Wednesday, March 31, 2010

my stolen screenplay

Rachel is thinking about writing a screenplay. In a recent post, she shares some of her screenplay ideas and asks if her readers have ever had a thought of writing one.

I'm one of those aspiring screen writers who fall under the following category: Think-I-Can-Write-One-for-a-Brief-Exhilarating-Moment-After-Seeing-a-Really-Great-Movie.

The type toward whom authentic screen writers feel complete and utter contempt.

My inspiration, as self-aggrandizing as it is, is likely to occur after I watch movies steeped in emotionally-driven dialog. Especially dialog between women.

Discussing men.

And the plight of women.

As their plight relates to the men in their lives.

Walking and Talking was one. And Lovely and Amazing was another (Alert!! Young Jake Gyllenhaal sighting in the trailer). And Friends with Money, a third.

Or, apparently, anything written by Nicole Holofcener. And starring Catherine Keener.

Because I just now googled Nicole Holofcener and discovered that she wrote all three of these movies. I just love how smart I feel with google and imdb in my back pocket.

So yes, periodically, in a temporary state of half-delirium sprinkled with a fine layer of narcissism, I have been known to consider writing a screen play. But that's as far as it has ever gone ever needs to go.

I did talk with a friend once, at some length, about an idea I had: Women gifted with the power of climbing inside the brains of their male lovers. What would we find? Would we be flattered?

Or horrified?

Or horrified by the brand of flattery?

So wouldn't you know, a couple months after this screenplay-idea conversation with my friend, the Mel Gibson / Helen Hunt movie came out, What Women Want. You know, the one where he plays a womanizer and electrocutes himself trying to put on pantyhose and as a result is suddenly able to act read the minds of the women around him.

I am not kidding. About two months after my incredible idea for a screenplay.

And upon seeing the trailer for this movie I thought, Gah! They stole my idea!

Or, the male corollary of my idea.

And my thoughts ran toward, now when I try to publish my screenplay that I haven't even written one line of nor had a single moment's training in the how-to-of, the producers I present my idea to are going to be all, you so stole that idea from Mel Gibson.

So much for my screen writing career.

How about you, reader? Ever had an idea for a screenplay?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

becoming broccoli

The psychological study of the human gustatory system is undergoing some exciting changes. Where gustatory equals taste. Not the study of human wind making, as the name might imply. Taste. As in, taste buds.

One of the most robust areas of gustatory research involves assisting individuals change their taste preferences.

Let's take me, for example. I detest steamed broccoli.

Not a problem in and of itself, right? But the fact is my entire family loves steamed broccoli.

Now, I do happen to love steamed spinach. My entire family, however, hates steamed spinach.

Would you think me paranoid if, some evenings, I believe there's a conspiracy?

My solution, thus far, has been to serve both veggies on the same night. A pain. Two steamer baskets. One cooks in the microwave while the other waits on standby. In. Out. In. Out. All while keeping the gravy from burning.

But rather than this dual-menu method, I want to avoid the whole inconvenience by training either my entire family (n=4) to love steamed spinach, or more plausible, train myself (n=1) to love steamed broccoli.

But is this possible?

Yes, says Dr. Glozell Green of UT-C. I was thrilled when I found a video featuring her study. Quite easy to follow, Dr. Green's experimental module utilizes a single subject, A-B-A withdrawal design. It illustrates the effectiveness of a taste-palatability-improvement program. Where the study participant featured has a strong dislike of cilantro and where repeated exposure sets out to change her strong dislike into a like.

Does this program work?

Take a look and see for yourself while I steam myself a basket of broccoli:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

when tree hugging goes too far

Budding trees are a sure sign of spring. There's a Redbud growing in the entrance to my neighborhood. I love it's shimmery, spring-has-sprung pinkness.

Trees in general are especially appreciated in my city. With so many Texas regions deprived of trees, we Austinites are glad we have as many as we do. Some of us moved here expressly for the trees. So it's understandable there are so many tree huggers in Austin who want to save the trees.

But all trees? Any trees?

I consider myself a tree hugger, yes. But not an uber-hugger. I have some sanity my limits.

And my limit is reached when people insist on saving nuisance trees. When they judge those of us who cut down nuisance trees. Trash trees, my husband Sam calls them.

I'm talking about the kind of soft wooded trees that rot easily -- Chinaberry (Melia azedarach L.) and Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis). Trees that harm nearby plant life -- Cedar trees ( Juniperus ashei) and Ligustrum (Ligustrum recurvifolium).

Here's an example of what I mean by uber. City employees come onto a residential property ready to trim or cut down trees interfering with power lines. Uber-tree-huggers raise ten kinds of hell. That's a tree! Don't cut down that tree! The city employees run for their lives cave and leave the trees alone.

Come a big windy rain storm? The preserved trees crash down onto the homeowners house and neighboring houses. They crash powerlines. Entire blocks are out of power.

The ubers then raise twenty kinds of hell. Tree trimmers can't get there fast enough. Restore my power!

City workers paid triple overtime to restore power and clean up fallen trees that should have been cut down in the first place. Homeowner claims are filed and insurance premiums go up. Now you and I are paying for treexuberance.

A drive by reveals most of these fallen trees are Chinaberries and Hackberries.

Could have been avoided with some homework. An understanding of the pros and cons of treedom.

Hackberries make excellent habitat for birds and insects, yes. But they are weak and craggy looking and will fall easily in a storm. Keep the Hackberry if it's on a remote part of your property. Cut it down if it is in danger of falling onto houses and power lines.

But here's the most important part: Replace the cut trees with better trees. Or look for saplings of stronger trees. Cut away nuisance trees to make room for strong hardwoods that grow into beautiful shade trees, fun climbing trees, and yes, excellent habitat for birds and insects.

By cutting down Hackberries and overgrowth of Ligustrum in our yard, for example, we have found fledgling Post Oaks that might not have otherwise made it, especially as there are no other Post Oaks in our yard.

Here's another example. Cedar trees grow wild here. Besides causing terrible seasonal allergies, aka, "cedar fever," they also suck up a lot of water. Cedar trees have dense, sticky foliage that catches and holds rainwater, preventing it from ever reaching the ground. Cedars haven't learned to share.

Some experts have estimated 70-80% is hogged by cedars. Hence, less water for the surrounding trees, shrubs, and ground cover. Cedar trees also emit a chemical noxious to many neighboring plants.

The net result is healthy cedar but parched surrounding area.

Bamburger Ranch in the Hill Country of Central Texas is a living example of the power of cutting down Cedar in favor of allowing natural grasses and friendlier varieties of trees to thrive. The result? Natural springs are flowing again after years and years of bone dry.

So be kind to trees but also be smart about trees. Learn what trees are worth saving and which ones are worth cutting in order to make room for a more diverse, lush landscape. And while you're at it, you're helping keep our homeowner's insurance affordable.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

trouble on american idol

This week, two of my favoriteist American Idol contestants sang two of my awesomely favoriteist songs.

Alex (Not-to-be-confused-with-Adam) Lambert, the cutest boy in a blonde mullet EVER, sang Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble." You can see and hear Alex here. He's got this amazing raspy voice with incredible tone.

Lilly Scott, the cutest girl in a blonde mopsy-top, sang Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces." You can see and hear Lilly here. And if you want to hear a more soulful song, Lilly's version of Sam Cooke's, A Change is Gonna Come, can be heard here. Either way, you can't help but fall in love with her unique sound.

But tonight, American voting fans gave these same two contestants the giant Idol finger pointing them off the stage. WTF, Idol viewers? Do I need to whip out my wireless phone and slip out of my Idol voting apathy?

One consolation, Alex lambert is from the DFW area, which I hope means he'll find his way to the Austin music scene one day.

Second consolation, American Idol will no longer be a factor in my evening exercise sabotage. But don't worry, I've got plenty more where those came from.

Like, for instance, if Crystal Bowersox makes it to the Top Ten, in which case I might have to sacrifice my get-skinny-quick-scheme for yet another ten weeks.

Now, if all that isn't enough trouble for you, check out Ray LaMontagne's original version.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

stuck in marriage?

Or marriage struck?

After my last post on temporary divorce I worried that some of my readers might question my committment to married life, or at least those who do not get my pathetic attempt at droll wit.

So worried was I, in fact, that I scoured back to the sad beginnings of my blog for an old post, one of my earliest, in order to camouflage my blogger's block shore up any doubts. Because the fact of the matter is, I'm about as emotionally dependent on committed to my husband as I am to inhaling the air around me.

And so here is my repeat post, which, for the record, enjoyed zero comments two years ago. Needless to say, I am hoping for a better comment showing the second time around.


For the past several years at Edge, John Brockman has asked scientists and philosophers a provocative question and then posts their answers.

The 2008 question was "What have you changed your mind about?"

One psychology professor's reply reflected on his research. Daniel Gilbert suggested that the decisions which leave us with the ability to change our minds are less satisfying than decisions which are irrevocable.

Not long after he reached this conclusion he went home to propose to his girlfriend. After several years of marriage, he believes he loves her more as his wife than he loved her as his girlfriend.

For me, a longtime married person, its refreshing to learn there are theories out there that support the notion that love can grow precisely because of options lost.

Or make that, the choice to love only one.


Because my own personal case study in marriage, my n=1, no double-blind-placebo experiment, has led me to the same conclusion. I felt stark panic considerable uncertainty about the decision to get married. I love him but is he the right man for me? Will it last? Do I really want to make Texas my home?

But once he put the golden band around my finger all doubts fell away. Uncertainty was replaced by a more complete depth of knowing than I ever thought possible.

The divorce rate tells me this isn't everyone's experience. But I do wonder about the satisfaction levels of other irrevocable decisions.

Having a child comes to mind. We all know how powerfully satisfying parenthood can be. I know in my case, I am always awed into silence when an indecisive childfree person asks me whether she should have children or not. My first instinct as a Mom, though not as a psychologist, is to say "You will not regret it. Not even for a half of a trillionenth of a nanosecond. It is the single most life changing and rewarding experience you will ever know."

How about you, reader. Once you put a sealed decision behind you, did your satisfaction grow?

Friday, March 05, 2010

temporary divorce, anyone?

Joceyln's O Mighty post about exploring temporary housing overseas, which may or may not have included a year long divorce, got me thinking uh oh, clear the room.

Yesterday I was reading Mother Jones magazine in my doctor's waiting room. How's that for a waiting room rag? That would not fly in 99.9% of Texas towns, now would it? Reason number 2033 Why I Love Living in Austin.

So in the new issue of Mother Jones I read Nadya Labi's article about the tradition in Iran of temporary marriages. Where a man and a woman can be married by a cleric for the express purpose of relieving their sexual (his) and financial (her) tensions.

Where a temporary marriage can last anywhere from one hour to 99-years.

Where a man is allowed four full-fledged wives and unlimited temporary wives. Where a woman is allowed one full-fledged husband and no temporary husbands but if she is unmarried or widowed, she is allowed one temporary husband at a time. No mas.

Where a man can choose to extend or cut short the temporary marriage, depending on his whim. Where the woman's only choice is to remain married until the end of the contract, i.e., wait and see what her temporary husband chooses to do.

Are we seeing a pattern here?

Where the temporary husbands get to brag to their business associates about how many temporary wives they have, while typically keeping it secret from their legitimate wives. Where the temporary wives don't dare tell a soul because it is considered undesirable and cheap.

Where women seeking temporary husbands can be found lingering outside a certain shrine, identified by their inside-out chadors.

Where we in these wicked United State think this sounds an awful lot like one of our infidel customs.

There was much debate presented about the fairness of these various arrangements. Widowed women with little or no financial options who appreciated a temporary marriage allowed them to earn money as opposed to starving or begging. Who preferred to obey only their temporary husband's sexual demands compared to full-fledged brides who must obey their husband's every demand. Who were glad they didn't have to live with the dude every single solitary day of their married lives.

Yes. I can see the benefits of temporary marriage. I surely can.

This idea plus Jocelyn's post got me thinking about temporary divorce. Where husband and wife live separately for a period of time decided upon by both parties. One hour or 99-years. Joint custody arrangement, of course. Alternating weeks of utter quiet, solitude, undisturbed blogging. No dinners, no dishes, no homework, no taxi-cab service, no policing of computer time.

Weeks of space where we marrieds get to see what life is like without each other. Of sleeping in the middle of the bed or on his side of the bed which you haven't slept on in 18-plus years because he is that determined to sleep on his side of the bed no matter where we are in this world.

Weeks of having full control of the remote. The luxury of changing back and forth between Judge Judy or Women's Lifetime Channel or Kathy Griffin's My Life on the D List or the tail end of a TMC movie because, yes, those last three minutes still make me cry. Without having to listen to his heavy sigh because you can't help it if he can't follow your random train of television viewing thought.

Weeks of no Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoons. No San Antonio Spurs-only because-they're-in-the-playoffs week nights.

So hmmm, would the temporary divorce take place during the last part of football season when the playoff games go into infinity or during March madness when the tournament games go into infinity overtime?

But aside from the petty gains of a temporary divorce, perhaps something more substantial would take place. Maybe we would grow more appreciative of the many things we do for each other. We might focus more on how much we miss our temporarily divorced spouses than on how much we wish he would wipe the crumbs off the stove top. More on how nice it is to have someone to snuggle under the covers than how annoyed we are by the fact that he is in the bathroom at just the very same minute I need to be in there.

How about you, Reader? Any thoughts on temporary marriages and temporary divorces?