Saturday, August 28, 2004

Happy birthday to meeeeee! And you. 

In but a day I turn 21. So for five years they've trusted me to navigate metal deathtraps on wheels at 60+mph, for three years they've trusted me to elect my leaders, join up to kill people, and create new little people, and now finally they're going to trust me to drink responsibly? Huh? Someone needs to reexamine this fine country's priority list.

Also, tomorrow and for one day only, I'm a whole year older than Liz! Hah! So happy birthday to you too, Liz. I hope you're enjoying London. 'tis a good place to be.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Dandelion? No, dandemastadge! 

As you've already guessed from the title of this post, Mastadge is indeed blogging about his teeth. Overall, Mastadge is very happy with his teeth. They are strong, healthy, tight. They fit together well. They've never had a cavity or any such thing. Mastadge's dentist has been known to go on about how he wishes he had Mastadge's teeth. In fact, there is only one thing Mastadge doesn't like about his pearly whites, and that's that they're not pearly white. You see, Mastadge is a vain beast, and the extreme yellowness of his teeth bothers him. Though not posing a practical problem, the yellowness is simply ugly. It's not that my teeth are dirty. I clean them well. No, the problem is that they're yellow, and it's unsightly. Mastadge has considered things such as crest whitening strips and so forth, but doesn't know that he trusts them well enough to use them? Are they stripping important enamel and calcium and stuff from my teeth? I don't know.

Yes, Mastadge know he switched from 1st to 3rd person a lot in this entry, but I'm too tired to care.

Serenity. . . 

When I first saw a preview for Firefly a couple years ago, I was openly mocking. I thought it looked stupid. Just what the world needs, I thought, another show from the guy who brought us Buffy. Well, I'm man enough to admit when I'm wrong. (Sometimes, anyway.) I've watched the show now, and I say Joss Whedon is a genius. He's a master of serial storytelling. His ability to assemble superb ensemble casts is nonpareil. The visuals on his television shows are just this side of movie quality, but on a television budget. Firefly itself was funny, intelligent and a whole lot of fun, serious but always with a light touch. Its characters and their relationships were interesting, and even moreso the various moral and practical dilemmas faced by those characters. Though the show lasted only, what?, 11 episodes or so, there wasn't a dud among them; after each and every one I had the urge to go back and watch it again immediately. I'm not going to list favorite episodes, because I don't thing I could. I'll just say that had Fox showed them in the correct order instead of omitting the pilot, I doubt the show would have been cancelled, and also that whomsoever decided to cancel this show deserves to be sacked. Twice. Just about the only thing I didn't much care for was the Mandarin.

Now, because I feel like it, I'm going to list the characters from best to worst:

Kaylee -- Her enthusiasm is endless and infectious, and she's damned cute. It's a cryin' shame that there weren't any Kaylee episodes.

Mal -- Definitely the most layered, interesting character on the show. A great character, a great performance. He shines in nearly every episode.

Jayne -- What you see seems to be pretty much what you get with Jayne, but when what you see is a sarcastic, none-too-bright mercenary, that's not a problem. The source of endless amusement and tension.

Honorably mention: Saffron -- Because she's a very fun recurring character, and really hot.

Simon -- I don't know. For some reason I identify with him the most, and tend to like his scenes.

Wash -- Funny guy, definitely not spoiling for a fight. He's a lot of fun.

Inara -- A pretty face and an ok foil for the captain, but she just doesn't seem to do a whole lot. Still, it would've been very interesting to see where her character went.

Book -- A very interesting, sometimes lively character. Unfortunately, despite the various hints -- his ID, "he ain't no Shepherd," etc. -- the show never got a chance to delve into his depths or his past, so mostly he just seemed to be tagging along rather than contributing much.

River -- She seems very good at moving, but when she has to speak, I question her acting abilities and intelligence. A very potentially interesting character, and basically the crux of the show, unfortunately the show was cancelled right when her character arc was beginning to get interesting, so all the important questions are unresolved and we're left with the early episodes where she's off her rocker, sometimes in an amusing but often in an annoying way.

Zoe -- Boring. So she can look good and shoot well. It must be tough to be the straight character in this zany crew.

So. The show didn't go through any birthing pains, but hits its mark right out of the gate (not to mix metaphors or anything). The actors had their characters down from the start. A great beginning to what probably would've been a great show.

Anyway, as you probably know, Whedon's continuing the story with a movie, Serenity. And whereas before I watched the episodes, I was only mildly interested in the thing, I'm now stoked. I'm actually looking forward to a movie next year now. I've only got three concerns. First, I hope that Whedon gives this the proper epic movie feel, rather than a two-hour episode as so often happens when TV shows make it to the movies. Second, I hope the movie can tie up some of the dangling threads from the series, without being too obvious about it and without condensing important issues too much. Third, this movie comes out only a couple weeks before a movie by some indie filmmaker name of George Lucas. I'd like to this movie to do well, and hope it doesn't get its ass kicked in the box office a mere couple weeks into its run. In fact, I hope it does very well, and that either Whedon gets to make more movies with these characters, or, better yet, that Fox, despite the clause in the contract that Whedon doesn't try to get the show started again, begs him to get the show going again.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

We gots hummingbirds. . . 

It's been near a decade since I've seen a hummingbird in DE, yet this month I've seen two of them. Are hummingbirds making a comeback?

Also, if anyone's interested, a couple bird's eye vies of my house. A Victorian, built 1896, we moved in eight years ago and have been working on it ever since. Painting it, fixing plumbing and wiring and walls and ceilings and floors and windows and you name it. If you look closely you can see the giant scaffolding up around the big chimney in the back. These shots are from (I think) the north and west respectively, but I'm no good at directions so that might be wrong. It's too bad it was a hazy day and the helicopter couldn't get a good angle, or these pictures might've been really spectacular. They make good desktops, I think. Anyway, here they are:

from the north

from the west

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I don't do clever titles. 

Later: My mom decided to walk with Caleb and me today. On the walk, I acted the same toward passersby: looked them in the eye, gave a smile and/or nod to most. The difference is, rather than pretending I wasn't there, about 70% of them actually replied vocally: "Hi" or some such, or at least a nod in return. So now I know the secret to not being invisible: keep my mom around.

On that walk, I asked her how she'd react if I decided to go into the PeaceCorps or some such after I finish college. She started off by extolling the virtues of such a life for five minutes or so, how she'd considered joining at my age, how wonderful it would be, etc. Then she segued into the dangers of the world today, and terror, and so forth, but (having recently dealt with her father's death and dealing with the health of several of her aunts) maybe it would be better to die doing such work at 23 then die of some terrible disease at 93. Then she went on to say that she only wanted me doing this if it was to help me become the man I want to be, not if it's just to avoid something else. Thanks for the vote of confidence, mom. :)

Went to the dentist again, still never had a cavity, and my gums are in better condition than they have at times in the past been. I am well pleased.

Tip of the day: Don't bother camping at 18.5k feet. It simply doesn't work. If you manage to get to sleep at all, you wake up in the middle of the night, convinced that you're suffocating . . . which, basically, you are. I'll never again, if I can help it, camp above 16k, and even that's pretty uncomfortable. I'm sure I could go up to 19k, but I wouldn't try to sleep. I'd get there and then drop down a few thousand feet before camping.

Also, over the summer I've written a 150k+ word ms. It sucks, though. Generally, I'm a perfectionist when it comes to writing. Every word and sentence must work as I write it. Which takes forever and means that I'm virtually pleased with the end result. But this summer I went the quantity not quality routine, and typed a lot fast, but sure is it ugly. Needs a lot of rewriting, I'll say that.

Don't really have time to talk more today. Got much to accomplish before I leave for Maine in a couple days and then back to school.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

A film student? I think not! 

Prelude to today's post: I recommend not carrying four 35 lb. bags of dog food on one arm. Three's okay, but once you get the fourth on there, I guarantee number two will squirt out, hit the ground, split, and dog food will be everywhere. So don't carry more than three unless you have both arms available.

Second prelude: I'm not comfortable talking much about my works in progress. Now, for my senior project, I'm writing a novel. The senior project proposal is geared more toward lit majors than creative writing, though, so I'm supposed to "state subject (i.e., author[s], genre, theme) and its scope (what it will include)," let them know "what issue or question do you wish to investigate," and "indicate some of the literary methods to be used, e.g., biography, social history as context, study of the language (imagery, metaphor, rhetoric, vocabulary), study of narrative technique, study of character portrayal, explication, other." The department had discussed my proposal, and deemed it too "cavalier," and want me to submit a new draft of it. Now, as I said, I don't want to talk too much about what I'm writing and have written, so I'm wondering how to tell them what they want to hear without saying what I don't want to say. Heh.

Now, on with the post: I have learned how to bark. For years whenever I've barked at a dog, despite that I know I've had the right sound, the dog has simply looked at me like I'm nuts. But I've finally done it. Barked a bark that was convincing enough not only to hold the dog's attention, but actually to make him nervous. The key is volume/power. Normally, I'm a quiet guy. I don't tend to shout; am in fact uncomfortable shouting. I can be loud without shouting, and usually when I've tried to bark that's what I've done. However, when I did my convincing bark, it was shouted out, a full-lunged, all-out diaphragm slamming shout of a bark, and that did the trick. I can now do a convincing dog bark, in case I ever need to. Bow before me. Or bowwow at least.

As I walk, I tend to look passersby in the eye and usually give a small nod, sometimes a "HellO" or "Good morning," and occasionally, if the situation warrants it, more words than that. A general observation I've made about people I'm passing in cars: 95% of people at least a dozen years older than me usually nod back, or wave, or smile, whatever. Make eye contact. 95% of people more than five years younger tend to stare openmouthed at Caleb. 95% of people in between those ages tend to avoid any sort of acknowledgment of our existence whatsoever. Some just stare straight ahead at the road, which, if they're driving, is a good thing. Passengers will do that conspicuously looking at everything else thing, or will pretend not to notice us and let their eyes slide over us as they go by, or, in one case, noticed me making eye contact and lifted a newspaper in front of her face. Among the elderly, the men are more likely to be among the 5% who ignore you; among your own generation, the men are more likely to be among the 5% who acknowledge your existence.

My imagination has very little to do with images. It's not a visual imagination at all; I can remember details of what things look like, but I cannot see them in my mind's eye. Usually, when I recognize a person, especially a person I haven't seen in a while, it's not how they look that clues me in to who they are -- I find faces particularly difficult to remember -- but body language; the way they move. (Kind of odd, come to think of it, that I recognize body language very easily, but am pretty clueless when it comes to interpreting it.) Which leads me to my next observation: In my daily walks, I rarely pass the same people. Every day I see people walking, running, biking, whatever, but even though I walk generally the same time every day, I rarely see the same people twice. It's a different group most every day. Where do they all come from? I know not. . .

That said, something odd happened today. Every day I walk a different path around the neighborhood, weaving through different blocks and so forth. Generally my walks are about an hour, sometimes significantly longer, sometimes shorter, depending how hot it is and how tired Caleb is. Today, I passed a woman coming out of my block. This is normal. Then, I passed her again about fifteen minutes later. This is within an acceptable range of coincidence. But then, ten or fifteen minutes after that, I was turning a corner and she was right there. Three times, our paths randomly met. There are five things this woman had going for her: (1) She had a dog, which is definitely better than not having a dog. (2) She was walking her dog, not running it. Further, she was walking exactly my speed. (3) She was really good looking, and not in the stick figure way that about 98% of the walkers and runners are. She didn't look like she'd break if you touched her. (4) She actually acknowledged my existence, which is good. Of course, it wasn't until the third time our paths crossed, and even then it was just a (very amused-looking) smile, but since most people pretend I'm not there as I pass, this was good. (5) Our paths crossed three times. I usually don't see a person more than once in my neighborhood. See above. So what does it all mean? Nothing, but it was amusing nonetheless.

Now to completely change the subject: my Great Aunt Jane self-published a book about a year ago (I was one of her proofreaders, and provided help with her family trees). The book, Life in Fife, "is a compilation of memories, family history, oral history, World War II experiences, and historical facts leading up to and including the year 1946. Many present and former residents of Fife and neighboring communities contributed to this book." For those who don't know, Fife is a "rural community . . . located in western Goochland County, Virginia . . . home to the author and her five siblings." Anyway, my aunt is trying to promote her book, and I said I'd help despite that I can't imagine there being a whole lot of interest in such a specialized project. Now, the book has no ISBN, so I can't list it on any online booksellers, but can anyone think of any way to get word out to anyone who might be interested? Would, say, AARP be willing to advertise it? Should I see if local libraries would be willing to put it on display? What's the best way to get word out about a book like this?

I think that if I were ever to write a non-fiction sort of book, it would be fiction. Historical fiction. Either a novel about a person or family in my family's history, or else a collection of (probably linked) stories about individuals in my family. From emigration through the revolution and then through the civil war. Maybe up through the present day, maybe not. I don't know.

Speaking of books, today I was in The Store That Shall Not Be Named Lest gabe Find Out I'd Been There and I made a few purchases. I picked up David Mitchell's third novel, Cloud Atlas, which is getting very good reviews. I still remember one of the cover reviews of his debut novel, Ghostwritten, which read, "Reminiscent at times of DeLillo, Murakami, and science fiction. . ." You know why it's reminiscent of science fiction? Because it is science fiction. But wait! It's shelved in the Literature section, so I guess we can't say the SF words. Shhh! Then again, Murakami's work is science fiction, too. Not sure about DeLillo. Haven't read anything of his yet, though I've got a couple of his books waiting on my shelf. I also bought the first Wild Cards anthology edited by GRRM. It looks kind of silly, but with contributions from Zelazny, Walter Jon Williams, Howard Waldrop and Martin among others, all for less than $5, how could I resist? The third novel I bought, I guiltily confess, is Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Lost Cult, by E. E. Knight. Normally I wouldn't imagine buying a Tomb Raider product, but Knight is really good at escapist sci-fi action, and I was curious to see if he was the kind of writer who takes these assignments as hack jobs, or if he puts the effort into it he puts into his own fiction.

My other purchases: (1) Lars von Trier's newest film, Dogville. von Trier is one of the best, least-Hollywood filmmakers alive. His previous movie was The Dancer in the Dark; he's also made the masterpiece Breaking the Waves. If you haven't seen that one, you must. Put it at the top of your to-rent list. It's outstanding. (2) Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, comprising the three films Bleu, Blanc and Rouge. I believe he died soon after these films were made. They're great stuff. Anyway, the cashier (one of two cashiers there who've checked me out this year) asked me if I was a film student. Nope, I'm not a student of film. Just love movies, sick of all the bad ones, and trying to see the good ones.

Anyway, I know I go on a lot in this thing about trivial things that are interesting to me and probably no one else. What can I say? I'm boring. So tell me: what do you, my readers, the raison d'être for this blog, want to see me talk about?

Monday, August 23, 2004

Moving on up 

Yestereve I displayed some particularly egregious judgment when, on a whim, I decided to climb the giant scaffolding behind my house without any ropes or other such safety gear. Our big chimney, around which the scaffolding is constructed, is pretty high, and had I fallen from the scaffolding there is no question: I would’ve died. Also, when climbing in late afternoon, I recommend not facing west, because climbing with the sun shining straight in your face is rather unpleasant. However, I’m glad I went up, because I think I finally found where the bats so frequently get in:

I believe that that’s the stack that leads down to our parlor; why somebody cut that screen out I have no idea, but I’m glad the bat mystery is finally likely solved. I’m going to have to put some new screen over that hole, but that’s not so bad. This climb also supported what I’ve already long known—I’m afraid of neither heights nor falling. Looking down from a height, be it ten feet or seventy or five hundred or ten thousand, bothers me not a whit.

Also, it seems that scientists have cured laziness. This interesting but short article confirms that humans are behaviorally more like monkeys than we’d like to admit – "Normal monkeys and people procrastinate - tend not to work very well when they have a lot of time to get the job done, and work better when the reward is nearer in time." This gene treatment, though, apparently cures procrastination by blocking dopamine, which makes little sense to me, because as I recall, dopamine is a brain chemical which produces feelings of satisfaction and pleasure. I thought that elevated levels of dopamine were supposed to increase energy, motivation and elation, so I guess I don’t see how blocking it would get people – or monkeys – to work harder. I guess that’s why I’m an English major rather than bio or chem or whatever.

I took advantage of the quiet yesterday to sit down and read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Other than that it was four hundred pages too long or so, it was pretty good. Seriously, the first hundred pages took me as long as the rest of the book combined, because I was bored out of my mind, and throughout there were long passages of Who The Hell Cares? padded with scenes of Why Does It Matter? Fitted between all this extraneous material were some of the best scenes in the entire series, capped by yet another Dumbledore Explains It All ending. After Harry Potter I jumped into Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus. I was going to say something along the lines of, “It was like jumping from a bathtub full of ice into a pot of boiling water,” but I realized that would be wildly inaccurate. Maybe had I jumped from Hemingway to Carter, but from Rowling to Carter is more like jumping from a tepid puddle to the boiling water.

As many of you know, I’m something of a film score connoisseur, or at least I like to pretend I am. I enjoy the classics certainly, but what I’m most knowledgeable about, and what I tend to listen to most often, is film scores. That said, it’s been kind of a brutal year for us movie music aficionados. November last year, Michael Kamen (Band of Brothers, Highlander, etc) died of a heart attack, followed a week later by Michael Small (Marathon Man, Endurance) who died of prostate cancer. Then, in the past month, three legends have died: Jerry Goldsmith, followed 2.5 weeks later by David Raskin, followed 1.5 weeks later by Elmer Bernstein. And since I can’t announce something like that without a trite and meaningless cliché: when it rains it pours. Requiescat In Pace, gentlemen. You will be missed. Now, at the risk of sounding incredibly selfish, I say I hope that John Williams lives until at least until he’s finished scoring Revenge of the Sith.

While I’m on the topic of movie scores: there seem to be very few of good length. Most seem to be 30-35 minutes long, which is too short. If I’m going to pay for a CD, I want more than a half hour of music. The reason for such short CDs is that a lot of scores are performed by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra which charges a lot. If you record elsewhere, particularly with the LSO or NRSO or City of Prague Philharmonic or whatever, you can usually release longer albums. On the other hand, it annoys me when 77 minutes of music are crammed onto a CD, because it’s just too long. My ears don’t want to listen for that long. I understand why a lot of people prefer stuffed CDs and 2-CD sets, for archival purposes and so forth, but when I listen to a score what I really want is a nice listening experience. 45-65 minutes is good; less than that and I feel I’m not getting my money’s worth; more than that and it’s just too long and I can’t usually sustain interest. Some scores are hurt by being too long. Last year’s tremendous sci-fi score Children of Dune would’ve been a brilliant 50 minute score which more than outstays its welcome at 78 minutes. James Horner scores often suffer from this as well. If I want to hear every scrap of music that’s in the film, I’ll watch the film. When I’m listening to the soundtrack, I want it arranged for optimal listening experience, not maximal music. But maybe that’s just me.

I’m a fan of Paul Verhoeven. On the whole, his early Dutch movies were far better than the crap he’s turned out since coming to Hollywood. Among his Dutch films, Soldier of Orange, The Fourth Man, and Turkish Delight particularly are fantastic, and since coming to America, I admire the stinky Flesh+Blood for its unrelenting grimness and willingness to show what life in Europe was actually like c. 1500 rather than the glorified picture the movies usually give us; RoboCop remains among my favorite action flicks and is also hilarious; and Starship Troopers is definitely a guilty pleasure. Now, though, things have taken a turn for the better as he’s fed up with Hollywood and is now making movies in Europe again. Anyway, it’s long been rumored that his dream project is a Jesus biopic, but for the first time I’m aware of he’s actually talked a bit about it. Here’s a (badly) translated quote from a recent interview with him, touched up a bit by me:
[Since 1982 I've been working on a historical film about Jesus, called The Adventurous Life of Jesus the Exorcist, which is going to be a very different film than The Passion of the Christ]: That's his [Gibson’s] vision, and I respect that. But it's not true of course. All made up. The gospels are not true. I'm almost finished now with an outline, which took me 20 years of study. There aren't a lot of directors who take 20 years to study their subject, but a project about Jesus is not like one about the butcher on your street. After all he is the founder of Western civilization! So you have to be serious about it. I studied Old Greek, because the Gospels are written in that language and you have to read the original versions to know what's in them. And they're written, not by God as Mel Gibson wrongly assumes, but by four individuals who used them as propaganda for their own theological ideas. So it takes an enormous effort to find out what really happened, and what Jesus actually could have said and done. Since 1986 I’ve also gone to seminars—“the search for historical Jesus"—and written papers for these seminars, which were then analyzed, attacked, praised or corrected by professors. There are 40-50 American theologians actively researching Jesus and I have intensive contact with them. Everyone constructs his/her own Jesus: the absolute truth we can never find; the sources are too vague for that. But I will try to make a reconstruction that is as faithful to the historical facts as possible."
Now, Verhoeven may be an ass, but he’s also—and I mean this in the literal sense—a genius, and an honest and often uncompromising filmmaker, and this is one movie that I’d love to see, though I doubt there’s anyone who would actually finance the thing. Still, it would be very interesting indeed.

While we’re discussing movies, I’m very worried about Terry Gilliam’s next, The Brothers Grimm. He’s one of my favorite directors, but it looks like there’s a good chance this one will get the Brazil treatment. First, Gilliam and his cast really wanted Samantha Morton for a part, and she wanted the role, but the producers pretty much said she was too fat and to find someone else. Samantha Morton fat?! What? And now it seems the producers, not Gilliam, have final cut. Let’s just say that if they snip it from Gilliam’s pre-release, I’ll not be seeing it. I’ll wait for the restored version.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Eight-year-olds, Dude. 

Wow. Another night of far too little, far too restless sleep. For whatever reason, though, I'm remembering my dreams far more than I ever have. And let me tell you I have some kick-ass dreams. Make me wish I had cameras in my face. In books and movies and articles I've always read about how fractured and how frequently nonsensical dreams tend to be, but at least for the past few weeks, my dreams have actually been very coherent narratives. Every once in a while a detail pops in that doesn't make real sense, usually to do with how big a place is, but for the most part they work just fine. On the other hand, my eyes feel pretty gritty and nasty right now.

Eh. In the recent conversation about SFF and imagination, something occurred to me that I'd like to develop properly later, but am too tired to follow through with now, so will just put down in basic form so I can maybe come back to it, and it is this: several of my relatives, on each side of the family (and several other people I know), are pretty devout Jews and Christians. Believe in God, take the Bible as Truth, go to shul or church regularly, live the faith, etc. And yet, in what fiction they read they insist on "realism." If a miracle occurs in the text, too much coincidence, anything odd or the least bit supernatural, they're not interested. It's not real, and they want to read about "reality." I don't really see how that can be reconciled, the devout faith coupled with the insistence that their "realism" be perfectly mundane and without mention of the supernatural.

I've watched a couple movies recently. The first was The Butterfly Effect (apparently the version I saw was the Director's Cut, though there was no indication of that on the packaging). I'd recommend watching it, but barely. It's got some neat ideas, but fails to take them anywhere terribly interesting, and manages to break its own rules several times along the way. The other is Before Sunrise, which is an absolutely wonderful little gem of a movie. The Lost in Translation (which I loved, by the way) crowd should love it. And while Bill Murray's about a zillion times better than Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy outclasses Scarlett Johansson as far as I'm concerned. Anyway, it's a lovely lively terrific little movie, and I highly recommend it.

The other day while walking Caleb, I came upon two little dogs at the intersection of Kentmere and Delaware. Each of these dogs was quite literally smaller than Caleb's head. The dogs had collars on, but were unattended, and were running in and out of the street, heedless of the traffic. I didn't want to see the little dogs dead, so I tried to get to them, but Caleb was terrifically excited and they kept their distance from him. So I hustled on home, dropped Caleb off, and headed back out, but the two dogs were gone. I headed down a couple side streets in the area to see if I could find them to return them wherever they belonged. In the front yard of a house on one of the streets was what looked like a mother with about four children, ranging from a cute little kid I'd assume was six or seven to a girl at least a dozen years older than that with more braces in her mouth than I've ever seen on anyone, who would've been very pretty but for her bleached blond hair. I paused on the street in front of their lawn; the older daughter gave me an exceedingly weird look then went inside. I said excuse me, and asked if they had seen a couple little white dogs going by, and explained the situation. They hadn't seen the dogs, but one of their neighbours had four or five little white dogs, so why don't they call and see if they've got all of them. The mother started to head in to make the call, and ushered in all the children so as not to leave them alone out there with me. Except the little kid, Max, kept talking to me, ignoring his mother, for quite a while. Anyway, it turns out the dogs did belong to their neighbours, and eventually I found the dogs scooped 'em up, and returned 'em home. Next day I was again walking Caleb, and again this family was out playing in the front yard. Max recognized me and started walking up to me and talking to me again, despite his mother calling him back on account of the huge dog. Now, on the one hand, I didn't want to just rudely turn and walk away while the kid was talking to me, but on the other, it was clear the mother was uncomfortable with her son approaching my huge dog, so I wasn't sure exactly what to do. I was about to mention that Caleb is very friendly when the pretty sister came up behind Max and started talking about how hungry the huge dog looked, which didn't faze Max at all -- he just kept on talking to me -- but seemed to make his mother even less happy with the situation. I found it very amusing. Anyway, yesterday I was again walking Caleb, when I met another little seven-year-old, who turns out to live in the house with the little white dogs. His mom was walking him home when he too turned around and started coming up to me and talking. Talking about how he moved in eight months ago, has new neighbours, had parties and got presents, about how his dad's soon going to be marrying his girlfriend, and then there will be parties and his dad will get presents, and maybe he can invite me to his dad's wedding, and I could barely get a word in edgewise, but again I didn't want to just walk away while the kid was talking to me, so I just stood there smiling and nodding while his mom was impatiently calling to him. I don't know what's possessing these little boys to spill their guts to me, though, as usually little kids are scared of me, or at least used to be.

Wow. That story went on far longer than I'd expected, with very little payoff. Oh, well.

Liz is leaving for England in another couple of days. I miss her already. Love you, Liz! Have an extraordinary time!

That shameful confession, by the way, is seeming more extraordinarily mundane all the time. As soon as I think of something appropriately shameful that won't get me into buckets of trouble to post online, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Mastadge vs Nathan 

How to make a Mastadge

1 part success

5 parts brilliance

3 parts ego
Add to a cocktail shaker and mix vigorously. Add caring to taste! Do not overindulge!


Personality cocktail
From Go-Quiz.com

5 parts brilliance?! I can live with that. But let's get rid of the success and add another ego, shall we? Really, though, Mastadge is only my online persona. Let's see what this Nathan fella's got going for him:

How to make a Nathan

3 parts success

3 parts courage

5 parts
Stir together in a glass tumbler with a salted rim. Serve with a slice of sadness and a pinch of salt. Yum!

Success, check. Courage, check. Slice of sadness, pinch of salt, check. But what are these unattributed "5 parts"?

Then, I decided to put in my full name, just because I had a minute or two to kill:

How to make a Nathan Samuel Blumenfeld

5 parts anger

5 parts courage

5 parts instinct
Add to a cocktail shaker and mix vigorously. Add a little curiosity if desired!

Yeah, because I'm, y'know, such an angry d00d. I'm beginning to doubt the veracity of this thing. . .

Heh. I may or may be not be back later with something worthwhile to say.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I See A Red Door. . . 

Actually, I don't, but it's a catchy song, isn't it?

Ever wake up at four o'clock in the morning and decide to go for a walk? It's nice and cool still, and there's usually no one out at all, except maybe a couple foxes. Quick loud little buggers. On the whole, though, a very pleasant time to be walking.


Monday, August 16, 2004

All kinds of stuff, with very few segues 

I notice I've recently been putting my markup in brackets []. I guess I've spent too many years visiting message boards.

For the past couple days, a bizarre synthesis of "Danse Macabre" and "Für Elise" has been playing endlessly in my mind. It's beginning to unnerve me.

Last night, nearing one o'clock, just as I was beginning to doze off, an earsplitting, heartstopping, bloodcurdling, [compoundclichéing] shriek woke me right up. Went over the window. As I thought: foxes again. Ever since construction's started on the art museum, foxes have been [i]every[/i]where, and have been very vocal about this omnipresence. I have nothing against foxes, but I wish they'd shut UP!

The Olympics are in full swing. Oddly, I'm not very interested. The Olympics used to fascinate me; I'm not sure why they don't anymore. Maybe if they went for well-rounded athletes instead of extreme specialization it would be more interesting. Like, if the same people going the gymnastics then jumped in the pool and started running laps, then formed into a basketball team. Or maybe if the commentators sounded a little more like they knew what they were talking about when they discuss how "DNA strands provide evidence that we're all made of the same stuff," or Pythagorus' Theory [sic], or how Athena is the patron saint of Athens. Or maybe it's the drugs and drug scandals. Who knows?

That said, there's only one word to describe those gymnasts: Un. Be. Liev. A. Ble. As always, I'm simply astounded by their sheer power. Like advanced yogis and especially ballerinas. I'm not talking about the other kids in my ballet class, nor even the teacher. I'm talking about the real dancers, for whom every aspect of the body in motion is under control; for whom every inch of the body is trained to respond precisely to the dancer's will, with strangth and speed. Those people in complete control of their bodies, of their movement and rhythm and speed and power. I'm something of a peoplewatcher, and I could just sit and watch gymnasts and dancers move for hours. Heck, I could probably sit and be fascinated by them not moving. They're magnificent.

It does distress me a little the strain those gymnasts are putting themselves under. Word is, when they come down they can land with a force of something over half a ton. Putting that much pressure on limbs not designed to carry even a tenth of that can't be particularly good for them, no matter how much training and preparation you've done -- not to mention the shock and stress on the organs and all that. I wonder how many gymnasts end up with fractured legs and ruined reproductive systems.

It looks like this year's Event Book, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, will actually be worthy of the event. It's getting extremely positive word of mouth and reviews from critics and writers alike; interviews and snippets of Clarke's writing bode well for her; the amount of time she's put into it is impressive; and she cites as her five favorite authors Jane Austen, Alan Moore, Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon and the assorted scribes for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She's five by five right there, so even if her book weren't good, we know she has good taste. But I'm betting it will be very good, and can't wait for my copy to ship. Here's hoping I have little enough work this semester that I'll actually have time to read it when it arrives.

For those of you who know I'm interested in genealogy, I've recently started working on two new lines on my mother's side, one going back to the Huguenots and one to the Mayflower. If anyone has any idea who to get in touch with or where to look in Europe to see if any records of these families from survive from before they emigrated to America, please let me know. I'm still working on researching the Mayflower line, but here's the Huguenot line in its simplest form:

Dr. Arnold Naudain from Nantes, Brittany (France) married Caroline Virginia Gautier. Their son Elias Naudain (1655-1685) married Gahel Arnaud. Elias died in London; she moved to America with the children and her second husband. Their son Elias Naudain (1681-1749) married Lydia LeRoux (1694-1793). (The LeRouxes were another Huguenot family that emigrated at the same time as the Naudains.) Their son Cornelius Naudain (1736-1798) married Mary Schee. Their daughter Rachael Naudain (d. 1825) married James Lattomus II (1771-1806) (I've also got the Lattomus line traced way back). Their son Robert McCombs Lattomus (1806-1886) married Margaret Price. Their daughter Angeline Lattomus (1830-1914) married William A. Scott (1825-1905) (the Scott line's the one that goes back to the Mayflower). Their son Thomas Price Scott (1857-1949) married Virginia Roxalyn Lank (1860-1949). Their daughter Martha May (Mae?) Scott (1884-1928) married Edson Carl Lodge (1881-1962). Their son Thomas Scott Lodge (1917-2004) married Doris Turner Haden (1920-1997). One of their daughters was my mother, and then came Mastadge. After the two lines I'm working on filling out now, I'm getting to work on the Lodges and the Walls, and I'm also going to see if I can untangle the web of New York Hasids that are somehow related to my other grandfather.

Hmm. That's all for now.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Yeah, yeah. . . 

I know it's been a long time since I updated this thing. This is mostly because posting whatever inane ramblings I have at any given moment usually seems pretty pointless. But to all two of you who loyally check this thing -- well, I won't promise, but it'd be a fair bet that I'll update more once school starts.

Can't wait for school to start. It's been a long, busy summer. But busy in a very solitary way. Between writing and training my dog, a death in the family and having my wisdom teeth yanked, severe work on and in the house, I've had more time effectively with only myself than I really know what to do with. To say I'm ready to get back to school is an enormous understatement.

Of course, I also can't wait to get back to school because then I'll have access to my webspace again, so I can upload a few things I've really been wanting to share. Only a few more weeks.

The week before heading back up to school, my family's going up to Maine for a week. I love Maine, and it'll be good to be back there. Of course, it would also be good to go somewhere I haven't been . . . but that's coming in January.

Of course, there are drawbacks to going back to school. For one, I'll miss my dog. For another, I still have no real idea what I want to do after school, and it's getting to the point where that's no longer acceptable. I need to choose something, and soon.

I did something today I haven't done in a LONG time. I vegged out in front of the TeeVee. My mom turned it on while she was eating lunch. Turned it on to the "Chunk of Monk" marathon. Let me say that Monk is an extraordinarily amusing show. I'd never seen it before, though I've liked Tony Shalhoub for several years, but I sat through four or five episodes this afternoon. For some light entertainment, Monk is excellent.

Recently I've been reading Alex Irvine's [i]One King, One Soldier[/i]. It's about Arthur Rimbaud, the Ark of the Covenant, baseball, the Grail quest, and some other stuff. Pretty darned good. Also been reading through Brian Azarello's run on [i]Hellblazer[/i]. It's okay, but the art's a turnoff. Can't wait until they start collecting Mike Carey's run; I like Carey's work a lot and can't wait to see what he's been doing with John Constantine.

Speaking of Constantine, as you probably don't know, the movie's coming out next February. As expected, they've severaly miscast Constantine himself -- Keanu Reaves playing an extremely intelligent British character with an attitude problem? Gimme a break. At least they're setting it in NY rather than trying to pass Neo off as British. However, word from the set is that the director -- Constantine is his debut film -- knows what he's doing, so there's some hope. There are a couple other positive elements so far. For one, Rachel Weisz is playing the female lead, and she's gorgeous and not a bad actor. For another, young composer Brian Tyler has been assigned to score the thing. A lot of his work has been standard at best and relatively clichéd, but Children of Dune was fantastic and Timeline a whole lot of fun. His next couple projects -- The Final Cut (another of those evil Robin Williams movies) and Paparrazi (the debut film from Mel Gibson's former barber) -- don't look terribly promising, but here's hoping he'll spread his wings with Constantine and give us another magnificent score. If you're interested in being utterly unimpressed by the trailer, check it out here.

Caleb's barking for some attention, so I'm going to get going. Until later.

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