Sunday, October 31, 2004

A Joke Stolen From Someone Else's Cool Site

During a 4 hour desk shift this morning, I stumbled across some site called defective yeti. There is some really funny stuff going on here, and I strongly recommend my Dearest Readership check it out. For example, this joke:

Q: What's the difference between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War?
A: George W. Bush had a plan to get out of the Vietnam War.

C'mon. That's just plain funny.

Funnier still is the fact that I may actually know the guy who writes defectiveyeti. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Origins, etc.

So, I'm dating someone. For now, in this forum, we'll call her Companion X (blatantly stolen from some other writer I can't currently place). Her identity shall remain anonymous, and in the interest of her privacy, I probably won't write about her too much. There are some things, Dearest Readership, that are just none of your damn business. I introduce her only because of a conversation we had on our first date a few weeks ago. More on that in a minute.

Someone else asked me recently where I got my blog's title. It's from a song I wrote a few years ago, and honestly, it's the only one of my songs that I think holds up. The first verse, and chorus:
If the sun didn't ever rise/
We could all be ourselves in the dark.
And the world would never be apprised/
Of my universe falling apart.

Every dark soul's the sum of somebody's failures/
And I can never shine enough
So the sun keeps rising, and I keep fuckin' up.

Hmm. Yes. Deep. Lyrics always seem so godawful trite in print - especially mine. But I think you get the gist... failure and imperfection are inevitable, blahdie blah blah. Looking closely, though (using English major Luminol, as a fellow blogger so brilliantly put it), I think you can probably see my Zen-like acceptance of the natural order of the world. I just happen to be particularly in touch with failure's role within that natural order.


Companion X and I drove over the Snowy Range to the hot springs in Saratoga on our first date. It's about a 70 mile drive from Laramie when the pass is open, and beautiful. On the way we talked about all sorts of stuff, including the fact that we each have a "sense of wonder." For both of us it goes beyond mere inquisitiveness - although I like to think we're both fiercely curious in our own right - and into the realm of amazement. The fact that the earth rotates at a perfect speed, at a perfect distance, from a nuclear explosion is either a statistical or divine gift. The fact that you and I get to see sunrises is a miracle.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Dennis, You Can Go Ahead and Erase That Tape

I'd asked my stepdad to record the Wyoming/Colorado State football game on ESPN2 last night, since I was going to the game and was interested in hearing what the announcers had to say about Wyoming. I still am vaguely interested in that, but I'm not at all interested in watching that catastrophe again. I can't believe how crappy Wyoming played last night. We looked like Laramie High School's junior varsity team.

Speaking of Dennis, he and my mom visited a week ago; they made the drive from Champaign to Laramie in three days and we spent all day Saturday seeing the sights. It was really great to see them, but my mind was pretty much elsewhere most of the time. I was pretty freaked out about impending midterms. Remember that video project that ruined my life on Tuesday night? It was, in fact, a complete disaster, but my instructor took pity and said if I just turned in a screenplay outlining what I'd wanted the video to be, she'd only deduct 5%. I'll take that.

Anyway, today I'm going to clean the room and get some reading done. I have plenty of good stories about yesterday's trip to Fort Collins, so maybe I'll get those posted sometime.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Exaltation, Disaster, Exaltation, Disaster

Took my Scottish Lit oral midterm yesterday morning. I was the first in the class to go; the professor said that more than likely I got an A, depending on how the other folks in the class performed.

Took my Medieval Lit midterm this morning and got my ass handed to me. There was a section of translation from Chaucer which went okay, and then 18 terms like "ubi sunt" and "patristic allegory" which we had to relate to a text and define which went very, very poorly. I'll be happy with a C on that fucker.

Turned in the exam, and picked up my Medieval Lit paper. A. The professor asked for a clean copy so she could use it as an example for future classes.

Finished shooting digital footage for my Human/Lifespan Development midterm project this afternoon. I finally got a good idea of how the narrative would work, and was really doing some great editing stuff on my old desktop computer, when the program crashed. Now, it was working fine the past few days. Then, today, with the end in sight, it decided to implode. I have no idea why, and I'm really not interested in fixing it at this point; it's failed me for the last time and it's going to meet a violent end somewhere outside of town. So my project is utterly fucked, the program won't even let me start over, it's too late to start another project (we had a few choices of approaches), it's due tomorrow, and I have another midterm in Intro to Lit that I need to study for. Fan-fucking-tastic.

I fired off an email to my instructor about the project but don't plan on hearing back until tomorrow morning. At this point I'm willing to take an F on the project (and in all likelihood a C in the class) because honestly, I'm sick of being angry about the bullshit that goes on in this class. If the rest of my education classes are this dumb, I'm in trouble.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Guns and Me

To paraphrase a recent email: "Love the blog, but what's up with all the stuff about guns?"

Hmm. Yes. The guns. I don't own any guns. The one gun I did own I never fired once, and gave to my stepbrother, who runs the risk of meeting Wyoming's less polite wildlife on a regular basis. As far as I know, he hasn't had to use it yet, thank God. And for those who weren't paying attention in the previous post, he doesn't plan on using his gun on bears; for that he carries bear spray, a mace-like substance. I'm not exactly sure what scents bears hate so much they'd rather flee than smell them, but I'm glad I wasn't on that research team. "Larry, we're going to spray you with an experimental substance, and then you're going to walk over to that river where the grizzlies are feeding. Let us know if they attack."

But I digress.

Guns. They're really quite amazing feats of engineering: there's a serious amount of energy being spent and controlled every time a gun is fired, and I'm impressed with the various ways that's done. Aiming and firing a gun is tricky and actually pretty cathartic; I even had the chance to attend a "machine gun shoot" in Kentucky a few times, just to see real machine guns up close. Firing weapons that soldiers used in battle definitely gave me a deeper appreciation for the terror of combat. So for all my adolescent war fantasies, these days I'm interested in guns on a strictly intellectual level. And really, for me, that's about where the fascination ends.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Bears and You

I started watching ABC's "Lost" accidentally, and I've found myself almost hooked. In fact, I would have been completely hooked, but last week's episode totally blew it.

First, the premise is one of the oldest in sci-fi: a group of people are stranded on an island which is inhabited by a monster. Great. One of those stories.

Second, the monster in this case is a polar bear. Hmm. Yes, of course. A friggin' polar bear. On a friggin' tropical island. I can't wait to see how they play this one off. Crazy scientist's pet project a la Jurassic Park? Genetic mutations due to nuclear testing? Random evolutionary wackiness?

Third, said polar bear was shot to death by a handgun in last week's episode.

Now, I don't know how much the Dearest Readership knows about firearms and bears, so I'll give you a quick overview. Ready? It's pretty complicated, so stay with me:

Handguns, generally, won't kill a bear.

In order to kill a bear with a handgun, you really need to hit it in the face, preferably through the mouth, so that the bullet penetrates the brain. If you've ever fired a gun at a target, you know how difficult aiming actually is. Contrary to TV, it's hard to fire a handgun accurately beyond 20 feet or so. And that's in calm, controlled conditions without adrenaline or a pissed off bear charging at you.

Then there's the bear itself. Handguns will definitely kill snakes, rodents, and even mountain lions if the cat's small enough and the gun's big enough. But bears... well, bears are big. And mean when provoked. And they have really thick skin. I'm not saying you could swing by your local taxidermist's and buy bear skins for the troops in Iraq to replace their Kevlar, but it is pretty thick stuff. By the time a handgun bullet penetrates the skin, it's lost most of its energy, so it won't do a lot of damage to internal organs.

Long story short: don't try to shoot a bear with a handgun, okay?

Hmm. Shall I write a play to illustrate my point?


Encounter With a Grizzly: A One Act Play

Three young couples sit around a campfire in a U, with the open end facing the audience. One of them strums a guitar while sitting on a big plastic cooler. He also has a shoulder holster with a handgun clearly visible. Some of them sip hot chocolate from tin cups, while others roast marshmallows. Three tents are set up. It's dark except for the campfire, which throws shadows onto the tents and trees in the background. Everyone looks stoned, and no one talks. It's very serene.

A bear enters stage right. The couples are oblivious to the bear as it sniffs the air, looks up into the trees, and meanders, slowly, around the background. It moves behind a tent and approaches the group from behind. He watches the group and is curious but obviously friendly: nodding along with the gentle guitar, looking at what each person is doing the same way an infant looks at a wall. A cooler by his feet catches his eye.

The bear bends over to open a cooler behind the group, and stands back up with a can of beer.

Bear [pointing to the can of beer]: Hey, uh, you guys mind if I drink this?

Everyone turns, slowly, and gazes up at the bear. There is a five second silence in which no one's expression changes.

Group: [screams]

Panic. Marshmallows get thrown into the air. The group disintegrates into chaos: one person runs over a tent, deflating it. The guitarist makes it about 20 feet from the campfire and then turns over on his back, kicking and swatting the air for no reason. He looks like a toddler about to get tickled. Everyone is still screaming. One person runs with his arms waving over his head across the background, exiting stage left momentarily, then entering stage left and running across the background to stage right. This process is repeated throughout until noted. Anyone remaining runs and exits stage right.

The bear watches this with mild curiosity. After a few moments he goes back to surveying the camp. Seeing the cooler the guitarist was sitting on, he casually tosses the beer over his shoulder and bends down to open it.

Offstage, a car engine revs. There are shouts of "let's go!" and "get in the car, Ray!" The person running across the background all this time makes a final run from stage left to stage right, still waving his arms over his head and screaming.

The bear stands up with an opened candy bar. The guitarist stops kicking the air and sits up. Hands shaking, he takes out his gun. Gaining his nerve but clearly overloaded with adrenaline, he gets to his feet and approaches the bear. He looks like he might turn and run instead at any second.

Once within three feet of the bear, he points the gun at it and fires off several shots. The bear chews the candy bar and looks generally disinterested. The guitarist seems to calm down, and lowers the gun but still faces the bear.

The bear looks down at his chest, and brushes at it as if he's just noticed a stain or something. Still chewing, he points at a bag of marshmallows on the ground.

Bear: Oo! Are those marshmallows?

The bear bends down for the marshmallows while the guitarist fumbles with the gun and reloads. The bear stands back up with the marshmallows, and the guitarist fires more shots, now within reach of the bear.

Bear: Dude. Stop that.

He swats at the guitarist's arm and he drops the gun. Holding his forearm, he stumbles backwards and trips behind the only tent that's still standing. The bear crams several marshmallows into his mouth, watching the guitarist. He drops the bag and daintily steps over a cooler; waddles over to where the guitarist fell.

The guitarist's body is hidden by the tent. The bear stands over him for a moment, and then a horrible, primal, and very loud grizzly bear growl vibrates through the theater. The bear bends over and both are out of sight. As the horrible sounds continue, pieces of clothing and raw, bloody meat are thrown into the air behind the tent, some getting hung up in trees. Screaming and the revving car engine continue offstage. At some point the guitarist's screams turn into a gurgling sound and eventually die off completely.

The bear stands up and mildly looks around. Seeing the cooler again, he slowly meanders back to it and rummages through it. The car engine fades, presumably driving away. The bear retrieves a beer, pokes a hole in it, and slurps at it. Looking around some more, he sits down by the fire. He reaches out for the bag of marshmallows and pulls it into his lap. He belches.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Blahdie blah blah

Well, I turned in the Wanderer paper. Not one of my better performances. Sometimes the words come, and sometimes they don't.

Tonight I burned a CD called "Paul's Soundtrack, Vol. 1." I'm not sure how many volumes there will ultimately be, but I'm guessing around 50 (I'll need at least 4 CD's just to get the right versions of the right Grateful Dead songs collected in the same place). So, really, a song's appearance on volume 1 doesn't mean it's more important than other songs, just that it probably speaks to a very specific time in my life.

Anyway, to kill time, I also wrote brief little descriptions because in a previous life I was a music critic. And maybe a 5th century Geatish mead-swigging poet-warrior. And probably Caligula Caesar.

The Seeker – The Who
Until about 6 months ago, this song pretty much summed up my life. Included here for background purposes.

Nobody Told Me – John Lennon
I lived in Rochester, NY, for the 1983-84 school year. I remember riding the bus to French Road Middle School and singing this song along with a few other kids.

Express Yourself – Charles Wright
Anyone who knows me well knows I dig the funk. For the record, I've been listening to this song for at least 15 years, well before Madison Avenue got its greasy little rat claws on it.

Tramp – Otis Redding
In the movie of my life, this song plays during the montage scene where the scuzzy hero has dating misadventures.

My Old Friend the Blues – The Proclaimers
From the guys who did "I'm Gonna Be 500 Miles." Who knew Scottish dudes had so much soul? A Steve Earle song; check out the awesome guitar solo.

Message in a Bottle – The Police
The more I listen to the Police, the more I realize how goddam smart their songs were. A great workout on guitar; I always feel like I have carpal tunnel syndrome after playing it.

What I Am – Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians
The problem with the modern infatuation with the 80's is that its focus is on kitsch instead of the truly innovative stuff college radio had found. I think this one's wah-wah guitar and "weird" lyrics spoke to my inner hippy.

I've Been Everywhere – Johnny Cash
Detroit, Decatur, Rapid City, Brookings, Aberdeen, Rochester, Casper, Laramie, Casper again, Champaign, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Seattle, Huntington, Lexington, Edwardsville, and Laramie again.

Walk On – Neil Young
"Ooh baby that's hard to change/I can't tell them how to feel."

Get Up Offa That Thing – James Brown
The one and only real band I was ever in was a ska band, and the one and only show I ever played was at the University of Illinois student union a few days before I moved to Phoenix. That has nothing to do with this song, except that our drummer and I really liked James Brown.

Sun King
– The Beatles
Italian, I think, in a pop song. When I finally get the band back together we're going to play all of Abbey Road live.

Back on the Chain Gang – The Pretenders
Another 80's song that just doesn't get enough credit for its brilliant lyrics. Seriously, there's amazing stuff going on here. I'm in the process of tabbing out the guitar parts; the bedroom troubadours in the Dearest Readership should definitely learn how to play this one acoustically.

Punk Rock Girl – The Dead Milkmen
You have to love a song with lyrics like "We got into a car and away we started rollin'/ I asked how much she paid for it she said 'Nothing man it's stolen.'"

Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs – The Minutemen
The Minutemen's influence on the early 80's L.A. punk scene is really impossible to estimate, not to mention the seriously avant garde musicianship – I still can't figure out some of D Boon's guitar work. I could go on and on about bassist Mike Watt's 1997 album "Contemplating the Engine Room," a concept album which uses his father's Navy life as a metaphor for his own experience in the Minutemen and D Boon's death in a car wreck. You have to hear it to believe it.

Here Comes Your Man – The Pixies
The Pixies were required listening in the early 90's.

Till I Gain Control Again – Willie Nelson
If you can't relate when Willie sings about being alone, you ain't human. One of the keys to understanding the cowboy's solitary ethic is realizing that he knows the price that comes with it.

Ballad of Easy Rider
– Roger McGuinn
Rivers are, naturally, easy images to invoke for poetic effect . . . so you always have to be careful when you write or sing about 'em. That said, this song's unashamed wistfulness really appeals to me. I think being a kayaker has something to do with it.

Walk of Life – Dire Straits
I love Dire Straits, and this song is just plain fun. Mark Knopfler is an amazing finger-picking guitarist.

Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
I won't even attempt to write about this song. Listen to it yourself.

Back to My Wyoming Home – Gerald and Dixon
A joke, but only kind of. This is one of my favorite cowboy songs about Wyoming, and there are quite a few.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Experiments in Web Technology

I'm screwing around with "Hello" from picasa tonight. The reason I'm screwing around with a half-assed picture manager is that I'm avoiding writing the second half of a 4 pager in Medieval Lit. It's not due until Tuesday, and technically I'm caught up on my homework, so what the hell.

Unless, of course, any of the Dearest Readership knows about the "ubi sunt" passage in The Wanderer (the Old English poem, not the song), in which case you should email me with everything you know.

Thanks in advance.

"And the award for Best Ass on a Volunteer Improvement Crew goes" Although the woman in the hat was awfully attractive, too. Married. Of course. Posted by Hello

That's a .45 Mac-10. They hand them out at the border when you enter Kentucky. Posted by Hello

Sadie, one of the best dogs ever. Seriously. Ev-ver. Her daddy is pretty cool, too. Posted by Hello

My going away party in Edwardsville. This was taken immediately after someone forced me to do a shot. Or maybe they didn't force me. My memory is a little fuzzy from that night. Posted by Hello

Janet Jackson's breast. Posted by Hello

Doing some flatwater kayaking in Kentucky, fall 2002.  Posted by Hello

Friday, October 01, 2004

Week 5 in Review

Sunday, 2pm. Arrive at Coe Library to write a 6 pager on Beowulf. Writing academically seems to be coming back, as exemplified by sentences like "Ultimately, the dragon is explicitly horrible because of its actions against society, and implicitly horrible because of its unknowable lineage." Hmm. Yes, yes. Brilliant, Mr. Primrose!

Sunday, 6pm. Leave Coe Library with the paper mostly finished. Having a hard time coming up with a conclusion paragraph; this is probably important.

Sunday, 8pm. Watch two really bad football teams.

Sunday, 10pm. Realize I haven't read Twelfth Night for Monday morning's Intro to Lit. class. Begin reading Twelfth Night.

Monday, 12:30am. Having a hard time focusing on Twelfth Night. Beginning to remember why some of Shakespeare's stuff drives me nuts.

Monday, 1am. Give up on Twelfth Night because too many goddam names contain the letter "o."

Monday, 10:00am. Suffer through agonizing lecture on the question of identities in Twelfth Night. Judging by how little participation comes from the normally involved class, I'm guessing other people didn't read it either. Feel marginally better about this.

Monday, 11:00am. The Twelfth Night lecture was an intellectual orgasm compared to the drudgery of a genetics lecture in Human/Lifespan Development class. Genes, chromosomes, DNA, blah blah blah. I still don't know this shit.

Monday, 1pm. I'd signed up for the blood drive in Washakie basement. Arrive on time, but worried about the unfinished Beowulf paper and, now, a looming "discussion paper" for my Medieval Lit class, which I want to have prepared for Tuesday so my professor can give her approval for its dispersal on Thursday.

It's warm and stuffy in the blood-letting room. A nurse pricks my finger and asks roughly a billion questions about my sex life ("I may be desperate, nurse, but no, I haven't paid for sex"). I feel warm. She asks me if I'm okay. I say yes. She asks another billion questions, and again asks if I'm okay. I mumble something about feeling warm. She says, "You're sweating. Lie down." I lie down and she puts ice packs on my neck. She says, "You're not giving blood today."

Good lord. What kind of fancy dandyboy am I if I can't even fucking give blood?

Monday, 2pm. Head over to Coe to begin the Medieval Lit paper. Spend an hour searching the MLA bibliography for an article about Beowulf (might has well stick with what you know). Discover that Wyoming's library doesn't physically have most articles listed in the MLA bibliography. The importance of funding and maintaining libraries is suddenly made clear in immediate and personal terms.

Monday, 3pm. Finally find an article on Beowulf. Not sure it's MLA. Don't care. Write the two page discussion paper.

Monday, 6pm. Attend weekly all-staff RA meeting. Attorneys from risk management and one from student legal services talk to us about their jobs. Most boring people ever. Quietly thank God I didn't go to law school.

Monday, 7pm. Attend follow-up meeting with RA's from my hall. Worried less about the behavior of the fraternities across the street than about my Beowulf paper, for which I still haven't written a cogent conclusion. Get extremely agitated when meeting disintegrates into a bitch session about how hard RA's have it.

Monday, 9pm. Somehow come up with a weak conclusion paragraph for the Beowulf paper. Whatever.

Monday, 9:30pm. Realize I haven't done the reading for my Scottish Lit class on Tuesday. Begin reading Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

Tuesday, 9:35am. Continue last week's lecture on Dante's Inferno in Medieval Lit class. Silently ask God to please, don't ever make me write a paper about it. Professor reviews discussion paper after class, gives a few ideas, and says it's good to go.

Tuesday, 11:00am. Discuss The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner in Scottish Lit class. Remain as inconspicuous as possible, since I fell asleep after reading approximately three pages the previous night.

Tuesday, 1pm. Print out both Beowulf papers and drive into the Snowy Range. At Libby Flats, a scenic overlook at 10,000 feet, I sit in my truck and perform a Final Editorial Review. Realize my conclusion paragraph, in reality, still sucks.

Tuesday, 6pm. Write a mediocre conclusion paragraph for the Intro to Lit Beowulf paper, and touch up the Medieval Lit discussion paper.

Tuesday, 8pm. I have HR duty tonight, which is basically just hall patrol every few hours and then having the cell phone for overnight emergencies. Go on patrol with fellow RA. It's quiet. Too quiet. But that suits me just fine.

Tuesday, 10pm. Go on second patrol. Nothing.

Tuesday, 11:50pm. Go on third and last patrol of the night. Sweet holy Jesus, we made it through without any drama.

Tuesday, 11:55pm. The cell phone rings. The assistant hall director asks if we've done our midnight round yet. I say we have. He says, "Oh. I was hoping you could ask the room above me to stop banging the bed so loud." I offer to go interrupt the sweet sweet lovemaking, but he says he'll do it.

Wednesday, 12:10am. A guy from my floor knocks on my door. Apparently his roommate is being an asshole. Again. We talk for a bit and he says he's fine, he just needed to vent.

Wednesday, 9am. Work a one hour desk shift before class. My replacement arrives early, which means I don't have to waltz into my Intro to Lit class late. Small mercies.

Wednesday, 10am. Hand in Beowulf paper in Intro to Lit. Have bad feelings about conclusion paragraph. Sit through, and don't participate in, yet another discussion of gender identities in Twelfth Night.

Wednesday, 11am. I didn't think films about sex could be boring. Then I watched "The Miracle of Life" in Human/Lifespan Development. Judging by the special effects and new-age synthesizer soundtrack, I'm guessing it was made in about 1983. Somehow manage to repress urge to run from the room screaming.

Wednesday, 1pm. Attend Teaching with Microcomputers class. Finish up our slideshow presentation entitled "Bicycle – A Tragedy." Add Queen's "Bicycle Race" to soundtrack. Leave two hours early after instructor watches slideshow and claims it's very good. If you say so, man.

Wednesday, 3pm. Finish the second half of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner without having read the first half. Turns out the story is even more fucked up than I'd originally thought.

Thursday, 7am. Arrive at desk for 2 hour shift. Skim over first half of Hogg.

Thursday, 9:35am. More Dante in Medieval Lit. The only two things I know for sure are A) people aren't in hell because of their sins, they're there because they don't recognize their true sins (usually due to the absence of Reason), and B) this shit is beyond me. Quietly ask God again to please, don't ever make me write a paper about this.

Thursday, 11am. More discussions of Hogg. Contribute reasonably intelligent observation to discussion: Robert is certifiably nuts.

Thursday, 4:30pm. Go to Altitude for sushi and beer. A family friend (who happens to be in my Scottish Lit class) from way back joins me, and we fill each other in about our families' histories.

Thursday, 6:30pm. Return to my room. Watch Navy/Air Force game.

Thursday, 10pm. Realize I haven't read John Donne's poetry for Intro to Lit class tomorrow. Quickly review syllabus and make executive decision that I can read it in the morning before class.

Friday, 10am. Discuss Donne's poetry.

Friday, 11am. Sit through lecture about fetal development. Get some assignments back. Vow to read chapter 4 this weekend.

Friday, 12pm. Schedule weekend studying, which includes more than 200 pages of reading, a 4 pager in Medieval Lit due Tuesday, and a chapter summary in the computer class.

Next: nap.