Monday, April 25, 2011

Yay, I’m Finally Thirty-One!

What’s so special about thirty-one, you ask?  Well, it just so happens that women peak at age thirty-one!   Yup, it’s true.  Studies have shown that I will never be more beautiful than I am right now.  Good to know.

Seeing as today is my birthday, it feels like the perfect time to announce that I am officially commencing work on my memoir – against the advice of several prominent literary agents, who all agreed that I will never be able to sell a memoir without first achieving notoriety.  But if birthdays are good for anything, it’s highlighting the diminishing probability that I'll ever get around to these things.  I mean, if I have to wait until I have 10,000 blog followers to write my memoir, I’ll be too senile to remember my own name, let alone the precise details of my first practical joke (It was a good one: I was seven days old and had just experienced my first nosebleed, so I decided to lie very still in my crib, covered in blood, until my mother came into the room.  It’s been almost 31 years, and she still hasn’t fully recovered.)  Anyway, there’s no time like the present to start digging up the past.  And so, I’ve chosen to embrace delusion.  So what if I’m not a B-list celebrity?  Surely it’s enough to have strong writing, a wonderfully sarcastic title, and my fabulous face on the book jacket.

You may be thinking that thirty-one is still too young to write a memoir, but again, I’m going to have to disagree.  Sure, I might not have that much life experience, but you’d be amazed at how much I have to say about it.  Based on my rough outline, I’m predicting several thousand pages – split into four volumes – in chronological order starting with my birth...  No, not really.  I’m too lazy to ever write more than 200 pages, and that’s with wide margins and a comically large font.

The book will be a series of comedic essays in the vein of David Sedaris, who, coincidentally, I have tickets to see tonight.  I plan on waiting in line afterwards so that I can get his autograph and present him with the opportunity to be my very first book endorsement!  I’m sure he’ll jump at the chance.  I’m also planning to get an endorsement from Tina Fey.  I just finished reading her memoir in which she both mocks herself for being a nerd and advocates supporting fellow women.  There's no way she'll be able to refuse an endorsement for a fellow female nerd.  I had a bowl cut!  I thought turtlenecks were swell!  I wore glasses that were way too big for my face!  I’m still hoping to one day grow into my teeth.  (Oh no, wait – my physical beauty has reached its peak.  Dammit.)

A quick note for my friends and family: If you’re concerned about how you might be portrayed in my bestselling memoir, don’t worry!  There’s still plenty of time for sucking up.  After all, today is my birthday. Those of you who go beyond the traditional Facebook birthday wall post will be described as being much more attractive and intelligent, and your worst qualities and most embarrassing moments will be ascribed to someone else... someone who didn’t bother remembering at all.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Yes, This [Insert Random Object] Is Art

So I’ve started a new exercise regimen: I run around Lady Bird Lake and I’m not allowed to stop until I've seen five pianos.  Yesterday, it took me 2.5 miles.  You have no idea how happy I was to hear that fifth piano as I came huffing and puffing around the bend.  The girl playing the piano was lousy and the melody was completely unrecognizable, but it was still the sweetest sound I’d ever heard.

Google has since informed me that these random “street pianos” are part of a touring art exhibit.  Previous cities include London, Sydney, Barcelona, São Paulo, and New York.  The artist, Luke Jerram, wanted to encourage city-dwellers to interact with each other.  He views each piano “as a catalyst for conversation and changing the dynamics of a space.”  As someone who lives in an urban environment and still manages to feel isolated most of the time, the idea really strikes a chord with me (ha, get it?).

The pianos reminded me of a similar undertaking called "The Red Swing Project."  In 2007, a guy named Andrew staged an “urban intervention” in Austin and started hanging red swings in public places under the cover of night.  He went on to hang swings all over the world.  I saw one of his red swings near my apartment building a few months ago, but someone cut it down.  Apparently that happens a lot.  Americans tend to consider it vandalism.

Anyway, I’m feeling so inspired that I’ve decided to start my own [insert random object] project.  My reasons for doing so are as follows:

1.) I’ll finally be able to refer to myself as an “artist.”  A creative individual on a heroic quest to bring beauty to the world.  My life will take on a whole new meaning!  I already embody all of the artist stereotypes: I’m tortured, depressed, lonely, and I look fabulous in black.  All I’m missing is the art  (unless you count my highly original paintings of trademarked beer logos.)

2.) The “social experiment” aspect of the project fascinates me.  In college, I minored in Social Psychology for an entire semester after reading about the Milgram experiment.  I think I would derive much pleasure from hiding behind the bushes and watching people’s reactions to my cleverly placed [insert random object].

3.) I like the idea of executing my “art” in secret in the middle of the night.  Really, I’m drawn to any occupation that involves a flashlight and a ski mask.  I’ve always been a night person, and I’m surprisingly stealthy.

Now I just need to select the perfect random object.  Something that will inspire action.  Something that you don’t see every day.  Something that will bring joy and happiness to the people who are lucky enough to pass by.  Something that people won’t be too inclined to steal.

My first thought was hula hoops, a favorite childhood pastime of mine.  (I once took second place in a prestigious hula hooping contest at the local mall.  A few of us – the remarkably talented ones – lasted so long that the judges were forced to bring in extra small hula hoops in order to make it more challenging.)  I haven’t seen anyone hula hoop in years, so I was surprised to learn that there is already a very active hula hooping scene in Austin.  In fact, there is an actual hula hooping event being held tonight only a few blocks away from me.  That, of course, means that I can't use hula hoops.  My art must be avant-garde!  It can't appear as though I'm jumping on the bandwagon.

Then I had a thought... My goal as an artist is to bring joy to the public.  Installing pianos on a running path may be avant-garde, but as an avid runner (well, recently avid), I can tell you that the last thing I want to do when I'm sweaty and exhausted is play the piano.  That's why I'm starting the Urban Slip 'n Slide Project. Imagine coming around the corner, red-faced and panting in the brutal Texas heat, and right there in front of you is an impromptu water-slide!  Now that's great art.

Warning: Slip ‘n Slides have been linked to serious injuries.  The artist is not liable for any injuries that may occur as a result of her artwork.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Me, Encapsulated in a Word

I’ve always thought of myself as a Renaissance woman, or a polymath – someone who excels in a wide variety of subjects.  Notable polymaths include Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, and Benjamin Franklin.  The similarities between them and me are undeniable.  In high school, I was a member of both Art Club and Chemathon team.  I quit several sports and gave up two musical instruments all before the age of eighteen. I became fluent in many languages: English, Spanish (un poco), and C++.  I earned a degree in advanced mathematics and still found the time to become an unknown humor writer.  My talents couldn’t be more varied.

Wikipedia provides a list of recognized polymaths – none of them women.  The latest person to make it onto the list is Nathan Myhrvold, the former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft.  This got me thinking, what exactly does it take to be considered a polymath?  What’s so special about Nathan Myhrvold?  What does he have that I don’t?

At first glance, Nathan and I appeared to have a lot in common.  We both have a Master’s degree in Mathematical Economics, and we both enjoy cooking and scuba diving.  We’re like two peas in a pod, Nathan and me! ... Or maybe not.  Upon further examination, I learned that Nathan graduated from high school at age fourteen and earned two Master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in Physics by age twenty-three. Before he made his millions at Microsoft, he worked with Stephen Hawking at Cambridge, studying quantum field theory.  Sure, he has hobbies just like everyone else – skydiving, car racing, scuba diving, mountain climbing, fossil hunting – but he also has several other careers (like, actual careers, not pretend ones).  He’s an award-winning photographer, an inventor, a scientist, and a chef.  And I don't mean that he tinkers around in the kitchen; I mean that he’s the author of a 2,400-page cookbook and a world barbecue champion.

This prompted me to revisit the definition of “polymath.”  I guess I missed the part where it says that a polymath “does not just have broad interests or a superficial knowledge of several fields, but rather that his knowledge is profound and [...] even at a level comparable to the proficiency or the accomplishments of an expert.”

Since it takes a normal person 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, I interpret this to mean that all polymaths are prodigies.  Either that, or they’re very, very old.  Sadly, I am neither of those.  And according to my calculations, I’m only an “expert” at sleeping, eating, and talking about myself.

There is a term for someone like me, but it’s not “polymath.”  Nope, the word that best describes me is “dilettante.”  A dabbler.  An amateur.  Someone who engages in an activity “sporadically, superficially, or for amusement only.”  I tried to find a list of notable dilettantes, but apparently it’s not a desirable trait.  It’s actually considered to be more of an insult.  Super.  I finally discover the one word that encapsulates exactly who I am, and it’s an insult.  Maybe if I start using it in a positive way, it’ll eventually catch on.  “Oh my God, she’s such an incredible person.  What a diverse set of semi-talents!  She’s a real dilettante!”