I’m a terrible blogger this semester. To be fair though, this has been a killer one so far.  So I feel like I need to catch up on all the things I’ve been doing so far since class resumed in August.

First things first.  I’ve officially run into a professor that I despise.  In the past, I’ve only had one awful professor that made me want to run away screaming, but it wasn’t the result of a personality conflict like the most recent one.  It occurred to me that I should tell that story as an example to others who might run into this kind of problem with a professor and have the same kind of issues I did with what to do about it.

My Senior Seminar course, called Theories of Culture, is required for graduation in the Anthropology Department.  I signed up for this class back in March, thinking I’d be able to get the remaining three requirements finished by the end of this semester, which would leave me with only elective choices until graduation.  From the first day of class, I knew that I was not going to like this man.  It was a case of instant dislike; he came into the room and started barking orders like we were so many poodles to jump through his hoops. And the hoops kept coming.  There was only one exam the entire semester, scheduled for the very beginning, followed by 2 papers and a group project.  Sounds easy enough.  However, his policies were quite terrible.  I realize this is a weed out class, and for those of you who don’t know what that is let me explain:  a weed-out course is one in the major where they get rid of all but the most dedicated people and those who chose the field on a whim (that doesn’t happen often with Anthropology. People in Anthro know what kind of work it entails typically and they drop out of the major LONG before senior year).  It is intentionally difficult and has a mandatory requirement policy usually.  But, I loathed this man.  Everything he said or did just irritated me. And he was very unreasonable to boot.  He accepted something late, but every day we were late was 5 points off.  Considering we only have class tuesday and thursday, if you missed turning it in on thursday, you would lose 20 points.  And if it were a holiday, you’d lose even more.

There’s always more.  There was a required attendance policy (something I’ve never had in any of my classes).  If you missed 3 days without a doctors note, you lost an entire letter grade.  Then he started changing the requirements for the papers.  First, we could choose anyone up to the exam, then, with two weeks until the paper was due, he changed the rules again, eliminating anyone who had not done fieldwork.  We knew nothing about the exam. He never reviewed, he never even mentioned it.  He posted online: Exam Thursday.  That was all.

For the first time since I’ve been back in school (almost 4 years) I failed an exam.  I studied for 4 days all the concepts and theories that we had covered in class and I still failed.  He tore my answers to his questions up, piece by piece, telling me I should have elaborated this (-2 points), I was too wordy with that (-2 points), I missed the point here (-4 points).  All those deductions left me with a nice, fat 62%.  Did I mention the test was only 50 points?  75% of my class failed that exam.  That’s 30 people out of 40.

I freaked the hell out. I had not failed anything since high school.  I took it personally, which in retrospect, was probably a good idea after all.

Around this same time I started getting backaches.  Now, I’d been having a problem with my left leg hurting for a couple of months, but it wasn’t a constant pain.  It would sometimes wake me up at night burning, which is a very strange feeling.  I thought nothing of it, so I never mentioned it to my doctor, who I had seen twice before.   The backaches though were starting to really aggravate me.  They started happening in the afternoons when I was driving home from class.  Then my leg started to hurt while my back was hurting in the car.  Then, it started happening before I even got to school, on the way there. Then during class.  It started to be increasingly difficult to sit down for very long.

I made myself visit my doctor, who tortured me with range of motion tests before pronouncing me to have a bulging disc, and as a side note, my hip is slightly crooked.  The leg pain was sciatica (not fun – it can hurt like hell), the bulging disc was the culprit. He gave me muscle relaxers and a mild pain killer, coupled with a steroid to reduce swelling.  He ordered me to return in a week.

Meanwhile, I’m hating my professor.  The test results came back and I had failed.  So, because there was only one exam in that class, that immediately barred me from getting an A.  All 30 of us.  Between constant backaches and leg pain, followed by an insufferable professor who failed most of us, I was in a terrible mood. His class was beginning to give me anxiety attacks.  I’m overly proud of my very nice GPA and was horrified of getting at best a B in a class in my major.  That would have totally screwed my GPA, and I likely would have lost the chance to graduate with honors.  I started toying with the idea that I would drop the class, but ultimately, that started to make me even crazier.

My advice? If you hate that professor, and even though it’s a required course, drop that shit like yesterday’s trash.  You can always retake it later (I will take it with a different person in the spring most likely).  I finally made myself drop it.  I don’t let professors beat me usually, and I don’t think this is a case of being defeated.  I just chose to not deal with his stupid shit in addition to the mess that is currently unfolding in my life.

I returned to my doctor a week later, still having pain and discovering that prednisone makes me into some kind of lesser Demon.  And I mean that. I was intensely cranky and unpleasant during the 6 days I was taking it.  I wanted to bite people. I screamed at people in traffic.  I wanted to set a professor on fire.  He sent me for an MRI, and told me: if it’s herniated you are going to surgery.  The hell I am not.

The MRI results showed that I didn’t have a bulging disc; I had several.  Three, to be precise.  So, that explained why I was constantly hurting and those shitty painkillers weren’t working.  The culprit does in fact appear to be my crooked hip.  Bulging discs don’t come on suddenly, they develop over time.  I seem to recall the chiropractor telling me that 15 years ago when I had a car wreck that my crooked hip would cause back problems.  I think I chose to ignore him.

So now, I’m going to see a specialist.  The problem is, it will take 3 weeks at least to get in.  So I get 3 more weeks of pain before I can be treated.  My regular doctor took pity on me and upped my pain medication’s strength.  I spent part of the day yesterday agonizing over the decision of whether or not to go to class. I decided to stay put, since I can’t sit for 3 hours, and the harridan that teaches statistics won’t give us breaks.  Additionally, that would have meant an hour in the car, which I think is a device made solely to torture me at this point.  Even  my 10 minute drive to the pharmacy last night to get the new painkiller was horrible. I stand behind my decision: I do not want to suffer further.  I will return back to school this Thursday (I have to, we have reviews for next weeks exams) and survive the best I can until i can see the specialist. I just needed a day or two to give my back a rest.

I just realized that if I turned my stats professor into a post, it’d probably be as long as this one. That’s a whole story unto itself.

I hate statistics.



Back to School Special

Posted: August 16, 2010 in anthropology, School Daze

It’s that time of year again, when parents sing and skip as they buy back to school supplies for their little darlings, who have been terrorizing the house for 3 months.  That first morning, a universal sigh of relief is heard around the country as people’s children become some teacher’s problem once again.  For me, however, it’s a different story entirely.

I certainly do not skip and jump and sing when I’m buying school supplies.  Why not?  Because my supplies often cost a LOT more than what I would like them to.  It’s the curse of my profession:  all of my equipment has to be able to survive work in the field, and this semester I’m getting out there and grubbing about quite often thanks to my work with the Veterans History Project collecting oral histories. I have already attended one interview, and am learning the fun art of transcription directly by doing it.  I’m in the process of scheduling two of my own interviews in the month of September.

School resumes for me next monday, August 23rd with my first class at night (should be the last math I’ll ever have to take!). Then on Tuesday, it’s off to Tampa for a full day of anthropological immersion as I take Linguistics, Biological Anthropology (Forensics), and the dreaded and dull Senior Seminar: Theories of Culture. Did I mention a lab somewhere in there on forensics?  I’ll repeat that schedule on Thursday, minus the lab.  In my off time, I’ll be working on projects and doing research for the Veterans Project itself.

While my supposed one-month vacation is about to run out, I’d love to say I feel relaxed and rested, but the truth is I don’t.  It’s very hard to relax from a year of non-stop day to day school in a month’s time.  Just as I was starting to relax a bit, it’s time to get ready to start again.  Sigh.  This is the last year, though.  After this, I get to find a real job in my field that pays real money, not volunteer  hours or credit hours.  I look forward to that first decent college-degree paycheck. I’m planning to take a year off and work, then go back to school again as a Grad Student in Applied Anthropology (unless I change my mind, move to Rome, Georgia and take up residence in the Folklore department as a grad student instead).  The idea of an additional 30 credits past my degree is awful to me right now. But I know that if I want to make decent money, a Masters in Anthropology will be the best way to do that.

Make no mistake: I have no desire to ever EVER be a teacher of any kind. I have the utmost respect for them, but a career in Collegiate Academia is not for me.  Not to mention, there is no money in that field anyway, and they are treated like crap in general. Teachers have the hardest job for the least pay, and to me, the cost versus the benefits do not weigh out.  Some people are called to teach; I was not.  Teachers have the most respect I can give (next to Hospice Nurses) for the difficult job they have to do, but the truth is I do not like kids enough to put up with their stupid shit in college-level courses. I would be the meanest, most demanding Anthropology Professor ever created. They would hate me.

I feel as though I’ve neglected my blog since I started at USF.  I haven’t had nearly as much to write about since my last 2 semesters have been entirely online (I do not recommend it unless you have the gumption to do all the work it requires to be self-taught).  Starting next week, I’ll be able to rant, rave and bitch about the people in my classes again (Flashback: University of Tampa), or else talk about how great it is since I won’t have any freshmen in any of my classes with the possible exception of Statistics (and I don’t care about that one).  Theories of Culture is restricted to Seniors only, so that one might be decent. The rest are 3900 level courses, so not likely to see freshies in any of those either.  I look forward to actually having on-campus material to write about.  My blog has been very dull lately.

So, be looking forward to what horrors I unleash regarding a State-run University’s day-to-day operations, as well as all the scathing and hilarious commentary I give on what I see during my classes. I’m sure this semester will be rife with fodder for the writing.

Parents: Here’s to the new school year! May it be long and your days quiet.

Students:  Haha, it sucks to be us doesn’t it?

What a strange couple of weeks this has been for me.  It’s true I suppose that things happen for a reason, but I didn’t expect all of it to happen at once.

A couple of weeks ago I saw an article in the local paper regarding the Veterans History Project, a project being done by the Library of Congress to catalog the oral history of veterans who served in past wars.  As it so happens, Oral History is a division within Anthropology, and it’s one that I have a little experience with since  I come from a performing arts background.  After reading that article, I immediately fired an email off to the project coordinator who works for the Historical Society of the county I live in.  She responded the very next day with excitement over getting an Anthropologist on staff to help with the project.  Later in the week, I spoke with her by phone and was happy to sign on to the project, both for purely selfish reasons (My resume will look better with a list of collections I have contributed to the Library of Congress myself) and because I think this is a truly valuable pursuit.  I met with her and a colleague yesterday to discuss the project and came home with a pile of information in folders, and even an audio tape of an interview conducted last year for me to transcribe and abstract for the LoC.

Something else has also happened that was unforeseen.  A few days ago, after a random facebook post regarding the Rocky Horror Picture Show I was watching on Netflix, a local community theater approached me and asked me to become President of the Corporation.  I was stunned to say the least.  I had been planning to start my own Theater group next year when I graduated from college, and the person who contacted me said that it would make more sense for me to just join them and help them climb out of the hole that they have found themselves in. Plus, they already have all the not for profit paperwork completed and are already incorporated, which would save me a lot of time and money.  I asked for a few days to mull over the idea of taking the helm on this group a full year earlier than I had planned and to sort out any inadequacy issues I had over being in such a public position of leadership.

I do not make decisions lightly.  Having been a member of community theater in this county for nearly 20 years, it has always been my dream to one day run a successful theater group that produces great, artistic shows that aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of community theater.  I decided to do my homework, take the temperature of the current Board of Directors (I spoke to three people total out of five) and even consulted the previous President of the group.  And after all that, I still see no reason why I shouldn’t do this, albeit a year earlier than I had planned.

Do not be mistaken:  this is not a fun jaunt into theater.  This will be serious long-term work.  There are many things that need to be examined and changed for this group to be functional and successful.  Certain theater groups in this county tend to forget that this is a business in addition to being about the Arts.  Previous groups have also had Board of Director issues, meaning that the Board members themselves are lazy and inclined to do nothing without being prodded by upper management.  Money is always an issue in the arts.  Funding from Grants is at an all time low.  Without a good fundraising plan, this may be doomed before it ever really gets rolling. (And the money kept rolling out…)

They say that good things come in threes.  During my visit to the historical society yesterday, I briefly mentioned my work with community theater, and that I had been approached about taking the helm on a group.  As it so happens, the Historical Society is currently planning a production to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Elvis movie “Follow that Dream” which was filmed both here at our local courthouse and at other sights throughout our county.  They are planning a live show in April that will celebrate this movie and its impact on our local history.  The Historical Society asked if I (and my group) would be interested in helping with this project and could they please give my number to the woman who was in charge to have her contact me?  I said yes.  What I didn’t expect was that this lovely lady would call me within minutes of stepping out of the old courthouse while I was heading home.

To say that she was excited is an understatement.  She is currently writing the show with a group of people, and she invited me to come today to a writers meeting she’s having at her home this afternoon.  We spoke on the phone as if we were already old friends.  She told me about the project and how it came about, and when she found out that I was also a writer in addition to the myriad other things I’m involved with, well, that sealed the deal.  She begged me to come be a part of this project, and how can I say no?  I went from being a no-one to a someone over night it seems.  I have never had so many people actively seek me out like this before.  I’ve lived in this county for probably 29 years and have only ever been involved with the theater groups here.  Nothing ever seemed to come of it.

In the space of a week, I suddenly find myself heading a theater group, working as an ethnographer for the Veterans History Project and taking part in a county celebration of history and Elvis.  To say that I felt overwhelmed after yesterday is probably not surprising, but under the light of a new day, I see a lot of good that can be done with these things.  This could finally be my chance to leave my mark here, and just maybe, bring some of the Golden Age of Theater back to our county.

I have my work cut out for me, but then, I’ve never been one to back away from a challenge.

An Excerpt

Posted: July 1, 2010 in writing

Lately, I’ve been working on the massive storyline to my trilogy of novels that I expect to write when I graduate.  So this isn’t a typical blog from me.  This is what I call a “writing” blog as opposed to my usual mess of anthropology, religion, sociology, folklore, psychology that I traditionally have written about.

The last few weeks as I work through my summer courses, my overall plot has been working itself out in my head.  The hardest thing about writing is where to start, and a few days ago, I found my starting place.  What you will find below are the first three pages of the Prologue to The Myth of Nature, entitled “Playing the Game”.  It’s by no means finished!  But, it’s a starting spot, and I feel like it is a much better place than the one I started at last year.  Hell, even my writing style has changed somewhat in a year’s time since I last started working on my first novel during the summer.  For the few of you who saw the prototype, this is nothing like it.  I chose a different direction to start my story.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with my novel concept, I work primarily in the Fantasy genre for creative writing.  If you aren’t much of a fantasy fan, feel free to skip.

Playing the Game, Prologue to Book I: The Myth of Nature

The man and woman sat in the middle of the large, well appointed room.  He leaned forward, staring at the playing board while she, in her way, lounged carelessly in her tall backed chair.  From time to time she glanced around the room at the stuffed heads of strange animals, the few paintings on the walls of watercolor flowers, and the floor to ceiling book shelves.  It was a very nice room, even if it were a bit cold, and the roaring fireplace was doing all it could to hold back the chill from where they sat several feet away.  Her eyes kept going back to a particularly ugly stuffed head:  purple skin and one large bulbous eye in the midst of the creature’s head, and row after row of jagged teeth set into a mouth with a permanent grin.  This head, set above the fireplace, was directly above the place where her game partner sat and it was hard not to make comparisons between the two, though he was decidedly more handsome.

They had not spoken in a few minutes; He had a way of being silent when playing the game, perhaps fearing that if he said too much she might divine his game plan and beat him for once.  The object of the game wasn’t to win though, since she never did, it was merely a tradition that they held every few weeks to get together and talk.  The game was a method of passing the time. Finally, she stopped looking about her and focused her attention on the game board in front of her, moving a piece forward a few steps and sitting back triumphantly.

“That isn’t going to win the game for you,” he said in his airy baritone.  He didn’t even look up, but instead moved a piece of his own forward to meet hers.

“I thought the object wasn’t to win,” she replied, tossing her long blonde hair over her shoulder and leveling him with a gaze.  He still had not looked up.  He bent over the board, carefully examining the pieces and open spots, pretending to be absorbed.  She had seen it before.  He was merely stalling for time.  He had something on his mind, but wasn’t yet sure how to approach it.  She would wait patiently.

“Sometimes, it is about winning, but this time, not so much.”  He moved a tall piece up and over four spaces, and knocked her just-moved piece off the alternating squares of color.  Finally he looked up at her, his dark brown eyes catching hers.  “How long have we been playing this game?” he asked.

“Too long,” she said.  “I never have cared much for it. It’s all so predictable.” She waved her hands dismissively, but knew he wasn’t buying it.  They had been playing this game for ages, practically every visit she could recall.  All important matters revolved around the game. This game was as much about lies and deceit as it was about strategy, and in her mind she was a fearless player. She settled into the ornately carved overstuffed chair in which she sat and crossed her legs, taking care to smooth the dark dress she wore over her long, shapely calves.  He seemed not to notice.  His expression seemed thoughtful, deep.

“What if I told you that I saw something…new,” he said. “Something we’ve never seen before.”

“A new species?” She asked. “Or is it a new place? I’ve always loved seeing new places.” She looked forward to the appearance of new things in the world, it was a sign she took to heart that all was well, a kind of reassurance.  The power of the Source continued to make new creatures, new places. It was like clockwork.  She simply couldn’t understand why he’d get excited over something new, when they had seen thousands of new things in their time. She moved a piece forward from the front lines, still pretending to be interested in the game, but waiting for his explanation all the same.

“Neither,” he said quickly.  He caught her eyes again, briefly, before moving another of his pieces forward as well. “A mistake, more like.”

“Mistake?  What kind of mistake?” She immediately forgot the pretense and leaned forward, drumming her fingertips upon the oak table.  Something new was one thing, but a mistake? A mistake was a serious issue. In all her time she had never seen a mistake. For a moment, she pondered the consequences attached to a mistake, the implications it could have.  This had always been his favorite past-time: looking for one flaw in the plan, one slip that could be exploited.  “Are you sure?” She pressed.

For the first time today, he faced her fully.  “I’m positive of it,” he said.  “I saw it entirely by chance, day before yesterday.  This could be what we have been waiting for.   I’ll know more soon enough, the events have already been set in motion.”  His ovular face with heavily hooded eyes always looked sleepy.  He leaned his head on his hand and watched her reaction.

She let out a long sigh.  “Events are in motion already?” she said.  “I had gotten quite used to this place.”  Again, she looked around the room, but this time more fondly. She was suddenly aware of the fleetingness of time.  All thoughts of the game and this new thing were swept from her mind at the mention of events beginning again. She would have to take back up her mantle and get back to work.

His wry smile lifted one corner of his mouth, almost in a sneer.  “You’ve become complacent,” he said.  “I thought this is what you lived for?”

“Maybe once,” she relented.  “It’s become repetitive with years. It’s the same story, over and over without variation.”

“That, I think, is about to change.”  He deftly moved his crown piece onto the game board knocking two of her lower pieces off.

“How can it change?” she demanded.  “You know the rules as well as I.  Things follow a set path, always.”

“No, my dear, not always.  There have been other variations, as you are aware.”  He pushed his chair back and stretched his legs beneath the massive table.  “This time, however, I think an end may be in sight.”

“What is this new thing you have found?  How can it change the rules?”

“It remains to be seen, but you of all people should know that rules can be bent, broken even, if enough pressure is applied to them.  Did you think he would rule forever?  Forever is a very long time for someone as careless as he has been.”

“Time is unimportant,” she added heatedly.  “All we’ve ever had is time.”

“Your move,” he said to her.  She raised her eyebrows in surprise, and then looked at the game board.  After all the years of playing this game with him, she had learned a few tricks.  The most important trick, she knew, was to wait for him to make a mistake.  He rarely, if ever, made mistakes playing the game. She surveyed the board and examined her options.  Her finger landed lightly on her own crown piece, but just as deftly flitted to a more minor piece that was expendable.  Seeing an opportunity, she moved three spaces forward and one to the left, knocking his Priest off the map.

“Check,” she said with a smile.  He frowned in concentration at her, and then at the fallen Priest.

“Nicely done, where did you learn that trick?” he inquired of her.  She made no response, but continued to smile at her own cleverness.  “Foolish, really.” He said, and moved his crown piece forward to dismount her Knight.

“Ah ah” she said, and tapped the board with her crimson fingernail.  He looked where she tapped and saw that he couldn’t move his piece, another of hers was blocking him.  He moved his Crown back to its original position and smiled at her.

“So distracted,” she said with a hint of amusement.  “Has this new thing really got your wits in a knot? It’s like you’ve found another play-thing and can’t be without it.”  He really was distracted if he hadn’t seen that simple ambush she put in for him on the board.  She knew that the only thing to do in this instance was to exploit his lack of attention.   He deserved it after all these years and all these games. You didn’t play for as long as they did and not learn something about how it was done.

It’s that time of the semester again: the mad dash to digest several weeks worth of material and regurgitate it out as something usable, also known as the Mid-Term Exam.

This is my second semester at USF, and my second round of midterms.  I got out easy in the Spring semester; there were only 2 midterms and neither was very difficult.  This semester however, I’m getting my ass beat.  While I would have thought that this summer semester wouldn’t be very difficult, I stand corrected.  I’m taking 9 credit hours this summer (it satisfies a requirement) in French II and Religion: Life After Death.  This religion course I picked turned out to be VERY writing intensive (it’s also an exit requirement for graduation).  We write at least 1000 or more words a week (which of course I write more, wordy shit that I am) in addition to sometimes reading 5 chapters out of several of the 8 books we have for this course.  The material is interesting and engaging, and the teacher is very attentive to the class.  However, with that said, let me recount the midterm yesterday.

One thing I hate about professors are those that do not specify what will be on an exam or else, they use an old midterm exam guide like this professor did.  There were many things on the study guide we hadn’t even covered yet, and there was no mention of a dreaded essay. She merely said to expect 60 multiple choice or true false questions.

Tuesday night, the day before the midterm, I got an email that said to be prepared for not one essay, but three of them, and they had to be 500 words EACH and we had an hour and thirty minutes to finish them.  Needless to say, I panicked. We have covered so much material in 5 weeks that it was starting to make me feel dizzy.  We’ve gone through Christianity (again) all the way to Taoist views on death and the afterlife, and everything else in between.  We’ve read 4 books already as well.  I figured those essays could be about ANYTHING at that point, and when you have no idea what to prepare for, you panic.

So, as the midterm began, I took my time working through the 36 multiple choice and true false questions that comprised section I.

The insanity of midterm preparation

That part didn’t take very long, and I ended with a 98 on it.  The second part, however, was much more complicated than I thought.   Three essays asking us to relate shamanism and ecstatic process to the movie Don Juan DeMarco, the book Tuesdays with Morrie and of all things, Dicken’s a Christmas Carol (which was the only movie I didn’t watch! I had 4 others to get through, and who hasn’t seen or read that story a thousand times?).  That will teach me to skip something I think I know well.

I had budgeted 30 min per essay to myself to ensure that I gave each the full attention to detail it needed, but upon seeing the question about Dickens, I had to change the order I wrote them in to give myself more time to think on the worst of the three.  Lets be clear here: I’m not very good at writing essays on the fly.  Previously, professors have always hinted as to what you should think about for the essay, so that you can prepare. In this case, she wanted to see who can do it quickly and make it sound intelligent and knowledgeable.  I think I succeeded at that.  My total word count for all the essays was nearly 1400, so I was only a trifle short on the suggested 1500.  I feel like at least two of the three were very strong, it is only that Christmas Carol essay that I’m uncertain of.

Today’s midterm is in French.  We’ve also covered a lot of material in that class as well, and I think I’ve been studying so long that my brain can’t switch back and forth very well right now.  I find that I am talking to myself in French, and this morning it was the first thought in my head when I got up to study: Preparez pour l’examen aujourd’hui.  I’ll be glad when this is over this afternoon. My brain is fried from day after day after day of studying.  That one also has an essay, about a recent trip we’ve taken somewhere.  At least this essay I’m not worried about, I have a good grasp of the language and it’s grammar and stupid endings people don’t pronounce. I’m reminded of a former Religion professor who said she gave up for that very reason – it just doesn’t make sense that they don’t say the whole word to her.  I’m starting to agree. The slight change in pronunciation from present to imparfait is barely noticeable unless you have a well trained ear.

I look forward to 2 o’clock just so I can get this exam over and done with.  The French Professor (ha, he’s younger than me by like 6 years!) never makes his exams that difficult unless he has just decided to be evil this term.  Mostly it is not comprehensive, it is on a the first 6 lecons we have covered so far, and most of that are the imperfect tense and reflexives verbs.  Luckily, I do not have to drive to campus to take my test, I’ve set up a proctor at the local library to administer it to me.  Given my history with completing his exams in 20 minutes, it seemed foolish to drive for an hour and fifteen minutes for something I’m only going to be on campus for that lasts no more than 30 minutes tops.  Yay me for thinking ahead this term!

Well, that’s it for me right now, back to studying for another 15 or 20 minutes, then it’s time to get ready to go.

When this day is over, I will be very glad indeed.


Posted: May 12, 2010 in Uncategorized

It’s almost one am, and I should be asleep.  I laid down 2 hours ago, and just cannot turn off my brain.  So, since I’m awake, I felt like I would write out some of what I’m thinking in the hopes that it will put me to sleep when I’m done.

Now that this semester is over I can sigh in relief.  This was easily both my worst and  most difficult semester in college.  Having dealt with as much crap as I did early this semester, I’m lucky to have pulled the grades out that I ended up with.  Sometimes, a transition in the middle of the school year is not the best idea.  Duly noted, and filed for future reference.

I keep worrying about my Mom for some reason.  I wonder if she’s happy.  She never really goes anywhere now that they unceremoniously retired her from the job she had been at for 25 years last Fall. I know she worries about money.  Hell, I worry about money too.  She shouldn’t have to, though. She’s raised 4 kids in her lifetime and now she has to scrimp and save to make ends meet.  I try to be as helpful as I can, but being a student doesn’t make that very easy sometimes, since I live on a shoe-string budget.  I wish I could take her places she’s always wanted to see.  I’m thinking of taking some of my summer money and taking her on a cruise when school is out in July. Nothing fancy, just maybe a trip to the Bahamas or the Caribbean.   She’s done so much for me over my lifetime, that I want to repay her every day with something new and exciting, but as any college student knows, that’s often difficult to do.

I try to be a good son. I live here with her so she’s (Or I for that matter) not lonely, has someone to do the heavy lifting and to take care of the yard and house maintenance.  Yeah, I get something out of it too.  I enjoy spending time with her.   We watch tv shows and movies together, and I try to keep her involved in what’s going on in my life and with school.  You only get so much time with the people you love, so you should try to spend as much of it as you can with them.

Sometimes, though, I hate being the youngest.  It’s not my brothers and sister’s fault that things are the way they are.  I’m the youngest by 10 years, and that sometimes seems like a lifetime of it’s own.  I often wonder how much they even know about me really.  My oldest brother was married when I was born.  His oldest daughter is only 4 years younger than myself, and often times I feel I have more in common with her than with him.  We’ve never really spent that much time together, and I think he gets a majority of his information about me from Mom when he calls home.

I think about a lot of things that most people my age probably don’t have to worry about yet.  I worry about what will happen when my mom is gone.  I worry that I don’t do enough to help her.  I miss my dad sometimes too.  He’s been gone 20 years in 2011.  That’s a really long time.  A lot of people still have both their parents, and so they don’t worry about what life will be like when they are both gone.  Having lost my father when I was 13 was a very hard thing to deal with, and it really fucked my life up for a while.  I can’t imagine what things will be like.  The sad truth is, I’ll probably be the last one of my immediate family left.  That thought scares the hell out of me.  I don’t want to survive everyone I love.  I don’t know how I will ever go on without them.  I hope I’m in a safe place if that happens.

They say that if you want to really know a person, walk a mile in their shoes.  I don’t think people would like my life if they did.  They would discover that I worry about a lot of things that I have little or no control over.  I went back to school not just for my own benefit, but for my Mom’s as well.  I want to be able to take care of her.  She deserves it.  She’s worked so hard her whole life and has so very little to show for it.  She lost her husband long before she should have, and yes, maybe I’m resentful to my father for leaving us the way he did.  With both my brothers and my sister having their own lives, it was only natural that the responsibility of it would fall on me.  Sometimes, I don’t know if I am doing it very well at all. Most days, in fact.

I hear from a lot of people that I’m so strong, blah blah blah, but really I just deal with things as they come. It’s all you can really do, isn’t it?  I try to live a good life, be kind to those in need.  I try to be mindful of other peoples needs and wants.  Most of the time I rarely even think about myself.  I think about getting from one day to the next, with as little pain and trouble as possible.  Lately, I feel crushed by the weight of the future. So many things are uncertain and unknown, and I do not like that at all.  I like things to be orderly and neat, and the future is neither.  I think I went into Anthropology as a means of escape; there is no escaping your life, though.  You can try to run, but you will probably get the boomerang effect in the end. Everything will catch up to you at some point, so why bother running at all.  It solves nothing, does nothing.  Learning to love where you are and who you are is a lesson we should all learn early in life, I imagine it would make things easier.

Why is it that in the middle of the night is when the worst of it hits you?  Your mind, while happy and cheerful during the day, turns dark and brooding in the midnight hours.  This has been the cause of my insomnia over the years.  I lay awake at night, even when I was a child, worrying about things like what happens when your parents are gone?  What will you do to survive? How do you survive? I remember being 9 years old, a few weeks before my sister got married, and worrying about what life would be like without them all. I remember thinking about my parents passing, and it filled me with fear and such a sadness that a child should never know. I guess that proves I was never a normal child, not that I needed convincing.  I had a very happy childhood, with many friends and loving family.  So why on earth would I worry about stuff like that? I have no answers. I wish I didn’t worry about it. It makes me feel very lonely sometimes.  I would say that I miss being a kid, but as I’ve detailed, I wasn’t much different then than now. I’ve always been too mature for my age, worrying about things that I shouldn’t have to.

How unusual for me to pour my heart out in a blog.  It’s not usually my thing to tell anyone that I’m worried or sad. I really do miss the so-called carefree days of my youth, short as it may have been. I wish my Dad was here.  You never really get over the gaping hole something like that leaves inside you. People say it gets easier with time, but that isn’t always true.  20 years later and I still think about him often.  I guess I feel like my mother was robbed of her happy life when my father passed.  She had to work all day and raise a 13 year old, do without her husband and manage the household.  That can’t have been easy.  I was difficult, no doubt, doing stupid things that teen-agers do.  I doubt I’ve ever thanked her enough. I don’t think I even can.

I wish my mind would decide to go to sleep. Instead, it plagues me with thoughts about the meaning of life. Buddhism says that all life is suffering, and some days I completely agree.  We live, only to eventually wither and die.  We see our loved ones go, one by one, into the great darkness without us.  Each day we are tested and tried and stressed and exhausted.  I understand suffering, both in myself and in other people. Maybe that is what makes me so compassionate towards others. I wish I could fix everything.

More than anything, I wish I could just sleep and stop worrying over what the future brings.  I hope my family knows that I really do love them, even if I don’t say it or show it always.  Maybe it’s time to go back to taking sleeping pills, as much as I hate them.  Probably not forever, but a few weeks wouldn’t hurt. I hate these middle-of-the-night sessions where it’s just me, the cold air and long hours before dawn sitting in my bed thinking.

I wish I could stop thinking. You know what they say? Wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one gets full first.

The Clash of the Titans 2010 – Remake Review

2 out of 5 Stars – for terrible screenplay, incalculable changes to the storyline and choppy action sequences.

Crap of the TitansFor a certain generation, many of us grew up with Harry Hamlin, Sir Laurence Olivier and the original cast of this cult classic film released in 1981.  In 2010, a new remake has been made of the Greek Myth of Perseus, who rescues the fair Andromeda from the vengeance of the Gods (and the Kraken). This film should have been named “Some Greek Movie” instead of Clash of the Titans.

To say that I had high expectations of this film is not enough; I expected fantastic special effects, and in that regard it delivers.   I expected a technological update to the special effects of the original which, while groundbreaking in their day, are very dated in the modern era of digital technology.  I was severely disappointed that they chose to change the storyline in addition to the effects makeover.

If you were a fan of the original, here are several reasons why you will probably hate the remake:

  1. Instead of being a sweeping epic of greek mythology, the continuous action scenes turned this movie into a gaping plot hole.  The scenes seem to go from one action sequence to the next, with little storyline development in between.
  2. Thetis, Poseidon and other Gods do not even appear for more than 1 minute, as background extras in the Mt. Olympus scenes.  Originally, Athena, Thetis and Hera played a much larger role in the story.  They have been removed from the script, instead making Hades (who played NO part in the original film) the villain of this piece. While I enjoyed Ralph Fiennes as Hades, I was completely puzzled by his appearance in this movie.
  3. The role of Calibos was completely changed from the original. Instead of being the son of the Goddess Thetis who is cursed by Zeus, he is now Perseus’ father who doomed him to death at the beginning of the film and is empowered by Hades as a weapon to stop Perseus.  Gone are the storylines of Princess Andromeda’s Riddle for her suitors, thus making Calibos an unnecessary part entirely, and rewriting the scenes in which Perseus attains the Pegasus (who is now black in this version, instead of the usual white we are all familiar with).
  4. Io, who played no part in this myth, makes an appearance as Perseus’ guide, and eventually his love interest, as he turns from Andromeda, whom he rescued from the Kraken, for this character instead.
  5. Perseus (played by Sam Worthington of Avatar fame), who dislikes his demi-god status, refuses to accept the gifts of the gods (in this version, he only receives a sword, not the helmet nor mirrored shield) wanting instead to defeat the Kraken “as a man”.
  6. Athena’s mechanical Owl, a gift to Perseus, makes a 10 second appearance near the beginning of the movie, and then is never seen again.

There are many more reasons to dislike this film, save for one improvement: the Medusa scene, which I feel was better than the original. Much more action-packed, this was the only part in the movie I enjoyed. The 3D special effects added in post-production seemed at times gimmicky, but overall was still somewhat fun to watch.

With a run time of 1 hr, 50 min by the end I was bored and listless, ready for it to be over. With all the missing elements of the original, I found this remake to be bland, boring and generally unwatchable.   Even the inclusion of Liam Neeson as Zeus did little to salvage the terrible writing of the screenplay.  No amount of star power could have saved this film from its watery demise.  If only I myself were a god, I would “release the Kraken” on the screenwriter, and any other who dares to tamper with a story so many of us loved.  For all these reasons, I give this movie 2 stars at best, and that is only because of the special effects.  If you truly want to see it, wait for it on DVD and save yourself the cost of a 3D ticket (or, as one person suggested, wait for it to appear in the $5 dollar bin at Walmart).  As far as I’m concerned, you could even wait for it to appear on cable.  I still strongly recommend the original version, which can now be found on Netflix: Play Instantly, if you feel you want to experience the real Greek Myth of Perseus and Andromeda.