Round Up

Number of pages in the study guide I’ve been working on all evening: 10

Number of multiple choice questions on my physics final: 50

Number of naps I’ve taken: 1

Hours I’ve spent packing today: 0

Pandora stations I’ve listened to: 5

IMDB checks: 6

Times I’ve thought to myself “In less than twenty-four hours I’ll be home free, hurtling through South Dakota in a van packed with family and books”: 104 and counting

In Transit

This evening, desiring the kind of self-importance that only comes with casually walking across town carrying a transit and a notebook,

relishing the stares of children who stood watching me expertly shake out the tripod and level the platform,

admiring the meticulous charts and graphs I had slaved over with ruler and stubby pencil,

I thought:

Maybe I should be a scientist after all.

But then the mosquitos arrived for the feast, and the tripod fell askew, and my calculations were incorrect.

I consoled myself with a large dose of Anna Karenina.

Dandelion Whine

We did it, Ray.

It smelled like asparagus, tasted like swampy tea, and burned like vomit at the back of the throat.  It was non-alcoholic, because we didn’t have yeast and we certainly didn’t have a fermenter.  It didn’t follow the recipe we found online; instead of lemon and orange slices, neat peach cutlets, and about three pounds of sugar, we used bottled lime juice and honey.

But Ray, we drank it in shot glasses, having strained out the wilting buds and detached petals clustered with pollen.

It was disgusting, as I suspect you knew it’d be.  I wonder if you ever tried it in your lifetime, or if you merely plucked the practice from backwoods obscurity and wrote it into a story, taking care to keep a safe distance from the steaming brew.

Regardless, Mr. Bradbury, this night was for you.

“My gosh, if you’re going away, we got a million things to talk about! All the things we would’ve talked about next month, the month after! Praying mantises, zeppelins, acrobats, sword swallowers!”

Ode to a Bike

Even though I’m in my pajamas when the thunder rings,

Shaking the hand that’s clutching a foamy toothbrush in the mirror,

I’ll run out anyway

to rescue you, dear.

I’ll fumble at the rain-streaked lock, feeling fat drops soak my t-shirt.

I’ll whisper, be right back,

And then hurry inside for a flashlight to shine on the faint numbers.

I’ll lift your sturdy frame, cradling the metal as if were made of glass.

You’ve carried me in the same way

Over jagged sidewalks.

You’ve rolled with glorious speed, gears cranked up to seven.

And when I’m tired,

When my hands drag limply on the brake,

You drift quietly down dark streets,

Edging potholes and flashing your reflectors

When a car creeps up behind.

You’ll sleep on the porch tonight,

And tomorrow we’ll go for a ride.

The Dark Knight Rises

This one’s for my sister Johnny, who just Facebook chatted me the following message:

“Blog.”

And then after I dug my heels in a little bit, and sent her a picture of my second toe (it’s longer than my big toe, which grosses her out to no end), and explained that I was taking the weekend off, she rather forcefully suggested that I do a review of The Dark Knight Rises.  

Which was nice, because I strongly suspect that no one wants to read another review of that movie, let alone one written by a twenty-one-year-old college student.

I think she knew I probably wanted to write one anyway.

Which I did.

So here it is.  I’m trying to make it as spoiler free as I can, but read with your eyes half closed, just in case.

I want to say, first of all, that my thoughts and prayers have been with the people of Aurora all weekend.  I went to see the movie on Friday night, and it was horrific to think that less than twenty-four hours earlier, the victims of the shooting had been doing the same thing.  I don’t think I can say it better than Christopher Nolan did: “The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.”

The Dark Knight Rises in one word: intense.  Not a great word, I know, but the first one I thought of when the credits rolled.  A warning to my fellow sensitive movie watchers: this one can be tough to watch at times.  It’s a fitting finale for the trilogy, I felt, but in order for it to be so, it had to be unflinching and explosive.  And it was.

In what shapes up to be a terrifying parallel to the 9/11 events, the third Batman installment features Gotham gone mad.  Stirred up by an uninhibited force in the underground, and trapped by the threat of nuclear destruction, citizens run rampant, and both government and police are quickly crippled into almost nonexistence.  Bruce Wayne, who has lived as a recluse for the past eight years, must suit up again to face a demon from his past and a city that holds him responsible for the death of white knight Harvey Dent.

It was hard not to miss Heath Ledger’s mesmerizing Joker, but the cast members-some old, some new-were able to carry Nolan’s heavy plot regardless.  Christian Bale was dependable as always, and had a satisfying amount of screen time minus the bat ears.  Michael Caine continued to deliver wry wisdom as loyal butler Albert, and Morgan Freeman, along the same lines, offered a quiet but effective dose of comic relief.  Veteran Gary Oldman, who we’ve all been rooting for from the beginning, finally got a few action scenes.  Newcomers Anne Hathaway and Marion Cotillard were welcome and successful additions, but it was an earnest Joseph Gordon-Levitt who stole the show for me.  I won’t ruin the ending for you, but let me go down in the books as saying that that possibility has me intrigued.

Batman, as I’ve said before, is my favorite superhero because he’s not super; he has no powers, no fawning admirers, no typically heroic stance.  He’s dark, and he’s conflicted, and he wallows.  He lives in a city filled with sinister crime; a city that doesn’t always appear to deserve saving.  A city that easily turns its back on him.  But in the end, as we all perhaps knew he would, Batman flies off into the sunset with the rest of them, while admiring children, leaning out of a school bus parked on a half-destroyed bridge, cheer him on.

Sneetches Ain’t Snitches

I have an old and complex relationship with Dr. Seuss’ Sneetches.  Do you remember the Sneetches?

Some had stars on their bellies, and some did not.  The starred shunned the bare until an enterprising gentleman (named Sylvester McMonkey McBean, no less) came to town with a machine that could put stars on any Sneetches willing to pay.  And so all the bare became starred, which angered the naturally starred, who naturally went through the machine themselves to be de-starred, so that they could be superior to the newly starred. Then the Sneetches who had bought stars suddenly wanted them removed, and the cycle continued until everyone lost track of who was starred and who was not and who was superior and who was not.  And they all became friends in the end.

I don’t remember ever reading the book, but I definitely watched the movie, because most of my 8th grade softball season was spent in the outfield with my friend Michaela, reenacting The Sneetches.  Specifically, we liked to scissor our legs and thrust imaginary sticks in the air: “A toast, raise your marshmallow stick, a toast!  Raise your good fellow stick!”  (That song, of course, is from the part where the originally starred Sneetches are having a marshmallow roast, while the star-less watch glumly from the shadows).

We were MVPs, obviously.

Years later, deep in the throes of high school, I was delighted (and a little shocked) to discover a Sneetch in the English faculty lounge.  It was during Speech practice, and I was in the lounge looking for tape or some such thing.  The Sneetch was stuffed and yellow and starred (just like the movie).  He was also inside what looked like a plastic bird cage.  He was blinged out with a large gold necklace, sunglasses, and a cap tilted sideways.   Taped to the front of the cage was a small sign that read “Sneetches Ain’t Snitches.”

I never found out what that means, but wiser words, I suspect, have never been spoken;  nothing is certain but death, taxes, and Sneetches.

Pollyanna

I was thinking about writing an uninspired, pessimistic post about how busy I’ve been lately, but decided instead, to spare both of us that sort of misery, to pull a Pollyanna and look for the good in today.

The Good, A Compilation:

1. Spending time with Ponyboy and Cherry.  There are a lot of good things about hanging out with a three-year-old and a two-year-old, but my favorite good thing has to be the times (and they’re rare), when we’re just sitting still, chatting.  Today at the park, for example, we were sitting on a bench having a ‘picnic’ (the kids were eating almonds and string cheese), and we began discussing Sesame Street.  I sang the “Elmo’s World” song, which I remembered from that bitter period when I was too old for Sesame Street but my little sister wasn’t.  Sometimes it felt like the PBS folks broadcasted it several times a day just to spite me.

When I finished singing, Ponyboy giggled.  Then: “Can we play Hot Lava Monster now?  And can you be the Hot Lava Monster?  And this time, you can’t climb up the slide to get us.”

2. I was running late this morning, having spent twenty precious minutes lazing on my bed with oatmeal and Huffington Post.  Just as I opened the front door to leave, an older woman walked her dog past my house.  She paused when she saw me, however, and pulled the dog off to the side, clearing the way for me.  “That’s okay!” I called, “I have to unlock my bike first, anyway.”  The woman didn’t move, which I thought was strange.  As I pushed my bike toward the sidewalk, however, I realized that the reason the woman had stopped was because her dog had plopped right down on the sidewalk, and was watching me intently, tail wagging.  “Can I pet your dog?”  I asked.  “Of course you can,” she replied, “she must have sensed that you’re a dog person.”

3. Passing the time during class lectures by writing down the idioms my professor is fond of using.  Other gems:

“Electromagnetic radiation is the gift that keeps on giving.”

“Jupiter is the home-wrecker of our solar system.”

The best part is that he delivers these lines with such a deadpan expression that I’m never sure if he’s making a joke, or merely trying to keep us interested by using non-scientific lingo.

4. Listening to the Stuff You Missed In History Class podcast as I biked to and from work and class.  Today’s episode was about the Brontës.

5. Ten days until my summer vacation begins.

6. I’ve started my young adult story, and wouldn’t you know, it’s going to be a science fiction (sort of).  How is it that the genre I’m not so fond of reading is the genre I seem to gravitate (no pun intended) toward writing (at least lately)?

Young Adult

I had a thought last night, after briefly abandoning Anna Karenina so I could reread Boston Jane for the fifth time.

Since I spend so much of my time drooling over literature that is written for twelve-year-olds, and since I happen to think that said literature is much better than any other kind because it’s so unpretentious, so solely focused on expanding young minds with fantastic stories, what if I tried writing a story like that myself?

Well, I’m trying, starting as soon as I get some spare time.  Believe it or not, the current inspiration is a certain moon orbiting Jupiter.

I work with what I have, I guess.

Super 2

I stand before you tonight, feet dirty because I promised my housemate I’d water her (rather sad) garden for a few days while she’s out of town.  I also stand before you slightly pale from spending the majority of the weekend inside, researching.  I also stand before you humbled (to get to my point), because after ranting, rather unattractively, about why I generally don’t like superhero movies (see this post: Super), I saw The Amazing Spider-Man (I guess I should get aboard the hyphen train, like a good English major) last night.  And I liked it a lot.

Here’s what I liked:

1. Andrew Garfield.  I’ve seen him in Never Let Me Go, which I viewed en route from Montreal to London.  There were a few sex scenes, which I earnestly tried to shield (using everything from my hands to my empty bag of complementary pretzels) from the kindly old gentleman next to me.  I’ve also seen him in The Social Network.  In The Social Network, he does this scene:

And in Spider-Man, he’s similarly good, if generally less angry.  He does this strange, half-anguished, slightly twitchy dip of the head when he’s trying to talk to love interest Gwen, for example.  If you’ve been to a co-ed high school, you’ve probably seen the sequence a few times.  It’s terribly endearing, and is why I like him as Spider-man.  Because I believed he was a teenager, and what’s more impressive, I believed that he was a teenager who was suddenly injected with superhuman powers, and who had to figure out how to balance both.  And because Garfield’s Spider-man doesn’t dive into the whole saving people thing.  He focuses on what’s important to him: getting the girl and discovering the secret of his father’s research.  It’s only at the end when he realizes that bigger things are at stake, and that he’s likely the only one who can confront them.

2.  Cue my favorite part of the film: when the cranes are released by grateful citizens, so an injured Spider-man can swing to the rescue.

3.  Emma Stone.  What do I say about Emma Stone?  She’s funny.  She’s spunky.  She’s a better match for Peter Parker than the simpering Mary Jane.

4.  The story moved fast enough to hold attention, but wasn’t afraid to spend time on purely humorous scenes, like the one where a newly web-endowed Parker attempts to brush his teeth, and ends up accidentally destroying the bathroom.

5.  The special effects were good, of course, but it didn’t feel like the movie had been made purely to showcase them.  They were folded in, and pulled out appropriately (when they would enhance the scene).

5.  Okay I’m out of reasons.  But I liked it, really, and I didn’t even get to see it in 3D (the Morris Theatre isn’t there yet).