Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: October, 2003

I wish I had this teacher as my freshman English teacher in high school.

This is not to disparage the woman who was my freshman English teacher, but to be honest, I had been extremely intimidated by her. She was the quintessential southern woman with the sharp nails, coiffed hair, and cool eyes. She made everyone read a kazillion books over the summer and memorize forty vocabulary words each week. If she had been my introduction to English, I would have been scared off the language.

She only gave us two opportunities for “free reign”–to do book reports on a biography and a fiction book of our choice. Of course, it had to be approved by her so I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I had to pick something relatively serious or she would look down her aquiline nose and say in that thick southern drawl of hers, “Pick something else.” I chose an incredibly large tome about Thomas Edison and The Phantom of the Opera (located, predictably enough, on the classics shelf of the bookstore).

Those weren’t bad books by a long shot, but only now do I wish that at the time I had the gumption to pick something I wanted to read and then write about.

It was probably because of that rigid structure for English class that I started up a secret writing life that I told nobody about. There was plenty of homework, but I would do it all at school. At home, I would write my own stories on yellow legal pads, loose-leaf notebook paper, and the primitive word processor on my Dad’s computer. I think I finished my first fantasy novella sometime that year–it was thirty or forty pages single spaced.

This proved that I could do something myself but then I also realized that it would never be accepted by the establishment that my freshman English teacher represented. And even after her, writing professors had always set restrictions and conditions on what students could or could not write.

It’s very human to want to be accepted for one’s own work. But in reality, I find myself toiling in a vacuum. If only I had some sort of mentor like the teacher in the link who cared that I could write whatever I wanted. Maybe then I wouldn’t have such low morale every time I started a new writing project.

Two Obvious Third-Hand Observations That People Ignore Anyway:

1. Do not let your dog play with a porcupine.

2. Do not name your kid after every relative in your family who have horrible names themselves.

Finally! This totally explains why I got rejected from The Ageless Project. It probably also explains why I got rejected from one of the Nanowrimo webrings too. Maybe I should of picked a pseudonym that was more believable, like “Jennifer Huang.” Huang is a pretty common Asian last name and all the Asian girls are named Jennifer.

I’d forgotten how fun it is to walk in a sea of fallen leaves.

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

* * *
2001: A Space Odyssey
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

The last time I saw 2001 was probably around seven or eight years ago during summer vacation. Everyone kept telling me it was the sci-fi movie that every geek had to see so I borrowed a copy from the library to see what the fuss was about. I think I tried watching it during the afternoon, but it was after lunch and I fell asleep after the sequence with the apes.

Of course, after that, I didn’t think much of it. Big hairy deal. I returned the tape to the library and put the film out of my mind.

I haven’t read any of Arthur C. Clarke’s books so maybe I’m missing out on the bigger geek culture scene (then again, maybe I’m missing out on the geek culture scene entirely, I haven’t read a lot of the cult speculative fiction that everyone has been blabbering about). But at least I’m going into it with a fairly fresh mind.

So when I heard about 2001 being shown in the college’s relatively large theater, I thought, why not? Maybe I’ll give the movie another chance and hopefully this time I don’t fall asleep after the apes figure out how to make tools.

I arrived at the theater rather early and picked a choice seat in the center/front section. I ended up beside a pair of aging baby boomers who reminisced that all the people they knew who saw 2001 in the theater back when it was out had been under the influence of drugs. In front of me was a father and his young elementary school aged son. Ten minutes before the movie was about to start, “music” began to churn out from the speakers. I put music in quotation marks as this can only be termed modern and dissonant, the kind you sink into during horror movies. I personally thought something had gone wrong with the movie projector and that only the sound was coming out and not the picture.

But soon enough, the movie started with “The Dawn of Man”. In the dark theater, the apes took on a rather sinister cast. It was rather obvious that the monolith had somehow opened up the animal mind for something higher, but we aren’t shown how these apes make their lives more sophisticated. Instead, at the climax of the Also Sprach Zarathustra, we’re given scenes of death. This did not bode well for the rest of the film’s message.

It is a bit sad, though, that 2001 is already two years in the past and we have yet to have an operational space station orbiting the earth or even a moonbase. Although with China recently launching a man in orbit and breakthroughs in other scientific fields, maybe our future will be far from the strictly mechanical achievements that sci-fi visionaries of old would have predicted.

Anyway, there’s a lot to be said about the corporate logos plastered throughout the film and artificial intelligence (in the form of HAL), but I think those things are besides the point–they are but mere subplot and filler as are the extended panoramic sequences cut with The Blue Danube (which I have played before several times in a live orchestra in the midst of ballroom dancing fanatics but in the film it has somehow taken on a more apocalyptic tone).

The meat of the film’s message is in the last segment, “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite.” Only drugged out deadheads would have thought the psychedelic visual effects as a religiously expanding cool trip. And only bored and desensitized coeds such as last night’s audience would exclaim, “WTF?!” as the credits rolled.

I will not pretend to know what Kubrick and Clarke were trying to get across. But I will guess that this is their version of what “beyond” would be like, an incomprehensible and nightmarish landscape where in the end, we are after all still in that little box concerned only with our animal needs. The monolith, which appears so ominously in so many scenes, is the carrot that is always dangling out of our reach. Like the fetus-thing dominating the screen at the end, we are still new and dumb in this universe no matter how sophisticated we may think we are.

I just saw 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen.

I think I’m a bit traumatized by its vaguely sinister implications, at least for the next couple hours or so.

I might even have nightmares about it.

More later, preferably tomorrow.

Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Country:: Allegiance
  2. G:: Spot (Damn those in-your-face trashy magazine articles!)
  3. Offer:: Offering
  4. Connection:: Ties
  5. Quest:: Hopeless
  6. Lighthouse:: Gray (Because I’ve been planning to put a gray lighthouse in my Nano novel.)
  7. Sycamore:: Tree
  8. Inhumane:: Treatment
  9. Sneer:: Contempt
  10. Weapon:: s of Mass Destruction (Damn that overused political rhetoric!)

Grrr…

So I decide to hide out in the dimly lit sub-sub-basement of the stacks where nobody ever goes because it’s just too “scary.” Nobody is ever going to find me here, I think. But am I ever wrong! Somebody is now sitting next to me. Won’t anybody leave me alone?

The news articles are just starting to be churned out for NaNoWriMo.

Novel challenge for writers. It’s just like the BBC to emphasize that people have gotten published from their Nano efforts. This will only serve to disillusion people with hopes that National Novel Writing Month will jumpstart their writing careers. Sure, I’m a serious writer, but I take Nano as it is–something fun to do during November.

Want to write a novel? Really quickly? This article is more in the spirit of the thing although I wouldn’t go so far as to write out every acronym or quote government documents.

Some gung-ho graduate students, apparently, are planning a tailgating party for the “homecoming game.” Why is it that whenever I hear the word “tailgating,” I always think of rednecks perched on the back of a truck chugging down cheap beer? At any rate, I’m planning on barricading myself inside during the height of this “homecoming game.” Last year I was stupid and went out only to be almost mobbed by hundreds of crazed undergraduates.

Link Dump:
Foetus with three parents created. Well they’re only using the shell of an egg so technically the only genetic material is that of the DNA of another woman and the sperm. However, they don’t say anything about the mitochondrial DNA. Was that also removed or did they only remove the nuclear DNA?

I Love Egg. Cute flash animation involving eggs in various disguises.

Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts. Yet another neat manuscript archive.

Orisinal. A multitude of flash games to waste your time on.

The 100 greatest novels of all time: The list. I’ve read some of those books so I guess I’m not totally ignorant. Which reminds me, I already have too many books to be read.

Face Values: How Portraits Win Friends and Influence People. “Like any celebrity, Newton was active in fashioning his public persona. Some pictures show him as an elegant, sociable gentleman, while others reflect stereotypes of obsessive scientific genius.” If you looked at various portraits of Newton, you’d realize that he looks totally different in all of them. Yes, this means that Newton deliberately tampered with his own image to make people think better of him, but this also means that everyone else is extremely biased when judging people on their looks. Somehow, I doubt that has changed today–even though scientists are as diverse in appearance as the rest of the population–people still have an idea of what one would look like.

What the…

The comments have changed their order! (Sometime between noon and 4PM EST.) I suppose this explains it.