Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another One

What Was Left in Autumn


Jamie watched, silently and smiling, as the young girl in a long t-shirt and ankle socks went sleepwalking right past her and into the kitchen, where she promptly lied down on the floor and began snoring loudly.

Following her into the kitchen, Jamie stood over the young child and giggled quietly at the six-year-old girl curled up on the linoleum at her feet. She took a moment to stand with arms crossed, smiling. Picking up the little girl with both arms, effortlessly, she made her way past the kitchen, back up the staircase, in the house that owed no small amount to child support. The walls were practically layered in family pictures, some with and some without Kristen’s father, some when Kristen was just a baby, but most with Kristen and her mother, an older friend of Jamie’s from school. On the table at the end of the hall, there was a container of potpourri and a black and white photo of Kristen holding Baby, a Calico kitten that was her 6th birthday present. Jamie remembered all the pictures Kristen’s mother had brought to class. The entire class remarked on how Kristen looked exactly like her mother.

She pushed open the door to Kristen’s room with her foot, flicked the light switch with half a hand, and slowly made her way through the clutter and toys that populated the floor. The walls had ripped out posters from Tiger Beat on them and the ground was nothing but an ocean of dolls. A Ken doll nearly penetrated the bottom of her foot and she cursed silently.

Jamie was the only girl out of a family of six kids that was required to have constantly cleaned rooms. Joe was the closest to her age, but assumed none of the responsibilities she had. Her older brothers were in constant arguments with their parents, as there is nothing to do in rural Illinois besides drink, or, for the truly ambitious, start a meth lab. Tanner and Isaac were younger and when Jamie was just turning 15, they still needed to be walked to school, have their hands held, noses wiped and hair brushed, and that responsibility fell on her fairly often. Even after all the trouble Bill and Kenny caused, her mother always had the time to tuck someone in when they needed it, or listen about a bad day at school or anywhere else. She never breathed a word of complaint though. Not once. None of them were ever the same after she died.

Jamie started to bend down and place the young girl in her bed, when she stopped.

“Huh,” she whispered. “That’s weird.”

The bed was fully made and looked like it hadn’t even been slept in.

She was positive that Kristen was asleep in her arms; there was no pretending in those linoleum snores. “Do you make your bed in your sleep, Kristen?” She whispered to the little girl in her arms. “Or is there a ghost in the house?”

She shrugged and carefully set the girl down at one end of the bed and pulled the covers back on the other and gently tucked her in. Making her way through the same clutter path she used to get to the bed and closing the closet door on her way out, Jamie shut off the light. The girl mumbled something sleepily.

She stood there in the doorway, listening for another sound. She looked into the dark room. And listened.

Nothing but the steady breathing of a six-year-old and Jamie’s own slow heartbeat. She closed the door.

They were all still living together on her dad’s farm, before she went to school on the East Coast, before Bill and Kenny joined the army or Joe got drugged out and went to California, before Tanner was old enough to write his own name or Isaac played his first game of ball, and long before Jamie’s mother died that day in October, lying on the bed she’d shared with her husband for one year short of thirty years, with no noise around but the crackling of dried leaves being blown across the driveway.

Before they reached the age when it was uncool to be seen hanging out with siblings, Joe and Jamie had spent their entire summers together. They had already explored every square inch of the soy fields, despite their father’s protests, and toyed with the few animals their family kept in various fields and yards, so they began to focus on activities of a more competitive nature. Joe had been showing off his tree-climbing skills one day while Jamie sat in the grass and watched, sullenly. She remembered that uncomfortable, dry feeling of her first tampon on that day and wished she could have joined him. Joe had attempted a risky limb-to-limb jump and bounced off a branch and into the ground. Three apples hit the ground in rapid succession – thump, thump, thump – and then Joe’s shoulder and then finally the rest of Joe.

In her memory, Joe’s shoulder had caused the loudest snapping noise she could imagine at the time – a house splitting in two. Although as a grown woman with a semester of Psychology and a basic knowledge of human anatomy, she knew this couldn’t be true. That sound, though, kept her awake for several nights, as Joe slept soundly in the bunk bed above her.

After he hit the ground, for a seemingly eternal moment, she sat, mouth open, amongst the fallen apples and the overripe ones, watching Joe scream and grab his shoulder. She stood, finally. “Come on, Joe. Come on, Joe.” she said, pulling him to his feet. “Let’s get mom,” throwing his good arm over her shoulders and slowly walking him towards the house. “Come on, Joe,” she repeated up the porch stairs. “Come on, Joe.” Across the patio. “Come on, Joe. Come on, Joe.”

When she pushed the door open, she screamed “Mooom!” and that brought her mother into the room instantly.

Her mother wasted no time, sitting him down in a kitchen chair and giving him a hand towel. “Put that in your mouth, Joe,” her mother told him. He groaned, clutching his shoulder and looked at her with a confused look. “It’s so when I put your shoulder back in its place, you don’t break your teeth,” she said. At the word teeth his eyes had widened and he swallowed hard. He complacently placed the towel in his mouth and bit down, eyes down, gripping the table and the bottom of the chair.

“Look at me.” her mother said, and Joe looked, clearly more frightened than he’d ever been, tears streaming down his cheeks. It was the last time his mother would see him cry, and actually, the last time he would cry until Christmas Eve 2005, when he was sitting on the floor in his apartment in Orange County, a result of mixing drugs and viewing what few pictures he had left.

And when her mother popped the shoulder back into place and Joe let out an muffled scream, Jamie could do nothing but watch and cry and think about the uncomfortable cotton thing in her crotch. That night, when she finally did sleep, she dreamt about apples.

Moving into the kitchen, she grabbed a can of cat food from the bottom shelf and set it to the electric can opener. She occasionally looked over her shoulder.

Watching the cat food slide slowly out of the can, Jamie filled Baby’s dish and threw the can in the recycling, gently calling “Baaabyy. Diiiinner.” She set the dish on the floor and walked into the living room, staring at the open textbook on the coffee table. She plopped onto the couch and folded her arms. She remained like that for a few minutes before closing the book.

It was in the coffeehouse down the street where she had broken up with Rob almost a week ago. It was quiet and dark and when they left they would be walking in opposite directions. The few other people in the coffeehouse with them were watching the snow fall outside.

He shook his head. “I can’t believe this is happening.” Rob was leaning back in his chair, facing the window, but not looking through it.

Jamie remained staring at the table and shrugged.

“Can’t we talk about this or something? I mean, I feel like you’re kinda springing this on me.”

Jamie looked out the window. Rob leaned forward and put his arms on the table, grabbing his cup with both hands.

“At least tell me what the problem is. You can’t just ignore me.”

She faced the lip of the table again. “I just think,” she began, calculating, slow, “that you’re not looking for an...independent girl like me.” She looked at him. “That’s all.”

Rob furrowed his brow and opened his palms upward on the table. “What the hell does that mean?”

Jamie sighed. “Ok, you remember that time you had me skip going out with my friends because I just had to go over to Jason’s? I can’t just drop everything every time you need something.”

“What’re you talking about?” he said, shaking his head. “It was his birthday. I’m not going to leave my friend on his birthday. And I wanted you with me.”

“Well, still...”

They both looked away from one another and stared out the window. The coffeehouse was silent except for the clicking of a mouse by an apathetic student in one corner, and the nearly inaudible clicks of a barista pushing cell phone buttons. The wood furniture was too dark, and the prices were too high, but this was the only coffeehouse so close to the dorms. Outside, the snow stopped falling.

“And, you know, it’s not like you’re as independent as you think you are. What about all those times you were having a ‘bad day’ and I had to come over and cheer you up.”

“That’s different.”

“How?”

“Look,” she said, grasping her cup, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore...”

Jamie continued to stare at her closed book when Kristen walked, swaying and slow, down the stairs. Jamie moved her eyes from the girl to the textbook and back again. The young girl stopped short of bumping into the coffee table and Jamie stared at her with raised eyebrows.

“Back for more, huh?” she asked.

Kristen then opened her mouth and deposited a large amount of vomit all over the textbook.

“Oh god!” Jamie stood up and grabbed her by the hand, leading her to the stairs. “Come on, Kristen. It’s ok. Let’s get you upstairs.”

Jamie quickly walked the six-year-old passed the family photos, and the black and white photo of the little girl and her kitten. The door to Kristen’s room was wide open, and Jamie deftly moved inside, kicking the dolls and toys out of her path, neglecting to turn on the lights. She moved Kristen onto the already-made bed, on top of the covers. The air in the room was heavy.

“It’s ok, sweetie. I’m going to go downstairs and get a bowl for you, ok? Everything’s going to be alright.” She spun quickly on her heels and made for the door.

When Jamie reached the door, Kristen said, without moving and without looking in her direction, “I have to go with them.”

Jamie stopped. “What?”

Silence.

Moving closer, Jamie asked, “Kristen, what did you say?”

Standing over the bed, watching the little girl breathe slowly and softly, it was then she noticed that the carpet was sticky. A small, dark puddle covered the floor beneath her shoes, seeping from underneath the bed. Jamie stepped back and the light from the hallway shone in, revealing that the puddle was red and thick and new. She held her breath.

Keeping her eyes on Kristen, Jamie got on both knees and slowly lifted the bedskirt. The first thing she noticed was the strong metallic odor of blood. The second was the unmistakable calico coat of Baby. Jamie covered her mouth with one hand. Kristen sat straight up in bed and vomited all over herself.

Still on the ground, Jamie spoke with a hushed tone, muffled by the hand over her mouth, “Kristen. Did you do this?”

“I have to go with them,” she replied. “I have to go with them,” she said lifting a finger and pointing to the closet door, which remained closed.

Jamie stood up. “Kristen...Everything’s going to be alright.” And with that, she walked out the door and closed it behind her.

“Cell phone,” she whispered to the air, walking down the stairs. “Have to get my cell phone.” She didn’t know who to call first, but the seven digits of Rob’s number were the first that came to mind. On her way, she reminded herself to clean up the vomit downstairs before anyone came into the house. She stopped and wondered if she should have checked the closet, but she knew she didn’t want to. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she reached into her pocket and realized her cell phone had been in her pocket the entire time. She sat on the last step and cried and thought about dried leaves.

Short Story For Ya'll

An American Revolution


...

“No,” he said, taking only one step forward.

His arms were pinned to his sides to keep from shaking. His chin was up, but his eyes were fixated on the infinite blackness at the barrel of the gun pointed at him. The soldier closest to him had instinctively swivelled in his direction.

“Sir, I have to ask you to get back in line with the others,” spoke the man from behind the gun, no older than 20.

He shook his head. His eyes locked on the gun barrel, infatuated. “No,” he repeated, more quietly than the first.

The boy’s father took a step forward, but the sight of the gun barrel turning in his direction forced him, reluctantly, back in line with the others.

Time dragged. His eyes on the gun, the gun on him and the soldier’s eyes on the boy’s trembling fingertips at his sides. Not a single man, woman or child in the line looked at the scene before them. They already knew what was coming.

Through his peripheral, he saw the commanding officer approach, and could see his hat and his green uniform and could tell his hands were behind his back.

“What seems to be the problem here,” the commanding officer said, looking back and forth between the boy and his subordinate. “Young man, we need to get into this house. Step aside and behave yourself.”

“No.”

The commanding officer flattened his expression and tilted his head downwards in consternation, bringing his chins to double onto themselves and his neck to bulge further outward from his shirt collar.

“Young man, if you don’t stop this foolishness, we will be forced to take action.”

He held his breath. He dropped his head and his eyes began darting back and forth across the ground, searching for an answer. He didn’t expect to make it this far.

His name was Brian Summers.

Being born in the afternoon of August 5th, he had only lived for 148 days, 7 hours and 18 minutes in 1992. He had survived 365 days in all years between 1993 and 2009, except for 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008, where he had survived for one extra day each year. In 2010, he survived for roughly 177 and 2/5 days , before he was shot and killed.

It should be noted that he survived very adequately in those 177 and 2/5 days and the preceding 4,884 days, 7 hours and 18 minutes before that, breathing slowly when relaxed or sleeping, and more rapidly when excited, blinking only when necessary, pumping blood with his heart muscle to fill his arteries and his veins with newly oxidated red blood vessels, nutrients, white blood cells and antibodies, chewing and digesting food to maneuver it more smoothly through the rectums and tubes of his gastrointestinal tract before being drained of sustenance and being exported as excrement, producing acne on his face and shoulders after the age of 13 and a few on his back after the age of 15, growing hair in many places including his arms, legs, his big toes, his groin and much to his frustration, around his nipples only and not his chest, receiving erections when he was nervous or looking at legs underneath skirts or watching pornography or slow-dancing or shitting, ejaculating when sexually aroused to a certain point or when sleeping, speaking with other human beings to declare or request information, replacing billions of dying cells with new ones, firing synapses in his brain, and dreaming. Yes, it can be said that as far as human bodies go, this one was completely adequate.

Let me also say that the adolescent was nothing special in a monetary sense. His net worth would include the hospital fees for birthing him, fees spent on doctors’ examination, vaccines, shots and pills, the cost of bracing and the consultation of a broken femur when he was fifteen years of age, the braces he wore until the day he died and the subsequent dental work surrounding them, a box of condoms his father purchased for him in 2007, space camp at the ages of 9, 10 and 11, and innumerable other purchases designed to give the boy a happy fulfilling life. In liquid assets, he currently owned $523.98. Three dollars and sixty-two cents of which was unknown to him, scattered throughout his bedroom and his car in the form of loose change. He also possessed a trust fun of $10,000 for college, to be given to him when he turned 18 and purchased by the boy’s grandmother, Amy Suzanne Summers, when the boy was born. It should be noted, however, that at the time of purchase, Amy Suzanne Summers was unaware that the boy’s life would end 68 days before his 18th birthday due to a controlled firing of two bullets piercing his left lung, thereby voiding his claim to the $10,000.

I should also mention that in addition to being completely adequate in anatomic and economic disposition, he was nothing special genealogically. He was born the middle son of Travis Summers of Scott County, Iowa and Jenni Lee Summers, formerly Jenni Lee Sundrich of Deaf John County, Texas. Both his parents were an only child and decided prior to their meeting that they wanted a large family, a dream that would be forced to put on hold due to the birthing complications of Brian’s younger brother, Ben. Because he had two brothers, his resulting death did not necessarily mean the end of the surname Summers, although the events following the death of Brian Summers would put the longevity of this surname and many other surnames from the Midwestern region of the United States into question.

Regardless of his nearly stunning degree of normalcy, Brian Summers was not without his own social and behavioral incongruencies. For instance, during an argument with his older brother at the age of 7, he was enclosed in a dryer machine for one hour, seventeen minutes and some change, an event that would later lead to an irrational fear of dark and enclosed areas for the entirety of his life and a vague dislike of buses, cars, airplanes and anything else small and moving. He was awkward and ungainly around members of the opposite sex, a character trait that was due in no small part to an embarrassing occurrence at his winter social in 2008, when his dancing partner recoiled from the pressure of his erection against her leg, drawing attention to herself and to the erection. His male friends would regard him as a boy of mediocre humor and energy, although always good for a spontaneous trip to the movies or a compulsive game of ping-pong in his basement, remembered partly for an event in the 6th grade when he told a teacher to “shove it” but mainly for being taciturn and unobtrusive in social situations. Some thought he was boring and unimpressive. Despite occasional solicitation, the cast covering his unmended femur in the summer of his 15th year remained mostly filled with white space and vexed by a terrible smell. At the age of 9, he was coerced into watching The Never-Ending Story, part the first, and for at least the next 2 years, all moral decisions that were forced upon him were done in consideration of this film. His greatest sense of pride came from being the best at movie trivia within his small circle of friends, and he occasionally slept with a nightlight on and kept a stuffed rabbit concealed in his closet that went by the name of “Tough Bunny.”

“I must repeat,” stated the commanding officer, “that if you do not return to the line with the others and allow us to search this house, we will be forced to shoot.”

The boy’s frantic and searching eyes suddenly stopped moving as the answer came to him. It was so obvious. He lifted his head slowly, keeping his eyes still and resolved.

“You’ll have to shoot me then.”

The commanding officer made a face of displeasure, as the soldier with the gun looked over at him. The officer stared at the boy for a long while, who did nothing but stared back, before issuing a slight, but unquestionably understood nod towards the soldier, who in turn took a deep breath in retaliation against the action he was about to undertake. The commanding officer walked away, with his back to both the boy and the soldier. The boy made a fist with both hands and closed his eyes. Behind him, Jenni Lee Summers was cringing into the shoulder of Travis Summers, who looked helplessly towards the ground.

The soldier had been well-trained and everyone knew it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Don't Ask Him What He's Having for Lunch

So I was listening to a BBC news podcast this morning over breakfast, and they're talking about a US spy satellite that malfunctioned and will be falling to Earth in late Feb/early March. One of "our guys" is talking about what this would mean...

"Well...the Earth is 3/4 water, so it could land in the water. It could hit land. It could land in a jungle somewhere. It could hit Russia or China...."

Thanks man. Glad we can count on our superior US intelligence to figure out some precise odds.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

One Missed Call (Miike)

In my mind, Takashi Miike will always be known for two specific type of film techniques. The first, and probably more well-known of the two, is being really fucked up. And by that, I mean his movies are really fucked up. You either know exactly what I'm talking about, or you don't even know who Takashi Miike is.

The second thing I'll always remember him for is this specific type of scare that gets me every time. There'll be a cut to another shot, and the object of your fear will be there, in plain sight, drawing absolutely no attention whatsoever to itself until it moves. Holy shit. I am not ashamed to tell you people those scenes will freak me the fuck out every time I see them. It just sucks that both of these film techniques are surprisingly absent in this movie.

The "problem" with One Missed Call is that there's not enough Miike flavor in the mix. If I had never heard of Takashi Miike, if I wasn't familiar with some of his other films, my expectations would have been much different, and I acknowledge that. Hell, I more than acknowledge that, I apologize for it, because One Missed Call is actually a very good Japanese horror movie in an already-saturated market, that I simply couldn't enjoy because it wasn't weird enough to make me believe it was directed by Takashi Miike.

Suspiria

HAUNTED BALLERINAS! IN TUTUS!
Ok, yes, the premise kinda...well, ok, it sucks. See, there's this dance school, full of dancers -- some of them are German or Russian or something -- and, uh, there's this...dude? killing them...once or twice. And it turns out that there's a bunch of...witches...scary...rawr.

Listen. You do not watch this movie for the story, alright? Just push that shit out of your mind right now. Forget all about your cute little expository scenes. Disregard your petty denouements. Just watch the fucking movie, because there's really only two things to pay attention to, and that's light and sound, which are, arguably, the movie's only two characters.

Truth be told, after I watched Suspiria, I found myself asking, "Wait, what just happened? Why was this important?" But it didn't matter. The movie is so artistically crafted that it will make you feel uncomfortable even when you virtually no reason to. Throughout the entire film, multi-colored lights penetrate every scene, in what could almost be considered a nauseating way, but it instead makes you just feel tense. Everything is just bathed in red and green and only on rare occasions will you see sunlight or even plain darkness. The end result is that everything is fractured by beams of light: When half the room is red and half the room is green, you feel like you're inside two very small rooms instead of one medium-sized room. Towards the end, the differently-colored lights made me feel tense almost automatically, in a very Pavlov type of way.

The second thing that really draws you into Suspiria is the sound, which only occurs in three forms: talking, "music" and complete, ear-deafening, gut-wrenching silence. I say "music", because that's the closest thing it can be...I guess, but really it's just unnerving noise. It's like a choir of chronic smokers swallowed a rock band and then tried to sing. It's the kind of noise that you wish would stop because it makes your skin crawl, and just when it's driving you insane, the music stops dead, and the only thing you can hear is the now-frantic panting and desperate clawing of a victim trying to escape, which is way worse and a thousand times more frightening than the music.

The body count is never terribly high, but when you see blood, man you see blood. I'm not sure if it's because of the quality of effects at the time (although I doubt it), or it was purposeful, but the blood in the movie is awfully red. So red, that you might even say to yourself, "Wow, that's pretty," and then vomit in disgust.

Rarely was I ever frightened in any true sense of the word, but I was pretty goddamn tense throughout the whole thing, even though I didn't care a thing about the characters or the plot. If you're any kind of horror movie fan, especially of the slasher genre, rent this. If you're at all interested on the effect that light and sound have on an audience, for god's sake buy this movie and study it.

Cloverfield

Let me begin by saying that Cloverfield hurt my feelings. And I don't mean like it offended me in some way, I mean like Cloverfield and I used to be really good friends, maybe even more than friends, maybe I even loved Cloverfield at one point. We would spend hours on the internet together, holding hands and discussing the possibilities of what its giant, New York-eating monster would be, leaving butterfly kisses on each other's cheeks. But then it went and pulled a Crying Game on me and when I saw it in the theater I discovered that Cloverfield had a penis. A big honkin' penis named failure.

The idea behind Cloverfield was, in a word, brilliant. The idea behind Cloverfield in seven words would be "brilliant, but really hard to pull off." Take a home video camera and record a monster destroying New York. Finally, a movie that combines my love of voyeurism with my love of monsters! The problem is, I'm almost positive that they added in that "home video" concept after the script was written.

This movie really has very little to do with the video camera. That's not to say that the entire thing isn't shot using the home camera, but it's just not shot in a way that makes you believe that a real person is holding the video camera.

An example of when they do it right: The movie begins with the going-away party of some guy named Rob, and the video camera is used to tape the party and the testimonials of people at the party ("Oh, some guy named Rob, we'll miss you!" and so on and so forth). In the midst of the party, Rob experiences drama with a girl, and while he's fighting with said girl, the guy with the camera (Hud) tries to record it, because he is an insensitive dick, I guess. Anyway, when he tries to sneak a shot of the two of them fighting, they yell at him. "What's wrong with you?" they said, as Kevin paraphrased their poorly-written dialogue. "Why are you video-taping this?"

Another great thing they did with the camera was the fact that it was recording over another tape, so that whenever the camera got shut off, it would "flashback" to those scenes. Again, towards the beginning, Hud captures half a second of the monster in some footage and he gathers everyone around to show it to them on the camera and then the flashback scene occurs when he shuts off record, which I loved.

That is a completely believable use of a video camera, and I believed there was a guy filming his best friend fight with a girl, and they were all up in his face about it. This is how a movie told from the vantage point of a video camera should be told -- leaving parts out, acknowledging the camera's presence and establishing when it is and is not appropriate to use it, using the camera to show things when it's necessary, and using the camera to create a backstory. The rest of the movie isn't told this way though.

The camera changes hands twice in the first ten or so minutes of the movie, and after that falls into the possession of Hud for the remainder. Hud is eventually reduced to having virtually no part in the plot whatsoever besides being the guy holding the camera and telling the occasional joke. To me, the point of the video camera was to show what happened through the character's eyes, if not many characters with many eyes. Hud just kinda follows and does whatever Rob does, so he's not really a character anymore so much as a cameraman that sometimes speaks.

If you're going to have a first-person cameraman in the movie, you have to have things that the character doesn't see. Hud doesn't really miss anything and I wished to god that he would have. There are a couple emotional scenes (like the fight in the beginning) where you imagine the characters would at the very least say, "Hey, let's give them a minute alone" or "Get the eff out of here, Hud." He even films the TV a few times. I understand that it's hard to tell the full story using just a home camera, but nobody films a news report, for any reason. If it were real, they would put the camera down, watch the report, then pick it back up again, and everyone would go, "Well that sure was an informative piece of journalism."

Besides that, the movie really fails at being suspenseful or tense. There are waaaaaay too many times that the giant monster manages to sneak within fifty feet of the main characters before they realize he's there. How did you people manage to avoid getting hit by a car if you can't notice the fifty foot monster down the street!? How are you still living!?

So, to summarize the huge glaring disappointment that is Cloverfield, it was an action-packed, visually intense sci-fi movie that suffered from minor, but manageable problems such as less-than-stellar dialogue, but eventually was ruined when some higher-up decided to throw in a home video camera into the script at the last minute, for which the writers were clearly unprepared to deal with. Oh, and it sucked.

I know all there is to know about the crying game
Ive had my share of the crying game

First there are kisses, then there are sighs
And then before you know where you are
You're sayin goodbye

One day soon I'm gonna tell the moon about the crying game
And if he knows maybe hell explain

Why there are heartaches, why there are tears
And what to do to stop feeling blue
When love disappears

I know all there is to know about the crying game
Ive had my share of the crying game

First there are kisses, then there are sighs
And then before you know where you are
You're sayin goodbye

Don't want no more of the crying game
Don't want no more of the crying game
Don't want no more of the crying game
Don't want no more of the crying game

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Thought I'd Share


"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

-Carl Sagan

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dear Hobo Jesus


Dear Hobo Jesus,

Since, you're the big dog on campus around these parts, I assumed you should be the first one to ask for help. I understand that you're doing your best, but the results are not coming soon enough to be satisfactory.

A few days ago, you were asked, by me, to cure me and my tummy ache. I had been sick for, gosh, a week and a half at the time, and I was getting pretty desperate. I assumed that this would be easy for you, seeing as how healing the sick appears to be your thing. Boy, was I wrong. I guess your powers are limited just to resurrection and telling Bush what to do. And that resurrection thing doesn't came in handy as often as you think it might. For instance, there are several things that I wish you hadn't "resurrected" in my presence. Like that piece of bread I ate, or that water I drank. Those were objects that I had no desire to see more than once in my lifetime.

But that's cool, Hobo Jesus. I'm willing to compromise with you. Since it's taking so youdamn long to heal my pithy little stomach bug, how about we try swinging the other direction? What I'm saying is this: If it's easier to just let me die than cure me, just go with that. I'm not really sure which you're better at, the killing or the healing, but whichever one it is, go with that. Either way, I will not be providing a good reference for you if you wish to put me on your resume.

Sincerely,
Kevin Warzala

PS - Oh, and put the stupid lamb down. We both know you're not going to cure him either.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sorry I Haven't Been Posting Lately... :(


On the bright side, I now know how many times a day I can throw up: thirty-two.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

This Should Cheer You "Up"

And now, to help lighten the mood after my lengthy rant on the state of democracy in America, I have a surprise for everyone! Can you guess what it is? I'll give you a few hints: It's rigid, it fits in pocket, and even though it tries so hard, it can't pleasure a woman. Give up? It's my weekly hard-on!

This week, I'm popping boners hardcore for The Bugle, a political comedy podcast from one of those wacky British papers, starring that British guy from the Daily Show and some other British guy. What's that you say, crazy British gentlemen? You want to catch a ride on a "lift" up to your respective "flats"? You want to smoke a "fag"? You request another "shrimp on the barby"? Oh Britland! You so crazy!

I've been listening to the Bugle since its conception, and three months later, I can finally say, yes this is funny. Not Leno funny. But funny.

"Does political comedy change people's minds? There are two answers to that - a short one, and a slightly longer one. The short one is: no, it doesn't. The slightly longer one is: no, of course it doesn't, don't be ridiculous."

Kenya: Making America Look Lazy Since 1963

When did America get to be so lazy with its democracy?

I mean, regardless of the other types of lazy that we've been perpetuating for years now, I think that our democracy should be the one thing that we're at least a little bit zealous about. Is this not the thing that we're oh so proud of? Is this not thing that we gently slid into a very drunk and possibly heavily sedated middle eastern country in the back room of a kegger? (get it? I'm talking about forced sex.)

Since we are self-proclaimed bastions of sexy, sexy democracy, explain to me why, then, the Kenyans are whooping our collective asses at it?

If you're unaware of the situation in Kenya as-is, (And how could you? It's bigger news in America if John Edwards gets a haircut than people fighting a war) let me do my best to simultaneously crack insensitive jokes and summarize for you. See, in Kenya, they recently had a presidential election. Right afterwards, the media was reporting that the opposition, Odinga, was beating the incumbent, Kibaki, by like, a lot. But the official count was...absent. "How many votes are there?" the Kenyan government was saying, "We have no idea. We didn't even realize that there was an election going on. What's the score?"

Then, suddenly, and I do mean suddenly, the government steps in and pulls a Calvinball. "New rule!" they declare, "the name of the game is now "We Win" and guess what? We win! Man, we are awesome." According my good friends at the British something something, the win was determined by about 230,000 votes. Woo. Boy. That sure is a lot of votes.

For comparison sake, in the 2000 election, in Florida, the official count resulted in Bush winning by 537 votes. (I used Wiki for this information, which isn't the most reliable of sources, but regardless of how you feel the votes landed, I think we can all agree that the vote was close, which is the point that I'm trying to illustrate.) Now, afterwards, some of us were upset, and some of us complained. In fact, some of us complained an awful lot. Now, at this point, there are two groups that I'm concerned with, the first are the people that were outraged at this result, the people that went to Bush's inaugeration to boo, the people that threatened to emmigrate, but ultimately, did not. The second group is the people that didn't care, the people that either did not vote or were not particularly concerned with the outcome. Keep these two groups in mind.

Now, back to Kenya. If you went ahead and clicked the BBC link above, you already know how the election story ends. People rioted, and they rioted hardcore. In fact, they partied so hardy, about 600 of them didn't make it home. These are 600 people that felt that the difference between one ruler and the next is a difference worth fighting and dying for, 600 people that decided that their democracy was a scared thing that should not be tampered with, regardless of what the government told them was the truth.

Am I implying that the government lied to us after the 2000 election? Well, I guess it sounds like it, but I don't think that's what happened. What I'm really concerned with is what we did, as a nation, afterwards, for there was much bitching and even more moaning (hee hee hee). The Supreme Court declares that Bush is the winner; some people think this is fair and just, some are outraged, some don't care. The bottom line is, nobody does anything. Those that wanted their version of justice (whether right or wrong) did nothing to fight for it and after a brief stint of complaining, the status quo returns to normal. In Kenya, those that felt they had been wronged by the government took to the streets, armed with machetes and arrows. Machetes and arrows, people. And they did so under even more innocuous circumstances than the 2000 American election.

As time goes on in America, people begin feeling less and less pleased with Bush, but doing less and less about it. And no, I'm sorry, your witty bumper sticker is not "sticking it to the man". In the past, citizens have taken to arms when they felt wrong, and at least in recent history, have boycotted, protested despite danger to their lives, and even captured a US monument to get their voices heard. What do we do now? We write a lengthy post on a message board and call ourselves patriots. Pathetic.

Even now, the Kenyans have begun to organize a boycott of products and services stemming from the allies of President Kibaki, who, might I add, is not engaging his country in something has heinous as an unnecessary war. Somewhere in America, someone is saying, "No Blood For Oil" while driving an SUV. No blood for oil? How about no money for oil? You're saying you believe in your cause just enough to buy a bumper sticker, but not a bike?

I'm a firm believer in the Second Amendment, but the difference between me and the NRA is what we believe the intent of that amendment is. I don't think it was designed to protect our right to hunt with AKs, or to kill teenagers who are stealing our hubcaps (I did not think of that example off the top of my head. That really did happen, and if anyone has a news link to it, I would appreciate it.) No, I believe that amendment was designed to protect us from the government itself, so that if the time ever came that we would have to overthrow our rulers, we would have the means necessary to do so. And yet, here we are, Second Amendment fully intact and well-preserved, dissatisfied with our government, typing furiously to make a difference.

I suppose I can't point fingers, since I've never started a rebellion in my lifetime. However, I would like to state that I'm not so much dissatisfied with the government as I am dissatisfied with the state of this country's citizens. If I walked outside right now, gun in hand, ready to overthrow the government, would you fight with me? Or would you go back inside and complain about the Bush administration to your liberal friends?

In November, many of us will be called to the voting booths, a good number of us won't even bother. We're like that proverbial beaten wife, that keeps returning to the abusive husband, unable to see that we deserve better and unwilling to work for it. Some people will get angry and do nothing about it, and some people already know that there's no point in getting angry, because nobody's going to bother to change anything. And in the end, Kenya makes our democracy look like a lazy amateur.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Not Fucking Fair

So I'm at this restaurant alright? And I'm eating. And while I'm eating my over-priced organic spagetti grown only from local pasta shrubs, I decide that I would like a cool, alcoholic beverage to wash down the taste of my own hypocrisy. Pardon me, drinking wench. Whilist thou fetch me a pint of lager? Oh, my identification? Of course you can see it, because I am an accommodating young man with a pleasant demeanor who is also of legal age. Here's where things start to go sour.

She takes a moment to look at my ID. I still have my Illinois license with me, which apparently confuses these Washingtonians, because their IDs are, fuck, I don't know, just plastic cards with their birthdates printed extra large on them because they always have trouble reading my ID. Whatever.

"I'm a little hairier these days," I joke with the bartendress of moderate hotness. "I used to be clean."

She smiles in a patronizing sort of way and then turns her back to me, presumably, to comment to another bar patron about the state of my ID. See this guy? Yes, he is most definitely of legal drinking age as the glorious laws of Washington have established. Heil Cobain!

Then, funny things begin to happen. First, a second bartender-creature has to come over and look at the ID and then at me. I feel awkward. Afterwards, a blacklight is shone upon my driver's license. I fear that these bartenders will discover that I masturbate to pictures of myself and I am less than tidy with the results.

Finally, after much deliberation and much standing around very thirsty and very sober on my part, the original drinking wench comes over to me and tells me that no, we're sorry, but we cannot serve you alcohol with this ID. I am confused.

"Really?" I ask, probably very condescendingly, "what's the problem?"

"Well," drinking wench replies, "it doesn't glow, and I would check it but we lost our book."

I am astounded. I have never been refused service on account of a non-glowing ID before. I was unaware that my plastic driver's license needed superpowers to operate. Is there somewhere I plug it in? What kind of batteries does it take? Is my handsome face not glowing enough for you people?

I'm not even going to begin to wonder about whatever book it is she's talking about. Apparently bars are all issued a book that contains the names of everyone over the age of 21. Or there's some sort of chart to help them read my confusing Illinois license. Birthdate! It's right there! Arabic numerals and everything! And if that's too hard, take the expiration date and subtract five!

"Look," I say, with the desperation of a sober teen or a thirsty adult, flipping my ID upside down on the bar, "you can even quiz me."

But I can see that is of no use. My identification is not luminous enough for these people and they don't speak my heathen Midwestern tongue. Plus, the magic book is gone. They apparently think that I'm trying to pull a Clark Kent trick on them. "He has glasses on," they were probably thinking, "but in this ancient form of identification, with its unreadable numbers, he is clearly representing himself to a be a person of perfect vision. We cannot serve such dishonesty."

And that's the story of how I decided to dye my hair gray.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Bonjour!

I've been kinda toying with this notion within my circle of friends for quite a while now, and since the doomsday scenario I'm about to describe might actually happen, I'm forced to go public with my declaration.

The greater Mike Huckabee does in the 2008 presidential election, the greater the chances of me relocating to a different country become, capping out at 100% in the event that he becomes President Huckabee and we all live in Huckabee Land.

I hate to tell you this, but if Huckabee wins the Republican nomination, he will win. Why? Because Americans tend to prefer a white, Christian man with a sense of humor and big adorable brown eyes over a black man with an Islamic background or a strong, independent older woman. Sadly, in this country, too much of politics is determined by how likable you are.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing. A president can have any number of brilliant policies and ideas, but if the people can't get behind those ideas, he has a hard time accomplishing anything. I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say that I would like a president to be both likable and intelligent. It's too bad that priority is placed on likability over intelligence.

I know that the Iowa caucus accomplishes little more than pornography for political geeks like myself, but I'm finding very hard to feel prideful or at least tolerant of a country that doesn't mind when their executive office candidate doesn't believe in science. That bothers me, and the fact that doesn't bother everyone scares me. Do you understand? The prospect of a creationist president is not something that would primarily inconvenience me or make me angry. No. The scenario I'm talking about frightens me and it frightens me bad. I may need a nightlight. A fish-shaped nightlight with legs.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

PERVEZ BOWS TO NO ONE

You might think that reading 2-5 newspapers a day is a bit superfluous. Most of the time it is, but occasionally, the practice actually comes through for me.

Setting aside issues of what stories newspapers choose to publish and how important they choose to make those stories (size of headline, space on website, etc.,) there certainly is a difference in how these stories are written.

Great Britain has become involved in the investigation of Benazir Bhutto's death.
If you ask the New York Times, Pakistan has requested the UK's help.
If you ask the Washington Post, Pakistan was pressured into receiving UK's help.
There is quite a big difference between asking for help and being forced to receive help.

Now, for contrast, notice how the BBC just makes the claim that UK is assisting, with no mention of whether they were invited by Musharraf or themselves.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Bringing it to a Close

Technically it's 1:15 am on January 2nd, but I'm going to cheat and claim that this was written on the first to complete the New Year's Resolution series. Tee-hee!

In the grand scheme of my life, I think 2007 will go down as one of the more influential, at least, relative to the other years so far. I graduated school and promptly exited my humble Midwest origins for a more left-leaning disposition on the West coast. Both experiences were designed to, I don't know, educate me in some ass backwards manner, so I feel that it's only appropriate that I impart a basket of wisdom pearls upon your uneducated minds.

New Year's Resolution #33 - Share my deep and profound wisdom with the world

  • At the end of the day, do one more thing than what you think you have energy for. Keep doing this every day and eventually, nothing is hard.
  • Never be surprised at the living conditions one can become used to. Plain oatmeal, 25-cent Mac n' Cheese and turkey dogs may sound like terrible food to you, but for me, nothing could be more satisfying.
  • And speaking of Mac n' Cheese, when preparing a recipe, let it be known that a tablespoon of mayo can easily substitute two cups of milk
  • Mayo can also be put in espresso to create a drink I like to call Mayacano
  • Mayo is awesome.
  • You'd be amazed at how quickly you can lose weight if you walk every day. You can lose weight even if you eat mayo all the time.
  • Americano is water and espresso. Lattes, mochas, cappacinos, breves and machiattos are all basically the same thing -- espresso and milk.
  • People in Missouri are the worst drivers in the country.
  • Hair can easily be straightened if it's blow-dried right after getting out of the shower, with the blow-dryer pointed at a downward angle.
  • It's hard to wear a scarf and not look a little fruity. They are, however, the best thing for keeping you warm, so if you're a guy, I recommend laying it over the back of your neck and then just throwing one end over the opposite shoulder. Anything else looks a bit too calculated.
  • People in the Midwest actually are friendlier than most of the country.
  • Nobody will stop you from making an ass of yourself at a graduation ceremony. Though, the history majors in front of you will get annoyed when you start booing every name that gets called.
  • You go through toilet paper faster than you think you do.
  • Arabic is read right to left.
  • Mayo is awesome.
Alright, if that's not everything that I've learned, it's at least a good portion of it. And finally, the last new year's resolution, and what I consider to be the most important.

New Year's Resolution #34 - Live to see 2009, or at least the tail end of 2008