Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Early Season's Greetings (based on a coincidence I noticed in class the other day)

To all the DWs who have changed me—

Darkwing Duck

Dwayne Wayne1

D. W.

Dinty W. Moore

(yes, and you, Dave Wanczyk, and you, Danny Wolverton)

—to those who have yet to make their mark—

Adobe Dreamweaver2

Drum Workshop

Derek Walcott

—and to those I probably couldn't care less about—

Disney World


—To all of you I say, "Happy D. W.!"

(Can you guys think of any more?)

1Not to be confused with this D. W.
2Not to be confused with this D. W.

Monday, October 29, 2007

For All Y'all

For Amanda
For Jon
For T-bone
For Zach
For Drew
Also for Drew?
For me
For the rest of you

Comments welcomed on #4 and that last one.


For our Halloween party on Saturday, I embraced my fate and dressed up like Kevin Smith. This entailed putting on the pair of prescriptionless glasses I bought in Korea. Um, that's all it entailed.

I used to where these for a few weeks whenever I moved to a new place so then I could stop wearing them. It gave me a sort of trial period in which I could get to know people. Then, just when they thought I wasn't worth knowing, I would stop wearing the glasses and suddenly have an inexplicably cool aura about me to tempt those naysayers back. Works every time.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

An Apology

For not posting more. For believing that my posting is important not to me, but to you.

I just finished that week of the semester where all the due dates and appointments and commitments coincide—you know the one. I managed to get through it all right. Actually, I didn't just get through it; I somehow squeezed in karaoke and three movies, a marathon halloween party, parts of at least two World Series games, a restringing and playing of the old guitar, and two trips to Walmart in one day. Plus I read and responded to 19 student papers, wrote an essay of my own for workshop, met with the same 19ish students (some skipped) for half-hour consultations on how to turn messy drafts into acceptable papers, and played some Yahtzee. Seems the only thing I didn't find time for was this blog.

What was the third movie I saw, you ask? It was The Darjeeling Limited. It was about what you would expect from Wes Anderson—zany, retro, inundated with original characters and artifacts—and like The Royal Tenenbaums, it seemed to deal with the intracacies and misfirings of family. In other words it was charming and at times almost touching. As usual, I walked out not quite sure what it all was for beyond being thoroughly entertaining. Honestly, I wouldn't know what to criticize even if I was inclined to.1

I would recommend all three of the movies I saw this week, but none more than The King of Kong. It was like watching The Office in real life, confirming that shows like that are only funny becasue they are true. Watching the rivalry build between 80s Donkey Kong champion and all-time jerk Billy Mitchell and tries-hard-but always-gets-shafted Steve Weibe was a treat that kept me going throughout a difficult week. Plus there was the folk-singer/transcendental meditator/self-declared video game referee and the video-game-competition-cheater-turned-Billy-Mitchell-toady and the scores of t-nerds,2 all completely real people living real-enough lives. It makes you feel good about yourself.

In other news, the past few nights there have been a couple of lady bugs doodling around my room. I've been watching them crawl on the walls and ceiling while I'm reading in my bed, unable to decide if I should be freaked out by bugs in my room or cuted out by their little spots.

1Check that: I don't understand the profanity. Normally I would accept the existence of excessive profanity in a movie under the stipulation that real people really talk that way—it's a realism thing I guess. But Wes Anderson's movies aren't lifelike at all, or at least don't purport to be, and the profanity isn't even all that realistic. They use f-words where lesser curse words would do (and often where normal words would do), and they rarely if ever serve a comedic purpose, never coming at a beat or in a punchline. They just have no reason I can see, and often, as in the case of this movie, their presence is the sole reason for the R rating. They aren't ever plentiful, as in some movies, so it wouldn't be changing more than three or four lines in an effort to be properly descriptive. I mean, the movies are as literary as anything I've ever seen, so who would fault them for pursuing a little literarity in the language as well? Not that they aren't eloquent—I just wanted something to criticize; it makes me feel more intelligent.
2Total nerds

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Yesterday and Forever

Last night: karaoke with Zach and a near all-nighter to finish an essay. I sang "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" by Billy Joel. Zach sang an admirable "Back in the USSR" by el Beatles.


Tomorrow night: double header at the Athena. First it's In the Shadow of the Moon at 7:10, then The King of Kong at 9:50.


Tonight: sleep.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Current Bookmarks

(click to see reverse sides)

Lectures on Faith, by Joseph Smith, page 14

Two or Three Things I Know For Sure, by Dorothy Allison, page 70

Writing with Style, by John R. Trimble, page 25

Reading Rhetorically, page 118

Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan, page 86

Modern Korean Literature, edited by Chung Chong-Wha, page 28

Hallowe'en Party, by Agatha Christie, page 2

The Missouri Review, page 44

Writing as Reflective Action, page 258

Dracula, by Bram Stoker, page 360

The Milionaire Next Door, by Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. and William D. Danko, Ph.D., page 20

The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu, page 231

Great Books, by David Denby, page 278

Of Note

Here is a blog of serious historical value.

A Memory

When I was in elementary school, one day in the cafeteria I sat next to a kid—I don't remember name or face—who had a good lunch. By good, I mean he had a bottle of real orange juice, not a Hi-C or a CapriSun. I remember he ate some cookies or something sweet (maybe a pudding cup?—clearly he had the means) and then took a drink from his juice. He then made a face and asked a teacher why his juice tasted gross. She asked if he had eaten something sweet just before drinking it. He answered yes. She informed him that sometimes the sugar in cookies or pudding made citrus drinks taste oddly sour.

I have never forgotten that event, and I don't think I've ever taken a drink of orange juice without remembering it. Yet it isn't something I think about; it's just one of those thoughts that's always close without ever being at the forefront of my mind. It floats in and out of my semi-consciousness without fanfare or announcement, like a recurring dream that isn't remembered until experienced yet again. Recognizing its presence is like getting a letter in the mail that informs one of the opponent's next move—king's night takes pawn: check—and then noticing the chess board in the corner for the first time in weeks, always there, the game constantly being played but rarely occupying its own moment.

I often have thoughts that are another line in a years-long conversation with myself, months seperating each thought in the continuous stream—this thought is one of them. For months, maybe years now I have periodically come back to the continual idea of having continual ideas periodically, and now, in this moment, I have caught it before it flitted back into the background of my mental desktop, into another stack of paperwork to be shuffled and revisited. I have control-alt-deleted and caught this process in the act of eating my RAM—so now what? Do I End Task?1 Having been written down will it crystalized and dissolve into the air—is writing an act of destruction? Or will this thought become the memory that I refer to each time I have a recurring thought from now on, like the kid in the cafeteria with the orange juice, writing as an act of transfiguration?

1Force Quit for you, Janssen (and me, but I'm still Jenny from the block). For you, Mom, there is no translation. Maybe Dad can explain.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Great Truth

Though I have long known it, it occured to me tonight to write it down someplace. Why not here?

The first time I learn something it is a messy experience. I think I get it, but in all truth I only get a little bit of what's there, as if I'm a thimble being filled with water tossed from a bucket (but all I feel is full, so I don't really seem to care). I go along with that for awhile, considering and refining the ideas it provides, and then I come back to the original thing learned, this time getting it much more fully. Oftentimes it is the same text, encountered again, and this time every sentence speaks volumes rather than the whole speaking sentences.

I know, I know: you realized that years ago. Sure. But read it again. This is why teaching is frustrating. This is why I am constantly embarrassed by my own past. Perhaps this is why history is cyclical.

I've kept a mostly accurate list of all the books I've read since returning from Korea in 2002. I'm up to 180. Of those, fourteen are repeat titles, and one I've read three times. That means that for every ten books I read I read one of them twice. (This doesn't take into account scriptures or the books I may have read before going to Korea and then repeated since. A quick glance and an unreliable memory point to more than twenty titles I think I read pre- and post-Korea.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Thought

Perhaps the only disappointment to rival the realization that one lifetime is not going to be enough to do everything you'd like to do1 is the realization that you are forgetting the few things that you have done.

1The American Dream deferred. You can perhaps be anything you want to be or do anything you want to do if you truly put your heart into it, but you probably only have time for one of these dreams.

Good Stuff

I'm always surprised just how scary Bram Stoker's classic Dracula is. I started reading it again last week and it hit me on the very first page that this is a scary book. There are hints of menace in every paragraph, no setup necessary. As a whole it isn't perfect, but I'm not complaining: Dracula delivers a tall October order that can be sipped slow and to great effect.

I also read the most recent issue of Martha Stewart Living. I'm going to have to start admitting that orange is my favorite color, because nearly every page of the thing had me gaping at textures and table settings of the most satisfying hues. I just love love love fall and chilly weather and crisp apples and mushy pumpkins and all that stuff.

Furthermore, in my class today I surprised my students by enexpectedly showing Rudy. It seems like every scene it that film is a cold, wet one. No, I mean really cold, like standing-on-the-street-in-New-York-on-Thanksgiving-morning-in-longjohns-and-pants-and-two-shirts-and-a-hoodie-and-a-coat-and-a-hat-and-your-still-cold-from-the-sleet-and-the-wet-tips-of-your-jeans-but-it's-all-worth-it-to-maybe-catch-a-glimpse-of-Al-Roker-(if you're Jon)-Julie-Andrews-(if you're Drew)-or-the-cast-of-High-School-Musical (if you're one of my nieces) cold. It's a totally great movie.

So here's to great things: scary books, orange stuff, and cold good movies.

Silent Dave

As I was purchasing some pizza this evening at my local student center, the local student employing dishing out the deep-dish remarked that I look just like Kevin Smith. It was the first time anyone has even said that to me (though I have gotten the occassional John Belushi).

So I came home and did some research on the internet. Result: I have nothing in common with Kevin Smith. I've only ever seen pieces of two of his movies. And honestly, he looks more like my brother Jon, and they seem to have a lot more in common. And Belushi looks more like my dad than me.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Why my new school is cooler than my old school.

Why my new school is not as cool as my old school.

Weeklong Lapse of Reason

Sorry all that I haven't been posting much recently (sorry I haven't been responding to emails either). Do you ever have those days or weeks when everything is just muddy in your head? I've been having one of those.

I was up on campus just now, trying to grade papers, trying to study scriptures, trying to revise essays, trying to live rightly—and I just wasn't getting anywhere. It was all just a mess upstairs: nothing was clicking. I was reading words without getting any of the meaning. I was thinking thoughts as though down a long dark hallway or through the far end of a garden hose. I wasn't even sure if I was really seeing anything in front of me; everything my eyes caught sight of instantly took my focus away from something else and simultaneously failed to make any impression.

With my final wit, I was able to recognize the futility of continuing as planned, so I packed up and walked out. And you know what happened? I hadn't walked more than a block or two when I had several very good, clear thoughts come to me in a row. (I wrote them down!) Was it the crisp night air of autumn? Was it the change of scenery?

Who knows. (Or is that, "Who knows?"?) All I can say is that now I am back home and already I am having trouble concentrating long enough to keep this coherent. Is it a vitamin deficiency? Should I just go outside and work while walking around? Should I give up and watch a movie?

Life is such a terrible mystery.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Not Even the First Time I've Seen It

Tonight walking home I saw two girls jaywalk on Court Street. Let me qualify that: Court Street is the main drag in downtown Athens. It's a three-lane, parking-on-both-sides, one-way cobbled road lined with bars and shops and banks and what have you. Now, jaywalking across such a street isn't unheard of, especially late on a Friday night when there isn't much room left on the sidewalk for walking and when your friends are calling you to join them on the far side. But even then it is customary to look around, gauge the situation, and cross with some semblance of urgency.

These girls were walking leisurely. And they weren't actually walking just across the street—they were crossing the intersection at State.1 And by "crossing the intersection" I mean kitty-cornerly. Diagonally, that is. From the south-west side to the north-east one. Across at least five lanes of possible traffic moving in three different directions, upon one of which a green light is forever and constantly shining. At 8:30 in the evening. On a Tuesday.

How far could that have been to walk? Fifty or sixty feet, I guess, and they just stepped into the middle of all that and walked, no sauntered to the other side, not even making a straight line, not even looking eagerly both ways, not even registering which of the lights was green, not even dashing jauntily out of the way of the black sedan that was advancing into the intersection, seemingly not even noticing the blaring headlights trained directly on them from said sedan—headlights that cut starkly through the early autumn darkness, headlights that could not be missed in the contrast they would project upon the eyes of the jaywalkers in the way they relit the colors in their blouses and on their fingernails, headlights that seemed to say in that moment: "You are it. You are the very reason that headlights exist in the first place, the reason they have been attached to the fronts of cars for generations. They have existed to shine on you."

It isn't that they didn't have the courtesy to hurry for the car with the right of way; it's that they seemed to lack any vestige of an instinct for self-preservation. What, I ask, could they possibly have been thinking?

No seriously: what were they thinking? Leave your idea in the comments. Best idea gets a sweet prize.

Here's one possibility. Here's another?

1If it was at an intersection, was it technically jaywalking?

Monday, October 8, 2007

For My Mother

What I'll Miss:

  • Staring down at my unmistakable shadow as I walk.
  • Flicking my head gently before inserting earbuds.
  • Hiding in plain sight.
  • Brushing at home, brushing at work, and brushing with my fingers in between.
  • Only watching myself while video chatting online with someone else.

What I Won't Miss:
  • Taking three hours to dry.
  • Being hot all the time.
  • The amount of time it takes to wash out entire handfuls of shampoo.
  • Wind.
  • The unbelievable amount of me left everywhere: in the shower, in the sink, on the pillow, on my clothes, in my food, on my desk, on my laptop's pristinely white keyboard.

Would I do it again? I'm already in the process.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Freaky Friday

Since I moved to Ohio I've been experiencing an odd phenomenon I'm going to call "Selective Mono." Here's the deal: I don't have class on Fridays, so I get to start the weekend early. Or even better, I can use a whole blank day to catch up on all the stuff that needs catching up on. Saturday thus becomes a fallback day, a guarantee that even if I can't get one thing done on Friday, or if I waste the whole day reading or something, I still have one good day before the week revolves.

The problem is that every Friday since I got here I've been waking up late in the morning feeling like little devils have spent the wee hours cricking my spine and little angels have been dropping bricks on my head for hours and hours. Sometimes I'll just go back to sleep in hopes that one nice dream will clear away the awful fatigue, and other times I'll get up in an attempt to make some use of a mostly lost morning. If I do get up, and even if I make it downstairs for a swig of orange juice and maybe a Nutty Bar, I invariably end up in my bed again in a few minutes. I just feel so so so drained.

You know how sometimes you fall into a nap and you can't wake up no matter what you do? You know—you didn't mean to fall asleep, and you remain dimly conscious of that fact, but no matter how hard you try you can't wake up. Or, if you do wake up for a minute to mutter to a roommate that you are planning to eat that so hands off, you can't help but fall right back into sleep as if hands were physically reaching up through the couch cushions and into your consciousness and pulling you back down. Well that's how I feel on Friday mornings. A few weeks ago I felt that way for three straight days—from Friday on through to Sunday. I had periods of relative clarity from time to time, mostly when I got hungry and needed to walk down into town to find something to eat, but I always ended up back in my bed.

Now what could this be all about? I'm taking my vitamins, and I'm not depressed, and it only happens once a week. Am I working too hard the first four days of the week, my body taking over when it can no longer stand it? Is it mental fatigue or physical? Who knows, but it's creeping me out.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Like the Internet But Slower

I thought you'd be interested to see what I'm reading these days. Mind you, neither of these books are for school; they are purely for the sake of I-love-to-read.

The first is called Soon I Will Be Invincible, and it is by Austin Grossman1. It records the parallel stories of Doctor Impossible, an evil genius and maybe the fourth most dangerous person in the world, and Fatale, a cyborg chick and new recruit of Earth's most elite superhero team, The Champions. When the book opens Doctor Impossible is in a high security lockdown for enhanced criminals hatching his latest plot, and CoreFire, Impossible's archnemesis and long-time leader of The Champions, has gone missing. I'm not yet sure what follows, but I imagine it will be a colorful battle of good against evil filled with exciting existential dilemmas as Fatale and Doc Impos narrate their own stories, each sharing their innermost thoughts about the life they have chosen, the benefits or curses of stardom, and the possibility of hooking up with another superhuman.

The other new book is called The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived2. It's by three people working together, none of whose names are as important or exciting as the 101 fictitious people they chose as history-changing cultural icons. The list includes King Arthur and Hamlet, Captain James T. Kirk and the Loch Ness Monster, and many more. Who do you think tops the list? Well, it isn't Betty Crocker—you'll have to read the book yourself to find out. I think this is a great book, but you don't have to take my word for it!

And how did I acquire such wonderful, such free books, you ask? Why, through OhioLINK of course. OhioLINK is a confederation of more or less every library of note in the state, from OSU on down to the public establishments gracing tiny towns with more books than people. If a search through my own university library's e-card catalog doesn't satisfy, I can click one button and search the rest of the state for my heart's desire, fill out an online form, and wait patiently for an email that announces the book has been shipped, mailed, or hand-carried by an exploited young library intern all the way to my campus. Now if only I could get one of those interns to turn the pages for me...

1Nerdy twin brother to nerdy Lev Grossman, a writer whose byline you may have seen in Time and the New York Times.
2See, Sarah, I don't just write those suggestions down and lose them. It just takes me awhile.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

When Bugs are Sleeping I Hear Voices

When I went camping last week, one of the things I was excited for was how quiet it can be late at night when the world winds down. I'll always remember when that first became real for me.

It was the last night of summer camp, and we were all packed and ready to leave in the morning, and for whatever reason I was content to lay out on a picnic table in the wee hours and listen to my Discman® (a Discman®!). This was in the days after I discovered Dave Matthews Band on a Saturday morning while lazing in the trundle bed at Will's house and listening to the radio—"Too Much" was indeed too much for my teenage brain to do anything with but reel—so naturally the album of choice that early morning was Crash by Mr. Matthews and his band. As I lay there in the perfect stillness, after men and even bugs had gone to sleep and before the early birds got busy, I began to hear new textures and layers in the familiar recording. I had listened to this thing dozens, if not hundreds, of times, but all of a sudden a space opened up in between the rolling bass licks and the shuffling drums. Matthews' original, percussive guitar playing didn't just barrel through my mind like a tour bus kicking up multiple tracks of violin, the whole thing propelled by the blasts of a bass sax—no, in the clarity of that stillness I could see his hands running along the instrument, scratching here and thumping there. I could feel the creation of this music I so admired, music that up to that point had mystified me, had come out of headphones as an immaculate progeny of talent rather than the coordinated effort of five guys doing different things at the same time.

It was incredible. I heard magnificent subtleties in the densely packed "Two Step" and recognized the marvel of its engineering, deft work that didn't bleach out the delicacy of the pizzicato fingerings or the eeriness evident in Matthew's falsetto. In the extended opening to "Say Goodbye,"1 a free-form tumble into the song's main action, I could for the first time hear the furiously controlled tension in those bars as each musician restrained himself until just the right moment. But the kicker was when I got to the ending of "Drive In Drive Out." After the song gets through the normal rounds of verse and chorus, things devolve into a staccato movement of pounding rhythm, the whole band riding the out the song's intense energy in a minute or so of repeated, thundering measures. This part I had heard before. What I hadn't noticed was that in the split second after the last resounding beat echoes once in the listener's mind and before the subdued pleading of "Let You Down" wafts in, someone in the band (I've always imagined it was the bassist, Stefan Lessard) hollers, "THAT is some BAD SHIT!" I didn't know what I was hearing for a moment—it was so clear it could've been spoken by someone standing at my right ear. I thought it was someone standing at my right ear for half a second; I had listened to this album uncounted times and had never heard that line until I listened to it in the stillness of a stolen morning. I probably laughed out loud.

I couldn't stay awake late enough last weekend to repeat the experience, despite being prepared with a recording of Bill Bryson reading his book A Walk in the Woods. I think I was discouraged by the just-waning moon rising and filling the sky with too much light to make appreciating the stars anew possible. Too bad: I was looking forward to Bryson's awkward accent potentially bringing the Appalachian Trail to life, to hearing things between the lines of his narrative I wouldn't have heard while walking on Court Street or across College Green.

I was reminded of all this tonight as I left my roommate in the dining room, our brief day-ending conversation momentarily lulled but not clearly ended. As I exited, I almost thought I heard him say something after me, but if he did I couldn't hear it over our creaking staircase, the iPod talking in my ear, and the skull-filling internal crunch of cereal-for-dinner.

1A song that clocks in at 6'11", for those of you who know what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

For Ben

The greatest dessert I ever ate was something called a Harvest Cheesecake. It was at Houston's, a classy restaurant in...uh...Houston.

Anyway, it was really just a pumpkin cheesecake as far as I could tell, but what more could anyone wish for? Pumpkin: primary source for world-class pies and holidays; and cheesecake: just plain world-class. I guess the real reason it was so good was because it followed the best pork chop I've ever eaten in my life and the best ranch-style beans, plus what I ate of my dad's dinner, a mango-marinated ribeye cooked to a perfect medium and served with french fries that somehow transcended the limits of their genre. Add to that the dimly lit, well-decorated, quietly noisy dining room and the fact that we were minutes away from seeing some first-class theatre, and you can imagine that I was pretty well prepared to accept that cheesecake as the high point in my young life.

And it was: spicy and smooth, creamy and crumbly, all the richness of cream cheese with a mellow accent of October—sweet mercy and a happy ThanksHallowgivingween to you too. Life's pretty much been downhill from there.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Maybe I'll be a Detective for Halloween

Last week I misplaced five bucks, the change from a purchase I made on the way to campus. I didn't notice for a few hours; in fact, I was never really sure the money was unaccounted for. I just could never recall spending it, though making unremembered purchases is kind of a talent I've got.

And then this week the horrible possible truth dawned on me: after stuffing the fiver in my pocket on the way out of CVS and before I noticed said bill was no longer there, I was in the library at a study table up on the dimly lit and rarely visited seventh floor. I was minding my own business, studying scripture I believe,1 when a guy came walking up the aisle from behind me and asked quietly if he could borrow a pen. I obliged him and he left; I never saw him again, nor did I look for him to ask for my pen back later.

So what could it all mean? Perhaps this bloke, having noticed a five-dollar bill fall out of my pocket when I dug around for a pen or an iPod or my keys or whatever I might have dug in my pockets for, concocted the pen-borrowing racket as a scheme to pick up the dough without my noticing. He could've just walked up and, bending over as if to whisper his request to me, snatched the money off the floor. The cad! The audacity he had!

And the part that really bothers me is that he stole my pen. I mean, I would've given it to him freely—I did—but the idea that he used my good will to cheat me for not only five bucks but also a Papermate Write Bros. medium point pen really annoys me.

1There's a double meaning in that.