Monday, January 28, 2008

The Best-Laid Plans

What is it that they say about the best-laid plans? Is there another half to that adage, or is it just the dismissive first and the rest is left to the imagination?
We got up to Sundance! It was a kind of last minute decision and there was much tramping about in the snow (it was soo cold, we almost lost Davis, and our faux-hawked friend waxed particularly snarky in regards to snow sports--"any sport where you have to wear that much clothing..." again left to the imagination) but we got some standbys and ended up in the very last showing of the festival. Cool.
We caught a collection of shorts. I like short films for a couple of reasons: first I think that they have the potential for pithy wit that short stories have. That is, there has to be an interesting turn at some point, but it has to be subtle because you only have 20 minutes to develop it but it has to be interesting or it's just a commercial. I think that it's a delicate balance, and that when it's struck, brilliance ensues. Second, it's interesting to see how people handle character development in such a confined space (really an extension of the first point). Third, if it's trash, it's over in a minute.
Some highlights: The first short was set in the Katrina-ravaged South. A man hires two others (who are in straights financially) to gut his house. He screws them over repeatedly, the two guys end up resorting to violence. The climax shot is the trailer the guy lives in with his wife, and you can hear the sounds of struggle and screaming which continues as the two guys run away. The final shot--the guys shuffling home, the main one just crying. It was unsettling, in a good way (I think): it was an interesting exploration of the things that could lead a person to violence. It might have excused it--and that's what I'm chewing on right now, was that ok? But what do you do when you're trying your best to get by and the infrastructure isn't working for you and you're trying your best to do good but you are cut off at every turn? What's left to do?
Also, Dennis. The story of a socially dysfunctional body-builder. Dennis calls a girl to go out to dinner, we meet his overprotective mom who tries to guilt him into not going, he goes anyway, the girl ends up convincing him to drink a little and they're dancing at a friends' house. He runs (rides his bike) home where his mom guilts him for going and drinking. Last scene: he asks his mom if he can sleep in her bed. She says yes and "you remind me so much of your father" (Amanda: Freud just wet his coffin). And I usually don't dig the painfully awkward thing, and this was painfully awkward. There's a moment where the girl is dancing with him and all the pain and distance of the human experience is there: not being able to connect with people, being judged on just one aspect of yourself, manipulation and control. In it's simplicity of theme it was really universal-feeling.
There were a couple other that were good, and a couple that were just awful (so much so that Faux-hawk did all she could to engage me in conversation to distract) and kind of gratuitously so.

So a thought. I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about people who have made really bad decisions. The shorts program was an interesting culmination of it. I've also spent the last couple of weeks with Cormac McCarthy who spends a lot of time with characters who have made so many bad decisions (murder, incest, necrophilia) that it's a challenge to relate to them. What McCarthy does really well, though, is invite you into their lives to see their side of the story.
I like this in theory. In theory it seems like working to relate to people who are different than you would be a great exercise in empathy. But in delving into the ambiguities that define the worlds of these characters I find myself in this darker place than I'm fully comfortable. McCarthy's Child of God, for instance, follows Lester through trauma, to social ineptitude to necrophilia to serial murder+necrophilia. McCarthy challenges his audience with the question is Lester a child of God? He asks us to see him completely, to relate to him, and to see then if we feel comfortable judging. And I don't. I think the strength of McCarthy's characters is attested to by the fact that they're bad'ns, but still human and loveable. Back to my point, though, in delving into the challenges of these characters I become acutely aware of my own shortcomings. And not in a positive way either. I guess the point is this: I feel drawn down by all of this ambiguity-surfing and I'm not sure why that is or what it says. Do I stop thinking about the exceptions to the rule? Do I write myself off as a softy and give up McCarthy?
Phil said something about being a relating reader versus being a resisting reader--and is that the issue here? I take these things too much to heart and I should put some distance between myself and the things I'm encountering? A sorting of ideas.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Last one today: on chivalry

Boswell opening a jug of apple juice because I couldn't.
My neighbor offering to run my garbage can across the street to catch the garbage truck and when we didn't catch it taking it back to my house so I wouldn't have to.
The guy at the gas station tonight opening the door for me.

Sometimes men doing nice things inexplicably makes my day. (When women do it it also makes my day. Why do I compulsively feel the need to make this gender-equal? Meh.) Anyway. Thanks you guys.

A note on the weather

It is snowing like some ice volcano exploded and the ice-ash is drifting incessantly. It's cold enough that snow is drifting, not melting or ice packing, but drifting like sand. It reminds me of the corioliss wind, from Dune (completely a nerd), which on the desert planet of Dune eats flesh from bone in windstorms. It's windy and snowing like that.

Good Will Hunting

The first time I watched this film was long ago and outside and it was edited. Last night none of those things were true and I really loved it. I want to rip it apart and point to manipulations of all sorts, but mostly it just made me want to be a better and more understanding and more brilliant person and to love more.
Specifically this: every movie should have a car scene. That scene that's filtered blue because it's dawn and everyone is quiet and looking out the window and the camera cuts from friend to friend to friend--maybe one is asleep or something--and Eliot Smith is playing in the background. Every movie should have one of these because there's something so calm about that pre-day quiet and so intimate about sharing a car together and not talking at all. And even though it's intimate, everyone is alone still. And I think that is captured really perfectly on film--the together but alone, and you don't get into anybody else's head overmuch, and the beauty of the light and quiet. And maybe instead of every movie having one so it gets to be a cliche, the movies that do have them should be awarded a medal of some sort and/or a special place on my shelf.
Death Cab gets extra points for writing a song about it.

Also: what happened to Matt Damon and Ben Affleck? Remember that Oscar's night and they cleaned up and were the hottest thing in Hollywood? They took their moms? What happened? Is this selling out? I think that Damon has done some pretty good stuff: the Bourne series was fun and he was good in Ocean's. Affleck was good as Jack Ryan, no? once? I think that all that's left for him, though, is to train his voice into resonant and stately and grow up to be Alec Baldwin--who is the only other actor I know of who compares for greasiness and for Jack Ryan-ness.
But I would've liked to believe in these kids. In young talent that does great things and grows into something greater.

Driving a red-orange car into the red-orange sunset.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Today I was walking home from school with Stella the ipod. I was all bundled and cold and my backpack was heavy, but I'm so content with my life right now. So I was happy. As I was passing behind the indoor tennis courts Valenica by the Decemberists comes on and suddenly I was pulled back from the frigid winter to the first week of last fall semester. Also walking home, though then it was oppressively hot and I was not as optimistic about my just-beginning semester and I was in love with a boy who I'd been very unfair to and wasn't sure how it was going to end. Valencia though, Valencia pulled me out of my funk and I waited for the lights to change and basked in the heat and exhaust and danced a little in my head. The Decemberists which he gave me actually with a warning: you will love them or hate them. Then Sons and Daughters which was icing on the cake and left me overbrimming with hope.

The stickiness of songs. Last winter it was Penelope by Pinback. I was walking from my interview with Penny my boss. She'd told me that I was getting a promotion and a raise and I loved my classes and almost almost over another boy and I was walking down the stairs in the atrium and Penelope was perfect.

This summer: The whole of Negotiations and Love Songs. Riding my bike to campus from Orem
Italy: St. Judy's Comet, the Cinque Terra on the first night in a sweeet hotel upgrade; Sink to the Bottom, Lucca walking frantically to a loud and trendy internet cafe (Amanda was sleeping on the grassy top of the medieval wall);
3rd Grade basement: Bohemian Rhapsody and Save the Best for Last (Vanessa Williams) :)
9th Grade: Going the Distance, first assembly
10th Grade: Truly, Madly, Deeply; Jason Fuller
Sophomore year: The Bends at 3 am
Winter '03: Amy Mann, The Bends, reading until I was nauseated on a wicker chair in an overheated basement
Paris: Hail to the Thief in my hostel bed
Junior year: Beulah, washing dishes or walking home in the dark
Ajapniak: Breath of Heaven, lying in bed on a P-day--turning point #1
Summer '06: Californication. Really just the Chili Peppers in general (though Roadtripping was Micah from the summer of my Freshman year and Under the Bridge is 3rd grade basement)
Christmas '06-7: Lina's mix, riding up 9th east on her bike (to check proofs)


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sunday Dinner

Manicotti (ricotta, parmesean, mozzerella, fresh parsley, dried crushed basil, garlic, finely diced tomato, spinach, salt and pepper, olive oil), salad (lettuce, spinach, apple, grapefruit, parsley, candied walnuts), garlic bread (french bread with butter, garlic, basil, salt and cheese), and Skoticus brought brownie trifle for dessert which was soo delish. ke

Friday, January 11, 2008

On Carillons

Funny story: my little sister hates organ music. She thinks there's something markedly demonic about it and refuses to listen to the 8pm (or is it 9?) organ program Sundays on KBYU. I can see where she's coming from, but I think there are brilliant moments of organ ecstasy. Like that song they play in Babe, you know? Fantastic on the organ.
I, though, have similar aversion to the carillon. I think that theoretically it's a great idea--a bell tower hooked up to a keyboard?! Music ringing for miles? Could you go wrong? But instead of taking advantage of the clarity and resonance of the bells (at least here on campus this is the issue), is seems that all the numbers are these overwhelmingly baroque arrangements, the melody lost in a muddle of accompaniment. Instead of getting the cascading rush of sound (a la Mac Wilberg and that is lovely) you get mud-colored, minor, and demonic maybe. A thought.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Were the first words out of my mouth this morning. I exclaimed in response to the 6 inches of snow that had fallen in the night (that is still falling...we may never leave this place), but I'm blaming Matt. No one else I know (except for maybe my roommate C when she's feeling very sassy) can use this expletive with any success and here is academic nerd-faced me trying to pull it off. Not succeeding which is ok because I was in my pajamas bleary eyed and bed-headed and only C heard me. I resent this intrusion of your voice into my head Matt, though it fit the moment perfectly. Matt's goal in life (as of yesterday) is to be one of those people that you think only exist on tv shows. I think he's a good 70% of the way there.

And complete subject change, my goal(s) in life: 1. Date an Italian girl. The story behind goal number 1 goes like this. My roommate L is amazing. She brought Sarah, a friend's girlfriend who had newly moved from Italy (she's from Sicily originally but had been working in the north) and is starting school at the ELC with her back from Arizona. Sarah can't get into her house Sunday night so ends up staying a couple of days with us which is perfect L (she also insisted Sarah get reassigned contracts because they didn't like the apartment they found themselves in) and perfect us and we never go too long without someone sleeping in our basement. Anyway, my goal might just be to date Sarah, but she's sweet and dresses in black and she answered a phone call from her boyfriend with a joyous "Amore!" Who would not want to date this? Adorable.

2. Become Brandie Siegfried. These are a few of the reasons. a) she's one of those teachers who talks soo fast and has soo many good and interesting things to say that you can't zone out and instead feel like you're riding this whitewater of information that leaves you thrilled and also mildly nauseated. I love these teachers more every semester and I love the numb-brain afterglow and that's that.
b) I saw her running up Provo canyon last summer and she does triathalons.
c) She seems genuinely thrilled with her life, which is a life of constant learning. Her husband is working on PhD #2, and she'll go back too if she can and part of me thinks that there's something to leaving the university and pursuing real life, but the other part thinks that this life is as real as any other and there's a lot to learn.
d) Dr. Siegfried's take on education and its ethic imperatives. From what I gather, the issue is that knowing things obliges you to share them, which blooms out to a more general implication: we learn so we can teach. And the pursuit of knowledge in order to share it is a goal in and of itself. Later I will articulate this better. It made all the world shine gold though for like 3 hours yesterday. Blink and sigh. ke

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Turned 25. So this is what this is like. The day itself was really great: filled with friends and family and an abundance of baked goods.
Unexpected side effect: a quiet and lovely feeling of empowerment. I'm an adult. I can do whatever the hell I'd like. Including swearing in my blog post even though I know my mom is following (sorry Mom). Including tossing the safe bet and going for my PhD, including teaching a very fine high school class and taking a really fat load this semester and getting married only if I feel like it and when I feel like it and becoming Brandie Siegfried potentially in answer to my most fond dreams and working toward "adulthood" any way that I deem fit thank you very much.
I could get used to this.

Friday, January 4, 2008

A Note on Politics.

Mike Huckabee? Really? I'm not 100% for Romney yet, and I'm really happy that Obama got the Democrat's vote, but Huckabee?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Christmas TV Binge

So I don't have cable at my house. Also, I'm not great at making time for sitting during the semester--and I don't mean this in a "my mom only lets me watch documentaries" kind of way, I just never have made time for TV really so now it's hard to find time? You know how time expands that way? Anyway. Christmas break is when I catch up. My TV shows this break have been Pushing Daisies, finally, and 30 Rock, even more finally--my brother-in-law has been pushing this show since its inception.
Pushing Daisies is adorable. To be critical and intellectual for just a sec: I think this and Dead Like Me (who was created by Brian Fuller too) probably say something about something, about us searching for meaning in a secular world or showing our discontent with traditional explanations of life-after-death or discontent with the explanation that there is no life after death. On a less critical level, it's a really cute show. I think it's clever and funny. The dialog is spry and cleverly written, the premise is ridiculous (a man who bakes pies can bring people back from the dead but only for a minute or someone else dies and if he touches them a second time they're dead forever), but is pulled off marvelously. I also really like the design: colorful and quirky. I'm not in love with the CI stuff, but whatev. The casting is really interesting too. Lee Pearce, the hero, is the kind of normal looking skinny guy (normal leaning toward adorable) who aces the "I can bring people back from the dead but it's not that big a deal really" understatement that is the essential ingredient in making this and Dead Like Me believable in any measure. And Anna Friel plays a great free spirited (red-haired) counterpoint to Pearce's hair pulling nervousness. Meh meh generalities, mostly positive, it was good. But question: is there not an overabundance of cleavage? The premise preempts any sex between the main characters which is really nice, but I think they might be making up for it with a lot of low-cut/unzippered outfits/mermaid costumes.
For 30 Rock I also give some thumbs up. Like I said, my brother-in-law loves the show and I've been meaning to watch would only watch a part of an episode and I was done. I guess what I'd like to say it this: it gets better with every episode. I love Tina Fey and her obvious poking fun at herself, Tracy Morgan is kind of over-the-top, but that's the point, and Alec Baldwin is soo good at being smarmy and disconnected. The real strength is this, I think: it's fast paced and sharp, but manages too to get at the characters' humanity which is the thing that gets me coming back. It's a good balance. Go TV binge!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy 2008!

I like New Year's. I like the new beginnings part of it and I like the party part of it and I like the burning-things part of it, which doesn't always happen but, let's admit it, is always a good idea. Last night I had one of the coziest and best New Year's celebrations in memory. Because as good as it should be, New Year's can really bite. With such high expectations, it often falls flat.
I hung out with Amanda and KFish and Matt and friends at Cheers. We played cards and mostly speed scrabble and may or may not have scandalized my other friend who just got back from her mission. Which was delightful of course. We bantered and talked about the Word of Wisdom's evolving role at BYU and other nonsense.
Midnight found us outside with a small but potent collection of fireworks which ended too soon for our tastes and so we burned their shells and boxes and then finally the lighters that weren't working. The scene was this: Matt (I think) dropping a lighter onto the tiny flames and us all running frantic from the epicenter in case of flying plastic/20-foot fireball (I've heard stories from boy scout camp and didn't want to lose any body parts). It didn't work the first time, so we got some paper and another box of matches and built the fire up teepee style and dropped the lighter and ran again. Whoosh. It was a lovely and surprisingly satisfying 2-foot little fireball. Delightful.
Then we popped in Jane Eyre, party animals that we are. The cover copy promised heaving bodices, but there were few to be found (5 I think we counted) Matt lasted about an hour, Katherine two. Amanda and I were in for the long haul and went all four hours and then set about pulling the film apart. I never liked the novel (I'm more of a Wuthering Heights girl myself, and had just read Fountainhead when I approached it the first time) and the story itself is just kind of problematic--he has to break and she has to become perfect for them to work. Ick. But then, and this was really the highlight of the evening, Amanda and I had this great conversation. Highlights (for me):
1. The rules that we have for ourselves (read the scriptures everyday, go to church, the word of wisdom) are much less essential than we like to think. I think of them as these tiny projects that Heavenly Father gives us to help toward our salvation. Just because they're tiny compared with his enormous grace doesn't mean they're unimportant, they matter, but only because they are projects that we can handle. I think Heavenly Father sees us as tiny kids, right, and just like toddlers imagine that they know everything that the adults they hang out with because they can't comprehend the difference, and just like we are so glad for every new word and button buttoned, and just like we don't get mad at them for spilling juice or whatever because their fingers are so fat, Heavenly Father is infinitely patient with us and proud. So he gives us small duties that prove us and as we get more responsible he gives us more.
2. What we choose to do with our lives, profession-wise, is secondary to what how we choose to live our lives. If we seek always to do good, we can do that anywhere, in any profession. The key isn't making only right decisions but consecrating our efforts.
3. The precepts of the gospel are very rarely black-and-white. We'll be judged according to what we know/believe, and that varies a lot even within families and definitely within the church. The implications of this for me are a) we don't have to judge. We shouldn't. Everyone is getting truth at their own pace and doing their own thing. b) Church meetings are not a matter of teaching right from wrong, but of inspiring people to live up to what they know and to expand their vision of the gospel. c) We obey and seek to understand more and better and to share the gospel because the better we do it, the more happy we are here and now. We try and help each other understand to help them be more happy. So the gospel should be shared through love and a humble offering of happiness. Never through pride or force (which I have done myself and am not proud of).
What a brilliant way to start the new year: with a new understanding and new motivation and that deep satisfaction that come from understanding divinity and coming closer to it.
Happy New Year All! ke