Friday, October 31, 2003

Remember that ear-ache I was complaining about? Turns out it was just a big zit! Gross! It popped last night while I was watching "Soul Man" with my friends Adam and Ellen. Right when James Earl Jones was telling C. Thomas Howell that he's not going to let him slide through college just because he's black, I touched the inside of my ear and felt a bunch of liquidy stuff. I looked down at my fingernail and on it was a big, long glob of yellow pus. And blood.

I put some hydrogen peroxide on a q-tip and cleaned out my ear. This took about 8 q-tips. Afterwards, they were all covered in blood and pus and other gunk. It was yucky. Adam and Ellen took gleeful (and digusted) joy in it. I thought about saving the q-tips and doing a puppet show with them, but I figured that was too predictable.

I haven't written my No Shame piece yet. This year, I've usually had it done by Wednesday, but that's not the case this week. It's because I had to scrape my original idea (a valentine's day sketch), but yesterday, I came across something new and I'll try to do that. Actually, it's not totally new. I came up with the basic concept a few weeks ago when I was reading an essay about haunted house films as representative anecdotes. It just wasn't until yesterday that I figured out a way to make the basic concept workable. I'm writing it this evening.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

I went to the dentist. Apparently, the tubes in one of my teeth are frayed or broken. The dentist rubbed sensitivity-paste all over my tooth to make it better. It's been a day or so and my tooth still hurts. I've been told that it may take 3-4 weeks to see any improvement.

Today, I went to the doctor for the ear-ache. Apparently, I scraped some protective tissue out of my ear canal and bacteria caused an infection. I'm taking antibiotics to fight it.

On the way home from the doctor, my nose started to bleed. Heavily. I walked a few blocks, holding my hand to my nose until I reached a bathroom to take care of it (i.e. cleaning my face, shoving a tissue in my nostril). For the next hour, I was splitting out globs of blood.

I'm falling apart.

One interesting thing... when I got into the bathroom to take care of my bloody nose, I looked at myself in the mirror and saw my bloody-smeary face. I must say... it looked pretty cool. I was reminded of one of my favorite parts of "Catcher in the Rye." It's after Holden gets in a fight and he looks in the mirror and admires his newly-marred face. I always thought that was a really honest moment. I bet a lot of people do that.

Because we all know it's cool to look/be damaged.

That's why I write an entire blog about my tooth-ache, ear-ache, and bloody nose.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

On Tuesday night, I went to a screening of the silent film "The Last Days of Pompeii." All in all, I was pretty bored by it, but I did like one concept that I've enjoyed in other films like "Magnolia," "The Ice Storm," and "Short Cuts." And that is... the irrelevance of human disarray in the face of uncontrollable nature.

In all these movies, they lay out a plot that's filled with characters who have their own problems and obstacles and whatnot and you as an audience member get engrossed and concerned by them... and then... bam! A volcano erupts. Or the sky rain flogs. Or ice covers your city. Or an earthquake shakes the ground. And all these problems are leveled (and I'd argue - humbled) by something no one could ever control. Your little, inconsequential problems take a backseat to the greater power of chance.

It's a pretty beautiful concept.

And an awfully honest one, too, if you ask me. It's weird. This corresponds with an essay I just read that criticized conventional Hollywood plots. The essayist referenced Epes Winthrop Sargent who wrote that the most exciting thing in theatre is when a cat comes out onstage. Because no one in the audience knows what that cat's going to do because it isn't privy to the plot. It doesn't have to follow some pre-determined arc. Anything can happen. And then the essayist suggested that film plots in total should "let the cat out of the bag."

I myself have tried to do stuff in my work that does this, but often times, it just becomes a criticism of how art tries to have "spotaneity," but ends up controlling it even more. Like... I literally put a dog onstage just to make the commentary that trying to get it to do what you want it to do is impossible - similar to when you're in a relationship and you try to force your significant other to be how you want them to be. It can't happen.

But maybe I'll actually try to "put a cat onstage" as opposed to just saying it's impossible.

For a week, I've had a tooth ache. I can't eat anything solid (especially if it's cold) on the left side of my mouth. This has seriously affected my way of life.

For instance, I love to drink water. Lots of it. I don't know if you've seen me do this or not, but I'll down an entire 20 oz. of water in one chug. That's the only way I can do it, so that it ends my thirst. But with this tooth ache, I haven't been able to do that. I feel groggy and dehydrated. It's the pits.

In addition... within the past day, my tongue tastes like I've been eating soap - plus I've developed an ear ache. I think it is all related to this tooth problem.

Fortunately, I'm going to see a dentist this afternoon. Maybe that will end my pain. My constant, constant pain.

I'm peforming at the Talent Show at Public Space One tonight at 8pm! Come one, come all!

Monday, October 27, 2003

Yesterday (October 27th), my niece Alexis turned 8 years old. I called her up on the phone to wish her a happy birthday. She was having her party at the time, so she seemed a little distracted. That's understandable. If I had a bunch of friends over and was just about to open a bunch of presents, I'd find it hard to talk on the phone, too. Even today.

I remember the day Alexis was born. It was a Friday and I was in 8th grade. It was the opening night of my first-ever play (as Artie in a community theatre production of "Lost in Yonkers"). I was just heading to the theatre when my sister Anne went into labor. It wasn't until I got off the stage after the show and talked to my sister Amy and my grandma Joan that I found out Anne had a baby girl named Alexis. It was a really big, memorable night.

Those were weird times back then. Anne was a senior in high school and if having a baby at that time wasn't a taboo enough, it was at a small Catholic school, too. Of course, every kid had sex there, but a pregnancy was a rarity. I remember this awkward time (right when the rumors were circulating) when these older kids came up to me in the locker room and they were like, "Paul. I want to ask you something." And I'm like, "Uh, okay" (knowing full well that they wanted to ask about my sister). And then they said, "Ah, forget it." And everybody in the locker room snickered and exchanged knowing glances. That happened quite a few times. It made me feel helpless. It isolated me.

Of course, I can't complain too much. I'm sure it was 100 times tougher for Anne. But she was really strong and got through it. And she's doing very well for herself. I'm proud of her.

As can be expected, it was tough for the family, too. But in the end, Alexis brought us together. With a new child in our presence, it sort of forced everybody to "get their shit together." Because, you know, you want a new life to be surrounded by love. And not dysfunction.

I've always been extremely grateful to have Alexis around. Not only is she super-funny and cool, she's also given me the opportunity to know what it's like to be around little kids (since I was the youngest child). And getting to influence somebody positively and have them influence you with their innocence and grace is pretty great.

That's my niece Alexis. 8 years old.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Since schoolwork has decreased within the past week, I've had some time to edit more of "David Mows Yards." So far, I got the first 20 minutes edited.

On Thursday-into-Friday, I edited a "job-hunting" montage. It's mostly there for comic relief. The first 15 minutes contain more observational/behavioral type of jokes whereas the montage has more set-up/punchline obvious type of jokes. So, it comes in at a good time - as far as structure is concerned.

It was the same with "America's Funniest American." In retrospect, I've noticed that all the "big joke" moments came right after the "small boring" moments - as if to snatch back the audience's attention. And I'm sure that's what's going on here.

Now, I'm editing a scene that features my dad. He did a good job. I'd give him a line and he'd re-word it and make it his own. He even improvised a few lines. Originally, he wanted to wear a "Goofy" ballcap he got at Disney World in 1990, but I nixed the idea.

This will cripple the movie.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Yesterday, I found out Elliot Smith was dead. That's too bad. I wasn't his #1 fan or anything like that, but I enjoyed his songs when I heard them. And obviously, in general, it's unfortunate when somebody dies.

He killed himself by sticking a knife into his chest. Goddamn. The strange thing is... for about a year now, I've been thinking how the most extreme/passionate/poetic way to kill yourself would be a knife in the chest.

By the way, loved ones should not worry. I'm not having "bad thoughts." It's just been in my mind since I saw "The Piano Teacher," which features such a thing.

Anyway, some friends and I were talking about how somebody would have to be awfully tormented to commit suicide in such a manner. And how Elliot Smith - who seemingly was a pretty tormented guy in his songs - chose something like that.

Then we talked about how if Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes) committed suicide, he would never stick a knife in his chest. He'd probably take a bottle of Aspirin.

I like Conor Oberst's music and all, but... his "torment" can be a little phoney from time to time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Have you heard Quasi? They are a band. A good band.

Actually, they are one of my favorite bands still making music today. Since... you know, Pixies and Big Star are dead. For now.

Anyhow, Quasi is playing in Iowa City at Gabe's on November 6th. I tried my hardest to get "My Business Failed in Three Weeks" to open for them, but it fell through. That's too bad. Still, I'll get to see them rock out.

I just bought their new record "Hot Shit." It's fantastic. My favorite song so far is this one called "No One." It's got this chord progression on a keyboard that's... well, it's like how you've wanted a chord progression on a keyboard to sound for a long time, but nobody ever has done it.

Until now.

And the lyrics are terrific. It starts off with Sam Coomes repeating, "No one will hurt you" and then, in the chorus, he sings, "I won't allow them to." So you - as a listener - think, "Okay, he's singing a love song. That's nice." But in the second verse, he repeats, "No one will help you" and finishes it off with, "I won't allow them to." A simple sentiment gone dark. It's great.

If you're looking to download a Quasi song to get a taste, I suggest "It's Raining." It's probably their most accessible.

Monday, October 20, 2003

A couple hours ago, Rick and I had a conversation about those who represent "the left" (or "progressive" politics) in the media and how they can be frustrating.

Like Michael Moore, for instance. In general, I agree with his politics. I, too, get upset with abuses by the corporate world or the war in Iraq or institutionalized racism - just to name a few. But I have problems with how Michael Moore expresses those viewpoints. His oscar accpetance speech, for example, really irked me. He just came off as this ranting lunatic who was getting off on his own subversiveness.

And that bothers me because... if he's one of the few people representing progressive political thought in the mainstream media, then he gives mainstream audiences the impression that all of those who share his beliefs are also "ranting lunatics who get off on their own subversiveness."

As a result, I want to thumb my nose at Michael Moore. Furthermore, I want other progressive thinkers in the media to criticize him. But you can't do that because in the end, all you're doing is giving power to "the right." After all, in mainstream discourse, things are basically separated between "the left" and "the right." There is no "left of the left." So, in effect, by descrediting Moore, you inadverntly agree with the right.

It's like how when a black person criticizes others in the black community, it allows racists to stand back, fold their arms, and say, "See! Even black people agree with us!"

So, all I can do with Michael Moore is shrug and think, "At least those viewpoints are getting out someway."

But I just wish it could be done better.

Friday, October 17, 2003

My friend Rick is visiting tonight from Notre Dame. He's one of the funniest fellers I know. Just know, I got off the phone with him and I was a-howlin'. Topics ranged from an episode of "Head of the Class" during the "Billy" era, 4th grade student-made rosaries, and a volleyball coach's favorite romance novelist. I'm hoping he writes a piece for No Shame tonight.

Tomorrow, my ma and pa are visiting. This is the first time I've seen them since early August. I go long stretches without seeing my folks. For instance, if they hadn't come this weekend, I wouldn't have seen them until this Christmas. But we're all cool with that.

Of course, seeing them more wouldn't be awful either. I get along with my parents really well. In fact, just yesterday, I was telling somebody how I think I've only had five arguments with my parents in my entire life. And that's not us repressing anger either. We just genuinely get along well.

My mom told me I should have something planned for all of us to do on Saturday night. I'm thinking we'll go to "Mystic River." It's a mystery-suspensey film, which I think is my parents' favorite genre. And I want to see it, so it's good for everybody. My mom mentioned how she really wants to see "Kill Bill." I warned her that it's really violent and she may not like it. But she said, "But I hear it's stylized. I think I'd like that." This makes my mom cool.

I'm not too surprised about her interest though. She really liked "Pulp Fiction." Even more than "Forrest Gump!" In fact, here's a conversation my mom and dad once had:

DAD: So, what did you like more: "Pulp Fiction" or "Forrest Gump?"

MOM: ... Probably "Pulp Fiction."

DAD: More than "Forrest Gump?"

MOM: Yeah.

DAD: But "Forrest Gump?" (in Forest voice) Mama always said... life is like a box of chocolates...

This is how my dad convinces people that "Forrest Gump" is a good movie. He just repeats the catchphrases. For instance, when he wants the family to watch "Forrest Gump," he'll be like:

DAD: Do you guys want to watch "Forrest Gump?"

FAMILY: Geeze, dad, we don't know ---

DAD: (in Forrest voice) Momma always said... life is like a box of chocolates.

FAMILY: Can't we watch something else?

DAD: (in Forrest voice) Stupid is as stupid does.

FAMILY: There has to be another movie we can watch.

DAD: (in Forrest voice) Me and Jenny are like peas and carrots.

FAMILY: Fine, dad. We'll watch "Forrest Gump."

God bless my dad. God bless my mom. God bless you for reading my blog!

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I just saw Billy Corgan sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch of the Cubs game.

He concluded it with an awkward "Let's get some runs!"

My first amplitheatre rock show was the Smashing Pumpkins in 8th grade. They opened with "Tonight, Tonight" and closed with... you guessed it... "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

It was nice hearing his rendition again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I've been lazy for the past day. I slept from 1pm to 8pm yesterday, then stayed up all last night watching movies with friends. Those movies? The shot-on-video Full Moon Pictures classic "Dead and Rotting" and the shot-on-film Miramax bomb "Jackie Brown."

I recently used sarcasm in the previous paragraph. Can you see where? If so, sign my guestbook and you will receive a free t-shirt.

I suppose I'm being lazy because the day before was all stressy-out with the paper I had to write (read Mon, October 13th) and I'm just recovering. Tomorrow is another big day. Class presentation and then a midterm in another class. You get stressed, then you recover. You get stressed again, then you recover again. Repeat for 87 years.

Tomorrow, for the class presentation, my friend Nate and I have to lead a discussion on a reading. I think we're going to write up a quiz and force our fellow classmates to take it. And then we're going to grade it and force the instructor to figure them into their final grades.

Classtime is playtime!

Monday, October 13, 2003

I just pulled another all-nighter - easily my 8th this year alone.

I wrote a 10-page paper in 8 hours.

I'm tired now and I'm going to sleep.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Last night, I had a good, old-fashioned double feature. At 4pm, I went to see "Kill Bill" and at 7pm, I saw "Intolerable Cruelty." It's weird. These are a couple of movies that I've been anticipating for a year now and they both open on the same date. And yet, for the entire year, I've been routinely disappointed by the movies.

Why can't those Hollywood show biz fat-cats schedule their movies better? It's probably because they're too busy snorting cocaine through 100-dollar bills. Hollywood show biz fat-cats love to snort cocaine through 100-dollar bills. Their movies tell me this.

Apparently, this is my weekend of "Entertain me NOW!" because tonight I'm going to see awesome, awesome rock band Local H in Cedar Falls. I've never seen them live, but their records are some of the best hard-rock records being made today. If you wanted the Pixies or Nirvana to still be making albums, Local H would be the ones to do it. Of course, they're not as great as the Pixies or Nirvana, but they fill that void.

And their albums are indeed great. They're really conceptual. Songs bleed into one another, riffs pop back up here and there, and similar thematic material is explored throughout. I do love me the concept album. It's probably because of my insatiable hunger for narrative in everything.

Speaking of insatiable hungers...

I'm going to take a shower!

Thursday, October 09, 2003

I'm listening to Jonathan Richman's "Rockin' and Romance," an early-80's LP of his. Of all his records, it's my favorite. Strangely enough, it's his only album that hasn't been put on CD yet. I lucked out and found a used vinyl copy a few years ago and snatched it up.

The album's great. The backing band is excellent. It's basically an acoustic guitar, drums, and female vocals - with occasional backing male vocals. And the production's really sparse, but focused and vibrant.

And the songs are great, too. Like "The Beach" and "My Jeans" and "Down in Bermuda" and "Vincent Van Gogh" and "Chewing Gum Wrapper."

My favorite is "I Must Be King." The lyrics go like this:

I easy laugh
I easy cry
I soft inside
She partly why

I used to yearn
And now I sing
Since she's my queen
Well, that makes me king

And she and I are like brother and sister
I get to be her companion
And share her secrets
They've put us side by side to live

These days of joy
I stand and weep
Cuz I'm so grateful
to watch her smile when she's asleep

Since we're like birdies
Well this must be spring
And since she's my queen
Well, I must be king

And she and I are like brother and sister
I get to be her companion
And share her secrets
They've put us side by side to live

These days of joy
I stand and weep
I sometimes get grateful
when I watch her smile when she's asleep

Since we're like birdies,
well, this must be spring
And since she's my queen,
I must be king

I don't know. I just like the logic. The idea that, "Well, I don't think too much of myself, but this person I'm with? She's really great. And she likes me. So that must mean... I'm great, too."

And that maybe dangerous in the sense that you're only finding confidence because somebody accepted you, but... you could also see it as... somebody's love giving you strength and happiness. And that's a really beautiful sentiment.

And the best part about the song is that it's playful and fun and you tap your foot and you sing along and in the end, you're left with this incredible love song.

Download it if you like.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

So, for awhile, I've been trying to write comedy sketches that are more "joyful" and "fun-loving." I don't know. Something that just gives you some sort of euphoria - like when I watch "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" or screwball comedies from the 30's.

Tall task... which could certainly not be done by me.

In the end, I just ended up writing comedy sketches about how you can't force things to happen - you know, kind of like how you can't write a "joyful" comedy sketch if you're not feeling particularly joyful.

Recently, I think I discovered why I've been struggling with this. It basically comes down to how I regard comedy at its core level. And that is?

The best form of comedy comes from a place of frustration. If something's bothering you and you want change, you write a comedy sketch about it. Anything else is soul-less and inconsequential. Silly. Bad.

As a result, I write comedy sketches that are pissy and frustrated and decidedly not joyful. But hopefully, in the end, I can find a way to write comedy with an idea that I feel is important and valuable - without it being gloomy. Because in the end... for me... I think the most difficult thing to write is something that expresses joy and gives people joy.

It's like... it's easy to write a song about how you're depressed and then make people depressed, but there's only a handful of songs that truly lift your spirits.

And these songs include "I Saw Her Standing There," "All I Want for Chirstmas is You," and "Red Red Robin." That's it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Random memory...

When I was in third grade, I found out what menstration was from an episode of "Blossom." I didn't totally understand it, so my older sister Amy explained it to me in full. Blood and tampons and all that.

For some reason or another, I felt that this had tainted me. Like I had knowledge of some horrible thing.

Later that night, when my mom came home, I embraced her as soon as she walked through the door. I said, "Mom, Amy... told... me..." and then I broke down into tears.

Fortunately, my mom forgave me.

.... I'm so Catholic.

Monday, October 06, 2003

On Saturday afternoon, I went to see "School of Rock" with Jake. It was really entertaining and sweet-hearted. For two hours, it helped me forget a lot of the stuff that had been on my mind. I guess that's one of those things that films can do.

God bless "escapist cinema" and its patron saints, Spielberg and Zemeckis.

Truth be told, however, there isn't enough "escapist cinema" going on these days. There's certainly mindless blockbusters everywhere, but "mindless" doesn't necesarily have to mean "soul-less."

I don't know. Movies like "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" wanted nothing more than to entertain you. And it was earnest. And smart.

Everyday, I consider making "ET" my favorite movie of all-time. But I realize this is a major step for a cinephile, so I hold back until I'm completely sure. But still... the movie's amazing. It's one of the few honest portraits of childhood that I can think of. Kids talk like kids. And get pissed off like kids. And care like kids.

And there's so many great ideas running through it: Finding strength in yourself after others having disappointed you. Loneliness. Abandonment. Letting go of things you love because you know it's the right thing to do.

And despite all this, it's as inspiring as anything could be.

Hm. Maybe it is my favorite movie.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Wednesday was a day where I had to present 4 seperate projects in class:

1) Fake Self-Portrait Video (for Advanced Video)

Originally, this video was going to be about me and my "girlfriend." Throughout the video, it was going to be gradually revealed that I had hired an actress to portray my girlfriend and she would be uncomfortable when I ask her to do "boyfriend and girlfriend" things with me (i.e. sharing pet names, singing our songs, kissing on camera, etc.). Instead, it ended up seeming like this person was actually my girlfriend, but wasn't into the relationship as much as me. I like how it ended up better than the original idea. It seems more honest.

2) "Six Feet Under" Presentation (for Television Criticism)

In this class presentation, I argued that the pilot episode of "Six Feet Under" exemplified the tension between "ironic detachment" and "emotional expression" in the 21st Century (or post "Age of Irony"). I was too dry and boring. At least, that's what the glazed-over eyes of my fellow classmates told me.

3) Discussion with advisor (on Honors Thesis project)

During this discussion, my advisor and I talked about the screenplay I wrote for my Honors Thesis Project. He seemed to be cool with the major ideas and the themes and the whatnot, so I'm okay there, but he had some problems with how I presented it. He suggeted new tactics and I liked what he had to say. There's a "secret" in the piece and the new plan of action is to wait in revealing it until the end. I'll try it in the second draft, which is due in a week or so.

4) "Bubblegum Brigade" play (for Undergraduate Playwrights Workshop)

Arlen Lawson, Michael Tabor, Emily Happe, and I read my play "Bubblegum Brigade" aloud for the others in my workshop class. Afterwards, I received some nice feedback. My instructor told me that she saw the structure shaped like an "N." It goes straight, takes a sharp turn, then goes straight again, and takes another sharp turn. I agreed. She suggested that I make those straight lines a little more curvy - with subplots and more secret motives. She's right. It was too bare bones. It needs higher stakes and more flava'.

On Thursday, after presenting all these projects, I felt a sense of post-mortum (sp?) depression with it all. In general, I've been kinda down since then. You get all worked up for stuff and then it's over and you feel empty. And tired. And bored.