April 28, 2006

Humor. Funny. Ha. Ha.

My mom said she wanted to read something funny on my blog. I'm indulging her. She wants me to be the next David Sedaris. I'm just a poseur, but I sure have the family to do it...

He was lost, but the pick-ups were out. Up and down the crumbling roadway, the Good-years' and balding year-rounds flew. Wet children with mud up to their knees, and maybe even one still suckling, screamed: “Shawn!” from the unlined truck beds. The suckling child would have screamed something like "DAWWWWN" from the side of his mouth, of course... It was a group effort, after all.

In between screams, their mothers would tell the kids to hang on and sit still. We wouldn’t want another child’s brains possibly spewed in this godforsaken forest.

He was gone, that was for certain.

Drifter, quiet. Shawn was gone. It was almost a rhyme. Everyone said it in singsong unison, and it evolved into a round up and down the hills. "Shawn is gone! Shawn! Shawn is gone! Shawn! Shawn! Shawn is gone! Shawn! Shawn! Shawn is gone! Gone! Is Gone! Shawn! Shawn! Is Gone! Gone!"

On an almost 500 feet hillside, this is no easy feat. And with the rhyme echoing through laughing trees and rocks older than even my great grandpappy, something is bound to be lost.

“Shawn is dawn!” was even heard. To the ignorant passersby, it seemed as if some bizarre extended family pagan worship was taking place on the hillside. The Sermon on the Rampside. Today's message: "Shawn is Gone! We have to find him! Gone!"

That's right, Ranger Bob, we are a cult of cousin worshipers illegally collecting wild onions for eating and subsequent heinous breath.

And still the miscommunication waged on.

“We didn’t find him yet!” sounded like “We found him!” so everyone came down the hill and discovered he wasn’t found, and trudged back up for more searching, hating the boy because the annual hotdog fest was belated because he wanted to go exploring just a wee bit, a tad, a smidgen, too fu--in' far from the rest of us.

His mother was on the verge of hyperventilating. The tear well went dry two minutes ago and only red faces and matted eyelashes indicated her sincere agony as she paced behind a truck bed and supplied photos and information to the park ranger who looked like he imbibed too freely on the endangered mushrooms he grew behind the park office.

Both parents passed the “I can’t wait til I can get my hands on that kid” stage; the father a bit sooner than the mother. If they did find him, not in some ravine somewhere, his spleen splattered across last year’s leaves and his back broken from some fall from rock jumping, he will not be beaten after he exits the hospital. A minute sooner, though, and no matter a broken disk, the debonair eyepatch or a gimpy toe for the rest of his life, that boy’s backside would burn. Sixteen and disabled really didn't matter until everyone saw the hotdog ice was melting. Unlike the rubbery dogs, the search was growing cold.

"We downed him!" echoed down the hill. Dukes of Hazzard horns blasted from the pick-ups. ( No--no one in my family really has one of those, but wouldn't it be cool and effectual if we did at this moment?)

Not a scratch. Although some of us still wanted to get a whack at him, his parents covered him in a protective layer of uncondemned flesh. No, only the processed pig would be sacrificed in our rite.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 8:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 26, 2006

Hanging by the PDF File

It's the last issue of the Setonian for the year. Something has to go wrong, right?

It did.

Tomorrow the 16-page edition is supposed to come out, but it was all in jeopardy this morning.

My foot was in an earthquake. A .2 on the Richter, so I knew it wasn't tectonic plates beneath Seton Hill shifting, just my sanity about to crumble. Anxiously, I watched the phone blink blue, blue, blue, until the voicemail picked up the dastardly message. My printer's smooth voice began, but something was wrong--very wrong, something like, "You have to give me a call RIGHT AWAY. We did not receive one of your layouts!" spewed forth from my track phone that seems to deliver two things: death messages and more bad news.

Anyway, Oh MY FREAKING COW. My trusty printer. My trusty printer, calm under every circumstance, was freaking out before my very stinging ears. His voice high and deep on different syllables of each digitized word of the urgent voicemail. This was serious. A PR sales person did not know what to do! Stop the presses! I mean start them...START THEM QUICK!

I sent and resent our files to the printer, but it could not recognize the username and password. PDF files take a while to process, even on the superfast, yet schizo Macs, so I spent a considerable amount of time praying to God, and the Great IT Department in the sky. Nothing seemed to work.

After four calls with the customer service rep and three passwords later, she called to tell me that she hated to admit a mistake, but they had made one--they found the file on the original upload I sent yesterday.

No bitterness--I think...Just relief. Blessed, blessed relief.

So we are getting our 16-page issue. I am not losing my mind. I've also seriously contemplated that I am developing an ulcer the size of Rhode Island in my stomach. I also need some outdoor exercise...

Just one more adventure in the life of an editor-in-chief. I love this job. Thank God it's almost done for this year. :-D

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April 22, 2006

Goddess in the dust

Written after a weekend studying Women and Religion:

Goddess in the dust
I can’t feel you these days inside.
Only in the apples to come and the peach blossoms
The wet, dewy blossoms.

Sweet pinks.
Deep passions, kept secret in the cold--
Rainbow bubbles forced from the jar--
Take me to a place where men will take me.
Or will I take them?
Sway my hips and captivate him?
Lift my brow to his children,
As he moves me?

He will not do it openly, of course.
“You can do what you want.”
But you will take leave
No matter the dripping phrases to appease.

Leave the watercooler and pens
Smell the peach blossoms instead
On another spring day.
See the petals fall and tangle, wet,
In the little stranger’s feathery strands.

“Living this life is not so bad.
It’s almost perfect, except no one sees you Goddess,
There in the dust.”

We feel you everywhere when we listen.
Just listen, close our eyes
A whisper and a tingle,
See your pinks and yellows through the shade.
Smiles inch across our faces
Tilted toward the sky.

Snap open our eyes
You must!
And do not let him see us smile.

We’ve forgotten the stranger for a moment.
That darling creature in the blossoms.
We’ve forgotten everything except Her within.
There are names for that kind of thing.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 9:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 17, 2006

Follow the Freelance Road...and Other Unbricked Paths

My trusty brown suit and I took a turn this morning. The shoes with hidden scuffs, the hair curled just so (not Farrah Fawcett-esque) and the sedate, yet feminine necklace, went along for the interview ride.

Each newspaper office I've entered seems to have one little room where they grill interviewees for knowing their stuff. It usually has a desk with profuse amounts of paper on it and a computer. In the office I was taken today, however, the desk was covered, but the computer-- the damn Mac--had a mesmerizing pink and blue screensaver that made my eyes stray more than once toward its swirls of color. Damn it, I thought. A Mac was going to ruin my chances of getting a job at the Daily Courier for summer freelancing. Ah, well, maybe not.

I was confident this time around. I talked about software programs like Quark and Lotus Notes without the ums and ahs in my past experience. I didn't gloss over my inability. I could firmly establish that I understood what features and news stories are. Between the anecdotes about my experience at the Trib and my work on the Setonian, I handed each of my two interviewers copies of my resumee and clips of my work. SCORE!

They said they wanted me as soon as I finished with finals. Good to hear.

Funny thing, when they start handing over tax forms and contracts, you know you're in.

FYI: One of the contracts I signed was that my work could be syndicated and published online without multiple payments. Tricky, tricky freelances of yesteryear. Good paper for covering their arses.

As for this freelancer deluxe (haha), I read through it the whole way, a la the instructions by Arnzen in my "Publications Workshop" course.

The newspaper has a lower circulation than the Trib does, but it serves a wide readership of all of Fayette County, and parts of Westmoreland and Somerset counties. I would be working in the daily news sections and the Fay-West Sunday sections. And I'll get clips for my lovely lil portfolio. Clips! Clips! Clips! What a fledgling journalist won't do for those thin pieces of wood pulp.

While I was disconcerted that this summer I will not be interning at the Trib, I understood why. The sad fact is that they could only take two interns this year, and, having already done the internship last summer, I suppose I was pushed to the bottom of the pile. No bitterness. I'm just happy that I got my internship when I did.

I think I want to do this, too. Freelancing is a different kind of writing reality; it isn't solid. I think it will teach me a little more about the sacrifices that some writers experience. Get my sea(writer's?) legs, or something. See how far I can push myself to write every day for my proverbial bread and butter.

I also want to submit my fiction work to some publications and see where that goes. Dun dun DUN! I already have a place to put my rejection slips...and a frame for my most recent acceptance letter.

I'm really happy that I took on an incredible amount of credits during the past three years at SHU. During the next year, I want to chill a bit, try to focus my voice, network with various publications and look into grad schools.

WHOA! Grad school?! Yeah, I've been thinking about it and I'm thinking that this is a good step and a good direction for me. Though journalists don't necessarily need a master's degree, or a doctorate for that matter, I think I need it. I think this is something I would regret not doing down the road in my life. I think I can do it...I just don't know where or in what field of study... Oh sheesh! What would I think about someone who just has a vague idea and some pipe dream? I think my jaded self would scoff, but this other side of me--this still-a-dreamer side of me that I thought had gone to pot in the past year or so--says, "Live it, Amanda. One life to live and all that."

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April 15, 2006


Interesting tidbit--my blog on the hoagies--my mom told the owner about it, printed it out...and it is now being framed for public display at the shop. HA! :-D

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April 11, 2006

Funny Fotographee

Out in Blogger Land, I spotted this interesting post...love the shots.

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April 7, 2006

Old Cat

My cat snores.
He is snoring now.
He sounds like an old man in a green La-Z-Boy.
Can cats drool?
My cat is around 102 in people years or something.
What would my cat look like with a long white beard?
Like Gandalf?
It would compliment his tail tip.
His cat friends would say he is too matchy, though.
Shoes, gloves, vest and tail?
An old, fashion outcast.
And he snores.

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April 6, 2006

My first Stephen King

I've never read a Stephen King book. Ever. And instead of writing my reflection on what kind of writer I am, and shirking my Media Lab portfolio assignments, I am cuddled up with "A Haunted Love Story" a la THE GUY of Horror--or so I've been told.

I am a big scaredy cat when it comes to horror...or at least I was when I watched What Lies Beneath, had nightmares for a week and feared the tub for a few days. The closest I've come to horror is the Scary Movie atrocities and the occasional Lifetime Movie. Substandard movies shouldn't be the basis for my opinion of a genre, right? So I'm ready to delve in and break the horror curse that I've built up. I think. I can deal with this character of horror divinity.

So I picked up Bag of Bones. Good, old-fashioned mainstream horror. I can deal with that. And no visuals...I mean...oh jeez, I'm going to be scared to death, aren't I?

This story is going to get into my head and stick there. I know it. And then I'll be hooked on terror. Or repulsed. The writing is well-done, to say the least, but the subject matter--oh the horror! I'm halfway through the first chapter. I'm not stopping. I'm not.

I may be overreacting. I may have found a new favorite genre. We'll see. And I'm not going to base my opinion just on this book. Maybe I'll expand my horizons or more appropriately, my shadowy, underworld otherworld literary connections.

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April 5, 2006

Funny, edgy read: "Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot"

Every day I find myself laughing out loud at least once; on some days, however, that number can jump into the fifties.

Today, that laugh-out-loud moment was when I read a short story called "Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot" by Robert Olen Butler in my Writing Fiction book by Janet Burroway. So what is this excerpt that made the people in the lounge wonder if I'd lost my mind?

"That dangling thing over there with knots and strips of rawhide and a bell at the bottom needs a good thrashing a couple of times a day and I'm the bird to do it."

While the narrator is lighter than Kafka's Gregor Samsa, the premise of this story's protagonist is reminiscent of "The Metamorphosis." Don't be fooled, though. The story is not focused on the change into the creature, but rather the effects of the world around him because of his change and his powerlessness within it.

The narrator seems just as unreliable as the man-turned-bug. When the narrator describes his supposed "wife's" nose, for example, he says he doesn't quite remember it that way, so throughout the story the reader is really wondering if this is really his wife...if he is really a parrot...if he is a stalker of some kind...

The flying images and the conflict of freedom that birds always imply are one element that seem cliched. I like the ruffling of the feathers images that Butler offers because it implies the pain and pleasure of this "husband" who is seeing his wife again, but going through man after man, and cannot express what is on his heart. Instead, in his current state of parrotness, he mimicks the simple words of others. Compelling stuff.

I caught myself wondering, How many times have I also felt things that could not be expressed, things that I know I should have said and didn't? Instead, I usually fill the quiet space with parrot chatter and peeps that don't really add to the communication at all, but inhibit it by not facing the issues that really lie at the root. Don't we all do this?

The jealousy in this narrator is not toward humanity, but in the side of him that says "no" because of extreme jealousy, hatred, fear and loneliness. And I don't think this is the avian element speaking.

A great read.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 5:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 4, 2006

Call for office hope

I sit in an office and tap at the keys. It's often a lonely job. It's often a fun job. It's often a rewarding job. But it's still a job.

It's not like running through the fields and frolicking. It's not like canoeing through aqua waves. It's not like pedaling down a dusty country road on a warm afternoon. It's like papercuts and postage. Penny-pinching and process.

It's writing. In all its forms. I've been doing a lot of it lately, and frankly, I'm a little disenchanted.

I think when the weather finally breaks, I will stick my dry-skinned nose into the sweet air and breathe deep. I will fall asleep on the Seton Hill hillside. I sink my feet in the mud and rejoice. I will listen to the birds nesting and calling in the evening to me as I walk to my little car in the farthest parking lot.

I will rest. I will dream again. I will let the waters ebb and flow, connect and disconnect, and reach me once again.

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