Wednesday, December 8, 2004

“When I grow up, I want to be Paul Hogan. No - I really want to BE him.”

today I stumbled across the Splitting Images Celebrity Lookalike Agency. Let me tell you - hours of addictive fun to be had here. Okay, maybe not hours, but you will probably spend several minutes wondering why someone would want to look like Leo Sayer for a living.

Some highlights and lowlights, in random order:
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Johnny Depp
Danny DeVito
Pamela Anderson
George Bush
Kylie Minogue
Anthony Hopkins

Remember to play "find the examples of traditional British dentistry" as you browse the site.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

The Movie as Poetry.

Last night we rented the Chinese movie Hero. What a breathtakingly stunning film. Every frame is beautiful, the coreography of the fight scenes is precise and clear, the costumes are gorgeous, the scenery is amazing, and the story is poetic.

It takes a few minutes to get used to the subtitles, but soon the reading helps to deepen the effect of the film. There are alot of lingering camera shots on the faces of the actors, but this only serves to draw the viewer into the action and mood of the scene. I felt totally imersed in the movie as I watched, the film enveloping me as the flowing robes and falling leaves envelope the characters. For me, watching this film was like reading a really good poem.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

James Joyce wasn’t always impossible to understand.

I read a short story by James Joyce called "The Dead" today. As one of his earlier works, the story firmly moves literature from the romantic and realistic Victorian era into the age of Modernism. The first part of the story is straight up plot and dialogue (more Victorian than Modern, but skewing Modern), but the second part is where Joyce practices what will play such a huge part in his later work: stream-of-consciousness writing. This part of the story is really amazing to read - we are made aware of the thoughts of the character Gabriel, who is re-realizing how much he loves (or so he thinks) his wife. The language is swift and concise and fluid, mentioning the "secret life" he shares with her of which no one else is a part. This section is incredible. It is a spot-on depiction of what it feels like to want to be close to the person you love.

Characteristic of Joyce, Gabriel has an epiphany at the end of the novel when he realizes two things. First, he does not know what it means to truly love someone, and is thus frozen in his emotional development. This leads to the second, in which he sees the snow falling quietly outside his darkened window and finally sees the connection between the past and the present, the living and the dead.

Gabriel's inability to connect with people is in step with other Modernist characters, most notabily T. S. Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock. But the uplift at the end of Joyce's story shows a development of character missing in Prufrock. Don't get me wrong, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is one of my all-time favorite poems, and I will defend its greatness at all costs. But the character of Prufrock is stuck in a place of loneliness and isolation, his coffee spoons will forever be his own and the mermaids will never, ever sing to him. There is no happy ending for Prufrock or for mankind in Prufrock's world. Joyce, on the other hand moves Gabriel from disconnectedness to the possibility of new beginnings. He vows to make his "journey westward" and ends on a note of hope.

You can read some great commentary on "The Dead" at SparkNotes.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Back from Hiatus.

Well, the election left me depressed enough to leave off blogging for a while, but now that the holidays are here, my mood is altered for the better.

This is my favorite time of year. There are Christmas lights everywhere - the house up the street is lit up like a casino. I would hate to live behind them. That would be like living in Kramer's apartment with the Kenny Roger's Roasters chicken blinking in my face all night long. Insert ad for the long-awaited Seinfeld dvd here. That's done.

Thanksgiving was so great. What isn't great about turkey and sweet potatoes and curry rice and green bean casserole and cranberry jelly shaped like a can and pecan pie and then eating all of it again and again thanks to copious leftovers? Nothing, that's what.

I visited my sister on her birthday over the weekend, and she played me the Christmas song that NEVER gets old. She rules, even if she DOES get her head stuck in the toilet all the fucking time. Lush.

What else? Hmm... went shopping over the weekend and bought this for myself as an early Christmas present. I am so bling. Bath and Body Works had Wallflowers for 5 bucks so we got a few and now our house smells like "Creamy Nutmeg," aka eggnog. OH! and on Thanksgiving night, we rented Dawn of the Dead. Seriously, nothing says the holidays like a kick-ass zombie movie, and this one was one of the best.

Monday, October 18, 2004

In which I become a statistic.

When I was in first grade, our class put on a play based on the book The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell. There were two main parts - the aforementioned littlest angel, played by a boy named Chris Johnson, and a narrator. Since I was the best reader in class, I got to be the narrator. Chris was adorable. He wore these really cute light blue footie pajamas. Chris's father was in the military, and near the end of first grade he and his family moved to Germany. I was very sad; he was my best friend.

By the time high school roled around, Chris and his family had moved back to the United States and we caught back up with each other. After graduation, Chris continued his family tradition of military service and attended West Point Military Academy. From there, I lost track of Chris - until today. On October 16th, Chris was killed when the helicopter he was riding in collided with another in Bagdad Iraq. Until today, I had never personally known anyone killed or seriously injured in a war.

On November 2nd, we have an opportunity to honor all of our troops fighting in Iraq and stationed all over the world by electing a president that will respect them and vow to fight for their safety. John Kerry understands that war should only be a last resort - a very, very last resort. George Bush does not understand the compact that the citizens of the United States have with those who dedicate their lives (or a portion of their lives) to our protection. The military is not a toy, but Bush seems to operate on the assumption that if we have the best fighting force in the world, hey - why not use it? Our troops deserve better than this. They deserve to be valued and paid more than lip service. They deserve a president that knows what it is like to be in their shoes. It is essential for the safety and honor of our troops and their families that John Kerry be elected in 2004. It is essential for the safety and honor of our nation that we elect John Kerry on November 2nd.

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Now tell us how you really feel.

For a different take on current political topics, check out The Rude Pundit. His most recent entries deal with the Vice Presidential debate. Just about everything the Pundit writes is golden.

Change is Tiring.

I am so tired this morning. I was out way past my bedtime last night - for a good cause. MoveOn.org's Vote for Change tour stopped in Kansas City last night and played at the Midland Theater, a 3,500-seat venue on the National Register of Historic Places. We in the energetic yet subdued audience were treated to 3 solid hours of rick, folk and blues courtesy of Keb' Mo', Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne. All of them were amazing, but I have to point out that Bonnie Raitt is fucking phenominal. She is what? 55 years old and rocks out like a speed-freak on extra Special-K (she has been sober for 17 years, btw).

I didn't get to watch the debate between old 'n' busted and the new hotness, but I have read that Edwards did very well. It is hard to guage the mood of a nation in a room full of people of the Liberal persuastion, but I left feeling hopeful. Less than a month to go... this is so very stressful.

Sunday, September 5, 2004

I love the Muppets - and so do scientists!

Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker finally recognized for superior achievements!

Muppets Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker defeated Dr. Strangelove, Dana Scully of "X Files" fame and Star Trek's Mr. Spock to be voted Britain's favorite screen scientists on Monday.
They beat their closest rival by a margin of 2 to 1 and won 33 percent of the 43,000 votes cast in an Internet poll.
Spock came in a distance second with 15 percent followed by The Doctor, from Dr Who, who garnered 13 percent. Scully, the only woman in the poll, came in sixth.


Some of my fondest memories involve spending Saturday evenings with my dad, eating Manwich and Lay's Sour Cream and Onion potato chips, drinking chocolate milk and watching The Muppet Show. For years I idolized Miss Piggy, from whom I learned all of my style and grace. It is nice to finally see the scientific geniuses get the kudos they deserve.

Monday, August 30, 2004

It is raining and wild outside…

... but I am content and comfortable inside on my couch with my dog and cat and computer and a carrot cake candle, and Def Poetry Jam on TiVo. The power went out a few minutes ago; just as suddenly as it went it came back again, my link to the online world restored along with the bit of my sanity that had flickered with the lights. The internet is like air and water, like a vein, a synapse, a direct connection into my consciousness from far-away places and lives I could have lived and/or wouldn't want to.

The storm has knocked out our satellite signal, so I won't be able to watch Bill Maher tonight like I have looked forward to doing all week long. We are almost out of saved TiVo shows - one can only watch so many back-episodes of Smallville in one evening.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Hwaet!

School days, school days, dear little golden rule days...

Fall semester 2004 started yesterday. I'm taking two classes - British Literature I and II. Yes, you CAN take them concurrently; they do not build on one another, they cover different time periods. Anywho, Brit Lit I introduced me to Instructor Allan Hunter. A quick Google search found this. Sweet. Instructor Al (he does not have a PhD. and is therefore not a Dr. or a Prof.) is quite the comedian. He informed the class that he has "Hwaet" tatooed on his person - "Hwaet" being the first word in Beowulf, which is our first reading assignment. He also informed us that his is a self proclaimed "nerd" and has a cat named Grendel. There is a car parked on campus with the license plate GRENDEL... Same person?

I have a familiar professor (yes, Prof.) for Brit Lit II, since I took a class with her last semester. Lucky for me, we are reading one of the same books for this class. Yippie!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Dear Miss Woodhouse, why are you so Clueless?

Finished Emma this afternoon. I had never read it, but I have seen the movie Clueless enough times to know that it was obviously based on Emma. Overall, I think it was very well structured and the story was good enough, but I did not enjoy it nearly as much as Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice.

I just got off of IM with my seeester. She graduated HS this year and is moving into a dorm in a week. She has never been away from home and is quite the princess, so this will be interesting. She is already friends with her roommate, so that won't be a problem. I am so excited and nervous for her. Since I work at a university, I know how big and confusing they can be. I also know how different a university cirriculum is from HS. She is going to love it, though.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The truth about Frankenstein

I just finished reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818 edition) and I must admit that I was not prepared for such a moving, gut-wrenching character as that of the monster. My previous ideas of a Frankenstein monster were formed by Boris Karloff, Mel Brooks, Herman Munster and breakfast cereal. How is it possible that all of these incarnations could represent the truth so sparingly? Yes, he was a monster, but in appearance only - until provoked by profound loneliness and the realization that his only salvation lay in the hand of his creator – the creator who despised his creation. Of all of the characters in the novel, the monster (who is never named) is the most sympathetic, the most articulate, the most conflicted, and the most human. From the initial image of the monster sledding alone in the Artic, to the monster's description of his death pyre at the end, this novel was gripping, surprising, and endearing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I heart Ignatius J. Reilly

I finished A Confederacy of Dunces over the weekend. Fantastic book. No, that isn't a strong enough word. Fucking fantastic book. That's better. What a remarkable character Toole has created in Ignatius - rude, socially inept, bloated, loud, pompus - he should not be remotely likable. But he is endearing and funny and brilliant. Sure he treats he momma bad, but she raised him, she made him what he is, so I see Ignatius and Irene as needing each other - that is, until Irene finds someone better and Ignatius must face his demons (in the form of a Myrna minx).

I can see why Hollywood is desperate to turn this book into a movie, but I don't see how - Ignatius is such a character - so real, so alive, so big and over-the-top - there is no actor alive today that could do him justice. There was talk of Will Ferrell, but unless he gaines a hundred or so pounds, there is no way he could fill that hot-dog smock.

Friday, August 6, 2004

I know I should participate in our political process…

...but I don't feel like fighting the crowd. John Kerry and his Believe in America tour is making a stop in my fair swing city this evening. He has been here all day, actually, but the public rally will be tonight at our Union Station. I love John Kerry and his wife, and know I will be sorry if I do not attend, but I would rather eat sushi and go to the bookstore than fight for parking and stand shoulder to shoulder in a bouncing throng for a couple of hours.

I will involve myself in our political process by encouraging everyone I know to register to vote, get out there on Election Day, and end Dubya's reign of terra!

On a totally different topic, my beloved Briney has announced today that it will only be open to subscribers effective in a couple of weeks. Now, I do not mind paying $2.45 a month for a subscription to The Atlantic Monthly in order to participate in one of the best forums on the interbunny, but I am seriously bummed that many of the posters I know and love will be jumping ship for cheaper (free) waters.

This is a sad, sad day.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

“I am not afraid!” of Daisy Miller

I read Daisy Miller by Henry James yesterday and enjoyed it very much, although I am not quite sure what to think of the two main characters. Winterbourne was so proper, so much like an Austen beau in some respects, that he is fairly likeable from the get-go. But his inward contempt for Daisy taints him, and he can't let go of his classist attitude enough to just like her for her. He keeps coming up with reasons not to fall for her, but they all stem from jealousy. Winterbourne comes across as kind of an ass in the end, for turning away from Daisy for her inappropriate behavior that would somehow be appropriate if enacted with him.

Daisy is - well, Daisy. She really is an innocent, naive girl, prone to inappropriate behavior, but she also knows a good time when she sees it and doesn't let the appearance of impropriety hold her back. I understand why she was shunned by society, but obviously the best outcome would have been for her and/or Winterbourne to just fess up to their interest in each other.

Good read, but left me feeling frustrated that they never expressed their desire for one another. It would have ended with Daisy hurt in the end anyway, as Winterbourne would never have been able to maintain a relationship with her on his terms.

I read that this story was published in 1879, and I find that remarkable, given Daisy's freedom as a female character. I never got the impression that James saw Daisy as a "bad" girl, and I would undoubtedly assume she would have been interpreted as such by many readers at that time. James's treatment of Daisy as almost sympathetic has a bit of an early feminist slant that surprises me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I wrote a poem.

This is most definitely a work in progress.

Requiem for a Groundhog

There is beauty here, somewhere.

I drink. I pull
the smooth cobalt blue
glass from my lips.
Cold radiates
down my throat
into my chest,
across my back
and stops.

The field is the same
as it was before.
The weeds are still there,
tall and strong
and strangling
the thistles,
the tiny yellow
pickle-flowers
that taste like sour
dill if you eat them
they are still
the same.

Same too is the dog,
massive and magnificent.
His silver black snow
coat rises and falls,
Rustles with breeze
Is heavy with nature.
He's lain down now,
his back to me,
so I can’t tell if
His eyes are the same
(they were the color
of my glass).

There is beauty here, somewhere.

I watched the groundhog
fatten on thistles
and crabgrass
and pickle-flowers
From our kitchen window,
The wiry fur
difficult to distinguish
From mounds of
upturned earth.

They are joyful, groundhogs.

The earthen fur
is also the same
Wiry and dusty
But is limp-wet now,
so it also looks
sleek and elegant
Like mother’s mink
that I tried on once
but couldn’t wear
Because it was
too heavy.

The dog and I
(and the groundhog)
Are still the same
(and are not)
Sharing a space
that shouldn’t be
But is.

Thursday, July 8, 2004

Hamster Time

Big Brother Live Feed Recaps

I am not ashamed to admit that for the last 4 years I have turned my summer over to the campy, voyeristic trip that is Big Brother. This summer is proving to be no different.

The houseguests are like hamsters in a fishbowl, only instead of a Habitrail they have a hot tub. And booze.

Over the next three months I will get to know these people - and hate them, for one reason or another. They are all hate-worthy. But some will rise above the hate and become cherished pets, ones I will mourn on their demise.

So here is to another wasted summer. Let the snarking begin!

Sunday, July 4, 2004

On a very special blog - “I can’t READ!”

Actually, I can. I read a lot. I read so much that I know "a lot" is not really proper English, but I works in this situation, so I'm gonna go with it. Currently, I am reading A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I am also reading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, but I don't actually own a copy - I am reading it at the bookstore.

I used to read a lot (there are those words again) as a kid, but after high school I didn't make the time. A few months ago I got the urge to pick up a book again, and I haven't stopped reading since.

Here is a list of books I have read since February of this year:

Forever by Pete Hamill
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenedes
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

If you have any suggestions for a great read, please let me know.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

10 Years in Review, or So What Do You Do?

Two weeks ago I attended my 10 year high school reunion. In Kansas City, the question you use to qualify a person's place in the socio-economic hierarchy is "Where did you go to high school?" Since we all obviously already knew the answer to that question, the question of the evening was "So what do you do?"

A couple of the girls that were cute in high school are anorexic thin and have the faces of 35 year olds. This was mildly cathartic. Almost everyone drank and/or smoked, and those that weren't drinking and/or smoking didn't look like they were having very much fun. I avoided getting drunk (unlike many, many others) so I don't think I made a fool of myself, although one never knows.

I think I was most surprised at how well we all got along - the cliquishness was still visible, but it was not pervasive and no one appeared to be excluded by any one group. Then again, they could have been pointing and laughing at me behind my back - how could I know? At least I had a good time and saw some faces that I hadn't seen in years. Some are thinner, most are fatter, some are bald or balding, some are aging faster than others, who don't look like they have changed a bit. Overall, I think everyone looked better. Who knows what the next 10 years will bring!

Then and Now

Last Christmas I got a great book called Kansas City - Then and Now. The premise is they display a vintage photograph of a place in the city, and compare it to a contemporary photo taken from more or less the same vantage point as the original.

The city of Atlanta has created a website based on the same principle called the Atlanta Time Machine. Even though I have never visited Atlanta, I love seeing how a place can transform over a period of time.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Divided we stand

Using "customers who bought this book also bought" technology, the group orgnet.com has graphed the purchases of recent political books.

The division between left and right remains strong -- the political food fight continues. Network metrics, as well as the visuals, show two dense clusters with high preference for homogeneous choices. Echo chambers, on the right and left, remain amongst book readers in America.

Sometimes, the apple falls far, far away from the tree

The New York Times Magazine - Questions for Ronald P. Reagan: The Son Also Rises


I don't know how long this link will be free (NY Times charges for their archives) but it is such a good interview, I'll reprint it here:


Now that the country is awash in Reagan nostalgia, some observers are predicting that you will enter politics. Would you like to be president of the United States?
I would be unelectable. I'm an atheist. As we all know, that is something people won't accept.

What would you do if Senator Kerry asked you to be his vice president?
I would question his sanity.

Do you ever go to church?
No. I visit my wife's sangha.

So you sometimes practice Buddhism?
I don't claim anything. But my sympathies would be in that direction. I admire the fact that the central core of Buddhist teaching involves mindfulness and loving kindness and compassion.

Your father has been eulogized as a model of genuineness. But did you see any schism between his public and private selves?
In private, you got what you got in public. He treated everyone the same. He was just a very warm man, and he worked hard to impress upon his children the value of kindness. He was biologically incapable of gossip. There was no smallness in him.

Do you think you were a thorn in his side during his presidency?
No.

But you and Patti were constantly getting into trouble. Didn't she later pose nude for Playboy?
I never really talked to Patti about it. She said that she had done it, and what do you say to your sister who poses in the nude? It's not like you are really itching to see photographs of your sister naked. I mean, it's just something that is not too exciting.

How did your father react when you joined the Joffrey Ballet?
That was fine with him. He wanted us to be happy, and if that meant leaving Yale University as a freshman and studying ballet, his first move was to call Gene Kelly and find out where the best place to study would be.

Do you and your wife, Doria, have children?
No. We have three cats. It's like having children, but there is no tuition involved.

Aren't you working in television these days?
I am a correspondent for MSNBC. They hired me primarily to do election coverage for them. We're not rich. Doria's a clinical psychologist. I mow my own lawn.

Doesn't your mom help you out financially?
Of course not. My father felt that children should make their own way.

How do you account for all the glowing obituaries of him?
I think it was a relief for Americans to look at pictures of something besides men on leashes. If you are going to call yourself a Christian -- and I don't -- then you have to ask yourself a fundamental question, and that is: Whom would Jesus torture? Whom would Jesus drag around on a dog's leash? How can Christians tolerate it? It is unconscionable. It has put our young men and women who are over there, fighting a war that they should not have been asked to fight -- it has put them in greater danger.

Did you vote for Bush in the last election?
No. I did not.

How did your mother feel about being ushered to her seat by President Bush?
Well, he did a better job than Dick Cheney did when he came to the rotunda. I felt so bad. Cheney brought my mother up to the casket, so she could pay her respects. She is in her 80's, and she has glaucoma and has trouble seeing. There were steps, and he left her there. He just stood there, letting her flounder. I don't think he's a mindful human being. That's probably the nicest way I can put it.

How serious is your mother's glaucoma?
I don't know the specifics. She can still see. You may have noticed that she was wearing large glasses at one point.

She seemed very moved by the tributes to your father.
I have to say that flying on Air Force One sort of spoils you for coach on a regular airline. They did all sorts of little things that were very nice for my mother. They put towels with my father's monogram in the
bathroom.

Paper towels?
No, cloth! Burgundy terry towels.

Wow. Why can't they run the United States with that kind of efficiency?
That's a good question. One thing that Buddhism teaches you is that every moment is an opportunity to change. And we will have a moment in November to make a big change.

Just the facts

Some things (like facts, like the truth) can't be disputed. Here are some cold, hard facts about the Bush reign of terror.

I’ll take the rapist for $200, Alex

JEOPARCHIVE! - An Archive of Jeopardy's 20th Season Games

Ever want to be a Jeopardy! champ? Maybe you want to amaze and annoy your friends with your vast knowledge of trivia. Perhaps you just have a bunch of time to kill. No matter what your reason for visiting, I am sure you will learn something.

What is that thing?

The Gizmo Game

This site takes me back to English 426 - The Victorian Period. Count me among those who can appriciate Middlemarch but don't ever want to finish it.