24 June 2008

It's dry again, but something smells fishy

Actually, it smells more like sewer. That's the lovely thing about floods in Iowa. When the water goes away you're left with this nasty sludge full of mud, farm chemicals, pig/cow poop, and sewage, among other things. It smells nasty and breeds god-knows-what...yuck.

That said, I only have to smell it. I don't live in a flooded area so my house was high and dry. I didn't have internet service for a week but that's a very, very minor inconvenience. There's a lot of damage to personal property, businesses, and the University of Iowa campus. Billions of dollars. I can't really complain about a noxious smell since I don't have to replace my entire life.

Now that television is back to normal, and it's summer so the line-up is dull as dishwater, I finally managed to watch Foul Play. A Goldie Hawn-Chevy Chase comedy/suspense/parody/police procedural/espionage film released in 1978. IT IS HYSTERICAL. There are a number of hints paying homage to other iconic films, most notably the scene in Goldie Hawn's bathroom where there might be something behind the shower curtain and the camera slowly moves in on the shower curtain a la Psycho; the soundtrack perfectly mimics earlier thrillers with plenty of "duh-duh-dum" moments (and a theme song "Ready to Take a Chance Again" by Barry Manilow). You must watch this movie, if only for the following excellent moments:
1. The "bachelor pad" scene with the hapless Stanley (played by Dudley Moore) set to "Staying Alive" by the Bee-Gees. Every single tasteless '70s sex cliche is in this scene.
2. The little old women playing Scrabble - they spell "motherf*cker" incorrectly then quibble over whether a hyphenated word was played.
3. Billy Barty as a bible salesman (yes, this is the same man who played the High Aldwyn in Willow). Goldie Hawn chases him out of her apartment with a broom. I would tell you why she does that but it would ruin part of the plot.
4. Chevy Chase's dog is named Chaucer in the movie. (ha!)
5. The "massage parlor" sequence, again with Dudley Moore. Binoculars again.
6. Mr. Hennessey (played by the wonderful Burgess Meredith) and his black-belt karate training vs. the crazy assassin lady; this is very obviously pre-Matrix fighting and it wins for campiest fight scene ever.
7. Mr. Hennessey's curious boa constrictor, Esme.
8. The Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Mikado plays through the entire last twenty minutes of the movie (the overture is used extensively in the soundtrack); the production is conducted by, yes, Dudley Moore, who does actually manage to look like he is conducting.
9. The "car chase" across town which really isn't a car chase but there isn't a better word for it.
10. The elderly Japanese couple and "Kojak bang-bang."
11. The credits - the opera singers are listed by their Mikado character so not only do you have to know the opera to figure out who played what (and you have to do it by ear), you can't recognize any of the New York City Opera performers by sight because they are all wearing traditional Japanese stage make-up.
12. Best line ever: "You're a light bulb waiting to be screwed."

Go! Watch!

A group of us watched No Country for Old Men at Kat's place; holy god, is that movie awesome - creepy but awesome. The Coen brothers are geniuses (I don't think you can separate them into single entities) and I added yet another movie to my all-time-favorites list. Aside from a great script adaptation (I think Cormac McCarthy translates well to the screen because so much can be said with the camera in his novels) there was a phenomenal cast as well - Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly Macdonald. All perfect (dude, Kelly Macdonald is so awesome that if you didn't already know she was Scottish you wouldn't believe it).

Current book-in-progress: I polished off The Gun Seller which is also hysterical, mostly because it is written by Hugh Laurie (this book is James Bond on acid doing international espionage); still finishing ideas and The Shakespeare Wars (got sidetracked by an unfinished copy of Guns, Germs, and Steel)
Current knitted item: Back to the gray neckwarmer
Current movie obsession: Foul Play! But I need to send that back to Netflix. Got a great queue set up - The Savages, The History Boys, In Bruges.....excellent viewing. I've kind of developed a film obsession lately and purchased 10 Bad Dates with de Niro: A Book of Alternate Movie Lists (let's watch to see the Netflix queue expand even further)
Current iTunes loop: I have discovered that podcasts are free on iTunes, therefore, I have started obsessing over Filmspotting with Adam and Matty

10 June 2008

UI Flood Blog

In case anyone needs specific UI information concerning the flooding (lots of things are moving to different performance venues), the UI has created a blog - on Blogger - to keep everyone in the loop.

Water, water, everywhere...

Once again, fifteen years after the last flood, we are having severe flooding in the Midwest. We had a ton of rain, on top of a ton of snow, and all the rivers are expected to crest at higher levels than 1993. It's only going to get worse, too, because we have more heavy rain on the schedule for later this week. I'm fine, my parents are fine, my brothers and sisters-in-law are fine, and the worst any of us are going to have are some pretty insane pictures of high water. However, there are many people who aren't fine and who are losing their homes. New Hartford, which was leveled by an F5 tornado on Memorial Day weekend, has now been evacuated because what was left is all underwater. My brother (the paramedic one) just came in from shift and they closed US218 south behind him because the Cedar River is rising (he works in Waverly and the river runs through the middle of town). I'm in Iowa City and the Coralville Resirvoir is close to running over the spillway at the top (the only other time that happened was in 1993). Pretty much any low-lying area near the river is flooding. This link is to a picture of Lower City Park on the Iowa River; in undergrad I lived in the building (Mayflower Hall) in the lower left hand corner, the little concrete island is a skateboard park which is normally across a two-lane divided road from the 'Flower, the tree-less stripe down the middle is where the Iowa River normally lives, and everything else until you get to the funny round building (Riverside Shakespeare Theatre) at the top of the picture is floodwater. More pictures are available at either the Iowa City Press-Citizen or the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

I might meet the bus downtown so I can see the river looks like today. I'm thinking about bringing my camera and getting some pictures tomorrow morning.

Current book-in-progress: definitely working on finished ideas (because there are only 200 pages left) and The Shakespeare Wars (only 100 pages left)
Current knitted item: Wool smells funny when wet, boo
Current movie obsession: Movies? What movies? I've been glued to the weather report for a week
Current iTunes loop: John Mayer "Any Given Tuesday"

04 June 2008


Muppet Show Season 3 is finally out on DVD!! It has Fozzie on the cover. Ooohh....must have.

Random acts of life

In the last few weeks, I finished several books, watched almost no television, didn't knit anything, played a lot of Packrat, put together a porch swing, and contemplated revenge on a fellow RA. I've been busy.

I finished The Story of Mankind (1921) edition. I've got about 70 pages to read in the 1972 update and I peeked through the 1995 edition. None of the language has been updated nor have citations been added in any of the later editions, so there goes my hopes (I was really hoping for citations, at the very least, in the 1995 edition). I think if I had a child reading this there would be some supplemental reading and research going on especially if interest was sparked in a particular topic. It was just too much of a storybook and not so much a history book, in my opinion. Next up on the Newbery list is The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle, the 1923 winner. I've got an Illustrated Junior Library edition checked out from the Coralville Public Library so I'm ready to go. Here's a list of the vocabulary from the last half of The Story of Mankind:
serf (which is not defined nearly as well as it should be in the text)
mulcted (which I had to look up because NONE of us had heard of it, ever)
Sinn Fein(er)

I polished off The Host (finally) and was surprised that it took me nearly a month. Each of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books only took a couple of hours. I didn't read them, I inhaled them. However, with The Host I started seeing too many similarities with Twilight and that had me a little disturbed and worried that somehow Stephenie Meyer was a bit of a one-note. The Host does have an interesting premise - a sort of body-snatchers setting with a love triangle/quadrangle (depending on how you count souls and bodies) - but I stalled about 200 pages from the end due to a soccer game (there's a baseball game in Twilight). A slightly predictable ending (never intimate that the narrator is going to die in a first person narrative with nearly 20 pages left in the book) but I really appreciated how SM wrote the necessary exposition into the storyline of the book (i.e. Wanda's "stories") rather than devote pages and pages to it separately.

I also finished Songs for the Missing, an advance copy of the next Stewart O'Nan novel. Never having read O'Nan (Kat staff rec'd Last Night at the Lobster) I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Lurid? Simple? Absurd? Strangely enough, the situation seemed almost mundane, aside from an eighteen-year-old gone missing. It wasn't mundane as in "I'm so bored I can't finish this" but mundane like "this is LIFE, this is what happens when a child goes missing." Other readers compared Songs for the Missing to Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, which is a phenomenal novel simply for the power of the author's descriptions. There are some parallels, but what was striking to me was that after Kim went missing in the first chapter that was it. No following her until she's grabbed, no struggle, or what the perpetrator did with the car; instead, we stay with the family and friends as they try to find her. The Lovely Bones, being a first-person narrative followed Susie's thoughts as she watched her family and that provided a completely different sense of the action. One thing I really noticed and appreciated throughout Songs for the Missing was the choice of third-person narrative; the narration wasn't truly omniscient and tended to follow one specific character for each chapter (Fran, Ed, Lindsay, JP, Nina). A very thoughtful novel about how time continues to push us forward even when something terrible happens. Eventually you have to go back to work, to school.

In other random life events, I bought a porch swing - yay, evenings on the porch, reading, napping, etc (must get more citronella to ward off the mosquitoes). It was a pain to assemble because apparently it was "requires two adults for assembly" - phoo on them. I did eventually get the assembly done all by my little self.

And we had an RA bugger off last week and not do what the boss told him to do before he left. So I had a panic and a cold sweat on Monday. Turns out he threw his project at a different (new) RA and left her to do the surveillance cultures instead of me, like the boss said he should. I was supposed to take everything over and then train the new RA. Luckily, the new RA is a lab person so figured out pretty quickly what the project was and got Monday and Tuesday finished before I found out that she was on the project. Whew, but the little bastard didn't mention several key things like how to order more product, how to use the spreadsheet on the shared drive so all of us can stay current on the surveillance, or that other units do surveillance, too, and so you should check the patient's records so we don't duplicate testing. FYI, this is the same little bastard I complained about several months ago (he was just up here talking to one of the secretaries - I guess he needs employment for the summer? I vote "no" and think we should just hire someone else who is responsible and doesn't act like the sun shines out his posterior). I've been thinking of very painful things and I hope he comes back in his next lifetime as a roach or something.

And the weather has been really, really crappy lately.

Current book-in-progress: Persuasion, The Gunseller, Lord of the Flies, The Spirit of the Place, ideas (only 270 pages left), The Shakespeare Wars (only 150 pages left) and The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle
Current knitted item: I've been a very lazy knitter....
Current movie obsession: Little Miss Sunshine (I haven't watched any TV/movies lately except for the news and weather (strange) so LMS is just sitting in my DVD player, ready to go)
Current iTunes loop: John Mayer "Any Given Tuesday" (concert album with a kick-ass riff in the middle of "Gravity")