Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sequels are Rules

This post will require some filler from my NU friends, with whom we were wacky.

The title is taken from a saying of Quantum's, that "Games are Rules." Sadly, I was not at the drunken revels that produced this tidbit of wisdom, nor do I quite know what it means, but the implication seems to be that games, in a strictly ontological sense, are only a composition of the rules that create them. I'm sure others could expound on this theory at length, but I merely bring it up as a tie in to my actual point.

In undergrad we came up with a loose set of rules governing movie sequel titles. Every Movie 2 must be, in some form, "The Revenge." The revenge of what was always unspecified, for that extra ominous bit. The third, taking it's cue from the Darkman saga, had to be "Movie 3: Die Movie, Die." Then, because we figured sequels had really hit their peak with the Leprechaun series, the fourth movie in a non-trilogy series must be "Movie 4: Movie in the Hood," whilst the fifth would inevitably be "Movie 5: Movie in Space." We felt that the transition from hood to space only made sense, as once one was in space, the odds of returning to Earth (and to the hood, no less) were astronomically (pardon the pun) slimmer.

Now, this isn't horribly inventive, but it did afford us no manner of glee. And, more important to this post, it spawned one of our truly marvellous running gags. I believe it was Irish McJew who had to watch Cyrano de Bergerac for a film class (or a French class, or a French film class), and this prompted him and Quantum to come up with the sequels, according to our schema. Which gave us the following:

Cyrano Deux: La Vengeance: In which Cyrano is awakened from cryogenic sleep in the late 20th century only to be horrified at the burgeoning European Union and it's trademark currency, the euro. Thus prompting the catchphrase: "La Euro? Sacrebleu! La vengeance, c'est ma noit" (I am unclear on the spelling, as I never took French. Roughly, it translates to "The vengeance, it is now!" Feel free to correct me if you want, McJew). I believe in this film, Cyrano would battle the euro, and, somehow, cyborgs (though the cyborgs may have been in a later film).

Cyrano Troix: Mort Cyrano, Mort. Don't remember the plot of this one, or if we even expected the franchise to go this far. I believe it involved some kind of long-lost enemy of Cyrano's, maybe a returning character presumed dead in the first film.

Cyrano (French for Four): Cyrano dans La Ghetto (Cyrano in the Hood, again feel free to correct my spelling): I forget what Cyrano did in the hood, but I believe the movie would also feature Snoop Dogg, who had just made cinematic history with his recent release Bones (which, sadly, we never did see).

And then there was Cyrano Five: Cyrano in Space, whose French I don't even pretend to remember. This may have been the one where Cyrano fought the cyborgs. I do remember that, after seeing Jason X: Jason in Space (where Jason got an upgrade), we felt that Cyrano in space had awesome potential for slaughter and French taunting.

Anyway, if you're one of my old NU folk and you remember this gag, feel free to add in any other information I'm missing. Might be worth a laugh, and I have very little else to post, since the semester is winding down and we're all busy. Or maybe I'll have a hilarious post tomorrow about how much the mechanics are going to charge me to fix my car, which has taken to stopping at random times. Just pray I make it to the dealership tomorrow.

Question of the day: Who was Sloopy, and why did he need to hang on?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Where Was Moses When the Lights Went Out?

The title of this post directly relates to the homily at our Easter Vigil mass on Saturday. Bear with me.

For the past few years, I've been going to Easter Vigil mass as opposed to the Sunday morning one. Last year, several of the Madisonian Catholics all went together, and since then it's become an expected thing, to the point where we made plans to go to mass together then go out for drinks afterward. This promised to be particularly interesting this year, as I had given up alcohol for the Lenten season, and Housefan (she of speakmemory, linked to the right, and one obsessed with Hugh Laurie) had been talking this up to the point where I felt like I'd be letting her down if I didn't get hammered. That's the context going in. But first, the mass.

Our coterie consisted of myself, Housefan and her husband the Wedding Singer (still not sold on that nickname, but I've used it before), CryptoJew and Tennessee Stretch (suck it, TS), and the Lady in Black, and of course we were all dressed up in our Easter finery. The mass itself ran the usual 2:45, with a few highlights:

1. The awesome cantor man who sings the opening chant (which lasts about five minutes). I never see this man except at Easter vigil, and despite the claims of my comrades, I believe they keep him locked in a closet for the rest of the year.

2. The usual Gloria, but in a higher key (fun for tenors, not fun for the bishop), which lessened the fact that it is an inferior Gloria, in that it has no understanding of proper phrasing.

3. The baptism of the new catechumins, which featured what can best be described as calliope music, during which I nearly made the Lady in Black burst out laughing just by exchanging a sardonic glance at their choice of instrument (with later reflection upon the sheer potential for trilling in the operatic style, reenactment available upon request).

4. The woman who gave her small children each a lit candle, which led to my fascinated guesses as to when they would set themselves or her on fire.

5. The bishop's wonderful homily, which deserves a bit of discussion. Our bishop enjoys the formula homily, where each homily deals with three points, all somewhat connected. It wasn't a bad homily per se, but I knew we were in trouble when he found it somewhat unusual that the first reading was Genesis 1, where God creates the heavens and earth. (For you non-Catholics, this is not at all unusual as it is the first reading every Easter vigil.) Now, our bishop went into an extended metaphor of the importance of the creation of light as precursor to all, thus mirrored by the internal light of the soul, yada yada yada. He sustained the metaphor, and it worked, but he began with this gem: "And how could God see this creation he had made, and see it was good? He could see it because he first made the light." Never mind the fact that God is, by nature, omniscient and omnipotent, and could see very well without any lights. Unless you imagine God wandering around blind in darkness for the timeless period before creation, and then suddenly realizing "Holy Me, I can't freakin' see! I should make a light, because I have that power! I truly am awesome, in the biblical sense of the word." That realization colored the rest of the homily for me, which was only made worse by his extended football metaphor in the third point. But oh well, as I said to my cohorts, at least he stayed away from the hating of the gays and the abortions this year.

After the mass' conclusion, the six of us retired to the Old Fasioned, a local purveyor of food and spirits, to celebrate the risen Lord. Holding true to my completely meritless theory that sticking with vodka will lessen my troubles the next morning, I decided to start our revels with a Ketel & tonic, which would prove to be my drink of choice for the evening. During the course of that night, we drank various amounts (with myself and the Wedding Singer greatly outpacing the others), we ate enough fried food to kill a non-Wisconsinite, and we told ribald tales of debauchery and insanity (as apparently I had never told the married couple my Harry Potter tale, that old chestnut was dragged out somewhat reluctantly, as I realize it's perhaps my most oft-repeated tale). During our time there, I believe I had three mixed vodka drinks and one straight glass of Grey Goose L'Orange, just for a change of pace. I fully intended to stop there, but then Nittany Lion called and said he was coming out, so I decided to keep drinking in celebration. I believe I had another K&T before he got there, then two more while he was there.

Naturally my memory is spotty toward the end of the evening (I have a horrible memory while sober, and being drunk only accentuates what I firmly believe to be a genetic defect). I remember leaving, but not paying, though I'm told I did (can't wait to see that bill on my credit card). I remember being driven home, but not the shouting in the streets that apparently I took part in. I remember getting home and eating the ears off my chocolate bunny (thinking it would lessen my drunkenness if I had food in my stomach). Apparently I watched an episode of Firefly (Borders Rewards Card, thank you), had the good sense to hang up my dress clothes, and passed out, contact lenses still in.

I awoke the next morn, luckily early enough to still make the brunch time I had set with CryptoJew, TS, and LiB, back at the Old Fashioned (where they serve a mean breakfast as well as their impressive bar). I woke to discover I was still of a less than sober state, took out my contacts (catching one in the holder and ripping it in half in the process, as I would discover later), and took about a 45 minute shower to gather my wits. Sadly, my wits had other ideas. So I went to brunch, which was lovely, came home, rewatched the episode of Firefly I had apparently watched the night before, ate more of my bunny, and took a very long nap. I capped the day grading papers and eating for Easter dinner beans from a can, as I had nothing else that would sit well in my hungover state. Oh, and I got a phone call from my brother, who informed me that my mother, at the family party, was well on her way to achieving the state I had achieved the night before, along with her myriad brothers and sisters. I love my family.

Thus concludes my Easter tale. I only hope the actuality of events lived up to the hype. And to Housefan, two addendums to your post:

1. It's not that I'll drink anything in front of me, but that if you put a drink in my hand, I'll drink it quickly because it's there, regardless of whether it is mixed weakly or pure alcohol. It's my tragic flaw. Though I will also drink almost anything put in front of me, thanks to the training I received with Quantum et al. Partial list of things we drank at NU: margarita from a jug (just add you, chugging contests), Jeremiah Weed Bourbon Liqueur, Jeremiah Weed mixed with Tabasco Sauce, Captain Jack Cuervo, the fruit punch made of the nine or ten bottles of Pucker Quantum had leftover (mixed in an unwashed cooler and ladled out with an empty cup), the crazy stuff Bourbon Samurai got at a gun show from a man with an unmarked jug, and the mead Uber260 made in his basement, fermented in tupperware containers (which we drank to the toast "Blindness and Death," and which luckily caused neither).

2. It wasn't a pint glass full of whiskey, but a pint glass full of five different kinds of whiskey (and a dash of cherry coke to delude ourselves into calling it a mixed drink).

Happy Holiday, all. Christ is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia. Unless you're Jewish. (Yes, I mean you Irish McJew.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

One Always Looks Neat

A blast from the Northwestern past, as referenced in a recent Wisconsin conversation:

I think the site speaks for itself.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I'm Confused

A new ad hanging in the corner store:

Camel Menthols
Pleasure to Burn

The slogan in particular is what perplexes me, as the phrase "It was a pleasure to burn" is the opening to Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451, which is about a dystopic society where reading is outlawed. In particular, the opening refers to the mindless animal joy found in destruction, specifically the destruction of books and implements of the higher mind. It marks the descent into the bestial, and the savage glee therein.

I am at odds, then, to explain why a cigarette company would choose this phrase as its slogan.

Are they trying to imply that smoking Camel Menthols brings about animal joy? The joy of destruction, of destruction of self, of lungs, of lifespan? Should one be taking glee in this act? Are they implying that cigarettes lead to mindlessness? That only the unthinking and unaware smoke? The firemen of Bradbury's novel are villains, condemned by the novel's end. Are cigarette smokers to see themselves allied with them?

Or does the symbolic destruction of a cigarette through consumption provide the real pleasure? What psychological assuagance is gained through this act of burning something you have purchased? Is it the pleasure of consumerism, of spending money on such a fleeting thing that provides a moment of narcotic release, gone before the money spent is even deposited in the bank? Is it the cycle of consumption and destruction that provides the implied bliss?

Or is there another meaning I'm missing? Does the line not refer to 451 at all, but rather implies an excess of pleasure? As in the phrase "money to burn," does "pleasure to burn" imply you have too much pleasure, an excess of pleasure that allows you to spend it freely on Camel Menthols? Does one gain more pleasure by recognizing this overflow of existing pleasure, thus gaining pleasure while losing it?

Please, chime in with thoughts, as I am very confused. And note I am not making an overt political statement in favor of or opposed to smoking. I leave that type of polemic to Brownsox. I just seek enlightenment.

Friday, April 07, 2006

My Computer Is Not a Network

Today marks one of the greatest triumphs of the human spirit over the evils of the technological age, as personified by my victory over the computer that has bested me for over two years now. In brief, my tale.

Over winter break my MA year (2003-2004), I received a new computer from my folks, as a belated graduation present. Returning it to my Madison domicile, I quickly discovered one of those little quirks that have tormented me as one of the computer illiterate. For some reason, the infernal machine reacted poorly with my SBC DSL connection, prompting the following problems:

1. Once a day, the entire computer would briefly lock up, breaking my internet connection. This would pass, for the most part, in a minute or so, with no adverse consequences. Every so often it would disrupt my AIM program, which is why many of you would see me logged on in the morning, and no longer there during the day. But that was a minor consequence, and as I wasn't home anyway most of the time, it didn't bother me.

2. Every so often, it would lock up so completely that I couldn't reconnect to the internet, no matter what I tried. Other programs would work, but nothing involving being online. For these, I had to reboot.

3. More often than #2, this corruption would somehow disconnect my sound card. I have no idea how, or why, but I could no longer play sounds. This also called for reboot.

4. If I were in the middle of a program (a video game, most often), the entire computer would be trying to do too much, and the entire thing would restart. This was very rare.

I lived with this problem from January 2004 to the present time. I tried various fixes myself, looked online for answers, spoke to people from SBC and from Microsoft, and no one could tell me what the heck was wrong. I am stoical, and like most men, unwilling to take trouble to admit my ignorance and ask others for extensive help. So I dealt with it by ignoring it. I learned little tricks, like leaving Windows Media Player playing music with the sound turned down, which would prevent the sound card from screwing up. Then, this week, I finally decided to look closer at the little computer icon in my lower right-hand corner of the tray. I had looked at this often, trying to figure out if it was creating problems, but various attempts had never yielded results. This time, however, would prove to be different.

For the first time, I noticed a button marked "Advanced Properties," and decided to play around with this a bit more. This information claimed that my computer was part of a network, and had various operations ongoing as related to that network. Well, I live alone, so apparently my computer was networked to the printer, or to itself, or to the SBC company. As the original software installation had created this icon, I assumed it was necessary. Just for kicks, this time, I decided to turn it all off and shut down each of those operations. I would be a network no longer.

Well, I rebooted the computer, was initially aghast as I could not seem to connect to the internet at all now. I frantically tried to find out how to re-engage the network, failing miserably. But as I was doing this, my connection somehow magically reformed itself. I imagine it was something akin to the re-routing scene from Terminator 2, where my PC found a way around the problem I had created for it. And through this growth, it was set free, a modern electronic existential tale.

For you see, dear reader, my computer no longer has this daily problem. It never disconnects anymore. It never gets extra slow anymore. And it starts up infinitely quicker now. Originally, I could turn on the computer, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, put my contacts in, and then it would finally be ready to work. Now, it's done almost instantaneously, finally starting faster than my old system did, and proving that a superior processor isn't just a joke IBM tells us.

I feel as if a great weight has been lifted, as if an unseen rock on my back has been removed, and I am for the first time standing tall within the Electronic Age. I still don't know exactly what the problem was, or what I specifically did to fix it, and I don't care. A wiser man may choose to explore further and learn something, increasing his own knowledge. Me, well I've discovered that if I just start shutting things down in new and exciting ways, eventually the computer will either die or fix itself. I have faith in my system. It validates my belief that the computer is an active force constantly grappling with me for dominance. And it's just crazy enough to be true.

That's all for now. If you're in New York, go see Bourbon Samurai's play. I have no idea what it's about, but I believe it was the inspiration for this concept, which I adore. Click on his blog for ticket information. And good luck with the performance, New Yorkers.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Window into His Madness

Sorry I haven't updated in a week or so. Various things have been happening, but none is a tale unto itself. So here's the highlights of my past week:

1. Gained a small modicum of national acclaim as one of the profs here sent out my Paradise Lost parody e-mail to various Milton scholars throughout the country.

2. Went to a conference in DeKalb, Illinois, with Captain Americanist, The Lecteur, and two Medievalists for whom I don't have names yet. We hit that town like a thunderbolt, gave our papers, and were gone before the echo faded. Upon the return trip, conceived the idea for our version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which would be the X-Men in the 19th century. Open to suggestions for possible powers.

3. Birthday party for the Red-Headed Stepchild. Theme: golf pros and tennis hos. Red's kinda crazy when it comes to parties, hence a new theme each year. Saw perhaps the worst rendition of "Sweet Caroline" ever performed by man. Perpetrators: one guy who was clearly drunk, and two girls who were either equally blitzed, dumb as posts, or both ("both" seems the appropriate choice).

4. Lost an hour to the cruel hands of time. Lousy Ben Franklin. Penny saved my ass.

And since I had no actual story to tell, a brief glimpse into an aspect of my personality that I found amusing:

You know how they say you should never go shopping while hungry? Well, this has never bothered me, as I don't usually tend to buy a lot of food when I shop (and when I do, I usually get a lot of frozen stuff that will keep forever, rather than snacks or perishables). But recently I discovered a truism for my own life, in that I should never go shopping when I'm thirsty. One night a while back, I had a craving for a Jones' Green Apple Soda. These sodas are very rare, and I only know of them because the liquor store down the street carries them (they are non-alcoholic, not sure why they're there). But I had a huge hankering for one, and I didn't want to go to a liquor store just to get a bottle of soda. So I decided to go to the grocery store, and get a few of them, and perhaps some other potables as well.

The nearby Cub Foods is my store of choice, due to the fact that I used to frequent its counterparts in Chicago, particularly when in search of Old Towne, perhaps the greatest beverage ever to grace the taste buds of the gods. Sadly, it no longer exists, but I still hold true to my store. So I went to Cubs, which tragically did not carry any Jones soda, even in its liquor store. So now I was very thirsty, with no Green Apple soda to slake my thirst, and a credit card just burning a hole in my wallet. The outcome? Items purchased: two large jugs of Gatorade, a bottle of orange juice, a bottle of milk, a 12-pack of Diet Coke with Lime, a 12-pack of Root Beer (cans), a bottle of Root Beer (for that glass taste), two giant jugs of Hi-C Orange Drink, and two 12-packs of Pink Lemonade. It looked like I was throwing a huge party and had been put on mixer detail, or at least that's what I assume the cashier thought. Sadly, I had just wanted a bottle of Green Apple soda. I now had enough liquid to cross the Sahara on foot.

What this says about me as an individual is anyone's guess. Feel free to speculate. Of course, writing this has made me thirsty, so it's time for a soda (Diet Pepsi from the corner store, in case you care). Oh, and I never did get the Green Apple Soda, to this day. I always forget to buy one when I'm getting liquor.

To close, two questions that help determine what kind of person you really are. Reflect, and answer.

1. "Thunder Road" or "Born to Run"?
2. When you sing along with "Roxanne" (and don't pretend you don't), are you a "Roxanne" person or a "Put on the Red Light" person?