August 29, 2006
The Semester That Started Without Me
Thanks to everyone who participated for a satisfying and lively discussion. All of you have given me things to think about, and I hope I've returned the favor to at least some of you. My apologies to those readers who are bored by such ramblings.
Keeping up with the debate has sucked up all of my blog time . . . in fact, all of my writing time for the past few weeks. I had intended to be well into an independent paper by now, having slowly siphoned the materials for it out of the library as they became available. Alas, the paper sits at only 3 pages thus far, with what I hope is a decent introduction built around my attempts at a concise thesis for what could prove to be a fairly broad topic. Precisely how broad it will be is entirely dependent on what I do with the next 3 pages or so, I think. If it is any good, I will publish it here. If I have any doubts about that, I can assure you that some of you will be reading it anyway . . . You probably know who you are.
Meanwhile, the last month of summer passed with very little of particular interest. Rachel got easy A's in both of her online classes, despite the lack of motivation generally attendant upon survey-level coursework "taught" by adjuncts during the summer. My utter disgust for Comp courses (which I never had to take) has deepened considerably.
More recently there is the joy attendant upon friends and (in my case) family trickling slowly back to school . . . accompanied now by the suddenly keen awareness of the absence of those who won't be back. They've done pretty well about keeping in touch so far, though. Ashley is only a few hours away and has promised to visit regularly (she's working for a tutoring service in the Dallas area, for anyone who was unaware). Audra is back, of course, and her younger brother Brendon is starting this year as well . . . as is Rachel's sister Rebecca. I now have an unprecedented five family members hanging about the LeTourneau campus. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
And, of course, I just had a birthday . . . Last Thursday. I am 23. I suppose this would be the perfect opportunity to describe how the incoming freshmen make me feel like a relic . . . but that would imply that I feel old. And as I have pointed out more than once in the past week, I'll never feel old as long as Uncle Doug is around.
Until Monday the 21st it appeared that I would be having to work late on my birthday, which was very sad, but I wound up being able to get off an hour early instead, which made me very happy. Rachel made me yummy things, and I celebrated my birthday sporadically in various ways with various people over the course of a few days (not a bad way to do things, really).
Let's see . . . What else did I do this summer? Rachel and should both have new level 60s sometime this week . . . *steps lightly around further discussion of World of WarCraft* My reading has been both sporadic and erratic. A great deal of breadth, but very little depth. I have completed perhaps three books, but I have dabbled in dozens. Any number of interesting-looking books come through my hands, and I just have to poke around inside. Sometimes a fascinating volume catches my eye as I am handing it across the counter to someone who is about to whisk it away for three weeks. But it's okay . . . I'm in charge of reserves. I just put a hold on it for myself, and some morning I walk into work and it's sitting on my desk.
And, of course, I watched movies . . . I see no reason to change my top ten system just because I'm not in school anymore. Three lists a year seems to work pretty well. However, I may eventually be whittling down the length of the list. As time goes on, I not only watch fewer movies (and, really, there's no way I could keep up the original pace: 135+ movies in a single summer versus some 45 this summer) but I watch fewer good movies. As I exhaust my supply of movies I know are good, it becomes more difficult to pick out an instant hit. This is really a shame because in the early days I had to exclude some truly deserving movies from the top ten, and now there are some on the lists that perhaps are not as deserving as the nature of the list would imply. Be that as it may, I still saw some pretty good stuff this summer, and here is the list of my favorites:
I had seen three of these movies before: The Right Stuff, Anne of Green Gables, and Double Indemnity. I consider the latter to be among the greatest noir films ever made, starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and the legendary Edward G. Robinson, all playing against type. It is a taut thriller, building up to the perfect murder, then following through as it all slowly unravels. It was finally released on DVD just last Tuesday, and I secured a copy "for my birthday" after scouring Longview to find it.
Undoubtedly my favorite new discovery of the summer was Junebug. I watched it three times. It is a hilarious but quiet indy flick about Yankee woman in charge of acquisitions for an Outsider art gallery who marries a Georgia boy and finally gets a chance to meet his quirky (but typically Southern) family when she travels South to woo an artistic prodigy. Anyone who has lived in the South should see it . . . it is full of people and scenes that you know quite well, lovingly brought to life on film.
Baby Doll was another Southern piece: a controversial, highly-volatile film, and the only work Tennessee Williams penned directly for the screen. It was a strangely fascinating movie, and its effect grew on me more and more as I thought it over afterwards. Most people would probably hate it for one reason or another, I suppose, but I thought it was quite riveting. It should hold an honored place in any Production Code marathon (a concept I've discussed before).
Finally, House of Sand and Fog was another surprising find . . . featuring some of the most powerful performances I've seen on film. Ben Kingsley is truly an amazing actor, and really the entire rest of the cast was great as well. The movie is a real downer (it made Rachel start sobbing, which did not bode well) but it is also incredibly moving. It features a very sobering illustration of the destructive power of good intentions and cultural gaps that still exist in even the most enlightened societies.