Saturday, April 19, 2008

Playing Catch-up

So Saturday I made a procrastinatory mistake of Tolkienian proportions. On the other hand, I need to stop punishing myself for taking the occasional Saturday off. A person has to shut off the brain and rest once in a while. Sunday I got back to work, with tons and tons of grading to prepare for my upcoming conferences with my students.

Monday I taught class, then spent the rest of my morning in the library, finding sources for my upcoming Mary Leapor paper. It was perhaps the first time since high school that I began my research early enough to take advantage of interlibrary loan. Thank goodness I did, because I chose a fairly obscure subject. I was checking out a giant stack of books when a student came up to me. She was shocked by my giant stack of books and that I'd been researching for the whole four hours since class let out. It's good for my students to see that, as much as possible, I practice what I preach.

Tuesday was tax day. I'd filed my taxes the Friday before, but the H&R Block I went to wasn't competent to do interstate taxes. They sent them away somewhere, so I had to skip my Harlem Renaissance class to go pick up my NYC taxes and mail them on time. Grr.

Wednesday and Thursday were grading and classes as normal. Friday Todd and I went to Wal-mart. On top of the normal grocery shopping, I got a timer for my lights and locks for my closet. That way, I can lock all my valuables in the closet this summer and set my lamp to turn off and on while I'm away. Hopefully the light (Todd got one, too, and Alex should be around occasionally) will discourage anyone from breaking in. If someone does break in, having my valuables locked in the closet won't stop them, but it will slow them down. Man, I hate thieves They make me feel so insecure.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Fires of Mordor Consumed my Day!

I just lost a 12 hours…half a day of my life that I will never get back! For years people have been telling me how awesome the Lord of the Rings movies are, but every time I attempted to watch one, I fell asleep and only awakened to Enya singing as the credits rolled. I told myself I wasn’t being fair (though why I must be fair to a movie I don’t know) because I always tried to watch at night and I’ve never liked watching series movies one at a time. I love marathons, though. I can rarely tear myself away from a movie or television show marathon.

Well, this morning, I turned on the TV and the first film from the Lord of the Rings series was on. “Hey,” I thought, “this might actually work. This movie’s what, three hours long? I’ll be done before lunch, and then I’ll do some homework.” I was wrong. So very, very wrong. It was closer to four hours. Was it the extended version? Did they inject commercials into the full-length film without the usual TV practice of editing to create a reasonable running time? I have no clue. I made it through the first film just fine. “Oh,” I thought, “that was pretty good. Not as awesome as people tend to say, but not as boring as I thought, either. I wonder what happens next. I’ll have to see the second film sometime.” And there it was, airing just that second. “Oh,” I mused, “But I was going to read…but it’s on right now.” I suffered from a lapse of willpower, and the next thing I knew I was watching the second movie…for FOUR MORE HOURS!

This felt rather decadent, so I started checking my e-mail and using other methods of multi-tasking. I made it through the second movie just fine, again with the idea that I’d have to catch the final film sometime. The next thing I knew, the third movie was starting. I was both excited and distressed. I’d been at this for eight hours. To stop now didn’t feel like willpower. It felt like quitting! Finally I understood why they call these serial showings a marathon—because they require actual stamina.

For the third film’s showing, I continued multi-tasking. The problem is, I kept losing track of what was going on in the movie. For example, suddenly Pippin is swearing fealty to a bad guy and kissing his ring and singing to him while the bad guy eats chicken in the lascivious way movie bad-guys do. Wait, what? Why did everyone leave you behind? Because you looked in the magic-8-ball thingee? So then I’d swear to pay closer attention, which would last for about twenty minutes before I was confused again. How did Gandalf get there? Why did he come back? To be honest, I seem to have about one-and-a-half hours left before this is over and done. Here’s my summary:

Everyone in the shire: Happy Birthday, Bilbo Baggins!

Bilbo: Thanks, guys, but I’m gonna take off now.

Gandalf: Bilbo, I think you should leave the evil ring that is the key to The Destroyer of the World’s power.

Bilbo: Erm…okay, I guess. Here, nephew Frodo.

Gandalf: Frodo, we have to destroy it.

Frodo: Okay, I guess.

Sam, Pippin and Meriadoc: We’re coming, too.

[They go hang out with various important leaders of elves, dwarves and men- aka “The Fellowship.”]

Gandalf: That settles it. We have to destroy the ring, and because he’s little (and thus, innocent like a child), Frodo is the only one qualified to carry it.

The Fellowship: We’re in.

Hobbits: Do we get to stop for elevenses?

Aragorn (champion fighting human who’s meant to be king, but nervous about it): No, you don’t. Here’s an apple. Eat it walking.

[They walk and fight evil guys and walk some more. They walk more and go underground and Gandalf falls to his death, kind of! The Fellowship walks more and fight more evil guys and walks even more. Someone tries to take the ring and then gets killed, but repents on his death bed. Much manly bonding occurs. Men hug. They cry. They kiss on the forehead. They fight with swords.]

Frodo: You want the ring, don’t you, Aragorn.

Aragorn: Hate to admit it, but…yeah. You'd better go.

[Frodo and Sam take off and meet Gollum/Smegol. Pip and Meri are kidnapped by Orcs. The Fellowship go to rescue Pip and Meri who are first rescued my a tree herder (a tree that walks and talks) and Hey, Gandalf’s alive! They fights bad guys and the fellowship fight bad guys and Frodo and Sam and Gollum walk and walk and walk and Gollum has multiple personality disorder and wants to kill Frodo but also kinda doesn’t…until he does. The ring’s driving Frodo nuts.]

Gollum: Sam stole the bread.

Sam: Did not. Are you going to trust the crazy guy?

Frodo: I’m crazy, too, so yes, I will.

[Sam cries. Gollum gives Frodo to a ginormous spider. Sam manages to throw Gollum to his death, maybe! But he has to hide, because Orcs come and take Frodo. Meanwhile, The fellowship and the tree-riding-hobbits reunite and fight more bad guys. The tree-herders break a dam and drown lots of bad guys. One hobbit finds The Glowing Magic 8 Ball of Death. Hobbits drink beer and dance on tables.

A hobbit looks at The Glowing Magic 8 Ball of Death, which tells them to go to White Treeland. The guardian of White Treeland hates them because, among other things, one of his sons died protecting them…or something. And then one of the hobbits gets left behind and has to sing (?- see note above).

Meanwhile, Eowyn, a pretty girl elf who loves Aragorn, mopes.]

Arwyn’s dad- Stop moping. He’s human, and you’re immortal. Go to Eternityville before the world gets destroyed. Even if the world isn’t destroyed, he’ll die of old age and you’ll be really sad.

Arwyn- Okay. I’ll go. Only I’m lying, because I love him too much to go. I’ll turn human. It’s cool. (Or did she kill herself? I’m not clear on that, but hopefully it will be cleared up in the last hour of the movie.)

[Aragorn thinks Arwyn went to Eternityville, so he flirts with a noble blonde girl, Eowyn, who’s pretty handy with a sword. She falls in love with him. He dreams of Arwen and feels guilty.]

Eowyn: You know I love you, right?

Aragorn: “It is but a shadow and a thought that you love. I cannot give you what you seek.”

Eowyn: Fine. If you don’t love me I might as well march into battle because who cares if I die? Also because JRR Tolkien would never have me, a woman, do something brave and interesting without it involving love for a man.

[Big, giant battle royale ensues.]

Uber-Bad-Guy orc: NO MAN CAN KILL ME!

Eowyn: I’m not a man! (Kills him.)

[Everyone fights. The good guys win. Most major characters survive. Frodo saves Sam from the orcs and carries him to the Fires of Mordor to toss the ring in. But he doesn’t throw it in!]

Frodo: The ring is mine! (Puts on ring.)

[Destroyer of the World wakes up or something. Gollum bites the ring off Frodo’s hand and celebrates. Hey, he wasn’t dead. Surprise! Off in a battle somewhere, Gandolf can feel Frodo’s weakness and is bummed. Gollum and Frodo grapple for the ring.

Gollum and Frodo fall to their death, maybe! Gollum burns in the fires of Mordor while the ring floats on top. Frodo clings to the cliff and tries to decide if he should pull an Ilsa (from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) but finally he lets Sam pull him to safety.

The ring burns and Destroyer of the World dies…or something like that since he was an incorporeal eye of fire and not a person. There’s a giant lava-y sinkhole that kills all the enemies, but the good guys think Frodo and Sam are dead, so they’re not as happy as they would be otherwise. Frodo and Sam think they will die due to all the lava, so they hug and cry and do more male bonding. Okay, the movie won’t end for another half hour, but I assume they will be rescued (they were saved, by a giant eagle) and Aragorn will be High King (he was made king and even sang!) and Arwen will be his queen (Yep!) and Eowyn will be queen of her nation and hook up with someone…maybe Legolas, the platinum-blond elf who has run around stoically shooting people with his bow and arrow and making the occasional quip? (Nope, she seems to be with the guardian of White Treeland’s remaining, non-evil son.) Hobbits are honored. The End! Oops, then the hobbits return to The Shire, hooray! Sam is not confident enough to talk (and subsequently marry) a girl. Frodo gazes at them with pride. THE END!

Oh, that’s not the end? Okay…Frodo writes a book. Bilbo takes the Elvish boat to Eternityville. Gandolf dissolves the fellowship. Frodo has PTSD and decides he’s too messed up to go back to the shire, so he and Sam share one last huand and forehead-smooch. He and Gandalf also hop the cruise ship to Eternityville. THE END FOR REAL THIS TIME…I think? No, it wasn’t! Sigh. Sam goes home to his cute little kids and to put an epilogue in Frodo’s book as Frodo narrated and dramatic music played. (How did people see any of these movies in the theater without their bladders bursting?)]

See how that doesn’t need to take twelve hours? Okay, my version’s not going to win any Oscars. Also, I left out Galadriel (“I’m an imperious elf. I want the ring and would be AWESOMELY POWERFUL QUEEN OF THE UNIVERSE WITH IT AND REALLY SCARY, but I can resist, so instead I’ll give you this magic lightbulb.) and the head dwarf Gimli (“I’m boastful and prideful and stubborn, but deep-down I’m a good guy who you want beside you in a fight.”). I also left out some themes: Evil= bad and Industry= bad. Hope and friendship= good. Nature= good. Drug humor? Weed, ha! Oh, and here’s some imagery from the films: White= good. Black=bad (except in the case of hair color). Water= good. Fire= bad. Universal moral= big things come in small packages (eg. the ring, the Hobbits, Gandalf’s moth). Ta-da! Twelve hours of my life that I’ll never get back. Sigh. Well, at least the music was pretty, as were the costumes and, oh, yeah, EVERY ACTOR IN THE MOVIE. Frodo, Eowyn, Arwen, Legolas and Aragorn? All mighty pretty. Pretty enough to make me not annoyed with myself for watching this? Not even close.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Homework, lemon cookies, taxes and a visitor!

This week was busy and stressful, and things probably won’t get better until finals are over (May 9--so close and yet so far). I spent the weekend reading doing research for a big paper on Zora Neale Hurston's Moses: Man of the Mountain due Tuesday. I also had lots of work due Wednesday and Thursday in other classes. There just wasn’t enough time! I kept the TV off and the lights on, working late into each night Argh. SO TIRED!

To de-stress, I made the world’s quickest and easiest lemon cookies (cake mix + vegetable oil + heat = soft, chewy lemony deliciousness). Then, due to stress, I ate all 40 cookies in four days. Oops. To atone, I got up earlier each day to exercise, but if I’m chubbier the next time you see me? Now you know why.

Today I taught my class, then filed my taxes. There were many forms to be filled out since I moved mid-year, so H&R Block was expensive, but worth it, because at least it’s done. YAY! Last night I managed to track down a bank statement online with most of my moving expenses, which I managed to deduct. I’m very proud. Now I can’t wait for my refund to arrive, along with my economic stimulus package bonus-thingee!

Unfortunately, I’ll probably owe some New York City and New York state taxes since the New York Public School System persisted in believing I lived in Iowa for most of the three years I worked for them. Man, that’s some commute! I got them to finally fix it part way through the year, though, so at least I should owe less than last year. I say “should” because H&R Block told me they had to send my multi-state taxes to some special office. The New York H&R Block didn’t do that when I had half-Iowa, half-New York taxes. What’s up with that? Oh, well. I should still come out ahead financially—Hello, tickets to Iowa!

The only other news of the week is that Todd’s girlfriend Lauren is visiting. He is so psyched! She is adorable. Fairytale princess adorable. Dressed-by-woodland-creatures-hair-braided-by-birdies adorable. And she's smart and funny. I love it when my guy friends’ girl friends are great and do not irrationally dislike me. It’s refreshing.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Poetry with the prez.

I can’t believe it’s already April! This week was too busy to even attempt an April Fool’s posting. I didn’t really get much of a weekend. Monday my bananas were bad, so I tried out a new banana bread recipe with yogurt in it. It was gorgeous, delicious and moist. Unfortunately, the loaf rose and rose…and then fell a bit. The bottom third of the loaf was squidged. The thing is, the top two-thirds of the banana bread was so delicious, I think I’ll use the recipe again. I guess I’ll just be gentler with the loaf.

Wednesday was interesting because I was invited to a poetry reading at the house of the president of Old Dominion University. My entire poetry class was invited, and our teacher, Luisa Igloria, warned us to dress up. Some of my more casual classmates were a put worried by this announcement, but I already knew what I wanted to wear: my graphic-pattern cream and black wrap-dress. Then, that morning I stepped outside to walk to work. A wind hit me, and if I’d been wearing the dress at the time, the neighborhood loiterers would have seen my unmentionables. Not good. Not good at all.

Suddenly I was left searching my closet for something appropriate. Everything involving pants was either too casual, too clubby (slinky,etc.), too big or ink-stained (one of the dangers of being a writer, I guess). All of my dress pants are hemmed to be work with sneakers. Sigh. I let down the hem of my black dress pants, put in a lower hem and pressed them, then managed to come up with a tank top, button-front shirt and jacket combo (enhanced by a necklace from Carolina) that was perfect.

When I got to where my class was meeting, I was more dressed up than they were, but I think they were underdressed compared to the other people at the reading. Of course, I believe in erring a wee bit on the side of overdressed. The teacher hustled us over to the President’s house so early that we actually beat the catering crew there! The president was trying to make conversation with us, and some of my fellow poets are not so into the social-butterfly-thing. Huh. I did my best to help the conversation along, and soon other guests arrived.

I ate some glorious cheese with dessert of truffles and chocolate-dipped strawberries. I schmoozed with several people…a few of whom, my teacher subsequently told me, were major benefactors to the program. “Oh!” I replied, “Then I’m glad I was nice to them!” Hee. Then came the actual reading, and the poetry was lovely, as was the president's garden (see photo above) and view (see photo further above).

In other news, my roomies and I re-signed our lease and each got a $100 voucher off our first rent payment of the new lease year. Hooray! Easiest $100 I ever made. Also, Moxie lost her last flower. I snapped this photo a little while ago, but now she is just a lovely cluster of fuzzy green leaves. Poor Moxie.