Monday, April 27, 2015

Greetings 4.27.15

So we're close to the end of the semester! Mostly that means trying to organize and reorganize your schedules for the fall, unless you're one of those otherwordly professional types who only need to tussle with the class list once. If you're like the rest of us (or me? Maybe just me? I hope it's not just me) and having any doubts about your (English) class lineup, have no fear, Boylan 3416 is here! Stop by and we'll help you in any way we can. It'll possibly look a little something like this.

Don't forget Jacqueline Woodson is going to be presenting today. She'll be in the Gold Room in the BC Student Center from 12:00-2:30. Stop by to hear her talk about her award-winning book Brown Girl Dreaming!

Some other reminders:

  • The Lily Pond Open Mic will take place at the lily pond (hey, just in case you didn't know) and will be on Thursday April 30th during common hours. Anyone is welcome to participate or attend.
  • The English Major's Tea will be Thursday May 14th during common hours. There really aren't enough opportunities to celebrate how great English majors are (but could there ever be?), so come take advantage of the excuse.
  • The Junction Function will be at 5pm the same day, so come pick up your copy and eat some snacks with us! A lot of amazing prose, poetry, and visual art by your fellow students has gone into it, and we're all very excited for its debut. The event will be open to all students and faculty.

And hopefully that cold weather is finally behind us. I can't take it anymore. I need a pick-me-up.

News Briefs 4.27.15

Human Head Transplant Probably Not a Metal Gear Solid Publicity Stunt

Neuroscientist Dr. Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Turin, Italy, has gained a lot of media attention for wanting to become the first surgeon to perform a human head transplant. Bioethicist Arthur Caplan of NYU medical school has criticized Canavero for drawing attention and enjoying the limelight, saying if he was serious about the procedure's validity he'd be in a lab actually trying to do successful, sustainable head transplants on animals rather than talking about jumping straight to a human subject.

Head transplants have been performed on dogs, rats, and monkeys in the past, though for the most part, the animals died within minutes or hours or days. Even then, most were not much more than technically living, capable of a few twitching motions and sometimes base functions such as respiration. Kind of monstrous for something Dr. Canavero calls “head anastomosis venture,” or “heaven surgery” for short. And Dr. Canavero has been vocal for the past few years about wanting to perform the surgery on a human volunteer, trying to crowd source the 12.9 million USD required for such a procedure. Well ok.

I honestly thought this was from MGS but no it's a real photoshoot with this actual licensed doctor.
So, Metal Gear Solid. Metal Gear is an action-adventure war-themed video game franchise that is probably at least tangentially familiar to you, but just in case it's not: it's a rugged manly power fantasy game with guns and knives and inexplicably underdressed female characters . Plus a creepy doctor. A really familiar creepy doctor.

The moment someone noted the resemblance, conspiracy theories started popping up all over the internet. Is Canavero's reputation as a sketchy, morally bankrupt doctor no more than a publicity stunt for Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain? The internet thinks so, as it is wont to do. There's a private military organization in Metal Gear called “Outer Heaven.” And the doctor appears in a hospital which is very soon bombed to hell, implying he's a corrupt bad guy. And, okay, Dr. Canavero has published scientific papers about phantom pain. There's a very good case for the doctor in MGS being based off of Dr. Canavero, at the very least.

Of course, Dr. Canavero denies any involvement, as well as the suggestion that his passion for performing the first head transplant is an elaborate PR stunt for a video game. He is, however, very interested in how much a copy of the game costs, how many people would potentially be purchasing a copy, and how those figures stack against the 12.9 million dollars he needs to make his dream a reality.

In short, Dr. Canavero's lawyer is demanding compensation for Konami using his likeness without permission. It will be really interesting if this somehow results in a human head transplant. In spite of the violent opposition he is encountering since the procedure is unethical and terrifying, he's determined to complete the procedure by 2017.

*     *     *

Nepal Faces Heavy Casualties After Earthquake

On Saturday morning, the 25th of April, a massive earthquake struck Nepal, its epicenter near the capital of Kathmandu.

Initial reports estimated 1,300 hundred dead, but the count has risen since then to more than 2,400 dead and over 5,900 injured. The earthquake on Saturday registered a magnitude of 7.8. For some context, the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 and killed 316,000 people had a magnitude of 7.0, and the earthquake that struck the east coast of Honshu, Japan in 2011 had a magnitude of 9.0 and killed nearly 21,000. This is already the deadliest earthquake since then. At least a dozen aftershocks have been recorded, one with a magnitude of 6.7. Nepal is located on the Himalayan Frontal Fault, an active fault on its southern border with India.

The shockwaves spread across the entire country, leveling villages and historic temples, and caused avalanches on Mount Everest, killing at least 18 climbers and injuring 41. Dan Fredinburg, an executive at Google, was among those killed.

Much of the capital city was rendered impassable, both by the destruction caused by the earthquake and subsequent tremors, but also by thousands of refugees seeking shelter from surrounding areas effected by the quake. The Nepali government has begun opening relief stations, but its infrastructure is spread increasingly thin; the relief stations have proven largely inadequate and the military and police force are, for the most, part unable to address the looting beginning to occur. Much of the country is without electricity and gas supplies have already begun to dwindle. Caring for those displaced and recovering the country is impossible without foreign relief aid; here are several organizations already planning recovery programs, along with information on donating.


Currently Reading 4.27.15

Trying To Talk About The Wrenchies

Well, it's been a while since we talked about comic books. Let's rectify that shall we?

I recently read Farel Dalrymple's The Wrenchies after picking it up out of a literal pile of unorganized comics. Which is kind of a good analogy for the story itself. In fact, it kind of happens at multiple points in the story? Wait. Now I'm kind of creeped out.

Anywho, I'm going to try to summarize the plot now. I say "try" because the plot is a tangled mass of plotlines that leaves you more confused than when you began. A group of children in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future go on a quest to kill a tortured comic book artist who was used millenia ago by demons to take over the world. It is in turns violent and creepy and incredibly sad. It may sound relatively straightforward, but the narration jumps between times and parallel universes, and rarely explains anything in a satisfactory way. In fact, the Scientist, a sort of archetypal "I-will-now-explain-everything-to-you" character, begins realizing midway through that all of his plans were faulty. In fact, there are just some things that he never can really explain even to himself.

Among the characters are Sherwood, a comic book artist from our own time who was attacked by a demon as a child, the Wrenchies, fictional comic book characters he creates to save the world, the other Wrenches, a band of warrior children who take their name from a comic book they find (Sherwood's), and Hollis, a boy from Sherwood's time who dresses as a superhero and is transported through time and dimensions to fight with the combined Wrenchies.

Part of what makes the narrative so fun is its irreverence to any sort of conventional storytelling. Apparently mind/soul reading machines will appear without any explanation. Things are constantly alluded to but never explained or shown. Characters appear and disappear, often in blatant disregard for any sort of narrative expectations. For example, several of the heroic Wrenchies, built up as essentially mythic heroes, become aware that they are comic book characters and die off almost immediately. Or just wander off inexplicably. Or their heads turn into giant insect heads. Or, at one point, characters disappear and then reappear a few pages later, thirty years older and with their tongues cut out. And then they wander off again. Characters have their hands cut off only to have them back on the next page. Miniplots that you think might go somewhere never really do. Or are actually the whole point of the story. Basically, there is no real attempt at continuity. The end of the story is largely anticlimactic, and is then followed by multiple strange epilogues and then even more flashbacks.

But at the same time, it seems more accurate somehow in doing this. People just fade out of your life sometimes. Or all the time. Life doesn't ever operate as a story, though we try to adhere narrative structures to ourselves. It also sort of operates in the way a child would tell a story (it could, in fact, all be a fantasy of Hollis's); it loses focus, loses interest, bounces around, makes wild claims and doesn't really concern itself with the how or the why.

I've spent most of this time trying to explain what the story is about and that seems to be part of what the story itself is concerned with. The whole story seems to act as some sort of exorcism for Sherwood as he tries to come to terms with his own inability to deal with past trauma in the face of his eventual imminent failure. Sherwood's writing of his own Wrenchies is a creative act rather than a destructive one, seemingly his only creative act. (Which saves him and also destroys him, therefore saving the world? I dunno man.) In The Wrenchies, the act of crafting a story has more power than the story itself. It serves as an escape (literally for Hollis) and also an attempt to rewrite himself, but he can't control it and it is constantly spiraling and teetering on the edge of nonsense. The book becomes about trying to come to terms with the very concept of a quest and its inherent implausibility.

In summary:

Poem of the Week: E.E. Cummings (+1)

I Like My Body When It Is With Your

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body.  i like what it does,
i like its hows.  i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones,and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the,shocking fuzz
of your electric furr,and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh….And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

-E.E. Cummings

This is the love poem you give to the one you might love, eventually.
I like this poem. I like the movement of this poem. It's body. It's what-abouts. I like the rhythm. The sounds the words make when reading this poem. I like the playfulness in this piece, making love sound like it is supposed to; exciting and fun. This poem is the fine line of infatuation that you walk when you're starting a new relationship, or realizing the intricacies of the intimacy you've been having with a significant other for any amount of time. How lovely.

(I'm just going to leave this poem right here, because... Bukowski)

Alone with everybody

the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
and nobody finds the
but keep
crawling in and out
of beds.
flesh covers
the bone and the
flesh searches
for more than

there's no chance
at all:
we are all trapped
by a singular

nobody ever finds
the one.

the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill

nothing else

-Charles Bukowki

I like the juxtaposition of this Bukowski  poem and E.E. Cummings'. It is grim, this route.


Currently Watching

Hey guys,

This week I'm watching this amazing new show called Nature's Weirdest Events on BBC Two.

Check out this link to view a few of their clips from the last season. They just put the show on Netflix, and as an avid nature watcher I have to be slightly obsessed with it, I believe. I grew up on the Crocodile Hunter and other amazing shows within that vein. I also became obsessed with Planet Earth a few years ago when that show was on air. Now, this strange phenomena of a show has blown me away.

For example, Nature's Weirdest Events goes into the strange reproductive system of some animals and the uncommon interactions between humans and animals. Did you know that a female anaconda can give birth after not meeting with a male in six years?


The show also goes into trees that "bleed," instead of secreting sap and what this means for the ecosystem. It also is rather poetic to me, as most natural systems are.

On this show you can learn about zombie slugs, spider-webbed trees, and my favorite animal of all: fainting goats. What's not to love?

Ok, let me give you a few more strange natural facts:

There is a species of sea stars off of the West Coast that will pull off their own limbs and then wander away as if they never had use for them.

There is also a swarm of rabbits in Japan that will overwhelm tourists and passersby about once a year. Why? Because this is Earth and we live on a strange planet.

Needless to say, I think you guys should watch the show, it's incredibly entertaining, visual, and informative.

You won't regret it:)

Love and Weirdness, 

Currently Listening: Hop Along

There are five albums that exist in my life that, since listening to them the first time, I can always come back to, especially on days when it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul. Two of them are by the same band.

Hop Along is the most important music in my life. I can't articulate properly all that band has come to mean to me. I first discovered them in high school, when they released their first proper album, Get Disowned. (Before that, Frances Quinlan put out three or four releases as a solo artist, Hop Along, Queen Ansleis, and those releases are great too, but for different reasons.) Their sound is the kind of eclectic indie rock that experiments and produces the kind of feeling you get when you say to yourself, "This is weird. I think I like it."

But their sound is secondary to Quinlan's ability to compose a song that rips me right in half. Above is one of my favorite tracks, Trouble Found Me, which gets me just from the first line:
Trouble found me sleeping
so I followed it downstairs 
The entire song drifts with a sort of dream-(nightmare-)like quality that is intense, dark, and something I could very easily identify with when I discovered this band. I don't think it's any secret that I have depression; I don't really hide it anymore, and wear it on my sleeve whenever I write and when you catch me at certain times of the day. I use most arts as a way of coping, whether through the escapism of television, the study of literature, or the well of empathy that is music. I've always though that the grandest and most important thing about art is its propensity to tell us we are not alone. In the dark when you cannot properly see your hand in front of your face, but can feel the overbearing presence of anxiety and fear, you can still hear music. So, in the wee hours of morn, from panic attack to the drifting numbness that comes after, stripping you of your ability to sleep, I listened to Get Disowned, on repeat, because it felt like someone was there for me.

I've written Frances letters and attended enough shows to know the quirks of their live performances, but their music still reverberates like it did the first time around. But beyond that, Quinlan is just an amazing writer, with lyrics that drip feeling off of them. In No Good Al Joad, the final verse (and that refrain, Everybody is a little hard to love sometimes) has been stuck in my head since I first heard it:
The first person I realized was dying thanked everyone
for the cakes soft and low, now I can tell the ground
barely feels my footsteps as I go.
So, yes, okay Kyle, you've been listening to the same album on repeat for the last three years because you get sad sometimes, why talk about it now? Glad you asked, vindictive version of myself; their new album comes out in a few weeks and I am doing backflips.

Because I pre-ordered, I have a digital copy of the album and it's already taken up that place in my chest reserved for bedfellows. Their sound has evolved to be more band-like, without as much of a spotlight on Frances and bringing the rest of the sound out. But her lyrics haven't lost out at all, even updating to include some contemporary mundaneness of everyday life in a light that makes it heartbreaking. The above, Waitress, is the first single off the album and tells the story of feeling incredibly small. From one song, Happy to See Me:
Father gets up at four a.m.
to post a motivational video on YouTube again,
"People of the world,
nobody loves you
half as much as I
am trying to."
Every day brings its own challenges, and I love Hop Along, both Get Disowned and Painted Shut because I feel understood, dragging myself from one place to the next being carried by metaphysical sound waves and a catchy beat.

Culture Corner: The Life of a Retail Worker

Shopping is an integral part of our society. We can't live without shopping, and some of us (like me) should have the word "shopaholic" tattooed to our foreheads. You would think that, with shopping being really important and all, retail workers would get treated with some respect, right?

The answer is nah, not really.

I work for an underwear store (I actually can't mention names because I'm going to be slinging a lot of mud around and I could get in deep trouble) but I'm sure most of you have heard me complaining about it in the office. At first, I thought that working with ~garments~ and perfume would be a glamorous job, certainly more glamorous than the arduous food service business. My father is a restaurant manager, and I knew that I was not thick-skinned enough to handle the borderline ridiculous situations he has to deal with on a daily basis. I thought that selling bras and panties would be a walk in the park.

NEWSFLASH: It's not.

The hours are wacky. They change every week. I have no stability and I can never plan things in advance because knowing my luck, I will have a shift scheduled at the exact time I planned to hang out with friends. Or do homework. Or feed my cat. If I request a day off in advance, my manager will just reject it because apparently forcing people to buy uncomfortable-looking pieces of twine (AKA lacy thongs) is more important than a healthy work/life balance. The pay to work ratio is absolute garbage. The breaks are so short, you don't even have enough time to take a piss and have a bite to eat. THE BREAKROOM IS INFESTED WITH ANTS FOR CORN'S SAKE.

But forget about all that. What's really terrible about retail is the people.

NEWSFLASH: 99% of the human population was raised by a pack of demonic beasts that leave nothing but destruction in their wake. If you already had a creeping feeling that there is no hope for humanity, let me tell you right now: there is definitely, 100% no hope for humanity whatsoever. We are a sick, depraved species. Here are a few things that get on my nerves:

People Who Refuse My Help
I hate talking to people. But alas, here I am stuck in a job that requires talking to people. If I don't ask people if they need my help, I will never make my sales quota. If I don't exchange names with the customers, then I don't make my sales quota. If the customer forgets my boring-ass basic name, then I don't make my sales quota. When I don't make my sales quota two things happen:
1) The manager embarrasses you over the walkie-talkie and basically screeches at you to make more money in the next 15 minutes or else we lose.
2) The managers will say the dreaded "we need to talk" and take you into the office of doom and give you a stern talking-to. If you're terrible, there's always the fear of getting fired.
So, when customers refuse my help, talk down to me, tell me to get away from them, tell me "WHAT?" when I try to ask them anything, or physically push me away from them, it sucks because I can almost feel my sales numbers draining. I don't want to talk them, but I HAVE to. There isn't a retail worker out there that genuinely wants to talk to these strangers. If people don't need my help, then it would be nice if they could politely decline, like civilized, evolved beings. That at least would take the edge off the rejection.

People Who Make Outlandish Requests
Just yesterday, I had the pleasure of helping a woman who asked me about a one-size-fits-all pair of underwear that the store apparently used to sell. This is an impossibility. The same size of underwear that would fit, say, Taylor Swift, would definitely not fit me no matter how hard I tried. When I politely told her that we do not carry any such item, she insisted we had it, stating she saw it at another store location several years ago.

Several years ago.

At the store I work at, we switch out fashions every couple of months.

However, I of course, got verbally beaten over the head over for it because according to the customer, I don't know anything. About the store I work at. Okay then.

There was another time in which a woman asked me which perfumes had caps that screwed off. No one would know such information offhand ever in their whole life because it's the weirdest thing you can ask, but she ended up buying all the perfumes that had those caps, so I can't complain I guess.

There was yet another time in which I was working at the register and a couple was purchasing eleven perfume gift sets. They wanted each set in its own shopping bag. Eleven shopping bags. Then they complained when they couldn't carry it all. Well...

Then there was the time in which a woman was making about five or six different returns. She had one item to return from each purchase and she had no idea what receipt went with what item. She also refused to give me all the receipts in one shot so I can figure it out quickly on my own. Instead, she insisted on pulling them out one by one like a shitty magician pulling handkerchiefs out of his sleeve.
"Oh. That receipt wasn't it? Here, try this one?"
I was starting to wonder if she had a secret horde of receipts hidden in every orifice of her body or something. If she started pulling them out of her nostrils, I would not have been surprised.

People Who Would Do Anything for a Discount
The store I work at is ridiculously overpriced. I never shop there, even with my employee discount. $50+ for a bra? No thanks, man. However, there are people out there that will pull the craziest shit just to get stuff at a discounted price. Some people like to divide things into 2374665236941 different transactions so they can use 3743604374632 different coupons and then complain about how long the cashier is taking. But others would try to buy damaged goods or deliberately damage goods just so they can get it for free. One time, I was at the register and a customer told me "That's the last bra they have in that size and it has a pen mark on it. It's damaged. Give it to me for free." However, store policy dictates that we cannot sell a customer a damaged product. When I told her, guess who go a shitstorm of verbal abuse hurled in their face? Yeah. Me! Others have tried on panties, deliberately stained them, and tried to get them for free. Yes, people really are disgusting aren't they!

People Who Complain About the Prices and Expect Me to Do Something
The prices suck. Everyone knows that. However, I always get customers that spend a half hour bitching and moaning of how the prices have gone up since the last time they shopped here (which was maybe a decade ago). Then after their tirade they would quietly look at me, waiting for me to magically change the numbers on the price tag. There I am, standing there silently saying "I don't know, man. I can't do anything." The workers at the store don't make up the prices and we definitely cannot change the prices. Maybe they can go complain to the mystery suits that are personally responsible for ripping you off.

People Who Act Like Tornadoes
Some people are flat-out messes. They mess up the shelves, they throw unwanted items in the wrong sections, they let their hellish children run around wild and free, destroying everything with their deadly, stubby fingers. When you're not allowed to leave your zone for any reason, it's REALLY hard to pick up after customers who throw their unwanted stuff everywhere. You'd think people would be nice enough to pick up after themselves, but no, alas. I also wish children can know that perfume bottles are not toys and perfume blotter cards are not meant to be thrown around the second after I fix them. People should also realize that you aren't supposed to squeeze lotion on those blotter cards either.

Wow, that was one angry post! Now I gotta go and deal with all the people I just described above. Here's a picture of me when I'm at work:

Illuminations 4/27

Earlier today, I was wondering aloud in the office what I've been obsessing about in the past week most so that I could write this blog about it. A fellow intern (hi Maggie!) suggested I write about donating blood; I had, after all, just finished a rant about the intricacies of iron absorbed in my body. And so in the past few minutes I've debated talking about the psychological and sociological implications of blood donor incentives or the Japanese fixation on blood type. In the end, I resolved to tell y'all about the selfish reasons I donate blood.

Before we begin, say "aww" in unison
Like most people in the world, I experienced the usual teenage angst and disgruntlement in my high school years, accompanied by a whole bunch of unusual childhood memories I wish I never made. I couldn't forget, so why couldn't I try to replace myself completely? There was a donation drive going on at my school, and my blood weighed heavy in my veins. I wanted to drain myself a pint at a time, until all was renewed and I cleansed. At the time, I had a utility belt of unhealthy coping mechanisms; this one would at least be helping others.

It's no surprise that I found the feeling so addictive. Throughout my life, I had developed a ridiculous concern with constantly being productive for other people. By knowing I helped someone else, I found a sense of worth in myself. And so I donated. And donated. And grew annoyed if my iron wasn't high enough. And grew irate if my iron wasn't high enough. And then despaired.

In the game of life, I had very often found myself a pawn in other people's chess matches; I was rarely myself in control. But the constant monitoring of my iron intake, on the other hand: that was all contingent on me. As of late, I have the science of iron consumption down to such a science it's kind of disgusting: everyday I take an iron pill with 361% of the necessary iron for my body, but it's all non-heme iron (which isn't absorbed as well in the body) so I have to consume some form of vitamin C (promotes iron absorption) with it and avoid calcium (prevents it). And this fixation isn't one that goes away after donating; it's a constant thought on my mind, and probably one of those things I do that's healthy to the point of being detrimental.

I'd love to tell you that angsty Courtney is gone and that my reasons for donating blood are purely altruistic now. That, however, is bullshit. I give blood because there is still part of me I work hard to shoo from the surface - part of me that whispers how it wishes to disappear, part of me that loathes all that I am and all that I've lived through. The needle in my arm works for me the way heroin works for others, so that I don't have to face what I'm so intent on running from. It's an imperfect system, but it's better than some alternatives. Maybe one day I'll be able to grow up, come to terms with trauma. But for now, I'll obsess and eat my weight in spinach and count grams of protein and try my damnedest to get drained.

But ain't these guys cute?

Canvas 4.27.15

Tunnel Vision with the MTA

I’ve never done Canvas before - I like visual art just fine, but I can’t quite translate the usual reaction to a painting or a photo onto paper. The reaction is, of course, the pretentious art critic nod, where you slightly nod your head and look thoughtful, possibly with one hand on your chin or with your arms crossed, while squinting at some sort of picture. You may occasionally say “hmm” or “ah” as you examine the art, and this will demonstrate your subtle appreciation for it. Yeah, it doesn’t go into words. So instead I’ll write about some photos that pull a more distinct reaction from me. Like this:
Our friends at the MTA put all our delicious fare money to good use, of course, and sometimes that includes art installations. This one, titled “Breaking Ground,” is currently on display at the Bowling Green uptown subway station, which I happen to pass through every schoolday because going to classes here at Brooklyn while living on Staten Island is the truest pain imaginable.

“Breaking Ground” is a series of photographs taken by Patrick J. Cashin from MTA construction sides like the Second Avenue Subway project, a 7 line extension, and the East Side Access project. A wider selection of photos is available for your viewing pleasure on the MTA’s Flickr account. Yeah, the MTA has a Flickr. Like I said, that delicious fare money goes so far these days. Most of the pictures I liked best were on the Flickr and not the installation itself, so it's worth a look if you like the horrific broken-down look.

The reason I like these photos is they’re so raw and kind of ugly, showing subway tunnels in various states of disrepair. It looks like some intricate series of caves on an alien planet. We never think about what subway tunnels really look like because we’re too busy zooming through them, doing reading for class or napping or complaining about all the delays. I’m kind of glad we don’t pay attention, because seriously, our 110-year-old subway system could really use a facelift. At the same time, though, it’s nice to check out some stuff we take for granted. But I’m kind of nervous about going into the subway now, because wow, some of this doesn’t look particularly stable. Are we sure it’s cool to be trapped underground for extended periods of time in what appear to be Cthulhu’s death tunnels?

Seriously. The Old Ones are having poker night somewhere down there.
But hey. I like the look of abandoned places, and even though a lot of Cushin’s photos are teeming with squads of MTA construction workers, the tunnels still have that feeling of an abandoned place. I can practically hear the distant dripping water. Especially in this photo of a gentleman and a puddle with a cool reflection effect.

This is the part of the movie where his reflection rises up from the puddle and attacks him.

“Breaking Ground” will remain on display at Bowling Green for a year or so, giving me plenty of opportunities to stare into the gaping maw of the subway. Hopefully, it will not stare back.

Currently Eating 4.27.15

 Moules Mariniere

When I went to Paris for a weekend during my study abroad, I didn't eat very well. In a city known for its decadent cuisine, I was on a budget; the only time I splurged was when I was duped into buying a five euro bottle of water. So it was a ham and cheese sandwich served by a stereotypically snotty French waiter, a creme brulee in a very seedy restaurant, and vegan crepes made by my bed and breakfast host Cedric. All told, nothing to write home about. It wasn't until I got back to London, at a farewell dinner (paid for by CUNY!), that I got to eat some real, actually good French food. I don't remember the name of the bistro, but the dish was moules marinière, and I fell in love.

From BBC, but mine looked just like this, I swear.
I love mussels, and I love butter, and I didn't even know there was a recipe that combined the two! Here I was eating my mussels with tomatoes like an idiot! The moules marinière was served with pommes frites because it was fancy like that, and all I wanted to do was soak that delicious potato in every last drop of creamy goodness, and then wipe the bowl clean with like a whole loaf of crusty bread. I couldn't, because there were people around and I wanted to leave the restaurant with some semblance of dignity. But you better believe that once I got home I found this recipe and made all my dreams come true. The hardest thing about it was converting the measurements, but it was very much worth it.

Magic Hat: Scene from Tinhorns

Over the past week I began working on three different pieces for this blog and they had one thing in common: they were terrible. So, in a panic I raided my past work to find something I could put up here and came across this screenplay I was working on with a friend of mine. We began working on this a couple of years ago, but in the interim I started back up at school and he has been ridiculously busy with work, so it has been pushed indefinitely to the back burner. Still, it is something my mind wanders to pretty often. 

The story is about a father and son (Milo and Martin),  who have a strained relationship. Milo often reaches out to Martin, but Martin consistently pulls back. Martin decides to get his father out on the dating scene, so he will stop bothering him, but his plan works too well. Milo becomes involved with someone just as Martin's life begins to crumble. 

This scene is the first moment they meet in the script. The scene is way too long (a page works out to roughly one minute of screen time), so I am looking for a little feedback. Also, my friend and I have argued about the tone of the scene. He thinks that Martin should be more antagonistic to Milo, while I feel the animosity should be under the surface. When he writes the characters, they are much meaner and when I write the characters, they are much nicer. This is our compromise. So, hey, feedback on that, too would be great!


Waitresses mill around, serving plates of food and cleaning tables to a mostly empty establishment.

Milo sits alone at a booth, sipping a cup of coffee. He notices that the OLDER MAN sitting in the booth in front of him is roughly his age, and is also sitting alone.



The man smiles at him.


I always feel awkward eating alone. Well, I'm not going to be eating alone, exactly...


I like potatoes!


Yes. Yes, potatoes are good.


I like them.


Right, yes. They're high in fiber.




Yes, well...have a nice dinner.

Milo averts his gaze and studies the menu.


Potatoes! I like them mashed.

Milo nods awkwardly at the man, now fully ignoring him. The old man in turn leans over his booth to speak to Milo.


(whispers) I like them baked, too. Potatoes, that is.

Milo shifts his posture to give his back to the man. He then hears commotion coming from the entrance. A college age-looking WAITRESS laughs out loud with a YOUNG MAN who gently plays with her name tag. Milo ignores the flirtatious laughing. Stares out the window, at people walking past the diner.


I like potato chips! Kettle cooked.

A waitress places Milo's food in front of him.


I'm actually going to move to the booth over there. There's a bit of a draft here, and I also made the mistake of making small talk with a madman.

As Milo slides into another booth, he sees the YOUNG MAN at the entrance walking around, looking for a table. It's MARTIN. He's about to take a seat at an empty booth when he spots Milo out of the corner of his eye. He saunters over slowly to Milo's booth.


(looks at Milo's dish)

That steak doesn't look very cooked to me.


I know. I wanted it medium rare, but the girl brought this out. I think she's new. She doesn't know any better.


What is the smell in here? Do they cook with Febreeze or something?


What are you talking about? It smells like it always does. You going to sit or are you going to stand there judging everything all night like you're a Greek god?

Martin sits across from Milo, but on the edge of the booth.


Greek god. I like that.


I bet you do.


Jesus, how have you lived this long? Look at how you eat.


Look, it's not like I eat here every day. I really only come here once a year.

Martin reaches for a french fry. Milo slaps his hand.


What the hell? You insult my food then try to grab it? (beat) Thanks for making it out, by the way.


Yeah, well, I was able to get out of work early. Look, I can't eat here. Let's go to that Ethiopian place across the street.


Ethiopian? What is their specialty? Grubs? Besides, we're here for a reason.


Why? Because you like air freshener on your cuts of meat?


We haven't seen each other in a while. Indulge me-it won't kill you. Just order an appetizer or something.


I don't know. According to that "grade pending" sign on the wall, the jury is still out on that. Jesus, even the patrons here look sickly.


This place is New York institution. Never been a problem. We have eaten here plenty of times before. You clearly just want to push my buttons. All that I ask is you treat me with a modicum of respect on my 50th anniversary.


Great anniversary restaurant. No wonder Mom wanted out.


Why did you even come here? You have skipped out on this for the past ten years. Why now?


Uh, more coffee?


Yes, thank you.


(to Martin)

Can I get you anything?

Martin simply shakes his head no. The waitress leaves


I got out of work early and I thought I'd do something nice. I should know by now how that works out.


Look, I know you miss her. I know this is upsetting for you. But...


No. This isn't upsetting for me. I don't live in the past. Mom's dead and it sucks, but that was a decade ago. I don't dwell.


Well, act like an asshole all you want, I'm still glad you're here.




You still living downtown? Near that brunch place.


Still there.


Heh. Don't know if I ever told you this, but I used to frequent that neighborhood back in the 60's. Back then, that brunch place was actually a quite notorious, seedy bar run by this big Italian brute of a man. What was it called?

Milo stares out the window. It seems like his mind is wandering.


The "Kiwi Cooch"! That was it! Such a bizarre name. You would think it serves tropical drinks or something, but no. A real whiskey or beer type of joint. Despite that, every Sunday evening thet would have poetry readings and I would sit in a corner to write or listen.


It was called "Kiwi Cooch"? How did they get a way with that? Did that word mean the same thing then as it does now?


What? Kiwi?



No, cooch.


What does cooch mean?


You know,





Cooch means vagina?


Jesus, Dad, keep it down. I don't think the table of nuns down their heard you.


(Off camera)

I like potatoes!


I take back what I said earlier, this place is real normal.


It's eccentric. So, short day at work today?


Yeah. Really short.


My day was pretty calm. I went to the park, read. Pretty much it it. Oh, I picked up these flowers

Milo reaches into his bag and pulls out the carnations he purchased earlier in the day. They are all crunched up.


Jesus, Dad, they're all messed up.


Well, they were in my bag all day.


Why did you even buy them? Even if Mom was alive, you couldn't give her flowers like that.


Eh, she wasn't too particular,


Yeah, I can see.


Do you have any plans next weekend? I read about an exhibit at...




Well, maybe we can have dinner later in the week.


Dad, I...have a bunch of shit going on right now, I won't be able to commit to much. I'll call you.


Okay, okay. Just thought I could spend some time with my only son. Nothing crazy.


Yeah, yeah. I'm sorry, okay? This place is making me crazy. I think the smell of antiseptic is giving me a headache. You wanna get out of here?


Fine, fine. I'm done eating anyway. I don't mean to push. I just want to see you. I want to know you better. I don't even know if you're seeing anyone.


I know.  I'm just a private person, okay?


I'm you're father! I don't think it's crazy that I ask about our love life.


Well, what about your love life? Have you been with anyone since Mom?


I'm 72 years old, Martin! The only companionship I get at this age is from a Sear catalogue.


You know, there is free porn on the internet, right?


I'm too old for that. Have you seen what these men do to those women? When I watch, all I can think about is how heartbroken their parents must be.


Well, that's hot.


I did meet a woman recently.


(his interest is piqued)



The woman I bought the flowers from. She works at the farmers market on the Upper West Side. She was quite flirty, I thought.


You old so and so! Did you ask her out?


What? No. I just rambled then left.


Hey, great. You almost had an interesting story, there.

(Martin thrown a couple of Twenites on the table)

Dinner's on me. Now, let's get the hell out of here.

Martin walks away. Milo gathers his thoughts and looks across the diner at the corner booth. The old man from before is now with a middle-aged woman, seemingly his daughter. They bond affectionately. Milo averts his gaze again.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Greetings! 04/20/15

Let's get a few things out of the way: I'm not that clever, I'm not that funny, and I'm definitely not that good at greeting people, whether it be online or IRL. To avoid any awkwardness, I'm just going to get to the important stuff right away:
  • Registration has begun as of last week. I'm graduating this semester, so I'm thankful that I won't be dealing with the demon/Kraken/Chupacabra monster known as CunyFirst ever again for the rest of my life. However, many of you still have to deal with that Satanic regurgitation from the fiery pits of hell, so we're here to help! Stop by our office at 3416 Boylan for your registration needs/advice/complaints/rants.
  • Escape the pressures of the semester with an afternoon filled with peace, relaxation, good music, and good poetry at our Lily Pond Open Mic on April 30 during common hours. It will take place in front of, you know, the lily pond. I'll be hardstyling with my awesome pals the turtles and the goldfish.
  • Junction submissions are officially closed and work on our magazine has begun. Don't forget to get your copy at the English Majors' Tea, which is on May 14 during common hours.
  • After the tea, join us for the Junction Function at 5! This is the official launch party for the Junction, and it is open to all students. Be there or be square.
And now I am going to just drop the cutest ever cute animal picture of all time. This is my fuzzy friend when she was around 3 weeks old. You're welcome.

Yes, she has a Clark Gable mustache. No, I did not name her Clark.
If this picture doesn't make your heart melt, then you might want to get yourself over to the nearest doctor because come on. I have no soul and a barren wasteland where my heart should be, but this picture makes me want to punch a wall because it is so darn cute.

Lastly, because I want to change the name of this blog from the Boylan Blog to the Brando Blog, here's a picture of Marlon Brando with his cat. I love Marlon Brando and I love cats. Am I sorry? No. You're welcome again.

Cats: choosing the most comfortable places to sleep since 8000 BC.

News Briefs 4.20.15

Japanese Military Propaganda: Kawaii Fighter Jets

Vice posted this news story about how Japan has been advertising its military (a term they abhor using, actually, because Japan isn't technically allowed to have a military because of WWII), known as the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) using adorable anime characters:

Which I find, sort of, I don't know—terrifying? The JSDF has produced entire animes that amount to series of advertisements, including this hilarious-until-you-realize-the-implications short:

Apparently, the JSDF (or a Japanese military in general) is a hotly contested issue in Japan, which these advertisements are trying to address by drawing up support for the militaristic efforts through cuteness. Which is, well, sort of, uh, terrifying? While I have nothing against Japan in particular, and I find it somewhat absurd that they're not supposed to be allowed any military at all when Germany seems to be allowed one fine, I have this general fear of military propaganda that's probably clouding my judgment. Throughout high school, seeing military recruiters do pull-ups to show off their strength—competing with students in the school's lobby for recruitment gear like hats and lanyards—left me with a sort of weird feeling. Guns terrify me, I'm a naive kid and wish militaries didn't have to exist, but further than that, to aim the recruitment policies toward young adults and children just seems predatory. In the case of Japan, branding the military as twee seems particularly flag-raising. I know why militaries have these recruiting policies, but it's the same reason Pol Pot had and it leaves a funny taste in my mouth. 


*      *     *

 A Whale of a Tale!

Sorry for the pun of a title, but really I'm not sorry at all. This professional news brief author is about to break the tradition she has been trying to instate: that of only writing news briefs about black markets. Why, you may ask? Well, because the world is both beautiful and depressing and I want to talk about all of it: how nutrigenomics can drastically increase longevity in humans; how there's a black hole at the middle of our galaxy that all celestial bodies orbit; how Sartre may have become the philosopher he was because of a bad haircut. But then in my black market-related research, I discovered this. And then I very badly wanted a hug. So, having lost faith in humanity for the time being, I started reading about whales instead.

Whale songs have fascinated me since reading Fluke by Christopher Moore (one of the weirdest, most surreal, funniest books I've ever encountered), and for the past few years I've made a point to keep up-to-date on whether we've finally discovered why whales sing (spoiler: we haven't). We have discovered something else, though: a new whale in the Antarctic. Possibly. It's hard to tell, because whales songs are one of the most elusive subjects of study for marine biologists. They're referring to this song as Antarctic BW29, and thus far there are no recorded whale songs that match it.Seeing as a new species of whale was discovered just last year, I'm hopeful that this comes to fruition.

If you're at all interested, the original news articles are here and here. Thank you and good night ("Courtney, you're writing this at 6:30." "Shh.").


*      *     *

Scary Lucy

Lucille Ball was many things: a comedic genius, a workaholic, a symbol of Old Hollywood beauty, and a fiercely independent and powerful woman. However, for the current residents of Celoron, New York (Ball's hometown), all of this fades into the background when they see the frightening life-size bronze statue of her in a memorial park. I mean, look at this thing: 

If I lived in that town, I would turn around and cross a few state lines because this statue is frickin' terrifying. The statue, which was unveiled in 2009, is supposed to depict Ball in the iconic "Vitameatavegamin" episode of I Love Lucy, but it instead it looks like a deranged serial killer. This is Ed Gein-levels of crazy.

This statue is so freaky that in 2012 a Facebook group entitled "We Love Lucy! Get Rid of This Statue" was created, gaining popularity amongst the people of Celoron and fans of the comedienne. Many felt that the statue does not Ball justice in any way and have compared it to everything from Steve Buscemi to the Beetlejuice snake (which is actually a pretty accurate way to describe it). Last week, Dave Poulin, the sculptor responsible for the heinous monstrosity, offered to redo the statue for free.

"I take full responsibility for 'Scary Lucy' though by no means was that my intent or did I wish to disparage in any way the memories of the iconic Lucy image," Poulin wrote in a letter to the Hollywood Reporter. "Yes, in retrospect it should have never been cast in bronze and made public, and I take complete ownership of that poor decision."

At first, I was really glad that Poulin had offered to redo the statue. I was like, "Yay! Now tourists won't think she's a monster!" because this is what Lucille Ball actually looked like:

Fun Fact: Lucille Ball was a natural brunette. She did not start dyeing her hair flame red until she filmed DuBarry was a Lady in 1943.

But then I thought about it. The guy who sculpted Scary Lucy is going to sculpt a statue of Lucy.


Wait a second...

Will something like this happen again?