Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On Narwhals

We had a quiz last week in my Russian Far East History class on Vitus Bering, the Danish explorer employed by tsar Peter to lead an expedition across Siberia, through the ocean, and to America. One of the questions on the quiz was about his death. Relatively recent research has lead to some debate over the actual cause of Bering's death, so I signified that in my answer by listing various causes of death to which individuals might succumb during sub-arctic and arctic land and sea expeditions, including death by narwhal. I was astonished to learn how few people know about narwhals, so I've taken it upon myself to educate the ignorant.

While doing a quick image search for an exemplar specimen using The Google, I discovered what could possibly be the most fantastical toy ever manufactured. Finding this toy improved my quality of life by 30%.

Tomorrow, I am giving a presentation in said history class on Stalin's gulags in Magadan. I have included both slides shown above in my presentation for three reasons:

1) I feel the need to counteract the negative psychological impact of the actual content of my presentation.

2) I feel the need to counteract the negative psychological impact of giving my very first Power Point presentation EVER. I'm not nervous about it now, but I know that having a good laugh - and hearing the other students laugh - just before I start will definitely help combat any anxiety I might experience once I'm up there.

3) People have a right to know that Arctic impalement was the leading cause of death of expeditionary Danes in tsarist Russia.

On a related note, I had an adorably embarrassing episode in my Pacific Northwest History class today. Dr. Moore was discussing Manifest Destiny and the push westward and referenced a movie with "Tom Cruise" and before he'd even taken a breath I blurted out (through an ecstatically impish grin) "Far and Away?!"

One whole second of silence, before a kid in the back goes "Wow."

One more second and then - I KID YOU NOT - EVERY single person turned toward me. IN UNISON!

I paused before explaining that I only knew it because it's the ONLY Tom Cruise movie I can stand to watch. Everyone was laughing at me, but Dr. Moore came to my defense saying that it had "a lot of good history in it" - which is EXACTLY how I knew what he was talking about.

Jeez, people - I'm a movie nerd, not a Tom Cruise nerd.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Once again.

This fire! This voice! This Agony!

I rented a movie a year ago called M. It's directed by Fritz Lang and was released in 1931. It was one of the first audio films made and is considered by film buffs to be one of the most influential and best-made films in cinematic history. I still agree.

Based on real-life events (Peter Kurten, "The Vampire of Dusseldorf"), this story follows Berlin Police and Underworld as they race to catch the child killer. The Police use every modern technique and technology available to them, while the Underworld rely on complex networking.

The film is visually stunning, and nothing ended up on film that was not meticulously scrutinized by Fritz Lang. Unlike most talking movies (even contemporary films), M is not dialog-intensive. There is no score, and no sound-effects that aren't of importance (you can hear the sound of a coo-coo clock in one scene, but there is absolutely no audio for several scenes showing police driving around town, arresting people, etc). Sound is used strictly for plot development and, critically, to allow the audience to visualize the world outside of the shot. For the first time in cinema, one did not need to see The Monster to know he was around - audio (in this case, whistling) alerts audience to danger.

Peter Lorre plays Hans Beckert, the Monster. His performance is one of the most realistic and horrifying I've ever seen. During one scene he delivers a monologue pleading for his life and explaining his sickness:
"Who knows what it's like inside me? How it screams and cries out inside me when I have to do it? Don't want to! Must! Don't want to! Must! And then a voice cries out and I can't listen anymore!"

Normally I don't recommend "films" to people unless I know they are into "films," but I have to recommend M to everyone. Pay close attention to details when you watch it the first time, and then watch it again with commentary on. Nothing is there by accident.

In the year that has passed since I first watched M, I have watched many, many films. I took a film class over the summer, and was left ultimately unimpressed by most of them. Part of me puts the blame on how amazing M is. It's a brilliant piece of poetic history - not just the cinematic kind. This movie sums all the reason I'm ashamed of American cinema: With all the technology and developments in the film industry, we have yet to make a film as good as M. However, I would like to add a short list of other recommendations to this blog post. If you are no into "film" you will probably not enjoy any of these, but each is an incredible example of the power of film.

Pelle erobreren (Pelle the Conqueror) By far my favorite on the list, it is a depressing look into the lives of Swedes and Danes at the end of the nineteenth century. A father and child, immigrants from Sweden seeking relief as indentured servants on a Danish manor, adjust to the struggles of their new life alongside those who are struggling with their old lives. It is a meandering film with no apparent climax, but is gut-wrenchingly realistic.

Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) Another meandering film about the secret police in East Germany. The main character is a member of said task force and is portrayed by Ulrich Mühe in a performance that is so excruciatingly pathetic I had chills whenever he appeared on screen. Mühe is visually stunning in a Guy Pierce sort of way: whenever he's on screen, he's all you can see.

La cité des enfants perdus (The City of Lost Children) This film was my selection for "Mise-en-scène" and while I didn't enjoy watching it at the time I will definitely be watching it again - if for no other reason than to see how tenderly One warms Miette's little body. "Radiateur."

The Conversation The one American film. From the literal fog of a nightmare, Gene Hackman attempts to alert a woman in danger. "I'm not afraid of death. I am afraid of murder." Haunting.

Monday, April 12, 2010


My day is going TACO!
(Artwork by Katherine.)

It's Taco Night here at the Hensels-Vickerys (How awesome is it that with only three people we manage to have two Hensels and also two Vickerys? Awesome, that's how awesome.) and the Hensel-Vickerys (ohpp, only two!) are preparing dinner. w00t! I've cooked dinner many-a-night since they moved in, so apparently I have earned the right to be cooked for, and I must say I'm pretty excited. I don't buy meat, so it's been a very long time since I had tacos. They're one of my favorite foods. While dinner is cooking, I'll recap recent events.

This weekend, Katherine and I went to Walla Walla for my cousin Derek's wedding "Open House."

The Happy Couple:

Her dress had a nice circumference:
(If you look closely it may or may not be possible to spot Magellan.)

It was very fun, and I was thrilled to see my beautiful cousin Carisa, her awesome-possum husband Tyler, and Carisa's older brother Kevin.

Carisa and "Willis" :

Of course, the highlight of my weekend was seeing My Danny, who sent me a care package a few weeks ago when I needed it most.

My Danny:

(Danny, pictured here in his natural state.)

Me receiving my care package:
(A box of Samoas and Arm & Hammer toothpaste).

I very much enjoyed my weekend. The weather was beautiful, the food was plentiful, and although my skin sucked, I managed to get one good shot of myself:

And with that, I'm off to Taco Night!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Weekend

Thursday morning my roommates and I got up at just-after-4 a.m. to drive to Yakima. Katherine and I dropped Chuck off at the airport so that he could fly to South Carolina for his sister Wendy's graduation from Army basic training. Friday saw Katherine and I going about our lives as normal, until 10 PM rolled around and Katherine wanted a sandwich. She can't eat sandwiches without honey mustard, so off we went in search of a bottle. The shop across the street didn't have any, so we drove across town to Super 1. Nothing too exciting happened....other than seeing a hot dog cart called Hot Diggity Dog. Katherine and I laughed so hard we were in tears and she was swerving all over the road. I didn't get a picture because it was dark and my phone doesn't have a zoom function, but I assure you it was the most awesome hot dog cart you've ever seen.

Saturday Katherine and I drove to Tacoma to pick Chuck up from SeaTac airport, after which we drove to Ivar's in Seattle for lunch. Thanks to the amazing technology known as GPS turn-by-turn navigational systems, which re-route every time you drive through an intersection, we ended up finding Ivars using nothing but my pretty kick-arse sense of direction...which perhaps is not so kick-arse, as I ended up DRIVING Pike Street Markets. On Easter Saturday. It took us probably 15 or 20 minutes to drive 0.4 miles. Oh well, it was beautiful and I don't mind driving in traffic. We had a few stressful moments at Ivars, which I won't relate here to spare us all from embarrassment, then we drove home.

Sunday I woke up to text messages from friends and family, wishing me Happy Easter. I also got rather desperate messages from my mate Anthony, begging me to come to his Easter Sunday Brunch Party. After harassing my roommates into going, we got ready, packed up some food, and drove across campus to Anthony's. Katherine and Chuck didn't have much fun (they've spent perhaps a little too much time together playing WoW), but Anthony enjoyed the company. Katherine cooked some AMAZING scrambled eggs, I showed Anthony that it IS possible to properly cook an entire pack of bacon in a small pan, and Chuck sat bored and out of place through it all. Oh well, I got a delicious hug from Anthony, and a few compliments from his attractive roommate. Plus, it got us all out of the durn house.

I'd post pictures but I already put them on Facebook, and that's pretty much the end of my boring-ass post. I'll take some proper pictures of my apartment sometime this week after I FINALLY GET MY ROOMMATES TO PUT THE REST OF THEIR STUFF AWAY! :)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Already April!

It's already the end of my last first week of college (for real this time!) and I've had a fantastic week. The weather here has been beautiful, though a bit cold. I got up at 4 this morning to get Chuck to the airport in Yakima (his sister is graduating from Army basic training so he went off to see her), and it was frosty. Fortunately it has warmed up nicely. Unfortunately it's windy. Nevertheless, I'm going to have a hard time leaving Ellensburg, but I suppose if I find a job and have something to busy myself with I will be happy. My classes are wonderful, I'm beyond thrilled to be back studying history, and I love walking to campus with my sister. Having roommates is a bounding success so far. We all contribute to dish cleaning and cooking (communal dinners are now standard), grocery shopping, and fun having. What I love most about my new roommates is that they pretty much leave me the hell alone. I get to watch movies online, eat dinner (which occasionally I didn't have to cook), and get to shop with companions. Awesome.

In lieu of updated images (since my roommates pretty much stopped putting things away once the internet was hooked up and enabled them to get back to World of Warcraft and I therefore have no updated images), I give thee Robot Unicorn Attack. Awesome.

Have a fantastical weekend.