Monday, August 6, 2007

Genuis 'round the world stands hand in hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole circle 'round

I've been reading a lot of Hunter S. Thompson lately. I'll admit I had nothing more than a passing familiarity going into it. To me he was simply a paranoid sociopath, wandering around in a drug-induced stupor, absolutely wreaking havoc in the City of Sin. Or at least that was how he was portrayed in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. A movie, coincidentally (or so I thought), made by one of my favorite directors, Terry Gilliam.

When it comes to pop culture, I tend to shy away from bombastic, in-your-face displays of outrageousness. A whisper gets the point across more powerfully than a full-throated yell. I've never really bought into the whole "are you shocked because you should be, or because of the close-minded culture into which you have been indoctrinated since birth" argument. Maybe it's not really an "argument", but what would you call it? "Genre"? How about simply "thing"? The Fight Club mentality (not so much in reference to the book/movie, but more to the groups of idiots who popped up in their wake actually beating the shit out of each other for fun). So anyway, I laughed superficially at F & L in LV (the movie incarnation) and never got around to reading the book, thinking it wasn't my cup of tea.

Gilliam's movies all share certain themes. They are all about the fine line separating reality from fantasy. What's real and what's not? And how do we know? Can we believe in something so much that the truth becomes irrelevant? Often these themes are coupled with questions into the sanity of the characters. Is reality (and thus sanity) absolute or simply a matter of perception? Watching F & L in LV, I wondered whether the man-eating lizards and demoniacal freakouts were real, imagined or somewhere in between, but pretty much left it at that.

Upon reading the book, however, it's not about outrageous behavior and sanity. It's about Las Vegas itself, to be sure. But also about the drug culture, the impetus behind it and society's misplaced and ill-timed reaction to it. It's about class and social status. And all the while it is hilarious and effortlessly written. The themes from Gilliam's work are still there, it is unclear what is real and what isn't, but this is really not the point. There is a fine line between what's real and what isn't. And sanity is a matter of perspective. But only to a point. There is also an underlying truth that comes through, thanks in part to the juxtaposition of the good doctor's extreme behavior with everyone else's. Thompson uses similar techniques in some articles, like "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved," but he's not a one trick pony. His articles lacking these drug-addled shenanigans are just as effective.

The one constant is that he cared about what he wrote. Maybe he was a bit out there, but he was passionate about life and he was passionate about writing. He didn't just write to meet a page limit or make a buck. He wrote about what he cared about. His style is efficient, almost elegant in its simplicity, yet his is a unique voice. He's a journalist, writing accurately and passionately about the world around him, yet he can do so with effortlessly flowing prose that is almost too fantastical to believe.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Funk-Busting 101

My most recent marathon was the Rock 'n Roll in San Diego in early June. Normally after a marathon there is a two or three week period where I cut the mileage way back, let my body recuperate, and after a couple of weeks I am raring to go again. Not this time. I am burned out.

The way it usually works is I put on my running gear after I get in from work/school/whatever and just take off. I've been looking forward to it all day, just getting away for an hour or so, and it takes little to no effort to get going. That's not to say there aren't bad days, because there definitely are. The legs feel heavy, the weather isn't pretty, and for whatever reason, I'm not really looking forward to it. But I throw on my shorts and shoes, head out the door, and within a mile or two all is well. I'm in the zone, nice and relaxed, chewing up the miles.

But lately, it just hasn't been working for me. I dread running from the moment I lace up my shoes. Once out on the road, every step I take is a struggle. I've tried taking a couple of days off, but end up feeling even more miserable not running.

I've been in funks like this before, and eventually work my way out of them using one of several methods:

The old standby is simply changing the route, but I don't have many options where I am right now.

There's also the spontaneous running trick: do every run on the spur of the moment, unplanned in terms of time and length. This works on off days and weekends, but is kinda difficult to pull off when working regular hours.

Short runs twice a day can help break up the monotony, but require getting up earlier than I care to during the summer.

So I guess I'll just keep sucking it up until it eventually goes away. Once school gets going again, I'm sure I'll snap out of it, my after school runs 1L year being what really pushed me over the edge and made me the psycho runner that I am. But until then, I guess I'll just have to grin and bear it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

If you build it...

The idea of hard manual labor has always appealed to me. I guess I just like doing stuff. Meaning I like to be active, have something to keep me occupied. Like a project. Or maybe it's my subconscious rebelling against the soft academic life I lead. All I know is that I have always wanted to spend a summer exerting myself, getting my hands dirty. Roofing was always the ideal, for some reason. Not sure why. Anyway, I realized a few weeks ago that this is the last summer I would ever really have a chance to do that, at least until my student loans are paid off.

So I'm currently rebuilding the deck on my parents' house, and boy howdy is it a bitch. The idea was to leave the current superstructure unaltered and simply rip up the old floorboards and steps and replace them. Sounds simple enough. Unfortunately, the original builders did everything in their power to make my job more difficult. Nails were driven in so crookedly and haphazardly that I can only assume they were cross-eyed. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not a quality that lends itself to driving nails in straight. The slanted nails wouldn't be so bad if they hadn't been used with such fetishistic determination. The rust doesn't help, either. I've snapped the heads off two hammers prying out bent rusty nails, and I don't even have half the floor up. And as if all that wasn't trouble enough, turns out a 2 x 10 today is about an eighth of an inch wider than a 2 x 10 in 1985. Who knew?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Taking the plunge...

So a few weeks ago my sister showed me the blog she's been writing this summer, and I mocked her mercilessly, if not to her face then at least in my head. Then I became jealous. It seems that when I wasn't looking, she snuck up on me and jerked the nerd mantle clean off my shoulders. At some point I got complacent in my nerdishness. Eased off on the video games. Migrated away from the sci-fi section at Barnes and Noble. So I decided to concentrate this summer on reclaiming my throne. Three seasons of Battlestar Galactica, a few evenings with Isaac Asimov and one Transformers opening night later, by my calculations, I am roughly one blog away from nerdom once more.

Once the decision was made, it didn't take much to get started. All I needed was a name. A name. A word or phrase that screams me. The first thing anyone reading this will see. And judge me by. I came up with some clever ideas, if I do say so myself. Puns, literary allusions, song lyrics and the like. Problem was, none of them really struck my fancy. So I settled on this one. Not that I am in love with it, but it cuts to the chase. I read a lot. I run a lot. So there you have it. No riddles, no deep personal insights, no social commentary.

And no it's not some odd attempt at a Beatles reference.


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