Sunday, February 26, 2012

George Takei vs. The Walking Dead

It's Sunday evening, and I'm doing laundry and a bit of grading and thinking about last Sunday evening when I had a sort of crisis, one which will repeat this Sunday evening in about six minutes (before I finish writing this post, in fact).

The crisis is that 9pm Sunday evening EST is when I have to choose between watching The Walking Dead or George Takei.  Now, I know what you're thinking:  "How can anyone think about anything on Sunday evening other than Downton Abbey?"  And the answer to that is:  I have not yet joined your cult, but I've been DVRing episodes so that I can take the plunge over spring break, so back off, Downtonians!  I'm a medievalist, not a Soong-type android with a positronic brain.

Of course, some of you are now thinking, "What do you mean crisis?  You have a DVR, so there are no more television crises!  Are you stuck in the late twentieth century or something?  I'll bet you still buy cds."  And the answer to that is, yes, I still buy cds, and I even have a turntable on which I listen to vinyl records because I'm pretty sure that all that satanic stuff that was recorded backwards in the 80s is what makes them sound so much better than stuff does on an ipod.  Plus, those little earbuds always get tangled in my earrings (which I will not remove for cultural reasons).

And the other answer to that is, of course, I'm DVRing everything, but people will start posting stuff about The Walking Dead tonight, and if I don't watch it live, then I'll be spoiled by the, well, spoilers.  And before you say it, no, I cannot just record George Takei and wait to watch him later because he's frakking George Takei.

(I should probably mention that I don't acknowledge the fact that some of you may not know who George Takei is.  There are some things a person should not wot of, and there are other things that a person had darned well better wot, and George Takei is one of them!)

Ahem.  Meanwhile, a few of you are probably saying, "Now, wait, George Takei is, indeed, one of the grooviest of dudes, but why is he on tv on Sunday evenings?  He doesn't have a new show, does he?  Well, does he?"  And the answer to that is no, he doesn't have a new show; he's on that show that Donald Trump has where he makes celebrities do embarrassing things and then call everyone they know for money.

And now all of you are undoubtedly objecting, "You are choosing Trump over zombies?!  Your starboard power coupling is seriously damaged!"  And the answer to that is no, I'm choosing George Takei and zombies because I have a remote control and can shift between Takei and zombies with the flick of a digit.  And I can flick away Trump with the same efficiency. 

Which carries its own kind of warped pleasure.  (Anyone who didn't groan at that pun had better just give up on this post altogether.)

And now anyone still reading is thinking, "Well, crisis solved, yes?  You flick back and forth between Takei and the Walking Dead and get the best of both worlds (you cannot call yourself a TNG fan if you didn't get that one), so what's your problem?"  And the answer to that is:

According to my memories of last Sunday evening, a blond woman hit a zombie with a hubcap right before someone suggested that the Incredible Hulk become a honeybadger.  Then Victoria Gotti snarked at one of the Frightening Housewives of New Jersey while a group of men had a shootout in a drug store and Clay Aiken flirted with George Takei, who was not inspired by a motorcycle guy with a crazy mustache while a kid's leg was sawed off.  

Now how, exactly, am I supposed to grade papers in the middle of all of that?  I couldn't be more confused if I'd mistaken Ceti Alpha V for Ceti Alpha VI.  And as you all know, that's pretty damned confused.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Book Guardians

Several of my fans (two of the six of you) have noted that my previous post on becoming a crazy cat lady is a tad misleading.  According to these acute observers, I have presented myself as someone whose only embarrassing collection of knick-knacks is cat-related.  The evidence, say these so-called friends, is in my office.

I have to admit that they have a point.

Were you, gentle reader, to come visit me in my office, something which I heartily encourage you to do, particularly if it interrupts my grading, you would, first of all, be impressed by the number of books surrounding you.  (If you share my place of employment, you might also become suspicious and the number of bookshelves since I have some few more than the number allotted to my office.  Yes, this is a minor miracle, but I'm not going to tell you how I enacted it.  Not without a substantial bribe, anyway.)

If one spends enough time in the office, however, one tends to realize that there are more than just books on those shelves.  There are, in fact, Other Things.  Distracting, occasionally frightening Things.

I call them the Book Guardians, and though I did not invite all of them into my workspace, they have come nevertheless, and they glare, with various intimidating expressions, at anyone who dares approach the books. 

Below, for your perusal, are images of a few of my Guardians:

This is Dragon, and he has positioned himself in front of various biblical texts, presumably protecting them from vulgar fingers as well as the photographic influence of my cats.

Darth Tater, on the other hand, defends the science fiction section with his trusty light saber and googly eyes.

If you make it past the Tater, you will be assimilated by this borg drone.  Resistence will be futile.  Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to their own.  And he will zap you if you dogear the pages of these texts.

Greek texts are protected by both a fairy and a bottle that once contained Monty Python Holy Grail Ale; unless you have a shrubbery, back away slowly.

He may look relaxed, but this grinch has not had any sudden heart expansion.  If you attempt to steal books, he will rhyme you mercilessly.  And his little dog, too.

Do not mess with Xena, the Warrior Chicken.  She's a cross-dressing nightmare with many horrific skills.

What's more frightening than a scary clown?  A dead, medieval scary clown.  Cower frail mortals, for he can twist more than balloon animals!

And this is The Stroller, and his powers are innumerable.  If you're not trembling in his presence, you're not paying attention.  He is clearly undead and has his own...local newspaper column.  Stay away from the detective fiction if you want to avoid bad press.

You will have noted, gentle reader, that I have not posted photos of the Guardians of the Medieval Texts.  My reasons are two-fold:  first, medieval texts are more than capable of protecting themselves, assaulting the unwary with everything from  30,000 lines of allegory to interlaced plot structure; and second, well, such Guardians as they have must be invoked with a complicated ritual involving shredded bluebooks, interlinear glosses and a dolorous stroke, and the custodial staff has started to grumble about the mess.

Trust me, though, the medieval books are safe.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fixing the Plot

I don't know about the rest of you, but I like to reread my favorite books or watch an old film or tv episode when I need comfort.  It's like having a beer or a chocolate bar except without the fat and sugar.  Unfortunately, no matter how many times I read certain books, the protagonists insist on making the same stupid decisions.  Shouting at them does not help (though it will get you some privacy to read or an introduction to the cute security guy at the 24-hour Greek restaurant where you are raving nonsensically at your book).  I find this a bit frustrating. 

When I was a little kid, there were a series of books published in which you supposedly got to affect the plot by making various choices as you read.  I hated those things.  They did not satisfy my annoyance about the characters' choices because you never had a coherent plot to work with--and the books just weren't very good.  Besides, you were always being told to "turn to page 17" for one path and then "turn to page 32" for another, and it made it damned difficult to remember where you actually left off in the book.

Anyway, I've had a frustrating week (yes, I know it's Monday, but it's one of those Mondays where you have a two-hour meeting that makes you want to bang your head against the wall, but you can't because you have a stack of papers to grade and also you promised to buy a drink for someone because you posted a cancer joke on her facebook wall that will probably get you sent to hell eventually), so I've made a list of advice I'd like to give various characters in various works of fiction and drama.  Feel free to add your own, if you like.

1. Criseyde from Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde:  just sneak out after your father and leave Troy to its fate, preferably after lacing your uncle's food with a powerful laxative.

2. Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre:  don't marry him.

3. Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre:  don't marry him.

4. Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings: call the eagles to carry you over the mountains and tell Saruman that you gave the One Ring to the balrog.

5.  Charles Bovary from Madame Bovary: don't marry her.

6.  Ophelia from Hamlet:  he's not worth it, but if you must have him, dress up as a boy, add some white make up and chains and tell him that his fate is to elope with Ophelia and move to a better climate.  Suggest Italy. 

7. Rick Santorum* from The 2012 Presidential Election:  Stop asking people, "If you were Satan, who would you attack?" because there's a certain narrative inevitability about that kind of thing.  Haven't you noticed everyone edging away with frozen smiles?

8. Charlie Swan from Twilight***:  for Athena's sake, move yourself and your daughter to someplace sunny and buy her the complete dvd collection of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.

9. Arthur from Malory's works: when choosing a bride, listen to Merlin.  Also, Morgause?  Dude, she's your sister.  Sister.  Whatever, but don't think we're buying that love spell story.

10. Tony from West Side Story:  don't go to the rumble.  I said don't go. 

11.  Andromache from the Iliad:  get out.  Take your son and flee.  Don't wait for Hektor; he's doomed.  Steal whatever wealth you can carry, grab Cassandra or someone and get the hades out of that place.

12. Rachel from Glee: you're much more talented than Lori Singer's character was, so have your dads move to New York where Debbie Allen can help you learn to dance and you and Coco can duke it out for parts.  Seriously, Erica Gimpel is still working fairly steadily, so get thyself to NYC already.  Also, don't marry him.

13.  Mina from Dracula: a small crossbow, suitable for ladies, would eliminate the last fifty tedious pages of the novel.

14. Desdemona from Othello: don't marry him.

15.  Han Solo from Empire Strikes Back:  find another place to put down for repairs. 

*Yes, I've heard the rumor that he is not a fictional character, but I don't buy it.  He's just not plausible, and I got taken in by Ross Perot** and refuse to be fooled again.
**No, I didn't vote for him!  I believed the mainstream media's assertion that he was a real candidate.
***This does not count as a "favorite book."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Real Conversations on the Phone


Me: "Hello?"

Voice:  "Hello?  Is this Dr. Natalie?"

Me: "No, this is Dr. Grinnell.  If I meet Dr. Natalie, I'll tell her you called."



Me:  "Hello?"

Voice:  "Hello.  Is this Dr. Grinnell?"

Me:  "It is.  How may I help you?"

Voice:  "I represent a publishing company, the [publisher I've never heard of].  We are looking for textbook proposals..."

Me:  "Excellent!  I'm glad you called.  I would like to propose that I write a textbook on how to avoid telemarketers."

Voice:  "That does not seem to be an academic textbook, but if you would like to write a proposal..."

Me:  "I could put goats in it."

Voice:  "Excuse me.  Did you say goats?"

Me:  "Telemarketers are a serious problem for goats.  But in order to emphasize the importance of this issue to academics around the world, we could include photos of the goats.  Naked photos."

Voice:  "I am not sure you are understanding the kind of company I represent."

Me:  "You would like the goats to wear loincloths?  I don't think they'd like that, but I could try...<click>...hello?"


Me:  "Hello?"

Voice:  "Hello.  This is [still haven't heard of it or found it on the internet] Publishers.  May I speak to Dr. Natalie Grinnell who is a professor, please?"

Me:  "You've changed your mind about the naked goats!"