Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: September, 2004

You Heard It Here First

Just found out that a Dartmouth employee, while on vacation in the backwoods of New Hampshire, got infected with hantavirus. Or what looks like hantavirus. The CDC has yet to confirm the case.

Fits of Giggles

Overheard remark between two 32-year-olds: “How come we’re the same age yet I look better than you?” One has a full head of hair. The other one is balding.

Looking in the local paper, I see a workshop for blogging being held at a library in the next town over. I am sorely tempted to hop on over there and see what’s the Big Deal. But I’m afraid the organizer will kick me out because my age will simply reveal the fact that I am just a newbie poser.

Morning Babble. One of the Blowhards ask: “Do all women love to gab first thing in the morning?” Not me. I’m pretty awake during the early morning even without my daily jolt of caffeine. But gabby women early in the morning, however, tend to make my mood nosedive. Gimme something hefty and I’ll wack ’em over the head.

The Thursday Threesome: Against All Odds

Onesome- Against: Is there anything you are vehemently opposed to? Or just something that gets you up on your soapbox?

“Vehemently opposed.” Those are pretty strong words. And this is too early in the morning for me to rant about anything. All that pops into mind are some political and some scientific issues. Maybe I’ll write about them some day, but not right now.

As for the soapbox, anything can get me up on the soapbox. Including the way you put up your hair today.

Twosome- All: Is there something that you have to give all or nothing to?

My work.

Threesome- Odds: Are you a gambler? What would you bet on and for how much?

No, I’m not a gambler. The odds are always in favor of the house.

Not Romantic

I saw a guy walking about with a cake in one hand and a bouquet of roses in the other. There’s just something about that clichéd scene that screams out, “I’m desperately trying to get laid!”

Or maybe that guy is just trying to be nice. Nah. Gifts always have strings attached.


Blogging for Books. Certain famous blogs commenting on certain books are generating enough buzz that they convince readers to pick the books up. Real readers don’t read books because of recommendations from the media. Or blogs. Or I could just be annoyed because no one ever picks up a book because of any of my recommendations. It’s as if I don’t have any qualifications for making recommendations or something.

Banned Books Week. I should of posted this on Sunday, but I was understandably side-tracked.

Fear and Laptops on the Campaign Trail. (via everybody) Political boogers, bah. They’re like those activists I always see standing on the road touting signs. Lots of hot air, but in the end, completely ineffective. And is it just me, or do those old guys look like they’re peering down Wonkette’s cleavage rather than the laptop screen in that picture?

Popcorn gets poppier. Hmm. I wonder if I can rig up the vacuum pump to the mini-autoclave in lab. Not sure if my advisor would approve of it though.

Video disks ditch binary storage. A terabyte of data! The geek in me totally reels.

Doorknob’s Fortune Cat. Aww. That’s my kind of cat.

Grand Rounds. (via Pharyngula) It’s a weekly summary of the best of the “medical blogosphere.” Pharyngula wonders if there are more doctors and nurses than scientists since Grand Rounds is larger than Tangled Bank. Well…yeah. If you compare class size at my school, for instance, the number of medical students in one year’s class is larger than two year’s worth of biology graduate students.

Why are we here? Readership. What’s that?

A Writer’s Blather

Yep, it’s closing towards that time of year again. That’s right: Nanowrimo. October 1 is when sign-ups start, so better do it soon before the Nanowrimo website melts down when everyone registers at the last minute. For those of you who have no idea what this is, Nanowrimo is short for National Novel Writing Month which takes place in November. Crazy people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

I am a certifiably crazy person because this will be the fourth year I’m going to do this. Why? It’s a magnificent obsession of mine. Unlike other Nano-ers, I don’t have support groups. Other students think I’m insane for doing this. And I live in the boondocks with virtually no non-pretentious writing groups within a reasonable drive. So expect me to be crankier than usual.

As for an idea for this year’s novel, I do have one. If I had to fit it into a genre, it would be cheesy horror with overtones of Dracula. Except there will be no vampires and there will be more emphasis on the gore than the blood. Also: Obligatory plug for my other site.

A Movie and a Mini-Trip

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. If a large wheel of cheese were to land on your lap, this would be it. Remember all that sci-fi pulp you read as a kid and thought it was the best thing, but upon re-reading it as an adult you realize the writing wasn’t so great? Sky Captain, as an homage to those pulp adventure and sci-fi stories of yesteryear, is but a pale imitation. Sure, the air-brushed and sepia-toned cinematography is unique among today’s crisp and in-your-face films, but it only made me feel as if I was looking through someone else’s nostalgic memories–any tension, complication, or detail was blurred into oblivion by the camera lens. Sky Captain also reminded me somewhat of The Rocketeer, which in my opinion is a far better movie.

* * *
Yesterday, I decided on the spur of the moment to drive down to Concord. It was spur of the moment because I found out the previous day that Concord was hosting the 30th Annual New Hampshire Antiquarian Book Fair on Sunday. And it isn’t every day that you can go to book fairs.

I took the long scenic route to New Hampshire’s capital. It never really registered to me until now that fall had descended on New England. During the drive, I finally had some time to think of nothing in particular and to enjoy passing corridors of green-gold-red leaves and vistas of multi-colored hills. The only thing that annoyed me was slow-poke drivers going twenty miles under the speed limit and no passing zones galore. I also noticed a great hulking building surrounded by barbwire as I neared my destination. A moment later, I realized that I had driven past the state penitentiary. This struck me as incredibly creepy. It’s just a couple miles north of the historic district of Concord.

As for the book fair–there were a lot of old books, postcards, and broadsides. And they were expensive. Used booksellers from all over New England (as well as someone from Canada and someone from Florida!) had set up kiosks in a large empty arena. The one time I touched a book to take a look inside, a bookseller came up to me to ask me how I was doing. Good grief. I can take the hint. Although I suspect if I looked more like the typical customer–old and affluent–rather than a student, the booksellers would have let me flip through anything I wanted without distraction. So unlike everyone else pawing through the merchandise, I spent my time looking but not touching.

I love books, but many other book enthusiasts leave a lot to be desired. I saw no one of my age at the book fair. Dour old people who sneer at you because they think you’re going to make off with their $4500 first edition? No wonder so many of the younger generation would rather play video games.

Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Diminishing:: Returns
  2. Fed up:: With
  3. 3:00 AM:: Too Early
  4. Interfere:: Interferance
  5. Often:: Late
  6. Hay:: Down
  7. Prediction:: Weather
  8. Homophobia:: Gay
  9. Booty call:: Crazy
  10. Enunciate:: Properly

Way Behind

I saw some ridiculous things today–regarding shoes. There was one young woman wearing woolen boots out in eighty degree weather. Another young woman was wearing pointy stilettos while carrying heavy grocery bags. Maybe they think their choice in footwear is empowering, but I just think it’s plain stupid.

Why We Look So Bad. The author complains that academics are fashion-impaired. Well, I guess so. I can pretty much predict what profs will wear the next day. But then again, if you know me, you can predict what I will wear the next day. Students are definitely more trendy-conscious but yes, they are predictable too. Actually, from my years of keen people watching, I will say this–younger people may be more “fashionable” but they are also remarkably conformist.

This is Wrong on Oh So Many Levels. Burningbird says that people shouldn’t suck up to the A-listers if they want a popular weblog. Well guess what? People are going to do that anyway–especially if they value popularity over content. Sure, I worry about my (lack of) comments and (lack of) page hits like the next blogger and yeah, I can whore myself out to increase my popularity, but in the end what benefit is that to me? I say, leave the people who are worried about their popularity to their own antics. The only way they will ever get a hit from me is if I accidentally stumble onto their site. (And I am pretty much content with my status as an off-off-off-off-off-off Broadway blog.)

My first time unto the breach. Adam Greenfield berates Dave Winer on pontificating about a subject that he knows nothing about. Okay, so it was probably a good idea for Greenfield to point out the errors of a guy other people might believe because of his association with a Famous University, but is this anything new? Of course not. People in the blogosphere pontificate on subjects they don’t know anything about every day. Take it from me–don’t believe anyone.

As All-American as Egg Foo Yong. An NYT article about the history of Chinese restaurants in America. I try as much as possible to avoid Chinese restaurants because I’ve always felt uncomfortable eating in these kind of restaurants outside of Chinatowns and Asian countries. I often get the impression that as an Asian person, I shouldn’t be in a place where they’ve altered the food so much to accommodate Western taste. The times that I do go, I’m usually humoring someone else.

Girly Stuff. Arg. Do people really want to provoke my bra-burning and hairy feminist alter ego? Who freakin’ cares about nice smelling lotions? Okay, so I admit I own some of those lotions, but that’s because society has forced me to buy them. People won’t come within three feet of you (even if you shower daily) unless you smell like a plum.

A new metric for my self-adulation! Let’s see. Based on Google, my real name is roughly 7.8 x 10-5 brooksies. Pretty dismal. Syaffolee is about 0.04677 brooksies. I’m telling ya’, I’m really off-off-off-off-off-off Broadway.

Four Films

Fortunately for me, this was not some sort of manic relay in which I watched a whole bunch of movies all at once. These were spread out in the course of the past few days. In a nutshell–for those of you who have too little attention to spare for the rest of this post–the first film was excellent (you can bring the kiddies with you), the second film was also excellent (okay for kiddies although the older ones might appreciate and understand it better), the third film was so-so (kiddies somewhat iffy, depends on how much violence and weirdness you want them to see), and the fourth film was brilliant in a tragically funny way (definitely not for the kiddies because of adult themes).

Finding Neverland. What exactly inspired J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan? With the bomb of his latest play and his marriage on the rocks, Barrie retreats from his problems to befriend a widow and her four sons. Barrie and the boys immerse themselves in a make-believe world of pirates and fairies. Johnny Depp, who plays J.M. Barrie, is amazing as the unflappable and serious yet mischievous playwright. Comparing this role to his previous roles–say Captain Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribbean–you could swear that this was a different actor.

It is interesting to ponder–exactly who in this movie are grown-up? Who’s not grown-up? Who wishes to not be grown-up? Who has never been grown-up? The only real villains in this film are “grown-up” problems which prevent people from ever finding “Neverland”. And who did Barrie base Peter Pan on? Although one of the kids was named Peter, Peter Pan’s very character is Barrie himself. There’s hardly any romance in this film, but I have to be blunt and say that emotionally, Finding Neverland is bordering on chick flick sappiness. There was hardly a dry eye in the audience when the credits finally rolled. And yes, even I was crying–and I almost never cry.

Kontroll. This bizarrely beautiful and allegorical Hungarian film is destined for cult greatness if it never catches on with the wider public. Atmosphere-wise, it’s sort of like Dark City with a pulsing electronica soundtrack. The setting was entirely filmed in an Eastern European subway system. First, we’re introduced to a mystery: who’s pushing so many people onto oncoming trains? But the focus quickly shifts to a gang of ticket inspectors–their antics, adventures, incompetence, and struggles with the uncaring subway-riding public. Being a ticket inspector is a low, demeaning job and it is no wonder when one inspector finally “goes postal” when the stress is too much for him.

Much of the film is symbolic too–owls, crawl spaces, “riding”, the mysterious black figure who pushes the jumpers, the girl in the bear suit. There’s a lot to think about. Although some people might describe the film as “an investigation of post-Communist uncertainties”, I see it as a metaphor for much of life in general. Aren’t we all trying to stay one step ahead of failure (“riding”–a game that involves running on the subway track but with the train not so far behind you) and death (the black figure) yet wishing for something better (represented by above ground which we never see in the film)?

Enduring Love. Based on a Booker Prize winning novel, this is the story of an erudite professor who goes out on a picnic with his sculptress girlfriend but ends up failing to rescue a man in a freak ballooning accident. Another man who is also at the scene of the accident takes the balloon as a sign that he and the professor share a bond. The professor’s life (and the film) progressively goes downhill from there. Is there a point to this film? Well, yes, but it was rather heavy handed. I was actually rather bored as the professor character went on his po-mo rants about the nature of love–is it meaningless and only biological to ensure the continuation of our species and does love only have meaning because we say it does?

Enduring Love is an examination of different kinds of love–from the rather mundane kind of love found between a couple to the unhealthy one-sided love of obsessed stalkers. I actually didn’t know what to expect with this film. While I was waiting in line, the people from the previous screening came out of the theater with stunned zombie expressions and kept muttering, “Oh my God.” One man described it as a “shocker” and warned some of his acquaintances who stood behind me to turn around and go home. Well, it wasn’t that bad. There are definitely worse movies. But in some ways it was a shocker. I am never going to think about curtains in the same way again.

Bad Education. In this Spanish film, the protagonist Ignacio puts down his experiences in a short story called “The Visit” where he dreams up revenge for a pedophile priest at his childhood school and remembers his love for his schoolmate Enrique. The story finds its way to Enrique who has grown up to be a famous gay director. Enrique tries to resurrect his relationship with Ignacio both on film and in real life. But who exactly is Ignacio? Is he who he really says he is? We at first see Ignacio’s adult life as envisioned by the short story, but what exactly happened to him? Who is the man posing as Ignacio? Why is he doing it?

Keep these questions in mind, but don’t think about them too hard. Bad Education is also noirishly funny with its soccer-playing priests, out-of-place recitals of Moon River, and crack-snorting transvestites. One could place this in the category of sex-with-meaning films which Michael Blowhard seems so fond of, but I don’t think it’s really about the sex. It’s about the future roads people take because of events in the past. I guess the best metaphor is a story that Enrique cuts out of a tabloid at the beginning of the film: On a frigid winter night, a speeding motorcyclists freezes to death. The funny thing is, two patrolmen continue to chase after him even when he’s already dead.