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The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Repeat

It started about a week ago when I found a recommendation for a certain band. Specifically, one song that should be put on repeat a top volume until everyone in your neighborhood is humming it as their wash their laundry.
I though, Hm, alright. Good song. ... Hey, I should listen to it again.
In the last three days I've stuck in on repeat, just the one song, and let its play count on iTunes run into the 50's. Oddly enough, it hasn't gotten old yet. (We'll see how I feel after day 4)

Loves, you've got to go listen to Blitzen Trapper's Furr. It's incredible. Here are the lyrics to catch your interest:

Yeah, when I was only 17,
I could hear the angels whispering
So I droned into the words and
wondered aimlessly about till
I heard my mother shouting through the fog
It turned out to be the howling of a dog
or a wolf to be exact.
The sound sent shivers down my back
but I was drawn into the pack.
And before long, they allowed me
to join in and sing their song.
So from the cliffs and highest hill, yeah
we would gladly get our fill,
howling endlessly and shrilly at the dawn.
And I lost the taste for judging right from wrong.
For my flesh had turned to fur, yeah
And my thoughts, they surely were turned to
instinct and obedience to God.

You can wear your fur
like the river on fire.
But you better be sure
if your makin' God a liar.
I'm a rattlesnake, babe,
I'm like fuel on fire.
So if you're gonna' get made,
don't be afraid of what you've learned.

On the day that I turned 23,
I was curled up underneath a dogwood tree.
When suddenly a girl
with skin the color of a pearl,
wandered aimlessly,
but she didn't seem to see.
She was listenin' for the angels just like me.
So I stood and looked about.
I brushed the leaves off of my snout.
And then I heard my mother shouting through the trees.
You should have seen that girl go shaky at the knees.
So I took her by the arm
we settled down upon a farm.
And raised our children up as
gently as you pleased.

And now my fur has turned to skin.
And I've been quickly ushered in
to a world that I confess I do not know.
But I still dream of running careless through the snow.
An' through the howlin' winds that blow,
across the ancient distant flow,
it fill our bodies up like water till we know.

You can wear your fur
like the river on fire.
But you better be sure
if your makin' God a liar.
I'm a rattlesnake, babe,
I'm like fuel on fire.
So if you're gonna' get made,
don't be afraid of what you've learned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dreams

Last night I dreamed about babysitting for Jim and Pam from the Office. They'd just had a baby, and unfortunately things were falling apart. Pam had post-partum depression, and Jim had no idea how to help her out. She asked me to watch the baby for a few minutes while she went to take a walk outside, and never came back. Jim sat in a corner with his arms around his knees, shell-shocked and with no idea what to do. The last part I remember before I woke up was heading to the corner store to try and find baby formula, while wondering how the hell things had gotten so fucked up between them.

I think I need to watch the newest episode so I can reassure myself that Pam won't stay in New York.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thanks America, and especially Mary

Last night was incredible. Lots of people were convinced of the outcome before the results started coming in, but I was still skeptical. US politics have never been easy, and lately they've been getting more screwy and twisted that not much would have surprised me - either a scandal or pure stupidity on the part of American voters. Outraged and upset, yes, but not surprised.
But we pulled through! We're getting ever closer to rejecting bigotry and hate and discrimination based on too many different factors - we lost the gay marriage in California, but we elected a black president! A cultured, intelligent man who makes me want to straighten up and become a better person when I see the example he's setting.
Mary told me today about a quote from Obama, said during a quiet moment while traveling from one campaign stop to another. He asked, "What if I let people down?"
The fact that we have a president who worries about being good enough for the people he represents in so incredibly reassuring that already, months before the man will even take office, I feel lighter and more confident in the future of our country.
Mary made my day. Of course I spoke to my family and friends about the election, but it's hard being cut off from them by thousands of miles and a crummy Internet connection.
I had left home early to go to a meeting. It would be my first time heading into this part of the city, and I wasn't too sure about which bus to take. But I saw an older woman ahead of me, carrying her laundry and obviously frustrated with the traffic, wearing a Camelbak. It couldn't have been more clear that she was from the States. We stood and stared at the traffic together, made a few idle comments about the driving here, then almost simultaneously brought up the election. We were both so excited to have someone to talk to, to share the excitement and expectations and hope that we'd been feeling since early last evening.
We stopped on a quiet street corner and talked for about half an hour. We found a place in the shade and she set down her laundry, and she told me that she hadn't felt so hopeful and excited about our country's future since she was a college student at Berkley in the 1960's. Her voice lowered as she said, "After Martin Luther King was killed, I never thought I'd have hope in politics again." She was 70 years old and we cried together on the street as we hugged and celebrated a victory that I was afraid to hope for, and she thought would never come in her lifetime.
I don't know if I'll meet her again, but the memory of a perfect stranger who changed all her plans to talk excitedly and passionately about her renewed hope will always be with me. Years from now, when people ask me where I was during the election, I can tell them that I was miles away from home, separated from all my friends and family. And even still, in a city of over 6 million people, the feeling was so overpowering that strangers stopped in the street to hug and share their joy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Letting the Mind Wander

I came home late tonight - caught a bus just before ten and walked through the door to find a cold plate of spaghetti around 10:30. The bus ride was surprisingly long considering the empty streets and empty bus stops. I had time to sort through some of the thoughts flying through my head, and finally settled on planning out my paper due on Wednesday. It's a study on cultural sexuality, the differences between what the Mexicans accept and the expectations we exchange students have about appropriate behavior. It's not going to be anything serious; it's mostly just a kiss-ass way of getting out of doing the actual assignment.

Anyway, that was all way too serious for me at 10 pm on public transit. So I started thinking about this boy I've been crushing on for too long, and how I'll be leaving soon and it's all going to end. "Oh baby, I was bound for Mexico. Oh baby, I was bound to let you go." All sorts of sappy girl-with-a-crush thoughts ran through my head, over-analyzing and the usual. Then I stumbled upon an idea that made me smile. I could use my paper to find out if he likes me. (Oh dear God, did I really just write that? Am I really going to post this? Now you'll all know that I'm still 12 and asking Jessica to ask Eli if he thinks I'm cute.) Using all my school paper excuses, I could find out if the way he puts his arm around me at the bars (sigh) is just a Mexican touchy-feely thing, part of all the cheek kissing and lack of personal space, or if it's because he like likes me.

I'll probably write about my issues with men and personal space in the paper. The rest is staying here. Besides, Nick says it's obvious to the brick wall on the other side of the street when I'm crushing on someone, so I don't think I need to sink myself lower with not-so veiled hints.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Geek Out!

It's been a while since I've had a real, honest, down-to-earth geekspasm. But it hit me today, and now it's time to share.

Some of you may know about the monsters class taught at my university. It's a legend among Western students, and I've been quick to brag about it to people who don't know. That said, I've never taken it. I have my excuses - they include the usual "not enough credits to register in time" and the not-so-usual "Bruce Beasley was on sabbatical." But Bruce is back, I'm a senior with too many extra credits, and the Monsters class is on again for Winter quarter! I did a quick search of the internet and stumbled upon a true gem - the syllabus for the class! Here it is, so you can either get stoked for it and plan to sign up, or be jealous that my school is better than yours:

(note: I'm only quoting bits from Bruce's syllabus, since Thor's is disappointingly sparse and uninteresting)

TEXTS:
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Bram Stoker, Dracula
Selections from John Milton, Paradise Lost
Grimms’ Fairy Tales
Flannery O’Connor, The Collected Stories
Beowulf
Nikolai Gogol, “The Nose”
Sigmund Freud, selected essays
the book of Job (King James version)
Darrin Strauss, Chang and Eng: A Novel
Bruno Bettleheim, The Uses of Enchantment.

In this course we will consider the literature, psychology, and mythology of the monstrous. The course will examine cultural fascination and repulsion toward the monstrous body through the lens of poetry, short stories, novels, fairy tales, Biblical texts, and films. We will examine ways in which the boundaries of the “normal” are questioned and dissolved by confrontations with monstrous otherness, both dreamed and real: the vampire and werewolf; the Leviathan; the fifty-foot woman and the incredible shrinking man; the moral monstrosity of Satan’s Milton and O’Connor’s murderous Misfit; the comic monstrosity of Gogol’s Nose that secedes from the body and takes on a cultured and socially successful life of its own. We will examine the ways in which societies constructed fantasies of the monstrous in order to confront (and mythologize) their deepest cultural and individual fears, as they externalize into film, fairy tale, literature, and scripture some of the monsters that lie outside and within.

This course is linked to Geology 204 in which we’ll be considering the physiology and science of the monstrous body through the fossil record of prehistoric “monsters” and through study of the “monstrous” bodies of whales, sharks, giant squids, and arthropods. The objective of the course is to combine scientific and humanistic investigation of human reactions to the monstrous in both its inhuman and human forms (and especially in those monstrous imaginations of forms in which the monstrous inhuman becomes inseparably merged with the human body through excess, deformity, and human-inhuman hybrids like the werewolf and vampire).

Week One. The psychology of revulsion. Freud, “The Uncanny.” Bettleheim, from The Uses of Enchantment. Brothers Grimm, “Hansel and Gretel”; Beauty and the Beast”

Week Two. The monstrous as revelatory. Flannery O’Connor, “Good Country People,” “The Life You Save May Be Your Own.” Ambrose ParĂ©, “On Monsters and Marvels.” Book of Job.

Week Three. Gigantism and Excess. The monstrous as the excessive, the too-large, the terrifyingly outgrown: the cultural background of monster films, including selections from Attack of the 50-Foot Woman; King Kong; Godzilla; Mothra

Week Four. The monstrous and excess, continued: conjoined twins; the “double monster”; selections from Chang and Eng: A Novel. Monstrosity as a parasitic doubleness inside the body: scenes from Alien.

Week Five. Monstrosity through excessive subtraction: the part become the whole. Gogol, “The Nose.” Selections from Michael Paterniti, Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein’s Brain

Week Six. The Beast Inside, and the Charming Monster. Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. The Stepfather.

Week Seven. The Beast Outside. Selections from Beowulf. Kafka, “The Metamorphosis”; Hitchcock, The Birds

Week Eight. The Beast Inside and Outside. Bram Stoker, Dracula

Weeks Nine and Ten. Technology and Monstrosity. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein


This class is intense, in case you can't tell. My brother took it the first year it was offered - if I remember correctly, I was a senior in high school at the time. He complained about the extensive reading required, but got incredibly involved in the project where he got to create and develop his own monster. It's an 8 credit course, 5 days a week for an hour and a half. It's not for the weak of heart or lackluster interest.

However, if one isn't scared off by the amount of work involved, just think about it! I've never met Bruce Beasley, but I've heard he's a pretty rad dude. As for Thor... I've been more than a bit creepy about him in the past. I've taken his Geology and Dinosaurs courses and stalked him on Facebook before it became popular to do. He's an incredibly entertaining guy, a bigger (and more interesting) nerd than any I've ever met, and anyone can imagine the atmosphere with the two of them working together. You've seen the Facebook photos, heard of the infamous Monster Sex lecture, and I know more than a few of my friends snuck in to watch the final project presentations in the class.

As for me, personally, I've been dying to take real classes again. But now, this! I get to take real classes, AND take the monster class I've had my eyes set on since HIGH SCHOOL. I could not possibly be any more excited for Winter quarter to start than I am RIGHT NOW.

You did notice they're using scenes from Alien to demonstrate monstrosity, right? Flashbacks to Dinosaurs: "And in case you're having a hard time imagining this, here's a clip from Jurassic Park. I love this fight scene!"