Sunday, September 25, 2011

Go Tigers! (Go Deacs!)

I love college sports. I love the excitement, the colors, the fans, the cheers, the way a game takes over an entire Saturday and, in the case of Clemson, an entire town. Our town goes from a population of 30,000 (half university, half residents) to about 200,000 on a Game Day. You can't drive anywhere. Many stores shut down because there are no students to staff them. BBQ stands pop up behind big trucks and people make money selling parking spots on their yards. The world turns orange (with flashes of purple) and tiger paws adorn every surface. It's hard not to get caught up in it all.

I married a guy who has lived in Clemson since he was four. His father taught there for 25 years and once served as president of the Faculty Senate. Thus, our kid has been wearing orange Tiger gear since she was born (thankfully, a few friends sent us some Wake Forest clothing, though it's hard to make a kid look cute in black and gold, with an old man on it). She has inherited quite a bit of Clemson gear, including a cheerleading uniform. (Thankfully the kids' uniforms don't actually look like what the cheerleaders actually wear, or I'd be up for child pornography charges).

Anyway, here's a video of Sylvia in all her garb, repeating her parents' enthusiasm for the Clemson Tigers (oh, and the Demon Deacons too!).

Monday, September 19, 2011

On My Toes

I am taking an adult ballet class. Though I had extensive dance training from ages 7 to 21 or so, I haven't attended a class in over a decade. Why the long wait? Well, for one thing, I like to be really good at my hobbies, and after a few years off, I knew I wouldn't be good anymore...add a few more years, and I doubted I'd even be able to hold my own. Next, dancers - particularly ballerinas - are a catty group. There is a lot of judging and cliques and competition. After age 25, this was not my style.

It's surprising to me that when I was choosing a class to take this time around, I chose ballet. At age 14 or so, I had been taking ballet for a while and was told that within a year, I could join the Company. But I needed to quit all my other hobbies and start "being serious." I had enjoyed ballet, but always wanted to break out, sway my hips to the music, do some spontaneous moves, dance to a song with lyrics (gasp!). Plus, I didn't want to become one of the rail-thin, self-obsessed teens around me. So I quit. I languished around for a year before finding an amazing program offering jazz, modern, lyrical and Broadway styles. My roots were ballet, but my love (and talent, it turns out) was more modern.

I still hope to take a class with some booty-shaking and some self-expression, but for now I'm really and truly enjoying the routine of ballet. Something about entering class each week, performing the rote movements, trying to make my body master the seemingly-simple steps, clears my head and sets me at ease. I don't have to be great. I don't have to shine. I just need to try to hit my single piroutte, hold my balance in relevé, and remember to breathe. I don't quite zone out so much as become another person. At the barre, I'm not a mother of a toddler, a busy grad student, or a dancer past my prime; I'm Claiborne, me, returning to my roots, to how I used to feel, to how I used to spend my days. I look back, yet I feel incredibly aware of the present.

I'd be dishonest, though, if I said it was all meditation and simplicity. There is still a dancer in me that wants to, well, maybe not excel, but at least not make a fool out of myself. Last week, one of the teenagers visiting our adult class asked me how long I'd been dancing. I gave her a quick answer and she nodded, then said with a lot of surprise, "OK yeah, I was watching you, and you're actually pretty good." Part of me wanted to smack her, but the larger part beamed with pride. At my age, I'll take "pretty good." And with that ego check, I'll go back to the meditating.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Grammar Gift

This pleases me immensely. I may have to buy one for my office. And one for my dad.
The Bloggess' "Make People Cringe" Mug.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember...a Better Country

I am not watching any 9/11 remembrances today. I have avoided them all week. It's not that I don't care. That day of course means a lot to me, and I vividly remember where I was when the towers were struck and what that day - and the ones that followed - were like for me. I understand the need to remember, pay respect, reflect. But I don't want to dwell.

I think a lot of my discomfort is that I am mourning not just a terrible day in our nation's history, not just the lives lost and forever changed, but the change of our entire culture. I do not like my country as much as I did before 9/11. My friend Shane Harris wrote for The Washingtonian a moving reflection about what was going on in Washington on Sept. 10, 2001. I can't help but think about how things were simpler, kinder, easier. I hope I am not falling victim to rose-colored nostalgia, but I honestly feel like 9/11 was a turning point that led to many of the frustrations I now have with America.

I feel we are less civil, less educated, less proud, less knowledgeable of our rights, less trusting. I feel we are more bigoted, more polarizing, more isolated, more fearful, and quicker to blame others. In Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore asserts that the media creates the fear that galvanizes people to continue to watch media. I would argue they continue to do so, but 9/11 was a launching point to give them so much more fodder for us to fear. Our news is negative, our emotions toward each other are negative, and we are disconnected from our neighbors, other countries and cultures, and our manners.

Now, don't get me wrong: I love my country. I recognize how blessed I am to have been born here, and to have all the opportunities this country offers. I am even hesitant to post this blog, because it is playing right into the cynicism I purport to oppose. I just wish...I wish...we were more civil. I wish the news didn't depress me so much. I wish I didn't get so mad at my elected officials that I have to resist screaming at the TV. And I wish I handled it more effectively than just turning the TV off.

One positive thing about these remembrance ceremonies is that they show off the best of our country. People are proud. They are hugging each other, speaking kindly to strangers. We put a few politicians on pedestals and give them some respect for a day. We donate to charities, we weep over others' losses. We look like Americans. I just hope, I sincerely and truly hope, that these feelings will go beyond one ceremony, one day. Let's remember what our country was like 10 years ago, and try to regain a bit of that civility.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Be All You Can Brand

In my two 9.5-hour drives this past week (with the toddler, heading to and from the beach), I listened to quite a bit of NPR. Thankfully, Sylvia tolerated this, as she was either asleep (a bit) or engrossed in watching Nick Jr. downloaded shows on the iPad (a lot). Anyway, one story in particular really caught my interest. It was about how the U.S. military is branding themselves - on everything from cologne to purses - to meet dual goals of raising money and brand awareness.

I think most people are fascinated to see nontraditional entities jump into the world of marketing and sales. We often disapprove of it - like churches making money, or even politicians. But I think the military is brilliant to do this. First, as the interview points out, it allows them to protect the brand. People have been using the Marines logo on tasteless t-shirts for decades; now the Marines can actually control that (similar to the terrible Calvin stickers that are illegally made from Calvin and Hobbes imagry). Next, it makes the brand cool. I know plenty of people with "ARMY" t-shirts or Marines-themed work-out clothes that aren't affiliated with the military. Especially in the wake of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, people want to show off their support of our troops. A cool brand means more support from the public, and more recruits. Kids today understand brands at such a young age -- why not brand important things like volunteer service?

I hope the military doesn't receive a blacklash for this. While some may judge "Deployment Blues" candles or kids' watches, I think it's all part of a proper corporation branding themselves wisely and knowing their audience. And especially at a time when everyone is so upset about government spending, let's encourage a branch of the government to make their own money! Hey, it may not pay for the $3.2 trillion spent on the past 10 years of wars, but it's a start.