4th of July

Sarah had a party for the 4th, and I convinced Brandon and Kelly to go with me. I thought going alone might get weird–I hadn’t seen anyone but Meri (and a fleeting Marissa) since the Nemacolin debacle. And rather than not go or plan my visit around trying to avoid people, I decided to suck it up and get the awkward “firsts” out of the way, since we share so many mutual friends and one of them is getting married in October. I don’t want to make a wedding awkward or dramatic–ironically, the reason I was allegedly not even told about Nemacolin was as to not cause drama. Clearly, I still reject this reason.

Now, I am admittedly not helping. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but I pretty much have not spoken to anyone but Sarah, Marissa, or Meri unless I was addressed, and even then I only answer a question or respond to a direct statement. In a way, I’m holding a grudge, but I was treated like shit and I only know three of my friends definitely defended me and agreed the treatment was shitty. So I’m not interested in being someone’s punching bag anymore. And I’ve had a lot of time to think. I don’t appreciate being blamed for everyone else’s personal problems, so unless someone can at least speak to me about what was done, I quit. People who refuse to respect me or acknowledge that their intentional behavior was hurtful don’t deserve my time and attention.

So that’s basically how the 4th went. We arrived late after Kelly was done with work, I took some tasty fruit salad, sat by the pool, and said very little, speaking only to who I wanted.

And then a storm rolled in, as they often do here in the summer. And then ever single one of my friends decided to leave, despite the pleas from Sarah’s family. Now, I understood why and never once thought it had anything to do with my presence, though I don’t think there’s any comprehension from some that anything is or ever was wrong on their end, but I certainly didn’t feel welcome at whatever their next destination was. Plus I didn’t really want to go anyway. For one, I’d only been there an hour. Plus, when I said way back when that I was done, I meant it. I’m not getting sucked back in because they can make me laugh. I deserve better. Bottom line. And finally, it didn’t take long for it to become clear that Sarah was upset they were leaving, too.

I was told later that they thought everyone would go inside and the house would be cramped, hot, and loud, which probably would’ve been the case. I was also told someone did ask where I was and said they hoped I didn’t think everyone left because I was there.

My decision to say was kind of split-second–I left a lot up to Brandon and Kelly, and as Sarah’s family begged them to stay, I figured, “Fuck it, we’ll stay. There’s no point in going with them or going home.” And on that note, that was kind of the true sign for me that I’ve decided to break away, because I didn’t see why–possibly for the first time–everyone had to leave because a few people wanted to. I think this was a big part of why Sarah was mad.

It probably didn’t help that her sisters were asking her why her friends all left and started asking me why I’m the only one that talks to them anymore.

And that’s how Sarah and I talked most of the evening about, well, everything.

Her opinions are hers to share should she ever want to, but the basic points are as follows:

  • Many of them do what they want when they want with little to no regard of how anyone else feels.
  • Nolan essentially gave me a list of things I’ve done to hurt people, while no one has ever done the same to him and his list would surely be much longer.
  • There are double standards and favoritism within the group, which is relatively new.
  • Some of them have gotten mean.

And that’s how I decided my hiatus wouldn’t be a hiatus at all. I am quitting the Craigs. I’ve thought since I started the hiatus that I’d either go back or leave completely, and to me, going back was unacceptable. It would’ve been showing weakness, and I would’ve gone back to a group in which nothing would change and I would return to being a disrespected joke that matters less than prettier, funnier people. Like I’ve said since May, I deserve better, and I’m going to get it.

On the Pitt Bomb Threats

It’s been months since the Pitt bomb threats. Things have been quiet and worry-free for a while. But after Aurora and because I never got around to talking about it before, it deserves talking about now.

For the latecomers, I spent the last few months sharing a rented house in Pittsburgh with my cousin Meredith; her boyfriend, Erio; and a mutual friend Diana. Meredith and Diana and both Duquesne students. I graduated from Pitt-Greensburg last year. Erio, at the time, was finishing up his senior year at Pitt in Oakland.

At the height of the threats and the fear, we thought the threats couldn’t possibly be a hoax. We ended up being wrong, and this is one of the only cases in which I was glad of that.

When the threats started, it was kind of strange. One or two here or there. Probably just another idiot who wanted to get out of an exam. But then they kept happening and happening to the point where multiple campus buildings were being evacuated each day and eventually, dorms in the night–from February to April, when temperatures here can still get quite cold. The number of individual threats was around 140, found everywhere from written in bathrooms to emailed to the university and local newspapers.

I would check Facebook and Twitter on my phone from work to see if anything new happened. Often, I would see Meri or Erio at home and hear about others, plus the other details and rumors not included in the papers.

Someone was very deliberately disrupting everything, but beyond disruption, the threats were scary. We were all worried about Erio. Meri didn’t want him to go to class, and neither did I. Our fears started to grow bigger, though–what if this wasn’t about Pitt? What if someone was planning something in the city? What if we were in danger just by living here? Erio came back from class with stories of kids crying in class because they were scared, couldn’t sleep, or both.

Many Pitt students turned into amateur detectives, with blogs popping up dedicated to closely examining the threats and trying to find who was responsible. Not even the police could do that–the emails were routed through anonymous servers that were impossible to track, and the companies running the services said they wouldn’t cooperate if they could. That was baffling. Someone was threatening to harm an entire university, lives very well could’ve been in danger, and the company was more interested in protecting the privacy of its users. At some point, life and safety needs to be more important than privacy.

The four of us turned into amateur detectives, too, throwing around theories that impressed even my military father, including the threats as a way to get the city’s law-enforecement focused in one area in order to carry out mass-murder in another, studying evacuation patterns, and getting everyone outside in order to shoot from the tops of the Cathedral of Learning or from the center of the evacuations. We even printed a map of the campus and marked the threatened buildings, looking for patterns. Erio and I, being paranoid, insisted on shredding it afterward. “All it takes,” we both said, “is for one person to see it in our trash and call the cops.”

I worked the afternoon shift then, so I’d get home around 11:30 or midnight to see all three of my roommates huddled around the dining-room table, scared and talking about the latest threat, the latest theory, and their latest fears. Everyone was visibly shaken. At least once I was greeted with a frightened Meri saying, “Make sure you lock the door” (I always did anyway). We talked about everything from getting guns or tasers to how to leave quickly if we had to.

We heard the rumors of suspects, including early on-campus rumblings of Mark Lee Krangle, whose Facebook posts were full of Pitt–including plans to travel to the city. He made us nervous, and he was ultimately arrested but was not the one who did it. We jokingly referred to him as The Krangler, but he scared us.

And then one day, the people responsible said in an email that the threats would stop if the university revoked the $50,000 reward it had posted shortly after the first few threats came in. So the university did, and the Threateners, as they called themselves, delivered and stopped the threats.

They disagreed with the university offering a reward for information on “some young kid who’d pranked the university.” This still makes me angry. What was the point? Were the Threateners trying to protect this kid? If so, why would someone protect him or her? Bomb threats aren’t a joke. They aren’t a prank. You can’t scare thousands of people and get away with or think it’s okay. Actions have consequences. The guilty people have to face them.

Aurora

I don’t know what to say.

Like everyone else, I’m shocked, saddened, and keep thinking about how some gun control needs to happen in this country. But at the same time, as The Onion pointed out, as a country, we’re incredibly used to this kind of thing.

The first major example of gun violence I can remember is Columbine. I was in elementary school, which unfortunately means there was probably an incident prior to Columbine that I could remember if I thought long enough and hard enough (I do remember other things, like O.J. Simpson, the Oklahoma City bombing, and Jon Benet Ramsey, all of which happened when I was pretty young).

Other shootings stand out. I was on a school trip to Disney World when the Virginia Tech shooting happened. Then there are the numerous publicized school shootings. Pittsburgh had the shooting at L.A. Fitness a few years ago, and we had the Western Psych shooting earlier this year, just before the Pitt bomb threats.

I woke up at 5:30 this morning for work. I took a shower, came down to my room, and turned on music for my morning routine. I checked Facebook and Twitter. I saw that there had been a shooting. I know that, especially as an adult, I will have many more mornings like this. As an adult, I also think about these things more critically. Sure, Columbine left even elementary-school kids rattled, but now I actually think about what I would do it that situation. The fact that it could very well be me at any time or place, or it could be someone I love.

(Similarly, the days of the Pitt bomb threats had the whole house on edge, from worrying about our Pitt roommate to wondering if something big was going on and if one day I’d check Twitter from work to see a death count or if I’d have to leave the city for my safety in a hurry or if I’d come home–again–to my roommates scared around the dining room terrible, saying, “Make sure you lock the door” and discussing self-defense options. This all needs discussed at length because words cannot express my anger at those people.)

As The Onion points out, we all know how this will play out. I’ll even throw in bonuses, like jokes made in poor taste on Facebook and Twitter. People blaming music, TV, and violent video games. The predictability is almost as sad as the loss of life–it shows that we’re so accustomed to this as a country that we know who’s going to say what and when and what the reaction will be.

I do believe American media is too accepting of violence. You’re more likely to see explosions and shootings in TV and movies than you are sex because somehow, sex has been the act deemed immoral and dirty and shouldn’t be seen. Despite the fact that sex, even in religious groups, is hailed as a personal, beautiful, and often loving act, it’s violence that is acceptable. We’ve reached a point where people being graphically hurt or killed is preferable to making love–the act that destroys life is okay, and the act that creates it is not. This doesn’t make any sense.

Personally, I don’t mind seeing violence on TV and movies in terms of taste, unless it’s gratuitous (but then, I don’t gratuitous anything). But we do have a problem when we become too used to this, even in real life. That said, I don’t think we should be blaming our pop culture. We may be desensitized to things and some people may be quite impressionable, but at the end of the day, each individual is responsible for his or her own actions. No movie or show or book made anyone do anything. Someone made a decision to hurt someone else.

Something needs to be done. Guns need to be a little bit harder to buy. Sure, the Constitution guarantees our right to have them, but that doesn’t meaning getting them should be easy. I–and few others–are suggesting going around rounding up everyone’s guns and taking them, yet the second someone says, “Wait a minute, maybe we need to rethink this,” second-amendment activists panic, proclaiming their rights. The Founding Fathers may have given you the right to your guns, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t foresee the way some people would use them and I’m pretty sure the Founding Fathers wouldn’t sit in the midst of a tragedy saying, “Oh, well, we told them they could have them!”

Once again, a single person has killed many. How many times does this have to happen before even the most right-wing gun owners agree that something needs to be done? When you see a problem unfolding, you fix it, and this is certainly a problem.

This Modern World puts it all very well in a cartoon written after Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting that was reposted today due its relevance.

More State College

I ended my last trip to State College with my beloved Webster’s, where I made my smallest purchase to date–a mere $37. We also hit Green Bowl, plus Kiwi Yogurt for a second time. I loved it too much. This time, I went for strawberry lemonade yogurt but preferred the strawberry I had the day before, although the toppings the second time included mango!

I did a little more window shopping, but other than that, it was a lazy day. I was bummed I had to leave.

I wanted to go back as a surprise for Paul’s birthday next weekend, but it looks like I’ll have to spend the weekend moving one way or another. Diana and Adam got engaged and got a place together and our lease is up at the end of the month, so we’re preparing to move out. So far, I haven’t found a place. If I don’t, it’s back to my parents’ place for me, and I DO NOT WANT that.

Prometheus

As we walked out of the theater, a middle-aged man asked Paul and I what we thought of Prometheus. We both agreed that while deeply, deeply flawed, it was still a good, enjoyable film.

“Good science fiction is hard to make,” he said, “and that was good science fiction.”

We could all agree on those two points.

Paul and I kept talking about the movie pretty much all night. In some respects, I’m sure this is exactly what Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof wanted.

Part of the problem, I think, is hype. An Alien prequel with Ridley Scott back kicking ass and Damon Lindelof joining him? Bound to be epic. But at the same time, hype was only a tiny bit of the problem because plenty of movies have premiered to huge hype and lived up to it.

I asked Erio what he thought of it a few weeks before I was able to go.

“I was expecting more answers,” he said, “but instead I got more questions.”

That pretty much sums it up, but such is the way of Lindelof. And I’m one of the vehement Lost defenders that loved the finale.

In the end, I was disappointed. Similar to the film raising lots of questions, which can actually be a good thing despite perfectly framing a money-making sequel, it was kind of too big. Prometheus has a lot going on philosophically, plot-wise, monster-wise, etc., and could’ve benefitted greatly from being scaled down. Some of the most powerful stories are told in the simplest ways, but Prometheus reached a point where it just felt messy.

I also found it to be predictable, and some of the most predictable plot points were unnecessary. Plus it did some borrowing from other science fiction, like the black il-like substance from an alien source. The X-Files did it. Creepy creature in a swamp-like area? Star Wars did it. THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD. I’ll let the impregnation slide because come on, this is an Alien film and we all know it has to happen, and we all knew it was going to happen before Shaw and her man got it on. Other things, though, I can’t forgive, like the revelation that the old dude behind the whole thing was the boss’ dad or the oxygen in the suits only lasting two minutes in the event of a problem. Which brings me to…

Poor foreshadowing and cliches. Look, when you’re watching a sci-fi movie or any film in any genre where something is going terribly awry and someone says, “You can only survive for THIS LONG without THIS THING,” you just know by the end if the film the hero is going to be racing against that time limit to survive. Similarly, the daddy issues thing is overdone, and so are couples. Does every male/female team doing things in the name of science have to be a couple? Can’t they just be friends? I get that we needed a setup for the pregnancy, but for once I’d like to see someone forego the romance subplot. I may be a girl, but sometimes I just want to go to a movie to see some well-meaning astronauts accidentally fuck everything up.

Speaking of setups, Prometheus had too many. There’s a nifty piece of technology that can perform surgery but the model present is only for men? I have to admit, I thought there was more to this like it was for Daddy, but that was never cleared up. Instead, I’m left wondering if  that was just a detail solely to create a kind of man vs. technology conflict where Shaw needs to get that alien baby out and the only resource she has isn’t designed to do it. Oh, Shaw reveals she can’t have children in a scene that seems forced just so that it’s a huge shock when David reveals she’s pregnant and the issue is never important again?

Prometheus is indeed a mess, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. In fact, it did some things quite well, and the themes were excellent. The idea of man being created by aliens isn’t new, but it’s still an interesting issue to explore and one I thought they set up well, even if they didn’t explain it well.

Best of all, though, was David.

The humanoid robots devoid of emotion but perhaps not really thing has been done a lot, too. In fact, I thought a lot of Blade Runner during many of David’s interactions with the crew pointing out how he isn’t really one of them. It raises some interesting problems, and is probably the reason everything went to shit in the first place. David is incapable of having emotions, yet he seems to understand them. We see him go from being cold and distant when revealing things like an alien pregnancy to being in a state of exhilaration at the Engineers’ map to being hurt when he is picked on for being a robot. As such, David is the most complex character, but he’s also the least likable by, you know, infecting Shaw’s man. Granted, his willingness to do anything and everything to find answers is also at fault–had he not told David that, I don’t think David would have ever done it. David also allowed for full risk-free exploration, which would be a cop-out if his character and subplots weren’t excellent. Michael Fassbender certainly helps. David gives us an opportunity to see and experience things the humans couldn’t, though the fact that he can’t die makes him careless. While everyone else is afraid of touching things, David does whatever he wants like a boss. He’s also a huge douche, but with people being mean to you in an existence where you can whatever you want and keep on truckin’, it makes sense.

Prometheus has enough going on, despite my complaints, that I’d like to see it again after a proper viewing of Alien. That won’t fix the problems of predictability and cliches, but it might help put things in context and make it seem less chaotic.

Oh, and it’s at least worth seeing in 3-D.

Weekends

Part of the Magic Mike trip with Terra included dinner and my birthday presents, which was a homemade turquoise beaded bracelet and matching tie-dye shirt in a peace-sign tote bag.

The following weekend, I went to see Paul for the first time since Memorial Day weekend. My weekend rotation at work made visits impractical, because how can I visit a college student with a job and work study on a Monday? It was the first time in a long while, since either winter or last school year, that we went over a month without seeing each other. We’re getting good at this long-distance thing…just as it’s almost over. The one problem that’s new, though, is that seeing each other makes the missing worse. Before it seemed like it would tide us over. Not so much anymore. I think we’re both just tired of doing this at this point.

It was a nice weekend, though. Now that I’m working a different shift, I was able to leave from work Friday afternoon. The only downside to that is I hit all the rush-hour traffic, so the drive was an extra hour long. I stopped by the creamery, grabbed his keys, and hung out at his apartment until I had to pick him up. I dicked around on Tumblr, as I usually do, and played “Say Yes to the Dress” with Terra, where I sent her picture of wedding dresses and she shot most of them down. It was still a good time, though.

And then Paul and I had some fun and then I insisted we go to sleep because seriously, I wake up at 5:30 now then sat in a car for 3-4 hours and then was up 2-3 hours past my new 9:30 bedtime. I was dead. The advantage was that Saturday morning, Paul got away with keeping awake from 9-ish on because that’s technically sleeping in at this point for me, and my body isn’t letting me sleep much later anyway.

We went to Penn State’s pool, since it was really hot just like it’s been at home. Naturally, the pool was packed but nice and refreshing. We didn’t stay too long because he started to get a headache. Then we hit up the Pita Place, which was great, and Kiwi Yogurt, which he was raving about for the previous month and lived up to the hype. Self-serve yogurt! All the toppings you want! Pay per ounce!

I tried the strawberry and loaded it with fruit and cheesecake chunks. It was amazing. A little more sour than the yogurt I’m used to, but it was still so good that I was okay with it. In fact, I loved it.

We also browsed some of the shops down that way. It’s on College Ave., I believe, which isn’t a street we usually frequent–we’re usually on Beaver, which we call Hipster Avenue because it’s loaded with interesting restaurants, cafes, and shops, including an art gallery and my beloved Green Bowl and Webster’s.

We went back to his place for showers and changing into proper dinner attire for the other place I’d been waiting to visit for over a month–The Greek. I found it last time I was in town when we saw it tucked behind The Waffle Shop on Atherton and wanted to go really bad. Going there for dinner was an amazing decision. Great salads with the creamiest, tastiest feta cheese I have ever had. Appetizers stuffed with spinach and feta. Greek pasta. Perfect baklava. Plus the decor was gorgeous, with these great paintings all over the ceiling. It was the closest to Greece I’ve ever come, but I hope I one day get closer. Like, you know, actually chilling in person. The Pinterest pictures are too pretty.

And then the final thing I had been waiting for…Prometheus. Preliminary review: we both like it and thought it was good science fiction but it was disappointing.

Magic Mike

What sort of present do you get a newlywed? You take her to see Magic Mike. Bonus points if you pay with your Carmike gift certificates your mom got your for Christmas.

The theater was packed, which was strange for a Sunday afternoon. It was packed full of women–not so strange.

Magic Mike was actually good. It has a reputation with some women and nearly all men for being nothing bunch a raunchy sausage-fest, and in some ways it is, but it’s also more. It does have a real, well-done plot. It has character development. Strangely, I could relate to it. A story of growth and change after being surrounded by kind of crappy people? Story of my life right now, guys. Make fun of me all you want, but (SPOILER ALERT) Mike’s decision to make a positive change in his life by leaving those people and the life behind was empowering. Starting a new life is sometimes just what people need to do for themselves.

The movie didn’t get too heavy, though. It went just far enough for solid, understandable conflict and all the other elements of plot we all learned in high school. It made a point. It was more than just a movie full of nudity and laughs.

That said, it was really funny. The stripper gimmicks and lines were great, and the performances were equally funny and kind of sexy. I mean, those dudes can move. And there’s more dancing involved than just clothing removal, which I’m always impressed with.

I did think of an interesting social double-standard, though–a movie about male strippers was regarded as funny and was pretty well-received all-around, but a movie about female strippers most likely wouldn’t get the same reaction. Granted, I know girls on either side of the Magic Mike debate–some shake their heads and see it as just a raunchy nudey movie and others who are saying it has more substance. Meanwhile, dudes are more skeptical. Sure, they’d love a movie about female strippers, but there’s still this idea that females stripping is somehow trashier.

I say any woman who can climb a pole in heels a few inches high deserves all the bills she gets.