January 31, 2005

A Brief Break from Voltaire

I feel like whining that there's nothing to write about, but that is so obviously and blatantly false that I simply do not dare. I'm just not inspired to write about anything in particular, and I'm not quite sure why. A certain someone has been cannibalizing my blogging time, and I just can't work up enough wherewithal to care. I've been staying up really late recently, what with one thing and another (being sick threw me way off on everything) and I've crept dangerously close to becoming essentially nocturnal.

I probably shouldn't have gone out and bought Civilization III (see relevant posts from late July/early August). So time-consuming . . . plus I'm kind of playing through WarCraft III again.

I've read a very little bit. I finished The House at Pooh Corner, and Eeyore is still the greatest. I'm delightedly making my way through The Incredulity of Father Brown and there are a few other books pending that I have temporarily stalled out on. It doesn't help that I have to read a book about the Alamo (A Line in the Sand) for Dr. Johnson in Texas and the American West . . . and actually, y'know, write stuff about it.

Anyway, right now I'm trying to complete my presentation/paper on Voltaire for Historiography tomorrow (also for Dr. J . . . hmmm). The struggle, in a nutshell, is to ensure that I stay entertained. So long as I'm entertained by the presenting, it is highly likely that my audience will be, as well. And even if they aren't, I have no reason to care. I had the most fun (so far) with my graphic representation of The Enlightenment view of history.

Voltaire had a pretty interesting life, too. Basically he was politically retarded, and managed to piss off 3 or 4 entire countries and their monarchs, to say nothing of the hordes of major and minor nobles he insulted (often with the result of being beaten soundly by their lackeys).

This should not be a difficult lesson to learn: Don't publish books that call the king a faggot or a nutcase or a drooling idiot.

Well, what if I have a made-up name for him? I'll call him "Fred." Is that okay?

The king's name is Frederick! NO!!!

Hmmm. Too late.

*sigh*

So, I should probably get back to that, then. I'll try to have more to write about soon . . . I promise.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

January 27, 2005

The Plague of Death (TM)

As you have noticed, my blog has lain almost totally dormant for the past 10 days. Sorry. About 2 days after my last entry I was stricken with a nasty and virulent PLAGUE OF DEATH (TM) which laid me flat (well, reclined) for the better part of a week.

I missed classes. I missed work. I missed going to Bode. It really sucked.

It kind of moved in odd waves. The fever stage, which came first, was the worst. I spent entire days shivering under a blanket. Then the cough started up, and that was really evil as well. Then the fever returned again. And left. And came back. And then I went to the doctor and my disease ran screaming before his words of medical wisdom.

Not really.

He said I had strep throat and gave me a prescription for penicillin, which seems to be slowly working. I don't understand how it's strep throat when my throat didn't get sore until I had been coughing violently for two days . . . but I'm not a doctor.

So, anyway, I'm back now, more or less. The PLAGUE OF DEATH (TM) is on the wane . . . which is to say, it is slowly leaving me and moving among other happy denizens of the Ice Cave. I say happy. They aren't very happy with ME.

Posted by Jared at 04:30 PM | TrackBack

January 17, 2005

Of Mustard Seeds and Motherships

To anyone who dares to state categorically that the serious modern scientist is a man of little or no faith, I say, "Oh, yeah?"

Key quote: We have pulled together various recent discoveries and theoretical issues that collectively point to the strong probability that we should be in the midst of one or more huge extraterrestrial civilizations.

I sure hope the Vulcans find us first.

Posted by Jared at 03:27 AM | TrackBack

January 14, 2005

Neverlands

This evening I saw Finding Neverland for the second time in a week, and I felt that I would like to write something about it, because I enjoyed it so very much. (Warning: Very mild spoilers are contained in this review.) This movie is fairly unique in two respects in particular.

First, it is a recent release, it is a serious drama, it is an award-winner with (I would say) a good chance at multiple Oscars (I would not be surprised to see nominations for best picture, director, actor, screenplay, and original score), and . . . with a PG rating it is pretty much squeaky clean. This is totally unprecedented in my experience. None of the movies on my list which are this appropriate (and have ratings even nearly comparable to the one I gave this) were produced after about 1970. One simply doesn't find high-caliber, thought-provoking movies that one can safely watch with literally anyone (at least, not anymore) . . . but there it is.

Second, this movie makes me cry, and that's fine. I don't cry while watching movies . . . ever. Rarely am I even choked up. It's not that I'm not a "softie" or that I'm trying to be macho. There are a number of books that have brought me to tears (Where the Red Fern Grows and Black Beauty leap immediately to mind). It's just that movies have a hard time suspending my disbelief to the point where I actually connect what is on the screen with reality. I'm too good at "seeing the invisible wires" . . . even when the dialogue or acting don't suck horribly (as they so often do in the midst of a "sappy" scene). But at various points during Finding Neverland, even while watching it a second time, I found myself strangely moved by the characters' emotions.

With the former as one cause and latter as one effect, this movie is seriously excellent. It tells the story of J. M. Barrie's friendship with the four recently-fatherless Llewelyn Davies boys (George, John, Peter, and Michael) and how it inspired the creation of his stage opus, Peter Pan. Along the way he provides just what the boys need in the way of a father figure and a playmate, helping them through the grieving process and teaching them to use their imaginations and . . . all that good stuff.

Johnny Depp, as Barrie, is magnificent as always. Freddy Highmore, who plays Peter, is a child actor of immense talent, and he really makes this movie work. Kate Winslet (as the boys' mother) is quite good. Dustin Hoffman and Julie Christie in relatively minor roles are both very fun to watch, and everyone else in the movie is competent at the very least.

The music is wonderful, and much of it is actually being played by stage orchestras in the movie (which is always cool). The cinematography is very nice . . . one shot in particular sends the camera sweeping freely in wild loops around a packed Victorian theater as the characters onstage take off and begin to fly. Art direction and costumes and so on are enchanting . . . lush, rich, beautiful colors are everywhere, but especially when we enter the world of Barrie's imagination.

One of my favorite moments is near the beginning when Barrie bids his wife good night and they enter their separate bedrooms. They both open their doors, and through his doorway we see a bright, green meadow with grass and flowers blowing in the breeze. Throughout the movie, in fact, the transitions between Barrie's imagination and the real world are delightful to watch . . . I was reminded very much of Big Fish (another favorite of mine).

Some of the best scenes involve the various points where the audience actually sees the sources of Barrie's inspiration. When the boys' grandmother is lecturing them while she waves a coat hanger about we see Barrie's mind suddenly shift her hand into a hook. As the boys jump up and down on their beds while their mother tries to get them to go to sleep, Barrie suddenly imagines them all taking off and flying right out the open window into the night sky. Even Barrie's dog, Porthos, bears a striking resemblance to the fictional dog, Nanny.

I think my absolute favorite part, however, is when the 25 orphans (for whom Barrie has saved a scattering of seats on opening night) join the stuffy, upper-class, theater-going crowd. There are disgusted looks, raised eyebrows, and general grumblings at first ("Looks like we got one of the better dressed ones," comments one theater-goer as Peter takes his seat). And, as the play begins and the children begin to laugh and gasp and respond (starry-eyed) to what is going on onstage, the adults glare . . . But before long, they too are caught up in the magic of the story, and by the end of the production they seem to have made friends with the youngsters, and are acting decades younger themselves.

But anyway, I needn't give away any more of the movie. You should go see it. I would simply like to note that I was fascinated to observe some fairly obvious parallels between this movie (which, by the way, is based on a play: The Man Who Was Peter Pan) and the movie/play Shadowlands about the life of C. S. Lewis . . . even down to a common element in their titles. Both are certainly excellent, and I suppose I should endorse the message of the latter over that of the former (unless you're paying close attention, you'll think it's preaching pure escapism . . . and at various points, it is). However, I think I prefer Finding Neverland when all is said and done. I'm not knocking Shadowlands . . . it has a very different aim, that's all. Somehow, Neverland manages to leave me feeling better at the end, and it possesses a certain element that Shadowlands had in fairly short supply. As Peter says of Barrie's play in Neverland, "It's magical."

Posted by Jared at 12:13 AM | TrackBack

January 13, 2005

Projectile Vomiting, Shakespeare-Style

THE SC PLAYERS PRESENT:

The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged) by The Reduced Shakespeare Company

Wilson- Daniel
Martinez- Jess
Gallagher- Adam
Myself- Stage Directions
Ardith- The Freudian Ophelia
Scholl- The Ego
Sharptiano, Barbour- The Id
Sharptiano, Barbour, Paige, Emily, Scott- The Superego

If you have never seen or read any portion of this play, and you are in any way a fan of the writings of Shakespeare, I must recommend, nay insist!, that you acquire a copy for yourself immediately.

It is funny, witty, brilliant, and a darn good read in less than 150 pages (including both side-splitting acts plus footnotes, preface, foreword, introduction, author's note, reader's note, editor's note, and various appendices). It consists of a . . . "reimagining" of all of The Bard's plays and sonnets performed onstage with a three-man crew and several trunkloads of props. Titus Andronicus is done as a cooking show, the histories are played out as a football game, and Othello is a rap song. Hamlet is (literally) performed both backwards and forwards. All of the comedies are combined into a single bundle of Sheakespearean goodness (oh, like that's hard!). Hilarity ensues, and continues to ensue throughout . . . It's really good stuff.

We first read this play using the single copy I possess at the beginning of the last fall semester. Martinez was kind/wise/good enough to acquire three additional copies over Christmas break, which proved to be the perfect number for the provision of maximum enjoyment. Congratulations to the principles.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

January 10, 2005

My Tentative Weekly Spring Schedule

Monday

10:25-11:15 - Chapel
11:20-12:15 - Intro to Psychology (Sheafer)
1:00-5:00 - Working in the Business Office
6:00-??? - Studying, etc.

Tuesday

9:30-10:50 - American Lit II (Coppinger)
11:00-12:00 - Working in the Business Office
1:30-2:50 - Twentieth Century Russia (Kubricht)
3:00-4:20 - Texas and the American West (Johnson)
6:00-9:00 - Historiography (Johnson & Hummel)
9:00-??? - Something not work

Wednesday

10:25-11:15 - Chapel
11:20-12:15 - Intro to Psychology (Sheafer)
1:00-5:00 - Working in the Business Office
6:00-??? - Studying, etc.

Thursday

9:30-10:50 - American Lit II (Coppinger)
11:00-12:00 - Working in the Business Office
1:30-2:50 - Twentieth Century Russia (Kubricht)
3:00-4:20 - Texas and the American West (Johnson)
5:00-9:30 - Something not work
9:30-12:00 - SC Players Night

Friday

10:25-11:15 - Chapel
11:20-12:15 - Intro to Psychology (Sheafer)
1:00-5:00 - Working in the Business Office
5:15-6:15 - BODE
6:30-10:30 - Visigoth Night
10:30-12:00 - Bible Study

Saturday

12:00-5:00 - D&D
6:00-11:00 - Something not work
11:00-1:00 - Food Run

Sunday

1:00-5:00 - Ice Cave Study Hall
5:00-6:30 - Sunday Supper
6:30-9:00 - Sunday Night Movie

Anyway . . . it's all pretty sketchy, but that's the general idea, more or less. Of course, these are the things that I can generally count on happening regularly every week at this time. You never know what sorts of other things might burst forth, you can only hope you're around when they do.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

January 06, 2005

Life With My Friends

(The following is sung to the tune of "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel)

Hello blogger, my old friend,
Iím writing from the labs again,
Because the Ice Cave is too damn freezing,
And Waffle Shoppe has poor Wilson sneezing,
And the warped link that was planted in my brain
Still remains.
That's how life is with my friends.

Near 5:15 I took a stroll
'Cross the berm to visit Scholl.
íNeath the shadow of the bell tower,
I'd just looked up so I could check the hour,
When my ears were split as the Gallagher called out "Whore!"
Here came some more.
And I was joined by my friends.

Then in the fading light I saw
a dozen people, maybe more.
There was Scott and he had on his hat.
Rachel was running late (imagine that).
Everyone was arguing so loud that people stared,
Though no one cared.
That's how it sounds 'round my friends.

Fools, said I, let's go to Bode.
Be careful as you cross the road.
There goes Martinez! Someone grab the door!
Let's all make sure that last in line is Moore!
And then Uncle Doug walked right on in himself,
And ordered
Before the rest of my friends.

Then we wondered who should pray,
And Sharpton finally said "Okay."
Then Scholl said, Wench logic's very slight,
And he made a joke 'bout Ardith's height.
Anna sighed and her elbow dug its way into his sore ribs
While Ardith glared.
Life's so fun with my friends.

***

I'm not quite sure where that came from . . . Wilson sang a few lines of a modified version earlier and I was inspired. I wouldn't have picked this song if I were in my right mind . . . it wasn't the easiest to work with. Anyway . . . enjoy.

Posted by Jared at 09:26 PM | TrackBack

January 05, 2005

Homerun

Safe!

Posted by Jared at 07:06 PM | TrackBack

January 04, 2005

One More Reading Update for the Road

I have spent around 20 hours in Barnes & Noble since Sunday afternoon, and another . . . sizable chunk-ish of hours reading at home. I did some other stuff, but that's less important because it is significantly more boring. In the end, my last few days here can be summed up as follows:

The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket (finished at B&N, see previous post)

Henry V by William Shakespeare (finished at B&N)

Prince Hal finally grows up and kicks arrogant French people all over Agincourt. Besides that, it's Shakespeare. Huzzah.

Big Fish by Daniel Wallace (finished at B&N)

Very different from the movie, but still recognizable. I prefer the movie due to a certain lack of coherence in the book. But then, the intent behind the book is different from the movie's as well. Edward Bloom still tells the funniest jokes . . . but married fidelity doesn't exist. Which is weird, considering . . .

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom (finished at B&N)

Eddie, an 83-year old WWII vet who is in charge of maintenance at Ruby Pier Carnival, dies while trying to save a little girl from a malfunctioning free-fall ride. He arrives in heaven and finds that he will meet five people (relatives, old friends, complete stranges, etc.) who deeply affected his life in some way. These people will reveal the mystery of his existence to him . . . Superb story. Fluffy philosophy. The writing was very good, very readable, and very engaging. I could easily have finished this book in one sitting. I really liked the observations about parenting. Intriguing perspective on heaven. But now I'm just repeating Martinez.

The Ball and the Cross by G. K. Chesterton (finished at B&N)

Two Scots, a Catholic and an Atheist, challenge each other to a duel and are immediately forced to become fugitives together, leading the rest of England on a merry chase as society rises up to stop them from fighting about personal convictions. Excellent book by Chesterton . . . but I repeat myself.

The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton (finished at B&N)

Gabriel Syme, the quintessential common man, is caught up in an epic struggle between Law and Chaos when he infiltrates the Central Anarchist Council of Europe (made up of seven members codenamed after days of the week) as "Thursday." What follows is a tense and deadly game of cloak-and-dagger full of coded messages, lethal duels, and desperate chases as Syme works tirelessly to bring down the sinister and seemingly omnipotent "Sunday." The plot twists come thick and fast as the story builds towards the startling (and allegorical!) climax. Huzzah! Again!

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne (finished at home)

Who doesn't love this book? Not me! (What I mean by that double negative, in case you didn't follow, is that I love this book.) I haven't read these things in forever . . . and they're even better than they used to be! How often does that happen?! Must re-read "The House at Pooh Corner!"

As for the rest of break:

Forward the Mage by Eric Flint & Richard Roach (finally finished)

Hilarious but excessively random fantasy . . . thingie. Zulkeh (pompous, pontificating mage extraordinaire) must save the world from the CRUDs with the help of his stupid-but-loyal dwarven apprentice Shelyid, the world-famous strangler Greyboar, Greyboar's stunted-but-silver-tongued agent Ignace, Magrit the witch, Ludwig the escaped lunatic who owns and runs his own asylum, and . . . a whole bunch of other people by stealing the Rap Sheet which . . . does stuff. Meanwhile, there's a sideplot involving the adventures of Greyboar's sister Guenevere and the gallant artist Benvenuti Sfondrati-Piccolomini, who are . . . Oh, whatever. I can't possibly explain the plot, because it's really just an elaborate-but-nonexistent illusion designed to unite as many random and hilarious characters as possible on a lengthy quest for the entertainment of the reader.

Star Wars: The Cestus Deception by Steven Barnes (quit in disgust)

Read 45 pages. Absolutely couldn't take one more page. When did they start letting "expert in three different martial arts and spouse of real author" substitute for "established and talented author of actual science fiction novels" on the Star Wars book authors' credentials? I've been writing better Star Wars crap than this since I was sixteen, and I suck.

A Room With a View by E. M. Forster (finished in the car)

Forster is so awesome! Very hilarious. Excellent characters. Brilliant dialogue. This book was so vastly superior to the movie that I almost can't wait to read "A Passage to India" one of these days.

Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear (have yet to finish in the car)

I'm about to drown in microbiology technobabble, but the story is still decent. This sucker's looooooong, though. Like, 17.5 hours long. Hopefully the action will pick up and keep me awake tomorrow.

The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren (please end!)

I'm not going to say a word about the quality of this book. But I've been "reading" it for about 6 months and I'm ready to be done.

Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake (please don't end!)

I'll be sad when this one is done, but it has taken me awhile (especially considering how thin it is). And there are always those wonderful critical essays to dig into!

Lady Chatterly's Lover by D. H. Lawrence (recently begun)

He's such a good writer. Dang. And I can't believe this was published in 1928. Dang. I'm glad I didn't live at that time and in that place. It's depressing like . . . Saki or Wodehouse would be without The Funny. Life seems like it was so empty for the Brits during the wane of their world power status. I wonder if things will be the same for us, someday. It made me think cause-and-effect . . . was this attitude caused by the fall of empire, or did it contribute to it? If it contributed, could America be approaching decline? I look forward to reading further . . .

But enough of all that. Tomorrow I hit the road (hopefully) and I expect to find Wilson already in the Ice Cave when I arrive in Longview. It'll be great to get back, weather permitting. Right now this area is blanketed in heavy fog and thunderstorms (including hail) and the roads could be icy tomorrow. Wonderful . . . and I've already been dreading this drive for weeks.

I'll be sure to post as soon as I arrive safely. See you on the other side.

Posted by Jared at 11:54 PM | TrackBack

January 02, 2005

The Christmas Break Doldrums

And so we arrive at that dull, not-as-lengthy-as-it-inevitably-seems period when all of the holidays of the break have passed but the break itself has not yet ended. Few people have any stories of note to record. The hapless dial-uppers are rarely to be found online. The internet becomes a wasteland.

And I still compulsively sign on every few hours to check things out, which makes it all the more depressing. Oh, yeah, and Rachel is now off wandering the wild, wild west. Hrmph.

I've done some fun, quiet things during the past few days. I'll be leaving here on Wednesday to return home to the Ice Cave and I have plans to indulge in further indolent behavior between now and then. I'll blog before I go. I'll blog again when I get there.

Meanwhile, the chief purpose of this post (aside from a bit of whining) is to direct you all here for a far more entertaining account of my time with Andy than I provided . . . plus some fun pictures.

Posted by Jared at 11:10 PM | TrackBack

January 01, 2005

Nothing Much

My last few days can almost be summed up simply by checking out the Movie section in the sidebar, actually . . . but not entirely, hence this brief post. But first:

A big, hearty welcome to 2005! Bud-di-duh-di-duh-duh!

Anyway, yeah . . . Let's see . . . Since I last blogged anything substantial . . . I spent Sunday afternoon, evening, and night with Andy and Joe and Brett. We watched stuff and played poker for an $8 pot. I was the first one out. Bleah.

On Monday I was up early and at my grandma's house in Southland all day. I was extremely dull . . . sleeping and playing Jardinains the entire day until we left for Plainview that night. I got a high-score of 989,515 and I beat level 50. Yeah . . . played way too much.

Did nothing on Tuesday. On Wednesday I went and met up with Andy and Joe again and we went about and had a grand time doing even more stuff. I got the Cabaret soundtrack (fiddle-dee-dee!). That evening we went over to Andy's uncle's house and played poker again . . . this time with 12 people for a $60 pot. No, I didn't expect to win at all. But then, neither did I expect to last more than half the game. I came in 6th, and was pleased with myself.

Thursday I bummed around and helped out a bit while my parents vacated the Plainview house. Then I drove to my cousins' house in Lubbock and was extremely dull again . . . I slept most of the time I was there while everyone watched the Texas Tech vs. California football game. Tech won. Whoopdey-friggin'-do.

Friday I spent the entire afternoon at Barnes & Noble. I read about 50 pages of Big Fish, the first two acts of Henry V, and the entirety of The Grim Grotto (book 11 in the Series of Unfortunate Events). It was excellent. I loved it. So many hilarious allusions . . .

For instance, I was reminded of something that I had completely missed when reading previous books. In the 9th book, The Carnivorous Carnival, the Baudelaire orphans visit a place called Caligari Carnival. Tee-hee. In this book, all of the good guys wore wetsuits with pictures of Herman Melville on the front, and the bad guys wore wetsuits with pictures of Edgar Guest. There was an encoded message using lines from "The Walrus and the Carpenter," "The Waste Land," and "My Last Duchess."

Anyway, I was highly amused. And then last night I basically bummed around here in Southland and more or less missed the arrival of the New Year. Everyone else was in bed at midnight, and I was finishing Being John Malkovich in the back bedroom. Booooooooring.

And that was my week.

Posted by Jared at 01:37 PM | TrackBack