Archive for December, 2011

Contracts by day, crime-fighting by night

I’m going to be a superhero.

I learned quickly that many adults didn’t consider this a valid answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

That didn’t mean I stopped dreaming about it, or planning the glory days to come with my just-younger sister. It only meant I stopped telling adults about it, and learned to throw them off the scent with an ever-changing sequence of what I thought might be good day jobs.

I would be Dark Moon to my sister’s Silver Star.

Villains, we knew, would someday tremble before us as we flew through the air and used our magic lightning bolts to stop their land-flight!

Yet with few exceptions, we intended to show them mercy, if they seemed genuinely apologetic.

Two decades later, neither Dark Moon nor Silver Star have yet been on a single crime-fighting mission, but there’s another way that they live on while their superpowers continue gestating.

Every so often, Silver Star finds a necklace that would be the perfect fit for Dark Moon’s crime-fighting costume.

And when she does, she sends the necklace to Dark Moon, who wears it with her day job outfits in the meantime, and smiles to think of how in so doing “the dreams of two little girls thus live on in the women they’ve become. ♥”

This Christmas, Silver Star struck again!

© 2011 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.


Your Survivor questions for Ba.D.: answered!

One year before Li'l D

I met my honey, Ba.D., on the verge of my 2004 move to Japan.

Over drinks shared with a mutual friend, I told him about why I wasn’t interested in practicing law despite the law degree I’d soon hold. He told me how he liked his beer (“black and bitter, like me”) before launching into an improv Dashboard Confessional-style song that had me in stitches.

I moved. Ba.D. and I alternately exchanged emails and conversed through online forums. Our friendship developed online because that was all the distance between us allowed.

Recalling how much of our relationship was built through the written word, it struck me one day that I really wanted a written update. I wanted to see more words from Ba.D., and I wanted them on my blog.

Ba.D. agreed, but he wasn’t sure what he’d write about. After a couple of weeks, I suggested his stint on Survivor would be a gimme. He could talk about that for years, after all!

I asked you if you had any questions for him, and some of you did. He’s answered these here, giving me a sweet opportunity to remember all the time his written words brought me joy before I returned to Los Angeles.


What is something that you did on Survivor that you thought you would never have the courage to do?

Get on the boat and do it.  Seriously, I was aching to do it, but I didn’t know how scared out of my mind I’d be until I got on the boat in the middle of the Pacific and start paddling.  And yes, it is something frightening in the back of your mind to think that you’re out in the middle of the ocean, no life vest, sharks and about 3 miles between you and land—and only a flimsy catamaran between you and the cold water.  Yeah.

Oh, and what is the ONE item that you wish you had brought with you that you didn’t?

Oh, I brought it, I just didn’t get to use it:  A journal and notebook.  It was my luxury item, but my tribe didn’t win that challenge, so no go.  It was too bad.  I would have probably been a little more even keel if I’d had it.  Or a camera.  Yeah.

I suppose I could ask: What was the toughest part of the show for you? What did you enjoy most?

The two things that sucked the most: Dehydration, and this guy named Rocky.  If you’ve ever been really thirsty on a really hot day, imagine taking the biggest drink of scotch you can. Now run around the block like 3 times.  Then imagine doing that every three days without drinking anything but coconut water.  Dehydration sucks, and is no joke.

The other thing was this guy named Rocky who just rode me like an evil boys gym coach from an 80s teen movie.  Or like a glee club kid by a certain cheerleading coach.  Sartre was correct: Hell is other people.

Do you have any regrets about being on the show?

Yes:  Losing. Maybe not punching out a person or two (not that I’d be allowed to without facing some prosecution).

Deb told me she was in labor for 27 hours w/ your son. Do you think this makes her tougher than any member of the Survivor cast?

Yes and no:  Tougher than many of the pretty boy whiny castaways, sure—but many folks are just as tough, for different reasons—like Christy Smith, who went way far in the game despite being deaf and ostracized by her tribe, or Chad Crittenden, the first player with a prosthetic leg, or Cristina Coria, who before coming on the show survived being shot by a murder suspect.

Deb’s also tough as nails (I can tell you stories), but she refuses to audition for Survivor.*

Hmm .. the Chicagoan in me wants to ask if somebody pissed him off so badly, that he wanted to just make them “disappear”. You know, concrete galoshes into 500 feet of Lake Michigan “disappear”.

Yes, a guy named Rocky (see above) and a guy named Mookie.  I guess their names were totally appropriate for that question, huh?

Did you, or any of your fellow castaways have any military survival training, and if so, did it really help? 

I didn’t, but one of the older guys my season was a door gunner in a helicopter in Vietnam, so I imagine that counts.  From what I gather in talking to him, it didn’t help him at all.  Survivor is kind of its own animal.  You’d do better watching that guy Bear on Survivorman before going on.

I made up my own training schedule, consisting of trying to make fire from pretty much nothing and keeping it alive for 3 days while brushing up on my first aid and coconut opening skills.

In your view what is the right stuff to survive? What did you think was the right stuff at the time you applied/auditioned?

There’s survival and then there’s survival on Survivor.  There’s a kinda mix you need.  But I’d say its 1) The ability to think outside the box 2) A certain adaptability that allows you to work with almost any kind of people and 3) A level of “moral flexibility” that will let you do or say what you need to survive and 4) The ability to keep your humanity intact in most situations.

Looking across the seasons, which survivor do you admire the most and why?

This is actually a question on the application!

Did you go really hungry? Did they monitor you?

Oh yeah, the hunger is for real. People pay a lot for coconuts. When you’ve not eaten anything but for 9 days, there is a lot of the suck. You can live off of them, but gah.

Being a pretty laid back guy, did something/someone really make you angry?

Yes, see above about that guy Rocky!

How often did you laugh…if ever?

Not nearly enough.  But once I did again, things got better.

Honestly, did you ever get so hungry you considered eating one of your own limbs? Which one would you eat? Do the producers at least give you guys salt and pepper to season said limbs?

No, not my own. 🙂   You always eat the other guys first, starting from the flank … what, you’ve never read the story of Alive?

Was it hard to watch yourself on TV? Would you say how they portrayed you was accurate?

Parts were very hard, especially my last tribal council (I was watching it by myself in a New York hotel room).  And yes, for the most part it was me … edited and parsed down to make me look a certain way, but it was me.

What would you do differently if you could go back to compete again?


What was harder for you: the physical toll (being hungry, no sleep) or the social aspects?

The dehydration … oh man, the dehydration.

This one if from my nine year old son: Were you ever really REALLY scared? And if so, what scared you the most?

Yes!  Of falling off of cliffs and of sharks! REALLY SCARED of sharks.  Two of the deadliest sharks in the world (and one of the highest counts of shark attacks) are in Fiji where we shot the show.

Did you ever get a little ticked off that Jeff Probst would show up completed rested, showered, and with a full stomach and then proceed to yell at you guys with his annoying play by play during the challenges? 

You better believe it, though mostly with Jeff’s play by play.  It’s his job to do (because you’d be surprised how quiet it would be on tv without it), but man it gets iritating when you’re trying to concentrate on the challenge, or worse when you’re trying to hide your flubs.  You hear a lot of “Thanks, Probst.” from folks during the challenges.

Also, did the cameras bother you? Or did you forget they were there after awhile?

You’re hyper aware of them for the first day or so, and then you totally forget they exist.  Heck, you find yourself standing in these perfect little half circles for conversations without knowing why.  They’re like ninja! With cameras.

I need to know how I can get on the show. Seriously. This is not a joke. I have tried a few times. (Okay once.) But I don’t have time to mess around. I’m 43. I can wear a bikini. I’ve had laser hair removal. I love to camp. Who can you put me in touch with so I can get on that show. I don’t even care about the money; I just want to go somewhere hot and play.

This is one of the questions that I get asked A LOT.  Like once a week.  The best advice I can give on this is to just be interesting and willing to talk your mind.  They want interesting people from all walks of life, but you’d be surprised how “cookie cutter” applicants can be.  They’re looking for big characters, so, if you apply (and in your case if you apply again), make yourself into a character—take one or two little things about yourself that are big and just blow them up.  I went for the gamer nerd, and well, look where it got me?

Oh!  And the second piece of advice I can give is to be persistent.  Many of the non-recruited, cool players were fans who just kept on applying.  Leslie Nease (the really REALLY Christian lady from Survivor China) applied like 30 times before she got on.

And the third piece of advice is to know the game.  They really, really, really, really, want people who know the game.  My friend, Bobby “Bobdawg” Mason of Survivor Vanauatu proved that he knew the game by bringing in a huge flowchart to his interview showing who got voted off when, what their mistakes were, and their occupations.  Cochran from this season of Survivor is studying at Harvard Law, and wrote his entrance essay on how the jury on Survivor works in contrast to the judicial jury system, and flaws and advantages in both.

How did being on Survivor change your view about people?

Honestly, if anything it reinforced some of my beliefs:  If you treat people with some kindness, and at least a speck of respect, you can get pretty far in life.  I mean one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known won my season.  And yes, I know (and saw in spades) that people can really suck.  It really is a microcosm of the human condition, even as manipulated as it may sometimes seem.

* Ed. note: See Ba.D.’s answer on Jeff Probst’s play by plays for further detail. As you know from my road rage post, there’s little that says “I love you” quite like staying out of jail for your offspring.

FTIAT: Magic Words

Ilana (SlightlyIgnorant) comments with empathy and humor, but that’s not all there is to her. She touches on difficult topics so matter of factly in her blog’s autobio you feel confident that you could talk to her about anything. And, indeed, when you start exchanging comments and emails, you find you very much want to!

Recommended postOtherness

Magic Words

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

A few days ago, Deb asked to write a guest post for this, her awesome blog. I was incredibly flattered and excited and began to think of different topics I could write about. The guidelines I had received were loose enough to allow me lots of freedom: pick one thing I’m grateful for, and write about it. Simple enough, right?


Once I started thinking about it, I found that there were just too many things in my life that I was, am, and will continue to be grateful for. My parents raised me lovingly and treated me as an individual worthy of respect even when I was very small. My brother was a fun companion when we were kids – we wrestled and tustled all the time but we both enjoyed it – and has become a friend. My aunts have always been an inspiration to me and I’m proud to be able to call them family.

Then I thought of my friends: my oldest girlfriend from nursery-school who I’ve known for eighteen of my twenty-one years, the girl I met in third grade and spent most of my afternoons with for years, the shy and quiet teenager I met in high school who became an integral part of my life… and the list goes on.

The truth is, there are so many people whose presence in my life I’m grateful for that I can’t choose between them. It feels ungrateful, somehow, to pick just one.

Instead, I decided to pick something that may seem simple, banal, even silly – but it changed my life and is part of the reason I’m even here, writing a guest post for Deb.

I am grateful for Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling.

Are you laughing? Are you rolling your eyes? Are you sympathetically nodding and thinking Well, she must not have much going for her, I’d better humor her and read through her insane ramblings? If you stick with me, I’ll explain why I chose the boy-wizard and his famous, fabulous, fantastic creator.

My parents raised me bi-lingual; my dad spoke to me in Hebrew while my mom and I only conversed in English. When I was three, though, my family moved from sunny Los Angeles to the sunnier and sadly humid Isreal. Previously, I’d always spoken to my father in English, refusing, for reasons that are mysterious to me, to answer him in Hebrew. After the move, though, the primary language I heard spoken around me changed from English to Hebrew. I was forced to begin using the harsh, deep-throated raysh and chet, letters that Anglos find difficult to pronounce correctly. But I learned; or maybe I already knew how, and just hadn’t liked doing it.

Because of our move, instead of learning my ABCs at school, I learned how to read and write in Hebrew. First grade was agony, as I found the whole process of associating sounds and words with weird squiggles on paper to be tiring and difficult. What was worse, though, was that my lessons didn’t end when I finished my homework for school. Even after filling a workbook page or two with my wobbly, too-large, six-year old’s handwriting, I had to spend part of each afternoon with my mother, learning how to read in English.

It was horrible. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t get it. I learned to recognize the symbols that read “THE END” that appeared on the final page of each of the little books that my mom was using to teach me how to read, and I spoke those two little words with huge satisfaction whenever one of our torturous sessions was over.

Eventually, though, I could read and write in both Hebrew and English. I learned at the right age, and I suppose I didn’t have any more difficulty than any other average kid. But I still didn’t like reading. I loved being read to – one of my parents would read me a book or a chapter every night, as far as I can remember. If they’d hand me the book, though, with an inviting gesture and a smile, I would shrug my shoulders in that universal gesture that kids have for “Don’t wanna.”

I was, I confess, a TV child. At some point, my parents had to restrict my time in front of the television because if I’d had my way, I would sit in front of it all afternoon without indulging in any other activity.

When I was nine years old, in 1999, my brother turned thirteen and had his Bar Mitzvah. We visited family in California, like we did every summer, and my parents and grandparents threw a big party so he could celebrate this traditional coming of age with our American relatives. Great-Aunt Candy bought him what would become, although none of us knew it at the time, the vehicle of my salvation from Eternal-TV-Enslavement. She bought my brother, and me by extension, beautiful, hardcover copies of Harry Potter and the Sourceror’s Stone (remember, it was the American edition), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and the just released and much anticipated Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

We flew back to Israel. We must have packed the books, although I have no particular memory of that. I don’t remember being excited or looking forward to reading them with my mother, although I do remember her saying something about how she’d heard good things about the books.

I also remember, vividly, her reading me the very first line, quoted above; I interrupted her and said, quite indignantly, “Dursley? But it’s called Harry Potter!” My mother smiled and said “Let’s wait and see.”

I waited, I saw, and I fell in love. One night, reading the sixth chapter, “The Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters,” my mom stopped after at this line: “The train began to move. Harry saw the boys’ mother waving and their sister, half laughing, half crying, running to keep up with the train until it gathered too much speed, then she fell back and waved.” I recall how I tried to wheedle her into continuing, and how she wouldn’t because it was late and time for me to go to sleep. With that in mind, I guess what came next shouldn’t be all that surprising.

Every Friday afternoon, my parents took a long nap. I believe that on the Friday in question, my mom read me the second half of chapter nine, “The Midnight Duel,” before she took her nap. Writing this now, at the same desk I had back then, I can visualize the book sitting perfectly squared with the corners of the table, just where my mom had left it. I can see the little girl that I was, a little pudgy and still quite blonde, listening carefully to my parents snores, making sure they were sound asleep. The girl picks up the book and lies down on her bed, the same bed that is to her left as she types away on her computer twelve years later. She opens the book to chapter ten, “Halloween,” and begins to read.

I read thirteen pages, the entire chapter, the most I’d ever read on my own not only willingly, but eagerly as well. And I had loved it.

The funny thing was that I thought, for some reason, that I’d done something wrong. Once I realized I’d read a whole chapter, I balked and, carefully putting the bookmark where it had been before my intrusion, arranged the book to look as if it hadn’t been touched. I kept my secret all day, aching to read more but not daring to. I thought that telling my mother that I wanted to read the book alone would hurt her terribly. That night, when she began to read me “Halloween,” I couldn’t take it, and I blurted out the truth: that I’d already read that entire chapter. I burst into a flurry of apologies. I needn’t have worried. She laughed, and I remember her face glowing (although that might be my own emotions coloring the picture) as she handed me the book, kissed my forehead, and told me I could and should keep reading it alone.

If I hadn’t discovered the incredible world that J. K. Rowling created, I never would have become the reader I am today. My mother isn’t convinced of this, claiming that I would have developed a love of reading anyway. In the family I grew up in, it was almost inevitable, since everyone else loved to read.

But I remember very well how much I loved watching television, and I’m absolutely positive that without the Boy Who Lived, I wouldn’t have developed the all-consuming passion that I now have for books. Books have been my greatest escape, my most caring comforters, my friends in need and out of it, my protectors in every storm and my loyal sidekicks and companions during the days of calm waters and happiness. When I talk about books, about reading, my heart expands within me, my breathing grows rapid, and I experience the heady rush of true love engulf me. I wouldn’t have discovered the pure joy, the terrible sadness, the incredible empathy and endless wisdom that can be found in words, stories and characters.

And if I hadn’t discovered Harry, if I hadn’t become a reader, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know, but ultimately it doesn’t matter.

When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out in the summer of 2007, I’d just turned seventeen, like Harry. I grew up with Harry, Ron, Hermione and the others. I spent long afternoons discussing the books, speculating on what the next installments would hold. I read and reread the books I had over and over and over again, literally dozens of times, while still continuing to read widely and enthusiastically outside of the series.

Going to the first midnight-release party in Isreal, my met-in-nursery-school friend and I were already mourning the end of it all. Looking back at it now, I’m shocked to realize it was four years ago. Because Harry Potter’s importance hasn’t died out yet. Nor will it ever, even if it, for some odd reason, doesn’t become the classic it is already turning into. It will continue to live on in me, and anyone else who discovered the power of stories as they fell in love with Harry Potter.

last : A survivor by any other name . . . | Where I embrace my inner geek : next

Christmas then, Hanukkah now, love always

Looking for the menorah, it was the Christmas tree I found first.

My breath caught when I saw that Christmas tree again. My first year lighting my own menorah was my last year opening presents beside a Christmas tree in my mom’s house.

How could I have forgotten that convergence? Even for a second?

I stared at that Christmas tree and remembered the first time I saw it. One of my sisters had sent me a picture of it, newly decorated and standing alone in front of a window through which I’d spent countless hours gazing. Watching for Mom. Watching our garage sale. Watching the rain and wondering if I dared hope for sunnier days.

Our last tree there.

I cried. As I cried, the voice my brother refers to as my inner Spock whispered, “Your response is illogical. Because of your mom’s mental illness, it’s been years since you’ve sat beside a Christmas tree there. You’re Jewish now, besides. So what does this tree have to do with anything?”

It has to do with history. Read more…

FTIAT: Life is Like an Empty Box of Chocolates (Because I Ate Them All)

Julie (goguiltypleasures) embraces and shares her guilty pleasures with such wholehearted zest that scientific studies have shown readers feel eleventy billion times happier after reading her blog than they were beforehand.

I caution you to follow the “recommended post” link below only when you have plenty of time to peruse. Like most of life’s sweetest offerings, it’s impossible to have just one bite of goguiltypleasures!

Recommended post: Sincerely Yours, Caring McCantYouSeeImTryingHere

Life is Like an Empty Box of Chocolates (Because I Ate Them All)

Er...I don't know what happened. One minute, there, and the next? Gone. It's the strangest thing, really.

Ten years ago, I attended a local community college in New Jersey, my sights set on transferring to a liberal arts university in Manhattan to study writing. I had a great group of older, witty, musically gifted, insanely intelligent friends, and when I wasn’t working or diligently studying, I spent my time with them. At that point, I’d been through some emotional turmoil (bullying and panic attacks) and had been home-schooled for high school. By 19, I had finally started to shed some of my old baggage, but conversations with this older crowd often left me feeling inadequate. I was always struggling to keep up with their knowledge of music, books, film, politics, religion, and hardest of all, their experience.

I liked to listen to ‘NSync and only read the newspaper if it was a class assignment. Rollerblading, baking, drawing and filmmaking were some of my hobbies. I loved fashion, Harry Potter and seeing pop rock concerts in New York City. I couldn’t get enough of my favorite television shows or juicy celebrity gossip. I was forced to admit the horrible truth: I was mainstream. Ordinary. I was doing something wrong, I thought; I needed to read those books I was “supposed” to read (but made me want to bang my head against a concrete wall), watch those films my friends said were best (but made my eyes droop with boredom), and visit museums “just for fun.”

It wasn’t just my friends who made me feel this way. Growing up, I always wanted to be The Smart One. The thing is, in my family, the bar is set extraordinarily high – I have a genius brother and an Ivy Leaguer father. To make a long story short, while I almost always got A’s in school, I never skipped a grade and never got into Princeton. I was The Artist (my brother had the coveted Smarty-Pants title, of course, while my sister had the Social Butterfly one). Even though I liked being called creative, I still felt the need to prove myself intellectually.

It wasn’t until 21, when I started dating my now-husband, that I realized how much time I was wasting on trying. Trying to be someone I wasn’t, to impress people who probably weren’t fooled to begin with or didn’t care much either way. My husband, more than anyone else, taught me to take the light-hearted road, and there is nothing I’m more grateful for. He’s shown me there’s no shame in liking what I like; the silly, self-indulgent girl I was trying to tame didn’t need stifling. Just because Clueless is my favorite movie of all-time and I’d rather listen to Britney Spears than jazz, doesn’t mean I’m any less interesting than the cerebral college mates I desperately wanted to win over. Those film snob friends who could talk for 45 minutes about the symbolism of Citizen Kane would be embarrassed to hear my husband get the same point across in one hilarious sentence.

Now when I have occasional lapses, and worry people will read my guilty pleasure blog and think I’m a shallow, one-trick pony, I laugh and say to myself, Who cares? Betcha I’m having more fun! What they might not realize is how difficult it was for me to get to this point. Luckily, I know if I start to get caught up in self-doubt, my husband will take my obnoxious words and repeat them in a ridiculous voice. Usually with a heavy lisp. You like using words like plethora, huh? Oh, you studied Nietzsche in college? Get the hell out of here, his teasing reminds me, you’re taking yourself too seriously.

My husband shows me, day in and day out, by his unwavering example, that there’s nothing better than being genuine. For this I am more thankful than champagne words can express. Even though I sometimes still have to force myself to share the goofy things [always] on my mind, it gets easier every day. And that’s like, you know, as the incomparable Miley Cyrus would say, pretty cool y’all.

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