Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Apocalypse: How the iPhone Jacks Up My Life

I know how the world is going to end.

December 21, 2012. Whatever.

There is no meteor heading towards Earth.

Global Warming is making a good play, but humanity will beat it.

No Four Horsemen, sorry.

Apple it going to bring about the end of the world via the iPhone.

If you've read my post "For Pragmatic Reasons . . ." you've seen how the iPhone screwed up my morning routine (if you haven't read it, please do so) but now it's screwed up my life.

Yes, my life.

In March I had my purse stolen while in Las Vegas. The thief got everything: my driver's license, all my credit cards, my SSN, about $300 in cash, and my iPhone.

Driver's license: replaceable.

Credit Cards: call and cancel (using my sister's iPhone)

SSN: go through credit card reporting companies to lock and monitor the use of it.

$300: prostitute myself (BTW, the security guard in Vegas told me that the dude who stole my purse will probably sell my ID to a prostitute).

iPhone: I'm fucked. I had just gotten it, so I wasn't eligible to replace it at a discounted price. And I didn't have the $600 to replace it.

Until I figured out how to solve this problem (should I just buy a cheaper phone that's not "smart" or really, really prostitute myself?) I was completely cut off from the world except when I could sit in front of my computer at home or at work. I was in a panic: Prince Charming would find me via the dating websites I'm taking up space on and would lose interest if I didn't respond immediately; a friend would post a life-changing event on FaceBook and I would miss it and then they'd hate me; someone's life would implode and I wouldn't be reachable; I would actually have to do something else with my hands . . .

After about a week, I realized that I don't need a stinking smart phone. Hell, I don't need a cell phone. I was getting along just fine without one, thank you. I actually kept both eyes on the road while driving. I could shop without constantly pausing to check my phone when it bleeped.  I didn't have to waste my time responding to bullshit posts, texts, emails. My morning routine returned to normal (again, see "Pragmatic" post); I didn't lose time wandering around my apartment looking for my phone. I could be fully in the moment, every moment, all senses engaged.

I had found Nirvana.

Then I'd go on FaceBook and see frantic messages from friends wondering where I was . . . and I don't even post that much. Internally, I mocked their dependence on technology, their need for instant gratification, their belief that if you aren't posting, you aren't living.

Without technology, I was living!

But then my BFF gave me her first generation iPhone, because I needed to at least have a way to call people. So, I went to AT&T, got my information transferred to the phone fully confident that I was a changed person.

Ya . . . I'm pretty.

Last week, I along with a couple colleagues attended David Sedaris' event at Royce Hall at UCLA. Between work and the event, I had plenty of time to go home, relax, change my clothes, freshen up, and make myself a healthy dinner before trucking out to LA. I was almost home when I realized that I had left my iPhone in my classroom.

I live about 40 minutes from work. My work is about an hour and some change from UCLA.

I pulled over and debated.

I could just go home, go to the event, get the phone in the morning.  I would not die without a phone for 24-hours. I had gone a week before.

But, what if I am late to the event and can't contact my colleagues? They might worry, call the police, call SWAT, call the national guard! What if my car broke down? What if I got in an accident? My alarm was in my phone, what if I didn't wake up in the morning? What if I was late to work!

What if Prince Charming found me on those dating websites, emailed me, and then closed the match when I didn't respond in time--CLOSING MY LAST CHANCE AT LOVE AND HAPPINESS IN THIS LIFETIME!!!

And what if that agent showed interest and wanted a manuscript--stat? What if I couldn't get back to them until the morning? They would email every agent on the planet and tell them to ignore all my queries because I'm a flake!

As a teenager, when there were no cell phones, I hung out with drug dealers, drove like an asshole, engaged in illegal substances and I managed to survive. But, unlike today's teens, my debauchery is not in cyberspace forever (well, the debauchery from my teenage years).

Nevertheless, I turned around and drove back to my classroom. I decided that I would just sit there (for nearly two hours) until I needed to leave for the reading. At that point, it would be ludicrous to drive home again and then out to LA. There was always grading to do.

I found my phone where I had left it: plugged into my LCD projector. I had received no emails, no texts, no phone calls.

I didn't get any grading done.

I arrived to David Sedaris on time.

My car didn't break down.

I have a student teacher who teaches my first class in the morning, so if I had overslept it would have been no biggie.

No Prince Charming.

No agent.

But, I did manage to waste time and gas: neither of which I have in abundance.

What is that aphorism? Don't put all your eggs in one basket? Well, if you are anything like me, you've put your eggs, bacon, toast, hash browns, OJ in the proverbial basket: the iPhone.

Nostradamus didn't know shit. I know how the world is going to end: A&E is going to call me at any minute (and I'll have my iPhone right next to me) to discuss doing a documentary.

One day, Apple will cut us off. Close down. Disappear.  We're going to wake up, reach for our iPhones (iPads, iLife, whatever) and find that we are staring at a black screen. No arrow to slide to the right. No passcode to enter.


And then, none of us will be able to eat (because we can't look up restaurants), to sleep (because we'll be worried about waking up on time), to work (or, we might actually work better if the damn phone hadn't broken everyone's ability to focus), to speak (because our only mode of conversation will be social networking), to write (by hand), anything. Shit, some of us won't be able to get out of bed!

Our complete inability to act, to look straight in front of us, to just "know" something without googling it, will paralyze us until we waste away into death.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Artist

As many of you know, I am currently searching for an agent for my serial killer novel. Below is what I'm using to try and hook their interest. I'd love your comments: what attracts you to the story? What is confusing? What do you need more info on?

Las Vegas homicide investigator, Corey Malone, whose talent usually couples perfectly with the justice system, discovers that she must go outside that system to catch an evasive serial killer known as The Artist. This psycho has made Corey’s hunt for him personal by targeting UNLV students who mirror Corey’s appearance. He poses the bodies and then calls her so she’ll be the first to witness his atrocities. When an email sent to the fourth victim is signed with Corey’s real name, she realizes that The Artist has fixated on her not because of some voyeuristic obsession, but because he knows her secret. And he has an accomplice to aid in the selection of the victims, Alexander Jacobson, who not only has the resources to skirt prosecution, but also a seemingly different motivation to destroy her.

After the fifth victim, new evidence gets Corey and her partner, Damien Smith, closer to The Artist and debilitates his accomplice’s ability to help him. In addition, Corey’s relationship with Damien becomes intimate and she begins to build a life with him and his teenage son. In order to regain control of the investigation, Alexander Jacobson threatens those close to Corey, forcing her removal from the case. But, Jacobson doesn’t want her off The Artist’s trail; he wants only her to find him. And he makes it clear that he’s willing to kill Damien and his son if she doesn’t. To save those she loves, Corey must stop The Artist and his accomplice, risking the revelation of a secret that will ruin her—if The Artist doesn’t kill her.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Plan B for My Writing: Bumper Stickers

As I mentioned in an earlier post--see "What We Writers Do for Our Readers"-- I am one-third of a wonderful writer's group.

And, as I also mentioned before, we are all very different women. This comes out not only in our writing, but also in the way we take notes for revisions.

Jenny, aka Missed Periods, doesn't take notes at all. As Mindi and I make suggestions, she maintains eye contact, asks pertinent questions, and when she feels that something does need to be written down, she asks us to note it on our copies of her work. I find this method of "note-taking" bewildering because I'd forget my name if I didn't have to write down on a daily basis.

To maintain balance, Mindi takes copious notes. As Jenny and I dialogue about her submission, she is feverishly writing on her copy of the draft. Or, if we are working at her place, she will bust our her Mac and feverishly type.  It's almost as if she's doing the revisions as we are suggesting them.

I am a little in-between: I have a journal of fragmented instructions for overall revisions. For line edits, Mindi and JennyB are great about making those marks on their copies, so when I revise, I need both marked-up copies and my journal. 

As I was leafing through my notes that probably span at least a year back, I realized that if anyone read my journal, not knowing the nature of its contents, he or she would think I was a homicidal maniac. The female American Psycho.

But then, it hit me. These notes were going to make me rich!  I could market them as bumper stickers!
I know that there are a lot of great bumper stickers already, but I have a niche (or two)

Bumper stickers with relationship advice:


Stickers for those women who don't want their date to follow them home or for those women who want their Craig's-list-booty call only to fuck them.

So, what do you think? Maybe, instead of finding my name on the spine of a book, you'll see it . . .

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Final Destination VI

I am not a fan of reality television. I want my entertainment to take me out of reality not put me back in it, especially if what the networks are touting as "reality" is in any way authentic.

 Desperate Housewives paved the way for The Real Housewives of *insert city of choice*. Honestly, I don't want to be a real housewife in any city, and I certainly don't want to be a desperate one, so I bypassed this phenomena.

The OC forced Orange County residents to create Laguna Beach: the Real OC in order to clear up any false representation. And thank God, because an accurate depiction of privileged teenagers in Southern California is a huge part of the American identity.

Big Love drove viewers to The Real Big Love (men wondering if they can actually get away with having multiple wives; women wondering if there are actually women crazy enough to be one of multiple wives). I'm waiting for the series where a woman has multiple husbands. And birth control.

But, as karma always finds a way to kick me in the ass, it seems that I am adding to the trend of reality shows based on successful television series (or the fictional series was originally based on what later became a reality show--it's probably a does-art-imitate-life-or-does-life-imitate-art conundrum).

The series that my life mimics? The Final Destination movie series.  I think I'll call it Holly Almost Died--Three times.

Promotional Poster

I considered making this a part of the "A Little Fact; a Little Fiction" series (I actually almost died 2 1/2 times and was going to exaggerate one of them and see if anyone could distinguish the fact from fiction) but I think show-casing my skills in horror and crime would better utilize my writing talent (and maybe draw attention away from my lack of coordination, because that's just not sexy).

Before I get into how I almost died three times on Tuesday, March 29, I must refer back to the blog post from February 22, "To Quote My Grandmother: 'Why Are Teenagers So Stupid?'" and the case of the missing doorstop, bungee cord, and salad bowl. (If you haven't read it, stop now, read the post, and then come back).

I figured the cause of the theft of the seemingly random items was the result of a teenage prank, but now I realize it was an act of heroism. Some altruistic student must have had a premonition of my death, which I have deduced has something to do with me falling off the ramp right outside my classroom door, and so took the means of easy egress from R102 in order to save my life. That extra few minutes it took me to look for the missing doorstops and then throw a fit once I realized them gone held me back from death's fateful grip.

And just recently, the theft of another bungee cord only confirms my belief.

And the salad bowl? I was probably destined to die at lunch time. The taking of it was meant to be a clue: lunchtime is a precarious time for me.

But, Death has found me.     

The first time was on that nefarious Tuesday morning. After informing my student teacher that I would be heading down the hill to do some xeroxing, I sailed out the door (held open by the aforementioned, recently-stolen bungee cord) made a sharp right turn, caught my shoe between two sheets of aluminum that form the ramp, and launched forward, arms outstretched like Superman in flight.

I screamed. The two students heading toward my room screamed as well.

The corner of the railing that bordered the neighboring classroom's ramp lie directly in my path. I glanced down, saw the ramp passing away under me, wondering why gravity hasn't played her role. Why was I still seemingly in flight?

Cocking my head to the left, I pulled my hands back to shield my face from whatever it was destined to hit: the pavement or railing.

Crunch. Motion to stillness. Heat saturated the right side of my face, but there was no pain. In fact, I seemed to be standing. Not really standing, but upright, the tops of my feet resting on the pavement. I dragged my feet forward and planted them firmly on the ground. I was slightly bent forward at the waist, shoulders sagging.

Students were shouting: "Oh my God, Ms. Vance!"

Head still cocked to the left, I had a full view of the basketball courts that lined the row of portable classrooms. I tried to turn my head but couldn't; I tried to take a step backward but couldn't. Reaching a hand up, I felt the cold metal of the ramp's railing and my fingers followed it until ended at my forehead.

In my forehead.

Suddenly, I was face-down on the blacktop, staring at crumpled up Cheetos bags and empty Gatorade bottles littering the ground beneath my neighbor's ramp.

Jumping to my feet, I brushed the gravel and dirt off of my pants.  A couple of students clamoured around me, asking it I was okay.

I glanced at the corner of the rail that for a horrifying moment I believed had pierced my skull. Laughing, I waved off my inability to answer on embarrassment and continued on my way.

But Death had not been satisfied.

Later that day, I was leafing through all of my curriculum files, searching for supplemental materials for my student teacher.  The top two drawers, packed so tightly that I couldn't avoid slicing a cuticle or two as I squeezed my fingers between the manila folders, weighed more than the bottom two, which held my only purse and some portfolios of students' work. I opened the top drawer, couldn't find what I wanted; I opened the second drawer . . .

The entire file cabinet tilted forward. My student teacher leaped up, her palms slapping against its side in an attempt to rock it back, but it slipped from her hold.  I squatted in order to catch the file cabinet against my shoulder and then use my legs to push it back up, but instead a crack signaled a breaking bone and my shoulder dropped abnormally low. Pain streaked up my neck; the corresponding arm hanging limp.  My feet slipped out from under me and as I struck the cold floor, the file cabinet pinned me down. 

I lay there, attuned to the sparks of pain and throbs of panic. I heard my student saying, "Hold on, Holly." She managed to get a hold of it lift it up slightly so that I could worm out from beneath, but then I heard a sharp cry pop from her mouth and the file cabinet settled down on me again, this time more heavily. It was as if someone had climbed on top of it.

Its weight pressed down on my bones until a chorus of cracks and splinters of pain precluded the shattering of bone. My body seemed to deflate; my bones seemed to gather into a prickly mass beneath the tent of my skin.

I was standing again, my feet firmly planted on the ground, my hands braced against the file cabinet as I rocked it back into place.  My student teacher was laughing, saying, "Whoa, you almost pulled that thing down on you."

Blinking, I wobbled over to my desk chair and sat down. What is going on?

Swiveling my chair around to face my computer, I scooted forward, but only managed to move my butt forward, leaving the chair behind.  As I dropped off the edge of the chair, I saw the keyboard of my computer rushing toward my face . . .

And it wasn't even lunchtime yet.