frogg files

"She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." --Flannery O' Connor

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Survived the Night of the Living Mantis...

... and all I got was this stupid blog!

Ha. Kidding.

Well, I'm sure you are all no doubt on the edge of your seats wondering WHAT HAPPENED the other night after I finished writing my post about the giant praying mantis in my room. The truth is so terribly anti-climactic that I am not even going to tell you, because I guarantee that your imagination will come up with a much more exciting scenario than what actually happened.

Obviously, I lived to blog another day, and that's all that matters, right?

On another note, I finished my creative thesis! Yes, against all odds, I managed to get the thing done and sent out to my writing mentor over the weekend. Today I received her approval, so I'll be sending it to the program office this week. Whew!

Of course, I'm not quite out of the swamp just yet. I still have to send in a new short story to the office to be workshopped at the next residency in Louisville. For those who are not acquainted with high-flown literary terms like "workshop", I'll just tell you that basically the workshop is where you read other people's stories and try to say nice (or "constructive") things about them even if you hated them (the stories, not the people). You also try to highlight things that need work (or "revision") in the story. And your own story gets subjected to the same treatment (or "treatment"). It's a lot of fun (or "work")!

So yeah, I'm supposed to send in a new story tomorrow, but I'm not going to make that deadline because guess what, I don't have one finished. Why, you ask? Because I've been working on my freaking thesis! And I'm burned out! And tired! I haven't been getting enough sleep, weird bugs are taking up residence in my room, and I just can't deal with writing yet another story! AAAARRGGGGHHHH!

I think someone needs a hug. (Hint: it's me.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Say Your Prayers, Mantis

So I just came into my bedroom and on the ceiling is a praying mantis that is about as big as my face.

OK, I'm exaggerating. It's more like half my face. But you have to admit, that's still pretty big.

The next question, of course, is: how on earth am I supposed to sleep knowing that this thing is in my room? And the answer is: not well. Or possibly at all.

Which is not good, because I've had some bad bouts of insomnia this past week, and I really really need to get some zzz's, or I'm going to end up writing marketing copy tomorrow that sounds like this: "Just please take a freakin' cruise, people. Seven days in the Caribbean from only $549. Woo-hoo. Get on it." (Hmmm, that might be an improvement, actually.)

But back to the mantis. I guess I could try killing it. On the other hand, an insect that is almost-but-not-quite as big as my face would leave a gross mess. Ew.

Maybe I can chase it out of here, get it to fly out the window somehow. On the other hand, what if, as I'm trying to "encourage" it to leave, it attacks me?

Whoa, hold on, folks. The mantis is moving; I repeat, the mantis is now on the move. In the direction, I might add, of the area of ceiling that is directly over my bed. This is not what you'd call a welcome development.

It's going to be a long night...

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Post of Despair! Don't Even Think About Trying To Escape

Today is the first day of autumn. That means summer is officially over. Boo. I'm depressed.

On a more positive note, I noticed that there was a lot more water in the Los Angeles river when I walked along the trail again today on my lunch break. Granted, "a lot more water" isn't saying much when it was barely a trickle before, but really, there was practically a current this time. There were also a lot more egrets, which was kind of weird, because earlier in the season I only ever saw one out there, hanging out by him/herself. I don't know where all these new ones came from. I think they may be planning an invasion.

On a more random note (if that's even possible), I spent a good part of the day considering the term "ontological despair" and wondering if the human capacity for it is a possible indicator for the existence of God. I also turned over the possibility of using the phrase in a project I was writing for work. Because hey, couldn't ontological despair be a good selling point for going on, say, a luxury cruise? Like, "Bid bon voyage to ontological despair — with fares from just $599!"

OK, now that I see it in "print", it sounds pretty dumb. But trust me, it sounded cool in my head when I was on my walk. (And you have to admit, $599 would be a freaking steal for escaping the unbearable horror of being.)

Did I mention that I'm really depressed about summer being over? I am.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Titles Are For Lesser Mortals...

...or maybe mortals who are simply lesser tired than I am right now. (If that's you, and you happen to think of a good title, you can post it in the comments section.)

So part of the reason for all the silence of the past however many months is that I have been in the last semester of my MFA program, and really had to focus—or at least make a better go of pretending to focus than I usually do. And now, here I am finally nearing the end of the whole graduate-school adventure. I have less than two weeks left before my very last packet of writing is due to my mentor.

If I weren't such an expert at being in denial, I'd probably be panicking right now. Instead, I'm writing this blog. Meaning that the benefits of my denial are all yours, my darlings. (Assuming you consider this rambling non sequitur of a post as a benefit.)

Aside from finishing things up with the MFA, I also got promoted to the position of copywriter at the marketing agency where I work. Which means that I have become remarkably proficient at using language to convey absolutely nothing of consequence. Adjectives in particular have lost all meaning for me. In our marketing materials for our two biggest clients (both in the travel industry), I find myself penning such compelling prose as "Relax in the spectacular Caribbean" or "Enjoy the amazing scenery of the Amazon" or, if I'm really on my game (and here I must ask the kids NOT to try this bit of linguistic artistry at home without the supervision of a trained grammarian), "Bask in the sun-drenched beauty of a relaxing day on an amazing beach full of scenery in the idyllic splendor of the Hawaiian Islands."

Awe-inspiring, isn't it?

Well, to say that the aforementioned sort of writing conflicts with the sort of writing I'm getting the MFA for is a little like saying that water and fire aren't exactly best buddies, but at any rate it pays the bills. Which I certainly cannot say about the creative writing. At least not yet!

Although, if any of you feels inclined to pay me for these blogs, feel free. I would be full of astounding gratitude and I promise to put the spectacular money to a magnificent cause. Like, say, a deliciously soothing getaway amidst splendidly tropical scenery.

Hey, it was just a thought.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"[T]here is no honest way to avoid certain moral questions."*

I am not what you’d call a vegetarian, unless if by “vegetarian” you mean “person who eats meat on occasion, especially shrimp, because she loves shrimp and would be unhappy if she never ate it again (p.s. also salmon and chicken)”, and most people that I know don’t define “vegetarian” in anything like this fashion. Which is too bad, because it would probably ease a lot of tension in a lot of quarters.

But anyway, I just finished reading an essay by the late David Foster Wallace called “Consider the Lobster” and I’ll tell you right now that if you are not a vegetarian, you might consider becoming one after reading this, and if you are a vegetarian, you’re going to feel proud of yourself for being one, and if you don’t care one way or the other, you should still read the article, because it raises lots of interesting questions and observations.

The article depicts the author’s experience of attending the Maine Lobster Festival in 2003, and gravitates in what appears to be inevitable fashion toward a reflection on the moral implications of eating lobster. Consider the following passage:

The truth is that if you, the Festival attendee, permit yourself to think that lobsters can suffer and would rather not, the [Maine Lobster Festival] can begin to take on aspects of something like a Roman circus or medieval torture-fest.

Does that comparison seem a bit much? If so, exactly why? Or what about this one: Is it not possible that future generations will regard our own present agribusiness and eating practices in much the same way we now view Nero’s entertainments or Aztec sacrifices? My own immediate reaction is that such a comparison is hysterical, extreme—and yet the reason it seems extreme to me appears to be that I believe animals are less morally important than human beings;20 and when it comes to defending such a belief, even to myself, I have to acknowledge that (a) I have an obvious selfish interest in this belief, since I like to eat certain kinds of animals and want to be able to keep doing it, and (b) I have not succeeded in working out any sort of personal ethical system in which the belief is truly defensible instead of just selfishly convenient.

Now, the truth is that I am not nearly as interested in debating where on the scale of moral importance a lobster should fall than I am in the method Wallace employs in determining where his own predispositions lie. So what I’d like to do is show how Wallace’s reasoning can effectively be applied to what is, for me, a far more compelling idea: the question of the nature of God (assuming he exists, which, at this particular moment and for the sake of my argument, I do).

Just the other night I was out to dinner with someone when, over the course of the meal, the talk turned theological. He remarked that he simply couldn’t believe in a God who would ask a man to sacrifice his son, as God does in the ancient Genesis story of Abraham and Isaac. “What kind of psychotic God would that be?” he said. I didn’t answer, because frankly, that story bothers me, too, sometimes. So do a lot of the stories in the Bible. But the question being begged when someone says, “I can’t believe in a God like that” is simply this: What if he is like that? Do we refuse to entertain the possibility out of selfish interest; that is, the desire to preserve a belief that makes our relationship to God comfortable for us? And because we haven’t worked out a way to defend such a God to our personal, let alone others’, satisfaction?

Of course the blade of logic on this point cuts both ways. I know this. Besides, one could just say, "No, we reject that belief on the grounds that such a God is morally repugnant." But in the end, that's still a dodge. So I’m simply throwing the question and all of its attendant implications out there as an invitation to a sort of Damoclean banquet, if you will. No R.S.V.P. required.

One thing I can promise: We won’t be having lobster.

*The title of this post is a quote from "Consider the Lobster".

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Return of the Frogg Princess

As I am nothing if not a master of stating the obvious, allow me to observe that it's been quite a long time since my last post.

I feel I should mark the occasion of my return to the blog with a profound rumination on the meaning of life, or something equally along those exalted lines. But I am also nothing if not lazy, and profundity takes a lot more work than I'm prepared to do right now, so I will have to settle for a more mundane ramble.

So I'll tell you about how today I went for a noonish walk, which took me along the Los Angeles River (yes, there is one—sort of). I breathed in the dust of the trail beneath my feet and looked down over a rusted chain link fence into the aqueduct. There was very little to see in the way of water. And yet I could see patches of rich vegetation springing up here and there, miniature forests that somehow drew life out of concrete and stagnant water.

I also witnessed the take off and flight of a great egret, its wide white wings flashing under a bright sun.

And before I ever even got to the trail, I saw a single white flower on an otherwise barren bush.


I feel I may be stumbling onto something profound after all, right there in the midst of the mundane. But perhaps that's exactly as it should be.

Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don't have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it? — from the novel GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson

[Jesus asked him], "What do you want me to do for you?" He said, "Lord, let me recover my sight." — Luke 18:41

It's good to be back, my darlings. With kisses from the frogg princess...