January 31, 2004

More on the Subject of My Supposed "Non-life"

First, I finally finished Lord of Chaos. Yeah. Finally. I've been reading it since, what, October? Yes, it is nearly 1,000 pages long, and yes, I have finished a number of books in-between, and yes, I was excessively busy during various long periods between then and now. But I should most certainly have finished it during Christmas break for certain. Bleah. Anyway, it got a 95 from me. This is almost certainly more than it deserves and without doubt this is more than most people would give it. But I'm not most people, thank goodness. The book did not once fail to lose my interest. Yeah, it was longer than it needed to be, but it had more than enough coolness to keep me reading. And whatever else you have to say about Robert Jordan, the man knows how to write a climactic ending. Wow. That alone probably boosted the book 4 points at least. Ending well is of the utmost importance, of course, to my rating system. Anyway, so now I'm "down" to six books, and hopefully dropping further very soon. I continue to read The Desperate Hours, The Wisdom of Father Brown, and Fantastical Visions II. I started The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Volume One) this week, and it is way cool. It's the kind of thing that I have to actually be awake to read, but very good nonetheless. Also, last Friday night Scott plunks four books of an SF series in my hands and tells me to read them. So I am. The first book (The Callahan Chronicals) is actually a collection of three books, and I'm halfway through the first of those three. And, finally, thanks to friggin' Batts, I have just started The Sound and the Fury. It's high time that one was behind me.

Report on Life with Father . . . It's impossible for a comedy like this not to be fun to read. The cast:

Scholl: Father
Anna: Vinnie (Mother)
Myself: Clarence (oldest son, 17)
Wilson: John (2nd son, 15)
Scott: Whitney (3rd son, 13)
Moore: Harlan (youngest son, 6)
Gallagher: Cousin Cora, Dr. Somers
Ardith: Mary (young friend of Cora), Margaret (the cook), Annie, Delia, Nora, Maggie (maids)
Martinez: The Reverend Dr. Lloyd (Rector of the family church)
Sharpton: Dr. Humphreys

Scott as whiny 13-year old = fun to listen to

Ardith playing six roles, and actually conversing with herself at one point = fun to listen to

Anna and Scholl fighting and bickering like an old married couple = . . . Hold on, we hear that all the time. Nevermind. At least you know they're good at it.

I'm trying not to typecast Gallagher, really I am, but it's hard. He's just so good at that voice. Anyway, good times . . . I thought everyone did well, considering the difficulty of ten people with four scripts during act one, and the difficulty of doing a dry run of this play in general, with all of its stage directions.

Hmmm . . . there's more to talk about, I'm sure, but it can wait. I'm off to do stuff, and then go to bed.

Posted by Jared at 11:04 PM | TrackBack

Jared's Little Box/Range of Motion

Link from the Limey Brit, try it out!

create your own visited country map
or write about it on the open travel guide

create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Hmmm . . . compared to some, I am a fairly well-travelled individual. But compared to some, I've barely been out of my own backyard. Never been out of the Americas, never been farther north than Ohio, farther west than Colorado, or farther south than Nicaragua. That leaves me a lot of room to play with, but I definitely need to get out more. I'm less worried about travels in the US, however . . . I already focused on the really important region of the country, right?

Posted by Jared at 03:03 PM | TrackBack

January 30, 2004

Guatemala = Pretty

I had meant to put this one into my last post and it slipped my mind until a very random part on Master Ninja II (MST3K) brought it to my mind. Near the end of the fall semester of my senior year, my Bible teacher (the crazy presentations one, who, I just remembered, also had us write a paper on Mere Christianity that semester and mine ended up being almost 30 pages long . . . still have it) . . .

Okay, nevermind all that . . . I'm just starting a new paragraph, because that's just a nasty mess up there. So this Bible teacher organizes a little trip to a very special, very out of the way place that I had never been to before. It was kind of a spiritual retreat for whoever in the class wanted to go. I think there were 8-10 of us that went. Getting to this place required a bus ride (I think it was 6 hours, but it might have been . . . 10, I'm a little fuzzy on the details now for some reason), staying at a place he knew of for the night, and leaving in two Land Rovers before 6:00 the next morning for a 3 hour drive on the craziest-ever dirt roads through the mountains. The vistas on the way were like nothing I've seen elsewhere, almost impossible to describe. I remember looking out at one point, and spread out as far as I could see where dozens and dozens of rounded, tree-covered peaks, as close together as they could be without being the same mountain.

Well, we finally arrived at our destination and we spent the first hour or two off by ourselves with our Bibles. Oh, and we were fasting that day, by the way. It was an interesting time, but after that was over, it was time to really enjoy the location. I think the place is spelled Semuc Champey, but I really have no idea. In any case, it's pronounced Sah-MOOK Shahm-PAY. There are wild rushing rapids that come flying through the area, and precisely at this point they dive straight underground . . . the closest you can get is a cliff about fifteen feet directly over the point where the river roars into the solid rock and is rushed straight down under you. It then proceeds several hundred yards underground and comes out a bit more peacefully at a spot where you can overlook it from a height of about thirty feet. Now, as to what takes up the several hundred yards over the underground river . . . There's just no way to describe that, so I better just show you what I can. Check out these pictures.

And while I'm at it with all the picture craziness . . . that place that I said was my favorite place in the world in the last post: Picture, 'nother picture, more picture, picture again. None of these really do the place justice, but they're nice pictures. I wish I were there right now. There just isn't a better place to spend a few days with friends and family. Also, here's one of the many and varied views you'd get out your car window on the two-hour drive (on much nicer roads than the ones to Semuc) up there. This is either very near to, or at least looks like, the spot where we had Servant Days my senior year. Once again, lack of width and depth of picture fails to do the location justice, but you get the idea. This is the Volcan de Agua, which forms a prominent part of the skyline near my house (although it is about as far from us as it is from the camera in this picture). I believe my house is on the opposite side of the volcano from where this was taken. I once climbed it, an all-day affair, (got up at about 4:30 in the morning, got home after . . . 10:00 that night, I think), along with Andy, Joe, and Mr. Winger. The top isn't much to look at . . . at all. There's a big crater, radio towers all around, a long house-thing, and two goalposts inside. But it was a crazy hike, and there were crazy views from up there. It's called Agua (that's "water") because it's extinct and there used to be a lake inside of it. Now, I know someone will tell me if I get this wrong, but I believe that a hundred+ years ago, one side of the crater gave way and the lake came rushing down and engulfed what was then the capital . . . which is why it was moved. In any case, I know the lake broke out at one point and wasted some town. Here's another prominent piece of skyline, the Volcan de Fuego (that's "fire"). It's about 7 kilometers from my house, and it is way spectacular . . . especially when it goes off at night.

So, back to Semuc . . . We spent the day having a freaking awesome time in the midst of all of that. The teacher had brought along a good, long rope, because he had been there before. He had tied a couple of knots at the bottom to hold onto. One of the guys shimmied out onto a tree that was hanging a good 40+ feet out over the water and tied that sucker on, and we had an awesome rope swing and he had a scraped-up chest. At the end of the day, when we were hungry like nobody's business and ready to go home, we start gathering our things together. The teacher figures he'll just leave the rope there, since no one seems inclined to go up and get it (scrapes like that hurt). The guy who had originally tied it on said if he had a knife he'd climb up the rope and slice it at the top. Teacher throws him a measuring look, pops out a knife, and offers him Q100 if he can do it.

For some reason, no one else is interested in seeing this, but I'm not going to miss it, and neither is the teacher. We accompany him to the edge of the water, he dives in and swims to the rope, and starts to climb up. After two attempts at hauling himself more than halfway out of the water, he gives up on that. But for Q100, he'll just climb back out onto the branch, swing out onto the rope, and slice it. So he gets up there as planned, swings out onto the rope as planned, and reaches for the knife (which is between his teeth) as planned. Then, not as planned, he can't hold on with one hand. So he's dropping forty feet, and we see exactly what's happening and what's going to happen. I was worried he'd lose the knife, but when he climbed out of the water, finally, it was apparent that I needn't have worried. I'm surprised he didn't leave any teeth marks in it.

You see, because of the spinning of the rope while he held on, he fell in a circle around it, his leg wrapped around the rope just enough so that he couldn't get out or away from it. It wasn't burning or anything, but he was right slap up against it. Then he hit those two knots . . . or rather, they hit him . . . directly in the groin. Which is why I made mention of his "finally" getting out of the water. Long and short of it was, he limped for a while, talked really funny for awhile, and his jaw ached from the knife. I'd say he made out fairly well. In case you feel too sorry for him, I'll add this. Ten minutes into the trip back down through the mountains, the Land Rovers pulled over on a bridge over a calm spot of the river and the drivers told us we could jump if we wanted. This was great fun (a thirty-foot jump, I believe, into a calm, cool river). I went about three times, and I know Ryan (that was his name) went at least twice.

At this point, however, it is late and I am tired, and that's all I've got for the time being, so I shall be off to sleep. Be sure and look at those pictures, because they are cool!

Posted by Jared at 10:17 AM | TrackBack

January 27, 2004

Rise and Fall of Jared's Social Interactions, Volume 3, Part 2

My senior year was the best ever . . . I was one of the managers of the school store (the "head" manager during the 2nd semester) and that had me interacting with people all the time, both classmates working with me in the store, and the rest of the high school over the counter. Within a few weeks of school starting again (mighta been the very first week) we had Senior Retreat. We went to one of my favorite places in the world, the city of Panajachel on Lake Atitlan (a beautiful location surrounded by volcanoes and populated with local color). It was my birthday and one of the class sponsors had made a cake, and my mom had sent a cake, and I had a generally great time.

Digression (I don't have time for digressions, but I'm making one anyway): The first night we were there, almost everyone walked down to the lake (a good stretch of the legs from where we were). Various guys jumped in . . . shirts, socks and shoes came off, they ran out on the dock, and in they went. I was wearing jeans, but it looked like fun . . . While we were all swimming to shore, sputtering and blowing, we noticed it looked fairly empty, and we emerged from the icy water to find no girls, and no clothes. It . . . was . . . freezing. Fortunately, Miss Rensch (who was "chaperoning" our little walk) had been holding my jacket (which I was never without, and usually still am not), so I put that on and didn't die of hypothermia on the spot. It was a long walk barefoot on cobblestone though . . . We caught up about halfway and got our shoes back.

Side thought: That war between the sexes I mentioned in an earlier post . . . I'd say boys just generally have the upper hand in elementary. In middle school there is something like a balance of power. By the time you get to high school, it's fairly obvious who's going to win (on a very general level . . . I'm not talking specifics here).

Back on track . . . It was the strangest thing that year . . . Things I remembered as happening within, like, the first few days of school the year before (student council elections, High School Retreat) seemed to take months to arrive. My Bible class first semester was . . . interesting. We were given eight books to read and divided into two groups. Every two weeks or so, both groups had a 30-45 minute presentation to give on the book. I wound up doing 2 or 3 of them almost single-handedly and I believe there was only one where I hardly had anything to do . . . so lots of getting involved there.

Sidetrack again: The first presentation was on Pilgrim's Progress, and we were lost. I could do this one now, no problem, and it would rock . . . but the only thing that occured to anyone at the time was to film a movie version of a sort of modern-day Pilgrim's Progress. I wrote up a "script" (more of a plot summary) and we basically had a single afternoon where everyone could be there and film the movie. I knew from Dark Reign (heehee) that at the best of times, 20 minutes was about the most you could hope for out of an afternoon. The conditions were not optimal, thanks mostly to the three girls. They insisted on changing costumes after every single solitary scene. I think we got eight minutes on film, the day before the presentation was due.

No problem! says I. We show the movie we've got, hop up on stage in the chapel, and act out the rest, right? No time for rehearsals, everyone is just going to have to ad-lib. You guys know how to ad-lib, don't you? Well, you'll figure it out.

So that's what we did. I directed things from backstage, briefing the players on what had to be accomplished in the next scene in about 30 seconds, then shoving them out in front of the audience and listening in agony to the results. It wasn't long before I needed to go out as the Narrator, but I was busy in one of these briefing sessions, so I shove the script into the hands of one of the girls, and she went out. I finish talking to the others, and as I'm listening to her, I realize that she's just skipped roughly half of the story (I think she turned one page too many in my summary or something). So I run with that, instead. I grab the very shy girl who is supposed to now be pregnant (don't ask) . . . this will be her first scene because of everything we skipped . . . and the main character, tell them what to do, and out they go while I sit back to see what happens. And I'm waiting . . . and I'm waiting . . . and I'm still waiting . . . The girl has frozen completely. Finally, the main guy picks up the slack and converses with himself for the whole scene, gets the point across . . . somehow we stumble through to the conclusion, and it's all over at last. We got a B, which I don't understand, but didn't complain about. It was the only B we got.

Among the other fun presentations that semester, I "adapted" The Merchant of Venice, cutting out most of the subplots and adding in narration, to illustrate a point, and we performed that. The girls actually did good for once and had some fun costumes ready, and of course we all had to read off of our scripts as we performed (we pretended it was a dress rehearsal for the actual play).

For one presentation we got the teacher to put all the guys in one group and the girls in the other. Just because of the competitiveness there, both of the presentations were really good (ours was better). The guys had wanted to open up with something making fun of the girls (we knew they were going to do interpretive dance, because they always did) but I, knowing how much trouble that would get us into, talked them into something more subtle. We all wore pink armbands as an obscure reference to Mr. White's Government class from a few weeks before (he had illustrated freedom of expression by saying people could freely wear pink armbands if they wanted to protest womens' education, or something like that). *sigh* How was I supposed to know anyone else was paying attention. And yeah, I took the fall for that one . . . It was my idea, wasn't it? . . . It's not like I was just trying to keep them from doing something really stupid, right? *mutters angrily about bloody females* It didn't help that we got a standing ovation from the girls for our presentation (before they made the connection, of course).

Bah. Anyway, Servant Days was a lot of fun, again. We went to Rio Dulce, in the eastern part of the country, and stayed in a hotel that was actually on the river (I could see water through cracks in the floor). We worked at a nearby orphanage which we had to get to by boat. The first thing we did when we got there was haul about a hundred 100-pound sacks of chicken feed from the boat to the storage place near the coops. Chickens are nasty and they smell horrible, by the way. We then spent most of our time repainting the inside of one of the boys' dormitories. Exciting. There were cockroaches everywhere . . . the most enormous ones I've ever seen . . . and, of course, plenty of spiders and spiderwebs and cobwebs. I remember somebody finding a 3-pack of condoms when we were moving stuff out of the way of the walls . . . one of them was missing.

There are a million other things to remember from that semester, but I'm going to move on so I won't be here all day. We took our finals a week early and the time for Senior Trip rolled around. The trip involved a 10-hour drive to the Caribbean coast of Honduras, spending the night in a hotel there, and short plane flight to the "island paradise" of Roatan. It was gorgeous, and the resort we stayed at was even better (the name eludes me . . . it was run by Italians, I think . . . in any case there were a lot of Italians there). It didn't take us long to get ready and hit the beach, which led to an interesting . . . "complication" if you will. I go running out there with about half of the guys in my class, and we immediately noted something . . . I used the word "interesting" a second ago, I believe. *is treading lightly* How shall I put this for maximum effect?

The members of the male sex were not the only members of the human race on the beach who were without . . . tops. So where does one look? I know where most of them were looking . . . and I saw quite a few hanging jaws as I swung around (laughing . . . hard). When the "chaperones" heard about this not long after, I believe there was some fervent prayer from them on the subject. It must have worked. Most of that week we had skies that were partially overcast, which didn't cramp our style any, but it drove the sunbathers to other pursuits. Of course, it wasn't overcast the entire time. There were still . . . yeah. And sometimes they migrated to the pool. And sometimes they played in the pool while we were playing in the pool. However, unlike the less prudent, I merely report what took place and remain entirely neutral on the subject.

I had Trivial Pursuit cards and spent hours (and every meal) asking and answering questions with Mr. Fry, Mr. White, and Ms. Rensch. I also had a chess board, which came out one morning when it was raining particularly hard. I played one game with Mr. Fry, and this guy kind of wanders over and stands there watching us. I believe I lost (Mr. Fry had an obnoxious habit of losing miserably and then beating me with a surprise move . . . pretending to just suddenly have noticed his salvation . . . when he only had a few piecese left). However, Mr. Fry then hopped up and had the guy who was watching sit down to play me. I was immediately aware of what was about to happen. The man was probably 50 years old, bald on top, and had on thick glasses. He was thin, almost emaciated, and his shoulders and general posture were rounded as if he spent a lot of his time hunched over a chess board. As I set up the pieces, he lit himself a cigarette with a smooth, quick motion and leaned in to consider the board, the cig dangling lazily out of one corner of his mouth. He was, to my mind, the stereotype of a European Grand Master of Chess. I was beaten before I made my first move, and I knew it, but I held on and tried to give him a run for his money. More importantly, I made Mr. Fry play him when I was done and went snorkeling.

*sigh* I think I'm filling up this post with anecdotes in a futile attempt to hold off the inevitable. I have half a dozen more waiting right now, and if I thought five minutes, I'd have as many more again, and so on. It was a wonderful week at the end of a wonderful year with wonderful friends. I had willingly allowed myself to be emotionally involved with my class and I will always remember that year. But it hurt like hell when it was over and everyone had to go their separate ways. It still does. (I hadn't realized how much until I wrote that.)

I did decide one thing out of all that, though. I decided that it's worth it. So I haven't tried shutting out friends or the need for friends at LeTourneau. Be that as it may, it just got really hard to type. And I have nothing more to say, you're mostly up-to-date. I'm going to go . . . do something else now.

Posted by Jared at 04:13 PM | TrackBack

The Move is Complete (essentially)

Okay, all the archives are over here, where they belong . . . minus everyones' wonderful comments, I fear, but we'll see what we can do about that in future. Meanwhile, take a stroll through the past, my past, (muahahahahahaha) . . . Now with Titles!

And read this, because I thought it was kinda funny. It's at least worth making the trip to see the picture. I knew I had a good reason to like John "F'ing" Kerry that went deeper than his great nickname!

Posted by Jared at 12:21 AM | TrackBack

January 26, 2004

Rise and Fall of Jared's Social Interactions, Volume 3, Part 1

This is going to be the one that is difficult to get right, especially because of length. So without further ado, I'm on my way into 11th grade at a school that is both new and old now and my only friend just moved 3,000 miles away . . .

Initially I resisted the entire scheme. I didn't want to go back, and I made the fact generally known. But it was going to happen "will-he, nill-he" so I quit fighting it. I went to an . . . "Ice-breaker" I guess it was, for new students the week before classes started. There were several new students there, and some old ones plus teachers waiting to welcome us into the fold. I don't remember a single thing I did that day, other than be annoyed by a former classmate who was there.

First day of classes, there was the usual routine . . . I didn't have any idea where my homeroom was (everyone else magically knew already), I didn't know how to get into my locker, once I found it, and . . . bleah. It's the kind of thing that people are supposed to go through in, like, 6th grade, so I was running behind, and it wasn't any fun. However, I just followed the guy who had annoyed me the week before, since I was now in his class again. I got another new student from my class to show me how to open the lock (he had just moved to Guate from Georgia) and it was all good, sort of.

I believe *quick count* that there were seven people in my class who had been around in 5th grade. The other ten or so were new . . . except, of course, most of them weren't new, I was new. But I wasn't. The old hands welcomed me back, the "new" ones eyed me somewhat askance. I didn't have to establish anything, though . . . my role was apparently waiting for me right where I had left it (blast it all). Everyone from before remembered me as the Smart One, and everyone else couldn't help but notice that I had a book in my hand, like, always.

Let me tell you what I remember from an entire third of my 11th grade year: A top down view of an open book. I read in class, I read in chapel, I retreated to the library during lunch and break and read in there . . . I answered "yes" or "no" if someone asked me a question, and otherwise ignored everyone. A large chunk of that year just flew right by me while I stood aside. Heck, I wasn't even watching it.

I met Asa fairly early on in this. Actually, I guess it was on my first day. He was sitting next to me in Trigonometry and he told me (out of the blue) that I'd make a good wrestler and asked if I'd be interested in coming to wrestling with him sometime. *shakes head and laughs* I don't remember exactly what my response was . . . I think I managed to mumble something that sounded vaguely positive while communicating an equally vague negative. At some point late in the first semester we started eating lunch together in a particular spot, and it stayed that way every day for the next year and a half.

Sometime during the . . . *hesitates* . . . second semester there was a trip to the beach with the guys in my class and Mr. Fry (the principal, Asa's dad). The shell cracked a bit there . . . enough to where the other guys in the class noticed I was around. It was a really fun time. Two other times like that that stand out were Servant Days (each class goes out together for a few days to work on a service project . . . we planted trees on an orphanage that year), and Junior/Senior Skip Day at the big water park in Guatemala. There were probably a few other things, but those stand out. And then came summer, finally . . .

I say finally . . . 11th grade was the shortest school year of all time. It lasted, like, two months to my mind. I got to go to Colorado Springs and stay with the Wingers that summer . . . got a job at Burger King. Andy had a job at the library. I worked 10:00-5:00 (or 6:00, depending) and Andy was off before me, so we had a lot of fun that summer. I could stay up fairly late because Burger King was five minutes away and I didn't have to get up until 9:15 or 9:30, (that was really late at the time . . . I'd get up at 6:00 to go to school). About halfway through that summer, I realized that I missed my classmates. It wasn't like "I'm tired of being in the States and I want to go home now." But I definitely was looking forward to seeing everyone again once school got started. I also decided I was going to pretty much throw myself into things during my senior year, to make up for lost time. I say that in a very relative sense, of course . . . I was still fairly quiet and reserved. But I interacted a lot more with people.

Hmmm . . . Glances back over post. My senior year and what came after clearly deserve a whole 'nother post. So I'm going to divide volume three in half, kind of like this and finish Part 2 later . . . just because. Just one more part . . . I swear.

Posted by Jared at 04:42 PM | TrackBack

January 25, 2004

"Only at LeTourneau (#7428)," or "The Shadow Council Holds a Regular Mass (Hysteria)"

Things I experienced/witnessed this evening:

-Four people staring at a computer screen and laughing at stupid people for an entire hour

-Dungeons and Dragons with Mickey Mouse

-The beating of a small flashlight with an umbrella until both were broken

-Different things IHOP could stand for (i.e. The Inexhaustible Harem of Persia)

-Six males escorting a single female to her place of residence . . . There was also chanting, but I have blocked it from my memory

-A friggin' shopping cart modified (by engineering students with way too much time and way too many resources) to be driven on the (currently) empty streets of the LeTourneau campus

And of course, mixed in with these few events and fragments of events that I have noted were innumerable jokes (good, bad, and incomprehensible), puns (good, bad, and incomprehensible), quotable quotes (good, bad, and incomprehensible), anecdotes (good, bad, and incomprehensible), poems, songs, arguments, discussions, rants, scuffles, murder attempts, beatings, stranglings, foods, drinks, frolickings, plus an all too heavy dose of sights, sounds, smells and tastes that utterly defy description or categorization (lucky for you).

And yet, it was a fairly ordinary, quiet, run-of-the-mill night with little or no departure from the norm. How can so much of all that is bizzare, strange, unusual, weird, crazy, wrong, and inhumane take place all around me in a ten-hour period? How can I not even register that this is the case except on a purely intellectual level? How have I already been doing this for a year and a half, and how will I continue to do it for another two and a half? How can I be looking forward to it?!

And how is it that I'm absolutely certain that I'll miss it forever once it's over . . . ?

Posted by Jared at 03:23 AM | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

The Shadow Council Players, entering stage left . . .

Our title this evening comes to you courtesy of Ardith. And I say unto you:

Friends, I consider it now my most worthy and sacred duty to inform you all of a blessed spectacle, (which it has been to your utmost disadvantage, and shall be your eternal regret, to have missed) which hath transpired this very evening.

But I'm not going to keep talking like that. Because I don't want to. It all started when Wheeler spent about 4 hours in a classroom with Dr. Batts over the course of a week and a half. And Dr. Batts did speak a multitude of words without meaning, and Wheeler's cup did run over and spill out open the very stones, which did cry out in anguish, and there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Oh, yeah. Said I wasn't going to talk like that. So anyway, he beats us over the head until our vision gets all blurry with the fact that Shakespeare's plays were very decidedly not written to be read, but rather to be performed. I think I've heard this from him in excess of 20 times during various class periods. Then, once we finally begin one of the plays, he assigns all of the reading to be done outside of class . . . by ourselves. My recommendation at this point is that he be summarily executed . . . But he won't be. So my immediate problem remained unsolved: How to not just be stuck re-reading plays I've already read.

Well, of course I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but wasn't sure that it would work out. I waited until Dr. Hood gave us a break in the midst of Honors Shame (thus it has been dubbed by Wilson, and by that name shall it henceforth be known) this evening. At that time I asked Wilson if he was free after class, and if he would be interested in rounding up a few people and doing the first act of Hamlet with me.

He was interested, and lo and behold, who should we meet as we stepped out of the classroom at 10:00 but Moore and Gallagher!

"Aha!" says I to myself. "Fate smiles upon me!" So we collared the both of them and I led them to the multitude of copies of Hamlet which are to be found in the library, and we pawed through them and selected three volumes that looked readable. Then we marched to the front, they checked out their books, and we headed for Longview Hall lobby and dove right in. During the course of the reading we were joined by Scott and Sharon, each of them running by the library for their own copy, and to make a long story short, we have just completed Act III at 12:45.

Devilish good fun. I took the liberty of snagging first pick of which part(s) to play, since I'm kind of doing this for class, and the other roles fell as we saw fit. Everyone, of course, picked up bit parts here and there. I played Horatio and Polonius. Gallagher played Laertes, Guildenstern, and . . . Queen Gertrude. Wilson played King Claudius, and the "First Player" . . . and Ophelia briefly, until Sharon arrived. Scott played Rosencratz. And Moore ended up as Hamlet, which was good, since Sharon showed up to play Ophelia.

The general award of the night goes to Gallagher for his performance as the Queen. If you've seen Life of Brian, he sounded like Brian's mother . . . like, exactly. It was oh, so good. I was also particularly fond of Wilson's speeches before Hamlet as the Player. I myself am particularly fond of Polonius' part, especially in Act II and I really threw myself into it and had a lot of fun with it.

And so, as I say, we seem to have hit upon rather a good thing here. My program for this season, as set forth by the syllabus, is as follows:


Romeo and Juliet

King Lear

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Henry IV, Part One

The Taming of the Shrew

Add to that whatever other random play(s) we wish to throw in, if we're of a mind to do so, and . . . yay. I am pleased.

Now I need to pull out all the freaking random quotes from Act I for class tomorrow. Plus do my reading for English Lit II (only six pages) and the reading for Creation. *sigh*

Posted by Jared at 01:25 AM | TrackBack

January 22, 2004

The Titleist

Due to one of the many fleeting topics of conversation we entertained at dinner this evening, I thought it would be a grand idea to post these things that have been sitting on my computer for quite some time now. They're all real titles of Country-Western songs . . . Read 'em and weep.

"I'll Marry You Tomorrow, But Let's Honeymoon Tonight"

"Dog Poop On the Pillow Where Your Sweet Head Used to Be"

"I Just Bought a Car From a Guy That Stole My Girl, But the Car Don't Run So I Figure We're Even"

"She's Looking Better After Every Beer"

"I Wouldn't Take Her to a Dog Fight, 'Cause I'm Afraid She'd Win"

"I Ain't Gone to Bed With No Ugly Women, But I Shore Woke Up With a Few"

"If I'd Shot You When I Wanted to, I'd Be Out of the Pen by Now"

"Get Your Tongue Outta My Mouth 'Cause I'm Kissing You Goodbye"

"I Still Miss You, Baby, But My Aim's Gettin' Better"

"Her Teeth Were Stained, But Her Heart Was Pure"

"How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away?"

"I Fell in a Pile Of You And Got Love All Over Me"

"I Wanna Whip Your Cow"

"I'm Just a Bug On the Windshield of Life"

"If My Nose Were Full of Nickels, I'd Blow It All On You"

"Thank God and Greyhound She's Gone"

"You Can't Have Your Kate And Edith Too"

"You Were Only a Splinter In My Ass as I Slid Down the Bannister of Life"

"You're the Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly"

Posted by Jared at 06:00 PM | TrackBack

Reading update

Dunno if anyone reads these or cares, but they're too much fine to write, so I continue.

Oroonoko got finished, like, a few days ago, and I finally got that crazy huge book out of my backpack so it can reside in a prominent place on my shelf. And by "prominent place" I mean that empty spot I finally found after much anguished searching. Oroonoko got a 56, which I generally classify as being right there on the fine line between a book that is merely fair, and one that is simply bad. In other words, a big, boring ho-hum. At best it was a fairly sordid little tale on a fairly common theme.

Boy meets girl, grandfather steals girl from boy, boy has sex with girl anyway, grandfather sells girl into slavery, boy goes off to war and feels better, boy captures many slaves in battle and gets tricked into slavery when trying to sell them, boy winds up on same plantation as girl, boy and girl live happily ever after . . . Until boy and girl decide that junior will not grow up as a slave, attempt to escape, fail, boy kills girl and unborn child to prevent recapture, boy is recaptured and has genitals, nose, ears, and arms cut off as he stoically smokes a pipe, and is finally killed. Yeah, there was more to it than that, but not very much more.

Plus, Aphra Behn had a number of very annoying writing habits, the worst of which was never using the word "them" and only using "'em" instead. That got old fast. And then there was the overall writing style, about which I have absolutely no complaints. It was very familiar, I've read numerous novels written in just the same way, I can deal with that. Decent writing with bad habits thrown in and a really crappy story . . . 56 is just about the best I can do for you. It does claim to be a true story, by the way, and I think it may be mostly or at least partially true, even though that was a very common claim to make about one's novel. This one actually has names, dates, and places that exist . . . which was not quite so common. (There is that annoying bad habit in other works, for instance those of Poe, of blanking out part of the date, or a pertinent name or location, to maintain the illusion of truth without saying something patently false.)

So, the five book cycle continues . . . when one goes out, another one flows in. With Oroonoko out of the way, I have begun Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, my most ambitious project to date. Previously that honor went to Les Miserables with its 1400+ page count (large pages, small print and margins, thick reading). Decline and Fall consists of three volumes, each approaching 1,000 pages. Don't expect a review of the entirety by next week, is what I'm telling you here. This could very well turn into a year-long thing, if I'm lucky enough to be that quick.

My lovely Oxford Complete Works of Shakespeare finally arrived today, and I'll be diving back into that as soon as I finish another book, which will be soon. Also waiting in the wings . . . in fact, it just crashed right through the wings . . . Hold on. *backs up* I was planning on picking up All Hallow's Eve by Charles Williams as my next book, but it will now be the book after my next book, due to Dr. Batts pissing me off today in Shakespeare. The class as a whole was exruciatingly painful today, so I just haven't got the heart to go into full detail here. (For one thing, he spent ten minutes+ carefully explaining the difference between a playwright, a director, and an actor . . .) However, as he was explaining the disadvantages of drama as opposed to prose fiction, we were talking about the limited ability to get inside the character's head. As an example (we must back up everything with an example, or it won't stick) he cited the first part of The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.

I haven't read it, or anything by Faulkner, although naturally I am familiar with it. I probably still wouldn't have said anything, read or not read, but that isn't the point. Our class was unfortunate enough to not have anyone who had read the thing. So we got berated for lacking in the area of "contemporary literary context" as if we should have known that one cannot study Shakespeare properly without having read Faulkner. I didn't take very kindly to this notion . . . at all. However, I decided that I'm tired of not having read anything by Faulkner anyway. I mean, he's one of the greats, and he's from the South. I should have picked him up years ago. If I really get into it, I'll drop everything else and complete it over the weekend, but that probably won't happen.

So, now we're finally actually reading Hamlet itself, although we're apparently reading it all outside of class, which upsets me to no end. That notwithstanding, we need to finish Act I by Friday (no problem, especially since he won't be there and we'll be watching a movie . . . there is a God) and Act II by Monday. Even though I have read Hamlet three times and studied it in all the usual ways, the cunning devil has still managed to create a worksheet that is going to give me fits. It has two columns at the top and the rest is totally blank. One column says: "Lines from Hamlet (write out lines and note Act, Scene, and line numbers)" and the other column says: "Speaker and Situation in which lines are spoken." And I had better be damn well certain that I pick the quotes that he would pick. I'm going to kill that man.

Posted by Jared at 01:37 AM | TrackBack

January 21, 2004

Rise and Fall of Jared's Social Interactions, Volume 2

So, picking up where I left off last time. I was in bad shape, but I was too content (after plenty of time to stabilize) to notice.

Then, about halfway through 8th grade, a new family moved to Guatemala: the Wingers. They had been at my home church in Lubbock when I was an infant, our parents were great friends, and they had a son, Andy, who was a little older than I, a son, Joe, who was the same age as Brett, and a daughter, Elizabeth, the same age as Micah.

Brief digression: Andy and his dad had visited Guatemala . . . I think about a year before. I went with my dad to the airport to pick them up, and we were both told what great friends we had been when we were about a year old. *rolls eyes* (Refer to my comment on Wilson's post . . . this sort of thing isn't an isolated incident.) I remember very clearly that we were both already in the car as the luggage was loaded, and in the few seconds between the slamming down of the back door and both men climbing into the front, one of us said (still staring straight ahead), "I don't remember you at all." *chuckle* "I don't remember you either." It was the beginning of a horrible few days, because somehow we almost immediately developed a seething animosity towards each other. He was insulting, I was whiny. He was rude, and I was annoying. Looking back on it now, I suspect that this is what was going on . . . Andy was in the midst of experiencing middle school (socially), I was not. Everybody knows how middle school is . . . it sucks. You insult and put everyone down ruthlessly and everyone either grows a thick skin, or spends their whole life in tears. He probably didn't mean much of anything that he said to me, but I took it all very personally . . . So it was bad.

Well, back on track, when they came down to live we went to airport to meet them again. It's the funniest thing ever to think about now. I can still see our parents talking and laughing as the children huddled together behind the adults and eyed each other warily, as if the other group were a pack of starving wolves. They had a good reason, having just moved to another country. I felt that I had a particularly good reason, remembering my last encounter with Andy.

Well, that was over soon, and I didn't see them again until Thanksgiving. They came to stay with us for three days. Apprehensive doesn't tell the half of what I was. But I was determined to make some kind of effort . . . with my parents rather "strong" encouragement, of course. By Thursday evening, I believe, we were sitting in front of a computer together. I had just discovered the Internet less than six months before . . . (finding Amazon.com was like striking oil in my backyard) . . . and we were surfing after playing a computer game. I think he looked up something that had to do with Quake III, and he was telling me about it, when his little brother walked in. Joe was very quiet, and didn't stay long. When we left a few minutes later, Andy's dad was waiting and I believe he got a tongue-lashing for doing something related to that game. "Ah," thinks I to myself. "Here's someone else related to a pesky tattle-tale."

I don't think three or four months had passed before one of us was at the other's house every single Friday night, and any other time we could manage. It was a probably less than a year later that we started interacting by phone every day, sometimes three or four times a day. I had been absolutely starving for a good friend, and I hadn't even known it until one showed up.

That was a good three years . . . a really good three years. But that was the length of time they had come for, and they moved back to Colorado Springs as I was finishing 10th grade. That wasn't pleasant. I was left in exactly the same position as before Andy had arrived, only this time I knew just exactly how much I wanted a friend around. So Jared went back inside, and decided he wouldn't be coming back out anymore.

However, at the same time, I wasn't just going to let this particular friendship get away. I had before, with my friends from elementary. There were token efforts at writing that faded within a few weeks . . . That wasn't going to happen this time. And it didn't. For the two years I had left before coming here for college, we spoke by telephone almost every two weeks, sometimes more. We e-mailed steadily . . . I wasn't as good about it as he was, but I never have been. There were periods of an e-mail or two every single day . . . sometimes that would fade to one in a week, but it always came back up again. If I went so long without e-mailing that I didn't want to write everything down, I'd just call and fill him in, and vice-versa. The funny thing is, I've actually been blogging since 11th grade . . . Andy was just the only one reading my blog all that time.

I've had fun with this entry, because even though my audience has grown, he's still gonna read it.

Prepare for the final volume soon . . .

Posted by Jared at 04:01 PM | TrackBack

"Festive Tension Relief"

I found this link during my wanderings, and I'd like you all to give it a try. It's a little late, but Wilson and I don't care (title is his suggestion, btw). I haven't been this relaxed in weeks.

Posted by Jared at 12:37 AM | TrackBack

January 20, 2004

Rise and Fall of Jared's Social Interactions, Volume 1

Wilson's post on elitism, in concert with Ardith's post on people relations has apparently sparked off a general furor in the arena of personal social philosophy. And by general furor, I mean there are two other people with similair posts out there now. I commented on Wilson's post, both of us hoping to get something going in that arena, but it has taken another form, so I follow the pack . . . as I often do.

Now, I have no way of really proving this, especially not now, but I think that I am, in fact, not a quiet person at all. I was once a very outgoing child, quick to make friends, perhaps even quicker to make rivals (not enemies, really). I was a highly competetive extrovert in, like, third grade. That was my first time out of home school among many children my own age. And I carved a place out for myself from amongst my schoolmates. I was utterly outspoken in class (a willingness to talk being just generally a bad combination with knowing all the answers). I was an active participant, an officer even, in the war between the sexes that one often finds taking place in elementary schools. I had a dozen "best friends," and I constantly vied with half of them for any number of positions of honor . . . but I feel that I am getting off the subject, and I don't wish to ramble about elementary. I'm not particularly fond of who I was then, but more on that in a moment . . .

My parents weren't particularly fond of my increasing garrulousness, or the sarcasm and slang I was picking up, for that matter. In any case, I returned to homeschool after 5th grade. I don't know what the exact reasoning behind this was . . . I never bothered to ask, because it didn't seem to matter after awhile. I fought it, but almost 6th-graders don't get anywhere in those kind of battles.

Three years is a long time. The "damage" was done. I'm still as sarcastic and irreverent as I was then . . . more. It was not too very long before this that we had moved out to the orphanage. It wasn't out in the middle of jack-nowhere, precisely, but it wasn't anywhere near my old school or any of my friends, either. That hurt, I think. I don't remember. The next three years were even longer. Two of my real best friends had left Guatemala after 4th grade, another after 5th, and a fourth in the middle of 6th. The main four gone, all connection with anyone I knew at the school slid into oblivion. I was just too far away.

I had to adjust to that. At the same time I had to adjust to being surrounded by little Guatemalan children at all times. I was not used to sharing my parents that way, and for nearly a year I absolutely hated all of them. I was selfish, resentful, spiteful, petty . . . It wasn't pretty. I eventually got over that completely, but by then I had spent three years without a single person my own age who I could relate with on any level whatsoever. And naturally, since I homeschooled and I was good at it, I had loads and loads of free time on my hands. I had to find ways to amuse myself for seemingly eternal periods of time. I've been a voracious reader since the age of four . . . So, Jared pulled in . . . way in. He had to. I never came out of myself . . . there wasn't anything to come out for. During this time I almost totally lost my ability to amuse both myself and another person for any length of time. Everything I liked to do could be done best all by myself.

Hmmm . . . the story of my social life and development is a good deal longer than I thought it was, and if I want a chance at anyone reading all of it, I think I'm going to have to split it up. We'll call this part one of three. I think it divides up well that way, anyway.

Ummm . . . I was a bit reluctant to post this, because it probably sounds like a sob story. Don't worry, it gets better . . . and I'm just telling it like it was, as best I remember.

Posted by Jared at 03:22 PM | TrackBack

Well, there it is.

Ooooookay, everyone. Time to move on. Further up and further in. Anywhere but here. Now vamos, pero ya! Perhaps in future I will refrain from posting polarizing, subjective opinions on things I don't really care about. But probably not.

Problem: I have little or nothing to post on right now. Martinez and I watched Harvey this afternoon. And it was very good. Part innocent fun, part hard-edged, dry wit (on the part of the writers . . . the characters have no idea what they're saying), all good movie. There are interesting comparisons to be made to Don Quixote and the ideal Christian walk with God/approach to witnessing. However, I am neither lucid enough to attempt to be coherent on the former, nor tired enough to attempt to be heretical on the latter. So just watch the movie yourself, and look for it yourself. I promise, it's there. And it would be worth the trouble, even if it wasn't. Hmmm . . .

One of my favorite parts: When Veta Louise Simmons, sister of Elwood P. Dowd ("Here, let me give you one of my cards."), returns from being mistakenly committed while trying to get her brother into the sanitarium, she is indignant about the questions they've been asking her.

"Judge Gaffney, is that all those doctors do in places like that - think about sex? Because if it is they ought to be ashamed of themselves. It's all in their heads anyway. Why don't they get out and take long walks in the fresh air?"

When questioned further by her daughter, she replies: "Myrtle Mae, you have a lot to learn, and I hope you never learn it."

Describing her experiences there: "As I was going down to the taxi cab to get Elwood's things, this awful man stepped out. He was a white slaver, I know he was. He was wearing one of those white suits, that's how they advertise."

Also in the same conversation: "Oh, Myrtle, don't be didactic. It's not becoming in a young girl. Besides, men loathe it."

Of course, it just isn't the same without hearing it from Josephine Hull, who won Best Supporting Actress for her performance, but you get the idea.

But that's all I have for the time being. Especially since I need to get to sleep, like, now. G'night.

Posted by Jared at 01:38 AM | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

Let me tell you about great movies . . .

While I was on the general subject of RotK (again), I was just going to go ahead and take a few cracks at Roger Ebert's rather annoying review. However, I find that it dovetails rather nicely with . . . something else.

So, we watched Citizen Kane tonight, which I had never seen before. A movie that tops film lists is worth seeing almost by default, and that was how it first came to my attention a few years back, but the opportunity to see it just hadn't come my way. So now I've seen it.

Obviously "Greatest American Movie of All-Time" is a very subjective thing which cannot be measured empirically. But if the movie-saturated folks of the AFI get together and a group of them looks at all the candidates and decides that Citizen Kane is the absolute best movie ever made in this country, people will listen, and they'll probably have something of an idea of what they're talking about.

The following paragraph is an opinion, blah blah blah:

I, personally, do not think that Citizen Kane is the greatest movie of all time. I probably wouldn't even put it in my top 100. I thought it was a great movie. It was executed almost flawlessly. I noticed 1,000 great shots making excellent use of reflections and/or lighting/shadows and/or camera angles and so on. The acting was superior. The movie was very well-paced. The opening ten minutes or so run you through the entire story in classic newsreel style, and then you spend the rest of the movie delving into it on a more personal level, the whole thing driven by a search to solve the mystery of one man's cryptic last word.

Ultimately, I thought it was a very empty movie. That's kind of the point, I know . . . the man who had everything but couldn't get the one thing he really wanted . . . or something. His life is empty and so the movie is too. You keep seeing him making the wrong decisions, going to far to prove a point, always pushing in the wrong directions, and things just keep crashing down around his ears. And when the ending finally reveals what he's been thinking about in his last days, you realize just how much his life has been sucking all along. Bleah. In the end, just bleah.

I was reading some of the wonderful, and ever-intelligent and well thought out comments on IMDb under The Pianist about a month ago. I can't find the comment I was reading now, but the basic premise of the would-be "critic" bothered me. He said that the movie was neither Polanski's best (I wouldn't know, haven't seen any others), nor did it deserve the Oscars it won. Why? Because a movie about the Holocaust is easy to do well. The emotions of the audience are easily manipulated . . . everytime they get too secure, kill another Jew. Aside from being rather insensitive, the reasoning sucks.

The fact is, you can make a movie that absolutely nails everything, but if I don't care about your subject then your movie will fail . . . ummm, with me, anyway. Picking the right thing to make a movie about is every bit as important as any other detail, if not more important. People will love movies like Star Wars and Back to the Future that are full of plot holes, and cheesy dialogue, and dated special effects because the director just picked really really well. Marvelous examples of the craft, on the other hand, like Birth of a Nation and Citizen Kane, only last beyond their time among film buffs. Ordinary people don't know and don't care . . . Why would they want to watch a movie about that? Just because it was really good at the time?

I'm the kind of person who can watch a movie and appreciate it immensely on the technical level, but still not enjoy it, or think it is an exceptional movie. Or maybe I will enjoy it, for whatever reason . . . Sometimes, unfortunately, I'm certain that that is all certain people are looking at. *cough, cough* The Academy *cough, cough*

So, as previously stated, for all the skill that went into Citizen Kane, and as much as I really did enjoy it, I don't think that it is one of the greatest movies of all time. It's just too dang empty of meaning and feeling.

Now, back to Ebert: "There is little enough psychological depth anywhere in the films, actually, and they exist mostly as surface, gesture, archetype and spectacle. They do that magnificently well, but one feels at the end that nothing actual and human has been at stake; cartoon characters in a fantasy world have been brought along about as far as it is possible for them to come . . ."

Guh. Between that quote, an accusation or two that I've seen accusing every character in the trilogy of the vague crime of being one-dimensional, and even the statement that the Matrix trilogy had "a lot more plot" than LotR, I'm about to . . . plotz.

Hmmm . . . I wrote, like, three paragraphs or so . . . one for each of the above proverbial thorns in my proverbial side. But they sucked. And I'm not in the mood. And you all know I'm right anyway. And now I have to go do things . . . and stuff. Later.

Posted by Jared at 12:45 AM | TrackBack

January 18, 2004

Williams on Church, Gandalf on New Age, and Wheeler on Crack

From War in Heaven by Charles Williams concerning church attendance:

"It is a means, one of the means. But perhaps the best for most, and for some almost the only one. I do not say that it matters greatly, but the means cannot both be and not be. If you do not use it, it is a pity to bother about it; if you do, it is a pity not to use it."

I liked that as soon as I read it, and I think that it is true. So, first of all, it's time to quit bothering about it. And by that I don't at all mean "quit bothering about church." I mean it's time to quit bothering about it, and not using it. It must either be used, and so not be bothered about, or not be used and not worried about. So, which is it going to be for the time being, and why? I don't know right this very second and I'm not getting into it right this second. It's too important, one way or the other. Oh, and if you have any pertinent thoughts on the quote, please weigh in with your opinion, by all means. Moving on . . .

Meanwhile, I've been arguing with Uncle Doug again. Of course, we both attended the LeTourneau-sponsored showing of Return of the King Friday night. It was my 6th time, and it started at 11:45, but I went, even though I had only slept four and a half hours the night before. More on all that later. Anyway, we picked it apart on the way home, randomly airing out a few complaints. And I picked it apart again with Wilson and Jenny after we got back before going up to bed. Ummm . . .

Quick, sort of side-track, note: One of Doug's big complaints was Sam. And he didn't confine his complaint to the movie version. He thinks it is utterly ridiculous and stupid for Sam to cry as much as he does and over what he cries about. He basically says, among other things, that after all Sam has been through, he would (or should) be a crusty, hardened person who can take pretty much anything. I find his machismo-laden, emotionless, cold idea of what a "real male" should be like utterly revolting. Sam is a sweet, innocent, emotional character, this is integral to who and what he is and how he acts throughout the trilogy.

Doug says that because he still cries at the drop of a hat by the end of the story, he has failed to grow as a character. Quite the contrary . . . He fairly reeks of character development. His travels bring him the insights of experience and the skills of battle, but throughout it all he manages to keep a hold on his vicious loyalty to Frodo, his self-sacrificing, giving, serving personality, and, yes, his tender-hearted emotion. This is what makes Sam so special, and totally different from any of the other three Hobbits. To retain one's innocence in the midst of all of this darkness and adversity is a wonderful thing, and says much about the stuff Sam is made of. Bah. Anyway . . . Back on track.

The subject came up again at supper last night, with Martinez. I asked then if Doug had even listened to what Gandalf says at the Grey Havens: "Not all tears are an evil," (or something like that . . . I have a hard time remembering because it's slightly different in the Spanish version I saw three times!!!). And that sent us in another direction entirely.

Doug claims he thought Gandalf was really annoying after the first movie. When I questioned this, he said that, for one, he walks around spouting New Age every which way. "What?!" says I. So, (and I almost knew that this was what was coming), he cites the afterlife speech to Pippin from RotK. Naturally, my hackles went up because that's one of my favorite speeches in the movie, and he couldn't have picked a worse line to accuse of New Age in front of me.

Rough paraphrase of the line: Death is but another path we all must take. The gray rain curtain of this world rolls back, and all is turned to silver glass. And then you see it . . . White shores. And beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

This speaks to me in the same way as the song during the end credits (duh, they use a lot of the same words). Note what I wrote about that in my first post of December (still over at the old blog for the time being). What he's saying here, as I see it, is that this world kinda sucks. No matter how good or bad you think it is, once you die, the curtain is rolled back and what you see then compares to the world in which you were alive in the same way that gray rain compares to silver glass . . . There is no comparison. And then comes something even better. Gandalf describes Valinor, and to all intents and purposes, he's talking about Heaven. I think it's great, especially as that little hint of the music from that last song enters at that point. It's the perfect touch, and it strikes just the right note.

I think that very first sentence, about death being just another path, sends up a red flag in a lot of people's minds. Don't be stupid. That's not anywhere near as potentially wrong-headed as Dumbledore's "To the well-ordered mind, death is but the next great adventure," from Harry Potter. (And even that . . . but nevermind).

So . . . there aren't a lot of people that get out of dying. And it sure isn't the same thing as life. And it is the general direction you tend to move once you're dead. Hence, death is another (i.e. different, not the same) path (i.e. direction, way) we all (i.e. everybody experiences it) must take. Metaphorical observation, or deep, dark New Age? You decide. And be sure you pick the first one unless you really want to be an idiot. ;)

As for the description of what comes next, Doug said that first, Gandalf can't know what he is talking about because no one knows what Heaven is like . . . it's a faulty image at best, and just flat out anti-(or at least extra-)biblical theology at worst. Okay, duh. So Gandalf doesn't actually exist in our world and therefore is not describing the Christian Heaven. So sue him. That's why it's a parallel. Does he have to quote scripture about the afterlife for it to be a Christian sentiment? Second, Doug questioned the idea that Heaven is a place, saying it is just as likely to be more of a state of mind. I'm not sure what he meant by that, entirely, or if he was speculating, or if he was even saying that Heaven is a state of mind, or even if it actually is, however, I do know that that's what Buddhists and a lot of New Agers think, essentially.

Anyway, the whole conversation was extremely frustrating, and once we got beyond that, the only other thing he could think of as an example of how Gandalf is supposedly annoying throughout two entire movies was something he apparently said in "Fang-horn" forest. And Doug couldn't remember what it was . . . at all. *sigh*

Anyway, a series of unfortunate causes and effects:

Since there were six of us going to the movie that night, I drove.

And since I had actually been to Carmike 10 before, I led.

And since I therefore wanted to be sure that I made the correct turns, Doug navigated.

And since he wasn't giving me the information I really needed, I questioned him further.

And since I really can't drive and talk at the same time unless someone else in the car is watching out for me, I blew right through a red light and didn't even notice until I was almost directly under it.

If I'd stayed oblivious any longer I never would have known about it, and neither would Doug.

Except, of course, for the fact that there were four people right behind me who were perfectly willing to inform me of it once we arrived at our destination.

So, do I have any chance at all of them ever forgetting about it? Ummm . . . no. Not really. Because of this, I figure I might as well be the one to record it for posterity before someone else does.

And finally, what I consider to be a rather amusing side note: In Guatemala, as in many places in the world, a red light outside a door means that you can go there to "get some." However, in Guatemala, unlike many places, you're actually getting some tamales . . . What? What were you thinking it meant? I had just explained this to the Shadow Council a few days earlier, and as we all stepped out of the cars once we were at the theater, Moore was quick to note: "The red light doesn't mean tamales, Wheeler."

Posted by Jared at 03:14 AM | TrackBack

January 16, 2004

And while we're thinking dirty thoughts . . .

That's precisely how I feel. Dirty, I mean. Attending Shakespeare as taught by Dr. Batts is like frolicking at gun point in an oil slick. So, after staying up far too late last night reading eight pages of suggestions on how to read Shakespeare, and vomiting the info back onto a piece of paper, what do you suppose was the first thing we did in class? Let's take a pop quiz and reproduce most of the handout you just did for homework! Yay! And what do you suppose was the second thing we did? Let's go around the room and reproduce most of the handout you just did for homework, only this time we'll put it up on the whiteboard! Yay!

I don't think he'll be hearing much from me in that class. Especially after listening to most of my fellow students . . . not that I blame them you understand. I just see no way to respond to any of his questions without sounding like a well-trained circus monkey . . . that can . . . talk. Tossing the students peanuts when they answer a question correctly doesn't help, either . . . Okay, so maybe he doesn't do that. It still feels wrong. You can't speak up without somehow sounding like a teacher's pet, and that I cannot stand.

And of course when we presented our articles on Shakespeare, easily half the class joined me in mentioning the authorship issues . . . including the three people who came before me. Dr. Batts greeted the first one with, "Oh, and here we go . . ." Even had I not been watching his face I could have heard his eyes rolling (I think they need oil).

Fortunately, the three who went before me all picked on the Earl of Oxford, while I was the first to mention Marlowe. I was disappointed that no one brought up Francis Bacon, but there it is. And we all had to have a good laugh at the conspiracy theorists' expense, even though I'd much rather have fun with it. Grrr . . .

Oh, yes. Let's do a quick . . . I dunno what you'd call it. Dr. Watson and Dr. Batts both had cute little acronyms in class today. Here they are:

Watson, as a suggestion for getting a good grade on a group project: T.N.T.M.T.U. (Try Not To Mess This Up)

Batts, "updating" Aristotle's suggestions on writing good drama: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

That's all you need to know, really. Plus I have reading to do (no it isn't for a class . . . yet).

Posted by Jared at 03:12 PM | TrackBack

Quote of the Day . . . so far

Wilson: "Moore, it doesn't matter whether you're being sucked or blown by this class."

Now, to be fair, the context: Gallagher and I had just agreed that really the only complaint about Creation (without having attended yet) is the time, which sucks, as I noted, falling late on Friday afternoon as it does. Moore disagreed, stating that, in actuality, the time blows. He explained that, due to its proximity to the weekend, clearly it blows you into Saturday and Sunday. I noted that I preferred to be sucked into my weekend, but Moore got insistent. And then Wilson busted out the magic.

I must now go to Shakespeare. Yay.

Posted by Jared at 01:23 PM | TrackBack

January 15, 2004

Shotgun Postings

Well, I'm trying to do my homework for Shakespeare (which a certain someone . . . who has requested anonymity . . . has already dubbed "Batts' guano") but when one is sitting at a library computer, with Wilson and Ardith on either side, and a host of whiny complaints in the comment section of the only post on your blog . . . Work will not get done. And so I post.

It really has been a busy week, so I find myself fully justified in not having posted yet. There was a nap that needed taking this afternoon, for instance. And I really didn't want to post on that awful black and white, because it depressed me, you see.

A brief look at my class schedule: Tuesdays and Thursdays are all about History. 9:30 sees me trying to stay awake in Kubricht's Western Civ class, 12:00 sees me glorying in the only window seat in Johnson's American History class. Thursdays bring further joy with Dr. Renate Hood's Social Backgrounds to the New Testament, which I just got out of. We are off to an excellent start, spending the last hour of class watching a PBS special on the Roman empire . . . complete with selections from the poetry of Ovid against a backdrop of "Classical" porn. The truly difficult thing, in these cases, is to know just what expression to have on your face as you view this with three females sitting behind you . . . But there it is.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are all about Literature, with English Lit II just after chapel and Shakespeare just after lunch. Dr. Watson still rocks, and I'm fairly certain that I'll enjoy this class even more than last semester, if that is possible. We're beginning the semester with William Blake, which I also have to read and journal on tonight. *grumbles at Ardith and Wilson* Dr. Watson's brief outline of the course went something like this:

Romantic Period
Victorian Era
20th Century

("And all of this is leading up to the culminating study of one man, one author." He tells us, stepping forward again to write. I'm craning my neck, trying to see around him, when at last he steps back and I see . . .)

Douglas Adams

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, our final class session this semester will be devoted entirely to Douglas Adams, beloved author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the rest of the five-book Hitchhiker Trilogy. Dr. Watson truly is The Man.

Dr. Batts, on the other hand . . . *sigh* And no, it isn't too early to tell. I already, as mentioned above, have two rather putrid assignments for his class. Both involving standard ingestion and regurgitation which must be done by hand. I haven't had a real handwritten assignment outside of math courses since high school. Grrr . . . I'll try to liven things up with a good conspiracy theory or something. Shakespeare was gay, right?

Fridays involve a Creation vs. Evolution seminar which will examine the various theories held by Christians on the subject. The teacher is an adherent of Old Earth theory, I believe, so it will be an interesting class, I'm sure.

The only other interesting thing, for me, to write about at this juncture is book news. I did complete Master and Commander at about 1:00 in the morning on Saturday night. And it was worth only four hours of sleep. I gave it a very solid 96. Such a grand balance between historical fact, sweeping naval action sequences, "philosophizing," and laugh-out-loud humor . . . The characters are wonderful, especially Dr. Maturin, of course. Jack was simply not done properly in the movie version, but I can't see Russell Crowe playing the real Jack Aubrey at all, in any case. I love the character in the movie, too, but it isn't the same character at all, really. That, however, is neither here nor there. The book was great and I can't wait to get my hands on the next installment. Except that I can. And I will. There's too much to read . . .

At the moment we have the following:

Within mere pages of finishing Oroonoko . . . still, review forthcoming soon.

Within mere chapters of finishing Lord of Chaos . . . still, see above.

Just began The Desperate Hours, a vintage 50s thriller about three escaped convicts holing up in a middle-class family's home in Suburbia while they await the "dame" with the "dough." Stereotypes abound, hilarity ensues. Well, not really hilarity, but I'm getting a kick out of it. It isn't supposed to be funny. It's actually one of my favorite suspense movies, starring Humphrey Bogart himself as the lead "bad man." Great stuff.

Continuing were I left off last semester I have picked up The Wisdom of Father Brown, yet another collection of short mysteries. I know it will be excellent.

And, finally, I am reading a privately published anthology of ten fantasy short stories: Fantastic Visions II. It contains a story by my former roommate, who placed in a writing contest on the internet. Some of them look quite good, and I'm sure his will be excellent, having previously read some of what he has to offer.

That's about it for my "pleasure reading" at the moment. It looks like I'll have a steady cycle of five books at once going all semester, and two of the current books will soon be out of the way. I'll also have a heavy load of reading for class, and much of that will be enjoyable. And now I'm going to finish that other internet assignment before the library shuts down entirely. Ha.

Posted by Jared at 11:28 PM | TrackBack

January 12, 2004

Up and Crawling . . .

Well, "it" is here, such as it is at the moment. I'll need to figure out (read: "get someone to show me") how to move everything over and get that done now . . .

Posted by Jared at 06:43 PM | TrackBack

January 10, 2004

The Solution

"It might be just as well if everybody were impotent. It would save a world of trouble."
Capt. Jack Aubrey, Master and Commander

I'll be back tomorrow . . .

Posted by Jared at 07:19 PM | TrackBack

January 09, 2004

For Incompetence and Corruption Above and Beyond the Call of Duty . . .

I just don't know whether to laugh or cry. It's not my country, so I guess I'll laugh. This news just in: The current president and vice-president, in the final days of their administration, are busy awarding each other every medal known to Guatemala. Just yesteday, Reyes Lopez (vice-president) received two more medals from Portillo: The Order of the Quetzal, Great Cross grade (they don't get any better than that, folks), and the Antonio Jose de Irisarri . . . whatever the heck that means. Among his other medals are the Distinguished Service Cross and the Military Merit Cross, first class. And no, he isn't in the army and never has been. Oh, yeah . . . this one pains me the most. I can't believe they even have a medal for this here . . . I can't imagine anyone ever receiving it except under circumstances like this: The Medal of Intellectual Merit. Ouch. . . Ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch.

Reyes Lopez has kindly reciprocated, awarding Portillo four medals in the last few months alone. I'd love to know what they are, but it doesn't say. Oh, yeah . . . and the medals cost $200 apiece. That can really add up when you consider that they've apparently given each other over 200 medals in the last four years. Yeah . . . that's about Q320,000. It is said that they are taxing the resources of the "medal makers" (I dunno exactly what to call these guys) to the limit. I'll bet . . .

The funniest part of the article is the report of the psychologist the reporter consulted, who wisely chose to remain anonymous. He states that Reyes Lopez obviously presents a classic case of narcissism, and waxes eloquent on that topic for awhile. There's a really really really great pun in the article, but unfortunately it doesn't translate. You'll just have to take my word for it . . . funny stuff. Oh, here's the link. Even if you don't know Spanish, go check out the picture. It's pretty good. Yeah, the vice-president really is that fat . . . Also this link . . . The upper left text says "For humanitarian reasons," and Reyes Lopez is saying, "Just a little help for this poor, ex-vice-president."

Posted by Jared at 01:27 PM | TrackBack

January 08, 2004

Nazi Alert!

This is by far the most childish, petulant thing I have ever heard of in my life. It's the kind of behavior I'd expect from a spoiled 3 year old, not the largest country in South America. And I'm just dying to hear da Silva's logic for his ruling . . . "Americans are acting like the Nazis, so we're going to be even worse! That'll show 'em!" Oh, and while we're talking about Nazis, let's remember where all of them escaped to after freakin' World War II was over. I guess they're a little justified, after American citizens made all of those terrorist attacks on their country last year. And since we are clearly instituting this new policy of our own specifically to spite Brazilians and only Brazilians because we hate them, that just gives them another good reason. Yeah. And a steady diet of crack, diet Pepsi, and hot fudge sundaes will extend your life by thirty years.

In conclusion, there are no sarcastic people here.

And while I'm cheerfully ranting angrily (no, that is not an oxymoron), my brother was sitting here for an hour before he'd let me on, screwing around with his stupid fantasy basketball stuff. Alright, I appreciate that some people enjoy following sports. I enjoy it too, from time to time. I can see also the appeal of a fantasy basketball competition with a group of friends . . . However, I do NOT understand why he had to sit here and refresh the freakin' window every thirty seconds in order to follow every single play of the Minnesota/Portland game, compulsively tracking every stat of every player while the game is in progress as if he thinks they'll play better so long as he's sitting here monitoring them. And, yes, that is very different from wanting to sit down in front of the TV and watch them play . . . Grrr.

I have loads of reading to do. Again. Still. As always. Whatever.

Posted by Jared at 10:24 PM | TrackBack

January 07, 2004

Moments now . . .

Okay, it's late and I just got back from my 5th viewing of Return of the King. And it is definitely time for bed. I want to make it clear to everyone that I will be moving soon . . . note the link to the right.

Posted by Jared at 10:55 PM | TrackBack

Paradise Lost: An Insomniac's Perspective

As mentioned elsewhere, I'm still posting here until I get back to LeTourneau . . . for reasons also mentioned elsewhere.

It is now 4:00 in the morning. I went to bed approximately five and a half hours ago, and I turned the light out about 2 hours ago. After tossing and turning for nearly an hour and a half, I decided I was getting bored of that and I came in here, surfed around, am still not tired, and have decided to forge ahead with the post I had planned for when I got up later.

As far as I know at this point, this is all gonna be about stuff I'm reading. Just so you know. I finished Paradise Lost at about 12:30, which is rather a good time to finish a book, in my opinion (perhaps a trifle early), and loved it. It got a 97 for being really good stuff. Yes, as previously suspected there is a reason people are still reading it after 325+ years. I'm rather proud to be one of those people, incidentally.

I will now begin the other yet-to-be-completed classic from Norton that was sadly neglected during the general rush of November. Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave by Aphra Behn has two shots at prestige. First, it has at least a semi-legitimate claim to the position of first English novel, having been published a mere 14 years after the definitive edition of Milton's epic. And written by a woman, no less . . . Of course, the novel "novel" field apparently was at first almost solely dominated by women, but that is neither here nor there. Second, it could almost be called England's "Uncle Tom's Cabin." At the very least, it reportedly did for blacks what "Black Beauty" did for horses, if you'll pardon the comparison.

Milton has some very . . . interesting doctrinal opinions, and I really enjoyed the passages on free will and foreknowledge vs. predestination. But more than anything, I love the fact that he wrote 200 pages covering the first two chapters of Genesis. The question I kept asking myself was, "How can there be this much left? He's almost done with the story!" I really enjoyed the meat he put onto the bare bones of the Biblical account. Right, wrong or indifferent, it's a literary masterpiece and it really made the story come alive for me in a new way.

As anyone who is at all familiar with the work knows, Satan is one of the more intriguing characters. He is tragic, he is somewhat noble, he is full of courage and valour and mighty deeds. In short, he is a classic epic hero . . . but he's the bad guy. Because it doesn't matter how courageous or noble you are in fighting for your cause if it's the wrong cause. Satan's moments of private regret and remorse after the fall fascinated me, as did the debate between Hell's mightiest denizens over the best course of action to take after their plunge from Heaven. I liked Milton's explanation of Eve's temptation. Satan possesses the serpent, of course, and then convinces Eve that, while he was formerly a dumb beast, something called him to eat from the tree, and the result was the ability to speak and reason. And of course, he isn't dead, now is he? I loved the part right before this as well, where Satan in the form of the serpent approaches Eve and is dumbstruck by her grace and beauty, unable to move for a few moments as he gazes in awe, "of enmity disarmed, of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge." In the end the only thing that gets him moving again is the bitter realization that it is precisely this Paradise that he is now shut out of forever.

As a quick side note, there was a very striking thing in the midst of the archangel Raphael's description of the Creation to Adam. Here is how he describes the creation of the animals:

"The sixth, and of creation last arose
With evening harps and [morning], when God said,
'Let th' earth bring forth soul living in her kind,
Cattle and creeping things, and beast of the earth,
Each in their kind.' The earth obeyed, and straight
Op'ning her fertile womb [brought forth] at a birth
Innumerous living creatures, perfect forms,
Limbed and full grown: out of the ground up rose
As from his lair the wild beast where he [dwells]
In forest wild, in thicket, brake, or den;
Among the trees in pairs they rose, they walked:
The cattle in the fields and meadows green:
Those rare and solitary, these in flocks
Pasturing at once, and in broad herds upsprung.
The grassy [mounds of earth] now calved, now half appeared
The tawny lion, pawing to get free
His hinder parts, then springs as broke from bonds,
And rampant shakes his [streaked] mane; the [lynx],
The [leopard], and the tiger, as the mole
Rising, the crumbled earth above them threw
In hillocks; the swift stag from under ground
Bore up his branching head: scarce from his mold
[elephant] biggest born of Earth upheaved
His vastness: . . ."

Ummm . . . "The Magician's Nephew," anyone? Moving on . . .

The paradox of the thing as that, after spending 200 pages on the first two chapters of Genesis, Milton spends the final 20 summarizing the rest of the Bible and church history up to his own time and beyond to the new Heaven and new earth of Revelation. I'm glad he did, though . . . Glad he covered those things, and glad he did it in brief. At the rate he was going . . . I don't even want to think about it. The end of the thing was the best, though, hitting just the right note. Because Adam contritely accepts God's judgment of his sin as just, Michael, sent to escort him from the garden, is granted the ability to show him the entire future of mankind in a vision (Milton's excuse to summarize what I mentioned above), so that Adam will not be plunged into total despair at his sad fate. As a result, he leaves in a state of hopeful melancholy, allowing the work to avoid ending on a total downer.

"Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They hand in hand with wand'ring steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way."

And it's over . . . Great ending. This brings me to my final point. As I read the thing, the key parts seemed to me to be so vividly described, that I could see them playing in my mind like a movie. This epic needs to be a movie. It would be fantastic. One good way to do this would be "crazy special effects blockbuster" with good acting . . . not crazy special effects like The Matrix Revolutions, but crazy like Lord of the Rings (and I'm glad to now have that distinction available). These would be necessary to do justice to such scenes as the massive war in Heaven, complete with millions of swarming combatants locked in semi-mortal (everyone who fights feels the pain of their wounds, but they heal immediately because no one can die) duels with swords and spears and surrounded by the cannon fire from the terrible weapons of war that ingenuity of the fallen angels has created. The charge of the Son in his golden chariot, levelling every single enemy and casting them forth with a single, swift stroke. Millions of fallen angels lying facedown in the burning lake of Hell, stunned, unable to grasp their overwhelming defeat. The following reaction to a motivational speech by Satan:

"He spake: and to confirm his words, out flew
Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs
Of mighty Cherubim; the sudden blaze
Far round illumined Hell: highly they raged
Against the Highest, and fierce with grasped arms
Clashed on their sounding shields the din of war,
Hurling defiance toward the vault of Heav'n."

Satan bulldozing his way through the depths of Chaos and Night after bursting forth from the massive, nine-fold gates of Hell (three of which are adamantium, incidentally). All of these things and more would require some major technical wizardry. But aside from that, the quiet scenes are, obviously, the most affecting. They would require superlative actors . . . I can see it all now. Even that very final scene has a certain cinematic quality to it. Anyway, if you had the right talent behind the project, it might make a tolerably good musical as well . . .

Oh, and before you go dashing off to imdb.com, in case you haven't yet, there are, in fact, no fewer than eleven movies with the title "Paradise Lost." However, none of them . . . actually . . . are . . . Paradise Lost. Somehow. The only interesting looking one was made in 1911 by D. W. Griffith. *evil smirk* The rest appear to be either romantic dramas concerning impossible loves (read: "total crap"), or ecological documentaries detailing the destruction of the rainforest and other such things (read: "more total crap"). In short, Milton's title has been raped . . . a lot. And if anyone had the guts and the skill to undertake the task, Paradise Lost would be a hell of a movie (pun intended).

A quick paragraph for you Wheel of Time fans out there . . . I've read a lot of opinions on this series. And if you wanna stick yours in the comments, I'd love to hear them. I've heard people say all the books suck after number three, or number five, or even number nine . . . I've heard people say that 5-8 suck, or 5-9, or 6-8, etc. Anyway, I'm almost done with book six, and I'm not seeing it yet. But I'll wait until I'm done to comment more fully. I just want to say that, for my money, the scene where Mat bursts in on Egwene and co. after she has been raised Amyrlin Seat, rips off her stole of office, and starts throwing around orders and giving instructions so he can get them out of "this mess" is High Comedy. That's the funniest thing I've read this month . . .

And, finally, I was reading along peacefully in Master and Commander when I came upon a brief passage that struck me. I read it over about five times and decided that it was a very good statement of my own "political position," if you can even apply that term to what I've got. Dr. Stephen Maturin is conversing with Lt. James Dillon, both former members of an Irish organization of rather revolutionary leanings that blew up in everyones' faces. (You'll have to supply your own historical context . . . if you can't, then you probably shouldn't be reading this.)

Maturin: With the revolution in France gone to pure loss I was already chilled beyond expression. And now, with what I saw in '98, on both sides, the wicked folly and the wicked brute cruelty, I have had such a sickening of men in masses, and of causes, that I would not cross this room to reform parliament or prevent the union or bring about the millenium. I speak only for myself, mind - it is my own truth alone - but man as part of a movement or a crowd is indifferent to me. He is inhuman. And I have nothing to do with nations, or nationalism. The only feelings I have - for what they are - are for men as individuals; my loyalties, such as they may be, are to private persons alone.

Dillon: Patriotism will not do?

Maturin: My dear creature, I have done with all debate. But you know as well as I, patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile.

I don't pretend to be any more consistent in this attitude than Maturin himself, you understand. Everyone knows that I'll argue nearly anything on an intellectual level, and have a heck of a lot of fun doing it, too. I can even be convinced to change my mind. But when people start getting stubborn and emotional about their petty opinions and causes, as if what they think (whether right or wrong) will actually effect anything without them attaining some high government office or something, that's when I pretty much check out. I have bigger fish to fry. Wait, no, I take that back . . . it isn't quite true. My fish are decidedly smaller, however, I do have my own fish to fry.

And to a large (frighteningly large to some, I suppose) extent, that goes for religion too. So there.

Well, it's almost 6:00 now . . . yeah, still in the morning. It's been a long post and there were a few interruptions. I went outside to investigate a strange racket the dog was making, and my mom did too, and I got berated for still being up . . . Just general stuff. I'll be napping a lot today, but I'm not going to bed now for sure. This will almost certainly be my only chance to see the brothers off to school, since they leave at the unholy hour of 6:50. I'll probably have a meeting or two, as well. I'm supposed to talk to the former math teacher (now the school accountant . . . frightening, but fitting), and possibly the current one as well. My dad is supposed to get me a copy of the Big Test so I can edit it if necessary. He has that power, and he'll give it to me. And I have the standard 3:30 to 5:00 session this afternoon as well. Plus lots of reading to do inbetween.

This day is looking really long . . . if it's as long as this post I may not live through it. Farewell.

Posted by Jared at 05:55 AM | TrackBack

January 06, 2004

Latest Metaphor: Dumb as the Guatemalan School System

The following post could not be submitted last night due to Blogger deciding that it had been under a few hours of routine maintenance as of November 12th. *sigh* Anyway, without further ado:

No pressure. None at all. I just wanted you all to know that. I am not currently under any pressure or stress whatsoever. I mean, it's not like I have less than a week to teach five mathematically illiterate middle schoolers everything I know about Algebra and Algebra II, right? And it's not like if they fail the test that's coming on Monday, they'll be missing the next entire year of school (effectively putting them two years farther behind than they already are), right? Wrong. That's exactly what's going on. And it sucks. Last year 50 kids failed math (not all from the orphanage, obviously) and had to take "summer school" math, whatever they call it. When the test rolled around to see if they were back on track or not, we had a 12% pass rate.

Oh, yeah . . . and the two 7th graders are both 16 years old. And two of the 8th graders are 17, one is 18. If the 18 year old fails this test, she'll be 21 by the time she gets out of the 9th grade, provided she doesn't fail anymore classes between now and then. Basically, if they fail this math class, they fail the whole grade, and they have to retake everything. The test is, as I said, on Monday, but they get two retakes. One is in February, one is in March . . . but if they have to retake in February, the schoolyear will already have marched too far along without them and they'll have to sit out the year. Of course, if they fail all three, they'll be retaking the same grade starting next January, resulting in the loss of two years that I mentioned earlier. The system sucks, but no one seems to notice. I can't do anything about it, having no time or influence, and I can't seem to get anyone else to do anything about it, either.

My dad would do something, but math isn't his strong point, and he just doesn't get what's going on. Plus he's always running in all directions starting at 5:00 in the morning, so he just can't. Besides, the things that really need to be fixed go a lot deeper than our school. This boggles my mind, but the school is one of the best in the entire city, and possibly in the country. It's all the government's fault . . .

Anyway, as to other things, I finished that Star Wars book today. Yay. It was fair. I gave it a 79. It had some good action and some decent twists, but it was a fairly weak end to the trilogy and the last 40 pages seemed unnecessarily boring as things wound down. But whatever . . .

I wanted to include this quote in my last post, but I forgot. It's from Paradise Lost, and I thought it was interesting. Eve's, and subsequently Adam's, downfall came after she had suggested that she and Adam should spend the day working in different areas of the garden, even though an angel has just warned them of Satan's presence. When Adam reminds her of this, her argument is that even if Satan does show up, their faith is worthless anyway if it can't stand up to a little temptation. After all the Fall, Adam and Eve are sitting around berating themselves and each other, and Adam says:

Let none henceforth seek needless cause to [prove]
The Faith they owe; when earnestly they seek
Such proof, conclude, they then begin to fail.

I thought that was . . . interesting. Just like the rest of the book, in fact . . .

But anyway, I just realized that I left it and Lord of Chaos in my parents' room and they're both asleep already, so . . . suck. I'll just have to read Master and Commander for the next three hours or so. Oh, well . . . at least that's the one I most urgently need to finish. Incidentally, it is quite excellent so far. I can hardly believe when it was written . . . it almost seems to have been written 150+ years earlier. I don't know of any other historical novels that have effectively pulled that off.

Posted by Jared at 10:05 AM | TrackBack

January 03, 2004

Kids, this is why we post more often than once a week . . .

What is the world coming to? More importantly to me at the moment: What in the heck is my family coming to? Half of them are watching this monstrosity even as we speak. And they've seen it before . . . they're watching it again because they loved it so much. Oh, and set your minds at rest . . . I've never seen the movie before, and I never shall. You know, I really thought we were making progress last night when I went with my parents to rent some movies. I have grown sick and tired of the G and PG rated crappola that tends to circulate around here and I just suddenly felt the urge to find a movie that I could actually sit down and watch and not feel like an idiot . . . or worse. I usually just avoid the room where the TV is whenever anyone around here is watching something that I didn't bring with me.

So anyway, I decided that with the extremely limited selection of the video store we were in, there was really only one possibility: this movie. So we got that and I watched it with my parents and my oldest brother, Brett. My mom particularly liked it and my dad actually stayed up and stayed awake two hours past his bedtime while we watched it . . . that never happens. So I thought, briefly, that we were doing good . . . Bleah.

Okay, it has been awhile since my last informational post, so I guess I'll just dive right in and recall whatever I wish to recall about the last week and change whenever it comes to mind. Today was relatively eventless, so I'll start there. My second brother, Micah, has been after me since I got here to play HeroClix with him, but I had been putting him off. I don't know the first thing about the rules and it looked like it would take time and effort to learn, and I just wasn't interested. He was getting antsy though, and I figured it wouldn't hurt anything to play. I put him off indefinitely on playing his last craze (The Lord of the Rings Customizable Card Game) last Christmas and we never got to play and he was visibly upset by this, so I decided I wouldn't do that to him again.

I promised him . . . Thursday, I think, that I would play on Saturday for sure. And last night I said that it would have to be in the morning (because I'm an idiot). So he and his best friend, Donald Fox, are pretty much bouncing all over my bed at about 9:00 (I had to bed at 3:00 . . . because I'm an idiot). Well, I'm pretty good at pretending to be asleep, so they gave up after a bit and I didn't get up until almost 11:00. And we didn't get started until almost 12:30. Ha. The game lasted almost four hours because my youngest brother, Ian, wanted to play as well (and he had never played before either). And, to make a long story short, I worked all three of them. So that was fun. And then I was suddenly exhausted and I took a two hour nap, and that is almost everything that has happened today. I sleep too much.

Yesterday our good friends, the Frys, came over to spend the day. I'm sure some of you have seen Mr. Fry (kf) post comments from time to time. They arrived at about 8:30, and I had gotten up about five minutes before that (of course). We had a wonderful breakfast of omlettes and waffles and . . . craploads of other good stuff which is all kind of hazy because I was tired. Among the things I did that day: watch the new scenes from TTT with Asa, talked with Asa about this and that for an hour or so, discussed English Literature with Mr. Fry, ate some delicious pizza for lunch, played Catchphrase for awhile (it's kind of a hybrid between Taboo and Hot Potato) with me, Mr. Fry, Mrs. Fry, Asa, and Hannah vs. my parents and brothers and Rachel. We generally won . . . a lot. Especially when the category was History Buff. After they left I got some reading done . . . and stuff.

Thursday I mostly spent reading once I finally got up and we took down all the Christmas decorations. The day before was . . . hmmm . . . actually the day is very fuzzy in my mind for some reason. How nice. I do remember the evening, because we made our annual trek over to the Briggs' house for their big New Year's Eve get-together at about 9:00 (yes, at night). Every year I go there are more people there and I recognize fewer of them, but that's okay because most of the old hands keep coming back. There are always plenty of people that I know. I sat in a corner and read a book for the first hour or so, pretending to listen to my brother and his friends talk fast cars and fantasy basketball. Then there was finally a game that I decided I wanted to get involved in: Mexican Train, played with dominoes. We played that until about ten minutes before midnight, and then everyone gathered for a quick prayer time, etc. And then we had fireworks! Yay! More on fireworks later, but suffice it to say that NYE is just as big as CE, and in some ways it's bigger for us. There are about eight "family units" that show up to these gatherings and each of them brings enough fireworks to last an hour or so. It's loud. We love it. After that we played Catchphrase and Moods until about 2:30, and came home.

Tuesday . . . nothing happened. Not that I can remember, anyway. I think it was overshadowed by Monday, when I finally went to see RotK in English. I was shocked at how much better it was. And we went to the nicest theater in Central America, which is actually saying something, believe it or not. Admission is $3.50. I laugh at all of you. My mom inisisted on going, because she wanted to see it again. And so we managed to drag my dad along. He admitted afterwards that it was worth watching again in English.

Sunday, nothing important . . . Saturday, went to see RotK for the third time in Spanish . . . Friday, RotK for the second time in Spanish . . . Thursday, first time in Spanish . . . Wednesday, Christmas Eve . . . Tuesday, . . . Wait. I went back too far.

So on Christmas Eve, after we opened our presents (I got some great new books, including a three-in-one by Wodehouse) I went over to help out with the proceedings elsewhere. I wound up filming most of it, and not much else until firework time. I had purchased 400 whistlers for about $5 and there were about 900 other whistlers that different people had, so we had a very healthy whistler war. The young kids with their sparklers saw the big kids throwing their fireworks around and thought that that looked like fun, which resulted in the only mishap of the evening (a minor cut and burn behind Juan's ear). We had to save some of our whistlers for the next day because the kids had to go to bed.

I had to get up early on Christmas morning and help assemble the trampoline . . . that wasn't much fun. It was fun watching the kids get on a trampoline for the first time. Wow. And they all insisted that each of us do it. My dad jumped a bit, and my mom, and then they started chanting for me . . . although I was trying to film. So I got up there, and actually jumped higher than one foot off the thing (which no one else had dared to attempt). I scared them at one point because they thought I was going to jump over the edge. Heh. Gimme a break. Micah wowed everyone with his famous backflips.

Then we had another whistler war with what we had left. It was Brett and I vs. everyone else. We wasted them because they were all cowards. There are a few tricks to remember here. Hold onto the whistler until it actually starts to whistle, otherwise you won't be able to aim it at all, and it's just as likely to fly back and hit you. There is one chance in a thousand that the really cheap kind will blow up in your hand, but I've never had that happen. Don't flinch, under any circumstances. No matter how good of a shot the other team is, a whistler will almost never actually hit you. And if it does, it won't hurt. Your pride will take a lot more damage when you run squealing out of the way. Our opponents didn't realize this, so there was much laughter from us as they did precisely that.

A brief word about certain key times: midnight, Christmas eve . . . noon, Christmas day . . . midnight, New Year's Eve . . . 6:00 am, New Year's Day . . . noon, New Year's Day . . . 6:00 pm, New Year's Day. Most of you have probably never been in a war zone. I haven't either . . . but I know what it sounds like because that's what it sounds like at each of those times. I kid you not. Literally thousands of black cats going off around you at once like machine gun fire, some locals actually firing hand guns into the air, whistlers going every which way . . . and the bombs! Ohhhhhh, the bombs. They are sooo freaking loud . . . Which was why I was mad at my brother when he kept "forgetting" to warn me that he was setting one off less than ten feet away. The reason I couldn't see him doing that was because a thick cloud of smoke descends upon all areas of the country where there are people. You really can't see ten feet in any direction . . . it's great. It's especially great when you're running wildly around, throwing "live ammunition" at the dark, looming shapes around you, and dodging their return fire.

Right. Anyway. I'll talk briefly about books now, and then I'm going to go read some. I finally finished Descent into Hell the day after Christmas. There is definitely an element of poetic irony there, as my reading of the thing truly had been "slower than Christmas" (any way you look at it). It was my least favorite of the Williams books, but that's not saying much, because I still liked it. It got annoying at one point when it was particularly incomprehensible, but when everything finally came together . . . that was good. On my rather arbitrary and random rating scale (I have trouble making up my mind over the proper balance between rating based on perceived quality and enjoyment . . . the two don't always coincide, especially with me), it got a 94 (yes, out of 100). I gave War in Heaven a 97 (which has nothing to do with the fact that that rhymes, I swear), and Many Dimensions got 100. Because I really really liked it. I finished that other random book I was reading, and it was so terrible that I'm not going to talk about it here, or anywhere else. I gave it a 24. I finished a Forgotten Realms book that I was reading, The Shattered Mask (third in the Sembia series), on Thursday and gave that an 89. Scholl would enjoy this book, I think . . . It contains a number of prime examples of why wenches should never be armed (they might be tricked into assassinating you). It was pretty good, and I've enjoyed that series thus far. There are seven books. I'm nearly within what I call "striking distance" on two books (meaning that I could easily finish either of them in one sitting): Paradise Lost and the Star Wars book I'm reading, Force Heretic III: Reunion (17th in the New Jedi Order series . . . just two more books and I can leave that one behind!). I am enjoying both of them, on completely different levels. I'm finally making headway in Lord of Chaos. I'm a safe distance past the halfway mark now. And, last but not least, I'm on the point of beginning Master and Commander. In spite of all the other reading that is taking place, I'll have to move fast. This one is on loan, and I've got barely a week left. With that in mind, I'm going now . . .

Posted by Jared at 10:33 PM | TrackBack

January 01, 2004

Long Live 2004!

Not wishing to attempt to compete with Scholl, or especially Wilson, I simply have this to say: Happy New Year, everyone. I hope 2004 treats you all as well as I shall require it to treat me.

Posted by Jared at 02:43 AM | TrackBack