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Good pizza...good beer...good people

Sometimes you just need a day away from campus to help you put things in perspective. I actually got a lot of work done today despite feelings of extreme laziness...but I always feel that way, so no real change there. Wrote a paper, read a bunch of stuff, the usual.

The latter half of my day was at the graduate pizza get together. Basically an excuse to drink beer and eat pizza under the pretense of discussing graduate issues. Not that there aren't graduate issues, but they generally aren't addressed or solved when full of beer and pizza.

That's pretty much all I have to report. I figured I should say something since I haven't reported since October. But I figure anyone who's actually reading this has seen me in the last few days and has already heard all of the complaints :-)

Why am I doing this again?

For some reason Life has been conspiring against me this week. It just feels like everything is happening all at once. I was planning on writing a short reader response paper for class, but I'm postponing it for another week because the stupid Grading Seminar I had to attend today went until six and then I didn't get home until seven thirty. After that, I was in no mood to write the stupid thing.

Plus, my discussion groups weren't as great this week. The book they had to read jumped around from chapter to chapter as to what the main points of the authors were, so it was hard to focus on what was important for them to know in order to write their papers. So, unfortunately, my first discussion group didn't fair as well as the second. After talking about it with Prof. Neem, we came up with another strategy and it worked to a certain extent. The second group ended up finishing early, so I'm not quite sure if that's good or bad. Overall, I have a feeling there will be a lot of students coming by to get me to tell them what they need to know instead of figuring it out for themselves. I know my motivations for taking he job were money and insurance, but I do want to feel a measure of pride in helping these kids.

I also attended the first meeting of the Society of American Archivists Student Chapter meeting at Prof. Jimerson's house...and Holy Christ!!! There's a woman in the first year class who just doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut. This woman pretty much hijacked the conversation from Jimerson and started asking the second years impossible questions that were based in the recent theory she'd been reading and had nothing to do with the practicality of working in a real archive. She asked me about forgery when I mentioned I worked with blueprints at the Museum of Flight, and when I politely told her hat the situation had nothing to do with forgery, she promptly changed the subject while I was mid-explanation. I didn't say anything because I was at Jimerson's house, but if I have to interact with her anywhere else, she's getting a piece of my mind. I don't care if she is a former Marine with a couple degrees and at least twenty years my senior!!! You don't get to lecture me on being a "Gatekeeper" when you don't know a damn thing about the profession yet.

So that's been life so far. There's been more, but these are the events that stand out.

Diary of a "Mad" Grad

Ah Graduate School, how I've missed thee...

Once again I've entered the hallowed halls of academia and before I could take a breath of stale air wafting off the library books, I was up and running around campus. The History department s short a graduate student this year due to budget cuts so out of the six of us three have been split between two professors. I happen to be one of those lucky three, but the professors I've been assigned to aren't as bad as others that I've heard horror stories about.

The benefits of being split between these particular professors is they teach the same subject and they're both in the same room, one after the other. So I basically camp out in the same lecture hall for about three hours and call it a day.

The other graduates are all awesome!! Seeing as we've all known each other for about a year, we're all very comfortable with each other. This was especially true after the God-awful sexual harassment training we had to go through. Two hours!! Two hours of my life I can't get back because they think I don't know the difference between good touch, bad touch and how to distinguish inappropriate comments from the normal everyday insults. What made it bearable was being with the other grads and making our little comments through the whole thing. That and Rachel and Chris's desire to get a thick, long foot long hot dog for lunch.

As far as responsibilities go, I only have to run two discussion groups, both for Prof. Neem. The twenty-nine page article he's having them read for Wed. will definitely give them an idea of what historical scholarship is like and what to expect if they pursue a career in history. I'll definitely report back on Wed. if things go well...or disastrous.

An Idea

I'm thinking of writing a book in the same vein as Sarah Vowell. I wanna write a book about the relationship between fathers and daughters and apply it to historical figures and their relationships with their daughters.

It may not be much of a book, maybe just a bunch of essays that allow me to examine the relationship, or lack thereof, I have with my own father. For some reason it's been weighing on my mind more than usual.

PAX Plans

Hey Guys!

Just wondering what your PAX plans are. I'm gonna be busy most of Saturday, but maybe that night or on Sunday we could get together? What time are you guys leaving on Sunday? If you're plan on sticking around a little while longer, you could always come down to Renton and scope out my home town before I make the move fully to B-ham.

Let me know. Give me a call or drop me a line.

How Movies Change the World

Hey All!

Thought I'd do a couple movie reviews since I'm feeling rather critical.

Beware: There Be Spoilers Ahead, Matey!

Up First: District 9.

Honestly, I went into this movie believing it was going to be fantastic. The trailers were compelling, it was clear there was going to be a message involved, and the special effects looked phenomenal. That being said, I came out of the movie disappointed. I didn't necessarily hate the movie, but I didn't like it either, and that bugs me because for all intents and purposes I SHOULD like this movie. Good Sci-Fi, and I mean REALLY good Sci-Fi, not action-adventure Sci-Fi, but use-your-brain Sci-Fi, should challenge your perceptions. It should present a metaphor of reality that inspires emotion and charges the mind to make the appropriate connections of how THAT world is really YOUR world. D9 attempts this, but lacks the subtlety to make effective change. The aliens landed over South Africa 20 years ago and they've been treated like shit ever since...gee, I wonder what they're trying to say? You say the aliens are being pushed out of society, considered lowest of the low? You say they have no rights? No freedom? What could have possibly happened in South Africa that would be comparable to this situation?

Hint: The answer's Apartheid.

Yes, I'm being cynical, but only as cynical as the movie is subtle. You would have gotten the same sarcastic remark if the ship had landed over one of the cities bordering Mexico and suddenly became a metaphor for immigration...because that could have been the same movie. Just replace the South African accents with Texas accents and it's the exact same movie. Maybe if they'd landed over Australia...nope, aborigines. Somewhere in Europe? They're a pretty peaceful people, right? Europeans wouldn't treat a bunch of aliens so poorly, would they? I would've found that story more compelling. Imagine a country like Switzerland treating those aliens like crap. You can't, can you? How upsetting would that be to watch people, the European equivalent of Quakers, torturing seemingly innocent aliens for information on their weapons?

And that's the crux of D9's message: Look at how cruel we are. Look at what we're capable of. We are evil, greedy, awful people who care more about the bottom line than the lives of human beings or aliens. Again, the cynic in me is talking, but...don't we already know that?

Other than the supposed message, I felt the movie lost it's way by trying to be different kinds of movies. The previews and trailers portrayed it as a documentary-style film, chronicling the situation of the aliens and how the government treats them. One of the trailers showed an interrogation scene that isn't in the movie, but should have been. The movie does start off like a documentary, but around the time the movie starts picking up (a good half-hour in more or less), it changes to your typical action movie-style. The film repeatedly shifts perspective from documentary to action movie to buddy movie and back again. If they'd stuck to one premise, the movie would have been better. Especially if they'd stuck with the documentary.

Character wise...I didn't really care about anyone. The main character, Wikas (pronounced VIK-as), is a pencil-pushing potential fall-guy for Multinational United (MNU) who unfortunately gets sprayed in the face with a strange liquid that slowly starts turning him into one of the aliens. Naturally, his bosses capitalize on this and try to use his altering DNA to operate the alien weapons that have a biological component. Wikas escapes to District 9 where he seeks help from one of the aliens, Christopher, who he had, only hours before, tried to evict from his home. Wikas is not a likeable character. He's that guy in the office, you know, THAT guy that tries too hard to be likeable and when they're given a position of some power they try to be too nice when telling you what to do. This is unfortunate because the tragedy of the movie is supposed to be seen through his eyes and experienced through his character. You're supposed to sympathize with this guy who's only real crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time (and getting sprayed by freaky liquid). His anti-hero status goes by the wayside as he repeatedly betrays and befriends his alien cohort. Pick a side already! (Here's where you say, "But, Sam, wouldn't you have done the same thing as Wikas if the opportunity presented itself?" And then I say, "In the likelihood that I have my DNA altered to that of a prawn-like creature whilst being chased by a government organization, rogue military operatives, and a bunch of Nigerian gangsters, then, yes, I would have taken the moral low ground and betrayed the only person who could help me over and over again. Bravo, you caught me!")

Another hint: betrayal only means something if you actually connect with the other person. At no point do Wikas and Christopher share a moment that would make his betrayal seem significant.

The only thing I can really be positive on in this movie are the special effects. The aliens felt real and their interaction with the human characters didn't seem like choreographed scenes set to a green screen. And the weapons, designed by Weta, were amazing. The movie had a very low budget by Hollywood standards, $30 million, but they made it all count in the special effects. The best part of the movie, though it comes too late to really matter, is the ginormous shoot-out between Wikas, in his newly acquired exo-suit, the typically over-amped military villain and a bunch of Nigerians. It's amazing and realistic to the point that one asks why other movies can't utilize special effects this well.

Overall, as you might have guessed, I'm not a fan of this movie. I expected too much and this movie tried too hard.

For my second review: Inglorious Basterds

I LOVED THIS MOVIE!!! From beginning to end, it's perfect! Quentin Tarantino spent about a decade working on the script for this movie, and it shows. Every line is beautifully written and nothing is wasted. The opening scene is literally a conversation between the fantastically portrayed Col. Hans Landa, aka "The Jew Hunter," and the unfortunate farmer torn between keeping the Jewish family hiding under his house safe and protecting his family. Tarantino masterfully builds the tension. You know something's going to happen, it's just a matter of when, but he still manages to keep you engaged in the conversation until the climax.

Hans Landa, portrayed by German actor Christoph Waltz is one of the best Nazi villains ever, exceeding even the Nazis of the Indiana Jones movies. He's likeable, yet cruel and that's the sign of a great villain. You love'/hate him and love to hate him. What makes him so engaging is that he's always smiling and I find that to be more frightening than a villain that wears a frown and a scowl. Smiles betray a person's true feelings and Hans Landa's smiles let you know that he knows something and that knowledge will be your end. It's chilling because Tarantino effectively focuses on the actor's face at key moments, letting you focus on that smile and revel in the thought that he's going to do something atrocious but smile the whole time.

The movie itself is actually two plots that come together around the showing of a film at a small cinema in Paris run by a Jewish woman, Shoshanna, hiding in plain sight of the Nazis. Her plot for revenge against the Nazis for the death of her family coincides with the plans of the Basterds, a squad of Nazi-killing American Jews commanded by Lt. Aldo Raine (played to perfection by Brad Pitt), to kill Hitler who will be attending the film. Surprisingly, despite the title of the movie, The Basterds are not the central focus of the film. Their story simply enhances the tension felt amongst the Germans as they move their way through France, killing Nazis.

The characters are amazing. Brad Pitt is hilarious as Raines, a Tennessee born man who basterdizes the Italian language and finds the brutal beating of a German commander with a baseball bat entertaining. There are lines of his that I can't repeat due to the fact that he says them so quickly and so smoothly that I couldn't do them justice by repeating them. Eli Roth, the director of Hostel, steps in front of the camera as Sgt. Donny Donowitz (the "Bear Jew"), who delights in BEING the guy beating Nazis with a baseball bat. His part is small, but the look in his eyes when he guns down a bunch of Germans in a burning theater is priceless. The only underused character is played by BJ Novak from The Office. His character shows up out of nowhere and delivers a couple lines, but he's just not as interesting. Shoshanna, played by Melanie Laurent, is so compelling without even speaking. You know exactly what she's feeling by looking at her eyes. Even the cameo from Mike Myers was entertaining.

Again this is a Tarantino film and he pulls his Postmodern take on film by including a few non-linear moments, narrated wonderfully by Samuel L. Jackson. When introducing the character of Hugo Stiglitz, his name flashes all punk-like on the screen along with a musical riff to back it up, taking you out of the WWII movie and letting you know that it's Tarantino's version of a WWII movie. That and there's a kick-ass Bowie song right in the middle of the movie. Awesome!

The only thing I will eventually have a problem with is the person somewhere down the line who thinks this is based on a true story. You know they're out there, you probably know one. Hollywood is so bad at portraying history to the masses (I'm looking at you The Patriot and Pearl Harbor) that they threaten to do a disservice to the education of students everywhere. Case in point, when the most recent version of The Alamo came out a few years back, I actually had a girl ask me not to tell her how it ended. (Pause for effect) IT'S THE ALAMO!!! But that's my hang-up. I love "historically-based movies," even some of the bad ones, but I weep for the poor bastards who'll look at this movie and think it's real. Maybe they should put a disclaimer at the beginning: Warning, AU version of history. Do not take seriously. Read a book!!!

Overall...one of the best movies of the summer. Hands down. I was satisfied from beginning to end. And at two and a half hours, I didn't feel it at all. I wanted more.

This concludes my very long review of two very different movies.

Later gators!

Back to Normal

Actually, I've been back to my old sarcastic self since about two hours after I wrote the last post...but I'm lazy. Yes, all is calm and good in the world of Sam...at least as calm as it can get. I allowed myself the moment to snap, thought about it, wrote it down, and moved on.

So far, I've read Archive Fever and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead as the beginnings of my research into my thesis on Postmodernism/Deconstruction in the Archive. It's been interesting. Theory makes my head hurt sometimes and Archive Fever is all about Freud, Psychoanalysis and the Archive. At least Ros and Guil are easier to understand and much funnier!

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the packing process! I will sift through all of the crap in my room and sort out what goes, what stays, and what gets destroyed. And only another week and a day left on my internship! Yes, it won't be long until you all will have to deal with my on a full time basis. Mwahahaha!!!!

Later gators!

I Give Up!!!

I can't take it anymore!! So. Much. DRAMA!!! Even when I don't do anything, it somehow makes its way into my life! I can't be everywhere and I have no idea what people say about me when I'm not there, but...for crying out loud! I don't know what to do anymore.

It all seems so petty in the long run...Who's friends with who...Who hangs out with one person more than the other. It shouldn't be about one camp vs. the other, it should be about who you relate to, who you connect with and whether or not that person is worth being friends with despite the maelstrom of whatever else is going on in your life. I wish, God how I wish, things were back to that one sweet moment in time when everyone was together and everyone got along. Unfortunately, Life had other ideas and that moment has gone and passed. As a group, we may not be together, but as individuals, that's another story.

These are the rules that I've just made up, but they apply nonetheless, though not necessarily to everyone:

1. I am not a threat to your relationship!! This isn't directed at anyone in particular, but it has been brought up to me on a few occasions that due to my ability to talk geek to others (usually of the male variety), I am somehow first in line to steal someones significant other because we get along so well. This couldn't be further from the truth! I'm not out to steal anybody's anything. I know the boundaries and I was taught to NEVER be THAT kind of woman. God, this just pisses me off!!!

2. If you can't get a hold of me or we haven't spoken in a while please don't assume that I don't like you or I've given up on the friendship/relationship. I am notoriously bad at returning calls or calling other people. I get caught up in my own life or I completely forget that there are other people walking this planet. It has nothing to do with you. Also, I'm not a great phone conversationalist. I'm much better at one on one conversations in person or talking through Facebook.

3. If you have a problem with me, please for the love of God tell me! I don't play games. I don't like learning about things second hand from third parties. I don't live in a sorority. Tell me the Goddamn problem!

Again, this isn't directed at anybody...I'm just venting. It's all been building for a while and...I'm just tired. And I want all of my friends and family to know that I love them dearly, with all my heart! And anyone who knows me knows that when it comes to the people I love I am fiercely loyal and protective and will fight tooth and nail for them. I just don't want there to be a question of who I care about because even if I haven't spoken to you in a while, even if all the drama that surrounds us continues, I do not care so long as we're friends. And as long as I know that friendship is real, I will always fight to keep it.

So, because I've ranted and poured out my heart, here are some pictures of a much happier sort.

The Blue Angels! Best Internship Ever!! Also note the two 7s. This was either due to the fact that they were having mechanical trouble in Billings, Montana or they had a big-wig from the Navy flying with them. The planes with a 7 are usually two-seaters.

Just before take-off. Smoke screen!

Jess's artwork!

Sheena's artwork!

Me trying on a hat at the Renaissance Fair. I blinked! Must mean the Angels will come after me (Doctor Who reference).

For Jess! One of them is named Chaucer! AWWWW!!!!

Renaissance meets modern age. As it was always intended.

One of the rejects from Cats!

Arthur, King of the Britons! Show some respect, people!

I'm very enthusiastic about religion!

The Captain Morgan pose...classic.

"Thank, God, someone broke into my car!"

...I exclaimed after the very wonderful employees at JiffyLube got into my car after I'd stupidly left my key in the ignition and locked the door after getting out of the car so they could change my oil. In my defense, it's a habit to open the car door and lock it immediately after the door's been opened and I can get out. Unfortunately, it bit me in the ass! The guys at JiffyLube, however, were more than helpful and I even heard one say, "At JiffyLube, not only do we change your oil, we break into your car!" At the time, hilarious. Any other time, I'd watch what they're doing to the car.

Work wise I finished one collection and moved on to two more. They're small, so they won't take too long. However, if anyone is interested in a giant painting of a pilot heroically staring off into the distance with a plane behind him and his shirt open revealing rippling pectorals, let me know and I'll snag it for ya!

On a side note, the storm that came through Renton last evening was one of my favorite evenings since moving back home. Mom and I were actually cooking dinner (a rare occasion) and it started hailing and pouring down rain. Now, across the street is a park where many children and their families were playing. They'd been screaming and laughing most of the day and as much as I have become a more patient person, it gets a little annoying and grates on the ears after long hours of exposure. But to my delight, when the rain came down almost unexpectedly, those kids and their families were scrambling for shelter, some of them screaming out loud at getting caught in the downpour! Oh, sweet, sweet loveliness that is Karma! How I love thee! I should feel bad...but I don't! Ha!

And I will be up in Bellingahm on Saturday only. I'm bringing my cousin up for a day to show her the Farmer's Market, Downtown, Campus, and Fairhaven. Kinda give her the tour, show her what a campus town looks like and what she has to look forward to! Anyway, I don't know how long we'll be in town, but I'll give you guys a ring if we decide to stick around for any dinner plans and whatnot. But if I don't see you guys, I'll probably make my way up the following weekend for the full visit!

Love and miss you all!

In My Humble Opinion...

Okay, I am so SICK of all this Michael Jackson crap! Yes, he paved the way for people in the music industry! Yes, he changed the course of pop music, but for cryin' out loud, people, the man wasn't a God or a saint or any other religious figure that wasn't convicted of pedophilia. This morning I had VH1 on as I got ready for work and they decided to re-broadcast "Michael Jackson: A Memorial," which was his funeral service accompanied by a bunch of pandering and convoluted celebrities singing his songs (adding their own little twists and thanking Jesus all the while) and speechifying his praises to a high school gym filled with people.

I especially loved when Queen Latifah took the stage and commented on how Michael Jackson opened up so many doors for minorities...despite his constant need for plastic surgery and bleaching his skin (skin disorder my ass!).

And the thing is, I don't want to sound bitter, despite what's been previously said, because I am (was?) a fan of Michael Jackson. I loved his music when he was a solo artist and was raised with the Jackson 5 as my mom introduced me to more and more Motown and R&B. That being said, the last ten years showed the world that he was a flawed individual who clearly had a nervous breakdown one day and no one noticed. They just chalked it up to being an eccentric celebrity. The fact that people are attempting to deify him in the aftermath when only a few years ago they were accusing him of unspeakable actions against children is just hypocrisy at its highest form.

And the fact that everyone and their mother is trying to cash in on it is equally as disturbing.

On another note, Sci-Fi did the official change over to SyFy and despite how I feel about the change in name (imaginative, isn't it?) I caught the premier of one of their new shows Warehouse 13. Think of it as Bones meets science fiction. It was an entertaining show and it has a few Steampunk qualities you guys up north might enjoy! That being said, other than the return of Eureka, nothing else on that channel seems all that appealing. I'm considering giving Stargate: Universe a shot, but I don't know if I wanna invest any time into a franchise spin-off that's supposed to have more edge to it when I was happy already with Atlantis and their combo of humor/drama/sci-fi. Plus, Dr. Rodney McKay! Can their really be a Stargate without him? I submit that there cannot!

Gearing up to do some writing this weekend if not over the next couple days. In the meantime, post your ideas on the forum. And if you've come up with any villains for STRIKE, please get them to me ASAP.

Have fun at the Celtic Festival!