Wednesday, September 14, 2011

bg/ish: Life in the holler ain't changed much...

It's been oh, about a year and a half since I last contributed anything to this site. What can I say, we get a lot of vacation time around here. (see ag circa 2009)

I'm only mentioning my lengthy absence because well, it's been a fucking year and a half. It'd be a little odd if I just threw up some random "watch this clip" post and acted like I'd been here all along.

I was talking to a friend about writing yesterday and I started thinking about all the years that your boy ag and I have been writing shit to make each other laugh and I thought, well if I don't start writing for bg/ag pub at the very least, I'll never start writing again. So here I am.

* * * * *

The Pub was briefly reunited a few months back to attend WonderCon 2011, where we quickly discovered that we just didn't have the heart for the Con scene anymore. Fortunately, we were able to get a call for help out to one of the interns before being completely overwhelmed by the twisted maze of the Con's main hall. Eventually we were rescued as all I remember is waking up under a sunny sky at Dolores Park. As, always though, it was a much needed lift seeing ag and chair, as I tend to miss them both terribly.

ag got his Masters, and took a trip to his motherland. (Vietnam, not Missouri.) I couldn't be more proud of him, although I think we need to have a talk about the new 12 year old Vietnamese intern.

chair has her own blog now, and may have last been spotted in Tokyo.

* * * * *

Alright, enough of this "recap" nonsense. I'm feeling a bit rusty on the keyboard, so I'm going to work on something new and exciting like revisiting an old column...



As usual, bg loves you and hates you just the same.
Movies... Fuck 'Em - A Look Back at A Look Back

In January of last year I revived the (very) old movie column I used to write, Movies So Bad, They're Effin' Rad with the re-imagined and quaintly titled, Movies... Fuck 'Em column. In my review of the year 2009 in movies, I promised to revisit the column with an update on the movies from that year I had still planned to watch. So, in an effort to dust off the ol' blogging cobwebs, I'm gonna go ahead and rehash that old shit. What? Like you care...

* * * * *

My film watching habits have continued to evolve. I have a go-to cinema again, and have rediscovered the joy and nostalgia of going to see a film. It's funny, even now, looking back at that top 10 list from 2009 and knowing that if I wrote that same article now, at least 6 of those films would have been left on the editing room floor, proverbially speaking. World's Greatest Dad would easily be near the top of that list now as well.

So what about the films I'd wanted to see but hadn't? What impression, (if any) did they leave on me, and in some cases, just what the fuck was I thinking to begin with?

Fantastic Mr. Fox

As I've said previously, Wes Anderson is my favorite filmmaker currently working. I remember seeing Rushmore in the theater with ag and walking out knowing that in some way our lives had been changed. Much like the other films in Wes Anderson's repertoire, Mr. Fox has become a favorite of mine, and my appreciation for it grows with each viewing.

Where the Wild Things Are

I saw this on an airplane so I can't give a fair critique of it's visual impact, but it was an interesting film and seemed to have outstanding costume and set design. I won't be in any hurry to see it again, but wouldn't be opposed to it either.


Hah. I mean, come on. What the fuck was I thinking? If you've seen this film then you are probably shaking your head in bitter amusement right now, and if you haven't, well, you're better off than those that have. I can't knock it completely however, as there is one scene that's worth a fuck. Fortunately you can see it on youtube and don't have to subject yourself to 90+ minutes of Nicolas Cage smearing his warm, sticky, Nicolas Cageness all over your face.

The Wrestler

Never saw it. So, moving on...


Surprising balance of humor, action and gore. Worth every penny of a free download. I'm not knocking it, I mean, it's no Shaun of the Dead, but it's no Zombie Strippers either. I'm not sure what that makes it...

In The Loop

I wanted to like this film. I'm typically a big fan of British humor. In the end though, I didn't find it particularly funny or engaging. It's still on my PS3 though, so, who knows, maybe some day I'll get the urge to hear the word cunt said proper.

(Nobody says "cunt" like the Brits. Seriously. When I was in Barcelona this summer I saw a scuffle at a bar with some British tourists and some local drunks. After grabbing a knife from a table place setting the Englishman went on a scathing rant against one "fucking cunt" in particular. Nary a fuck was given that night...)

Up In The Air

George Clooney stars as.... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

agIsh: Me, Here

An article I wrote for the PVNF newsletter:

The plane has lifted off, gears retracted; I write this with Vietnam's geography hours behind me but its impact fresh in my mind. It's difficult to get a true sense of Vietnam when your perspective is forced by hotel walls, the glare off a bus window, or the endless waves of desperate patients. Despite the number of clinics we endured, I never really understood until Saigon.

Our accommodations in Bến Tre were wonderful by any standard: electronic keys opened the doors to nicely furnished rooms where we'd sleep comfortably on our beds or be entertained by shows on an LCD TV. We'd occasionally share our day over drinks in a bar on the fourth floor, which provided relief from the confines of our rooms. Vietnam seems to be experiencing some of the luxuries we've come to expect as the standard in America. This is not the Vietnam I'd heard stories about.

Most days started with a bus ride that made us more tired than we already were. Some chose to continue their sleep in spite of the frequent honks and NASCAR-style driving. Others settled into a trance with eyes that seemed to look out at nothing and everything at the same time; I fell into this group. I'm sure we all noticed the long stretches of dense jungle that occasionally gave way to a hut or shack, the people swinging in cots seemingly with little worry of the day’s events, for good or for bad, or the piles of bricks that lined the roads of a country that was trying to decide whether it was in a state of growth or decay. Was the entire country like this? This Vietnam seemed familiar to me.

Our shared mission of providing healthcare to those in need realized the physical and emotional challenges we were warned of. As the heat reached its peak hundreds poured into the clinics seeking some level of comfort, often waiting hours just to receive vitamins. Our collective stories painted what seemed like an endless picture of extreme poverty and desperation: tears run down a child's cheek as he clutches onto his stuffed animal, a consolation prize for having four teeth pulled; doctors stuff a handful of gauze into a deep and incurable bed sore of a paralyzed man; an elderly woman holds little hope for more medication once her prescription runs out. Whatever we thought we were missing in our lives at home pales in comparison. Where was the support of their government? Was our camp making a difference at all? I'd been told stories of this Vietnam all my life.

But a painting can never be appreciated when your nose is that close to the canvas. You have to step back to be able to make any sense of it. Saigon was the contrast I needed to understand where I was.

Saigon can easily be mistaken for Los Angeles if it were not for the frenzy of motorcycles and mopeds. I expected the poverty and desperation here too but was welcomed instead with a beautiful airport, clean streets, and impressive architecture. In this modern-age Vietnam I oddly felt cheated. Not that I disapprove of a flourishing Saigon but I was struck by the grossly unequal distribution of wealth. My one day in Saigon was in stark contrast to my previous two weeks in the rural provinces of Bến Tre and Kiên Giang and seeing these two sides was a bit like learning a dirty little secret. I found myself feeling anger, sadness, and confusion, all at the same time, about a country that existed to me only in stories. The contrast helped me understand that Vietnam’s government should not be its defining quality but instead should be the people we came to serve who don’t remain downtrodden but find ways to endure in spite of the oppression and neglect.

I was born and raised in the U.S. and have virtually no family in Vietnam. There was no reason for me to look anywhere else. However, I felt a strange sense of “coming home” when I first spotted Vietnam from the plane. Is home where you are or where you should be? That's a question I thought I knew the answer to before the trip but now feel an incredible sadness having left Vietnam. In the days ahead, unpausing my life will take a little effort. I’ll miss waking up at 4am. I’ll miss sitting on the bus for hours on end. I’ll miss feeling a bit lost in the early hours of clinics before finding my way. But I’ll miss doing these things with the incredible people I met on this trip most. They contributed to an unforgettable trip and I hope to sustain long friendships with them. I look forward to going back with Project Vietnam and being with them again.

Monday, July 25, 2011

agIsh: Home

I think they call it "post-travel blues". You come home to find that life was seemingly on pause, nothing has changed, and stands in stark contrast to the life you just left. It's boring. It's familiar. You fervently sift through pictures in hopes of sustaining those moments and feelings but it's just not the same. You start mentally planning your return trip but also realize that your life now, here, must move forward. Jet lag is not conducive. The sadness deepens.

I'll post more as I come out of this funk and get back on schedule. I really do want to share/document my time in Vietnam. Until then, I feel another nap coming on.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

agIsh: [Happy] Father's Day

Given the limited choice between life and death, my father is bored of one and scared of the other. I'm not sure what to tell you, Dad, you kinda have to pick one. The only real third option is a coma and I'm not entirely sure how to guarantee that condition. I mean, if you want, we can make a couple of attempts. However, our first attempt may very well lead to one of the original choices you weren't entirely happy with.

So...yeah...[happy] Father's Day.

Your son,

Saturday, June 04, 2011

agIsh: Youtube. Schmootube.

Not sure when I first heard about these guys. Maybe it was from bg, maybe it was a random search for "awesome", but these kids have been consistently amazing in their videos. Great talent and great song.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

agIsh: MOTHER RRRUSSIA!! (or: I guess I'm going to Vietnam)

As all things, it started with an idea. Really innocuous too...not that going to Vietnam is necessarily dangerous or anything. It started with extra credit. The students were to volunteer at least two hours of their time for 10 points of extra credit. Some students gave blood. Some students volunteered at a hospital. One dude even signed up to donate blood marrow! However, a couple of students said, "We technically haven't volunteered time yet, but we are going to Vietnam in July to help needy children."

Knowing that I'd be finished with my thesis by that point, I guess that's all it took. I went to a meeting and was introduced to the coordinator. I was immediately welcomed with, "Oh! That's so great! We have the perfect job for you!" That night I emailed copies of my passport and Visa application. My next step is to book my flight and get my immunizations. So, in a matter of a week, I went from not giving Vietnam a thought to volunteering for two weeks.

I gotta tell you that I'm really looking forward to this trip. It's going to be hot as hell, we're going to be worked to the bone, and I'm sure I'm going to experience extreme culture shock...but I am really optimistic about this trip. The foundation (Project Vietnam, aims to take people out of their comfort zone in the service of others and I can't wait.

I don't know why I didn't submit to my usual apprehensions on this one. Something about this...adventure, for the lack of a better term, clicked with me. And so, instead of mulling around and letting my fears wash the anticipation away, I acted. In retrospect, my reaction confuses me. Then again, I have no qualms about going. So, I guess it's all okay. Or maybe I've hit the too-old-to-care stage.



Saturday, May 21, 2011

agIsh: Aftermath

On this, the 21st day of May, 2011, a day on which none of us should be alive, I am bored out of my mind and love it.

Dear Past Me,

First of all, May 22nd exists. Second of all, I have taken your advice and am living up my boredom. The good news is that you successfully defended, the committee enjoyed your presentation, and required few revisions of you (which we sent today). Your advisor even gave you a bottle of wine and hugged you. Please resist the urge to push away. Rather, cordially accept it and move on.

I am currently considering a trip to Vietnam for charity work. Sounds like a lot of fun so you should keep this in mind when you're unable to sleep at night.

So, yes, things turn out well. However, embrace the fear and anxiety because it prepared you well.

Kind regards,
Future you

PS: Wear the blue shirt and red tie.


Friday, May 13, 2011

agIsh: The Next Milestone - Part XIII

Hawaiian music did not work.

In other news...

Thank you for reading.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

agIsh: The Next Milestone - Part XII

The next couple of hours will be spent running through my presentation. Then comes the hard part: attempting to get some sleep tonight. I've set aside time for my usual eight hours of sleep but we'll see how it goes. Oddly, Hawaiian music calms me and knocks me out so I'll give that a try.

The next post will hopefully be a celebratory one.

agIsh: The Next Milestone - Part XI

As planned, I took some time away from the script and went over the basics: lab techniques, concepts, and background info. I have no idea what they're going to ask me but I'm trying to cover as much as I can in the next couple of days. If I were to guess, the committee's going to concentrate on the science (i.e., techniques) of my project and probably ask a little about the background info.

I've practiced my script enough that I think I'll be able to wing it if my mind trips up. I'll still go over it a couple of more times out loud tomorrow so that I get used to hearing those words come out of my mouth.

My anxiety started out as fear but is now, as Marge Simpson put it, "a state of catlike readiness".


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

agIsh: The Next Milestone - Part X

How bad can things really be if you have the love and support of your family and friends? I can only hope that I give them even a tenth of what they've given me. It's easy to forget the hundreds of things that are great in your life when one thing blinds you from them.

In three days, one way or another, things will be okay.


Monday, May 09, 2011

agIsh: The Next Milestone - Part IX

In good spirits today. Although, I did wake up a little nervous this morning. I'm comfortable enough with the script that I think I'm going to take some time away from it to read up on lab techniques and background material. My family has been wonderfully supportive and that buffers some of my anxiety. I have three prep days left; two of those days are eaten up by work. *shrug* Eh.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

agIsh: The Next Milestone - Part VIII

Awesome. I woke up nervous again and felt like shit the entire day. I pushed through, though, and finished the third draft of my presentation. It included all the changes she wanted and some others that I made for fear of her quiet judgement. I've printed out my script and will spend the next couple of days memorizing. I have tomorrow (my family did mother's day stuff today, which I regret having to skip out on), Monday and Tuesday after work, and all Wednesday. I have to fit in some time to brush up on lab concepts too in case.

I need a day to step back from it all. I'm getting bogged down in the details of it and I know that's going to hurt me. I'm always telling my students: "Don't get lost in the details. Take a step back every once in a while and take a look at the bigger picture." I need to follow my own advice.

Fuck man, I'm nervous. I've been reminding myself to breath all day.


Saturday, May 07, 2011

agIsh: The Next Milestone - Part VII

I hope you wake up in the morning and stare at the ceiling wondering why you just did that: why you just woke up. I hope you're bored. I hope you drag yourself out of bed, sit on your ass all day, and just Netflix it away. You should really get into all those obscure movies you've been meaning to add to your queue but didn't because you judged the entire movie by the cover. After you get bored of that, I hope you YouTube it for the next couple of hours until dinner. I hope that after dinner you jump back onto Netflix until 2am then go to sleep. I hope that this cycle continues until school starts up, in which case, you'll finally have something to do. But I bet you'll still complain about all the grading you have to do, and blah, blah, blah.

The worst is behind you!

Don't look back and wish for this time again. Don't forget how shitty that meeting was today. Don't forget that it realized all your fears. Don't forget that dropping out was actually an option you considered! Yes, she's a bitch, but you never have to see her again. Be happy for that! Be happy that you have a chance to be bored! I have about 5 days left until our defense and what I wouldn't fucking give to have your "problems". I'm looking forward to it! Things could be a lot worse...and, in fact, they were. So, for my sake, enjoy doing nothing, okay?

Well, I'm gonna go to sleep now and try not to wake up nervous again. No promises, though. I'll tell you how it went in 5 days.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

agIsh: The Next Milestone - Part VI

Exactly one week to go. I woke up nervous again. All this shit going through my head. I rehearsed my script - I don't know how many times yesterday - and memorized half of it. I have to memorize the other half today...which happens to be the more difficult half. I'm hoping to memorize it and still have at least 3 or 4 hours before I go to bed tonight to run through the presentation itself a couple times.

My advisor meeting's tomorrow. I hope it goes well.

I'm not looking forward to it anymore.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

agIsh: The Next Milestone - Part V

Roller coast of emotion man. Yesterday I was cool but I woke up this morning short of having a panic attack. For some reason, I woke up and started thinking about questions I didn't have answers to. So for part of the day I was just in deep thought and looked for answers. I think I managed to find answers to most if not all of them. However, that anxiety hasn't left me entirely. I've been rehearsing my presentation all day today, scripting my words so I say just the right thing, and committing it to memory in spite of this looming fear.

My lab buddies gave me two pieces of advice: 1) your audience is the general public, not the professors so, 2) dumb it down. It's definitely much cleaner than it was last week and my slide transitions feel comfortable and natural, very much like an everyday conversation. My only concern really is that I've dumbed it down too much and will be asked to get into more detail. My script has room for a little wiggle room, but not much more. There are queues on screen and in my wording that lead me from one idea to the next. If I'm asked to incorporate more that orchestration might fall apart. I'll see though. No use worrying about a future that has yet to exist.

I just gotta plow through until Friday.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

agIsh: The Next Milestone - Part IV

I feel strangely confident that my presentation will go well. This will undoubtedly lead to procrastination and ultimately failure on the day of my defense. Over the years I've found that I do my best when I'm a little nervous heading into something. I've been teaching for about four years now and I still find myself a little nervous before starting class. It's weird, I can't explain it. All I know is that little voice saying, "You know this is going to end up shit, don't you?" needs to be there. A couple of days ago this voice was unbearable. Tonight, a little over a week before my defense, that voice is a whisper.

Then again, I do have that meeting on Friday and my advisor always manages to make me nervous no matter what I'm doing.

I'm now looking forward this meeting.

agIsh: The Next Milestone - Part III

Damn it's hot. It's hard to think about anything else when this heat is just relentless. But, I can't afford to be anything less than on it. In 9 days, I make my final stand and in 9 days I'll be ready. Actually, I'll be ready in less time than that. I've been making pretty good progress. My first shitty version of my presentation took about a week to make. After some good feedback, I pumped out my better second version in about 24 hours. I think it's stronger because it sounds like me. I don't know who I was trying to be in my first version, maybe a pretentious graduate student, I don't know. But this version sounds like a conversation I'd have with some dude on the street.

Dude: "Aye, brotha, can you spare a dime?"
Me: "No, but I would love to talk to you about my research."

So, for the next couple of days I'll be committing my presentation to memory. On Friday I'll be meeting with my advisor and I'm sure there will be changes. Hopefully not enough to warrant a third version, though...cuz that shit would suck with less than a week to go.

Fortunately, no matter how bad I do, I'm pretty sure I'll pass. In the history of our program, only one student has failed so the odds are in my favor.

...I'd hate to be the second guy on that list though.


Sunday, May 01, 2011

agIsh: The Next Milestone - Part II

I managed to shorten my intro by about 10 slides last night. My first run-through of my presentation on Friday night with a couple of buddies of mine was pretty painful. I was being too wordy and I managed to bore myself while doing it. This second draft should be a lot cleaner and tighter. I have a meeting with my advisor on Friday and it should be even tighter after that. I still have two weeks to polish so I feel good about that.

I still managed to play about an hour and a half of Fallout: New Vegas in spite of how busy I am... *shrug*


Saturday, April 30, 2011

agIsh: The Next Milestone - Part I

I hate feeling alone. This is definitely one of those times. I think that's why I randomly click on my bookmarks: hoping that it refreshes with new content, assuring me that someone is just on the other side of that monitor.

You know it's bad when you've signed onto facebook chat. The only thing worse than facebook is facebook chat. :(

I'm blogging tonight to feel connected. To what or to whom? I really couldn't tell you. I guess it's just enough to be a random blog entry floating in this virtual space.

The reason I'm here and not out there is because of my next milestone. In a little under two weeks, I'll have to stand in front of a committee of professors and prove to them that I'm good enough to receive an 8.5 x 11" piece of paper that says "Masters" on it. I'm nervous...very nervous. To make sure that I perform well in spite of my anxiety I'm choosing to sit here and work.

But, there's the rub: the longer I sit, the less connected I feel, the worse my productivity.

So, in an attempt to reach a happy medium, I'm going to blog each night and share/track my progress. It'll help me move forward and should be fun to read after the fact.

Wish me luck. I need it.