Monday, March 27, 2006

Where I've Been

I could say that, instead of updating my blog, I've been wandering around the country on foot having adventures and helping people and stuff, but that wouldn't be completely true. What's mostly true is that I've been preparing for my rather important exams that begin TOMORROW. Yeah, that tomorow. The one coming up after today is over. So, things are happening at a rather feverish pace this week, but when I emerge from the otherside, I'll let you all know how I fared.

wish me luck!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Google Thyself

I was thinking it would be kind of fun to do a blog entry today on the strange things you find when you Google yourself. I was all set to discuss the review I found once about I journal I had a couple of poems appear in that discussed the "sexual unpredictibility"of my work. Then I would have gone over the blog entry in which the author of said blog talked about how I was hitting on her at AWP once(which might be true, of course, but still). So, basically, fun and giggles all the way around and everybody has a good time.

But instead of all that, I think I'll focus in on this one. Not that fun and giggles aren't still possible, but I'll get to be a little more thoughtful and less self-depricating in my response.

I can honestly admit that I wouldn't have expected an article in the WMU newspaper about my experimental writing to get any exposure outside of Western's campus (and even on campus I wouldn't expect much, honestly), but it evidently did have some legs -- there was even a link and brief synopsis of the class on the NCTE website a couple of weeks ago (which is possibly where this person found it). I admit, really, that it's kind of cool to find a blog entry in which complete and total strangers are talking about you, even when they're basically making fun of what you're doing. Even that is kind of cool, really. I can accept it, anyway -- the danger of the class is the difficulty of explaining it and the likelihood of so much of the class being lost in translation. But, as one should after being made fun of, I have decided to reply to these offhand criticisms. And have chosen to do so on my own blog, away from where any of those bloggers and comment-ers will likely see.

The form and angle of the Herald article creates an immediate problem. I, for one, think the article is fine -- it discusses what a campus newspaper ought to discuss, which is the impact a story can have on the campus. In this case, the necessary purpose would be a description and origin of the physcial artifacts that were being displayed around campus. The reporter and the newspaper would have little interest in the fact that the class, while putting together those projects was also reading the works of Blake and the French Surrealists and graphic novelists in an attempt to understand the connection between art and writing in an attempt to apply said techniques to their own work. These are elements of the class' success that aren't necessarily pertinent to the university at large but, I think, rather significant when evaluating the class as a whole.

But I do take a bit of issue with the insinutation that the class isn't teaching students anything, even without the literary aspects of the class. I think the idea of taking writing into a public sphere (as we were doing with the tree projects) forces students to think about writing in an entirely new and exciting way. When a student writes a poem or story on a piece of paper, the intended audience for that piece is immediately limited (if it has been written for a class, the audience becomes the teacher and the students in the class, if it is written outside of class, the audience becomes even smaller than that). But when thinking about writing in a public manner the issue of audience becomes amplified -- suddenly the relationship between what you're writing and who will read it becomes wildly significant because, if you play your cards right, people will be reading it. The writer has the ability to insure that based on the material used to create the work (the more eyepopping and unexpected, the better) and the location of that material (looking toward higher traffic areas). And that's the thing about the "Speech Bubbles in Trees" project. It did work. Obviously, we had issues with people (Landscaping services? Students?) taking them down, but when they were up, people were looking at them. Some of the observers were complimentary and excited. Some muttered things like "treehuggers." But they looked. And that seems to me part of a success.

These projects were conceived and carryed out by my students. The bottle cap message idea? Totally theirs. Same with the Tree Bubble idea. I was there to supervise and encourage, to keep them on track, but the ideas were theirs. The students went through the propers channels to get their projects approved on campus and they dealt with the problems of missing bubbles when that came up. In short, these students were/are not only studying creative writing and literature, they were/are exploring problem solving and audience in ways that few classes I can think of are capable. So, yeah, I think they are learning something and their projects are getting noticed. And they're having a good time doing it.

And another thing mentioned in one of the comments about the article was how this would fly with high school students. Well, considering the fact that you wouldn't plug the class exactly as-is into a high school classroom (the projects and literature would have to be adapted), you'd have to make modifications, but I can't see why -- with those modifications -- it couldn't be beneficial. I've adapted the concept to work with 3rd and 5th graders (as a visiting writer once a week to a grade school) and it's worked amazingly well. Obviously, the 3rd graders aren't reading any Futurist manifestos, but writing on puzzle pieces and wooden trucks has forced them to look at poetry in a different way -- their thought process toward writing changes as the media changes. Besides, it's fun. The college students and the grade school kids are having fun with the projects and the same could be true in the secondary classroom. Somewhere along the line, literature -- and poetry in particular -- gets sold to students as if it is something of a dead language. Perhaps innovative techniques as far as teaching it will bring it safely back to life.

And is eating trail mix and encouraging students who are interested in social issues bad things? I sure hope not. And, to answer that third comment for the article/blog entry. I actually think I am fairly sane. I have my issues, of course, but I don't think lacking overall sanity is one of them. Of course, my friends, colleauges, and students can answer that better than I can.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Celebrities I've Been Told I Look Like

As a visual aid to guide you through the nonsense that is to follow, here I am, moments ago, standing in front of Roy and Amanda's empty wall. Probably not the most glamorous shot in the world to use as a comparison to a variety of celebrities, but whatever. Keep in mind the hair and, ahem, highlights in the hair, do change from time to time so I get different names passed on different stages of hair. This entry would have been made ideal with a lot more pictures. But I don't have time for that. I've got comps to study for. And basketball to watch. And, you know, other important stuff. Anyway.....onward.

Celebrities I've been told I look like:

Matthew Lawrence
(this was the most recent -- yesterday, in fact -- prompting me to update this list for the blog. Most suprising because it means someone has actually given mere thought to Matthew Lawrence recently. )

Dave Grohl
(which I get the most. Probably justified)

Jim Carrey
(don't get it as much as I did, but still occasionally...within the last few weeks even. In my high school yearbook, one person signed "you really do look like that white guy on In Living Color." So I've been hearing this since before Jim Carrey even had a name.)

C. Thomas Howell
(in fact, a guy started yelling at me when I said I really didn't think I did look like him at all. So my apparent resemblance to C. Thomas Howell can lead to violence!)

Johnny Reznick
(this came from a girl in line in front of me at a fast food place: "You look just like the guy from the Goo-Goo Dolls!" I corrected her and told her she meant the Foo Fighters. She agreed.)

A young Pierce Brosnan
(this is true, actually. The quote was "Every day you look more like a young Pierce Brosnan. This came from a (blind?) male customer at the bookstore who was always just a little too friendly.)

Chris Rock
(Technically a friend said I looked like a cross between "Chris Rock and my brother." No idea what his brother looks like, but unless his brother looks more like me than I do, this seems unlikely.)

Cillian Murphy
Kid: You look like that guy from "Red Eye!"
Me: (perplexed) You mean Cillian Murphy?
Kid: That's him!
Ah, the joys of working with third graders.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Here's a Western Herald article about the latest exploits of my experimental writing class and our battles to make the WMU campus more aesthetically pleasing and more socially vital. And not so much succeeding. But we're trying. And the quote from the landscaping services guy? He's totally lying. Really. There will hopefully be a letter to the editor from our English dept. secretary in the next couple of days responding to his lie.

For those who haven't seen the "speech bubbles" as described in the article, you can check 'em out here:

Also, just for kicks (and to cram as many links as possible in this message), here's the first article about the class that appeared in the Western Herald:

And, just so that all of these links aren't self-indulgent, here's a drawing of a kitten playing golf (is the "links" pun by way of a golf picture too obscure? Well, I guess it isn't obscure anymore if I've explained it.)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

We all know why Star Wars just never gets the critical acclaim it deserves (I mean, with the notable exception of the highly prestigious "Blockbuster Movie Awards") -- not enough cute kids pretending to be tough. You're doing your thing, Christopher, and I dig that about you.
To: you
From: me

Look, lately I've been unwilling to listen to you. It's been all about me. Me. Me. Whenever you've felt like saying something -- even if it's been to compliment me for something I've done -- I've taken away your ability to speak.

But I'm changing. For you. I promise to be a better person. I promise to pay more attention to settings before and after posting a message. I promise to make sure that you have a chance to post comments if you want to. I promise, to the best of my abilities, that you can be as much involved in this blog as I am.

Again, I apologize for making you feel like you don't have a voice. I apologize for taking away the one thing that makes you you -- your ability to comment on my blog.

I'm sorry. I hope our relationship can overcome my foolishness.


Friday, March 03, 2006

My Academy Awards Predictions
(Because you've all been so patient in the waiting for them)
And, no, I didn't do all the categories. But this was still enough of a time killer in-between Modernist novels. So it's enough.

Best Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams in "Junebug" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Catherine Keener in "Capote" (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)
Frances McDormand in "North Country" (Warner Bros.)
Rachel Weisz in "The Constant Gardener" (Focus Features)
Michelle Williams in "Brokeback Mountain" (Focus Features)

It seems a lot of these awards are fairly predictable (though I could be completely wrong, of course, but there’s a certain cowboy flick that will probably do well). That being said, Rachel Weisz seems the favorite here, but I’m guessing it will go to Amy Adams in a bit of a surprise. Obviously Weisz and Michelle Williams (I'm thinking they're the most likely three candidates) had challenging roles too, but Adams is in a smaller scale movie and the Academy might be proud of itself for rewarding it. And the Supporting Actress category seems a bit of a crapshoot most years anyway. So let's be trendy.

My guess at the winner: Amy Adams
My favorite of the nominees: Michele Williams

Best Supporting Actor:
George Clooney in "Syriana" (Warner Bros.)
Matt Dillon in "Crash" (Lions Gate)
Paul Giamatti in "Cinderella Man" (Universal and Miramax)
Jake Gyllenhaal in "Brokeback Mountain" (Focus Features)
William Hurt in "A History of Violence" (New Line)

I think it has to be Clooney, simply because there’s probably not any room to reward him for the other work he’s done this year (unless Good Night gets a screenplay award, which is possible though not likely). And, besides that, he is pretty good in Syriana. Paul Giamatti should have gotten nominated last year (and probably should've won the thing) for best actor and there’s always the chance they’ll do the whole “let’s reward the guy we screwed last year” thing, but I think Clooney’s probably got this one.

My guess at the winner: George Clooney
My favorite nominee: Clooney

Best Animated Featured Film
"Howl's Moving Castle" (Buena Vista) Hayao Miyazaki
"Tim Burton's Corpse Bride" (Warner Bros.) Tim Burton and Mike Johnson
"Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit" (DreamWorks Animation SKG) Nick Park and Steve Box

I'm going with Wallace & Gromit here. It's funny and fully deserving. I think. I mean, I know it's funny, but I'm not sure how deserving it is -- I haven't seen the other two. Still, seems like a logical bet.

My guess at the winner: Wallace & Gromit
My favorite nominee: W & G

Best Actress:
Judi Dench in "Mrs. Henderson Presents" (The Weinstein Company)
Felicity Huffman in "Transamerica" (The Weinstein Company and IFC Films)
Keira Knightley in "Pride & Prejudice" (Focus Features)
Charlize Theron in "North Country" (Warner Bros.)
Reese Witherspoon in "Walk the Line" (20th Century Fox)

Of course, I’d pick Theron if the nomination were for Aeon Fluxx and not North Country (as E! reported on the morning of the nominations). But, alas.

Reese Witherspoon is great as June Carter Cash and, June Carter being a Saint and all, I’m a tough critic with this. But she’s as easy for me, as the hypothetical audience, to fall in love with as she is for Johnny in the movie so that's saying something. She’s probably the favorite -- she’s cleaned up at awards shows elsewhere, she’ll probably get the Oscar. Probably.

One major issue with that is that Felicity Huffman’s performance (which I, admittedly, haven’t seen. Nor has anyone, I’m assuming. Not even Huffman herself) seems to be the kind of thing that Oscar voters dig – the whole physical transformation that allows an actress to explore life from another perspective (and, no, Reese’s brown hair doesn’t fit here). But Huffman’s a TV actress and that might turn off potential voters as could the fact that no one’s seen the movie. But we can still assume she’s good, right? All that being said, I’m still assuming Witherspoon will win, but a Huffman win is possible, just probably not likely. The other three can enjoy lovely parting gifts and a wonderful excuse for a night out.

My guess at the winner: Reese Witherspoon
My favorite: Witherspoon

Best Actor:
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Capote" (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)
Terrence Howard in "Hustle & Flow" (Paramount Classics, MTV Films and New Deal Entertainment)
Heath Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain" (Focus Features)
Joaquin Phoenix in "Walk the Line" (20th Century Fox)
David Strathairn in "Good Night, and Good Luck." (Warner Independent Pictures)

Okay, this seems like a no-brainer, but everybody here is really good in their respective movies, so it deserves at least some discussion before I say what you’d expect me to say. Terrence Howard’s great and the movie is better than it probably should be, but I just don’t think the movie itself is good enough to win it for him, at least not with this level of competition. Joaquin Phoenix is good, but I don’t think he’s great in the role. He won’t win.

And I absolutely dig David Strathairn’s performance – it’s simply amazing. But maybe too low key. Voters seem to like the performances based on real-life figures, but there’s another one of those in this category that probably too good not to reward. And, oh yeah, Heath Ledger’s great. But that movie’s going to win so much stuff, let’s give this one to somebody else. There are certainly enough people in this group that deserve to win.

So, yeah, I’m going with Philip Seymour Hoffman. He’s really, really good. And don’t you just want to see him up there? I mean, come on! How cool is that?

My guess at the winner: Philip Seymour Hoffman
My favorite nominee: Hoffman (but I really like Jeff Daniels in The Squid and the Whale. It’s too bad he couldn’t be worked in here)

Best Adapted Screenplay
"Brokeback Mountain" (Focus Features) Screenplay by Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana
"Capote" (UA/Sony Pictures Classics) Screenplay by Dan Futterman
"The Constant Gardener" (Focus Features) Screenplay by Jeffrey Caine
"A History of Violence" (New Line) Screenplay by Josh Olson
"Munich" (Universal and DreamWorks) Screenplay by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth

Well, Brokeback's likely the favorite here and that makes some sense -- it does a nice job as far as taking its original source and doing something engaging with it for the new media while not trashing the original. But, while I think the Brokeback screenplay will likely win, I'm putting my two cents in for Munich, which has the star power as far as the screenwriter goes and is really effective as far as giving the film its initial and dynamic voice.
My guess at the winnre: Brokeback Mountain
My favorite nominee: Munich
Best Original Screenplay
"Crash" (Lions Gate) Screenplay by Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco, Story by Paul Haggis
"Good Night, and Good Luck."Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov (Warner Independent Pictures)
"Match Point" (DreamWorks) Written by Woody Allen
"The Squid and the Whale" (Samuel Goldwyn Films and Sony Pictures Releasing) Written by Noah Baumbach
"Syriana" (Warner Bros.) Written by Stephen Gaghan
I think Crash will win this one -- the Academy's going to feel obligated to give it something and the complicated overlaying of characters gives the script the illusion of depth even if the depth isn't there as powerfully as it is in some of the other choices here. Good Night has an outside shot at it and, while I think it's a better script, it probably will have to be satisfied with the nomination. It seems the voters actually get it right fairly frequently with the screenplay awards, but I don't see it happening -- The Squid & The Whale is a fantastic script that deserves to win. It won't.
My guess at the winner: Crash
My favorite of the nominees: The Squid & The Whale

Best Director:
I really don’t see any way Ang Lee doesn’t win this. I mean, I can envision Brokeback not getting Best Picture before I can envision him not winning this. All political volatility aside, it’s a lovely film, beautifully handled and shot. He’ll win and he ought to. No problems here. Right? Clooney's already got his supporting actor award, so he's happy. Spielberg's won stuff before so he's happy. Bennett Miller got recognized for Capote, so he's got to be cool with that. Paul Haggis and Crash? He's probably gotten the screenplay award at this point.

My guess: Ang Lee.
My favorite nominee: Lee.

Best Picture: Well, I’m guessing Brokeback will win and, of these nominees (four of which I think are really terrific films), it probably should (though Good Night, and Good Luck especially deserves some serious consideration and Munich, really, is a pretty fantastic film). But the biggest competition here is the movie of this group I think the least of– that’s Crash. I mean, it’s okay, but I found it heavy-handed and inorganic (I can get away with saying things like that, right?) Good performances, but the script itself didn’t really allow characters to rise to the surface. It’s a movie that cares less about character and more about theme and handles that theme without the deft hand and subtlety that would exist in a better movie. But it’s still a factor and it's chances have really grown. Those late campaigns do wonders for a movie's credibility (it seemed last year like Million Dollar Baby just kept building momentum until it won the big one). But I'm still thinking that Brokeback is just too much a cultural phenomenom to ignore. And, when given the chance, Oscar's not afraid to celebrate the cultural phenomenom. For it to not win at this point would make the Academy look bad.

My guess at the winner: Brokeback Mountain
My favorite of the nominees: Brokeback and Good Night, and Good Luck.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Quick Phone Booth follow-up. Here's an actual exerpt from an actual user review of the film on IMDb. It's from Missgreenelf in the United Kingdom. She's talking about the movie Phone Booth now remember:

"I would suggest to anyone that hasn't seen this film to do so, cause it not so far outside the possibility that it could happen to you. which makes it great."

'not so far outside the possibility that it could happen to you' Think about that. It could happen to you. You could be held hostage by a sniper in a building across the street while being forced to stand in a phone booth. You!! I worry about Missgreenelf sometimes. I really do. Especially at moments like this.
I'm one week removed from the first day of my trip to lovely Orange City, Iowa. In order to appease my nostalgia, here's a picture of one of downtown Orange City's landmarks. No, not Amy, she's simply inside the windmill phone booth. And I believe the phone inside the phone booth (which may be a fully functioning phone) is, like, sealed together with masking tape or something. I could be making that up, I wasn't brave enough to go inside the phone booth. I do think, though, if anybody ever makes a sequel to the legendary film Phone Booth (and I, for one, have been clamoring for that for to happen for years now), this is the phone booth where it needs to happen. And I especially hope that, if that did happen, it meant that Colin Farrell would get to visit Orange City for filming. 'Cause he'd love it there.

No Phone Booth 2 but the true movie event of our lifetimes is coming. Snakes on a Plane. Why can't August happen already? Mandie, you still willing to camp out a week before it opens?

Man, this has been a rough week for me, what with the nosebleeding episode while playing with the dogs on Monday. And then, tonight, Sofia got scared when I was going over to meet Bob to get Jody's keys so I can watch Shadow over the weekend (and, I know, if you don't know the Kalamazoo life, that sentence meant nothing) and, Sofia, being afraid of things like doors and new places, ran quickly on the pavement next to Jody's building and wouldn't slow down -- it was icy and I couldn't keep my balance. Splat. In Sofia's defense though, she did come over to check up on me after I fell. She gets nervous, but she means well. And, much like the "backhand to the nose" on Monday, I shook this potential injury off as well. Bret Favre's got nothing on me as far as tough guys go.

I'm glad I have a blog so I can report on all the stupid pratfalls I take. Whew. Just think -- you wouldn't have known any of this otherwise. Oh, what you would have been missing.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

If I had been using my blog two days ago...

(nevermind the fact, as Greg was so quick to point out, I did of course have blogging capabilities I was simply deciding to use sparingly) I could have said something like this:

Chapel bloodied my nose while we were walking the dogs yesterday. Should I say more about this? Should I explain how she was throwing a stick to Oz and accidentally (should I use quotes around "accidentally?" I'm pretty sure it was an accident, though. Pretty sure.) backhanded me in the face? And, yes, bloodied my nose.

For those of you keeping track -- I am fine. It just bled a little. Which is sad, painful, and a little pathetic, but I am okay. And I think I've pretty much used the "you almost broke my nose" line to its extent in the days that have followed.

If I would've had my camera on me yesterday... (to continue a theme) I would have taken a picture on the sign in front of the Little Theater on campus, where a select film is screened each weekend by our friends at the Western Film Society. The film this week is Capote or, as the sign explained it, Captoe. I went to get that glorious snapshot today, but they caught their mistake and fixed it. Jerks. I had all sorts of material prepared for that picture too -- like, what are they going to be showing next week, Munchi? Or something better even. I just didn't have the picture to inspire me.
This here blog is dependent upon so many things -- my naivete as far as thinking (1) anyone will care and (2) that I'll actually be capable of maintaining a blog.

My track record is not so good with #2 -- let's take a look at my personal blogging history: a LiveJournal from 2000 in which I had four -- 4! -- entries recorded for Tuesday, June 20th, 2000 (evidently the Lakers won the NBA title and I was excited. I mentioned something on there about whether or not the Angels could be next. Just be patient, younger version of me). And then an entry on June 22nd (where I reviewed "Sweet and Lowdown" in about 50 words. I seemed to be okay with the movie, but the review itself was pretty unappealing. I give my review a 4). And then my blog jumps to the 7th of July (in which I apologize for not updating my blog. Which seems like a bad sign for the future of this blog). And then July 8th contains this cryptic bit 'o information:

"I'm up! I'm up! Hopefully this match will be worthwhile!"

(I can only hope so). And then, much like a recovered log from a doomed tanker somewhere in the stormy Atlantic (that's a terrible analogy, right? A recovered log would likely be wet and unreadable), we come to my final entry, dated July 28th:

"Hey! I updated! I've been way behind the I'll begin an attempt at correcting this. I don't have much to say at this point, but if nothing else...I have updated it. Let's see if I can keep that going!"

Alas, I couldn't. This brings us to my MySpace blog which, over the course of a year (over a year, really, but I couldn't bring myself to write "over a course of over a year" without parentheticals around it), I produced 10 entries. But I meant well. And, as anyone on MySpace would tell you, those blog entries were legend. Especially the one in which I discuss my lingering sadness over Constantine being voted off American Idol. It was a tough time for me. It was a good thing that I was a few weeks away from leaving the country for a while, because I just wasn't sure I could trust America again after that decision.

Anyway, we now know what we're up against. Here am I -- at as busy a time as I've ever been in my life and I'm trying again. This is destined to fail, right?

Let the failure begin.