Monday, July 25, 2011

This is a story in which no animal dies.

This is a story in which no animal dies.
A child does not stone a kitten, to demonstrate the casual cruelty of youth.
No one takes an axe to an injured deer by the side of a road, to make a point about euthanasia.
A man is not forced to watch as his master drowns his beloved dog, in order the show the evil, the inhumanity, of slaveholding.
A small bird does not die in the jaws of a predator, whereby expressing the wildness and unsentimentality of nature.
In this story, a family of rabbits will not be crushed by a bulldozer in a commentary on the shortsightedness and destructive power of human progress.
Horses will not be shot, whether they are lame, sick, or overworked by a cruel master.
A sack of puppies or kittens most certainly won't be tossed from a car window, or drowned in a river, in order to show a character's disregard for life and other creatures'  suffering.
Circus and zoo animals will not be shot or starved in order to show the depravation of a war, or a depression, or some other disaster.
In other words, in this story, the family pet will not be left to fend for itself when Hurricane [fill in the blank] hits.
No, this story will not contain any manner of canine, feline, equine, avian, et al, abuse, neglect, or mortality.
As a result, it will not win any prizes, nor will it be published in any preeminent literary publications.  No editor will hail this story as edgy, raw, or real.  It will not become a piece of classic children's literature, because it lacks the tearjerking scene of a boy losing his beloved hounds.
And why should this story, or rather, this author, be so adamantly against the fictive deaths of fictive creatures?  Shouldn't said creatures instead be lauded for their contributions to fiction?
And so the scene shifts to an awards ceremony--and certainly there would be a large enough pool from which to cull the nominees--that honors animal deaths in fiction.  Even there, however, the long-suffering beasts would be the first to be forgotten.  The writers would accept awards based on the grittiness of the scene, how the violence propelled the plot, and what it revealed about the character who perpetrated the malevolent act.  Kudos would be given for best supporting adjectives--the gruesomer, the better--and achievement in editing.  Because sometimes the best (or worst?) violence is the kind that the reader can extrapolate for himself.  And so the fictive animals would be neglected once more, fading from the awards auditorium--if they were even allowed in in the first place--and into the background.  They were useful only at the height of their suffering and the moment of their demise, but beyond that they were no longer required.
Until someone bursts on stage--perhaps while Sarah McLachlan sings her sad song while sad video images of sad furry paws reach out to the audience from behind the bars of a cage--and declares a stop to it all.  Calls all this fictive animal suffering excessive, cliched, overdone.  Deems all the nominees hacks for resorting to such a common trope.  And when the cry rises up from the audience, "Well, what shall we do instead?" the auditorium will go silent, waiting.
And the agitator will say, "Why not just mess with the human characters?  It's their kind you're indicting anyway, in the end."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Buying Tequila at a Texas Liquor Store: A play in one act

N* and I were at a liquor store here in Texas, buying supplies for margaritas.  As we were checking out, the cashier asked us what tequilas we liked, so we told him.  

"So what do you drink?" N asked in return.

"Well," he said, "I like Milagro, and 1800, and [blank], the one over there that comes in a bottle shaped like Texas."  

We nodded; he continued, "I used to drink Patrón. But I don't anymore," he paused as he put our purchases in a bag.  "Do you know," he said, "who owns Patrón now?" 

"No," we said, shaking our heads.

"Paul Mitchell. The hair guy." 

...and scene.  The moral of the story: real men don't buy tequila from men who sell hair products.

*My fiance/life partner/father of my cat objected to being called the "Big F," a nickname I experimented with in a previous post.  He suggested instead, "The Voice of Reason."  I've decided to just stick with his first initial from here on out.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I Quit. Or, it Sucks to Suck.

Growing up, I did well in school, but outside of academia I was a mess.  I danced for a handful of years, dabbling in jazz, acro, and ballet.  All that remains of those years--as my friends who've seen me on the dance floor can attest--are a few snapshots of me in overwrought costumes and garish pancake makeup.  I took up horseback riding for a year or two, played basketball for two seasons, made two attempts at track, and survived one year of cross country.  And if there is a common thread among all these activities, it was that I sucked at all of them.

During horse camp, I was given Buddy, one of the most seasoned and calm horses they had.  During an exercise in the indoor ring, he bolted, and I clung on for dear life.  One of the adults stopped us before we made it outside.  When playing rec basketball, it took me almost a whole season to make my first bucket during a game, an occasion so momentous that my coach (also my best friend's dad) leapt up from the bench and hugged me.  Track was forgettable, and cross country became a months-long mind-fuck.  We pounded the pavement day in and day out--no cross-training--and it got to the point where I couldn't distinguish between what was just soreness and what was an actual injury.  I sat out a few races, and placed in the bottom in others.  Running is not a contact sport, yet I still managed to sustain a head injury.  During our summer camp, I collided with two of the members of the boys' team while playing ultimate frisbee, landing on my head and neck (or one or the other--I don't remember because I blacked out for about a minute).    My coach was pretty concerned; the boys' coach, who pretty much thought I was a waste of space, berated me for skipping the next run over a "pinched nerve."

So yes, I was terrible at all these things.  But the other common thread among those pursuits was that they didn't last very long; I never gave myself enough time to be un-terrible.  I was a quitter; I probably knew it then, and I definitely know it now.  It's a big regret; what if I had stuck with one of those activities for the long haul?  Maybe I would have improved, earned my varsity letter, earned a medal other than "Participation."  But in the back of mind, I can't help thinking that I still would have sucked at whichever pursuit I chose, no matter what.

I've written extensively about CrossFit in the past, what it is, and why I do it.  Since writing those posts, I've changed gyms--twice.  I started at CF Pittsburgh in the fall, and have been coming to CF Central while I'm here in Austin.  In total, I've been doing this thing for two years and--surprise--I still suck.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Jury Experience, or, Why I Can't be Outraged by the Casey Anthony Verdict

When I checked facebook and twitter this afternoon, everyone was abuzz about the Casey Anthony verdict. Some were cracking jokes (um, too soon?) but most were indignant, espousing variations of, "How is this possible?" and "It's unbelievable!"

I haven't followed the case very closely, though I will admit to clicking on a few of the more sensational headlines.  Shockingly--or perhaps not so much--many of these stories appeared on "entertainment" sites like  However, I'm not intending to write about the murder-trial-as-entertainment issue, as that's been covered frequently elsewhere, and by people with more experience and credibility in that arena.  All I will say is that if Nancy Grace is covering it, I probably want to stay far, far away.

Rather, hearing about the verdict and reading the subsequent reactions remind me of my time as a juror on an attempted murder trial--an experience I haven't felt comfortable documenting publicly until now.

To set the scene: it was my first time being called to jury duty: one of those natural rites of passage that everyone complains about.  Anytime someone I knew--family, friends, co-workers--got called for jury duty, their immediate response (at least, the first one they expressed) was either one of, "I hope I don't get picked" or, "I'm going to try and get out of it."

Now, in most cases, I am a play-by-the-rules kind of gal, as I know many of them are in place for a reason.  For example, I always power down my electronics on airplanes when told.  (I freak out when I see others using their cell phones during takeoff and landing; I have to restrain myself from screaming, "DEAR GOD, DO YOU WANT US ALL TO DIE IN A FIERY CRASH, YOU ASSHOLE?  TURN THAT PHONE OFF NOW!")  Perhaps the term I'm looking for is socially responsible--like, the reason I follow traffic laws is not simply because it's "the law" or I don't want a ticket, but because I don't want to run over someone's Gran while she's on her way to church.  So when I got picked for jury duty, I felt the same sort of responsibility.  I resolved to be honest, to not actively try to get out of it, because it was the right thing to do.  I thought, well, if I were ever put on trial, I would want someone like me to be on the jury.  It's a terrifying thought that you might be wrongfully accused, and then convicted, of a crime because you didn't get a fair trial.  (Though, let's face it, the odds of me, a white, middle-class female, being accused of a felony are pretty slim.)

Suffice it to say, I went in there, answered honestly, and was picked.  Apparently I'm not the only person who'd want a middle-class white female on their jury.

My juror experience was fascinating and, at times, terrifying.  The defendant was accused of shooting a man in broad daylight over a silly argument.  At the outset, we were told that there were witnesses, including the victim himself, and that we'd be hearing from them.  We were also told there was no forensic evidence, that this wasn't like CSI or other TV shows; this was reality, and we'd simply have to use our best judgement, based on testimony, to come to a verdict.  That was slightly disheartening--who wouldn't want "scientific" evidence?--but it seemed reasonable enough.  This wouldn't be so bad.  I was completely unprepared for what followed.