My last few posts have swayed more towards the serious side of things, so I figured I’d lighten it up a touch. With that in mind, here’s my most recent list of things that annoy me:
1) Empty ice trays
I am fortunate to live with people that are also my close friends. I’ve always been fortunate in this category. I’ve lived with 10-15 different people over the years, all of whom I consider my close friends. I’ve been Best Man in two of their weddings (soon to be three); I’ve traveled abroad with some of them; I’ve even been fortunate to live with my own brother. In other words, I consider myself extremely lucky so far in terms of who I’ve been able to live with.
But if you’ve every had roommates before, you know that at some point in time you find things about people that annoy, bother, or straight up anger you. Shoes left in the living room; dishes left uncleaned; music turned up too loud in the bathroom during a shower. I’ve heard people get mad about things like this, and usually I’m indifferent. But I’ve found my main roommate annoyance, and that’s whenever an ice tray is left unfilled. I don’t get it. You might be thinking, “Wait–people still use ice trays?” Yes, they do, especially when they live in an apartment that isn’t blessed with an icemaker. It’s not a problem; I actually like the intense, exhausting labor that is making your own ice. Trust me, it’s really not hard to do. And when I get home from a “rough” day of reading books and grading papers, I expect one thing: 1) there to be ice in the ice bucket. If not, then I have another expectation: 1a) I expect the ice trays to be full of water that is either frozen or is in the on-the-way-to-being-ice stage. These really should be the only two options. But, for some reason, I sometimes come home and find something else, which I’ll label as 2) Empty ice trays in the freezer serving absolutely no purpose. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to expect either 1) or 1a).
2) People that strand their used shopping carts in the parking lot.
This phenomenon is an embodiment of all things I see wrong in the world. Okay, that’s clearly an exaggeration. But seriously, leaving your cart in the lot is nothing less than pure selfishness. Every time I go buy groceries I see carts stranded in the parking lot. This creates extra work for grocery store employees that most likely are already underpaid and are undoubtedly under-appreciated, and it also isn’t efficient for shoppers as it leads to problems with re-stocking the in-store supply of available shopping carts. The worst? When someone leaves their cart directly in the middle of the adjacent parking spot. I’ve caught myself yelling horrendous profanities whenever I pull into a spot only to realize it’s already occupied by an empty shopping cart. A few weeks ago I witnessed firsthand a beautiful woman consciously make the decision to leave her cart in the lot. I saw her go through the moral dilemma of whether or not to return it to the designated “Shopping Carts Here” area, and she made the lazy decision to just leave it. I walked over and returned it for her, but not after making sure she saw me do so. She tried to withhold her shame, but I saw a glimmer of it in there somewhere.
To put it simply, I think it’s just a selfish thing to do, not to mention being extremely lazy. It’s another form of the “My time is more important than yours” sickness, closely related to the “I’m going to bypass this line of traffic in the shoulder and then eventually have to merge in at the front of the line thus creating longer waiting time for the people already in line” thought process. Both are equally worthy of profanity.
3) Rewinding VHSs. So what if I haven’t done this in 10+ years–it will always remain an annoyance to me.
4) The revision process.
I teach college composition courses, and a huge part of what I teach is the writing process. If you’ve taken a course like this then you’ve probably heard someone talk about how important revision is in this process. And I stand by this lesson: writing is, in fact, a process, and an irreplaceable step in this process is revision. Without revision, writers can’t find what needs to be better (something always needs to be better) and they can’t confront the uncomfortable admission that things need to be changed–an admission that must be made in order for writing to reach its potential. I teach this, and I teach it as often as I can.
But as a writer, I hate that it’s true. I hate the revision step, especially whenever the document you are revising is 215 pages long (give or take a few pages). Sure, there are moments when it hits you: “Hey–this part can be better,” or “Aha! I’ve got it!” But, for the most part, it usually feels like drudging through page after page, making sure that what I’ve written is good enough to suffice. I hate to admit that, but that’s how I feel most of the time. Of course there’s one great thing that revision means: the process is almost over.
It’s the worst. I wait longingly for the return of arranged marriages.
– – – – – – – –
On another note, here’s this post’s edition of “What to Read/What to See”:
Read: Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s Son (2013)
This is one of the more fascinating books I’ve read in a long time. It won the Pulitzer in 2013, and I feel like it will stand out amongst some of the recent winners as a book that finds a way to simultaneously cover a particular, current topic and also speak about broader, timeless aspects of the human experience. If that isn’t a good enough sales pitch, maybe this will be: it’s about North Korea. I don’t know much more about North Korea than the next person, but this book had me hooked from the first pages. The way that Johnson conveys an experience complete different from the one that I know–the experience of living in a world of political and intellectual captivity–is noteworthy, especially considering the fact that he’s from South Dakota. I have no idea if the North Korea he depicts is accurate or not, but I do know that his exemplification of the way that we tell ourselves stories in order to create an understanding of the world we live in is brilliant. This is, in essence, what the book is about: stories are how we make sense of our lives, but oftentimes these stories are made up for us–for good or for bad. As Johnson shows, it’s each person’s choice whether or not to believe the stories that we are told must define our lives.
I was on the way to see this movie in December when I got stuck in unexpected traffic, and I ended up having to wait until it came out on Netflix last week to see it. This type of movie is usually right up my alley, and Whiplash isn’t an exception. There were times when I was questioning whether or not I liked it, but it eventually clicked for me. I like Miles Teller, although I still see him as the goofy young guy from some of his previous movies; I think I need a few more roles like this from him before I really buy into it. J.K. Simmons was great, and I have no problem with him winning the Oscar (although, I have to say, Mark Ruffalo was fantastic in Foxcatcher). I’ve read a few articles hating on the movie because of its depiction of jazz. But I’m not a jazz purist, so that criticism doesn’t resonate with me. And, honestly, I thought that the last act of the movie was perfect. It brought the entire film to a resolution, and the last ten minutes had me hooked.
Watch: Hello Ladies (HBO Series)
I recently tried to get one of my friends to watch this show; she hated it because it was so hard to watch. And I admit that each episode has more than one especially cringe-worthy scene, in the same vein as parts of Meet the Parents or the scene in The Family Stone where Sarah Jessica Parker’s character fumbles her way through an unintentionally homophobic and quazi-racist diatribe around the family dinner table. If you find yourself struggling through scenes like that, then Hello Ladies might not be the show for you. But if you enjoy the original British version of The Office, you’ll love it. This makes sense, of course, as Stephen Merchant (creator, writer, and lead actor of Hello Ladies) is creative partners with Ricky Gervais. Hello Ladies chronicles the struggles of a single man looking for love in L.A. It’s awkward, it’s painful, and it’s hilarious. And if you’re able to stick it out through the entire series (including the movie-length ninth episode), it’s rewarding even beyond the laughs. There’s a sense of compassion and gentleness underlying the awkwardness, and I think that Merchant does it perfectly.