Wednesday, December 14, 2011

FB and Suicide Prevention- Just In Time For My Re-Write!

Being launched (I believe next Tuesday) in addition to a "report as spam" and "report as harassment" option on Facebook, users will soon be able to report a status or a comment as a suicidal threat.

WHAT? Is posting suicide notes and threats really that much of a trend on social networking cites?

Why, yes. Yes it is.

How sad that these features are needed, and how cool that they exist!

Once a post is reported as containing "suicidal language," the person who wrote the post is automatically sent an email encouragin him or her to call a suicide hotline number. They are also given a link to begin a Facebook chat with a licensed counselor. This feature will run 24 hours a day.


Lidia Bernik, associate project director of Lifeline says that "...people experience reductions in suicidal thinking when there is quick intervention. We’ve heard from many people who say they want to talk to someone but don’t want to call. Instant message is perfect for that.”

What a good idea, I think a lot of kids (and adults too) would feel much more comfortable talking to someone with the anonymity of the internet world.

Of course, there are some flaws. One big one being, what if the person doesn't check their email? And I wonder if type on a screen would be able to provide the same "your not alone" assurance as a real human voice. But something is better than nothing.

I'm impressed with Facebook for looking out for its community  and using some of its power for good.

What a crazy time for technology.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Old fiction...that could also be nonfiction?

I found this old assignment I did in a 200 level fiction course. It's a not very serious (or is it) how to. I reread it, decided that I still like it, and spruced it up slightly.

Because of my last post regarding stretching the definitions, I have also decided that how to's are nonfiction.

I wrote this particular piece in the fiction mindset. It's content is not meant to be taken seriously, and I cannot verify for sure that following everything in this how to will work because I've never tried it. However, Several things in here are based on what my roommates have actually done AND I am also not claiming that I have tried these steps. Unless, you read that in as an implication of all how to's. BUT these steps very well could work...and I think they most likely would. (let me know if you try it out). And I'm sure that many tested how to's don't work for everyone following them. So, it's fiction. It's nonfiction. It's both? Neither? Coming across a writing that is either both or neither is new territory for me. I think it could be successfully argued either way. It probably goes back to how far you are willing to stretch away from fact or proven fact? or documented fact? and still claim nonfiction.

Anyway, here is what I wrote:

Get Rid Of A Roommate, How To.
It’s better to start out slow with normal, smaller annoyances. Start in the kitchen. Cook big meals without cleaning up after yourself. If someone says something to you about the crumbs they found on the counter, brush the crumbs onto the floor for them to step on. If they complain about crumbs on the floor, suggest that they vacuum. Leave milk in the fridge for long periods of time. Act like you don’t notice the smell.  Eat their food. Tell them someone else did it. Call them a lying, food-stealing whore. Enjoy the fight.
Make desperate coughing noises in the kitchen. Don’t cover your mouth. Leave used tissues everywhere. Tell them you have tuberculoses. If they aren’t sympathetic and say that you’re gross, call them racist. It doesn’t matter if you’re white or not.
Play loud music in the middle of the night. Take out the batteries of the smoke detector so that it chirps. When your roommate replaces the batteries, take them out again. Comment on how the batteries keep disappearing. Blame it on somebody. When  they say they don’t know what you’re talking about call them a lying, battery-stealing whore. Enjoy the fight.
When it’s cleaning day and your roommates request your help, tell them you cleaned last time and you refuse to be their maid. Suggest that there is a mouse running around because no one cleans up after themselves. Buy a mouse and set it loose. Name it Mini Me. Feed it your roommate’s food.
On the weekends, only talk in a Kermit the frog voice. On Wednesdays, talk like Yoda. Leave the heat off when it’s snowing out. Walk around with a huge coat on. When your roommates ask if anyone is cold, tell them you don’t know what their talking about and suggest that they dress warmer. If they turn up the heat, turn it back off and tell them it bothers your tuberculosis.
Get a tape of a crying baby. Play it randomly three times a week. Tell them you have a baby daughter. Never let them see her.  Get a pet, but only if they are allergic. Tell them your grandma left it to you when she died and you can’t get rid of it. Let the pet poop on their rug. Don’t clean up after it.
            Set your alarm for weird times and leave it outside their door. Tell them you don’t know how to turn it off. Let it beep for an hour. If they leave their doors unlocked, invite your boyfriend over and do dirty things in their room. Don’t clean up after yourself. Have parties on week days. Make extra-loud vomiting noises at four in the morning, again at five. Clog all the toilets. Pretend you don’t speak English. If they try to argue that you do speak English, call them racist.
            When their mom comes to visit tell her you love having so-and-so as a roommate, but you’re a little concerned about their frequent drinking habit and drug use. When their phone rings, answer it. Tell the caller that your roommate is in jail and will no longer be accepting calls. Put their phone down the food disposal. Tell them you don’t know why the sink is broken. When their significant other comes over, exclaim, “wow how many boyfriends/(girlfriends) do you have?” Then walk away. Enjoy the fight. When it’s time to pay the rent, offer to turn in their check for them. Throw it away. When they ask what happened, act confused. Call them an irresponsible, rent-avoiding whore.
 Look sad when they leave. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pushing the Definitions

           I’ve been contemplating what constitutes as creative nonfiction and what can constitute as creative nonfiction. 

It’s already been established that creative nonfiction (writing?) 

  • Must be written
The fact that it must be written I think can be pushed…probably because of my learning about multimodal forms of communication and alternative forms of the “traditional written essay” via DR Brown. If audio books can count because they were written first, then audio essays that were not written first might as well count too, right? And that’s as far as I’m going to get into that.

  •  The work represents an accurate account of actual people and places that really exist (can also be pushed slightly if you want to get finicky. But for the most part this seems like a must to me)

  • The work is art (has an awareness of language, sensibility, and complexity)

So how far can we push art? We can take out dialogue and it’s still art. We can take out setting and it’s still art. We can take out characters and it’s still art. Can we take out climax? Can we take out plot? Can we take out the series of events that makes it a story in the first place and still call it a work of creative nonfiction?

                Can it be one sentence? Chekhov's father would say yes.

                Can it be one word?

                Can we reduce an entire work of creative nonfiction to a single word and call it art the way that an artist can reduce an entire painting to a red dot in the middle of a canvas and call it art.

If a urinal can be placed in a museum among “readymades” and be called art, then why can’t a single-word creative nonfiction shake the world in the same way?

And if one word can capture the sensibility, complexity, and the awareness of language that constitutes art, then what word would that be?

I’ll have to get back to you on that.  

            In other news, while contemplating pushing the edges of definitions for creative nonfiction, I’ve written what I think constitutes creative nonfiction in the form of a poem. This is an “I am from” poem. It doesn’t have to rhyme or have any specific form; the only rule in creating one of these is that each line is supposed to start with the words ‘I am from’ but I suppose these things can be pushed too. I encourage others to try it out. Here's what I have:

I am from The Institutions

I am from a town full of family, recently vacated;
I am the only one left
I am from culture passed through generations where, in mine, I'm the oldest
I am from five schools and four mascots that I wear on my clothes
I am from classes of fiction, academia, and theory
I am from church services and values I uphold whether I consent to them or not

I am from Youth

I am from the chase of giggling children into piles of leaves before boo boos are kissed and naps begin
I am from basement bars and pool table games and a dusty keyboard I never learned to play
I am from old couches and the smell and lights of real Christmas trees
I am from where we stopped our games in the woods to catch the breeze
I am from pizza shared and from drinks I’m not allowed to pour or they will end up in my lap
I am from failed attempts of the cliché concept of love,
and from fear and the hope that we got it right this time
I am from pixilized text that replaced the pen where words are heard

Monday, October 31, 2011


A tall, lean, well-dressed man enters the champagne room behind an Essex plaza. His tie hangs tightly from his neck, where the collar of his white dress shirt is buttoned and folded so stiffly that it looks like it might hurt him to breathe. His blonde hair is cut semi-neatly, unlike his facial hair that appears uncertain on whether to settle for scruff or beard. A cord strings from inside his trench coat to a bud in his ear where he periodically places two fingers and speaks. He outlines the room, hands behind his back, watching. He stands serious in the food line.  He touches the bud on his ear, “turkey? Yes sir. Mustard? Okay. Green beans?” He faces the server and holds out a plate, “ Yes, green beans. Thank you.” 

He sits at his table and monitors guests. One gets out of hand, “mam, I’m going to have to ask you to retard your anger.” Though he tries to keep a straight face, his laugh lines are evident behind a pair of dark sunglasses. When she looks away, he pockets her jello shots. When the meal is over, he goes back to his wall. 

Music starts playing and he goes to the dance floor. He bobs his head, touches his ear bud, points, points, bobs. When the next song plays, he does a Russian ditty.   A woman tells him that isn’t how secret service should behave. I tell him to take her out. He reaches into his jacket, touches his ear, and backs away.

                At the end of the night, he runs from the building in a half-crouch that resembles that of a wild cat. As the black car slows, he jumps in next to me in the back seat and we speed away.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Putting The Baby Down For Her Nap

From the lap of her cousin, her sleepy eyes flash open as I walk down the stairs. I sit next to her and hold her hand, wanting to comfort her with familiarity. Her helpless arms reach as she struggles to sit up. She lets out an animalistic and drawn out “EEEeee” as she kicks her legs to establish balance. 

“She wants you,” Michael says. 

                I’m happy that she prefers my arms as her crib, honored that I was the one she reached for; But as a pick her up, happiness is overshadowed by responsibility.  I take her pillow, and position her as she was before: seated facing forward with her puppy pillow on her lap.

                Her curly brown hair is flattened against my chest, where her head is nestled. I’m hoping my heart’s beating will hush her to sleep. Her puppy pillow serves as a blanket. Her right hand mimics mine, slowly grazing over the stuffed puppy’s soft fur. Her left hand reaches over her shoulder and plays with my hair. Before long, the petting stops and the hand that held my hair drops down so awkwardly that I imagine it would be uncomfortable if she were awake.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Stranger Danger

My roommate has a man staying with her next weekend. That is, staying with us since we live in the same university apartment. He’s 33; that’s 11-years-older than she is. He’s driving from Pennsylvania. She met him three weeks ago—Online.

Now, I realize that in the day of social networking, video chatting, and, it’s not that unusual to meet a significant other online. My best friend met her new boyfriend online. And my aunt met her husband online… and then she met her other husband online…

The world being as big as it is and as populated as it is, logically you’re probably not going to find ‘the one’ two doors over, at the local corner store, or in the front row of your biology class. Odds are (or should be, if you draw up the math) that you may need to venture outside your city, or even your state to find this special person. ‘The one’ might be planting corn fields in Delaware, mixing coconut-filled drinks in Hawaii, ice fishing in Greenland, or picket-signing bull fights in Spain. Why not? 

But a 33-year-old you found 3 weeks ago online who’s driving from Pennsylvania to spend the weekend in a student’s apartment? 

This guy is obviously going to kill us. And not a conventional, on the five-o-clock news kind of kill. This is going to be a bad teenage movie: hide-in-the-shower-butcher-knife-and-masks-not-even-one-out-of-the-four-of-us-can-get-away-and-somebody-is-in-their-underwear-the-whole-time-for-no-reason-at-all kind of murder.  

Did you catch that? If not, just check your movie listings.

This pretty much goes against everything we were taught our whole lives regarding stranger danger. Such as:

Don’t talk to strangers.
Don’t get into a stranger’s car.
Don’t tell a stranger where you live.

It’s a much better idea to meet in a public place, have some sort of escape plan, “Google” them for felonies, and to not invite them to spend three days living and sleeping in your bedroom before you actually see them in person. 

Since I have no choice in the matter, I’ll be barricading my door and sleeping with the kitchen knives.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


In 2007, my grandfather died. He had cancer.

Four weeks ago, I started writing about it. In piecing together what I remembered, I found my quotations missing lost words from conversations that I wanted to erase at the time. I guess it worked. At the fourth paragraph, I put it away.

When I was in high school, my grandfather introduced me to Johnny Cash’s “When The Man Comes Around.” He had to explain the symbolism. In my mind, my grandfather and the songs are the same. 

When he died, I took off school. I told my teacher the day I would be back. When that day came, we had a lesson on death and symbolism and poetry- I wanted to run from the classroom.

When my grandfather died, my mother read a book called ‘A Guide to Bereavement,” or something like that. I learned that bereavement was a nice way to say ‘grief.’ Kind of like ‘friendly fire’ is a nice way to say that you went to war and blew your friends and neighbors to shreds of once-human pieces. I thought that a guide to bereavement would be no more helpful than a book that explained how you already feel. I didn’t need to read what I was already feeling; but I hoped it helped her.

Last Wednesday, I was told that my Pappy, my paternal grandfather, was put in the ICU. He has cancer. I was told “it doesn’t look good.” 

Today, I am again experiencing precipitating grief. A term that I read about in Family Science two years ago. I wonder why we study the experience of precipitating grief when, whether we learned about it or not, we all experience it. To me, learning about a feeling before we’re blessed or cursed to feel it holds no benefit. It’s like learning about ‘taste’ before we are allowed to take a bite.