October 31, 2009

Hallowed Happyween

I literally cannot believe that it has been a month since my last post. I'm still doing the same things as before. Nothing stands out as worth the effort to chronicle in extreme detail . . . Well, it does, but frankly, I haven't got the time. It makes me sad. Nevertheless, I remain determined to keep this blog alive . . . much like continuing to visit and talk to a comatose person in the hope that they can hear you, not knowing whether they will wake up again.

But enough of my buoyant optimism. I write this from the House of Gallagher after a long, relaxing day of Halloween-inspired recreation. I have carved a pumpkin into a zombie and eaten a great deal of candy, but mostly I watched movies. My Halloween movie marathon consisted of:

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Zombie Nightmare
The Mummy (1932)
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Corpse Bride
Carrie

And, because nothing you do while pursuing a Master's degree can really be for no reason, my excuse for this particular indulgence is preparation for next semester. In order to complete my film minor, I plan to take a course on "The Horror Film" in the Spring. I'll likely be trying to tie it in with my own research by way of Southern Gothic (that is, hillbilly horror films like Deliverance).

Speaking of my own research, I tentatively have a thesis director. Which means that someone besides myself is now invested in the fact that I will get this done. And that is far scarier than anything I've seen today.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

September 30, 2009

Facebook Blogging

So lack of time and general laziness have prompted me to substitute a link on Facebook for more substantial blogging here. As a result, my poor blog is looking a bit abandoned.

It's not that I have nothing to say. Quite the opposite, actually. I have so much that I could talk about, and so little time to do so, that nothing gets said. I'm teaching two sections of freshman composition this semester, and taking a course outside the department in Contemporary Film Theory and an independent study inside the department in Theology and Film (as you may have surmised if you've been watching Moviegoings). There are plenty of other things going on as well, but this isn't a full-fledged post . . . just a word of explanation.

In closing, check out my movie list for Theology and Film:

Amadeus
Jesus of Montreal
The Last Temptation of Christ
Children of Men
Pan's Labyrinth
A Man for All Seasons
The Mission
Babette's Feast
Lars and the Real Girl
The Apostle
Wise Blood
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Unforgiven
In Bruges

Posted by Jared at 06:55 PM | TrackBack

May 12, 2009

KA-BOOM!

I'm not sure what the tone of this post will be. I'm feeling a bit babbly right now. My spring semester, and first year of grad school, officially ended on Saturday morning at 6:30am when I sent in my final paper. I spent a few days slowly recovering from the shock (well, mostly the lack of sleep) and now I have three weeks of summer until I begin my next class. My mind is literally exploding with the possibilities.

After successfully completing 6 hours last semester, I rather boldly decided to take 9 this spring. There were a few reasons for this. Among them: I had an opportunity to take an independent study in Southern Lit, and I grabbed it, but there were also two other classes offered that I wanted/needed. In order to become a TA, I need 18 hours. Taking 9 this spring plus 3 this summer makes me eligible. Teaching is a much bigger time-drain than being a research assistant, so while this was my opportunity to rack up the necessary hours, it was also probably my last chance to speed up the process this way.

My independent study consisted of me sitting in on a senior-level undergrad course (every MWF at 1:25), and doing some extra writing (about 40 pages worth) and reading (about 4 books worth, on top of the 8 required for the course). We read Poe* (which was an odd beginning, but which came back to "haunt" us with every subsequent text), Charles Chesnutt, Faulkner*, O'Connor*, Welty, Beth Henley, and Ernest J. Gaines. I also read Tennessee Williams. I put an asterisk by everything I'd read before, so there was definitely some good new material there. I particularly enjoyed my first experience with Welty, and I'd put her Losing Battles second on a list of essential southern novels, behind only Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom.

My Tuesday afternoon class was Literary Criticism with Dr. Ferretter, who is a fantastic prof and really knows his stuff. His book, Towards a Christian Literary Theory is near the top of my summer reading list. We dug into the theory, but the course was not as frustrating or incomprehensible as it could have been because class was mostly dedicated to deciphering and responding to the readings. We covered all the major theories, and the first part of class each week following was dedicated to individual student presentations which put the theory into practice, i.e. a structuralist analysis of Star Trek: Next Gen and Battlestar Galactica episodes, or Disney's Mulan and Monty Python and the Holy Grail read via queer theory.

I presented third, so mine was out of the way early (but not too early). I was assigned deconstruction, so I talked about the American arm of the movement and then used an old standby as my illustrative text: "This Be the Verse" by Philip Larkin. The critical aspect worked even better this time, if possible, than it did last time. I had to write three 10-12 page critical essays for the class, as well. I did a structuralist analysis of Flannery O'Connor's short stories, a Freudian reading of Dr. Strangelove (which you may have seen over on Moviegoings), and used postcolonial theory to critique Hollywood's vision of the Civil Rights movement in the South. That last was the paper I referred to at the beginning of this post.

Finally, on Thursdays I had a religion and literature seminar on theodicy, or the problem of evil and suffering. The topic definitely intrigues me, but I took it mainly because the course texts involved novels as well as films, and because the professor is the only member of the department (as far as I know) with an academic interest in film. I really enjoyed the course, as it exposed me to all sorts of things I hadn't encountered before, and because my classmates were all brilliant and we had fantastic discussions every single week.

My favorite novel of the semester, and one of my new favorites of all time, was assigned in this class: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I highly recommend it to all and sundry, etc. It is definitely a must-read, a beautiful book. My work for this class consisted of two presentations and a 10-12 page paper. I did my theological presentation (which involved someone explaining a text that only they had read to the rest of the class each week) on N.T. Wright's Evil and the Justice of God, and for my teaching presentation I led the class discussion on Chinatown, which was a blast. Finally, for my paper, I explored the various manifestations of evil in seven examples of film noir, including Chinatown. I expect to have that backposted to Moviegoings in a few days.

Anyway, all that to say . . . it was a fun semester, and also a successful one (as I can say with full confidence now that grades are in). I had a great deal more to say about my specific plans for the summer, including the unfortunate saga of my summer class enrollment and the rather happier story of my fall schedule, but I'll save that for now and put this up. The overwhelming number of possibilities that suddenly open up when one basically goes from 0 to 100% free time (particularly for only a few weeks) have temporarily shortened my attention span, and I'm off to work on something else.

Posted by Jared at 05:05 PM | TrackBack

November 04, 2008

President Obama

Well, it's over. The race has been called, an overwhelming victory for Barack Obama. McCain has given his concession speech and walked gracefully off the stage with that woman. I would like to take this opportunity to wish Gov. Palin a safe flight home to Alaska, where I hope she will have the sense to remain.

Seriously, though, this is a really really big deal. No matter how you feel about the new president-elect, take a moment to reflect on this milestone. The last time a 3rd party carried any electoral votes was in 1968, when George Wallace won 5 southern states on an anti-desegregation platform. 40 years later, there is a black man in the White House. Try to be proud of it, because it is worth being proud of. Be proud because, if nothing else, we have collectively chosen our president out of hope rather than out of fear. The hope may be misplaced, but the fear was certainly misguided.

Even more importantly, though, I would like to take this moment to offer some advice to McCain voters. Don't spend the next four years (or even the next four days) weeping and gnashing your teeth. Get over it, and get over it fast. There's nothing to be afraid of, and there never was. (And I would like to point out that, Palin aside, I was never really concerned by the idea of a McCain presidency.)

In fact, we could even make a deal. You try really hard not to go ape about an Obama presidency, and I will do my best not to laugh at you (at least not out loud) when all of your outrageous predictions for the next four years fail to come about. Whaddya say?

Posted by Jared at 11:46 PM | TrackBack

September 30, 2008

Fully-Functioning Pastime

I felt it was probably worth noting that just a few days ago marked five years of blogging for me. Paradoxically, it's always something of a surprise when an idle pastime performs as intended and one suddenly becomes aware that time has, indeed, passed. Sitting at my keyboard on the far side of those years, I find myself at a bit of a loss at the prospect of contemplating any sort of comprehensive retrospective.

I certainly don't need to recap the time that has passed. I suspect that the overwhelming majority of my readers remember them as well as I do. They've been very good years, on the whole. In any case, the use of phrases like "the far side" is a historiographical fallacy which implies that I have reached the end of something, when I'm really just pausing to make a mark *somewhere* on an unfinished timeline on which I am walking backward.

I'm still as addicted as ever to this nebulous, unquantifiable "thing" that blogging is, and I would like to think that I'm better at it now (whatever that means) than I was when I began. More relevant, perhaps, would be a consideration of what sort of effect, if any, the process has had on me. In a very general way, I believe that blogging has improved various qualities of my writing. Perhaps in other ways the nature of the form itself has reinforced or resulted in bad writing habits . . . but I don't think so. In fact, I believe the very nature of the beast has steered me in a generally positive direction.

In one respect, blogging has probably been a negative force; that is, as a creative drain. Blogging is a tempting distraction from other writing endeavors. Every minute spent crafting a line of ruminations about my blogging experience (and surely blogging about blogging is one of the ultimates in self-indulgent hipster navel-gazing) is a minute not spent on more serious fiction or non-fiction projects. That, of course, is part of the appeal, but it can hardly be called beneficial. How many volumes of unpublishable, self-absorbed dreck have I penned and posted in five years?

However, in my attempt at a moment of unpretentious honesty, I have probably overstated the case. Let's talk about the positives for a moment. Several things spring immediately to mind. For instance, to turn that last observation on its head, blogging has shown me that I can, indeed, write book-length quantities of material. Laying considerations of quality aside for a moment, discovering the ability to fill that kind of space is a daunting obstacle to have overcome, particularly for someone as lazy and often unmotivated as myself.

Furthermore, blogging often fosters creativity in that it allows me the opportunity for virtually-infinite experimentation with what works and what doesn't. What sounds good? What do I take the most pride in, looking back, and what was forgotten almost immediately? Where did the latter go wrong, and the former go right? Revision, where necessary, is simple, and input and feedback are easy to come by.

Chief among the benefits, though, is that blogging has given me a definite audience, in some form. Writing for an audience, even an incorporeal one populated in part by various aspects of myself, necessitates certain things: intentionality, a pressing desire to inform and/or entertain, and an effort at quality of composition (stylistically, grammatically, etc.). Above all, one is forced to attempt to express oneself as clearly as possible, or not at all.

The lessons I learned here, I have taken and applied with confidence in virtually every area of my life, be it academic or otherwise, with excellent results. This is perhaps most notable (at least I hope it will prove so) in the launching of my second, more topical, and (dare I say) commercially-minded blogging venture a year and a half ago. Moviegoings continues to grow in readership and exposure, provide me with both a motivation to expand my knowledge and expertise in the subject and an outlet for my interest in it, and open up thrilling new opportunities that I'm excited about pursuing.

Here's to five more years . . .

Posted by Jared at 04:14 AM | TrackBack

September 10, 2008

Snowdrifts

So, approximately three weeks into graduate studies, I've figured something out by way of a vivid image that hit me (literally . . . more on that in a moment) at the end of my Research and Bibliographic Methods class today.

Imagine someone hanging around inside the house who decides to walk down to the corner store and pick up . . . oh, say, a degree. His friends warn him to be sure and "watch out for the snow," so he bundles up for blizzard weather and departs. Stepping off his front porch, he pauses and looks around him. There is no snow on the ground, but a few very fine white flakes are drifting down here and there. Confused, he unwraps his scarf and has his jacket halfway off . . . and that is when he is caught completely off-guard. Up on the roof, a mischievous snow-elf shakes loose a large snowdrift which lands on our hero with a perfunctory ploompf, burying him up to the eyeballs in frozen water molecules.

It seems that graduate school is not like navigating a blizzard, i.e. forging one's way through a constant, blindingly-abrasive barrage of work. It's more like walking under a series of eaves and being trailed by a snow-elf who occasionally glomps you with a snowdrift, then leaves you to frantically dig your way out and try to move forward a few steps before it can find another one to dislodge.

Watch out for the snow.

Posted by Jared at 07:40 PM | TrackBack

July 31, 2008

Absent Much?

How have I not posted in 2 months? Well, you start to write something up, and then you put it off, and then more stuff happens, and it starts to pile up and free time isn't as easy to come by as it once was, before you were working at the library (even though it's only part-time), and you're still pretending to keep up with your movie blog (oh, yeah, that's still on, by the way) and doing summer-y type things and . . . this sentence has got to end somewhere, how about here?

So, yeah, the last few months are a bit blurry. I'm still working 22 hours a week at the library, and that's going well-ish. I don't care for the hours (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, all day Friday, and Sunday afternoons), but they could be worse, I suppose. Being back on the front lines of customer service (and a free service at that) has renewed my faith in human stupidity, but I'll hold off on sharing specific stories for now. When I harp on the subject, some of you get the mistaken impression that I'm bitter about it (or maybe it's just that I must be harboring a desperate bitterness and cynicism for thinking such horrible things about my fellow man).

In lieu of that, allow me to pass on this link. Warning: Shockingly NSFW language . . . but so funny. And for the record, no, I have not yet posted here. But I've been sorely tempted. Maybe if I had any sort of internet access at work. *grumble, grumble*

Pretty soon after I started, I rearranged my schedule to steal away to West Texas and see the family for a few days. Everyone was there at the same time, at least for a few hours (Brett arrived late from Austin . . . or I arrived early, depending on who you ask) for Ian's 16th birthday. Other June activities included a visit to Longview to see the Scholls before they picked up and left the state for good (or so they think), and visits with the Gallaghers, etc. And I saw the greatest animated movie ever (WALL-E), which you should definitely go see.

July started with a bang and a trip to Kilgore for the Texas Shakespeare Festival, attended by the Wheelers, the Gallaghers, the Barbours (Geoffrey and parents, before you go jumping to conclusions) and the Randy. I was only able to attend 3 of the 4 performances because of having to work on Sunday (much hate), but I saw "The Royal Hunt of the Sun" (an early play by the guy who wrote "Amadeus") on Thursday night, "1776" on Friday night (the 4th!), and "Julius Caesar" (sort of) on Saturday night. I had to miss "Twelfth Night," and I'd rather not talk about it.

"The Royal Hunt of the Sun" was a very interesting play, though the pacing dragged in spots. On the surface, it's about Pizarro and the conquest of the Incan empire, but it shares many themes with "Amadeus" as well. When Pizarro is forced to hold the Incan king (and god incarnate) during the second act, the two form a bizarre friendship. Atahualpa leads Pizarro to the distressing realization that he lost his faith in Christianity a long time ago, only to replace the void with . . . himself. As the parallels between Atahualpa and Christ build towards the climax, the play raises all sorts of interesting questions about the fine (non-existent?) line between faith and madness.

"1776" was an excellent production. The musical talent was top-notch, the orchestra was great, and, of course, it's just a really fun show. You'd have to work pretty hard to screw it up. We all enjoyed it immensely. "Julius Caesar" was . . . let's say "interpreted" in a way that, from where I was sitting (just a few rows back from the stage) defied explanation. Some elements really worked; others, not so much. It started off looking like an '80s music video (yes, they Rick Rolled Caesar . . . don't click that link!), shifted to '40s noir in the middle section, then went all Matrix at the end. But it's a great play, and you can't keep good material down.

The following weekend involved a 24-hour train ride from Longview to Joliet, Illinois with Rachel and Wilson to attend the Moore wedding. It was a unique, but not entirely unpleasant, experience. And I'm talking about the trip, not the nuptials. Scholl has part of the low-down on all of those shenanigans up on his blog, so I'll leave the rest of that admittedly monumental task in his *ahem* "capable" hands. Maybe someday his account will arrive at the actual day of the wedding. I, for one, would love to know how that all went down (but that's another story). We got back to Waco on Monday evening. That weekend, Randy and the Gallaghers came for a visit and we went to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, so that was fun.

Anyway, it's late and it's technically August now and I have to work all day tomorrow, so I'll bring this rather unsatisfactory report to a close. That's the bare-bones account of my summer (which isn't yet over, actually). Still, this post has got to end somewhere, how about here?

Posted by Jared at 11:16 PM | TrackBack

April 06, 2008

A Pair of Essays

Oh, I guess I should say something here . . . for those of you who are not yet aware, I got accepted into the Baylor English MA program on Thursday. I'll be starting in the fall with 6 hours of classes (not yet nailed down) and a research assistantship. So that's cool . . . I'm very excited and looking forward to preparing myself (and stocking up on "fun") during the next few months.

Anyway, that really should be its own post and I should make another post for this (things are sparse enough around here already). But nevermind that . . . here are 2 cool items worth reading.

The first is the best graduation speech I've ever encountered. It begins thusly: "Members of the faculty, parents, guests, and graduates, have no fear. I am well aware that on a day of such high excitement, what you require, first and foremost, of any speaker is brevity. I shall not fail you in this respect. There are exactly eighty-five sentences in my speech, four of which you have just heard." And then it goes on to ask the question, "Are you an Athenian or a Visigoth?"

The second is an essay by Jeffrey Overstreet entitled "The Eagles Are Coming!" It examines the affirmation of hope in fairy tales and fantasy.

Enjoy.

Posted by Jared at 03:37 AM | TrackBack

January 10, 2008

Back At It

Ugh. I had a post mostly done about why I haven't posted lately and what I've been up to in the meantime, but . . . somehow I didn't save it while I was typing it. And then I stood up to turn on the light, and a bulb blew out and tripped the breaker and half of my house lost power. Do I want to start over and rewrite it all? Not so much.

Quick summary:

Went to California for 2 weeks over the holidays. Did many things. Watched all 10 Star Trek movies in 7 days with Rachel and her parents (I got them for Christmas). I also got seasons 2 and 3 of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and I got Rachel the complete I Love Lucy. Gallagher also got me a demotivator mug (awesome) and I had the "Politically-Correct War" card game in my stocking (hilarious). And there were some other things. I won't bore you further with the details.

Moviegoings has sucked up a lot of my blogging energy, inspiring me with more writing projects than I had expected. All of my blogging energy in California went that direction, 7 entries while I was gone as I availed myself of the independent theaters in nearby Santa Cruz to get a jump on movies that aren't (or weren't at the time) in wider release.

Meanwhile, Moviegoings and I were also accepted into the Faith and Film Critics Circle, which I'm very excited about . . . and just in time to participate in the voting for their "Best of 2007" nominations. Stay tuned for that . . . And speaking of being excited, I've got those back-to-back conferences coming up in February and I'll hopefully have heard from Baylor by March. I settled on the relationship between The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and the work of Flannery O'Connor as my topic, although it remains largely unwritten.

That covers mostly everything that I'm of a mind to talk about in this quick rehash of a longer rehash of my recent activities. I have at least a few more posts lined up for the near future, though. Scout's honor.

Posted by Jared at 07:13 PM | TrackBack

December 02, 2007

Full Plate

It's all downhill until Christmas now . . . and that means acceleration. With my application to Baylor (for next fall) submitted, it's time to get some other things out of the way. Right now, foremost in my mind is the South Central Conference on Christianity and Literature. It's being held at LeTourneau, February 21-23 (a week after I present my Longview Race Riot paper at the East Texas Historical meeting in Tyler). I've been aware of the conference for the better part of a year, but it was an awfully long way away and I pushed it out of my head entirely when we moved to Waco.

Well, when I visited the Baylor campus two weeks ago, I saw a poster announcing it, and I immediately felt that I should present there (if at all possible). Of course, the deadline for proposals is December 8th, and I still don't know what to present on, so there's that . . . but I want to make this happen. At the moment I'm pursuing a few trains of thought regarding either a discussion of the symbolism in Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood or the relationship between O'Connor's writing and two recent films starring Tommy Lee Jones (The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and No Country for Old Men). I'm not sure how welcome the latter topic would be, but I'm mulling it over nonetheless.

In addition to that, I'm hard at work on a Hitchcock-related project for Moviegoings that'll involve a book-length amount of writing. I've acquired a large number of resources for this project and dumped a lot of time and energy into it already, so I'm feeling some pressure to get something substantial on paper . . . plus I'm really into the idea. I'd also like to continue my King Arthur film project. I got Camelot in from Netflix last week, but the disc was cracked, so I'll probably end up putting that off until after Christmas.

Sure, I know it's personal stuff and technically less important than conference papers and the like, but it's a big deal to me that I continue to develop this sort of thing. Oh, and I've renewed my efforts to get Moviegoings into the Faith and Film Critics Circle, so that's all part of it too. I'm very excited to join their ongoing efforts, and if it works out that'll push me to redouble my efforts on that blog in terms of quality and quantity.

All of these writing projects (where my real passion lies) are in addition to just general life stuff . . . keeping the house clean, helping Rachel with stuff, paying the bills, and all the other stuff that has to be kept track of. That and now getting ready for Christmas . . . I've never had to be in charge of preparing a house to be left alone for 2 weeks. Gotta find something to do with the cats and get the mail and newspaper stopped for the interim, etc. I should find a job, too, but chances for that are slim until after the holidays, what with going to California and all. It's gonna be a roller-coaster.

I know there's more I'm not thinking to mention, but that'll do to fill my mind for now. All that little stuff aside, though, seriously, I need to write, write quickly, and write well in the days ahead. Focus, Wheeler. Focus.

Posted by Jared at 10:52 PM | TrackBack

November 25, 2007

Turkey Time Again

Rachel and I made our now-traditional pilgrimage to Lubbock for Thanksgiving, with her brother Daniel this time. Thanks to a prior promise, we went to see Enchanted on Wednesday before Daniel arrived from Longview (even though I had just discovered No Country for Old Men is now out here . . . Curses! have to wait until tomorrow). Between one thing and another, we didn't get off until after 7, which was several hours later than I had hoped.

Nevertheless, the drive was largely uneventful (though dark) until my right front tire blew out rather violently at about 11:30. Rude awakening for Rachel and Daniel, that . . . Happily (in an unhappy way) this was my 3rd tire change in the past 2 months, and with help it didn't even matter that it was pitch black outside. We were back on the road in less than 10 minutes and arrived in Southland without further incident.

We got to Lubbock in time to drop my truck off at Wal-Mart before lunch. The Thanksgiving meal was yummy, as required by law, and the afternoon was passed divertingly with much hilarious playing of CatchPhrase. We decided to return to Southland for the night, since my grandparents there were going to be at a football game on Friday evening. We watched my new copy of A Passage to India with my Grandma on Friday afternoon before driving back to Lubbock. I love that movie.

My grandparents in Lubbock taught us a cool game called Texas Canasta, and Rachel and I got brutally trashed by Daniel and my granddad. After we were done, they gave us the cards and a copy of the rules so that we could spread the game wheresoe'er we went. We headed out on Saturday at around 1:00 so we could meet Becca and Gallagher back in Waco by evening.

We all arrived around the same time and got Bush's Chicken, then played TC and watched The Office late into the night. Ah, yes . . . The Office (American series). Rachel and I have been watching that ever since I discovered I could stream it off of Netflix. We've seen the first 3 seasons . . . not sure how I'm going to catch up on season 4, but the writer's strike has put that on hold anyway. In the meantime, it's time to start the British version.

Meanwhile, we'd planned to go to Sunday school this morning, but we were too tired, so we slept in instead. It made for a somewhat relaxing end to a largely relaxing weekend . . . I, of course, didn't need the relaxation. But Rachel did. Unfortunately for my blog, relaxing is boring . . . sorry.

Posted by Jared at 05:19 PM | TrackBack

November 18, 2007

Books for Sale

This weekend was the annual Waco Library sale, a four-day event that was held just across the street from me. I went, and it was awesome! The basic run-down: Children's books are priced anywhere from $.50 to $1.50, mass-market paperbacks go for $1, and hardbacks and trade paperbacks are $1.50. A few specific books are individually priced in the Collector's Corner.

The first day is Thursday, and you have to pay $5 to get in. The last day is Sunday, and they charge $8 per bag of books (the brown paper grocery kind). The sale is housed in a big double display building on the fairgrounds . . . they hand out maps at the door so you can find your way around.

I went and bought my ticket when the window opened at 8am, then walked home until opening time at 10. Consequently I was one of the first people in the door. I brought along a fold-out crate on wheels, and was handed three grocery bags at the door. Attendants roamed the buildings with wooden carts, ready to retrieve sacks and take them to the holding area if you didn't want to carry too much around . . . I didn't need it thanks to my crate. I walked out of there 3 hours later with almost 90 books, many in mint condition. Today I went back, with Rachel this time, and we left with almost twice as many. What a steal. I had to go buy a new bookcase just to have somewhere to put them all.

I am pleased.

Posted by Jared at 10:51 PM | TrackBack

November 01, 2007

Free Donuts

So, like, I took Rachel to school this morning, and then I wanted some donuts for breakfast. Well, I noticed a Daylight Donuts not far from my house the other day, so I decided to swing by on the way back and pick up a few. I walk in and head up to the counter and start perusing the merchandise, and the lady behind the counter walks over.

"We're not actually open yet, but we're letting people come in and get some of the samples. Were you just wanting a few donuts for yourself?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, well, we've got whatever you see out on display."

"Ummm . . . okay. I'll have a couple of those glazed twisty donuts."

*donuts are bagged and handed to me* "Alright, here you go. We'll be officially opened for business tomorrow! Have a nice day."

*my hand is in my pocket, on my wallet* "Wait, so . . . I don't have to . . . That's it?"

"Yeah. They're free. Enjoy your donuts."

"Sweet! Thanks." Gotta go back there once they're open . . . Rock on.

Anyway, Rachel and I visited Longview this weekend and went to the Shreveport Opera with Becca, Randy, Daniel Gallagher and Daniel Gullman. By the way, that's Little Danny G. and Big Danny G., in case conversations get confusing . . . I mean we could just go with Gallagher and Daniel, but then Becca of course calls them both Daniel, and then people aren't sure that you aren't doing the same thing and . . . bad mojo.

Back on topic. The Shreveport Opera was doing "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" which is actually a Stephen Sondheim musical. Sondheim was responsible for "West Side Story," which I hate, but he also wrote "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," which is awesome. "Sweeney Todd" was somewhere in-between, at least as performed in Shreveport.

The musical is based on a character that originated in British "penny dreadfuls" of the 19th century. A barber named Benjamin Barker is packed off to Australia by a crooked judge so that said judge can steal his wife. He escapes and returns 15 years later, now under the name Sweeney Todd, to find that his wife poisoned herself after being raped by the judge and his daughter (an infant at the time) has become the judge's ward. He sets up shop as a barber in his old digs above a meat pie shop owned by Mrs. Lovett (worst meat pies in London) and begins to plot his revenge. Before long, however, he pretty much loses his mind and slits the throat of anyone who comes in for a shave. Mrs. Lovett has fallen for him, and she is the brains behind the body disposal: They bake the victims into her meat pies, which suddenly become very popular.

It's very dark comedy at its lightest (but also quite funny), and at its darkest you might feel like throwing yourself off the balcony. Everyone goes crazy or kills someone else or both, and everyone dies. The lighter moments included Sweeney trying out his sweet chair set-up: He slits the throat (they had blood spurting and everything), swivels the chair sideways, and pulls a crank. This slides the body out of the chair and through a trapdoor in the floor, where it goes down a chute and comes out in the bakehouse.

I thought the lead was poorly cast . . . his voice was too deep, and it often seemed melodramatic when it should have just been dramatic. Mrs. Lovett was awesome, though. The music was very discordant in places, but I felt that they were adding their own bits in here and there and they were also having a lot of trouble with the sound system. That probably contributed. Also, they went all "experimental" on us and tried to combine live stage performance with "cinematography," i.e. projecting backgrounds onto a screen behind the stage for extra effect. It worked in places, but overall I found it extremely distracting and a bit cheesy. And, last but not least, the supertitles pretty much sucked.

Nevertheless, I saw a lot of potential there for excitement about the forthcoming movie version directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter. That'll be sweet. Meanwhile, check out this clip from a production that had Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett. This song is rather long, but also extremely funny. It's the first act finale. Enjoy.

Posted by Jared at 02:20 PM | TrackBack

October 25, 2007

Back Online

Okay, it's time to bring this puppy back to life. You may have noticed that Moviegoings has been stirring a bit lately, so it was only a matter of time before I returned to my personal blog and brought it back up to speed. I've left a lot of time in the dust since I stopped posting regularly. Let's see . . . where were we? Rachel was hired to teach 1st grade in Waco . . . I quit my library job . . . We got a house:

house.jpg

It's been an eventful couple of months, to be sure. Randy, the Scholls, Gallagher and Becca helped us move back in August and then Rachel's school year started. The less said about that right now, the better. I really need to get her to blog (carefully) about it sometime. We'll see. Now . . . what's happened since August . . .?

Ashley came to visit us the weekend after the move and we adopted 2 cats. Here they are, sitting in our living room with us:

cats.jpg

The one Rachel is holding is Dickens and the one I'm holding is Shaw. I wanted Simon and Garfunkel, but Rachel didn't go for it. *sigh* Randy came the next weekend to visit the kitties . . . and also us. We stayed up most of the night watching half a season of Dr. Who. Good stuff.

About a week and a half after that, word came down the pipe that my father-in-law's well drilling rig was ready to be transported from Marquez, TX to Aptos, CA, so I loaded up the truck and sallied forth. I was gone from September 19th to the 29th, traveling over 4000 miles. For slightly less than half of that journey I was dragging a trailer that technically was probably a bit much for my truck to handle. Going faster than 55 mph was generally not an option. If I hit an uphill slope I was lucky if I could top before I dropped below 25. During the remainder of the trip, once I dumped the trailer, I was hauling a load of bamboo back to Texas. It didn't slow me down noticeably, but it did stick out of the back of my truck about 12 feet.

Here's a map of my route (click to enlarge):

roadtrip.JPG

The blue pauses represent overnight stops, while the yellows were brief stops for gas and/or food. Starting from Waco in the bottom right corner:

1. First stop for the night at my grandparents' house in Southland, TX. Need to be up and on the road by 6:30 or so to make it to Uncle Doug's house in Chino Valley, AZ.

2. After about 10 hours of driving, I pull off the interstate at Joseph City, AZ for one last fill up before the final leg to Doug's house. As I come to rest at a stop sign on the access road, I hear a very nasty noise from the back and pull off to the side of the road. The portion of my bumper to which the trailer is hitched has snapped off on the left side and is dragging on the ground. I'm going nowhere.

3. After semi-frantic calls in all directions (and locking my keys in my truck) I manage to have myself towed to nearby Winslow. My truck will be fixed in the morning and hopefully I will be back on the road. Needing to keep moving, but loathe to miss my visit with Doug, I persuade him to come with me for a portion of the rest of the trip. He will fly home from Denver, once we get that far. The only problem: He wants to fly out of Colorado on Tuesday morning and I am currently broken down in Arizona on Thursday night. We buy the ticket.

4. I finally leave Winslow and pick up Doug at a gas station in Ash Fork, AZ before continuing on to California. We expect to reach Martinez's house in Riverside by 8 or 9.

5. It's nearly 9:00 and we still have at least an hour to go. We are driving through the middle of the desert . . . there is nothing around, but in the distance we can see the glow of one of the largest cities in the world. Doug is at the wheel. Suddenly, the lights on the dashboard go out. A few seconds later, we realize that we have lost our tail lights and trailer lights as well. Brake lights and signal lights also appear to be non-functional. We exit the interstate as quickly as possible, pull out the flashlight, and start probing. It is very cold. Doug eventually discovers that the grounding wire to the trailer has come loose and has shorted out one or more fuses. I call Martinez. Doug jury-rigs a fix for the wire, finds the busted fuse, and replaces it with a spare. We are back on the road with full lights a little over an hour later.

6. It is nearly midnight as we turn onto Martinez's street. We hit a bump and all of our lights go out again. Martinez and I drag Doug out from under the truck and make him go to bed. We have a lovely breakfast Saturday morning and then go to work. It seems that approximately 15 things have gone wrong with the lights and wiring on the truck and trailer, all at the same time. I am amazed that we had lights at all for the final leg of our journey. Finding all of the problems and rectifying them takes most of the day (not counting a lunch break for my first visit to In-N-Out . . . yum). We even have to go buy a brand new tail light for the trailer. Finally we bid Martinez farewell and hit the road in the early evening.

7. We reach Aptos at around 2 in the morning and go to bed. I seem to have picked up the cold Rachel had before I left. Guess I'd better pass that on to Doug. We go to church the next morning and then hang out all afternoon . . . get the well set up . . . chat . . . watch a few episodes of Dr. Who. Good times. All too soon it is Monday morning and the pickup is loaded for the return trip. I would like to stay longer, but we have a plane to catch. It is 10 in the morning and we have approximately 26 hours until Doug's plane leaves Denver.

7a. After making good time through San Francisco and Sacramento, Doug talks me into a brief detour to Lake Tahoe on the CA-NV border. It is absolutely gorgeous. We cross into Nevada late in the afternoon.

7b. Northern Nevada turns out to be pretty empty. In fact, no one really seems to live anywhere along our route between Reno, NV and Cheyenne, WY. The sun sets just as we pass Winnemucca, NV, Doug takes over the wheel, and our long night begins. Note: Battle Mountain, NV is not nearly as exciting as its name implies.

7c. We stop for gas in Elko, NV and I take over again. It's not terribly late yet, but it will be before the tank is empty again. By about midnight I've crossed into Utah. It is very dark, but I can definitely see the salt flats stretched out on either side of the highway. They practically glow in the dark. They also give me nothing to look at, and sleep becomes very difficult to fight. I drive right by the shore of the Great Salt Lake at nearly 2 in the morning, but I can't really see it.

7d. We stop for gas in Salt Lake City. I tried to get to Temple Square, but I didn't want to lose the highway and it was time for Doug to drive. The gas station doesn't have a bathroom, so we find a Denny's and use their's. Doug and I are panhandled three times in the space of 10 minutes in downtown Salt Lake City. I sleep fairly well, asking Doug periodically if he's staying awake okay.

7e. We stop for gas at about 4:30 in Wamsutter, WY. Doug claims he has no idea when we crossed into Wyoming, but it was apparently hours ago. He can't keep it on the road anymore, so I take another turn. We are passing through the heart of the Rockies, nearing the northernmost point on our route (Rawlins, WY), and it is ridiculously cold.

7f. The sun peeks over the horizon at last as we drive through Laramie, WY. We have traveled nearly 750 miles since it went down. We stop for gas and breakfast at McDonald's in Cheyenne at about 7:30 before beginning the final push to Denver. The scenery is gorgeous and I regret missing so much of Wyoming during the night.

8. We reach the Denver airport shortly after 9:00. Doug has plenty of time to spare. We say our goodbyes and he goes to wait in the terminal while I proceed for my last hour down to Colorado Springs where my friend Andy lives.

9. I reach Andy's house before 11:00. I have been on the road for over 24 hours and have traveled over 1400 miles. I discover that the distance (as the car drives) from San Francisco to New York City is only 2900 miles, and I realize that Doug and I have just driven halfway across the country in a single go. I am tired, but satisfied, but the lack of rest has done no good for my cold. I relax at Andy's all day Wednesday and Thursday, recovering for my last two days of travel. I haven't seen Andy in a few years. We watch movies, visit Barnes & Noble, and generally let the good times roll.

10. I leave early Friday morning and drive back to Lubbock to spend the night with my other grandparents . . . but I won't be here long. Rachel has been ready for me to be home for several days, despite a visit from Gallagher and Becca the weekend I was in California. I leave bright and early Saturday morning for the last few hours of driving, stopping briefly in Southland to return some stuff I borrowed from my grandparents there (like that super-handy flashlight I mentioned in #5).

11. It is approximately 2:00 in the afternoon and I am a mere 60 miles from home driving down highway 6. It is pretty, but remote. I haven't had cell phone signal in over an hour, but I suddenly notice a single bar, so I call Rachel to let her know where I am. I have just enough time to tell her where I am when I lose the signal again. 30 seconds later, my front left tire shreds itself and I pull off to the side to assess. I retrieve the larger fragments from a few hundred yards back and stick them in the bed of the truck, then begin the onerous task of unloading enough stuff to let me get at my jack and lug wrench. After a very tiresome hour of work, I have successfully installed a very shady-looking donut tire. I decide I'd better take it slow the rest of the way.

12. At nearly 5:00, I finally pull up next to my driveway and walk inside. It was an exciting trip and I saw lots of new places, did several things I've never done before, and visited good friends along the way. But I sha'n't be doing it again anytime soon.

Meanwhile, I went to see Martinez's brother Brian perform with with the Baylor Jazz Ensemble a few weeks ago (it was really great!), and Brett and Holly (who are now living in Austin) came to visit us weekend before last. I have plans for the next 2 weekends, and Thanksgiving isn't long after that . . . time is flying right along. And that's the latest from Waco. It's good to be back.

Posted by Jared at 08:36 AM | TrackBack

September 16, 2007

Jose Angel ("Chepe")

1
2
3
4
5

My thoughts are in Guatemala today as I mull over the sad events there, detailed above. I guess I've known Chepe for at least 10 years, during which he was good friends with my brother Ian. Those two, along with Chepe's younger brother Juan, were thick as thieves. When I left for college he, like Ian, was still just a kid. I haven't even seen him in nearly two years, but I heard wonderful things about how he was growing and maturing.

How very sad this is. I wish I could be there with everyone. But I am very grateful for all of the people that, as always, are doing so much for my family there and my extended orphanage family. And that's all I have to say. Please pray for Juan, for Ian, for my parents, and for everyone else down there.

Posted by Jared at 10:31 PM | TrackBack

August 11, 2007

Housed

10 days and 2 trips to Waco later, we have a house. Rachel's dad came out to help us hunt one down last Wednesday. By Friday we had found one we liked and sealed the deal. We closed and took full possession yesterday. Rachel will be heading back tomorrow to start teacher training on Monday. That's the short version of the story.

The house has three bedrooms and one bathroom, and it's around 1350 square feet. There's living room, kitchen, dining room, and utility room . . . and an extra room that used to be the garage. It'll make a decent study/guest bedroom. The driveway is flanked by two large pecan trees which provide a great deal of shade. The backyard is reasonably large and completely surrounded by large bushes (totally private). The back door opens onto a covered deck and there are two sheds for gardening tools and storage and whatnot.

Oh, and we got most of the furniture that was in the house for a very reasonable sum: washer (almost new) and dryer, a twin bed, a double bed, a king-size bed, a couch, 2 recliners, 4 dressers, a desk, a couple TVs, a dining room table and chairs, and other sundries. This was an estate sale, and the sellers had no use for the things and no real desire to try to get rid of it all piece by piece. We can't use everything they left (so many beds!), but it was convenient to buy it as a package and we may make a little money back in the course of getting rid of whatever we don't need.

The only thing that didn't come with the house was a refrigerator (the oven, also almost new, came with the house). My parents helped us get one, which will be delivered and installed on Monday or Tuesday. Cable, internet and phone will be hooked up on Thursday. The house is located pretty close to the center of Waco. Rachel's school is about an 11-minute drive away, and few places in town will take longer than 15 minutes to get to (so that's cool).

All in all, I'm rather pleased.

And speaking of being pleased, Bank of America sucks. In order to pay for the house at closing, we had to get a certified check rather than the personal check Rachel's dad left. Well, there are no BofAs in Longview, so Rachel went to the one in Tyler on Tuesday to deposit the check her dad left her in her BofA account. But she had to wait and return the next day to get a certified check . . . reasonable enough, we'd just swing by on our way to Waco.

Well, we swung by alright, and then hung there for a good hour while the lady that was waiting on Rachel accomplished exactly nothing. It seems her brain had a small conniption or something and she told the system we wanted cash instead of a check. Well, what in the hell would we do with almost $50,000 in cash?! Honestly. Then, she couldn't reverse it. It turns out that Bank of America in Texas has no actual connection with Bank of America in California. It's like they're two different banks which coincidentally share a name and logo. So she just ditched Rachel and left her standing for a good 45 minutes and more while she tried to figure out how to fix her screw-up . . . all to no avail.

We left, having wasted over an hour, in the hopes of trying again in Waco on Thursday. Well, we had a few things to take care of on Thursday . . . dropping off the trailer of stuff we hauled out there, shopping for a fridge, and so on, and between one thing and another, we didn't get to the Bank until about 3:15. They were closed. They close at 3:00. I mean, I'm lazy, but . . . open at 9 and close at 3? What is that crap? Another day down the drain.

So we go in first thing Friday morning ready to open fire (or set fire, or whatever else might be required) and they tell us they can't give us the check until the bank in California opened (that's right, a 4-hour window during which business can be conducted involving the west coast . . . assuming they don't close the bank for lunch from 12 to 2 or something). Rather than punch them in the collective face, we went to find breakfast and returned at 11.

Another wait in line . . . another long disappearance . . . "I need 4 picture IDs" "Here, take them . . . may you slice open your arteries on them." . . . More waiting . . . more standing . . . Wait, here she comes! "I'm sorry, your signature doesn't match." "What?! But that's my signature!" "Well, it doesn't match, and my supervisor won't clear it." "But this is definitely me! You're holding four pieces of identification in your hand." "Well, I'm sorry, but it just doesn't match." "I opened an account here when I was 9 years old . . . my signature may have changed a little." "My supervisor won't . . ."
"Can we talk to her?" Another line, another wait . . . "Yeah, the signatures don't match." "I was 9." "Well, it's just different and I can't clear it." "Here," Rachel scrawls out her name as written by her 9-year old self and shoves it under the lady's nose. *tone of mild surprise* "Well, look at that! It matches!" May the unholy gods of capitalism rain stabbity-death upon your foul institution, pig-brained witch.

And that wasn't all. The title company also needed to know whether the other check that Rachel's dad wrote had cleared. That's all, nothing more. The check was deposited by them on Monday, and they just wanted to know if it had gone through. BofA refused to comment. They wouldn't tell us. They wouldn't tell the title company. They wouldn't tell the title company's bank. They might have told Rachel's dad, but he is in Mexico and not able to ask just at present. Oh, and the drama goes on. Today Rachel's credit card is suddenly inoperable due to "insufficient funds." Surprise, surprise . . . an internet investigation of the account reveals that the cost of the house was removed from her account, not once, but twice. Ohhh, heads are going to roll (I wish).

I had been thinking of opening an account with Bank of America when we got to Waco because we need a new bank and I know they have many locations, and Rachel has had her own account with them for some time, and so forth. Well, forget that. If they were the last bank on earth, I think I'd choose to do business with the loose brick in the back corner of my fireplace instead.

We discovered Thursday that Waco approved a $4,000 raise in teacher salaries on Wednesday evening (Huzzah!). We also finally found time on Thursday afternoon to go meet Rachel's principal and see the school where she'll be teaching. I thought it looked rather nice. Her classroom is right next-door to the library.

We spent most of Friday (when we weren't closing and arm-wrestling the stupid frigging bank) setting up Rachel's classroom. So. Much. Stuff. About a dozen bookcases, several tables, 26 desks, 5 computers, and more books and supplies than you can shake a stick at all make for a rather chaotic scene.

We spent a good while trying to figure out how it should go, with Rachel diagramming on the white board while I shuffled furniture around, and eventually it started to fall into place. We wasted a lot of time cleaning out some cabinets that were actually screwed into the wall . . . but she needed that stuff out so she could sort through it anyway. Rachel met a few of the other teachers as they came and went. It turns out that most of the teachers in her hallway are first-years.

I got the computers set up so I could look at them. They're all Macs, and seem to be somewhat older. I couldn't tell exactly how old . . . possibly as old as 10 years, but maybe no more than 4. They were all set to dates "earlier than 1973" when I turned them on, which prompted errors. Two of them wouldn't allow me to mess with the date, but the one that would was set to 1/1/1904 before I fixed it.

I couldn't get into Rachel's computer when I booted it up . . . the password hint was "school mascot." Seems kinda dumb to have your password be something every student in school would know. I wandered the hallways for a few minutes trying to figure it out and was only able to ascertain that the mascot is a jackrabbit (or similar animal) of some kind, but not what the wretched creature's name is.

We returned to Longview late on Friday, tired but with much business accomplished. If all proceeds as smoothly (sic) as it has thus far, we will be safely ensconced in our new environs approximately two weeks from today and I can get to work on everything that comes next.

Posted by Jared at 02:57 PM | TrackBack

July 31, 2007

Pardon My Glee

By this time next month, Rachel and I will be gone from Longview. We are moving away. Rachel interviewed over the phone for a teaching position on Sunday evening and they offered her the job the next day. She'll be teaching first grade in Waco, starting in just a few weeks. I'm drowning in details just at present, but I'm very excited about the change.

I gave notice at work this morning (August 20th will be my last day). That's one hurdle. We still have to break our lease, buy out our cable contract, leave a forwarding address, find a forwarding address, change everything to the new address, close out our bank account, pack up all of our junk, and haul it three hours away . . . and a hundred million other things I haven't thought of yet. And all of this must be done on a very precisely-timed but as-yet-undecided timetable. Rachel will have to be in Waco on the 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th, and then again from the 21st through the 24th (that's my birthday!) before the school year starts the following week. It's all kind of making my head spin, but in a good way.

After a few months of complete uncertainty about what the next few years were going to look like, it's great to have a direction that I'm happy with. Once things get settled, I'll start looking for a part-time job (there are 2 openings at the library there . . . that's a start), and I'll apply to Baylor's graduate program. With luck I can start working on a masters in English lit in the spring. I hadn't dared to hope that I might be within reach of a suitable program for maybe two more years, so I'm thrilled at the opportunity (to say the least). Now the hard part: Getting accepted and earning the degree.

Meanwhile, Waco is a pretty nice city with lots of stuff to do: scads of museums and historical sites, a zoo, a riverwalk, symphony, opera, and more live stage events than you can shake a stick at (I count 4 distinct theater groups with their own production seasons). And if that gets boring (ha!), Dallas is an hour and a half to the north and Austin is an hour and a half to the south. Plus, I keep threatening to try and get some papers published. Maybe I can get on that now. I'm almost out of time if I want to use it as CV padding for grad school applicationing.

Anyway . . . all that aside: Huzzah!

P.S. Nobody's happier about this than Rachel. She just called me from her "last day" at the hated Michael's job. She went in today determined to give them two weeks' notice, despite my misgivings as to whether they deserved it, and found that they had already cut half of her hours for this week and (sure enough) would now be withholding her hours from next week since she's leaving anyway. So this is her last day.

Turns out the money-grubbing, penny-pinching, brown-nosing, fat-cat, scum-sucking, puppy-drowning low-lifes over at corporate headquarters noticed that one of the managers gave out too many hours last week and they're making her pay them back by giving out fewer than the normal allotment this week. Fewer hours . . . and Rachel's already been given a paltry 5 or less for the past few weeks.

Oh, but she does get to keep the apron. Thanks for nothing and die in a fire, corporate f***ing America. That's right, capitalists are lousy, no-good bastards. I said it, and I'm not sorry. Drowning in raw sewage is too good for them and a napalm bath is too quick. The only reason they're still around is because no one's found a horrible enough way to kill them all off yet. Someday . . .

Posted by Jared at 04:45 PM | TrackBack

July 20, 2007

Hot Off the Press

I am sitting here staring in wonder at five brand-new copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows all ready for release when we open tomorrow morning. Most of my fellow employees haven't noticed, but a few are almost too giddy to work. I'm having a little trouble myself, and I get off at 1:00.

One of them is on reserve for me.

Posted by Jared at 10:07 AM | TrackBack

July 16, 2007

Shakespeare Bash 2007

What a delightful weekend this was: an unbeatable combination of friends, frivolity and food such as I rarely experience now that we've all graduated and scattered. The Texas Shakespeare Festival is running all month in Kilgore, and we settled on this past weekend as our time to go. In town for the event (at various times, in some cases) were myself and Rachel, Scholl and Anna, Randy, Wilson, Gallagher, Barbour, Ashley, Paige, Barbour's mom, and Wilson's family. The festival presented Othello, Man of La Mancha, Much Ado About Nothing and Amadeus for our infinite enjoyment. On Friday evening we pulled in from the four corners of everywhere (alright, mostly Texas) to the congregation point of Buffet City (Chinese) in Kilgore before adjourning to the performance of Othello.

After the rather oppressive rendering of Macbeth a few years ago and the uneven quality of last year's Coriolanus (the play itself, not its interpretation by the company), I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy this year's tragedy, but it was quite good. Good sign #1 was that Othello would be played by a black actor (you'd think that would be a given, but . . .). The actors did well playing up the light elements of the first 3 acts, and it also helps that Iago is probably Shakespeare's most compelling villain. The slow pace of the final acts was alleviated by very strong performances from the leads.

On Saturday afternoon, we went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and it was greeted by various levels of enjoyment. I largely liked it, particularly in contrast to the awful 4th film, despite a few minor quibbles. I'll stick a review up on Moviegoings soon. As a litmus test of coherence, Ashley said she rather enjoyed it having only read the first book and caught random pieces (out of order) of the first 3 movies.

Saturday night was the musical (after an interlude for Anna's yummy lasagna). I do not care for Man of La Mancha very much, although I do enjoy several of the songs. I find it entirely too preachy in all the wrong directions. In any case, this was certainly the weakest of the 4 we saw this weekend, thanks in part to the weak voice of the lead. I was particularly worried at first when I could barely make out what he was singing, but when Sancho nearly bowled us over with the strength of his voice I was at least glad we'd be able to hear the other performers.

There were some excellent singers up there, but Cervantes was not one of them. I don't want to be mean, but he positively butchered the crescendo of "The Impossible Dream." I should also note that the musical is vastly superior on-stage than it is in the movie version. Keeping the story spun by Miguel de Cervantes grounded firmly in the imagination of the prisoners in the dungeon is a strength that is totally ruined by the film's hijacking it into dreary reality.

Sunday lunch was at Joe's, and then we were off to the races. Much Ado started at 2:00, and it was magnificent. No matter what else you may have to say about the Texas Shakespeare Festival, you cannot deny that they know comedy. Hilarious, total crowd-pleaser. They hammed it up something fierce in all the right directions. Benedick was amazing. Dogberry was amazing. Don John was amazing (albeit difficult to look at . . . that awful awful mullet wig). The timing was fantastic and the improvised stage directions were grand (Shakespeare being notably sparse on that front). This play is the first I've really been tempted to buy a copy of from them.

After a brief consultation, we headed to Chili's for dinner, and then returned for the 7:30 performance of Amadeus. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect . . . I didn't know that the movie (one of my favorites) was based on a stage play, for instance, or to what extent. The long and the short of it is, I was blown away. The fact is, I've only been to a few dozen professional stage productions in my life, and precious little modern drama, but this was by far the most intense experience I've had in a live setting. It gave me a whole new appreciation for the movie and what it has to say about music and the source of art. While the movie gives more time to Mozart himself, the play never loses sight of Salieri's obsession. Everything is seen through his eyes (and narration). Outrageously good.

I can't help but reflect, though, that the performance would have been better without the audience. The guy behind me guffawed like a middle-schooler every time Mozart said a naughty word. And I don't mean just a chuckle . . . I mean ridiculously prolonged gurgling that lasted far longer than even a reasonably funny joke should have allowed. A man on the very front row (we were on the 2nd) decided after 2 hours and 50 minutes (counting the 20 minute intermission) that he just couldn't possibly wait one more second and "snuck" out less than 10 minutes before the end, jarring a microphone on the way out. I'm sure the DVD people were thrilled with him.

And, most egregious by far, some pribbling tickle-brained clotpole didn't turn their kriffing cell phone off, and it went off during the final minutes . . . three freaking times. Unbelievable. Unjustifiable. Unforgivable. Frog-march the stupid sot to the nearest body of water and send his phone to sleep with da fishes. Oh, if only.

Thus ended the Texas Shakespeare Festival. I spent Monday with Wilson and Paige, meeting them in the liberal arts offices at about 10:30 (hardly anyone was there) before retiring to my apartment (where Rachel was waiting) to watch The History Boys. We broke halfway through for lunch with Randy and the Scholls at El Sombrero. Later in the afternoon, we headed back to the Scholls' place and chatted for awhile before accompanying Wilson to the train station.

We were surprised there by Dr. J, who had rushed over to catch Wilson on his way out (miscommunication had prevented contact earlier). Wilson's train was going to be an hour and a half late, so we ditched him there to return to business as usual in Longview. It was fun while it lasted.

Posted by Jared at 11:51 PM | TrackBack

July 08, 2007

A Week Out West

Being much in need of vacation and a change of scenery, Rachel and I ventured to the Lubbock area last week (where they have no scenery) and chilled for a few days. I stayed up far too late on Sunday night, packing and preparing for a week away from home. Then Rachel drove me to work Monday morning so that she could finish getting everything ready and then pick me up from work and head straight for Dallas. I skipped my lunch hour so I could get off at 5 instead of 6.

It was a flawless plan, but for one thing (and I'm taking my life in my hands by telling you this): It foolishly relied on Rachel being both focused and punctual. I called her several times throughout the day to keep her on task and remind her of the little things that needed doing: turn off the AC, turn off all the lights, water your bamboo, check mail, grab my bags off of that one chair, etc. She was industrious. She was on track. She had it in the bag. Then she remembered the clearance sale at Michael's (90% off!) and something inside her snapped. She had to swing by, if only briefly, on her way to pick me up.

It was, by then, nearly 5:00, and so we conferred. She would drive to Michael's and quickly buy a few things that she'd had her eye on. I would walk to Burger King and get some dinner. She would then quickly join me, get her food to go, and we would be on our way. It wasn't a flawless plan, but it was a good plan . . . except that it still relied very foolishly on Rachel's punctuality and focus.

Well, I was unavoidably detained and I didn't actually leave the library until almost 5:25. Right before I walked out the door, I called Rachel . . . she was just pulling into Michael's. And so I set out, arriving at Burger King 10 minutes later after a not-unpleasant stroll. No sign of Rachel as yet, of course.

I ordered a combo meal. I got my drink. My number was called. I sat down to eat and popped open my book. I read several pages and finished my fries. I read a few more pages and sipped my drink. I read some more pages and chewed through a few bites of burger. I read some more and polished off half of the burger. After every period in this paragraph, I'm looking up, I'm glancing around, peering out various windows, hoping for a glimpse of my red truck pulling in from some direction or another. It doesn't appear.

I have no watch. I have no phone. I don't know how long I've been here, but it's been a long time. To make a long story short . . . I wrapped up the remains of my burger and walked towards the front door, hoping to spot a pay phone and figure out what could possibly have kept her (hopefully nothing of a tragic nature). About halfway to the door, I saw her pull in. She looked very sorry. It was 6:05. She'd forgotten that I was waiting for her . . . We drove out of Longview by 6:30 as I wondered why, exactly, I had skipped lunch.

Despite an inauspicious beginning, the drive to Dallas was pleasant, as was the drive to Lubbock with Ashley the following day. We were out of Dallas by about 9:30 and made it to my grandma's house in time for a late lunch. I read liberally (but not too liberally, due to the general squeamishness of half of my audience) from 5 People Who Died During Sex and 100 Other Terribly Tasteless Lists along the way.

We slacked off for the rest of the day, of course, and made use of the two Netflix I had brought along. First, I introduced Ashley to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, much to Ian's disgust ("That's the stupidest movie ever!"). My cousin Lucas was not such a Philistine ("No it's not, it's brilliant!"). Ashley was more appreciative than expected. I was struck once again by the fact that this is literally the best King Arthur movie ever made, both in terms of entertainment value and faithfulness to the spirit of the original legends and stories.

My parents pulled in with Micah a little later, and Brett and Holly came over not long after that. Micah, of course, was immediately absorbed in attacking his brand-new Mac laptop and playing with it at length. Brett, meanwhile, showed me his laptop and we talked movies, etc. After much socializing and dinner and whatnot, I made everyone watch "Shakespeare Abridged" (which I also brought with me). I particularly wanted Micah and my Grandma to see it. Good stuff, that.

Wednesday (the 4th) I pretty much got straight up and went to the park in Slaton where 4th of July festivities are held. There are various and sundry activities, most of which I ignore. They include, but are not limited to: a dunk tank, a game involving opposing fire hoses and a large ball hanging from a wire in the middle, various foodstuffs, an auction, and a concert. Of course, we spent all of our time there during the "country" portion of the concert and left just as they were starting in on "classic rock." Grrr. We also arrived just in time for all the food to run out, so we picked up lunch from Sonic and sat around jawing in the shade of a large tree . . . where I was consumed alive by a swarm of mosquitos!

No joke . . . I noticed that there were a lot of them buzzing around at some point and suddenly discovered that someone had brought Off, so I sprayed it liberally around, but by then it was apparently too late. I didn't notice until later that evening, but I was bitten worse than anyone . . . about 2 dozen bites around my left ankle alone (there are still small scars). Most of my lower half was one large, excruciating itch for the next 2 or 3 days, but I managed to ignore it mostly after the first night.

Anyway, after we packed up from the park, I visited a fireworks stand with my brothers, Rachel, and Holly. I had a budget of $60 (generously donated by my absent granddad and my dad), and Brett bought some of his own. We left with a sizeable pile and went home to wait out the remaining hours of daylight. Brett talked me into popping in Apocalypto which we watched until my other cousins arrived (about 15 minutes before the end).

After dinner, sunset was still a few hours away and arguing about the war in Iraq wasn't going to be any better than sitting and listening ot its virtues extolled (yes, some people still think it was a good idea, that things are going well, and that America Can Do No Wrong). Clearly, ultimate frisbee was called for. We started with a game of catch among four until enough people gathered, and wound up playing 6 on 6 for a good hour.

My team got trashed, mostly because we dropped all the really awful passes we threw while the other team caught all the really awful passes they threw. Also, Micah can apparently jump 3 times his own height, which makes passing to him much easier (and it came in useful every time the frisbee went onto the roof). And then fireworks. Things didn't quiet down until late, so that was it for the 4th.

I knocked out the rest of Apocalypto when I got up, and I was favorably impressed. It was much better than I expected. We were going to leave just after lunch to spend a large chunk of the day in Lubbock, but there was a very violent storm and we stayed in and watched The Importance of Being Earnest before leaving to see Ratatouille (my second time, review up on Moviegoings). It was just as good the second time as the first. Dinner at CiCi's finished the outing.

On Friday, Rachel demanded that we watch some of my Grandma's cartoons, starting with The Fox and the Hound (one of Disney's weaker entries, IMO, at least before their really awful period a few years ago). In any case, we were interrupted halfway through by an offer to visit Old Mill Trade Days, a local . . . shopping event of some sort. I passed. Rachel went with Ashley and my Grandma. I spent a few hours blasting Micah through the undead campaign on WarCraft III, cuz he's a mite squeamish. While I did that, Rachel had time to go and return (with many wondrous things acquired for very cheap), finish The Fox and the Hound, and watch Babe.

After dinner, I put on Citizen Kane since I was somehow the only one in the entire house who had ever seen it. Hard to say how it was received, overall. I know Rachel and Ian were bored to tears. Micah, Ashley and Lucas endured it well enough. My dad wandered in after about 20 minutes and promptly fell asleep, but that's no surprise. Citizen Kane is a great movie, but it won't exactly keep you on the edge of your seat. After everybody else went to bed, Rachel, Ashley and I watched the first half of Rent. (Ashley, never having seen it, had difficulty following the stage version.)

Saturday was extremely uneventful. I played through Frozen Throne and finished the book I was working on (Reduced Shakespeare by Austin Tichenor and Reed Martin of "Shakespeare Abridged" . . . a hilarious, but scholarly, look at all things Shakespearean). Rachel wandered off Lubbock-ward with Ashley. My mom took Micah back to camp (where he is working this summer), and returned with the latest version of Pride and Prejudice, which we didn't watch all the way through before everyone else went to bed . . . so we just finished Rent.

We pulled out Sunday morning for a very uneventful drive to Dallas, during which I read a sizable chunk of Stephen Prothero's American Jesus: How the Son of God Became an American Icon, a fascinating and engagingly-written piece of cultural history which I am rather enjoying. Prothero is an excellent writer, and he is a very fair and objective writer as well. Plenty of witty observation, no cheap shots. We pulled into Ashley's house by around 3 and jawed for a few hours before speeding back to Longview, where I found Hell House waiting. If you want to see something scarier and more disquieting than Jesus Camp (why?), then this is your documentary.

And that brings my vacation to a successful conclusion.

Posted by Jared at 11:49 PM | TrackBack

June 05, 2007

Save the Date

I have been married 13 months today. That's hardly a blogworthy occurrence. I expect to be married for many more months, and I would have to be very hard up for material indeed to note the passing of the 5th day of every month. There's nothing particularly notable about 13 months unless you believe it is ill-omened, in which case it might be better to let it pass, unnoticed and unmentioned.

The only reason I mention it at all, actually, is as a sort of introduction to a unique discovery Rachel and I made last night. She was unpacking a box and stumbled across an old paper that she wanted me to look at. I recognized it immediately. I've probably recounted somewhere around here that (despite having "seen her around" before and sharing various mutual friends) the first time I ever actually interacted with Rachel was when she IM'd me at about three in the morning during finals week to ask me to come edit a paper she had written for Spanish class. (I believe I have also recounted elsewhere my frustration that this constituted an inadvertant and entirely unjustified vindication of my dad's advice on picking up girls.)

Anyway, as you may have guessed, this was that very paper: a rough account in pidgin Spanish (I exaggerate, of course) of her visit to a local Spanish-speaking church, blanketed liberally with my corrections in pencil. Well do I remember berating her for attempting to, like, translate slang idioms directly into, like, Spanish and, like, sprinkling them conversationally throughout her formal paper (just so).

What neither of us had realized, however, and what we both noticed at the same time, was the date nestled portentously in the top-left corner of the page: May 5th, 2004. Two years to the day before I married her.

Posted by Jared at 03:51 PM | TrackBack

May 31, 2007

Pardon My Disappearance

So I started work at the library one year ago today. That was the minimum amount of time I wanted to be here. It's good work, and I am content to continue, but I need to be on the lookout for new opportunities nonetheless. Being a librarian won't pay for a LeTourneau education (well, not before 2027, anyway). I'll be taking the THEA later this month, I think, and then I'll see about taking the scaryleap into the ESC Region VII teacher certification program.

Well, is it that it's scary . . . or just distasteful? Perhaps I'd best not think too much about that. It's a means to an end that will provide some valuable experience along the way, if all goes well. That's the most I can expect. Meanwhile, my personal endeavours remain a meaningful focus, as you've no doubt noticed in the RSS feed to the right (I was so proud that I figured that out all by myself . . . pathetic).

Right now one of my greatest sources of gratification is a return to recreational reading. Having moved just a bit farther away from work than before, and with Rachel working most days, I have started staying at work during my lunch hour. That's at least another book and change a week than I had before. Truth to tell, my recreational reading had dropped off scandalously since . . . well, probably at least Christmas of my senior year (about 18 months ago). I read a lot, certainly, but it consisted of skimming chapters or online essays . . . nothing concrete and measurable that I could put on my booklist. Since the move I've gone through the following:

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

This is all part of the zombie kick I've mentioned in passing once or twice. This was a fantastic book on so many levels, a real page-turner. I guess it's hard to explain the appeal if it is not immediately apparent from the title, but this was a very well-written, thorough vision of the ultimate apocalyptic global event.

The Moviegoer

Yeah, I picked it up and read it. Figured I'd better since I kind of named a blog after it. Great piece of Southern literature here, but also a deep exploration of what life is all about. Walker Percy was a Christian existentialist, so yeah . . . this was pretty interesting. It was also entertaining, full of great little quotes, occasionally humorous, and pleasantly thin.

The Ladies of Grace Adieu

This delightful anthology is a sort of companion volume to the magnificent Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. The stories are set in a wide range of time periods, from the time of John Uskglass to the setting of the original book, and each mimics the literary style of the period in which it was "written." This alone is a fascinating exercise, but the stories themselves are also full of the wit and imagination that readers of the original book will expect from this author. I just hope she is far from done with her alternate history of England and Faerie.

The Children of Hurin

I'm actually just over halfway through with this one, but I'm loving it. The first several pages are very tough going (cf. the first chapter of The Silmarillion), but then things clear up quite well. If you've ever liked Tolkien, this is certainly a must-read. I love me a good epic tragedy.

Madame Bovary

This is another one I'm in the midst of working on . . . I'm about 2/3 of the way through it. It was rather dull at first, but I'm beginning to understand the acclaim a bit. Once I finish it, I really need to return to Reading Lolita in Tehran. I first read that book in 2005, before I'd read most of the works it discussed. Now that I've read all of them, it's time for another visit.

And speaking of things that need to be read, next up in my queue is Children of Men, and then maybe Wicked. After that . . . well, we'll see. No shortage of books to be read, and that long hiatus did nothing to shorten my reading list.

Meanwhile, I've read a few books to Rachel, using that as an excuse to work my way back through some old favorites that I haven't read in years. We finished The Phantom Tollbooth a few weeks ago and now we're working on Watership Down (a great book which is no way about submarines).

Well, this didn't start out as a reading update, but I suppose that's as good a thing for it to be as anything else. This is shaping up to be a good summer, and I'm sure there will be some actual eventfulness to write about before too long.

Posted by Jared at 04:36 PM | TrackBack

May 14, 2007

Moving On

A disquieting thought came to me the other day. With 5 years of virtually continuous residence on the LeTourneau University campus, I have spent over 20% of my life here. LeTourneau has occupied, for better or worse, a very special place in my life, and I've been here a long time (at least for me). I experienced a lot of firsts at LeTourneau, most significantly "First Home-Away-from-Home."

But all things must come to an end, and yesterday I drove off of campus as a resident for the last time. All of my friends are already gone, so there isn't much left . . . that helps. There are so many memories here. This was my home. Still, it's awfully nice to know that I'm only leaving a place behind. All of the people associated with that place (well, except for a few professors) are still part of my life (thanks, in part, to the internet).

I spent two years on the second floor of Pennsylvania Hall. Then, the summer after my sophomore year (2004), I moved into the Ice Cave (apartment 12A) with roommates that I got to choose (for once). I lived there until I got married last year, and spent my final year in Apartment 1D . . . with another roommate that I chose.

The new place is a rather smaller apartment in Towne Oaks (about halfway to Wal-mart on Eastman, for those familiar with the lay of the land). The door of the apartment opens into a horizontal entry space with a closet to the right and the rest of the apartment to the left. The first room you enter is the living room/dining room extravaganza . . . by far our largest room. If you turn left you will be in our living room area, with its 3 couches, recliner and TV tucked into the corner. If you turn right you will walk by the designated office space, with 2 computer desks and 3 bookcases.

As you walk by my desk towards the back, an immediate right will take you into another closet . . . oh, wait, that's our kitchen. Moving on, you'll walk straight into a hallway. On the left is the closet with the hot water heater and fuse box. On the right is the bathroom, which is larger than the kitchen (even if you took out the refrigerator, stove, and cabinets). And, of course, straight ahead is the bedroom, which has two rather large closets. I'd probably have more details, but obviously things are still in a bit of a mess so I don't know what the final product will look like. I might put up some pictures someday, but don't hold your breath.

We've rented a 5X10 storage unit to help out with the clutter effect, so I'll be moving stuff in there for the next few days. And speaking of moving, many thanks to Gallagher and the Scholls for that very long Saturday, without which relocation from point A to point B would not have been even remotely possible. I spent Friday packing and cleaning, Saturday moving, and Sunday unpacking and cleaning. Monday was reserved for various and sundry errands and more unpacking. My computer is currently on the fritz and I won't have internet until (supposedly) Wednesday. We'll see how that works out. Meanwhile, I need to go crash or something.

Posted by Jared at 12:26 PM | TrackBack

May 08, 2007

Sheer Madness

What a crazy week. I knew things were gonna be nuts when it started, with everyone but me having more free time and all of us very aware that they'd be gone in a few days. Doug, Barbour, Randy and I struggled to catch up on Heroes before they left. Oh, and I stayed up way too late at least twice watching zombie movies with Randy (hopefully more on that on Moviegoings sometime soon). In this case, that meant getting done with all that stuff by Thursday, but only I knew that the real reason for that deadline was a surprise visitor.

As I recall, Martinez first floated the idea of visiting on graduation weekend about a year ago. By fall he had officially decided to come, and I was the only one who knew about it. With each passing month . . . then week . . . then day, it became more difficult not to say anything. Of course, I finally clued Rachel in well in advance, and that was where the dam almost broke. But she narrowly managed to keep it quiet until the moment arrived at long last.

I tried to arrange for as many people as possible to be in our apartment when he walked in, which worked fairly well. What didn't work so well was the almost 2 hour delay in the flight from Dallas due to "weather problems." I was reluctantly preparing myself for a drive to Dallas when he finally got to lift off. What was so silly was that the rain was never coming down harder than a drizzle in Longview, and by the time Martinez landed there wasn't a cloud in the sky, the sun was shining and most of the water had already dried up. I even had groceries in the back of my truck.

Anyway, festivities lasted far into the evening, and then Rachel and I watched Idiocracy for, like, the 3rd time with Martinez and Barbour. Naturally, we went to bed quite late . . . only to be up before 9:00 the next morning. Martinez had an 8:30 appointment with Dr. C, and Rachel and I joined him a bit late so we could say hello. Then we wandered through the faculty offices and greeted Dr. Watson before Rachel and Paige headed for the Senior breakfast.

With that done, we headed over to the Ice Cave and spent most of Friday socializing amidst packing and moving and whatnot. Lunch transpired at Double Dave's, followed by the purchase of no fewer than 18 tickets for a later showing of Spider-man 3 (the usual crowd was augmented by the Barbours and the Sharptons).

Friday night, of course, was the Senior banquet, where we were joined by everyone (Gullmans, friends, etc.) . . . except Uncle Doug. It seemed longer than last year . . . probably because I didn't have anything to do. I think everyone I knew that was there went up at least once. Rachel got a medal for graduating cum laude, and was very pleased and proud.

After the banquet finally ended, we futzed around a bit, changed into more comfortable clothing, and headed out to get to the theater a bit early. We arrived 30 minutes before it started, and the line to the door had already stretched to the exit, wrapped around on itself and crawled halfway back up the hall. As it turned out, though, we arrived at the perfect time. The line began to move seconds after we joined it, flowed directly into the theater, and left open a large section of seating . . . which was still a bit too small for everyone to be together. But we did save about a dozen seats in a pretty good spot.

I didn't think about it at the time, but the experience was very similar to one I had almost exactly 5 years ago: Sitting in a theater in Honduras watching Spider-man with a group of people I knew I probably wouldn't see again for a very long time (if ever). In a nutshell, the friends were older, but the movie wasn't as good (review up on Moviegoings).

There was, however, one truly iconic moment. At the climax, as Spidey enters the final cataclysmic battle, he lands in a dead run directly in front of an enormous CGI American flag. I can't remember now whether the movie stopped for a moment, or went into slow motion, or simply moved at normal speed . . . but the image of exploitative jingoism is seared into my brain. As fast as the image was interpreted, my reflexes cranked my head directly to the right, where Randy was sitting on the other side of Rachel. He was choking and gagging rather violently, having unwisely taken a sip of his drink just before the image appeared. It was priceless.

Anyway, after the movie, Martinez, Doug, Barbour and I played Super Smash Bros. in the Ice Cave until almost three in the morning and then turned in. I got up to drive Rachel to graduation prep at about 8:15 and then crashed again until Becca and Gallagher dropped by at about 9:45. Graduation started on schedule and proceeded as usual. It turned out to be more about Dr. Austin than it was about the graduates. Oh, well. They all got their degrees.

Bud's big speech was interrupted by a medical emergency . . . someone collapsed and the crowd seemed rather rattled. Before the ambulance showed up they called for a glaucometer (sp?) and I ran MoM Gullman's over. They already had one by the time I got there, and the subject inquestion looked to me like he needed a priest more than a glaucometer. There were people crying and lots of grim looks. An ambulance showed up, but it left awhile later without its sirens going. There were rumors of dehydration floating around, and I assume the guy was okay.

Everyone was quite punctual to our traditional post-ceremony gathering . . . except for Uncle Doug. He had forgotten his ID and couldn't pick his diploma up without it. So he ran to the Ice Cave on the opposite corner of campus. When he got there, of course, he was feeling a bit icky, so he took a quick shower and changed into more comfortable clothes before running back . . . only to discover that he had left the receipt for turning in his robe in his other pants. Foolish, foolish Uncle Doug.

After the after-parties I went to look at houses with Rachel and her dad, then we helped Jon move out of his dorm room. Then we packed Rachel and her mother off to dinner and I spent the evening playing Super Smash Bros. with Barbour, Martinez, Doug and Randy. I had expected to be up rather late, but my eyes wouldn't stay open anymore by 10:30, so I crashed. We saw Gallagher and the Gullmans off the next morning, and then Martinez and I watched an MST3K, for old times' sake The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy!).

And then, as the day wound down, the good-byes began in earnest. Rachel and I saw Martinez to his plane, and Doug pulled out of town a few hours later. Barbour, after a brief detour, popped in momentarily on Monday evening before taking off. By Tuesday morning, it was back down to the Wheelers and the Scholls. Randy will be back from New York this weekend, and Gallagher will be coming to help us move.

Oh, yeah . . . there's that. No time to mope about how empty it is, we're moving to a new apartment off-campus. Things will continue to be crazy until almost June. Time to get packing.

Posted by Jared at 11:41 AM | TrackBack

April 26, 2007

Admit One

"My time at the paper may be coming to the end, but the internet isn't going anywhere." This thought vaguely occurred to me somewhere around the beginning of April. I've appreciated the YellowJacket even more this past year as an excuse to go see and write about movies. I do that plenty on my blog, too, of course, but for some reason I don't like doing it exclusively.

Well, to make a long story short (or I will ramble on ad nauseum about the development of my thought processes), I have a new blog. I'm not abandoning the old blog, by any means. This will be here for the foreseeable future, and I don't intend to post any less on it than I do now. Meanwhile, I expect to post between 2 and 4 times a week (on average) on the new site. My plan is to refrain from duplicating content as of when I got the new site up and running . . . I'm not going to double-post.

The new blog is "Moviegoings," and the subheading is "Your One-Way Ticket to Fabulous Fun for the Whole Family!"

Just kidding. It's actually: "The Search for Truth, Beauty & Meaning in the Movies." In reality it is probably both more and less than that. However, rather than attempt to explain further here, I had probably best direct you to this, the site's introductory page. That quote at the top is from The Moviegoer by Walker Percy . . . which I really need to finish reading sometime.

You'll find that I have my entire list of movies-watched available, with all relevant posts cross-referenced, a growing list of links to the movie-related sites I frequent, and the beginnings of a "treatise" that I can direct people to if and when anything like the previously mentioned tiff should arise again. I've already got some brand-new content up during the past two weeks as I was putting it together, so go check it out.

The purpose of "Moviegoings," beyond what I've stated there, is to have a somewhat professional-looking topical blog where I do my best to consistently post at my highest level of writing ability. This blog has been (and will continue to be) my sandbox. Hopefully "Moviegoings" will be an edifice of some sort.

Incidentally, there are a lot of great writers that read my blog right now, and I know that many of you have a glancing interest in this topic as well from time to time. In my ongoing search for fresh content, I would be more than happy (thrilled, in fact) to post guest submissions in the form of movie-related essays or reviews . . . with, of course, the slight caveat that I reserve the right to reject out of hand anything that I don't feel fits with my personal vision for "Moviegoings" and you aren't allowed to be offended about it. Seriously, though, consult with me anytime if you've got something. And, yes, I allow pseudonyms if that's your thing.

Posted by Jared at 04:56 PM | TrackBack

April 25, 2007

A Spot of Bother

A few months ago I watched with amusement and admiration as Peter Chattaway and Jefferey Overstreet responded to attacks on how they review films, both secular and Christian. Less than a month after that, the reviews that Randy and I write for the YellowJacket came under heavy fire in the form of a series of increasingly angry e-mails from a LeTourneau professor to our editors (and cc'd to the Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs).

The e-mails arrived just in time for spring break, and as they singled me out specifically multiple times for comment (Randy was pointedly ignored throughout the exchange, even though we wrote the reviews and responded to the e-mails together) we were given free reign to defend ourselves. There were three e-mails to respond to, and they got successively longer and more high-pitched (for lack of a better term).

At this point, the less I discuss them, the better. I am still infuriated and deeply upset when I think through the whole thing. Randy and I worked on a response for several days, with help and input from a few of our friends. We wanted it to be reasonable, respectful and above-reproach, and when we finally sent it off it seemed like our best chance to start a dialogue.

The response we got was a blow-off. Randy was again ignored, and the professor claimed to have no interest in talking to me (as a graduate), but preferred to talk to "current members of the YellowJacket staff." To have the gall to attack me multiple times in such a highly accusatory fashion and then say "I don't care to hear what you have to say" . . . well, I had to struggle to get beyond just seeing red. The overall response was extremely high-handed and holier-than-thou, and obviously not in the least interested in an honest discussion. There was an assumption that any argument I made was automatically invalid within the context of LeTourneau's community of "adolescents" who "smell of hormones."

In fact, the tone of the entire correspondence, while indicative of an admirable compassion for students (credit where credit is due), was even more indicative of a total lack of respect for them. These words were from someone speaking to children, someone who expected to be listened to and obeyed, not someone who was genuinely interested in opening up a topic for mature discussion between adults.

The feeling I get sometimes about having this kind of dialogue outside of the Church or Christian community is that some Christians feel we should be presenting a united front. So, can we discuss it amongst ourselves? Heavens, no! This is supposed to be a Safe Environment. It's full of weaker brothers. Even we even so much as talk about this stuff, you'll have them stumbling left and right.

Randy and I talked with our editors and decided to end the correspondence there, as this individual was obviously not deserving of the effort and feeling we were wasting in a fruitless discussion. The editors, in a move that I personally felt was rather too kind (although it was also motivated by concerns regarding space), printed only the initial, somewhat sane, letter that had been written to them. I have little doubt that, had the student body caught wind of the tone of later letters, the response might have been vociferous and decidedly unkind.

I, meanwhile, requested and received permission to write an editorial about offensive content in the movies and a responsible approach to it. This was not intended in any way as a response to the letters to the editor . . . I had already responded to those. Rather, I felt that if there were any validity to the concerns about the impact of our movie reviews on the LeTourneau community, this would be my "word to the wise" for anyone who might be troubled. I was slightly dismayed when my editorial was presented as a "counterpoint" to the printed letter, particularly since I knew how the professor who wrote the letter would take it, but I was glad to have the message out there.

Since the publication date, I have received no word from this professor (although I more than half-expected an angry e-mail in my inbox the day after). However, I have gotten word from multiple sources that the new plan of attack is to malign the paper from the safety of the classroom, where dissent is unlikely and easily managed. That sounds like an abuse of authority to me, but I'm not really up on professorial ethics. Well, two can play at that game. I, at least, shall have the decency not to name names, and the comment section is, as always, open. My time at the paper may be coming to the end, but the internet isn't going anywhere.

Posted by Jared at 12:21 PM | TrackBack

March 17, 2007

Meet Gappy

Until today, I don't think I even knew that I had this list, but I've checked something off of it anyway. It's my "Things Not on My 'Things To Do Before I Die'" List. Apparently, one of those things was "Dress up like a giant cartoon recycle bin named 'Gappy' and mingle with a group of Longview children," and I can positively say that I've done it. Allow me to explain.

Today, St. Patrick's Day, was "Super Science Saturday" here at the library. It is a hectic morning for the children's librarians at the best of times, but this morning there were a record 30 kids, and the usual 4 staff members involved in the activities unexpectedly dropped to 2. Today's topic had something to do with recycling, and so of course the plan was for "Gappy" the city's recycling mascot (I don't know. Please don't ask.) to put in an appearance. The suit resides in our break room, and somebody needed to wear it. I happened to be at the top of the short list of possible volunteers, and (being a good sport) I reluctantly agreed to step in to those extra-large shoes. For the children.

At about 10:45, one of the children's librarians helped me into the thing so I could make my strange debut. The costume consists of the following: A blue shirt with long sleeves and straps at the wrists that hook around your fingers; a pair of blue sweatpants with straps at the ankles to hook under your feet and a pair of red shorts that go over the sweatpants; extra-large cartoonish red-and-white gloves; a giant pair of red-and-white felt tennis shoes, with laces and everything.

And then there's the pièce de résistance, of course. The body is a big, blue recycle bin with big cartoon eyes, a round nose, and a huge, open-mouth smile. The holes for the arms are in the front, under the mouth. Protruding from the top is a random assortment of actual garbage . . . pardon me, recyclables (and advertising opportunities): a Domino's pizza box, Diet Coke container, box of Rice Krispies, KFC tub, etc. This large, unwieldy mass is lifted above one's head and lowered down over one (the inside is completely empty except for two padded "crossbeams" that bring the costume to rest on the wearer's shoulders). Your arms come out through the correct holes and have hands added to them, and you are ready to go.

I am apparently slightly better coordinated than the people who generally wear the costume . . . It was expected that I would need to pretty much be led by the hand, but this was not the case. The gigantic (and rather loosely-fitting) shoes took a few steps to master, but my vision wasn't as bad as I expected. Moving around was chiefly a matter of discovering what sort of clearance I was capable of and turning sideways when necessary. Happily, Gappy is a mute, communicating only through body language and gestures.

Our route to the large room where such activities take place led out of the break room, past the administrative offices, through the children's section, and past the circulation desk and the narrows of the security measures at the entrance. The first person I saw (passing through the children's section) was a very small Hispanic girl, maybe two or three years of age, weeping openly. This would have been a somewhat disheartening beginning, except that I had noticed her crying when I went back to put the costume on in the first place, and so did not feel responsible. In fact, we paused as her mother brought her over, and after a few uncertain moments, she smiled and returned my wave. We proceeded without incident.

When my presence was announced to the roomful of children and their parents, the greeting was effusive. I moved forward slowly, feeling a bit disoriented by the level of activity in the room and the small knots of children edging in. Those that were smiling seemed to me to have a strangely feral glint in their eyes. My waving grew more frantic, and I threw in a little friendly bobbing. I felt ready to shake some hands . . . and then I discovered a problem.

I don't know how many of you have observed this, but children are short. The average child in that room passed completely out of my range of vision when they got within about five feet of me. I could feel them clustering in close . . . were they hugging me? tugging at my hand? punching me? attempting to climb my legs? I had no idea. I reached out blindly to pat heads and shake hands, and fumbled around a bit. I was touching someone, somewhere, but I had no idea who or how. The thickness of the costume made it impossible to tell. I decided I should stop before something bad happened, and I started sticking exclusively to gestures and waves.

I could hear fairly well, because kids are loud. After the initial rush a few boys started dancing around me in circles. One wanted me to "throw him in the trash" (he asked me this several times, and would go away for a few minutes only to return and renew his request). I don't know if he meant that he wanted to be stuffed into the nearest waste receptacle or perched atop my costume. Either would have been amusing enough, but neither was particularly feasible.

A hearty-looking lad (okay, he was fat) wanted me to give him something to eat, presumably out of the bounty he observed atop my head. My arms didn't even extend out of the costume as far as the elbow, so I couldn't have obliged him anyway. But I did helpfully point out a box of graham crackers on a nearby table.

Soon, the crowd dissipated a bit and I was able to move about the room freely. I have a strong feeling that there was a mischievous imp following very closely behind me during most of the time I was there, but I couldn't have turned fast enough to see anyway, so I ignored the feeling. I waved and bobbed all over that room . . . had my picture taken with a kid twice (his mom accidentally deleted the first shot out of her cell phone). A little girl with a hard-to-resist gap-tooth grin wanted me to come see her little brother. The brother proved to be an infant who was sitting with his parents against the far wall. I wandered over, and her dad called me "a brave soul."

I was probably only there for 15 to 20 minutes . . . and then I waved goodbye and clomped back to the break room to transform back into myself. I was starting to sweat in that thing, and I had an itch in the middle of my back that needed attention. I hope I didn't do too well . . . they might want me again.

Posted by Jared at 12:34 PM | TrackBack

March 06, 2007

Collecting Oscar

I've had something, a bit of an informal undertaking if you will, taking shape slowly somewhere in the back of my mind for some time now. During the past week and a half or so, that shaping has built and accelerated rapidly into a full-blown project to which I expect to devote my resources and a fair portion of the free time that I have. I don't want to overstate things . . . I'm not going all-out. But it seemed like a fun thing to do, so I'm going to do it for as long as I care to and as much as I feel like.

Of course, I discussed here my plans to watch the Best Picture winner and other nominees for this year and write down my impressions. Then, somewhere between receiving Babel from Netflix and watching The Departed this weekend, my plan to someday mark all of history's Academy Award for Best Picture films off of my "to see" list went from vague ambition to active pursuit. And naturally I'll want to blog the experience.

If you pay attention to that sort of thing, you'll already have noticed that I've grabbed an Oscar-winner here and there (as the opportunity arose) over the course of the past semester and a half. I picked up the pace in the last month, and in-between waiting for this year's nominees to come in from Netflix I had accrued quite a little pile from the library. Plus, I own several myself.

On the day The Departed arrived, I started counting and discovered that I had 20 Best Picture winners sitting in my apartment. Bright and early Monday morning, I started combing shelves and nearly doubled that. I was further inspired by this fun feature from Rotten Tomatoes. Pretty cool. I then used Netflix to easily check off which films I had already seen and which I was still lacking.

Meanwhile, I fiddled with my Netflix queue and had 22 more winners lined up at the top (they were all already on there, but a lot of them had clumped near the bottom). That covers over 75% of the total, right there. A few more should be coming back in over the next few weeks. There are a handful that I have both seen before and would probably be too much trouble to bring back in that I may not bother to re-watch (I've seen Gladiator and The Sting several times, and I just saw American Beauty, for instance). On the other hand, depending on the breaks, I will try to re-view as many as possible.

Because this was in part an exercise to see how many I could easily bring together under one roof, I grabbed several that I've seen just in the past weeks and months (All Quiet on the Western Front, Bridge on the River Kwai, All About Eve, Ordinary People, etc.). These I probably also will not rewatch unless I feel that I didn't "soak them up" effectively. Read: okay, maybe I will. On the other hand, Rachel might go for my jugular if I try to watch The English Patient again. Hmmm . . . Tied with the above for "lowest priority."

As for the rest: There are 36 Best Picture winners that I've never seen at all, nearly half from before 1950. They obviously have top priority, and include Patton, Rocky, Tom Jones, Titanic, Dances with Wolves, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, In the Heat of the Night, and Million Dollar Baby. Needless to say, I'm more anxious to see some of these than others.

Then there is the mid-level priority: movies that I've seen before, but haven't seen since I started keeping track. These range from A Man for All Seasons and Chariots of Fire, which I'd want to rewatch anyway, to Ben-Hur, Gone with the Wind, and Lawrence of Arabia, which I'm still kicking myself about. I watched those almost right before I started the movielist, and while I don't necessarily object to watching all of them again, that kind of time is hard to come by when you want it all in one lump sum.

Nevertheless, it's been long enough for most of these that they deserve a rewatch before I write anything about them, and I want them on the list anyway. Oh, yeah, there are also a few that I saw some time ago and loathed. In all fairness, they get a rewatch . . . The two that come to mind are On the Waterfront and Gigi.

And, finally, there are the ones I've seen within the past few years, possibly more than once, that I'm always willing to see again: My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, both parts of The Godfather, Schindler's List, Amadeus, even Return of the King. However, since I've seen them so many times, and I own most of them, they may have to wait awhile before I get to them.

If you're around and you'd like to join me for any of the watching, let me know. I'll try to keep you up-to-date on what and when. And, hey, if you're not around, join me anyway long-distance. You might be able to get ahold of a fair number of the candidates yourself. It'll be fun.

Posted by Jared at 03:25 PM | TrackBack

January 16, 2007

A Very Silly Thing To Do

Ohhh, I was so irresponsible last night. But it sure was fun. Midnight, you see, marked the release of "The Burning Crusade," the long awaited expansion to World of WarCraft. There has been a great deal of anticipation building up around this release amongst the group of friends that I play with, and by the 15th we were all quite excited. I, for one, have never pre-ordered anything in my life . . . I just figure I'll go out and get whatever it is I want at some point after it comes out (one can generally count on Wal-mart). However, as the time grew closer and closer and the buzz built to a fever pitch, I began to grow worried about my prospects of acquiring it in a timely fashion.

I had to go to Wal-mart yesterday afternoon anyway, and I took a look around to see if there was any indication of a midnight release. There was nothing. Not a sign, or a poster, or a little label on a shelf . . . Ominous silence. At that moment I decided I'd rather not drag myself out to Wal-mart alone at midnight just to be disappointed by empty shelves. I resolved to stay at home, content myself with the original game for one last evening, and hop out there sometime during the morning to do the deed. (I work today from 12pm-9pm.)

As the usual evening's questing wore on, people began to talk about their midnight plans. Randy and Barbour (who had no preorders) would be joining Scholl (who had two) at a games store where Scholl has "connections." I invited myself, unable to face the prospect of everyone else in the game ditching me to explore the new content, but agreed to hover at the bottom of the priority list in case a shortage should occur. I wouldn't have minded going home empty-handed at that point . . . it was the going alone and coming back with nothing alone that bothered me. Rachel reluctantly stayed behind to finish her homework.

We arrived at the store with over a half hour to spare and found that it was (of course) already crowded with the pre-order crowd. I have seldom been less proud to be seen in public . . . it was like showing up on opening day of a Star Wars movie. The couple in front of us (who won the "costume contest" which I had been unaware of) were decked to the hilt. The woman came as a rather hideous Undead Mage. She accepted her prize with a hearty Horde battle cry, the Alliance monkeys behind me began to grumble, and I began to fear that we might be caught directly in the middle of a violent and ugly geek altercation. Her consort (or whatever) was dressed in some sort of vaguely game-related piratey get-up . . . with tight, black leather pants, a thin white shirt, and a sword. I could have done without having those pants in front of me for half an hour.

Side note: Certain readers who might in all other respects be disgusted with this post, may be proud to hear that "the rule" of refraining from WarCraft discussions in public held firm, even though we were surrounded by players and about to buy a copy of the game.

Anyway, to make a long (and by now rather boring, no doubt) story short, we waited until all the pre-orders had been filled and then stepped forward with bated breath. Barbour, in front of me, got a lecture on the virtues of pre-ordering and was told that he had gotten in just under the wire, and I braced myself for disappointment.

"I didn't pre-order, either," I ventured next, and received a dirty look and a growl of disapproval before the clerk dove for a copy. My voice barely audible now, I timidly mumbled, "Could I . . . have . . . two? Please?" Cursing the day on which my lousy, non-pre-ordering lungs first drew breath, she fetched me a second copy. I breathed freely again. Had I returned home with only a single "Burning Crusade," I knew quite well whose computer it would be installed on.

We rushed back with our shiny green boxes in our hot little hands, and set to work installing. My computer, in its wisdom, decided it did not want me to play right away. I spent 90 minutes navigating errors, bugs, and general slowness, with some help from Scholl and from Rachel's computer, and finally at about 2 in the morning, I was in!

Rachel ran a few quick quests with me before trundling off to bed, but I wasn't even remotely tired. So much to see, so much to do . . . Five hours and more later, I had visited three zones in Outland and the new zones in Azeroth, played extensively with the new playable races, created a brand new level 5 Draenai Shaman and a brand new level 3 Blood Elf Warlock (the Blood Elf explored more and quested less, for he was alone), and generally concluded that I was not disappointed at all. I helped Rachel get ready for her first class, fed her breakfast, drove her to the education building, and went home to crash for three and a half hours.

I haven't stayed up all night gaming in a very long time. It was just as fun as I remembered . . . but I don't know if I'll ever do it again. For the clueless non-players who are still reading, this post is effectively over. You may go back to your lives feeling superior. A few thoughts:

-My first order of business upon returning home will be to scrape, beg, borrow, and steal every cent I can lay my hands to get my main an epic mount. Everyone else has one, even Rachel, and I am not exploring the vast reaches of Outland trailing somewhere far in the wake of the rest of my party.

-I was immediately struck by the large number of very high heights, without any sort of safety railings, that exist in the new content, even in the capital cities. I experienced the danger of this first-hand last night when I plummeted into a ravine and landed on a very unhappy 63 elite. The fall didn't quite kill me, but the orc was more than happy to finish the job. I can't wait for flight form.

-Blizzard's art department has outdone itself. Truly. Almost every location in the new content is many times more beautiful and stunning than anything in the old.

Posted by Jared at 07:40 PM | TrackBack

January 03, 2007

Filmchat

Randy got me The Film Snob Dictionary for Christmas. That's hilarious. He wins. It also reminds me of something . . . It's that time again; time for the trimester report on the best films I saw during the last (approximately) 4-month period. I don't think whittling things down to a top 10 has been this difficult since that very first summer (2004), when I watched 137 films. Since the end of August I've seen "only" 58, but statistically they've been rather good.

While I've occasionally been forced to dip into the 92-93% types to fill up the full ten, this time there are over a dozen in the high 90s alone, with several deserving entries in the 94-95% range which will simply have to be left out of the final count. Heartbreaking. On the positive side, I have begun a list (based on my record) of movies I'd like to own. Current most coveted is A Passage to India, chiefly because I've begun to look for it specifically every time I walk into a store that sells DVDs and I have yet to find it. Eventually I shall tire of this game and buy it online, but for now I'm enjoying the thrill of the chase.

I discovered an interesting anomaly between two of the films I watched last month (which I shall go ahead and note here, since neither is in the running for a top spot). Oliver! won the 1968 Oscar for Best Picture (rather undeservedly in my opinion, but the competition was thin) and is (to date) the last G-rated film to have carried off that award. I, for one, am sure that there are very good reasons for that, but anyway . . . The very next year, Best Picture went to Midnight Cowboy, the first (and only) X-rated film to win said award. That film, incidentally, I did feel to be most deserving of its recognition, chiefly thanks to its lead actors. I was horrified to discover that Best Actor that year went to John Wayne for True Grit. Dustin Hoffman was surely most grievously robbed, to say nothing of Jon Voight.

Yeah, okay. I'll stop stalling. Let's get to it:

-Water

-Chinatown

-Gattaca

-North by Northwest

-Stranger Than Fiction

-Tsotsi

-Big Night

-Dead Man Walking

-Joyeux Noël

-The Green Mile

I rather sorely neglected to discuss the films we saw at the Kilgore Film Festival, probably because Randy and I reviewed them all for the YellowJacket (a veritable tour de force it was). There were some really great ones . . . all of them actually, with the exception of Woody Allen's boorish schtick. Water was indisputably the best (although my personal favorite was Wordplay, I have to say . . . more on that later). Incredibly moving, great cinematography and locations, magnificent performances and score, and the plot faked me out completely at least three times. I really need to check out the rest of Deepa Mehta's elemental trilogy (Earth and Fire) one of these days.

Chinatown, North by Northwest, and Stranger Than Fiction, and Joyeux Noël I have discussed before. Chinatown is a seriously worthy noir film, which felt (to me, anyway) very much like a bridge between two very different eras of filmmaking. Alfred Hitchcock . . . one of his best . . . always worth a look. Stranger Than Fiction, the most charming, likeable 2006 release I've seen yet. I hope to see it snag some Oscar nominations. Joyeux Noël, I repeat, best Christmas movie I've ever seen. You have to get it and see it . . . and don't tell me you can't. My brother tells me he even found it in Guatemala.

I have now seen Gattaca probably half a dozen times, and my enjoyment grows with each viewing. Every time I watch it, I think it can't be as good as I remember, and it's always better. It represents a flawless marriage of several rather disparate concepts, producing a retro-futuristic blend of stylish mystery and drama. There is film noir, there is the genetic dystopia of Brave New World, there is more than a hint of Isaac Asimov's fabulous robot mysteries . . . and so much more.

Tsotsi is a shocking story of unexpected redemption. I think I may have mentioned my affinity to the well-done redemption story once or twice before. This one was so excellent that it went directly onto that syllabus I was composing shortly thereafter, neatly saving me from having to insert a more controversial entry like Pulp Fiction or The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Tsotsi won the Best Foreign Film Oscar last year, and it certainly had it coming.

Dead Man Walking and The Green Mile certainly don't belong together, since they are almost nothing alike . . . but they both center around death row and feature a less than benevolent view of capital punishment. The former is a focused statement of that position, while the latter's politics are more incidental to its story. But they're both really good. I first saw Dead Man Walking in my Bible class during my senior year in high school, and at that time (perhaps not surprisingly) it failed to make the same impression as it did when I rewatched it last semester. In fact, I barely remembered having seen it. Not so this time. Very impacting.

The Green Mile I saw my freshman year of college, and I've had the urge to rewatch it several times since. I finally sat down and did it while packing to return to Texas. The deliberate, measured way in which this great movie sets up its story and characters before allowing them to unfold their little drama before us is truly impressive. This film is almost as good as its more grounded cousin (by the same author and the same director, and with some similar elements), The Shawshank Redemption.

I have saved the most exhilirating for last: Big Night, the story of two brothers (played by the hilarious and gifted Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci, who also directs) whose newly opened Italian restaurant is floundering because their customers are gastronomic philistines. A friend (and rival) with a highly successful set-up just down the road offers them one last chance to keep the place open: the attendance of a big-name celebrity at a no-holds-barred feast to be prepared by them and served at their restaurant, with full press coverage.

Big Night is an absolute joy to watch from first to last. Every performance, every scene, is a priceless gem. I didn't think a "food movie" could ever top Babette's Feast (another favorite), but this one does. There are so many magnificent moments leading up to the title event, as Primo (Shalhoub) berates his ignorant patrons and clumsily woos the local florist and Segundo (Tucci) juggles two very different women (representative of his cultural confusion), a steady relationship with an adoring American girl who wants him to settle down with her, and a passionate, illicit affair with an Italian mistress who calls him back to his roots and threatens his plans for stability.

But once the festivities begin, the film truly (and I mean truly) pulls out all the stops and just goes crazy. I won't say anymore about that, because I wouldn't want to give anything away . . . but the very last scene, with no dialogue or cutting, is pure and perfect cinema to the core.

Now, maybe this sets a bad precedent, but I have to do it. It was the only way I could talk myself into cutting a few of these off the top ten.

Honorable Mention:

-Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

I saw this one twice. It's just so wildly original; a movie about making a movie about a book about writing a book . . . pure comic genius.

-Taxi Driver

I read somewhere that a prominent movie critic declared at the end of the '70s that it had been the worst decade in film history. Well, first of all, the man had obviously not yet encountered the 1980s (which were the worst years in film history, their dubious lone contribution being the establishment, but not invention, of the summer blockbuster). Second, I can hardly believe that anyone would make such a statement about the decade that produced both Godfather movies, Apocalypse Now, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sting, and even Star Wars (to name just a few). It was quite possibly the best decade for American film, and arguably the most important since the introduction of the "talkie" in the late 1920s.

Well, that was kind of irrelevant. All that to say . . . Taxi Driver is both an important part of the milieu of 70s film, and a disturbingly sympathetic experience inside the mind of a sociopath. And also a really good movie.

-Little Miss Sunshine

I've had a lot of enjoyment for indie films ever since I saw Garden State about two years ago. It was distributed by Fox Searchlight, which finds some of the best stuff . . . among them, last year's Little Miss Sunshine. It is an extremely fun movie that I saw with Rachel and Randy and we reviewed for the YellowJacket. The great cast includes Alan Arkin, Greg Kinnear, and Steve Carrell, and it is part of a growing sub-genre of recent quirky (that's the key adjective) movies about families (but definitely not for families) moving from dysfunctional bickering to warmth and fellowship.

-Wordplay

Best documentary I've ever seen (besides Night and Fog, which is in a whole different class); interesting, entertaining, informative, innovative, hilarious . . . who knew an hour-and-a-half of crossword puzzles could be so manic and riveting?

-The Prestige

I had a very hard time deciding between this and Stranger Than Fiction, and I'm not sure I could explain what made me go with the latter. Regardless, this is right up there among the best releases of 2006 with its brilliant cast, chilling Victorian atmosphere, dark and suspenseful plot, dizzying narrative technique, and Twilight Zone-esque flair. A must-see movie that I'd love to see receive some Oscar attention, but its chances are probably not as good as Stranger Than Fiction's, sadly.

-The Mission

I was amazed by this movie, but even more than that I was amazed that no one had ever gotten me to watch it. Is it possible that Christians don't realize this movie exists? It is a story of Christian love, grace, and redemption amidst the violence, evil, and greed of the world that tells its story with honesty and recognizes the hope and light that lie even in apparent defeat and darkness, and all with a PG rating. But you won't find it in a Christian bookstore, and I've never once heard it mentioned amidst all the talk of Hollywood's anti-religious bias . . . and that is something that I simply do not understand.

And that's it for now . . . my mega-movie update of the past few months. Maybe one of these days I'll have the time to devote to keeping up with writing thoughts on these fantastic films as I'm watching them. Novel concept, that.

Oh, and one last thing: the title of this post was cribbed from this excellent blog, which Mr. Wilson introduced me to some months ago. Check it out.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

December 21, 2006

Re-assessing

This struck me as an interesting idea, so I thought I'd give it a shot, even though I have a few in common (sort of). Give the original post and the comments a look-see. They're pretty worthwhile.

Citizen Kane
I might as well start by getting this one out of the way. Allow me to quote myself: "I'm the kind of person who can watch a movie and appreciate it immensely on the technical level, but still not enjoy it, or think it is an exceptional movie." That statement is no longer true. I am now almost incapable of disliking a well-made movie. I wrote that almost three years ago, here. I think that even as I was composing that post, I knew how silly it was. Perhaps I haven't done a complete 180 on Citizen Kane in one sense, but I have developed a very deep appreciation of it that wasn't there before. In terms of pure artistry, I no longer judge a movie based on its chosen subject. I still think that The Godfather should be the #1 film on that list, but Citizen Kane's spot in the top ten is well-deserved. Dang, I need to see that movie again. I really do.

Dr. Strangelove
I first saw this film the summer before I came to college, and I was baffled (to say the least). I didn't hate it, or even deeply dislike it, I just didn't get it. The movie was one big "Huh? Why?" It didn't help that I was the oldest person in the room, and everyone else would rather have been watching the other movie we had on hand (Danny Kaye's hilarious The Court Jester). Since then I've probably seen it 7 or 8 times, each with increased enjoyment. I realized the last time I watched it that Strangelove is probably one of the few movies that I could record my own commentary track for, and easily fill up the entire film with a steady stream of trivia, history, and analysis. If I could keep from laughing, anyway. I tend to spend most of Strangelove doubled over, even now.

Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Let's track back the other direction, shall we? I was 15 years old when the first Star Wars prequel came out, and it had only been 2 years since I saw the first Star Wars movie. I was still climbing toward the peak of my fanaticism for the franchise. Phantom Menace came out on May 19th in the United States, but didn't come out until late June in Guatemala. We came to Texas that summer on around June 17th . . . in other words, I had to wait a ridiculously long time to see one of the most anticipated movies ever. I had remained scrupulously spoiler-free, with the exception of about 500 viewings of the video recording I had of the trailer.

From the moment the lights went down, I was enraptured. I adored every frame of that movie. I believe it jumped immediately to the number 2 spot on my hierarchy of Star Wars movies (The Empire Strikes Back remained and remains unsurpassed). Suffice to say that Phantom has not fared so well as Empire as time goes on. By the time Attack of the Clones came out in 2002, my loyalty was shaky, and when Revenge of the Sith (which I've still only seen once) was released three years after that, I had long since fallen off the prequel bandwagon. I don't hate Episode I (all of the prequels have their moments . . . the final one is pretty good . . . and there are just too many happy memories associated with Star Wars for me to despise them), but I do hate certain portions of it, and I don't harbor any illusions about its quality.

I'm sure I could (and will) think of more movies to write about here, but I'm very tired right now and it's nearly time for me to get ready to fly to California this afternoon. Respond with your own changes of opinion, if you can think of any. I'm interested to know what you come up with.

Posted by Jared at 12:00 PM | TrackBack

November 27, 2006

The Wheelers Take a Short Holiday

My grandparents generously flew me and Rachel out to Lubbock for Thanksgiving this year for what definitely felt like much needed vacation time, hence my brief absence of the last week and change. The first part of last week was crazy, getting everything ready to go and generally sprinting towards four and a half days of blessed relief. I worked Sunday afternoon so that I could leave early Wednesday and get to Dallas in time to make our flight out of Love Field.

We left Longview at 3:00 (a hair later than I had hoped, but not too bad) to make a 6:50 flight, and listened to my current audiobook endeavor (The Last Juror by John Grisham) along the way. We got to Love Field at 5:30 with what I felt was a reasonably comfortable margin (I had already checked us in online). Venturing inside we discovered our flight was delayed until 7:30, which was far more than we needed. Neither of us was hungry, and I took a nap until it was almost time for our plane to depart. We were met at the airport by my granddad, who took us to get some food at Taco Bell. Brett and his girlfriend (Holly) arrived at my grandparents' house soon after we did to visit for a few minutes before bedtime.

Thanksgiving Day was very nice . . . sleeping in, lots of yummy food, lots of family, some games, a movie or two, etc. Brett had to work that evening (he is a manager at Hollywood Video) so we went by to visit him during his break, stopping to buy some candy and soda along the way (I needed caffeine . . . always conspicuously absent from my grandmother's house). Brett apprised us of a sale on previously-viewed movies, and sweetened the deal by throwing in his employee discount, so we browsed the collection and came away with 7 titles:

A Mighty Wind (VHS, $1)
Hoodwinked
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Rent
Everything Is Illuminated
Good Night, and Good Luck
Junebug

I was particularly pleased to add that last to my collection, having resolved several months ago that I would buy it. To this shiny pile I later added Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief from the bargain shelf at Hasting's (thus bringing my Hitch collection up to an even two dozen, with a mere 6 titles left to acquire).

My grandma picked us up on Friday morning and we spent a very enjoyable day with her, with delicious Mexican food for dinner (lest turkey grow tiresome). Brett and Holly were present once again, and I watched a movie with Brett while Holly and Rachel gabbed in another room. We returned to Lubbock on Saturday after lunch just in time for me to meet Brett, Holly and one of Brett's apartment-mates for the matinee showing of Borat.

On the subject of that movie I have a great deal to say, but I shall confine my remarks to this: In setting out to ostensibly lampoon, parody, satirize, and otherwise ridicule American bigotry and intolerance for the amusement (presumably) of a more enlightened public, Sacha Baron Cohen has succeeded in three things.

First, he has created a character and dragged him through situations that only an audience which is either bigoted or is callously unaffected by racism and discrimination will find consistently funny.

Second, in his search for wanton bigots (of which I'm sure there are still more than a few left in our country) he has somehow managed to find almost exclusively tolerant, hospitable, genuinely nice people who go far farther out of their way than I would to tolerate "Borat's" belligerent, cruel attempts to offend them.

Third, of the few outrageous reactions that Cohen manages to wrench forcefully from his victims (because, racists or not, everyone who has scenes with Cohen are victims themselves), almost all are the result of repeated actions by "Borat" which are far past the lines sanity and good taste. In short, he has proved that, if pushed hard enough and long enough, most people do have a breaking point. Fascinating.

This is not to say that every moment of this film is a failure. I can think of one scene (really only one) that succeeded rather well. It got me to laugh from time to time. But then, some of the situations are staged and some are not (with no differentiating between them), so it's hardly playing fair at any point. By and large, a cataclysmic effort. I don't understand what is wrong with the critics on this one, except that perhaps they are afraid to criticize what is ostensibly satire for fear of appearing to "not get it."

Anyway, enough about that. I had a fun evening back at my grandparents' house and we ate lunch at IHOP (much to Rachel's delight) before dashing to the airport to make our 2:00 flight back to Dallas. The drive back to Longview was (of course) even more peaceful than the drive to Dallas, and I felt rested and ready for the short haul to Christmas. Rachel, well . . . She still has lots of major projects and whatnot. But I'm sure she'll manage.

Posted by Jared at 12:49 PM | TrackBack

November 05, 2006

A Trip to the Bookstore

Books-a-Million had a one-day sale today, 20% off everything in the store. Naturally I was there. My only goal upon arrival was to be sure and leave with Lemony Snicket's 13th book in the Series of Unfortunate Events: The End. I wasn't sure what else I might wish to acquire. After browsing for quite some time, I decided it would be worth my while to beef up ye olde Southern literature library. I got:

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe - This is the novel that pretty much kicked off the Southern Literary Renaissance in 1929 (not counting the groundwork laid by the Fugitive Poets, of course).

All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren - It has been called the greatest novel ever written about American politics, and its author has a list of credentials longer than my arm. He was our country's first Poet Laureate and won 3 Pulitzer Prizes. He was also one of the four central members of the Fugitive-Agrarians (mentioned above). Should be a good book, methinks.

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy - This one is from a later period, a thin volume which one the National Book Award in 1961. Percy is a Christian Existentialist, and his books are supposed to be more than a little humorous.

Jubilee by Margaret Walker - Published in 1966, this is a historical novel by a black author. Its action takes place during the same period as Gone With the Wind and its heroine resembles Scarlett O'Hara . . . except that she is half black. The story is based on the author's own family history.

Collected Stories by William Faulkner - I thought about getting either Sanctuary or Light in August, but I had a brain freeze and couldn't remember which one I already own. Upon arriving home, I soon discovered that I own both. Sweet.

Now, if I could just sit down and finish Wise Blood and Pale Fire.

Posted by Jared at 12:09 PM | TrackBack

November 04, 2006

A Tribute to The Elfin Ethicist

I was both shocked and saddened today to learn that my good friend Jonathan Wilson has decided to discontinue his blog of some years, "The Elfin Ethicist." His gravitas, his humor and his many high-quality contributions to our little circle of blogs will be sorely missed for as long as he exiles himself from self-publication. I happened to be talking with him when I discovered this, so of course my first impulse was to tell him how I felt personally. My second was to leave a few words of my own on his final post. And my third was to "relive" Wilson's blogging years, as it were, and to compile a few memories and old favorites here as a sort of tribute.

This marks yet another transition in our slow departure from The College Years. I've wondered over the past few months if my residence on campus this year is prolonging the agony of parting, like tearing a band-aid slowly off of a wound. But I'm not ready to let go just yet, and there are too many good friends still here for me to even begin to regret. Meanwhile, Wilson's decision feels like just one more connection severed between us and those wonderful times.

I'm not actually certain when Wilson started blogging. I believe it was during the summer (perhaps spring) of 2003, months before he encouraged me to do the same. For a more precise date I would need to ask one of the older bloggers (one of the Scholls, or even Wilson himself). His blog began, as many of ours did, at a blogspot address, and that original content has since been taken down.

The current Wilson archives begin in the spring of 2004 . . . the historian in me is horrified by the gap. And speaking of horrifying gaps, as I trolled through said archives I quickly noticed definite gaps where further posts have been culled from the published ranks (I have vague memories of Wilson doing this, I had simply forgotten). In particular I felt rather keenly the loss of a comparative essay on Secondhand Lions, Big Fish and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind which I have revisited and even shared numerous times since its original publication. Where is that essay, Mr. Wilson?

Ah, well.

The following anthology is not meant to be comprehensive, or to really capture "the essence of The Ethicist" in any particular form. They were simply entries that jumped out at me as I scanned the past few years. I hope they will be revisited and enjoyed as such.

Quotations I & II

These two entries really brought the memories flowing back. Our "Quotation Booklet" days were always so much fun, and Wilson's inclusion of some of our finest gems was one of the highlights of blogrolling in its time.

The Yiddish Project

Remember this? Anyone? Such a mechaieh. Halevai, such hulien, such fun. I could just plotz.

A day in the life of Stupid Penguin

Wilson's unique version of stress relief sometimes resulted in some really great creative efforts involving nothing more than some free time, a camera and a few friends (along with the occasional prop).

Whatever is excellent, part I

Whatever is excellent, part II

When it comes to being a "Culture Warrior," Bill O'Reilly hasn't got the first clue. This sort of thing is where it's at, and I've always appreciated Wilson's ability to articulate the positions we share.

A recent call to Dr. Laura

Speaking of great creative efforts, I'm still not sure what inspired this hilarious exercise. Sheer whimsy. A true classic.

Spring Break Open Thread 2005

I'm sure everyone remembers these little rule-breaking games. They always wiled away the breaks very nicely. I won one at some point. I don't really remember which. Anna and Ma Hoyt took the prizes on this one.

The first duty of a doctor

In the absence of that excellent essay I mentioned earlier, I present another excellent film journal . . . Wilson's mid-summer encounter with Ingmar Bergman.

Either/or

Another of Wilson's occasional recurring games (often cribbed from other sources, of course, but shared liberally nonetheless). I always liked this sort of thing.

In search of reform

Mmm. Such youthful idealism . . . ode to a Lost Cause.

First-person pronouns

A plea for growing up

Far be it from me to resurrect controversy, but I'm still rather attached to both of these posts, despite the firestorms of flaming they provoked. In addition to the fact that they gave me a chance to really think about and discuss something I felt strongly about (I always relish the opportunity), I think these discussions really taught all of us a lot about having a good discussion. I know they helped me a lot, at any rate. I credit these posts with the civil, productive nature of discussions on my own blog in recent months. Oh, be sure and jump to the bottom of the comments on that first post for good times . . .

Always greener

Ah, World. A consistent source of inspiration in the culture war. Posts like this were the reason I was pleased to discover that Wilson's mother has recently renewed his subscription to that publication.

History Carnival XXIV

Wilson was our reliable source for the History Carnival every time it rolled around with historical goodies for people of all persuasions. The one he presided over himself was particularly excellent, I must say. And I remember fondly the fun resources he brought in amidst his research and preparation, as well.

My quest for the Holy Grail

I recall trouble breathing when I first read over this journal for our Grail quest class last semester. Months later, it is still good for several chuckles and a few guffaws, and I doubt it will diminish any with age.

The Great Longview Marketing Tour

Another one of those creative bursts with good friends and a digital camera. We'd been planning this one for years, but the urgency of imminent parting finally made it happen.

Reading List

I wouldn't want to have a tribute without including a "Reading List:" Wilson's occasional submission of some of his best finds during his Daily Reading of the Internet.

How to write tendentious history

Wilson generates some pretty great lists when inspiration strikes. And they're didactic as well as entertaining.

Jonathan W. Wilson

Not from Wilson's blog at all, I thought it might be appropriate to conclude with Leatherwood's glowing commendation of Wilson himself.

Wilson, when you get the urge to start blogging again, be it tomorrow, next year, or even further down the road, don't hesitate just because I've thrown up a tribute for you. After over three years of running a top-notch blog that has enriched us all, you had one coming anyway.

Cheers.

Posted by Jared at 02:32 AM | TrackBack

October 11, 2006

The Hitchcockian Way

I have adored Hitchcock movies for so long, I can't even remember which one I saw first . . . probably North by Northwest. That's certainly the one I've seen the most. I've had different favorites at different times: the aforementioned North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Psycho, Rear Window . . . By this point I couldn't really name a favorite, maybe just point to a few that aren't it.

When Andy moved to Guatemala with his family in 1997, old suspense movies and radio shows were just one of many things we both enjoyed. And, of course, Hitchcock's movies and television programs figured prominently in many an evening's entertainment (along with the likes of Wait Until Dark, Dead Ringer, The Bad Seed, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and anything with Vincent Price).

I believe it was the summer of 2001, which I spent in Colorado Springs with Andy, when AFI aired their "Top 100 Movie Thrills" TV special. We ate it up, and decided on the spot to watch every single one of the top 100 (that we hadn't both already seen). 9 of those movies were Hitchcock films, and I believe Rebecca, Notorious, Stage Fright, Psycho and Vertigo were among the Hitch movies I saw for the first time that summer. Other notables included The Manchurian Candidate, Gaslight and Laura. I actually don't think we covered a lot of ground as far as that list was concerned, between one thing and another, but that is neither here nor there.

It has long been my ambition to own every movie that Hitchcock ever made, but for a long time my goal was even more basic than that. I wanted to at least watch every single Hitchcock movie. The lack of either a civilized cable service or well-stocked video stores in a third-world country made that difficult enough at the outset, and Hitchcock films have been depressingly slow to be released on DVD.

Plus, there are just so many of them, it doesn't make sense to buy them unless one is buying in bulk. And here we encounter another failing of "Hitchcock on DVD" availability: the incredibly poor selection of so-called "Essential Hitchcock" collector sets. Few if any of these since the inception of DVD has included more than one or two Hitch movies made after his first big success in 1935, and the bulk of the set is inevitably rounded out with the ones you've never heard of.

I forgot to mention earlier that somewhere along the line I saw one of Hitchcock's pre-break-out films, Sabotage, and Oh, brother! My ambition vis-a-vis Hitchcock films thinned out at that point to a desire to see/own all of his more or less well known stuff beginning (with a few notable exceptions) in the post-1940 era.

Anyhow, the point of my rambling here is this: Everyone in circulation has to take turns writing a contribution to the monthly newsletter, and I signed up for the month of October with mystery/suspense as a general topic. I probably don't even need to tell you what I decided to write about . . . my article appears beneath the fold.

Well, researching and writing about Hitchcock got me thinking again about my old desire to own more of his films, and I started hunting around on Amazon.com for good collections. An evening of poking and prodding revealed an offer I couldn't refuse, and (with Rachel's unexpected blessing) I bought two collections with a total of 23 Hitchcocks between them at about $5.50 a film. Score.

They are: Foreign Correspondent (1940), Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941), Suspicion (1941), Saboteur (1942), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rope (1948), Stage Fright (1950), Strangers on a Train (1951), I Confess (1953), Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), The Trouble with Harry (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Wrong Man (1956), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain (1966), Topaz (1969), Frenzy (1972), Family Plot (1976)

Of these 23 I have seen 13 (most only once). A quick perusal of the list reveals that there are a mere 7 remaining Hitchcock movies that I wish to own, and shall hopefully acquire at my leisure as opportunity allows: The 39 Steps (1935), The Lady Vanishes (1938), Rebecca (1940), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946) and To Catch a Thief (1955). Of these, I have never seen The 39 Steps or Lifeboat, but I am particularly anxious to see the latter.

Five of the above seven (not Lifeboat or To Catch a Thief) were released in a set by the Criterion Collection in 2003. They originally sold for $124.95. I'm not sure if they can still be acquired at list price or not, but as near as I can tell they cannot be purchased now for anything less than $200 . . . and prices range as high as $700. I have seen all but one of these movies and I find it hard to believe that they are so rare and hard to come by as to be worth such exorbitant amounts. Nevertheless, Criterion is the shiz when it comes to movies, and it is somewhat infuriating to see most of the remaining titles I seek packaged so neatly and priced so far out of reach . . . especially after paying so little for the other (many undoubtedly better) films.

Anyway, I'll stop rambling about that for now . . . drop beneath the fold and enjoy the article. I had a lot of fun researching and writing it, and I got to do it while I was at work, so it was just generally a good afternoon.

He was born the son of a greengrocer in London’s East End at the turn of the last century, but by the mid-1930s he was well on his way to achieving worldwide fame and popularity as one of history’s most influential film directors. Alfred Hitchcock (b. 1899 – d. 1980) revolutionized, popularized and legitimized the suspense thriller during a career in motion pictures and television that spanned more than five decades.

The best part about Hitchcock’s films is that, while they are tense, exciting, and full of surprises, they are also smart, thought-provoking, and loaded with intriguing insights into the human psyche. His movies feature a recurring motif of fractured identity. For instance, the main character of Rebecca has no name of her own. We never learn who she is at the beginning of the film, and she soon marries widower Maxim de Winter and becomes only “the Second Mrs. de Winter” for the duration of the story. In Vertigo, private detective Scottie Ferguson loses his grip on reality when his inability to face his deepest fear results in personal tragedy. Notorious has the daughter of a Nazi saboteur infiltrating a group of her father’s friends as a double agent. And in North by Northwest, Roger Thornhill is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies and mistaken for a murderer by the police at the same time.

Deeper themes aside, Hitchcock’s movies are also just a lot of fun to watch. He once said, “Some films are slices of life, mine are slices of cake.” Hitch (as his friends called him) had a bone-dry sense of humor (he suggested that his tombstone read “This is what we do to bad little boys.”) and a penchant for practical jokes.

The great director made brief cameo appearances in every single one of the 62 movies he made between 1927 and the end of his career in 1976. In one film, he walks out of a pet store with a few dogs. In another, he wrestles a large cello case onto a train. In yet another, he rushes up to board a bus only to have the doors slammed in his face. In a few, he appears only in photographs. Hitch always tried to insert these amusing appearances as early in the film as possible, because he knew that savvy fans would be watching for him and he didn’t want to distract too much from the story.

During his long and illustrious career he worked with some of the brightest stars in Hollywood. His leading men included Laurence Olivier, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Paul Newman, and Sean Connery. Among the great actresses he directed are Joan Fontaine, Ingrid Bergman, Doris Day, Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint, Kim Novak, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh, and Julie Andrews. Gentleman or not, Hitch clearly preferred blondes.

Despite directing an Oscar-winning performance (Joan Fontaine in Suspicion) and 1940’s winner of “Best Picture” (for Rebecca, awarded to producer David O. Selznick), Hitchcock himself won almost no awards for his incredible efforts. Throughout his lifetime he was nominated for 6 Oscars, 3 awards at the Cannes Film Festival, 6 awards from the Directors Guild of America, 2 Emmys, and 2 Golden Globes. Of those, the only award he actually collected was a Golden Globe for his TV show “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Nevertheless, his movies continue to startle and delight a large audience even today, more than 25 years after his death.

For more information about Hitchcock, have a look at one of our biographies about him (you’ll find him sandwiched, rather unfortunately, between Emperor Hirohito and Adolf Hitler back in the Biographies Section). Kids interested in a good mystery can read one of several books in the series endorsed and inspired by the man himself: Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, located in the Junior Series section. And, of course, be sure to check out one of the classic movies he directed (our collection is listed below). I personally recommend Rear Window and North by Northwest as perhaps the best of a good bunch. Whether you’ve seen them many times before or you’re just getting started, a Hitchcock film is sure to please.

The 39 Steps (1935) DVD, Rebecca (1940) VHS, Suspicion (1941) DVD, Notorious (1946) VHS, Rope (1948) DVD, Strangers on a Train (1951) DVD, Dial M for Murder (1954) DVD, Rear Window (1954) DVD & VHS, To Catch a Thief (1955) VHS, The Trouble with Harry (1955) DVD, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) DVD, Vertigo (1958) DVD & VHS, North by Northwest (1959) DVD & VHS, Psycho (1960) DVD & VHS, The Birds (1963) DVD, Topaz (1969) VHS

Posted by Jared at 03:06 PM | TrackBack

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:

-Junebug

-Man on Fire

-The Right Stuff

-Baby Doll

-Anne of Green Gables

-Reservoir Dogs

-Syriana

-House of Sand and Fog

-Swimming With Sharks

-Double Indemnity

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.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

The Joy of Four Plays

(This title the product of a snicker-filled brainstorming session with Randy.)

Rachel and I, along with the Scholls, Randy, and Barbour . . . and our good friend Wilson (who drove up from Austin especially for the occasion) did the Texas Shakespeare Festival last weekend. A play Friday evening, two plays on Saturday, and a play on Sunday afternoon . . . a veritable stage marathon of epic proportions. The breakdown:

Friday evening: Coriolanus

This is one of two little-read, little-performed Shakespeare plays put on by the TSF this year. He took his plot from Plutarch's Lives. The "hero" of the story (one of the least sympathetic I've encountered in Shakespeare) is a Roman general of unmatched skill on the battlefield, and unmatched disgust for the common man.

The first wins him great renown and a chance to be made consul. The second not only loses him his shot at being consul, but gets him banished from Rome, whereupon he goes straight to his worst enemy, Aufidius, the leader of the barbaric Volscians, and offers to lead his armies against Rome.

This he also fails to do when his mother comes to beg that he turn back, and for his failure, he is slain by the Volscians. The end. Coriolanus is such a moron that I found him difficult to sympathize with, but the performances were largely quite good, and the play certainly had its moments.

Saturday afternoon: The School for Husbands

One of two non-Shakespeare plays performed at the TSF, this one was written by Moliere. It was probably the most enjoyable of the four, and the best in terms of both material and execution. It was translated from the original French (obviously) and the translator largely preserved the characters' speech in rhyming couplets . . . amusing or painful, take your pick. I enjoyed it despite bad Alexander Pope flashbacks.

It is a farcical piece about two brothers who are the guardians of two sisters. Each brother raises one of the sisters as he sees fit with the intention of one day marrying them. The elder indulges his ward, allowing her to stay out late, attend balls, and shop for fashionable clothing, hoping to win her love through trust and respect. The younger keeps his ward under lock and key, never allowing her out of his sight, hoping to preserve her (loving or otherwise) by ensuring that she has no opportunity to cuckold him.

Of course, the younger brother's ward cleverly schemes and connives to trick him into letting her marry the young man across the street. There was much prancing, posing, witty banter, and slapstick for the enjoyment of all before the final curtain.

Perhaps the funniest moment of the weekend, though, was entirely unplanned. Near the end, the younger brother's mustache began to peel off, and when (in a moment of great distress) he reached up to stroke it while speaking, it came away in his hand. Staying in character, he stared at it for a moment, wide-eyed, then agitatedly plucked off his goatee as well, stared at it, then shoved it at a silent character whose only purpose was to hold a lantern saying, "Oh, take this!" and went right on. When he came out to take a bow (still sans facial hair) he smiled slightly and stroked his bare upper lip, much to our amusement.

Saturday night: Pericles, Prince of Tyre

The second Shakespeare play . . . and what a sprawling, fractured, out-of-control Arabian Nights piece it is. It begins promisingly, with Pericles arriving in a foreign land to answer a riddle posed by the king. If he gets the answer right, he gets the king's daughter (who is in an incestuous relationship with his daughter), but if he gets it wrong, he must be put to death.

The answer to the riddle happens to be the fact that the father and daughter are committing incest, and when Pericles figures it out, he naturally wants nothing to do with her. The king, enraged that his secret has been discovered, wants Pericles dead (turns out it was a lose-lose situation) and he must flee across the Mediterranean, hopping from port to port, pursued by assassins.

All sorts of wild things start happening at this point . . . there are multiple shipwrecks, the wicked king and his daughter are struck by lightning, Pericles gets married and fathers a daughter, but loses both wife and child. The wife is presumed dead, but is "resurrected" by a wise doctor (only mostly dead) and becomes a priestess in the temple of Diana. The daughter, left in the care of the king and queen of Tarsus, is nearly killed, but is suddenly rescued by pirates . . . who sell her to a brothel. But she isn't violated because every man who comes to see her is completely charmed by her virtue and goes away to follow the straight and narrow.

Time passes in great and illogical leaps, and the hapless Pericles is eventually reunited with his daughter. Then, just when it seems like the play might go on forever without resolution, Diana appears to Pericles in a dream and directs him to his wife.

Not the best of plays, for sure, but it also had its moments. Most of these moments came when the actors stopped playing the material straight and began to ham it up a bit . . . but such moments were far too few and far between, and the performance suffered for it.

Sunday afternoon: Harvey

I've always been partial to this play . . . well, particularly to the movie version starring Jimmy Stewart, and so I think my expectations caused my experience with this performance to suffer. Nevertheless, it is a charming play, and I still enjoyed myself thoroughly. The way they played some of the parts revealed a few things within the text that I'd never noticed before in the more strait-laced black and white movie . . . that was fun. Harvey was just generally a nice way to end our TSF experience and enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon.

I greatly enjoyed the theater-going experience of last weekend, and I shall certainly look forward to the productions next summer . . . Hopefully they'll choose some better Shakespeare while keeping up the quality of the non-Shakespeare selections. In any case, that's all for now. I'm off.

Posted by Jared at 12:14 PM | TrackBack

June 15, 2006

The Honeymoon is Over

Alright, yes, I know. I have neglected my blog to the point of abuse. I've had a busy month, and when it wasn't busy, I was amusing myself in other venues. It's been a pretty good month, though, in case you were wondering in the midst of the clamor for me to confirm my continuing existence. Anyway, I can already tell from the composition of the last few sentences that I have missed doing this, so let's move forward.

In case you haven't seen Rachel's blog, I had a wonderful honeymoon: relaxing, refreshing, entertaining . . . "etc." We were at Holly Lake Ranch, a bona fide beautiful spot in East Texas with all the amenities required to keep us entertained (you'll have noted, for one, the sidebar listing, which should be changing shortly).

I got back into Longview ready to tackle the disaster area in our apartment and start looking for a job . . . and was pleasantly surprised to find that a whirlwind (Paige and Morgan, actually) had flown through our apartment and given us room to walk around. We bought a few things, like a bed, TV, office chairs, and bookcases, and set about assembling and unpacking. A month later, I'm finding it pretty homey (thanks almost entirely to Rachel, of course).

Meanwhile, I was starting to comb the Longview want ads and building my resume since I hadn't heard back from the library in over a month. However, I was finally persuaded to call them back and check on things, and (after I left a message) they called me back the next day, very happy to have found me. I thought I'd given them Rachel's cell phone number, but I hadn't . . . and I was hired full-time, with benefits, and at a 15% higher wage than what had been listed when I applied.

I have now been working for the City of Longview since the end of May, so this is my third week. I am very happy here, very satisfied with the work, and ecstatic to have a job that I don't hate. I am in charge of library reserves as well as helping at the circulation desk, and all new books that the library receives come through me before going out to the shelves (extremely cool). I'm working 9 to 6 with an hour for lunch, and once I am fully trained I will move into the rotation to work one weekend a month and two "late nights" (until 9pm) a month. I expect to be here for the next few years (the estimate right now is 3) before moving on to graduate school.

This summer is gonna be weird for blogging, I expect. I won't be doing much in the blogworthy realm. The Texas Shakespeare Festival is coming up in mid-July, and I expect it to be quite noteworthy, and there might be another thing or two of that nature. Other than that, I'll pretty much just be working, playing, and sleeping in regularly-scheduled time allotments for the rest of the summer. There might be the occasional library anecdote, like the little boy who walked in and put a book on the shelf of a different branch and he and his mother thought that counted as him returning it, or the temperamental fire alarm that made us evacuate the building twice in 24 hours.

I'm typing this in short bursts between patrons and a woman just checked out To Kill a Mockingbird on DVD. As she walked away she told her son that she couldn't bring herself to read the book, so the movie would have to do. It made me sad.

Anyway . . .

Posted by Jared at 10:44 AM | TrackBack

May 04, 2006

Gone Tomorrow

Today I am a single college student. In 36 hours I will be a married college graduate. I can do this . . . I can do this . . .

Paradigm Shift!

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

April 28, 2006

Freeze It

I just got out of my last class as an undergraduate college student. It was Intro to Political Science with Dr. Johnson. I wore my Che shirt and black leather fedora. I showed up five minutes late. We talked about national security, international relations, and the United Nations. I got my last handout, and my last class assignment was handed back at the end. I got a 100. And then I walked away.

Posted by Jared at 01:30 PM | TrackBack

April 26, 2006

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme

Our Grail class made a pilgrimage to the Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival a few Saturdays ago to spend a day in the period we've been studying (sort of). Standing around while Dr. Watson picked up our tickets at the window, Wilson and I could already see a hint of the diversity we would be encountering pouring through the gates. The costumes ranged from wonderfully authentic to scandalously authentic to bizarre conglomeration to simply silly. I was envious of the guys sporting cavalier hats with ample plumage, sympathetic to the plight of large-chested women who (apparently) "could barely afford enough material to cover their breasts," and generally disdainful of those who seemed to be attempting some sort of Ren/Goth conglomeration. Emo just isn't medieval. Sorry.

Wandering through the gates, I wound up in company with Wilson, Rachel, and Rachel's friend Alyssa (who is also in the class). Wilson and I wanted to find ourselves some good hats, and look at cool things. Rachel and Alyssa wanted to look at boring things. Tension is essential to drive action, so I knew it would be an exciting day.

There was an additional ulterior motive behind the apparent aimlessness of our fair exploration, however. Wilson and I knew that there was more to be had at Scarborough than the novelty of the garb, jousting, and the like. Always avid seekers of illumination in any form we can get it, we resolved to locate the Holy Grail and make off with it, if possible. At the very least it might be worth a few points of extra credit. Arrayed against us was a whole host of devilish foes, both medieval and modern, internal and external, flamboyantly obvious and subtly hidden. In order to locate the Grail, we would have to best them all.

Our very first battle, one we were forced to wage throughout the day, was against the lure of commercialism. Everything was for sale, and everything looked good. There were costumes, trinkets, weapons, props of all shapes, sizes and varieties. Certainly we needed to leave no stone unturned in our attempts to locate the Grail, but it was difficult not to linger extensively over items that had nothing whatsoever to do with our quest. One particularly fiendish shop was full of items that might have included the Grail. Some of them looked very similar to what we were looking for, but we were not fooled. There can be only one Holy Grail.

The second obstacle, which we had foolishly brought with us, was (shall we say) female in nature. Everyone knows that no good can come of interacting with women when one is on a Grail quest, and our own experience was no exception. The girls were a constant distraction, wandering off at the drop of a hat or staring dull things for minutes on end. I, of course, couldn't leave them behind, and it was up to Wilson to show extra fortitude in standing by his companion on the quest instead of sallying forth alone.

The distractions kept coming, next in the form of shiny armor and feats of arms. We wandered off the path to watch the knights at work in the tournament grounds, darting about on horses and spearing things with lances. And, of course, after watching them for a bit, a new temptation made itself known: a test of gluttony. The flesh, in its weakness, demanded sustenance and I was drawn inexorably in the direction of large chunks of delicious white meat hanging off of turkey bones. Just as I finished with that (and my cup of apple cider), Rachel pulled out candy, and we ended up spending a great deal of time at table.

Not to be put off forever, though, we renewed our search with even more fervor after lunch. Wilson was the next to be tested, this time by vanity. He wandered into a hat shop and tried various articles on, checking them in the mirror and trying to decide which one he wanted. By the time all of this was done, the afternoon was wearing on and we were dangerously close to our time of departure.

To make a long story short, we managed to stay one step ahead of the big parade and scuttled into a section of the fair which we had not yet visited. There, in the back corner of a small booth, we found the Holy Grail. It shone like gleaming silver in the sunlight, standing solidly on a wide base with its long, elegant stem flowing upward into the distinctive communion-style "bowl" of the vessel. An attendant noticed our interest and wandered over to tell us about it.

After an ardent and lengthy quest that had lasted through many tests and many hours and consumed our visit to Scarborough Faire, our hopes of retrieving the Holy Grail were finally dashed entirely and with great finality (although we did get to touch it).

You see, he wanted money for it. Lots of money. How very Catholic of him.

Posted by Jared at 01:37 PM | TrackBack

April 24, 2006

Experiencing an Episcopal Eucharist

I had the opportunity recently to partake in "an instructed Eucharist" with Dr. Watson, my classmates from Hero Quest and the Holy Grail, and Rev. Carol Petty, associate rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Longview. We have been studying the various versions of the legend of the Holy Grail throughout history, and almost all of them involve some sort of Eucharist in a central role. Naturally, Dr. Watson could not offer us a genuine Catholic Eucharist, because we aren't Catholics (with one exception), so he got as close as he could and arranged for us to attend our own service at Trinity Episcopal one Thursday night.

We arrived at the church that evening and were greeted by Rev. Petty, dressed in street clothing. She led us into the sanctuary (I think that's still the term that Episcopals use, but I'm probably going to get a lot of the terminology wrong) and explained various things to us, answered our questions, and prepared us to work our way through a service. We each got a bulletin from the Sunday before, so we could follow along and join in when necessary. Then, Dr. Watson and Rev. Petty went to put on the appropriate vestments so they could lead the service.

I found the service very personally meaningful, as I have when I attend St. Michael's. I enjoy the sense of tradition, the rituals, the heavy reliance on scriptural readings, recitation of the Nicene Creed, and sense of community throughout the service. I grew up attending churches of all kinds, but mostly those of a very informal tradition. I used to think that I liked it like that. Adherence to tradition smacked of legalism, and Christians are freed by grace to approach a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ in whatever manner they wish. The key here is basically freedom; not trying to pin anyone down, not saying that only one way is the right way to do a thing. But I've seen too many people take that and run too far with it, and eventually I got tired of watching.

My experience with the Episcopal Church has been the opposite of what I would have thought years ago. The ritual is not a factor of legalism, and the adherence to tradition is neither blind in its rigidity, nor particularly constraining. In fact, I have found that members of the denomination seem even more free than most of their Protestant brethren. It has given me a new perspective on the idea of "freedom in Christ."

But I digress . . .

The service included readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, Gospels, and Psalms. Dr. Watson preached an abridged version of his sermon from the Sunday before (involving baseball and his brief stint as a Little League umpire), and there was a prayer time. I volunteered to lead one of the responsive readings. All of this led up to the taking of communion. We all climbed up next to the altar and stood around it in a semi-circle while Episcopal communion was explained to us. Then we adjourned to the rail and partook of it together. Trinity uses wafers (St. Mike's uses actual bread) and watered-down wine as the elements, and they are administered by the priest to each individual in turn. I really like that.

Of course, the wine came from a very Grail-like cup, and it took very little imagination to picture what we were doing in the light of the stories we've been reading. I am reminded once again, as when I read de Troyes version of the Grail story, that this quest is really all about spiritual illumination, not the acquisition of a physical artifact. It's strange how often people miss that.

Posted by Jared at 08:48 PM | TrackBack

March 10, 2006

End of the . . . Mid-Semester

I've just come from the Liberal Arts offices and the atmosphere there is reminiscent of the end of the semester. I'm sweating out my last hour of work at the library watching clips from "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report." My brain has been on break since last Wednesday night (more or less). My only responsibilities this week were a test in Poli. Sci. on Monday (which I got an A on), and a group presentation in Grail Quest on "The Grail Legend" by Emma Jung and Marie-Louise Von Franz last night (which I don't have a grade for yet). I can't remember anticipating a break this much since . . . oh, at least last November.

My plans for Spring Break are:

1) Search rigorously for a job in town that I can plug into once I graduate . . . preferably something that I won't hate, but I can't really be picky.

2) Work at the library to keep the bank account afloat this semester.

3) Homework: I'm 4 or 5 weeks behind on Southern history papers, and I need to start reading my sources for the Thomas Dixon paper. I also need to catch up on the reading for Grail Quest and start preparing for my individual presentation on The Once and Future King. I have to read the book we're reviewing for the paper next issue, Liars and Saints. And I hope to have time to glance at that independent paper a bit . . .

4) World of Warcraft . . . the joy of Spring Break for me will be the complete freedom I'll have in the evening not to worry about homework or any other such obligations. I'll probably spend them playing video games with the few people who are sticking around on campus.

45 minutes left . . . I can't wait.

Posted by Jared at 02:14 PM | TrackBack

March 07, 2006

It's All So Exciting!

I am painfully aware that I have not actually updated my blog in a ridiculously long time. The factor which makes this awareness painful is that the past month has been far from uneventful, and yet I have failed to right it down. At this juncture, of course, it would be out of the question to reproduce everything as I might have done had it just transpired . . . but I'll hit a few of the highlights of the few weeks.

The Famous "Intro to Fine Arts" Field Trip

I've watched my friends trot off to spend a day in Dallas with Dr. Watson for several semesters now, and I finally got my own chance to go a few Fridays ago. I had to be at the bus by 7:30, but it was certainly worth it. The day was extremely eventful, but the real highlights boil down to an extended chance to look at pretty things (or "interact with art" as Dr. Watson would say). We went to the Texas Hall of State, the Meyerson Symphony Hall (to hear a concert on their ridiculously large organ), and the Dallas Museum of Art.

The bus broke down around the time we were supposed to leave the DMA, so I got to wander around it with Ashley for quite a bit longer than would otherwise have been possible (a fact which pleased me enormously). I saw some great stuff from all sorts of periods and cultures: Impressionist, Modern, Asian, and so forth. I especially enjoyed the chance to appreciate some more modern work. By far my favorite piece, however, was a short film by Miguel Angel Rios called "A Morir" . . . it was shot from three angles, all of which played simultaneously on three different walls. Look it up and read about it . . . it was very moving and thought-provoking.

The Infamous Review of Brokeback Mountain

Randy and I wrote a review of Brokeback Mountain for the YellowJacket and called it what it was: a magnificent and moving film which does not promote what the rabid fundies would describe as a homosexual agenda. For our pains we (and the newspaper) received a few condemnatory e-mail messages, one of which was also sent to the university president and some other higher-ups. Our review also came up in Senate in the context of a number of guys on a particular floor having had a problem with it.

The ultimate outcome of it all was a statement issued by the administration to all floor chaplains re-affirming their standing statement on human sexuality (homosexuality = not kosher) and we are printing a few of the e-mails as "Letters to the Editor" in this week's issue. Also, our esteemed editors encouraged us to brainstorm creatively with them to try and discover a way to give foolish knee-jerkers even less of a reason to complain without having to rate or describe a movie's morality (at which point I would stop writing reviews anyway). We ultimately settled on including the reason for the MPAA rating of a movie along with the rating which we had already been including, and changing nothing else.

I had a whole lot to say on this issue, I can assure you, and I have been more than a little disgusted by some of the responses I have seen and heard about. However, on the other hand, people that I actually respect have both complimented and encouraged us and our review. A certain unnamed authority figure told me today (in reference to this) to "Keep challenging." He needn't worry. I will.

The 9th Annual C.S. Lewis and the Inklings Conference

Last weekend was a whole lot of fun for me. I headed up to John Brown University with Dr. Batts, Dr. Solganick, and several other students to present a paper at the CSLIS Conference. My paper was the one I wrote last semester for C.S. Lewis about what Lewis says about the power and inadequacy of human language in his book Till We Have Faces. My paper was one of the first ones on the program, so I got it out of the way fast and enjoyed the rest of conference with no pressure. Actually, though, I wasn't even nervous about delivering it at all. I talked to fast, I'm sure, as I always do, but I got several compliments on the paper afterwards and I was quite satisfied, all in all.

And I didn't just get to present the paper, I also got to see Asa and hang out with him a bit. That was a lot of fun . . . and I owed him a visit after he came to LeTourneau last semester. I also got a lot of good thinking done on the 7-hour drives going and coming. On the way up I planned an independent paper I want to write on the effect that shifts in American culture during the past 50+ years have had on movies about King Arthur and the Holy Grail. We'll see if anything comes of that. On the way back I got quite a bit of reading done in The Grail Legend by Emma Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz . . . I have a group presentation on the book in Grail Quest this Thursday night.

Anyway, there are a few of the highlights that I have neglected to record of late. Hopefully you'll be hearing from me some more on . . . something or other before too long has gone by again. Meanwhile, I'll stay busy and try not to have too much fun (probably won't manage that last, actually).

Posted by Jared at 04:40 PM | TrackBack

February 12, 2006

Close Encounters of the Shallow Kind

So, I was in the mall eating lunch with Rachel today and we happened to notice a fairly large gathering of people in the central plaza. Wandering over to get a closer look, we happened upon a twisted and sickening sight: Dozens of small girls between the ages of about 6 months and 5 years dolled up in bows and frilly dresses and being paraded on a stage by their mothers as part of what was apparently an infant beauty contest.

A number of words and phrases came to mind at this point, things like shallow, irresponsible, bad parenting, and self-esteem death. There were babies who couldn't even walk, and little 'uns who could walk but obviously had no idea what was going, all being paraded about like mantlepiece ornaments.

However, I believe the scariest one of all was a small girl who couldn't have been older than five. She stepped confidently onto the stage, face completely straight, and sauntered across to the center. Turning to face the audience, she placed first one hand on her hip, then another, shifting her weight in the appropriate direction. There was nothing innocent or childlike in her movements at all. Nothing but her size differentiated her from adult beauty contestants that I've seen on TV. She was all business.

What's she going to be like by the time she hits 12? 15? 18? What about the other girls? How will they turn out, being raised by mothers who are already shoving them onto the modeling stage? The entire display was simply depressing.

Me = Disgusted

Posted by Jared at 03:21 PM | TrackBack

January 18, 2006

The Final Courseload

Ha! Who am I kidding? As if this isn't the first semester of the rest of my life . . .

Intro to Poli. Sci.

My only comfort is that Dr. Johnson is teaching the class. I have no personal interest in Political Science whatsoever, and as a class to take in my last semester, I consider it a shame on the order of having wasted my senior year in high school on government and economics. Bleah. The course, apparently, will consist of four short writing assignments and four exams. It will not be a difficult class, but I'll probably have a hard time getting an A. I don't work well when I'm not motivated by the material.

Hilarious side note: LeTourneau claims to be educating me in "History and Political Science" and the latter will appear on my degree. This, however, is the first and only political science course I have ever taken. It is one of two that the school offers at all. And, I'm not required to take this specific course for that degree. I'm taking it for my English degree.

Intro to Fine Arts

Like political science, I have had no classes in the arts, how to understand them, and how to appreciate them. My feelings about this subject, however, could not be more different. I'm really enjoying this class, and I expect will be both fun and useful. The reading quizzes are a nuisance one needn't put up with in most of his classes, but I can deal. We'll be taking a field trip later in the semester to the Dallas Museum of Art, and that will be a lot of fun I'm sure. I've been hearing about the Watson field trip and watching friends make it for years now. Finally time to go myself. Meanwhile, his lectures are hilarious and entertaining, as always. Last class he spent 20 minutes railing about "Precious Moments" and his visit to the Precious Moments Chapel.

Seminar Readings in Southern History

No monster papers this semester, but probably a great deal more reading than last semester. Dr. Johnson handed us our syllabus and our first reading assignment yesterday. We'll have eight weeks of guided reading, with a 2-3 page analysis paper due each week, and then we'll be on our own to write an 8-10 page paper which either examines the historiography of a particular topic, or examines primary source material to produce a work of original research. Not too bloody difficult, is it? Our first reading, however, is quite lengthy, containing two excerpts from Albion's Seed and an excerpt from The Slave Community. I also hope to have my own field trip to Vicksburg sometime this semester. A bit of research indicated that it is only three hours away, a straight shot down I-20. I need to be sure and get over there . . .

Hero Quest and the Holy Grail

This will be a fun class for sure. It is, of course, a Dr. Watson class, and its topic is a pet favorite of mine. I actually dreamed up a fantasy class that was very similar to this a few semesters ago . . . and now it's here! I actually don't need the credit, but I certainly wasn't going to pass it up. This class is precisely the reason why I've taken summer courses and worked harder than I needed to a few semesters. A light final semester gives me opportunities I would not otherwise have.

Dr. Watson has us reading Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes this week. On Thursday night, I will be presenting on "The Knight of the Cart (Lancelot)" with Wilson, Moore, and Sharpton. We will also read From Ritual to Romance, Le Morte D'Arthur, and The DaVinci Code this semester. Plus, Watson has us watching quite a large number of movies ranging from The Lion in Winter to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I also plan to do an individual presentation on The Once and Future King in lieu of one of the three sets of five journals. I already have a critical study on the way from inter-library loan.

As for other responsibilities this semester . . . I'm still writing for the paper, I'm still secretary of AHM (we don't do much, but we do a few things), and there's the minor matter of a wedding to help plan. In addition to the field trips I've already mentioned, AHM hopes to organize an expedition to John Brown for the C. S. Lewis and the Inklings Conference. And Martinez discovered a live performance of The Phantom of the Opera in Dallas that we would like to try and see.

I expect to have fun this spring.

Posted by Jared at 11:14 AM | TrackBack

January 12, 2006

Business As Usual

My Schedule for Spring '06:

Monday

Library (10:15-12:15)

Introduction to Political Science - Dr. Johnson (12:25-1:20)

Tuesday

Introduction to Fine Arts - Dr. Watson (12:00-1:20)

Independent Study in Southern History - Dr. Johnson (Exact Time in Flux)

Wednesday

Library (10:15-12:15)

Poli. Sci. (12:25-1:20)

Library (1:30-2:30)

Thursday

Fine Arts (12:00-1:20)

Hero Quest & the Holy Grail - Dr. Watson (6:00-9:00)

Friday

Library (10:15-12:15)

Poli. Sci. (12:25-1:20)

Library (1:30-3:00)

Saturday

Library (1:00-6:00)

I'll be sure to post more about my classes when I have a bit more time to evaluate them (Southern History hasn't met yet, for one).

Top Ten Movies of the Fall Semester and Christmas Break:

-The Decalogue

-Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

-The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

-Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

-A Streetcar Named Desire

-Orlando

-The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

-Pride and Prejudice

-Crash

-Ocean's Eleven

This list is slightly unusual because I didn't watch as many movies last semester as I normally do. As a result, I had a much smaller pool to choose from, and there are a few movies on this list that wouldn't normally have made the cut. Nevertheless, there are some true all-time favorites up there, and I hope to see some really good stuff in the days ahead as well. Meanwhile, to make up for it, check this out. It's the sequel to Dogville, and I can't wait to see it (there's a trailer up here).

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

January 05, 2006

Post-Christmas Guatemala Update

Well, you haven't heard from me in a while because the freaking internet has been down throughout large portions of the country since Christmas Day. It's still down in various places, including at our house, but my dad has it at the office, and I am posting from . . . thence. Or whatever.

Anyway, Christmas went pretty well. I spent Christmas Eve helping with this and that, and then we had our traditional meal of chalupas and enchiladas at 3:00 in the afternoon instead of the usual supper time. The changed time was the result of cataclysmically bad planning on the part of person or persons as yet undiscovered. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we couldn't get out of going to Fraternidad Cristiana (my parents' church). One of the orphanage girls was dancing in their Christmas program, so we all had to go, which disrupted all of our Christmas traditions.

Going out somewhere was the last thing I wanted to do on Christmas Eve, so I wasn't particularly please. Brett was even more peeved. We sat next to each other and . . . "commiserated" during the service. It was two hours long, and I've been to far more painful church services in my time. There was a really terrible "adaptation" of A Christmas Carol about halfway through, but the only thing it had in common with the original was the first name of the main character and "God bless us, every one!" at the end. I guess it was also trying to be It's a Wonderful Life and . . .The Godfather. It was bizarre and confusing, and most of the lines were riddled with obscure slang, so it was difficult to understand. Didn't really work for me.

Anyway, we returned to do the same old thing: watching the kids open presents, doing fireworks, bringing the kids' stocking over after they went to bed, and then we went home and crashed. Christmas Day was a fine affair. I didn't get many presents (since I hadn't really asked for anything besides a couple of plane tickets) but I got a lot of money which will come in quite handy.

To briefly summarize the ensuing days: I went to Alumni Day at CAG and saw various people. Afterwards Rachel and I went bowling with Asa, his younger sister Rachel, and Miss Rensch (my math and science teacher from high school). Last Friday we went to Panajachel, my favorite place in the world, to welcome the New Year. Pana is a small town on the edge of a gorgeous lake surrounded by volcanoes. It was very pleasant.

In the meantime, we've been amusing ourselves with this and that. Micah got the first season of Lost for Christmas, so we watched all of that. Freaking show is nothing but a big tease . . . grrr. We've also watched season two of Monk, we'll make a start at season three before we leave. That's such a great show. Rachel and I played through The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for X-Box together. Micah got it for Christmas. It's a pretty good game as long as you can utterly ignore the source material and the wretched camera angles . . . *cringes.*

So, that's all the news for now. I'm sure I'd have posted a great deal more about all of the above if we'd had internet, but that's the way it goes. I'll be back in town on Sunday afternoon, and I can't wait to see everyone. Farewell 'till then.

Posted by Jared at 12:06 PM | TrackBack

December 23, 2005

Pre-Christmas Guatemala Update

Well, I've been back for over a week now, and so far I've taken the easy way out and just posted chunks of my paper (as you may have noticed). But I see that it is time for me to compose a post on my activities, such as they are. Things were pleasantly slow for the first few days.

On Thursday my mom and I gave Rachel the Grand Tour of the orphanage . . . and a lot of it was new to me. Two years, as I've said before and will say again, is too long to go between visits. I saw people around here again, and that was fun. Then we went to pick up my brothers from school and I said hello to a few people around CAG that I haven't seen in quite some time.

On Friday Brett got here and we continued to do stuff. I was re-watching Firefly with my brothers (who hadn't seen it) and re-watching Pride and Prejudice (the definitive mini-series version, not that new Keira Knightley krap) with Rachel (who hadn't seen it). Mostly it was just extremely relaxing.

Saturday was much the same, and on Sunday morning my dad was preaching at Union, the english-speaking church in Guatemala City. We went there for the late service and I ran into even more people I haven't seen in awhile. Asa had come in the same day as Brett, so I saw him there. I was also introduced to Dan Todd, a fellow that I have heard much about from my parents and Mr. Fry. He teaches English at CAG, and I was told we had much in common . . . so that was fun. Hopefully I'll have a chance to talk to him a bit more while I'm here. Meanwhile, after the service, I poked around in the used book room and found a very nice copy of The Poisonwood Bible which I purchased for Q1 (about 13 cents).

On Monday Rachel went with my mom on the weekly grocery shopping expedition, and I stayed around the house anticipating Tuesday's outing. We had to be up by about 6:30 on Tuesday morning to go spend the day in Antigua. Quick history lesson:

In the early 1500s, Hernán Cortés (as everyone knows), led the Spanish conquest of Mexico. His second-in-command was Don Pedro de Alvarado, who went on to conquer Guatemala in the 1520s and became its first Spanish governor. He established himself in what is now known as "Ciudad Vieja" (Old City). After his death in 1541, his wife, Doña Beatriz de la Cueva, became the new governor.

However, shortly thereafter, a nearby dormant volcano (now known as "Agua" or "Water" for reasons which will soon become obvious) collected a veritable lake of water after several days of rain, which was released from the crater by an earthquake, resulting in an enormous deluge which eradicated the city. The flood killed Doña Beatriz and about 1000 others. In 1542, the survivors of the flood founded a new capital a bit farther from Agua, which is now known as "Antigua" (Antiquity).

When it was first built, Antigua was named "La Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala" (The Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Santiago of the Knights of Guatemala). Over the course of the next 200 years it became one of the wealthiest capitals in the New World, but it was largely destroyed by a pair of earthquakes in 1773. The governor at the time ordered the construction of a new capital in a safer location. Construction began in 1776 on what is now Guatemala City, the current capital. Should anything ever happen to it, its name will no doubt be changed to "Anciano" (Ancient One), or something of that nature.

Meanwhile, Antigua still exists in much the same form it always has. A building code was imposed upon it so that everything constructed there must conform to the colonial style. The streets are still paved entirely with cobblestones. It is a gorgeous city, full of museums, old churches, and ruins. It has a lovely central park full of beautiful trees and eroding stone fountains, and it supports a thriving retail community of small vendors of typical clothing and trinkets.

We began our own visit to Antigua with breakfast in the Hotel Santo Domingo. The hotel is one of my favorite places to visit. It is located within a refurbished monastery of the colonial period, and everything is very well preserved and taken care of that might have historical value. The owners are constantly excavating new sections, which are open to be viewed by the public, and the hotel also supports a candlemaking shop, and a pottery shop.

Rachel and I wandered down into one of the crypts while we were looking over the grounds, and found a large sculpted relief of the crucifixion scene dominating one wall. There were large sections of floor covered with human bones, and sealed off with glass to protect them. It was very eerie, but very cool. Breakfast was delicious, and we were well fortified to continue our tour.

We went to a nearby coffee plantation which my parents have discovered since my last visit and took the hour-long tour of the place. There was a coffee museum, which outlined the history of coffee, the entire process by which it is grown, harvested, and readied for consumption, and detailed some of the economics involved in coffee production and sale.

The next time you're forking over a hefty sum at Starbucks for your cup of gourmet brew, consider this: for every dollar you spend on coffee in the United States, sixteen cents goes to the producing country and eighty-four cents is divided between the retailer and the importer.

After wandering through the museum, we saw a bit of the actual plantation. Harvesting had just begun the day before. Workers are paid a little over $3 for every hundred pounds of coffee berries that they pluck from the trees. A hundred pounds of coffee takes approximately eight hours to pick, so that is their wage for a full workday during harvesting season. The harvesters are all women, and they bring their children (some too young even to walk) along to help pick. That hundred pounds of coffee berries, once its beans have been extracted, dried, roasted, and ground, will translate into about sixteen and a half pounds of actual coffee.

Moving on from the plantation, we visited the Church of Hermano Pedro de San José de Betancurt. Hermano Pedro is a Guatemalan saint who was canonized on July 30th, 2002. He lived and worked in Guatemala for about fifteen years in the mid-1600s. The priest was just beginning the Eucharist when we arrived, so we wandered around the edges and stared at the statues and candles and so forth. Hermano Pedro had three or four supplicants kneeling at his tomb.

We exited the church and went around to the back to wander through the museum and ruins. The museum has tons of relics related to Hermano Pedro, including his clothing, the rope that he used to flail himself with as penance, and the skull he held while meditating on death. There are also pictures on the walls of everyone that he has done favors for, and a collection of crutches from lame people that he has healed. Its an interesting place.

By now we were hungry again, so we shuffled off to eat, and then spent about three hours shopping. Rachel found a bunch of stuff she liked, and I tried to pretend that I wasn't terribly bored. By 4:00 we were nearly ready to go, just stopping of briefly to enjoy a stroll in central park before heading home again. It was a fun day.

Wednesday, Thursday, and today have largely been spent helping my mother with a variety of things. We made sure that stockings for 44 children were adequately stuffed, and ensured that everyone was receiving roughly the same number of gifts. When we first sorted and inspected the piles, we found that the number of presents ranged from two to ten (an unacceptable discrepancy). By the next day we had equalized things to a range of five to eight presents per child, and decided to call it good. Rachel has also been baking a lot for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and my mom has been very happy to have the help.

At any rate, I am quite tired now, having typed a great deal in the midst of my vacation, and I am ready to wander off to bed. Christmas festivities begin shortly! Merry Christmas everyone!

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

December 14, 2005

Travel Day

It is quite good to be home, I must say . . . Better, even, than I thought it would be, despite months of feverish anticipation. Perhaps the pleasure of being back in Guatemala was heightened by the horrors of travel, I dunno. I swear, I used to love flying, back before my legs got too long for it to be comfortable. But now, I hate travelling more and more every time I do it. I told Rachel yesterday that the current state of air travel in the United States is a foreshadowing of the downfall of Western Civilization, and the more I think about it, the more true it sounds.

Anyway, perhaps a paragraph or two to catch the world up on my activities of the last month would not be amiss. I pretty much poured all of my blogging efforts into the "Top Fifty" list, and didn't have any time left over that wasn't taken up by schoolwork. Since last we spoke of life, I visited West Texas for Thanksgiving along with Rachel and her brother Jonathan. We had a pretty good time . . . and Jonathan did most of the driving, which was nice. I got almost all of my Christmas shopping done while I was there, and relaxed a bit more than I should have, knowing that I wouldn't have another chance to rest until I was sitting on an airplane.

Seriously, I feel as though everything between my return after Thanksgiving and my arrival in Guatemala was just a single, interminable day. It was positively dreadful. By the time I got back I was 15 pages into my 33-page paper for Intellectual History. I had to reread and present and write a paper on Till We Have Faces, plus finish the three quizzes I'd missed for C. S. Lewis. I had various last-minute details to see to about the Student Literary Conference, and I had to present my paper there and chair another session, and I had to write something for the newspaper about it. I had five journals to write for Literary Criticism. I had five journals to write for Reading the Bible as Literature, and a rather dense book to read. I had to collaborate with Paige on a book review of Memoirs of a Geisha, which I'd only half finished. I had to complete an overdue reflection paper and come up with some sort of resume for Crapstone. And all this was work to be done aside from finals week business, and packing to leave for Guatemala on the Wednesday of finals week (a departure time that was beginning to look more and more like a mistake).

Well, I got it all done, obviously, although I probably pulled 6 all-nighters or so during the intervening period. The C. S. Lewis presentation was on that Tuesday, the Literary Conference was that Saturday, my Intellectual History paper was the following Wednesday, my Bib as Lit journals were the day after that, and my Lit Crit journals were the day after that, after which I still had to find a time to write my paper for C. S. Lewis. Two of those all-nighters were this week (Sunday night and Tuesday night). I was finishing up my take-home final for Apocalypse through the Ages within an hour of departure time.

But it's over now. The trip down was an adventure. Uncle Doug locked his keys in his car at the first gas station where we stopped on the way out of Longview. For awhile I was more worried he was going to go fling himself in front of traffic than that we wouldn't be able to get back in the car. Rachel's brother came to our rescue with a few coat hangers, and we were on our way after a half-hour's delay. That cut things a bit fine, of course . . . We got a bit lost in DFW (despite all the times I've been there) because we took one wrong turn and couldn't go the right direction for awhile.

When we finally got to the gate, the line was out the wazoo . . . But we made it to check in with 45 minutes to plane departure. We also discovered that the weight limit has been decreased from 70 to 50 pounds. Even now that fact makes me want to engage in a profanity-filled rant. My suitcases will not hold that little weight . . . Besides which, one of them probably weighs a full 15 pounds by itself. I own books that weigh 10 pounds. It's just not right. Moving on, we had to clear security next. It was, as usual, an enormous hassle. The line was incredibly long and very slow-moving. We, of course, had to take off shoes, jackets, empty pockets, pull out Rachel's laptop from its bag within a bag . . . and then re-assemble ourselves instantaneously in order to avoid a traffic jam. We reached the gate just in time to hear the final boarding call.

We boarded amidst a crowd and found, of course, that there was absolutely no more room in the overhead compartments. Can someone explain to me what this racket is all about? Either luggage manufacturers are making carry-on suitcases that they know are too big, or airlines are using airplanes that they know are too small to hold everyone's carry-on luggage. Either way, everyone involved is a flipping 'tard. I turned around and asked a very irate stewardess what I was supposed to do. She said I could either go to the very back of the plane to stow my stuff (unacceptable . . . I'd have to be the last person off when we arrived) or I could check it.

I opted to check it . . . but I had to stand around for five minutes waiting for people to stop coming in so I could get back out with the two suitcases. Then, we sat at the gate for about half an hour after the final boarding call had been given, waiting for late connections so that other people could make it aboard. I have no objection to that practice, personally, having had a number of late connections myself . . . but why did they give a final boarding call if we were going to be there an additional half hour?

They showed Fantastic Four on the way down, but I slept the entire flight. Once we arrived in Guatemala, I bulldozed us through immigration, then sat for what seemed like forever waiting for the luggage. It seemed like most of our bags were about as separated from each other as they could be while still being on the same plane. Two of them happened to be right next to each other, and a very stupid young lady that was standing next to me refused to make room for me to get both of them off no matter how many times I said, "Excuse me." So, I proved to myself that, in fact, I haven't been gone too long. I knocked her over with the bags when I hauled them off. She wasn't happy. I didn't care.

We fought our way outside to where my family was waiting, got loaded into the van, and grabbed some supper from Burger King. I suddenly remembered that I hadn't eaten all day. We got home, everyone else went to bed, and Rachel and I watched "Mr. Monk and the Airplane" and laughed profusely.

Conclusion: Air travel is fast becoming the ever-loving suck of the world, but it's great to be back home again.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

November 15, 2005

Reflections on 1000 Books

Tonight is something of a momentous occasion for me. It is a night that I have been anticipating for over nine years, and that I originally expected to arrive four or five years ago. On July 1st, 1996, when I was 12 years old (nearly two months shy of 13) and about to enter 7th grade, I set out for the umpteenth time to see how quickly I could read The Chronicles of Narnia all the way through.

Before I was even halfway done with them, I had already decided to see how many fantasy books in general I could read over the course of one month. And shortly after that, I just decided that I'd keep a record of every book I read, beginning with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, from then until the end of time. I've kept a "Booklist" in a Microsoft Excel or Works spreadsheet ever since (okay, actually I started in Word, but my dad recommended the switch, then helped me make it, before the first year was out).

For the past nine years I've celebrated the New Year twice. As January 1st approaches, I enjoy the Christmas holiday, consider what I have accomplished in the past year, and think about what the next 365 days will bring. As July 1st approaches, I begin to read furiously (I can generally do that in the midst of the summer with no trouble) so that I will have as many books as possible "logged" for that year of reading. I take a look at my reading progress for the past year, and resolve to read even more next year. Usually I have my eye on a number of books that I'd like to have read by then, as well. The tradition changes the way my entire midsummer works.

Tonight, November 15th, 2005, at age 22 and well into my senior year of college, I completed The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, which is the thousandth book on my list (specially selected from half a dozen candidates to fill that particular role). I have a vague idea that this was the number I was aiming at back in '96. I have no idea what I intended to do once I'd reached it . . . I think I just wanted to see how fast I could get there. Well, now I know. But I've been reading fewer books every year, and so presumably I couldn't do it that fast again.

Anyway, I know what to do with it now: Tuck it away and set out for the second thousand. Maybe I'll see how long it takes me to catch up to the present year AD or something. Then, at least, I'd have some kind of representation in terms of reading material for every year since the time of Christ. Because if there's one thing I've realized with the completion of every book I've ever read, it's the fact of how many I haven't. No one warned me, at the tender age of four when I first began to read, or at any point after that, that reading is a Lernean hydra. You can't read a book without having thirty you haven't read thrust rudely into your conscious awareness.

This may come as a nasty shock to Rachel, who earlier wondered aloud whether, perhaps, I might be able to "stop" now, but as far as I'm concerned, I'll never be well-read, but I'll always be trying to be.

Meanwhile, now that I have reached the magic number 1000, and found it to be (as I have suspected for quite some time now) inadequate even as a bare beginning, I can at least launch a special project here on my blog which I have been planning ever since the arrival of the thousandth book became a tangible reality rather than a mere concept. Beginning very soon and continuing over the course of the next few weeks, I will post a listing of my 50 favorite books (the top 5%) off of my Booklist in small, bite-size chunks.

The list has been mostly assembled (though, of course, always subject to change) for some time now, after I had reflected extensively on how best to compile and present such a list. First, I had to decide which books belonged on the list.

Of course, my Booklist itself is by no means populated exclusively by "good literature." For example, over 5% of the list is made up of Hardy Boys mysteries. Star Wars novels comprise nearly 10% of the list. However, the top five most represented authors (not counting Franklin W. Dixon, of course, as that is a pen name used by numerous authors), are as follows: Agatha Christie (32), William Shakespeare (25), Beverly Cleary (20), Sigmund Brouwer (18), and Isaac Asimov and C. S. Lewis (both 17).

My Booklist records a work's title, author, and the rating (out of 100) that I gave it. The ratings have shifted so drastically over the years, and were so totally bizzare to begin with, that they are now meaningless to everyone except (sometimes) me. I soon realized that, out of the 38 books I have given a perfect score, only a little over half of them would make it to my top 50. More deserving books have been given lower ratings in the past. Also, I realized that over 25% of all books I have read have received a rating of 90 or higher. This is clearly ridiculous. I mean, I get a great deal of pleasure out of the simple act of reading, and that is certainly a factor, but come on . . .

Then I wondered about order. At first I had them ranked from least to most favorite, but I played with them and played with them and finally realized that it was silly to try that. In the end, I dropped them all into a spreadsheet, categorized them every which way from Tuesday, and sorted them to see what worked best. I decided that I would present them in chronological order, as I read them. I think it shows best how my tastes have changed, along with how what I'm reading has changed, but also what has remained the same.

All that to say, I had a fun time of it selecting my 50 favorite books of all time and listing them off. There are four things to keep in mind as I post them in the days ahead:

-I limited myself to only one work per author on the list. This allows the list to reflect more of the authors I enjoy reading, so that it is implied that some of their other works are among my favorites as well, and I can keep the list more diverse. It also really helped me wittle down the candidates.

-In a few very special cases, I have counted books which were published seperately as a single work. I have tried not to let this get out of control, and only used it with the works that are available in a single-volume edition. There were certain cases where I truly felt that either a single, favorite book could not be separated from others without losing part of what makes it a favorite, or that the books must be taken together to be complete. In a few cases, I felt that a single volume was, perhaps, not a favorite, but that the whole definitely was. That's just the way it is sometimes, and my list reflects that.

-This is not a list of The Best Books I Have Ever Read. I wouldn't presume to judge that . . . I wouldn't dare. These are simply the books that I have gotten the most pleasure from reading over the years, and which I most heartily recommend to others or enjoy discussing with fellow fans. I would like to think that, in a sense, there is at least one book or author on this list for everyone. In other words, I would hope that everyone might find at least one of their own favorite authors on this list (if not their most favorite), or that (if they haven't read them all) there is at least one book or author which would number among their favorites.

-In the spirit of that last observation, I would very much relish any commentary from my audience regarding my list. Congratulate me for including a particular book. Tell me I'm crazy for including a particular book. Shake your fist at me for not including a particular book, or (as it is quite possible that I haven't read it) recommend that I go find myself a copy. But, most importantly, say something. I've had a great time pulling this together, and it exists for me, chiefly, but I love talking about this stuff with others. Let me know what you think.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

November 08, 2005

Notice of a Brief Sabbatical

Some time has passed since my thoughts surfaced here,
And more time still must pass ere I return.
For heavy still weigh loads of work so drear.
'Tis far I am from done howe'er I yearn.
The academic stress is almost tidal:
Calling for my attention undivided
(Thinking on't makes me feel suicidal)
Still papers (three) and journals (ten) are wanted.
Yet due dates come and due dates go, as always,
Quite unlike fun which waits 'round every corner.
It follows me through Liberal Arts hallways,
And during times with friends I'll keep forever.
Reader, please, keep coming back to visit.
When stuff happens, you'll certes hear all about it.

Posted by Jared at 09:17 PM | TrackBack

October 27, 2005

A Proposal to Make

To be perfectly honest, I'd had my eye on the R. W. Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport (specifically, the beautiful gardens attached thereto) for months. Exactly one year before, Fall Break 2004, I had planned a visit to this same gallery with Anna, Scholl, and Randy as a fun break activity which would allow me the chance to see a page from a Gutenberg Bible. At the time I was taking History of the English Language, taught by Dr. Watson, and he offered extra credit for a one-page summary of the experience. The expedition was planned for October 26th, and, as Rachel and I had had DTR the day before, I asked her along. It was our first date, and I rather enjoyed myself.

By Fall 2005, marriage had already been a topic of serious conversation with Rachel. I had visited her family in California. She had played a role in the ring selection process. We were both well-aware of the approaching one-year-of-dating mark on October 25th, and she had stated a number of times that she rather expected me to propose on that day. I wanted to propose on that day, it seemed fitting somehow . . . and I wanted to do it in this great location I'd had my eye on due to its significance to us personally, its beauty, and the fact that it is outside of Longview, and even Texas. But how on earth was I to do that without giving away the game? It's not any fun if it's not a surprise.

Well, I by now I was enrolled in Reading the Bible as Literature, again with Dr. Watson, and once again he offered extra credit for a pilgrimage to visit the Gutenberg page. Gallagher and Randy were in the class with me, and the following idea occurred: If I framed this journey in the form of a quest for extra credit with friends along (and Gallagher actually doing the driving), while hinting that I still had business to attend to before I could propose (ring acquisition, parental consent), perhaps she wouldn't see it coming. Parental consent had, in actuality, been acquired nine days previously, and the ring had arrived the day after that, so everything was in place. I passed my Fall Break in a state of high anticipation, wishing I didn't have to wait until Tuesday.

We set out shortly after lunch on the 25th. Gallagher had the ring secured in his pocket so that its presence would not be detected on my person by accident. We had a pleasant drive to Shreveport, waving a gleeful goodbye to Texas at the border, and arrived at the art gallery in due time. Of course, before I could lead Rachel out into the gardens and do the deed, we had to tour the entire gallery.

It seemed much smaller the last time I was there, and every time I thought we had seen the last room, we found a new wing to explore. Finally, though, we had seen everything. When Rachel paused to tie her shoe, Gallagher hauled me around a corner on the pretext of re-examining a bronze sculpture called "The Puritan" which we had both previously admired and stuffed the box with the shiny in my left jacket pocket.

Suddenly, it seemed to be nearly impossible to get Rachel to leave the gallery. She stopped in every room on the way out to look at things we had already seen, and discovered another room we hadn't visited before we reached the exit. At the front door, she paused to slowly peruse the brochures and selected several to take with her. The instant we stepped outside and made for the gardens around the back of the building, she spotted a bench and sat down. All the while, I had my left hand in my jacket pocket, and I felt that it was starting to become noticeable.

Gallagher and Randy took the opportunity of her pausing at the bench to get a headstart towards the gardens, and left us completely in their dust. As we approached the first divide in the path and I attempted to steer her down towards the central pond, she stubbornly pulled towards the direction they had taken and I had to talk her into going a different way. To their credit, Randy and Gallagher went completely to ground, disappearing quickly and remaining out of sight for quite some time.

Rachel, meanwhile, (and, in retrospect, neither of us are certain of how the conversation took this turn) regailed me with the details of a recent conversation with her roommate, wherein they had both resolved to say "No" the first time some hapless fellow proposed to them. I still can't believe she did that to me. Here she was turning me down a full 2-5 minutes before I even planned to ask. Too late to change plans (were I to take her threat seriously), and too early to know whether she was serious, I chose to take this in the most positive possible light: as a sign that she had no idea what I was about to do.

Before long we had arrived at an isolated bridge over a trickling stream. The only people in sight were a pair of landscapers a few hundred feet upstream, totally absorbed in moving rocks, or digging, or something. I stopped mid-bridge, much to Rachel's confusion, and started talking. I'll probably never be able to remember exactly what I said . . . I got out a few semi-romantic and heartfelt, though probably platitudinous, statements. I was having a little trouble piercing directly to the heart of the matter, so I attempted to bridge the remaining gap with a private joke.

Every now and then during the previous year of dating, I'd say something to Rachel like, "I have a proposal . . ." and she'd immediately interrupt with, "No! You can't do that yet! You have to have a ring first!" This response has become standard and automatic whenever the word "proposal" creeps into the conversation. So I said, "I have a proposal to make . . ." and my voice trailed off, waiting for the standard response so I could pull out the ring and proceed in proper fashion. I didn't get the standard response. I got Rachel's mouth dropping wide open, and a breathless, "You're not serious! Here? Now?" I guess I must have said it a bit differently than normal.

A combination of this unexpected response and the recent revelation that her answer would be "No" anyway caused me to hesitate. I had my hand out of my pocket by now, the small, padded box nestled in it, and I was standing there, vascillating. That would have been a good time to simply dive in, but I chose instead to make sure that it was, in fact, a good time. "I've got the ring. You want me to do it here?"

*mouth still agape*

"Well? Shall I?"

"Ummm . . . I . . . Uhhh . . ."

Somehow I got the idea that I could go for it, so I did: I hit one knee (a startlingly awkward position, it turns out) and popped the question. She was too shocked to do anything but say yes, and I suddenly realized that this must be the real reason that proposals ought to come as a surprise. It's not important so that she can have a pleasant surprise; it's important so she'll be caught completely off-guard and won't have time to think about doing anything stupid . . . like not accepting. I offered her the ring, box and all, only to be met with: "I'm not putting it on! That's your job!"

"Oh." Well, it was all the excuse I needed to stand back up, anyway. I fumbled it out, slipped it almost-deftly onto her finger, and we continued with our walk while she stared at the shiny-ness and tried to recover. We reached the bottom of the hill, and the center of the garden, only to find that it was even more isolated, and more beautiful, than the location I had picked. I had jumped the gun, snatching at the first hint of complete isolation for fear of somehow running into a large group of people around the next bend and being completely unable to proceed. Rachel looked around sadly, "This is a pretty spot, too."

*sigh* "You want me to ask again?"

*large grin, nod*

*sigh* "Okay, gimme the ring back."

We selected a new spot together. I really can't do it justice without a lengthy and awkward description, but it was very pretty: a shady flagstone island in the center of a largeish pond fed by small watefalls and surrounded by bronze sculptures. I asked for the second time in much the same manner as I had pictured myself asking for the first time. "See?" I said, as I slid the ring back on. "I improve with practice."

Rachel has two proposal stories to choose between, and personally I rather prefer my second attempt . . . but the historian within constrains me to accuracy. And the storyteller within says that this version has a higher entertainment value. And maybe neither story is truly complete without its other half.

Gallagher and Randy finally reappeared as Rachel was talking to her parents on her cell phone. Her first words to both her father and her mother had been some variation of, "How could you not tell me?!" She claims to hate surprises . . . and definitely hates being "the last to know." Gallagher amused himself by listing off everyone else who had known of my plans beforehand, including Uncle Doug and his (Gallagher's) parents. Oh, I feel should note somewhere the oddity of Randy's presence on both my first date and at the scene of my engagement a year later. I guess I'll file that away under "Random Wheeler Trivia." We returned to Longview in high spirits, allowing the conversation to roam here and there. One particularly memorable exchange comes to mind.

Randy (from the front seat, after a pause in the conversation): Rachel, are you looking at your ring?

Rachel (gaze flying guiltily upwards as right hand protectively covers ring): No!

When we got back on-campus, I walked Rachel back to her apartment and turned her over to Paige, then left before the squealing could begin in earnest. I called my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, Andy, and Scholl, and tried a few other people, but couldn't get through. Then I cleaned up, dressed up, and went to the Olive Garden for supper with Rachel. By then she was quite drained from talking to people herself, but food cheered us both up a great deal before we crossed the street to meet up with our friends at Marble Slab.

There was quite a crowd waiting when we arrived: Gallagher, Randy, Martinez, Uncle Doug, Anna, Scholl, Sharon, Moore, Sarah, Tim, Brian, Jonathan (my future brother-in-law), and a surprise appearance by Ardith, who had fortuitously blown into town for Thursday's Career Fair. The effect was only slightly overwhelming, and I had a wonderful time joking and laughing. And Gallagher bought me and Rachel ice cream. Gallagher is the man. Rachel and I spent the last few hours before sleep at the Mayes' apartment with Morgan, Caleb, Ashley and Audra, and then I dropped Rachel off on her porch and returned to collapse with exhaustion.

_______________________________________________________________

The past few days have been equally enjoyable. Rachel and I went around to tell all of our professors, and random people I barely know keep congratulating me in class or in the hallways. Word travels like a brushfire around here. Oh, and we got on the waiting list yesterday for Married Student Housing for next fall. We are couple #5. We beat couple #6 by about five minutes. Ah, yes, and I didn't mention that Rachel's finger wasn't properly sized when we investigated that aspect of the purchase some time ago, so the ring is a bit big. We wandered around for an hour this afternoon looking for someplace that had a ring guard that could help hold it in place, and made arrangements to have it sized down a bit. I'm supposed to take it back in tomorrow.

Anyway, now it's time to settle down into some semblance of normalcy again as we try to catch up on homework. I've got two or three major papers to write in the coming month, and I'm really hoping to do a good job on them because the topics interest me. And I'll be holding out for December 14th when I can escape to Guatemala for the first time in two years, this time with my fiancée in tow.

Posted by Jared at 10:23 PM | TrackBack

October 25, 2005

The Big News

So, basically I'm pretty sure all of my readers already know. Don't worry, an official version of events is near at hand. I'm just too tired to get to it tonight. It's been a fun day, a wonderful day, a memorable day . . . but a long day.

In the meantime, Rachel dearest, a few facts that might be of interest: I am your fiancé. You are my fiancée. Just remember, the one you have to spell has fewer letters. Here are a few other spellings that might come in handy in your account of events: "betrothed," "museum" (but remember, it was the R. W. Norton Art Gallery, not a museum), "Shreveport," "Louisiana," "diamond," and, of course, "Jared."

Yes, that last one is a joke.

Also, many sincere thanks to Gallagher and Randy for their integral role in the implementation of my schemings. I really appreciate it, you two. Gallagher, you are truly a Roommate among Roommates. I have a very high regard for most of my college roommates, and certainly for all of my current roommates, but you have definitely gone far beyond the call of duty today. Yes, I'll tell all my single friends.

As for the rest of you, you may amuse yourselves whilst you wait with Martinez's highly entertaining account of fall break. No, seriously, go read it.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

October 20, 2005

Presentationing

I never want to do that again. Two Watson presentations in four days is a bit much . . . I don't have enough creativity to go around. On Monday I joined Paige, Ashley, and Randy in a 30-45 minute presentation over Deconstructive Literary Criticism in . . . well, Literary Criticism. Tonight I joined Randy and Gallagher in a 30-45 minute presentation over Wisdom Literature in the Bible in Reading the Bible as Literature. In the end, I dumped virtually every ounce of creative innovation I had into presentation one, and tried to let the momentum from that sail me through presentation two. It almost worked. We got a 100 on the first one, and a 92 on the second. I guess I'll briefly outline the two presentations.

For the first, Paige gave a devo over our tendency as Christians to "deconstruct" the Bible, taking verses out of context and ignoring historical and literary factors to make the text say whatever we want it to say. This was followed by two metaphorical representations of what deconstruction is not.

Randy and I donned signs which read "Deconstruction Critic" and Paige donned a sign which read "Famous Author." Taking up a notebook labelled "Great Work," she approached Randy and I (who had sunk to all fours and were prowling forward in as feral a manner as possible) with much trepidation. She gingerly held the notebook out at arm's length, whereupon we snatched it from her, and, with many savage snarls and growls, proceeded to tear it to shreds.

Next, Ashley came over and we gathered on one side of the room. I distributed dish towels and Paige distributed small glass plates to all group members. Then I pulled four hammers out of the crate and passed those out. We wrapped the plates up in the towels, and commenced to demolish them with the hammers. It was all very satisfying . . . but that's beside the point.

Ashley then stood up and gave an excellent summary of what deconstruction actually is while the rest of us passed out brownies. In case anyone doesn't know, deconstruction essentially attempts to take a literary text and reveal its inconsistencies and the subjective, hierarchical ways in which it uses language in order to point out the text can viably hold an infinite number of conflicting meanings. If that doesn't seem to make much sense, don't worry. Not even deconstructive critics seem to know what they're about half the time.

After that was over, Randy and I, standing in for deconstruction and formalism, respectively, attempted to portray the disagreements between these two opposing schools of theory through a scripted argument. The turn of phrase of which I was most proud was when I had the deconstructionist refer to the text as "an artificial construct of the hierarchical subconscious categorization of your binary language modalities." It sounds like total BS and doesn't seem to mean anything, but at the same time, its exactly what a deconstructionist would actually say. No wonder everyone complains that their writings are impossible to understand.

Anyway, the debate quickly degenerated into random name-calling, and . . . Well, this is probably a "you-had-to-be-there" gag, but I'm gonna tell it anyway. Randy and I had planned and practiced this joke several times, but we wanted to make it look like a complete accident. I wasn't confident of my ability to do this because it required me to bust up laughing, and we practiced so many times that I wasn't sure I could find it funny anymore. It didn't actually prove to be a problem.

I called Randy "crazy nonconformist!" He called me "self-deceiving traditionalist!" At this point, I snatched up a padded staff (taller than me) that we had borrowed from a friend. Holding it as low down as I could, I waved it at him (as suggestively as possible) and yelled, "Hack!" He responded immediately, "Freud! Fraud! . . . Fraud!" The script clearly called for him to say "fraud" and it was obviously what he had meant to say, but he passed it off perfectly as though he had just made the textbook definition of a Freudian slip. All I had to do was completely lose my composure and collapse, laughing, into the nearest wall, and the entire room broke up.

It took the better part of 60 seconds for us to pull it back together, and as we were about to begin again, Watson piped up from the back with, "Now that had meaning." I began again with the insults, and when we got to "fraud," everyone started laughing again, even though Randy said it perfectly the second time. That was when I knew we had won.

Moving on, we then gave a brief overview of some of the major figures in the field of deconstruction, and went into the "Deconstructive Magic Act" with "The Amazing Randy!" (and his lovely assistant, Paige) . . . "They will deconstruct a text before your very eyes!" We used Philip Larkin's "This Be the Verse," which was ideal for our purposes. Nevertheless, I was a bit nervous about how the class might react, and we prefaced the piece with a disclaimer/word of warning.

The poem begins "They fuck you up, your mum and dad" and contains an additional f-bomb later on. No one objected, however, and the deconstruction proceeded without a hitch. Watson later complimented us on our choice of text and deconstructing prowess. The poem had been entered into the Power Point slide word by word and we had filled the entire thing to the brim with animations of all kinds so that we could literally tear the text apart in front of them. I will withhold further details for now as I intend to reproduce what we came up with as my journal for this theory. It'll show up on here eventually.

After that, we ended the presentation with a little audience participation. We had gotten Uncle Doug to take his circular saw and slice a phone book in half for us, and had then wrapped it with wrapping paper and labelled it "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." At this point, we got Dr. Solganick to come to the front of the room to "deconstruct the text." He was, as planned, unable to tear through it on his own, so I divided the class into their groups and went around with special instructions for all, as follows:

-Two groups of four were divided in half. Two people in one were to yell, "male!" and the other two would respond with, "female!" while the other group would go back and forth with "black!" and "white!" This symbolized the binary oppositional hierarchies within the text.

-Two groups of four were to wave their arms back and forth, chanting "Yes I will, no I won't!" repeatedly. This symbolized the inconsistencies within the text.

-One group of four was to turn upside-down in their chairs to symbolize turning the text on its head.

-One group of four (our guests, including Moore, Sharpton, and Martinez) was split into the four corners of the room, "marginalized" if you will, and had to approach the center of the room, waving their arms and chanting "centralize!" in unison. This symbolized, obviously, the idea of drawing attention to the marginalized details in the text.

When all of these got going at once, at my direction, the effect was noisy and chaotic . . . exactly as I hoped. I let it go for about 10 seconds, then cut everyone off and directed attention to Dr. Solganick who, with the aid of the class and a bit of physical effort, managed to rip that massive chunk of book completely in two. Cheers and applause followed, and our presentation ended.

Fast-forward to Thursday: This one can go much faster, cuz it kinda sucked. Paige, Ashley, Randy, and I came in first and pulled up our first Deconstruction slide, pretending to do the same presentation from Monday over again, since it went over so well the first time. Gallagher came in almost immediately and chased us out with the padded staff. Randy shouted "Freud! Fraud!" as he left the room. Randy and I changed into academic robes while Gallagher, who was already wearing them, gave a devo. We borrowed robes from Drs. Johnson, Solganick, and Hummel, 'cuz we thought it would be appropriate to a presentation on Wisdom Literature. Our doctoral robes were greeted with much appreciation.

I re-entered the room wearing a large, blue, Mexican sombrero, and Gallagher and I argue briefly over whether it was "funny" and "clever" or not before I gave in reluctantly and traded it for Dr. Solganick's poofy blue doctoral hat thingie. Gallagher then talked about the essentials of Wisdom Literature and we moved into Proverbs.

A few days before, Gallagher fed the book through the Markov Chain generator, which essentially picks a random word from whatever you feed it, then selects a random word from the list of words that follow that word, and repeats this cycle until you tell it to stop. From this we selected a number of humorous "proverbs" that sounded almost real and mixed them with actual proverbs. We were then ready to run our game show, "Bible or Blasphemy," hosted by "The Amazing Randy!" (and his lovely assistant, Gallagher). We used the exact same Power Point slide we had used from the other presentation.

The class failed miserably (mostly on purpose) at selecting the real proverbs, and were branded heretics, fit to be burned. Randy presented on the salient points of the book of Proverbs and we moved on to Ecclesiastes.

I gave a brief presentation on the prominence of Ecclesiastes and its themes in our literature, citing "Parker's Back" by Flannery O'Connor, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, "The Waste Land" by T. S. Eliot, "Nothing New Under the Sun" (from Homer Price) by Robert McCloskey, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, and "Ozymandias" and "Mutability" by Percy Shelley. Then Gallagher talked about the important facets of the book itself.

Finally, Gallagher discussed the book of Job and we ended with an epic limerick which Gallagher and I had written on the book itself. We posted signs up on the board labelling the different parts, and moved around under the signs for each speaking part so people would know who was talking. That was basically it. We were underprepared, and while we had some pretty good gimmicks, overall we were not pleased with our efforts. We were happy to get a 92, and glad when it was over. I'll try to post the limerick soon, 'cuz I really am proud of it.

I'm tired. Goodnight.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

September 05, 2005

Monday Madness

Mondays are gonna be weird, I can already tell. As you saw from the schedule in my last post, Monday evenings are very full indeed, and this Monday had an additional (short) AHM meeting crammed in-between the Senior Honors Seminar and the Newspaper meeting. But first things first, I suppose.

Apocalypse through the Ages was extremely short this week because Dr. Hood had to go to Dallas. We met, blazed through the syllabus, and broke for the week with instructions to hammer out a definition of "Apocalypse" amongst ourselves on the discussion board. Meanwhile, we have 150 pages of reading for next Monday, and we need to pick our top two selections from the list of books to review and present to the class. I'll let you know when mine is assigned.

Senior Honors Seminar made me feel like a freshman again. A few of us arrived early and in high spirits, and, as we were once wont to do, we messed with the room, turning everything to face the back. That'll be a fun part of each week, I'm sure. Then, after the brief AHM meeting, we went down to Longview Hall lobby and worked ourselves into something of a silly frenzy while waiting for the newspaper meeting to start.

When it finally did start, I got assigned to cover the story I had suggested: Longview Community Theater's forthcoming production of "The Nerd." I have/had a few other ideas which I will work on producing as well. In the meantime, it's going to be a very busy week, as predicted. I was very pleased, though, by the fact that the other two seminars will not add more than 10 pages more to my writing workload, although they have increased the reading load by four books.

I don't know, in the weeks ahead, how many updates on personal life I'll be able to put together, but expect to see me posting assignments before too long.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

September 01, 2005

A Novel Workload

Classes started on Tuesday, and I've just finished my third day of them. I'm taking seven classes this semester, but three of them meet only on Monday and all of those are one-hour courses. Nevertheless, I've now been in just over half of my classes and I'm already severely intimidated by the workload. I was reduced almost to whimpering this evening when class number four piled the assignments on . . . but perhaps I'd better go over my schedule, then proceed from there. As it stands now, this is my week:

Monday

1:30-2:25 - Literary Criticism (Dr. Watson)

4:00-5:00 - Apocalypse through the Ages (Dr. R. V. Hood)

6:00-7:00 - Senior Honors Seminar (Dr. Kubricht)

8:00-9:00 - Newspaper (English Internship credit)

Tuesday

3:00-4:20 - C. S. Lewis (Dr. Solganick)

5:15-9:15 - Library

Wednesday

1:30-2:25 - Lit Crit

5:15-7:15 - Senior History Research: Intellectual History in America (Dr. Johnson)

Thursday

3:00-4:20 - Lewis

6:00-9:00 - Reading the Bible as Literature (Dr. Watson)

9:00-12:00 - Library

Friday

10:00-1:00 - Library

1:30-2:25 - Lit Crit

Saturday

1:00-5:00 - Library

Now, that's just my regularly scheduled events. Already this week I'll be helping out at the Student Organization Mall Party (STOMP) booth for the English Honor Society from 4 to 7. On Saturday evening we have Honors Movie Night. Sunday evening is the dinner for History/Political Science majors. Things are just cropping up all over, it seems.

Now, I know what you're thinking . . . I have a really nice schedule. And it's true, I do. That fact will serve me well this semester. I don't have to be up in the morning if I don't want to, except for late on Fridays. That plays to my strengths since my mind works better later in the day. It means I can stay up late working on homework and not have to lose sleep. It's great that this is so, because I'm going to need it later, and here's why:

C. S. Lewis

For class we are required to read Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Miracles, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, A Grief Observed, and The Abolition of Man. We'll spend the first month on Mere Christianity, then it'll be a book a week for the rest. The culmination of all this will be an 8-12 page paper and presentation over a work by C. S. Lewis that we did not read for the course. People were selecting books like crazy after the first class, so I figured I'd better get my bid in. I will be doing my favorite Lewis book: Till We Have Faces.

Literary Criticism

This course wants me to die. Little does it know that I plan to have fun in it. The reading includes Heart of Darkness and Oedipus the King and critical essays on them, Texts and Contexts (a manual of various critical theories), and piles and piles of things from our Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, from Plato to Nietzche and everything in between. For Monday I need to have read and marked up the text of Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Each reading we do is a journal opportunity, and I need to complete 20 journals by the end of the semester. There will also be a group presentation, and I have already formed a group with Paige, Randy, and Ashley to present on Deconstructionism. Should be fun. Finally, we have to write a 5-7 page critical paper for presentation at the Student Literary Conference we'll be organizing for the end of the semester. Estimated writing: 50-60 pages

Intellectual History in America

For this course, which is an independent study with weekly meetings for discussion of our readings, I need to complete The Education of Henry Adams and whatever other weekly readings crop up (looks to be about 30 pages a week). Most of our weekly readings will also require a 1-2 page paper of our thoughts on the reading. I need to write a 4-5 page paper on The Education of Henry Adams as well. This portion of the class will be over by late October and we will focus entirely on the major paper for the class (topic forthcoming . . . I have some ideas, but nothing set in stone). This paper will also be presented to our classmates, and has a length requirement of something like 20-25 pages. Estimated writing: 40-45 pages

Reading the Bible as Literature

This class, too, will be a blast. As I see it, it's basically a Bible class that covers everything but what the Bible teaches. This includes the history of how the Bible has arrived in our hands in its present form, the impact it has had on the development of literature and culture, the impact that evolving language has had on it, and a study of the various literary genres of the Bible. Our texts for the course are Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution it Inspired, How to Read the Bible as Literature, and The Great Code: the Bible and Literature by Northrop Frye. As with Lit Crit, each reading presents us with a journal opportunity, but we *only* have to write 10 for this class. We have a group presentation for this class, as well, and I will be presenting with Randy and Gallagher on . . . something. We haven't picked a topic yet. Estimated writing: 25-30 pages

As you can see, without even counting the writing I'll be doing for the newspaper and for my two honors seminars, I'm already at somewhere between 125 and 150 pages of writing for the semester, to say nothing of the reading and my extracurricular activities, which are at an all-time high this year. I know I can do it, but the thought of actually doing it is still intimidating. So, we'll see how the semester develops, and I'll keep you posted as best I can. Even if I don't post actual progress reports very often, I'll at least be posting a great deal of what I write, so you can keep track of things that way. Wish me luck.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

August 24, 2005

Reflectioning

I am 22 today. Huzzah. I celebrated by taking the day off from work (as I have finally reached an age where I can't be assured of the chance to do that every year on my birthday). I slept in, messed around on the computer, read a bit . . . Then got a call from Scholl in the early afternoon with the offer to go to CiCi's for lunch on the condition that I come pick him up. This I gladly did, and we had a great time gabbing and eating before returning to his apartment to play World of WarCraft for a few hours (but you don't want to hear about that).

This evening saw me at Ryan's Steakhouse with . . . (thinks) . . . Scholl, Anna, Doug, Moore, Toad, Molly, and Gillis. I really like the food there. And the company wasn't half-bad either. Then Moore, Doug and I returned to campus to play World of WarCraft together . . . getting as much gaming out of our systems as possible before the return of Wilson the Stern on Saturday. Oh, yes . . . and there were various and sundry phone conversations with friends and relatives who live far away, of course. I enjoyed myself today . . . but I can't wait for everyone to get back. Even though I know that, when they do, things are going to be crazy busy around here . . .

. . . like they haven't been all summer. I think I might have been depressed at various points this summer. I need something to motivate me, and there were times this summer when I had nothing: no job, desire to do anything, food . . . whatever. It wasn't a healthy summer. My instinct, everytime I run the past few months through my mind, is to say it was a horrifically unproductive summer, but that simply isn't true. Granted, I made hardly any money this summer, but I got 9 hours of college credit out of the way, and made A's in all three classes.

I attended some great performances . . . The Pirates of Penzance, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream . . . visited California for the first time, read some great books and journaled my thoughts about them, saw some really excellent movies . . . Why can't I shake the feeling that I just blew a summer?

Let's blame World of WarCraft, shall we? I've had a wonderful time playing it this summer, and it's been a great way to interact with people who weren't around . . . especially my good friend Andy in Colorado (who sent me the game in the first place). After a summer of playing, I have eight characters, and I can't seem to settle on just one, much to everyone's chagrin. So I play them all some, and continue to create even more. It's terrible. Alright, I'm only going to do this once. My characters and servers are: lvl 33 Tauren druid (Dragonblight), lvl 30 Night Elf druid (Icecrown), lvl 27 Human priest (IC), lvl 20 Troll priest (DB), lvl 16 Gnome rogue (IC), lvl 12 Human paladin (IC), lvl 12 Night Elf warrior (IC), lvl 11 Night Elf rogue (Thunderhorn).

On to my top ten movies of Summer '05, in no particular order:

-White Oleander

-Rebecca

-Judgment at Nuremberg

-Pulp Fiction

-Pleasantville

-Hotel Rwanda

-Magnolia

-Dogville

-The Man Who Would Be King

-Wit

This particular top ten is unusual for a few reasons. First, I had never seen nine of these movies before in my life (Rebecca being the lone exception). I saw White Oleander based on the recommendation of Paige, then read the book . . . I loved both of them, and recommend both of them (acknowledging the raw content, but not allowing it to interfere with my glowing opinion of the product). Judgment at Nuremberg . . . I need to own this movie. It was the best one I saw all summer. Pulp Fiction represents the only Quentin Tarantino movie I've ever seen . . . and what a movie (but I've discussed it enough in other places).

Pleasantville, which I saw three times this summer, was a delight to both the eye and the mind. Hotel Rwanda is just good historical drama. Magnolia provided some very interesting viewing, and kept me guessing where the heck it was going for three hours until the climax of biblical proportions. Never seen a movie like it. Ditto Dogville, but for very different reasons. I almost didn't watch Dogville after reading some reviews about it, but it was already here so I decided to brave it. I actually watched it with the Scholls over the course of two sittings, and we enjoyed it. It is a movie that relies wholly on the strength of its characters, and they pull through . . . and there is a fascinating Christian interpretation that can be applied to it. High-quality viewing, indeed.

I saw The Man Who Would Be King based on Fry's recommendation, and the turns of the main character's fortunes kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Very exciting. Finally, Wit was a bit of a surprise. Ashley picked it from the library and I watched it with her . . . it's the only made-for-TV movie to make one of my top ten lists. It's based on a stage play, stars Emma Thompson, and pretty much ignores the "fourth wall" entirely. I didn't expect to enjoy it, but I couldn't deny that it was a fantastic movie once it was over.

Anyway, that's most of what anyone who was curious needs to know about my summer that I haven't written sometime during it. For now, I'm tired . . . both physically and of hot weather and "vacation." Bring on the semester.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

August 21, 2005

Odds and Ends

And so I left California. There wasn't much more to it than that, really . . . Sunday was very relaxing. I sat around the house, tried my hand at painting (with questionable results), went to a drive-in theater to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory again (never been to one before, actually), etc. And then I went to board my plane in San Jose at the last possible second on Monday the 15th. We were delayed coming into Dallas due to whether and spent about 40 minutes circling over Wichita Falls. Scholl wanted to go to Waffle Shoppe after I got back, and I was game, so I went . . . and then Randy wanted to watch Six Feet Under, for which I was also game. So, all in all, it was ridiculously late when I finally went to sleep that night. Or morning.

Thus ended my grand time in California, and thus begun my hectic last few weeks before school started. A few highlights:

Wilson and I met with Dr. Hudson (new Vice President of Academic Affairs) and Dr. Coppinger (Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs and my Academic Advisor) to voice some of our concerns and suggestions regarding the LeTourneau's History Program. Our basic problems are threefold. First, we have two professors in the history department along with a certifiably insane adjunct who teaches one survey course. Dr. Johnson specializes in American history (but also covers political science and a few other things). Dr. Kubricht specializes in Russia and the Cold War (but also covers Western civilization and things like Constitutional Law). We don't have anyone who teaches upper-level courses dated before about 1700, which is sad.

Additionally, Dr. K will be leaving on sabbatical next spring, leaving history majors everywhere up the proverbial creek. Wilson and I will both lack one upper-level history course in our final semester. There are exactly two being offered, and we have each taken one of them. So, unless something is done, or we go elsewhere to transfer in credit, I will be taking American Constitutional Law with an adjunct professor (a subject which I have no interest in whatsoever at all) and Wilson will be taking Texas and the American West (he'd rather die).

Even beyond our personal complaints, survey history courses have shot well into overload every single semester for several semesters now, because we simply don't have enough faculty to teach everyone anymore . . . and the university continues to grow! It's madness! We consulted LeTourneau's 10-year plan, which I believe was drafted in 1999. It says that we ought to have 4 full-time faculty members by now, but we don't. Kinesiology, meanwhile, has nine out of a planned five professors. I feel hated on.

Our second problem involves a lack of exclusivity. Not to sound all snobbish, or anything, but I get really tired of sitting in, say, 19th Century Europe with someone who has never taken Western Civilization . . . or any other history course. The few history courses here that actually have prerequisites do not bother to enforce them, which means I'm in an upper-level class of 25 with 5 people who are actually interested in history. That sucks.

History courses right now don't even have an English comp requirement . . . which means that we get people who have never had to write a formal paper. And what this basically means in the end is that everyone suffers. The real history majors have the course dumbed down and don't learn as much. The poor techies flounder helplessly. The professors have to decide between flunking most of the class, or changing the way they teach. There are no history courses for history majors . . . the way every single other major has (bible, english, education, business, engineering, aviation . . . everyone but us . . . I'm feeling the hatred again).

And that brings me to the third point: courses we don't require. I feel like when I leave LeTourneau I will have received an education that was well-worth my time, and I feel this way for two reasons. Neither really has anything to do with being a history major. One reason is the excellent english faculty and classes, and the other is the invaluable supplement offered by specific Honors courses. After taking the Honors Historiography course last spring I feel more like a "real" history major than I ever have. It's a crime that we don't require a course like that of all our history students, but only offer it to a select group. No one should be allowed to seriously pursue history without that course.

Also, by virtue of incessant whining by Wilson and myself, we and a few other select history students have been given the opportunity to take an independent research seminar on American intellectual history. The course came about through a combination of Dr. K's clout and Dr. J's kindness (the university isn't, I understand, providing him with any additional compensation for offering this course to us). The idea for the course as I understand it is to give us a chance to take a course similar to the format of a grad school course (in addition to learning more about the particular topic in question). Courses introducing history students to proper methods of research, and preparing students for grad school, should also be required for history majors at LeTourneau . . . but, once again, it is offered in this case only to we few who have demanded it.

Anyway, that's a slightly jumbled overview of what we went to see Dr. Hudson about . . . The meeting went very well. Of course, I realize that I'm duplicating a lot of Wilson's post on this same topic, but I felt like writing it all out myself as well. Sorry if you already read it over there and are now bored to tears.

I also began my new job working at the LeTourneau library. It looks like, at least for now, I'll only be getting 10 hours a week, but I'll have over 30 hours in before school starts. So that'll be nice. So far I love the work. And, while it may look and sound like I and the other student workers at the library don't do much of anything, that's not strictly true. Working at the library is nice because you are allowed to read, do homework, or blog (furtive side-glance) if there is nothing else going on, but there is still plenty to do, I assure you. My favorite task is helping the people who call or approach the desk with research questions. You never know what they're going to ask next, and I enjoy the challenge of finding what they need . . . the lack of monotony alone puts it head and shoulders above most other jobs I've had.

Anyway, that's the bare bones of life at the moment. Everyone is trickling back into town now, and I don't expect to do much over the next week except work at the library, take care of odds and ends before the semester starts, and play computer games with the people who are here. But I think I'll save my summer summary post for later.

Posted by Jared at 08:11 PM | TrackBack

August 10, 2005

Part the Second

On Monday morning I awoke amidst a mad flurry of activity and did my best to, y'know, not stand around and look useless. Sadly, I think Jen was even more useful than me, and she wasn't even going. Anyway, the camper was successfully loaded and most of us piled into that while a few piled into the car to follow us to The Lake.

Knowing, as I did, that a three-day sailing trip was in my near future, I had purchased motion-sickness pills (may cause drowsiness) and I decided that this might be a good time to try them out. So I did. And I slept all the way to The River. But wait! you say. What, then, was all this talk of The Lake? Well, the multitudinous subtleties of the plan for the trip had not yet trickled down the chain of command to reach my ears. We were going to spend a day at The River, a couple of hours down the road towards The Lake, and then depart early the next morning to travel the remaining few hours to The Lake, there to stay until Wednesday lunchtime.

So . . . we got to The River and ate lunch. And then most of us, except females above a certain age bracket, set out on an expedition. The general idea was to hike two miles or so out into the hills to a place where we could easily climb down to the river, then float back to camp. I talked Rachel into coming along, and both of us immediately regretted it.

She started whining approximately five steps out of camp and continued, quite literally without pause, until we reached the river. It didn't help that we missed the path and wound up walking an extra half mile or so. I suspect, judging from the state she was in when we reached the water, that she was in the early stages of heat stroke . . . expending extra breath and saliva on talking didn't help. But the cold water helped immensely.

We wandered lazily downstream . . . about half of it was deep enough to swim, and the other half consisted of rocks to clamber over, so it was fun, if exhausting. We found a few ledges to dive off of, and so forth. For all of our jumping about, I think Rachel was the only person who hurt herself. And she also didn't jump. Ironic. She slipped on a rock and scraped, scratched and bruised a sizable portion of her left side. Ouch.

Aside from such minor mishaps, we returned, tired but happy (again, except for Rachel) to camp and had steak and potatoes. Yum. And then I went to bed more or less when the sun did . . . I never do that. In fact, I should note that I went to bed and got up earlier all week than I have since, like, high school. It was crazy.

After breakfast early Tuesday morning (and getting yelled at multiple times by the neighbors because of all the noise) we departed for The Lake. I slept most of the way again. As a consequence of this, I have no idea whatsoever at all where this lake is, what it's called, how far we drove . . . nothing. It could have been in Idaho for all I know. It wasn't, but it could have been and I never would have known.

We spent a happy day at The Lake, swimming and chicken fighting and so forth. I got burned, as usual, but not too badly. And I read and napped. Not exciting to read about, perhaps, but relaxing to experience, certainly. After supper I talked Rachel into taking a walk. She spotted a concrete building not too far away and thought it might contain bathroom facilities superior to the port-a-potty variety, so we headed that way.

To make a long story short, apparent distances of lights at night can be very deceiving. Those lights were actually the entrance to the park, at least a mile and a half away. By the time we got there, it was pitch black. Happily, there was at least a bathroom there, so the search was not entirely for naught. What I had at first taken for some sort of line dancing convocation nearby turned out to be a small youth rally. That was kind of trippy. I was halfway tempted to join them, just to see what would happen, but I was pretty tired. And so we wound our slow and weary way back to the camper in the dark, with less trouble finding it than I feared (we were gone for over an hour, I think) and I collapsed, exhausted, into my cot.

Wednesday saw everyone braving the freezing temperatures of The Lake for an early morning swim. I passed. Once everyone else was dry, we set out once again, this time back the way we had come. I fell asleep. Again. Yes, I'm boring. Go away. We had lunch on a beach on the way home, and explored the finger of haphazardly piled boulders that jutted several hundred yards out into the water. And then we got home and began to prepare for the next expedition.

Stay tuned for part three of my thrilling visit to California, coming soon. Don't worry, I spend less time asleep after this.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

August 07, 2005

. . . Or Bust

For those of you who somehow missed the fact . . . Well, alright, I guess I didn't exactly blog anything about it. I meant to shortly before departure, but the opportunity eluded me. Anyway, I am in California right now (and have been since Friday night), visiting the Bamboo Giant Nursery (and surrounding area) until the 15th. If a visit to Bamboo Giant seems excessively random to you, you probably weren't aware that Rachel lives here. I have come to meet her family, see where she lives, and get a taste of California (having never traveled farther west than Colorado before).

My flight from Dallas was set to leave at 7:35 Friday evening, and Anna and Scholl were good enough to drive me to the airport. It was a pleasant enough journey, save for one thing: Scholl, in his infinite wisdom, had consumed sandwiches made of garlic-flavored bologna for lunch, and had sent a carbonated beverage chasing after them. Thus, our trip to Dallas was punctuated by repeated blasts of foul-smelling (in addition to the usual foul-sounding) emissions from his oral orifice. Guh.

I should have realized that this was an ill omen, but even if I had it wouldn't have done me a great deal of good. Upon arrival in Dallas I learned that bad weather in Denver would be delaying my flight by a full hour, thus causing me to miss my connection to San Jose, thus making life suck for me. My options were:

-Return to Longview and then come back to Dallas for a 6:45 am flight (ha! . . . not an option).

-Stay in Dallas and take the 6:45 am flight.

-Fly to Denver as planned and spend the night in the Denver airport, leaving at 8:30 the next morning.

None of these was particularly appealing, and the airline was no help whatsoever. Some asinine company policy stated that if the flight were cancelled they could find me accomodations with another airline or somewhere to stay the night, but if I miss a flight due to bad weather then I am simply considered "late for the flight" and thus get nothing. Because I control the weather, you see.

Well, I wandered over to the pay phones and sent calls flying in all directions. I called the Scholls, my friend Andy in Colorado Springs, and Rachel. After a good deal of negotiating, it was decided that I would spend the night in the Denver airport and arrive in California at the earliest possible moment. The ticket lady only checked my bag to Denver and said I would have to claim it there and re-check it in the morning. I snatched my ticket and stalked through security to wait for the plane to arrive.

To make a long story short, as I listened to announcements and kept a careful eye on my watch, I began to suspect that "late" was a fairly relative term in this case. In the end, we arrived in Denver precisely five minutes later than we were originally scheduled to arrive. Furthermore, I walked out of the arrival gate and heard "Now boarding all rows for San Jose" almost directly in my right ear. I turned, and lo and behold, there were people boarding the San Jose plane not 10 feet from where I stood.

I walked over to the airline dude behind the counter, explained myself, and requested permission to board. This permission was granted, with the condition that my luggage would have to follow me the next day. Well, duh . . . I didn't even have time to find a phone and inform Rachel of the change in plans. I certainly didn't have time to trot myself down to the Baggage Claim, claim my baggage, check it back on, re-clear security, and return to the gate in time to make the plane. Leaving the luggage just seemed like an excellent move all around, so I trotted aboard and took my seat in the very last row.

I asked a stewardess if there were any telephone facilities aboard (thinking of the kind which I used to see so often in the backs of seats), but I was informed that there were not. Frontier Airlines has replaced communication with entertainment (every seat had a small television). Happily, the guy across the aisle offered me the use of his cell phone, and I called ahead and arranged to be picked up on schedule. I gratefully returned the cell phone, settled back in my seat with a sigh, and decided that I would not be at all upset if this were the most exciting thing that happened to me for the next 10 days.

Rachel and her sister Julie were waiting to pick me up in San Jose and we returned to home base and went directly to sleep upon arrival. The next morning, Rachel decided it would amusing to bring the dog (Chudley) along to wake me up at 8:14. Hahaha. And then I had a couple of minutes in which to prepare myself to meet everyone else at breakfast. Rachel has nine siblings, but David, the eldest, no longer lives at home, and Rebecca (between Daniel and Jonathan/Julie, who are twins) had already left for work. Jonathan I know from school, and Julie I had met the night before.

Anyway, I guess I'd better stop tossing around the boring details . . . it's too complicated. I met Rachel's parents. I met her five youngest siblings (ages 5 to 15, names Andrew, Robert, Anna Racquel, Roger, and Daniel). After breakfast I met her grandma, her grandma's good friend (commonly known as "Aunt El"), and her co-workers. After a brief look around the nursery, we left to pick up Rachel's friend Jen, who is leaving for China for a year on Friday (at least I think it's Friday). Then we drove down to Santa Cruz and walked around on the boardwalk and out to the end of the wharf.

All of this was fairly entertaining. Sea lions like to jump up onto the supports of the wharf at high tide and sleep and we saw dozens of them resting under there. A few were fighting over various spots and making a great deal of noise doing it. After wandering about here for awhile and eating lunch, we returned home to get ready for church. The Gullmans go to Santa Cruz Bible Church, which meets on Saturday nights.

After church we went to a Chinese restaurant, were I was told that I would be eating with chopsticks. I've never eaten with chopsticks before in my life. Rachel swiped my fork on her dad's orders and then three or four different people gave me tutorials while we waited for the food. In the end, I did get enough to eat, and eventually I did alright with the chopsticks, I suppose.

At first, I was doing so badly that the waitress slipped me a fork, which Rachel promptly confiscated. MoM Gullman (sitting to my left) took pity on me at one point and also surreptitiously slipped me a fork. I was feeling stubborn at this point and I left it where Rachel couldn't see it and kept practicing with the chopsticks. Finally, Rachel herself quietly passed me a fork, and when the chunks on my plate where down to the size of a single grain of rice, I went with the fork.

Jen spent the night and we watched a few movies before going to bed. This morning (Sunday) we drove up to La Honda, about an hour to the north, to visit (in no particular order): David, the redwoods, Rachel's old house, Rachel's old church, etc. We stopped at a lighthouse on the way, and that was pretty cool to see. All things considered, we had rather a good time, but I need to get to bed now. We watched another movie tonight, and tomorrow morning, bright and early, Jen will go one way and everyone else will go another. The RV will be loaded up and we will all troop down to The Lake, which, I am told, is about four or five hours south of here. We'll be there until Wednesday . . . perhaps you will hear from me again then.

Wish me luck.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

July 15, 2005

Philosophomory

A few months ago I watched Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, and loved it. As I'm sure you all know, I routinely display the percentage rating I give movies here on my blog, and the rating for Pulp Fiction reflected this. A regular commenter, who I have a great deal of respect for, noted that the movie has a great deal, perhaps an excessive amount, of foul language, and I responded with a quick rundown of what I loved about the film and drew (speaking of gratuitous) a parallel between it and works by an author that I know he loves.

At this point, my challenger returned, as he is often wont to do (unwilling as he is to allow me to get away with not fully fleshing out what I believe and why when I make a controversial statement), and presented me with some questions. Namely, what I was asked boiled down to this: "How much intellectually stimulating content is required in order to overcome excess profanity or other troubling content?"

I quickly realized two things: First, that I would not be able to manage a proper response in the comment sections. Second, that I was essentially being asked to reveal a fairly vital chunk of my personal philosophy of art. I felt that this needed to be done eventually anyway, and that this was the perfect opportunity to do it. So I took a running start at the thing, and then (quite frankly) became intimidated at the prospect and allowed myself to become bogged down by multitudinous summertime activities and responsibilities. A few things have struck me with particular force since then, and I have taken what I began with, expanded it and modified it, and I hope that it now turns out that I have something to say after all.

My philosophy of art, as I picture it in my head, has long appeared to me as giant jigsaw puzzle being assembled without the benefit of reference to the box it came in. I do have a philosophy, yes, but it is not a fully developed one. It has grown in two years from the presence of only a few properly anchored pieces to a place where I am beginning to finally conceive an idea of the outline of the finished product.

This, I think, is how it should be. A philosophy of art needs sufficient time to develop, and I am still collecting data and experience for mine. I am still enlarging a pool of study materials consisting of, in particular, works of literature and film and fitting them into place within the framework that is slowly taking shape in my mind. It is quite probable that this process began very near to the time when I first began this blog, and if one were to read through the entirety of the thing (a task I do not by any means recommend that you undertake) it is just possible that I have conveyed (or am beginning to convey) a sense of this dark shape.

I think the formal beginnings of this process can be traced directly to the Honors class "Only Inklings" which I took during the fall of my sophomore year. It was in this class that I was finally made to understand that a certain "guilty" belief which I held more or less in secret might not come as sharply into conflict with my Christianity as I had formerly been led to believe. Namely, the idea was that truth in art (in particular, as I say, in the art of narrative, i.e. literature and film) may exist with or without the supporting presence of any other virtue, and furthermore, this truth is worth pursuing for its own sake alone, perhaps even as the supreme quality (beyond mere technical brilliance) which makes consumption of art worthwhile.

Of course, I didn't have it spelled out, even for myself, nearly that explicitly at first. However, the journey in this direction has continued in a more or less continuous flow through at least one class during each semester of my college experience. Other major contributors to this particular area include English Literature II, Studies in American Film, World Literature Through Film, American Literature II. I have similarly high expectations of my upcoming classes in Reading the Bible as Literature and Literary Criticism, and perhaps my Senior History Research Seminar as well.

However, the process has of course extended well into the realm of extracurricular activities. Long before Watson's film class and the beginnings of the movie list, my friends and I were seeking out, viewing, and discussing films of very limited popular appeal and very high critical acclaim, content no object. Movies aside, I have shared more discussions with these same friends than I could possibly enumerate on a wide-ranging variety of topics, and these, in addition to my constant visits with professors outside of class, have further served to drop puzzle pieces into place. My own independent readings (though always less thorough than I would wish) have played an important role as well.

A few important steps along the way have included a growing (but still far from perfected) ability to pick those worthwhile nuggets of truth out of a story in the first place, and, through an ever-widening exposure to those works which are widely considered great, the ability to draw and strengthen thematic connections between authors and directors who present similar ideas and philosophies to their audiences. These are the things that I strive to do.

In the end, although I was initially intimidated by the prospect of attempting to encapsulate a few years of broad study in a brief but meaningful post, and then transform that into a blithe and pithy philosophical motto, I have come to realize that explaining where I am now does not require any such profundity or verbosity. My not-quite-complete and not-totally-substantiated personal philosophy of art is a simple one. Seeing what I have already expressed of it, you may find yourself several hundred yards ahead of me . . . or you may believe that I am on the wrong track entirely. That's fine. I invite and encourage any and all comments.

What I believe is this: Fiction or nonfiction, adaptation, remake, reimagination, or based-on-true-events, regardless of genre or source material, a work of art in the realms of literature and film derives a significant portion of its inherent value from the validity of what it communicates. Unless its purpose is purely to entertain (and while I may sometimes enjoy such things, I do not allow them anywhere near, say, the same latitude of expression through questionable content), any book or movie has something to say . . . some message it is trying to sell you. It is my goal and my great joy to search for and find this message . . . to discover precisely what the artist is trying to sell me, how, and why.

The next step, which I approach even more seriously, but with no less enjoyment, is to discover whether the artist's message is a true and worthy one. This is accomplished by applying to it my personal philosophy of religion, yet another growing, but still not fully matured, area of my worldview which has developed along a different but parallel path to my philosophy of art, through yet more classes, discussions, etc. (another subject for another time . . . perhaps).

Does the idea, ideal, philosophy, lesson . . . whatever . . . which is being presented to me meet with an objective, biblical standard of Truth? If so, how can I benefit from having seen this particular "spin" on the issue? How might I incorporate it into what I know, believe, and hope to pass on to others? What new connections or ideas might it help me to see? If the issue does not come across as true, why not? Where did it go wrong? How might it be refuted and shown to be untrue? How believable might this idea be to someone who doesn't know any better, and how can I get a good enough handle on the issue to see their point of view? These are just a few of the many many questions that I have begun to try and ask myself as I watch or read.

At this point, you may all be realizing that I haven't ever really answered the original question. That's because I don't know whether there is one right answer. I'm no filthy relativist, but I really don't think there is one absolute line that can be drawn for everyone on this issue. At least, I hope there isn't, because I'm not quite sure exactly where my line goes yet . . . but I know that it's a lot deeper in the grey area (which some think I'm only imagining anyway) than most of my fellow Christians'.

In fact, a number of people I am very close to, people I respect and love, disagree rather pointedly with my perspective. And I think we are all still struggling with whether that's okay. For my part, I will willingly, even emphatically, acknowledge that my beliefs on this subject are not for everyone. Far from it. But they are my beliefs for all that. And, while I will try not to step maliciously on the toes of those who strongly disagree, I will not back down simply because they disagree, and I will continue the journey of personal discovery which I have begun. No one can begrudge me that, surely. I hope it lasts a lifetime, because it won't end until I have all the answers. And if and when that happens, well . . . Let's just say, if you think I'm insufferable now . . . ha!

Posted by Jared at 09:45 PM | TrackBack

July 04, 2005

No Work and All Plays

Yeah, the title is a sly and totally non-bitter reference to the fact that I hate looking for a job . . . but I hate not finding one even more. But that's not what this post is about. This post is about the fantastic time we all had attending the annual Texas Shakespeare Festival in Kilgore. (Be sure to also refer to the words of Wilson and of Gallagher on the subject . . . and Anna has a few relevant pictures up, as well.)

Saturday night was A Midsummer Night's Dream, easily my favorite Shakespeare comedy ever, and an excellent play in its own right. I've read it at least six times, a few of those with different groups of people, and seen the newer movie version (own it, in fact) . . . but this interpretation was creative enough to bring in ideas I had never seen or considered. Also, the casting emphasized some interesting parallels. Theseus and Oberon were played by the same actor, Hippolyta and Titania by the same actress, Philostrate and Puck by the same actor . . . additionally, Theseus and Hippolyta begin the play in a conflict no less violent than the one between the Fairy King and Queen. I thought it worked very nicely, establishing tension across the board and making the happy ending all the more joyous by contrast.

The sets were great, particularly the Grecian interiors. They had a number of very convincing columns made of some sort of creased cloth with carved wooden tops and bottoms which folded and unfolded from the ceiling quickly, silently, and smoothly between scenes. One of our favorite effects in the play involved Bottom and company traversing the stage en route somewhere (into the woods or to the palace) between scenes. The only light came from behind the painted night sky at the very back of the stage, showing the rustics silhouetted very clearly against it. As Wilson pointed out afterwards, their costumes were made so as to give each a distinct shape and personality which fit their trade, and both times it happened it was an excellent scene transition.

Speaking of the costumes, I thought they were all . . . Okay, I won't lie. When you're on the 2nd row and there are guys in very short skirts falling hither and thither with their legs sprawling wide . . . that's not cool. But aside from that, the costumes were quite good. The fairies all wore headgear that was full of small lights and when they skipped through the darkened theater the effect was quite ethereal. The rich green colors worn at the wedding banquet were particularly pleasing to the eye.

The acting was top-notch were it counted (and here I refer to my personal favorite character, Bottom the Weaver). He was great. In fact, all of the rustic craftsmen were extremely good and every one of their scenes had the audience absolutely rolling in the aisles. Puck got to do fun things with leaping through trapdoors . . . and of course he always has his moments. The various songs and dances were quite passable . . . in fact, I thought the music as a whole was very nice.

One slapstick device deserves special mention. It occurred at the point where mud wrestling was inserted into the movie (if you've seen it). It occurs at the absolute height of the mix-up, where both Demetrius and Lysander attempt to shove each other and Hermia out of the way in order to get at Helena while Hermia and Helena engage in a catfight. At one point, all four characters were stretched out across the front of the stage, each clinging desperately onto the leg of the person in front of them, attempting to haul them backwards, while hopping on a single leg of their own . . . and continuing to say their lines. Absolutely classic.

And no description of the acting could be complete without a brief mention of the guy who played Mustardseed. He was quite gay. Nope. He was happy, too, but I meant the other one. He was also wearing very short boxer briefs. *shudders* Typecasting fairies . . .

At any rate, as expected, it was quite a memorable experience, and one which I would be tempted to repeat again next week were it not for the prohibitively large cost combined with a lack of ready and steady income. Ah, well . . . memory alone will have to serve.

Sunday night was a good deal more somber, with a performance of Macbeth. It was the fourth play I have attended there, but the first tragedy, and I was interested to see how they would handle it. The set was quite sparse, being almost entirely black with one large, red sun (made me think of Charn from The Magician's Nephew) painted on the right side of the backdrop. More difficult to notice at the beginning was that the center of the stage was covered with an enormous black circle (difficult to spot because the rest of the stage was black as well).

However, with each successive murder during the play's first half (those being only two, Duncan and Banquo) the black circle fractured further, revealing a large reddish orange circle of a similair shade to the sun underneath. Very cool, and very effective. Because the sets were so sparse, a good deal was accomplished with the lighting and smoke. They had some very striking effects up their sleeves, particularly when Lady Macbeth was onstage alone.

The costumes were quite good here, as well. I'm not sure how . . . well, Scottish they were, exactly, but they were easy on the eyes. And I don't remember seeing any guys in short skirts (ironically, since we were further back for this play). Also, the copious amounts of fake blood splashed here and there on various people was realistic and gruesome enough to pass measure.

I thought the acting was quite good, really. Macbeth and Macduff were both excellent. The Weird Sisters were creepy (dressed like Celtic druids, basically). Lady Macbeth had some excellent scenes, but I thought she overdid it a bit here and there (this actress has had the leading female role in every play I have seen there, but her tendency to overact slightly is less noticeable in a comedy). The final fight scene between Macbeth and Macduff was fairly well coreographed . . . by which I mean it was pretty to look at, with lots of spinning and very little actual contact. I'm not hard to please.

As I observed at least twice at various points last night, tragedies are very long. But this one did manage to avoid tedium almost entirely, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself the second night as well. I shouldn't fail to mention, though, Gallagher and I were a bit concerned at the beginning. The guy who always announces the beginning of the play did the most retarded thing . . . he said "Macbeth" right there out loud. Everyone heard it. Glancing about nervously, we couldn't help but notice we were seated directly under the sound booth . . . and barring that I kept expecting there to be an actor taking an unexpected tumble through a trapdoor or a rogue Shakespeare hater within the audience opening fire with the small arsenal under their long, black trenchcoat. Thankfully, the performance came off without any consequences from the announcer's foolish tempting of the Fates, and I hope that every subsequent performance of "The Scottish Play" proceeds as smoothly.

And that was my weekend with Bill Shakespeare.

Posted by Jared at 11:32 PM | TrackBack

Was Today Some Kind of Holiday or Something?

In honor of Independence Day (USA, observed) I finished reading America (The Book) from cover to cover sometime very early this morning (like, 1:30-in-the-morning morning). And that's all. I even had Mexican food for lunch, Chinese food for supper, spent the morning moving out of the apartment I share with Koreans (with the aid of Gallagher . . . Irish descent), and spent a good deal of the afternoon and evening messing about with my paper on a book by a British author set chiefly in London and Berlin (no, not the Texan ones). I haven't done a single particularly American thing all day . . . and don't go trying to say that I've spent the day celebrating "The Great Melting-Pot" aspects of our nation, either.

LeTourneau University, in its infinite wisdom and boundless stupidity, is moving apartment dwellers up to the Quads for a few weeks and back again, chunk by chunk, that Physical Plant may have a chance to clean our carpets. And my turn to move fell on July 4th. I had to be out by 11 PM so that Physical Plant can start cleaning at 8 AM tomorrow morning . . . because the apartments really needed that nine hour break in-between, the poor dears. Ironically, my book report on The Spy Who Came In from the Cold is due July 5th at 8 AM in the morning. I don't know what that means, but it must be significant. Or maybe I've just been reading too much spy novel.

I'm not sure I understand why things work out this way. I have had two months of inactivity so total I could have afforded to spend hours finding and cataloguing new and exciting alternate routes between various important landmarks on campus or sitting in front of various mens restrooms and seeing which custodial cleaning crew could set the record for longest "Closed for Cleaning" status (that was a snarky in-joke). But, suddenly and all in one weekend, I am forced to write a paper, move myself and all of my important worldly goods several hundred yards uphill, and attend the Texas Shakespeare Festival with Anna, Scholl, Wilson, Gallagher, and Sharpton.

Okay, so maybe I wasn't forced to attend that last, but c'mon . . . it was important. Anyway, it's been a fun weekend, hanging with the Gallagher and the Wilson for the few days they were in town. And, in a way, I suppose the timing was good in that I was able to get Gallagher to assist me with the move (couldn't have done it without him, as a matter of fact).

And as for The Festival itself . . . Well, that certainly deserves its own post in a few hours, when I've spent some more time on my paper.

Posted by Jared at 08:38 PM | TrackBack

June 24, 2005

I Got Books!

Well, I knew there was a reason why I had brought an extra bag with me to West Texas, but I had forgotten precisely what that reason was until my Grandma asked me yesterday afternoon if I wanted to go look at the books she's been saving for me. My Grandma (if I haven't already mentioned this 513 times) is the librarian at Southland Public High School. She is constantly in the process of keeping the library's collection up-to-date and recently she has pulled a large number of old books that no one checks out off the shelves.

So we drove up to the school and I looked through the piles of books that lay before me and selected the following titles:

Charley's Aunt: A Play in Three Acts by Brandon Thomas

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

The Wild Duck and Other Plays by Henrik Ibsen

1984 by George Orwell

The Sketch Book by Washington Irving

The Spy by James Fenimore Cooper

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert

Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert

The Iliad of Homer

Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Furthermore, I spent a bit of time both yesterday and today poking my nose into various bookstores around here looking for a particular item. I didn't find it, but I did purchase copies of the following:

Le Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory (Complete, Unabridged, New Illustrated Edition)

America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart et al With a Foreword by Thomas Jefferson

I spent several hours poring over this last yesterday, laughing until I thought my spleen would explode. The humorous effect was exacerbated by the fact that no one else was particularly amused. My attempts to share the joy and humor were met with everything from frowns of derision to open stares of confusion. *sigh* Nobody appreciates good satire anymore.

For the uninitiated, let me attempt to describe what, exactly, this book is. Imagine "The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspre, Abridged" if you will. Got it? Good. Now imagine that, instead of the works of Shakespeare, you have a similar concept masquerading as an American Government textbook, complete with amusing footnotes. Are you beginning to get the idea? Yeah. It's flipping hilarious. (Skip below the fold for a brief excerpt.)

So, anyway, that pretty much sums up West Texas at the moment. My parents and the various aunt and uncle types are frantically preparing for the big celebration tomorrow, and I'm the only college-age cousin who has actually arrived in town, as yet. So, hopelessly and irrevocably stuck in-between two age groups, I spend my time sitting and reading, or sleeping.

Well, I could do a lot worse.

I wrestled with the idea of choosing just one funny to share from America (The Book) . . . It's all so great, and no one around here appreciates it, so you understand my dilemma. Finally, and for no particular reason, I settled on the following:

The Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers

The debate over The Constitution prompted the two most influential series of essays in American history, The Federalist Papers and The Anti-Federalist Papers, two exhaustive and thoughtful meditations on the merits and failings of the nation's new blueprint.

You can read these hundreds of pages of dense, turgid prose, or you could skim these blurbs taken from reviews of The Constitution.

"The Constitution grabs you right from the Preamble and doesn't let go until the last Article . . . the must-ratify document of the summer!"
-Alexander Hamilton, New York Post

"A pathetic excuse of a social contract that makes John Locke's Two Treatises of Government look like Baron Montesquieu's The Spirit of Laws."
-Richard Henry Lee, Richmond Chronicle-Courant

"If you base your new nation on only one fundamental set of governmental principles this year, make it this one!"
-James Madison, Hartford Gazette-Chronicle

"The 'Foundering' Fathers are at it again . . . who told these guys they could Found?!?"
-Samuel Bryan, Boston Courant-Gazette

". . . this follow-up to 'The Articles of Confederation' is the rare sequel that's more bicameral than the original! Gallop, don't trot, to your town square to pick up a copy!"
-John Jay, Wilmington Gazette-Courant-Chronicle

"Belongs to the so-bad-it's-good genre of political charters . . . destined to become the kind of camp classic revered by some of our more, shall we say, 'unmarried' friends."
-Melancton Smith, "Melancton's Musings" (syndicated column)

"Checkf, balancef, executive, legiflative, judiciary - thif baby'f got it all!"
-George Wafhington, Mount Vernon Bee-Difpatch

I also feel the need to share the reviews on the back of the book:

"So informative, I even found out who I was." -Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury, May 14, 1801-Feb. 8, 1814

"Cruelly wrested from the hands of my ancestors or not, AMERICA makes a great read!"
-Chief Standing Ox, Navajo Nation

"Thank you for your manuscript. We regret it does not suit our needs at the current time."
-Jason Hay, editor, Little, Brown and Company

"A Bridget Jones's Diary for the comedic nonfiction government textbook set."
-Melissa Bank, author of The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing

"This is an epic tale of rock 'n' roll Babylon; a story of the evil men do told by the men themselves. Armed with eyeliners, guitars, and hypodermic needles, the men of Motley Crue got everything they ever wanted and then threw it all away."
-Rolling Stone

"This is similar to my works in that anyone who reads it is sure to be an asshole for at least a month afterward."
-Ayn Rand

"Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua!"
-Cicero

"I would certainly read this book if I were alive today, which, for all you geniuses out there, I am not."
-Abraham Lincoln

Posted by Jared at 07:03 PM | TrackBack

June 22, 2005

Self-Deprecation

I have arrived in West Texas, safe and sound, and I'll be here until next Monday. The reason for this trip is the 50th wedding anniversary of my dad's parents . . . EVERYbody's coming in, and it should be fun. Meanwhile, I just thought I'd share with you a few jokes told to me by my brother Ian:

A group of globetrotters were travelling aboard the same airplane, swapping exaggerated claims and tall tales. After a few real whoppers, one of the more silent ones pipes up with one of his own. "I can stick my hand outside the plane," he says, "and tell exactly what country we're flying over."

This statement is, of course, met with scoffs and demands of proof, so he sticks his hand outside the plane and, after a moment's thought, says, "We're flying over Egypt." "How do you know?" his fellow passengers inquire. "Well, I just felt the tip of one of the pyramids."

Awhile later, he sticks his hand outside the plane again, and this time he says, "Ah, we're flying over the United States now." "How can you tell?" "I just brushed the crown of the Statue of Liberty."

Finally, sometime afterwards, he sticks his hand outside the plane a third time and immediately calls out, "Aha! We're definitely flying over Guatemala!" "Now how could you possibly tell that?" "My watch just got stolen."

_____________________________________

You know, they recently invented a device that totally eliminates stealing, robbery, and theft of all kinds nationwide when simply placed inside a country and switched on. It was tested with great success in Mexico last month; all of the thieves were just gone. So, last week they thought they'd give it a try in Guatemala. Three hours later, it had disappeared.

_____________________________________

A number of people of various nationalities were sitting around chewing the fat one day, and the topic of conversation turned to the question of what makes each country truly great and unique. Going around the circle, a Swiss man proudly said, "Well, Switzerland is home to the most beautiful mountains in the entire world." "Oh?" rejoined an American, "Well, the United States was the first country to put a man on the moon."

"That's nothing," piped up a Guatemalan, "Guatemalan scientists are hard at work right now preparing the first manned expedition to the sun. Soon, all of the glory will be ours."

"A trip to the sun?" asked the American, confused. "How do you plan to deal with the problem of the sun's intense heat?"

"That's not an issue," replied the Guatemalan. "We're planning to go at night."

_____________________________________

Two Guatemalan prisoners were planning a jailbreak. "Alright," said one, "here's what we'll do. If the perimeter fence is short, we'll go over it. If it's tall, we'll tunnel underneath. I think that covers all contingencies . . . let's go take a look."

Stepping outside, they stared around them in open despair. "Well, now what are we going to do?" moaned the second. "They don't even have a fence."

_____________________________________

Well, there you have it . . . the latest word in humor from Guatemala, brought to you today by my little chapin . . . err, brother. I'll catch you all later, I'm gonna go see if he's got any more . . .

Posted by Jared at 09:20 PM | TrackBack

June 07, 2005

A (Student) Night at the Opera

Opera Longview puts on one production every year here in town, and I was given to understand that it was not to be missed if I could possibly attend. Well, a bit of research revealed that ticket prices ranged from $25 to $50 and, while I was still trying to reconcile my conscience and my pocketbook with this figure, a bit of further research revealed the availability of free tickets to a performance on "student night," two days before opening. Essentially, what we attended was the full dress rehearsal of Pirates of Penzance . . . and we even still, we were all quite impressed.

I don't know where or how Longview managed to dig up these people, but a number of the cast and crew members had rather impressive resumes. The soprano who played Mabel, for instance, performed the role of Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. The sets and lighting were fun, in keeping with the general atmosphere of the thing. The music was great, the lyrics were hilarious . . . there was a bit of trouble with the supertitles during the first half of the first act, but we could mostly understand what was being said anyway. It's not as though it were in Italian or German.

I had never seen Pirates of Penzance before, nor heard any of the music except (of course) "Modern Major General." I've read through it a bit in Wilson's Complete Gilbert & Sullivan, but I wasn't particularly with familiar with the plot or anything. In short . . . I was delighted by the entirety, save one slight caveat.

During the final notes of the final song, a British flag was unfurled in the midst of the assembled cast . . . and then it was rotated to reveal the Texas flag on the other side! Agh! They desecrated the Union Jack! How could they?! Oh, well. I guess (as Anna said) it was kinda cute. Whatever. Anyway, Scholl and I both agreed that it was by far the highest quality production we have ever attended in East Texas, and we went away happy.

Additionally, I would like to point the reader's attention to a relatively new link on the sidebar, "Mi Sociedad." It is the blog of Alpha Eta Mu, our LeTourneau chapter of the English Honor Society, set up to include contributions from the four officers (who are, at present, also the only members . . . we're working on that) and Dr. Solganick, our slightly off-center faculty sponsor (I employ these adjectives of vague warning in case you should happen to wander by his blogger profile and begin to wonder. He's harmless, really). Anyway, I am in the midst of posting a series of literary journals, some of which are recycled but modified from my blog, and some of which are entirely new. Wilson, too, has already contributed some very excellent material, and hopefully Martinez and Charissa will not be far behind. I encourage you all to troop over, take a look, add it to your links, and read and comment regularly . . . This is how desperate I am to generate interest.

Anyway, commercial over . . . and blogpost over as well.

Posted by Jared at 10:51 PM | TrackBack

June 02, 2005

Poof!

So . . . geez. Where did I go?! I got on to check the blog a few days back and did a double-take when I noticed the current date and the date of my last post . . . what happened? I didn't even know how to answer that question until I stopped and thought back for a bit. Government with Dr. J started last Wednesday (it's a lot of fun . . . my first 8 am class in a year and a half, but it's summer, it's Johnson, and there are four students in the class). On Monday evening The Cold War class with Dr. K officially started. And, of course, my Philosophy class won't end until next Wednesday. Blech.

Tomorrow I have a test in Government (simple stuff . . . it's over the three federal branches) and an opportunity to express myself in Philosophy (fyi, that's just the Philosophy prof trying to pretend like he's doing us a favor and letting us think when really we are just being submitted to an hour+ of gruelling copy-and-paste work from the three and a half dozen worksheets he's given us in the last week onto a bigger, meaner worksheet with "Test #3" written at the top with our short-term memories serving as the Clipboard . . . but I'm not bitter).

So . . . that keeps me busy, and in general all of my classes just have me temporarily swamped. I have been very frustrated and depressed every day during this week, dragging myself awake, spending four hours in class daydreaming (and sometimes actually dreaming) about all the sleep I'm going to get later and the fun I'll be able to have, spending four hours at work counting the minutes until I can just do something fun, then getting off and realizing that I have enough homework to keep me busy from suppertime until long after I wanted to get to bed . . . Then the cycle just begins all over again the next day.

Anyway, Rachel flew off to California last Friday, and Anna and Scholl were very nice and drove to Dallas with me to see her off. That made the trip back much more palatable, especially since I wound up having a splitting headache, slept most of the way back, and offered up the contents of my stomach before the porcelain god within 30 minutes of our return to campus. Not fun . . . but I got plenty of sleep that night followed by a totally relaxing weekend wherein I slept, ate, and leveled my Tauren Druid up to 21 in World of WarCraft (questing with my good buddy Andy in Colorado Springs, and even dragging Scholl into the mix). Good times.

And, with that update, I suppose I shall go ahead and get this posted. I have a number of thoughts that have been milling around restlessly in my head for a few days, and another major frustration has been the inability to find time to post them. I'm holding out for the weekend, hoping that I can hang onto my ideas for that long and have the time and the will to sit down and spew them forth before they are forever lost.

Life will be better in six days. God created the universe in six days. Coincidence? I think not! . . . Sorry, that was just totally random. I sense that it is time to curl up in a little ball and go to sleep again.

Posted by Jared at 06:19 PM | TrackBack

May 23, 2005

Understanding Keats

I bent slightly at the waist and peered apathetically through the tiny window of CPO #1134. After two weeks of eagerly checking the mail three and four times a day, I couldn't handle the disappointment anymore. And, true to form, as soon as I stopped expecting my package slip to be waiting, there it was. I calmly carried it up to the front desk and immediately used my CPO key to tear into the box they handed me in return.

Packing peanuts went everywhere in a spray of white foam, floating listlessly to the floor of MSC-1, but I barely noticed . . . There it was: The long-awaited purchase. The coveted UPS package. My own personal cloth-bound, dust-jacketed, shrink-wrapped Holy Grail, Flannery O'Connor herself smiling up at me from the shiny black cover, her last name sprawling under her picture in large, flowing white script . . .

Collected Works

Wise Blood
A Good Man Is Hard to Find
The Violent Bear It Away
Everything That Rises Must Converge
Essays and Letters

I read carefully over the titles listed under the name before gathering up the scattered peanuts, tossing the box, and removing the shrink-wrap. A quick glance over the table of contents told me that I held over 1200 pages of pulchritudinous prose in my hands, while a quick glance at my watch told me I had just ten minutes to get to Philosophy class. I do believe I floated all the way over to Longview Hall . . .

I was extremely distracted during the first hour of class, barely able to wait to show off my new treasure. I briefly discussed it with Ashley (who was gratifyingly appreciative) at the beginning of our ten-minute break . . . then made a beeline for the office of Dr. Coppinger. I breezed by the secretary (distracted by a phone call) and ducked inside his door.

He was looking quite casual today as he moved about his office tidying up, decked out in a blue Hawaiian shirt punctuated by tropical yellow flowers. I greeted him and we talked for a second or two before he spotted O'Connor under my arm. He took it reverently in both hands and admired it for a few moments. Opening to the table of contents and leafing through a few sections for closer inspection, he declared himself to be officially jealous. He owns numerous O'Connor works, but no handy single-volume version of them all. My Collected Works also contains about nine short stories and an essay or two not published in most collections . . . and, of course, The Letters.

He wanted to know where I got it and we talked a bit more about that and other related matters, then I noted that my break would soon be over and moved towards the door. He saw me to the outer office door, as usual, and with the usual pleasant farewells, but I thought I detected a slight anomaly of tone. Just before I exited, he made the oddest repressed-strangling noise . . . sort of as if he were physically forcing his hands to his own throat in order to resist the urge to hit me over the back of the head with the nearest blunt object and abscond with the book. The image amused me so much I laughed to myself all the way back to class.

During the second half of Philosophy, even Dr. Batts noticed my O'Connor sitting out on the desk as he handed out a quiz. "Oooo!" he exclaimed, pausing for a moment to stare. "Lucky you!" I could only nod in agreement. I think I'll sleep with it under my pillow tonight.

Suddenly, I think I understand John Keats a lot better . . . My somewhat bemused English Lit journal of last February comes to mind. Does increased identification with a Romantic poet make me a healthy English major or a lost cause? (Please don't say "Yes.")

Posted by Jared at 11:48 PM | TrackBack

All-Nightering

There simply is no way that I can reasonably be expected to tolerate mornings unless I haven't had to get up . . . and the only way that's possible is if I haven't been to bed the night before. Tonight I was up late preparing a brief presentation on Immanuel Kant for Intro to Philosophy and getting distracted by a few computer maintenance issues.

Of course, as is standard practice for me, I was distracted considerably by the usual researching rabbit trails . . . tonight found me snaking my way through information on The Enlightenment, the Romantic movement, Pietism, and the like, as well as trying to wrap my head around a number of Kantian terms like "categorical imperative" and "transcendental idealism." Knowing that I had work at 8:00 and not really wanting to go to bed for less than four hours, I decided to put on a load of laundry and install World of Warcraft. My laundry is now in the final stages of drying, and WoW is 42% through downloading the necessary updates. Huzzah.

I also wanted to mention the coolest thing . . . I was driving up to the computer labs shortly after 8 pm, and I flipped on my favorite local radio station (101.9) which plays jazz, big band, and, in general, the kinds of songs you might expect to hear if you flipped on your radio during the '30s and '40s. But tonight I heard something different . . . The Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show guest starring Roy Rogers and Frank Sinatra! Apparently the station has an hour of "Golden Age of Radio" every Sunday night. I parked and stayed in the car to listen . . . Such great stuff.

Anyway, it won't be long before the summer gets really crazy for a bit. My Government class starts on Wednesday and my online Cold War course begins next Monday, but Philosophy doesn't end until June 8th. I just looked over the syllabus for Cold War and it's going to be a lot of work. Plus Kubricht is using the eight-point grading scale . . . a pus-filled skin disease of a thing which I thought was confined to certain areas of the English department. Apparently it's spreading. I checked Kubricht's Russia syllabus, and he had a ten-point scale for that class. Apparently this is a special treat just for summer sucke-- errr . . . students.

Meanwhile, Anna and Scholl should be back sometime this evening, and Rachel is leaving on Friday (I'm driving her to Dallas from whence she will fly further west). A few summer activities I'm already looking forward to include Opera Longview's production of The Pirates of Penzance in a few weeks and the Texas Shakespeare Festival's performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream and MacBeth . . . and possibly Cyrano de Bergerac as well.

And now it's time for me to start moving around again. The update download is at 67%, so I should check on my laundry and find some caffeine or sugar quick. I'd better make sure I give my presentation today . . . presenting while high is a blast. Anyway . . . Ta!

Posted by Jared at 07:24 AM | TrackBack

May 15, 2005

My O'Connor Still Isn't Here

The first week of summer is over now, and what a week it has been . . . Funny how much it has been defined by the status of a spontaneous purchase. Anyway, I haven't really got the energy to chronicle it fully right now, but I'll hit a few of the high points.

My O'Connor still isn't here, as noted above, but the other two are . . . and fortunately it didn't arrive on Saturday or I would have been frustrated indeed. I checked my mail after hours on Friday, noting a small sign which said something to the effect of "We have changed the locks on some of the CPOs. You may pick up your new key on Monday." I noted the strange shininess of my own CPOs lock, and my suspicions were confirmed when my key didn't work. That's two Netflix and a book of Flannery O'Connor goodness I won't be receiving this weekend . . .

My Korean roommates have been difficult to get a lock on. They have moved in slowly, moved back out, had different people moved in, tried to move me out, and relegated me to a small corner of the apartment. Despite the apparent complaining in those last few sentences, I've had no real trouble with them. There are between one and five of them sleeping here each night, but it's rather difficult to track since they stay up late (like, 4:30 am late) every night watching movies on the TV which sits right next to the place I used to sleep.

This TV is hooked up to a desktop computer and is never turned off, even when they aren't here (which happens regularly from about 5-11 pm every evening thus far). There was some minor trouble a few days ago when they randomly decided to move one of the couches out onto the porch between 4:30 and 8 am. I asked them to move it back in and they did, apologizing and saying they didn't know it was mine. I'd like to know who the hell else it could belong to . . . But nevermind. I have been allowed to keep to the office and am virtually never bothered back here, so here is where I spend my time quite happily during the few hours of the day when I am actually at home and not asleep.

Wednesday was my first day in Intro to Philosophy with a certain professor who will remain unnamed for the duration. His name in a Google search already ranks my site uncomfortably high, and I have never had anything but the most uncomplimentary things to say about his teaching . . . For those of you who have followed my blog long enough, he taught my Shakespeare class in Spring '04. For those of you who haven't, I direct you to the archives at the right.

The first hour of Philosophy brought all of my horrible memories of his "teaching" rushing back to me and by our first break I was already fuming. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that during break every day I walk right by Dr. Watson's film class, which I took last summer and which ranks as one of the finest courses offered at this university. It's almost unendurable.

Ashley, who is in the class with me, did her usual bit in defense of the teacher when I went off during the break, but by the time we were halfway through the first worksheet for homework, she was far less than pleased. This simply is not a real course . . . let alone a college-level one. I've had poor examples of teaching and much busywork in classes before, but I think what makes this grate so badly is the fact that our teacher is so consistently and vociferously convinced that he is offering excellent material which will fire our creativity and sharpen our critical thinking skills.

He couldn't be more wrong about this if he suggested that copying and pasting the table of contents of our textbook from the book's website onto a worksheet is comparable in learning value to discussing controversial metaphysical questions which are actually related to philosophy. Wait. That's exactly what he's doing. No lie. I wish I were joking.

Anyway, I'm sure you'll hear more from me on the subject as the month-long course progresses. I keep telling myself that one month is significantly less than one semester, so it's all worth it in the end . . . *sigh*

Meanwhile, in the last five days alone I have seen three movies which have a shot at the summer top ten: White Oleander with 97%, Rebecca with 98%, and Judgment at Nuremberg with 99%. The strength of the first lies in the superb acting talent it employs as well as some excellent storytelling through character development. The second is some of Hitchcock's best work, with an excellent balance between romance and suspense (sort of a Jane Eyre meets . . . well, okay, it's a lot like Jane Eyre, but there's more to it than just that) and his only film to win a Best Picture Oscar.

As for the final film, I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially to History majors. The film is a masterpiece on a number of levels, and I kept thinking throughout that I wished I had seen it last summer. At that time I saw and wrote about two movies in particular which kept coming to mind as I watched this one. One was Schindler's List, the other was a very short (32 min.) French documentary called Night and Fog. The movie finally provided the closure I needed after watching the two Holocaust films and should serve to bring any truly honest train of thought on the subject to its logical conclusion. This film echoed some of the thoughts I had about the documentary in particular last year (post linked above), but of course it was both more thorough and more eloquent, and provided a number of additional things for me to ponder carefully.

Judgment at Nuremberg came out in 1961 and is set in 1948, recounting the story of a trial of "lesser" Nazi war criminals: high-ranking judges from the court system. It paints an interesting picture, both of Germans and Americans at the time. In particular, I was captivated by the vision of an uncertain America on the brink of serious trouble with Soviet Russia. The Berlin airlift is in progress and the American people are focused almost all of their energy on Stalin's alarming power plays. Yet there still remains the question of what to do with these horrible, horrible Germans who murdered millions of people in cold blood. Some want to prosecute the entire race, others simply want to quietly forget, and still others are deeply concerned with putting the past behind them so that the German people can be enlisted in the intense ideological conflict which is building between democracy and communism.

Into the middle of this arrives a quiet, district court judge played by Spencer Tracy who must try to clear the muddied waters of a world that is trying to move on in order to arrive at a just verdict. Other compelling roles are filled by Burt Lancaster as one of the defendants, Richard Widmark as the prosecuting (or is it persecuting?) attorney, and Marlene Dietrich as a upper-class German woman who befriends Tracy's character . . . all members of a formidable ensemble cast which also includes William Shatner, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift and Werner Klemperer (Col. Klink from Hogan's Heroes . . . !!! . . . also playing a minor role was the actor who played Major Hochstetter in the same series).

I had to save special mention for Maximilian Schell, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his incredible portrayal of the German lawyer who has been assigned to defend the Nazis. He is not exactly pleased with the job, but he is committed to giving them the best defense that he can, and before the end we begin to wonder whether he can keep form becoming sympathetic to their positions in the midst of his impassioned defense.

There is some excellent technical work in the movie. I was awed by the scene where Tracy walks through a massive arena where enormous Nazi rallies took place (one such rally appearing in the famous propoganda film Triumph of the Will). The entire place is deserted save for this one, lone figure trodding past the massive, empty construction of stone steps, pillars and platforms before which row upon row of identically-uniformed Nazis stood before der Furher. As Tracy walks along, we hear the Nazi anthem playing loud and clear, and as he glances over the spot, high above, where Hitler once stood and addressed hundreds of thousands, we hear his voice, piercing and insistent, haunting the place forever.

The movie brings powerful arguments to bear and asks many uncomfortable questions. It shows us, over and over, that the German people are just that . . . people. It blurs the lines between right and wrong, duty to country and duty to humanity, personal accountibility and responsibilty and loyalty and obedience, introducing large gray areas. And then, it brings them all back into sharp, hard focus at the end, with a searing indictment of the entire human race, including the viewer.

The movie (made, as I said, in 1961) is a brilliant and eloquent warning to an America emerging from the volatile atmosphere of the McCarthy years, but still very much in the midst of a stand-off with the Soviet Union. And as Spencer Tracy trudges out of a prison, formerly controlled by the Nazis, now lined with dozens of American MPs, to the tune of the Nazi national anthem, we know that the movie is saying that a single moment's inattention could take our own nation to the very brink of an incredible evil in the name of national security and the protection of our people and our ideals, if it hasn't already. Without getting too overtly political here (it's getting late and I need sleep) let me just say that the movie seems just as relevant now (or more) as it must have over forty years ago.

America, beware.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

May 09, 2005

Wholly Matrimony

A wedding where 2/3 of the bridal party are members of the Shadow Council? Completely unheard of . . . until today. So sit back and relax as I recount to you the tale of the entire sordid affair: Jam sessions. Wardrobe malfunctions. Fleeing grooms. Noisy brides. Tall bridesmaids. Short bridesmaids. Sermons from THHGTTG. Food fights. Undertakers. Knives. Tankards. Ambushed groomsmen. True love. This story has it all . . .

I had to be at the church and into my tuxedo by 1:30, with lunch and a drive-by library drop off along the way. The latter two accomplished, I disappeared into the guys' dressing room (which doubles as a puppet theater) and climbed into the monkey suit amid much talking and laughing from all parties. Moore sat in the midst of it all, playing Baldur's Gate II on his little ol' laptop.

Scholl himself eventually appeared to change into his all-white tux . . . he looked like the sultan of Baghdad in that thing (as one of his brothers noted). Gallagher, meanwhile, had received the wrong tie from Al's Formal Wear, and he traded with the best man (so he would stand apart). Unfortunately, the best man's bow tie didn't work with Gallagher's shirt at all. Not to worry . . . after fifteen minutes of being pinned to the wall with a number of sharp objects uncomfortably near his throat, he pulled through looking quite presentable.

Upon reflection, the wedding almost feels like an extremely long period of standing still sandwiched between two long periods of photography. And, actually, I think that's right. But it wasn't as dull as it sounds. Well, okay, maybe picture-taking was (or would have been without Ziggy).

We took a whole round of pictures with the bride, then with the groom, and all the while Ziggy entertained us with a wide variety of selections (from the Imperial March to jazz). Throughout it all, when we weren't in front of the camera (and sometimes when we were), we groomsmen staved off the monotony by jiving to the groove (or whatever you wish to call it). It was fantastic.

Oh, yes, and let's not forget the part where Gallagher favored Scholl with a brief rendition of "My Heart Will Go On" (knowing that Scholl can turn violent when he hears it, but also knowing that Scholl was completely stuck having his picture taken).

Then, finally, it was 3:15 and almost time for the wedding to begin. Scholl got stuffed into a small room off to the side of the foyer while Anna was sequestered out of sight around the corner ("The marshmallow is in the bag," Gallagher muttered into his sleeve, playing Secret Service for a moment). Scholl kept popping his head out of the room, assessing the possibility of making a run for it, but it just wasn't going to happen.

The room he was in had a vent which opened into the hallway where Anna was standing with her bridesmaids . . . Now, obviously, keeping Anna quiet in her nervous state was going to be a labor of Herculean proportions (and we didn't have any demi-gods handy). Unfortunately, her nervous chatter was making Scholl nervous, so Gallagher disappeared into the little room to gab with him . . . and make sure he didn't try to slide out the room's other door. ("He's having his bachelor party in there," Wilson joked.)

When Gallagher wasn't able to drown out Anna alone, I joined them and we kept up a steady stream of talk between us until the processional began. The bride came in, safe and sound, preceded by her bridesmaids in all their vertical diversity (seriously . . . Ashley was what? Three feet taller than Ardith?).

The wedding from this point proceeded without a hitch. Dr. Woodring complained at the reception that the groomsmen looked like undertakers . . . I noted that he couldn't see Scholl's face, and at least we didn't look like we were being held at gunpoint. Dr. Watson, delivering the sermon, did his best to lighten the mood . . . and I guess he figured the best way to do that was to turn to Douglas Adams. The basis of his sermon was drawn in part from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Tee hee.

Anyway, it came to an end in due time and Anna and Scholl emerged, (as Scholl has referred to similar cases in the past) "a married problem, resultant of the merger of two formerly individual problems." Then there was a further spate of picture taking, which we escaped from in shifts (it was all very efficient thanks to Morgan . . . despite her disturbing enjoyment of power over us).

Anna and Scholl finally arrived at their reception, cut the cake, and (as expected) totally creamed each other with their pieces. Scholl had it up his nose, in his ear, and in his eyes and had to be helped to the bathroom to clean up. There were still bits of icing visible in his goatee when they left.

And speaking of departure, Scholl had taken the precaution of hiding his car "somewhere" before the wedding began, knowing the long and glorious tradition in Anna's family of chaining drive shafts to metal poles and the like. Shortly before they were to leave, Gallagher and Martinez were sent to retrieve said sequestered vehicle . . . and took an inordinately long amount of time in returning. They got jumped, y'see, and the car (eventually) arrived covered in streamers and red window paint.

The happy couple hopped in and drove away amid a veritable storm of bubbles (as opposed to rice), which were all the more plentiful as Wilson and I had made sure that each of the multitudinous Hoyt children was in possession of a bubble-blower.

For our pains, the bridesmaids and groomsmen were rewarded with knives and tankards (respectively) bearing our names (or, in the case of the groomsmen, our "names"). Mine says "Guatemala" on it . . . Gallagher's, much to his dismay, says "String."

No. I won't explain it. I will merely say that it was the most unique Mother's Day I've ever experienced and bring this entry rapidly to a close (I have to leave for Dallas at 7:45 in the morning to take Doug to the airport) with the following entry from The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce:

"Marriage, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two."

Posted by Jared at 02:17 AM | TrackBack

May 07, 2005

Canonization

Oy vey . . . What a day. The beginning of summer does not bring with it rest and relaxation, despite the fact that I do not have to move or even pack any of my stuff since I'll be in the same apartment all summer and into the fall. I will have to move out at some point, but that comes much later.

Anyway, in the midst of jumping for joy at the prospect of not having to worry about any of those things it just plain slipped my mind that: Saturday morning would involve attendance at graduation in the hot, hot sun . . . Saturday afternoon would see Rachel have to move herself out (but quick!) . . . Saturday evening would find me at the wedding rehearsal . . . and Saturday night I would participate in a Weird Al sing-along.

Okay, fine. That last one wasn't really all that taxing. Excuse me for taking a break.

Anyway, I would like to thank Saint Gallagher (patron saint of inexperienced CS students, mathematical arcana, and Neverball), Saint Wilson (patron saint of textbooks, historiographers, and impulsive film purchases from Wal-mart), and Saint Martinez (patron saint of word origins, flux capacity, and Hawaiian shirts) for selflessly expending effort in all directions to help me haul Rachel and her three pickup loads of stuff off of the third floor of Thomas. Couldn't have done it without you guys . . .

Oh, yeah . . . and we should do that sing-along thing again some time. Beginning and ending with "So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish" from the new Hitchhiker movie. Great fun. I'll miss you all this summer and I look forward to the beginning of fall (but not too much just yet).

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

May 02, 2005

Reading Update on Command

As agonizing as these little lists of questions are to answer, their lure is utterly irresistible to me. Thanks, Wilson. It's funny to think how different this would have looked three years ago, just before I started college . . . Anyway:

* What book, other than Fahrenheit 451, would you want to be?

Something long, fun, and not likely to run out of readers anytime soon. I'm essentially an escapist at heart, so my first choice would probably be a fantasy like The Chronicles of Narnia. Something like The Complete Sherlock Holmes (or any of my "desert island" books below) would be a lot of fun, as well.

* Have you ever been really struck by a fictional character?

Geez . . . only all the time. A double handful of books have made me cry, and thrice as many more have left me quiet and introspective for days, but as for a specific character that I must point to forthwith . . . Well, most recently I would have to note both Asbury Fox ("The Enduring Chill" by Flannery O'Connor) and Ambrose ("Lost in the Funhouse" by John Barth).

* What was the last book that you bought?

Flannery O'Connor: Collected Works, Great Novels and Short Stories of E. M. Forster, and William Faulkner: Novels 1930-1935 . . . I decided to snag a little summer reading and beef up my personal library at the same time.

* What was the last book you read?

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt and Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor

* Which books are you reading?

I am officially in the midst of summer, so I've taken a large bite . . . *clears throat* . . . The Complete Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton, Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence, Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, Lost in the Funhouse by John Barth, Cobra by Timothy Zahn, and The King of Torts by John Grisham.

* Which five books would you take to a desert island?

I'm pretty sure I'd self-destruct if I actually had to choose only five books to take along . . . but discounting anything that would actually be useful to me, here are a few possibilities:

The Bible (beefiest version I can find, Apocrypha a must, in English and Spanish if possible, plenty of supplementary material in the form of concordances and so forth)

The Gormenghast Novels by Mervyn Peake

The Once and Future King by T. H. White

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Collected Works by Flannery O'Connor

Alternately, I would be just as content for a time with all four volumes of the Norton Anthologies of American and British Literature . . . although if I didn't get off the island I would go crazy wanting to read more than just the included excerpts of larger works or wishing I could delve into other writings by the favorite authors I picked out.

* To whom are you going to send this erm... let's say confession...and why? (three people) Hrm . . . How about a few fellow readers who haven't done it already . . . Say, Ardith, Andy, and Scholl.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

April 20, 2005

Revenge of the Dubliners

Well, after much practicing and preparation, and despite a large number of rough spots which cropped up during rehearsal, our presentation on Flannery O'Connor went smashingly well. I expended far too much energy to get us the classroom with the stage and cool lighting arrangements. We had to talk Kubricht and Solganick into swapping classrooms around for us, and we wound up displacing about 90 students (counting our class). But it was worth all that effort in the end, for sure.

Most of our group showed up in Heath-Hardwick Hall about 45 minutes early, and then proceeded to mill around anxiously since we couldn't really do anything until some profs started to arrive and the 8:00 class let out. Anyway, we finally got in and set up at a frantic pace and generally milled around some more, bursting with nervous energy.

The class had been assigned to read "Good Country People" and "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," these being the focus of our presentation. The original assignment way-back-when was the former story only, but I had long since convinced Dr. C to throw in the latter (he really didn't bother to put up a fight, actually). Martinez gave a devo from Ecclesiastes, tying it neatly to the worldview of The Misfit, and then we were off.

Martinez gave Gallagher a rousing introduction, really playing up the quality we expected from him in presenting O'Connor's biography, and then Gallagher appeared from backstage . . . decked out in a garish green headband with two plastic shamrocks attached to it on springs and carrying a couple of pink plastic flamingos. Martinez appeared confused, but handed him the Power Point slide clicker anyway as he set the flamingos down.

As Martinez took his seat, Gallagher brought up the presentation and enthusiastically launched into a biography of Flannery O'Connor . . . which happened to be a complete fabrication. I think the only thing he got right was her gender. I know he borrowed heavily from the life of James Joyce in creating this farce, and I assume the rest of it came from himself, largely. He discussed her role as a great Irish author, her hobby of raising flamingos, and her startling resemblance to Sinéad O'Connor (the Irish pop star). All of this was delivered in a heavy brogue.

After a few moments of this, the rest of the group was visibly confused, then completely panicked. Before long, we had all dashed to the front and were conferring in hushed, anxious tones just to the right of the stage. Finally, when Gallagher declared that Flannery O'Connor wrote Revenge of the Dubliners in 1944, Randy and I stepped firmly forward and hauled Gallagher off the other side of the stage. While we lectured him quietly and generally waved our arms around, Martinez apologized and Ashley pretended to frantically leaf through a few books so she could throw together a rudimentary bio.

Loudly commanding Gallagher to have a seat next to Coppinger, (who asked him if he was doing alright emotionally, and if he needed counseling) Randy and I turned and stage-whispered to Martinez to stall. So he started tap-dancing a bit, nervously trying to come up with something to say. Now, Martinez had just completed a presentation in his Intro to Research class the period before on Positive Electron Flow from Ion Emitters (or some such nonsense), so he now brought that up on the screen and launched into a discussion of the aforementioned topic. Randy and I glanced at each other and ran up to help Ashley with her research. About 20 seconds later she stepped forward to relieve Martinez and from that point forward we controlled the Power Point slides from off-stage (a tactic which we hoped would allow the presentation to flow more smoothly . . . I would say it worked quite effectively).

What has the presentation thus far had to do with Flannery O'Connor, you ask? Well, absolutely nothing, really . . . but we had a lot of fun and ultimately wasted less than five minutes. It was well-received by the class and left them ready to listen and see what might happen next. After Ashley's brief bio, I stepped up to talk about O'Connor's writing philosophy, style, and the general themes present in her work. You can find the basics of my portion beneath the fold. I read a few prepared excerpts from Mystery and Manners (these being quite difficult to select . . . there's so much good material there). Then I discussed four important aspects of her short stories and how they apply generally to the two stories we were presenting on. Finally, I read excerpts from two of her other stories to help illustrate the "moment of grace."

I hated not being able to talk about more things, but I only had 8 minutes. Ah, well . . . they'd have gotten bored eventually anyway. I just did my best to talk people into going out and reading more O'Connor before introducing Gallagher and Randy. The gimmick for their portion was that they had gotten into an argument over which story had the better set of characters: Good Man or Country People. In an attempt to promote a peaceful solution and actually get them to gather some info for the class, the story went that we had allowed them the option of engaging in a formal debate in front of everyone to help decide the question.

This debate consisted of each one discussing a major character or a few minor characters in-depth followed by a burst of concentrated, scripted witty banter running the gamut from the thumb-biting bit from Romeo and Juliet (verbatim) to derogatory remarks about personal appearance, hygiene, and ancestry. This culminated in Gallagher pulling his trump character: Pitty Sing (the cat from Good Man). Randy responded by referencing Gallagher's failed biography attempt (obviously a sore point), and Gallagher fired back with "You didn't even vote for Bush!"

The inside joke here, of course, is that Randy, in fact, did not vote for Bush . . . but after a momentary pause while this sunk in, Randy howled "You just called me a Democrat!" and chased Gallagher from the stage. At this point, Scholl (who had come to watch) walked forward wearing his thick, black cloak and carrying the Ice Cave's mascot, Murray (a skull on a stick, essentially). He also had another of the Ice Cave's mascots, the blue plush frog, wrapped around his head. Stepping to center stage, he solemnly intoned, "And now for something completely different" and returned to his seat.

This bit of utter randomocity was followed by the final portion of our presentation, a discussion of the themes in the two stories. This was to be carried forth by Ashley and Martinez, who were pretending to be a couple of random college students on an awkward first date at the Olive Garden. We had a table set up, Randy played waiter with an apron and towel, and Dean Martin crooned quietly in the background to set the mood. As I cued up slides, the class watched Martinez clumsily attempt to engage a bored Ashley in conversation before suddenly remembering the wise words of Dr. Coppinger: American Literature is great date conversation material. At this point, Ashley enthusiastically joined him in a discussion of the similar themes of Good Man and Country People which, we believe, proved enlightening to our classmates.

When they finished with all that, they stood up together, and Martinez moved on to his love of poetry, talking about how he and his lit class had recently "felt Emily" as they went backstage. The sound of a resounding slap was heard, and Martinez staggered back onstage with the accompanying slide: ". . . just don't get too carried away." And that was the end of our presentation.

But wait! Class still lacked half an hour, and we had already secured permission to lead the discussion. So the five of us lined up at the front and attempted to get people talking. And . . . people talked. About six people, to be exact. You know . . . us five and Dr. C.

Actually, a few other people did jump in at various points, and I really enjoyed fleshing things out in more depth with Dr. Coppinger's observations mixed in. We really experimented with a lot of new presentation techniques that we had never tried before, and a lot of things could have gone wrong. Ultimately, however, the presentation was well received, and Dr. Coppinger was pleased with our efforts. We had a great time (as always) throwing it together, and I would classify it as a definite success.

Yay us.

Mystery and Manners

I see from the standpoint of Christian orthodoxy. This means that for me the meaning of life is centered in our Redemption by Christ and what I see in the world I see in its relationship to that. I don’t think that this is a position that can be taken halfway or one that is particularly easy in these times to make transparent in fiction.

My own feeling is that writers who see by the light of their Christian faith will have, in these times, the sharpest eye for the grotesque, for the perverse, and for the unacceptable . . . I think that . . . often the reason for this attention to the perverse is the difference between their beliefs and the beliefs of their audience. Redemption is meaningless unless there is cause for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.

The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.

I suppose the reason for the use of so much violence in modern fiction will differ with each writer who uses it, but in my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work. This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world.

I think the writer of grotesque fiction does [things] in the way that takes the least [doing], because in his work distances are so great. He’s looking for one image that will connect or combine or embody two points; one is a point in the concrete, and the other is a point not visible to the naked eye, but believed in by him firmly, just as real to him, really, as the one that everybody sees.

Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one. To be able to recognize a freak, you have to have some conception of the whole man, and in the South the general conception of man is still, in the main, theological . . . approaching the subject from the standpoint of the writer, I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner, who isn’t convinced of it, is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God. Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive. They cast strange shadows, particularly in our literature.

Now the word symbol scares a good many people off, just as the word art does. They seem to feel that a symbol is some mysterious thing put in arbitrarily by the writer to frighten the common reader sort of a literary Masonic grip that is only for the initiated. They seem to think that it is a way of saying something that you aren’t actually saying, and so if they can be got to read a reputedly symbolic work at all, they approach it as if it were a problem in algebra. Find x. And when they do find or think they find this abstraction, x, then they go off with an elaborate sense of satisfaction and the notion that they have “understood” the story. Many students confuse the process of understanding a thing with understanding it.

In most English classes the short story has become a kind of literary specimen to be dissected. Every time a story of mine appears in a Freshman anthology, I have a vision of it, with its little organs laid open, like a frog in a bottle.
Some people have the notion that you read the story and then climb out of it into the meaning, but for the fiction writer himself the whole story is the meaning, because it is an experience, not an abstraction.

Characters: Flawed & Grotesque

-General Sash (A Late Encounter With the Enemy)

-Ruby Hill (A Stroke of Good Fortune)

-Asbury Fox (The Enduring Chill)

Plotlines: Task or Obsession Leading to Exhausting Physical/Spiritual Exertion

-Climbing the Stairs (The Geranium)

-Woodland Chase (The Turkey)

-Lost in Atlanta (The Artificial Nigger)

Violent, Shocking Epiphany

-Arson (A Circle in the Fire)

-Spousal Abandonment (The Life You Save May Be Your Own)

-Drowning (The River)

Moment of Grace: Redemption and Purification

Mr. Head stood very still and felt the action of mercy touch him again but this time he knew that there were no words in the world that could name it. He understood that it grew out of agony, which is not denied to any man and which is given in strange ways to children. He understood it was all a man could carry into death to give his Maker and he suddenly burned with shame that he had so little of it to take with him. He stood appalled, judging himself with the thoroughness of God, while the action of mercy covered his pride like a flame and consumed it. He had never thought himself a great sinner before but he saw now that his true depravity had been hidden from him lest it cause him despair. He realized that he was forgiven for sins from the beginning of time, when he had conceived in his own heart the sin of Adam, until the present, when he had denied poor Nelson. He saw that no sin was too monstrous to claim as his own, and since God loved in proportion as He forgave, he felt ready at that instant to enter Paradise.
(The Artificial Nigger)
The old life in him was exhausted. He awaited the coming of new. It was then that he felt the beginning of a chill, a chill so peculiar, so light, that it was like a warm ripple across a deeper sea of cold. His breath came short. The fierce bird which through the years of his childhood and the days of his illness had been poised over his head, waiting mysteriously, appeared all at once to be in motion. Asbury blanched and the last film of illusion was torn as if by a whirlwind from his eyes. He saw that for the rest of his days, frail, racked, but enduring, he would live in the face of a purifying terror. A feeble cry, a last impossible protest escaped him. But the Holy Ghost, emblazoned in ice instead of fire, continued, implacable, to descend.
(The Enduring Chill)
Posted by Jared at 01:37 AM | TrackBack

April 15, 2005

Dead by Wednesday

That's what I'll be if next week is any crazier than this one. I thought the week would go downhill after I turned in my monster 15-page Historiography paper on Tuesday night . . . especially since we watched two highly entertaining movies in class that night.

But it was not to be . . .

Going to bed after 1:30 three nights in a row, I found myself woken up before 8:00 on the following mornings to face days full of classes, work, and homework. The last two days:

Thursday
8:00-9:15: Work
9:30-10:50: Class
11:00-1:00: Work
1:20-2:55: Meetings
3:00-4:20: Class
5:00-8:45: Out and About
9:00-10:30: Meeting
11:00-2:00: Ummm . . . ??? (not sleeping)

Friday
7:45-8:45: Hallsville Run
9:00-10:15: Work
10:25-11:05: Chapel
11:20-12:15: Class
12:25-12:50: Make-up Quiz
1:00-5:00: Work
5:00-5:10: Meeting

And as for the weekend . . .

Friday night: Webb Historical Society Movie Night

Saturday night: Longview Symphony

Sunday night: Presentation Practice

And then . . .

Due by Tuesday:
Intro to Psych- 3 Make-up Quizzes
American Lit II- Group Presentation on Flannery O'Connor with Gallagher, Martinez, Randy, and Ashley
Twentieth Century Russia- Test #3
Texas & the American West- Paper #2
Historiography- Critique and Analysis of another student's paper (in this case, Barbour's rendering of the Yom Kippur War)

So . . . I hope to be back in the blogging world in a big way come summer, but for now . . . *disappears*

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

April 10, 2005

Following the Madding Crowd

Tuesday is a big day: My eight-page Historiography paper comes due at 6:00 pm. I don't know how much I've written about this paper before now, but the general idea behind the assignment is that each student is to choose a historical topic which they can research for themselves through heavy use of primary sources. Dr. Johnson seemed fairly attached to the idea that someone research the events surrounding the Longview Race Riot of 1919, so I decided to tackle it.

After a bit of preliminary fact-finding, I visited the Longview Public Library to inspect their vertical file on the subject and found a wealth of material . . . far more than I had any desire to take notes on. Returning the following week, Rachel helped me make 74 copies and bring the material home with me. My sources include newspaper articles from Longview, Dallas, and Waco, interviews with eyewitnesses from 1978 (conducted by Dr. Kenneth R. Durham, Dr. Johnson's predecessor in the LeTourneau History department and primary chronicler of the events), and official reports by the Texas Rangers and National Guardsmen who were dispatched to Longview to restore order.

Playing historical detective by getting this close to little-known events as I attempt to reconstruct the truth of what really happened in Longview July 10th-19th, 1919 has been quite an exhilirating experience. Tonight, as I sat in front of my computer screen and began to lay out in my mind exactly how I was going to tell this story, I happened to glance over at my materials and spot a map that was included in the vertical file. This map has 11 locations pinpointed on it where important events transpired before, during, and after the riot.

Pulling it out, I read over the sequence of events once again and traced out, in pencil, the route followed by an angry mob on July 11th. Gallagher declared himself to be generally bereft of things to do right then, so I asked him to accompany me on a journey through Longview to locate and inspect the various sites marked on my map.

Our quest began at the Longview Courthouse, where we located the spot on the lawn where the National Guard posted their command tent while martial law was in effect in Longview (July 13-19). Directly across the street was the place where Samuel L. Jones, a local black schoolteacher, was severely beaten on July 10th by three white men. Two of these men were of a family named King. They were the brothers of a woman they believed to have been insulted by an article in the Chicago Defender, a black newspaper which Jones represented in Longview.

That week's issue had featured an article by an anonymous author telling the story of Lemuel Walters, a black man who had been lynched in Longview the previous month for committing "indecencies" of an undetermined nature towards the Kings' sister. I have been completely unable to discover precisely what the nature of his actions were . . . the rumors range all the way from rape to a dinner invitation. Whichever of these extremes is closer to the truth, I have a copy of the article from the Defender and it states that the woman "declared she loved him, and if she were in the North would obtain a divorce and marry him." And so it was that Jones, suspected of writing the article (although he denied it at all times, both then and thereafter), was beaten by the King brothers in front of the Courthouse before escaping to the house of another local black leader, Dr. Calvin P. Davis, to have his wounds treated.

The angry citizens met for several hours that evening and were "talked down" for several hours by "voices of reason" including the mayor and a well-respected local attorney, and the meeting had dispersed with the calmer types thinking the matter was resolved and would subside. However, a group of about 15 young men wandered off and milled around for awhile before making for Jones's house at about midnight . . . and that was our next stop.

Jones's house was located around 9 or 10 blocks from the Courthouse, and when the group of armed men arrived there all seemed quiet. Coming up the back street a few of them stepped up onto the back porch and called for Jones to come out. Receiving no response, they moved towards the door, only to be fired upon from all sides. Over 100 rounds were fired in the next few minutes and four of the white men were wounded. One of them crawled under a nearby house where he was found and beaten by the blacks. The unscathed men ran for it.

See, while the young men were getting themselves whipped up to attack, Dr. Davis had not been idle. He had gotten the support of 25 local black men to stand guard over Jones and had laid an ambush around the house, instructing the men not to fire until he did. His plan worked perfectly . . . up to that point.

Gallagher and I followed the route of the fleeing white men back towards the Courthouse, turning off a block short to find the former location of the Fire Station (where they ran). Once there, they rang the alarm bell to summon reinforcements numbering somewhere between 100 and 1,000 men (the sources disagree a bit here, as you can see . . . Longview at the time had a total population of just over 5,000 people, so 1,000 men is probably a bit high). Right next to the Fire Station was Bodie Park where the young men had first gathered before setting off for the house.

A car was sent to hurriedly collect the wounded men from around Jones's house, and the rest of the men got themselves agitated into a regular lynch mob. It was around here that they broke into a hardware store to loot it for weapons and ammunition. At around 4 am they headed back to Jones's house, en masse. Having already been along that route, Gallagher and I took a detour to locate the house of Marion Bush, father-in-law of Dr. Davis, who will enter this story later. This was the most difficult of the locations to find as the town has totally changed in this area.

The street on which the house stood no longer even exists, and, in fact, the general area where it would have been is now occupied by a bank, the public library, and the parking lot in between the two. We parked and hopped out of the car to snoop around a bit, and managed to ascertain that the library wasn't even built until 1987. As a result we could only get a very general idea of the lay of the land in 1919.

From there we went three blocks straight south back to Jones's house. Arriving there early in the morning in 1919, the mob found no one at home . . . so they burned the house to the ground along with the house across the street from it. We followed their route south two and a half blocks to the former location of Quick Hall, a dance hall owned by one Charlie Medlock. The whites believed that blacks were storing ammunition in it and had their suspicions confirmed when they lit it on fire and the whole place started popping like an Orville Redenbacher factory.

Proceeding south another block the mob set Dr. Davis's house on fire. He was not at home (having gone to hide out in Bush's house), but his wife and children were. After some fast negotiating, a black man was allowed to go in and rescue them from the blaze. The mob set a nearby automobile on fire as well before turning east and proceeding two blocks to the homes of Charlie Medlock and a man named Ben Sanders. When Medlock and Sanders's 80-year old wife Belle protested the arson, they were both horsewhipped. After this the sun was beginning to come up and the mob finally dispersed.

All of this area is still a residential district, and there are houses at the locations of Jones and Davis's former residences. A small church stands across the street from Davis's house, and a new house is being built on or near the location of Quick Hall. Some sort of business now exists where Medlock's house was, and, directly across the street, There is nothing but a grassy, tree-filled lot at the former location of Sanders's house. It was nighttime, and this was still south Longview, so we didn't linger . . . I returned to LeTourneau, well satisfied with the trip.

To finish the story, however, the county judge and sheriff called the governor of Texas that very morning to ask for assistance and eight Texas Rangers plus about 200 National Guardsmen were eventually dispatched to deal with the situation. Davis, who was hiding in Bush's house all that day, narrowly escaped discovery when the house was searched twice before finally escaping to Mexico dressed in a soldier's uniform.

Meanwhile, on July 13th, the sheriff came to visit Marion Bush with a friend, asking him to submit to imprisonment for his own protection due to rumors that were circulating which indicated that he might be murdered. Bush agreed and re-entered his house "to blow out the lamp." Thinking, no doubt, of the lynching of Lemuel Walters (who had been held "safely" in the jail), Bush returned with a .45 caliber revolver and opened fire on the two white men. Missing from very close range, he dashed back inside and ran out the back door. The sheriff emptied a revolver at his retreating back, but didn't hit him. Calling a farmer five miles west of Bush's house, he asked him to stop the fugitive.

Shortly afterwards, he received a call that Bush had been stopped, and he loaded up two cars with National Guardsmen and rattled out of town to take custody. He arrived at the spot to find Bush dead . . . the farmer claimed he had ordered Bush to stop, and had gunned him down when he failed to comply.

Later that day, several dozen arrests were made (from among both the white and black populations) and this had a sobering effect on the townspeople. There was no more trouble for nearly a week until martial law was lifted and all of those arrested were freed with the charges dropped. Davis and Jones never returned to Longview, and Bush was, amazingly, the lone casualty of the entire incident.

This is, of course, the short version of the events, and there's a lot more to the story as a whole . . . but that's the basic gist. I had a good time sniffing around Longview finding all these places, and I think that I have a better handle on the events for my paper from having gotten a feel of the general layout. Now to write the dang-blasted thing . . .

Posted by Jared at 10:45 PM | TrackBack

April 01, 2005

The Light Brigade Gets Lucky

THE SC PLAYERS PRESENT:

Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw

Myself- Captain Bluntschli
Ardith- Raina Petkoff
Wilson- Sergius Saranoff
Anna- Catherine Petkoff
Gallagher- Petkoff
Scholl- Nicola, Russian Officer
Rachel- Louka

George Bernard Shaw is just awesome. His plays are hilarious, and they always manage to stomp all over some cherished British convention of the period during which they were written. Arms and the Man is Shaw's dig at the popular Romantic notions of warfare as honorable and glorious (this includes some hilarious pot shots at "The Charge of the Light Brigade").

During a war between the Serbs and the Bulgarians, Captain Bluntschli (a Swedish mercenary), finds himself on the run after his artillery unit is accidentally routed by a suicidal Bulgarian cavalry charge (the Serbs just happened to have been sent the wrong size ammunition at precisely the wrong moment). He escapes up into the bedroom of the young Bulgarian woman, Raina Petkoff, whose fiancé, Sergius Saranoff, led this cavalry charge, and she and her mother take him in.

Soon he returns safely home in an old coat belonging to the girl's father. After the conflict ends some few weeks later, he comes back to return the coat and hilarity ensues as Raina and her mother attempt to hide their role in his escape from her father and Sergius (who met Bluntschli during the peace negotiations and have developed an enormous respect for him).

To complicate matters, Raina and Sergius each consider the other's love for them to be the one completely pure and noble thing in their lives . . . and they each find themselves falling for other people: Raina for Bluntschli and Sergius for Louka (the fiercly-independent maid). Fortunately for this ingenue and her Byronic betrothed, Bluntschli's straightforward, unvarnished view of life, and the six hotels he has just inherited from his father, are there to save them from themselves and their hopelessly idealized worldviews.

That's kinda Shaw's thing: Tension arises not only from romantic triangles and the question of who will wind up with whom, but from the intolerable possibility that the play might end while a character still has a fractured worldview. And so, by the end, everyone (at least, everyone important) has been brought peacefully and blissfully into the fold . . . their wrongheaded ideas about life, love, war, virtue, etc. finally cast aside.

Happily ever after, indeed.

Posted by Jared at 02:28 AM | TrackBack

March 31, 2005

"When I'm good, I'm very good, but when I'm bad, I'm better."

Mae West deadpanned that line in her 1933 movie, I'm No Angel, and in many ways she spoke for the entire movie-making industry. This fact was never more clearly illustrated than during a nearly four-decade period of film history which moviegoers today might have a hard time believing ever happened. In a country where, unlike the America in which Cole Porter's inaccurately-titled broadway musical became a smash-hit (in 1934, ironically enough), anything truly does seem to go, both on the silver screen and off, it is difficult to remember that there was a time when this wasn't the case . . . and most people liked it that way.

75 years ago today, Hollywood imposed the Production Code on itself in order to avoid the looming threat of censorship by the federal government. Such a move by the government appeared more and more likely in the face of loud public outcry against the immoral content of motion pictures (thanks in part to scandals within Hollywood itself, sensationalized by the media, and in part to the advent of talking pictures that revolutionized the industry) and an ever-growing number of local censorship boards.

The Production Code of 1930 (linked above, also known as the Hays Code after Will Hays, former campaign manager to Warren G. Harding, hired by the major film studios in 1922 as the PR man in charge of the predecessor of the MPAA) consisted chiefly of a list of material deemed unsuitable for treatment by the motion picture industry. These forbidden subjects ranged from showing such things as crime and adultery in a positive light (crime doesn't pay), to any portrayal of miscegenation or white slavery, to prostitution, profanity, disrespect for religion . . . Well, you get the idea.

The code was initially pitched to the studios by Hays as a money-saver. Many studios in 1930 were in deep financial trouble after the 1927-and-following costs of switching to "talkies" and the Stock Market Crash of '29. Policing the content of their own movies while in production by the application of a universally-acceptable set of guidelines was much less expensive then sending reels back to the cutting room after government censors had taken a hack at them.

At first, (treating Hays Code as just that, a set of guidelines) the effort wasn't particularly effective . . . in fact, violence and sex in the movies actually increased. Then, in 1933, sexual innuendo in She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel served as the catalyst which caused the powers that be to crack down hard on Hollywood, forcing it to set up a "Production Code Administration." Brought in to run the PCA was a conservative Philadelphia Catholic named Joe Breen, and his regime was given the power to review every movie prior to release and demand whatever changes were deemed necessary before giving a movie the seal of approval. Any theater that ran a movie without this seal was fined $25,000.

Incidentally, both of the movies most immediately to blame for this were written and starred in by celebrity sex icon Mae West. West was already a notorious figure by this time, and she would go on to get herself banned from public radio in 1937 after a licentious appearance on the Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy Show.

In 1951 the Production Code was modified again . . . becoming more, rather than less, stringent. Some of the more humorous effects of the strictness of the code can be seen clearly in things like the separate twin beds slept in by Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on their popular television show (which ran during most of the 1950s), and the fact that the toilet which is shown in Psycho (1960) was the first one to appear on film. However, by the mid-50s self-censorship was beginning to be challenged by movie-makers.

In fact, one of my favorite movies (Anatomy of a Murder, 1959) was released with a number of direct violations of the code despite the lack of a certificate of approval. Thanks to the success of this and other unapproved movies, the code's already crumbling foundation eroded still further. Money, after all, has always been the bottom line. The slow, subtle war on the Production Code wasn't over yet, though. The movie was banned in Chicago, and Jimmy Stewart's father was so offended by the "dirty picture" that he took out an ad in a local newspaper telling people to avoid going to see it, even though his son was the star.

By the mid-60's, however, even MPAA member companies were beginning to release films which did not conform to the code (most notably the 1966 Cannes-winner Blow-Up), and in 1967 the Production Code finally came down forever (just in time for the release of another of my code-violating favorites: The Graduate). After 37 years of self-imposed censorship, Hollywood had finally bowed to the almighty dollar. Actually, it would probably be more accurate to say that the almighty dollar had served as the medium of communication chosen by Americans of the 1960s to prolaim that they no longer cared about the immoral content of movies nearly as much as their parents and grandparents in the 1920s.

In 1968, the MPAA film rating system went into effect with the ratings G (General), M (Mature), R (Restricted), and X (Children Under 17 Not Admitted). M was soon changed to GP, then to PG (Parental Guidance Suggested). In 1984, Steven Spielberg suggested the implementation of a new rating (PG-13, Parents Strongly Cautioned) in response to loud complaints concerning his latest PG-rated movie, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In 1990, X was renamed NC-17 in order to escape the "adult entertainment" connotation which damaged the business of non-pornographic movies. In spite of this, no NC-17-rated movie has ever achieved commercial success.

So, the (admittedly a bit simplistic) question is, did 37 years of Hollywood restraint make us a more moral society? The equally simplistic answer is: Not really. You see, the Production Code was, in the first place, an oversimplified solution to a problem that was misunderstood, at best. Cinema is an art form, and art cannot be limited by hard and fast rules of what does or does not constitute acceptable subject matter.

Art is a way to communicate something, whether it be as profound as elucidating a life philosophy or as simple as sharing beauty. Sure it's nice to have movies that are just entertaining that the kids can go see, but it is not the duty of the artist to blunt his message just so a six-year old can watch his movie. The Production Code made the all too-common mistake of viewing cinema as entertainment only and therefore subject to strict definitions of morality and immorality. After all, being entertained by violence or sex is clearly immoral . . . Unfortunately for all concerned, that's not the whole story, and the consequences only entrenched this mistaken view of cinema deeper into the Christian psyche.

Now, I'm not saying there were no good movies produced between 1930 and 1967. That certainly isn't true . . . Heck, you can't swing a dead Communist during that period without hitting one of the great film classics. I would simply say that I trust the exceptionally talented, the the Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcocks, to get it right with or without a babysitter. And this is borne out by the fact that good movies didn't suddenly stop coming out after 1967. Tomorrow's film greats are coming out right now, and will continue to do so . . . Now, fortunately, without any watchdog agencies to clip the filmmakers' wings.

And what about those movies which are vile and reprehensible and immoral and unconscionable? That's where one exercises one's own personal responsibility and discernment as an individual, of course. That was our job all along and it was a mistake to ever give it to a group of people who, if not primarily concerned with their art form, are simply worried about how much money you've given them this year.

Anyway, in view of the importance of this day in film history, my apartment mates and I decided that the viewing of a very special movie was in order. From our tentative, "immediate-availability" pool of six movies (including Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Pulp Fiction, A Clockwork Orange, and The Graduate) we settled on Lolita, directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on Vladimir Nabokov's controversial 1955 novel of the same name. Nabokov himself penned the screenplay, and Kubrick moved to England to direct the movie that was destined to create a stir. His star power included James Mason as Humbert Humbert, Shelley Winters as Charlotte Haze, and Peter Sellers as Clare Quilty.

Although it was made to meet Production Code standards (still, of course, in effect in 1962), it was not exactly an overwhelming success, commercially (banned left and right, condemned by every "morality" group around, and restricted to audiences over the age of 18 in the United States), but the critics noticed and it was nominated for an Oscar and several Golden Globes (among other things). Kubrick went on the following year to make the enormously popular Dr. Strangelove, which Sellers also starred in, and . . . the sixties moved on, I guess.

Lolita, as you can probably tell from the 99% rating I gave it at right, was excellent. The movie was almost flawlessly made. The acting was perfect. The writing, as one would expect, was fantastic. Who would have thought that the story of a middle-aged British author's obsession with a sexually active twelve-year old girl (changed to fourteen in the movie, and played by a sixteen-year old actress) would turn out to be well worth watching?

Aside from the extremely high production value, the movie has a fascinating take on the effects of an all-consuming obsession without the mediating influence of a moral compass. Take care when feeding your appetites, the movie tells us, or your appetites will begin to feed on you. I think the movie's tagline from the original release sums it all up nicely (bizarre and disturbing subject matter, highly-complex source novel, Production Code difficulties and all): "How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?"

So, go exercise your freedom to watch an excellent, thought-provoking movie that hasn't had the life sanitized out of it by some Hollywood pencil pusher. Find a movie with some really edgy content . . . one you can get something out of. If you need any help getting started . . . Here, gimme a sec to glance around the room at the Ice Cave's DVD collection. Here are a few titles, with problematic content detailed by initials, which you might try (in addition to any of the movies already mentioned): Chicago (s, l), Garden State (s, l), The Godfather (n, l, v), Schindler's List (s, n, l, v), Traffic (s, l, v), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (s, l), Road to Perdition (l, v). That should be enough to get you started.

After own my research on the subject and general watching of movies, if I had everything on hand, the ideal PC-themed movie marathon would look something like this: Intolerance (1916, pre-code), Ecstasy (1932, banned by code), I'm No Angel (1933, caused stricter code), The Outlaw (1943, release delayed by code), Anatomy of a Murder (1959, ignored and helped weaken code), Lolita (1962, amazingly followed code . . . technically), Blow-Up (1966, ended code), The Graduate (1967, followed code).

Now go watch the right thing.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

March 28, 2005

Ad Hoc

I accompanied the fledgling on-campus chapter of Sigma Tau Delta (The International English Honor Society) to Olive Garden this evening to consume a scrumptious supper and discuss activities and involvement for next semester. We also needed to elect officers for next year.

There were four offices to fill. There are currently four members of the LeTourneau Chapter who are not graduating in May.

Meet the new secretary. That's right . . . I get to take notes and type things up and send out important missives handed down to me by my roommate, errr . . . the president. Dr. Solganick seems to think that having a male secretary puts us on some sort of avant-garde cutting edge in comparison to other chapters.

As my first official act I will now go sulk in the corner.

Posted by Jared at 08:56 PM | TrackBack

March 27, 2005

A Very Shreveport Easter

Spring Break was closely followed by the weekend of Easter Sunday this year, granting us an additional three-day weekend after the week off . . . And there was much rejoicing on LeTourneau campus. I trekked to Shreveport in company with Rachel, Sarah, and Brian to spend the weekend with Sarah's family at her grandmother's house.

We had a grand time: watching movies (good, bad, and ugly) . . . playing Settlers of Catan . . . sleeping in . . . I had some additional time to read to Rachel (we're working our way through Harry Potter 1). There was much delicious food and dessert to be had as well, particularly for Sunday lunch, and copious amounts of delicious chocolate were distributed to all concerned parties on Easter morning.

Sarah's dad took Brian and me on a tour of the garage next to the house on Sunday afternoon . . . I had noticed that it was fairly large, but did not suspect that it contained, not one, not two, not even three, but four automobiles manufactured before 1925 and a profusion of spare parts and various other items of interest (old blacksmith tools, early gas pumps, and the like). 'Twas very cool indeed.

And, yes, never fear, I did attend a church service and spend some time reflecting on the true reason for Easter in the midst of enjoying some quality fellowship. All in all, I would definitely call my Easter weekend a success . . .

Posted by Jared at 09:40 PM | TrackBack

March 24, 2005

The Longest Intermission Ever

THE SC PLAYERS PRESENT:

The Man Who Came to Dinner by George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart

Scholl- Sheridan Whiteside
Rachel- Maggie Cutler, Sarah, Mrs. Dexter
Gallagher- Bert Jefferson, Richard Stanley, Mr. Stanley, Banjo
Myself- Dr. Bradley, John, Professor Metz, Beverly Carlton
Anna- Miss Preen, Mrs. Stanley, Harriet Stanley, Lorraine Sheldon
Ardith- June Stanley, Mrs. McCutcheon, Harriet Stanley, Lorraine Sheldon
Randy- Mr. Stanley, Sandy, Westcott
Wilson- Bert Jefferson

Well, in spite of the extreme hilarity and copious sly references to twenties, thirties, and forties pop culture contained in this play, we kinda stopped dead on the reading of it three Thursdays ago and only finished it tonight. Nevertheless, despite the long pause in the middle, I look forward more than ever to seeing this performed at the Longview Community Theater in a few weeks.

In this excellent play, Sheridan Whiteside, an internationally-known radio personality who runs in the highest of artistic circles slips on a patch of ice and breaks his leg while leaving the small-town home of the Stanleys where he has just eaten supper. As a result he is confined in their living room for several weeks as the holiday season kicks into full swing. "Sherry" is crusty, abrasive, and domineering, and he soon takes over the household entirely, winning over the servants (John and Sarah), constantly screaming at doctor (Bradley), nurse (Preen), and personal secretary (Maggie), encouraging the daughter and son of the house (June and Richard) to run away from home in pursuit of their own dreams and future plans, and receiving a steady stream of high-society visitors and odd, assorted gifts (from penguins to mummy cases) from celebrities around the globe.

After the doctor reveals the startling news that Sherry isn't actually injured after all he must maintain the ruse a bit longer as Maggie has fallen in love with a local reporter (Bert Jefferson) in the interim. Sherry is determined to put a stop to it for fear he will lose her. With this goal in mind, he calls in seductive stage actress Lorraine Sheldon with promises of a leading role in the play Bert has written . . . but Maggie isn't giving up so easily.

Sliding into despair after a number of attempts to subvert Lorraine's purpose have failed, Maggie resigns her secretarial position and prepares to leave. Sherry is finally forced to step in himself and rid the town of Lorraine with the aid of his ambiguously gay friend from Hollywood (Banjo, one of Gallagher's finer character performances) in the hilarious climax.

Really my only concern about the LCT production is that their portrayal of Banjo won't be nearly as side-splittingly flamboyant as our own Gallagher's was. We shall see . . . Kudos also to Scholl and Rachel in particular for good work that "made" more than one scene.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

March 20, 2005

Well, Excuse Me for Enjoying My Spring Break!

Land sakes alive . . . all this fuss and carrying on about my little Spring Break sabbatical . . .

I had a wonderful break, by the way. Nothing I did was something that I was required to do. The freedom was perfect and absolute. It was pure bliss, and I can now say that I spent one Spring Break doing exactly what I wanted to do. I am satisfied.

The run-down is pretty basic, and consequently dull. I watched over two dozen movies. Read some books. Bought Season One of Hogan's Heroes on DVD and watched the first eight episodes. Ate some incredibly delicious food cooked by the crew that stuck around (Rachel, Martinez, Uncle Doug). Oh . . . and I slept. Long, heavenly periods of complete unconsciousness, punctuated by brief, languid periods of half-consciousness while I rolled over and went back to the original phase.

I loved my Spring Break, and I hope the rest of you can say the same.

Posted by Jared at 07:49 PM | TrackBack

March 07, 2005

I Have a Strong Aversion to Mondays

But I fully realize that nothing can be done to fix the problem. Any attempt to do away with Mondays would be akin to removing the 13th floor of a high-rise building. Sure, you can tell them they're on the 14th floor, but everybody knows . . .

Anyway, the last week or so has been pretty much a blur . . . Outside of the movies I've watched and classes I've attended, I really don't remember much . . . and I am now trying to slide gracefully down into Spring Break (which, for me, begins at 12:15 PM on Friday). I'm not too picky about the graceful part, and I'll probably wind up flopping clumsily into my well-earned, greatly-needed, much-desired vacation. I'll be spending my ten days on-campus this year, for various reasons. I plan to do nothing (for the most part) but eat, sleep, watch movies, and catch up on my reading. Rachel, Uncle Doug, and Martinez will all be here as well, and I look forward to a grand time with the three of them.

But I'm not there yet. I still have a short essay about differing perspectives on the French Revolution . . . Psych, American Lit, and Texas midterms . . . an extra credit essay on the Spanish expeditions into Texas . . . and 10 pages of Psych journals (well, technically about 8 now, I think). I've had worse workloads, but as I say, the 10 days of bliss are not upon me yet.

Here goes nothin' . . .

Posted by Jared at 11:47 PM | TrackBack

February 26, 2005

A Historian's Playground

Do you remember when you were a kid, sitting at home on a sunny day, bored because you still hadn't really learned to make your own fun and sustain it? Maybe you had a friend over, and the two of you were even more bored because (well, in my case) even reading wasn't an option since it couldn't involve your guest. Then, one of your parents (finding themselves somehow in possession of a coupla free hours, and knowing peace and leisure to be impossible with gloomy children in the house) would suggest a visit to the park a few blocks away.

And you and your friend and/or siblings would go out there, under the watchful eye of the adult on a nearby bench, and just attack that playground like the unconquered frontier it was. Every bar, slide, and pole had to be made use of as you expended those enormous reserves of energy you had back then (you know, the ones you should have been saving for college and beyond). All that brightly-colored metal and plastic was so fun and exciting to play on because it could be anything you wanted it to be . . . pirate ship or spaceship, hostile jungle or haunted jailhouse.

Well, I remember those days quite well (as I should . . . I couldn't have left them behind more than 10 years ago), but I had forgotten what it really felt like to experience the pure glee of conquering a new playground until Saturday morning. As part of my membership in the Webb Historical Society here on campus, I am required to volunteer 2 hours of time one Saturday a month at the Gregg County Historical Museum.

The museum is small, but it is packed to the bursting point with artifacts and exhibits of all kinds. I didn't examine most of the museum as closely as I might have liked, because we got straight to work when we arrived. The museum's staff (like everyone else) is currently in the process of going digital, which means that everything they have in their collection must be measured, weighed, photographed, recorded, and catalogued. Could anything be more fun?

I started off by donning a pair of white cotton gloves (so the oils from my hands wouldn't damage anything I touched), and helping to carry items upstairs to be entered into the computer. We confined ourselves to the "Bank President's Office" exhibit, and I found myself handling antique silver inkwells, soft black bowler hats, and various forms of obsolete currency and yellowing documents. In other words, I got to go to a museum and touch stuff.

Then, I got put in charge of the computer, which was also great fun. They had a great little computer program called "Past Perfect" which is made specifically for recording museum collections. The interface was simple but effective, and I had a marvellous time tracking down the appropriate pre-entered designation for each item type, inputting all of the data about each item, and inserting the digital pictures.

After we finished, the lady in charge treated us to a delicious lunch at the hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant next-door. I then returned to LeTourneau for the afternoon D&D session. In short, it was quite the best waking time I've spent on a Saturday morning in the last 3 years (at least).

The joke here, of course, is that I haven't been awake for a Saturday morning in the past 3 years (at least). But it was still great fun, and I can't wait for the end of March to roll around so I can go back and mess around with more historical stuff.

Posted by Jared at 06:48 PM | TrackBack

February 25, 2005

Whither Bound?

Three years ago this month I was (for the first time in my life) almost out of short-term plan. I was running out of high school fast, and had not yet settled on a university to attend. I had long-term goals by the truckload, and the short-term had always kind of tended to work itself out naturally, but . . . Well, I never hear anyone talk about intermediate goals at all, and I've certainly never had any.

In this case, I wound up previewing at LeTourneau that month and decided that it felt right for me . . . Short-term taken care of for four more years. The long-term, as always, roils and writhes as various hopes and dreams bubble temporarily to the surface before sinking back out of sight for the present. My future is like poor man's stew. I toss in whatever comes along, stir well, taste regularly, say grace, and hope it's edible . . . after all, I can't throw it out.

All that to say that by late February of 2002, I knew where I'd be for four years and I knew where I wanted to be 10-15 years after that, and I wasn't in a position to put a lot of useful thought into what fell between.

Well, a lot can happen in three years: Things like changing majors, shifting priorities, making lifelong friends . . . etc. All of these and more have happened to me. And I have emerged from this process still knowing where I'll be for the next year and a half, and still knowing where I want to be within 10-15 years, and still having really no concrete concept of what is going to happen inbetween.

Then Wednesday night came along, and the Webb Historical Society held their monthly meeting. It was presided over by Dr. Coppinger and Dr. Johnson, and they spent an hour talking about graduate school. I had a vague idea about a year ago that I might possibly wish to wander in the general direction of grad school, but what with life happening and all, it kind of got shelved for further consideration at a later date.

Wednesday night reminded me of this, and I did a little online research as time permitted on Thursday. This site was of great help to me in getting a feel for various aspects of the decisions I would need to make. Everything that I saw made me more confident that I simply do not want to stop with a BA.

I also visited Dr. Coppinger (who is my academic advisor) in his office on Thursday afternoon. I told him that I would go to grad school (i.e. that I had the desire), and that I needed and wanted him to convince me that I could (that the means were not beyond my grasp) and that I should (that it would be worth my while with respect to my education and career). To make a long story short . . . he convinced me.

So . . . grad school then. I want my MA. Like, really. I'm leaving off any vague dreams of a PhD for later consideration. Much later. So, as to answering the 6 important questions:

Who? Me, stupid.

Why? The short answer: I have always been at least somewhat a creature of academia. This is where I thrive and excel, and it is where I find the most fulfillment. No matter where exactly I wind up and what I wind up doing, I want the additional education and self-actualization that I can get from pushing even further into my field of choice. I'm not looking at this as a hard push until I slam into a brick wall and can't go any further, but rather as a flapping and soaring to ever greater heights until I finally break through the cloud cover . . . or at least until the clouds aren't blocking as much of the sun as they still do now. Literature and narrative are my passions, and I'm nowhere near satisfied with the extent of my current explorations of them.

How? This question I'll have a hard time answering until I have solid answers to the other three. The oversimplified answer involves lots of elbow grease expended in heretofore unidentified directions. I don't know what sort of work I'll be doing or how it'll fit in, but it needs to make me enough money to be feasible without making it impossible to study and not burn out. Meanwhile, I'm working now . . . I'll be working this summer . . . And I'm setting things up for a nice, light course load during my senior year in the hopes of generating even more money.

When? Within three years . . . and that's all I know for sure. I might drop directly into it after graduating, or I might work for one year (or even two) to pay off a few LeTourneau loans and generate some sort of foundational fund that I can eat off of later. I don't know if I'll need a bit of time to stabilize, find my feet, and look around me right after college or not. And there are one or two other large factors to take into consideration. Hopefully I can bring the extraneous considerations into the fold sooner rather than later, because the ball needs to start rolling down some hill by the end of the summer at the absolute latest.

Where? Ah, yes . . . One mustn't discount the importance of this question, which is partially reliant on the next. At the moment, I haven't found any compelling reason to leave Texas for grad school. My connections, such as they are, are better in this state than in any other, and state residence is a financial factor at many schools. I have a still-growing list of about a dozen schools that I want to investigate with regard to all of the pertinent factors (money, size, faculty, available fields, etc.). So, that'll be going on, then . . .

What? As a double major, I will graduate from LeTourneau with a BA in History/Poli. Sci. and a BA in English. I love history and it is inextricably linked to the study of literature, but I am not at all interested in pursuing the study of history in grad school. Linguistics, too, is right out. Really, what I love to do most is read, write about what I've read, and just generally write about whatever strikes my fancy (fiction, nonfiction, philosophical ramblings . . . doesn't much matter). I could potentially study creative writing, and that might be the route I take, I suppose, but in the end I'll probably just devote myself to the study of literature. Which leaves open the question of what area to specialize in.

This one will be very difficult to answer, but I can pretty much already narrow it down to Britain or America, probably the former (but don't throw out any major European nations just yet). But . . . don't ask me to pick a time period until I absolutely have to. In Britain's case, anything from the late 1500s on is fair game (with a few periods, like Victorian, being more likely than others). In America's case, I'm not overly fond of anything before the Civil War, with the exception of Poe, Melville, etc. . . . but there's just a lot of good stuff. And one more consideration: Film Studies. I would be very sad if I blazed through grad school without even a glancing look at cinema. At least one school that I've looked at in Texas offers a minor in Film Studies (that's criticism, theory, and history). I absolutely adore the study of film, as I discovered in Watson's summer class last year, and I would probably be very nearly as happy there as in literature . . . in some ways more.

So I have a lot to think about, and a lot to talk about, and a lot to pray about. I'd probably pretty much be going nuts right now with trying to get everything straight if it weren't for something particularly helpful I've picked up in the past 21 years. The perfect vision offered by hindsight has, time and again, revealed the hand of God guiding my life in the proper directions . . . preparing me for future experiences and moving me towards areas that don't seem to make much sense at first, but later reveal an intricate and beautifully-planned design that is the perfect fit for where I want and need to be.

I can't tell you how many times I wondered why I might be growing up in Guatemala, and I can't even begin to ennumerate or quantify the difference it has made or the advantages it has provided (in the strangest areas!). When you think about it, it's rather odd too that I wound up at LeTourneau . . . I never would have if I hadn't had the bizarre idea that I wanted to be an engineer despite my love of reading. I still don't know what got into me with that, but . . . here I am because of it. After I visited, I said I'd come if God worked out the finances, and He did and continues to in unexpected ways.

And if I hadn't made such incredible and solid connections with certain people here just in that first semester and a half, I never would have stayed . . . And look at the difference that has made. The english program in particular is really very solid here and the teachers are just what I need. And what of all the people I wouldn't know and lessons I wouldn't have learned if I had bailed? It had to be LeTourneau.

Basically, I count myself extraordinarily lucky in that I can look back even at this young age and see something that makes sense . . . New reasons for why my life has been what it has been reveal themselves every day, but I can see a lot of the reasons already and there's just no way that I couldn't trust God, knowing what I know. I know everything will work the way it's supposed to, and instead of being worried about how exactly life will play out, I feel more like a little kid on Christmas Eve. The future is God's gift and I can't wait to see what's in it.

Posted by Jared at 06:12 PM | TrackBack

February 11, 2005

Wait, America has, like, a history?!

We have been studying memory in my Intro to Psych class all week, and today we had an interesting exercise which was a lot of fun. I'm kinda upset that I was a bit frazzled, rushed, and half-awake for it, but it was fun nonetheless.

Dr. Sheafer had slid into reciting the chapter . . . excuse me, "module" . . . back at us from the textbook and I in turn was sliding into a light doze when Scott (to my right) gave me a poke and informed me that we had a handout coming around. Ashley, also in the class, usually sits directly to my left but a previewer had usurped her spot and she was sitting to the right of Scott.

Anyway, the handout which appeared in front of me contained 43 numbered blanks, and after everyone had one Dr. Sheafer asked us to write the names of all the US presidents, in chronological order. Scott, Ashley, and I immediately started writing, but I heard gasps and snickering from around the classroom as Dr. Sheafer asked, "Why are you all looking at me like that? Just start writing!"

After a few minutes she asked if anyone was still writing . . . Ashley and I (didn't see any other hands go up) held up the class for an extra minute or two. I had failed to identify 10 of the presidents (grrr . . . more on that in a moment), but knew enough numbers that the ones I did have were mostly in the correct blanks. I heard the loud-mouth "history major" across the aisle proclaiming loudly that he "knew Lincoln! Lincoln freed the slaves! Lincoln is the most important! Lincoln is the 18th! I know Lincoln!" The sad thing is, he seemed to have over half the class convinced as to the correctness of his number.

Finally we were all done and Sheafer read us the correct answers so we could check ourselves. I had failed to get 4 which I actually knew (disappointing): Van Buren (#8), Arthur (#21), McKinley (#25), and Harding (#29). If I'd had more time to think . . . but that's neither here nor there. I also didn't even try to take a stab at the "period of death" during the 1830s-1850s which I haven't had straight in years. I could easily recall 4 of the 6 names, but the order eluded me completely (they are Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan, #s 10-15 . . . in case you're curious . . . won't be forgetting them again any time soon).

My fellow "history major" across the way chimed in with a loud "Dubya!" at the names of Bush Jr. AND Sr., and let us all know that, he "is a history major, and I didn't know hardly any of those!" He seemed proud of the fact. He's done this before, as when stating that he had no idea of the significance of most of these dates: 1776, 1812, 1861, 1914, 1941. I really wish he'd shut up. When did ignorance begin to be such a source of pride? Anyway, I digress.

Then she said she would read off the list again, and she wanted those who had the names she read written in their blanks to raise their hands as she read off those names, and for everyone to keep an eye on the rest of the class and watch where lots of hands went up and so forth . . .

I'm pretty sure everyone got Washington, but immediately after that half of the hands went down and by the time we got to Jackson (#7), Ashley and I were the only ones left. Except for #9 (William Henry Harrison), I had to keep my hand down (leaving Ashley as the lone hand) until we got to Lincoln (#16). At this point, most people had their hands up again, but by the time we hit Hayes (#19) everyone except me and Ashley had dropped back out.

As Ashley's hand stayed steadily in the air throughout, you could hear running commentary around the room. The jerk across the aisle loudly accused her of having studied beforehand. And I have no idea what I appeared to be doing . . . especially during the period when I didn't have 21, 25, or 29. My hand must have looked like a frigging prarie dog. However, once we passed Harding, I was able to keep my arm raised.

When FDR (#32) came along, a few hands began to come hesitantly back up, and by the time we got to Reagan (#40) almost everyone knew what was coming. After another double-echo of "Dubya," the exercise was over. As per the predictions in our book regarding memory, a graph of class knowledge would have been largely U-shaped . . . save, of course, for the predictable rise around Lincoln. The exercise was meant to show that, when recalling lists, people tend to remember the items that come first and last, and very little out of the middle.

I thought we could have chosen a better illustration. To my mind the experiment was a surer indication of the fact that even "history majors" don't seem to know much of anything about anything anymore, and that that's just fine. I'm not really a nationalist or a patriot in any sense of the word. I can't bring myself to care more about one particular country and its people than I do about all the rest of the world combined . . . certainly not to the point of supporting infamy or idiocy for the sake of "sacred American ideals." I just happen to have learned something about the history of the country of my birth (and picked up a great deal about lots of countries I've never even visited, as well). I wonder how many rabidly and obnoxiously American LeTourneau students could say the same. Can valid, wholesome national pride truly exist in conjunction with historical ignorance? Or is it doomed to be as shallow, obnoxious, and bigoted as I believe to be?

I thought, as I wrote that last paragraph, that I was getting slightly off-track of the original purpose of this post, and I suppose that's true. But it occurs to me to say that I should dearly like to impose restrictions on ignorant patriots . . . among others. What percentage of American college students could pass the standard naturalization test? I have no idea what's on it (hmmm . . . must research), but when I see people in my Psych class who can apparently name about 4 or 5 of our presidents, at most, I begin to really wonder.

Anyway, back to the point:

*sniggers* My cousin busted up the textbook curve . . . big time. I was just surprised at how many of the presidents I remembered myself at a moment's notice after all these years (I memorized them in 4th grade). After this refresher I have them back again, and that makes me happy. And I couldn't help but think that I'd love to see the results (and teacher reaction) if I could select my own small group to test on the presidents in this manner.

Posted by Jared at 03:32 PM | TrackBack

February 03, 2005

"I know that if I were in his place and you were in hers, we wouldn't sleep either."

THE SC PLAYERS PRESENT:

Mandragola by Niccolo Machiavelli

Wilson- Callimaco
Scholl- Siro
Myself- Ligurio
Randy- Messer Nicia
Michaela- Lucrezia
Gallagher- Sostrata, Young Widow
Andrew- Fra Timoteo

So, Machiavelli was a filthy old man and a playwright. Who knew? Well, just about everyone, as it turns out. So, here's the basic plot:

Callimaco, an Italian who has spent most of his life in France, returns to Italy to investigate the rumors of a shockingly beautiful (and, unfortunately, virtuous) married woman named Lucrezia. And he can't just stop with looking. So he hires Ligurio, a professional in such matters, to help him wheedle his way into Lucrezia's bed. The enterprise is aided by the fact that Messer Nicia, her husband, is apparently impotent (in addition to being an idiot) and . . . bawdy hilarity ensues.

Ligurio and Callimaco convince Nicia (who refuses to acknowledge his role in the couple's childless plight) that a potion made of mandragola, when once drunk by his wife, can't fail to make her fertile. There's just one catch . . . the first person to have relations with her after she drinks it will die in eight days. You can figure out the rest.

The quote in my title is spoken to the audience by Lucrezia's mercenary confessor, who is all too willing to justify the scheme to her biblically (using the example of Lot's daughters, no less) for the right number of ducats.

It was funny and a pretty good time . . . especially after a two-week drop-off in play readings . . . but I'm afraid we might have scandalized a few Longview Hall pedestrians.

Oh, well.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

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 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 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 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

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 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 SC PLAYERS PRESENT:

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 12, 2004

Jared's Final Days

Monday

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

Tuesday

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

Wednesday

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

Thursday

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

Friday

Lots More Freedom!!!

Saturday

Insert More Freedom Here!!!

Sunday

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

Posted by Jared at 04:04 PM | 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
A++!!!

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 02, 2004

An Evening of Baguette-Dunking à la France

THE SC PLAYERS PRESENT:

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

November 20, 2004

Bustiers, Bohemians, Ballads, & Bordellos

There was much SC movie-watching goodness last night, my friends. After a few of us had toyed with the idea for a few weeks, all of the movies finally came together at the right time and in the right place and we had a Burlesque Marathon.

Chicago, Cabaret, and Moulin Rouge . . . three very special musicals in one very special evening.

I happen to own Chicago and it's a favorite of mine. The only thing is, every time I see it again with people who have never seen it before I suddenly remember how racy it is. It's most annoying, because otherwise I really don't notice at all.

Cabaret was borrowed on VHS (bleah!) from the local library, and I had never seen it before. I kind of knew some of what to expect, but . . . Well, there's some really great stuff in there, but . . . See, it's just that . . . Wow. And having Liza Minelli as the leading lady doesn't do anyone any favors.

Anna had Moulin Rouge, which was by far the happiest and least cynical of the three (despite the ending). The unbelievably frantic pace of (in particular) the entire first half of that movie walks a very fine line between artistic brilliance and chaotic nonsense . . . but somehow it just works, and provides a good deal of amusement and entertainment besides. Absinthe and Bohemians! Yay!

Anyway, the resulting aftermath of all this is that I have the most random, bizarre, and disturbing hodgepodge of songs riding around and around in my head like so many wooden horses on a demonic carousel.

Oh, well . . . I'll figure out how to focus somehow.

Posted by Jared at 03:21 PM | TrackBack

November 18, 2004

And you say there's no butler?

THE SC PLAYERS PRESENT:

The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie

Paige- Mollie Ralston
Barbour- Giles Ralston
Myself- Christopher Wren, Mr. Paravicini
Rachel- Mrs. Boyle
Scholl- Major Metcalf
Anna- Miss Casewell
Gallagher- Detective Sergeant Trotter, Mr. Paravicini

This play is a smashing little murder mystery, with a healthy dose of comedy thrown in and most of Agatha Christie's favorite stereotype characters present. Many of the standard Christie elements are present in the plot, and I'd love to go into what they are . . . but that would give away whodunit, now wouldn't it?

The reading worked fairly well all around, despite the unfortunate circumstance of having only two copies of the play. The inevitable result was a general crowding around books on opposite sides of the room, so the wild pacing we normally engaged in was excluded.

*sigh* If I could only find more copies of plays . . . There are so many good ones, dagnabbit!

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

November 16, 2004

Because They Love Me

My professors are the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human beings I know. They really are. Allow me to explain.

During the course of any given semester as an English and History double major, it is natural to expect that I would have numerous papers to write . . . And this semester has certainly been no exception. In fact, every single one of my classes requires some sort of major paper to be completed during the fall.

This is natural. This is fair. This does not cause me any bitterness at all. I signed up for this. I have no cause for complaint.

But my professors are good Christians, and they care about their students. They care about their students so much that they want them to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving break without having to worry about completing major papers . . . They know how stressful it is to write about *insert topic here* when you're stuffed to the rafters with giblets and cranberry sauce.

Side note: Ewww . . . It's stressful to think about being stuffed with giblets and cranberry sauce.

What I'm trying to say is simply this . . . three of my five teachers, out of the pure benevolence of their hearts, have decided that my papers should fall due right before my extra-long weekend . . . my lush oasis of free time . . . my tranquil island amid troubled seas . . . my comfy recliner surrounded by hard paddle-desks . . . my . . . I'm getting slightly off topic.

The point is that because three people decided to be nice to me, I have three papers to write in the next week, and I'm feeling very hated on. But, once Thanksgiving has come and gone, I will have (almost literally) nothing to do at all whatsoever. That's if I survive, of course.

If I survive . . .

Posted by Jared at 03:37 PM | TrackBack

November 11, 2004

Transfiguring the Tradition

Fiddler on the Roof and I go way back, deep into the murky, lugubrious mists of my formative years. I don't believe that I was any older than five when I saw it for the first time. I remember two scenes from that viewing: "If I Were a Rich Man" (which I love . . . although I couldn't pick a favorite song) and "Miracle of Miracles" (which is the only song in the movie that I loathe). And unless I am very much mistaken, I was unceremoniously put to bed before the end of the movie. Such is the plight of the five-year old.

It was not until I was beginning my senior year in high school, in fact, that I rediscovered this delightful cinematic opus. My grandparents had given my family a two-video VHS copy and, being bored late one night, I popped it into the player.

Three hours and two minutes later I had nearly talked myself into rewinding it and playing it again.

Although I settled for a good night's sleep in the end, I watched it at least three or four more times that year, and I hadn't been at LeTourneau for even a full semester when I had the irresistable urge to get my hands on another copy.

I had talked Bryan (my roommate at the time) into going to Blockbuster with me where we had acquired and made use of a membership card, and it was there that I turned in my hour of need for a shiny DVD copy of Fiddler on the Roof.

In addition to having Bryan (who had never seen it) with me, I somehow also managed to collar Wilson and Uncle Doug (neither of them had seen it either), and the four of us enjoyed ourselves enormously.

I purposed then and there to ask for my own DVD copy for Christmas, and it was duly given unto me. With that, I assumed the mantle of the proud office of "Keeper of the Fiddler" . . . and I have worn it ever since.

That spring I watched it with Martinez (who also had not seen it before) and half a dozen or so of the Penn 2 guys. The following fall I watched it with Anna and Moore (they hadn't seen it) plus Wilson, Sharon, Scholl, etc. Last spring, we regulars were joined at the screening by Gallagher (who had seen it) and . . . Well, in short, it has become accepted practice to have a showing of Fiddler on the Roof during every semester I am at college.

And this semester was no exception. Quite far from it, in fact. I am currently taking "World Literature Through Film" as an Honors, junior-level lit elective, and the class requires students to form groups. This is in order that the entire last half of the semester may be spent showing movies based on works of world literature and presenting a comparison/contrast on the original work to the class.

After promptly forming a partnership with my close associates, Wilson and Martinez, we began to rack our brains for an appropriate selection. My initial tentative suggestion (Lolita) was shot down by Dr. Solganick (although he did it reluctantly, I must say), but it wasn't long before Fiddler came to mind. In the end, I'm rather shocked it wasn't the first thing that popped into my head.

The long and short of all this is that our presentation took place Thursday night, and was quite as successful as any presentation I have given before or could hope to give in future. And there was the added benefit of having nearly 20 people there for this semester's showing of the movie. I don't remember who exactly, but there were at least five there who hadn't seen the movie before.

What follows below the fold is the paper that Wilson, Martinez, and I wrote to go with the movie. Martinez wrote the beginning (on the book), Wilson wrote the middle (on the author and historical context), and I wrote the end (on the movie itself) . . . with Martinez fitting the three portions together and covering introduction and conclusion. This was followed by polishing and re-polishing and . . . blah blah blah. I'm rambling.

Read the paper if you have the time. And if you find yourself in the area, be sure to join us next semester for Fiddler on the Roof!

Translating Tevye: Tradition, Community, Faith, and Doubt
in Two Visions of the Dairyman

Sholem Aleichem’s novel Tevye the Dairyman is a classic piece of Yiddish literature. Fiddler on the Roof, the film based on Aleichem’s work, is likewise a beloved masterpiece. Many of the characters and plots overlap between the two versions; their ultimate theme is also the same, but it is expressed in slightly different ways and in a different tone. Although the film is based on the book, its approach to difficult questions of faith is significantly more playful.

Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman is a collection of short stories about a man who argues with God. Tevye, the main character, leads a difficult life and cannot understand why he is so poor while other Jews are so rich. Tevye struggles to reconcile the injustice of the world with the character of his God. The later stories tell of Tevye’s problems in marrying off his daughters; each one reveals a perspective on the Jewish tradition. Despite constant and recurring problems, Tevye remains true to his faith in God, which gives him courage to endure difficult times.

The early stories, particularly “Tevye Strikes it Rich” and "Tevye Blows a Small Fortune,” have a lighthearted tone. Tevye makes many amusing comments, such as the observation his horse is “only human too […] or else why would God have made him a horse,” or that an event “took place exactly a dog’s age ago, nine or ten years to the day, if not a bit more or less” (Aleichem 3). Such verbal acrobatics are entertaining to the audience, and they take some of the edge off of the otherwise-depressing subject of poverty. This lightness for the reader is reflected in Tevye’s nearly carefree attitude. He grumbles and complains about his lot in life, but he accepts that things “were meant to be” the way they are (13). He has faith in God and believes that He knows best. This faith provides the foundation for everything Tevye does; it gives him an anchor in times of difficulty.

The later stories, however, are not as lighthearted. All of Tevye’s daughters give him troubles, some more depressing than others. The sequence in which Tevye concocts a dream to cover Tzeitel’s marriage to the tailor Motl Komzoyl is amusing, but the family’s parting with Hodl is tinged with sadness, and Chava’s elopement leaves Tevye bitter throughout the remainder of the book. Later, Shprintze commits suicide after her failed engagement, and Beilke ends up living in poverty in America after driving Tevye mad with worry. Tevye describes his daughters as “too smart for their own good,” but he loves them all dearly, as he shows in dealing with their marriage problems (52).

But Tevye’s troubles do not end with his daughters. At the beginning of “Tevye Leaves for the Land of Israel,” Tevye tells of losing his wife, Golde (99). Then, Motl Komzoyl, Tevye’s son-in-law and Tzeitel’s husband, dies between that story and “Lekh-Lekho,” leaving Tevye responsible for his eldest daughter and her children (118). To round out his troubles, the village policeman tells Tevye that he (along with all the other Jews) must leave his home and move to another town.

In these later trials, Tevye’s faith begins to wobble. His conversations with God become more accusatory, and his rants against the injustice of life become more bitter. His problems with his daughters seem to harden his heart somewhat, so that by the end of the book he does not know whether God is really listening. At times, Tevye’s faith is little more than the mortar holding him together with his fellow Jews.

But there are two rays of hope in the darkness of Tevye’s life. First, Chava returns and reconciles with Tevye. Second, and more importantly, Tevye clings to his faith in God, shaky though it may be. The book ends with Tevye encouraging Jews everywhere “not to worry: the old God of Israel still lives” (131). The community of Jews still exists. But despite the positive elements, the ending carries overtones of bitterness and confusion as Tevye struggles with his faith.

The parting message from Tevye to his people indicates Aleichem’s preoccupation with the concept of community. In typical Jewish literary fashion, all of the Tevye stories show a profound attention to history and the fellowship of faith. The reader may gain a much more thorough appreciation for Aleichem’s work through a study of its literary and historical context.

According to Hillel Halkin’s introduction to the book, Tevye the Dairyman is “perhaps the only [novel] ever written in real time, that is, according to a scale on which time for the author and time for his characters are absolutely equivalent” (xxi). Because the novel was written over twenty years as a series of short stories, and is set within Aleichem’s own surroundings, the reader can follow a remarkable progression in the author’s thinking. The writing unfolds against the background of late Tsarist Russia, a time of growing persecution for Jews. This historical context provides a sense of urgency to the narratives; Tevye’s growing doubt is driven by the isolation and disenfranchisement of his people, which suggest a breakdown in the promises of their faith. Aleichem thus makes a strong statement about the condition of the Jewish people in his lifetime.

Sholem Aleichem shielded himself from scrutiny not only by using Tevye as a mouthpiece, but also by crafting a new persona for himself as the author; the writer Sholem Aleichem was actually the rabbi Shalom Rabinovich. The author used these fictional mediators to pose difficult questions to his readers. Joseph Sherman observes that Tevye the Dairyman often transfers familiar religious formulae to new situations, creating paradoxes of faith. He notes, for example, that “every time Tevye quotes from the Hallel [a prayer of praise], the effect of his quotation is to challenge the existence of the mercies that it celebrates in the everyday experience of ordinary folk like himself” (10).

David Booth explains further: “Tevye has no sense of the clear cause-effect nature of God’s will as evoked in earlier Jewish responses to catastrophe. In this strange new world, all that he can count on is his family and his community.” God is silent during Tevye’s troubles; at the end of the book, hope seems to come not from the fact that “God still lives” (since He has not been generous with deliverance) as much as from the fact that there is still a community of believing Jewish brethren scattered across the globe. In Booth’s view, Tevye has taken his questions so far that “the affirmation becomes more important than what is affirmed, the storyteller more important than the story” (302). This existential tone marks Tevye the Dairyman as a vital part of the modern Jewish literary tradition, a tradition preoccupied with the challenges posed by philosophical rationalism as well as human suffering.

In 1894, Jewish identity papers in Russia were marked with the word “Jew;” in this year, Sholem Aleichem wrote the first Tevye story. In 1905, Aleichem witnessed a pogrom in Kiev and subsequently left Russia; this is the date of “Chava,” the first truly tragic story in the series. In 1914, the flood of Jewish emigration from Russia was cut off by World War I; this year saw the end of the series with “Lekh-Lekho,” in which Tevye, although denied his dream of living in the Holy Land, is separated from his home forever (Halkin xiv-xv).

But the saga of Tevye did not end with “Lekh-Lekho;” Tevye the Dairyman was adapted into a stage play, which was later adapted into a film. The plot of the film is drawn entirely from the book, specifically following the plots of “Today’s Children,” “Hodl,” and “Chava” and including elements from “Tevye Strikes it Rich” and “Tevye Blows a Small Fortune.” The later, more depressing stories are absent, except for the common ending, in which Tevye is forced from his home.

One of the most important things to note about the adaptations is that both are musicals. The use of music is the primary distinction between the novel and the film; the poetic features of Aleichem’s prose are adapted to the screen in song form. The movie uses music to capture the feel of Jewish culture in Eastern Europe. However, the reasons for the selection of this particular artistic medium run a bit deeper than that, and the decision to tell the stories of Sholem Aleichem through music works beautifully.

Music can overcome the barriers of language and culture in order to communicate directly to the heart and soul of the listener. In fact, we see this in the movie during the song “To Life,” as the Russians and Jews set aside their differences for a time of celebration. The music acts as an emotional unifier. It brings the characters in the movie together as they sing, and it draws the viewer in with them as well. This echoes the theme of community that is so prevalent in Tevye the Dairyman; the musical element in the film subtly reinforces this theme for the viewer.

Music is used effectively in a number of different ways throughout Fiddler on the Roof. Most of the songs fall into more than one of the following categories. First, music cultivates and reveals deeper connections between characters in a number of instances (e.g. “To Life,” “Miracle of Miracles,” and “Do You Love Me?”). Some of the songs, such as “Matchmaker” and “If I Were a Rich Man,” give added depth to the characters. The forming of connections extends beyond individuals to the cultural level; a number of the songs draw deeply on Jewish culture, bringing out the importance of various Jewish beliefs and traditions. This is perhaps most apparent in the song “Sabbath Prayer,” a montage of Jewish families celebrating the Sabbath together in different homes throughout the village. The influence of Jewish customs can also be seen in dance during the “Wedding Celebration” number.

Another function of the songs is to emphasize a point or theme beyond what could be accomplished with normal dialogue. “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Far From the Home I Love,” “Tradition,” and “Anatevka” all fit into this category. In fact, “Tradition” sums up the major theme of the film: Jewish traditions form the foundation of Jewish identity. In “Anatevka,” furthermore, it becomes clear that this Jewish community consists of something much deeper and more lasting than the few dilapidated houses that make up the small Russian village. A bond far stronger than mere location binds these characters to one another.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, some songs are heavily symbolic. The best example of this in Fiddler is the “Chava Ballet Sequence.” The sequence is one of the linchpins of the movie, using music and dance to summarize the progression of the story to that point. As instrumental music plays, Golde silently teaches Chava to dance, after which Chava walks out to join her older sisters. The three dance together to the tune of the Fiddler (more will be said about this enigmatic character later), until the two eldest are joined by their respective spouses and dance away from their sister. Chava is left dancing alone until she feels the luring call of Fyedka. There is a brief struggle as the Fiddler tries to hold her back, but in the end Chava runs (but does not dance) to join Fyedka. Symbolically, this represents how the girls have been taught to “dance” to the tune of tradition by their mother, and how the first two have been joined in the dance by their husbands. Chava, on the other hand, has abandoned the dance completely; she has broken with tradition and community, leaving behind everything and everyone she has ever known, as her heartbroken father watches.

The musical numbers are not the only important elements at work within Fiddler on the Roof, however. The title character, who ties everything together as the movie’s chief metaphor, is quite musical in nature. He could effectively symbolize a number of different things, but the most significant is shown by what Tevye says at the beginning of the film: “A fiddler on the roof. Here [. . .] you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. You may ask [. . .] how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!” The Fiddler represents both tradition and the spirit of Jewish community.

The Fiddler appears several times during the movie, each one a key point in the plot or in the changing of Tevye’s fortunes. The first such appearance is in the opening credits, after Tevye has introduced the concept of tradition to the audience. After this, the Fiddler does not return until Tevye hears news of the pogrom, after an evening of carousing with Lazar Wolf. Here he moves from an emotional high to an emotional low, and this is one of several points in the movie where he questions God. It is here that the Fiddler appears to pull him back out of despair and lead him home.

The Fiddler’s role in the vital ballet sequence has already been mentioned. His fourth and final appearance in the movie comes just a few moments before the closing credits begin to roll. Tevye and his family have just left behind their home, and are slogging slowly through the half-frozen mud of a road in the middle of nowhere. They, like countless Jews before them, have been cast adrift in the world, and Tevye seems despondent. Then he hears the quiet playing of the Fiddler behind him. Turning, he spots the musician, who stares back with a mischievous glint in his eye. Tevye motions him to follow with his head, and then, as the Fiddler follows and plays joyfully behind him, strides purposefully onward with his head held high. The message seems to be that so long as the Jewish people keep their traditions with them, their fellowship with God and each other will remain intact, and they will have nothing to fear.

Here we see a significant departure from the message of Tevye the Dairyman. Both the novel and the film grow more serious as they progress, but the book has moments of utter sadness (e.g. the deaths of Shprintze and Golde), while the film remains relatively optimistic. In the book, the hope expressed at the end of the last story is almost half-hearted after Tevye’s recent expression of doubt. In contrast, the film ends with the lilting, happy strains of the Fiddler’s music, which accompanies Tevye and his family (which includes Golde, who is still alive in the film) as they travel. The film’s ending is almost happy; it certainly celebrates the stoic resolve of the Jewish people.

In short, the novel Tevye the Dairyman carries an almost bitter tone as it reflects on what seems to be God’s abandonment of the Jews. At the same time, it maintains that faith in God is necessary, if for no other reason than for the community it gives the Jews. The film Fiddler on the Roof has a similar focus on community, but its happier tone reflects a more hopeful outlook and faith in God.

Works Consulted

Aleichem, Sholem. Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories. Trans. Hillel Halkin. Schocken Books, 1987.

Booth, David. “The Role of the Storyteller—Sholem Aleichem and Elie Wiesel.” Judaism 42.3 (1993): 298-312.

Fiddler on the Roof. Screenplay by Sholom Aleichem and Joseph Stein. Dir. Norman Jewison. MGM/UA Home Entertainment, 1971.

Halkin, Hillel. Introduction. Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories. By Sholem Aleichem. Trans. Halkin. Schocken Books, 1987.

Sherman, Joseph. “Holding Fast to Integrity: Shalom Rabinovich, Sholem Aleichem and Tevye the Dairyman.” Judaism 43.1 (1994): 6-18.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

November 09, 2004

Of Ravens and Whalers and Very Fine Rods

Today was the day of the grand and portentous presentation by Randy, Gallagher, and Yours Truly on Messrs. Poe and Melville for American Literature I. This means two things: First, I haven't posted in a few days because I've been trying to spend all of the time when I was anywhere near a computer drowning myself in information on said authors. Second, this is the first of the major projects, papers, and presentations discussed in an earlier post and that means that I will be swamped from now until the end of the semester.

In fact, even if the only use I had for my time was to do schoolwork, I would be swamped. But that isn't all there is . . . *sigh* Anyway, it's not as if I cared, so I don't know why I'm complaining. I suspect that the answer is something like "Because I can." But I'm getting off the subject . . . Let's talk presentation.

The basic outline ran something like this. Gallagher got up and gave a short devo. I got up and (literally) raced through the European Romantics ("The Dry, Musty Gallery of Old, Dead White Guys"), then transitioned into the American Romantics. After doing little more than mentioning that they existed (Dr. Olson already spent a whole class period on them, and will be spending many more in future) I jumped straight to the men themselves: Herman Melville and Edgar Allen Poe.

After a few minutes talking about why Poe is . . . well, worth reading, I guess . . . I turned it over to the guy in charge of his biography. He talked, blah blah blah. Randy talked about the darker elements of Poe, focusing on a few stories in particular. We had a copy of The Simpsons version of "The Raven" but we hadn't been able to get it to work. So that sucked . . . we could have used the break in talking. Then the girl who was doing Poe's romantic poetry stood up and talked and read a few of them and so on and so forth, etc.

Then I got up and transitioned from Poe to Melville. The biography guy got up and talked about Melville, blah blah blah. And then Gallagher took over and told us about Moby Dick, Billy Budd, and "Bartelby the Scrivener" (which is so great).

Then it was time for our dramatic reading of "The Lightning-rod Man" (full text provided with link). I read the non-dialogue portions, Gallagher played the narrator, and Randy played the title character. We used a black-and-red plastic pitchfork as the lightning rod, and very few other props. But nevermind that. I want to talk about the story.

Here's what I think it means: The Lightning-rod Man is a traveling fire-and-brimstone evangelist, the lightning rod is "salvation," and the Narrator is a Romantic, unbound by traditionalism.

Note the portrayal of the title character in the story. He is by turns furious and terrified, but strangely impotent throughout. While the Narrator is free to roam about his cabin, standing in whatever spot is most comfortable, the Lightning-rod Man is paralyzed in the center of the room, dripping water. ("I am better here, and better wet." What do you think that is a reference to?)

As for the sales pitch, the Lightning-rod Man is very loud and insistent, assuring the Narrator that immediate and certain destruction is the inevitable consequence of refusing to purchase a lightning rod. He refuses to provide any empirical reasons for his views when the Narrator asks. He insists that his lightning rod is somehow of higher quality than other rods (which are worthless).

In fact, this is the reason given as to why a girl was struck while holding rosary beads (one of the only directly "Christian" references in the story). When the Narrator points out that even those who purchased the superior rods have been struck by lightning, the salesman blames improper installation rather than his product.

The Narrator, realizing that there is no malicious, judgmental force at work in the midst of the thunderstorm, glories freely in its beauty and majesty. He attempts to romanticize the Lightning-rod Man as an avatar of the thunder god, and is soundly reprimanded for speaking in "pagan" terms.

Finally, the Narrator stands up to the salesman, calling him "Tetzel" and stating definitely that there is nothing to fear from God or Nature. "Tetzel" responds, true to form, with accusations of heresy . . . And is promptly thrown out on his ear.

The story ends with a warning to the reader that "the Lightning-rod man still dwells in the land; still travels in storm-time, and drives a brave trade with the fears of man."

It all seems really bleeding obvious when I say it like this, (plus, Mr. Fry had already pretty much given that away in his comment a few months back . . . which I had completely forgotten about until recently), but it took me three or four readings to fully figure out what was going on. Anyway . . .

Cool story. Ultimately fun presentation.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

November 04, 2004

Blogging about Slogging

And the days move on and the names of the months change and the four seasons bury one another and it is spring again and yet again and the small streams that run over the rough sides of Gormenghast Mountain are big with rain while the days lengthen and summer sprawls across the countryside, sprawls in all the swathes of its green, with its gold and sticky head, with its slumber and the drone of doves and with its butterflies and its lizards and its sunflowers, over and over again, its doves, its butterflies, its lizards, its sunflowers, each one an echo-child while the fruit ripens and the grotesque boles of the ancient apple trees are dappled in the low rays of the sun and the air smells of such rotten sweetness as brings a hunger to the breast, and makes of the heart a sea-bed, and a tear, the fruit of salt and water, ripens, fed by a summer sorrow, ripens and falls . . . falls gradually along the cheekbones, wanders over the wastelands listlessly, the loveliest emblem of the heart's condition.

And the days move on and the names of the months change and the four seasons bury one another and the field-mice draw upon their granaries. The air is murky and the sun is like a raw wound in the grimy flesh of a beggar, and the rags of the clouds are clotted. The sky has been stabbed and has been left to die above the world. filthy, vast and bloody. And then the great winds come and the sky is blown naked, and a wild birdscreams across the glittering land. And the Countess stands at the window of her room with the white cats at her feet and stares at the frozen landscape spread below her, and a year later she is standing there again but the cats are abroad in the valleys and a raven sits upon her heavy shoulder.

And every day the myriad happenings. A loosened stone falls from a high tower. A fly drops lifeless from a broken pane. A sparrow twitters in a cave of ivy.

The days wear out the months and the months wear out the years, and a flux of moments, like an unquiet tide, eats at the black coast of futurity.

And Titus Groan is wading through his boyhood.

--Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast

And so life marches on, even though I haven't been talking about it here. I go about my daily routine . . . hang out with friends, watch movies, read, sleep, and (when no other options present themselves) get my homework done.

Everything from Fall Break or so is pretty much a blur. I went to the R. W. Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport last Tuesday, and that was really fun. I was motivated primarily by a need to see the page from a Gutenberg Bible they had on display there (Ps. 18-20) for extra credit in History of the English Language, but that turned out to be one of the least impressive things there.

By far my favorite thing there was a hallway of 16 fantasy-architecture sketches by Giovanni Battista Piranesi called "The Prisons." They were just about the first things we looked at, and Scholl, Randy, and I returned for a second look at the end while Anna and Rachel wandered the gardens. The drawings really looked the way I picture portions of Gormenghast Castle. Incredibly cool.

They had a great collection of antique guns that we enjoyed . . . some tapestries . . . lots of bronze sculpture (Too. Many. Horses.) . . . rare books . . . antique globes . . . The list goes on and on. We enjoyed ourselves.

Besides that one event, I'm drawing a complete blank on the last ten days. I know I've been doing things, but I have no clear idea as to what. My life feels like the above excerpt, and I'm just waiting for it to snap back into focus. I hope it doesn't take too long.

On a lighter note (tee hee) go take the Machiavelli Test. I scored a 79, and I'm guessing I'm low-end for this crew.

And, on a random note, remember: "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." (Lisa Grossman)

Posted by Jared at 03:32 PM | TrackBack

October 24, 2004

Wilde Things

THE SC PLAYERS PRESENT:

The Importance of Being Earnest (again) by Oscar Wilde

Wilson- Jack Worthing
Myself- Algernon Moncrieff
Anna- Gwendolen Fairfax, Laetitia Prism
Paige- Cecily Cardew, Lady Bracknell
Barbour- Dr. Chasuble
Scholl- Lane
Bryan- Merriman

It's that time again . . . just because this is still my favorite play, (and just about everyone else loves it, too) we did a repeat performance of Earnest with a slight change of cast.

I had forgotten that nearly every single line says the exact opposite of whatever makes logical sense. I mean, I knew it happened a lot, but geez . . . It's so funny . . .

We had, as you can see, a new face this week. I finally convinced Bryan to drop by . . . he had never read or seen the play before. Barbour, attending Stage Right rehearsal even as the play went on, managed to juggle things so that he could be around everytime Chasuble was onstage. Impressive.

I had a few things to say about this play . . . and they were to serve as a jumping off point to a broader discussion about Wilde's philosophy, which would in turn relate to my own.

But I'm going to save that for another post, because I think I know of one where it will fit better.

Anyway, after this brief break, I think it's time to return to Shakespeare this week . . . Yeah, definitely time for Shakespeare.

Posted by Jared at 05:02 PM | TrackBack

October 15, 2004

Texans' Night Out

As a few of you may know, there were roughly four mysterious disappearances this afternoon before supper. I and my fellow SC Texans (Randy, Gallagher, and Wilson) walked out of the Ice Cave and left campus in a very sudden and clandestine manner . . . This is our story.

About a week ago I noticed an ad in the Longview paper for a miniature golfing tournament (teams of four) at the local Putt-Putt. They were offering a widescreen version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as first prize and, Wilson having failed to acquire said movie at Wal-Mart a few weeks ago, I thought perhaps we ought to go for it.

I already knew that Randy wields a mean putter on the greens, and a quick poll of the Ice Cavers who were present at the time (Wilson and Gallagher, obviously) revealed that if the four of us organized ourselves we would be a force to be reckoned with out on the course.

We didn't want to get everyone's hopes up, of course, so we kept it a secret all week. The tournament was due to start at 4:30 and we jetted out of here very abruptly at 3:55.

Well, to make a long story as short as possible, we did really well. Wilson choked a bit on the 13th hole (his allergies were really acting up), and that was what ultimately did us in. When all was said and done, we lost by three strokes to a team of local girls.

Oh, well. I suppose it might be really galling . . . but we got their phone numbers. I'm so giving Peggy Sue a call. I'll keep you all up-to-date on how that develops, but for now I'm off for a continued evening of Friday fun. Oh, and be sure to read what my partners in crime have to say (follow the links above). Ciao.

Posted by Jared at 07:22 PM | TrackBack

October 04, 2004

The Cure for Rainy Monday Mornings

I woke up in our recliner, TOKAR, at about 8:30 this morning, and the apartment was uncharacteristically dim. Suddenly, a peal of thunder sounded from outside. Peering groggily out through the blinds, I could see rain falling lightly from a heavily overcast sky. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

When Gallagher woke me about an hour and a half later to go to chapel, everything looked more or less the same, and I informed him (very eloquently, I'm sure) that I would not be attending. Then I went back to sleep again.

I woke up again, about an hour later I think, to the sound of more thunder outside. As I buried myself deeper under the warm blankets the clouds thundered twice more in rapid succession. Then the noise from outside subsided once more into the gentle pattering of raindrops. I allowed the sound to lull me back to sleep.

When I finally got up at about 1:30 (with plenty of time to find some lunch and still make it to my 2:35 class) I realized that it has been a long time indeed since I felt so content with a pleasant night's/morning's rest. Few things make sleep as satisfying as the knowledge that the alternative involves getting up and tromping around in the cold and the wet and sitting in an uncomfortable chair in class or chapel listening to someone drone . . .

You should know, however, that I did not do what I did this morning only for myself. I did it for all people everywhere, glorying in my blissful rest all the more knowing that you would love to have been where I was. You, for whatever reason, were unable to sleep in, and so I did it for you.

I extended my weekend and napped in a recliner under warm blankets all morning for you, dear reader.

You're welcome.

Posted by Jared at 04:13 PM | TrackBack

September 25, 2004

Murder! (sans Butlers, Candlesticks, and Conservatories)

The Shadow Council Players present:

Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot

Wilson- Archbishop Thomas Becket
Anna- Chorus of Women, Messenger
Myself- First Tempter, First Knight
Scholl- First Priest, Second Tempter, Second Knight
Barbour- Second Priest, Third Tempter, Third Knight
Andrew- Third Priest
Paige- Fourth Tempter, Fourth Knight

I had never read this one before, or much of anything else by Eliot for that matter. This play is really cool. And no, it isn't a mystery or anything like that.

In case you haven't read it, or couldn't tell from the cast, the play is about the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in . . . the 1100s (I forget the exact year). He had been using his position to make geopolitical waves in England, France, and Rome and Henry II was rather upset about it. He made no secret of this fact and . . . Well, Becket wound up rather conveniently dead a few days after Christmas one year when some half-drunk knights managed to temporarily mislay their good sense in favor of loyalty.

Anyway, the style of the thing somehow made me think of Stanhope's pastoral play in Descent into Hell. Each character spoke in a very distinct style at particular times, and I would love to see this performed if it was properly directed. There is some amazing alliteration and poetry, and Becket's Christmas sermonette is really neat.

But my favorite part, of course, is where each of the four knights steps forward in turn and addresses the audience after the murder takes place, justifying their actions for posterity. That just rocked. I think I'll be spending a few more weeks in this period. I've enjoyed myself here (what with The Lion in Winter and History of the English Language, etc.).

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

September 24, 2004

Feliz Cumpleaños, Blog!

I have been blogging for exactly one year as of today. I tried to combine all of the entries into a single document once (there are over 200 of them now) so I could slap some kind of recognizable amount value on how much I have written. It didn't really work and the only thing I really figured out is that I've written an enormous frigging ton.

And I'm sure you didn't know that, huh?

Anyway, I thought a bit about how I wanted to do this. It's been a fun year . . . I've enjoyed myself immensely, not only in the living of it, but especially in the writing about it. In the end I decided on . . . Well, not a "Year in Review" post so much, actually.

I have chosen 30 different posts: my 10 favorite random posts, the 10 posts that describe the best (read: "most fun") or most important events of the last year, and my 10 favorite posts that deal with my passion (read: "major"), literary analysis in some form or another of whatever narrative had my attention at the time.

Beneath the fold, if you're interested, I have them all linked. I have included the title, date and time of posting, and a brief descriptor paragraph for each.

Whether anyone else is interested in having a look or not, I enjoyed reading through what is essentially the chronicle of my 20th year as I selected these and I am pleased to have them together in a single post for easy reference.

Here's to my first full year of blogging and (am I allowed to do this?) many more to come.

I come up with a lot of really random ideas, not to mention frequent transient obsessions with particular trains of thought, and a lot more of these have made it into blogpost form than probably deserved to . . . However, for various reasons I have a particular liking for each of the following. They have nothing to do with each other, and very little to do with much of anything else, but . . . Fine. I'll stop talking now.

--1:11 am, October 13th Long Live the South! - After watching Birth of a Nation with the SC I had a sudden need to return to my room and say something in defense of my idyllic, nostalgia-induced fantasies about the good old days in sleepy Southern towns, immortalized as they are by America's greatest writers. Or maybe I just wanted to list a bunch of books and authors I enjoy reading. That could be it, too.

--4:29 pm, December 3rd Why Do the White Gulls Call? - Homework piling up and threatening to bury me forever . . . Sick as a dog and ready to roll over and play dead . . . Christmas break and the accompanying 3,000-mile trip to Guatemala looming large ahead of me . . . And I still found time to write something about a fantastic song that had just been released. Before very many months had gone by, this song had won itself an Academy Award and helped make movie history . . .

--3:14 am, January 18th Williams on Church, Gandalf on New Age, and Wheeler on Crack - This post sprang from my frustration over a heated discussion with Uncle Doug and a few other people who had succeeded in utterly missing the point I make in the above post. I was quite bothered. Also contained herein is the infamous tale of the navigator and the red light district.

--10:30 pm, February 16th Wheeler, "With Post" - I still hate the title of this post . . . it's every bit as weird here as when Dr. Watson said something like it in class. Nevertheless, herein is everything I learned about Alfred, Lord Tennyson in preparation for my English Lit II presentation . . . and then some.

--4:45 pm, March 3rd Playing the Fool - Oh, yeah. That most upsetting circumstance: playing Lear's Fool with a goofy felt dunce cap that had a sleigh bell on the tip, and using that horribly bastardized version of King Lear besides. I forced myself to have fun, but deep down inside I was filled with hatred and self-loathing. Still, I just knew I'd laugh later . . .

--3:24 pm, March 28th "When Great Minds Collide," or "Ker-splat!" - That excessively random bout of wordplay I had with Wilson over IM which amused me so much that I eventually posted it when I was short on genuine content.

--2:21 pm, March 31st SC Literary Frankenstein Monsters - Ahhh . . . This post, although I made it on the main blog, is dear to my heart. It represents a night of extreme fun delving into the dusty corners of memory (my own and others') for every possible literary character I could dredge up to slap onto an SC member or fringer in an example of ruthless stereotyping. Or something.

--4:15 pm, April 13th The Birds and the Bees - Ah, LeTourneau in the Spring . . . 'Nuff said.

--2:09 am, May 7th Missing - I have no idea why I like this post so much. It's just one of those random inducers of nostalgia, I guess.

--2:27 am, July 1st "The horror! The horror!" - Few things are as satisfying to write as parody is, and although this post took an inordinate amount of time and effort to complete, I am dreadfully fond of it. Wilson as Kurtz . . . Somehow, it just works!

--4:32 pm, July 23rd Vaecordia Confiteor - They say that confession is good for the soul . . . or maybe that it is the first step to curing your problems . . . or . . . I don't know what. "They" are largely idiots, anyway. I just had a fantastic time talking about what a sick Star Wars fanatic I am/was.

The good times I've had over the course of the past year have been numerous indeed . . . far too numerous to count, catalogue, or otherwise record. Some things just stand out, though, and for me the following 10 days in particular fit that bill.

--8:27 pm, November 4th The Day of Caffeine - There's nothing quite like how I felt throughout this day. I still remember the state that I was in when I wrote this post after having been wide awake for about 36 straight hours (no cat naps, even) thanks entirely to my good friends, sugar and caffeine.

--1:25 pm, January 23rd The Shadow Council Players, entering stage left . . . - The beginning of a high-caliber dramatic legacy that is still moving forward today, nine months later. This post and all of its sequels make me very happy (just by default).

--6:22 pm, February 23rd The Sequel That Never Should Have Happened - It was just another one of those days, I guess.

--10:24 pm, March 1st Today is the first day of the rest of your major. - And speaking of one of those days, this was my average M-W-F throughout Spring semester. It had its ups and downs (or should I say, "Its Watsons and Batts"?) but the net result was usually at least something amusing to write about and remember.

--2:58 pm, March 30th Please tell me this is a dream, Part II - Blech! You smell that? It's the fragrant scent of another memory that seems a good deal funnier in hindsight than it did at the time. These would be my experiences playing Puck and . . . uhhh . . . Thisby.

--11:59 pm, April 2nd Wheeler's Conference Epic - My excessively lengthy chronicle of the 7th Annual C. S. Lewis and the Inklings Conference.

--5:40 pm, April 26th Day of Caffeine III: Revenge of the Hooplah - As you can see, after the initial success of the Day of Caffeine, and a reasonably large box office for the sequel, the series' owners decided to whore out the franchise to knock-off-writing hacks. Orrr maybe I just stayed up too late . . . again.

--11:59 pm, May 21st It's "The Jared Show!" - Summer Film Class with Dr. Watson was so . . . much . . . fun!!!

--4:43 pm, July 26th Verily y'all missed a goodly sport . . . - Yay! A visit from The Gallagher and The Bard in the dead of summer! I test the waters of dramatic criticism.

--11:59 pm, August 6th Anna and the King and I and Anna - What happens when the Far East meets East Texas and they collaborate to spawn a bastard musical child? Fun and entertainment for me, Anna, and Dr. Watson, that's what.

--12:14 pm, August 31st The Big Summer Movie Project - This is the equivalent of a short "What I Did This Summer" essay . . . sorta. Pretty self-explanatory, really.

Six of the following posts were written as homework assignments (no, I didn't turn them in exactly as they appear here), and four of them were written "for fun." And, (surprise, surprise), I had fun with them all, but I prefer the ones that I didn't actually have to write. Anyway, of all my posts these are the few that I am most likely to return to over and over to . . . uhhh . . . remember what I actually think about various things.

--5:55 am, January 7th Paradise Lost: An Insomniac's Perspective - I guess this was the first time that I was officially not allowed to get to sleep (and I tried for nearly two hours) until I had posted my thoughts on something I read. My mom was mad because I was still awake when she got up, but I had a great time . . .

--8:15 pm, February 8th The Twilight Zone - After wrestling with Faulkner and The Sound and the Fury for the better part of a week, I managed to come fully to terms with its style and message. Somehow that just made the pay-off better in the end. Good stuff. I loved it.

--1:34 am, February 23rd Lord Tennyson & The Looney Female Obsession - If it has "obsession" in the title, it was probably written fairly late on the night before an English Lit journal portfolio was due. I'm still rather fond of my interpretation of "The Lady of Shalott."

--2:07 am, April 20th Algernon Charles Swinburne & The Pagan Obsession - "Hymn to Proserpine" is definitely one of my favorite poems. Once you get the meter down, it is rich, high-quality reading indeed . . . the devil's food cake of poetry.

--11:59 pm, April 27th Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon & The War Obsession - I really liked the contrast between these poets and their work, and especially what it ultimately communicates about the generation that fought World War I. Mankind in general, and literature in particular, just wasn't the same after this.

--4:15 am, April 28th Edward Morgan Forster & The "Hook-Up" Obsession - Aside from the fact that "A Passage to India" is one of the best movies I've seen this year, thinking through Forster stuff helped me nail another personal philosophical plank to the raft on which I sail the sea of . . . Awww, nevermind.

--6:45 pm, May 22nd Schindler, Goeth, and Stern: Individual vs. Community in Schindler's List - Another one of the best movies I've seen this year. I know, I know . . . I can't believe I'd never seen it either. But I made up for that by watching it four times in two weeks and writing a paper on it.

--1:48 pm, May 24th The "Milk" of Orson Welles: Citizen Kane As Shakespearean Tragedy - I had a really great time with my Film journals this summer . . .

--5:03 am, May 24th A Slipshod, Slapdash Freudian Analysis of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo - . . . these two in particular came to me in flashes of inspiration and just flowed into print.

--5:35 pm, June 8th Jared's Salute to Saki - No, not the Japanese rice wine . . . the British short story author. And don't you give me that disappointed look, either. Trust me, this guy is way better than alcohol.

--11:59 pm, June 24th The Case for the Defense: Harry Potter as Wholesome, Valuable Christian Fantasy - This post took a long time, but I was generally pleased with the result. For quite awhile I had really needed to think through my opinion on the subject coherently and get it down in some semblance of order. Now I no longer feel obligated to justify myself to anyone on this subject . . . on the contrary, it has become their responsibility to justify themselves to me if they disagree. I hold the high ground.

And that's about the size of it. Say, guess what! I didn't actually plan this (really), but it turns out that I'm putting the finishing touches on this post at almost exactly the same time (down to the minute) that very first post went up. How 'bout that?

Late night blogposting is one of those things that just isn't going to change.

Posted by Jared at 02:19 AM | TrackBack

September 21, 2004

The Paper Trail

Well, I'm finally dropping pretty comfortably into the swing of things . . . getting used to my schedule, my homework load . . . moving past the introductory material in each class and into the interesting parts (mostly).

And, although the due dates for my major projects, presentations, and papers are still a month or two down the road, I already have topics pretty much locked in. And I am very excited about them.

In History of the English Language we have been assigned a 5-7 page "expository/analytical" paper with fairly loose parameters. Basically, it has to involve the English language . . . somehow. I plan to write on the extensive use of literary allusions in our everyday speech/writing. I don't have a solidified thesis as yet, but it will most likely involve the use of mythology and allusion as a deeply human phenomenon which "reflects a more profound reality."

In American Literature I we are required to make a one hour group presentation on one of six possible topics. Randy, Gallagher, and I signed up to present on Edgar Allen Poe and Herman Melville . . . there are two others in the group, but who cares? We have already begun the process of molding the presentation to our collective will. Our tentative title: "Poe & Melville: And Now For Something Completely Different."

In 19th Century Europe we have to write an eight page paper on the "private life and values" of a major historical figure of the period. I have narrowed my choices down to Bismarck, Tsarina Alexandra, and Queen Victoria . . . and leaning heavily towards the first. Whatever I choose will be fun, though.

In Journalism and Publications we will be answering a question (developed by ourselves) "relevant to the role of journalism in modern North American society" in 12 pages or less (I think). I have settled, for the moment, on an examination of the influence that the media has had on fundamentalist controversies and/or the resulting popularity of the contested items or organizations in question, with Harry Potter as a test case.

In World Literature through Film I will be a member of a group that is in charge of the entire three hour class period for one night. We must select and show all or part of a movie based on a piece of literature that is not British or American. Martinez, Wilson, and I have decided to present Tevye the Dairyman by Sholom Aleichem (Yiddish literature . . . obviously) and the movie Fiddler on the Roof.

I am looking forward to working on all of these things over the course of the semester (which is truly a rarity). Each has its own particular draw, but I'm especially happy to have the opportunity to indulge my recently acquired mania for all things Yiddish in the name of getting an A in a junior-level HNRS lit class. How cool is that?

Posted by Jared at 05:52 PM | TrackBack

September 19, 2004

Purely Functional

Well, I couldn't help but notice that it's the 19th of September. And I haven't posted in a week, even though there are certainly things worth posting about.

*sigh*

Life is just so . . . *voice breaks* . . . hard sometimes.

But it is at times like these when we must pick ourselves up off of the proverbial ground, brush the proverbial dust off of our sleeves, lick our proverbial wounds, and . . . What the hell am I talking about?!

I feel singularly uninspired at the moment. I can't remember much that happened this week, really. You can spot the movies I watched over on the right. We played "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Faust" and I was quite pleased by the results of both. Anna, Scholl, Wilson, Gallagher, Martinez, Sharptiano, Randy, Ashley, Audra, Tim, Rachel, Stan, Jenny . . . I think that's everyone who played one or more parts in one or both of those plays. Everyone besides me, of course. Hopefully this week will see a return to the traditional play-night post format.

The real reason for the delay is mainly this: I'm working on two monster posts, and a fairly tricky third at the moment and all of my blogging energies have kind of gone into that. Also I added 6 new names to the Literary Frankensteins list (March in the main page archives). I haven't actually linked up all of the new names, and I may not . . . I ran out of steam at around 2:30 Friday morning while I was working on it.

I had a pleasant Friday . . . watched MST3K after chapel, and did the usual Friday things. Also I destroyed the competition in a game of Trivial Pursuit: Book Lover's Edition before Bible study. I feel constrained, however, to be honest and note that I got lucky a number of times. (If I don't tell you, someone else is liable to.)

Another thing which I must certainly mention is the arrival of a care package from MOCK headquarters in Iowa. Really the only effective way to express my full appreciation for the extra layers of clothing enclosed is to state (as sincerely as possible under the circumstances) that I am now staying warmer than I have these many months. Hopefully I won't lose any more fingers and toes now. This cannot help but be a good thing.

As a closing note: I have no more to say. Words don't come as easily, it seems, when there are larger issues afoot weighing heavily on your mind. Yeah, it sucks. But I'll soon be back! Never fear!

Posted by Jared at 10:47 PM | TrackBack

September 12, 2004

Invasion of the Bawdy Snackers

I have nearly half a dozen posts in the works even as we speak . . . but the time-consuming pursuit of acquiring material for further postings (read: continuing to exist in the Ice Cave and generally spending time with SCers) has delayed publishing dates.

But . . .

I had an extra dose of fun this evening on our Saturday night run to Waffle Shoppe. I don't know if Anna's official moving of the leave-time from somewhere between 12:00 and 12:30 up to 11:00 had anything to do with the enormous crowd that we dragged in for our midnight snack tonight, but . . . Well, I cannot recall at any time in the past accompanying more than 8 people to Waffle Shoppe on any given night (and I haven't missed a trip in at least a year). Tonight there were 15 of us.

Amidst much loud merriment and joviality from both ends of the table (which I believe might have been in different time zones), I ordered my usual "Ultimate Omlette" stuffed with ham, and side order of toast.

Side note: I am led to wonder if much of the novelty of the evening came from the surprise of seeing what the first-time or rare visitors would order . . . the regulars, as usual, didn't even open their menus and any one of us could just as easily have ordered for all of us. In fact, I believe Moore tried to.

There is really no need to attempt to recreate any of the many random and hilarious threads of conversation that ensued as we ate and talked and laughed together (although I would like to draw attention to the brief attempt at naming alcoholic drinks after various SCers. It died rather abruptly when we got to the "Martini-ez" . . . other relevant quotes are certain to appear on Wilson's blog someday).

Suffice to say, there was much happiness all around and I look forward once again to a food-filled semester "smothered and covered" in Saturday night Waffle Shoppe goodness.

Hmmm . . . When I start to sound like Moore it is clearly a sign of two things: 1) I need sleep and 2) I need to stop blogging. Good night.

Posted by Jared at 03:12 AM | TrackBack

September 03, 2004

"I don't know anything, I've been in class all day."

-- Ardith

I hope that pearl of Ardith Wisdom (TM) won't be the tone-setter for the coming semester, but I thought it was extremely funny.

The first week of school is over. I have now had at least one full session of each of my classes, and I am very optimistic indeed. My schedule runs a little something like this:

>M-W-F, 2:35-3:30 -- History of the English Language (HotEL) with Dr. Watson (the esteemed). Friendly Faces: Martinez, Dr. Watson

HotEL may sound boring, but . . . not gonna be. There will be much happy learning going on, and Watson shows "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "My Fair Lady" in that class.

>T-R, 9:30-10:50 -- American Literature I with Dr. Olson. Friendly Faces: Gallagher, Randy

I'm already pretty happy with this class because Dr. Olson is really cool. She read "Coyote Juggles His Eyes" (Native American Folk Tale) out loud to us in the last class. Also, Randy and Gallagher and I have signed up for the group presentation on Poe and Melville. It will be difficult to do really well, but we'll have fun with it.

>T-R, 1:30-2:50 -- 19th Century Europe (Age of Empires) with Dr. Kubricht (the shameless). Friendly Faces: Wilson, Ashley

In spite of the large numbers of ignorant, raving, technical majors (Quote of the week: "Why would they name a hurricane after France?!" UGH!) this class just has to be good . . . the subject matter can't fail. And there's always Kubricht to subtly (and blatantly) make fun of everyone.

>T-R, 3:00-4:20 -- Journalism and Publications with Col. Payton. Friendly Faces: Randy, Bryan

I liked Speech when I expected to hate it, and Payton is a good guy. I expect to enjoy myself in this class, and maybe even learn to write something worth reading. Maybe.

>R, 6:00-9:00 -- HNRS World Literature Through Film (WLTF, mate?) with Dr. Solganick (the painful punster). Friendly Faces: Wilson, Gallagher, Martinez, Ardith, Randy, Moore, Scott, Sharptiano, Barbour . . . etc.

*jumps up in down in ecstatic glee* Speaking of "can't fail" . . . We'll be reading excerpts from the following and watching the movie versions in class: Gulliver's Travels, Faust, Eugene Onegin, Madame Bovary, The Brothers Karamazov, A Doll's House, and Heart of Darkness. Of course, in the case of that last we'll watch Apocalypse Now. In addition to watching these, there will be much opportunity for further formal training in writing essays about movies, plus actual writing practice. And if all that weren't enough, we get to focus our collective brains to the task of a battle of wits with Solganick. Who will break first, the teacher or his "HNRS" students . . .? I can hardly wait to find out.

All this to say . . . Bring it on, fall semester. As of now, I am ready for you.

Posted by Jared at 09:51 PM | TrackBack

August 27, 2004

I Am Quite Safe

After waking up at 6:30 this morning to leave (after less than 5 hours of sleep) and driving the manual-with-no-cruise-control pickup for another 5 hours (with Ashley in the passenger seat, trying not to pass the people ahead of me in our convoy of four) and eating at Taco Bueno for lunch for the second day in a row (after the one in Lubbock made me sick enough to throw up in Barnes & Noble yesterday afternoon . . . don't worry, no books were harmed in any way) and spending 3 hours riding with Ashley in her car while we discussed The Issues and listened to a strange mix of music . . .

After all of that, I arrived safely back on the LeTourneau campus at approximately 4:00. As soon as the car had stopped moving in the Trinity parking lot, I was out and booking it in the general direction of my apartment. I saw Sharptiano, but didn't have time to greet him . . . I had been given dire warnings about what would happened if I failed to arrive in "the middle of the afternoon" as promised (2:00-4:00 = middle of afternoon according to Scholl).

I plunged into the dreaded ice cave and was greeted by a very welcome sight: Scholl, Wilson, Randy, and . . . BRYAN DURKIN! Bryan Durkin was my first roommate and a good friend during my freshman year. He is now a returning student after a year-long sabbatical from the college scene.

Scholl immediately brought out The Judge and attempted to administer a beating . . . After all of the above-mentioned efforts at getting back to campus and into the apartment as quickly as I possibly could . . . Well, let's just say that I was extremely ungrateful and utterly displeased.

Members of the family arrived soon afterwards, as did the Sharon-Moore, and there was much jollity. A large gang made up of myself and friends got all of Audra's things and dumped them in her room on Thomas 3 . . . her roommate was totally bemused by the procession of male . . . ummm . . . "bearers" arriving well ahead of Audra herself.

Moving down to the apartments, Ashley received the same generous assistance and all of her worldly goods were dumped without further ado. Then I spent awhile enjoying the company of various personages, punctuated by frequent phone calls pushing my parents in the general direction of getting some supper. If we hadn't come up with a plan and walked them through each step they still wouldn't know what's going on for dinner . . .

We ate at Joe's . . . it was good, but weird. I have spent the last two years living with one foot in each of two completely different worlds (well, okay . . . more like one foot and four toes in one world, my left pinky toe in the other . . . sometimes) and tonight I saw those worlds sit down across a table from each other and eat dinner together. On one side: Bryan, Wilson, Ardith, Anna, Scholl and myself. On the other side: Micah, Brendon, Ashley, Mom, Dad, Ian. It felt so wrong . . . I would have felt perfectly comfortable with either half, but the two together threw me . . . a lot.

Nevertheless, it was fun . . . after talking for awhile back in our living room, people slowly started trickling out. Eventually we gathered the survivors and crashed Uncle Doug's room for a good long chat. And then we laughed over "Cmplt Wrks Shkspr (abridged)" back in the living room for another long while.

Long story short . . . it's late, I'm tired, I actually have to get up tomorrow to do . . . this and that, and the main purpose of this post is entirely summarized in the title. Good night.

Posted by Jared at 02:25 AM | TrackBack

August 24, 2004

The Mostest Specialest Birthday Ever

I am 21 years old. I suppose it would be the usual thing at this juncture to meditate a bit on my past year of life, look ahead to the future, and generally ruminate about getting older, crossing thresholds into adulthood, and settling into a stolid, mature state of responsible symbiosis with my fellow man.

But the fact is that I don't even feel a little bit contemplative right now . . . less so even than I usually feel. In fact, I don't think I could actually tell you the difference between my 20-year old and 21-year old selves if they were standing side by side in front of me (unless the latter model had, say, a bottle of Bacardi Silver in one hand). So that's quite enough of this "I'm 21" nonsense . . . I still haven't given my teenage years permission to leave, and I have a few more years to legitimately cling to them before I will be forced to enter the youth ministry as a career teen.

My birthday, as the title of this post has certainly indicated, was indeed quite special . . . and it started quite early. I was woken at the unholy hour of 8:30 in the morning. Audra was the first to wish me a happy birthday . . . so few people were that I was amusing myself by seeing who would remember when, and kept track of the first six people or so.

Anyway, I was woken up so that I could help Brett move in to his dorm room at South Plains College. This sterling academic institution is located in the aptly named town of Levelland (pop. 12866) which is located about a half-hour from Lubbock. Along the way you'll find yourself passing through towns such as Hurlwood, Smyer, and Opdyke West (pop. 150-450 each) . . . it's quite the itinerary.

I arrived on campus in a separate car from Brett, and he had already met his roommate and located his room. The two of them came out to meet me, and it was all I could do to keep my jaw in place.

Brett's new roommate was dragging on a cigarette as they approached. He sported a marine haircut and a bushy goatee. He was dressed all in black, but his t-shirt had the sleeves hacked off at the shoulder. He had an earring in his left ear and a skull amidst flames tatooed on his right arm (this last was a bit crooked and odd-looking, and I later heard that he got it for 30 bucks at some shady place or other). Every inch of exposed skin had the reddish-brown tint of a farmer's tan, and he wore glasses that had a yellowish tint. As he got closer I noticed that his eyes were swimming, and that I couldn't quite tell where he was looking. One eye remained stationary while the other seemed to rove at will (later discovered that the former is a glass eye . . . I forget what he did to it).

"Name's Russell, Russell Hinley. You can call me Russ, or Hinley. Hell, you can call me whatever you want, but most folks just call me Hinley."

Struggling to maintain a straight face, I accompanied them to their room with a load of stuff as they chattered happily about this and that. I noticed that Hinley had the annoying habit of punctuating most of his sentences (and ours) with a snorting giggle. Brett and Hinley had been assigned to the smallest room on the floor . . . and it was tiny. I tried to lighten the mood by joking that they must have gotten stuck in the supply closet by mistake and somewhere else on the floor they'd probably find a pile of mops and brooms enjoying the extra space. Hinley gave a snorting giggle. Brett was not amused.

Hinley already had his side of the room covered with Marine posters, and he and Brett carefully discussed such pressing matters as where to set up the TV, stereo, computer, X-Box . . . *sigh* Kids these days. So many gadgets and doo-hickeys. The discussion was complicated by the fact that their room only bothered to include one desk. They were very bitter about this fact, but I couldn't quite see where you would have fit another. I borrowed Brett's cell phone and left them to it, wandering outside to call my parents.

They were just leaving Levelland's Super Wal-Mart (here in West Texas every small town and its sister has a Super Wal-Wart) and would be arriving shortly. I felt the need to give them the heads-up, more for Brett's sake than theirs.

Me: "Now, dad, when it comes to Brett's roommate, you are expecting anything right?"

Dad: "What kind of anything are we talking about here?"

Me: "Oh. Ummm . . . Well, you know . . . ANYTHING."

Dad: "Ummm . . ."

Me: "Think earrings, tattoos and cigarette smoke . . ."

Dad: "Ah. Right." *brief pause* "Yeah. Yeah, we're expecting anything."

Me: "Good. See you in a bit then."

I was terribly proud of them, actually. My mother's face was totally straight. My dad was as friendly as always. Perhaps they've already been prepared for such shocks by visits with my friends . . .? But further speculation along that line is unnecessary.

After a little while longer we went to lunch at Dairy Queen and then returned to my grandparents' house in Lubbock to get ready for my birthday cookout. I crashed out in front of the computer and started composing this post, but I was interrupted by Micah, who wanted me to take him to Hastings so he could buy me a birthday present. Some people just have no consideration for others . . . totally selfish.

We went, but after we'd been there for about 10 minutes, my mom called to inform Micah that he had already purchased me a present, and that she would be sure to tell him what it was when he got home. And, oh yeah, could we please pick up some ice from the grocery store on the way back?

We picked up the ice, and I crashed out again . . . only to be sent back for more ice. I used the opportunity to slip into Barnes & Noble and use the $25 gift card my parents had given me . . . I got Trivial Pursuit: Book Lover's Edition. *evil cackle*

Then, I barely had time to write anymore before people started arriving. My dad's parents came, along with Ashley and Audra and family and my cousin Shawn and company (family of my mom's only sibling). I enjoyed the usual cookout stuff and then we ate cake.

Apparently twenty-one candles is a bit much, so there was a large number two and a matching number one. My mom had a bit of trouble lighting them, blew one out herself ("Thanks, mom. Now I only get half a wish."), and finally presented the cake to me after the traditional song. Wanting to make absolutely sure that I got both candles with a single blow, I huffed and I puffed and I blew hot wax all over my mom's arm.

"Ummm . . . Thanks for not dropping my cake, mom."

And then it was finally time for the traditional birthday ritual. This is the part where everyone gets to sit in a semi-circle and very carefully study my reaction as I see, for the first time, what they've gotten for me this year. I am pleased to report that no acting was necessary . . . although I must mention that I only got one birthday card that wasn't insulting.

And now, as per Scholl's request, the haul:

-Another $25 gift cards to Barnes & Noble
-A Lord Peter Wimsey mystery (by Dorothy Sayers) and an Ellis Peters mystery
-A John Eldredge book *doesn't remember title*
-A book light that turns off after preprogrammed amount of time (for those who often fall asleep and waste batteries)
-The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)
-A 2005 Yiddish Word-a-day Calendar (Everyone was a bit confused by this and I got to give a brief lecture on the subject of Yiddish . . . that was fun)
-Cash

The aforementioned cash and gift card I used to get:

-"Big Fish" (Daniel Wallace), "The Godfather" (Mario Puzo), and "Whose Body?" (Dorothy Sayers) . . . (the books)
-"Schindler's List," "Amadeus: Director's Cut," and "The Seventh Seal" (yes, the movies)

Yay!

Anyway, after this the evening quickly drew to a close . . . We watched "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and stuff and then I fell asleep reading. And my light turned itself off. I am pleased.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

August 23, 2004

Please tell me this is a dream, Part IV

I just couldn't stand it anymore . . . I had to have a fix. So I went to Godeke Public Library and checked out four copies of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I also looked for "Hamlet" and "The Importance of Being Earnest" but they didn't have a single copy of either one. I was disgusted. Then I rounded up the cousins and the brothers and we dove right in.

Micah- Lysander, Philostrate, Flute/Thisby, Moth
Myself- Demetrius, Egeus, Bottom/Pryamus, Puck
Ashley- Hermia, Titania, Quince/Prologue, Peaseblossom
Audra- Helena, Hippolyta, Snug/Lion, Cobweb, 1st Fairy
Brett- Theseus, Oberon, Starveling/Moonshine, Demetrius
Ian- Snout/Wall, Mustardseed, 2nd Fairy, Theseus

I think everyone had fun . . . *shrugs* I know I had fun. Brett couldn't seem to figure out how to play a character who wasn't flamboyantly gay . . . or at the very least, effeminate . . . That got old fast. Ian changed his accent every time he had a line, but each one was funny. Micah has gotten some acting experience under his belt since the last time I worked with him, and he did well. The girls were solid.

I enjoyed myself, and I can't wait for the new season to begin.

However, I can't pass over the opportunity that is before me here. I had my own midsummer night's dream, you see.

Here on the eve of my 21st birthday I dreamed that I died in a car wreck on the way back to LeTourneau, but that I had a few days to tie up loose ends with people there, in ghost form.

Scholl proved especially difficult to deal with, berating me loudly for "not trying hard enough" to get back alive. I blame him for the dream . . . That's all I have to say.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

August 22, 2004

The Continuing Adventures of The Snob

I have been at my mother's parents' house since Thursday evening. Anything that happens around here happens because I make it happen, and consequently very little has happened. Mostly I've slept in until lunch, bummed around Lubbock all afternoon, and watched movies until 4:00 in the morning.

Every movie I watched on the 20th except for Gigi represents my efforts to slog through a portion of Brett's rather questionable video collection. And that pretty much represents the cream of the crop (well, Club Dread just about scrapes the bottom of the barrel, I'll admit).

Yeah. Serves me right, I guess.

This morning I went to the late service at Trinity and decided it would be better for all concerned if I just didn't listen to the sermon. I caught bits and snatches . . . It was about healthy marriages or something. The one time I started paying attention there was an anecdote about a questionable encounter that Pastor Toti had with his wife in an empty elevator (a church elevator, no less!). Traumatized, I returned to my book. Healthy marriages indeed!

And speaking of books, at Barnes & Noble today, I picked up this little gem. I couldn't resist . . . bought it and read it this afternoon. It was pretty good, fairly amusing and so forth . . . I was entertained.

Yeah, I know I've got a birthday in, like, two days. But I didn't think it would be a good idea to ask for something like that from anyone in my family (especially since I kept recognizing them inside). And there are always plenty of other things to ask for.

Let's see . . . Oh, yes! I have my Quote of the Week:

This morning I was ripping into "B.C." (yes, again . . . have you seen today's comic?!). My grandmother happens to be a fan, and she said, "I've always enjoyed 'B.C.' I'm an intellectual slob." *brief pause* "I'm a slob and you're a snob."

I've been hearing that from almost everyone for days now, but not phrased in such double-edged and amusing terms. I was chuckling about it all the way to church.

So, which you would you rather be classified as: Intellectual Slob or Intellectual Snob? (Fyi, if you are opinionated at all, you're going to be labelled as one or the other by someone.)

One final thing: Due to circumstances beyond my control, I expect to be arriving back in Longview sometime in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday, the 26th. I'm not particularly pleased about it, and I have made this fact known, but I've been railroaded, and there's absolutely nothing I can do to arrive any earlier.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If there are any unpleasant repercussions with respect to my personage as a result of this unfortunate turn of events, whether they involve verbal or physical beatings (or anything else), the full weight of my general displeasure will be brought to bear on the individual responsible. Yes, Scholl, I'm talking to you. Arrangements have been made, and I have been left out of the decision-making process. If you have any ire to direct, see that it is directed elsewhere.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

August 18, 2004

West Texas Update #2

It's funny how the days run together when all you do is sleep and bum around a random house . . . I'm reading, but not as much as I had hoped. I'm watching movies, but not as many as I had planned. I'm visiting with people, but not as much as I had expected. I really couldn't tell you what I'm doing with my time. It's just kind of passing, and I'm not paying enough attention to see where's it going. I feel very weird.

I have acquired very cheap DVD copies of Chicago, The Last Emperor, and The Godfather. This pleases me immensely. I also scored a paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and a pair of headphones with a cord of sufficient length. Sufficient length means that it's long enough to plug into my computer and still allow me to sit up straight in my chair (a must with all four of us having potentially noisy computers in the same room next semester).

I have absolutely no clue what I did all day on Monday. I find this very disturbing.

Wait, yes I do . . . That was the day of much Harry Potter arguing (after I got up at noon). Unfortunately I still have nothing conclusive to report, and the battle continues. Never fear, I shall continue to fight the good fight and all that rot. Wow. I can't believe I spent a whole day on that.

On Tuesday I dragged myself out of bed at about 11:30 because my parents were going to lunch with some random people that they know, and they wanted self and siblings along for . . . some reason. I was not particularly pleased with the prospect of making the random acquaintance of yet more random people that my parents have randomly met, but my mother insisted that I would enjoy myself because we would be eating at yet another Mexican restaurant, and these two personages were both female, and they were both close to my age, and had both recently spent time in Guatemala . . . Hey, what more do you need for a good time, huh? I could almost hear, "You'll have a basis . . ."

*sigh*

I was promised that, if I wished, I could escape to Hastings next door. And, Wilson, before you start screaming "Introvert!" at me, keep this in mind: It has long been my experience that the sort of people my parents tend to make friends with don't take very well to the sort of behavior that results when I do anything other than sit quietly, nod, and smile. So with this idea firmly fixed into place, we went to lunch, and let me just say this: Either one of these girls could have been LU Admissions Counselors. They were even wearing matching maroon shirts. And as for making conversation, had I been so inclined, it's an iffy proposition as to whether I'd have managed to slide a word in edgewise.

Micah and I went to Hastings.

Then, after supper, I took myself back down Farm-to-Market 400 to spend the night in Southland. I whiled away most of the excessively boring drive talking to Scholl. This conversation was largely punctuated with his breaking off to curse Scott's less-than-competent Alpha Centauri skills, but it was more interesting than simply staring at moonlit cotton fields.

The reason for my journey to Southland was this: My Grandma had to be in Lubbock this morning at 5:30 for a minor operation (which seems to have gone smoothly, by the way) and Ashley was taking the other car to work, leaving Audra with no way to get to her 10:30 CLEP test at Texas Tech. Without this CLEP test she faces an English Comp class with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (no, not Voldemort . . . that wouldn't be so bad). Enter Jared, that one guy with a car and nothing to do.

I broke in on the usual quiet evening at Grandma's . . . my Grandad was reading the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal while Grandma, Brendon, and Audra watched "The River Wild." Ashley was at a staff dinner at Mickey's Steak House. Then "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" came on, Grandma went to bed, I found the cookies and helped my Grandad with the crossword puzzle, and Ashley came home.

Then everyone else went to bed while I pulled out "Life With Jeeves" and Ashley pulled out "The Princess" by Lori Wick. I distracted her too much with my laughter so we got to talking about this and that until it was 2:00 in the morning. We have a bad habit of doing that . . .

I went to bed at about 2:45, which made getting up before 9:00 all that much more of a pain . . . but Ashley had it worse, she was on her way out the door as I crawled out of bed. Someday we'll learn. Maybe.

So, I shot off to Texas Tech with Audra, and my parents met me there once I'd made sure she was registered properly and so forth. We swapped out cars, my dad taking the pickup and I going with my mom to run errands in my grandparents' Oldsmobile (roomier, you see).

Audra was supposedly going to be done at noon, and then we were going to eat lunch and figure the rest out from there. Unfortunately, she didn't get done until 2:00, which is why I didn't get home until almost 5:00. However, she did pass the multiple-choice portion of the test, and I have every confidence in her success with the essay. (She informed me that she had had to write against her opinions. The essay topic was "The Wisdom of Being Impetuous." I thought that sounded like fun . . .)

And that is the latest in action-packed excitement from West Texas. Sorry.

Posted by Jared at 06:05 PM | TrackBack

August 15, 2004

Close Encounters of the Sunday Morning Kind

I spent a minor portion of Saturday evening in a half-hearted, and ultimately futile, push to just skip church this week due to lack of sleep. In the end I decided that it would be wise to pick my battles, and that I didn't particularly mind in any case.

Plainview isn't quite the middle-of-nowhere, one-hour-from-anywhere podunksville I was afraid it would be. It's actually quite a nice little town, all things considered. The population is just over 22,000 and they have a decent selection of restaurants, a Hastings, a Super Wal-Mart, and so forth . . . all of this within 10 minutes of the house (which is also quite tolerable, in spite of someone's nasty habit of leaving the thermostat set at 90 friggin' degrees). It is, however, at least an hour from any of my various relations, and from any church that the aforementioned would be at all likely to attend.

So it was that I felt the need to rise at the ungodly hour of 8:45 to make an 11:00 service (My Grandma: "You need to be there by 10:45.") at the United Methodist Church in Slaton, TX with my grandparents and cousins. My mother was in Dallas for the weekend, visiting some nursing school buddies she hadn't seen in 15 years. My father attended a church called The Springs (which meets, btw, in a barn-like structure that used to be a dinner theater) with Micah and Ian in tow. And ever since Brett got a car, no one has ever known where he is or may be at any given hour of the day or night. I assumed he would be attending the service at Trinity, but later discovered that he had "overslept" and skipped entirely.

My dad woke me up, as instructed, at 8:45 on his way out the door, but I continued to wallow on the couch that doubles as my bed until 9:15. After a quick shower, I felt a bit more alive and ready to face the day ahead, but I had to rush out without any breakfast (I used up breakfast-time ironing my pants, which were in a sorry state indeed).

The drive to Slaton, which I made alone, is one of the most boring commutes I know of (having had the misfortune already of driving it five times). It consists of a one-hour straight shot (and I do mean straight) down Texas Farm-to-Market 400 with nothing but cotton on all sides. I spent the time in deep meditation/contemplation, but I don't remember about what. And I listened to my wonderful Cold Mountain soundtrack.

I arrived at my destination, unfortunately, at 10:50 . . . and immediately discovered that my race-against-time was being closely monitored. The pastor (who I've met once or twice before) was standing at the door, and as I entered he wrung my hand and greeted me loudly with, "Oh, good! You made it!"

I then walked forward to join the relations, where I was greeted with another cry of, "He made it!" This was softly echoed by the denizens of the surrounding pews as I took my seat and the service got started . . .

I was particularly fortunate in that my grandma did not realize that it was my first Sunday attending this church so far this summer, so I was spared the general proclamation of my presence during the announcement time (everyone seemed to know I was there, anyway) . . . Hmmm, I suppose I should mention that this has been my grandparents' church since roughly forever. I think regular attendance numbers range between 100 and 150 people each week. My dad grew up in it, and probably half the churchgoers have known him since he was a littl'un. The organ player gave him piano lessons. The choir leader used to play checkers with him. I'm famous . . .

I needn't describe the sanctuary or the service, I shouldn't think. Standard, uniform Methodist fare . . . Portraits of the 12 disciples and Jesus (anglicized, of course) lined the walls between the stained-glass windows . . . I enjoyed singing the Doxology (don't do that very often) . . . There was the usual short childrens' service up at the front which consisted mostly of sly, subtle jokes aimed at the adults . . . The sermon was an analysis of The Lord's Prayer, but I missed most of it because I was trying to hunt down something in Acts (I found it, Acts 17:11).

I was well and soundly greeted during greeting time . . . saw Suzanne (a former co-worker from the dreaded Boll Weevil place) and my Uncle Ferrel and Aunt Laura Jo (my grandad's younger brother and sister-in-law), etc. After the service I was soundly greeted again, and then soundly . . . ummm . . . "farewelled" and finally escaped to the inevitable Sunday lunch destination: Rosa's Cafe (to the best of my knowledge, my grandparents' haven't eaten anywhere else for Sunday lunch in several years). There we met up with my Uncle Johnny and Aunt Helen (grandma's older sister and brother-in-law) who had dropped in for a visit (they don't attend church on anything like a regular basis, I don't think).

My afternoon plan consisted of a lot of reading at Barnes & Noble, but I was prevailed upon by Micah and Audra to take them to the movie theater to see "The Village" . . . It was okay, I guess. That percentage you see on the right is a temp . . . Actually, all the ratings from the 12th on are temps. I haven't gotten my movielist to open properly yet so I don't have my scale to rate by for the next few days. And speaking of the right, please to note new linkage . . .

And that is all the news that is even a little bit interesting for the moment. I'm going to go find something fun to do now . . . It probably won't involve sleep for several hours . . .

Posted by Jared at 11:12 PM | TrackBack

August 12, 2004

West Texas Update #1

I've been composing three or four blogposts off and on for probably three days now, and one in particular for about 36 solid hours (all in my head, of course . . . there's nothing in any concrete form whatsoever).

Problem: I can't bring my eyes into focus for any serviceable length of time.

Causes: 1) Five hours of sleep on Tuesday night, followed by my last morning of work, followed by an afternoon of last-minute errands and packing, followed by an evening of airplane travel and being delayed in Dallas, followed by an entire night of playing Halo with Brett instead of sleeping. 2) Being with family.

Possible Solutions: ? (Probably nothing that involves blogging, yet here I sit.)

I am currently at my Grandma's house in Southland, enjoying a recorded production of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" that a few of my esteemed cousins from Virginia (Mieke-Beth and Aaron) performed in. I am amused.

And . . . yeah. Eyes still not focusing. I guess I'll just leave it at that. I might be in bed sometime soon, or I might be up all night again. I spent a portion of this evening playing around with the Jung Typology Test. I have, apparently, completely made the metamorphosis from INTJ, as I came up ESFP. Ashley and Audra both got INFJ, and Micah got ISFJ.

Tomorrow morning I have to drive my pickup back to my parents' house in Plainview so my mom can get to the airport (she'll be in Dallas for the weekend), and then . . . Who knows? I can already tell that these next two weeks will see me doing the old ping-pong ball routine between Lubbock, Southland, and Plainview. Ick.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

August 06, 2004

Anna and the King and I and Anna

Well, I just returned from an encore performance of "The King and I" put on by the Longview Community Theatre. I went, and Anna went. Some bums stayed at home. Some are wandering the world. We are displeased, but it's their loss, not ours . . . And it gave me the once-in-a-lifetime chance to use that title for this post.

Anyway, I rather enjoyed myself. We quickly found our seats, and we were soon joined on all sides by many eager patrons of the arts. The female sitting next to me was of advanced years, and was wearing enough pungent old-lady perfume to drown newborn puppies in. Fortunately I got used to the smell and stopped noticing fairly quickly. As we waited for the musical to begin, Anna happened to notice a few familiar faces in the row behind us. That was when we discovered that we would be sharing this experience with the Hon. Dr. Watson and spouse (more on that later).

In ordering my thoughts for some sort of review (both during the performance and now) I find that I am a bit at sea in some respects. I'm kinda missing the other half of the team with whom to play "Good Critic, Bad Critic." But whatever, I know what Scholl would say if he were here. He would say, "Bah, Texans!" and that would suffice to condemn the entirety of the thing. I, on the other hand, will merely relate the pertinent facts of the matter as they relate to that particular aspect of the production, then set them aside and proceed to judge from a more rational and objective standpoint.

Let us proceed to do just that:

I must say, first, that for a small East Texas city to attempt a production of "The King and I" is a bit overambitious to begin with. Why? Because it requires Asians. Lots and lots of Asians. Like that scene in The Matrix where he says, "Guns. Lots of guns," and two endless racks appear . . . That many Asians. Almost.

Problem #1: I believe I mentioned that we are in East Texas. That geographically informative adjective in front of "Texas" is the only eastern part about it. We haven't got that many Asians.

Problem #2: Said Asians are required to speak with convincing accents originating in their native region. Also there are a handful of Brits in the thing. This is, as I have mentioned a few times already, Texas. Trying to sound like you aren't from around here when you really are is like hoping nobody's going to taste all that horseradish you accidentally dropped into the cheese souffle you were making . . .

Problem #3: Said Asians do not have the same physical appearance as your average WASP. Looking through the pictures of the actors who would be playing Siamese characters, I couldn't help but say to myself, "Self, is there enough make-up in all East Texas (that isn't already in use by Southern Baptist ladies, like the ones sitting all around me) to turn these distinctly European specimens into convincing Orientals? I think not . . ." *dramatic chord*

My concerns were, I fear, at least partially well founded. In the area of make-up, the main characters were "acceptable" but amongst the horde of little urchins, particularly, there was some definite lacking going on. The illusion was not upheld in that respect, but I was prepared to forgive.

In the area of accents, I was pleasantly surprised (although my fears weren't entirely unfounded in this area either). In the matter of speech, the worst offenders were the Prime Minister of Siam (played by our own Dr. Mays) and Sir Edward Ramsay. Princess Ying Yaowlak also had issues, but she was, like, eight, and had all of three lines or something. Mrs. Anna herself alternated so often between British schoolteacher and Southern belle (there were certain words and vowel sounds that consistently tripped her up) that I stopped noticing or caring when it happened, and so passed on with relative ease. Aside from these rather paltry complaints, I was quite impressed.

The costumes were largely excellent . . . and they even managed four or five different outfits for each of the main characters. The props and sets were artistic, creative, and easy on the eyes. They successfully avoided glaring anachronisms (with the possible exception of some suspicious, and large, tattoos on one of the Buddhist monks), which is always a pleasant surprise.

The acting, barring the already noted exceptions, was superb, especially the singing. All of the singers had very fine voices. Anna, the King, Tuptim, the King's #1 wife, and the Heir Apparent were all very talented.

The music was divine.

Regarding the musical numbers as a whole . . . Largely quite wonderful, especially when they involved dancing, as the following: "The March of the Siamese Children" (nightmarish to choreograph and organize, I'm sure . . . someone has my pity), "Getting to Know You" (again, kudos to whoever got stuck organizing that one), "The Small House of Uncle Thomas Ballet" (I think I actually liked this part even better than the movie, very notably discharged), "Shall We Dance?" (well done considering, in particular, the cramped stage . . . this was particularly apparent to me having seen the wide-ranging sweeping and whirling that takes place in the movie version). I also really liked "A Puzzlement" (The King's big solo number), "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You" (Anna's big solo number), and "I Have Dreamed" (Tuptim and Lun Tha's big . . . umm . . . duo number).

And that was the musical experience. Highly enjoyable. I would like to take this opportunity to note the rest of the LCT season schedule:

-late September, early October: Dearly Departed (quirky southern comedy)

-mid-November: Wait Until Dark (taut suspense thriller . . . the movie version of this, starring Audrey Hepburn, is my favorite movie of its genre)

-late February: Jekyll & Hyde (the musical . . . yes, musical)

-late April: The Man Who Came to Dinner (an excellent comedy which I am particularly anxious to see)

All of the above would cost $10/ticket, (save the musical, which would be $15). SC social outing, anyone?

And speaking of musicals, Watson wandered over to speak with us in the lobby during the intermission, and pitched a most intriguing idea to us. He has his own idea for an elaborate stage production: "R. G.: The Musical." We were both immediately sold. Anna seemed anxious to see this at Hootenanny (I don't know that it would get past the censors, myself), but Watson seemed to have his sights set on something a bit nearer to, say, Broadway.

Whatever . . . he had loads of ideas. All of them were pricelessly funny. Dr. Watson has had far too much free time this summer . . . it's time for him to get back to school and put that warped and twisted mind of his back to its proper work corrupting students. Anyway, I can't and shan't reproduce all of his excellent ideas here, for obvious reasons, but I simply must share his idea for the big, show-stopping musical number: A LeTourneau University Alma Mater Chorus Line. He even gave us a brief demonstration of what it might look like, right there in the middle of the crowded lobby. We were in stitches.

As we went back inside at the end of the intermission, he leaned in and murmured, "Auditions begin soon, if you're interested."

Anna: "Be sure you call us first."

A job for the SC Players, anyone?

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

August 01, 2004

"Something Else to Do"

Yeah, about the closing line of my last post . . . as July went out, so August comes in. I just completed a 6 hour game of Civilization II. No. Not in one sitting. 12:00-4:30 AM and 12:30-2:00 PM.

I played as the British, although it doesn't particularly matter which of the 21 or so civilizations you pick. Civ 2 isn't nearly as fun AC, but I enjoy a game every now and then . . . Manipulating world history to suit myself.

After an accelerated startup (1800 BC) I quickly built up a technological base (and by technology I am now talking about things like "alphabet" and "pottery" later moving up to "gunpowder" and "railroads" and finally on to "radio" and "automobile" etc.) before moving to attack the six other civilizations on the map.

I eliminated Spain, Russia, and China in rapid succession, destroying them by about 1650 (AD). The Vikings fell before me in 1907, the Zulus in 1933, and the Mongols in 1964 . . . I spent awhile trying to hunt them down (being unable to find their last few cities) and finally I simply had to develop space travel in order to get a survey of the map.

I was rather advanced compared to the others, and I was vastly entertained as the enemy catapults, dragoons, and musketeers attempted to hold off my tanks and cruise missiles.

Finally, in 2002, I launched a spaceship bound for Alpha Centauri. It arrived in 2009. I feel that I have successfully come full circle . . . or something.

I may now go read in peace.

Posted by Jared at 02:18 PM | TrackBack

July 26, 2004

Verily y'all missed a goodly sport . . .

'twas indeed a big weekend for the SC Skeleton Crew, here holding down the fort in our remote East Texas outpost for the entirety of the summer. We had tickets for the "Texas Shakespeare Festival" this weekend, and Gallagher came to town.

W00t.

We saw a performance of The Tempest on Friday night, and The Merchant of Venice on Saturday night. I had suggested on Thursday that we attend both performances decked out in full Elizabethan garb (thinking, of course, that if people can go see Episode I dressed up like Qui-Gon Jinn, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to attend "The Merchant of Venice" in Shylockian attire). The suggestion was not met with a good deal of enthusiasm, and to tell the truth, I was certain that it would involve far too much effort on my part anyway.

When we arrived at the theater in Kilgore, however, Anna noticed two women (who looked to be in their forties or fifties) who had stolen my idea. That is to say, they would have been able to blend in seamlessly at a Ren Faire. We were highly amused.

Tempest isn't exactly the best comedy ever, but I was fairly entertained throughout. The acting wasn't as strong as in Merchant, but obviously I didn't know that at the time. Some of the costumes were rather special . . . (I shall simply point out that a few of the cast members could have used codpieces and leave it at that). Ariel's costume practically wasn't, so to speak (although her problem had nothing to do with the lack of a codpiece, naturally).

I didn't care for Prospero's costume in particular . . . it just didn't say "all-powerful uber-sorceror" somehow. Scholl thought they were going for the "Greek oracle" look. Maybe. I also didn't care for the attire of the random spirits. Their outfits said something like "I am an orange hospital orderly dual-wielding Mexican piñatas."

This notwithstanding, the strongest acting in Tempest came from Caliban (a hideous monster who unwillingly serves Prospero . . . he was quite excellent), the two drunken sailors (Stephano and Trinculo, they provide the bulk of the comic relief when Caliban switches his allegience to them and their "celestial liquor"), and the elderly counselor, Gonzalo (a very Polonius-like character).

I'm not a huge fan of love stories that involve naive girls falling in love with the first men they've ever seen aside from their fathers (and, in this case, Caliban), but aside from that the plot is entertaining. The King of Naples was fairly wooden in his role, and Ariel was giving off a heavy weirdness vibe with her constant swaying and arm waving (as if she were a lighter-than-air floating spirit . . . or possibly both drunk and high). Prospero, Miranda, and Ferdinand were solid enough.

The general atmosphere of the entire thing, particularly in the stage decoration and lighting, produced a very surreal effect . . . on purpose I'm sure. The bizarre designs and lighting were a bit distracting to the eye, but all things considered, 'twas good enough.

Merchant came off quite a bit better when we went the next night. It was the final performance, and I should note that all of the actors from Tempest were in Merchant except the guy who played Prospero. Almost all of them seemed a good deal more comfortable in their Merchant roles with the exception of Antonio (The Merchant himself) who had played Trinculo. He was okay. So were Bassanio (Sebastian), Jessica (Ariel), and Lorenzo (Ferdinand).

Shylock, played by the same guy who played the King of Naples, was magnificent in all respects, thank goodness. Portia (Miranda) and Nerissa had excellent rapport. Launcelot Gobbo was loads of fun to watch. Gratiano (Stephano) and Salerio (Caliban) were hilarious. Tubal (Gonzalo), though a small part, was solidly delivered.

Particularly noteworthy, if only because of what it required of the actor involved, were the Duke of Venice, Prince of Morocco, and Prince of Arragon . . . all played by the same guy. I thought that was funny because, as I recall, Martinez played all three of those same parts (in addition to playing Lorenzo, Stephano, and Leonardo) in our version.

All three parts were very notably discharged . . . even Arragon (who was flagrantly gay . . . as gay as Paris in the spring, as it were . . . I'm still not sure quite why he was wife-hunting).

The costumes were largely late 19th century (fairly standard thing to do, I suppose). Gratiano and Lorenzo wore blinding shades of pink/peach and cream that would put even Dr. Roden to shame, but most of the other costumes were reasonably conservative in comparison. Anna complained that Jessica was obviously wearing a wig, but I wouldn't have known that this was the case had I not seen her real hair the night before. Morocco had the usual white robe, fez, and . . . large scimitar. Arragon . . . all black and silver, excessively tight pants, shirt with a severely ruffled collar and wrists and sharply plunging neckline to mid-chest or so. Scary.

The stage design worked a lot better for this one, I thought. Nice, shiny, marble-looking floor . . . a few (three, I think) columns off to the left . . . large, ornate, arched facade off to the right, with a few shallow, rounded steps leading up to it . . . equally large, flat circle hanging in back to fill in the empty space (the lighting changed its color each time we changed locations). Simple, easy on the eyes, not intrusive . . . All in all, an exceedingly enjoyable production.

And that is my first (and probably only, for awhile) attempt at being a dramatic critic. I'll end this little piece by tossing in this shamelessly arbitrary, and all but totally irrelevent, but still reasonably amusing paragraph on William Shakespeare that I stumbled across today while reading my latest Lemony Snicket book.

There is another writer I know, who, like myself, is thought by a great deal of people to be dead. His name is William Shakespeare, and he has written four kinds of plays: comedies, romances, histories, and tragedies. Comedies, of course, are stories in which people tell jokes and trip over things, and romances are stories in which people fall in love and probably get married. Histories are retellings of things that actually happened, like my history of the Baudelaire orphans, and tragedies are stories that usually begin fairly happily and then steadily go downhill, until all of the characters are dead, wounded, or otherwise inconvenienced. It is usually not much fun to watch a tragedy, whether you are in the audience or one of the characters, and out of all Shakespeare's tragedies possibly the least fun example is King Lear, which tells the story of a king who goes mad while his daughters plot to murder one another and other people who are getting on their nerves. Toward the end of the play, one of William Shakespeare's characters remarks that "Humanity must perforce prey upon itself, like monsters of the deep," a sentence which here means "How sad it is that people end up hurting one another as if they were ferocious sea monsters," and when the character utters those unhappy words, the people in Shakespeare's audience often weep, or sigh, or remind themselves to see a comedy next time.
Posted by Jared at 04:43 PM | TrackBack

July 23, 2004

Vaecordia Confiteor

It is a time for reflection, I suppose. They say that confession is good for the soul. They say that the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Of course, they are also largely idiots, but . . . Well, we'll see where this takes me. Check out the following list.

Star Wars: The New Jedi Order

1. Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore - 100%
2. Dark Tide: Onslaught by Michael A. Stackpole - 82%
3. Dark Tide: Ruin by Michael A. Stackpole - 88%
4. Agents of Chaos: Hero's Trial by James Luceno - 86%
5. Agents of Chaos: Jedi Eclipse by James Luceno - 84%
6. Balance Point by Kathy Tyers - 70%
7. Edge of Victory: Conquest by Greg Keyes - 85%
8. Edge of Victory: Rebirth by Greg Keyes - 91%
9. Star by Star by Troy Denning - 93%
10. Dark Journey by Elaine Cunningham - 83%
11. Enemy Lines: Rebel Dream by Aaron Allston - 94%
12. Enemy Lines: Rebel Stand by Aaron Allston 96%
13. Traitor by Matthew Stover - 100%
14. Destiny's Way by Walter Jon Williams - 92%
15. Force Heretic: Remnant by Sean Williams & Shane Dix - 88%
16. Force Heretic: Refugee by Sean Williams & Shane Dix - 82%
17. Force Heretic: Reunion by Sean Williams & Shane Dix - 76%
18. The Final Prophecy by Greg Keyes - 61%
19. The Unifying Force by James Luceno - 89%

(Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that my rating system for books is so arbitrary, it makes amoebas juggling gelatin look reasonable. Really the only reliable judging factor for the percentages above is as a measure of how good the books were in relation to each other.)

I started the first book in the list way back in late 1999, and yesterday evening I finished the last book on the list. So . . . where do I start in on this, anyway?

This is by far the longest series (to date) which I have read in its entirety. It took me five years . . . and I've only been alive for twenty. The series itself actually covers five years of "Star Wars time," by the way. I was in 10th grade when I started reading The New Jedi Order series. I lived on an orphanage in a suburb of the capital of Guatemala. I was being homeschooled. I had never heard of LeTourneau University, or even Longview. I barely had a driver's license, and I certainly couldn't fathom the concept of graduating from high school. I really don't remember for certain what I thought I might major in. I'm pretty sure that both the archaeology and vague "some branch of science" phases were over. I wasn't anywhere near engineering yet. I was probably thinking "teacher" . . . or maybe just "missionary."

I finished the book while riding in a car with three other people whose existence I was unaware of five years ago. It is the summer before my third year of college. I am double majoring in English and History/Political Science. I am living in East Texas.

In short, I am not particularly staggered by having completed a 19-book series, which totalled 6,974 pages in length, I just can't believe how much water went under the bridge while I was following the epic account of Luke Skywalker and company in their struggle against the Yuuzhan Vong. I find that one of the few things I can confidently say that I still have in common with that other self is that we both enjoy picking up a Star Wars book from time to time.

If you're already rolling your eyes, take care. They might unscrew from their sockets and go rolling away over the course of the next few paragraphs . . .

At latest count, there are 96 Star Wars books on my booklist . . . that's out of 922 total books. 1 in 10 of the books I have read over the course of the last eight years has been a Star Wars book. The only meaningful figures that really even approach that are Hardy Boys books (at 1 in 20, much to my chagrin), and those books that have "Favorite of All Time" status (1 in 30).

I own 77 of these books, plus two of the trade paperbacks (comics). My copy of the Episode II novelization is autographed by the author. On my computer I have 33 MB of reference material in Word documents, including an encyclopedia and a timeline/summary of all published material (together they are over 5,000 pages long, single-spaced). I have 150+ Star Wars pictures in a file, mostly for use as wallpaper. I have written two completed works of "fan fiction" (they are saved in Word), one is 10 pages long and the other is 40, and a half finished work which sat at 20 pages the last time I did anything with it nearly three years ago (all three are single-spaced). (As a brief side note, I didn't use any of the established main characters . . . merely borrowed the universe.) There are nine and a half hours of music from the Star Wars movies on my computer. And, still speaking of computers, I have at various times both owned and played through Dark Forces, Jedi Knight, Mysteries of the Sith, Jedi Knight II, TIE Fighter, X-Wing, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, X-Wing Alliance, Rogue Squadron, Galactic Battlegrounds, Force Commander, Starfighter, and Episode I Racer. I can hardly wait to get my hands on Knights of the Old Republic. In other words, I've flown a dozen kinds of starfighters in combat, raced pods on dozens of planets, commanded large complements of both Imperial and Rebel troops in land and space battles, and killed more stormtroopers than you can shake a stick at with everything from lightsabers to turbolasers. I own the Original Trilogy (Special Editions) and Episode I on VHS, Episode II on DVD. Since I don't own a TV or VCR, the full versions of the Original Trilogy (also Special Editions) take up an additional 2 GB of space on my computer. I have a small collection of Star Wars Micro Machines. I own Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. I own a Star Wars beach towel (it features pod racing).

Ballpark figures: I could probably name over 80 Star Wars planets before I really had to stop and think and tell you something about each of them. I might even be able to place about 1/4 of them on a galactic map. (I know the galactic coordinates of Coruscant, why it is named Coruscant, and two alternate names for Coruscant from when it was renamed by invaders.) I could name and describe at least that many alien species and identify their homeworld, if any. (I know about the Vors' Concert of the Winds on Vortex and the floating cities inhabited by Ithorians.) I could probably name over 300 characters, both major and minor, and give you whatever comprehensive biography exists for half of them. (I can name Chewbacca's wife, father, son, nephew, and former arch-rival from his homeworld of Kashyyyk. I can name half a dozen people who have held the position of Director of New Republic Intelligence, and half a dozen Imperial Warlords.) I know the names and a few technical specs (sizes, capabilities, functions, manufacturers) for nearly 200 types of Star Wars vehicles, weapons, and droids. (I know the color of Anakin Solo's lightsaber blade, why the Errant Venture is the only red Star Destroyer in the galaxy, and the function of the YVH 1 droid.) I don't remember the exact number of published Star Wars books, but there are nearly 140. I could put them in chronological order simply by referring to a list of titles. In fact, I might not even need a list . . . I could just list them for you. I could tell you who wrote them, and probably a few other things that they've written. I know who designed the cover art. I could tell you when they were published to within a year (maybe two in some cases) and by what company. I could list and explain the major events from over 55 years of Star Wars "history." I know who the commander of Rogue Squadron was 12 years after Return of the Jedi. I know the particulars of the Wookiee "coming-of-age" ceremonies. I know who killed Grand Admiral Thrawn and why. I can quote the movies, verbatim. I know who played who and what else they've been in. I know that Dennis Lawson (who played Wedge Antilles in the OT) is the real-life uncle of Ewan McGregor (who plays Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequels). I know that Pernilla August (Shmi Skywalker) is from Sweden. I know names of directors, producers, cameramen, stuntpeople, make-up artists, special effects wizards, puppeteers and sound editors. I know that Yoda's eyes are modelled after Albert Einstein's. I know that they used model battleship kits to construct the miniature of the first Death Star trench. I could simultaneously Force-choke three assailants to death before they could take two steps.

Well, okay, maybe not that . . . I could, however, beat Leatherwood at any game of Star Wars trivia. Probably in my sleep. (This is not a point of pride.) I could go on . . . a lot. But I won't. I just . . . won't.

In conclusion, I don't really need to try and defend myself. It wouldn't work. I merely lay the facts before you. Perhaps you can at least understand why I might enjoy reading Star Wars books. I know these characters better than I know my children . . . errr . . . so to speak. It is comfortable to slide into a familiar universe, and it is fun to see what goes on there as the years go by.

To conclude in as choppy a fashion as possible, let me just say this: May the Fluff be with you, for the Fuzz will be with you, always.

I will now go read the Star Wars version of this, this, and this. And yes, that does mean that I just started Star Wars book #97.

And you will all mock me now. Copiously. And for anyone who wants to know, the correct spelling is L-O-S-E-R.

Thank you very much.

Posted by Jared at 04:32 PM | TrackBack

July 20, 2004

Happy Moon Landing

It was exactly 35 years ago today (on July 20th, 1969) that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin completed their historic trip to the moon. These men were among the first members of a fairly new profession at the time known as "astronauts" (men who travel into outer space). The moon, as some of you may know, is the earth's only natural satellite (that means it orbits around us, held on its path by our gravitational pull, you see).

Armstrong's and Aldrin's (both Americans, by the way . . . Russian space travelers are called "cosmonauts") landing on the moon was the culmination of our 12-year "Space Race" with the Soviet Union. The Soviets had launched the first man-made object (Sputnik) to breach the atmosphere in 1957, and had also launched the first flight to carry a man (Yuri Gagarin) both into space and into orbit in 1961.

America had started late in the race, and it took years for us to catch up, but by 1969, NASA (that's "National Aeronautics and Space Administration," by the way . . . the government agency in charge of space exploration) had caught up and were finally ready to win the race after the long haul. We beat those Commies to the moon, and Armstrong's first words as he stepped out of the lunar lander will forever be remembered by the hundreds of millions of people who were watching him on television: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

You know, I like to think of that great day in our history as a sort of global parallel to the events celebrated by the nation of France on July 14th. You see, on that day in 1789, French revolutionaries stormed "the Bastille Saint-Antoine, a castle serving as a political prison in Paris." This marks the beginning of the French Revolution and is still celebrated today as the day that France finally took steps to free itself from the oppressive rule of the monarchy.

In the same way, we as a race symbolically "stormed" the moon on July 20th, 1969, declaring our freedom from the earth's oppressive gravitational pull, which had until that time kept us tied to itself, unable to soar high above it as our imaginations had already been doing for centuries.

In conclusion, there is certainly no mockery of Wilson whatsoever going on in this post, and there is also no sarcasm whatsoever at LeTourneau.

Thank you, and good night.

Posted by Jared at 10:15 PM | TrackBack

July 11, 2004

Hey, Moore, guess what I had for dinner . . .

Some of the delicious blueberry pancakes that Ardith made.

Mmmmmmmmm . . .

Anyway, if you're reading this, then you probably noticed the rather conspicuous lack of posting since . . . well, June or so. But I'm back, as the two posts below will attest. As you can see from the dates, they were both begun long ago, and I simply had to complete them . . . I've, uh, been kinda busy.

You can tell from the sidebar what I've been watching and what I've been reading, so that's taken care of. Since the last time I mentioned a movie, I have watched a few noteworthies (95%+): Apocalypse Now (97%), Amadeus (100%), A Passage to India (99%), and Big Fish (97%). Apocalypse Now I had never seen before, but the others I had . . . and I've blogged about all of them, I believe.

In short, outside of my brief sojourn to West Texas (from whence I returned Tuesday evening), I have nothing further to report for the moment. This leaves me with one of two choices . . . I can sit here and blog about the lack of post-worthy material, or I can go get me some.

Bye.

Posted by Jared at 10:46 PM | TrackBack

July 04, 2004

God Steals the Show or: A Midsummer Night's Vacation

Ahhh . . . My big middle-of-the-summer vacation time has finally arrived, and I am enjoying copious amounts of it here in West Texas even as we speak.

It is very much the 4th of July . . . barely. And as such, a post is quite in order. As busy as today has been, however, I had probably better catch the lot of you up on my activities as of our last communication first.

Prepare yourselves for epic journeyings by automobile, epic loungings on epic recliners for epic lengths of time, and even . . .

Well, read on . . .

I picked up the folks and the littlest brother in Dallas on Thursday and brought them back to Longview. My parents relaxed at their hotel, and I entertained Ian with a trip to the library, a guided tour of campus, and an evening of movie-watching.

On Friday we had a very long trip to Lubbock . . . Normally takes 7-8 hours, but we managed it in 12 thanks to a major blowout about 25 miles from Abilene. I hate Abilene, and spending 4 hours in a Wal-mart there (wasn't even one of the Super kind . . .) didn't improve my disposition any.

Nevertheless, we managed to complete the journey safe and sound, and I was very glad to see everyone . . . Brett called for a midnight trip to the Sonic, and since Audra (who works there) didn't object, I had no objections of my own to raise. We arrived and discovered that neither Ashley or Audra actually wanted to order anything and Brett had no money. I ordered a small chocolate shake.

I didn't spend nearly enough of Saturday in bed, but I made up for it by spending the rest of it sprawled across various couches and recliners. The afternoon and evening found me glued to the proverbial boob tube as I watched five movies, consecutively (but not concurrently). Only one (and possibly a half) of them was actually worth my time, but . . . Oh, well.

And then it was the 4th of July. Or, rather, now it is the 4th of July, I suppose. I accompanied family (immediates and extendeds) to Trinity Church of Lubbock, TX and experienced there a service that I'd rather not rehash before we all gathered at the traditional Sunday lunch restaurant: Rosa's Cafe.

The food wasn't as tasty as usual, but this might have been due to an argument I was engaged in over the finer points of the sermon, the justifications for our present war in Iraq, and Hillary Clinton's chances at becoming president someday . . .

Yeah.

We decided that clearly a movie was in order for the whiling away of the afternoon, and I, of course, had just the proper 4th of July movie in mind: 1776. Yes, indeed. If that movie doesn't strike the perfect tone of patriotic cynicism and general Founding Father fun and hilarity, then I don't know what . . .

Of course, hardly anyone appreciated it as I do, and there was certainly some open dislike among those watching it. Philistines.

After this we all found our way to my grandmother's house in Lubbock (having watched the movie at my grandma's house in Southland) for a happy 4th of July evening celebration.

I helped a bit with the decorating of our parade "floats" but for once there were enough enthusiastic youngsters milling about to void the necessity of my participation . . . Perhaps I should back up a tad and explain.

Every year the denizens of my grandparents' half-mile stretch of street gather at one end with whatever vehicles and outfits they have on hand, and parade down to the other end of the street, turn around, and parade back. It has been a habit of ours for many years to decorate my grandad's orange tractor and green ride-on mower with flags and appropriately colored streamers for the purpose of joining in the fun.

I stopped enjoying my role as driver of the ride-on mower (being the eldest of all the grandchildren on both sides of the family) somewhere around the time that I got my driver's license, but my younger siblings and cousins have been strangely reluctant to take over this duty, and I have done my best to drive in the parade anyway . . . Until this year.

I decided that clearly there were more than sufficient younger types running around to take my place. After all, Audra, Jessica, Micah and Brendon have all acquired permits and/or licenses as this point . . . not to mention Ashley, Shawn and Brett. And Aaron, Ian, and Camie are all plenty old to get behind the wheel of a lawnmower or tractor.

In short, there's no reason why I should have to drive outside of the general prescriptions of tradition. The fact that tradition is not easily broken has been responsible for my driving of the thing for the past five years, but this year I was determined to pass the proverbial mantle.

To make a long story short: Ian drove the mower, Brett drove the tractor, and Shawn rode in the bucket. This is funny when you know that said "bucket" is attached to the front of the tractor is raised about 8 feet off of the ground, and that normally Camie, who is about 13 at this point, rides up there. Shawn, like Ashley, is 9 months younger than I. Or maybe it's not funny to you at all. I don't know.

We got Ian out of the front yard with many shouted instructions and much wringing of hands (he had to wind his way through eight haphazardly parked cars . . . another consequence of the number of driver's licenses that are floating around now), and settled in to enjoy the show.

I glanced around as my two grandmothers took seats on either side of me, and . . . nothing looked familiar, somehow. Then I realized that I had never (in over 10 years) enjoyed the parade from this perspective before. This year we had a real, live Naval officer in full dress uniform wielding a flag at the head of . . . all the little girls on their pink and purple tricycles, boys on go-carts, cowpersons on horseback, cousins and brothers riding mowers and tractors, etc.

It's quite a spectacle . . . but people throw candy at you.

Grandma: Jolly Ranchers? Ooo! Peach! My favorite!

As Brett and Ian went by, I went nuts . . . Cheering and yelling at the top of my lungs. A few others joined in. Ian squirmed, obviously embarassed, and Brett shouted back, calling me obscene names in Spanish. I sat back, satisfied. This is what being an older brother on the sidelines of the parade is all about . . . and I was finally getting to experience it.

At this point (the parade being over) Audra expressed an interest in game time. I did my best to rally all of The Kids to my banner, and before long we had two teams of four sitting down to play Ultimate Outburst. Somehow (and I couldn't really tell you how this happened) the teams came out with Ashley, Shawn, Brett, and myself against Audra and three Little People. We mopped up the board with them. Ooops.

I tried to make Catchphrase a bit more fair, joining Audra's team and bumping Brendon onto the other one. The teams were fairly even and gaming went on until after dark . . . The Adults had their own game of Catchphrase going in the next room. Adults are loud.

Anyway, now that I've been rambling about this and that, we arrive at the actual topic of this post, as dictated by the title.

It was time to do fireworks, and once again I relegated myself to the sidelines. My mother wanted me to go supervise, but I reminded her that my brothers have been doing stupid things with dangerous flammables for many and many a year already, and they hardly needed any help from me. Instead, I limited myself to shouting general insults in their direction as we waited for them to figure out what to light first. I also got up a bit of a chorus with Ashley and my grandma . . . as each colorful fire-flower exploded overhead we gave a loud "Oooo" or "Aaaa" in concert.

Fireworks hadn't been going off for very long before we started noticing something quite a bit more spectacular off in the distance (but getting rapidly closer). God, seeing our pretty Independence Day lights, had decided to get in on the action, I suppose . . .

Between each rocket of ours, there were at least two or three multi-forked bursts of lightening shooting down from on high less than two miles away (as the thunder . . . umm . . . claps, I guess). I, for one, quit paying attention to what was going on overhead and focused on God's Fireworks. Hard to beat, those . . .

Within 20 minutes, the rain had arrived and we went inside for a game of Trivial Pursuit. Before organizing that, however, I couldn't help but spend a few moments at the window . . .

God's Fireworks, of course, are quite rainproof.

God's Fireworks, in addition, are not constrained to being displayed for the viewing pleasure of any particular nation on any particular day. I may be from the United States of America, and I may be inclined to love my country more than any other, but my God is not nearly so limited.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

July 01, 2004

"The horror! The horror!"

-Kurtz, Heart of Darkness & Apocalypse Now

"And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth."

-Marlow, Heart of Darkness

My friends and faithful readers, I come before you this evening saddened and deeply troubled. These feelings are undoubtedly due to the events of this past weekend, tragic as they have been.

As difficult as as it may be, however, to recount them all to you as they transpired, I feel that it is necessary that you all understand the gravity and the depth of the terrible fate which has overtaken our comrade, Jonathan Wilson.

Allow me then (with no small amount of trepidation) to begin at the beginning and so proceed until I have laid the entire matter before you.

It has long been a somewhat latent ambition of mine to journey deep into the dark and forbidding wilds of central Texas to engage in a study of the local flora and fauna (like Baptists) and to accrue further knowledge of the geography of the country. When we began, some weeks ago, to receive disturbing reports from our man in the field the certainty of a forthcoming sojourn was clinched.

My supervisor reluctantly commissioned the trip, with explicit instructions regarding various eventualities (everything from encounters with hostile natives to unforseeable difficulties with the transportation) and it was with no small amount of enthusiasm that I faced the adventure ahead.

Leaving in the middle of Friday afternoon, I carefully made my way into the jungle proper, leaving the bare trappings of civilization contained in our own remote outpost of east Texas behind me.

The first portion of the journey was pleasantly uneventful, as I breezed lightly downriver. Thick foliage pressed close on both sides, often reaching over my head towards their brethren standing opposite them, but amidst the densly packed mass of greens and browns it seemed there were none who dared to attempt the crossing. The reason for this became obvious as I occasionally passed the mutilated remains of some of their smaller, furrier relations, the corpses often disfigured beyond my ability to recognize what they once had been. The "highway" is a harsh mistress.

As I traveled, I thought over what I knew of Wilson's record . . . Exemplary scholar, sparkling intellect, immaculately groomed and attired . . . Sterling service record with the LeTourneau University Honors Committee and founding stake in the self-styled "Shadow Council" . . . and that quirky fixation on what he often referred to as "ethics." None of it seemed to add up . . . How could someone like that be showing signs of the state his superiors seemed to suspect that he was in?

After some hours had gone by, I found myself in a somewhat developed area and I docked at what appeared to be the most popular local dining establishment. A prominent, elevated sign announced that I had arrived at "Dairy Queen," and I cautiously tethered my craft and ventured inside. I was greeted, briefly, by half a dozen vacant stares, and I immediately recognized the sort of natives I was dealing with from my studies of the region.

This particular Texan tribe is known formally as "Small Town High School Students," although they often group themselves into subtribes. I had heard that they were best left to themselves unless one was willing to attempt contact with them (being sure to speak in their own tongue). It is one of the many peculiarities of this particular tribe that the language changes regularly on something like a 2-10 year rotation cycle, and is spoken with an odd lilt which cannot be imitated by anyone above a certain age. I, however, was in no mood to make contact at that time at any rate, as I had more pressing business to the south. I ate quickly and resumed my journey.

Before long I noticed a dark mass of clouds gathering in my path, and it was obvious that I was sailing into a dangerous storm which would test my abilities to the very limit.

And it did. To summarize:

The weather started getting rough,
The tiny ship was tossed,
If not for the courage of the fearless crew,
The pickup would be lost, the pickup would be lost.

I could hardly see a thing as the ship was tossed back and forth, slewing wildly from side to side. Blinding columns of white light struck the tree-dotted fields on either side of my small vessel, followed immediately by violent blasts of thunder. I screamed obstreperously right back and forged bravely ahead.

After weathering the storm, I had smooth sailing the rest of the way to Wilson's place of residence. Tethering my craft outside the house, I disembarked and stepped inside. The radio was blaring out the final notes of a folk song of some sort, and I heard the station identify itself as "NPR." I went further in, and there he was.

I almost didn't recognize him, and he certainly didn't seem to recognize me. Huddled under a blanket on the couch, as NPR continued to broadcast its odd assortment of this and that, he was darting wild glances about the room and muttering to himself in French. Approaching cautiously, I could see that he was clutching a collection of Bakhtin's essays to his chest. A review of Fahrenheit 9/11 sat, neglected, on a nearby table next to haphazardly piled movies and textbooks. In fact, his dorm room seemed to have been transplanted in bizarre, jumbled sections to the center of this room. Piles of his possessions rose up like mini-skyscrapers, obscuring the floor. Wilson, seated as he was, couldn't even see all the way across the room.

Of course, I immediately leapt into action, even as his half-crazed eyes flitted in my direction.

"Wilson," I said. "Muslims are people, too."

I saw the glowing embers of intelligible thought brighten ever so slightly somewhere deep inside him, and I was encouraged. Perhaps I was not too late, after all. After a mere half hour of that kind of talk, I had him responding with noncommittal grunts and the occasional monosyllabic answer. Two more hours and we were conversing fluently about the general ignorance with which limited or nonexistent historiographical knowledge is applied to modern political science by the average layperson. Those glowing embers had become a joyfully flickering flame, dancing back in Wilson's head.

As I drifted to sleep early that morning, I congratulated myself on a job well done . . . completely unsuspecting of the impending disaster lurking just around the corner.

By Sunday morning, Wilson was looking quite a bit better, and it seemed to me that we should be able to risk a trip to the First Baptist Church of Bastrop with very little to fear. I'm sorry to say that this proved to be a very clear lapse in judgment on my part.

Everyone seemed to recognize my charge as we entered the building, and greetings were meekly offered from all sides. These simple natives were obviously pleased that Wilson had deigned to walk amongst them, but the slightly crazed look that crept into his gaze at each successive greeting did not escape my notice.

Lost in the Apocrypha during the sermon, I failed to note the waning of the sparks I had so recently stirred to life. A bit more attentive as the Sunday school lesson unfolded, I began to see the depths of my error. Wilson's attitude was quietly benign, his demeanor that of a visiting patron saint. Each time the teacher, (the entire room, even), turned to him for a hint, he answered slowly, but with certainty. They ate up his words and seemed to take a degree of confidence from them . . . but I could see.

They were feeding off of him. His power, having corrupted him, was now being slowly drained away in company with his intellect.

Several eternities later, the lesson was over and I guided Wilson out of the room. We made our way slowly back to his house and he collapsed on the couch after switching on NPR, shakily drawing the blanket around himself. I turned the radio back down and knelt at his side . . .

"Wilson," I said urgently. "C'mon. You can pull out of this. I see it's been rough, but you want to make it back to LeTourneau next semester, right? You don't want to go like this, surely?"

He kept on looking out past me with fiery, longing eyes, with a mingled expression of wistfulness and hate. He made no answer, but I saw a smile, a smile of indefinable meaning, appear on his colourless lips that a moment after twitched convulsively. "Do I not?' he said slowly, gasping, as if the words had been torn out of him by a supernatural power. His was an impenetrable darkness. I looked at him as you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines.

Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn't touched. I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror--of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision--he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath:

"The horror! The horror!"

And the light of intelligence died, finally and completely, behind his eyes. I sat like that for awhile . . . I don't know how long . . . until at last I knew that I ought to depart.

I stepped wearily outside and boarded my pickup, guiding it slowly out of Wilson's tributary and onto the winding main drag that would take me home.

The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky--seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.

__________________________________________________

*clears throat*

*looks around*

Okay, so my visit to Bastrop didn't go down EXACTLY like that, per se. I confess it freely . . . but truth is stranger than fiction, and you'll find that some of the most far-fetched elements of my story actually did take place last weekend.

Had I arrived one week later than I did, everything you just read might actually have taken place. It might be taking place even now, for all I know. Sadly, I now lack the transportation to ascertain for certain that Wilson's intellect remains intact.

We must all continue to hope for the best, and pray that the summer ends sooner rather than later . . .

Posted by Jared at 02:27 AM | TrackBack

June 13, 2004

The Epiphany

What do you do when you wake up one morning and suddenly realize that a bottomless ideological chasm has opened up between you and a large number of people that you care about?

What about when you discover that these people are not interested in the possibility of joining you on your side, or of opening up a line of communication across the gap . . . but only in dragging you forcibly back across to their side in order to save you from the nonexistent dangers that they think they perceive?

How do you deal with the sound of a human mind slamming shut right in front of your face? The disappointed looks? The horrified, hushed tones?

Would you rather be hated, or hate yourself? Deal with their disgust with you, or your own?

Is it better to be yourself all the time, no apologies, or cram yourself into a fake, repellent persona in the interest of maintaining goodwill?

Thank God for enlightened, tolerant friends.

Posted by Jared at 06:07 PM | TrackBack

June 07, 2004

The "Me" Weekly

I think my blog is trying to tell me something . . . What can I say? The little bugger has a mind of its own. Well, it has a point you know. I guess I have been a bit remiss lately . . . for no good reason in particular that I know of.

Scholl and I continue to watch at least one movie every day and my list is now up to a healthy thirty-one (we haven't watched tonight's movie yet). The List in terms of meaningless statistics:

-The average year of release for the movies we've watched is 1982. Release years on the list range from 1915 to 2004.

-The average movie length is 120.484 minutes for a total of 62.25 hours spent in front of a screen. The longest thus far is Schindler's List with a runtime of 194 minutes, and the shortest is High Noon with 85.

-The average objective rating is 39.19354839 out of 50 and the average subjective rating is 40.19354839 out of 50. The Replacements is the lowest rated movie at a total of 14%, while three movies have received perfect scores of 100% (Schindler's List, The Seventh Seal, and Rear Window).

I love gratuitous statistics. And spreadsheets are so awesome.

Anyway, as you can see, we've watched some pretty good stuff lately, on the whole. Went to see Harry Potter 3 on Saturday night with Anna, Ardith, Scholl, and Taylor and had a generally good time. Taylor was the only one of us who hadn't read the books.

I was generally caught up in the magic of the whole thing and my personal opinion was that the change in directors has definitely improved the production quality. Scholl and Anna were both a bit bothered by certain deficiencies in comparison to the book. I see their point, but PoA has (I would say) the best and most intricate plot of the five thus far and the movie's chief problem was that it was just too short to fully convey this (clocking in at a "mere" 142 minutes . . . twenty minutes shorter than the second movie, even though the book is longer by 100 pages).

Anyway, I think that production quality is up and screenwriting quality is down from the last installment. I have the first two winging their merry way in this direction from Netflix, to be watched over the weekend (in all probability). I'll let you know if I discover anything of further interest on the subject at that time . . .

As far as reading goes . . . Well, that quiz ate most of my weekend reading time when I wasn't looking. I chastised it severely, of course, but I wasn't about to go digging through quiz excrement looking for loose fragments of my . . .

No. The analogy does not carry through very well. Nevermind.

I did have time to finish Black Wolf yesterday, and I was quite pleased. Fourth in a loosely-connected series (each book by a different author, starring a different character from a noble family), it was a quality bit of escapism set in the Forgotten Realms universe (one of the main D&D campaign settings). I consider the overall quality of this series to be a cut above Salvatore's stuff set in the same universe. For one thing, I have yet to encounter an author in this series who has a pathological fear of killing off main characters (this tends to heighten the tension, making for a generally more enjoyable and less predictable plot). Of course, Salvatore wouldn't have that problem either if he hadn't made all of his characters FRIGGING OMNIPOTENT!!!

Anyway, I have (as you will see on the right) moved on to the fifth book in the series, which looks very promising thus far. Meanwhile, while I continue to read the other books, I am making special efforts to complete Shadowmancer asap. I won't lie . . . some few passages of it are really quite decent. Overall, however, I remain mystified as to how this book has done as well as it has. The chief problem . . . *thinks* . . . Well, okay, one of the chief problems I have with it (aside from his poor plotting, bad characterization, largely hackneyed writing, and pathetic attempts to scare me with a villain who behaves like a half-wit monkey child most of the time) is the blurring of the line between magic and miracle.

From a spiritual standpoint (since this book was written as an alternative to the undisguised occultism [sic] of Harry Potter and the aggressive atheism [not sic] of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy) I would say that this is pretty much unforgivable. In spite of the mad ravings of the fundies, I am not spiritually confused by reading a Harry Potter book. For one thing, I know exactly what real world witchcraft truly is. Far more important than this, however, I realize that Harry Potter does not portray real world witchcraft . . . duh!

Shadowmancer, on the other hand, makes it very hard to keep track of precisely what the author thinks along these lines. He has set his book (supposedly a fantasy) in an actual location of the real world (albeit during a long-gone time period), which was his first mistake. By doing this, he has tied himself to real-world mechanics, and if you do that and you want to maintain a consistent Christian worldview in order to convey a message . . . well, you'd better at least stick to some form of conventional Christian thought regarding the supernatural (but don't make me go there, I beg you).

Taylor fails to do this on multiple counts. First, the pathetic bad guy I referred to earlier (Vicar and Magistrate Obadiah Demurral), often casts spells which are clearly demonic in nature . . . since he summons actual demons and sends them to possess and control his minions . . . and his methodology is classic, stereotypical, literary Satanism (he employs everything from pentagrams to blood sacrifices). However, much of the magic he makes use of is . . . well, it's weird. He summons random creatures from Celtic folklore as well as a number of pathetic Ringwraith rip-offs called "Varrigal." Seriously . . . the description of the things is straight out of Tolkien, with a bit of the "Frodo Ring-Vision" appearance (from Weathertop in the first movie) thrown in for good measure. The difference is, you can take these puny buggers out with a flintlock pistol or a rusty cutlass . . . Now, what kind of Satanically-summoned creature can be shot? Really . . .

Even worse to my mind, however, is the "good guy magic." This is chiefly wielded by the African boy, Raphah, the only true Christian to appear thus far in the story. He runs around slinging magic miracles like a D&D cleric . . . What am I supposed to make of this?

Message = "Become a Christian! We gots heap-big magicks!"

I'll need to see how it all turns out, but there is one of two possibilities here . . . Either Demurral's plan for world domination is legit, and God's omnipotent authority (yes, THE GOD) is actually under threat from this slimy little peon with his stupid magic artifacts and needs to be preserved by the lackluster efforts of three teenage basket cases, or nobody was ever under threat from anybody else and our heroes' frantic attempts to save the world were not required (thanks anyway, kids). While I will be more than a little pissed off at the waste of my time if the latter is the case, I sincerely hope that it is . . . If it ain't, we got bigger problems.

One final (for now) shot: If I pick up one more juvenile historical fiction book set anywhere between 1300-1800 and starring a grubby young teenage boy and girl who have been orphaned or otherwise come from broken homes and difficult circumstances, I am going to . . . Probably read it anyway. But I will be very upset. I swear . . . was this the only demographic doing anything during this period of history?! I think not!

Well, this post has now reached critical mass . . . I guess. In any case, I don't have anything further that I wish to discuss, rave about, or review at the present time, and I do have a number of books to finish. I will proceed to do that now.

Posted by Jared at 08:45 PM | TrackBack

"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!"

-King Lear, Act III, Sc. 2

It was about 11:15 last night, and I was lying in bed. It was a dark night, of course, but not a stormy one.

Yet.

I was bravely plugging away at Shadowmancer, and drifting steadily in and out of sleep. In the story, the hero is confronting a demon-possessed man at the top of a cliff over the sea, and a storm is blowing in. Drifting in and out as I was, I almost imagined that I could hear the fierce wind whipping about them in full cry when I happened to look up and lock eyes with Scholl (sitting at his computer).

"Wooow," he says, and I realize that I am actually hearing that much wind.

And that was the beginning of two very lovely stormy nights.

I only got to watch the storm a little bit on that first night because it got here a little late and I needed my sleep. It was a beauty, though . . . Winds gusting violently and spraying those on the porch with a fine mist of rain . . . Blinding, spectacular flashes of lightning followed closesly by the two best kinds of thunder (long, deep rumbling like ten-ton boulders rolling down a far-off hill and sharp cracking like the splintering of a thousand wooden doors) . . .

................................................................................................

THIS BLOGPOST HAS BEEN ABORTED BECAUSE JARED TOOK TOO FRIGGIN' LONG TO FINISH WRITING IT (HE STARTED IT LAST TUESDAY).

THE SUBJECT UNDER DISCUSSION HAS NOW ENTERED THE ANNALS OF ANCIENT EAST TEXAS HISTORY.

WE ARE DREADFULLY SORRY.

SORT OF.

Posted by Jared at 04:15 PM | TrackBack

May 31, 2004

The Last Great All-Nighter of the Semester

Wow. It took me a long time to get to this entry. Sorry 'bout that . . . I've been busy. Sort of busy. Relatively busy. Ummm . . . relative to, like, times when I'm usually not too busy to do a blogpost.

Well, that paragraph was a total loss.

I guess I'll start with the title of this post. See, Tuesday was the final day of Film class, where all we had to do was meet Dr. Watson at the theater at 3:15, watch "Troy," and go eat supper at The Butcher Shop while we discussed the movie. Oh yes, and also turn in all of our coursework. That too.

So Scholl and I are up at 8:00 in the morning, working like mad. See, I hadn't technically actually started doing the textbook chapter summaries at the time, because I was busy writing journals and a paper and attending class and whatnot. Chapter summaries seemed like the easy part.

Yeah, right.

To make a long story short, we weren't anywhere near being done when we had to leave for the movie, but Watson said it was fine so long as everything was in by the next morning. So as soon as we got back, we started plugging away again. Continuing to shorten a long story: Starting from 8:00 Tuesday morning, I spent 14 of the ensuing 24 hours working on those blasted chapter summaries, and finished them at 7:00 am, just in time to be e-mailed to Watson.

Then I stood up and fixed myself a few Pop Tarts and left for my first day of work. Because that started at 7:30, y'see.

Oh, yes. I hated myself for the whole day while I was pressure washing the outside of Speer Chapel and then sanding the inside of it.

I returned to the apartment at 4:00 and slept for the next fifteen hours before getting up to do it all over again.

Anyway, that was the big, mid-week adventure. If you've had your eye on the sidebar, you know what movies I've been watching and what books I'm reading. I am very happy about this whole three-day weekend thing. I've mostly been reading and sleeping . . . in fact, that is what I've been doing almost exclusively.

You'll notice that I finally finished Saki . . . bloody thing would not get done! Seemed like for awhile I just couldn't read more than five pages of it in a day, if that . . . I'll post on it at some point, I promise, but I have more reading to do before bed, y'see.

Wodehouse and Shakespeare both still rock, and Spider Robinson and my Forgotten Realms book are pretty good, but . . . This whole Shadowmancer thing . . . I suggest you look into this book yourself a bit. I'm about a third of the way through it, and for the life of me I can't figure out why it is so frigging popular. It sucks. I mean . . . really. Especially compared to the books it is being compared to (Harry Potter, mostly).

Anyway, it is time for me to finish enjoying the weekend . . . Farewell.

Posted by Jared at 06:20 PM | TrackBack

May 21, 2004

It's "The Jared Show!"

For the past week I'd say my life has felt more or less like a series of episodes from a very formulaic TV show . . . For me it has been a reasonably entertaining show, but that's still what it is.

On Monday we watched Casablanca in what was supposed to be a reasonable facsimile of Rick's American Cafe . . . Well, as close as you can get in a Longview Hall classroom, that is. Which isn't very close, I'll grant you. They had small candles everywhere and a few bottles of sparkling grape juice and shot glasses for everyone.

Okay, so they weren't shot glasses. They were Shrek 2 dixie cups. That didn't do a whole lot for the ambience, I'll admit, but they had good intentions. And when the lights finally went down and the movie got started and we were watching by candlelight and Scholl and I found ourselves in possession of a mostly full bottle of sparkling grape juice (which we proceeded to polish off at a good clip) . . . Well, once I couldn't really see Shrek and Donkey grinning at me anymore, the atmosphere almost worked. And Casablanca is still a really great movie, of course.

Of course, Scholl has been playing with the candle throughout the discussion and well into the movie, dipping his pencil into the wax, forming a ball of it layer by layer. Then I glance over at him about a half hour before end of the movie, and he is dangling one of his hairs over the flame. And then it lights up and starts to burn. I shake my head, watch him finish burning it, and shrug. Then he gets another one. And starts to burn it. And now I can definitely smell burning hair, and I know it won't be long before Watson can smell it as well. So, Scholl got smacked and I complained of the stink and we finished watching the movie in relative peace.

But the Rick's atmosphere was decidedly gone.

Then on Tuesday there was High Noon, and that was fun. There were clear plastic cups full of peanuts all over the place, and we got IBC root beer. It almost felt like a saloon, once the movie was going . . . well, when you've got an imagination like mine, anyway.

Wednesday was our presentation, on Dr. Strangelove. I opened up (after the devo) with an introduction to the director, writers, and actors with the principle characters that they play, as well as a very brief look at the atmosphere of the period. I especially enjoyed the brief examination of Stanley Kubrick's filmography . . . but nevermind that. We then moved directly into the War Room, circa 1955.

We had Dr. Coppinger come in to play the President, Scholl was the National Security Advisor, Wayco was some General, and the other three were . . . other things. The idea was to give an "emergency late-night briefing" to get a better idea of the context of the movie. We had already set up the room beforehand so that everyone was sitting around it, facing the center of the room, and we had each brought along our phones, which were placed on the desks beside us. A few of the guys wore suits and ties. Scholl wore his pajamas. Wayco was dressed in combat fatigues. We had one guy talk about the Cold War, one do German scientists who worked for us after WWII, Ricky Morley did the fluoride conspiracy (sort of) and Wayco discussed the fine points of our B-52 strategy for waging nuclear war (in his best General Turgidson voice . . . a highly amusing and very well-done impersination). The other three dragged a bit, but Wayco livened things up in the midst of Morley's talk, taking a call from his secretary . . .

Scholl finished things off (after we had ended our little skit) with an in-depth look at the War Room scenes from the movie itself, examining the photography, lighting, mise en scene, acting, sound, editing, etc. It was quite good. And then, just before beginning the movie, we handed out bottles of natural spring water (no fluoride) . . . and donuts.

Dr. Strangelove was funny, as always, but Scholl and I had some trouble staying awake. We'd been up late, gotten up early, and watched most of Strangelove (in pieces) at least two or three times while preparing the day before. At one point, with me sitting to his right, and Dr. Watson on his left, Scholl started to snore. I saw Watson's head slowly turn to look at Scholl . . . right before I elbowed him. I think he was mostly awake after that. I discovered later that Watson had elbowed him from the other side at the exact same moment.

On Thursday it was Hitchcock day. We had a lady in who was apparently an English adjunct here . . . I think last year. And, I think, (I wasn't quite paying enough attention at this point) she is now studying film in graduate school. I didn't catch her name either, so we'll call her the Hitch Lady. She was quite enthusiastic and knowledgeable on the subject, which I could certainly appreciate, being a big Hitchcock fan myself. She handed out a list (which I was quite pleased to receive) of all his movies and exactly where he makes his cameo appearance in each one. I'll be hanging on to that. I made a quick count and discovered that I have seen 18 Hitchcock movies to date. I didn't know I'd watched that many. Cool.

Anyway, we had assumed all along, from the syllabus, that we would be watching North by Northwest on Thursday, but Watson had turned complete control over to the Hitch Lady. She showed us a brief clip from Notorious (one of the good ones!) as well as the shower scene from Psycho (another good one! . . . bah, they're all good . . .). And then we watched Vertigo, which I've only seen once all the way through.

I should note that it was rather a historic occasion, as well. Dr. Watson saw Psycho when it first came out back in 1960, and had stayed far away from it over since ("I didn't take a shower for months!" he exclaimed). So I was there when he saw the infamous shower scene for the first time in nearly 45 years. It was a very special occasion.

After the movie was over and everyone had filed out, we hung around and discussed the Freudian interpretations of Hitchcock films with Watson and the Hitch Lady. There're all sorts of bizarre things going on, let me tell you . . . Then we succeeded in talking Watson into watching The Seventh Seal with us (I'll be discussing it further in a later post). Scholl and I had seen it the night before, but I wanted to watch it again before we sent it back to Netflix, and Scholl just generally wanted to run through it once more because he had been very tired the night before. Watson had never seen it, and we were eager to hear what his take on it was.

So, we broke for lunch and then met up again and wandered down to Berry and settled in, Watson with his Diet Cherry Coke and Cracker Jacks in hand. It was just as good the second time through, and I think Watson liked it. We discussed it briefly of course, and then Scholl and I were able to draw some further conclusions on the way back to the apartment. There's just something inherently cool about casually watching some avant-garde 'fifties Swedish cinema with your Film prof . . . not for class, but just because you can.

Anyway, today we watched The Majestic, which is a pretty decent flick, if you like that sort of thing. It went way long, but of course we don't particularly care. Watson had spent awhile discussing Vertigo and then another while talking about the history of censorship in America, so we weren't bored or anything.

It looks like Goldeneye is definitely what we'll be watching on Monday. I've never actually sat down and watched an entire Bond movie from start to finish. They're just a bit too . . . You know. Well, whatever. We'll see what happens. Troy is definitely on the ticket for Tuesday afternoon. Which rocks because I get to sleep in.

Oh, yes, and tonight (as you'll notice if you look right) we went to see Shrek 2. Very entertaining, but not as good as the first one. I think they tried just a bit too hard . . . it was as if they felt that they just had to crack you up every 2.37 seconds or something. It was quite funny and I very much enjoyed it, though. They spoofed everything from Lord of the Rings to Ghostbusters . . . It'd take me a whole post to try and catalogue everything, but that would be boring and pointless and you can find such a list elsewhere anyway . . . I would like to mention one thing, however. As the carriage drives down the street in Far Far Away (passing such fine establishments as "Farbucks Coffee" and "Burger Prince") I was highly amused to spot an "Old Knavery" clothing store . . . Wow. Oh, yeah . . . And while I had heard about a particular casting choice sometime before seeing the movie, I had managed to forget (until I saw it listed in the credits) that they had Larry King voicing the Ugly Stepsister. *shudder* I never want to think about that again. Ever.

And with that, it's time to dive headlong on the weekend. Lord-willing-and-the-creek-don't-rise you'll see me emerge on the other side with two dozen completed writing assignments. Hasta la vista . . .

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

May 14, 2004

Jared's New Digs

Well, most of my blog-related energies of late have been focused on putting together the journals for my Film class (they'll all be posted here, of course, as I complete them to my satisfaction). Meanwhile, however, life goes on and events transpire and it is clearly high time that some of those events found their way here.

This evening I am quite pleased as Scholl and I have successfully completed the bulk of the really strenuous manual labor required for moving into Apartment 12A (soon to be the LeTourneau headquarters for most Shadow Council activities, both subversive and otherwise).

-We wrestled The Moore's couch and various extraneous objects (namely, a lamp, a small table, and a hatstand) down two flights of stairs from Flooders and stashed them safely away . . . And let me just note here that The Moore owes us, big time.

-We hauled two large couches out of the empty rooms they had been stashed in on Bandits (wondering all the while at how we had managed to get them into the frigging rooms in the first place) and successfully installed one in the girls' apartment and one in ours. And also sprayed everything down with much febreze, because . . . wow.

-We dragged the couch out of temporary storage on Pennitentiary and, also after much spraying of febreze, gave it a new place of honor.

-And, speaking of places of honor, we transported and carefully selected an appropriate location, (with an attitude of reverence becoming such an august occasion, of course), for TOKAR. It now occupies a prime spot in our new living room. For the uninitiated, TOKAR is The Orange Kick-Ass Recliner that we picked up somewhere . . . good stuff.

Once all of these items had been physically placed inside the door of the apartment, it simply remained for us to make room to walk. I don't suppose I mentioned that our limited space was already partially taken up by the dining room table with its four chairs, two more of the standard LeTourneau "lounge chairs" and a standard LeTourneau fornication-proof couch.

So, as we took a brief inventory in assessing the situation, we realized that we had to arrange four couches, two lounge chairs, one dining room table, four dining room chairs, and a very orange recliner in such a way that we would actually be able to navigate successfully from the front door to the bedroom of the apartment without a) engaging in the pursuit of various and sundry track & field events or b) using the communicating door and entering through Apartment 12D.

After much sweat from Scholl and myself, much lounging on the furniture that we were attempting to move from Anna, much belated placement advice from Anna, and much general chuckling from Anna, we were successful in placing every piece of furniture up against some wall, thereby leaving the entire center portion of the room free for walking and frantic pacing and working jigsaw puzzles and certainly not for dancing of any kind. Or keggers. Can't have keggers in that open space at all. You might get in the way of the people who aren't dancing.

Anyway, at this point we both decided that all movement of stuff to the apartments was pretty much done for the day and went to eat supper at Taco Bueno. This was at 9:00. We were tired.

To backtrack just a bit, I suppose I ought to say a few words about our film class. It has been great good fun thus far, despite that whole part where I get up by 7:30. That part sucks, but I can live with it. Anyway, let's give a quick list of the films we'll be/have been watching:

Schindler's List
The Birth of a Nation
Citizen Kane
Casablanca
High Noon
Dr. Strangelove
North by Northwest
The Majestic
Troy

That last movie is an educated guess. On the final day of class we will go out together and watch a recent release in the theater, then discuss it over dinner. Troy is pretty much the only thing that's out right now and there have been a few rumblings in that direction. Aside from that, the only movie on that list that I haven't seen is High Noon. But they're all good movies, and I've only seen most of them once, so I look forward to the remainder of the class.

This being the third day, we have already watched the first three movies on the list, and had stimulating discussions about the first two. I am also getting quite a bit of enjoyment out of our textbook, as I've never really read through any in-depth descriptions of film technique. It has really helped me to appreciate the movies we've watched so far, and also to read between the lines a bit. It has also provided me with a number of noteworthy titles which we'll be acquiring from Netflix for the purposes of further edification.

I should mention here that, as with all Watson classes, we are required to participate in a 30-45 minute group presentation. Scholl and myself are in a group with Wayco Beckman, Ricky Morley, Alex Pereira, and Charlie Perez. We will be doing a presentation on Dr. Strangelove. It will be very fun, and very special . . . I mean, what could Dr. Watson have been thinking? He gave us a Stanley Kubrick movie to present on! Scholl and I very much wish that we had Martinez here to play Dr. Strangelove for us, but we'll see what we can come up with in his absence . . .

In honor of this new appreciation for movie-making, our extra free time to watch lots of movies, and the opportunities to watch lots of really good movies, Scholl and I have started Movielists. This is something I have wanted to do for quite some time, but somehow it just never came about. On the list we catalogue title, year, rating, runtime, a 50-point scale rating of the movie based on technique (done as objectively as we can . . . we try to collaborate on coming up with what we think it should be rated, to keep it as balanced as possible), a 50-point scale rating of the movie based on how much we enjoyed it (quite subjective, of course), and the date we watched it on. Today is day three, and we have just added the sixth movie to the list. Schindler's List was the first one to go up, on the 12th, and I have made it my benchmark movie, with a rating of 50 in each category for a total of 100.

Anyway, that's the bulk of what is important from the past few days . . . I must now get myself some sleep, clearly. There are journals to write this weekend, not to mention a shiny new apartment to move into . . . Good night.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

May 11, 2004

Jared's Blush-Inducing Stroll Down Memory Lane

Well, somehow I found myself wandering deep in my e-mail archives this evening, checking on when I had last written to certain people and so forth. It's the rare e-mail that I've deleted, like, ever (since I started using this computer for it in August of '02), so . . . lot's of personal history in there if one has the patience to dig for it. I found our original Bible study planning e-mails, for instance . . . but on to the point.

I was reading a number of my e-mails to friends in family written during the first month or two of being here, and . . . it was so weird. So very weird . . . I didn't recognize him. I mean, me. I didn't recognize me. I mean . . . I know I'm not the person I was ten years ago. And not even the person I was five years ago . . . but to see such a dramatic change (and yet not) just since coming here . . . I couldn't even stand to read most of my own e-mails. So many exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I would start a sentence and then end it with "JUST KIDDING!!!" something like three times per message, on average.

"My new roommate is great. Her name is . . . JUST KIDDING!!! It's a guy!!!!!!!!!!"

Anyway, here is one of the less painful ones, which I thought it might interest you all to see, from back when I was a snotty little freshman, (like, before I was a snotty little junior). It sounds like me, but I say things that I just . . . wouldn't anymore. This is written to an older guy that I got to be good friends with when he to stay in Guatemala for a few months during the fall semester of my senior year (I think it was then). Anyway, I wanna say he was about 26 at the time, but I'm not sure. It won't all make perfect sense, because I'm replying to an e-mail from him. But then, I still don't really make a whole lotta sense, even on my best days. It could almost be a blog entry . . .
___________________________________

Wednesday, September 4th, 2002, 2:40 PM

Hey Mr. "I'm-not in-college-anymore-so-freshman-jokes-are-great." How's it going? How was Guatemala? I, too, wish I could have been there, but I am also extremely happy to be here . . . Yeah.

Anyway, the classes I'm taking aren't really that hard. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I have Chemistry at 8:15 . . . Which really stinks because I hate mornings with a deep-seated loathing that will never be reconciled. Oh, well. It's really easy because we're just re-going over stuff I learned last year, in fact, he's not even going into the material as deep as my last teacher, so it's easy. All of the homework is "suggested" which means that I can just read it and not write anything (YEAH!) and we have a "quiz" every class which is just a super simple problem that he has work on in, get this, GROUPS OF THREE!!! Not a problem at all. After Chemistry I have Calculus II at 8:15. Now, Calc II might conceivably give me a little trouble but we have these great group study sessions, led by someone who has taken the class before and is sitting in on it again, on the nights before class so I always know that I'm turning in a perfect homework paper. Plus, I can use these sessions to get an understanding of the concepts we'll be learning the next day and I can be working on the next assignment during class as the teacher explains what it's about. So, very little homework there, too. Awesome. After Calc II is Chapel. If the speaker bores me, I pull out a book and read. Only one speaker has bored me so far, and that was the president of the university giving a speech during the first chapel. Usually the speakers are really good. After that is Bible class at 11:20. I do not care for this class, as bad as that may sound. Every class is basically an open forum on a topic presented by the teacher, but I feel like everyone in the class is just spouting their nice little same-old-same-old doctrine without caring why they think that. Hmmm . . . that sounds bad too. But that's the way it is . . . Anyway, that class, (and many others), gets out at 12:15, at which point a large crowd of people head for the cafeteria. So I always wait until 1:00 to have lunch on those days. Incidentally, the food is really good. I don't always care for the main courses they're serving, but I can always fall back on the station in the back corner where you can make your own little pizza. That works. After lunch I answer e-mails or whatever (as I am right now, in fact). Then, on Mondays and Wednesdays I have Engineering Graphics (creating 3D drawings of various things both freehand and on the computer) from 3:15 to 5:30. On Fridays I have Manufacturing Processes (Machine Shop) from 2:30 to 5:30 (looooooooooooong). Tuesdays and Thursdays more than make up for the the other 3 days. On Thursdays I have Chem lab from 3:00 to 5:20 and on both of those days I have a class called Cornerstones (basically an extended, in-depth freshman orientation in seminar form) from 1:30 to 2:50. It's with the same students as in Bible and it also is in the same "discussion" format, which means it has the same "problems." Also, I have to write a two page paper for every class and some other boring stuff. But it only lasts for the first 8 weeks, after which my Tuesdays will be home free and my Thursdays nearly so. So those are my classes. And the food. My roommate is really great. He's into Star Wars and fantasy and writing and . . . all that other good stuff. He's the best person in the entire world. And, as you may have guessed, he's also reading this over my shoulder. The last two sentences are a joke. But the rest of it is true!!! We got along very well.

How was it being back in CA? (That's Central America, NOT California). Great, huh? Yeah, it's a great little corner of the world. Two and a half weeks is a lot of writing. I don't think I've ever had one of my "white heats of inspiration" that lasted half of that. So what are you calling your memoirs? I guess I could think of some really gut-bustingly hilarious titles, but I can't think right now. (Is it Friday yet?!) I did wave to you on the 3rd, but since I didn't know what time you would fly by, so I just stood outside all day and waved. I had to skip class, but it was Tuesday . . . only one. I knew my teachers would see the importance of . . . OK, enough of that. Keep me posted on things (I hardly need to tell YOU that!) I'm sure I'll see you sometime. And, as you said, might even be sooner than later. Who knows? I better go now. I have a couple more messages to type before 3:15. See ya!!!
___________________________________

So, yes. I haven't touched it at all, although I was tempted. That was, clearly, before I learned what a "paragraph" was (some might contend that I still don't know). It was also before I figured out how great Woodring is. And, just so you know, it is extremely unlikely that I am referring to anyone who reads this blog when I mention people airing out their ideas . . . I might have been, but I doubt it. Truth is, I just don't remember, and don't really care. As you can probably tell, what I thought nearly two years ago about anything has little or nothing to do with anything I think today.

Conclusion: Strolling down memory lane isn't always fun and nostalgic, sometimes it's just funny and embarassing. Maybe in a few weeks when I'm feeling really masochistic I'll dig up some of my old opinion pieces from high school. I've still got them. All of them. We'll see . . .

Posted by Jared at 07:19 PM | TrackBack

May 09, 2004

"Be thou armed for some unhappy words."

The Shadow Council presents "The Taming of the Shrew" (and here you thought I'd forgotten! Ha!)

Scholl- Petruchio
Anna- Hostess, Katherine, Bianca, Widow
Gallagher- Bartholomew, Bianca, Grumio, Gremio, Lucentio, Vincentio, Pedant, Widow, Haberdasher
Wilson- Lord, Lucentio, Tailor, Philip
Myself- Cristopher Sly, Curtis, Hortensio, Biondello, Nicholas
Sharptiano- 2nd Huntsman, 2nd Servant, Player, Tranio, Nathaniel
Randy- 1st Huntsman, 1st Servant, Baptista Minola, Joseph
Scott- 3rd Huntsman, 3rd Servant, Gremio

And so we end the dramatic season at LeTourneau . . . out with a bang, not a whimper. I think that's everyone. That's the problem with having to wait nearly a week before I get around to typing this up. Nevertheless, it was buku fun, especially with our resident squabbling couple playing the fictional brawlers. One thing mystified me, though. We've all seen Scholl get clobbered good and proper, both with and without cause, on a fairly regular basis. But when Anna, playing Katherine, was instructed by the stage directions to deliver a well-deserved clout to Petruchio, she barely made contact with that fist. Scholl should only be so lucky in real life . . .

Kudos to Gallagher on playing nine characters . . . that I remember. So much fun . . . in that last scene we had, what . . .? Playing a character, the same character's father, the man pretending to be that character's father, that character's wife, one of that character's former rivals for the affections of said wife, the wife of that character's other former rival, and the resident wise-cracking servant. *deep breath* Phew!

I now have this version of the play on the way from Netflix. I only saw bits and pieces of it in Shakespeare class, but from what I did see, you haven't seen fireworks until you've seen Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor squaring off. Yikes. Trust me, you don't want none of this. Or this. That woman is a menace.

And with that, I officially declare the season to be at a close. As if it weren't already. See you next season, folks . . . I hope.

Posted by Jared at 09:00 PM | TrackBack

May 03, 2004

"What's gone and what's past help should be past grief."

-The Winter's Tale Act III, Scene 2

That happens to be where I am in the Shakespeare play that I am currently reading, and that line seemed to fit the bill. Shakespeare is now behind me forever. My final was at 12:45, it was nine pages long, and it took me an hour and a half. (Contrast with Dr. Watson's final which will be half a page and take me the full two hours.) So here we are, at the end of Shakespeare . . . And what?

For closure, I envision Dr. Batts standing before us and delivering the following speech:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here,
While these visions did appear;
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream.-A Midsummer Night's Dream Act V, Scene 1

And that's pretty much how I feel about the whole thing. My friends are so very obliging when it comes to making things seem totally surreal that I haven't the slightest bit of trouble imagining that I dreamed this semester anyway. Yes, that's what it was . . . A very instructive dream.

Because it has been instructive, in spite of everything. I still enjoy Shakespeare, and am more anxious than ever to finish reading everything he wrote. I am now quite familiar, (perhaps more than I am comfortable being), with those half a dozen plays that we studied this semester, and I enjoy being able to quote them, and remember everything that takes place, who causes it, who says what to who, and recall the exact act and scene with relative ease. I didn't even have to refer to the book for that "Midsummer Night's Dream" quote up there, and that's kind of cool. I just . . . uhhh . . . hope I got it right.

So, that's what I got out of Shakespeare . . . Never let it be said that no one can get anything out of that class. And that's all I have to say on the subject of Shakespeare for the time being. I'm off to get ready for the grand finales of other classes. I leave you with some famous quotes . . . not by Shakespeare this time, but rather about him.

"The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he really is very good, in spite of all the people who say he is very good."
-Robert Graves

"After all, all he did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations."
-H. L. Mencken

"Now we sit through Shakespeare in order to recognize the quotations."
-Orson Welles

"I know not, sir, whether Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare, but if he did not it seems to me that he missed the opportunity of his life."
-J. M. Barrie

Posted by Jared at 03:06 PM | TrackBack

April 29, 2004

A LeTourneau Political Cartoon

This struck me as funny. If I could draw it, I would, but I can't. So I'll just have to paint you a nice, vivid, word picture. Oh, and you'll only understand this if you've been following the latest fun SC goings-on . . .

Picture a political cartoon-style drawing of a bus, hurtling rapidly towards a cliff. Emblazoned on the side are the words "Committee Selection." You have various people in the back, talking amiably: Dr. Sumrall, Dr. Coppinger, Dr. Kubricht, some other VPs . . . that sort of thing. One of them pipes up: "Say, who's driving this thing?"

And hunched over the steering wheel, crazed expression on his face, we have David Eaton.

Anyway, what else goes on with me . . . ? Let's see . . . So I decided at the last minute to not take Intro to Philosophy this summer after all because some weird stuff cropped up here and there and I looked all my options over and . . . to make a short story long . . . I am taking Dr. Watson's Studies in American Film class for my 4000 level English elective. Much w00tage. Picture this:

I will spend the first 10 weekdays of my summer watching movies with Dr. Watson and Scholl, and writing about them (the movies, not Scholl and Watson . . . silly). I will walk away with 3 hours of Senior-level English credit. Beat that, if you dare to try.

I went and talked to him about it today, just to see what I could find out. I wanted to know where he started his history of American Film.

Watson: The Beginning.

Me: The Beginning?

Watson: The Beginning.

Me: Birth of a Nation?

Watson: Yup.

Me: *gasps* All of it?

Watson: Yup.

So then I wanted to know where he ended . . . Where are we now with American film? After a bit of Q&A we settled on Steven Spielberg. Apparently, he is Hollywood right now . . . or something like that. Anyway, so the history of American film = Birth of a Nation to Spielberg. We'll see how this goes. And you know I'll keep you posted because . . . duh.

So let's see . . . One last order of business, and then I'm off to take care of real business. Please to note the new linkage over there . . . *waves hand vaguely to the right and down* . . . somewhere. A couple of brand-spanking-new ones and one that ain't so new . . . And . . . yeah. There they are. Now, back to your lives, citizens.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

April 26, 2004

Day of Caffeine III: Revenge of the Hooplah

Dr. Hood set the deadline for my Social Backgrounds of the New Testament paper at 6:00 am, Monday, April 26. I've known this since the beginning of the semester, just as I have known what the inevitable result would be. The difference between this and the other all-nighters of the semester was that Wilson was in the same boat . . .

So after we had all watched Psycho on Sunday night, I went back to my room to hit the work. Of course, I had a few things to work on for Monday besides the paper, but most of it had been completed the night before, so that was alright. I grabbed about 15 minutes of sleep (and by "grabbed" I mean "was overtaken by") at around 9:00 as I finished proofing Martinez's Cults paper (now don't take that the wrong way, it was quite a good paper) and then I was off and running.

There were long hours of work going on in there, with brief, witty asides to The Wilson to keep my intellect ever-ready with a razor-sharp edge . . . and stuff. At 4:00 I decided I had reached a point that more or less had the basic feelings of completion or finality. So I e-mailed Wilson my paper, that he might print it out and trotted off to the Mabee 2 lounge to see what we could come up with between us.

Conclusions:

-Wilson's paper is really really great . . . Hopefully he will post it on his blog or something quite soon.

-My paper . . . Well, it's just a paper. I didn't exactly have a passion for the subject matter, and I certainly could have put more time in it. It's passable, but only that.

-Those little chocolates that Wilson hands out are yummy.

We returned to our respective rooms at around 5:00 to make the necessary changes. In Wilson's case that meant, maybe, adding the two commas that I suggested, and then finishing the one or two paragraphs he still needed to write. In my case that meant completely overhauling my footnotes and works cited page, fixing all of my block quotes, and generally re-reading the paper (fine-tooth-comb-style) for silly writing issues. This, my friends, is how much of a perfectionist our friend Wilson is: I finished first by a good ten minutes or so. I waited around, working on the blogpost you see below, and then we sent our papers off together at 5:56.

I continued to complete the post you see below . . . a bit of scrolling on your part will tell you when I finished. By then it was nearly time for SAGA to open, and I was hungry, so we went to breakfast. I had eggs and ham. They were not green. If they had been, I would not have eaten them, Sam I Am or no Sam I Am.

I will not eat them in SAGA,
Because that would be really disgusting and I'd probably throw up,
I will not eat green eggs and ham,
I will not eat them, Sam I Am.

I also had two glasses of Mr. Pibb. And then the donut holes arrived and I did a happy dance and got me a heaping plateful. Donut holes are good, because life is kind of like a donut hole. Except that life doesn't come in tasty, sugary, bite-size chunks and dissolve into a pocket of sweet, glazed goodness in your mouth. So I guess they really aren't that similar, when you get right down to it.

After breakfast, Wilson and I decided to avoid our respective rooms, because we knew that we would go to sleep, and we had a chapel to get to, with classes after that. Instead, we decided to go harass professors. First, I had to go get my books and stuff, and when we returned to my room, I found the following e-mail from Dr. Hood, sent at 6:21:

"Hi:

The research papers have been posted on the Blackboard ( in course documents).

17 minutes past the deadline we're waiting on Daniel. As we all line up around the finish line we must continue to cheer on Daniel. Though fatigued he is pushing on. Heart pounding, face sweating, he pushes himself beyond huma limits. Will he make it? With his eyes focused on the blurred finish line he strains his eye balls to see if his dearly beloved stands at the finish line as well. Had he only had his scooter . . . he would have put her on the back of his horse . . . ehh . . . scooter . . . and headed for the clouds. He's almost there.

Have fun reading,

Dr. Hood"

I don't care what time of day it is, or how much sleep you've had, that is comic genius right there. We couldn't help but wonder about Leatherwood, but so you won't have to, here's the follow-up e-mail I found in my inbox later (sent at around 1:00):

"Daniel made it! He had actually sent the paper to my digital drop box. What can I say? The man is in love . . .

So all of the papers are in. PLEASE CHECK IF WHAT'S ON THE BLACKBOARD is correct.

Dr. Hood"

Anyway, back to the story proper . . . So Wilson and I just had to run down to the Liberal Arts office and see if there was any havoc to be wreaked. Much to our dismay, there was not. Judy Walton was the only one there, poor thing. Imagine having to be the first one into that area every morning, and have to greet that crew as they come walking through the door. I have a lot of respect for that woman.

Moving on, our feet next took us in the direction of MSC-1. I couldn't help but wonder what sort of programs come on TV Land at that hour, so we checked. On the way we passed some very . . . interesting things, but nevermind that. Bonanza was on. Guh. That certainly wasn't what I was looking for. Fortunately, it was almost over, and The Carol Burnett Show was up next. So we got comfortable and watched that. It was mildly entertaining, but Wilson was quite clearly drifting, and we didn't want to stay for "I Dream of Jeannie" anyway. It was time to return to the Liberal Arts offices.

Dr. Hood was in by now, and we laughed with her and at her and stuff. Then we moved on. Dr. Solganick clearly needed some company. We pounced on him as he unlocked his office door. We watched him unpack his Sigma Tau Delta pin and proudly apply it to his person whilst he discoursed at length on the virtues of joining the English Honors Society. He was clearly giving Wilson the pitch. I recalled that I had been sitting in that same spot when he had given Moore the pitch, a few weeks back. Moore, of course, will have forgotten this by now, despite his definite interest at the time . . . because he's just Moore like that.

On the way to LH, we got dangerously close to Dr. Watson's 8:15 English Lit I class (that poor, poor man). I heard someone say, in a loud and happy voice, "Congratulations, you've just bought yourself a Yahoo!" (or something of a similair nature). I won't mention any names, but I recognized the voice at once. I hear it singing as it comes into SAGA around lunchtime everyday, and it goes by Nathan Didlake. Wilson and I exchanged a look of horror, and shuffled rapidly by the open door. I, fool that I am, glanced back and caught a brief glimpse of the man himself, in full cry, wearing a straw hat and a pair of overalls with one of the straps hanging loose. I shuffled a bit faster, and Wilson shuffled a bit faster, and I shuffled a little bit faster, and before I knew it, we were both running flat out down the hallway between HHH and LH. And we were laughing like idiots. It was fun.

Our next stop was Dr. Coppinger's office, which is always fun. Wilson's knees started bouncing up and down like crazy while we were there, and I was sure his caffeine had kicked in. I had a very strange urge to run out and find two small babies for him to give rides to . . . they would have enjoyed it, and the image was quite amusing. I decided to cover my mouth with both hands to be sure that I wouldn't say that, or laugh too loud, or anything like that. You know, I don't think Dr. C is quite used to me yet . . . He still gives me the oddest looks, as if he wanted to laugh, but was reluctant to encourage such behavior and was unsure as to how he might properly chastise that sort of activity. Highly amusing.

Next, we trotted back to the fuzzy offices to check on Dr. Kubricht briefly. On the way we were ambushed by Dr. Batts as he came out of the copier room. He held up a stack of test review sheets from Intro to Philosophy for my inspection and declared that they were a work of art . . . or something. I didn't feel right saying anything to that one way or the other, and while I was considering the situation, he said something like, "Everything they need to know, laid out nice and neat on one sheet of paper." My response: "Except for that." *points to the prominent ETC. on the bottom of the sheet* HIS response: "Oh, well, you gotta have . . . " *trails off vaguely muttering something, I forget if this was because we were moving away or he was, or if he just stopped talking* We reached Dr. K's office without further incident. He expressed surprise at seeing me up so early . . . since he can't actually talk to me anymore without mentioning my propensity to just generally be asleep. We were quick to assure him that we were up late before moving on.

Wilson popped off to talk to someone or something for a few seconds, I don't quite remember the situation or sequence of events. As I stood there in the main part of the office, facing down the long end of the hall, Dr. K gave me a healthy shove from behind on his way out the door. I swear, I'm going to get quite paranoid whenever I know that Dr. K is anywhere where I can't keep my eye on him. Note to self: This was probably a good, healthy habit to develop anyway.

By now it was very nearly time for Bib Lit to begin, and we stopped by Dr. Hummel's office to remind ourselves where the class had moved itself to.

Me: Hey, we were wondering where your 9:20 Bib Lit got moved to."

Dr. Hummel (distractedley, staring at his computer): "Ummm . . . 104. No, wait. The education building . . ."

Me: "Thank you." *leaves*

We had pleasant visions of the exchange actually reaching Dr. Hummel's brain . . .

Dr. Hummel: "Wait a minute . . . ?! Why did you want to know?" *dives desperately down the hallway*

We slid into the second row behind The Moore, The Tim, and The Gallagher when we got there. None of them seemed very interested in our presence. They were tired, mostly. The Moore was playing OMF. We waited for The Ardith, knowing that she's fairly reliable about that sort of thing . . . Somehow, she didn't see us at all until she was within five feet or so . . . she was tired, too. We got a dead stop, bugged eyes, and "What the-?!" out of her. It was very satisfying. Then Dr. Hummel came in and we slipped out the other door.

Wilson: "I just realized. We're skipping someone else's class!"

Me: *laughs a lot* "That's sooooo cool!!! I should do that more often!"

I have resolved to skip at least 5 or 6 classes a day for the rest of the semester. It's a great stress-reliever.

We returned to MSC-1 and watched the tail end of I Love Lucy, followed by a hilarious episode of Dick Van Dyke (which Wilson missed most of). We were joined by Martinez near the end, and then we proceeded to Awards Chapel.

It was very bla. But congratulations to Anna on her awards . . . and all of the other distinguished personages who were honored, as well. Now, back to talking about me. (Hey, don't give me that look! Whose blog is this, anyway?!)

I got back to the fuzzy offices just in time to meet Dr. Watson in his office, starting down at his English Lit II book as if he'd just forgotten what he was doing. My arrival seemed to jog his memory and we left for class. He paused briefly in the hallway to recommend Kill Bill: Volume One to Mrs. Stuckey. I shook my head at him as he finished and said something about him not being allowed to recommend movies anymore.

Dr. Watson: "I just saw the first part. Have you seen it?"

Me: *shaking my head* "Only bits and pieces."

Dr. Watson: *chuckling* "That's a good way to put it."

And then he quoted a line from the movie, with great relish, as we entered the classroom: "Those of you lucky enough to have your lives take them with you. However, leave the limbs you've lost. They belong to me now." One gets the general impression that he liked it . . .

I won't say that I slept through Dr. Watson's lecture on "The Voices of WWII," but I will confess that my mind was elsewhere. So much so, in fact, that I had a very difficult time getting it back into my body at the end of class, and I did not have full control of my limbs and basic functions for the remainder of the day.

Lunch was, for me, a very . . . "limp" affair. Near the end of the meal, I was having a dashed hard time getting my cup of caffeine and sugar up to my mouth. The hand, and arm it was attached to, didn't seem particularly inclined to move, which was frustrating. Cursing at them imperiously did not seem to help. The laughter of my comrades *darts pointed looks about* helped even less. Martinez was kind enough to bus my tray, and Gallagher was kind enough to help me get my backpack on, and between the three of us, we got me out the door. Martinez and I met Wilson coming to HHH from LH and we all stopped there and sat down. I had a sudden surge of energy at the sight of my sleepless comrade, but it didn't last anywhere near long enough. I couldn't even stay in my chair, sliding down onto the floor and staying put for several minutes. Think Wesley, when he's recovering from "mostly death" in The Princess Bride. It wasn't pretty, I'm sure.

I made it into Shakespeare, after meeting Scott in a similair condition in the hallway . . . not sure what his excuse was. Dr. C happened upon us both . . . or actually we accidentally converged on him as we met each other, so that it looked like we had ambushed him on purpose. I got that look again. Anyway, where was I . . . oh, right. I made it into Shakespeare.

Dr. Batts wasn't there yet, so I made it back out and into Dr. Woodring's office, where he was talking with Scholl. We had a fun discussion about . . . something. I don't remember. I hope I don't get quoted on anything that I said.

Anyway, I even made it through Shakespeare, in the end, and successfully played Petruchio in a few key scenes (from The Taming of the Shrew, of course). So much fun . . . Rebecca got stuck playing Kate, and I did not envy her. I spotted the trend . . . Dr. Batts always gives me the juicy parts, it's great. Horatio, Mercutio, Lear's Fool, Puck, Falstaff, Petruchio . . . good times.

Oh, yeah! And we had course evals. I was so happy I hadn't missed them on Friday. I had a thing or two to say. Rebecca brought along an entire sheet of paper she had filled with things and copied it off onto the eval . . . I'm guessing they weren't sunshiney cries of acclaim, either. Finally, I came to rest in Dr. J's office, to do the Batts worksheet I had missed on Friday and generally mull over the results of the day in general. Dr. J said that I made him tired. I said that I made me tired too. I felt very mellow, but once I sat down I wasn't really capable of much movement below the neck.

Nothing interesting happened from then until . . . now. At least, nothing I was really awake enough to pay any attention to.

Oh, and in case you weren't keeping count, I visited Drs. Hood, Solganick, Batts, Kubricht, Watson, Hummel, Coppinger, Woodring, and Johnson today. Ha! Beat that, if you dare!

And now, sleep overtakes me once again . . . Good night . . .

Posted by Jared at 05:40 PM | TrackBack

April 24, 2004

"There was more foolery yet, if I could remember it"

(Quoth Casca, Act I, Sc. 2)

The Shadow Council Players present "Julius Caesar":

Sharptiano- Julius Caesar, Titinius, Lucillius, Strato, Ghost of Caesar, Second Citizen, Second Soldier, etc.
Ardith- Octavius Caesar, Calpurnia, Cinna, Soothsayer, Claudio, etc.
Wilson- Mark Antony, Casca, Flavius, Cinna the Poet, etc.
Gallagher- Marcus Brutus, Carpenter
Myself- Caius Cassius, Murellus, Publius, Clitus, Fourth Citizen, etc.
Scholl- Trebonius, Lepidus, Popillius, Artemidorus, Pindarus, Messala, Cobbler, Servant, Third Citizen, Third Soldier, etc.
Randy- Lucius, Metellus Cimber, Caius Ligarius, Cicero, Varrus, Volumnius, First Citizen, First Soldier, etc.
Anna- Portia, Decius Brutus, Cato, Dardanius, Poet, Messenger, etc.

Well, as anyone can probably tell from the cast listing, there are a few more speaking parts than usual in this one. If I forgot any roles that anyone played, or mixed up any roles, I'm sorry . . . It was a lot to keep track of.

So, I know that Julius Caesar is a good play . . . of course . . . but I didn't expect to get quite that . . . level of enjoyment out of it. I don't know if it was sleep deprivation or what, but . . . Wow.

Gallagher, it was a pleasure to . . . ummm . . . yell at you and stuff. We'll have to try that again sometime . . . or something. Oh yeah, and one more thing: Durst not!

Anyway, kudos to Wilson for that magnificent rendition of Antony's famous speech . . . that was fun. And the jumping between Casca and Antony a few times was quite impressive. In fact, way to be versatile, everyone.

Oh, yes, and my apologies to everyone as well. Leaving Wilson (as Antony), Scholl (as Lepidus), and Ardith (as Almighty Caesar) in charge of the Roman Empire at the end there . . . That was clearly poor planning on my part.

*considers historical ramifications*

*shudders*

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

April 17, 2004

A Consummate Spouse . . . Yeah, good luck with that!

The Shadow Council Players present "An Ideal Husband":

Martinez- Sir Robert Chiltern, Harold
Myself- Lord Goring
Ardith- Mabel Chiltern, Mrs. Cheveley, Lady Basildon
Anna- Lady Chiltern
Gallagher- Lord Caversham, Mrs. Marchmont, Lady Markby
Scholl- Phipps, James, Mason
Randy- Vicomte de Nanjac
Moore- Mr. Montford
Sharon- Lady Markby
Sharptiano- Mason

So . . . Yes. This is quite a fun play, like nearly everything by Oscar Wilde, but it isn't, of course, quite as good as "Earnest." Nevertheless, he balances it out nicely by making the characters less shallow (at least a little). But then, triviality was kind of the point of the other one. However, I digress . . .

I ought to mention that when I picked this play, I rather thought there'd be a smaller crew than usual, and there rather wasn't. We were at least up to full size. So, sorry to everyone who only got one minor (or even very minor) role. Hmmm . . . That sounds really funny when put that way, but whatever. Anyway, we'll see what we can do next week.

I suppose I really ought to chronicle Anna's delivery of the following speech (despite the fact that she sounded as if wild horses were dragging it out of her by main force):

"A man's life is of more value than a woman's. It has larger issues, wider scope, greater ambitions. Our lives revolve in curves of emotions. It is upon lines of intellect that a man's life progresses."

Actually, the following exchange was my personal favorite:

Caversham: What I say is that marriage is a matter for common sense.

Goring: But women who have common sense are so curiously plain, father, aren't they? Of course I only speak from hearsay.

Caversham: No woman, plain or pretty, has any common sense at all, sir. Common sense is the privilege of our sex.

Goring: Quite so. And we men are so self-sacrificing that we never use it, do we, father?

Caversham: I use it, sir. I use nothing else.

Goring: So my mother tells me.

Caversham: It is the secret of your mother's happiness.

Followed closely by this one:

Mrs. Cheveley: The strength of women comes from the fact that psychology cannot explain us. Men can be analysed, women . . . merely adored.

Sir Robert: You think science cannot grapple with the problem of women?

Mrs. Cheveley: Science can never grapple with the irrational. That is why it has no future before it, in this world.

Sir Robert: And women represent the irrational.

Mrs. Cheveley: Well-dressed women do.

*sniggers* Oh, yes . . . Another thing: Ardith seemed quite disturbed at first by the role-swapping that was so prevalent among her characters in Act I. Really, Ardith . . . The rest of us have been doing this for weeks! Surely you can't have forgotten already that Gallagher had sword fights with himself twice only last Friday?

Be that as it may, I should certainly register the fact that I am quite disturbed by her proficiency with jumping at a moment's notice from the sweet, silly Mabel Chiltern to the ruthless, chiseling Mrs. Cheveley. Yikes. It occurs to me that . . . *stops to think* . . . Ummm . . . That there really isn't anywhere good I can go in further analyzing this state of affairs.

Good work, everyone. And won't next week be a trip? *cackles gleefully* Until then . . . *resumes normal blogging activities*

Posted by Jared at 02:41 PM | TrackBack

April 14, 2004

Now You're Speaking My Language . . .?

So, I go to Chapel this morning. I think I might know someone who has something to say about the experience as a whole, but I would like to address Praise & Worship, specifically, myself.

For those of you who weren't there, we had the Hispanic crew in charge today, and we did one song in Spanish at the beginning. I believe this has happened twice before this semester. The last time we did this, as I recall, all of the songs were in Spanish. I had a bit to say about that at the time, but no one else seemed to care, so I left it alone. After all, I personally ought to have no complaint, right? I speak Spanish fluently, I know exactly what I'm singing, and I didn't even need to have the words up there for me. (This is fortunate since they weren't up there for a significant portion of the song).

Today, we were very slowly led through the lyrics of the song, line by line, in classic repeat-after-me fashion, before they put them up on the screen (which irritated me, because I'm just impatient like that . . . and the song is supposed to be really fast, it's quite annoying when you go crawling through it). Then, when we were actually singing, whoever was working the slides was totally off (I mean, duh. They probably don't speak Spanish . . . we couldn't think of this beforehand?) and so no one could read the words because they weren't up on the screen. At one point, they just turned the projector off completely. The result is 750-odd people, say, tripping and stumbling painfully through a song they don't understand (even when they're actually able to sing along). It didn't flow. It didn't set a mood. It didn't unite. It didn't work.

Can anyone explain to me the point of singing praise & worship songs in a language that the majority of the people in the room do not understand, let alone speak? I mean, really . . . You don't know what you're singing! What if you were talking about "dancers who dance upon Your justice," or some such nonsense, without even knowing about it?! Then, if the words don't stay up you can't even follow along anyway. Plus, I don't know about the rest of you, but it would be bothersome and distracting to me to have to sing in, say, French, and know that I was butchering the pronunciation horribly . . . *sigh* It's just . . . No.

I know where this is coming from . . . it's that whole "showing how diverse we can be" thing that was mentioned in the last issue of the paper. And that's just fine and dandy, but . . . No. Now, perhaps if there were people in the room who didn't know English, (aside from the obvious, "What are they doing there?" question), then it would seem vaguely reasonable to do this from time to time. But there aren't.

I think it would be quite cool to give them a whole Chapel, maybe once per semester, all to themselves. Have it on the Chapel schedule. Call it "Alabando al Señor," or something like that, let us know it's coming, and don't make it "mandatory" to sing along. It would be more like going to a concert, I suppose. It's them, onstage, sharing their culture and language with us through music, and audience members who wish to sing with them are quite free to do so. That would be sweet. And if done properly it would be quite worthwhile.

And while you're at it, promoting diversity and whatnot, here's a thought: I'm pretty sure there are more Koreans here than Hispanics, (I dunno, maybe not . . . there are quite a few, at least), why don't we ever see them onstage, singing in Korean? It just seems odd to me that admin won't shut up about diversity, but their efforts in that direction seem so limited, missing wide swathes of the population . . .

Whatever. That's just what I, as a somewhat interested party with a unique perspective, think about the whole thing. Discuss.

Posted by Jared at 03:06 PM | TrackBack

April 13, 2004

The Birds and the Bees

So I was standing in Dr. Johnson's office this afternoon, staring out through his precious window, when suddenly my gaze fell upon a familiar little drama that was playing itself out not far away.

We have a male and a female, busily engaged in everyday outdoor spring activities. I didn't recognize them. They are carefully pretending not to notice one another, moving quietly about within their own little spheres, but it is clear that they are quite aware of each other's presence. Suddenly, the girl makes a very female-like move. She slowly and casually ambles towards the guy so that he has to notice her, and, this accomplished, she moves away. She wants to be chased, ladies and gentlemen.

And chase he does. They move about a bit more, "jockeying for position," perhaps exchanging a few words of polite conversation (I really couldn't tell). Then, she apparently decided he needed further encouragment, and swiftly made another move. He got a peck on the cheek and a squeeze of the hand before he had time to breathe and she moved away again. After a few more seconds of "jockeying for position," he finally made a move of his own. She got kissed. It wasn't long before they were behind a tree, and I couldn't see them anymore.

Ah, LeTourneau in the Spring.

Oh, yes. Did I mention that I was talking about two cardinals?

Highly pertinent quote: "A woman who takes her husband about with her everywhere is like a cat that goes on playing with a mouse long after she's killed it." -Saki

Posted by Jared at 04:15 PM | TrackBack

Shamelessness Pays (But Not as well as Crime)

So, Scholl dragged me off to that Easter Lunch and Egg Hunt thing at . . . ummm . . . was it First Baptist? I dunno. That's not the point. Anyway, also in attendance were Anna (duh), Ardith, and Moore-Sharon. Lunch was quite delicious. I still place sleep above food, but I will admit that lunch was good. And then we had Fun Easter Activities! Yay!

"Fun Easter Activities" in this case means drawing on a brown paper bag in preparation for filling said bag with Easter eggs. So I made mine into a book: The Big Book O'Easter Eggs, Red-Letter Edition. Whatever. Anna graphed an egg on hers and wrote nasty math things all over it and made a moebius strip handle with little infinity symbols on it. *shudders* Sharon wrote lots and lots of Engineering things on hers. I tried not to look. I suppose it was sort of a good thing to do, since it was technically a contest and Gonzo was one of the judges . . . Scholl turned his into the Monty Python rabbit ("Look at the bones!"). It was quite funny . . . lots of cute little flowers and whatnot. Moore cut his bag so that it was a network of diamond-shaped holes, and drew colorful designs on what was left. Then we all wandered over to the other table to look at Ardith's. She had created "An Easter Egg's Perspective of the World." Dreadfully artistic of her, I'm sure . . .

So then all of the bags were judged, and the Moore won "Best in Show," which got him candy and stuff. And then we were off! Well, Moore was off. He had disappeared before the rest of us even hit the stairs. So while we were wandering about calmly, collecting every egg that was even slightly hidden, I would catch glimpses of the Moore dashing to and fro with a bulging paper bag, rolling little kids with his empty hand and snapping at college girls with bared fangs. Your dignity . . . or candy? Give me pure shamelessness every time, says the Moore. Well, he took in quite a haul. I'll certainly give him that. He got more than the rest of us put together . . . And to top it off, he got a nice-sized bundle of cookies on the way out the door. Oh, it was a good day for the Moore (if not a proud day), let me tell you.

The rest of us walked away with equal parts candy and self-respect, and I proceeded to sleep off the effects of the afternoon upon my return. The rest, you know . . . or it isn't important.

There, I posted. That wasn't so painful. I think I'll do it again.

Posted by Jared at 03:45 PM | TrackBack

"If all the year were playing holidays . . ."

The Shadow Council Players present "Henry IV, Part One":

Martinez- King Henry the Fourth, Gadshill, Messenger, Carrier, Bardolph, Servant
Myself- Hal Prince of Wales, Earl of Worcester, Ostler
Wilson- Hotspur, Prince John, Peto, Sheriff
Gallagher- Sir John Falstaff, Sir Walter Blunt, Earl of Douglas, Lady Mortimer
Ardith- Owen Glendower, Sir Richard Vernon, Archbishop of York, Poins, Second Carrier
Anna- Earl of Westmoreland, Earl of Worcester, Sir Michael, Lady Percy, Mistress Quickly, First Carrier, Traveler, Messenger
Scholl- Earl of Northumberland, Bardolph, Chamberlain
Moore- Earl of Westmoreland, Poins
Sharon- Earl of Worcester
Ziggy- Francis
Spiff- Earl of March

This is the only Shakespeare play that I've had to do which I've never read before. And it was quite enjoyable, I must say. If only all of his histories were this . . . ummm . . . "not dry." We had excellent good fun and marvelous performing all around. I simply must mention Ardith's Archbishop . . . because that was funny. She crosses herself as she walks onstage . . . and it went downhill from there. I'm pretty sure a female Archbishop is, like, flaming heresy . . .

Oh, yes. And through poor casting on my part, and a general lack of people present to step in anyway, Gallagher had a swordfight with himself. Twice. So ridiculous . . . But by far the most enjoyable scenes were the robbery and the looooooooooong pub scene (Act II, scenes 2 and 4), of course. Falstaff is so great. But you knew that.

Closing thought: "Hang thyself in thine own heir-apparent garters!" -Falstaff, to Prince Hal

Posted by Jared at 10:45 AM | TrackBack

April 05, 2004

The Post That Roared

Well, I'm awake now, I think. Looks like it's Monday. That sucks. Looks like Monday's almost over. That's a good thing. Today is a little hazy. All I know for sure is that there were several naps involved. And some classes and a chapel, I hope. But such a weekend . . .

Hootenanny was very much a lot of fun. I didn't go last year, using the general Friday-night emptiness as a prime opportunity to play racquetball with Martinez and Uncle Doug and Bryan, so this was the first one I've been to. The Moore earned his salt by snagging us seats on the very front row and we sat next to Dr. Hummel and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, overall. I shan't attempt a large-scale description of the entirety of Hootenanny . . . I'm still recovering from my Conference epic, remember, but I have to mention a one thing.

The backstory used to string the skit announcements together involved the three emcees travelling through time in a . . . large freezer. So at one point they wind up in . . . I dunno, I guess it would have been the 50s (speculation could be dangerous) and find themselves addressing Dr. Austin. But he isn't Dr. Austin at this point, clearly. He's just Bud. Dr. Austin was wearing a white t-shirt and jeans and had died his hair black specifically for the purpose. It was very scary, and I hadn't quite decided whether I was laughing or not when Dr. K came walking out on the stage. Actually, he wasn't walking, of course. He was very much sauntering, and looking quite . . . errr, "boss" in his leather jacket and black beret (I think it was a beret). As soon as he walked out, there was no chance of the act getting "clutched." I, personally, can remember him saying: "Daddy-O," "Agitate the gravel," "Big Daddy," "Square!" "Where're the chicks?" and "Let's blow this popsicle stand!" Their act . . . ummm, "razzed my berries" and I think it would be safe to call it . . . uhhh, "radioactive." It was "on the stick" . . . They had it "made in the shade." It "killed" me and everyone in my immediate vicinity. Anyway, that's quite enough fifties slang for one post. Just remember, the next time you feel like messing with Bud or Dr. K . . . "Shoot low, they're riding Shetlands."

There were many other good skits and so forth . . . Scholl was particularly fond (as we all were) of the three that involved vicious beatings, for instance . . . The grand finale was quite a sight as well. But I need to move this post forward so I can finish it, like, tonight.

This week we had general food and fellowship instead of the regular Bible study, and that was fun. The SC (Read: Scholl and Anna) participated vigorously in the Pie Auction on Thursday night and walked off with several armloads of desserts. And they were quite delicious, let me tell you. Scott, Gallagher and I spent a good . . . I dunno, I guess it was about twenty minutes, off and on . . . looking for Gallagher's shoes that had mysteriously disappeared. Gallagher wasn't looking very hard, but I was feeling a bit antsy so I wandered about Longview Hall a bit, looking for it. Gallagher finally stopped feeling so darn lazy and wandered down to the LH lobby . . . The Moore, or perhaps the Sharon, had made off with them, thinking that they actually belonged to the Moore. *sigh* It was a nice, quiet night. I got to bed at an insanely early 12:45 (I can't manage to get to bed at that hour on nights when I need to, for goodness' sake) and didn't move for 12 lovely hours. It was magnificent.

I'm not quite sure what I did all afternoon, but I seem to recall some sort of unique hybrid between fun and productivity. Or maybe I just dreamed that. It's really quite unimportant, because Saturday night was clearly the important time. We went to Symphony! Yay! All three pieces on the program were quite different from each other, and all of them were very enjoyable. Especially the third one . . . "Gershwin!" *jumps up and down* It was even better than the one I went to back in February. I just noticed that I did not, in fact, blog that one. It took place on February 21st. If you're curious, go see if you can discover why I might not have mentioned in . . . Personally, I'm moving on . . .

There was much fun conversation to be had at Applebee's after Symphony as well, and the seed of a short story (which Wilson and I clearly need to write asap) was formed. More on that when we both have time . . . *laughs at self* . . . Well, actually, once I have my Social Backgrounds paper out of the way on Thursday, and that three-day weekend is looming before me, life will be quite good, all things considered. Yes. Quite good.

Sunday involved much irritation at Daylight Savings. In October, Daylight Savings is clearly the best idea that anyone has ever had . . . in April it flat out sucks. Whose idea was it to arrange a system wherein I just randomly lose an hour of sleep near the end of the Spring semester? Nevertheless, I accompanied most of the SC to the 2:00 performance of Shadowlands. I have seen the movie, and I won't pretend that it wasn't better . . . duh. I mean . . . Anthony Hopkins! Nevertheless, I thought all of the actors did quite a good job and it was quite enjoyable. I especially liked Nate Todd's portrayal of Warnie (as far as the really major roles go), but everyone did well. I need to see the movie again.

I supped at the Hive with Martinez, Ardith, Wilson, Sharptiano, and Uncle Doug . . . and brought along the Catch Phrase that my grandparents gave me at the end of Spring Break. Such a fun game . . . Sharptiano had to leave, so I went twice to balance the teams. Wilson and I played against the other three, and were soundly beaten twice in a row. Then we started paying attention . . . I don't remember whether we played five games or six, but we won all of the remaining games. Randy and his roommate joined us for the last two games (Randy came in on our team), and there was much fun to be had all around. People say the most ridiculous things when they're under pressure. Uncle Doug made reference to "dumping stuff in the harbor during the Civil War" in order to get his group to guess "Boston Tea Party." When I said, "Mohammed started this," as a clue for "Islam," Randy blurted, "Boxing!" Clearly we will be playing again sometime soon . . .

And then, after much cursing at stupid technology and migrating about campus, we settled down in Longview Hall to watch The Mouse That Roared, a brilliantly funny piece of political satire starring Peter Sellers in three roles (à la Dr. Strangelove). It concerns the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, the smallest country in the world, whose economy depends entirely on the export of wine to the United States. When California begins to bottle a cheaper wine, Grand Fenwick's economy tanks and they decide that the only thing to do is invade the United States and lose. Clearly the U. S. is well known for its exceptional treatment of defeated enemies. Through a rather unique and bizarre series of events, Grand Fenwick accidentally wins the war by capturing the Q-Bomb (a WMD capable of liquidating an area of 2 million square miles), and everything goes downhill from there. Anyway, the movie was quite funny and there were some exceptionally humorous lines and so forth . . . but you really had to have been there, I think.

Be that as it may, that was basically my weekend, more or less, and now it is time to stop with the reliving of said weekend, and proceed with the rest of the current week. Farewell.

Posted by Jared at 10:41 PM | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

Wheeler's Conference Epic

Right. So I'm still blogging, obviously. Congratulations. You're all frigging geniuses. Except for those of you that clearly aren't. Clearly, Mr. Fry has me pegged. I am completely addicted to publishing myself on a regular basis. In a brief aside before we move on, I hope you all played The Worm Game that was linked in that last post of mine.

I would also like to note an incident that occured in English Lit II on Wednesday. Dr. Watson was sitting in Mr. Payton's office, yakking about Conference stuff, when the bell rang for class. I decided to hang about the door so I could just happen to run into him when he came out a few seconds later. He proceeded to sign me up for a time to do volunteer work on Friday, and then I asked him if he would be attending class. He would.

I followed him down to his office, and informed that the day's topic of discussion was Joseph Conrad when he asked. Then we went to class. Power Point wasn't working, he was having a little trouble pronouncing certain words, and he had brought the wrong textbook. He sent someone to get the right one, and looked out at the rest of us.

Dr. Watson: After the Conference this weekend, I'll get my life back, and then things will be better.

Myself (Yeah, like I'm gonna let that go by . . .): *respectfully raises hand*

Dr. Watson: Yes, sir?

Myself (in an eager and curious tone): When do we get our lives back?

Anyway, I wanted to record that because opportunities to even attempt something that resembles a *zing* don't surface around Dr. Watson on anything like a regular basis.

And now it's time to talk about . . .

The 7th Annual C. S. Lewis and the Inklings Conference

I had a lot of fun. This was an amazing experience, and I am very bitter that we don't get this kind of thing more often. I essentially got to spend an entire day talking shop with several dozen hardcore and intelligent Inklings nerds, (as opposed to the average garden-variety one finds wandering at large amongst the general student body), not to mention scholars. It was a long day, yes. I had to wake up at 6:30 to get ready to attend. And I had to get myself all dressed up and wear a tie, which I am not particularly fond of doing (for various reasons . . . most of them attached to laziness and an aversion to discomfort). But I really didn't care about all that.

I met Scholl coming out of SAGA and sent him off to put on something that wasn't shorts and sandals before meeting Ardith inside the Education building. In due time, Anna came along, and Scholl eventually returned. Wilson showed up after the opening general session, and we were all there for the entirety of the day.

I shall now attempt to record the portion of the conference that I attended as briefly as possible.

8:00- Dr. Woodring addresses everyone together, giving a 15-minute devotion on the subject of "Who is Jesus?" He quoted both Dorothy Sayers and C. S. Lewis extensively. He clearly started off on the right foot . . . with a jab at the SC members present. "I'll go ahead and start now, and everyone else can come in late and sit down. I'll just feel like it's another one of my classes . . . Yeah, I see some of the same people, in fact." *pointed look at us* You think I just have some kind of persecution complex? His first response upon seeing me walk into the building ten minutes before was not a pleasant "good morning" but a bitterly humorous expression of amazement that I had managed to get up and look so awake when I slept through so many of his Bib Lit classes last semester.

8:15- Bruce Edwards of Bowling Green State University, our keynote speaker, talked for about an hour on "Re-enchanting the Christian Imagination: C. S. Lewis and the Inklings." I quite enjoyed his talk. He was a good speaker, and his address was essentially a quick recap of the most important themes we covered in last semester's Inklings class. He used a lot of the same quotes that Dr. Woodring would read regularly, and generally discussed things like the Inklings' aversion to allegory and preference for "Religious Myth," as well as their vanguard action (as it were) in bringing fantasy and science-fiction out into the light of respectability amongst mainstream Christians.

9:25- Four sessions to choose from . . . AGH! There will be 12 papers presented during the next hour and twenty minutes, and I can only hear three of them. Scholl and I choose Section D. Anna, Ardith and Wilson decide to go attend Section C (which looked, and apparently was, quite excellent . . . perhaps one of them will post on the stuff they got to hear that I missed).

-Paper #1: Pam Jordan of Taylor University (specialty, Victorian Lit) presented "Reflections on Hamlet from the Inklings." Very interesting, for the most part. She actually looked at criticism written by Lewis, Williams, MacDonald, and Chesterton . . . Not all of them are Inklings, but they all have legitimate business being there. Her paper was a bit ambitious . . . clearly she could have written as much as she had just from the criticism of one of those authors. As it was, hers was the longest paper in the session, and she said she had cut a number of chunks out of it. In any case, it was interesting to note where the four men agreed and disagreed. All of them were very similair in their ideas, especially concerning the question of Hamlet's hesitation, (they all seemed to agree with the theory that Hamlet does not, in fact, hesitate at all, but acts when he needs to, and just as he wants to), but each had quite unique and fascinating reasons to back up those ideas.

Paper #2- E. B. Hawkins of Lamar State University (specialty, Old and Middle English Lit) presented "What About the Heroes? -- Tolkien's Answer." This was a very fun paper, providing an in-depth examination of how Tolkien treats the subjects of immortality and an afterlife for the various species in Middle Earth . . . especially the manner in which he rewards the main heroes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. She noted that, while there is some sort of hope of an afterlife implied indirectly, Tolkien absolutely refused to spell out the answer to those questions. Instead, he grants extended lifespans and other rewards to his main characters as more tangible positive benefits for their heroic actions . . . but they all still die. I was somewhat amused in the discussion afterwards when it became quite evident that Dr. Hawkins was rather bitter about the lack of a confirmed happily-ever-after ending to the trilogy. She obviously had that passion for the work that I am always pleased to discover in a new acquaintance.

Paper #3- Sheba Kulothungan of Southwestern Assemblies of God University (specialty, Early American Lit) presented "Allegory and Symbolism in Lewis' Poems: His Definitions, His Display, His Dynamism." In terms of the overall balance between presentation, choice of topic, and excellent analysis, this was the most enjoyable paper I heard today. Dr. Kulothungan contrasted Lewis' poetry with the poetry of the American Puritan writers and of Emily Dickinson. She noted particularly that both Lewis and the Puritans wrote about "mere" Christianity, but she was curious to discover what precisely Lewis was doing that made his writing so much more profound, accessible, and alive than the writings of the Puritans. She referred to the Puritans as "scaling the mountain of an unknown God with the pitons of symbolism and allegory." Lewis, on the other hand, "scaled the mountain of symbolism and allegory using the pitons of the truths about God that he recognized intrinsically." She drew attention to the fact that, while the Puritans regarded the spiritual realm as incorporeal and ethereal in comparison to the solid, concrete "real world," Lewis saw the "real world" as merely a dim, dirty shadow of the reality of the spiritual world. Very cool stuff, and I just can't get enough of it . . . There was a lot of other cool stuff, as well, but I don't remember it in such detail. Scholl was exceptionally pleased when Dr. Kulothungan, as he put it, ripped into Emily Dickinson, but I digress.

10:45- Break time . . . We all gather in the hallway to confer and generally agree that this is really awesome. And we eat some really really delicious blueberry muffins. Dr. Watson comes along and drops a task on us (chiefly Scholl) as volunteers. Namely, to track down pertinent information on a number of local tourist attractions and put it together on one piece of paper to be distributed. We all accompany him upstairs to the labs (there being only ten minutes of break left) and grab what we can. Wilson, Ardith, and Anna trickle off to Section B, while I go to Section C, saving a seat for Scholl as he toddles off to repackage the information we have accumulated. He fails to show up, but Ardith suddenly wanders in, so I give her his seat.

Paper #4- Melanie Hix of Oklahoma City University (Graduate Student) presents "Consumption of the Inner Spirit: Gagool and Tolkien's Gollum." I was very interested in this paper for two reasons. First, King Solomon's Mines is one of my favorite books of all time and Gagool's death is one of the more memorable scenes. Second, I was interested in hearing a paper that was doing basically the same thing that I was doing. That is, comparing something from Tolkien's work to something from another author's and suggesting that he might have drawn from that source in the process of creating his own work. If you've ever read King Solomon's Mines you can start drawing half a dozen parallels right away, and if not then I won't be able to clarify things by elaborating further. Good paper, though.

Paper #5- Joe Cristopher of Tarelton State University (some variety of Doctor or another) presents "A Four-fold Interpretation of the Narnian Father Christmas." This paper was thick . . . excessively so, I thought. It was kind of hard to follow and by the end of it I wasn't quite sure what point he was trying to make. Also, the intent of the paper got a bit diluted in the after discussion when he spent a good five minutes discoursing on a tangent. All I know for sure is that he was examining different ways of explaining the presence of Father Christmas in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

12:25- Time for lunch . . . Scholl, Ardith and I get our food and spot Dr. Hawkins sitting in a nice, neutral, empty sort of spot, so we surround her. We had a good time discussing this and that with her, mostly at random. Anna showed up after she finished doing . . . that whole volunteer thing (I wasn't paying attention, so I don't know what it was). Loius Markos, of Houston Baptist University, gets up and does a drama that he had already done in chapel that morning: Screwtape's Millenial Toast. In it, he pretty much eviscerated modern teen culture, much to the amusement of the very much non-teenagers that the crowd mainly consisted of. In fact, here's the entire thing, online.

At the end of his monologue, he made reference to signals from "Chairman Muckrake" at the back of the room. I turned around to glance at Dr. Watson (the Conference Chair) and he was looking right at me with a rather funny expression of surprise, confusion, and amusement. Then he got up to dismiss us and so forth at the end of the thing.

Dr. Watson: As Chairman Muckrake, I must say that was one hell of a speech!

1:30- After walking briskly back to my room to retrieve a hard copy of my paper, I returned once again to the Education Building to attend the John Brown University Student Forum. I wasn't particularly keen on any of the papers in the next two sets of sessions, so I figured I'd see what the students from Andy's school had to offer. Scholl, Sharptiano, Barbour, Dr. Solganick, and Dr. Hawkins were all in attendance. I can make this fairly brief, I think. Three of the papers were essentially Power Point presentations and the computer was being mean and hateful. So Scholl got to play techie while the one student that didn't have her paper associated with the computer got up to read.

Paper #6- Evelyn Baldwin (Junior, English Education) presents "Gods by Machine: The Semi-Pelagianism of J. R. R. Tolkien's deus ex machina Resulotions." This was by far the most delectable title on the entire program, and the paper did not disappoint. She took a look at how Tolkien manages to get away with having main characters who are, ultimately, never able to save themselves without some outside help, and still stay believable. There was, of course, a brief discussion of important things like the origins of the term deus ex machina and its use and abuse in literature in general. Clearly I can't do this one justice, but it was good stuff.

Paper #7- Mariam DiPasquale (Sophomore . . . I think, Anthropology) presents "Boxen and C. S. Lewis's Childhood." It was all about the fantasy world of Boxen that C. S. Lewis created with his brother Warnie when they were children, and it included all sorts of illustrations that he had done and so forth. As far as that goes, it was rather interesting. It would have been a lot more interesting if she had spent a decent amount of time showing us how these childhood games influenced his later work, but whatever . . . It was too long considering the lack of substantial material, her Power Point really could have used help, and I think it would be safe to say that I was at least mildly bored by the end. Scholl, apparently, was ready to scratch out his own eyeballs and use them to plug his ears, but then, he is a person given to much excess.

Paper #8- Megan Lein (Sophomore . . . I think, ironically I have no idea what her major is) presents "The Great War, Tolkien, and the T. C. B. S." This one was considerably better than the previous one. The Power Point worked better, it didn't drag as much, etc. It was a report on Tolkien's small (4 guys), close group of college friends and the influence that they had on his early life, as well as a brief recap of what happened to them in WWI. Two of them died, and Tolkien was, of course, deeply affected by this. Again, there was some analysis of the influence that this had on him, but I thought that it needed more to really give it a point. However, I found the topic itself to be quite interesting, personally, never having heard the full story before. Scholl was quite weary of Power Point by this time.

Paper #9- Ruby Vasquez (Sophomore, History) presents "Tolkien's Revisions in the History of Middle Earth." I thought this one was rather good. She examined the three different versions that Tolkien wrote of the story of Turin Turambar and paid special attention to the differences in the workings of fate in each version. I don't remember who told us this, or when, but sometime during the Inklings class I remember hearing that if the audience of your paper could just watch your Power Point presentation and eliminate you from the picture entirely . . . Well, that's problematic. Ummm . . . duh. This paper would have benefited enormously from simply being read, as we didn't really need to see any pictures or anything of that kind. That notwithstanding, it was a worthy effort.

3:40- Now the real "fun" begins, with everyone I know (and myself) presenting practically all at once. I sat and listened to Anna Ross present "The Presence of Eros in The Screwtape Letters" and to Ardith present "Stereotype Used Effectively:Portrayals in That Hideous Strength." Both excellent, of course . . . I had heard portions of Anna's, as she was in my group last semester, and I had also heard Ardith's, of course.

4:45- The final session . . . Randy and Scholl both go before I do. I hadn't heard Randy's paper, "Unusual Women: Luthien and Orual." Clearly, I need to hear it again. I liked what I heard, but I probably only caught one word in four . . . I was a bit distracted. Scholl presented his "Creation and Afterlife: A Comparison of the Worldviews of Two Inklings." Naturally I'd heard that one before . . .

And then it was my turn . . . last paper of the day for everyone in the room ("What Dreams May Come: The Purgatory of Dante and Tolkien"). Interesting crowd we had managed to collect . . . I guess it was one of the occupational hazards for being in a session with Scholl after pretty much attending the same sessions with him all day. He had collected quite a following by this point.

Upon later reflection, it reminded me of one of those storybooks for very small children which follows a day in the life of the main character. They journey throughout the day, meeting new people and having new experiences and so forth, and then at the climax of the thing all of the people he has encountered throughout the story gather together with this main character as the center of whatever is going on . . . I'm not sure if I'm quite getting across what I mean, but there it is.

The entire JBU contingent snagged one wall, apparently returning the favor of our attendance at their session (and Scholl's generous helpings of technical assistance). We had been pestering Dr. Hawkins the entire day, of course, so naturally she slipped in. Even Dr. Jordan, of the Hamlet paper, found her way to this session, somehow or other. And naturally there was the mandatory contingent of available SC members, available, as always, to show some friendly, semi-questionable support. Gallagher and Martinez had come dragging in from . . . wherever for the previous session . . . Anna had just presented in the same room the session before . . . etc. Dr. Olson was heading up the session, due to yet another recent schedule change, and she was clearly having far too much fun with all of the goings-on. There were people there, and I knew virtually all of them, that's what I'm saying. It was weird, but clearly more enjoyable that way.

And then it was essentially over. I opted out of the dinner and seeing Shadowlands performed that evening in favor of attending Hootenanny (and I'm clearly not getting into that right now). The Conference was truly an epic experience, and I expect it will be handy discussion fodder for some time to come yet. You should go find yourself one to attend, because it is very much a lot of fun.

And speaking of epic, I can't help but wonder if this post is a record-breaker . . . for me, I mean. I have no idea how long the longest blogpost ever might be . . . Are you still reading this?! Good grief! Clearly I wrote this particular post with the express purpose of keeping certain details fixed in my own memory. If, for some reason, you're still there, it is clearly time for both of us to go find something constructive to do.

Personally, I'm casting a vote for sleep. *looks around* Clearly I am talking to myself as I am the only one in the room. That makes it unanimous. Good night.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

March 30, 2004

Please tell me this is a dream, Part II

Monday was an interesting day. I shall tell you the story of Monday. Read on . . .

I have been coming down with something vaguely unpleasant, so I slept through breakfast and Chapel and dragged myself lazily over to Heath-Hardwick about half an hour before English Lit II. I wanted to have a little extra time so I could ask Dr. Batts about borrowing his . . . "sword."

*thinks for a second* I guess I haven't actually explained on here why I would need to borrow such a thing. You see, I was challenged to a duel last Thursday over a fine point of personal honor involving a noble lady, a bit of fine lace, and a an all-you-can-eat steak dinner. We were all set to square off at precisely 11:00 in the morning on Tuesday (today). The thing is, when I was busy sparring with Martinez (my second) on Saturday, I put a nasty dent in the guard that made my sword really difficult to hold. So, naturally . . .

Uh, right. Not sure where that last paragraph came from. In actuality, Dr. Batts divided my Shakespeare class into two groups and assigned the first group to perfrom Act III of A Midsummer Night's Dream on Friday, and the second group to perform Acts IV and V on Monday. We had to come up with costumes and suitable settings ourselves and it would be for a test grade. I was, of course, in the second group. If you know anything about the play at all, you'll recall that Pyramus and Thisby both stab themselves with a sword during the play-withn-the-play at the end of Act V. Everything should now be clear to you. I will move on.

I chatted briefly with Dr. Watson in the hall and found that Dr. Batts was not in his office at all . . . I suppose he was at Chapel. The first half of English Lit II consisted of a group presentation on Conrad's Heart of Darkness. It was . . . decent. They managed to bring in a rather impressive amount of foliage and turned the front of the classroom into a jungle. After they finished we still had over 20 minutes to listen to Dr. Watson (and that always makes me happy).

So Dr. Watson was expounding on Conrad's philosophy of writing, as it were, telling us that Conrad thought that literature ought to communicate truth(s), and things of that nature. And he decided that we looked a little too asleep or something, I guess . . . In any case, he asked if anyone in the class had encountered any particularly profound truths in anything they had read. This is a survey course, and he ought to have known he wasn't going to have many volunteers. I myself was sitting in the back, as usual, happily eating a small box of Nerds that I had acquired during the presentation, and devoting half of my attention or so to completing my Shakespeare homework.

Dr. Watson: "Wheeler! You're always reading . . . In fact, you're always reading during my class, even. In all that you have read, have you come across any great truths?"

Me: *gapes*

I mean, for heaven's sake! What kind of question is that to drop on a poor, unsuspecting introvert in a class of 30 people?! And, of course . . . well, you all know what I've been reading of late. The first two names that pop into my head are Oscar Wilde and Saki . . . and I just couldn't bring myself to go there.

Sample quotes:

"Monogamy is the Western custom of one wife and hardly any mistresses." -Saki

"You can't expect a boy to be vicious till he's been to a good school." -Saki

"I think that God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability." -Wilde

"Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow." -Wilde

"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation." -Wilde

I wasn't doing that, period. So I carefully danced around the question for a painful ten seconds or so, and it got picked up by someone else . . . Who started quoting "The Dream of the Rood" of all things . . . While he was doing that, I came up with something that I could use to vindicate myself. I quoted The Misfit from Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find"

"Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead, and He shouldn't have done it. He thrown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can-by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness."

*Thanks to Mr. Fry as the party responsible for my knowing that quote . . .*

Of course, I'm rather an idiot. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to wave the copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream that was sitting directly in front of me and say, "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" Ah, well . . . I've never claimed to be able to think quickly in situations like that.

Now, on to Shakespeare, and I shall try to be brief. I was chosen by the powers that be to play Puck, Peter Quince (Prologue in the mini-play), and Francis Flute (Thisby in the mini-play). I wasn't entirely satisfied with the costumes that were provided at the dress rehearsal on Sunday, so I went around and borrowed a few things from Wilson and Anna "Costume Shop" Olson to supplement.

Act IV, Scene 1: I play Puck. I am barefoot, wearing a maroon pillowcase as a . . . shirt, or something. I also have on blue, spotted . . . ummm . . . kitty-cat ears. And freaky-weird glasses, also . . . I liked them because no one could make eye contact with me for more than three straight seconds without looking away. I have two short lines to deliver, and lots of down time listening to freaking Oberon expound at length on this and that. Ideally I could have found various creative ways to act puckish while he was talking, but practically it just isn't very easy. I did a bit of slinking around . . . fiddled with Bottom's ears . . . and mostly just stood there. It was annoying. Finally I escaped to prepare for scene two.

Act IV, Scene 2: I play Quince and Flute. I am wearing a sheet. But it isn't a sheet, it's a toga. Shut up. Quince wore Wilson's fedora. Flute was bareheaded. Quince was sitting down. Flute was leaning casually against the wall. Quince spoke in a slow, low-pitched, measured tone. Flute tripped over his words and babbled frenetically. It kinda worked. The freaking toga would not stay on as I moved back and forth. And Shannon was in my way once or twice. Other than that, no problems . . .

Act V, Scene I: All three (five?) of my characters are present in this scene. Quince comes out when the play begins and very nervously recites his prologue. Then it is time for the dumbshow. I have the lion bring out my wig when they enter, and when I introduce each character I had instructed them to strut . . . or something. Basically, do anything that would make a pause seem more natural when I changed into Thisby. The wig, of course, had gotten itself horribly tangled up, and I had to perch it on my head briefly before moving on. Exit Peter Quince.

Thisby . . . is just flat out no fun when you actually have to act her out with the clothes and the faux-emotion and the romantic gook. Ick. But that's no reason to only give it a half-effort, now is it? I was just generally pleased that my voice wasn't cracking in the higher pitch (due to my cold). Finally, the mini-play ended. I sympathize with the Athenian craftsmen. Exit Francis Flute.

About ten lines later, Puck is supposed to come back on, alone. I'd forgotten it was so quick, so when everyone joined me backstage within about 20 seconds, I said, "You've got to be kidding me!" I didn't even have time to find my place before I went back out. Fortunately, I had the first eight lines of that soliloquy memorized, and I found my spot while I recited them. Helpful tip: Trying to look natural while properly wielding a broom and fumbling with a book and then trying to read out of it while wearing glasses that do not allow any peripheral vision . . . can't be done. Just thought I'd let you know.

I had also taken the liberty of memorizing the final speech of the play, and I very pointedly closed the book and delivered it. I also had my eyes closed, so I wouldn't risk getting distracted. No one could tell because of the glasses. I managed to not fall off the stage while I paced and spoke, and that was the end. I was very much relieved by this. And that is all there is to tell. Hopefully I'll have a grade by tomorrow.

Two more things of interest (to me, at least). We watched The Graduate on Sunday night. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It deserves a spot on the AFI list . . . although, as always, I wouldn't have rated it quite so high. It's not for everyone, of course, but all college students should watch it, just for fun. Or as a how-not-to guide to life. Or something.

I contributed to American History today. It was momentous. Dr. Johnson was winding down his series of World War II lectures and, duh, D-Day came up. Also known as (written on the board) "Operation Overload."

I raised my hand: "Ummm . . . Overload?"

Dr. J: "Oh. What did I put?" *fixes it*

Me: *nods and smiles*

Dr. J (slightly peeved): "The only contribution he's made all semester and he corrects my spelling!"

Me (throwing up hands defensively): "Sorry! English major . . .!"

About thirty seconds later he referred to August 14th, 1945 (Japan's surrender) as "VE Day." I waited a couple of minutes until class was over to point it out. Clearly I deserve extra-credit on the upcoming test . . . which is over seven freaking chapters covering from 1900-1945!!! Insanity!!!

And now, two very impatient and high-strung personages are demanding my immediate attention. I must away. Farewell.

Posted by Jared at 02:58 PM | TrackBack

March 27, 2004

Please tell me this is a dream, Part I

The Shadow Council Players present A Midsummer Night's Dream:

Martinez- Theseus, Peter Quince, Prologue, Mustardseed
Scholl- Egeus, Tom Snout, Wall, Peaseblossom, Fairy Chorus
Wilson- Lysander, Oberon, Snug, Lion, Cobweb, Fairy Chorus
Myself- Demetrius, Nick Bottom, Pyramus
Anna- Hermia, Hippolyta, Robin Starveling, Moonshine, Moth, Fairy, Fairy Chorus
Ardith- Helena, Titania
Gallagher- Philostrate, Puck, Francis Flute, Thisby

Ah . . . this play = many much w00ten. We had fun. I would especially like to note the fact that the Elfin Ethicist and the Vengeful Cynic both appeared as fairies in our production. I wish I had a tape of the Fairy Chorus in action, "singing" Ardith to sleep. They sounded like the Boondock Saints or something . . . "And shepherds we shall be, for thee my Lord for thee, etc." Creepy.

I must say, also, that Wilson, speaking as if he were a bit . . . "thick" (as the lion) was quite amusing. But not as funny as Martinez suddenly busting out his John Wayne accent on us, completely at random. I kinda went sideways, laughing, and missed the part of the couch that I was aiming at . . . Fortunately, the floor was reasonably soft.

And . . . oh my goodness . . . for some reason this post is giving me all kinds of trouble. I just can't seem to do anything with it. I think I'm coming down with something nasty, too . . . And there's so much to do this week.

That notwithstanding, I'll leave it at this for now and . . . we'll see what happens tomorrow. Part 2 is forthcoming . . .

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

March 25, 2004

Adventures!

Understand, before I begin, that when I say "adventures" I clearly refer to situations that others might describe as "nuisances," or even "ordeals," but not me . . . It's all just more anecdote fodder . . .

So, for the rest of my Spring Break in Lubbock, stuff happened. I watched movies and played Risk and went to fun places like Barnes & Noble a lot. You don't want to hear about this stuff. Oh, yeah. And Doug and I spent an entire afternoon trying to get new windshield wipers. (I know you want to know all about that.) After mulitple attempts to acquire the proper size and configuration, we gave up on Walmart and found another place, which, by complete coincidence, happened to be right next to Krispy Kreme.

So after the wipers were on and properly . . . ummm . . . wiping, I decided that I wanted a donut. As I was standing in line, the cute girl behind the counter asked us if we'd had a *cough, cough* "hot sample." We hadn't. So I got a free donut. And I didn't feel quite right about not ordering anything after all, so I used that as an excuse to get three chocolate donuts. And Doug got one as well. I suspect he just wanted an excuse to continue speaking with the girl who was distributing "hot samples." Moving forward . . .

We left at about 9:30 the next morning, after Andy had arrived from his granddad's house. Doug got himself pulled over within an hour of leaving Lubbock. It turned out to be merely a minor confusion. Doug thought he was going 73, The Trooper thought he was going 78. We're just lucky I wasn't driving, I'd probably have been doing 88. Maybe 83. Doug got off with a warning.

Clearly, life is not fair. It is extremely rare for me to be not speeding, even if only slightly . . . having lived for quite some time, as I did, in a country where there are no speed limits, I tend to enjoy going the speed that I, personally, feel is appropriate. But I've never ever ever been pulled over at all.

Anyway, we stopped in Abilene for a nice, relaxing lunch with Andy's grandparents before continuing down the road. I had suddenly gone on a kind of sugar high on the way into Abilene . . . without actually having had any sugar, and had Doug and Andy concerned about my behavior at lunch (which was entirely within appropriate bounds, thanks to a supreme effort from me). On the way out of Abilene, I bought three boxes of Nerds and consumed all of them with startling rapidity. And immediately fell asleep. Go figure.

I took over the driving about half an hour away from Ft. Worth and proceeded through Dallas traffic. I found myself behind a car that was going down the highway at about 85 mph at any given time, and mercilessly tailgating everyone in its way until they changed lanes. I don't condone that sort of behavior . . . but I kept up with him and let him blaze me a trail deep into the heart of Dallas until he finally peeled off and went his own way.

We arrived in Longview and it was horribly hot and humid. My room was a sauna, and the AC (I use the term loosely) was blowing hot air. I wound up staying out of my room as much as possible, and sleeping on the couch in the lounge that night and the next. Martinez, of course, was here and had been here, and Ardith got back after we returned from supper, so we went and watched A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Sidenote: I am quite glad of this, as I am "performing" it on various levels some five times in the next week.

The next day, after I had slept suitably late, I played racquetball with Adam and Doug and Andy. That was fun, but we need to figure out some way to handicap Uncle Doug . . . *shakes head* . . . These old guys and their crazy racquetball skills . . .

To make a long story as short as possible, I left on Saturday afternoon at about 4:00 to take Andy to the Greyhound station in Dallas. His bus was leaving at 6:45. Very little incident on the way, but I was highly amused to see a vehicle owned by this company, based out of Andalusia, AL (pronounced, no doubt, an-duh-LOO-zhyuh). Special.

Traffic was, as I expected, rather horrible when we got to Dallas. Driving a manual through heavy, crawling traffic SUCKS. We finally got out of the bottleneck and found that an accident had taken place. Interesting sight . . . looked like a minor fender-bender, really. On the side of the highway I could see a small, middle-class African American family gathered together in a group hug, looking shaken, but undamaged. Their car was mostly blocked by police vehicles, so I didn't really see it. About five yards away there was a large, red pickup, with the back dented in. A young, blonde girl (16-19 years old) was leaning up against it, arms folded, looking extremely pissed. I didn't see anyone else near the pickup.

We arrived safely at the bus station after getting lost only once, and attempted to find a place to park. I finally parked at the McDonald's that was about half a block away, but as I climbed out I couldn't help but notice a huge, bald, very scary looking personage dreseed all in black standing outside the door. He had "STAFF OFFICER" on the back of his shirt, and he glared at us as we walked by, as if daring us to leave the truck in his parking lot if we didn't intend to stay inside the restaurant. I ordered myself some supper, for good measure.

As I waited for my order, a long, black "Hummer Limo" (I have no idea what you actually call them) pulled up right outside and the driver came in and ordered something. He went back outside and started going back and forth from the front seat to the rear of the vehicle, as if performing various minor tasks for whoever was inside (i.e. with a cell phone in his hand, at one point). The Burly Guard came in and gruffly told the food crew to hurry up with the driver's order so they could "get that thing out of my parking lot." Then he walked behind the counter and stood with his arms folded, staring intently at the food prep activities. The driver got his order within roughly 30 seconds. Mine took another five minutes. We went and found somewhere else to park.

While walking back across the street after leaving Andy inside, a found it necessary to walk directly through the tightly gathered group of . . . the typical sort of people who spend most of their time hanging around outside of bus stations in major urban centers. One of them broke off and crossed the street right beside me, striking up a conversation. He was thin to the point of being quite sickly, and he was smoking a cigarette without ever taking it out of his mouth. He wanted to know if I was taking the bus somewhere, what time it was, that sort of thing. And while I waited to cross the street yet again, the real purpose of the conversation came up. Without looking at me, he casually held up his hand, cupped so that only I could really see what was in it . . . I never even saw his hand go into his pocket, the thing was suddenly just there, and asked if I was interested in acquiring the item. It was a gold necklace of at least moderate value. I politely said, "No thanks," and crossed the street. He shrugged and stayed where he was, leaning up against the wall to finish his cigarette. There was a cop less than ten yards away, darting suspicious glances in all directions . . . I found that amusing.

I managed to only get lost once on the way back out of Dallas (I couldn't go back out the way I had come in, because I got lost on the way in and only stumbled on the right street by chance, and an educated guess at the proper direction). I spent 10 minutes or so heading the wrong way on the wrong highway, knowing all along that I was not where I wanted to be. Gallagher later told me that I would have reached Sherman before very long had I continued.

No big deal, in the end, but there's just something vaguely creepy about being in the middle of the Dallas "asphalt jungle" just as it gets dark, not knowing precisely where you are or where you are going, with less than half a tank of gas and very little money to fill up. And then you start seeing all of the abandoned cars by the side of the road . . . they look so utterly forsaken, as if they have been left there for all time. One completely unmanned hunk of metal looks all the more creepy when it is lifeless and pushed to the side amidst thousands upon thousands of cars that have actual people in them who are coming from somewhere and going to somewhere. And you realize that you really aren't going anywhere, yourself, after all. You don't even know where you are. It seems, for a brief moment, pointless to continue to tear pell-mell through this huge concrete maze because you aren't going to get out, so why not just pull over and surrender to the inevitable?

Ummm . . . yeah. Twilight and solitude do really, really weird things to my head. How did you guess?

I returned to LeTourneau, safe and sound, and it was an absolutely gorgeous night . . . outside. After we watched a movie, I just couldn't bear to go back in, and I walked half the loop with Wilson and Martinez and Gallagher and Sharon. The Quad 1ers peeled off and I spent another hour and a half or so sitting in the courtyard, enjoying the cool breezes and fresh air.

Sunday was . . . Sunday. We watched Orlando, finally. Dr. Watson recommended it. Dr. Coppinger recommended it. Neither one of them would actually loan it to us. But it was so very good . . . I highly recommend. Much w00t . . .

Disturbing . . . "Orlando, to me you were and always will be, whether male or female, the pink, the pearl, and the perfection of your sex."

Trippy . . . "Same person. No difference at all . . . just a different sex."

Freaking hilarious . . . "I can find only three words to describe the female sex. None of which are worth expressing."

And all of the costumes and settings were sooo cool!

So, that was the end of my Spring Break. *waves goodbye* Until next year, good buddy . . . and let's try to keep it a little more sedate and little less full of . . . "incident" next time, shall we?

Bah. Who am I kidding? Incidents just generally tend to happen to me. I'd be awfully bored if they didn't, and heaven knows what the result might be if I had to make this stuff up . . .

It's time for me to sleep now. I'll have more to say about other things very soon, with interesting developments on all fronts . . .

Posted by Jared at 02:10 AM | TrackBack

March 16, 2004

Busy Busy Busy . . . Not!

I haven't done much since Friday night, as it should be, so let's just keep this entry short and sweet. I did most of the driving Saturday on the way to Lubbock, and read Saki to Doug for the rest, until it got too dark.

On Sunday I spent a large chunk of the afternoon at Barnes & Noble, and after I was done browsing I finished reading The Callahan Chronicals. Wow. Just wow. That night I watched this version of The Importance of Being Earnest. I think we did it better than them. And I know the newer version did.

Today I did virtually nothing at all outside of sleep. I did read a bit of Father Brown before I came up to Lubbock from Southland. Went by the library and picked up some movies to watch . . . and Uncle Doug wanted comic books, so he got several of those. My cousin Shawn came over to watch with us, and we decided on Star Trek IV to annoy my grandmother. I think it worked quite effectively. She would hate mst3k, but she does it rather well. So funny . . . They went to bed and we're watching The Sting right now.

Tomorrow I expect I'll go see Hidalgo, and do other random stuff all afternoon and late into the night. Time to read is disappearing . . . somehow. I'll need to do something about that. Meanwhile, I'm mostly having fun, and at least experiencing the pleasure of doing absolutely nothing and needing to do nothing in the meantime. Time to go continue that whole trend . . .

Posted by Jared at 01:37 AM | TrackBack

March 12, 2004

A Profusion of Incongruity

Hmmm . . . I have a lot to talk about. Too much, really . . . And as a result, this post is going to be extremely disjointed. And I'll probably throw a few topics together that have no business being in the same room with each other. Deal with it. But first . . .

Life is like a Guatemalan in a Red Light District. You come walking in with a specific goal in mind (you want tamales). You know what you're looking for (tamales); you're pretty sure you'll find what you're looking for, too . . . and it's not there. You find, instead, something you weren't expecting at all . . . and so much for you and your search for tamales . . . and your innocence, for that matter. At this point, you either curl up in a little ball and weep, or you leave and never come back, or . . . Yeah. Nevermind that third one. So that's what life does to people, pretty much. Good luck with that whole "preserving innocence and staying sane" thing.

Incoherent section: Hmmm . . . rereads above paragraph carefully . . . Right. I'm really not a horribly twisted, hardened, cynical individual. I swear. I'm actually highly amused at life right now. In fact, I am under the general impression that life is by far the most humorous thing I have ever experienced. This week has been really really really funny, I must say. Like, funnier than usual. I just wanted to be sure to mention that . . . Ummm . . . *minds wanders* I had a specific reason, I know. *thinks some more* Okay, nevermind. It isn't important. There's something seriously wrong with the way my mind is functioning at the moment (trust me) so . . . I'll just abandon this paragraph and move forward. Fast.

At the Movies: I went and saw The Passion this week. It was good, and it was moving. There were various scenes that had me more confused than anything else . . . Just wondering "Why did he put that? Why did he show it that way?" Usually I wondered this when the movie started getting ultra-symbolical . . . that's generally what threw me. And speaking of being thrown . . . if you aren't intimately familiar with the gospel accounts of Jesus' life, you will be very very confused by this movie. There are quite a few very random and very brief (although quite recognizable) flashbacks to key scenes from Jesus' life and ministry, but they aren't explained at all and may even seem unrelated to the actual movie.

Mainly, I have this to say, The Passion is not the straight, bare-bones account of Jesus' last hours that I, for one, had been led to believe from the pre-movie hype. This is not a historical movie. It's close . . . there are a number of very accurate historical elements in the movie, but it very clearly and consciously strays from historical accuracy (and even the Biblical account) on a number of occasions. I don't have a problem with that, really . . . I think the movie was made for emotional impact, and that's what it delivers. I just thought I'd mention it.

And I'd just like to note that I was not . . . utterly repulsed, let's say, by the extreme violence. I thought I would be, but it didn't bother me. I attribute this chiefly to my own overactive and extremely vivid imagination, and to a general desensitization towards violence (partially caused by said imagination). I've heard the crucifixion process described a lot in very explicit terms, and I've never had any trouble visualizing this in my head. In a sense, I've already seen what came up on the movie screen in my own mind dozens of times. That was nothing new. What I have not heard described so explicitly or imagined so vividly is the emotional and psychological impact of this treatment on the person in question . . . or on Jesus himself. In short, blood and gore leave me unphased (though not indifferent) . . . the moving display of raw courage and fortitude and the resigned willingness to go through this (for me did not. It's not about the visuals at all.

I had thoughts on quite a number of specifics, which I could discuss here, but my review is lacking in structure enough as it is. Go see it yourself. It won't bite.

Back to my week: After that really nasty two-week period a while back, last week and this week were both looking fairly light. I failed to take into account the fact that I do not want to do anything because Spring Break is upon us and I'm just plain ready for it. There's no getting around that fact.

So things got put off, a lot. And some sleep was lost, but not much. And more time was wasted than usual, I'll admit. But as far as momentous, blogworthy events go . . . Nope, not a whole lot there, folks.

Oh, yeah. Except that I got tackled on Thursday morning by an overly-frisky department chair and nearly went tumbling into a class being taught by another department chair.

So I have my map quiz in Western Civ, right? And I've been over the locations and junk and I arrive at the classroom in a sedate "I should clearly still be in bed" sort of mood and sit down to take said map quiz. Dr. Kubricht is talking to someone and then he tells us to study for another minute or two because he has to go do something.

Yeah . . . I have nothing but blank maps on me, and I'm about to take a map quiz. Like I'm going to study anything. Instead I decided to go out into the hall and clandestinely make fun of Gallagher, who was sitting in Dr. Batts' Comp II class next door. So I'm laughing at him, and he's making faces at me, and suddenly . . .

Someone a good bit larger than me grabs my shoulders roughly from behind and carries me very quickly forward three or four steps until I am all but in the classroom. I'm sure I said something here . . . like, "What the . . .!" or something like that. Just as I'm about to go falling in, the hands let go and I scramble back a few steps and have a chance to look around and see what on earth. And the only person anywhere within ten feet is Dr. K, who is walking calmly back into the Western Civ room. I follow, naturally, with a part-annoyed, mostly-just-flat-out-shocked, "What was that for?!"

I got no reply. He just turned around and smiled. And laughed. And handed out the map quiz. *shakes head* Clearly the approach of Spring Break does not only affect the students. I have secured assurances from Dr. Johnson that he will never tackle me. Perhaps I'll go around and get similair guarantees from other professors after Spring Break.

And that's about all there is to it at the moment. Except that I feel it is my solemn duty to provide the following information concerning the status of the following peoples:

The Amish

The Welsh

As I have already attempted to inform some of you, the Amish have been to Longview and gone again and are currently in the process of invading south Texas. You missed them. And the Welsh, too, have already been and gone quite a number of times. Currently they are busy elsewhere . . . procuring cheese logs. Furthermore, I have spoken with those in control of every group, affiliation, aggregation, alliance, association, band, body, brotherhood, cartel, circle, clique, club, coalition, combine, commonwealth, company, concern, confederation, consortium, cooperative, corporation, coterie, establishment, federation, fellowship, fraternity, guild, house, institution, league, lodge, monopoly, order, outfit, party, set, society, sodality, sorority, squad, syndicate, team, troupe, union, and organization that exists, ever has existed, or ever will exist and none of them have any plans whatsoever at all to grace Longview or especially LeTourneau University with their presence in the forseeable future (which another way of saying that they won't be coming . . . ever).

If you aren't one of the poor souls who knows what I'm talking about . . . don't worry. It isn't important . . . at all. You may go about your business. Move along.

Posted by Jared at 11:15 PM | TrackBack

March 06, 2004

Plot Summary: Love makes people do stupid things. Duh. Hilarity ensues.

This week's bit-o-fun was Love's Labour's Lost, which is a very special play. I picked it as my second choice of six possibilities to do my Outside Reading Report on for class, having read it before. My first choice was All's Well That Ends Well . . . but they were numbered more or less at random.

Love's Labour's Lost is a lot like . . . well, okay, so it's a lot like every single other comedy that Shakespeare ever wrote. Weird love triangles, mix-ups, mistaken identity, general tomfoolery and hilarity. But specifically it reminds me of Much Ado About Nothing and The Taming of the Shrew. It has a very heavy focus on sharp wordplay between characters of opposite sexes and so forth (although LLL has by far the largest number of rhyming couplets that I've seen in a Shakespeare play thus far . . . it's outrageous).

The key difference is that in Much Ado, the conflict between the sexes is defused by a couple of benevolent outside parties and everybody wins. In Shrew, the man takes matters in his own hands and does it his way, resulting in a very clear (and disturbing) victory for malekind. In LLL there are no benevolent outside parties. The closest thing is Boyet, and he's too busy being amused by the lovers' foibles (and his wooing of all the ladies on the side) to really do anything. And there are no male characters with enough . . . gumption (some would call it backbone, some would call it crass lack of feeling) to come galloping in and sweep the ladies off their feet by whatever method works best (i.e. starving and beating them). As a result, we have a play where the women come out on top in a very big way. They make all the men look like complete idiots and have them bowing and scraping and agreeing to "enter hermitages/minister to the sick/abase themselves in general" for a full year and a day before they'll even think about coming back to consider marriage. Definitely not a traditional comedic ending . . . but quite a funny one, all the same.

Wilson- King Ferdinand, Holofernes, Mercade, Winter
Myself- Biron, Don Armado, Sir Nathaniel, Forester, Costard, Spring
Moore- Longueville
Sharptiano- Dumaine, Dull, Longueville, Sir Nathaniel
Anna- Princess
Ardith- Rosaline, Princess
Sharon- Maria, Catherine
Rachel- Catherine
Sarah- Jaquenetta, Rosaline
Scott- Mote, Dull, Dumaine
Scholl- Boyet
Gallagher- Costard, Longueville, Dumain, First Lord, Maria, Don Armado
Martinez- Costard
Lewis- Boyet

I especially feel the need to note that even I had a hard time not getting severely annoyed at Lord Biron (pronounced burr-OON . . . go figure). That guy can talk . . . it's insanity. Of particular note is his soliloquy in defense of love at the end of Act IV. Oh . . . my . . . goodness. I didn't time it, but I'm sure I was talking for at least two straight minutes. And it's hard to get a breath in between words when you're doing the whole "impassioned lover" thing, let me tell you. I was about to pass out from lack of air . . . seriously . . .

Things got very interesting at the end of Act V. See, after they've just made complete jackasses out of themselves in front of the ladies, the lords have to put up with watching another performance from some of the local commoners (and Don Armado . . . I have no idea whatsoever what practical explanation there could be for his presence in this play, he is extremely random). Anyway, the decide they can save face by totally ripping into the performance and slicing it to ribbons with their razor-sharp wit. Which they proceed to do. The thing is, you've got the king and lords played by Wilson, Scott, Sharptiano and me . . . and then you've got the performers played by Gallagher and, uhhh . . . Wilson, Scott, Sharptiano and me. So there was a bit of role-swapping, and a bit of making fun of . . . ourselves as two different characters. It was fun, and it was trippy . . . and the random security guy standing by with his hand on the light switch (it was time to lock up Longview Hall) made things just generally interesting on all sides.

In some ways it is rather a difficult play, though. Pronunciation is rough with some characters (I certainly don't envy Wilson the part of Holofernes with his horrible pseudo-Latin and whatnot), and if you don't pay attention things change really fast and you aren't quite sure what happened. It was a lot better with different people doing different parts, but when I read this one myself last summer I remember having to actually reread two or three scenes because I hadn't the faintest idea what had just happened. So . . . not an easy play to do well, and we had fun with it. Good stuff. Time to go to bed now, for sure.

Posted by Jared at 01:13 AM | TrackBack

March 04, 2004

The Great Hunt and Other Random Nonsense

This just got to me through the mail today. Celtic music is clearly the best thing since, like, cheese balls. Hmmm . . . wait. That's not particularly difficult . . . and I think Celtic music might have been around just a little longer. Maybe. However, the long and short of it is that this music is way freaking awesome. Listen to the samples . . . Or at least the ones for "All Souls Night" and "The Lady of Shalott" (which is the reason I got this CD, having heard it in Dr. Watson's class). I think I'm going to memorize that poem, just because . . . I won't put any real work into it, but I think, maybe, it'll just come to me. We'll see . . .

Anyway, clearly life is like a lute solo. Really. See, it's something that's been around for quite awhile, but people don't use it as much these days as they have in the past. Most of the time it's fairly slow and soft, and it's best to just take it one note at a time. Done properly, it's insanely cool . . . but you won't find a lot of people who can do it properly. And try getting them to explain it in a way that you can understand! Ha! Still, it is doable . . . just don't attempt it in front of a lot of people at first. Oh, yes . . . and most importantly: Traditionally, the most skillful performers are the biggest Fools. Keep that one in mind.

I was going to do a reading update, but I don't think I will right now. I'll save it until after the weekend and see where I'm at then. Today I got to sleep in because there was no Western Civ. As it was put earlier, "Western Civilization has been cancelled. You may all go home now." Now, wouldn't that be loverly? And I spent an hour talking to Dr. Johnson in his office after American History, because he was just generally talkative. We talked about everything from Tejano music to West Texas dust storms to Russian literature. Fun stuff.

And then at 3:00 I went prof hunting with Ardith and Wilson. We started off with a long visit to Coppinger's office and went over the entirety of the Honors program . . . again. I think we disturbed him profoundly a few times as well . . . He kept giving me these very leery looks. I can't imagine what I said . . . After that we went and bothered Solganick, and convinced him that World Lit through Film absolutely had to be held in Berry Auditorium (duh!). And then we stepped in to speak with Dr. Hood, and cornered Watson in the copier room (Moore had joined us at this point) and finally settled in Dr. Johnson's office to sample a bit of all the food he had before suppertime. And I got to help him decide the fate of the Theodore Roosevelt book we had to read in terms of upcoming semesters. Yay.

And that was pretty much my day, other than doing the presentation in Honors Shame. Which I did. With Wilson. And it went fairly well. *shrugs* But we got out an hour early! *jumps up and down* And now I'm sure you know what I'm about to do . . . or at least you should . . . *leaves*

Posted by Jared at 09:45 PM | TrackBack

March 03, 2004

Playing the Fool

I thought of a new feature that I could incorporate from time to time. I pick a random object, or one is suggested to me, and I compare it to . . . life.

Life is like a yo-yo. Sometimes it seems to be at rest, and sometimes it seems to spin crazily out of control . . . it might even be about to hit the ground, but it's always under control, on a tether. And it just kind of goes in waves: up . . . down . . . up . . . down . . . You can try pulling weird tricks with it . . . walk the dog, around the world, rock the baby, split the atom, Buddha's revenge . . . Hmmm . . . maybe not that last one, so much. But I think you get the idea. The point is, whatever weird trick you're in the middle of, you're still just kind of going along . . . doing that whole life thing . . . tied to that tether. So, that's how life is like a yo-yo. Clearly. Tune in next time for something equally random . . . If I feel like it . . .

Anyway, so there I was in Shakespeare class and it was time to do the play. To make a long story short, it was mostly boring and painful. Most people can't act, or even read coherently, as I'm sure you all know. There were a surprising number of bright spots, I will admit . . . A lot more than you usually have in an average group of that size, certainly. But . . . no. It just doesn't work.

We also went outside under the bell tower to do this, and were consequently interrupted by the tolling every 15 minutes. And it was really really windy and my script wouldn't stay open right. But other than that, the location was much more pleasant than the usual classroom environment.

By far the most amusing occurence was that Dr. Batts stepped in to take the role of the King of France. Yeah. And, as a result, he wooed Cordelia with passion and sincerity. And I felt vaguely sorry for that one girl who was playing Cordelia, but it was too funny to really care. Good stuff, that.

And then I had my first scene, and went prancing out like a wildebeest on crack . . . so to speak. And I had that hat on, of course. And it was very silly indeed. And almost as noisy as the bell tower. And then I launched into my lines, and I believe I made everyone forget about the hat. That is not, of course, necessarily a good thing. I lisped in a highly exaggerated manner. And hopped around a bit. And behaved in a fashion that was just generally disturbing. I was rather glad that, for one of my two main scenes, I got to put the hat on Lear's head. Let him deal with it, says I.

And aside from that, I just sat around and tried not to pay too much attention. And once Cornwall finally died, I at least had someone to make fun of the play with, so that was good. And, although the play is not yet complete, I have spoken all of my lines. So I don't have to do anything next time. That just generally makes me happy.

And now it is time for Bode . . . Boy, is it ever . . .

Posted by Jared at 04:45 PM | TrackBack

March 01, 2004

Today is the first day of the rest of your major.

So there I was, sitting in English Lit II, listening to Dr. Watson. *pregnant pause* I was feeling rather . . . well, rather blah, really. I didn't get as much sleep as I wanted last night because I was busy reviewing the text of Love's Labour's Lost (and oh my goodness that cover is messed up!!!). That's a really funny play, by the way . . . It'll be good. But I digress.

So anyway, I didn't want to get up this morning, but that's nothing new. Breakfast was gross. I had to go get my backpack from the library because I kinda never actually picked it up last night (not that I needed it for anything, but it would have been handy to not walk around carrying today's books without it).

I spent twenty minutes before Chapel filling in the Batts worksheet. Went to Chapel. Filled it in some more. Remembered once again why Student Government Debates Chapel is bad. (Today they were worse than usual. The most argumentative they got was almost saying things like, "Well, actually, I agree with you even more than you agree with yourself!")

Martinez, Wilson and I had fun filling out the "What Do You Want?" papers they were handing out. Martinez and I asked for, among other things: $$$$$$$, our own Berry Auditorium, an on-campus Golden Corral, a private jet, and Salt Lake City. But we ran out of blanks fairly quickly, so I chose Shakespeare worksheets over paying attention.

So hopefully now you have all caught a taste of the mood I was in when I sat down in Watson's class. I needed a bright spot. What I got was a dark spot. Except it was one of those really bright dark spots. Yeah. Hold on a second. *pokes through large pile of papers and whatnot . . . finds coherence* There. Sorry. I'm back.

We talked about Dante Gabriel Rosetti (which is, like, the coolest name ever) and those of you who know anything about him are now nodding in total comprehension. The rest of you want to know why on earth I think that's a cool name. Anyway, the poem we were discussing was "The Blessed Damozel." (I didn't care for it much, myself.)

Dr. Watson probably shouldn't be allowed to teach English Lit. At least not very often . . . although you shan't hear a word of complaint from me. I don't think it's healthy for him . . . all this death and moribund melancholy, I mean. We talked about mortality again today, and he gets so depressed when he starts harping on his own mortality . . . Yes, I am being facetious. That really doesn't work in a blogpost. Nevermind.

To explain the above poem, consider "The Raven." Dr. Watson called this the flip-side of that work. In Poe's poem, the lover left behind on earth is grieving after his dead Lenore. In Rosetti's, the focus is on the grief of the lover who is now in heaven. Yeah. Grief. Life sucks for her, because the first day in heaven lasts for, like, ten years, and throughout all that time she's dealing with her grief like she just lost the guy the day before. Which, in a sense, she has. Or something. It's really messed up, in general.

So Dr. Watson, true to form, went off on the subject of growing old. And the main way that one grows old, after all, is through one's birthdays, right? So I guess Watson spends every birthday thinking about death. To hear him tell it, one would almost think so. Today we talked about his 40th and 45th birthdays.

He was preaching a Sermon of Judgment on his 40th birthday, to a congregation that was "about 93 years old, on average." Apparently he was using some rather interesting metaphors involving birds of prey (Demon Birds!) and he ended the sermon with the words, "Methinks I hear the flapping of wings!" (His eyes were, of course, very wide at this point, lips drawn back in a feral grin, hands motioning creepily . . . the works). As he stood at the door, talking to people on their way out, this guy who was, like, 95 had the following advice: "You need to lighten up, son! Life begins at 80!"

On his 45th birthday, he received a rather . . . interesting birthday card from his mother (which he showed us all). I wish I could quote the whole thing, but it was kinda long. It looked like a fairly ordinary card with a lot of writing on it. It boiled down, basically, to a long, everyday sort of of story wherein his mother was driving somewhere with her nephew (who was about ten at the time). They spotted a dead armadillo lying on the road, and the nephew wanted it. So she stopped. The corpse was very hot and he was having trouble picking it up, so she got him a plastic bag. It smelled kinda bad, so they stuck it in the trunk and drove on. Naturally when they got home, he didn't really want it anymore, so he chucked it in the backlot. "He kept an eye on it every day until it blew up and started to ooze. Happy Birthday. Love, your mother."

That card needs no commentary, so I shall forge ahead to Shakespeare class. Oh, wait! I got my midterm back!!! And I got a 96!!! w00t!!!

Comment on test: "The best I've read so far"

Gallagher: "Yeah, it was the first one he'd graded, obviously."

Thanks, Gallagher.

Anyway, back to Shakespeare. Or forward. Or something. We got the scene rewrites back and I got a 95. *shrugs* I was highly amused for the first few minutes of class while I read through his comments (those which I could actually decipher, of course). Every time I dropped in a modern colloquialism, he had it underlined and a question mark beside it. So he totally missed the point there.

The funniest thing was, I got a compliment on one particular passage that I had in my scene, a soliloquy by Romeo. And I sat, and I examined that passage very closely. And I said to myself, "Self, I didn't write that. Shakespeare wrote that."

I hadn't bothered to note it in any way because I used quite a bit of actual material from the play and I had the following at the beginning of the scene: "I have tried as much as possible to stick to the basic outline of the scene and use, where possible, the same lines (usually with only slight variation) that the characters themselves originally used." And I kind of expected my Shakespeare prof to recognize . . . well, Shakespeare. I suppose I'm flattered.

Then we watched the first part of this movie. It's King Lear . . . on a farm . . . in Iowa. As Dr. Batts would say, "There's creative and then there's creative." I'd stick this one in the latter category, myself, but I digress.

Now we get to the fun part. Namely, why Batts was jingling when he walked into class. Because he was jingling. Like, there-are-3-dozen-sleigh-bells-dangling-from-my-arms jingling. And I was quite mystified. Well, Batts wasn't actually jingling. His Shakespeare-in-a-box was. He had a "King Lear" Shakespeare-in-a-box kit, and inside this kit was a long, soft, blue, velvety dunce cap, with a bell on the end of it.

It belonged to Lear's Fool, and we were all very frightened. Next, Batts pulled out a rather wicked-looking knife, which he proceeded to drive forcefully into his stomach, and there was much rejoicing. Except it was a fake, collapsible stage knife. *grumbles* And he pulled out a few extremely fake eyeballs . . . Gloucester's, as a matter of fact. And then there were 14 scripts, and a few dozen cards. Each script was a 45-minute abridgement of King Lear, and two of them were specifically prepared for the director and the technical director. The cards contained instructions for each person, whether they be acting or directing.

The "director" and "technical director" positions got snapped up immediately, because they don't involve acting. Then, the brief description of each character was read off, and Batts asked that we volunteer to act out characters who closely matched our personalities. I wasn't hearing anything come up that sounded even remotely like me, so I decided to hold out for Kent. I enjoyed the part last week, and it was generally manageable and so on. But another part came up first, and before anyone else could volunteer, Batts handed it to me in a manner that seemed to indicate that he thought it was made for me or something. I don't know if he saw the expectant look on my face (it's actually my favorite character in the play) or has made a particular judgment about my personality. Either way, I'm still not sure whether to be flattered or insulted. Whichever it is, come Wednesday I'll be doing my best to enjoy playing Lear's Fool.

Oh, and I'll be danged if I'm gonna act it the way that stupid little card suggests. It says I should play the Fool like a bad country-western singer. I think not . . . I have vast experience in playing the fool, and I'll be playing it my way, thanks very much. *cues Frank Sinatra*

This leaves me with two problems. First and foremost is that hat. How on earth can I be expected to wear that in front of people. It's so freaking loud that even I won't be able to hear what I'm saying, let alone what anyone else is saying. And it looks intensely stupid. Not cool, like the normal jester's hat, but stupid and anachronistic . . . it's all wrong. Second, there's the script. It sucks. I suscribe to the school of thought that places the genius of the writings of Shakespeare in their original form at something only just below divinely inspired. So naturally I take personal offence at the predictably paskudne results of tampering with them. They have stripped every last bit of meaning and soul out of the play, and left a skeleton plot behind. Kent and the Fool are almost completely cut, relatively speaking, and Edgar's role is much diminished. The majority of the best scenes from Act III are totally gone. In fact, the majority of the best scenes are just plain gone, because the majority of nearly every scene is either gone or severely crippled. Me hate.

I am now going to do something much more fun than thinking about this. Farewell.

Posted by Jared at 10:24 PM | TrackBack

February 23, 2004

The Sequel That Never Should Have Happened

So obviously at this point I can go any number of places. I mean, I'm sure half a dozen horrible movies popped into your head from Disney alone when you saw my title. But I'm not talking about a movie . . . at all. I'm talking about a day. This is the part where I link you to that fateful day and we remember exactly why this should never have happened again.

Okay, are you back yet? Do you remember now? This was clearly a very bad thing. And it happened again. I seriously lost even my usual microscopic modicum of sanity today. I stayed up until 6:00 last night . . . ummm . . . which would generally mean this morning . . . because I had to finish that freaking scene rewrite for Batts. Hmmm . . . I didn't mention that on here, now that I think about it. Batts decided that we ought to rewrite Act V, Scene 3 of Romeo and Juliet, changing whatever we wished. And he wanted us to try and do it in iambic pentameter. He didn't insist, but . . .

So anyway: Generally, you don't rewrite Shakespeare because he did a really good job and you just can't. But it's kind of a . . . whatchamacallit . . . a class assignment, or whatever. So I did it. And now I hate myself. Again.

Not to mention the fact that I wound up doing it in iambic pentameter, just because, and I distinctly remember that I was having a dream in iambic pentameter when Wilson woke me up this morning. After breakfast I went over to the computer labs with Martinez and printed off my re-written scene. I read it to Martinez on the way to chapel and took suggestions from all and sundry. Ideas came to me throughout chapel, and by the time I left for English Lit II, I had mostly the effect that I wanted. I walked out of chapel and realized that I was very distinctly thinking in rhythm.

And then the caffeine finally reacted with the sleep deprivation. I spent twenty minutes walking up and down a hallway, concocting ten-syllable lines while wildly waving my hands about (counting on my fingers). I don't think very many people saw me . . . but then, I wouldn't know. I sat down in English Lit, still counting syllables, but the next hour of class (fortunately) drove it quite out of my head. Dr. Watson told some rather amusing stories (every time he opened his mouth today, it was funny) and I also opened up my Norton Anthology to "The Importance of Being Earnest," on a whim, and started casting it for the performance a few weeks hence. And, of course, I skimmed through most of it. And bit my fingers a lot, because it's dreadfully funny, even when you're not really really tired, and I didn't want to disturb the rest of the class. (They were all talking about Elizabeth Barrett Browning, you see.)

Random sidenote: Statistically, roughly 99.9% of all famous quotes from poems (especially those about love) are ripped horribly out of context and often mean quite different and somewhat disturbing things when read within the whole of their proper surroundings. This fact amuses me. But so did Scholl's chipmunk joke earlier.

Anyway, after class, I headed for SAGA in unusually high spirits and things went downhill from there. All self-control went out the window, especially since I was drinking more root beer to strengthen myself for the coming Batts class. And a fat lot of good Scholl and Gallagher were doing! Anna resorted to behaving in an equally hyperactive manner and blaming it on me. Martinez was the only one even trying to help me out.

I was talking in a single run-on sentence, repeating one word a dozen times in a row, twitching my head in odd directions repeatedly, making any number of compulsive odd hand motions. It was bad. And I couldn't stop because it felt like I would explode if I didn't burn energy in all directions. I found the whole thing to be very tedious, but I can't decide whether to apologize to everyone who was at lunch or figure out some way to charge admission next time. So we'll just leave that whole thing alone.

Oh, and then Scholl and Wilson and Gallagher decide that we should all go see Dr. Kubricht. Thanks, guys. Wasn't that just all kinds of special?!

And while I'm listing off all the people who blatantly took advantage of my condition, Scott just stood there and let me have a heart-to-heart talk with his stupid origami turtle until I figured out what was going on myself and left for Shakespeare class. Jerk.

So, I made two discoveries today: The proper combination of Watson and Wilde for a 55-minute period heightens the effects of the caffeine, while an equal dose of Batts and Shakespeare has the exact opposite effect. I was almost normal when I walked out of that classroom at 2:25, and quite happy to be back . . .

And now I'm going to go read that one book that I must read for American History. And all those other books that I'm reading. Including the book that Dr. Watson gave me today and said I'd enjoy.

Posted by Jared at 06:33 PM | TrackBack

February 16, 2004

Wheeler, "With Post"

Gah. Dr. Watson is kinda sick, now that I think about it. Him and his whole "with poem" thing . . . I don't find that I am entirely comfortable with the idea of giving birth to a blogpost. Mostly because, at best, it winds up being a twisted mutant child. But I had that presentation in English Lit II today, and consequently I am "with post."

To begin with, Dr. Watson is, like, the most absent-minded person ever when it comes to remembering stuff about presentations. He cares as little as I do about them, but has less motivation to remember when they are. I've had to supply the date of our presentation to him every time I've mentioned it thus far (and that has turned out to be often). So this morning I wander into his office to say hello, and pick up the Tennyson recording he's loaning me, and he asks me what I'm up to this morning. I told him I was just generally roaming, skipping chapel (which confused him briefly, since chapel hadn't started yet), and practicing my presentation.

"Oh? Do you have a presentation today?"

"Yeah."

"What class?"

I laughed at him. He remembered.

*fast-forwards boring details until beginning of presentation* I go sit in the corner at the front to watch the opening (I know what they're doing, but I'm not involved in this part). Yearsley gets up and launches into "The Charge of the Light Brigade" with the kind of gusto and fervor I don't often have the pleasure of hearing from anyone (except on Thurday nights, from people like Moore). At the same time, Logan comes, well, charging into the midst of us wearing cardboard armor and riding a broomstick ("We found a witch!" . . . fortunately for him, he stayed on the ground). When Yearsley came to "Cannons to the right of them! Cannons to the left of them!" Robert hauls out a double handful of Reese's pieces . . . thingies and lets fly at Logan with a loud "BOOM!" Logan continues to run amongst the desks, half trying to duck and cover from the sprays of candy blanketing the room like . . . grapeshot, I suppose. Very nonlethal grapeshot.

I was amused. Everyone was amused. Watson ate candy, and was highly amused. Then came devo. I tuned out, because I was thinking about what I was going to say. It was on Psalm 92 and it somehow tied in with chapel and with David being a great poet. That's all I know.

Then Robert gave his talk on Tennyson's life. Robert was nervous. I could tell Robert was nervous. And I was somewhat upset with Payton. *notes confused looks* Payton, in Speech last semester, officially made it impossible not to notice every single solitary time that people say "Um" when they are speaking in front of others. And it drives me insane. And Robert said "Um" a lot. Grrr . . .

At least I don't notice when I say "Um" in general. If I did, I'd be really annoyed. However, Robert's talk did give me a certain amount of confidence, because I knew I could one-up it. And then I got up to talk about Lord Tennyson and DEATH . . . (ba-ba-ba-BUM). Tennyson wrote about death, like, all the time. It's rather depressing, I couldn't help but notice, and very affecting, when you're sitting all alone very late at night, reading this stuff and trying to get inside his head.

This isn't as apparent in The Lady of Shalott and Morte d'Arthur because the tone is so elevated and he pours it on so thick, that unless you really just want to get emotional, it's not going to happen. The Lady of Shalott, in fact, is kind of ridiculous, really. It's black humor, highly ironic . . . but probably not meant so. The Lady of Shalott basically sits around in her tower all day and watches the world through her magic mirror so she can record things on a tapestry. She isn't allowed to look out of the window at all or a curse will come upon her because . . . ummm . . . because it's a poem. Shut up. Well, one day, who should happen by, happy singing a tune, but Sir friggin' Lancelot himself. The Lady spots him in the mirror, runs over and gazes upon him out of the window as he gallops off on his merry way (followed, no doubt, by a strange-looking fellow clapping ends of a coconut together).

The mirror cracks from side to side, the tapestry flies out the window, and things just generally suck. The Lady of Shalott, being (as Moore would say) exceptionally crafty, goes down and paints her name on the prow of a boat, then lays herself down in it, clad in far more white than is good for her. She then proceeds to float down the river, lying disconsolately in the bottom of the boat, singing her own funeral dirge, like a right-morbid watery old tart. And so she dies, which kind of sucks for her, I suppose. Then again, she was basically spending all of her time sitting in a tower and sewing while she watched soaps. Personally, I think she wins. So then we get to the irony. Her boat shows up at Camelot, where they are having a party. And everyone shuts up real fast and everyone is very sad. And Lancelot sits and gazes upon the fair lady, and wishes God's mercy on her . . . because she's pretty, (presumably he wouldn't be so charitable, otherwise). And that's how it ends, and Lancelot has no idea that he was the cause of all this. It's incredibly sappy, but I've been in incredibly sappy moods before, so I won't say that it totally sucks. It's rather good poetry . . . very relaxing rythm to it and so forth.

So that's Tennyson and his focus on death in Arthurian legend. Next came Tennyson writing about death in the events of his day. I didn't even bother to try explaining the Crimean War, for obvious reasons. That's gotta be the most confusing war ever. Basically it boils down to France, England, and Turkey ganging up on Russia because France and Russia both want religious rights of one sort or another in Jerusalem. And they all run over and fight each other on the Crimean Peninsula, which, it turns out, is not technically in France, England, Russia, Turkey, or anywhere near Jerusalem. It's kind of a sad little war, in any case. Three years, three major battles . . . But the second one was rather interesting, and Tennyson wrote a poem about a piece of it.

Actually, the Battle of Balaklava was loaded with heroic holdings of the line, heroic charges, heroic last stands, and so forth . . . The Charge of the Light Brigade was the most monumentally stupid of them all, and the most costly . . . which makes it the most heroic, almost by default. So Tennyson wrote about it, because he was into that whole "dead hero" thing.

If you don't know the real story, it's a pretty good one, and I had a good time telling it in class, with various pictures to assist. Balaklava is a particularly hilly region and it is being held by the . . . non-Russians. A massive Russian force sweeps in and chases the Turks away from some artillery that they have set up, and they run off to warn the British. *insert various heroic actions here* As the battle progresses, the officers down on the ground can see very little of what is going on except in certain directions, while the generals up above have a pretty good grasp of the big picture. The commanding general spots the Russians moving in to remove the guns that they have captured from the Turks and decides that he doesn't want them doing that. He sends down a message to the Light Brigade ordering them to "prevent the removal of the guns."

The Light Brigade says to itself, "Self, I wonder which guns he means. Hmmm . . . I only see those guns down there. He must mean those. Rather odd. That's a lot of guns. This seems a bit suicidal. Oh, well. Charge!!!"

Tennyson's "Jaws of Death" is a very accurate description. 673 light cavalry go barreling down the valley in two waves, directly into massive cannon fire, and caught in a deadly crossfire from both sides of them as well. The first wave reaches the guns, and the Russians who were too stupid to get out of the way get mowed down, and the first wave continues forward, plowing into a significantly larger mass of Russian cavalry that is waiting (a bit dumbstruck at this move by the British). Meanwhile, the second wave goes flying by the guns, kills more hapless Russian gunners, and plows into the first wave, which is retreating from much-too-large mass of cavalry that they had so recently attacked. So they're all kind of milling about in the spot, stuck between the Russian guns and the Russian cavalry, and before long it is decided that leaving is just generally a good idea. Unfortunately, the Russian lancers waiting in the wings have moved around in front to cut them off. However, as the British begin to run, the lancers step aside with just a few perfunctory pokes to make sure they keep going. No one is really certain why they did this. I suspect they just didn't want to risk themselves against an enemy t