...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Monday, November 29, 2004

"It's not nefarious...It's Venezuela!"

Thus spake Prof. Cortell, describing the US's contingency plan if Saudi oil should run out or prove too costly. He described Venezuela as a "more stable" oil provider than Saudi Arabia, causing Nick and me in the back row to snark to each other, "When your more stable option is Venezuela, something might be wrong with your foreign policy." Cortell saw us smiling and said that we were right to be skeptical of the plan, given the 48-hour coup in 2000 and the fact that Hugo Chavez is not the biggest fan of the US. I love nearly everything I know about Chavez (how can you not love someone who has a national nightly talk show called 'Alo Presidente!but the US probably shouldn't base its foreign policy on his being amiable to US oil interests.

In other Latin American news: J.Lee and I gave our Spanish presentation today about Mario Benedetti's Andamios, the novel we're reading for class. It went pretty well, and actually ended up being much longer than we had expected--probably 15-20 minutes. And I turned in my final paper for Modern Mexico today! It was about the effects of liberation theology on the Zapatista movement in Chiapas. Aside from spending time with my family and relaxing a little, that was the major thing I accomplished over Thanksgiving break: all 11 pages of the paper were written Friday and Saturday afternoons.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, or if you're out of the country or don't observe Thanksgiving...a good Thursday, I guess. I'm sort of getting back into the swing of things here. This is a strange little chunk of time: there's just two weeks of classes left, then a week of finals, then we're off for a month. As Kugler said today in Old Testament, it's a little like being stuck in a revolving door, and I'm not sure how much I should or can settle back into the school routine before I leave again.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I love my family

Here's why:

Dad, quizzing Andy and me on old Disney movies: "What Silly Symphony cartoon was based on the story of King Midas?"
Andy: "Uh...'Pants Oh-So-Tight'as?'"

It's funny being home after being away at college for awhile. I have to reaccustom myself to all the silly/weird/annoying things my family does, like talk all at once (I know that annoys my mom, too), quote movie lines incessantly (which is not usually annoying, so much as awesome, and something I miss while I'm at school), talk with and for our cat Daxie (there's a very distinct "Daxie voice" which we use to express her thoughts) and the funny little games we play. Like, for instance, my brother Andy, who is sixteen, invented this game with his friends: when a commercial comes on, everyone tries to guess which one it is. The first person to shout out the company or product wins that commercial. That's it. Or when we watch King of the Hill, at the end of the final credits there's always a one-liner from the show, and during the episode we compete to see who can guess what the quote will be. Only because we've all seen all of the episodes that they run in sindication, we all know what the quote is going to be and eagerly await it, sitting on the edges of our seats until we can jump up and holler "QUOTE!" Stuff like that.

Dad made up a song for Daxie that he was singing earlier, to the tune of that "I believe in miracles...something something...you sexy thing!" song: "I believe in kitty-cats!" It was great.

I've been seeing my family kind of a lot this semester--this is the third weekend I've been down in Eugene, and they've come up to visit me in Portland a couple times. The more I think about it, the more I realize that that was a mistake I made last year. I was going to be all Ms. Independent College Student, so I didn't go home at all until Thanksgiving, by which point I was pretty homesick. So I'm glad to be home this weekend, even if I do have a slightly insane amount of work to get done--being with my family is important work, too.

Just so you know...

I'm feeling better now, although crazy-busy, and I'll write more later.

Quote of the Day:

Susannah, watching the square-dancing in the barn-raisin' scene in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: "Now that is the dance of love."

I love the signs Nordstroms has in the windows of their downtown store: "You won't find any holiday decorations in our stores until after Thanksgiving Day. Why? We just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time. Happy Thanksgiving." I love the concept behind it, but every time I pass by those windows, I can't help but think that what they're really saying is, "Suck it, Meyer & Frank!"

I'm really going to miss International Affairs when this semester ends. Cortell is great, and I've so enjoyed getting to know Nick and Kathleen, who are also in my Modern Mexico class. Nick is a Religious Studies major, so I'll probably run into him in the future, but Kathleen is going to Ecuador next semester. Plus, I don't know if we'd hang out outside of class. It reminds me of Cale and Sara, my lab partners for Biology 151 last semester--our two-hour art discussion still ranks right up there as one of my favorite discussions ever, but we three probably wouldn't have hung out if we hadn't been put in a lab group together. I don't know if Cale and Sara still get together, but aside from saying hi when we pass by each other, I haven't seen much of either of them. I guess that's just the way it goes sometimes, but I am really greatful that Sarah and I have maintained a friendship even without being in the same Spanish class.

Have a good Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Inner peace? I could use some of that right now

My senior year of high school, I was involved in this group, the Inner Peace Club, that my friend (well, she was more a friendly acquaintance) Mieka started. Mieka's mom is a New Age-y...I'm not sure, what, exactly, but she'd come and do visualizations and guided meditations with us. (Remember, this was Eugene.) Some of it was kind of hokey, of the stare-deep-into-your-partner's-eyes variety, but a few of the practices were really helpful and I've kept using them. Once, for instance, we were to sit across from someone and go back and forth, isolating the problems that kept us from contentment, no matter how small: "I would be completely at peace if it weren't for..." When I'm upset or anxious about something, I do this with myself until I get to what I think is the root of my anxiety at that particular moment.

This afternoon, I've been having a hell of a time concentrating and have a really sick, anxious, unsettled feeling in my stomach. And I'm pretty sure I've isolated the cause of my anxiety, but I don't know what to do about it. Or I know what I need to do about it but I'm too stubborn to do it. Or I'm afraid I'll hear something I don't want to hear.

I apologize for being vague. I want to talk with my counselor. The last time I saw her was the 4th of November; someone snagged my usual appointment time on the 11th and then I had to cancel on the 18th, since I would be in Eugene. We won't be able to meet again until next Tuesday. So boo for that.

I do want to talk about seeing Gustavo Gutiérrez, but I can't do it while I'm in this mood.

I'm okay. Just feeling kind of anxious and dumb and time-wasteful.

Friday, November 19, 2004

I am the Queen of the Theater. Bow before me!

Hey! Want to go see a clever show, brilliantly conceived, directed, and acted, with a great sound system and crackerjack cast? Then whatever you do, don't go see City of Angels (or, as the South newsletter called it, City of Angles--it really is pointy down there in LA), South Eugene High School's latest theater-department offering.

The reviewer in The Register-Guard raved, so Mom and I went to see it tonight. We left during intermission, it was so bad. It seemed like the show was well-written enough, and they staged it cleverly, with the film noir half on one revolving platform and the real life story on another, but it was just beyond the abilities of most of the actors. The orchestra was so goddamn loud that it was nearly impossible to follow the plot or understand half the dialogue, and the "songs" could have used a little more work, because it sounded as though the actors were singing (or, rather, shouting out unrhymed words) to one tune, while the orchestra played another. And can we please, please, please either mic the kids sufficiently, or tell them to speak the hell up? To be fair, some of the actors were pretty good: The kid who played Stone, the film noir private eye, was great--he reminded me a ton of a young John Cusack, and he had a pretty strong singing voice, and the girl who played Alaura looked, as my mom commented, like a young Katherine Hepburn. But some of them...

Persuant to that, the quote of the day has to come from the biography of one of the actors, as published in the playbill (it's [sic] throughout). Read it dramatically and as poncily as possible to get the full effect. (You might have to switch into a "gansta" accent for part. Oh, you'll see):

This is A's 4th and final South Musical. His previous 3 were Anything Goes, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and 42nd Street. He has also appeared in a number of...Oh, what the deuce do you call them?....Ah, yes! Plays! Among these, The Nerd, Hamlet, Sylvia, and Talley's Folly stand out in his memory. He would like to thank L for her wifedom (not to be confused with fifedom), A for always being (in the whitest way possible) all about the money, dollar-dollar-bill-ya'll, C for his body, A for her yurtly goodness, S for the Nanny and the Principal, A for that wonderful weekend in Reno, L for being a you-know-what, and P for guiding this crazy Acid Test through bat country (without ever stopping). Finally, ALex would like to say that, in concern to his legacy here at South, he doesn't want anyone to thank him or anything. All he hopes is that, someday in the future, he will be walking down the street and someone will sa, "Hey, that's A. H......I should thank him.

Seriously. That's what it says. In the playbill. I mean, dollar-dollar-bill-ya'll? YURTLY GOODNESS?

As if all that wasn't bad enough (and it was), the people behind us talked. Through. The entire. Goddamn. First half. I don't know if they kept talking, because we left during intermission. But I got to thinking, things would be a lot simpler if I were just appointed Queen of the Theater. I could stand outside and grant admission to the worthy, casting out the nuisances: "You! Stop cracking your gum. You with the fifteen-inch Mohawk [seriously, folks]! Get a haircut or sit in the back. AND STOP TALKING OR THE WRATH OF QUEEN JESSICA WILL BE SWIFT AND MIGHTY." And you'd better believe I'd be doling out these and these like so much candy. Sweet, sweet candy.

Don't fret: I will be writing more about Gustavo Gutiérrez and...Oh, what the deuce do you call it?...Ah, yes! Liberation theology! later. But if you'll excuse me, right now I have to go guide a crazy Acid Test through bat country. Whatever that means.

And this

"To do theology is to write a love letter to my God, my faith, and my people. I cannot always phrase my letter in the same way, but the love is always there."

"Some people--some theologians, too--speak as if they were taking breakfast with God everyday. I think it's a question of humility. I prefer to say, 'I don't know.' Innocent suffering--it's a big problem for me. Maybe someday I will know, but for now I just say, 'I am in solidarity with you, I suffer with you, and God loves you even though you suffer.""

-Gustavo Gutiérrez

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Only this for now

"The best language to speak about God is poetry...because poetry is the best language to speak about love, and God is love."

-Gustavo Gutiérrez

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

An exciting turn of events!

I just had my overseas interview with Juan Carlos. I was nervous, because I still find him a little intimidating, and I wasn't sure what he was going to ask me. It turned out to be totally anticlimactic. A few questions about why I want to go to Chile instead of the Dominican Republic, why I want to go to Valparaíso instead of Santiago, and whether I'm going to try to transfer Religious Studies credits over, and ya. It took less than ten minutes. Guys, I'm going to Chile!!!

Remember how I told you about Gustavo Gutierrez coming to the U of O? I couldn't find a ride, so I started looking at the Greyhound bus schedules. I was talking with my mom last night, and she told me that in addition to the lecture he's giving on Thursday, there's going to be a public forum with him on Friday with a reception afterwards. I was all, "Oh man, too bad I have to take the bus back to school Thursday evening...OR DO I?" I'm already missing Religion in Modern America and History of Modern Mexico on Thursday, but both professors are encouraging me to go hear Gutierrez, since he and liberation theology have a lot to do with both classes. If I stayed in Eugene through Friday, I'd miss International Affairs, which I think I can afford to do despite this incident, and Spanish. But again, Mónica Flori would be totally okay with me missing Major Periods of South American Literature to go hear a Major South American. Kugler's already cancelled Old Testament, since he'll be at a conference, and I generally don't have to babysit Little C on Fridays.

Guys, it's looking good!

So the plan is, I'm taking the bus down to Eugene on Wednesday afternoon and coming back up Saturday evening. To say I'm looking forward to it would be an understatement. The further I get into this year the more I realize that liberation theology is really my passion within Religious Studies--or really, my passion, full stop. I love it and I want to keep studying it. Going to hear Gutierrez's lecture and hopefully speaking with him at the reception will be an awesome first step.

(On an unrelated note, The Amazing Race starts again tonight!! If you're at Lewis & Clark, I expect to see you in the Akin lounge at 9pm SHARP!)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

"Canada" and "fanaticism" don't usually go together, do they?

Remember the story of the "Canadian five-cent coin" from last year? Basically I got a Canadian nickel in my change, and I wanted to show Ryan, who is Canadian. The catch was, I didn't know if Canadians called their five-cent coins "nickels" or not, and I didn't want to assume that they would automatically follow the American model, blah blah blah cultural relativism. So I came up all excited, "I have a...[dramatic pause]....Canadian five-cent coin!!" Ryan: "Yes, we call them nickels."

Maybe you had to be there.

Anyway, when Cloe and Angela and I went to Vancouver for spring break last year, we bought a map of Canada and put it up in the dorm hallway, outside my room. I taped a Canadian nickel to it and wrote a little sign pointing to it: "This is a...Canadian five-cent coin!" This year, I put the map up again in the hall outside my room, since most people living around me know the joke behind it or just don't pay attention to it at all.

A few minutes ago, though, I noticed a kid that I've never seen before standing outside the room (the door was open, so I could see what was going on in the hallway), looking at the stuff I've posted outside the door. "Uh...who's Canadian?" I heard him ask someone down the hall. The person didn't know. The rest of the conversation went down something like this:

Kid: Uh...Jessica?
I: Yeah?
Kid: Um...Are you Canadian?
I: No, a friend of mine is. And I got the map in Vancouver over spring break last year. There's sort of a story behind it--
Kid, interrupting: I was just wondering, because you seemed kind of fanatical about it. About Canada.
I: [baffled] Well...not really.

[awkward pause]

I: Um...are you Canadian?
Kid: No. I have a friend who lives in Canada.


With that, he sauntered off down the hallway.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Sleigh bells ring, are ya listenin'? No.

I'm fascinated by the huge discrepencies between Ebert and the New York Times's reviews of The Polar Express. Ebert gave it four stars and raved, while Dargis seemed to be offended by it on a deep level.

See, the movie looks terrible to me. I could not believe it when I first saw the trailer a few months ago, because I liked the children's book, but the animation? Thank you, Manohla Dargis, for not being afraid to speak the truth: the characters look dead. They look like zombie robots. The trailer made the movie look so unappealing to me (and granted, I'm probably not in the target demographic, but still) that I kind of wanted to see it just to see how bad it was.

I don't love Ebert, but I generally agree with his reviews or can at least see where he's coming from. But he writes: "The Polar Express is a movie for more than one season; it will become a perennial, shared by the generations. It has a haunting, magical quality because it has imagined its world freshly and played true to it, sidestepping all the tiresome Christmas cliches that children have inflicted on them this time of year."

Dargis, on the other hand, writes: "It's likely, I imagine, that most moviegoers will be more concerned by the eerie listlessness of those characters' faces and the grim vision of Santa Claus's North Pole compound, with interiors that look like a munitions factory and facades that seem conceived along the same oppressive lines as Coketown, the red-brick town of "machinery and tall chimneys" in Dickens's "Hard Times." Tots surely won't recognize that Santa's big entrance in front of the throngs of frenzied elves and awe-struck children directly evokes, however unconsciously, one of Hitler's Nuremberg rally entrances in Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will." But their parents may marvel that when Santa's big red sack of toys is hoisted from factory floor to sleigh it resembles nothing so much as an airborne scrotum."

HA! Take that, Polar Express!

I'm going to see the movie over winter break, assuming it's either out on DVD then or in the second-run theater, and if it's any good, then I'll cheerfully take it all back. But I guarantee it will be bad. I mean, airborne scrotum?

Edited to add a link to the FameTracker discussion of the movie. Oh, FameTracker, how I love thee! Also, I forgot to mention that part of the reason I don't like the movie is that Tom Hanks is in it. I don't love Tom Hanks.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

This almost makes Modern Mexico a worthwhile class. Almost.

Oh my gosh, the irony and intrigue in this historical fact are just delicious.

You know Lázaro Cárdenas, the populist president of Mexico between 1934-1940. He was the one who nationalized Mexican oil (PEMEX) and finally started to implement the land and labor reforms of the 1917 Constitution, like, a little late there, Mexico. Cárdenas founded the PRM (Partido Revolucionario Mexicano), which in 1946 was changed to the PRI (Partido Instituti...azado, or something. It's the Institutionalized Revolutionary Party). Because it was so powerful and also was not adverse to a little opponent-assassination, the PRI had a stranglehold on Mexican politics until only a few years ago, when Vicente Fox, of the PAN (Partido Autónoma Nacional) was elected president. In 2000, the PAN finally wrested control from the PRI. The PAN was founded in the late 1980s/early 1990s by...wait for it, wait for it...Cuahtehmoc Cárdenas, Lázaro's son!!

It's even more delicious when you know the significance of the historical Cuahtehmoc, Cárdenas's namesake. He was the nephew of the Aztec emperor Moctezuma, and after his uncle's death, he drove the Spanish conquistadores out of Tenochitlán, the Aztec capital and present-day Mexico City. The Spanish returned a few years later and imprisoned Cuahtehmoc, eventually torturing and killing him. In the early 1900s the Mexican elite began claiming Cuahtehmoc as a national hero, but in a very sanitized, domesticated way: his statue on Paseo de la Reforma depicts him in a Roman toga with anglicized features. They probably didn't realize how perfect their identification with Cuahtehmoc actually was: like the warring, imperialistic Aztecs, the Mexican elite conquered and subjected the smaller Indian tribes.

Talk about sedimented history!!

On the Latin-American Studies tangent: GUSTAVO GUTIERREZ IS COMING TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON IN ONE WEEK!!! He's the founder of liberation theology, which is exactly what I want to study in graduate school and beyond!! I have to get down to Eugene to see him on the 18th. I was so excited when I got the email. Now I just have to quickly read his A Theology of Liberation so I know what he's talking about. Oh man. This is like...for Ryan, if Chopin were to come to Lewis & Clark. That's how excited I am.

I also have an excellent quote of the day, which I'll leave off with:

Peggy: Do you ever have those moments when you forget you're wearing pants?

Monday, November 08, 2004

In which I get what was coming to me

School's been kicking my ass.

Last week I had something due for every class: on Wednesday, a Spanish paper about an aspect of Tosca, by Isabel Allende; on Thursday, a paper for my Religion in Modern America class about the modernist vs. fundamentalist controversy and a response paper about The Cosmic Race by José Vasconcelos for Modern Mexico; and on Friday, an International Affairs unit exam and a prospectus for my final Old Testament paper. All of this was in addition to the election: I was canvassing all day Sunday then had a College Democrats meeting and more canvassing on Monday. Tuesday I spent all evening watching the election; by the time we got back to the dorm it was only midnight or so, but I was in no state to get any meaningful work done.

Why do I create these situations for myself? I seem to remember an analogy from a conversation over the summer about seeing how far I can lean over a cliff without falling.

I think I leaned a little too far this time. I dropped the ball on the Spanish essay. Prof. Flori handed it back today and I actually did pretty well and can revise it for a better grade, but it felt pretty crappy and totally last-minute to me. But aside from that, by Friday afternoon, when I slid my Old Testament prospectus under Kugler's office door and high-tailed it the hell out of there, I felt pretty good. I was ready to chalk up the week's score the way Clay did for his finals last semester: Jessica 4, Lewis & Clark 1.

Except, not quite. Today after IA, Cortell asked if he could talk with me.

"How did you feel about Friday's exam?" he asked as we walked from Miller to his office in the Albany Quadrangle.

"Oh, I thought I did pretty well," I said.

"Hmmmm."

Fuck.

"Did I do poorly?" I asked.

"Well..."

It turns out that I got about a B minus, which is not horrible but definitely not great. It's not an acceptable standard of work if I'm going to, you know, keep my scholarship and prevent all hell from breaking loose. Cortell was concerned that since it was such a drop from my midterm grade, something may have been wrong. He's a great professor, and the only thing that was wrong was that I didn't study as much as I should have. I kind of felt like crying just a little bit.

In conclusion: college is hard. I need to study more, work more swiftly, and procrastinate less.

In happier news, today in Old Testament Kugler called Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law in the Book of Ruth, a "poophead." I love that man.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Not to beat a dead horse or anything...

I want to explain the isolation I talked about in my last post. Thomas Friedman (who seems like an interesting character--liberal, but he supported the Iraq war) had a wonderful editorial in yesterday's New York Times titled "Two Nations Under God" that speaks to the isolation I was talking about yesterday. He writes:

...whatever differences I felt with the elder Bush were over what was the right policy. There was much he ultimately did that I ended up admiring. And when George W. Bush was elected four years ago on a platform of compassionate conservatism, after running from the middle, I assumed the same would be true with him. (Wrong.) But what troubled me yesterday was my feeling that this election was tipped because of an outpouring of support for George Bush by people who don't just favor different policies than I do - they favor a whole different kind of America. We don't just disagree on what America should be doing; we disagree on what America is.

And that's really it. I really thought that I was more in line with the majority of Americans. It's so scary to me that the majority of Oregonians and probably the majority of Americans favor a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and preemptive war, and the war in Iraq. It makes me wonder, who are we as a people? And what's my place in that?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Oh, man.

Well. By now, you all know what happened.

Last night after watching the Daily Show with about 75 people in the Rusty Nail, Clay, Sarah, Riana and I went over to Landon's house to watch the returns come in. If you watched it, you know the Daily Show ended on a pretty depressing note, with Jon Stewart's description of a map of the electoral college: "There's...a lot of red. And some blue up in the corner, where I imagine we'll all be hiding out for the next four years...huddled in a circle...probably weeping." The 45 minutes it took us to find Landon's house (seriously. We all got some good exercise, at least) was kind of a nice respite, and I can't tell you how much I was hoping that we'd get there and Kerry would have jumped way ahead. But you all know how that turned out.

I think the saddest part of last night was late in the evening, when it was pretty clear that Bush was going to take it. Some guys brought out a bottle of champagne--purchased to celebrate Kerry's victory, no doubt--and we all drunkenly toasted four more years of Bush, and tax cuts for the wealthy, and the invasion of Iran, and the conservative takeover of the Supreme Court and the reversal of Roe v. Wade. It was a bittersweet moment. Actually, just bitter.

I've been crying off and on all day. I don't know. I really, really believed that Kerry was going to win, to an extent that I never realized until now. It's just...at least in 2000 we could say that the majority of the American people voted for Gore, and that Bush only won because of the antiquated electoral college. But now...over half of the people in the country who voted actually believe that Bush was the better candidate. I've never felt so isolated as an American, and especially as a young, non-rich American woman. I keep thinking about "my" migrant kids at the summer school, and what this will mean for them. You all know that I consider myself to be pretty patriotic, but with over half of the country voting for a candidate who will roll back gay and women's rights, and immigrant's rights, and progressive taxation, and will continue to pursue a foreign policy that isolates the country from the rest of the world...I don't know. I don't feel like I belong to this country anymore.

Some things I've been reading today: everything on Hissyfit, Universal Donor, Gwen's post, and the last letter in today's Vine on Tomato Nation. Because it's not over.

The one comfort through this has been, as Clay reminded me last night and Ryan reminded me today, I did everything I could. We registered at least 300 people on this campus, dozens for the first time. Multnomah county led the state in voter turnout, and it usually trails. And, you know, Oregon did go Kerry. At least I can say that I did everything I could.

It's just so fucking depressing that that wasn't enough.