Sunday, June 29, 2008

Movie Review: The Visitor

This sucked. But... I can say that I was never confused as to where the scenes took place. This is because prior to every scene they showed the characters in transit. These transit scenes lasted up to a minute and were mostly on the New York City subway, which I try to ignore even when I'm on it. For a New Yorker, ignoring others is an art that can only be fully realized on a subway. But maybe non-New Yorkers find subway riding interesting. If so, then watch this movie.

Also watch this movie if you like laughing with a bunch of old people at jokes that aren't funny.  

Book Review: A Thread of Grace

I liked it. But there were too many loose knots that never got tied up.  

I'm kind of embarrassed that I'm devoting a considerably smaller amount of space to book reviews than movie reviews.  I did read the books I'm claiming to have read though.  If I were making up books they would be longer, better known, and more tedious reads.

Movie Review: Under the Same Moon

Really, really good. I loved this movie...

Usually when I go to the independant theater it is only me and a few interspersed elderly couples. Here it was me and tons of elderly couples. I think in the future I will avoid matinees.

I did see one young person there. I was heading up to the balcony and he was heading down from the balcony. He asked me "Is this the correct theater for Under the Same Moon." I told him yes. He left the balcony to sit closer to the screen. I went down there as well. I decided to try and make friends with him after the movie. He must have left early or something because when the credits started rolling he was not in his seat. Maybe he sensed my plan and left so I wouldn't talk to him. 

People are too choosy about who'll they make friends with. Why can't they make friends with anyone, like me. I provide my current friends as proof that I have no standards. And yet I still have to go see movies by myself.

Book Review: Children of God

In this book, Jesuits travel to a distant planet and in the process discover music that proves the existence of God.  I liked it, it was a little preachier than the first book in the series but still good.  

Movie Review: The Incredible Hulk

While I will concede that Edward Norton is damn hot, without the tattooed up body from American History X he doesn't quite do it for me. His clothes did occasionally get ripped from his body.  But only so he could turn into the Hulk.   

And... the fight scenes were boring... there was no villain... not my first choice.  But... some kids in the lab were going so I tagged along. I was sitting next to Choi (the Korean kid in my lab). Whenever anyone in the movie asked a question to another movie character he answered it out loud. "What's your name?" "Choi", etc.

So to recap: Limited eye candy (or regular candy for that matter). Bad fight scenes. No plot to speak of. Sucked in general.

Disclaimer: I know the tattoos in American History X were hateful. I know that. But still this post does not make me a racist. Recall that I voted for Barack Obama. Also, I have two Indian friends, two black friends, a Pakistani friend, a hapa kapani friend, Filipino friends, a half Columbian friend, and a Chinese friend. And even though over half of these people claim they are only my friend because they are paid to be so...

Unfortunately I don't have any Jewish friends. Many will still claim I'm an anti-Semite. It does not help that I hate Joe Lieberman.  Or that I am sympathetic to Palestinians.  Or that the people I hang out with in State College use the slang J.A.P. As a West coast kid I did not even know what this meant. Now that I do I make my face look skeptical any time it gets said. This satisfies my inner need to not be party to discrimination, and also allows me to fit in with the Pennsyltuckians.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The People of State College Part Fifteen: Old Women Crossing the Street

   My brother moved into my apartment last weekend.  I went back to show him the ropes.    I concentrated on street crossing rules as these are defining.  For example: A New Yorker must never run while crossing a street.  Also,  if others are crossing the street it is always acceptable to follow along, regardless of how many cars with a green light are waiting (or even ambulances).  
     During the weekend we watched as one man casually walked in front of a charging city bus.  He missed the bus by only two feet but he didn't speed up and neither did the bus slow down.  They both had timed it well and that was that.  
   Street crossing in State College is different.  Walking home from research yesterday I was stuck behind a large group of old ladies.  They were walking very slowly and the extra time it would have taken to walk around or through them did not allow me to cross by the time  the light turned red. So I waited.  I wondered why the elderly are allowed in public.  They are not safe in cars or as pedestrians.  I think we should give them all wheelchairs.  They could have locks in the back so they could only be operated by some one pushing the chair, and not the rider of the chair.  Then if people felt like it, they could push an old person where they needed to go.  Otherwise, the old people could just wait and let life pass them by (they would not be upset by this as waiting around is a favorite pastime of the elderly).    
   While I was waiting for the light to turn I looked to my left.  I was trying to catch the lady who was standing there in the act of staring at me.  I couldn't because she looked away too quickly.  One of my favorite things is staring people down.  I can tell out of the corner of my eye if some one is looking at me and if I catch them I glance back, forcing them to look away.  Or sometimes, I'll be staring at some one else (often thinking up crazy stories about them).  And I can anticipate  when they are going to turn their head to see if I'm looking at them.  So right before they do I look away, pretending to be enthralled by something in the distance.   I then casually look back at the person and make my expression very accusatory.  "How dare you look at me."  And they are embarrassed and look down in shame.  The point of this tangent is that you can always win a staring contest if you did not initiate it.  It's kind of like tic tac toe, where the second player can always force a tie (and therefore never lose).
  When the signal turned to walk I started to cross the street.  I noticed the old ladies had only advanced about six feet down the sidewalk.  I was amazed that people could walk that slow.  Maybe this is why we allow the elderly to roam the streets freely.  Because the moments of annoyed wonder they give us have a truly priceless quality.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The People of State College Part Fourteen: The Homeless

State College has two homeless people and I've made a commitment to get to know them both. New York City has thirty thousand homeless people and I've made a commitment to get to know none of them. The homeless in New York are unapproachable. Immersed in New York's business culture, they are professionals. And in New York's cutthroat environment, they have to be fast (hence unknowable). For example: they can spend no more than three minutes in a subway car. They get in and tell a tragic story involving hungry children or veterans with missing limbs or a partially decapitated yet still cherished family pet in need of expensive medication. They quickly collect money. They get out. More personable homeless can't make it in New York. They are either weeded out of the homeless lifestyle altogether or move to San Francisco to live the easy life. There the homeless are paid a monthly stipend by the city and have taken complete control of the public bus system. Frisco's homeless while away the day. But in the Big Apple successful homeless never stop and talk.

New York does have underground mole people and I will make friends with them when I get back. I will ask a short person (Manasi) to point me in the direction of various tunnels she may have noticed. Because of their close proximity to the ground short people are good at spotting secret tunnels. Surely such a tunnel leads straight to the mole people lair. I will follow it and establish my place among their freakish clan. I will eat roasted rat cooked using the subways electric rail and then wrapped in a muddy dough flattened using the subways electric rail and supplemented with nutritious iron shavings scraped from the subway's electric rail. We will immortalize the underground in songs and regale each other with tales of the hated city above. But I digress...

Back to State College...

How do I know there are only two homeless? The number two comes from my conservative lab mate. It seems small, but I trust him in this matter because conservatives keep good tabs on the homeless. This is because if something bad happens to a conservative and they are not near a gun to shoot they can find a homeless person, tell him to "get a job" and feel better.

One of the two is African American and wears a poncho far too big for him. He carries an umbrella at all times of the year and advises passers by to "praise Jesus". He does this while engaging in a weird but endearing half dance, half fall. His hair is short and he is often at the same trash can, apparently searching for something. I need only ask him what he seeks to facilitate a meeting. Being a minority in a town of mostly whites, he may not trust me. So to convince him that I'm not racist I will tell him that I voted for Barack Obama (giving me lifelong immunity from the label of racism). We will become fast friends.

The other has a duffel bag, a backpack and a pillow that he ties to himself as he walks around. Even as the days grow longer his wrinkled, bearded face stays a pale color. He spends his time moving from one bench to the next in short spurts. He always sits to the side of the bench, leaving ample room for a stranger. This suggests he is not averse to a meeting.

According to my conservative lab mate there are also several "bag ladies". These are people he is hesitant to label as homeless, but who have too many bags about them to be considered normal. If I successfully introduce myself to the two actual homeless I will move on to these women.

Getting to know these homeless people will act as a sort of insurance. What I mean is, when I return to New York City, even if my research is a complete failure I can say "I met some homeless" and no one will shun me. Well, maybe they still will. But at least Richard will talk to me long enough to find out anything I learned about digging through trash cans.

The People of State College Part Thirteen: The Missing Undergrads

I miss New York City and I am very happy that next weekend I will be back there...


One of the best things about State College during the Summer is how few people there are here. PSU has 40,000 students, but almost all of them have gone home for the Summer. This is a city designed for a much larger population. It now appears empty.

Of course, not just students have left. Some of the restaurants and shops seem to have closed down for the Summer as well. Or so I thought. It turns out that the restaurants work in shifts. The ones that look abandoned during the day apparently thrive at night. Usually, these restaurants only have three or four menu items. They are scrawled in dry-erase marker on a menu behind the counter. The employees sit outside smoking or drinking until a customer comes by. The hours are indeterminate: 8pm-late night, where late night is code for "when we get bored." No effort has gone into making the restaurants presentable and they could aptly be described as sketcherific. Which explains why they are only open at night. They prey on people too drunk to care.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The People of State College Part Twelve: The Police

What's this? Crime in State College, Pennsylvania?

A police car was outside my building this morning. The sidewalk surrounding the tall, brick exterior of neighboring Rosetti's Italian restaurant was completely cordoned off. A small group of onlookers gathered nearby. Eager to see my first mangled corpse I hurried over.

Imagine my disappointment upon discovering the cause of the commotion. No, it was not a victim of the gang wars of a powerful small town mafia. Rather it was the unwanted company of an intrusive hive of bees. They swarmed quite harmlessly in a nearby bush.

When you live in one of the ten safest cities in the U.S. policemen become beekeepers. I miss New York City. I miss walking home from Lizz's apartment in Harlem, nervously looking over my shoulder so as not to get mugged.

When I go back I have jury duty. And as long as I don't get assigned to a case involving a bee hive it will be a pleasant homecoming indeed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The People of State College Part Eleven: Driveby Bigot

Life is fun on a bike.

So I headed to Giant tonight to pick up groceries. It's ten times the size of West Side Market and empty. The way there is downhill and I was cruising and generally having a blast. Halfway there a passing motorist stuck his head out the window and yelled "faggot."

Let's analyze this. To be fair I was riding a girl's bike, head banging to a Bonnie Tyler song, wearing a striped polo shirt, and intending to buy soy milk in the near future. Assuming he knew all these things (unlikely) then his comment may have had some merit. I am reluctant to cut him any slack though as he couldn't even muster a manly persona. His voice was high pitched and nasally as well as barely audible. His car was a Toyata! Frankly he was a disgrace to bigots everywhere.

I've come to a few possible conclusions about his poor performance. Maybe Pennsylvania has so few minorities that he never got any practice.

Or maybe he was gay himself and he wasn't trying to insult me but was rather asking a question, "faggot?" We may never know the truth.

When I got to the grocery store I bought some bing cherries to remind me of tolerant California, where gay marriage will soon be the law. I brought them back to PSU and I am eating them as I type this, even though the sign in front of me clearly says "The no food or drinks in this lab signs are meant for everyone! No matter who please respect the lab." Take that, close-minded small town America!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Movie Review: The Counterfeiters

This movie was very good. I was captivated throughout. It tells the story of an expert Jewish counterfeiter imprisoned by the Nazis. They use him and a team of printers and craftsmen to counterfeit the dollar and pound and try and bankrupt the allies. He and his fellow prisoners are treated very well for being prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp and this is a source of internal conflict for some of them.

Maybe I am demented, but sometimes I think I'm missing out on life because I have never been tested. I know the experiences that Jews faced in concentration camps were unimaginably terrible, but experiences like those are what determine what type of people we are. I wonder how I would act if I were living under a fascist regime. Would I resist on principle, even if I could live safely by following the crowd. I think I could die for a cause. But I don't know how much pain I could suffer. I got a sunburn this week and whenever it touches the back of a chair I wince and reflect on my weakness.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Movie Review: Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037

Steinways are awesome! I'd recommend this movie, if not enthusiastically. It made me want to tour the Steinway factory in Queens.

Basically, the movie follows the making of a Steinway Grand Piano. It is a fascinating process which takes over a year and is almost completely done by hand.

The director was at the screening. Afterward he took questions. This was a mistake, as the audience was filled with old people. One old man thought that "question taking" was the same as "boring story telling." He went on and on about how he had visited the Steinway factory in the fifties and how he bought the second oldest Steinway piano in existence and generously gave it away. He was clearly well off (to give away a piano). If I were rich, I wouldn't give away pianos, I'd hoard them. He talked very slowly, stretching the story's length way past the breaking point. He talked without raising his hand too, an injustice that I thought I'd left behind in grade school. But he was a Columbia alum, so I cut him some slack. By this I mean stayed awake while he talked.

After the old man finished I finally got to ask my question. I wanted to know how much money the Steinway factory workers made. The director didn't know the answer. I stumped him, which is really the point of question and answer sessions. I think the other patrons were impressed.

Book Review: If On a Winters Night a Traveler

I finally finished this terrible book.

The book tells of a reader (referred to as you) who cannot get his hands on a complete copy of any novel. Half of the book was in second person, which is really annoying to read. I don't like to be told what I did or didn't do or what I do or don't feel(mostly don't as I'm heartless and cold). The book's other half was beginnings of novels that cut off abruptly. These came in the form of interspersed ten page chapters. The first few pages of each was a struggle. I had to get used to new characters and an emerging plot. By the eighth page I would gain interest. Then the story ended.

Italo Calvino is the author. He's Italian. With no prior information one could predict he was European by the unnecessary amount of sex in the novel. As an American I was offended. He grew up in Cuba too, so he was probably a communist.

I'm not sure what the point of this book was. It was an exercise in frustration. I only finished it to prove I'm literate to this blog. After all, my only previous book review has been Hitchhiker, and that was based off a radio serial. I have developed a theory. I think Calvino had writer's block and so he stitched together the beginnings of several unfinished stories and passed them off as one complete and innovative new form of literature (the same as I will one day do with the unrelated postings in this blog).

A student recommended this book to me. I want to tell him I read it so he will think I'm cool. Maybe then he'll write a glowing letter to Professor Norton about me. How else can I win one of the Chemistry Department's yearly teaching awards. After all, they only give out eight. But since I hated the book, I guess I'll keep quiet.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Movie Review: Baby Mama

The Chinese post doc in my lab loaned me a bike for the weekend. I spent the afternoon roaming around campus (including the surrounding farmland owned by PSU). In the evening I went to go see Baby Mama. It was nice traveling to the movie theater by bike.

I didn't go to the same theater as before but it was still far. The attendants were much more pleasant. They let me store my bike in their supply closet. The ticket was a regular size and they tore off part of it when I went in the theater. Unfortunately, the air conditioning was broken in Baby Mama's theater. One of the attendants explained to me that this happens a lot at Carmike theaters which she has worked in all over the state.

The movie itself was very funny. I love Tina Fey! Through humor she makes me care about problems that females face. Well... not really, scratch that, actually. But I would still recommend Baby Mama.

After the movie, the closet door was open and my bike was waiting for me. The theater staff took good care of me.

I had to ride my bike back in the dark. It was dangerous. But I live for danger so I was down with it. Halfway back there was not enough space on the right shoulder of the road for safety, so I crossed over to the left shoulder. If it were up to me I would live my life with reckless abandon, but I cannot disappoint my adoring masses. Being on the left shoulder meant I was blinded every time a car passed. I wondered what they thought of me. They must have thought I was crazy doing something so dangerous. To prove I wasn't I decided to look the next driver straight in the face. Of course the glaring headlights prevented me from seeing any faces but when the next car passed I stared straight where I thought one should be and didn't look away. And then a thought occurred to me. If I couldn't see a driver, maybe there wasn't one. All of these cars might be driven by phantoms. This really scared me. At this moment the trees on the side of the road creeped right up to the edge and I felt sure something was going to jump out at me.

A few minutes later the sounds of drunken college students alerted me I was back in downtown State College. I think next time I'll go see a matinee.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The People of State College Part Ten: Mysterious Foreign Lady and Her Helpless Captive

The material science building is shaped like an E. My research advisor has two labs... one at the end of the E's bottom tooth, the other at the end of the center tooth. His students get their exercise by walking back and forth between them.

The halfway point on the bottom tooth holds a lab for computational graduate students. Through the lab's open door a voice travels. Thickly accented, it turns right and meanders to the end of the hall. There it seizes my ear. My mind struggles with it, inventing wild stories about it's mysterious owner.

Who is she? If she's a graduate student, she doesn't look the part. She's too old(at least 50). When she walks, her head is no more than 5 feet off the ground. She's hunched forward. She walks with her feet quite far apart and her arms do not hang at her side. Instead they reach slightly forward, halfway between zombie and normal person. She wears black rimmed spectacles that rest at the very tip of her nose, which is rounded and rosy, like Santa Claus'. She has a mass of black curly hair. Her clothes alternate. Today the modest dress of a librarian or piano teacher. Tomorrow the rebellious garb of an unruly teenager.

Her voice has a lecturing quality. Although she speaks English I can't pick anything out. She talks to her fellow computational graduate student, who she has under her complete control.
Her accent sounds Eastern European. When she talks her voice rises and falls rhythmically giving the strong impression of an incantation.

Because of this, I have surmised she is a sorceress. It would explain a lot: Why the lab mate she controls always has a glazed look on her face? Clearly her senses have been dulled by a spell. Why she is still a graduate student at such an old age? Because she also controls her research advisor and forces him to let her stay. She's probably been here for years. She uses her graduate student guise to steal chemicals for her potions.

My heart goes out to the other student in that lab. I pass her sitting lonely at her computer. She entered grad school to learn. Instead she became the captive of mind dulling witchcraft. When I go by their lab I look in at her. As soon as she sees me she looks down. She has been trained to fear outsiders. Once I heard her singing. It was on a weekend and the sorceress had not been in the lab for a few days. The bravery and independent will it must have taken to produce that song gave me hope. She was regaining control. But like a fool I had to investigate. As soon as she saw me peering in at her she stopped mid note. For three seconds she held my gaze. She then took a swig of water, looked down, and began typing rapidly. Too shy for an audience she retreated back into herself. Now she never looks up when I pass her. Furthermore, when I see her master in the hallway I am confronted with suspicious looks. Penn State is a far more dangerous place than I ever imagined.

The People of State College Part Nine: The Amish

Well...  I guess no Amish actually live in State College.  They come into town for the farmer's market which I went to for the first time this afternoon.  I wanted fresh fruit and also Amish baked goods.

I was very excited when I saw them.  The women were wearing bonnets.  The men had long orange beards.  Only there faces remained uncovered by clothing. I headed straight to the first table of baked goods.  I bought two pumpkin whoopie pies with the intention of bringing one back to the undergrad in our lab.  I ate them both.  The girl I bought them from was probably twelve or thirteen.  Instead of saying "Can I help you,"  she said, "Can I help somebody."  She was talking straight to me. Her pitch rose quickly on "somebody", strongly emphasizing her question.  She tried to undercharge me by a quarter.  She also couldn't remember whether I had given her a ten or a twenty and had to ask me when giving back the change (I only gave her a ten).  While I was at the market I also bought strawberries (I ate two) and a blueberry turnover(which I ate).

The Amish were not the only vendors at the farmer's market.  I felt bad for the others.  Given the choice between an Amish baked good and an English (what the Amish call us, according to wikipedia) baked good nine out of ten people will choose Amish (according to the made up statistics department of this blog).  

Actually the Amish baked goods weren't that terrific.  I've concluded that the goods were sold by impostors.  People who understand the market value of a good disguise but who lack basic baking skills.  I would do it too if I didn't hate having a beard.

The vendor who sold me the turnover shared a laugh with me.  I think this may have been to be polite.  I made a joke about having to do laundry (after she gave me several quarters change) but the Amish don't have laundromats, so it may have gone over her head.

There were lots of Amish children there.  I wonder what their life is like.  They are only educated through the eighth grade (wikipedia, again) and they live an isolated existence.   They all seemed friendly though.    I caught a little Amish boy staring at me.  I think he was more curious about me than I was about him.  Interestingly, none of the Amish children were playing.  They either worked along side their parents or laid silently in the grass.  Contrast this with my migrant worker blueberry picking excursion last Summer.  The hispanic children played all throughout the fields.  But maybe it was too hot today.

The People of State College Part Eight: The Glass Blower

I went to the stockroom to get supplies the other day. No one was there. On the way back I passed the glass blower. I was with my conservative lab mate and he stopped in to say hi and borrow some glue. The glass blower kept us there for fifteen minutes. 

First I will describe him. His nose is curved and very pointy at the end. He has a complete head of hair (although very thin). His head is spherical. His stomach does not fit with the rest of his body. It bulges out unnaturally. The shirt he was wearing was a little too big for him. He talks in spurts. For ten seconds nothing and then he shoves three sentences into four seconds.

So anyway, he showed us the project he was working on. He told us all the professors think they know how to blow glass better than him. They tell him "I would blow this myself if I had any time." He was laughing when he said this. He showed us his posted rates. It said:

Glass blowing: 20 per hour
If you wait: 40 per hour
If you watch: 60 per hour
If you help: 80 per hour
If you've worked on it already: 100 per hour

He showed us different types of glass: low quality, high quality, intermediate quality. He told us a lot about glass quality. He told us how he heated up some bottles with a funnel coming out of them. The funnel broke off because of poor glass quality and now he has to fix them. He showed us glass that was contorted in some really weird ways.

He's friends with the building janitor, too. I 've seen them talking. They are birds of a feather. Nobody would give so much unsolicited information in New York City. But it's not boring. I would listen to either of them for a long time.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The People of State College Part Seven: Old Guy At Bar

On Tuesday my conservative lab mate invited me to sushi with him and his girlfriend. I agreed to go because I'll go wherever I'm invited. By adopting this policy I have some place to go once every other month. The rest of the time I sit in my room and weep.

After dinner we went to a bar. My lab mate loves country music and it was country night at the bar (I provide this as further evidence that he's a conservative). We sat down at the counter and ordered a few drinks (which are amazingly cheap in State College). We were sitting at the corner of the counter. I was on a stool, to my left the counter turned a corner, and then came my conservative lab mate and then came his girlfriend, also both on barstools.

After a pleasant first half hour the stool to my right became occupied. By an old man. He stared at us with a weird half grin. I smiled back at him and then looked away, a little creeped out. He didn't stop staring. I should have realized that he wanted to talk to us. My conservative lab mate said hi.

The man's mouth became a faucet. But not a regular faucet. The kind that gives out tap water(perfectly good to drink although some will only drink the bottled type). It became one of the industrial faucets that clearly says "non potable water" above it.

His monologue was true to old man form. He started off by complaining. After this he moved on to some more complaining. After a little more complaining he finally started giving out "wisdom." This amounted to telling us how much we would hate life in thirty years. At just under three hours, his old man spiel was surprisingly short. I actually didn't stay for the end of it and had to get filled in the next day.

His basic point was that when we get older we will compromise our principles to get ahead. I can't go into detail about it as remembering his words sends me toward sleep.

It seems weird to me to try and join the conversation of three complete strangers. To start talking to one person sitting alone makes some sense. But three? Although I guess three makes more sense than two or four.

To legitimize the conversation he bought some alcohol. I feel like this is a weird form of prostitution for friends. I wish I would have refused. But I didn't actually drink from the pitcher of beer he bought.

My few trips to the local gay bar had prepared me for listening to old person spiels. But the old people there are gay. So they're filled with all sorts of intriguing quirks. Or at least most of them have earrings. At any rate, even if I'm not interested in what they say, I can invent stories in my head about past adventures they've had. With this guy, the only thing my brain would come up with was him sitting in front of a computer and clicking yes or no on the screen.

P.S. I hope no one is this hard on me when I am old.

The People of State College Part Six: My Apartment Mate

I am sharing an apartment in State College. It is a two bedroom apartment that is designed for five people but over the Summer there are just two of us. My apartment mate is very tiny. She is very attractive for a girl. I make efforts to be friendly whenever I talk to her. I don't talk to her often because we have little in common...

For example:

She really likes to throw things away. I think everybody gets pleasure from throwing certain things away. Things that definitely belong in the trash like Adam Sandler films and old college friends. But she throws everything away.

Mostly what bothers me is the food. She buys lots of food and then doesn't eat it. A few weeks later she throws it away. This morning she took down a bag of bananas that had been on top of the fridge for a week or two. "Oh, I forgot about these," she said. "They're not any good now. I'll make something with them later." She said this for my benefit. What she meant was "Oh, I forgot about these. I'll put them back on top of the fridge for now. By this afternoon I will have forgotten about them again. In a week I'll buy a new bag of bananas and throw this bag away." So I swiped one. It tasted like alcohol.

She's like an anti-bum (or maybe an anti-Richard). Instead of removing things from the trash she places things in it. Maybe growing up her parents owned a garbage company. When she was a little girl they would send her to spend the night at friends' houses. "When everyone's asleep," they would tell her, "Take these metal weights and place them in each trash bin." Her parents garbage business was amazingly successful and she became hooked on the act of filling trash bags.

Or maybe they had her place valuables in the trash. She would mark the trash bag and later they could easily retrieve it. They would sell off fine china and famous paintings. They would become disgustingly rich but her young mind would never develop an understanding of what actually constituted trash. She would then spend years throwing different objects away. An experiment of sorts on her part. "Does this bag of bread seem out of place in this trash bin?"

I don't want any reader to get the wrong idea. She's very nice and an incredibly easy person to share an apartment with. Her and I just view the purpose of a trash can differently.

P.S. My building has a trash shoot! This is a very cool contraption which one throws trash into. When I buy a house it is going to be loaded with shoots and other contraptions. A laundry shoot, a dumbwaiter, and, now that I know about it, a trash shoot.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I watched this movie and it was very enjoyable. So I should be happy. But I'm not because everybody else I've talked to didn't like the movie. I keep wondering 'did I miss something'. I shouldn't have seen this movie on the opening weekend. That way I could have waited to see what others had to say and tailored my comments and opinions to fit in better. But I still like the movie. It wasn't the best Indiana Jones movie. But it definitely wasn't the worst. For having no Nazis in it (as the enemy) I think it did a stand up job.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Book Review: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  It was funny.  It was the 25th anniversary addition.  The first half of the book wasn't the book itself.  It was just 90 pages of hype talking about how great the book was.  It was interesting but it set me up for a let down.  

Also the book didn't have any character humor.  It just had funny idea humor.  I liked it, but some character humor would have been good.

The People of State College Part Five: Creepy Serial Killer Guy

Tonight I am in the lab late. My plan for tonight had been to watch the Counterfeiters at the local independant theater. It won Best Foreign Film and it has Nazis in it (as the enemy) so it's sure to be good. But... since it's Sunday there is no late night showing... and I missed the 7 p.m. showing. So I went to the lab.

There are often people in the lab late at night. This is probably because we live in State College and there is little else to do. However on the weekends there is just one guy. Creepy Serial Killer Guy. He is always around late at night. When I sit at my desk I can hear him making weird high pitched groans (reminiscent of Sloth Fratelli from The Goonies). He is a very large guy and his accent indicates he's probably from Eastern Europe somewhere. He looks like he heads the State College Russian Mafia. I also often hear him singing along to songs in a different language, which sounds Ogreish. I assume the songs are about blood.

I have to walk by his office to get to my computer and whenever I do he slowly turns his head and there is a brief and scary moment of eye contact. I could avoid this creepy eye contact if I did not look inward to his office. But it is late at night, the hallway is dimly lit, his office is very well lit, and like a moth drawn to a lightbulb my eyes turn to meet his murderous gaze. Our eyes lock for only a moment then he swiftly returns to his lab top screen. My skin tingles as I head to this very computer, wondering "will tonight be my last." This exact sequence of events occurs without fail. So far he has not killed me but this brings little comfort. He is clearly a careful planner and not given to passion. Sometimes I hear his chair creek backward, indicating he is leaving his desk. Knowing the end is near I quickly look around the room for something that can serve as a weapon. Then I hear a bell sound. The elevator door down the hallway is opening. Some one else has entered the lab and I am safe. He only kills in secret.

That I have been saved more than once by that elevator bell is quite lucky as there is nothing that remotely resembles a weapon near my desk. There is a ping pong ball and three stacks of post it notes. There are also several books on polymers. Given time I might be able to create a weapon from these. But the post it notes do not belong to me and some of the other people in the lab are rather possessive. I have decided it is better to accept my death when it comes. I have considered writing a note for help on a post it and using a polymer book for a weight. I would throw the note out the window and it would reach a passerby below. But the chances that anyone would be walking by at the right moment are astronomically small. And if they were they might just steal the book. And if they did I would have no moral high ground. For I would have just stole a post it.

And at any rate, I am only here for the Summer. He may not get around to murdering me before I leave.