Updates & miscellaneous musings!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Kitchen prose and gutter rhymes

My aunt Kevyn* was visiting from Virginia, so my mom drove her up here to Santa Cruz the Friday before last.

I was in kind of bitchy mood (aside from interpersonal problems, I have insomnia and two canker sores), so I doubt I was the best of hosts, but we had a pretty good time.

My mom and I played ping pong in the living room, which led to much hilarious flailing on her part.

I had to go to Nine and Ten, so we all walked there, and then we ate at that weird vegetarian Gelato-heavy oxyen bar-having Italian restaurant and messed around downtown.

A few weeks before leaving SLO my mom had bought me a Jethro Tull greatest hits cause she wanted me to hear it, and most of it I liked fine but wasn't crazy about (just kind of 60s rock with flutes), but I really liked one song, "Songs from the Wood", so I asked her if she'd buy me that CD, so we stopped at the shitty Discount Records store and bought it. I really like it a lot, and I wonder why no one listens to them anymore, unlike most popular bands from that era.
IM me and I'll send you some.

We hung out at Bookshop Santa Cruz for awhile, and I bought a shitty copy of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari for $6, and then got Clash of the Titans at Borders with my gift card. The bus strike is still in effect, so I took full advantage of one of my few opportunities to shop downtown.

My aunt talked to the umbrella guy a bit (they were both wearing pink!) and watched the weird accordian guy. I was more impressed, as I always am, but the crazy giant homeless percussion band, which this time had a saxophone guy, making it much better. Lots of hippies danced around, and a couple waspy little kids who were too innocent to realize how out of place they were.

There was a huge party happening in the Greenpartment, and I didn't want to deal with that, so I stayed at Nikki's.

In the morning, my mom and Kevyn picked me up and we ate breakfast and Brasil, which is a pretty neat little restaurant.

Afterward, we returned to a Greenpartment filled with people playing Super Smash Brothers.

Quincy (not looking up): Hey Kane. Is that Nikki with you?
Me: No, it's my aunt.
Quincy: Hey Aunt Nikki.

Soon, they left back for San Luis. Jake and I played a game of Wacraft against Frank (we won!) and then I got a horrible migraine.
I turned off all the lights and listening to audio books for about an hour, and then I mostly felt better.

I called Erika, since I haven't seen her in awhile, and she said she wanted to hang out, but not til later. I watched The Simpsons with Frank, Kailey, Jake and Quincy for awhile (Frank bought the DVD of the season which has all the good ones) and around midnight I met Erika at Cafe Revolucion. I knew they'd be out of good things to drink, so I brought my own tea bags, which she soon saw the wisdom of.

Afterward we went back to her apartment and talked for awhile. She seems really happy in Santa Cruz, probably more so than me, really, and talking to her made me feel a lot better.
I showed her Quamran, which her lack of livejournal/AIM/etc has prevented her from seeing before now, and she played me a song she recorded.
It was really nice and I think I need to spend more time with her. It's still funny for me that she's living so close by.

Today absolutely nothing happened.
Tomorrow I have to write a paper on Singin' in the Rain, which I should have done today.
Life is pretty decent.

*My mom is named Shawn, their other sister is Colin. They're all about the questionably misspelled masculine names.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

But a herring! Doesn't! Whistle!

This post has been two weeks in the making, cause a lot happens in it.

Friday the 31st I had dinner with Amanda, who lives here now, at her garage apartment on the outskirts of the town, near Capitola. It was slightly surreal since I'd kind of assumed I'd never much see her again and now she lives near me. But it was fairly nice.

That night my dad and Jamie came up to bring Farabundo and my bike. Frank and Ryan came in hilariously drunk/stoned and offered my dad a Newcastle. He politely accepted, and they ran away giggling like schoolgirls.

Then we went and ate at Saturn, where after thinking back on the Greenpartment my dad said, "I guess having a ping pong table take up the entire main room is kind of strange."
Across the street and visible from our booth, some guy got kicked out of a bar, tried to run back in, got stopped by the bouncer and left. Then eight cop cars came over the course of 10 minutes. The Santa Cruz police are good like that.

The next day, it was time to leave for Berekely to see MirrorMask. Nikki had gotten a ride from her (now) roomate Kris's boyfriend Ian and was already there, so I had to take the Greyhound alone. That alone wasn't so bad, but there was the added problem of how to get to the greyhound station. You see, there's this bus strike going on. The bus drivers want health care and the management wants, I dunno, to punch kittens, so until they get it resolved, it's obscenely difficult to get downtown.

Theresa said she'd give me a ride downtown to make the bus at noon, but the noon bus was sold out, and she wasn't able to take me to the next one, at 4:30. But she did help me get directions from the San Francisco stop to Berkeley.
So I walked down around 3, desperately hoping I wouldn't miss it. I didn't, and had a more or less uneventful Greyhound trip.

At some point I realized that the bus stopped in Oakland before San Francisco, and that's significantly closer to Berkeley, so I decided to get off there.
I called Nikki up and got her to find directions from the Oakland Greyhound stop to the BART station.
With contained reticence, I got off in Oakland.

I've been to Oakland before, and didn't think anything particularly bad about it. But this particular chunk of Oakland was...I don't know the weird? Scummy? Dingy? I asked some guy how to get to 21st street and he pointed me in completely the wrong direction. It was a really awkward moment when I walked past him in the opposite direction of what he told me, and it turned out he was actually sitting on a bench about 5 feet from the 21st street sign, so that was goofy.

I ran across the street and almost got hit ("Hey, I'm walkin' here!") then after asking for slightly better directions from another guy, found my way to a bigger "classier" street. It's weird how big cities have piles of expensive corporate shit so close to scummy poor shit. This is why I wouldn't like living in a big city. A bouncer looked at me suspiciously for walking past the door to the theatre he was bouncing. I saw that Jethro Tull and P. Diddy were both going to be there soon. I can only hope together.

The BART station had like 3 levels so it was hard to find the right part, but I did eventually. There was one other person waiting to go to Berkeley, a middle aged black woman named Alicia who was in Oakland watching a Will Smith movie being shot. She told me she was an actress and had co-starred in a play with Danny Glover's wife, and had starred in one with Denzel Washington as a stage hand. I don't know if she was telling the truth, but it was a lot more fun to take her word for it, so I did.
She asked me my star sign, both American and Chinese. I told her I was a tiger, and she said so was her late husband, and that tigers are gangsters. She told me she was from Chicago, a gangster town, and I'd fit right in (though she'd grown up in the whiteland that is Wisconsin).
So that was fun.

After rushing back and forth around Berkeley with Nikki and then Anna, we ended up having crepes and then seeing the movie. I got in first, while Nikki waited outside for Anna to come back with her friends. They came in just as it was starting, but didn't miss too much.

MirrorMask is good. It's not as good as it could've been in some ways--the plot's kind of episodic and arbitrary, and it doesn't have a very satisfying ending--but it has neat dialogue, charming (if shallow) characters, and looks gorgeous. I can be but so critical when I want to see it again already.

(If you’re curious, you can watch a lot of clips from it on RottenTomatoes.)

After the movie we ate at some sort of diner where for complicated reasons they gave Nikki a giant pile of cherries, and then Anna and Nikki walked me to David Priddy’s apartment to spend the night. It was slightly weird since David and I never much hung out (except for with Erika), but we just fucked around talking about movies and stuff (especially his copy of SLAMMED, which he let me borrow).

I read for a little while (Neil Gaiman’s latest novel also just came out, coincidentally) and then fell asleep on the couch bed, sleeping far longer than anyone else who lived there.
David helped me find my way back to Anna’s.

Anna, Nikki, and I went to a nearby dining hall for breakfast. Then they dropped me off at Comic Relief, this really classy comic store while they did other things.
They’d just had Neil Gaiman signing like two days before, so they had basically every comic he’s ever done autographed at cover price.
Which would be great, except I already have all of them, and I’m not going to rebuy a $20 book just because someone wrote their name in it, even if that someone is Neil Gaiman.

The last time I went to Comic Relief was in 2001, back when the idea of "serious" comics was exciting and new to me. Back then, I could pretty much pick up anything that looked to be vaguely realistic (or at least non-superheroey) and be guaranteed an interesting experience. Being both better read and more jaded now, I found less indie comics that were to my liking. Though this crazy Dave McKean (who directed MirrorMask) graphic novel caught my eye, but uncaught it with a $50 price tag. Maybe for my birthday.
I ended up reading a Star Trek comic, then getting this adaptation of the beginning of the Book of Mormon (!), by Mike Allred, who is a hip pop-arty comic artist (he did all the art for Chasing Amy, if that rings a bell) and not someone you’d expect to be a Mormon, but apparently he is. I also got a nifty Comic Relief t-shirt.

After meeting up with Anna and Nikki and eating, it was time to go back. Nikki and I got on the BART, hoping to make our way to Oakland in time to get on the Greyhound to SC.

We made it just in the nick of time, only to find out that the bus was sold out. After a probably too loud, “I hate Oakland” from me, Nikki called Kris and Ian, who agreed to give us a ride back to Santa Cruz, which was really nice of them.

We sat on the sidewalk outside the BART station for about an hour, across the street from the Jethro Tull place.For some reason, they couldn’t find their way to Oakland (I certainly can’t blame them), so we had to take the BART farther north to meet them so we could drive back South.

The rest of the trip went without incident. Ian dropped us off at the Greenpartment, where we came in and were laughed at by everyone.

Turns out that there had been a top secret showing of MirrorMask, along with a bunch of other movies, at the theater here, so everyone else saw it without having to go out of their way.

Wah wah waaaah.

Friday, October 14, 2005

"This is some wild, deep, far out society." --My creative writing TA

Today a large portion of my Creative Writing section was devoted to people's responses to (most of) the first two chapters of Quamran, which I'd given to them last week to read.

It was really interesting to hear their reactions. They understood it a lot better than I feared and seemed to basically enjoy it (I worried the scifi would put off the indie folks, and the ambling dialogue would put off the geeks), but some of their reactions surprised me.

The TA thought Nei-Ly needed to be more emotive. I agree in some ways (his reaction to Anra being in his room is kind of ambiguous for example), but less so when she says, "I get that he's jealous of Jaril and dissapointed at not being picked. But he could be a little more dissapointed and jealous." Sure, he could, but he wouldn't be. I'm a lot more verbose and, um, emotionally open than he is, and I don't think I'd flat-out admit to being jealous.

I thought that people would find the beach scene cheesy and like the more naturalistic feel of the scene in Nei-Ly's room, but it was basically the opposite--they seemed captivated by Kri-Len ("You force the reader to make certain assumptions about the society, which are then subverted by Kri-Len" said one guy) and hated Anra), one person even going as far to suggest that she was a government spy (!).
I thought this was kind of funny because Anra is the only character (other than Nei-Ly obviously), who I would really identify with myself. She's not "brainwashed" (as the TA put it)--she's just pragmatic. If you had a friend who kept talking about how society sucks and people were jerks all the time, and was blatantly disregarding the feelings of your mutual friend, wouldn't you tell him to shut up after awhile? Obviously the story isn't coming out on her side, nor should it, but she's basically a decent person. If she's an antagonist at all, it's no fault of her own.

I think disliking Anra might come from the perception that Quamran is a dystopia, and since Anra seems to be endorsing it by discouraging Nei-Ly from complaining, they dislike her.
But while Quamran is far from a utopia, it's not supposed to be an oppressive hellhole either. One guy remarked that "there's no big brother" and their religion is "relatively harmless". And I think that sums it up well--Their religion, like any, can be good or bad. It becomes a reflection of the people who practice it as much as the converse.

One girl, Julie, compared Kri-Len to Clarice from Fahrenheit 451 (I find that title so hard to type post-Michael Moore), which didn't occur to me cause I haven't read it since 7th grade, but is a pretty good comparison. The fact that Nei-Ly lived in a numbered apartment reminded her of 1984, a comparison which makes less since to me, but whatever.

All around, I really liked what people said. I agreed with a lot of it, and when I didn't, it was intelligent enough to be informative. It made me feel encouraged about the accessibility and meaningfulness of the project.

I liked the way one guy (Steven "Jamie" Thompson) summed it up, "It's kind of an interesting concept: a society based upon faith, which in turns seems to be based upon technology and mathematics. Strange tension pulling there."

I'd say it's more based on political theory than technology (though math has played a role in waht we've seen), but I like that.
I just hope that tension will pay off into something satisfying. I've never written anything this long before, and the impression I've gotten from some people is that it's getting to the point where that build-up needs to pay off.

I'm doing my best folks!
And if you have any other critique or would like to weigh in on these comments, I'd love to hear it.

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Location: Oakland, CA, United States