To Fuss is Human, To Rant, Divine!!

Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Monday, February 26, 2007


It's tough sometimes. It's tough a lot of the time. I'm keeping myself pretty well occupied these days, between getting myself in shape, learning guitar and reading more, but somehow, it makes the times when I'm not doing anything worse.

Because those are the times, the lulls in activity, when I can't seem to help but let various memories and thoughts and insecurities get to me. Not that I think I can or should outrun my own mind, but for some reason it's the instinct I have right now.

So instead of running from my thoughts, I figure that's what I have this blog for, right?

Either I'm baring my soul to random people who stumble onto my site searching for pictures of American McGee's Alice or Brian McCann (for some reason those are my top hits) or I'm shouting into a void, impotently venting my anger and fears through words which reach no one, doomed to drift meaningless into empty space where they'll disperse among all the other words on the internet until they lose all impetus and energy. Both alternatives seem better to me at the moment than sitting quietly in the dark and driving myself to distraction.

Darkness is at the same time a curse and a blessing. When you're alone, it's a crushing weight, reminding you of your mortality and your insecurity and your fear. Tolkien said it pretty well when he wrote about Eowyn whispering words to herself in the dark, as the walls of her bower closed in around her. It's a time to think and reflect, and at times, it can be horrible. You become intensely aware of what is lacking around you. Light. Heat. Comfort.

But then when you have someone else there, it shifts the opposite way. You have someone to hold in the dark, and it doesn't seem so bad. In fact, it contributes to the moments, the words that pass between you. No longer alone, you feel warmth and comfort, and you feel secure that there's something more tangible than just you in the room. Even something more tangible than the other person. Call it love. Call it the heat you can feel emanating from them, or the sound of someone breathing besides yourself. Call it the knowledge that when you wake up, the sun will be shining and there's going to be someone next to you.

I miss that. A lot. I don't know how much the need for comfort drove Jen and me together freshman year of college, but there was something wonderfully intimate about lying there in the dark in a tiny cramped dorm room, telling each other stories and hopes, filling the void. And it wasn't just that darkness, the one in the dorm room, which we filled. We took a lot of walks at night. Even after freshman year. If I were to wax poetic, I would venture that Jen and I made a habit of filling the darkness of the New Hampshire night with ourselves and our words. Out there in the dark, we were more like a single unit than two separate individuals, as if the darkness pushed us together and brought us closer. (As I write this, I'm thinking about the song from "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" - "The Origin of Love.")

When she lived on Mass Row, and I was in an apartment on the other side of campus, I'd walk out of her dorm at 2:00 AM after talking for hours and/or studying for hours (though usually talking) and make my way back across campus. But even though I walked back alone, cold, in knee-deep snow, my thoughts were with her, and remembering our conversations, and it was a wonderful exercise, walking and contemplating.

We liked to go out, usually into the cold, fresh Hanover air, bundled up, hand in hand, and we'd walk. Sometimes we'd have a set path. Out the dorm near the river, past the business school, and around the Green and through town. It changed from year to year, but the intent was usually similar. Walking through town always meant picking up a hot drink at the Dirt Cowboy Cafe - a cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee for me, and a medium soy chai for her.

Sometimes we'd stop at the end of Main Street to pick up a movie, and then loop back around the Green and past the Biology building on the edge of campus, and just walk further out, exploring the darkness together, until houses became further apart and set further back from the road as we hit the back country. I'd complain about it, not knowing where we were going, but there was nowhere else I would rather have been than wherever we were walking.

Once, we had walked for a few miles along the deserted road without a car passing us by for almost half an hour, and we felt comfortable enough to walk down the middle of the road. It started snowing lightly, a dusting that soon stuck to the road, reflecting the moonlight. At one point, I thought I saw what looked to be a two story house, well lit, close to the road, which was strange because most of the properties were large lots with long driveways, houses back almost in the woods. But as we drew closer, we realized that it was a huge doll house in someone's front yard. It was a surreal moment.

We used to walk by a light near the Biology building that would flicker on and off seemingly each time we passed it by. We would joke that manipulating that light was one of Jen's super mutant powers. If we had gotten a movie, we might stop by the 24 hour campus store and pick up a pint of ice cream. More often than not it was Ben and Jerry's Chunky Munkey. I'll write about all the movies we watched together at some time, but the list grew to be pretty prodigious and diverse.

Other times we would walk out past Hanover high school to the Food CoOp, and as long as it wasn't closed, we'd browse. Maybe buy some things for breakfast or one of those fridgepacks of Diet Coke (I'd always carry those back).

Once we picked up some apples for our Sunday Baking Crew (we made various baked goods on Sunday with a couple friends, just as a means of having fun together and socializing), and Jen decided to take a little detour on the way back.

It turned out to be a pretty long detour, as we walked off the road and down a trail that led off into the woods. We walked for a long time, and I was actually getting kind of worried as it was getting dark, and there I was, a brown paper bag of apples in my hands, sneakers slipping periodically in the snow as we walked up and down hills, with no flashlight and little moonlight filtering through the trees. We probably could have taken a wrong turn somewhere and spent the night wandering around.

Instead, we eventually found ourselves sighting the Connecticut River in the distance, and as we looped around, we realized that we had taken a huge loop around campus, around the back of Occam Pond. By the time we finally got to the path circling the pond and back to campus, it was about 10 PM. We'd been out for more than five hours, walking for more than three, probably close to four and when I checked my campus map after breathlessly stumbling back into the warmth of the dorm, we realized that we had walked off the map on the left side and come back onto it somewhere on the right.

I think that without each other, those situations would have been kind of frightening. As it was, it was barely off-putting; we knew that no matter what, even if we were horrendously lost, the worst case scenario was that we would spend the night shivering next to each other and talking and telling stories in the dark. And there was nothing even remotely objectionable about that.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

On a "lighter" note

The Nashua Pride have done what others could not do.

Something lesser men would have shied away from.

Something men who think only with their minds, and not their guts, could never have accomplished (to paraphrase Colbert).

They've brought back El Guapo!

I must, however, dock them a point for having a mascot named "Shag." No offense, guys, but the Shag Cubs Club sounds kind of sketchy. If you know what I'm saying. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.

And I won't either.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Gloomy Sunday: A Review

There is one camera shot that stands out in "Gloomy Sunday," a movie about the famous "Hungarian Suicide Song," above all the others. It occurs when Andras, the young pianist, is playing his composition “Gloomy Sunday” for the first time in Lazlo’s café in 1930's Budapest, Hungary.

The camera tracks around the room, showing the moment that the music resonates with the individuals in the room. It is as if the camera itself is the strain of melancholy music being lifted around the room, and as the camera’s gaze sets upon each person, so too do the notes of “Gloomy Sunday.” The camera finally ends upon the form of Ilona, Andras’s muse who is in turn ensnared by the song and its composer as well.

The film work in the movie is superb. However, the other shots, as well conceived as they are, have quite a different purpose to them. The movie is billed as the story of a love triangle. Truth be told, there are actually four players, three men revolving around Ilona, one of which enters and departs the film on several occasions. On a cinematic level, we must add another player to the equation - the camera, and the specifically male-gendered gaze that it represents.

Whether it is the camera lingering on Ilona’s dress, or her topless form in a bathtub, or even centering on her face when she is enjoying the company of her two boyfriends, the gaze is obviously male. The viewer is meant to be struck by Ilona just as much as the male characters in the film, and truly, she, and not the song written for her, is the center of the film. In fact, when the camera and the plot strays from the love triangle, for example to the effects of the song, the movie suffers as if its losing direction.

Fortunately for the viewer, the actress playing Ilona is perhaps the most gorgeous woman that mainstream American theater-goers have never seen. Erika Maroszan is ever in the center of the camera shot, in a variety of different dresses and states of dress. The colors in the film are also well choreographed the mostly drab and pastels bringing contrast to the brilliant dresses that Ilona dons. Her capabilities as an actress are substantial, and in addition to her beauty captivating the audience, she does so with her dialogue and acting as well.

Were the scopophilic gaze of the camera to settle on a lesser talented and beautiful actress, the movie would not be nearly as successful. As the film is a romantic one, the gaze serves to draw the viewer to Ilona just as all the other male character in the film are. Her attractiveness is made unquestionable.

However, as the gaze is ever being put on her, objectifying and even deifying her, rarely do Ilona's actions appear to exert any willful control over the direction of the camera, and consequently the plot, and as such, her characterization does suffer.

The film is notably indecisive in conveying the strength of her character, and while it does well in painting her as a sympathetic character, the same action disempowers her.

Never does she act the seductress or siren, luring men to their demise; rather that is the role of the song “Gloomy Sunday” (although this dichotomy does collide later in the film, as the viewer will see). Thus, when she is at the center of the love triangle, it is entirely believable that she truly cares about the two men involved with her, even as she comes to realize that the balance is tenuous at best. The movie in fact seems to indicate that Ilona is aware of the potential ruin her own voice can cause, as she professes to Andras that although trained, she "only sings when she is alone."

The cost her Ilona never being a siren, for it is depicted as a binary, the silent Ilona and the siren Ilona, is that she often appears almost passive, the flame that dances while moths draw towards it. Her agency as a character, her motivation, is sometimes unclear, or at least just left to the idea that she loves both men deeply. This agency is in fact enough to carry the film about two-thirds of the way.

Unfortunately, this falls apart in the last third of the film, which is precisely when Ilona’s character should be most expressive, and due to technological constraints (and possibly a directorial choice as well), we cannot even see Ilona’s face during the last scene of the movie. And during this last scene, the cost of not establishing the true strength of Ilona’s character over the majority of the film is clear, as her last action is quite jarring, although it paints her in a “strong” light.

All told, “Gloomy Sunday” should be considered a cinematic masterpiece; not only does it skillfully navigate concepts of suicide and love, but it does so in the setting of WWII Nazi-occupied Europe without being ham-fisted, and it manages to build a very solid movie around a piece of music, something that other movies (in a related manner, for example, “The Red Violin”) tend to fail at.

It may not be Casablanca (and there are several obvious homages to Casablanca), but it is definitely worth viewing, and I am surprised, from both the quality of the film and the apparent production budget, that it did not receive more attention here in the United States. But the rapid revelations during the last five minutes of the movie, as well as the ambiguity of Ilona’s character in the third act, does detract somewhat from the overall quality of the film.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I swear, that despite the fact that I've seen "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" several times, despite completely forgetting the fact that Valentine's Day, several Valentine's Day's in fact, has such an integral role in the story, I had not intentioned to place it on my Netflix queue so that it would arrive in time for me to view it on Valentine's Day.

I'm not suggesting that I would like to go through a similar procedure to the main character in the movie. It's hardly my wish to forget five years of my life, and contrary to the movie, I can honestly say that there are many, many more positive experiences I can remember than negative (though perhaps, they just showed the negative experiences in the movie first to give some juxtaposition). The simple truth is that were I to erase my memories of Jen, I would be erasing virtually every experience that I had over that time. Kind of like how Jim Carrey's character has to go back to his childhood for a memory without Kate Winslet's character.

I would have nothing, just a jump between senior year of high school and the present, except perhaps some classes here and there. Maybe Japanese prints, and I suppose my thesis on John Milton. African American literary studies and an introduction to field methods in Ecology.

And yet I can't deny that the thought has crossed my mind, to do the same to her as I feel she has done to me. I didn't know it was possible to go through five years with someone, and just forget them the next day; no calls, no emails, no contact at all. Nary an update on her status or a curious word inquiring my general health and well-being.

While perhaps I expected less contact now compared to when we were together, I hardly expected to be cut out entirely. And yet I have. I think that if anything still burns me three months after the fact, makes me seeth and at the same time feel confused and wonder if perhaps someone had erased her memory of me, (and then taken my place by taking our collective memories and using them to curry favor with her) it's the fact that I seem to have gone from being in a relationship that defined me as a person (good or bad, that's the truth) to being in a vacuum.

Our relationship did define me. Maybe it defined her too, and she didn't like that. I was still me, of course, but I expected to be asked about Jen at work, by my friends, and so on and so forth. Pronouns are powerful things. The royal we replacing the I. The us replacing the me. And now, after five years, I suddenly find myself me again. Not knowing what or who 'me' is.

A vacuum isn't as bad as it sounds. Over the past two months I've come to terms with myself. The fact that I hate that I've lost all my musical instincts, the fact that I don't like the way I look. And so being in a vacuum by myself (how wonderfully solipsistic), I've fixed that.

I bought an acoustic guitar off Craigslist. It looks awesome (an old Blueridge), and I can play a few chords. D, G, A minor, C . . ., and I'm doing some right hand exercises all the time. I'm working on a bar chord now, F. It hurts, although I'm building up some great calluses.

I've been exercising. First I went down to the last belt notch on my old belt (I had been on the second to last, I think it was a 34), and then on the iPod belt that Jen got me for Christmas (just about the last time I talked to her), I went from the second to last notch to the last notch. I have abs again! Nice ones too! And my face isn't as fat as it was two months ago. Maybe I don't blame my image entirely for the breakup, but I can't help but think that it took a large part of it.

I was probably up to 185 lbs, even 190 before. I'm probably at 180 now, and dropping.

Perhaps as a test of self-discipline, I've given up meat. Besides fish. I don't think I can give up tuna or sushi. I may eat turkey still (not the processed deli meat kind, the real bird and cranberry sauce kind)

Undoubtedly, I got a little complacent. My waistline was testament to that. Maybe all couples get lazy at some point. It's one of my deepest regrests that for some reason, we couldn't get over that hump. And now that it's over, I'm continuing forward like there's no chance for reconciliation, because I think any thought of that on my part would breed more laziness. The idea that if I sit on my ass, she'll come back. That sentiment's not part of me now, and I'm happy about that.

End Note: Michel Gondry's a genius. And three wine glasses of genshu sake make me spill things out in writing I wouldn't otherwise.