August 31, 2004
The Big Summer Movie Project
As you all probably know by now, this summer bore witness to a large-scale project which involved kicking back in the nearest piece of comfortable furniture and watching loads and loads of movies, keeping a detailed record and carefully calculating an appropriate rating for each and every one of them. And now it's time for the old statistics game to come into play.
I have watched 137 different movies this summer (there have probably been at least a dozen repeats).
-6 of these movies were rated G.
-38 were rated PG.
-30 were rated PG-13.
-43 were rated R.
-20 were UnRated.
This was pretty much the focus of the summer . . . The amount of time spent (counting reruns) boils down to nearly two weeks of solid 24/7 movie watching (approximately one and a quarter movies per day at almost exactly two hours per movie).
In addition to this, I did manage to squeeze in a full-time job, a two-week summer course worth three credit hours, and a couple dozen books plus two visits to West Texas and copious amounts of quality time with our much esteemed "HNRS" SC Seniors during this, their final summer of college life. I remember sleeping, too. Definitely plenty of sleeping.
(Brief sidenote: As to that next-to-last item, I was particularly glad to be able to spend the extra time with the all-too-soon-to-be graduates. Just thought I'd mention that.)
Anyway, I contemplated listing the worst movies I saw this summer, but there seemed to be very little point. There were exactly ten movies that got 50% or less on the rating scale, but that was because I chose to watch good movies fairly consistently . . . plus I didn't necessarily loathe the experience of watching most of these and the following listing seems much more relevant.
The Top Ten Movies I Saw This Summer (in order as watched):
Only four of those were first-time views for me, but I have watched an additional four of them for the first time within the last year . . . Only "Rear Window" and "Road to Perdition" are (relatively) long-time favorites.
The movielist isn't going away, but due to the sudden and particularly uninvited arrival of the fall semester the summer project is forced to draw to a close. I'll be sad to see it, and the summer in general, go . . . But I look forward to just about everything that comes with the beginning of a new semester. I won't be watching quite so many movies now (or maybe I will), but the record-keeping and attempts at quality selection will continue.
After all, if I continue at anything like the present rate I'll have caught up with Roger Ebert in a mere 20 years . . .
August 27, 2004
I Am Quite Safe
After waking up at 6:30 this morning to leave (after less than 5 hours of sleep) and driving the manual-with-no-cruise-control pickup for another 5 hours (with Ashley in the passenger seat, trying not to pass the people ahead of me in our convoy of four) and eating at Taco Bueno for lunch for the second day in a row (after the one in Lubbock made me sick enough to throw up in Barnes & Noble yesterday afternoon . . . don't worry, no books were harmed in any way) and spending 3 hours riding with Ashley in her car while we discussed The Issues and listened to a strange mix of music . . .
After all of that, I arrived safely back on the LeTourneau campus at approximately 4:00. As soon as the car had stopped moving in the Trinity parking lot, I was out and booking it in the general direction of my apartment. I saw Sharptiano, but didn't have time to greet him . . . I had been given dire warnings about what would happened if I failed to arrive in "the middle of the afternoon" as promised (2:00-4:00 = middle of afternoon according to Scholl).
I plunged into the dreaded ice cave and was greeted by a very welcome sight: Scholl, Wilson, Randy, and . . . BRYAN DURKIN! Bryan Durkin was my first roommate and a good friend during my freshman year. He is now a returning student after a year-long sabbatical from the college scene.
Scholl immediately brought out The Judge and attempted to administer a beating . . . After all of the above-mentioned efforts at getting back to campus and into the apartment as quickly as I possibly could . . . Well, let's just say that I was extremely ungrateful and utterly displeased.
Members of the family arrived soon afterwards, as did the Sharon-Moore, and there was much jollity. A large gang made up of myself and friends got all of Audra's things and dumped them in her room on Thomas 3 . . . her roommate was totally bemused by the procession of male . . . ummm . . . "bearers" arriving well ahead of Audra herself.
Moving down to the apartments, Ashley received the same generous assistance and all of her worldly goods were dumped without further ado. Then I spent awhile enjoying the company of various personages, punctuated by frequent phone calls pushing my parents in the general direction of getting some supper. If we hadn't come up with a plan and walked them through each step they still wouldn't know what's going on for dinner . . .
We ate at Joe's . . . it was good, but weird. I have spent the last two years living with one foot in each of two completely different worlds (well, okay . . . more like one foot and four toes in one world, my left pinky toe in the other . . . sometimes) and tonight I saw those worlds sit down across a table from each other and eat dinner together. On one side: Bryan, Wilson, Ardith, Anna, Scholl and myself. On the other side: Micah, Brendon, Ashley, Mom, Dad, Ian. It felt so wrong . . . I would have felt perfectly comfortable with either half, but the two together threw me . . . a lot.
Nevertheless, it was fun . . . after talking for awhile back in our living room, people slowly started trickling out. Eventually we gathered the survivors and crashed Uncle Doug's room for a good long chat. And then we laughed over "Cmplt Wrks Shkspr (abridged)" back in the living room for another long while.
Long story short . . . it's late, I'm tired, I actually have to get up tomorrow to do . . . this and that, and the main purpose of this post is entirely summarized in the title. Good night.
August 24, 2004
The Mostest Specialest Birthday Ever
I am 21 years old. I suppose it would be the usual thing at this juncture to meditate a bit on my past year of life, look ahead to the future, and generally ruminate about getting older, crossing thresholds into adulthood, and settling into a stolid, mature state of responsible symbiosis with my fellow man.
But the fact is that I don't even feel a little bit contemplative right now . . . less so even than I usually feel. In fact, I don't think I could actually tell you the difference between my 20-year old and 21-year old selves if they were standing side by side in front of me (unless the latter model had, say, a bottle of Bacardi Silver in one hand). So that's quite enough of this "I'm 21" nonsense . . . I still haven't given my teenage years permission to leave, and I have a few more years to legitimately cling to them before I will be forced to enter the youth ministry as a career teen.
My birthday, as the title of this post has certainly indicated, was indeed quite special . . . and it started quite early. I was woken at the unholy hour of 8:30 in the morning. Audra was the first to wish me a happy birthday . . . so few people were that I was amusing myself by seeing who would remember when, and kept track of the first six people or so.
Anyway, I was woken up so that I could help Brett move in to his dorm room at South Plains College. This sterling academic institution is located in the aptly named town of Levelland (pop. 12866) which is located about a half-hour from Lubbock. Along the way you'll find yourself passing through towns such as Hurlwood, Smyer, and Opdyke West (pop. 150-450 each) . . . it's quite the itinerary.
I arrived on campus in a separate car from Brett, and he had already met his roommate and located his room. The two of them came out to meet me, and it was all I could do to keep my jaw in place.
Brett's new roommate was dragging on a cigarette as they approached. He sported a marine haircut and a bushy goatee. He was dressed all in black, but his t-shirt had the sleeves hacked off at the shoulder. He had an earring in his left ear and a skull amidst flames tatooed on his right arm (this last was a bit crooked and odd-looking, and I later heard that he got it for 30 bucks at some shady place or other). Every inch of exposed skin had the reddish-brown tint of a farmer's tan, and he wore glasses that had a yellowish tint. As he got closer I noticed that his eyes were swimming, and that I couldn't quite tell where he was looking. One eye remained stationary while the other seemed to rove at will (later discovered that the former is a glass eye . . . I forget what he did to it).
"Name's Russell, Russell Hinley. You can call me Russ, or Hinley. Hell, you can call me whatever you want, but most folks just call me Hinley."
Struggling to maintain a straight face, I accompanied them to their room with a load of stuff as they chattered happily about this and that. I noticed that Hinley had the annoying habit of punctuating most of his sentences (and ours) with a snorting giggle. Brett and Hinley had been assigned to the smallest room on the floor . . . and it was tiny. I tried to lighten the mood by joking that they must have gotten stuck in the supply closet by mistake and somewhere else on the floor they'd probably find a pile of mops and brooms enjoying the extra space. Hinley gave a snorting giggle. Brett was not amused.
Hinley already had his side of the room covered with Marine posters, and he and Brett carefully discussed such pressing matters as where to set up the TV, stereo, computer, X-Box . . . *sigh* Kids these days. So many gadgets and doo-hickeys. The discussion was complicated by the fact that their room only bothered to include one desk. They were very bitter about this fact, but I couldn't quite see where you would have fit another. I borrowed Brett's cell phone and left them to it, wandering outside to call my parents.
They were just leaving Levelland's Super Wal-Mart (here in West Texas every small town and its sister has a Super Wal-Wart) and would be arriving shortly. I felt the need to give them the heads-up, more for Brett's sake than theirs.
Me: "Now, dad, when it comes to Brett's roommate, you are expecting anything right?"
Dad: "What kind of anything are we talking about here?"
Me: "Oh. Ummm . . . Well, you know . . . ANYTHING."
Dad: "Ummm . . ."
Me: "Think earrings, tattoos and cigarette smoke . . ."
Dad: "Ah. Right." *brief pause* "Yeah. Yeah, we're expecting anything."
Me: "Good. See you in a bit then."
I was terribly proud of them, actually. My mother's face was totally straight. My dad was as friendly as always. Perhaps they've already been prepared for such shocks by visits with my friends . . .? But further speculation along that line is unnecessary.
After a little while longer we went to lunch at Dairy Queen and then returned to my grandparents' house in Lubbock to get ready for my birthday cookout. I crashed out in front of the computer and started composing this post, but I was interrupted by Micah, who wanted me to take him to Hastings so he could buy me a birthday present. Some people just have no consideration for others . . . totally selfish.
We went, but after we'd been there for about 10 minutes, my mom called to inform Micah that he had already purchased me a present, and that she would be sure to tell him what it was when he got home. And, oh yeah, could we please pick up some ice from the grocery store on the way back?
We picked up the ice, and I crashed out again . . . only to be sent back for more ice. I used the opportunity to slip into Barnes & Noble and use the $25 gift card my parents had given me . . . I got Trivial Pursuit: Book Lover's Edition. *evil cackle*
Then, I barely had time to write anymore before people started arriving. My dad's parents came, along with Ashley and Audra and family and my cousin Shawn and company (family of my mom's only sibling). I enjoyed the usual cookout stuff and then we ate cake.
Apparently twenty-one candles is a bit much, so there was a large number two and a matching number one. My mom had a bit of trouble lighting them, blew one out herself ("Thanks, mom. Now I only get half a wish."), and finally presented the cake to me after the traditional song. Wanting to make absolutely sure that I got both candles with a single blow, I huffed and I puffed and I blew hot wax all over my mom's arm.
"Ummm . . . Thanks for not dropping my cake, mom."
And then it was finally time for the traditional birthday ritual. This is the part where everyone gets to sit in a semi-circle and very carefully study my reaction as I see, for the first time, what they've gotten for me this year. I am pleased to report that no acting was necessary . . . although I must mention that I only got one birthday card that wasn't insulting.
And now, as per Scholl's request, the haul:
-Another $25 gift cards to Barnes & Noble
-A Lord Peter Wimsey mystery (by Dorothy Sayers) and an Ellis Peters mystery
-A John Eldredge book *doesn't remember title*
-A book light that turns off after preprogrammed amount of time (for those who often fall asleep and waste batteries)
-The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)
-A 2005 Yiddish Word-a-day Calendar (Everyone was a bit confused by this and I got to give a brief lecture on the subject of Yiddish . . . that was fun)
The aforementioned cash and gift card I used to get:
-"Big Fish" (Daniel Wallace), "The Godfather" (Mario Puzo), and "Whose Body?" (Dorothy Sayers) . . . (the books)
-"Schindler's List," "Amadeus: Director's Cut," and "The Seventh Seal" (yes, the movies)
Anyway, after this the evening quickly drew to a close . . . We watched "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and stuff and then I fell asleep reading. And my light turned itself off. I am pleased.
August 23, 2004
Please tell me this is a dream, Part IV
I just couldn't stand it anymore . . . I had to have a fix. So I went to Godeke Public Library and checked out four copies of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I also looked for "Hamlet" and "The Importance of Being Earnest" but they didn't have a single copy of either one. I was disgusted. Then I rounded up the cousins and the brothers and we dove right in.
Micah- Lysander, Philostrate, Flute/Thisby, Moth
Myself- Demetrius, Egeus, Bottom/Pryamus, Puck
Ashley- Hermia, Titania, Quince/Prologue, Peaseblossom
Audra- Helena, Hippolyta, Snug/Lion, Cobweb, 1st Fairy
Brett- Theseus, Oberon, Starveling/Moonshine, Demetrius
Ian- Snout/Wall, Mustardseed, 2nd Fairy, Theseus
I think everyone had fun . . . *shrugs* I know I had fun. Brett couldn't seem to figure out how to play a character who wasn't flamboyantly gay . . . or at the very least, effeminate . . . That got old fast. Ian changed his accent every time he had a line, but each one was funny. Micah has gotten some acting experience under his belt since the last time I worked with him, and he did well. The girls were solid.
I enjoyed myself, and I can't wait for the new season to begin.
However, I can't pass over the opportunity that is before me here. I had my own midsummer night's dream, you see.
Here on the eve of my 21st birthday I dreamed that I died in a car wreck on the way back to LeTourneau, but that I had a few days to tie up loose ends with people there, in ghost form.
Scholl proved especially difficult to deal with, berating me loudly for "not trying hard enough" to get back alive. I blame him for the dream . . . That's all I have to say.
August 22, 2004
The Continuing Adventures of The Snob
I have been at my mother's parents' house since Thursday evening. Anything that happens around here happens because I make it happen, and consequently very little has happened. Mostly I've slept in until lunch, bummed around Lubbock all afternoon, and watched movies until 4:00 in the morning.
Every movie I watched on the 20th except for Gigi represents my efforts to slog through a portion of Brett's rather questionable video collection. And that pretty much represents the cream of the crop (well, Club Dread just about scrapes the bottom of the barrel, I'll admit).
Yeah. Serves me right, I guess.
This morning I went to the late service at Trinity and decided it would be better for all concerned if I just didn't listen to the sermon. I caught bits and snatches . . . It was about healthy marriages or something. The one time I started paying attention there was an anecdote about a questionable encounter that Pastor Toti had with his wife in an empty elevator (a church elevator, no less!). Traumatized, I returned to my book. Healthy marriages indeed!
And speaking of books, at Barnes & Noble today, I picked up this little gem. I couldn't resist . . . bought it and read it this afternoon. It was pretty good, fairly amusing and so forth . . . I was entertained.
Yeah, I know I've got a birthday in, like, two days. But I didn't think it would be a good idea to ask for something like that from anyone in my family (especially since I kept recognizing them inside). And there are always plenty of other things to ask for.
Let's see . . . Oh, yes! I have my Quote of the Week:
This morning I was ripping into "B.C." (yes, again . . . have you seen today's comic?!). My grandmother happens to be a fan, and she said, "I've always enjoyed 'B.C.' I'm an intellectual slob." *brief pause* "I'm a slob and you're a snob."
I've been hearing that from almost everyone for days now, but not phrased in such double-edged and amusing terms. I was chuckling about it all the way to church.
So, which you would you rather be classified as: Intellectual Slob or Intellectual Snob? (Fyi, if you are opinionated at all, you're going to be labelled as one or the other by someone.)
One final thing: Due to circumstances beyond my control, I expect to be arriving back in Longview sometime in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday, the 26th. I'm not particularly pleased about it, and I have made this fact known, but I've been railroaded, and there's absolutely nothing I can do to arrive any earlier.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If there are any unpleasant repercussions with respect to my personage as a result of this unfortunate turn of events, whether they involve verbal or physical beatings (or anything else), the full weight of my general displeasure will be brought to bear on the individual responsible. Yes, Scholl, I'm talking to you. Arrangements have been made, and I have been left out of the decision-making process. If you have any ire to direct, see that it is directed elsewhere.
August 18, 2004
West Texas Update #2
It's funny how the days run together when all you do is sleep and bum around a random house . . . I'm reading, but not as much as I had hoped. I'm watching movies, but not as many as I had planned. I'm visiting with people, but not as much as I had expected. I really couldn't tell you what I'm doing with my time. It's just kind of passing, and I'm not paying enough attention to see where's it going. I feel very weird.
I have acquired very cheap DVD copies of Chicago, The Last Emperor, and The Godfather. This pleases me immensely. I also scored a paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and a pair of headphones with a cord of sufficient length. Sufficient length means that it's long enough to plug into my computer and still allow me to sit up straight in my chair (a must with all four of us having potentially noisy computers in the same room next semester).
I have absolutely no clue what I did all day on Monday. I find this very disturbing.
Wait, yes I do . . . That was the day of much Harry Potter arguing (after I got up at noon). Unfortunately I still have nothing conclusive to report, and the battle continues. Never fear, I shall continue to fight the good fight and all that rot. Wow. I can't believe I spent a whole day on that.
On Tuesday I dragged myself out of bed at about 11:30 because my parents were going to lunch with some random people that they know, and they wanted self and siblings along for . . . some reason. I was not particularly pleased with the prospect of making the random acquaintance of yet more random people that my parents have randomly met, but my mother insisted that I would enjoy myself because we would be eating at yet another Mexican restaurant, and these two personages were both female, and they were both close to my age, and had both recently spent time in Guatemala . . . Hey, what more do you need for a good time, huh? I could almost hear, "You'll have a basis . . ."
I was promised that, if I wished, I could escape to Hastings next door. And, Wilson, before you start screaming "Introvert!" at me, keep this in mind: It has long been my experience that the sort of people my parents tend to make friends with don't take very well to the sort of behavior that results when I do anything other than sit quietly, nod, and smile. So with this idea firmly fixed into place, we went to lunch, and let me just say this: Either one of these girls could have been LU Admissions Counselors. They were even wearing matching maroon shirts. And as for making conversation, had I been so inclined, it's an iffy proposition as to whether I'd have managed to slide a word in edgewise.
Micah and I went to Hastings.
Then, after supper, I took myself back down Farm-to-Market 400 to spend the night in Southland. I whiled away most of the excessively boring drive talking to Scholl. This conversation was largely punctuated with his breaking off to curse Scott's less-than-competent Alpha Centauri skills, but it was more interesting than simply staring at moonlit cotton fields.
The reason for my journey to Southland was this: My Grandma had to be in Lubbock this morning at 5:30 for a minor operation (which seems to have gone smoothly, by the way) and Ashley was taking the other car to work, leaving Audra with no way to get to her 10:30 CLEP test at Texas Tech. Without this CLEP test she faces an English Comp class with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (no, not Voldemort . . . that wouldn't be so bad). Enter Jared, that one guy with a car and nothing to do.
I broke in on the usual quiet evening at Grandma's . . . my Grandad was reading the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal while Grandma, Brendon, and Audra watched "The River Wild." Ashley was at a staff dinner at Mickey's Steak House. Then "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" came on, Grandma went to bed, I found the cookies and helped my Grandad with the crossword puzzle, and Ashley came home.
Then everyone else went to bed while I pulled out "Life With Jeeves" and Ashley pulled out "The Princess" by Lori Wick. I distracted her too much with my laughter so we got to talking about this and that until it was 2:00 in the morning. We have a bad habit of doing that . . .
I went to bed at about 2:45, which made getting up before 9:00 all that much more of a pain . . . but Ashley had it worse, she was on her way out the door as I crawled out of bed. Someday we'll learn. Maybe.
So, I shot off to Texas Tech with Audra, and my parents met me there once I'd made sure she was registered properly and so forth. We swapped out cars, my dad taking the pickup and I going with my mom to run errands in my grandparents' Oldsmobile (roomier, you see).
Audra was supposedly going to be done at noon, and then we were going to eat lunch and figure the rest out from there. Unfortunately, she didn't get done until 2:00, which is why I didn't get home until almost 5:00. However, she did pass the multiple-choice portion of the test, and I have every confidence in her success with the essay. (She informed me that she had had to write against her opinions. The essay topic was "The Wisdom of Being Impetuous." I thought that sounded like fun . . .)
And that is the latest in action-packed excitement from West Texas. Sorry.
August 15, 2004
Close Encounters of the Sunday Morning Kind
I spent a minor portion of Saturday evening in a half-hearted, and ultimately futile, push to just skip church this week due to lack of sleep. In the end I decided that it would be wise to pick my battles, and that I didn't particularly mind in any case.
Plainview isn't quite the middle-of-nowhere, one-hour-from-anywhere podunksville I was afraid it would be. It's actually quite a nice little town, all things considered. The population is just over 22,000 and they have a decent selection of restaurants, a Hastings, a Super Wal-Mart, and so forth . . . all of this within 10 minutes of the house (which is also quite tolerable, in spite of someone's nasty habit of leaving the thermostat set at 90 friggin' degrees). It is, however, at least an hour from any of my various relations, and from any church that the aforementioned would be at all likely to attend.
So it was that I felt the need to rise at the ungodly hour of 8:45 to make an 11:00 service (My Grandma: "You need to be there by 10:45.") at the United Methodist Church in Slaton, TX with my grandparents and cousins. My mother was in Dallas for the weekend, visiting some nursing school buddies she hadn't seen in 15 years. My father attended a church called The Springs (which meets, btw, in a barn-like structure that used to be a dinner theater) with Micah and Ian in tow. And ever since Brett got a car, no one has ever known where he is or may be at any given hour of the day or night. I assumed he would be attending the service at Trinity, but later discovered that he had "overslept" and skipped entirely.
My dad woke me up, as instructed, at 8:45 on his way out the door, but I continued to wallow on the couch that doubles as my bed until 9:15. After a quick shower, I felt a bit more alive and ready to face the day ahead, but I had to rush out without any breakfast (I used up breakfast-time ironing my pants, which were in a sorry state indeed).
The drive to Slaton, which I made alone, is one of the most boring commutes I know of (having had the misfortune already of driving it five times). It consists of a one-hour straight shot (and I do mean straight) down Texas Farm-to-Market 400 with nothing but cotton on all sides. I spent the time in deep meditation/contemplation, but I don't remember about what. And I listened to my wonderful Cold Mountain soundtrack.
I arrived at my destination, unfortunately, at 10:50 . . . and immediately discovered that my race-against-time was being closely monitored. The pastor (who I've met once or twice before) was standing at the door, and as I entered he wrung my hand and greeted me loudly with, "Oh, good! You made it!"
I then walked forward to join the relations, where I was greeted with another cry of, "He made it!" This was softly echoed by the denizens of the surrounding pews as I took my seat and the service got started . . .
I was particularly fortunate in that my grandma did not realize that it was my first Sunday attending this church so far this summer, so I was spared the general proclamation of my presence during the announcement time (everyone seemed to know I was there, anyway) . . . Hmmm, I suppose I should mention that this has been my grandparents' church since roughly forever. I think regular attendance numbers range between 100 and 150 people each week. My dad grew up in it, and probably half the churchgoers have known him since he was a littl'un. The organ player gave him piano lessons. The choir leader used to play checkers with him. I'm famous . . .
I needn't describe the sanctuary or the service, I shouldn't think. Standard, uniform Methodist fare . . . Portraits of the 12 disciples and Jesus (anglicized, of course) lined the walls between the stained-glass windows . . . I enjoyed singing the Doxology (don't do that very often) . . . There was the usual short childrens' service up at the front which consisted mostly of sly, subtle jokes aimed at the adults . . . The sermon was an analysis of The Lord's Prayer, but I missed most of it because I was trying to hunt down something in Acts (I found it, Acts 17:11).
I was well and soundly greeted during greeting time . . . saw Suzanne (a former co-worker from the dreaded Boll Weevil place) and my Uncle Ferrel and Aunt Laura Jo (my grandad's younger brother and sister-in-law), etc. After the service I was soundly greeted again, and then soundly . . . ummm . . . "farewelled" and finally escaped to the inevitable Sunday lunch destination: Rosa's Cafe (to the best of my knowledge, my grandparents' haven't eaten anywhere else for Sunday lunch in several years). There we met up with my Uncle Johnny and Aunt Helen (grandma's older sister and brother-in-law) who had dropped in for a visit (they don't attend church on anything like a regular basis, I don't think).
My afternoon plan consisted of a lot of reading at Barnes & Noble, but I was prevailed upon by Micah and Audra to take them to the movie theater to see "The Village" . . . It was okay, I guess. That percentage you see on the right is a temp . . . Actually, all the ratings from the 12th on are temps. I haven't gotten my movielist to open properly yet so I don't have my scale to rate by for the next few days. And speaking of the right, please to note new linkage . . .
And that is all the news that is even a little bit interesting for the moment. I'm going to go find something fun to do now . . . It probably won't involve sleep for several hours . . .
August 12, 2004
West Texas Update #1
I've been composing three or four blogposts off and on for probably three days now, and one in particular for about 36 solid hours (all in my head, of course . . . there's nothing in any concrete form whatsoever).
Problem: I can't bring my eyes into focus for any serviceable length of time.
Causes: 1) Five hours of sleep on Tuesday night, followed by my last morning of work, followed by an afternoon of last-minute errands and packing, followed by an evening of airplane travel and being delayed in Dallas, followed by an entire night of playing Halo with Brett instead of sleeping. 2) Being with family.
Possible Solutions: ? (Probably nothing that involves blogging, yet here I sit.)
I am currently at my Grandma's house in Southland, enjoying a recorded production of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" that a few of my esteemed cousins from Virginia (Mieke-Beth and Aaron) performed in. I am amused.
And . . . yeah. Eyes still not focusing. I guess I'll just leave it at that. I might be in bed sometime soon, or I might be up all night again. I spent a portion of this evening playing around with the Jung Typology Test. I have, apparently, completely made the metamorphosis from INTJ, as I came up ESFP. Ashley and Audra both got INFJ, and Micah got ISFJ.
Tomorrow morning I have to drive my pickup back to my parents' house in Plainview so my mom can get to the airport (she'll be in Dallas for the weekend), and then . . . Who knows? I can already tell that these next two weeks will see me doing the old ping-pong ball routine between Lubbock, Southland, and Plainview. Ick.
August 06, 2004
Anna and the King and I and Anna
Well, I just returned from an encore performance of "The King and I" put on by the Longview Community Theatre. I went, and Anna went. Some bums stayed at home. Some are wandering the world. We are displeased, but it's their loss, not ours . . . And it gave me the once-in-a-lifetime chance to use that title for this post.
Anyway, I rather enjoyed myself. We quickly found our seats, and we were soon joined on all sides by many eager patrons of the arts. The female sitting next to me was of advanced years, and was wearing enough pungent old-lady perfume to drown newborn puppies in. Fortunately I got used to the smell and stopped noticing fairly quickly. As we waited for the musical to begin, Anna happened to notice a few familiar faces in the row behind us. That was when we discovered that we would be sharing this experience with the Hon. Dr. Watson and spouse (more on that later).
In ordering my thoughts for some sort of review (both during the performance and now) I find that I am a bit at sea in some respects. I'm kinda missing the other half of the team with whom to play "Good Critic, Bad Critic." But whatever, I know what Scholl would say if he were here. He would say, "Bah, Texans!" and that would suffice to condemn the entirety of the thing. I, on the other hand, will merely relate the pertinent facts of the matter as they relate to that particular aspect of the production, then set them aside and proceed to judge from a more rational and objective standpoint.
Let us proceed to do just that:
I must say, first, that for a small East Texas city to attempt a production of "The King and I" is a bit overambitious to begin with. Why? Because it requires Asians. Lots and lots of Asians. Like that scene in The Matrix where he says, "Guns. Lots of guns," and two endless racks appear . . . That many Asians. Almost.
Problem #1: I believe I mentioned that we are in East Texas. That geographically informative adjective in front of "Texas" is the only eastern part about it. We haven't got that many Asians.
Problem #2: Said Asians are required to speak with convincing accents originating in their native region. Also there are a handful of Brits in the thing. This is, as I have mentioned a few times already, Texas. Trying to sound like you aren't from around here when you really are is like hoping nobody's going to taste all that horseradish you accidentally dropped into the cheese souffle you were making . . .
Problem #3: Said Asians do not have the same physical appearance as your average WASP. Looking through the pictures of the actors who would be playing Siamese characters, I couldn't help but say to myself, "Self, is there enough make-up in all East Texas (that isn't already in use by Southern Baptist ladies, like the ones sitting all around me) to turn these distinctly European specimens into convincing Orientals? I think not . . ." *dramatic chord*
My concerns were, I fear, at least partially well founded. In the area of make-up, the main characters were "acceptable" but amongst the horde of little urchins, particularly, there was some definite lacking going on. The illusion was not upheld in that respect, but I was prepared to forgive.
In the area of accents, I was pleasantly surprised (although my fears weren't entirely unfounded in this area either). In the matter of speech, the worst offenders were the Prime Minister of Siam (played by our own Dr. Mays) and Sir Edward Ramsay. Princess Ying Yaowlak also had issues, but she was, like, eight, and had all of three lines or something. Mrs. Anna herself alternated so often between British schoolteacher and Southern belle (there were certain words and vowel sounds that consistently tripped her up) that I stopped noticing or caring when it happened, and so passed on with relative ease. Aside from these rather paltry complaints, I was quite impressed.
The costumes were largely excellent . . . and they even managed four or five different outfits for each of the main characters. The props and sets were artistic, creative, and easy on the eyes. They successfully avoided glaring anachronisms (with the possible exception of some suspicious, and large, tattoos on one of the Buddhist monks), which is always a pleasant surprise.
The acting, barring the already noted exceptions, was superb, especially the singing. All of the singers had very fine voices. Anna, the King, Tuptim, the King's #1 wife, and the Heir Apparent were all very talented.
The music was divine.
Regarding the musical numbers as a whole . . . Largely quite wonderful, especially when they involved dancing, as the following: "The March of the Siamese Children" (nightmarish to choreograph and organize, I'm sure . . . someone has my pity), "Getting to Know You" (again, kudos to whoever got stuck organizing that one), "The Small House of Uncle Thomas Ballet" (I think I actually liked this part even better than the movie, very notably discharged), "Shall We Dance?" (well done considering, in particular, the cramped stage . . . this was particularly apparent to me having seen the wide-ranging sweeping and whirling that takes place in the movie version). I also really liked "A Puzzlement" (The King's big solo number), "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You" (Anna's big solo number), and "I Have Dreamed" (Tuptim and Lun Tha's big . . . umm . . . duo number).
And that was the musical experience. Highly enjoyable. I would like to take this opportunity to note the rest of the LCT season schedule:
-late September, early October: Dearly Departed (quirky southern comedy)
-mid-November: Wait Until Dark (taut suspense thriller . . . the movie version of this, starring Audrey Hepburn, is my favorite movie of its genre)
-late February: Jekyll & Hyde (the musical . . . yes, musical)
-late April: The Man Who Came to Dinner (an excellent comedy which I am particularly anxious to see)
All of the above would cost $10/ticket, (save the musical, which would be $15). SC social outing, anyone?
And speaking of musicals, Watson wandered over to speak with us in the lobby during the intermission, and pitched a most intriguing idea to us. He has his own idea for an elaborate stage production: "R. G.: The Musical." We were both immediately sold. Anna seemed anxious to see this at Hootenanny (I don't know that it would get past the censors, myself), but Watson seemed to have his sights set on something a bit nearer to, say, Broadway.
Whatever . . . he had loads of ideas. All of them were pricelessly funny. Dr. Watson has had far too much free time this summer . . . it's time for him to get back to school and put that warped and twisted mind of his back to its proper work corrupting students. Anyway, I can't and shan't reproduce all of his excellent ideas here, for obvious reasons, but I simply must share his idea for the big, show-stopping musical number: A LeTourneau University Alma Mater Chorus Line. He even gave us a brief demonstration of what it might look like, right there in the middle of the crowded lobby. We were in stitches.
As we went back inside at the end of the intermission, he leaned in and murmured, "Auditions begin soon, if you're interested."
Anna: "Be sure you call us first."
A job for the SC Players, anyone?
August 05, 2004
"Fie upon such witless notions!"
-- Useful phrase frequently intoned by the wizard Zulkeh during his travels, Forward the Mage (Ummm . . . Scholl says it sometimes too. I think he stole it.)
Anyway, work sucks. The Big Summer Movie Project continues, but (with the exception of the few movies that inspire me to post, see below) I'll be reporting in full on that at the end of the . . . y'know . . . summer.
I see that Anna mentioned my oh-so-special (not to mention brave) excursion to Bodacious BBQ with the usually-frightening-and-most-certainly-carnivorous denizens of Apartment 15B. Yeah. Special times.
Anna: "Hey! We should all hit on Wheeler!"
That wasn't what she meant, but I wasn't particularly keen on being punched, either.
Anyway . . . did I mention that work sucks? I suppose I did . . . only three and a half working days left! I suppose I can hold out that long. Meanwhile, my book (the one quoted above) is very much a lot of fun (as, of course, are the other three I'm reading for fun . . . Can't believe I waited nearly eight months to read the next Aubrey/Maturin book. What was I thinking?!).
That's really all that's going on at the moment, although I have every confidence that things will pick up very soon. In the meantime, I should like to share the following particularly entertaining excerpt from my current sojourn into the realms of the "screwball fantasy" genre, Forward the Mage (quoted above), which is, thus far, every bit as amusing as the book it follows.
I have every confidence that it will bring a great deal of either laughter or pain to each and every single one of you . . . and possibly a mixture of both. Read on:
"But master, I don't have anything else to make a sack from," whined the dwarf.
"Bah!" oathed the mage. Zulkeh rose from his chair and stalked over to a shelf, from which he drew forth a book and a box.
"Thoughtless lout!" The mage extended the box to Shelyid. "Have you forgotten this?"
Shelyid gingerly took the box.
"But, master, you told me never to open this box. So I don't know what's in it."
"Do not attempt to excuse your ignorance with ignorance, wretched gnome! Of course I forbade you to open the box, for it contains nothing less valuable than the hide of a guthfish."
Shelyid's brow furrowed.
"What's a guthfish?"
"Lazy dwarf! The nature of said magical piscoid is recounted in this penetrating volume by the Potentates Laebmauntsforscynneweeld, The Guthfish of Grotum, its history and natural philosophy."
The wizard now extended the book.
"Had you but read this tome - instead of lolling about in idleness - it would have opened up to your understanding the divers uses of the creature's hide as well as the strange and wonderful characteristics thereof."
"But, master, you told me never to read that book, lest I should be felled in my mind - actually you said the cluttered pit which passes for my mind - by the subtle and cunning things which are contained therein."
"Bah!" oathed the mage. "Do you seek to excuse your disobedience with obedience?"
Zulkeh thrust the book into Shelyid's hands.
"Read this, unworthy wretch! - and proceed to fashion the sack according to its instructions."
"Yes, master," sighed the dwarf, seating himself on his stool.
Shelyid quickly read through the first chapters, in which was recounted the history and habits of the rare guthfish of Grotum. Therein he learned the fabled fish had once - or so, at least, was the legend - swallowed the entire universe when it was tiny and disgorged it back out when it was huge. He was then introduced to the lore of the guthfish hide itself, its many attributes and curious characteristics, which included the fact that it was not only the strongest and most elastic material known to exist, that it could not only conform to whatever object or objects it encompassed, but that, in addition, it possessed the strange power of infinite expansion - this last property being apparently magical, since it could be analyzed by the use of mathematical formula known to man, including several which were mutually contradictory.
The last chapter contained instructions for fashioning the guthfish hide into a useful sack. This Shelyid read carefully, noting that the hide could only be cut with a singularity (left drawer, upper cabinet), could only be sown with a needle made from the square root of -1 (middle shelf, small box under the curious amulet from Obpont), and could only be stitched with superstring thread made from the Theory of Everything, of which, needless to say, the wizard had a vast amount stored on spools scattered all over the abandoned death house.
After reading the last chapter twice, Shelyid took up the box and examined it. The following was written on the front of the box:
100% Pure and Undiluted!
Large Economy Size!!
Use It For Everything!!!
WARNING: Studies by pettifogging government agencies and alarmist environmental fanatics have indicated that guthfish hide is toxic to the health of some people. Further study, however, by sober and reputable industrial scientists has shown that such people are not worth a damn and would be better off dead anyway. Symptoms may include the onset of bad nerves, pox, palsy, jitters, quivers, tremors, convulsions, paroxysms, fevers, the staggers, the jerks, shortness of breath, frequent and uncontrolled excretion, irregularities of the pulse, lockjaw, ague, fidgets, timorousness and a general feeling of social inferiority, these, of course, the classic symptoms of that most dread of nervous conditions, hysteria follicularia. Use at your own risk.
August 04, 2004
Relieved for Medical Reasons
The Finnish Defense Force - a military after the LeTourneau Geek's own heart.
Key Quote: Doctors have found the young men miss their computers too much to cope with their compulsory six months in the forces.
Makes me wonder what sort of excuses I might be able to come up with . . .
"But . . . you can't do this to me! I'll miss the next 6 months of Men in Hats!"
August 03, 2004
The Lord of Ten Thousand Years
The Last Emperor is one of the purest historical epics I have ever seen. It is a brilliant spectacle, an incredible story.
It follows the life of Pu Yi, who was crowned emperor of China in 1908 at the age of three. Four years later he was forced to abdicate as ruler of the Chinese, but he continued to live in the Forbidden City as a sort of figurehead until 1924 when he was forced to leave and eventually returned to his birthplace in Manchuria.
Seven years after this, of course, Manchuria was invaded by the Japanese. In 1934, the Japanese set Pu Yi up as the puppet emperor of Manchuria, a position he retained until he was captured by the Russians at the end of WWII. He was returned to the Chinese in 1950 and spent the next 10 years in prison, being "re-educated" by the Communists to live as an "ordinary citizen." When he was finally released, he became a gardener. He often visited the Forbidden City as an ordinary citizen, and finally died in 1967.
That is the bare-bones account of the amazing life of the last emperor of China . . . the movie version is quite a bit more engaging and moving. The movie jumps back and forth between its "present time" in the 1950s and flashbacks to Pu Yi's life as emperor and figurehead.
It won 9 well-deserved Oscars in 1987 (Best Writing, Sound, Picture, Director, Music, Editing, Costumes, Cinematography, and Art Direction/Set Decoration). Of particular note are the gorgeous costumes and locations . . . it was the first feature film that China allowed to be filmed in the Forbidden City, and it takes full advantage of this privilege. The historical, cultural, and geographical atmospheres are, as a result, flawlessly immersive throughout the 60 years of Chinese history that the movie spans. The wonderful music is a welcome element as well.
The acting is also excellent . . . I particularly enjoyed the performance of the boy who plays the child emperor at age three. Peter O'Toole as Reginald Johnston, the emperor's Scottish tutor, is superb, as always.
There is a great scene near the very beginning where, shortly after Pu Yi's coronation, the little boy becomes bored with a droning ceremony and starts to squirm. Then he stands and begins to jump up and down on his throne. His horrified "advisors" try to shush him, but he climbs down and runs giggling outside . . . to be greeted by the staggering sight of thousands of his subjects bowing before him. He toddles aimlessly among them, and you see that he hasn't even noticed the spectacle. He is searching for the cricket that he can hear chirping somewhere in the crowd . . .
In the next scene, his imperial majesty decides that he no longer likes baths. He yells this loudly over and over as he crashes like Godzilla through a small model of the Forbidden City . . . The royal retainers finally convince him to get in the tub, and as his back is scrubbed he asks, "Is it true I can do anything I want?"
"Of course, your majesty . . . anything you want. You are the Lord of Ten Thousand Years."
The response? He starts splashing water on the four men who are trying to bathe him. He stands up in the small tub and starts kicking water at them, loudly crying, "I'm the seventh heaven! I'm the seventh heaven!"
This sets the tone for most of the rest of his life, and sets up the personality and attitudes that the Communist guards are doing their best to get out of his system during his time in prison.
What I particularly liked was how the movie stayed focused on Pu Yi's life and on the chief issue of whether he can overcome his imperial background and accept his new, lowly place in China. Can Pu Yi finally escape the consequences of a seemingly predetermined sequence of events that have trapped him into the life he leads?
It didn't go out of its way to judge any particular regime or side or set of traditions (and believe me, there are plenty to choose from during this period). Moviemakers as a rule seem to find it nearly impossible to avoid tossing in their two cents on such things, but by the end of this movie, I simply felt that I understood the intricacies of the facts of the period and of the main character's life better . . . not that I had been manipulated by someone's interpretation of history. This is, perhaps, merely a sign of more artful manipulation, but if so . . . Well, good for them.
The final scene is both poignant and perfect . . . the last sequence of scenes, in fact (featuring, in particular, a fascinating peek at the Cultural Revolution). The freeing of the cricket . . . That's all I'll say. You need to watch it.
And yes, I watched the 220 minute extended version. I wasn't bored once . . . Be sure that this is the version that you see . . . the theatrical release was a full hour shorter, and I don't know how this movie could possibly lose an hour. This is the right way to make a crazy long movie, let me tell you this!
August 01, 2004
"Something Else to Do"
Yeah, about the closing line of my last post . . . as July went out, so August comes in. I just completed a 6 hour game of Civilization II. No. Not in one sitting. 12:00-4:30 AM and 12:30-2:00 PM.
I played as the British, although it doesn't particularly matter which of the 21 or so civilizations you pick. Civ 2 isn't nearly as fun AC, but I enjoy a game every now and then . . . Manipulating world history to suit myself.
After an accelerated startup (1800 BC) I quickly built up a technological base (and by technology I am now talking about things like "alphabet" and "pottery" later moving up to "gunpowder" and "railroads" and finally on to "radio" and "automobile" etc.) before moving to attack the six other civilizations on the map.
I eliminated Spain, Russia, and China in rapid succession, destroying them by about 1650 (AD). The Vikings fell before me in 1907, the Zulus in 1933, and the Mongols in 1964 . . . I spent awhile trying to hunt them down (being unable to find their last few cities) and finally I simply had to develop space travel in order to get a survey of the map.
I was rather advanced compared to the others, and I was vastly entertained as the enemy catapults, dragoons, and musketeers attempted to hold off my tanks and cruise missiles.
Finally, in 2002, I launched a spaceship bound for Alpha Centauri. It arrived in 2009. I feel that I have successfully come full circle . . . or something.
I may now go read in peace.