Monday, November 28, 2011

Catching the Bouquet

I was standing in the front.  I was wearing four-inch heels.  I had every advantage except that I was pretty sure the bride was aiming for the girl who stood to my left and slightly behind me, and I wasn't about to let myself worry about that.

"Okay, girls, put your hands up!  This is a photo op!" boomed the young emcee into the microphone.  I obliged, but otherwise, I was pretending I didn't care.  A heart monitor would have revealed the truth.

There was a countdown, presumably by the emcee, but I've already forgotten.  I was in my head.  "Three!"  I don't care.  "Two!"  I don't care.  "One!"  I care and I'm going to catch this.

Time slowed down for me alone, to provide one final advantage.  I watched the bouquet's trajectory as it left the bride's hand and headed straight for me.

No, not straight for me.  It was headed slightly to the left.  Impressive aim, I thought, but there's no room for politeness now.  My left hand reached out and the bouquet fell neatly, top-first, into my open hand.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw several sets of outstretched fingers falling just short.  Then, time resumed its usual pace.

It was hard to keep track of what was going on in the minute or two immediately following my success.  There was a lot of noise, and a few people got photos of me with the bride.  Meanwhile, I was on the alert for one thing.  As far as I can remember, at every wedding I've attended where I've failed to catch the bouquet, my disappointment quickly turned to relief as I remembered the garter toss.  In each case, I witnessed the poor winning girl seated in a chair in the middle of the dance floor, gripping the flowers as some random guy slid a garter onto her leg.  Even when it's just put on her arm, it's an awkward and embarrassing ritual.  I braced myself for the ordeal.

Long seconds passed.  I waited.

There was no garter toss.

Hallelujah.  The time I finally catch it, I get all the joy and none of the obnoxious aftermath (except for one or two people heckling my dear boyfriend).  Success all around.

I like to think I'm not the type of person who believes in superstitions.  Part of me does want to be the next to be married, and like most girls, I think about my own wedding details and wonder when it's going to happen.  Everything is especially up in the air for me right now; I can't reasonably predict where I'll be or what I'll be doing six months from now.  No, catching the bouquet was not a sign that I'm going to be married next.  It was, instead, a sign to me that everything will work out right, and I should just stop worrying about it.  So, that's what I'm going to do.

I'm going to have a little faith.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Caramel Macchiato

Today I had a caramel macchiato.

I was provoked into a Starbucks trip, and I have mixed feelings about Starbucks.  On the one hand, they have a shiny app for the iPhone, and this alone renders me as wide-eyed and senseless as the lobotomized version of Babydoll at the end of Sucker Punch.  Besides doing a whole bunch of neat stuff from store locating to general tag scanning, the app stores your registered Starbucks gift cards so you can have the barista scan your phone like a pretentious yuppie, which I rather enjoy.  The whole franchise is actually fairly shiny and fun, which makes me pay a lot more for a cup of coffee than I ordinarily would like.

On the other hand, all I drink is black coffee and straight tea, which is a lot cheaper if I just brew it at home.  So, whenever I go to Starbucks, I feel some pressure to get a fancy drink in order to make the trip make sense, except that's illogical because I'm spending even more money to get something I don't like very much.  Ingredients are generally not meant to be mixed.

Did I mention I dislike caramel?  Part of my dislike of caramel is the confusion over its pronunciation, but mostly it's the fact that I actually don't like the taste.  Or the stickiness.

Anyway, today's trip was one where I felt extra pressure to get a fancy drink, because I wasn't meeting anyone with whom I do not live.  We were actively leaving the house to go purchase caffeinated beverages, when we possess a Keurig with many K-cups, and a tea kettle with two fancy boxes full of tea.  The caramel macchiato was at, or near, the top left of the fancy-drinks list, but that's not why I chose it.  I chose it because it is mentioned in a song that is in the movie Sweet Home Alabama, starring Reese Witherspoon, and I love Reese Witherspoon.  So that's what I ordered.

Have you ever had one of these?  It tastes like being in an airport.  Or perhaps on an airplane, definitely a flight where the sun is up but you still have the scratchy blue blanket and white pillow.  This is not altogether unpleasant, but I never want to drink another.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Believing in Beauty

I wish to describe a contrast, or rather, a situation that relies on a great contrast.  Imagine, if you would, the young person who has lived all his life in a bleak location.  His very home was plain in all ways.  The land for miles around lacked any truly beautiful feature.  Seasons held only the worst aspects - winter meant more slush than snow, and spring held more pollen than flowers.  Summer was horribly hot, but the only beaches were ugly and polluted.  Sunrises and sunsets were strangely dull, and did not play lovely colors upon the clouds.

Who could ever say to him that river valleys and mountain springs, or daffodils and orchids and ivy and roses, or strange and elegant cloud formations, truly exist?  Who could impress upon him the idea of swimming in a deep blue ocean, or playing in fresh snow, or waking up glad to enjoy a beautiful dawn shining on a beautiful home?  He must be shown such hope, or how could he find it possible?

Saturday, June 25, 2011


I am occasionally stricken by the absolute "now-ness" of Now - the utterly fleeting nature of each passing moment, the fact that everything I see is just a memory by the time my brain has processed it. Like the light of the stars, what we see is not what Is, but what Was. A miniscule fraction of a second ago is still in the Past. Time is the essence of flux - or vice versa - and if I overthink it, I am overwhelmed by the rush of it, and the fundamentally ephemeral nature of Now.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wedding Dresses

I think what I hate about modern wedding dresses is that they seem to have fallen so far from the real purpose of the wedding. I've been flipping through an issue of The Knot (I do love looking at dresses), knowing that I seldom see a wedding gown that I really like, when I started to realize what my problem is. It's not just that I dislike strapless dresses, super long trains, overuse of detail, underuse of detail, and unflattering shapes - including the terrible idea known as the "mermaid," in which the girl's dress is super slim down to below her knees, where the designer suddenly remembered he wanted a poofy skirt rather than a slim one and fanned it out at the last moment, resulting in something ridiculously similar to a fish's tail.

No, what I dislike most is the adjectives used to describe each praised dress: chic, modern, risque, dramatic, retro, flattering, fairy-tale, scene-stealing, statement-making. I'm not knocking a gown that's incidentally ethereal, or structured for the bride's body type. What bothers me is that we've quite turned the whole thing into an issue of fashion alone - Is it an "in" style? Is it sexy? Does it say what the bride thinks it should say about her? - and we have utterly lost the idea of preparing a bride for her groom, of making her beautiful to be received by him in a ceremony as a companion, lover, helper, and friend, as they will belong to each other afterwards for as long as they both shall live.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Suffering's Effect On Fiction

I hate the idea that a writer of fiction has to suffer in order to write well. Somehow, it seems that only comedians are exempt from this rule. It's something about needing a source of conflict, something about "write what you know," something about "show, don't tell," but the whole thing sounds miserable to me. Maybe this is why I haven't finished a short story. I haven't suffered enough.

I suppose pain is an integral part of the writing process. Suffer, come up with a story idea based on that suffering, write some of the story, suffer from writer's block, write some more, forget to save your work and lose most of it, write some more, submit it, get your rejection letters, start over. I don't know if that type of suffering is particularly useful for coming up with new stuff, though. Stories about writers are like films about filmmakers - everybody in the audience knows you had no better ideas than your own life, and your own life is clearly no more interesting than your job. I mean, at least use a metaphor. I train dragons and I'm having a terrible time getting them to listen to me, but once I get a dragon trained to perfection, I can sell him to a famous warrior and make a lot of money. Character growth can be found in the dilemma between training dragons for a love of dragons and training dragons to become as rich as Rowling - I mean as rich as the richest trainer of dragons.

So, the boring pseudo-suffering of a writer's life can be translated to something interesting and whimsical, but there will probably be some realism missing, some details left out. That's why it is useful to watch other people suffer. Talk to strangers. Read people's Facebook statuses. Take the interesting parts from what's wrong with everybody else's lives, and use it to flesh out your character.

This is also where showing instead of telling becomes important, and what makes it so difficult to accomplish if you have seldom had real issues. Suppose you have never felt lonely when you were not alone, and you want to explain it through your story. "She was lonely" won't cut it, I can tell you that now. But if you've never had such a thing happen, and you can't easily see such a thing by watching other people, how will you know what kind of a scene to craft to show the emotion instead? So perhaps some little bit of suffering is important after all, in order to know to place your character in a crowd of people who don't interact with him, or to leave her crying near somebody whose mind is elsewhere - don't you feel a little lonely yourself just envisioning these scenes?

But I have been crazy blessed throughout my life, and I have no desire to bring suffering upon me. What then shall I do? After people-watching, the easiest thing to do is augment one's own little experiences, and pretend they were much more than they actually were. Every bad day feels blown out of proportion while it's happening; you just have to capture that and make it seem real instead of histrionic. Make the causes bigger, but the emotions the same.

So, for all writers who are content or - dare I say it? - happy, be glad in knowing that there are loopholes to the Suffering Rule,

Saturday, April 23, 2011

And the Blog Re-Awakens

With my impending graduation, and my keen desire to be a writer, it is time I bring back This Is An Art. One purpose of this post is to establish the focus of subsequent posts - not that I have established a niche (don't be silly), but I've at least come up with some variation of default topic set. The other purpose is to ensure that people can hold me accountable for actually posting things again. You now have a specific post to which you can refer me, if I say "Meh, I don't want to post this week." Here it is. Cmd-D to bookmark (or ctrl-D, if you use Windows).

I intend to return to a schedule of blogging at least twice a week, probably on Tuesdays and Fridays, once my finals have ended. And, I intend to blog primarily (but not exclusively) on the following topics:

  • Writing. This includes writing about writing, and posting actual poems, short stories, and writing exercises. I want to be a writer. I started this blog in order to get some public practice. I now intend to un-defeat that purpose.
  • Projects. I do love projects, and I have so many. I want to post them here, as I do them - in-progress posts and finished posts, with all kinds of photos (or screenshots, where applicable) whenever possible. This is to inspire others to do new projects, as well as to hold myself accountable to finishing the things I start.
  • Various Christian topics. Nothing is more important than God Himself. When I am blessed with wisdom, I will write.
  • Media (occasionally). Books, films, and Leverage typically fall into this category (what do you mean other shows exist?). I have no intention of discussing media very frequently, and when I do discuss it, I hope to make much mention of the writing involved therein.
I also intend to come up with a standard for tagging my posts, and to tag new and old posts accordingly. I have previously hated tags, but I have come to find them quite useful.


Edit (29 Nov 2011, 1:34 AM): Oh, rats.  This didn't happen at all.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Leverage Analysis - Parker and the Family Dynamic

As a fan of the TNT show Leverage, I have a peculiar contention - one that will make little sense to anyone who is unfamiliar with the show, so if you fall in that category I suggest you first watch an episode or two before reading the rest.

Ready? Okay, good.

The characters of the show, and the people involved in making the show, often discuss the familial nature of the five main characters, that is, Nate and his crew. If we were to break down the family dynamic, certain roles are more obviously filled than others. Nate is clearly the father figure in this family, and Sophie is the mother. Eliot is the eldest child, a mature yet passionate son. The other two are somewhat more difficult - Hardison and Parker. You see, since the two share romantic tension, we must accept one of three possibilities: their relationship borders on incestual, the "family" metaphor breaks down if it is considered too deeply, or one of the two characters is not part of the immediate family. Assuming the first is absurd and the second is too boring to put in a blog post, I shall now defend the third. Hardison or Parker is a "child" of Nate and Sophie, and the other has been grafted in.

My immediate thought, when I first considered this, was that Hardison is the outsider. After all, he is the only member of the crew who is not white - one glance at the crew would suggest that he is not blood-related, which could carry to the show's family metaphor. He is also the only member of the crew whose past and personal life have not yet been dealt with more than briefly, and three seasons have passed.

But consider Parker. Parker is the only one who goes by a single name. Her foster father has appeared on the show, and initially, he seems angry about her joining this new family, saying he'd made her a perfect thief and Nate ruined her by allowing her to become a "good guy." She acts truly strange in comparison to everyone else. In promotional materials for the show, she is almost always set apart from the rest of the crew. The DVD sets for both the first and second seasons of the show each have four discs, and each disc features a different member of the crew, but never Parker - she is the face of the special features. Finally, Eliot and Hardison fight like brothers.

So, my contention is this - in the family that is Nate's crew, Nate is the father, Sophie is the mother, Eliot is the older brother, Hardison is the younger brother, and Parker is the girl who is with Hardison, and has become included in the family but does not quite belong yet. Thus ends my analysis.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Youth is Wasted

I have learned to appreciate music, but I have no time now to play an instrument of my own - though for years I was in a good music program at a public school, and I loathed to practice, or to listen to instrumental music. I have learned to appreciate math, history, science, and education in general, but now I have to pay for it - though I was once handed information daily, for free, and I sneered at it. I have learned to appreciate family, immediate and extended, but it is while I live at home for less than half the year, and have little hope of seeing most of the extended family members who live out of state - though once we regularly visited the family who is in California, and once my grandparents were near at hand, and I hardly cared.

Youth is truly wasted on the young. Somehow, it doesn't seem fair. I wonder, what do I have now, that I will later realize I missed?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On Forcing Our Beliefs On Others

I think the biggest complaint I hear from non-Christians, regarding Christians, is that we like to "force our beliefs" on other people. They consistently get offended or annoyed because, hey, can't we all just believe what we want to and leave each other alone?

‎First of all: no. To quote the character Emerson Cod from Pushing Daisies, "The truth ain't like puppies, a bunch of them running around, you pick your favorite. One truth! And it has come a-knockin'." I would like to explain why, exactly, we "force our beliefs" upon the unbelievers, and why we consistently "come a-knockin'" even after you have disconnected the doorbell, removed the door knocker, and hidden under your bed.

Christians operate under a set of beliefs that can be found in the Bible. The primary belief, especially in terms of sharing the Gospel, is that Jesus is "the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [him]" (John 14:6). Jesus is the way, the only Way, to a positive afterlife (commonly known as "Heaven"), and, many of us contend, the only Way to goodness and virtue in this life.

We could simply believe that for ourselves, and have good lives and afterlives for ourselves, not worrying about what happens to other people, except that selflessness is a tenet of Christianity as well. When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus's response was, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40). So, if I love my neighbor - neighbor being loosely defined as anyone with whom I may come in contact - and I believe that my neighbor will live a dissatisfying mortal life and an unbearable post-life eternity without Jesus, it is only reasonable to do everything in my power to bring that person to Jesus, as soon as possible.

We don't always. We worry about mockery, insults, minor persecution, or losing the friendship. But should we? For Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11). The issue of timidity in the face of evangelism or open belief is addressed again and again in the New Testament, always saying that we are blessed by God though we are hated by men for belief and righteousness.

So this is why Christians "force their beliefs" on others. It is senseless to suggest that we should simply let people believe whatever they like, and that it does not matter. To suggest this shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the Christian faith. Christianity is not a crutch to get us through this life. It is not a mere set of rules for morality. It is not a philosophy chosen because it sounds nice. There is only one question of importance, in deciding to accept Christianity: is it the Truth?

Obviously, I contend that it is.

As always when I reference Bible verses, I encourage you to look up and read the context for them. is a good source if you don't want to leave your computer or don't have a physical Bible.