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Twitter Poetry and a NYPL Contest

If you don’t know the premise of Twitter — posting micro-thoughts of up to 140 characters — you must be anciently old or infantile-y young.

There are obviously some polarized thoughts on this no-longer-new form of expression.

Blah, blah, deteriorating attention spans, darn lazy young people, blah, blah, blah.

Blah, blah, new forms of expression, advancing society, blah, blah, blah.

Blah, blah, social media marketing, brand-consumer interaction, blah, blah. Blah.

Was that quite enough blah’s to make your brain hurt? Okay then, moving on. I think that all those people with the polarized views are missing the point. As people with polarized opinions often. Yes, I think it’s a shame that people’s attention spans last about five seconds due to the constant stream of… whatever, but I read somewhere that decreasing attention spans has been a lamentation-du-jour for centuries.

And as a writer, Twitter’s limited space for expression is a great place to practice using language economically. “Brevity,” as we learn in Hamlet “is the the soul of wit.” I agree entirely with the sentiment, despite the irony of the fact that it comes from Shakespeare’s long-winded, dull Polonius. This is true whether we’re discussing humour, poetry or a novel. Why waste a paragraph on what can be said with more strength in one sentence?*

Really, twitter works with the same premise as poetry. I think my creative writing teacher from last year explained that poetry is prose distilled, and I think that in an ideal twitterverse, tweets are blog posts distilled.

They’re also a great medium for an up and coming form — Twitter Poetry! That’s right, poems composed of 140 characters or less. The New York Public Library has caught onto this trend and they are having a super cool poetry contest! You can find out all about it on their site and enter if you have a twitter account and live in The States (which I now do, so yay me!). The contest only runs until March 10, so get writing and check out my submissions at @asolitaryramble!

May the brief, witty, poetical forces be with you! (Whatever that’s in reference to…. Seriously. I have no idea what I’m referencing there. Something science-fiction-y?)

*Disclaimer: the only form that this does not hold true in is the academic high school (and possibly university) essay. In such pieces of writing, it is essential to be as redundant as possible, rephrasing the exact same idea using different words and examples as much as you can without absolutely dying of boredom. For some reason, teachers love this and will call your work things like “excellent” and give you mid- to high-nineties. There will be the occasional hundred-percent, but only if you say in five paragraphs what could have been summed up in one sentence.

Goodnight Room

Goodnight laptop. Goodnight iPhone.

Goodnight sleeping roommate.

Goodnight books

that I loved last year.

Goodnight books I’ve yet to read.

And to all those books I’m almost finished.

 

Good Lord! What have I done with my night?

 

Goodnight Facebook friends I’ve stalked,

I know it’s been five months since we’ve talked.

Goodnight Modcloth. Goodnight Anthro. I’ve had enough

of pinning you.

Goodnight to my school’s fun Facebook group

and to that post that-got-seven-hundred-comments-in-two-hours

all from the same seven girls.

 

Good Lord! What have I done with my night?

 

Goodnight to YouTube and

to the-poems-I’m-handing-in-tomorrow-

instead-of-the-short-story-my-teacher-asked-for.

Goodnight to the blasted fan and its incessant fanning.

Goodnight to my dry contacts, now where’d I put those glasses?

Goodnight to my teddy bear, she’s lonely in my big bed at home.

And goodnight to my blankets here that keep me warm and snuggly.

 

This post is not so very long. I thought it would be fuller. Of reasons I am up so late.

I guess the blame can just be placed

on loud, fun, crazy housemates.

It seems as though someone stole my idea. Before I even had it. Whoa. Credit: ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com

No One Else Cares About the Zit on My Chin

Today, like most days, one of my friend was freaking out about the way her face looked. She hadn’t put on makeup this morning and was pointing out an acne situation that was developing on her forehead.

“Oh good,” I said in response to her unmade-up face. “I also didn’t have time for makeup this morning.”

“Me neither,” lamented Friend Two.

“Yeah,” said Friend One, “but you look good without makeup.”

look good?” I asked.

I hadn’t even noticed Friend One’s lack of makeup or acne situation, because, if anything, I was too concerned with what was happening on my own face. I wasn’t looking at her forehead, because I was thinking about my own chin. I didn’t even realize that she had anything wrong with her face until she pointed it out — and she probably felt the same about my face.

Because, as I regularly realize, people are so focussed on their own flaws that they don’t tend to notice yours.

We notice and are quick to laud each other’s positive traits — a perfect shade of lipstick, matching minute accessories, a new pair of earrings — but unconsciously brush over each others flaws. Maybe it’s because we’re too busy fixating on our own flaws, but maybe it’s just because no one cares as deeply about your appearanceas you do. While I spend plenty of time in front of a mirror, over-analyzing each of my perceived flaws, it’s not as though that’s what my friends do that with my face.

That isn’t to say that you can just look like a slob and no one will notice, but I don’t think people notice as much as we think they do. And people, especially the girls you see everyday and are therefore pretty good friends with, aren’t judging you as harshly as you’re inclined to judge yourself.

A similar thing happened at my prom last June. Most of the girls had gotten their hair curled 0r the like and by the end of the (humid and then rainy) evening curls were falling, straightened hair was getting frizzy and girls were stressing. In the bathroom a girl I wasn’t even really friends with was flipping out about whatever was wrong with her hair.

I told her that it looked fine to me and that everyone else was concerned with their own hair-related-crises so no one was even looking at her hair. She thought about this for a few seconds and then quickly resumed her composure. Hmmm, her face said, that actually makes a lot of sense.

So sometimes I sit in class, wishing I’d either woken up early enough to deal with the distaster I call my face or at least brought some concealer to school. And then remember the prom incident and get over myself. Because most of the time I’m the only one one who’s judging me.

Theatre’s Aesthetic Appeal

I like looking at pretty things. Nay, I love looking at pretty things. If I had to choose, I’d say ‘sight’ is my favourite and most essential sense (followed closely by hearing and touch). So, it follows that one of my favourite parts of theatre is how it adds up visually. Sometimes, I find it hard to concentrate on what the actors are saying, much less figure out what their character’s names are, because I’m so distracted by everything there is to see.

This is also true of films, but in movies the illusion holds up more. It’s easier not to notice the ‘inauthenticity’ of the sets and costumes and everything else that went into making it beautiful. They’re more seamlessly lifelike.

Whereas, in theatre, even when you get lost in the illusion — as I often do — it’s still pretty obvious that you’re looking at sets on a stage. But I actually adore this distinction between film and theatre. When it’s a play, I notice the aesthetics — and little makes me happier than a well-dressed stage and cast.

Furthermore, the costumes and sets say so much about the tone of the piece. In the past year I saw productions of Our Town and The Matchmaker, both by Thornton Wilder. Though they were by the same writer, they had different tones and therefore the costumes and sets were nothing alike. And because the visuals fit the content and tone perfectly, they were both stunning and added loads of depth.

Because the visuals are such an important part of my theatre-viewing experience, it really bothers me when the visuals don’t live up to my high standards and ideals. This has mostly happened in the Shakespeare productions I’ve seen. Oftentimes, the directors try to update Shakespeare’s plays, and their favourite way to do this is by modernizing the costumes. Period costumes are my favourite kind. And it bothers me when the costumes aren’t right. Either in tone, or geography or time period.

But, when I do see a play with costumes and sets that I adore, and approve of, it is euphoric. Last night I had one such experience. Our school took us to see the play 1776 last week and some of my friends and I liked it so much that we decided to see it again. It’s a ‘musical play’ about the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Despite how lame it sounds (and how lame I thought it would be) it was divine. Aesthetically speaking anyways. The set was somewhat simple, yet elegant — complete with a large turntable to accommodate both indoor and outdoor scenes.

What I also liked was that the ‘congressional janitors’ did all of the between-scene furniture moving, in charactor — so that scene changes were completely integrated into the play itself.

And then there were the actors. You’ll have to pardon me for a moment while I wipe the drool off my keyboard. The nearly all male cast was clad in beautiful, late 18th century attire — complete with pony-tailed wigs and white stockings. I’m aware that this might not sound too appealing, but you’ll have to take my word for it — my friends and I did go back for seconds.

And oh, the colours! Don’t even get me started on the colours. It was a beautiful mix between drab browns for the less haughty, less affluent state representatives and deep, bright hues for the more haughty, more affluent state representatives. And of course there were several shades in between. The two ladies in the play wore elegant, full-skirted, tightly-corseted dresses.

And the (younger) actors themselves aren’t half bad. My gap year program is girls only, so, being a group of male-deprived teenage girls, we were very interested in the actors behind the characters. After last week’s performance, there was much Facebook stalking of these young gentlemen. Also much violent, melodramatic fanning of ourselves. And last evening we waited around after the show to get some autographs. (Which, I must say, made the actors very happy — although it was a little awkward when they had to remind us who they had played because they looked a little different in their street clothes.)

You wouldn’t think it, but Thomas Jefferson is fine. He’s literally tall, dark and handsome. And he has beautiful eyes. Andashirtlesspictureonfacebook. And I MET him, in person, in real life and discovered what it is to swoon.

And then there’s the representative from South Carolina whose name I can’t recall — my friends and I refer to him simply as “South Carolina”. Blue eyes. Pretty face. Southern accent. Bonus: he’s really from New Zealand, so he even has a beautiful accent in real life.

When I swoonfully related all this to my bestest friend (who isn’t as insane as I am), she laughed at me (in a ‘with me’ kind of way) and questioned the point of all this. She’s right, of course. These actors are way older than I am and besides, a several of them are (presumably) a tad homosexual. But, in reality, neither of these facts have any practical effect on my life. It’s not as though anything would happen without these ‘hinderances’.

I generally don’t go mad like this over real people, just fictitious ones. And that’s exactly what these guys are, despite the fact that they’re theatre actors whom I actually met, not film actors who live in a faraway place I’ve dubbed Movieland. The emotional energy I expend on these guys is no less theoretical than the emotional energy I expend on the likes of Mr. Darcy or Gilbert Blythe.

Because, after all, there’s a great difference between actors and the characters they play. And the guys whom my friends and I have lately ‘fallen madly in love with’ are really nothing more than illusions. Visually pleasing illusions, that is.

On Doing Nothing And Playing FlipWords a.k.a. “BangMan”

Sometimes it’s nice to just sit and do absolutely nothing. Stare at the walls, out the window, at the other Starbucks-sitters who are also pretending to work.

I often find myself very busy doing nothing. But not the above mentioned nothing. The nothing I often take part in tends to involve my iPhone. Or my Mac. There’s a chance that my Apple products may be ruining my life. I check Facebook. I check it again. I’m shocked that nothing new and life-changing has been posted in the past six seconds. And repeat. When I’ve had enough of that I’ll spend some time scrolling through my Twitter feed, clicking links that promise to teach me how to be more productive.

This was Sunday. Except the “lolling about” stage lasted until about 3:40 p.m. Image Credit: http://www.oxcoll.com

Then I play some Cut the Rope — a riveting game wherein you cut a rope on which dangles a piece of candy, in attempt to feed said candy to a weird, green, sluggish alien thing. Then I play some Boggle — which will totally enhance my brain activity. Then (once I’ve warmed up that part of my brain) I move on to another game called FlipWords — a mix between Boggle and Hangman, which could be more aptly (and entertainingly) named “BangMan”. Yeah. That’ll catch on; it sounds just like what it is.

Then it’s back to Facebook. And the cycle begins again. Writing this down should probably make me realize why I’m so unproductive. Instead I have been super tempted to check Facebook and Twitter (as well as every other such site). And to play all my favourite games. In fact, I’m kind of shocked that I’m still here and I haven’t yet opened up five other web pages.

But sometimes, in what someone once called this sea of irrelevance, it’s nice to stop using my brain for all these little nothings, and to actually do nothingOr, at least to blog about doing nothing. Because I’m just not in the right frame of mind to do nothing. I mean, that kind of stuff take preparation.

Like I said, it is nice to just sit and do nothing sometimes. Maybe I’ll give it a try when I go home next week for my (weirdly late) winter break.

Do you like taking time to do literally nothing? Do you ever actually do it? What sorts of “nothings” keep you from getting much accomplished?

 

Does Not Play Well with Others

Yesterday as I walked back to the house I board at with my friend (and housemate), I was overcome with a feeling of “hey, look at me! I have friends!” Okay, yes, that sounds really, really sad. This is certainly not the first time I’ve had friends in my eighteen years of existence. I’ve had plenty of friends in lots of different levels of friendship, from “frenemy” to BFF.

Nevertheless, for a number of reasons, I’ve always felt a little different — you know, just like everyone else supposedly does. Never really felt like I quite fit in. Always felt a bit like an in-betweener — not quite a total loser who ate lunch by herself in the library, not quite sitting with the popular kids (or the type who even wanted to).

But this year, everything changed. I guess that’s what happens when you do a gap year program at a weird (i.e. awesome), little art school with seventeen other artsy girls. No one really fits a mould, so somehow we all fit in to our not-fitting-in.

I was discussing this with my friend while we walked home, and I was explaining my previous friendless, lonely life. To clarify that it wasn’t quite as sad as I had initially made it seem with my melodrama and hyperbole, I told her about one of my “cherished childhood memories”. This story probably just made it worse.

I was four or five and it was playtime at kindergarten. Everyone else was either playing well with others or quietly occupying themselves with the abundance of toys we had on hand. I was playing with some form of connect-y toys probably something like Tinker Toys. With these not-excessively-girly toys, I attached some of the long stick-ular items together and — ta da! — I made myself a magic wand.

It was made out of boring stick-y things; I was probably wearing green sweat pants. But in my imagination (which was so fully functioning that this is how I see myself in this memory) I was wearing a flow-y, flounce-y, tulle-y pink fairy dress and on my head I had one of those cone-shaped princess hats with the piece of tulle or whatever waving in the wind. My wand was, of course, also pink and had one of these flow-y things protruding from the top. It obviously shed fairy dust whenever I waved it. I led (lead) a very rich fantasy life.

This is kind of what I was picturing, but the dress in my imagination was WAY cooler. Also this picture’s missing a wand… Credit: http://www.fantasytoyland.com

I was (am) very kindhearted and didn’t want to keep my newfound magical powers to myself. I wanted to share my fun with everyone! So, I began skipping my way around the room, telling my peers that I was a magical fairy, asking them what they wanted me to turn them into and tapping them on the heads with my ‘magic wand’. If I recall correctly, I genuinely believed that they would love my game. I imagined they’d oblige me to the point that they’d tell me what they wanted to be turned into and, when I tapped their heads with my wand to grant them their wishes, they’d act like the magical creature they had wanted to be.

My bubble was popped pretty quickly. Most kids just ignored me, some got annoyed and shooed me away, and one kid got so irritated that I got told on and our teacher had to intervene and make me stop. This was heartbreaking for me.

Hmmm… It actually makes a lot of sense that I’d fit right in at art school. My game pretty closely reflects one of the ‘improv exercises’ we do in my theatre class. After all those years of ‘repressing my creativity’ to avoid being ridiculed, it’s pretty nice to come to a place where my own personal brand of insanity just adds to the fun.

I love going to a school where my friends and I randomly burst into song throughout the day, play theatre games where we “let the walls feel us” (for real. This is a ‘legitimate’ exercise.) and sit in class fighting over toy cars borrowed from our principal/teacher’s four-year-old. I’m also taking some creative writing classes and am working on an awesome screenplay. It’s about a math teacher who never really understood me. Go figure.

Oh yeah — and I may finally get a check mark on my report card in the box for “plays well with others”. You know, if I wasn’t eighteen and such a box still existed for me.

The Best Medicine (But Not for a Cough)

Everyone knows that moderation and balance are super important — right? A little coffee will wake you up, too much will mess up your sleep schedule. Socializing is great, but it’s also good to fit in some alone time. Sometimes you need to take a break from writing or *cough* blogging, sometimes that break goes on for far too long.

But what about laughter? Isn’t it the best medicine? How can you have too much laughter? Well, today I nearly died laughing. Twice. Okay, well, not quite literally, but still.

I’m off at my gap year program, away from home for the first time, having the time of my life and all that. Earlier, I was sitting in a class, minding my own business, drinking some tea to (hopefully) soothe my cough/sore throat.

One of my friends raised her hand and made a funny contribution to the (relaxed) class, most people giggled, I took a sip of tea. Then I started laughing. The tea made its way down the wrong tube and a whole choking, coughing, laughing situation ensued.

Being a small class, the discussion was put on pause so that everyone could gape at me and make sure I was okay. This just made matters worse, and elevated my hysteria — it’s awkward enough to have a coughing fit and freak out that you can’t breathe without everyone in the room watching you do so. And I’m a nervous giggler (by which I mean I giggle in  awkward situations, not giggling makes me nervous), so by this point I was laughing too hard to even try to start breathing again or even catch my breath.

So that was a nice way to break the ice with a roomful of people I met five days ago.

credit: mediawebapps.com

Later, there was a bug in my room. It made my roommate very nervous, but, while I didn’t mind its presence, I wasn’t about to get my hands dirty catching it.

So our friend in the next room came in to deal with it. While my roommate was hiding in the hall, our friend from the next room was trying to coax the bug down from the ceiling, asking it to demonstrate how well it can fly and begging it not to smell up the room (it was a stink bug). Meanwhile, I was watching from my bed, barely controlling yet another outbreak of laughter. I was paying more attention to the laptop I was holding and the bug-catching expedition than to how close I was to the edge of my bed.

I bet you can imagine what happened next — good thing my bed isn’t too high off the ground!

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