December 28, 2003

Complete and Utter Randomocity:

Today's sermon introduction was like a Godsend . . . if only my mother had been paying more attention. The pastor talked about logical fallacies. I was highly amused. My mom didn't appreciate getting elbowed four times.

The quote of the day comes from our very own Rigoberta Menchu. Today is the run-off election here in Guatemala. None of the presidential candidates got 50% or more of the vote in the first round, so the two front-runners have to have a run-off. We're all rooting for Oscar Berger (pronounced Bear-ZHAY, believe it or not). Alfredo Colom is a commie. And his last name is entirely too close to "colon" for me to be comfortable with him being the president of a Central American nation.

Anyway, Rigoberta's political quote of the day (paraphrased because of translation issues): "Everyone needs to go out and vote. We must do our civic duty and vote for the right man to lead our country. So tomorrow, be sure you vote. Even if you are drunk, go vote." Thank you, Rigoberta . . . That's just freaking brilliant . . .

In other news, a dry crack is a happy crack. And speaking of colons, as I was a moment ago, that headline has to be the worst pun ever . . . except maybe for this one. So, did this paragraph have a theme? You tell me . . .

Hmmm . . . A few more things . . . First of all, a warning. Don't click here if you have food or drink in your mouth . . . or if there is anything in your stomach. It most assuredly will not stay put. For all of my good, Christian, antitriclavianist friends out there, many with similair beliefs seem to be grouping around here. Don't forget to get that logo up on your website, ASAP. And, finally . . . Got an STD or other really nasty disease or sickness? Let us know with the Herpes tie (etc. ad infinitum).

Posted by Jared at 05:19 PM | TrackBack

December 27, 2003

Definitely not smarter than your average movie-going crowd . . .

I propose that the weight of a people's intelligence be measured by how they behave in a movie theater (while the measure of your own intelligence, obviously, is what movie you're sitting there watching with them). I cannot say, by this system, that Guatemalans are the biggest morons on the planet, because I have only visited movie theaters in five countries. But surely they must be among the most egregious of idiots. I swear that during the last three days of watching Return of the King I have encountered more stupid people than in the past three semesters in Longview. Some of you can confirm that this is truly saying something . . .

Total crackhead Guatemalan quote of the day (delivered in all seriousness in reference to Shelob): "Look, it's that big cockroach again!"

I know I need to supply an account of the past few days, but I feel mentally drained from having spent 10 hours sitting in darkened theaters with dozens of people who are probably medically brain-dead but are somehow still able to make lots of noise.

And tomorrow is not looking up, for the moment. I was hoping I'd get to go to the place where I can see it in English tomorrow . . . I had a pretty good plan worked out that would get the timing right nicely (there's a lot going on tomorrow) but a certain someone quashed all of my carefully laid plans with one simple phrase: "I don't want to do that." And it doesn't matter that everyone else does, because the person who said that was my dad. So that sucks. I can't make it work now . . . and there will be a lot going tomorrow morning that I really don't want to be involved in, but I'll have to be, and so on and so forth . . .

How depressing. I'm going to bed.

Posted by Jared at 08:37 PM | TrackBack

December 25, 2003

Return of the King, finally . . . and with a nasty little twist . . .

Alright, first things first . . . Wait . . . *prioritizes briefly* . . . Important things first. So, there are a lot of us going to the theater for the first showing we can make . . . which happens to be 4:00 *curses at responsibilities and other such crap*, and we decide to arrive at 3:30 to buy tickets. Lord of the Rings has never had a big opening day around here . . . when I went to FotR for the first time, I was at the first showing ever here and there were about 15 people in the theater. There are some friends meeting us there, and a bunch of the orphanage kids, having enjoyed the previous installments with us for the past few years. So we get there about ten minutes later than I wanted to because my parents are sloooooow and there's a pretty decent-sized line, which surprises me. But no big deal, we have plenty time to get to the front of it. I spot our friends near the front of the line, and I settle back to wait until I can buy my ticket. And then suddenly my friends are there beside me, telling me they sold out of tickets two people in front of them. Suck. Gotta wait for the 6:00.

But that didn't matter . . . I've waited a year . . . and an extra week . . . I should have expected to have to wait an extra two hours to get in. We all went back to my house and played games and generally had fun until it was time to go again. We had been told that they would let people into the theater starting at 5:30, so we showed up about then. They weren't letting anybody in, there was a large line formed . . . blah blah blah. Finally, at about 15 till, we discover that this line is to see Brother Bear, and we can go in now. It seems like we're the first allowed in, too. Except that the theater was well over half full already. Grrr . . . Our group of 25+ people couldn't find more than five empty seats in a row, so we splintered in all directions.

There wasn't long to wait. They showed the Troy preview and the Timeline preview (because that still isn't out here). And then the movie started. Yay. Finally. I see "El Seņor de los Anillos" come up, but they always have the titles in Spanish. Then we see the first shots, and I'm liking it, and it's going to be good. The first line of the movie is, "Smeagol!" And there's a lot of that name mixed in the few seconds after. And I notice something odd . . . Deagol is saying "eh-Smeagol!" instead of "Smeagol!"

And I say to myself, I say, "Self . . . D'oh!" Because Spanish speakers are incapable of saying a word that starts with the letter s followed by a consonant without putting an "e" in front of the word. So the only reason for Deagol to be saying "eh-Smeagol!" is if the movie is in Spanish. Of course, this flashes through my mind in a nanosecond and it was confirmed almost immediately. For the next five minutes I think I genuinely regretted being in this country right now for the first time. But then I settled in for the movie.

From one standpoint, it's not a big deal. I've seen movies in Spanish before and later had a hard time remembering whether they were in Spanish or English. I can understand everything they're saying perfectly. The main concern is poor dubbing. I hate dubbed movies because they never sound quite right. And often the voice acting is extremely poor, even painfully so. In this case, the voice acting was tolerable, but it definitely lacked the feeling that I was expecting and hoping for from the original actors. Also, (and I've done this a hundred times myself when translating anything), most things simply will not translate straight over, and a lot of times it comes out sounding completely different and maybe even meaning something different. I could tell the movie was doing this too, and it irritated me. So, basically, I can't submit a review on any of the dialogue in the movie, and precious little of the acting, because by my standards, both sucked when done in Spanish. Spanish can be a very very poetic language, but not when you're trying to listen to another language's poetry in it . . . especially a language as weird as ours.

So, now not only do I not have closure until I see the EE in November, I will have even less closure until I've seen the bloody movie in English!!! I expect this to happen by Sunday, because there are places around here that are showing it English. I am simply disappointed in the extreme that our theater right down the street (literally a five minute walk and about a $1.75 ticket) is not one of them. I'll probably see it two or three times in English, and up to four or five in Spanish before I get back.

Yeah, for convenience sake I am going to see it in Spanish again. Because this movie was a good movie. I mean . . . well, you've all seen it already, curse you, so you know what I mean. A little change of language could not ruin this movie. Not by half.

My minor irritants stemmed mainly from Peter Jackson walking the fine line of sticking to the book and pulling in his own crap just a little too closely. One part was where Sam hesitates just a little bit too long before returning the ring to Frodo. Another was the change to the Shelob sequence that had Frodo escaping the lair, Sam sent away, and Gollum getting the crap beat out of him before the real sequence came several minutes later. He was really pushing it there . . . I know he likes to make the audience think he's going one way, and then go another, but when he is making me think he's really going to screw up the book, that's not cool. Sometimes it's not cool even when I know he isn't. My least favorite part of FotR is where it appears that Sam is going to drown and then doesn't. If Sam actually drowned, that would be the lamest thing ever in movie history, and since he isn't going to it's lame to draw out the shot so far that we think he will. And yeah, Gandalf's flashlight and Sauron's darting eye searchlight were underwhelming on an epic level (but fortunately not overused so I didn't care too much).

All of that notwithstanding, this movie delivered for me. I found myself tearing up at several random moments. There was so much that was right for me that it's impossible to focus on the wrong. The eagles . . . I didn't know whether they were in there because I forgot to ask anyone and literally no one has mentioned them anywhere. So as that part drew near I was wondering . . . they were great. I agree with Randy about Shelob. I'm not even really afraid of spiders, but that part freaked me out. Nor am I bothered overmuch by heights, but the stairs of Cirith Ungol . . . *shiver* They remind me of the last time we were at Tikal and I climbed one of the Mayan temples. The stairs are seriously almost that steep . . . but of course nowhere near that narrow and not slick as snot on a doorknob either. My youngest brother got "stuck" halfway up and wouldn't climb any higher or come back down without help.

Some of the parts that were especially right: Pelennor fields, all of it (especially the initial charge of the Rohirrim and Eowyn's face-off with the Witchking) . . . The second part of Shelob . . . Frodo and Sam climbing Mount Doom . . . the whole winddown (short shrift given to Gondor notwithstanding). There are loads and loads of little things that were perfect as well, but I don't want to get into all of that.

I need to go see it again. But there are more things to do between now and then . . . the other happenings of late will have to wait for another post. I'm starving.

Posted by Jared at 10:24 PM | TrackBack

Doing the latest quiz . . . like everybody else


The ULTIMATE personality test
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Actual post coming tomorrow . . . but probably not until after I've seen *drums roll and trumpets sound* THE MOVIE!!!

Posted by Jared at 02:24 AM | TrackBack

December 23, 2003

Reading and Orphans

Well, not much happened today, thank goodness. I got up at around 11:00 or so, goofed off for an hour. I think I spent most of that time hovering around the computer while my brother played Thief II. I must be a sucker for punishment . . . it gives me great pain to watch him play that game. He has no finesse and no patience . . . blunders around levels with his sword out and his health is always in the red zone. And the cool secrets his misses!!! Bah. Whatever.

Then I spent most of the afternoon reading my books. I asked my brother which Star Wars book he was on these days (we're reading the same series) and discovered that he's about six books behind me. So after I encouraged him to go ahead and read it, since he's on a good one, he prevailed upon me to read it to him. I like reading to him from time to time, so I agreed. He's got scarlet fever right now, so that sucks for him, and he's just kind of been moping around the house for days, apparently without even the energy to pick up a book. So I spent an hour or so and read the first two chapters. I'd rather be reading the second Harry Potter book to him (I was actually able to read him the first one this summer!!!), but I forgot to bring it and I think I used up all of my brownie points with the whole D&D thing anyway, so I probably wouldn't be able to talk my mother into it.

The kids got here, right on schedule. Actually, the black-eyed boy disappeared. His dad got really drunk at some point in the last few days and his aunt showed up and whisked him away . . . so he's gone. I hope his aunt is nicer than his grandmother, but it's out of our hands now. The other children are here, though. I haven't met them yet, just caught a glimpse of the little girl as my mom was doing a quick check-up of her medical condition. Their names are Hans, Giovanni (who knows what the actual spelling is . . .), and Emily. Good strong German, Italian, and English names . . . which is odd considering the country I'm in. I've encountered the other two names before, but I've never ever ever heard tell of a Guatemalan named Hans.

Oh, yeah. I should probably have put this link up awhile ago, but there it is now. Go check it out. Pay special attention to the "Profiles" and "Photo Album" sections. I think there's a picture of my house in there somewhere. The kids I'm doing math with at the moment are Alejandra, Dari, Flor, Jose Eduardo, and Luis. My "special friends" (children most likely to attempt a bear hug/tackle at the slightest provocation) are Brenda, Daniel, David, Jenifer, Josue, Karla, Rebeca, Rony, Salomon, Sammy, Sheila, and Yessica. And then there's Rosa, Dalila, and Estela . . . but don't get me started on those three . . . *shudders*

Anyway, big day tomorrow . . . I'm going to go read more.

Posted by Jared at 10:21 PM | TrackBack

December 22, 2003

Christmas Traditions and Random Woes

Ahhh . . . sitting here, massaging my temples . . . still. I got back from Disaster Math three hours ago and my head still hurts. I swear, I cannot get across the concept of negative numbers. Which is funny, because three of the five kids I'm teaching are currently in debt, for whatever reason. I use number lines. I use checking accounts. I explain over and over and over and I'm not getting through. I did about 30 slight variations on the following exchange today:

"What's negative four minus four?"

"Ummm . . . Zero."


"Ummm . . . Eight."

"Negative eight. NEGATIVE NEGATIVE NEGATIVE." *pulls out stupid little number line again and shows them again*

It's not that hard to grasp . . . I'm not following why they aren't following. And no, children, three divided by one will never be five, and eight times five will never be thirty-two anyway. That's 90 minutes of fun per day, three days a week. And I'm actually making progress, after a matter of hours. They're learning things from a friggin' English major in a few hours that their math teacher has been trying to get across for months. My dad tells me that he's started getting requests from random children for me to come back and teach math once I graduate. *shudders*

Don't get me wrong, I want to come back. Really, I do. But I don't know when, and I don't know what I'll be doing. I don't want to just be teaching math . . . it would be a depressing waste. I'd like to kind of steer clear of the whole teaching racket, really, the more I think about it . . . That was one of the reasons I didn't start off majoring in English. I didn't know you could do anything with it besides teach. (Oh, and btw, when I say "teach" I'm referring to anything below the college level.)

I nearly got beaten and trampled to death when I went over to get the math books earlier. All of the little boys were playing together and they decided that they wanted to charge me screaming and attempt to take me out. Fortunately I had my back against a wall, I was close to the office door . . . and they're all really ticklish. When I went into the dining hall to get started on math crap, they were trying to figure out how to plug the DVD player into the TV so they could watch a movie. They had been at it for about 20 minutes . . . it took me 30 seconds. How does this place even function without me around? It's a good thing for everyone here that there's more to life than basic arithmetic and hooking up electronics.

It's weird, because obviously everyone gets along without me okay for the long periods of time when I'm not here. But suddenly when I am, there are all of these indespensable services . . . (I'm not just referring to math homework and VCR hook-ups) . . . that just have to be taken care of. It's kind of nice to have a niche that's always waiting, but . . .

Two more days after tonight, and then it will be the big day. Everyone should know by now that I'm not talking about Christmas, either. Fortunately there will be plenty to distract me between now and then . . . I think. I have tons to read with five books going at the moment. I must finish watching Trigun with my little brother at some point. There are boatloads of fireworks to buy. And there's Christmas eve itself with all the good times that brings. My family is, I have found, somewhat unusual in that we open our presents on Christmas eve instead of Christmas morning. I dunno, what do the rest of you do?

Christmas eve changes a bit from year to year because of the craziness of running the orphanage, but it goes something like this: Most of the kids go to the candlelight service at the church (the one in our front yard) which lasts from 6 to 8 I think. Meanwhile, we have our traditional supper of my mother's wonderful chalupas and enchiladas. The clean-up is accomplished as swiftly as possible and then we do the usual things. Back when I dabbled in piano I'd play a few carols, now my youngest brother does that. We read the Christmas story. Then the presents get passed out. It's rarely just my family present, and this year will be no exception. I think there are going to be 4 other Americans present this time around. As soon as all of the presents are opened, all of the adults disappear to get things ready for the kids' Christmas at 10:00.

There are usually about five or six presents per kid between the things people send and the gift exchange we do and so on. The traditional Guatemalan thing is to eat apples and grapes and drink this really nasty hot fruit punch, all of which we serve while the kids rip into their gifts. There are usually a few American things we've introduced as well, like my mom's brownies. This whole process will easily take up the two hours until the firework fun begins at midnight. I'll be sure and describe this year's goings-on when the time has come.

Fireworks last beyond 1:00 and after that we herd the children quickly off to bed. It's time to play Santa . . . The stockings are usually stuffed and ready to go in another building, we just have to cart them all over to the dining hall and lay them out by the tree. There are loads of extra presents to lay out in an attractive display on the tables as well. These vary from year to year, but they usually consist of board games, puzzles, and so on. There's usually something big. One year we got several bikes, one year it was a ping-pong table, another year it was fuzbol. This year I hear we've got a trampoline.

At this point I find my way to bed while my mother does our stockings. This is usually at about 2:30. My mom claims that Christmas eve always keeps her up until at least 4. My dad is up by 6:00 and over at the dining hall making pancakes for everyone. Breakfast is at 9:00 . . . watching the kids when they spot their presents is fun. The Guatemalan tradition is tamales for lunch, so we do that. I hate Guatemalan tamales. They're about six times larger than the Mexican variety, and incredibly soggy. They usually have various vegetables, of which I am not fond, mixed liberally into the cornmeal wrap, with chicken at the center. The chicken is always mostly bone. They come wrapped in soaking wet banana leaves, which is why they're so soggy . . . A favorite story is about the gringo who ordered a tamale at a Guatemalan restaurant and complimented them on "the lettuce" after he was done.

I expect to be rather busy after lunch this year . . . but not much goes on anyway at that point. Oh, yes. Another interesting thing this year. We're getting four new kids (bringing the total up to 42) tomorrow. Three of them are siblings. Their parents disappeared one day over a year ago . . . just walked out of the house and never came back. Their grandparents have been taking care of them, but they just can't handle it. I think they are 4, 5, and 7 years old, two boys and a girl. The other boy is 3 (he'll be 4 in January). His dad is my age. His mother is long gone. My dad said the kid had a black eye when he went to visit him. He said his grandmother gave it to him.

The whole thing was kind of sudden, so my mom is scrambling to find them some Christmas presents and to cobble together four more stockings. From what I hear, they all have severe cases of "the urchin look" . . . malnourished, rotting teeth, lice, etc. But give them a month or two around here, and you'll never know it. That's one of the things I love the most about this whole thing. You can hardly recognize a new kid after they've been here for a few months. They weigh more than three pounds, they have hair, they aren't wearing rags . . . and they smile and laugh. When they first showed up, you couldn't get three words out of them, now they won't shut up. Happy, healthy kids . . . the way they're supposed to be.

Okay, I talked a bunch, and if you're as tired of reading it all as I am of writing it, then it's definitely time to post.

Posted by Jared at 07:52 PM | TrackBack

December 21, 2003

Unwilling Center of Attention

So, I type like, half of the following post . . . but I'm on my dad's stupid Mac. And he wants to watch a DVD, like now. And our DVD player is mysteriously unavailable. So I decide to copy-paste the post before posting it to make sure I don't lose it . . . standard precaution and all that.

Hmmm . . . "Dad, how do you copy-paste on these things?"

"Ctrl-C, like normal."

"Okay." So I highlight the whole thing and hit Ctrl-C . . . and my post disappears, never to return. Which is funny because my dad has disappeared as well, and by the time he reappears, I could have just gone ahead and finished the post and published it after all . . .

"Dad, I pressed Ctrl-C and it ate my post."

"Oh, well the Ctrl key on a Mac is that funny little symbol."

"But there IS a Ctrl key . . . Why didn't you say 'the funny little symbol key'?!"

*shrug and blank stare from him*

*a good, swift smack from me*

So, after that brief interlude from the three stooges, here's the post:

Something's gotta give somewhere, because I'm through being caught off balance every time I greet someone. Either you Americans are going to have to quit being so freaking stand-offish, or these Guatemalans need to quit with the touchy/feely crap. So today before lunch I accompany my dad to the factory down the road to check on the orphanage girls who are working there. The last gasp of the Christmas crunch apparently made it necessary for the factory workers to come in on Sunday, and the girls provide childcare for the workers' children while they're on the job. My dad introduces me to the wife of the guy who runs the place, and she's an American, and she's heard a lot about me apparently, so as she comes forward and I'm meeting her for the first time ever and so on, naturally I stick out my hand. She sticks out both hands . . . and her arms . . . like, really wide . . . and then suddenly I'm in the middle of this quick big-hug-and-peck-on-the-cheek deal. Fun. I hate hugs . . . it's just not my style to go around distributing random displays of affection, especially to total strangers. However, it's just kind of a fact of life around here, and I can live with that. I can adapt . . . no problem. But I'm getting a little tired of having to re-adapt repeatedly with every single minor change of locale. Whatever . . .

So, after being here just over a week, I finally braved my first lunch in the dining hall with the orphanage kids. Last year I got in late Friday, stayed in my house all day Saturday, went to church elsewhere on Sunday morning, and then showed up in the dining hall for lunch. And was greeted by a rather rousing round of applause with some random cheering and whatnot mixed in. I hate being the center of that much attention, but it's nice to know one is loved. Whatever. So this year we ate out last Sunday for lunch, and since my dad went on a diet we've apparently stopped eating lunch with the orphanage kids every weekday as well. So I've seen almost all of the kids in very small, very manageable groups of 3-5. This minimizes the fuss considerably (I hate being fussed over), although it does tend to draw it out. But I hadn't really seen hardly any of the little kids yet, so I took it all on the chin when I showed up at lunch today.

Everyone knows how little kids are . . . I'm standing there behind my dad, waiting for him to hurry up and dish those freaking beans onto his plate already and he's taking his sweet time and ladling, like, ten spoonfuls or something. And meanwhile I've got about ten 2-6 year-old kids calling out "Jerry!" literally every five seconds, and when I look up they grin and wave . . . and what do you do? You grin at them and you wave back, even though you just did five seconds before. So I finally get my food, and I kind of back up and lean comfortably against the counter to eat . . . not wanting to mingle and all that. And 100 little voices are like, "Jerry, come sit here! Come sit here!"

Thank God they're all sitting at the same table so I'm not having my chain yanked in 30 directions or having to show some random breed of favoritism or anything unpleasant like that. *sigh* I go get a chair and I sit down amongst the throng. I choose a nice open spot on the table, where I can face most of them on the other side without being crowded, and immediately I've got two little girls on either side of me . . . so forget that. And now I'm being bombarded with questions of all shapes and sizes ranging from "Where do you live now?" ("Far away.") to "How old are you?" ("20." "Wow, you're old." "No, I'm not old," *turns and points at father* "He's old. I'm young.")

And I'm getting random glares from the ranking adult at the table because now none of these children are eating their lunches like they're supposed to be. So I answer some questions, peppered liberally with orders to them to eat up. And then I start answering questions with, "I'll tell you as soon as you've finished your vegetables," and the like. And I can just feel a million silly grins from the older kids boring into the back of my head . . . which didn't really bother me so much, but there it was.

Conclusions: Little kids are still fun and hilarious. I hate being doted on.

Good times.

Posted by Jared at 01:50 PM | TrackBack

December 20, 2003

Jared tries to stay sane while the rest of the world enjoys RotK . . .

Some interesting tidbits on the RotK:EE from a reliable source.

Stuff we'll get to see:

Gandalf and co. bringing finality to the Saruman storyline, as per the books . . . except for Saruman's new demise (a plummet from on high to get impaled on one of his own spiked wheels).

Merry pledging himself to Theoden and the Rohirrim.

Aragorn using the palantir to reveal himself to Sauron.

Aragorn healing Faramir in the Houses of Healing and Eowyn and Faramir . . . doing that whole thing.

Sam and Frodo in disguise joining a column of marching orcs as per the book.

Aragorn and everyone riding up to the Black Gates and being greeted by the Mouth of Sauron (played by the Trainman from Matrix Revolutions) with Frodo's Mithril vest, leading the heroes to believe that all hope is lost, as per the book. This obviously changes the emphasis of Aragorn's "Frodo line" as well.

Anyway, cool stuff . . . too bad it isn't the theatrical cut, but . . . Well, there it is.

And while you're wandering the internet, go check this out. I love good throwback cinema, and this looks promising . . . It's kinda cool, anyway.

Posted by Jared at 02:50 PM | TrackBack

December 19, 2003

The Infinite Joys of Life at Home

This is my kind of news story. There's something highly appealing about the whole thing . . . the spirits of uneasy historical figures haunting the famous scenes of their demise. Stories like this don't appear in your local paper very often, but there are books and books of them lying about here and there, and I have been fascinated (and, in earlier days, scared sleepless) by them for as long as I've been able to read.

In other news, maybe I should just stop going to supper. Seriously. Good times for me have not, thus far, been the result of the family gathering for dinner of late. Tonight went something like this:

I'm talking to my dad about . . . something (topic unimportant) and the youngest brother is being annoying and, more importantly, loud. So I turn to him and say, "Sho!" then turn back and pick up the sentence where I left off. Brief background for the uninformed: "Sho" is essentially Guatemalan slang for "Shut Up," and I am told that it is considered by some few to be "vulgar," but no one can tell me why or by whom, so I ignore that piece of information.

So, before I say three more words, I realize that I'm getting "the look" from my dad. (Paraphrase) "We don't say that word. I'll have you writing Bible verses if you say it again."

Me: What's wrong with "sho"?

Him: Ten Bible verses . . . Do you want to pick them, or shall I?

Me: What are you talking about?

Him: You're gonna write ten Bible verses. I told you not to say that. Are you gonna pick them, or do you want me to?

Me: What the heck?

Him: Don't say the "h-word."

Me: This is stupid!

Mother: Don't say the "s-word."

At this point I'm fairly certain I looked kind of like a fish on dry land . . . I had the whole gasping for breath and mouth flopping thing going on. I was so flabbergasted I didn't have the foggiest idea what to say. Well, I take that back . . . I knew exactly what to say, but I didn't want to say it in front of the two little brothers watching the proceedings with much interest from the other side of the table.

It would have started off something like: "What do you think you're doing?!" And it would have gone downhill rapidly from there . . . but I kept my cool until I could have a private word, and the matter was dropped (for now). I'm really rather tired of being forced into situations around here that make me feel like a rebellious punk teenager. I attempted to make various points on the subject of why it was completely idiotic to forbid the use of "sho" with my mother later on, but I didn't get anywhere, of course. She ended the thing with her usual line: "Nothing I say is going to convince you because you have your opinion and you aren't going to change it, no matter what my reasons are."

The sad difference is that I try and base my opinion on reasoning that is as sound as I can get it . . . she is every bit as guilty of clinging stubbornly to an opinion in the face of all argument. A rather humorous "case-in-point" occured last night.

The house isn't insulated, like, at all because it just doesn't get that cold, and there are all sorts of minute cracks around windowsills and whatnot. The upshot of this is that when it gets really windy around this time of year, I get cold (heck, I get cold whenever and wherever . . . everybody knows that). But that's okay, because we have those little air heaters, and so on and so forth. So I'm lying on the couch reading a book, and I've got the heater up on the couch with me, at the other end so the warm air is blowing on my feet. My mom comes in and tells me she wants the thing off the couch so it won't set the house on fire. I start to tell her that that is ridiculous, it isn't going to set the house on fire because . . . And that was as far as I got because she told me to take it off, turned around, and walked out.

Now, the heater had been up there with me for over an hour at this point, so I got up and followed her, and asked her if she could please come into the living room for just a second. I had her feel the couch right in front of and directly under the heater with her own hands. It was, I will have you know, cooler than the spot I had been sitting on that whole time because the heater blows hot air only out the front, and as we all know, hot air rises . . . so the couch wasn't feeling anything, and it certainly wasn't about to burst into flame. As soon as she realized this, she said, "Well, I don't know why you need to use the heater anyway, it uses up too much electricity." And then she went and got me a blanket. And I still can't have the heater on the couch.

*beats head against wall, figuratively and literally* I admire her skill . . . it's probably where I got mine. She changed tack very swiftly, showing how versatile and (as I like to think) slippery she can be in an argument. But clearly she has her opinion, and just as clearly I can't change it even when I stick a fact in front of her that she can get the feel of with her own hands. How much less am I going to be able to convince her of something as nebulous as . . . well, anything?

But all I know is, nobody had better be assigning me Bible verses to copy . . . Hmmm . . . *looks thoughtful* He didn't say they all had to be different . . .

"Jesus wept."
"Jesus wept."
"Jesus wept."
"Jesus wept."
"Jesus wept."
"Jesus wept."
"Jesus wept."
"Jesus wept."
"Jesus wept."
"Jesus wept."

Okay, I'm done.

Posted by Jared at 10:38 PM | TrackBack

December 18, 2003

Crappy Mood

Hmmm . . . for some reason I am unable to comment on anyone's blog right now. So here's the comment I was going to post on Scholl and/or Wilson.

"We hates you all for seeing the movie before ussss!!! I am henceforth declaring war on marketing . . . at least until I've been appeased by getting to see the movie, of course. Anyway, I'm sure most of the quibbles will be taken care of by the EE. I, for one, will not have closure for another 11 months or so at least."

I'm in a really bad mood right now, and I'm not totally certain why that is. It probably has something to do with being tired and not tired. I slept until about 2:30 today, got up feeling really crappy, ate something, then fell asleep again until 6:00. I have an annoying headache niggling at the back of my forehead, waiting to break out (and the extremely loud church service in my front yard isn't helping). And I'm in one of those moods where bothering me at all means getting your head bitten off. Among the things that will bother me right now (and have in the last five minutes): staring at the computer screen over my shoulder, talking in anything other than your normal voice, any combination of my brothers engaging in their usual petty squabbling anywhere within earshot, leaving the door of this room open when coming in or going out, inviting more noise from church, mosquitoes, and the stares of curious orphanage children. Anyway, as I say . . . crappy mood.

Another contributing factor was the frustrating discussion I just had with my parents at supper. I know I will have several of these discussions while I'm here, but this was the first, and I wasn't in the mood for it. Today it was video games . . . the next time it could be anything: Harry Potter, D&D, movies . . . basically any topic that ultra-conservatives are typically seen as harping against. I just don't understand how it is that they so consistently and cleanly miss the point of everything as if it weren't even there. They don't understand, and I have repeatedly found myself incapable of making them understand. I get it, and I try to explain what I get, but the blinders stubbornly stay on. *shrugs* Oh, well . . . I knew it was coming, but like I said . . . bad timing. I'm going to go do something fun now . . . while everyone else is watching Santa Clause 2.

TIMELAPSE EDIT: During brief further "discussion" with my mother, something . . . "fun" happened.

Exact quote from my mother (I swear and kid you not, this is exactly what she said, no joke): "The proof is in the pudding."

Whereupon I literally fell to the ground, unable to prevent myself from laughing hysterically, and she got so mad that she wouldn't speak to me. Can't say I blame her, really.

Posted by Jared at 08:03 PM | TrackBack

December 17, 2003

RotK Annoyances, Ice-Breakers, and Math Tutoring

Well, it's the big day for most of the world, but life goes on like always here. I won't be sitting in any movie theaters today. I knew this before I came down. For the past two years, LotR movies have come out here exactly two days late. However, I have just had confirmed by the ever-reliable and always entertaining Prensa Libre that, for "marketing reasons" (shakes fist at Wilson, just because) the movie will not be out here this year until Christmas Day. On the one hand (and it's a pretty big hand) that totally sucks. I have to wait a whole extra week to see the movie! What is that?! "Marketing reasons"?! That doesn't even make sense! But we're looking on the bright side . . . Can you beat that as a Christmas present? I don't think so . . .

Anyway, I spent yesterday afternoon helping out with the much-anticipated, yearly staff Christmas party. My dad wanted me to do the games, so I found a few to do and got all the stuff ready, etc. My favorite one involved taste-testing baby food and guessing what flavor it was. (I picked these games chiefly with my own amusement as I watched grown people play them in mind.) It was kinda fun. I also spent several hours playing Medal of Honor online, since we have apparently acquired a cable modem since last I graced the country with my presence. So that's one more thing for me to waste my time on during vacation.

I was going to keep visiting my old high school yesterday and today (it being finals week, which means half days and a half week), but I woke up sick both mornings. So that kinda sucked. At least I got to go say hello to everyone on Monday. Today my dad wants me to get straight to business, so I went over a few minutes ago and had a meeting with him and the lady who is kind of the head of the orphanage staff and so on. My happy-fun project of benevolence and service is now lined out for the next almost-month.

I used to "tutor" four nights a week during the Guatemalan school year ( late February-early November) while I lived here. I would go over during homework time and help the kids with their homework. This consisted mostly of math, but there was a healthy dose of science, computer, history, and English (as a second language, obviously) mixed in. Now, if you noted the school year up there, you've noticed that it's summer vacation. But it seems that five kids in 7th and 8th grades flunked out of math this year, and the make-up test is in January. So I'll be going over to work with them at 3:30. It'll probably be 2-4 hours a day, at least 3 days a week.

I took a look at their tests from last year, including the final exam and . . . *loud gagging noises* . . . You recall (since I just said it) that these are 7th and 8th graders, but on those tests were some of the absolute nastiest Algebra II problems I've ever seen. Most of them weren't particularly difficult in priniciple, but the math teachers around here, I can't help but notice, choose the most disgusting and complex problems they can think of to illustrate and test over even the most elementary concepts. And there were short answer questions on these tests!!! What is that?! Somebody needs to be beaten over the head with a lead pipe . . . I just hope I'm not feeling like doing that to myself by about 5:00.

Anyway, with this bite out of my schedule in mind, I'll sign off now and go . . . play Medal of Honor some more or something. G'bye.

Posted by Jared at 10:30 AM | TrackBack

December 15, 2003

Dateline: Good Ol' Guatemala

Hello everyone. I'm having a great time here in Guatemala, wish you all were here and all that . . . regardless of your own personal desires concerning this sentiment. Anyway, lots of stuff happening, and not much at all at the same time. I did nothing on Saturday, went to church on Sunday, bummed around at my old high school today, etc.

I'm sure more interesting things will come to my attention as time goes on, but I discovered an absolutely fantastic retarded government policy that has been instituted since I was here last, and I thought it deserved a brief blogpost. It's about the license plates. Everything is a little fuzzy (yay!), but here's what I understand:

A few months ago, the government started talking about a nice new license plate design that would be "put into circulation" or whatever, and a lot of money got funneled into the project. Well, time went by and no one saw any license plates. Suddenly, everyone is talking at once and pointing fingers and the official story seems to be that the company that was producing the license plates committed some kind of fraud and the money disappeared. The next thing you know, the wonderful new license plates come out and start getting slapped onto cars everywhere.

A few of our cars have them, I've seen numerous other cars on the streets with them as well. Almost every single "lisence plate" is hanging off of the car in shreds. They appear to be made of some especially flimsy form of cheaply laminated paper. That's quality, right there. You can't even read the number on most of them because even if they aren't ripped in several places or drooping off the back of the cars, weather damage has caused the numbers to fade. I want to meet the bureaucrat whose idea this was and shake his hand . . . maybe even hear a few words from him, on the off-chance that he has the mental capacity for intelligent speech, of course.

You know, this is what makes the "good ol' USA" so blasted boring . . . You think you've got morons up there? Think again . . .

Random observation of the day: A lot can happen in a year, and a lot can change, especially when your on-site sources aren't keeping you properly informed (assuming that "someone must have told you"). I'm not doing this year-long absence thing again. I'm thinking six months, tops, from here on in . . .

Posted by Jared at 03:53 PM | TrackBack

December 13, 2003

The Epic Journey

Well, I'm here, safe and sound and so tired I can't string two coherent thoughts together, sitting here watching the new scenes of The Two Towers with my brothers. As we all know, there's only one thing to do when one can't communicate coherently: Whip up a blogpost. Traveling and stuff sucked, big time, so that wasn't cool. It's been a long day, but there have been a few bright spots.

Waking up at 6:30 this morning was not one of those bright spots. I mean, how could it be? The sun wasn't even up yet. However, I managed to snag an Egg McMuffin and fill up on gas and get out of Longview by 7:20. I was making crazy good time on the way to Dallas, but I seriously started falling asleep at the wheel. So I pulled over at a rest stop, took a 10-minute nap, and bought a source of caffeine. After that I was okay.

Once in Dallas, I drove straight to the office where Mr. White (my history teacher from high school, for those of you who don't know) now works. I got there at 10:00, right on schedule. It was great to see him again, since I haven't for about a year and a half, and we had plenty of time to visit before he dropped me off at the airport. We stopped at Denny's for brunch along the way. He'll be taking care of my pickup for me while I'm here in Guatemala.

So, he dropped me off at the terminal, and I went in and . . . Bah, I don't want to write all this down. To make a long story short, I wound up standing in the wrong line for 20 minutes, then I had to drag myself and my freaking 140 pounds of luggage over to Terminal E (from Terminal A). It really sucked. However, I finally made it to the gate a few minutes before they started boarding. I was asleep before we even took off and I didn't wake up until we landed in Atlanta. At this point I was suddenly starving (like, the kind of hungry where you're fighting collapse). And I had to get all the way to Terminal E from Terminal A, again. But we're still making a long story short. I grabbed something at Burger King, and made it onto my Guatemala plane.

There was a movie, and it was a movie I hadn't seen before: Matchstick Men. It looked decent, so I watched it. I hated it. I mean, I really hated it. And I'm having a hard time understanding why. I generally dislike "feel good" movies, and I love surprise endings. But I was actually enjoying where this movie was going, and the twist hit me like a punch in the stomach. It was one of the nastiest things I've ever seen done to a main character, and I didn't like that at all. And then they had the gall to try and "fix" it in the last fifteen minutes so you didn't totally feel like crap after the movie was over, and that failed miserably. Maybe I was just mad because the movie got me to care a bit, I dunno.

You know, along those same lines (somehow . . . don't ask me to explain the connections), I was thinking after the movie was over: I kind of have a love/hate relationship with, like, everything. Does that make me a schizo, or just subject to wild mood swings? The whole thing kind of dovetails with my earlier posts on sentimentalism vs. cynicism. But whatever. I was going to go into it further, but I'm tired. I'm going to sleep. Maybe more later. G'night.

Posted by Jared at 12:38 AM | TrackBack

December 11, 2003

The Truth Will Out . . .

Congratulations! You're Merry!

Which Lord of the Rings character and personality problem are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Jared at 05:35 PM | TrackBack

December 10, 2003

Father Brown Still Rocks

The inimitable Father Brown, on Happy People:

"You see," said Father Brown, blinking modestly, "I'm not sure that the Armstrong cheerfulness is so very cheerful . . . for other people. You say that nobody could kill such a happy old man, but I'm not sure. If ever I murdered somebody," he added quite simply, "I dare say it might be an Optimist."

"Why?" cried Merton, amused. "Do you think people dislike cheefulness?"

"People like frequent laughter," answered Father Brown, "but I don't think they like a permanent smile. Cheerfulness without humour is a very trying thing."

Posted by Jared at 10:54 AM | TrackBack

December 08, 2003

"Children Are Evil," or "Jared Has Been Watching too Many Horror Movies"

What is it about small children that scares us so much? I have my own answers to the question, but I'll let you draw what conclusions you will. When I ask that question, I am referring, of course, to scary movies. Over the past few days I've been watching (or re-watching) some scary movies, suspenseful movies, etc. Almost inevitably, the creepiest character is a child. Why this widespread trend in scary movies? Well, because it works. Little kids apparently scare us more than almost anything else. I don't watch very many movies that can be described as "horror" and those of you who do probably have half a dozen titles in your head right now which don't involve children. First of all, "slasher" movies can be largely discounted. I'm not talking about movies that rely solely on "jump out in front of the camera very suddenly and yell" tactics to scare you. Those scares don't really last. No, at least think movies that involve the supernatural, movies that really leave a lasting impression. Just look at, for example: The Others, The Sixth Sense, The Ring, The Exorcist, Ghost Ship, Child's Play, Children of the Corn, The Poltergeist, The Bad Seed, Lady in White, The Shining, The Nanny, Audrey Rose, Paper House, Salem's Lot, The Omen . . . Well, it's a long list. And . . . wow. I am not linking all of those. Anyway, random thought process of the day (coming on the heels, specifically, of watching The Ring just now). Make of it what you will. Or don't. Makes no difference whatsoever to me.

Posted by Jared at 04:37 PM | TrackBack

December 03, 2003

Why Do the White Gulls Call?

Alright, I'm sitting here in the library trying to do 10 Bible journals at once, and just finishing up the fourth. I'm not working very fast because I'm in one of "those" moods, and I have a train of thought stuck firmly in my head, moving at a slow crawl on the circular track. I can't get it to jump the tracks, the bridge isn't out at the moment, and I don't have any spare wood to stoke the engine fires with. So this is what we do: I'm switching the tracks, and the train is coming out at my fingertips (you know, the ones that are stuck to this keyboard). This little introductory section is coming while I wait for it to wind its way down out of my head and through my arms to the . . . Wait, I think its here.

Yesterday I found this link where the final track of the Return of the King soundtrack is available to be listened to in its entirety. Later that night I actually went out and bought the thing (not having realized that it was already out). Since then I have listened to the final track (which will be played during the end credits) about . . . well, I've listened to it a lot, over and over. I'm listening to it right now.

At the end of Fellowship we had "May It Be" sung by Enya, and it was a pretty song. She's got a good voice, the music is pleasant, etc. The lyrics were . . . functional. They worked. It was kind of a "Godspeed" to Frodo as he starts the real journey. It kind of glanced off the surface of things, a bit. It's not particularly deep or meaningful, (not that I care). I wasn't expecting it to be (I wasn't thinking about the music much when I first saw the movie anyway), and I think it is a very nice song. Looking at it now, I can see that it carries the movie forward from the "last scene." The movie isn't over until . . . (I wasn't going to say the fat lady sings) . . . this song has ended.

Then, at the end of Towers there was "Gollum's Song" performed by Emiliana Torrini. The choice of this song was . . . interesting. It takes a moment to get used to it, first. It's a direct contrast to Enya, both the voice and the lyrics. Torrini's singing is almost like listening to a heart break, musically. She sings just shy of a whine or a moan. But the words are what make the song really good. I think this is a perfect capture of what has just happened to Smeagol/Gollum as the movie ends. Once again, the movie isn't over until the song is over. And, while I think it has more depth than "May It Be," it's not the sort of song one listens to over and over and over. This is not because it's melancholy, I don't mind melancholy, but the song offers no hope. It only crushes and departs.

Then, after all this, comes "Into the West" sung by Annie Lennox. Based on the name of the next to last track ("The Grey Havens"), together with the fact that each of the songs before was a continuation of the thoughts during the last scene, I would say that this song is basically Sam's thoughts and feelings as Frodo and the other Ring Bearers leave Middle Earth. Be that as it may, I found the lyrics to be especially significant when considered in the light of being a euphemism for the physical death of Christians. I don't want to take the time here to go through each line and stamp my little commentary in, and I think that would ruin the song anyway. Here are the lyrics, think about them yourself as you go listen to the song:

Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You have come to journey's end

Sleep now
Dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across a distant shore

Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away

Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?

Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come
To carry you home

And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water
All souls pass

Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time

Don't say
We have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again

And you'll be here in my arms
Just sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?

Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come
To carry you home

And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the west

And, as a final, bonus thought, consider the following lines from each song as they connect together:
"Oh! How far you are from home" (May It Be)
"You are lost, you can never go home" (Gollum's Song)
"The ships have come to carry you home" (Into the West)

Posted by Jared at 04:29 PM | TrackBack