August 31, 2005

Classes Begin

This is beginning to look like an interesting semester. Here is a quick rundown of my classes.

Elementary Spanish I:
This class looks like it will be ridiculously simple. I studied Spanish in high school for three years, but between then and now I have forgotten the vast majority of what I once knew. However, the results of the placement test we took indicated I should be in Elementary Spanish II.

Western Civilization to 1715:
Comments reserved until after the second class period

American Foreign Policy:
There is going to be a rather interesting class dynamic here. There is quite a wide variety of personalities, including at least one person who chose this class because he didn't want to take another "American History" class. This is also the first class I have had with Nathan in quite some time, unless I've forgotten something.

The workload seems interesting. I have a minimum of fifteen pages I will need to write for this class. I'll also have four tests.

Literary Criticism:
I have a feeling that this class will contain the bulk of my work for this semester. I will need to write twenty journals and a formal paper. This will result in a minimum of twenty-five pages, but it will more likely end around thirty or so pages. An incredible amount of reading is necessary for all of that, of course. There is also the requisite group presentation.

The class itself looks promising, despite all that. How can you not like a class that will involve discussing meaning in literature?

Reading the Bible as Literature:
I have not yet had this class.

Senior Honors Seminar:
I have not yet had this class.

Posted by Randy at 03:19 PM | TrackBack

August 08, 2005

Six Feet Under

I can not stand most sitcoms and dramas on network television. Sitcoms generally use the same tired jokes over and over while resolving the occasional problem with cheesy moments designed to make the viewer feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Dramas are generally sanitized, avoiding most serious issues that may arise in life and carefully treading around the few they dare to confront.

I think that is why I have completely fallen for the series on channels such as Showtime and HBO. Dead Like Me, the unfortunately ill-fated dark comedy from Showtime, is one of the best series I have ever seen. Most of my friends would at least agree that I feel that way, and many probably hold the same opinion. It is not a conventional comedy; therefore, it must be at least partially original in its humor.

Six Feet Under, HBO's successful drama about a family and its funeral home business, is similarly appealing to me. It feels real. It embodies the opposite of network programming, showing the viewer the dirty, the gritty, and the ugly parts of both death and life.

The old cliche "emotional rollercoaster" does not even begin to describe this show. It has its happy peaks and rock bottoms as well as its quiet desperations and furious outbursts. The characters experience and face teenage angst, parental misgivings, rocky relationships, and family turmoil.

This is the only television drama I've seen where I connect with and care about all of the characters. This is the only drama I've wanted to cry over or to scream at when an episode ends. This is the only drama of which I want to watch episode after episode after episode, watching characters grow and/or fall apart.

If you know me at LETU, you will probably catch at least some portion of some episode during the upcoming semester. Of course, some will probably watch a few seasons with me. Unfortunately, some will see some of the characters, situations, or circumstances of the show and turn away from it. I see that as their loss.

Posted by Randy at 03:01 AM | TrackBack

August 03, 2005


I have just read quite possible the most deranged, disturbed, and disgusting novel I have ever known. Intrigued yet?

Haunted, a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, tells the story of a writer's retreat that goes horribly wrong. The story is told through the individual stories of the writers at the retreat. It is kind of a Canterbury Tales for a much more cynical generation.

The writers were promised safe and complete seclusion from the world for three full months. They were told that all of their needs would be met, and they were told to bring only one suitcase each. Away from the distractions of the real world, they were promised the inner masterpiece within each of them could be written.

However, the heat and power at the retreat (an old theater) soon stop working. The food supply begins to dwindle suspiciously fast. The only way out of the theater is locked, and the retreat planner refuses to open the door.

To pass the time and to entertain themselves, the writers tell each other stories, mainly drawing from their individual pasts. The stories told range from disturbing to outright sickening. Supposedly, the stories become more extreme, reflecting the situation in which the writers find themselves.

While fighting to survive and listening to the dark pasts of their "roommates," each individual develops a dark motive to remain at the "retreat." Each begins to believe that they are experiencing something that will make them famous, and each seeks out a "plot point" to increase their own future fame and fortune.

Keep reading for my opinion of the book.

The inside flap describes this book as "a satire of reality television--The Real World meets Alive." In a sense, this is quite true. Every character is more than willing to suffer (and add to the suffering) that he or she will experience while trapped in the theater in order to increase the payoff he or she imagines at the end. Does this not describe the vast majority of reality television precisely?

The characters do not even refer to one another by their real names. Instead, each is given a "nickname." The nicknames reflect the dark secrets of each characters past. "Saint Gut-Free," "Reverend Godless," "Earl of Slander," "Miss America," and so on. The only time a character's real name is used is in his or her own stories.

I said earlier that this was the most disturbing and disgusting novel I have ever read. This feeling comes from both some of the stories that are told and some of the actions between the stories at the retreat. In my opinion, the most disturbing story is the first one told. It is told by Saint Gut-Free, and it essentially explains why he was given that name. The most disturbing part of the retreat is spread out as the characters seek to add to their suffering and make themselves appear more desperate.

This book reminds me quite a bit of Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters, in a way. Like that previous book, the content of Haunted is abominable, and I would recommend it only to a select few people that I know. The first story alone made me put the book down and stop reading it for a short while. I did pick it back up, obviously, and I am now glad that I did.

Posted by Randy at 02:06 PM | TrackBack