May 30, 2007

In thick outdoor paint and messy memories

Paint and I have never gotten along.

When I was in sixth grade, I decided to spray paint a box for the scene--a diorama--of the play Romeo and Juliet. The can was nearly empty. The project (which was assigned three months before) was due the next day. So instead of asking my mom to take me to the store, I improvised, which often works in my life. After I rummaged around in the basement, I located my would-be savior: a can of exterior latex paint left over from our home's remodeling. At first, I daintily applied paint with a paintbrush. However, my deadline weighing heavily on my mind, I decided the process was going too slowly, so I dipped my hands in and went for a fingerpaint look. Instead, the box rebelled, and drooped with the paint's weight. During the endeavor, I unwittingly covered half the sidewalk in whitewashed white, and gave rise to a beloved family story: Amanda-cried-like-a-big-baby-because-she-had-to-scrub-the-walk. As for my procrastinated project, my mom helped me construct another box which we covered in contact paper and filled with a Barbie and Ken balcony scene. However, the memory of scrubbing the sidewalk and picking paint chips out of my hair for a week has stayed with me. I was haunted by paint, and particularly exterior latex white paint.

Until today.

My sister's boyfriend, Nick and I painted the back porch with the exact paint I misused so many years ago. This time, however, we had a little help from a sweet piece of equipment. The entire porch was whitewashed in around two hours with our new stain sprayer.

In a lucky twist of machine antics, we were very lucky the sprayer didn't catch fire. Though we read all of the instructions for operation, we neglected the section on permissible paint types. As we learned half way through, when Nick checked the manual, latex paint of any kind should not be used in the machine. I can just imagine the scene if my mother came home and our house were in flames and all I could offer in explanation would be "It was the paint, mom!" And she would sigh, and we would reconstruct the house out of contact paper.

Nevertheless, we painted on, despite our knowledge that the machine could explode in our hands. The realization eventually grew as numb as our hands holding the jiggling tool. At the end of the day, though, we finished a lot quicker than manual painting, and the sidewalk has minimal splatterings. And our house isn't in ashes, which is a definite plus.

I came in still wary of paint, however. It's in my hair and my skin is bright red from numerous scrubbings. And while paint and I have never gotten along, I'm happy to say that power tools and I do. I shall revel in electric drills and paint sprayers and electric hedge clippers as long as I draw breath on this polluted Earth. Huzzah!

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 3:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 23, 2007

The difference between black and white: A computer transition

My Dell was a one-of-a-kind because I built it, or at least that's what Steve said... Black, with silver embellishments--a standard student edition--my college computer was a genuine treasure. It ran more programs than I probably should have tried. It never contracted a virus. The speakers were stellar, and I even installed a cut-rate DVD player without calling a tech during its tenure on my desk.

My Dell is now in a clothes basket.

It's cleaned, both inside and out, for its new owner. I didn't realize what a task this would prove to be. With all the programs that I had loaded on the hard drive, in addition to my own photos, documents and music, I thought I'd never finish. Thank God for Box. I have all of my files loaded onto three one-gigabyte free accounts. That took awhile, but they're all there. I also have backups of my written work on CD. After all, Jesus saves...ask Dennis Jerz, if you don't get that one.

The buyer was a happy find. I pitched the idea to the library where I work and one of the board members said he was interested in purchasing it. My Mac plans are now in motion. I'm probably going to buy one in August (for possible free iPod and student software discounts) and tough out the next few months on my sister's computer or at the library. However, I am tempted to wait just a little longer for the new operating system, Leopard...but I think October may be a bit too long to wait.

It's bittersweet saying goodbye to my first large appliance. Cars have personality, and just enough attitude to make you feel like they own you, rather than the other way around. Computers--or maybe I should say this one--feel like you have worked together toward a common goal. I wrote many papers, many blogs and many articles on my black wonder, and I shall miss it. I'm probably buying a white MacBook, so the difference between the two will be as drastic as literally, between black and white.

In related news, my computer desk decided it was time to die. I decided to move the desk out of my room for obvious space reasons, and the pressed board leg buckled and then unhinged itself. I heaved the mess out the front door this afternoon and it's garbage truck bound.

The transition's already beginning...

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 4:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 19, 2007

The faces of refuse

For the past two Tuesdays, I've witnessed the human condition in its barest form. Some say the human condition is evident in politics, religion or in relationships with the opposite sex, but I have a very different point of view: It is in our trash.

Trash, also known as treasure--as I've been told at least four times--is a window into people's lives. I'm not surprised that the paparazzi sort through it to get an intimate look into their subjects' activities.

With a reporters' eye, I sorted through every type of container one can imagine; and in the process, I have formed a very different, and perhaps distorted, view of my church's rummage sale contributors.

There's always a bag with kinky lingerie. This bag usually incites some gasps from the ladies, but this year was something incredibly different. Some woman (or man, perhaps) liked body suits to the extreme. I think we found one in every color. In addition, the bag contained a montage of Victoria's Secret commercials from the past fifteen to twenty years, complete with beaded bodices and even a corset or two. No one ever admits to contributing anything, but I have a feeling that someone in the room that day did donate those unmentionables...Someone turned just the slightest shade of pink when the bag was opened, and then promptly returned to their work. I like to think that the owner of this bag got over their need to please their partner and threw it all out in a moment of self-affirmation.

And then there's the dusty, gaudy ceramic angels, their backs stuffed with 62 discordant artificial flowers. I think that that person had to do crafts in prison, rather than make license plates. They didn't have the funding for matching flowers, so they used every single one to try to please the warden for her birthday. However, the warden was not pleased and decided to shut down the angel ceramic program because it decayed society, rather than contributed to it. The remains of the program were immediately sent to our church's sale. The contributor is ready to make cell phone covers with Paris Hilton.

I tried to be discreet with my critiques as I sorted, but sometimes it was just too much. I felt pretty low when I did make some statement like, "Whoa, that's an amazing pile of something," and someone piped up and said that it was their mother's favorite ornamental Christmas wreath/sock holder. I did get a dose of my own medicine, too. I donated a few pairs of shoes and another lady said she couldn't believe what some people donated as she filtered through my bag. So, okay, they were pretty bad, and I should have tossed them, but I was trying to be a giver. I imagine that she thought the owner of the shoes was an almost impoverished student, who tried to sell the shoes at a yard sale and then donated them afterward when they didn't go. Some people are so dead-on it's scary.

However, what always supercedes these images is the buyers on the morning of the sale. A crowd gathers at least an hour before the sale building opens, and they rush in or pound on the door at 8:59 a.m. to get in. The sight is one to behold. People from all backgrounds, race, sex, age, whatever, come pouring through the door, like speghetti through a loose sieve. The images I have are dashed. I see the new owners in the flesh, carrying off their spoils. Trash is treasure and the leopard body suit just might fit...

(No--I didn't buy a leopard body suit, you sick people. :-) I did get an iron, a leather jacket, a big box for moving to New York, and ironically, a trash can; however, minus the sweet stainless-steel coffee pot that an elderly man scooped up before me.)

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 10:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 14, 2007

About Oranges in 1967

On my reading list for this fall is a book entitled, Oranges by John McPhee. The syllabus says "an excerpt", but I requested the entire book from the library, so I'm reading all of it, and loving it.

Though my mind sometimes gets boggled by the word "orange" written over 30 times on one page, I am compelled by the fruit these days.

Much of the book was printed in The New Yorker, but since I haven't read the the archives of that beloved publication this was all, strangely, new--old material.

I suppose, while reading, that my professor will ask the class to pull stylistic elements of the piece, rather than just content. And, in the stylistic realm, I was a bit overwhelmed by the first chapter, as the author intended.

Oranges, McPhee seems to say, are not simple fruits that just show up in the grocery store; they should not be imitated or concentrated; they should be revered and protected all around the world as a food resource, political and social force and, surprisingly enough, a cleaning agent.

Of course, I am paraphrasing, but McPhee's statements range similarly in one paragraph. It's all too much to take in, and then I finally reached the first chapter's end.

I've started the second chapter and it seems a bit more cohesive, but the chapter's title, "Orange Men" doesn't really fit yet. Perhaps as I read, the orange men will emerge and I will find the link. The author begins with an anecdote about his undergrad life. Maybe he is saying that his is, and always will be, an "orange man" himself. The piece seems to find itself as it goes along, rather than be itself from the very beginning. I'm sure that is some kind of fancy schmancy journalistic term that I learned and have forgotten or will learn and then forget, but I like it, nevertheless. That's the kind of technique I want to work on: long form journalism with undercurrents of exploration for the reader through the writer's guiding hand.

Oranges has me guessing. I never would have thought that a fruit could be such enriching material.

Pardon...that was awful, wasn't it? ;)

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 8:38 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 10, 2007

My new summer job: Advice booth

This sounds like a promising venture for summer employment. I wonder how Americans would respond to an advice booth...I mean, with a money-back guarantee, how can you go wrong? However, I hesitate to think that many people would respond favorably to a 21-year-old giving life/love/philosophical advice.

I think, if anything, I could get into a whole lot of legal trouble if I told someone that they should invest in something cool like neon pogosticks instead of some promising stock. Maybe I'll just leave the advice booth to the Londoners.

Just as an aside, though, these --ist blogs are fabulous. The content is fresh and well written. I check The Gothamist the most, of course, but I'm always impressed by the variety of coverage by each city's writers.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 11:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 8, 2007

Writing Exercise: Interesting things to happen in an elderly care home

For my book in-progress.

1.A kitchen worker chops off an old person's finger (or vice-versa).
2.An elderly woman stands up in the middle of an activity session and sings Aretha.
3.Two elderly people get caught having sex in an examination room.
4.Rules are heaped upon rules and the elderly stage a revolt.
5.The garden club ladies plant, grow and harvest the largest red tomato in the state.
6.A man gets locked in a closet, by whom no one is certain--the caregivers blame it on him.
7.An elderly man gets caught growing a marijuana garden for cancer patients in the home.
8.The elderly take a computer class.
9.The residents of the home find their personal files.
10.The main characters sneak out, get drunk and then try to sneak back into the home.

Yeah. I kind of like some of these ideas...

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 10:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 4, 2007

A ranking of gadgetry

From a conversation with a friend about modern conveniences, I put this little rank together. At the extended link of this entry, you will see how you fare based on your top choices (in light of my pseudo-psychological tomfoolery) and view my answers. :-)

Rank the gadgets below based on your use, need and want of the item in your everyday life.
(ex. 1=most important to 7=least important)

a) Microwave
b) Computer
c) Cell Phone (camera use not included)
d) Camera
e) iPod (or some other comparable music device)
f) Hair dryer/Straightener
g) Palm pilot

If your top choice is...

Microwave: Try to slow down someday. "Slow roast" isn't only a label given to the media's coverage of Rosie O'Donnell's behavior, it's a real cooking term that you just might enjoy if you tried picking up a skillet or pot of some sort.

Computer: Try a laptop and move it into a sunny locale like your front porch. Don't worry, you will still be blessed by yours (or someone else's) wireless connection. Computers are fabulous gadgetry, but just remember that there are real people out there, not just "sort-of real" people that "say" "LOL" all the time and make videos that they post indescriminately on YouTube.

Cell Phone: Landline only rhymes with landmine in your book. You've never heard of it, or if you did, you choose to forget the time when talking was connected by wires. You are an empowered being, proud that you have your own off-beat texting language you share with your closest "FIVE" friends know. LOL! I mean, 5+6+5.

iPod: If earbuds are your only friends, try disconnecting once in a while. Music is your life; that is, except when you put newscasts/podcasts/simultaneous webcasts/iCasts/iUniversity casts on your lil' Vernon (you've named it, of course).

Hair dryer/Straightener: Life is SHEAR GENIUS. And you need to get your roots done. Hellllo?

Palm Pilot: You still have a GigaPet and it secretly lives in your desk drawer with your palm pilot named Filbert. I take pity on you. I'd help you if I could, but I can't. I'm sorry.

My ranking:

1. Computer
2. Microwave
3. Camera
4. Hair dryer/Straightener
5. Camera
6. iPod (not applicable yet)
7. Palm pilot (will never be applicable--I like paper planners.)

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 3:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 2, 2007

Watching list

After years of reading lists, I've suddenly shifted to watching lists. I recently perused the syllabi for two of my classes for the fall semester at NYU, and it seems I'll be watching more than reading, as I probably should...in a news and documentary program.

The list is long and spans from mainstream films like Shattered Glass and Veronica Guerin to relatively unknown documentaries like Marcia Rock's McSorley's New York and Natural History of the Chicken.

I can't wait to get started. The libraries in Pa. have many of the titles, so I'm going to abuse the system that is Inter-Library Loan and get a head start.

And don't worry, my literary friends, I'm not going over to the dark side completely. Two Pulitzer winners lie in wait on my bedside table, clamoring for a good read.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 11:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack