December 28, 2004

Awww . . .

Hmmm . . . I just noticed my dad's desktop picture (beneath the fold), and it made me think of something. The picture you see up there is of me (of course) . . . Age one or so, I suppose.

Why am I posting these? Well, I can't really say for sure . . . but I think it would be entertaining if friends on my blogroll would do the same on their own blogs. If you happen to bored some afternoon, and you have the necessary resources at hand, put up one of your baby pictures . . . I'm sure we'd all love to see what various SCers looked like 16-21 years ago.

That's me on the right, Ashley on the left. Considering our age difference, I'm guessing that I'm about 21 months old, and she's about a year old . . . but I actually haven't the foggiest idea.

Posted by Jared at 01:17 AM | TrackBack

December 26, 2004

We Sang It in Church

The Twelve Meals of Christmas

For the twelfth meal of Christmas, my grandma served to me:
12 gag-me gag-me's
11 yucky yuckies
10 beenie-weenies
9 globs of spinach
8 yummy peaches
7 smelly red things
6 smelly green things
5-layer cake!
4 black-eyed peas
3 meatballs
2 balls of rice
And a Big, Giant Broccoli Tree!

I guess I just don't understand modern praise & worship.

Posted by Jared at 07:11 PM | TrackBack

December 25, 2004

A Very Wheeler Christmas (Broken)

Christmas Eve, 1145 hrs: I am woken up and told that we will be leaving within half an hour. I am presented with a short list of tasks to accomplish in that time.

I do not accomplish them within that time at all. In fact, I am told every half hour or so that we will be leaving in half an hour until we finally climb into the car at 3:20, shortly after I have completed all of my assigned tasks and managed a short post on a computer that despises the entire human race.

Christmas Eve, 1530 hrs: We turn around and drive back to the house because my OCD mother thinks Micah might have left the bathroom heater on. He hadn't.

Christmas Eve, 1650 hrs: We finally arrive at my grandparents' house, a bare ten minutes before the time I had jokingly predicted hours before. I snag my three brothers and we contentedly play a co-op game of X-Men: Legends on the X-Box together for the next hour. I was Storm, Brett was Beast, Micah was Iceman, and Ian was Nightcrawler.

You don't care at all, do you?

Christmas Eve, 1800 hrs: My dad declares that we will be attending open communion at Trinity Church. Brett attempts to rebel. I muscle him into my car. We go to communion. It was like the eye of the storm, and I briefly found a calm center there. It was nice.

Christmas Eve, 1859 hrs: I post a brief message on my blog, needing to express my feelings about . . . some stuff in a way that no one else in the house can see. Nevermind all that. I go back out to face the relatives. After this, the passage of time gets hazy for awhile.

Dinner is served . . . Mexican tamales! Ian refuses to eat them because they are Mexican (just kidding). I remember that I had wanted to get myself some soda . . . in my frustration at not having any I slide out the door and drive down the road to the 7/11. It is, of course, open because it's against the law for it to be closed. Ever. Having purchased a liter of Dr. Pepper, I return home. My mom gives me a funny look when I come in the front door, but apparently no one noticed that I had left. I fill my cup and hide the DP in the bedroom, thither to return whenever I need a refill.

The dinner table conversation was . . . special. I remembered why I always bring allies from school at other times, but there was nothing to be done. After supper and dessert we gathered in the room of presents. We all took our seats and it was time for the age-old game . . . The adults see how long they can keep coming up with lame Christmas Eve activities before the kids start the battle cry of "Wrapping paper or blood!"

At this stage in the game, however, with the youngest kid nearing 13, the adults can pretty much ramble until they get tired of themselves. To begin, my mom's brother hauled out his guitar and passed out a stack of songbooks. He, my mom, and their parents all have good voices, and they could carry us through pretty much any tune that anyone cared to request (out of the songbook).

When my grandparents or one of the kids suggested a song it was an old classic, something familiar . . . but let my mom ask for anything and it was sure to be obscure and '70s or '80s . . . and probably sung by Sandy Patti at some time. Nevertheless, we had fun.

After ten songs or so, my grandmother jumped in and asked everyone starting with Ian (as the youngest) to tell the group about their most memorable Christmas. This was basically an excuse for her to relive the past, but whatever . . . I had heard most of the stories before, but some were new. I talked about the two Christmases since I left for LeTourneau. Homecoming makes Christmas more special, generally.

My grandad told one of my favorite stories . . . About when he was a kid and all of his brothers and cousins got air rifles. His dad and uncles wound up drunk and used the rifles to shoot all the ornaments off of the Christmas tree. There were three or four related stories he told as well . . . most of them involving fireworks. My grandmother hates those stories . . . but she asked for them.

Then there was general present-opening for awhile. Ian flipped out and tried to crush me to death when he got his cap. I'm all for gratitude, but he'd better never try that again!

Posted by Jared at 09:44 PM

December 24, 2004

My Revised Christmas List

- One stupid, sappy, Hollywood-style Christmas miracle.

I need it bad, and I need it now.

Posted by Jared at 06:59 PM | TrackBack

Feliz Navidad

Well, I had hoped to upload a few pictures of myself out enjoying the Winter Wonderland, but unfortunately this frigging computer sucks. It sucks it sucks it sucks. And I hate it. It is an infernal piece of crap, designed (no doubt) to torment me and push me to the very edge of insanity.

But I'm not going to let it. After cursing loudly and vehemently at it, I am continuing to use it, just as sane as I ever was. (Read: Uh-oh)

Meanwhile, all of the presents and overnight bags are loaded into the cars, and we are about to drive to Christmas. I suppose this is the best place to note that I didn't wrap any of the presents I bought because I have discovered that Ian is one of Santa's elves. He wrapped them all for me (except the one I bought him, which my mother wrapped . . . yes, I am pathetic) free of charge. In fact, if I had felt like being crafty I could probably have squeezed a bit of cash out of him for allowing him to wrap them for me. But it is Christmas after all . . .

Anyway, Christmas Eve will be spent at my grandmother's house, and Christmas Day will be at my grandma's. Sunday morning will find me grumbling through a Toti sermon, and on Sunday afternoon (hopefully) I will be spending some time with my good friend Andy (GlitBiter). He'll be in town visiting relatives as well.

By the time I return here sometime on Monday, I expect that I will be all Christmas-ed out, so I'm taking this opportunity to wish you all A Very Merry Christmas (whether it be white, yellow, black, red, brown, green, blue, or hot pink). I'm sure I'll have one, in spite of myself.

Posted by Jared at 03:17 PM | TrackBack

December 22, 2004

I'm Dreaming

I woke up this morning and looked out my window to find that this ugly, brown West Texas town . . . was still an ugly West Texas town. But now it is covered with a beautiful, soft blanket of sparkling white snowflakes!

Even as I wrote the preceding two sentences, I've opened the curtains in front of me half a dozen times to stare out at it. I love the snow. There are only a few inches of it, but my grandmother says they've got a full foot around their house. Looks like it's going to be a white Christmas for me.

*contented sigh*

Posted by Jared at 11:30 AM | TrackBack

December 21, 2004

Zero More Shopping Days 'Till Christmas

For me, that is. I did it all yesterday. Well . . . most of it. That is to say . . . Hold on. I'll back up a bit and start slightly closer to the beginning.

After incurring the wrath of the parental units by anchoring myself to my bed all day Sunday, I was ready to put up with nearly anything on Monday. It had been decided that we would all drive down to Lubbock and shop and stuff, which was fine because I hadn't done any Christmas shopping at all.

Ian was my passenger for the journey down, and I listened to another hour of A Room with a View (which I continue to enjoy immensely). There was an incredible cross-wind trying to blow me off the road the entire way, and I nailed half a dozen tumbleweeds as they blew across the highway in droves.

Ian and I decided that we would go to the mall for awhile since that seemed to be the best place to look for what I needed. We wandered all over it and saw many interesting sights, etc., etc. I needn't bore you with all the details. I found presents for my dad and Micah and Ian . . . but I couldn't buy Ian's present because he was following me around. I had gone to the mall primarily to look for something for my mother, but I didn't find anything. It was most annoying.

Side note: Ian made no secret of the fact that he wanted the UT Longhorns cap he saw in the hat store. I told him I didn't know he was a fan and he disdainfully held his jacket open so I could see the bright orange UT shirt he was wearing. "Oh." Fine, so I'm oblivious. I discovered later that my parents are highly disturbed by his preference. I asked my mom whether it was because of petty inter-school rivalries or the extreme liberal-ness of the institution in question. "Both. Mostly the latter." I was amused. I bought him the cap.

My parents called and told us to meet them at Taco Bell. It took me several minutes to get out of the mall . . . the traffic was horrendous, I've never seen it like that in West Texas. I didn't know there were that many cars in town . . . Anyway, as I'm trying to force my way out of the parking lot and into the gridlock building up around the light, my mom calls us to tell us to be careful because the traffic is really bad.

Me: "The traffic is bad?! Get outta town!"

So I meet everyone (sans Brett, who is taking care of some business with a judge in Levelland) at Taco Bell and my dad decides that he's going to make off with my pickup (which was fine, because I had been riding on empty half the morning hoping someone would come along and fill it up) and leave me with my mom and brothers in the Oldsmobile. Things are looking bleak indeed (for all parties) when it is resolved that we will ditch Micah and Ian at the theater. I told my mom that once we had dropped them off, I needed some cash from the bank before we stopped anywhere else.

To make a long story short, after the theater we somehow went to the new Lubbock War Memorial, Mardell's, the mall, and Vision Center without ever managing to swing by the bank. I finally got some cash after we picked Micah and Ian up from the movie theater, but only because I spotted my bank just across the street. Oh, well.

The War Memorial was a lot nicer than I expected. It was built mostly of bricks, and each brick had a name, a division, and a war. Supposedly my dad's dad (Korean War vet) has a brick, but we couldn't find it. The bricks aren't in any kind of order, and there were thousands of them. The centerpiece contained a polished marble listing of all the local casualties in every war from WWI to Iraqi Freedom. WWII took up about 2/3 of this space. Placed here and there in the wall were carved quotes about war, patriotism, etc. from Kennedy, Lincoln, Paine, Emerson, Patton, and the like. It was pretty cool. The only thing that marred it for me was the shameless advertising carved in here and there: "Gene Messer Ford thanks our troops." "United Supermarkets support the US Military." etc. Bleah.

Met Brett at Mardell's. Marvelled at obscenely overpriced crap bearing the "Christian" label. Counted no fewer than 12 books written about Lord of the Rings, including a daily devotional entitled "Walking with Frodo." Discovered a series of Bible study workbooks with titles like "What does the Bible say about John Grisham Thrillers?" and "What does the Bible say about Destiny's Child: Survivor?" Ran rapidly past the long shelf of 341 Left Behind products. Saw a shelf marked "Fiction - Historical." Laughed. Read two or three pages of Wormwood (sequel to Shadowmancer). Gagged and choked double decker tacos back into stomach. Realized that I had only seen 1/3 of the store (had yet to examine kid's section, music, t-shirts and other clothing, school and office supplies, "art," candles, etc.). Ran screaming back outside.

We finally stopped at Hasting's shortly before supper and I wiled away most of the time making Micah extremely mad by reading stupid "Dubya" quotes aloud and laughing uproariously. He tried to retaliate by picking up a book of stupid Democrat quotes. Poor fool . . . as if I'm not equally willing to laugh at anyone. One of my favorite Dubya-isms, btw: "More and more of our imports are coming from overseas." By the time we left, Micah was livid . . . and my mother wasn't exactly pleased, either. Ah, well. Can't please everyone. I was amused.

We had a delicious supper at the Golden Corral and then looked at some Christmas lights in a nice neighborhood on the way to my grandparents' house. After nearly an hour bumming around there (part of which was spent on the phone with . . . someone) I headed home with Micah.

We listened to the dream sequence from Man and Superman on the way home, and Micah didn't know quite what to make of it. We discussed it a bit, and then we were home . . . And my Netflix had arrived! I decided to watch AFI's top 100 American Movies, knowing the calculated risk I was taking. By the end I had the whole family gathered around, fascinated. It was a very interesting experience.

Things were looking pretty bad at the beginning when my dad started snorting as they introduced the hosts and special guests. Woody Allen, Cher, and Bill Clinton were among those who got the most derisive reactions. Then, the first movie came up (#100: Yankee Doodle Dandy) and my dad said, "Well, they're off to a bad start." "What?!" "It should be a lot higher!" "Ohhhhh, brother."

After that, however, he was mostly quiet. My mom was disgusted that The Sound of Music was so low (#55), and Brett scoffed every time a movie came up that he had never heard of. However, things were going pretty well as we approached the end. My dad was sure that It's a Wonderful Life (#11) should have made the top 10.

And then came #7, The Graduate . . . I was forced to fast-forward past the various clips and expository remarks and everyone was thoroughly disgusted with the choice. Of course, none of them had seen it. *sigh* Didn't see that one coming. There was no more contention until #3, The Godfather. Neither of my parents had seen it, but they were displeased with the placement. Micah and Brett have seen it, and they agreed with were it was. Casablanca passed without comment, but I knew what was coming with #1 . . . As soon as Citizen Kane appeared there was widespread shock and dismay. I did my best to argue for it, and I had a few of them halfway convinced . . . but not really. Not that I expected success.

About halfway through the show, my dad scoffed at a statement that implied the importance of movies to our history, culture, and society. I turned to him and said that our society is largely defined by our movies and has been for some time. He glared and I said, "Well, I didn't say it was good a thing. I'm simply noting that that is the case." He grunted and went back to the screen.

I paid careful attention to both of my parents throughout the show, and noted their reactions to each movie. My dad in particular had something to say about many of them . . . he had all sorts of memories and stories attached to a number of movies. He remembered seeing them for the first time, and the impression they had made. He talked about being scared during The Wizard of OZ at a young age and going to see (I forget which it was) with my mother on a date. And both my parents had a dozen or more movies in their heads that they thought should have been on the list . . . Mary Poppins, White Christmas, Fiddler on the Roof . . . I was fascinated by this, and I pointed it out to my dad, in light of our earlier exchange, at the end.

He argued briefly, then went to bed looking slightly annoyed. But really . . . Every American remembers things like the first movie they ever saw . . . movies they've seen with their parents at specific times . . . the movies they grew up with . . . movies that were their favorites. And they are often very enthusiasticly nostalgic in their reminescences about these movies. They will converse excitedly with others about them, and happily watch them again and again, often with their own children, when offered the chance.

Great movies in our country create a shared experience that large segments of the population grow to either love or hate, but which everyone remembers. A movie can be a uniter or a divider in this respect, but it is still ultimately a communal thing, and that is what makes cinema so powerful. My dad may or may not have realized this last night, but by responding to the AFI list the way he did, he made my case for me.

Oh, yeah, and I was going to note that I kept a running count while I watched the AFI list and discovered that I have now seen 61 of the top 100. I am very pleased with myself.

And with that, I went to bed. After I had watched Hellboy (not a great American movie) with Brett. My mom walked in when we were about ten minutes in, and the following exchange took place.

Mom: What is this?

Me: Hellboy.

Mom: What's that?

Me (trying to keep it simple): It's a superhero movie.

Mom: Hmmmm. Okay. Don't stay up too late.

Me: I won't.

I love how she consistently fails to define "too late."

More later. West Texas out.

Posted by Jared at 02:31 PM | TrackBack

December 19, 2004

Someone Else's Home Sweet Someone Else's Home

This post finds me ensconced as comfortably as can be expected at the Plainview Furlough Crash Zone, ready to endure my 3-week vacation.

I miss the Ice Cave already. And its denizens. And its regular visitors. But nevermind that. I'll try my best to supress the sour grapes . . .
If I didn't have my computer here to type this on I would be climbing the nearest wall even now. And don't say it. It's not that it's *gasp* my computer, it's that it's the only machine in this house that isn't seven years old or a Mac.

However, we shall say no more lest I wind up in a truly foul humour. I think that a brief synopsis of my day is in order. Uncle Doug and I woke up at the ungodly hour of about 5:35 this morning and were on our way out of Longview (a bit behind schedule) by 6:30. We enjoyed a pleasant drive to Dallas . . . although once we actually arrived and Doug missed a turn or two he was far too agitated about possibly missing his flight for there to be much further enjoyment of the ride. That's right, Moore, I guess I wasn't navigating very well. Anyway, I hope he made it . . . Maybe he'll comment or e-mail soon.

Depositing him at DFW at about 9:15, I made my way out of Dallas by a different route than normal. My dad had suggested I shave an hour off of the journey (since I traveled to a town an hour north of Lubbock rather than one half an hour south of it like I usually do) by taking 114 to 287 to 70 . . . In terms of place names, this took me through such thriving metropoli as Wichita Falls, Vernon, Matador, and Floydada.

The new scenery was a nice change, and as I drove I listened to a few things I had picked up from the library before leaving Longview. I finished the BBC dramatization of Man and Superman starring Ralph Fiennes as John Tanner (love that play!), and listened to roughly 1/3 of A Room With a View. Meanwhile, I passed through, not one, not two, but at least five different iterations of the small town from The Last Picture Show. That was scary.

And then, when I passed a pickup going the other way and received the West Texas Salute from the driver (consisting of raising two or more fingers of the left hand off of the steering wheel in a perfunctory wave) I knew I had finally and truly arrived in that portion of the state. There was no going back.

I arrived safely at "home" by around 2:15 and stuff happened for awhile until we went to the theater after supper. There was a split in the family and my dad wandered off with Ian and Brett to see Ocean's Twelve while I accompanied Micah and my mom to Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. This sort of divide is fairly typical.

I, as many of you know, happen to be an enormous fan of the books upon which the latter movie is based. I've read the first ten and I can't wait to get ahold of the eleventh . . . They are marvelously written. Snicket's style is distinctly similar to that of Roald Dahl, but the tone goes from a good deal darker (like, Edgar Allen Poe dark) to a good deal lighter (like, P. G. Wodehouse light), and characters and situations vascillate from harsh realism (think Charles Dickens) to clever fantasy (think Norton Juster and The Phantom Tollbooth). The series is consistently surprising, witty, and original. And just as the books seem as though they might be dropping into an episodic, formulaic rut, the over-arching plot begins to take on a definite shape and things get really interesting.

What I love most about the movie and the book series is that it is essentially about three exceptional, perceptive children who must make their own way through incredible (albeit sometimes intentionally cartoonish) hardships in a world of mediocre, boorish, and even disfunctional adults. They are forced to save themselves time and time again because they are consistently ignored or not believed (when they aren't being outright persecuted) by everyone over the age of 21.

Lemony Snicket himself (his real name is Daniel . . . something, but you'll only find that information online) was involved in the writing of the screenplay. It consists of adapting the first three books in the series (The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window . . . yes, Snicket has a thing for alliterative names which is not confined simply to book titles) into a single movie.

The second and third books are severely condensed, and are sandwiched in-between the first and second halves of the third book. Thrown in are a number of details involving The Big Plot which do not appear until book seven and after, although everything is extremely simplified.

I thoroughly enjoyed most of the movie. It worked on a variety of levels and for a variety of reasons for well over an hour. Jim Carrey was superb almost across the board. All of the other actors (including a number of unexpected cameos) fit their roles well. The children were all excellent. Sunny, the infant, was particularly hilarious to watch. The subtitling of her baby-talk dialogue was a charming and ingenious way around handling her character as the book did. The sets were pure eye candy, with a unique blend of styles that produced a very distinctive look. The CG was pretty good where it was used, although it was clearly CG, but that fit artistically with the general appearance of the thing.

And so it was all fairly brilliant until . . . Well, as soon as book three was officially over and the second half of book one began (with the wedding play) the movie lost it. Completely. It was so very sad . . . There were a few amusing things left, but I've never seen a movie fall off quite so incongruously as this one did during the final fifteen minutes or so.

It simply ceased to be amusing and became sappy. Perhaps I am slightly prejudiced . . . in fact, I'm sure I am . . . from having read and enjoyed the books. However, the climax was abrupt and improbable (even for this movie) and the final denoument was far too neat and sweet for a movie that had done such an amazing job of staying away from the formulaic and saccharine elements of the typical family film.

Most of my friends would be amused by the frequent, cynical, and thoroughly open mockery of happy endings and shallow, happy stories in general that the movie indulges in. But then they went and did it themselves during the final scene! I could have cried! This sloppy change in tone leads me to believe that Snicket was forced to rewrite the ending to make it more audience-friendly . . . I saw no hint of anything of this kind during the rest of the movie, nor, indeed, during the ten books I have read thus far.

Nevertheless, I still recommend that you see it for yourself. And if you enjoy the majority of it, look into reading the series this Christmas. Out loud, if possible. I can finish one of the books in under three hours . . . they're all quick reads. I would be tempted to advise you simply to sit through the movie until the point when the children are out of danger, and then leave during the closing scenes, were it not for the end credits. They are some of the best I have seen in recent memory, and the music (throughout the movie as well) was just great (it was composed by Thomas Newman, who also did Road to Perdition).

And now I'm off to bed . . . I'll be in touch.

Posted by Jared at 12:53 AM | TrackBack

December 17, 2004

"We've all got knives! It's 1183 and we're barbarians!"

No, I didn't forget. I was simply detained . . . unavoidably.


The Lion in Winter by James Goldman

Gallagher- Henry II
Anna- Eleanor of Aquitaine
Barbour- Richard
Wilson- Geoffrey
Paige- John
Myself- Phillip II
Ardith- Alais

This is such a great play, and I've seen both movie versions of it. I actually prefer the newer one, I have to say . . . but that's beside the point.

In an unusual turn of events, we had just enough people, but one too many girls. So Paige got to take on Prince John. It actually worked, in a strange and amusing sort of way. I enjoyed my brief onstage time as Phillip II, particularly the infamous bedroom scene. Poor Barbour never saw it coming . . .

And so we brought the fall '04 season to a successful conclusion with one of the more unconventional Christmas plays I know of . . . Jolly good times for everyone, and on to next semester!

Posted by Jared at 02:06 AM | TrackBack

When You're Out of Slits, You're Out of Pier: The End of a Semester

And so my 5th semester draws to a satisfying close. After a highly successful week of finals (which included an 11.3 hour extended Lord of the Rings marathon in the evenings) and a day of tying up loose ends, I think I am nearly ready to grant closure to Fall '04.

All of my grades from finals are already in save one. Out of my five classes I have four confirmed As and a highly probable B (the teacher in this course is notorious and hasn't graded any assignments since October 19th). This morning I woke up at around 9:30 in order to take my American Lit I final, and then I joined various people in MSC-1 for lunch.

After this, Bryan, Martinez and I made use of my pickup to transport a number of boxes to the mail center so that Bryan could ship his stuff out of here. After a good deal of standing around with various people and popping back and forth across campus, I settled in the Ice Cave to work on a few things. During this time Anna and Scholl slipped out to make their flight out of Tyler.

Shortly before 3:00, Rachel wandered in to say goodbye and I walked her back up to Quad One before returning to drive Martinez to Longview airport. Saying goodbye to him, I returned to the Ice Cave in time to take care of a few errands, work out dinner plans with Bryan and Uncle Doug, and say goodbye to Gallagher.

Bryan, Uncle Doug and I went to Ryan's, which serves a great deal of all-you-can-eat buffet goodness. Uncle Doug and I had hoped to spend a bit of time alone with Bryan during his last evening on campus as he will not be returning in the Spring (he's gone and joined the Navy). We enjoyed ourselves immensely (I got a great deal of amusement out of the thought that I was eating dinner with the Old Man and the Sea). Before proceeding, however, I should probably take this opportunity to note the following . . .

Many of you knew Bryan when he was my roommate during freshman year, and we were all saddened when he was unable to return the following year. It has been really great to have him back with us this semester, and I only regret that I didn't spend even more time with him than I did. You're a great guy, Bryan, and you will be missed. I hope we see you again sooner rather than later.

After dinner I convinced them to allow me to swing by the library to pick up some Christmas reading for myself. I grabbed a few things to listen to during my long drives to and from Plainview, including a BBC dramatization of Man and Superman. I'm not sure how many books I will read out of the number I selected, but I wanted a decent range to choose from. I particularly hope to have the chance to take a crack at Lady Chatterly's Lover and Ulysses during the break.

Returning to campus we found Randy in a state of extreme agitation. He has been trying to get someone to watch Hero with him for days, and I had promised to sit through it this evening. But first I had been wanting to see The Butterfly Effect again, so we watched that as well.

We emerged from the Village Center into a fog of decent thickness, and it wasn't long before Wilson suggested a stroll. So the three of us (Wilson, Randy, and I) set out together to experience a few quality noir moments and see what we could see. It was so cool! Hopefully Wilson or Randy will take a crack at describing it . . .

As the capstone of my evening, Wilson and I observed the Ritual of the Ultimate Sacrilege together here in the Ice Cave. Standing solemnly before the thermostat, we gently switched it to "heat" and stood back for a moment of silence before saluting.

Two minutes later, the smoke alarm went off. *sigh* Oh, well.

I won't be leaving until early Saturday morning, but Bryan and Wilson will be pulling out tomorrow, and it is likely that only Doug will still be around when I leave. As far as I am concerned, the semester is quite done.

Oh, and in case you're still wondering, the title is an obscure reference to a Swedish joke in an MST3K skit.

See you next semester.

Posted by Jared at 01:02 AM | TrackBack

December 16, 2004

Welcome to My New Sidebar Item

You've probably already spotted the picture in the sidebar which signals the arrival of a new feature to this blog. I've been playing with the idea for awhile now, and now that the semester is over I was suddenly motivated to see if I could make it work. At the moment I have no idea how often I'll change it. In all probability it will be changed once every three days to a week.

We'll see how it goes. Meanwhile, I should also mention an important point to keep in mind. Note that I'm calling this "Featured Book" not "Favorite Book." As a matter of fact, my favorite books of all time will likely not find their way here for quite some time to come. Meanwhile, the books you do see will be there for no particular reason outside of mere whimsy. I might not even like the book I have up, and my review will reflect this.

Another thing which will reflect my general opinion of the book in question is the rating you will see next to it. The rating next to the current book is 3 out of 5. This rating is not nearly as useful as the percentage rating I give to movies, but a similar process would be impossible in rating these books. The rating I give a book will not necessarily make it the equal of all other books that get the same rating . . . It's just a very rough indicator of the overall quality and entertainment value that I found personally.


Posted by Jared at 04:13 PM | TrackBack

December 14, 2004

"A lover, that kills himself most gallant for love."

-- A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act I, Sc. ii

Well, I just finished The Sorrows of Young Werther in-between two of today's finals, and . . .

Oh, brother!

Sappiest. Book. Ever.

I groaned louder and cringed more visibly as I got closer and closer to the end. Reading a bit aloud to Moore and Wilson improved things a bit, but then I was once again reading alone. It made me want to sick up.

I thought I was into the movement. I thought I was a Romantic. But this . . . this was thick and heavy and sticky and saccharine. It was melodramatic and self-centered. It was idealistic and impractical. It was overenthusiastic and far, far too passionate. If everyone in the world were a Werther, everyone in the world would be a dead Werther.

Does that mean that I don't get to be a Romantic? Can you be a conditional Romantic? How about a cynical Romantic? A Romantic Cynic?

Hmmm . . . I like this idea. We'll call it Cynimanticism. Any takers?

Frigging Goethe . . . Maybe I should stick with the British Romantics. Come to think of it, I'm not really a big Wordsworth/Keats fan, either. And Shelley is just "alright." That leaves Coleridge and *angelic choir voices* Lord Byron . . . but I'd still rather read Wilde and the others who came after him. And don't get me started on those bloody Americans . . .

Romanticism! Bah! Ick!


Posted by Jared at 02:55 PM | TrackBack

One Purchase to Rule Them All

I made a little trip to Wal-mart this evening, and I return having successfully purchased a copy of this.

It says (and I quote), "Feature Run Time: Approx. 250 Minutes"

*evil, vaguely-nerdy (or more likely very nerdy) cackle*

Must . . . hold out . . . for Wednesday . . .

Posted by Jared at 01:13 AM | TrackBack

December 12, 2004

Jared's Final Days


All Day -- Freedom!
6:00-9:30 -- The Fellowship of the Ring


12:45-2:45 -- 19th Century Europe
3:00-5:00 -- Journalism and Publications
6:00-9:00 -- World Literature Through Film
9:15-1:00 -- The Two Towers


3:00-5:00 -- History of the English Language
6:00-10:30 -- The Return of the King


9:45-11:45 -- American Literature I
More Freedom!!!


Lots More Freedom!!!


Insert More Freedom Here!!!


Even More . . . Well, you get the idea.

Posted by Jared at 04:04 PM | TrackBack

Breathing Deeply Again

It's called clearing the air, and it's a beautiful thing.

And yes, I am still up, and this is my third all-nighter this week. So sue me.

Somehow I feel as though this is the only one that was worth my while . . .

Posted by Jared at 06:43 AM | TrackBack

December 10, 2004

The Trans-Siberian Trek

It wasn't nearly as cold as I expected. And I didn't see any Russian peasants. But then, what did I expect? After all it's not like I was in Siberia this evening. In fact, I wasn't anywhere near it. I was in Dallas, enjoying the Trans-Siberian Orchestra holiday concert.

A brief run-down of the pertinent events: We drove to Dallas in a three-car caravan directly after my last class of the semester had adjourned. I was in Anna's car with Scholl and Rachel. We stopped at Taco Bell for supper about 35 miles from Dallas. All three cars got separated in Dallas and missed the correct exit.

Gallagher got back on track with sickening ease. Barbour eventually trailed in with plenty of time to spare. Our car wandered the labyrinthine streets of downtown Dallas for nearly an hour, just so we could make a dramatic entrance and collapse into our seats as the lights blazed forth onstage, beginning the concert. It was exciting, therefore we win.

Further excitement ensued (enough to go around) when the concert was interrupted about 20 minutes in by what turned out to be a false alarm. As we later heard, someone had been smoking in the bathroom and it had set off the fire alarm. It was kinda funny . . . it took nearly a full minute for everyone (including the orchestra, apparently) to figure out that the alarm wasn't part of the show.

And now, without further ado, my review of the proceedings, also in brief:

First Half
Music- A+
Special Effects- A+
Vocals- B
Lyrics- D
Poetry- F
Plot- F

Second Half

The first half contained songs and instrumental interludes strung together by a really bad poem that told an extremely sappy, hollow Christmas-ish story. Anytime there was anyone playing an instrument, I was enjoying myself, but as soon as they started talking . . . gevalt! I remember one verse of the poem verbatim . . . you can extrapolate the basics of the rest for yourself.

Then the angel took
The song in his hand.
And he did this because,
You see, angels can.

Ugh. The plot of the poem wasn't difficult to discern, however most of it consisted of nonsensical phrases like the one above which were seemingly thrown in just so they could have it rhyme. I don't really feel like giving the story too much attention.

It was about an angel wandering around on Christmas Eve feeling saddened by the horror he saw on earth before making everything better by helping a little girl get home (somehow she was apparently hundreds of miles away from her house, but this wasn't explained). This was accomplished by talking the nearest bartender into giving her all the cash in his register.

The catalyst for this Christmas miracle was a wish that the girl made on a star. Only it wasn't a star because stars were in short supply, so she wished on the neon sign that announced the presence of the bar. The poem asserted that anything can be a star if you just wish hard enough. Gag.

Once that nonsense was finally over, they got down to business. We heard some awesome stuff, from "The Carol of the Bells" (everyone's favorite), to "O Fortuna" and "Requiem." The pyrotechnics were amazing . . . explosions, flares, jets of sparks, lasers, strobes, crazy color combinations, smoke and fog . . . Fantastic stuff. It was a brilliant combination of Classical genius with Christmas warmth, talented musicians, and rock concert spectacle.

I approve.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

December 08, 2004

Just Another Quiet Evening in the Ice Cave

I am sitting in "The Office" with my three apartment mates, and have been for over three hours.

A steady stream of visitors pours in and out the door (open-door policy, you know). Anna sits out on the sofa, grading math homework or reading or whatever. Randy strolls in, pretending to discuss something related to one of the classes we have together, but he's really just looking for an escape route from the homework for said classes. He eventually leaves to "get back to it," but he'll be back, probably several times. His return will remind me that I've probably been sitting still too long.

Meanwhile, some very shady characters and other such subversives stop by to see Scholl. He talks to them in the other room so that we won't be legally liable for having heard whatever they're discussing. Or maybe it's so we won't have to listen to "dawg" at the beginning and end of every sentence. Whatever.

The sound of a random song, punctuated bya high-pitched giggle, signals the arrival of Paige, probably with Bar- errr . . . "someone" in tow. One brief stop on her nightly whirlwind tours of campus . . . and she's off again, to parts unknown. Ziggy wanders through, searching for whatever Moore has left lying around here this time. Moore himself will probably be stopping by to raid the larder later on . . . except that it's still empty, Moore.

Bryan might IM to ask me if anything fun is going on tonight, but he has a lot of work to do so he probably won't . . . and even if he did, I haven't got the time for planned frivolity this evening (although it's usually less time-consuming than all this unplanned stuff). If there were anything going on, Martinez and Uncle Doug might find their way down here, as well. We might also see Sharpton and Scott. Who knows, Ardith might even visit, tearing herself away from . . . her books, her computer, her job, her soccer games, her homework . . . Nah, probably not. Poor Ardith.

And eventually my girlfriend will be here. She'll either be really tired and start falling asleep on the nearest piece of comfy furniture until she is dragged to her dorm, or she'll be really tired and talk really fast and jump up and down and clap her hands together until she is dragged to her dorm. Don't worry, Rachel. I'll be happy to see you either way.

Side note: I'm going to be in so much trouble.

And throughout all of this, we all remain at our stations, doing our respective "things."

Scholl sits in front of his computer, multitasking like a madman. E-mail, IM, web surfing, and . . . lots and lots of things I don't recognize (or can't afford to admit that I recognize, as the case may be). Every now and then he decides we've all gotten a bit too placid and plays something like The Llama Song for us. Most recently we have been treated to repeat viewings of Magical Trevor. When he isn't bouncing around his computer like Rachel on a sugar high, or singing along with the 50th rendition of Kenya, he's finding and sharing warped links of all varieties. Tonight, on the less-warped end of the scale, he decided to be the prophet of Robert Hamburger, worshipper of ninjas and author of this book. Personally, I think it's about time he visited Anna in the living room again. Be that as it may . . .

Gallagher has taken a break from his relentless gaming tonight. We've gone through Super Mario World, Lux, Neverball, and many, many similar crazes this semester . . . Right now we're having a hard time tearing him away from Neverwinter Nights. Can't say I blame him. If I had a 13th-level rogue/shadowdancer saved on my computer, I might want to spend more time with him than my friends, too. On second thought, maybe not.

But, as I said, he has taken a break tonight to get some grading done. And you all know what that means . . . Frequent outbursts of pained moaning and noisy, frustrated yelling at his monitor as poor Gallagher loses patience and hapless Data Structures students lose points. Lots and lots of points. Fortunately, I know just how to deal with this. I send him into the kitchen to have a piece of Anna's delicious Golden Rectangle cake, and he returns in a more benign state of mind. Keep the food coming, ladies. The Data Structures students will be eternally grateful.

As I write this, he's back at the game again. He levelled up, and now he's whining about the low XP yield from fighting skeleton warriors. Oh, well . . .

Meanwhile, Wilson is staying busy as well. He actually has a bit of free time tonight, which means that he isn't grouchily filling out a worksheet for he-who-must-not-be-named or blissfully researching his latest academic paper. Instead he's just enjoying himself with the sort of activities that many of us would still classify as work, mixed with a heavy dose of frivolity. Wandering through his links, he turns up an eclectic mix of strange or scholarly (but always noteworthy and newsworthy) items.

The boy links to 38 "friend and acquaintance" blogs, 25 news sites, 40 blogs of academic interest, 36 random sites (including libraries, reviews, and government sites), and 8 sources of bizarre humor, and it takes him awhile to finish browsing. But, that done, he turns to lighter activities . . . like photoshopping pictures of sharks so that they look like clowns (a little present for Paige, who seems to have a pathological fear of both of the above).

Eventually open dorms will end, hygiene will call, and he will disappear into the bathroom for awhile. On an especially quiet night, one might just be able to hear the lyric strains of some unidentifiable air floating out to caress one's ears. This will prompt me to turn to Gallagher and ask, "Is he singing?" To which Gallagher will reply with a chuckle, "Sounds like it."

As for me, I sit here and pretend to do work, but I'm always willing to be distracted by any of the above goings-on. If that fails to distract me, I'll wander through my own, small blogroll, or maybe see if any of the web comics I read have updated since I last checked. And I have my own rounds to make on the web. I check up on the latest entertainment and book news, for instance. Tonight I found this preview of ROTK: EE which made me quite happy. And Scott sent me the link to this very entertaining quiz, (I was 47% Dr. Prunesquallor and 33% Lord Sepulchrave, btw). Meanwhile, I'm playing Ice Cave DJ. My "favorites" playlist contains over 21 hours of music, and it runs the gamut of all the weird crap that I like. Soundtracks, Classical, Oldies, and . . . other things. I can't think in genres right now. I trim things off the list when one of the other Ice Cavers complains, unless somebody else supports it. Which means that I rarely listen to Scholl. I mean, c'mon! He doesn't like The Hamster Dance! Or the theme from High Noon! Or anything from Moulin Rouge! Lately I've been on a Beatles kick, which is mostly Wilson's fault.

A lot of songs get sung along to . . . things from musicals, especially . . . like "Good Morning" from Singin' in the Rain, or "A Hymn to Him" from My Fair Lady, or even "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago. We sing along to the Beatles . . . "Yellow Submarine" is popular. Then there are songs like "American Pie" . . . etc. The list goes on and on. Right now we're all more or less singing along to "Money" from Cabaret.

*sings* "A mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound!"

Anyway . . .

If even these distractions don't work, I always have one thing to fall back on: This blog. Inspiration comes to those who wait, most of the time. In any case, I hope you have enjoyed reading this little snapshot of Ice Cave life of an evening as much as I enjoyed writing it instead of working.

Whether you did or not, that paper isn't writing itself (curses!). It's not a big deal . . . I could write it in my sleep. But if I don't hurry, that's exactly what I'll be doing.

Posted by Jared at 10:00 PM | TrackBack

December 06, 2004

In Which Everybody Wins

One more hurdle was . . . hurdled today: My History of the English Language group presentation, (which I will tell you about shortly). But first, a little background . . .

In my group were Martinez, Bolt, Blondie, and Trina . . . each of them had written papers as follows: Euphemisms, Apostrophes, English as a second language, and Instant Messenger English. If you haven't seen my paper, back up a coupla posts and you'll find it . . . for the sake of being complete, it was about Allusions. We were required to creatively present our papers to the class together in 30-45 minutes without simply standing up and reading them.

Well, the first idea that we came up with in our initial brainstorming session was to run a mock trial of some sort, and eventually we decided to put The English Teacher on trial for not doing his job in preparing people to enter a world where they are required to communicate. Each one of us would be witnesses at the trial, and thus the information in our papers would come out in what we hoped would be an entertaining way.

The next thing to worry about was the matter of visitors. Dr. Watson wanted an audience of at least one visitor per group member, and realizing that we could not interrogate ourselves as witnesses, we settled on the idea of having our guests fill the remaining courtroom roles. It was here that I leapt into action, wanting to be sure that I had reliable and entertaining people waiting in the wings to fill the proper places.

Of course, two of the first names to come into my mind were Gallagher and Wilson . . . I mean, they're my roommates and good friends, they have no class during this period, and I act with them regularly (y'know, like every week). Randy was another obvious choice, always a solid pick in a pinch. And no presentation would truly be complete without a couple of random professors involved . . . neither Batts nor Solganick have a class during that period, and they courteously agreed to be involved.

After further consideration (this part wasn't difficult . . . I have a bit of experience at casting parts) I placed Wilson and Gallagher in the roles of the Prosecution and the Defense, respectively. Randy became our bailiff, Dr. Batts was the judge, and Dr. Solganick was the defendant. So far, so good . . . but we needed a script, and each witness would have to write their own parts. I volunteered to splice them together provided I got them by Sunday afternoon at 2, and Martinez volunteered to help.

Come Sunday afternoon, we were hard at work in the computer labs, carefully grooming the script. Martinez went through and standardized all of the courtroom jargon, adding things like the swearing in of witnesses and the reading of the charges. We rewrote and corrected whatever seemed to require it . . . particularly the dialogue involving Gallagher and Wilson. Then we came up with closing arguments for both sides. The result was a 16-page script which we were fairly satisfied with. We all rehearsed it that night (sans the Good Doctors) and it seemed to go well . . . I thought of an extra gag that I wanted to add, to my portion with Wilson, so that went in for the next day.

And then, Wilson and Gallagher started getting creative. That's what I love about my friends . . . Most friends will be willing to pop into your presentation if you need some help, but I ask you, how many can and will provide valuable creative input and then see that it gets implemented? Wilson, of course, planned to wear his black suit . . . and, as I mostly sat and looked on (there was a bit of interjection, but mostly I was just laughing), Wilson and Gallagher pulled together a respectable-hippy ensemble. We decided that Gallagher (what with his ponytail and all) could be the laid-back hippy lawyer and he wound up with sunglasses, a headband, a red Hawaiian shirt (from Martinez), a blue tie, khaki pants, and no shoes or socks. The effect worked shockingly well. Randy also dressed the part of a bailiff, and Dr. Batts, of course, wore his black academic robes.

Trina and Blondie didn't really do anything special, nor did they need to, but Bolt was heavily bandaged and walked with a limp. Martinez wore a dress shirt and tie. I . . . wore my usual hobo-ish outfit, plus I had the scarlet letter "A" on my chest and I carried a book, (it was The Sorrows of Young Werther, which I am reading at the moment, not that anyone could tell). Really the "A" was the only different thing.

After the ceremony of leading in the defendant, rising for the judge, and so forth, the presentation proceeded as planned. Trina had a number of large cards with things like "LOL" and ":D" drawn on them. She punctuated her testimony by holding them up, and it was fairly amusing.

Christina . . . talked about ESL. It was functional, and would have been really boring without the rewrite and the lawyers.

Bolt was hilarious. The bailiff had to move the bandages away from his mouth so he could be understood when he was sworn in. His testimony (aside from containing a history of the apostrophe, etc.) told the sad tale of his abduction and subsequent torture by members of the ultra-militant Apostrophe Protection Society because of crimes against said punctuation mark. As he described the pain and suffering he experienced during his "reeducation" I felt tears coming to my eyes. It was just that funny.

Martinez was quite amusing as well, as everyone knew he would be when he replied to the swearing in by euphemising the phrase. He did well, hitting everything from death and bodily functions to . . . ummm . . . statutory rape. And then it was my turn. Right before class started, Dr. Batts had gushed about the joys of drama allowing you to get outside yourself and be someone else for awhile. As I walked to the witness stand, my nose buried in Goethe's Werther, I wondered how many people in the classroom would realize just how close to type I had cast myself. And then I didn't have time to wonder anymore because I was too busy enjoying myself. My portion of the script is included below the fold.

I don't know precisely what effect Dr. Batts was going for, but he fairly nailed pompous, pontificating, and pedantic (this worked perfectly for the role). Wilson was suitably . . . "bulldog-ish" in his hounding and worrying of the witnesses. And he had that whole dry delivery of his going for him. Gallagher was . . . Gallagher was a hippy. He couldn't even stand up without getting people to laugh. Referring to the judge as "man" (as in "I object, man!") on multiple occasions was a nice touch.

After the passionately-delivered closing arguments, the jury (that is to say, the class) was given three minutes to decide the guilt or innocence of The English Teacher. Audience participation was extremely minimal. And Gallagher lost because, of course, everybody wanted to crucify Solganick. Two things in particular really didn't help: First, we had Mrs. Stuckey (another English teacher) in the audience, and she wanted blood. Second, Solganick stood up to say a few words in his own defense. He was doomed.

Martinez had written up a sentence in case it was needed, and one portion of it declared that Solganick was required to serve "12 years in the Center for Delinquents and Cultural Losers." Dr. Watson, who was sitting near me, muttered, "Oh, so he'll be staying here then." I have no idea what happened for the next thirty seconds or so . . . that was too funny.

The proceedings came to a close and Dr. Watson handed us our grade (he keeps notes during the presentation and assigns a grade on the spot). We got 100!!! This is my third class with Dr. Watson, and it is the second 100 I have received from him, ever! He grades group presentations like a maniac . . . and who could blame him for being a hardened critic? He must see a couple dozen of the lousy things every semester!

There were various comments scrawled here and there on the slip of paper with the grade, but the one that I remember verbatim is "No food, but a near perfect presentation . . ." It positively warmed my heart, and we were sure to heartily thank all of our wonderful guests for their help. I just thought it was insanely cool that we had 2/3 of the English department (not counting adjuncts) present for the proceedings. And the ones who couldn't be there certainly heard all about it . . . Dr. Olson, for instance, was driving out of the parking lot as Gallagher and I were walking to SAGA later on, and she called out congratulations. It was truly a triumph and a joy, and I left class a happy man.

Judge: Next witness.

Bailiff: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Wheeler: As God’s my witness!

Prosecuting Attorney: State your name for the record, please.

W: Call me Ishmael.

P: Sir, would you please tell the court what your occupation is?

W: Well, thanks to a rather cruel and ironic twist of fate, I work closely with engineers, editing and refining technical reports and the like so that they will be both literate and intelligible. This requires a number of communication skills and the ability to relate to my co-workers on some level.

P: And how well do you relate to your co-workers?

W: [dirty look]

P: Ah. I see. [awkward pause] Do you think the engineers will ever find common ground with you?

W: Nevermore! Nevermore!

P: Describe your education to us, please.

W: What do you mean?

P: Well, tell us about your college years.

W: They were the best of times; they were the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
I had everything before me; I had nothing before me,
I was going direct to Heaven; I was going direct to—

P: That will do, sir!

W: Sorry, sorry. But you see a bit of my problem . . .

P: Precisely what is your problem?

W: I have read too many books. Large portions of my conversation consist almost entirely of allusion. Half the time, no one seems to understand what I’m talking about . . . and for the rest, nobody gets my jokes! Oh, the horror! The horror!

P: Mr. Ishmael, please control yourself!

W: That’s just it! Don’t you see? My name isn’t Ishmael at all! It’s Jared. I couldn’t resist making a reference to a book when they asked me my name . . . and you didn’t get it!

P: Hmmm . . . I’m beginning to see what you mean. I suppose that red “A” on your chest has something to do with this?

W: Yeah! It’s the scarlet letter that brands me as an Allusionist . . . I wear it as a mark of eternal shame in reference to the-- you have no idea what I’m talking about do you?

P: Yes, actually . . . rings a bell from high school.

W: Thank you! Thank you!

P: Rosethorn . . .? Something . . .?

W: No. No. Just . . . stop.

P: How did you come to be in this condition?

W: Through the compulsory study of literature, taught in English classes by English teachers.

P: Could you elaborate, Mr. Wheeler?

W: Certainly.

P [after a brief pause]: Would you elaborate?

W: Why, yes. Of course.

P [after another brief pause]: Elaborate!

W: Oh. Sorry. Well, from the moment I learned to read in school I was always at it. My teachers pushed piece after piece of magnificent literature under my nose. It became a never-ending cycle: Read. Write. Discuss. Read. Write. Discuss. Read. Write. Discuss . . . On and on and on until, at last, I came to enjoy it! These were the things I was told that I needed to know: important themes . . . great ideas . . . so many famous quotes! I liked knowing them. I could converse with my teachers and they understood me. In college, the problem only got worse . . . many of my friends had similar fields of study, and we would go back and forth, back and forth . . . spouting the famous words of the great writers to one another . . . working them into everyday conversation. It was a game at first, albeit an exclusive one, but recreation turned into addiction, and I had no idea what I was doing to myself until I had graduated and it was too late.

P: Tell us a bit more about that.

W: Well, I already told you a bit. I have a hard time connecting with anyone who isn’t widely read. They don’t laugh at my jokes . . . most of the time they have no idea that I’ve even made one! I can’t speak efficiently anymore because I spend all my time explaining allusions or simply coming up with my own inferior words to get across what I mean. I’m miserable.

P: How does allusion block communication, exactly?

W: Consider, if you will, Darmok and Jilad at Tenagra.

P: What?

W: Temba, his arms open.

P: Huh?

W: Shaka, when the walls fell!

P: Mr. Wheeler, what are you talking about?!

W: *sigh* Nevermind.

P: So, to summarize, you feel that the accused has not equipped you properly to relate effectively with the common man using the language you both share?

W: Yes. I would say so.

P [to Defense Attorney]: Your witness.

D: Mr. Wheeler, I am intrigued by your statement of a few moments ago . . . That you have difficulty forging connections with others. Tell me, has this always been the case?

W: Oh, no. As I said, when I was—indeed, when I am—around people who share similar experiences and similar knowledge we become fast friends, and understand each other perfectly even after a short period of time.

D: So, far from blocking connection in such situations, your frequent use of allusion even expedites it?

W: Yes.

D: Why is that, do you think?

W: Well, I . . . ummm . . . That is to say . . . I’d have to give it some thought, I suppose.

D: You can’t explain it?

W: Well, it’s . . . slightly complicated, and not the sort of the thing I am prepared to thoroughly address at a moment’s notice.

D: Perhaps I can be of some assistance. Allow me to call your attention to Exhibit R . . . a paper written by you on this very subject for Dr. Watson’s History of the English Language class near the end of the year 2004.

W: Let me see that . . . [leafs through it] Of course! I remember this! It came due, along with several other papers, shortly before Thanksgiving weekend.

D: Do I detect a tinge of bitterness in your tone?

W [clears throat]: No. No. Not at all.

D: Very well. Could you explain your views on allusion as expressed in this paper?

W: Yes, I could.

D [after brief pause]: Would you?

W: Of course, sir. You have only to ask.

D [through gritted teeth]: All right. This is me, asking you to explain your paper. Explain.

W: Okay. [insert elaboration here: Discussion of possible analogous nature of cliché and myth and how allusion is and can be used as an effective method of communication. End with something like:] “And that is roughly . . . ‘the gist.’”

D: I see. Mr. Wheeler, you say here in your paper that we should, quote, “learn as much as we can about our own cultural history and literature, and those of others; use our knowledge to gain understanding of and to foster communication and connection with others; but not make the mistake of building walls with incomprehensible words, for that flies in the face of everything that makes language, myth, and allusion what they are,” end quote.

W [squirming]: Yeah . . . Sorry. I was a bit of a sentimentalist when I was in college.

D: Quite. Do you still believe this?

W: Well, yes, I suppose so . . . in theory.

D: It seems to me then, Mr. Wheeler, that my client has had little or nothing to do with your problems. After all, you did write this for an English class, and it is not my client’s fault if you have failed to follow your own advice.

W: I guess not.

D: No further questions, your honor.

Posted by Jared at 04:41 PM | TrackBack

December 04, 2004

A Heaping Helping of Home-cooked Humor

Wow. This is funny.

Head over to Hell's Kitchen and have a look at Sartre's Cookbook (yes, as in Jean-Paul).

Thanks, Wilson.

Posted by Jared at 02:28 PM | TrackBack

December 02, 2004

An Evening of Baguette-Dunking à la France


The School for Wives by Molière

Wilson- Arnolphe
Gallagher- Horace
Paige- Agnés
Bryan- Chrysalde
Myself- Alain
Anna- Georgette
Scholl- Notary
Sharpton- Oronte
Barbour- Enrique

Well, I for one am not afraid to give France a rousing cheer when it deserves one. And it certainly deserves one for Molière. This is a hilarious little comedy about that universal subject that has the power to make everyone laugh . . . regardless of time or place: Matters of Love. The characters are hilarious and their relationships intertwine in wonderfully engaging and surprising ways. And the entire play is written (mostly) in rhyming couplets.

My favorite line (and not just because it was one of mine):

Likewise, a man's wife is his soup, you see?
And he'll be well pissed off if somebody
Starts dunking his baguette in it.

I'd really like to see this on film. The basic plot runs something like this:

Arnolphe's attitude towards marriage has become jaded and cynical after observing virtually every husband he knows turn into a cuckold. His solution? He buys a four-year old peasant girl named Agnès and has her raised in a convent. Thirteen years later, he pulls her out so he can marry her . . . but a funny thing happens on the way to the altar. While he is out of town, his old friend and fellow playboy Horace shows up and steals Agnès' heart. Arnolphe comes back to town, and Horace confides in him . . . not knowing who he is actually stealing the girl from (Arnolphe has changed his name to "de la Souche" since last they saw each other).

What follows, as Horace pulls "Don Juans" left and right, Arnolphe attempts to betray him, Agnès attempts to betray him, and Arnolphe's servants, the warring married couple Georgette and Alain, generally enjoy themselves (between blows), provides about as much fun and entertainment as one can reasonably expect out of your average Thursday night with the crew.

Très magnifique!

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

December 01, 2004

December's Featured Books

12/22 - The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois (o o o o o)

Professor William Waterman Sherman sets out from San Francisco in a hot air balloon in the summer of 1883, hoping to make the first flight across the Pacific. Three weeks later he is picked up in the Atlantic, surrounded by the wreckage of, not one, but twenty balloons. How did this come to be? Herein lies the tale of his fantastic visit to Krakatoa, a remote volcanic island whose European inhabitants have become fabulously wealthy from the Krakatoan diamond mines. These people have created a Utopian society centered around a "gourmet government" and a dazzling array of marvelous inventions, many of which involve hot air balloons.

During Sherman's brief stay on Krakatoa, in the few weeks before the small civilization is shattered forever by a cataclysmic eruption, he learns everything there is to know about the island and its people. And the reader is along for the highly enjoyable ride. This book is a cleverly written and hilariously conceived tongue-in-cheek look at what a little ingenuity and a whole lot of money can accomplish in an island paradise. It had me sold on the concept of "gourmet government" when I first read it at age 13, and I still think it's a brilliant idea. Check this book out . . . it's quick and fun.

12/16 - The Tower of Geburah by John White (o o o o o)

First in a five-book series (although third chronologically), this abnormally-thick children's fantasy novel attempted to put a new spin on an old idea: Christian allegory thinly disguised as engaging entertainment. As I recall, it generally succeeds, in spite of being rather derivative.

I first read this book sometime after completing The Chronicles of Narnia (pre-1st grade) and before I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (4th grade), although I don't remember precisely when. At the time I thought it was the greatest book ever (it would be replaced in 4th grade, see above).

The story begins with Wesley, Lisa, and Kurt discovering four magical television sets in their uncle's attic. These TVs suck them into the magical land of Anthropos, separating Lisa from the boys, and the adventure is on. They are sent on a quest to fulfill a prophecy and restore the imprisoned king of Anthropos to the throne by retrieving a number of magical items that have lain for centuries in the enchanted Tower of Geburah.

Yes, White shamelessly rips off Narnia in a big way. Duh. But does he do it well?

I would say that he does in this case, especially considering in particular the age group in question. I have read three of the six books in the series (The Iron Scepter and The Sword Bearer), the third being vastly inferior to the first two. Judging from the excerpts and synopses I've read of the others, the remaining books go into something of a quality tailspin . . . but this first one entertained me. It doesn't do anything radically new, but maybe you can find a younger sibling to read it to.

Posted by Jared at 12:01 AM | TrackBack