Friday, May 30, 2008

If you say, "I told you so," I'll punch you in the nuts

So, Tom and I tried to go see The Strangers tonight. And by "tried," I mean, we were able to get tickets, but found the circumstances intolerable.

For starters, we went to a mildly suburban theater in a mall. Even though they supposedly advertise that no one under 18 is allowed in the theater after 7pm on Friday or Saturday nights, it's a rule that is either clearly not enforced, or the age should be upped to 25, and even then only open to people who don't pay $9 to sit and talk to their friends.

The theater was full, but not really as bad as you might think. The final straw, really, was the guy sitting next to me, who constantly said things (very out loud) like, "Oh no," "Oh, shit!" and "Damn, girl." That was directed at Liv Tyler.

Before that, however, about 15 minutes into the film, four adults enter with a child in tow, who was probably about 4 years old.

Naturally they sat right in front of us.

I wasted about 15 seconds before storming out to the concession stand and finding the manager. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Um, did you know there are people watching The Strangers with little kids? Like, very small children.

Manager: Are they making noise?

I wrinkle my brow at him.

Me: Um...well, there are very small children watching a rated-R horror film. That...doesn't concern you at all?

Manager: Well, are they talking?

Me: Well, yes, it's a small child, sitting right in front of me in a horror movie.

Manager: But is he disturbing you?

I get further confused.

Me: He's saying things like, "Mommy, Mommy," and talking. Out loud. Yes, he's disturbing me.

The manager looks at me blankly.

I stare back at him expectantly (story of my life).

Me: Can anything be done about this?

Manager: I'll go in in a few minutes.

Me: Okay, I'm sitting way up in the back, on the right side if you're-

Manager: I'll just look for you, and then the kid will be in front of you.

Now I stare at him blankly.

Me: Okay. Thank you.

I march back inside and inform Tom that we're giving it 10 more minutes.

After about 10 minutes (and I must say, I was enjoying the film, quite a lot), I stay true to my word and leave. (If you wanna know the truth, the crowd wasn't awful; it was the guy next to me that kept talking out loud that really pushed me over the edge.) I inform the girl at the box office that the crowd is "intolerable" and I want my money back, which is given back.

The End.

Even though I was very excited about this film, after sitting through an incredibly irritating 35 minutes of it, I'm a little less excited to go back and sit through that again, but I shall. It was just getting good when we left.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Everything Begins

I think it was largely due to waking up at 5:30 yesterday morning and not being able to go back to sleep (despite not having gone to bed until almost 1:30 that morning), but nevertheless, I had knots in my stomach all day yesterday. I don't know that it was just anxiety, necessarily, but something like being a little nervous, on edge.

There is so much to do before mid-August, when I'll head out West. So many decisions to make, and business to take care of. I won't deny that I'm terrified, but I also get a little thrill, a rush of adrenaline, when I think about it too much. And even though it's still almost 3 months away, every moment that I spend with the people I love is that much more poignant and meaningful. I wanna hug everybody and never let go. One of my favorite people in the world is leaving for the summer to visit her mom in California and then go to New York. We're going tubing together today, and to see Sex and the City on Sunday, then she's gone. She even stayed an extra day in order to see the movie. But that's too soon.

And I'm so not prepared.

Today I'm also picking up some boxes to go ahead and start shipping some smaller stuff with Jody, who's leaving next week. Stuff like books, CD's, DVD's, small pieces of furniture that I won't need for the next couple of months. My room will be barren and sad, no longer surrounded by the artifacts of my life for the past 10-15 years.

I don't think I'm really prepared for that, either. It makes it all too real. I don't think I've really admitted how real this is yet. And how fast this summer is going to go.

But I'm not going to spend all this time being morose and pitiful. I'm going to love it, and revel in it, and be so thankful that I am going to be so sad to leave. That's a gift. How many people have as many people in their life capable of completely breaking their heart as I do? Probably not many.

I've decided to cherish that, not lament it.

It's a new chapter. I'm chasing my metaphorical (and maybe literal!) fortune. And chasing myself in a way even I don't completely understand, and maybe never will, but that's okay. Life needs a little mystery.

Something else I've accepted and embraced instead of being so goddamn angry that I don't have all the answers. That was the Old Me.

The New Me craves that mystery, that confusion, that unimportance of "knowing," and understanding. Or maybe I've just accepted the irrelevance of it and made peace with that.

Today I'm thinking about selling my car and a good chunk of my possessions. I want to invest in a good street bike and become one of those biking-nut-pseudo hippy dudes. i am, after all, moving to the most bike friendly city in North America. I have many plans, both physical and mental, for myself.

Who knows what the future holds? But at least I'm embracing it; taking charge, but still letting go. I'm always learning and I can only hope to keep falling down.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Origin of the Fear of Masks

Probably no one really knows this about me (well, one person does), but I have an almost paralyzing fear of masks. I don't care what kind of masks they are, I hate them. Santa Claus maks, president masks, anonymous glassy-faced masks, the mask the guy in Halloween wears, whatever. I don't like it. The surest way to freak me out (and get me to possibly hate you) is to stare at me while you're wearing a mask. I have somewhat of a history with masks freaking me out in my life that I'm not going to detail here, but suffice to say, some of my most impressionable moments of being scared out of my mind in childhood involved masks. Both benign and werewolf.

So, while I don't care for Liv Tyler, and I have no idea who Scott Speedman is, but people seem to hate him, and I'm sure it sucks, the trailer for The Strangers really terrifies me. Naturally, I just assumed it was a Funny Games ripoff (and dear god, the only movie I've ever hated more than Funny Games is fucking Salo. Pasolini deserved to be murdered after making that soul-crushing journey to hell). Next on the list would be any Lars von Trier film. That man's not even human.

But I digress. I made the Funny Games - Strangers parallel immediately, but it seems there are some seasoned horror buffs that didn't really pick up on it. But since no one's seen the film, there seems to be some debate as to whether or not it is actually a ripoff of Funny Games, or is just being marketed that way. And while I did despise every moment of Funny Games (well, in all fairness, I didn't finish it; when they blast the little kid's brains all over the wall in front of his mother, I'd had enough), I can appreciate the point it's making. Too bad it's such a condescending, elitist and hypocritical point, but nevertheless, I think it's smart.

But the one thing The Strangers has going for it, for me, is the masks. I have to admit, though I know it will be total tripe, I'll probably see it. Any movie that can genuinely freak me out, I appreciate. And sometimes a silly mask is all it takes.

(As a sidenote, I'm also very excited about Mamma Mia. I can't help it; it looks fun.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What I learned at Southwestern

The "panel" on which I sat in my professor's class at Southwestern on Monday ended up being just myself and a woman, a Chicana lesbian professor from St. Edward's. For an hour and a half.

When I was a student at Stedward's, anytime I had to get up in front of my peers (i.e., classmates) to do anything, whether it was a presentation, leading a discussion, debating, whatever, I was always a nervous wreck. I was so afraid of looking stupid or being judged or everyone just thinking I was an idiot. I always conflated this phenomenon in my head with my fervent desire to be a teacher, and have been wondering how in the world I intend to stand up in front of classes every day and teach when I get that nervous.

Well, as it turns out, maybe I have nothing to worry about. On Monday, I was totally at ease. I never got nervous, even as I was sitting in front of the class while the students slowly filed in and got comfy. One by one they entered, and yet, not a raised pulse rate among me.

This didn't even really occur to me until after it was all over. I spoke well; I made them laugh; they asked me questions; I never stumbled over myself; I didn't say anything stupid, or fart. Although I did say "fuck" twice.

But I realized on the way home that I didn't get nervous because I didn't consider those students my peers. I was the "authority," so to speak, and they were there to learn from me, and I was just some dude that came in for a class.

Which gave me a lot more hope for being a great teacher.

Which, by the way, I think I would be.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Before Austin was sliced in half

The Austin Contrarian linked to an article the other day about how Oklahoma City has decided to re-route its primary highway away from downtown and redevelop that area:

In Oklahoma City, the interstate will be moved five blocks from downtown to an old railroad line. The new 10-lane highway, expected to carry 120,000 vehicles daily, will be placed in a trench so deep that city streets can run atop it, as if the highway weren't there.

The old highway will be converted into a tree-lined boulevard city officials hope will become Oklahoma City's marquee street.

By tearing down the Crosstown Expressway, the city hopes to spur development of 80 city blocks stretching from downtown to the Oklahoma River — an area that contains vacant lots, car repair shops and a few small homes.

"We've always been a good place to live, but we've never had a city we could show off," Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett says. "Moving the expressway makes it possible for a day to come when hundreds or thousands of people will live downtown."

The project will cost $557 million, mostly federal and state funds. The city will pay to spruce up the boulevard, build parks and put a pedestrian bridge over the new below-ground interstate.

The Contrarian goes on to outline all the benefits to Austin if it were ever to decide to get into the 21st century and do the same thing for I-35, a major eyesore and detriment to the city, and what many claim created, and still fosters, Austin's ridiculous segregation and racial inequality.

If you want an idea of what Austin looked like pre-35, or what it could maybe look like again someday, check out these photos of East Avenue, which was destroyed to create I-35 (it's shocking sometimes, isn't it, to look backwards and wonder how people could have possibly thought certain things were a good idea...?):

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

File Under: Duh

Guess what? Girls, both gay and straight, love gay porn.

And speaking of gender, plenty of lesbians identify with various forms of masculinity: Their own gender expression may be at the masculine end of the spectrum, or they may like to fantasize and play with gender and sex. Gay porn gives them a range of masculine desires to relate to or lust after. For those dykes who themselves identify as fag—or who like butch/butch, boi/boi, or transman/transman sex—they can see a hyper-masculine version of their own sex lives and/or fantasies performed on the small screen.

The phenomenon of straight women who love gay male porn has been documented and was discussed plenty when flocks of females gushed over Brokeback Mountain. When women came out of their fag-loving closet, it illustrated the flip side of a common theory: Plenty of straight men love girl/girl porn because they want to see lots of who they lust after. The same is true for het women: They like to look at hot naked men fucking, and it doesn't really matter that they're fucking each other. I think it may also be true that while pornos full of romance and mood lighting are marketed to women, some prefer a sweaty, get-right-down-to-it romp in the locker room any day. columnist Regina Lynn, author of Sexier Sex: Lessons from the Brave New Sexual Frontier, writes that it's not always about identifying with someone in a scene: "For me, gay porn has always been arousing because of its masculinity. The strength and power, plus the double dose of raw male drive and sexuality, add up to more than the sum of their parts."

I've never been on a panel before....

Yesterday I received an email from one of my professors who's teaching a Human Sexuality class for a summer session at Southwestern. It's the same class I took last semester at St. Ed's. Anyway, they're putting together another GLBT panel to come speak to the class of undergrads and he wanted to know if I would be interested in representing the "gay male" aspect of the panel. Of course I said yes. He wants me to talk about my coming out experiences and that sort of thing.

I know it probably seems a little passe at this point to have a "gay panel." I mean, doesn't everybody know gay people now? Well, one would think, but especially with young people, and especially in Texas, I don't think that's the case. I heard some antecdotal stories last night about some UT undergrads who clearly knew nothing about real gay people's lives.

It should be fun. And we all know how much I love to talk about myself, so it's perfect.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Now you must suffer with me

On the day of our final, my science teacher showed us some videos to relax us a bit, one of which has been stuck in my head for, like, 2 weeks now. And apparently my professor's 4-year-old loves them.

Hippo and Dog

Hippo fart annoys Dog

And last, but not least, the creepy German Gummy Bear (also comes in Spanish, French, Swedish and Slovak, but I think I like the German one the best, because German is inherently funny):

Good luck getting it out of your head if you watch it.

Runner's High

Despite liking the store overall, I have some serious issues with my employer. For what they claim to be, they certainly have no standards for what they will or won't sell, including processed products loaded with high fructose corn syrup, MSG, chemical preservatives, and hydrogenated fats. You also can't get locally grown, grass-fed beef there. Or grass-fed beef at all.

In a meeting the other day though, our GM made several announcements concerning some decisions they'd made. For one, he said, and this was a big one, they are going to seriously cut back on the amount of bottled water they sell. He said (and I'm paphrasing) that it just didn't make sense to import water from Brazil, or New Zealand, or Fiji, when it consumed so much fuel and the manufacturing of bottled water was in itself so wasteful (in case you didn't know, it takes three times the amount of water that's in a bottle to create each bottle, not to mention the petroleum used to make the bottles and then the subsequent waste). The "house brand" water they sell there, incidentally, is bottled in New Zealand, so it makes me wonder if they're going to discontinue the house brand or just start bottling it somewhere else.

The other major announcement he made was that the company is going to start specializing in a lot more seasonal, locally-grown produce instead of importing so much of it from Mexico and South America.

Which made my little heart bounce with joy. Of course, the cynical side of me knows that they're only doing these things because fuel is so expensive (the GM even admitted that) and not out of any kind of obligation to local farmers, but I'll take it where I can get it.

And this, my friends, is why I think the rising gas prices are a good thing. If even huge $3 billion corporations are feeling that much pinch from gas that's not even $4 a gallon yet (and really, that's small potatoes compared to what most of Europe pays for gas), imagine what will happen when it reaches $5 or $6. At least a few people are starting to think ahead.

I think it's really idiotic to hear Clinton and McCain talk about a summer gas tax holiday out of one side of their mouths, then talk about the need to invest in other fuel sources out of the other. Not to mention that once the "holiday" is over, prices are going to go up even higher than they are now to compensate for the lost revenue over the summer. The only thing that's going to make people take a gas shortage seriously is.... a gas shortage! If that's what it takes to start making out economies more locally-based, I'm all for it. I'm fortunate to live in an urban area with a lot of stuff at my disposal (including public transportation, such as it is...) and I know that. Not everyone's so lucky. And that sucks. But I've never quite understood why we put so much emphasis on people's comfort and jobs or whatever, over environmental health. It just doesn't make any sense.

On another note, I started running again this morning, and I really got that light-headed runner's high. It was pretty great. Last time I ran regularly I was still smoking heavily and was most likely not getting the oxygen I needed. Well, I'm sure I was this time. And I only plan on running once, maybe twice a week, not three times a week like last time when I lost so much weight so quickly and got really freaked out. I also wasn't eating enough back then.

My legs are a little wobbly right now but it feels really good.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Michael Pollan on Nightline

Well, since I can't figure out how to embed the fucking video, here's the link.

He's awesome.

Learning to think....?

In the June issue of the Atlantic (which unfortunately isn't online yet, so I can't link to it), there's an article by "Professor X" who teaches English Comp at a private college, and a community college in the Northeast (both, of course, unnamed, though I'd love to know what the private college is). The gist of the article is that he teaches English Comp to adults, many of whom have been in the workforce for 20 years or more, who need some college credits to either move ahead in their current jobs, or their jobs are requiring them to take some Comp classes. A lot of them are even public service jobs, like sheriffs, or they're insurance billers, whose employers have decided these people need to learn how to write research papers for some reason.

It's a "college of last resort," according to Professor X, and many of these people, he says, are completely incapable of doing high school work, much less college work. A big part of his job involves failing hardworking individuals who have to take his class 2 or 3 times sometimes, but who nevertheless cannot construct a coherent sentence to save their lives.

One example he gives is of "Ms. L," a middle-aged woman he had to fail, and one of the few instances where he lost sleep over it, and briefly considered passing her for her own sake, but then decided against it. She was supposed to write a research paper on an historical controversy, but had never even sat in front of a computer, much less done research and written a paper. After sifting through several topics, she settled on gun control, though the professor warned her it could not be a paper about the pros and cons of gun control, but could be a paper about the historical significance of perhaps a specific piece of gun control legislation.

Needless to say, the paper she turned in was a discussion of the pros and cons of gun control. At least, I think that was the subject. There was no real thesis. The paper often lapsed into incoherence. Sentences broke off in the middle of a line and resumed on the next one, with the first word inappropriately capitalized. There was some wavering between single-and double-spacing. She did quote articles, but cited only databases-where were the journals themselves? The paper was also too short: a bad job and such small portions.

The professor basically goes on to say that some people simply aren't cut out to go to college, despite the elitism and snobbery that reeks of. He of course cites the British system, briefly, of its tracks of college or apprenticeship, which I, personally, believe isn't such a terrible thing.

It's so hard, though, for me to put myself in the position of these people. Reading, analysis, literature and writing have always been second-nature to me. But I'm terrible, terrible at math. In my Statistics class, I studied and studied and struggled and struggled, and still barely eeked out a C, but I know many people for whom doing math is like breathing. So who am I to judge? But I also don't think that I just "can't do" math. I think a lot of it is conditioning. I think a lot of it is learned experience, from having done so poorly at math my whole life simply because I wasn't interested in it, and therefor didn't really try, but it set in motion a path for failure. I convinced myself that I just wasn't a "math person," but that's ridiculous.

I have very mixed feelings about academia. I think it serves a valuable purpose, but not what most people might think, and not for everyone. The primary thing I finally learned in college (at St. Edward's; I can't really say I learned much of anything at the University of Arkansas or at the Art Institute, but again, that's my own fault) was how to think and express myself critically, which is not something I think I had a firm grasp on before I started school. I learned nothing, really, of facts, or from multiple-choice tests given by lazy professors, because I barely cracked open a textbook in my entire school career (despite paying hundreds of dollars for them). The only thing I ever learned came from doing research papers, and it was a gradual and continuous process. I really don't believe anyone can learn to write in one class; that's absurd. Perhaps someone can be given an appreciation of learning, and then go seek their own knowledge from one class, but again, it's doubtful. I had approximately 4 or 5 classes in over two years at St. Edward's where I thought the teachers did an outstanding job of actually teaching, and encouraging the students to think outside their own comfort zones and come to appreciate the art of questioning and seeking truth, futile as it might sometimes be, for its own sake, and not for the sake of memorizing useless facts for a final. And considering that I plan to enter a profession that involves a whole lot of thinking, introspection, seeking, and analysis, that worked out well, for the most part.

But I, and Professor X, acknowledge that's not for everyone, nor should it be. He writes:

America, ever-idealistic, seems wary of the vocational-education track. We are not comfortable limiting anyone's options. Telling someone that college is not for him seems harsh and classist and British, as though we were sentencing him to a life in the coal mines. I sympathize with this stance; I subscribe to the American ideal. Unfortunately, it is with me and my red pen that that ideal crashes and burns.

For I, who teach these low-level, must-pass, no-multiple-choice-test classes, am the one who ultimately delivers the news to those unfit for college: that they lack the most-basic skills and have no sense of the volume of work required; that they are in some cases barely literate; that they are so bereft of schemata, so dispossessed of contexts in which to place newly acquired knowledge, that every bit of information simply raises more questions. They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college.

I am the man who has to lower the hammer.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hopefully he won't mind my telling this story, such as it is....

Last night, whilst deeply sleeping in the wee hours, Tom, apparently, in some sort of half-awake, half-asleep, dream-like state, had a holy vision of myself, standing next to his bed, urinating on his bookshelf in the dark.

"Ryan!!!" he cried out, in shock and disbelief.

Seeing as how I was actually peacefully asleep in bed, next to him, and not, as he believed, urinating on his bookshelf, at his exclamation, I shot up, my heart racing, immediately ready to react to some sort of emergency.

At this, Tom was now fully awake, and confused, as was I, but only for about half a second, after which I promptly fell back to deep sleep.

After breakfast this morning, I was informed that my startled reaction also elicited a gaseous expulsion of Biblical proportions from my butt.

Of which I was completely unaware since I was already asleep again.

The End.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Things amusing me today

- Really young, athletic, toned, beautiful people having obviously just come from the gym practically fighting each other for parking spaces in the lot where I work that are close to the door. Or otherwise just sitting there idling in their giant SUV's waiting for someone to pull out of a space that's about 5 spaces closer than the empty one.

- The fact that Hillary Clinton's campaign is over.

- "Paper Planes" by M.I.A.

- I spent three days with my family and only really got irritated, like, once. In fact, I had some of the most fun I've had in ages. Especially with my brother, who I hardly ever get to hang out with. He loved going out drinking, and meeting my friends. He really, really, really wants to come back and visit again already.

- I don't have any more homework. Ever. At least until I go back to school. Assuming any grad school ever accepts me. But that will all be at least profession-related homework.

- I have a new record player and I love record shopping!

- Finding copies of books (on my own bookshelf!) I want and didn't realize I owned.

- "Stimulus" checks.

- My best friends coming to visit me at my miserable job.

- I'm not depressed yet from having graduated. (Give it another couple hours.)

- I have ideas for 3 different novellas I want to write. I'm just aiming for novellas because I'm not sure I can actually write a whole novel. Besides, a novellas are good for people with short attention spans. Like me.

- This performance video of Dolly Parton performing one of the most fucked up songs ever written. I was already familiar with the song, but I played it for Tom last night and it literally left him speechless.

- And along those lines, this really hot cover of "Jolene" by the White Stripes: