably a good idea in general.   3. I live in London where everyone always looks fabulous.
Part of this getting fitter idea is going to the gym regularly.  If once a week is regular, then ‘check.’  But I also wanted to get back into yoga.  I have yet to find an instructor that was as good as the one I had at the Watford gym.  So I purchased a few DVDs.  Last year.  Today I decided, enough, stop the talk, start the walk.  So I poured myself a second cup of coffee (self-indulgence step one, staying in PJs step two) and put the DVD on.  Gilmore Girls is in an hour.  Plenty of time to preview the DVD. 
That’s right, I’m not actually participating today, just previewing.  I did say that I am sorta-a sick.  I have a stabby headache and can’t be asked to put my contacts in just yet, so participating would mean my glasses either falling off every time I ‘downwarded dog’ or steaming up from the heat generating moves (incidentally I just typed ‘god’, what’s that joke about the insomniac, agnostic, dyslexic?).
THe preview is going well.  No new-ageing talk or incense.  It is an outdoor setting and gentle voice, but I have yet to hear about getting in touch with my inner anything.  In my search for a good yoga instructor I took a class at my gym.  I have yet to go back to those classes.  First, it was in a tiny dark room, not usually a problem, but the instructor insisted on burning incense and reminding me to find my inner peace the entire time.  Second, she was chubbier than I and not nearly as flexible.  I’m all for all shapes and sizes getting fit and serving as instructors, but I want to have confidence in my instructor.  How are you going to inspire me to push harder, if I have already surpassed you? Thundercats are not Go.
Back to the DVD.  Still looking good.  Definitely not for beginners, but I’m not a beginner.  I might be able to knock this off each morning.  I mean what else do I have to do?  I’m not working. Or at least not gainfully.  I am suppose to be writing some chapters and articles.  Eh.  Not all that interested.  At least not today.  Some days I am very excited about being an academic and doing research, then I read a ‘call for papers’ and I think, seriously? Why do I want to work with these people? Who cares about post-socialist understandings of mobility processes in urban settings?  How is this helpful? My academic training would tell me that these types of investigations can help us understand how spaces are approached and understood by society to help us better society.  But then the reality of the situation, that this research isn’t going beyond this mailing list of academic, hits me and I think, what is the point?
See, the DVD is working already, my mind is clearing, I am fully aware of myself despite no new-age speak.  I am fully aware that I can’t breathe in academia.  At least not here in the platinum elite black-American-Express-card circle that I inadvertently inserted myself when I joined Open University on a last-ditch attempt to get a visa in order to stay in the country with my (then) boyfriend (now) husband.  So now that I am fully aware of myself, what next? 
.............................................................No inspiration from the DVD.  Maybe some new age babble should be added in the relaxation section.