A Clémence Q&A

So, I feel like I’m cheating because I’m not going to list 11 random facts, but you all know so much random stuff about me already. So, I don’t feel bad in the least that I’m just going to answer these 11 questions (brought to you with love by Clémence — and thanks for the nomination)…

1. What’s your favorite movie?

This is a tough one, as there are so many movies… okay, who am I kidding? It’s Back to the Future, Part 2, and it’s not even close. Don’t get me wrong. I love the original, as well as the third film, but something about Part 2, with its trip into the future and into an alternate past is just so confusing to so many people, but I follow it. Hence, I feel super cool, and ready to build a time machine out of a DeLorean myself every time I watch the movie.

2. Which part of your body do you hate the most (and why)?

Well, I don’t hate any part of my body, but I would certainly make changes if I believed in that sort of thing. I would start with my eyes, and some sort of Lasik surgery. While I don’t mind my glasses, and I’ve tried contacts now and again, it would be nice to be able to wake up and not have to fumble around in the blurry air to locate something that can make me see as well as you can without the fumbling around. Um, I think that answered the “why” as well.

3. If zombies invaded the world, what would you do?

I would do the same thing I do now, and hope they realize my life isn’t worth disturbing. They should go after someone like Kurt Russell or Mayim Bialik instead. Or maybe they’ll go on a rampage and destroy Hong Kong. Either way, I think I’m cool here in Newport.

4. If a psychopath asked you which part of your body to cut off first, which would it be (and why)?

Well, I’m wondering first why I would be having a friendly conversation with a psychopath, but I guess I should answer the question anyway (Clémence, you’re weird). Going on the assumption that hair counts as part of your body, I could certainly use a haircut, and since I’m spending time with a psychopath, I assume he/she has some scissors handy. Let’s hope he/she can cut kinky hair. Oh, and I think I again answered the why question already. Wow, I’m pretty good at explaining.

5. Which personality trait did you inherit from either one of your parents that you really wish you hadn’t?

My parents are both so amazingly wonderful, I don’t see… Okay okay, my tendency to be sarcastic, my hatred for squirrels, my need to be heard, the way my voice goes up high when I get mad, my punny sense of humor, my love of questions, but you only asked for one. But then again, I wouldn’t trade any of those in for anything else. Better the devil you know, and all that.

6. If somehow, someone could predict your future with 100% accuracy, would you want them to tell you (and why (not))?

No. The best part of the journey is the not knowing, the ability to be surprised along the way, even if those surprises turn out to be negative ones. It is by the mistakes we make that we learn and grow as human beings. Why would I possibly want to take that uncertainty away? It would be a boring existence knowing what was going to happen and when at every point in my future. Now, if that same person could predict other people’s futures, or give me the winner of the next 12 Super Bowls, I would take that info and make a bundle of cash.

7. What do you consider to be the most beautiful part of the world?

The next place I go that I haven’t been before will be the most beautiful part of the world, and then the next place after that. The beauty isn’t in the place itself, but in the idea that it’s fresh and new. Or if that fails to excite my readership, it’s Ireland.

8. If you could be in a child’s body for one day, with the mind that you have now, what would you do?

I would probably sleep. I mean, I would have no responsibilities. So, I would sleep, and when I was returned to my own body on the following day I would at least be refreshed.

9. If you could be any animal, which would it be?

I would be a party animal. Ha ha. Seriously, though, I would be some sort of marsupial.

10. If you should describe yourself as a movie/television/series character, which one resembles you the most and why?

Zooey Deschanel’s character, Jess, from the TV show New Girl best resembles me because she’s beyond quirky, and yet her quirks give her an endearing quality that is both childlike and exciting at the same time. Just like me.

11. What is your favorite invention of all time when it comes to furniture?

Obviously, you ran out of good questions, Clémence. Just kidding. I am quite a bit partial to the chair. I mean, everyone would just be standing around all the time if there were no chairs. The only thing that might even come close is the bookshelf, and that’s rapidly becoming a shelf for DVDs instead, sad to say.


Between Days (A Poem)

Between days, the mad blood stirs

Scathing judge and jury of time’s dogged march

Cruel sentinel leading to death’s far shore

Drifting with the incoming tide of disillusionment

And found wanting

Between days, a plaintive whistle sounds

Marking hopes and dreams to come

Shadowed in fortune’s doorway

Married to the widow of a sigh

In whatever form she takes

Between days, the continuum pauses

To consider me.


Hip to Be Square

The cool people are all listening to Mumford and Sons, heads bobbing and weaving to their stylish, if misunderstood, rhythms and lyrics. The cool people are all going to see Les Misérables and are finding it a musically profound experience, then going to see it again with a different group of cool friends. The cool people are all clubbing it up on Friday nights, seeing and being seen by other cool people who frequent those same clubs. The cool people are all reading books by Hemingway and Joyce because then they can tell other cool people they are reading books by Hemingway and Joyce. The cool people are all putting on an act.

You see, being cool is supposed to be an individual thing. It’s like being funny. Some people are funny to a wide range of people, some people are funny to a few, and some people aren’t funny to anyone. This is because if we’re being honest, we each have a singular sense of humor that doesn’t appeal to everyone. The same is true of the coolness factor. If someone or something is cool to everyone, then someone has to be lying, because being cool to everyone, just like being funny to everyone, is a misnomer. Therefore, if everyone you know is a fan of Mumford & Sons, odds are high that at least a few of them had never even heard of the group before you talked to them. So, why would they lie? To be seen as cool. I mean, everyone who is anyone likes Mumford & Sons.

In the ’70s it was all about being different. However unique you were was how unique you were. People for the most part didn’t judge, or if they did, they kept it to themselves. Then came the ’80s, the era of self-discovery and over-sharing, when everyone judged everyone else, and they did it out loud, but no one cared. So, you liked Christopher Cross and most others thought he was lame. It didn’t matter. We could have spirited arguments over it and that was fine. The ’90s brought acceptance of those differences. The judging stopped, but where did we draw the line? Everyone became acceptable, even things that should never have been acceptable. And the past 12+ years has gone in the opposite direction, where we jump on bandwagons to be accepted. We subvert our individuality to be part of the collective consciousness, to be a member of the Borg (to reference Star Trek), and that affects everything. Sometimes positively, but sometimes negatively as well.

If you really like Les Mis enough to want to see it multiple times in the theater, that’s great, but if you don’t like it, just say it. Just say that it bored you to tears and you want to put your eyes out if you have to see it again. Maybe you would rather be at a cafe on a Friday night, reading a book and sipping coffee. There’s nothing wrong with that. Not everyone was born to be a club hopper. Perhaps Mumford & Sons bores you to tears (as they do many people), and that’s alright too. The point is that maybe we need to bring back a little more of that devil may care attitude from the ’90s, when differences were more acceptable, but we need to draw a line this time. If we don’t want to have to hear about it, we don’t have to. Just because difference is acceptable doesn’t mean we have to hear about everyone’s differences all the time, especially if we don’t agree. That is our prerogative too (to quote Bobby Brown).

Oh, and it’s okay to like Hemingway, but don’t pretend to like him just to seem cool.


A Chance Meeting: A Short Story

“I have no idea who this guy is,” she thinks as he wraps his arms around her. But she is in Italy and she doesn’t speak Italian, even though he keeps babbling in her right ear as the embrace stretches into uncomfortable territory. Twice she tries to pull away, but he either http://dailypost.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/couple-embrace.jpgdoesn’t feel it or he misinterprets and hangs on to her tighter. She can see the green and black graffiti on the wall in front of her that reads, “Succhiare uno dei grandi,” and she imagines it means something it doesn’t, anything to get her mind off of his hands on her. Then she realizes he is so much stronger than her, and she finally relaxes into it, anything to help out her aching back, which pains her because of the position she was in, the fight position. But as she relaxes into his arms, her back pain eases up, almost as if her body is calling her mind a loser. Amazingly enough, she doesn’t even think to scream.

“Maybe this is just how people do things in Italy,” she thinks as he continues to speak what sounds like they might be lovely phrases into her right ear. She doesn’t know it, but the tourists across the street have begun to take pictures of the two of them, locked in their absurd embrace. If they only knew she was engaged to be married to Julio, a Spaniard with an insane jealous streak. For the second time during this trip, she realizes she is relieved he is not around, but she doesn’t stop to analyze what that means for her and for her future. She realizes at the same time that this guy with her, while he looks very fit on the outside, is hiding a bit of a paunch that she can feel against her lower stomach. She isn’t judging, just observing.

“Questa ragazza vuole me,” he thinks as he steps off of the trolley car onto the Via della Conciliazione, a trip he makes daily on his way to the national art museum. No, he doesn’t go there to look at the amazing artwork, even though he does admit it is amazing. He goes there to check out the models who pose in the streets for the artists who come and go, setting up shop, then leaving as quickly as they came, with canvases tucked under arms or put into satchels. Occasionally he will pretend to be one of them, and wear his tam, but not always. Today is one of the “not” days, when he will just go to ogle the tanned flesh on display. Most of the models, he knows, are not even Italian, as he hears them go on and on during the shoots, in melodic languages he wishes he knows. While he is fluent in English, they hardly ever speak it, and he imagines what it would be like if they did. Before he can make his way to the museum, however, out of nowhere this girl shows up. She is radiant in a way that none of the models can quite capture, and she does it naturally. He aches to be near her.

His smile has been known to make women faint at the sight of it, or at least that is what he would have the ladies believe. He is coming from the gym, but he was not working out, or at least not that hard. He only owns the membership in order to see girls in spandex whenever he wants. Sure, he pretends to work out, and if you were to walk into the gym while he’s there, he even looks like he’s working up a sweat, but that is never the case. He sweats, but for different reasons. The trolley he takes from the gym to the art museum is the same one he takes on the same day at the same time, and it is always half full of tourists. So, when he steps off it, he is not surprised to see the tourists milling about, but that is when he sees her. He catches her eye and smiles.

“There’s no way she’s Italian,” he thinks as he looks at her clothing choice. Her flowered-print dress is so last season, but on her it looks charming. It also allows him to see her legs, and he is in heaven. He is definitely a leg man. Her being a foreigner also works to his advantage. Often he can spot a tourist a mile away, and one thing they have in common is their ignorance of Italian customs, so he approaches this one. Her smile wavers a little, becomes uncertain, but remains on her face. He gestures towards her, as if he knows her, as if they are old friends, and then she is in his arms. The smell of her takes his breath away. He knows other tourists are watching, and he wonders what they think of the public display of affection. He realizes she is pushing against him rather insistently, but he pretends he cannot feel it and pulls her in closer. Before too long, he feels her body give way. That’s when he knows he has her, so he keeps whispering sweet words into her ear that he knows she does not comprehend. It’s okay. It’s the tone that matters, and his is a precious one.

“This has gone on long enough,” she thinks, her back starting to bother her once again, and she recalls a course in self-defense she took five years before that she thought she would never use. In fact, she has never had cause to use it until now, but she takes full advantage of her returning memory. Using his own back as leverage, she presses herself full against him, lifts her left leg, and slams her heel down hard on his right foot. They are both wearing sandals, but her heel is much more well protected than his toes, and he howls out in pain, releasing her instantly and dropping to his knees. The tourists behind her are now gawking, and she can almost hear them posting their pictures to Facebook, with the title, “Crazy couple fighting near the trolley.” At this moment she doesn’t even care. She removes her sandals, tucks them in her purse that had been on her back, and takes off back down the Via della Conciliazione, lost in a city of thousands. They never see each other again.


Sam’s Weekly Water Cooler Musings: On Violence

Back when Thak and Zog were ruling the cave world with their whale bone clubs, they had one definition for violence. If they mess with you, beat them over the head. Problem solved. Since then many people have invested lots of time and energy into creating many different ways to solve problems in a violent manner (which, ironically, creates as many problems as it solves). That was kind of the way our discussion went today at the water cooler.

If someone shoots you with a gun, don’t blame the gun. We’ve all heard that many times, but someone usually still gets in trouble if they use a gun on you. Those are the laws. The same is true for drinking and driving. If you advertently (haha) hit someone with your car while drunk, it’s still murder, and if you inadvertently do it, it’s manslaughter. You still get in trouble. But don’t blame the alcohol. Blame the idiot who decided to drink while driving. The biggest difference these days, though, is that there is more force behind whatever violence we decide to use that the cavemen didn’t have back in the day.

“If someone shoots you with a gun, don’t blame the gun.”

When we think force, we usually think a gun, but there is more to it than just guns. Someone brought up the fact that the United States as a whole is not a violent nation. However, when we do decide to engage in violence, we are surprisingly successful at it, that is, our violence usually leads to death. That’s the really sad part. If you think of all the serial killers from years gone by, you’ll notice that they had to take time in-between kills, or it was incredibly messy, up close and personal. They had to use knives, or their hands, or some combination thereof. You had to be breathing distance from the people you were going to kill, and that made it a more intimate enterprise. Now, though, with sniper rifles and the like, you can be quite far away, and your prey never even knows it’s you who did it to them before they’re dead. Scary, really.

We talked about gun control laws too, and it seems like they only exist to keep guns away from people who really need them to protect themselves, or at least to slow the process down enough so they can’t protect themselves when they really need it. While the criminals go to the black market, get sawed-off guns by the truckload, and can inflict damage almost immediately. It’s like we’re getting punished by the same laws that are supposed to help protect us. But even when we do get those guns and we are in the situation to use them, we are more likely to be harmed with our own guns than to cause distress to the people who are against us.

Then, speaking of alcohol and its inclusion in the violence debate, it has been shown that alcohol use can heighten the senses as well as dull them. And these two influences can change perspective enough to create accidents, both in and out of cars. The glory of cars is that they are incredibly powerful and it’s not that difficult to get a license. Too many people are on the roads driving while intoxicated (under the influence), and they don’t even realize it. That’s the really scary thing. They might be up for causing danger to themselves, but they’re not the only ones on the road.

We concluded that violence is not more widespread than it was in olden times, even if the news makes it seem that way. That’s the key. The news, spread across the internet, cell phones, and through the wires, is able to deliver to us this violence almost right when it is happening. We didn’t have that before, and that media coverage gives the impression that the world is more violent. That was, sadly, my cue to leave, but I could still hear the rest of them debating the issue even while I was walking away. Maybe we should ban alcohol again, someone said.


Sam’s Weekly Water Cooler Musings: The Archive

The Death of a Dictionary: A Short Piece

He read aloud in class:

“Dictionary. A book of words with their corresponding definitions.”

He shook his head, unsure of where he was expected to go next. He was the teacher. He had no clue.

He continued to read:

“…often including word origins, parts of speech, and pronunciations.”

All eyes were either closed or facing their scarred desks. He was losing them. He had to do something fast.

“Who knows what a part of speech is?”

There was minimal stirring in the back row and he assumed they were texting each other. How he hates that. He does not move, however, stationed as he is in the front of the room, behind the formidable desk.

“Ok, who knows what speech is? Mr. Kowalczyk?”

“Uh, dude. What you need?”

Young Ed Kowalczyk sits in the second to the last row, a spot of his own choosing, and he has spoken maybe twice all year. Both times were to use the bathroom. His voice is hard-edged. The teacher asks again.

“I was wondering if you knew what a part of speech was, Mr. Kowalczyk.”

“Dude, I thought you were talking about my dad.”

The class erupts in laughter. He has them for a moment. Now what does he do with the next one?

“I’m sure your father would know what a part of speech is.”

“Uh, no. But I know what a pizza is. You got any of those?”

Again the class responds with hilarity. This is the most animated they’ve been all year.

“A pizza is what?”

“Dude, it’s food.”

“But what kind of food? Where does it come from?”

The dictionary is left behind, its meaning lost in the new stream of conversation that has flooded the classroom. He closes the large, dusty book and begins to explain the glory of nouns, why they are so useful to us. He silently thanks Ed for helping to lighten the mood and he hopes he doesn’t lose the class again.

This is not to be for in the opposite corner sits Mr. Gracey, and his cell goes off at that exact moment.

“Class? Class?”


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