30 January 2005

Nine o'clock. A voice spoke from study ceiling: "Mrs. McClellan, which poem would you like this evening?"
The house was silent.
The voice said at last, "Since you express no preference, I shall select a poem at random." Quiet music ros to back the voice. "Sara Teasdale. As I recall, your favorite..."

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sounds

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robings will wera their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done,

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, whe she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

From "And There Will Come Soft Rains"--Ray Bradbury

23 January 2005

For the first time in months, I have something to occupy my time that involves neither Sony Playstation nor self-pity. A few days ago, I noticed the video editing software on this computer for the first time, and I made a decision to make what I like to call a horribly (or über, depending upon your conversation) low-quality short film. Allow me to expand. Just before I went to Europe, my parents bought me a digital camera. It's not the greatest camera in the world, but it was certainly better than the one I had before that, especially in light of the fact that I did not have a digital camera before then. At any rate, this camera, like many, has a video record function; naturally being a digital point and shoot camera, not a camcorder, the quality of the video is, shall we say, on par with the quality of movies made by former SNL cast members--think It's Pat or A Night at the Roxbury. Also, the camera lacks the ability to record sound, so what I'm dealing with is a grainy picture and no sound. I will not let the shortcomings of my camera or the complete lack of a script deter me. I am forging ahead with my first short film, and I'm really loving every moment of it. The story has begun to take shape in my head, and, while I won't be able to have any character dialogue, I know a thing or two about voice over technique and will be adding my own narration. I'm excited to be working on something that I enjoy and to see how this project will fare.

21 January 2005

REPORT: 59 Million Americans Still Really F@#king Stupid as George W. Bush is Inaugurated for Second Term.

Iowa City, IA Coinciding with the second inauguration of George W. Bush, the University of Iowa Psychology Department released a study Thursday in cooperation with the Department of Public Health, indicating that at least 59 million Americans are below average in intellectual capacity. The study, involving both male and female subjects from all 50 states in various age groups, was conducted over a nine-month period following the 2004 Iowa Caucuses, the first official presidential contest of the primary season.

Professor Shaun Vecera stated that, "No matter how many ways we analized the data, 1-way ANOVA, 2-way ANOVA, aggregated statistics, you name it, we found that the overwhelming majority of Americans are surprisingly stupid." He then added, 'Well, I guess I knew it wasn't that surprising, what with all those sh@theads who voted for Bush."

Kerry supporters were shown to be overall more intelligent. Mark Russman, a researcher in the Spence Labs of Psychology, said, "While the average Kerry supporter showed, within the smallest margin of error possible, to be overall more intelligent, we found the best indication of intelligence of Kerry supporters to be geographic region. Iowans were the first in the nation to throw their support behind Kerry, which surprised many in light of the popularity of Howard Dean and John Edwards. Iowa democrats showed a smaller intelligence gap over Iowa republicans than those two categories in every other state." Russell quickly noted, "Except Wyoming...we couldn't find a democrat there."

Paul Windschitl, a professor of social psychology at Iowa, explained the sheep like following of support Kerry received after winning in Iowa. "Everyone is susceptible to blindly following the first option given when all choices are equally bad. In this case, the Democratic Party seems to have become nothing more than sheep with a really effing boring sheperd." Windschitl offered another possibility. "There's a famous case in social psychology of a woman's being murdered on a New York City street, screaming for help. While all apartments were full of people who reported hearing her cries, no one called police, and she ended up dead. I think that's what happened to MoveOn.org."

A press conference on the report ended with Professor Vecera's responding to a question about the overall message of the study. "I'd hate speculating, but since I have very good inferential statistics on this one, I'll explain why George W. Bush was somewhat re-elected. At least 59 million Americans are really f@#king stupid."

18 January 2005

Tonight's menu: Poulet de cannelle a'l'orange avec haricots verts et champignons sautés.

And it was delicious. The poulet, haricots verts, and champignons sautés, that is. Not the menu.

13 January 2005

Last night (and tonight), I watched The United States of Leland, a movie which I am still deconstructing and processing, albeit with a much slighter degree of profundity than that which I gave Donnie Darko. I will not write a review of this movie; rather I'll encourage you to see it for yourselves, quickly noting that it strikes me as even more hit-or-miss than Darko. Similarities abound in setting, style, and cast, but are easily dismissed in terms of plot and theme. On a personal note, what was most striking to me was not the film, but my immediate reaction to seeing it, and how easily I understood and identified with Leland.

After viewing this film about an emotionally and psychologically troubled young man, I glanced around my room, and saw my favorite movie, Donnie Darko, resting in DVD form on the top of my collection. I looked at my bookcase and saw The Catcher in the Rye, my favorite book, resting in the most accessible place on the left-hand side of its shelf. Quietly, I mused about their respective protagonists. Musing transformed into a thoughtfulness. Thoughfulness transformed into pensiveness. In this wistful stillness, my mind drifted back to the beginning of my relationship with the first of these three figures.

After having been forced to read a few classics that were so memorable I cannot recall their titles at this juncture, my AP English teacher assigned The Catcher in the Rye during the autumn of my senior year of high school. Like anyone who has a minimal respect for literature, I knew of the book, and, thanks to Billy Joel's miracle hit of 1989, "We Didn't Start the Fire," I knew the approximate date of publish of Salinger's work. Aside from those basic chunks of information, I was ignorant of the content of the slim paperback that was plopped on my desk. The previous books had been read as though I were foreshadowing college: read a few pages, write the response, and dwell on some obscure sentence or turn of phrase on page 54 during the discussion. Catcher was different. The pages turned themselves, aided by how much I liked Holden Caulfield. He sounded like I sounded. He thought like I thought. When the pages stopped turning, I was stricken silent for hours. Here was someone whom I thought I was so similar, obviously not as fully in sync with his environs as much as I thought he was. Could I be the same?

Still in my reverie over USL, I left my memory of sitting, shocked, questioningly still, upon the top bunk of my room, and revisted the day I met Donnie. Of the four remaining residents of my Iowa City home, I was the only one home during Easter weekend, 2003. I had conveniently forgotten to ask for time off work and was left to labor at customer service during the holiday. After returning home from work on Friday evening and finding the house deserted and possessing an eerie stillness, broken only by the disquieting creaks of expanding and contracting pipes rendered confused by the vascillating Iowa springtime temperatures, I put on my coat and walked to the nearest rental store. I rented two DVDs that night, one of which, Y Tu Mamá También, was based on a roommate's recommendation. The other film was Donnie Darko, a film I could say I had heard of, but was clueless as to the plot. The stupor that befell me following the credits of that movie began not because I identified so well with Donnie's predicament--I have never seen a six-foot bunny rabbit and have yet to be charged formally with the rarefied task of saving the world in 28 days, six hours, forty-two minutes, and twelve seconds, but resulted from my equation of the end of Donnie's fictional world with the end of my world, in academic terms, as it had existed since 1986. Coincidentally, the end of my academic world occurred exactly 28 days after watching that movie. Debris from the vortex of hell my life became after watching that movie is probably still around.

There I was, last night, sitting on the floor, wondering how I have become so welcoming of such troubled characters. Maybe I should be telling all of this to a therapist someday, but I truly wonder if I am not as disturbed as these three characters. What's my excuse? Holden had his dead brother, Donnie had Frank, and Leland, well, Leland has the sadness. Crap. I just realized that Ricky Fitts was my favorite character from American Beauty. And I really liked Good Will Hunting, and Will was troubled. Oh, to be a student again, and to enjoy the free "meetings" with the university.

12 January 2005

Bush Vows to "Kick Mother Nature's Ass if that Bitch Tries to Tsunami U.S."

Washington, D.C.-- During a weekly radio address, President George W. Bush expressed feigned sympathy for the victims of the devastating tsunami but focused his remarks upon U.S. preparedness for a similar disaster. Citing reports that Mother Nature attempted to obtain weapons-grade plutonium from an Iranian nuclear operation, as well as powdercake uranium from Nigeria, Mr. Bush delivered an unequivocal threat. "Make no mistake, the natural forces of evil have no place in America. If Mother Nature believes America will be victimized by a simyalur natural attack, that bitch best cover her ass, or she'll find Toby Keith's boot up it."

During the address, which lasted nearly forty-five minutes, the president offered a vision of continued American prosperity during future natural disasters. "The Defense Department is working with intelligence officials and top creationist scientists to predict future disasters so we can be there, ready to invade without the unfortunate insurgency we are currently facing in Iraq."

Defense Department officials confidently stated that soon predicting natural disasters will be rendered unnecessary, asserting that weapons programs currently in experimental forms could be used to initiate "acts of God." Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz announced, "Soon we will have no use for the tedious study of seismographs to predict massive opportunities for hegemony. While the current developments are still classified, I can tell you that fault lines and subduction zones have never seen a tactical bunker buster like what we'll show them."

Mr. Bush called upon all Americans to take note of the power Mother Nature, citing the extremely active hurricane season of 2004, the recent snowstorms and floods in the Ohio River Valley and the floods and mudslides in California. He then said to multiply that "by, like, fifty bazillion" for what the U.S. military can do. "Also," he added, "we have no proof that the California thing isn't God's punishment for the overwhelming support the citizens showed for stem cell research, not the mention all those gay marriages last year in San Francisco or the good possibility that Mel Gibson's movie will be snubbed by Oscar."

"We have seen [Mother Nature] try to wreak havoc upon this freedom-loving, peaceful, and God-fearing nation," Mr. Bush said. "Our resolve is strong, we will not be broken by a few downed trees and giant mudslides. If that bitch tries to tsunami us, we'll kick her ass."

Mother Nature was unavailable for comment.

03 January 2005

"Why the hell aren't they calling time-out?"

That question was on the lips of the 30,000 Iowa Hawkeye fans at the Capital One Bowl New Year's Day. Iowa, trailing 25-24 to Louisiana State, had the ball, 2nd down and 6 at their own 44, with two times out (correct grammar) remaining, and 14 seconds on the clock, which started counting down with the referee's whistle. 11 seconds. Screaming from the fans. 8 seconds. Iowa quarterback Drew Tate took the shotgun snap and rolled three or four steps to his right. 4 seconds. Tate released a pass down the field as the roughly 70,000 fans in the stadium held their collective breaths. 2 seconds. 1 second. Double zero. Iowa receiver Warren Holloway caught the pass, shed one defender, and ran into the endzone for a game-winning Iowa touchdown. Final score: Iowa 30, LSU 25 Double zero PANDEMONIUM. The Iowa players stormed the field. The drunk guy in front of me nearly killed two people with his high fives and Iowa license plate. I picked up the woman next to me, a complete stranger except for the common bond of Iowa football, in a complete embrace of jubilation. It was the loudest, most exciting time I have ever experienced at a football game. And, thanks to my dad's taping the game, I've relived that moment about fifty times today. It hasn't gotten old yet, and I don't think it ever will.