Thursday, September 26, 2013

On Flaming TP

They say never write a blog post without a purpose.  Well, my purpose is to amuse, and I even have a moral-to-the-story, although it might only apply if you are a Spanish hotel owner...

So, once upon a time in high school, I took a trip to Spain.  Because, yes, I am all manner of spoiled even though I currently live in a ghetto apartment where drunks meander by and people view the grass in front of my windows as a garbage receptacle.

Anyway.  We were in Sevilla and had checked into our hotel after a long day of sightseeing.  The girls I shared a room with, Amanda and Kacy1, were fighting over the hotel phone to talk to a boy down the hall.  I was bored, looking to fill time, when I noticed some matches and an ashtray on a small table by the window.

Friends, obviously the Spaniards are not acquainted with the pyro-ways of Midwestern farm children.  Otherwise they would have hid these things before they knew I was coming.

I had a candy wrapper in my pocket, so I lit a match (they were blue, by the way, very fancy) and held the wrapper over the flame, watching it shrivel.  I pulled out another wrapper, then anotheruntil Amanda wandered over.

Honestly, I don't remember who first mentioned toilet paper.  Or who used the phrase, "Yeah, like a toilet paper bonfire," but I know we both snickered, so we're both guilty.

Each armed with a big wad of the stuff, we started feeding bits of toilet paper to the candy wrapper pile in the ashtray.  TP burns fast, so we weren't really getting a "bonfire" effect...which I guess is why Amanda plopped all her TP on top--a pile large enough to spill beyond the confines of the ashtray and onto the tabletop.

Which wasn't cause for alarm, actually; those Spaniards are clever: the table was topped with glass.  I knew that the TP would lose steam (or flame, I suppose) pretty quickly and all would be well.


Amanda grew up in the country-ish, in a subdivision with lots of land behind the house, so her pyro tendencies were not as experienced and she panicked.

Like blow on the TP like it's your birthday cake panicked.

Flaming toilet paper is a beautiful thing, folks.  It floats upward and hangs for a moment, as if it might just stay there.  After that it begins a slow, graceful fluttering toward the floor.  It was almost like watching snow falling.

Except for when Kacy realized that she hadn't been watching me closely enough and our hotel room was on fire.

Now I wish that I had held my composure and saved the day.  But it was just too funny and if I moved from the spot I had slumped into on the floor, I wouldn't have been able to control my bladder.  And we didn't need that problem piled on at the moment, thank you.

I watched helplessly as Kacy--and eventually Amanda once she came around--used clean, wet laundry and various shoes to stamp out the flames and the cinged bits of TP that remained.  We decided it would pass as a pretty severe cigarette burn and just moved the table over a foot or so.

We also vowed that no one would tell Kacy's mother, who just happened to be our chaperone and Spanish teacher...and who would be my Spanish teacher for another two years.  Kacy confessed later to spilling the beans, but Senora never breathed a word of it to me.  So, for what it's worth ten years later, lo siento, senora.  Lo siento.

Oh, and a big lo siento to the wonderful people at the Hotel Don Pedro.  But it was ugly carpet anyway.  And now you know better: hide the matches from the American kids.  Good luck and Godspeed.

1 Names changed to protect the...innocent? Well, maybe not innocent, but at least to protect those involved :)
I like candy. Don't judge; it was all in the name of experiencing a new culture.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Twitterature :: September

Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy hosts a monthly link-up for sharing casual, tweet-sized book reviews.  Here's what I've been reading...

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

Regional food history pieced together from WPA files.  I only read the "Middle West" section but really enjoyed poems "Nebraskans Eat the Wieners" and pieces about whole hog roasting.  Worth perusing for history lovers and foodies.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
by Susan Cain

FINALLY got around to reading this--and even Professor read the first half or so.  Conclusion: I am an introvert and that's all right.  Wonderful, even.
Raising Elijah
by Sandra Steingraber

About raising kids in this environmentally-compromised world today.  Honestly, this book mostly made me want to cry and hide my kids under a rock.  It's not written with a "how to help or do better" tone, just "these are the horrible facts and if everything about modern life doesn't change, we're all going to die of cancer and disfiguration"...sometimes ignorance is bliss.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
by Aimee Bender

I actually checked this out because there was a note in the front about how somebody had put white out over the swear words and the next reader felt it her civic duty to write them back in and tell the world she had done so.
This was a coming-of-age story about a girl who can taste people's emotions in the food they've cooked and how it affects her whole life and family--fun-ish read, beautiful prose.  Oh, and a few swear words, whited out or not, depending on your copy.
Good Poems for Hard Times
selected by Garrison Keillor

Trying to ease back into poetry reading; this was a nice, sweeping collection.  The introductory essay is worth reading for itself.

So, what have you been reading lately? {and catch more mini-reviews over at Modern Mrs. Darcy}

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dear Netflix {and Hollywood at large, for that matter}

Dear Netflix,

You’ve been on my mind lately; I have something I want to tell you, but I’ve been putting it off.  Then you sent me an email asking for feedback, and I was pleased for an opportunity to share.


Then you asked me, on a five-point scale how satisfied I was with Netflix.  And that’s it.  No room for real feedback at all.

So I thought I’d drop you a line.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with your service: I love that for just $8 a month I have access to all sorts of TV shows, movies, kids’ shows, and documentaries.  I love that they stream right to my TV or computer.  I love that I waste less of my life in front of commercials.  I even love that you’re producing your own content, like a poor man’s HBO.  However, there’s something you should consider before you continue in the content-creation vein, and that is

Not everybody’s into sex scenes.

I was with you on House of Cards—an edgier version of The West Wing, I figured.  I tried to stay awake because the storyline was fascinating, but—in all fairness to me—I had just kicked a baby out of my uterus and sleep won.  When Professor told me about the pretty graphic sex scenes ahead, I decided I really didn’t need to bother with the rest of it.

We suffered through the raunchy scenes in Orange is the New Black because the story line was that compelling—but not without much eye rolling and cuticle studying while we waited it out.

{Also, I was most proud of Professor; he did not pace or leave the room, as he often does when television is awkward.  My little brother will cover his ears and scream "LALALALALA" while running around the house when things get awkward onscreen.  Anybody out there have male relations like this, or is it something in the water here?}

Which brings me to my first point: sex scenes are rather awkward.  It’s one thing to sit through a sex scene with your spouse, but what about when watching a movie with a group?  Or your father?  Oh. my. goodness.  We were visiting a while back and watched a movie with my dad: lots of shoot ‘em up, witty banter, and BAM!  Rolling between the sheets.  Skin.  Noise.

While sitting between the man who changed my diapers and the one who fathered my children.  Cue much fidgeting and “uhh” and “well, how ‘bout them Twins?”

Which is my next point: how often do sex scenes actually advance the plot?  Aside from the ever-popular dominatrix-seduces-bad-guy-then-offs-him, is it a necessary part of the story?  So often it feels rushed, out-of-context, and obligatory.  No thanks.  I think subtle implication has the same affect and leaves more room for storytelling.

Which is my final point: people show up for stories, not sex scenes.  Think about it: unless the movie was Magic Mike or the looming 50 Shades of Grey, how many people leave the theater gushing about the sex scene?   Do your friends gush about Leading Actor and Starlette of the Week’s steamy rendezvous?  Do they?

Well, mine don’t, compadre.  When I talk movies with friends—heck, even acquaintances or even strangers—I hear topics like special effects, action sequences, scenery and even pesky little things like plot.

So, again, I’m all for you Netflix, truly, I am.  But I’d be even more for you if you could deliver a compelling story without a scene or ten that make me stare at my nails and sigh that manicures aren’t in my budget.

Yours ever so respectfully,
MK Jorgenson

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I Coulda Hugged a Duggar (and 8 reasons I didn't)


Every now and again I google the Duggars.  We don't have satellite TV like my richie-rich parents do1, so now that I'm married and living in squalor, I don't get to see this enormous family on a weekly basis.2

After my most recent google spree, Professor woke up to an ambush in bed with the news.  "Honey...HONEY!  Guess who's coming to Kalona on Labor Day?  The DUGGARS!!!"

Needless to say, I made plans to see them with Pookie in tow (Professor decided to stay home and keep the baby out of the heat.  At least, that's his claim...).

We were far enough away that they were basically stick people.  Still, I was in the presence of the Duggars, a family whose life I have watched on TV as I pondered building my own (I even watched their son get engaged and married while I was planning my wedding).

Eventually, the music was done and the Duggar children started filing out of the barn and past us.  Since Professor didn't come with me, I snapped a few pictures as they drew close...but then I got what-a-dirty-papparazzo-you-are stares and put my camera away.

Some people stopped and asked to take pictures with them, get hugs, have books signed.  And I wanted to do the same, but I just couldn't bring myself to, and here are a few reasons why...

1. I feel bad asking for time from people I don't know.  Is this just me?  Aren't they tired of smiling all the time?  Do they really need me hounding them for a picture?  Yes, they're gracious, lovely, giving people...but I still feel like an intruder.

2. I kinda feel like a stalker.  "Oh, hi, we're just meeting for the first time, except I know your name, where you live, what your room looks like and how you shop for groceries..."  Awkward, right?  Am I alone here?

3. I didn't want to get pregnant.  Professor was the one who coined the phrase "hug a Duggar" while we were talking about going (he doesn't share my affinity for the mega family).  This was his gravest concern: that some Duggar fertility would rub off on me and we really don't need another baby just yet, thank you very much.

4. My Duggar-ing days, I think, are coming to an end.  I really enjoyed watching the show while I lived at home and it got me thinking (and googling…) about everything from grocery budgeting to homeschooling.  And while I love the Duggars, we’re very different families with very different ways and means—which is okay.  Wonderful even.  But as my babes grow and my attention is stretched, the Duggars might have to fall by the wayside…unless they pop up on the Today show with an announcement. ;)


Oh, and numbers five through eight?  All the un-Duggar things my daughter mentioned while we were out there that I was certain she would say should we meet the big Mr. and Mrs. and totally prove that we are not very Duggar-ish...

5. Look, Mama, I dancing.  She sang a lot about dreams, which was fine, but she also sang about dancing.  A lot.  Because she likes dancing...a lot.  There's a little Pentecostal in her, but I try to keep it quiet in our little Baptist church.

6. E.T.'s sick in the water!  E.T. is a big dealio in our house these days.  Super cute when we're at home, it's not as cute to scream about sick aliens out of context.  Especially around people who by and large shun movies.

7. Oh, my shorts is dirty.  Ahem.  Yes, Pookie wore shorts before the Duggars and their merry followers.  And I was another offender, jeans and all.

8. Mommy, are those the great kings in the sky?  This is straight out of Disney and has two knocks against it: it's Disney and a movie, but also...away from the context of The Lion King?  It sounds downright pagan.

Yes, I get that they are gracious people and would have rolled with the punches whatever came out of my daughters mouth, but in the end I'm not a meet-the-celebrity type, and that's okay.

Unless next week I change my mind.  Then I'll start singing "shoulda-coulda-Dugga."

How do you respond to meeting famous people?  Am I the only one like this?

1 Like that one, Mom? You and your fancy TV and your dryer and your garage door opener. I'm telling you, I came from the 1%; someday we'll get back there.
2 Like that one, Professor? Squalor...I don't know that we've ever used that word to describe or living situation. I think I like it.
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