Monday, January 30, 2006

Local Man Rejects Ishtar, Embraces High School Chemistry

Being an all-purpose tutor to a high school student is bewildering and wildly entertaining.
Behold the two things I wrestled with today: the wild man of the woods and Mass-Mass conversions. It is a really strange boost to your confidence to remember that it was Gilgamesh's rejection of Ishtar's advances that sent her running to her daddy to unleash the Bull of the Heavens. It also makes your heart swell with pride (or is that just fluid from an infection of the pericardium?) to know that you, for some strange reason, remember the atomic mass of ANYTHING AT ALL. When was chemistry class again? Freshman year at Edison? 1995-96? Requiescat in Pace, Davenport.

Now, I must move on to my ongoing war on the Master's paper: the struggle to prove that I, too, might one day be known as someone who knows some shit about Keats.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Most Meticulously Clean Amusement Park on Earth...

I took McKenzie to Disneyland for her birthday, yesterday. Of course, it was more like she took me because she had been there before, and I hadn't. She ran our excursion with the precision of a military campaign. The following is the list of everything I experienced at Disneyland, and my observations about their comparative merits. This is the Tall Nerd(tm) 's guide to Walt's dream:
Main Street, USA:
1. Disneyland Railroad: 3 bruised knees (out of five). The DRR is relatively comfortable as attractions go. It moves at a stately 20 minutes per lap of the park proper and is recommended for those with weary feet. Things to avoid: asshole acting student at UCI lamenting his few "leading roles" and telling you what the best song in Singin' in the Rain really is. Things to see: T Rex's kingly, unbending knees in the Primeval World; Porcupine in a tree for no good reason on the rim of the Grand Canyon.
2. Refreshment corner: 2 bruised knees. Quite the spacious store. Hosted by Coca-Cola, refreshment corner sells such essentials as Hot dogs, Chili and Cold Coke. Things to avoid: telling the woman behind the counter that she looks exactly like the woman that runs the Penny Arcade. Things to see: blissful looks on guests faces as they begin eating approximately 100 feet into park.

New Orleans Square:
1. Haunted Mansion: 3 bruised knees. The walk up to the Mansion was comfortable, as is the opening elevator ride to the main attraction. Things to avoid: avoid trying to concentrate on the narrative poetry--the sound is awful and it will diminish your enjoyment of the lushly designed interior. Things to see: Giant pumpkinheaded angels blowing the cruel horns of blackest hell; tasteful Edwardian costumes.
2. Pirates of the Caribbean: 1 bruised knee. Physically as comfortable as Disney rides get. Things to avoid: Having friends tell you that the pirates at one time chased the women when they weren't holding plates of food; 1960s documentary about Pirates of the Caribbean; having teenage jackasses in back of boat force ride control to stop the ride twice while climbing into other sections of boat and shouting at the people trying to dine in the Blue Bayou restaurant. Things to see: The amazingly realistic facial expression of the pirate drinking and leaning over the bridge above you.
3. Blue Bayou Restaurant: 0 bruised knees. Downright luxurious after cramming yourself into rides meant for the pygmy white-collar class of the 1950s and 1960s all day. Things to avoid: The pork loin is dry, but savory. Things to see: all three of the black employees that seemed to be working that day were waiters in the Blue Bayou; the neat fake bayou horizon and fake fireflies (of which most Californians have never seen the living counterparts).

1. Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road: 4 bruised knees. Plain uncomfortable. Things to avoid: waiting in line behind borderline retarded choir groups that participated in Weltjugentag 2005. Things to see: Three solid feet of piled specie in the well; projected cave-in effect; animatronic goat calmly chewing on stick of dynamite.
2. Tom Sawyer Island: 0 bruised knees. There are no rides here. Consequently, your knees, feet and shins are safe. Fake rock overhangs will threaten your brainmeats, however. Things to avoid: Trying to pull concrete plugs out of holes; looking directly into aperture of laser disguised as bird house under Tom's treehouse due to danger of cancer-causing doses of radiation; trying to get into Fort Wilderness. Things to see: Look on "Indian Guides" faces as they try to explain yet again to fat middle-aged people on Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes that "If [they] don't row, [they] don't go. There are no rails or pulleys."
3. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 4 bruised knees. This ride was made with small people in mind. Things to avoid: Snarling at people that are forever smiling. Things to see: the Heffalumps and Woozles nightmare room puts all the other art design for the entire park to shame; dead-on lifesize pvc sculpts of Winnie and Friends under black lights.

1. Indiana Jones Adventure: 0 bruised knees. One comfort caveat, however, is that you should not, under any circumstances, actually tighten your seat belt when they tell you to. This ride drops and jolts and turns so quickly that you will experience acute intestinal stress from the pressure your tall body exerts on your nylon safety strap. Things to avoid: screaming like a girl in the delicate bloom of toddlerific youth as cleverly concealed blowguns pelt you will concentrated puffs of harmless air about the face, neck, and groin. Things to see: walk up to ride surprisingly richly conceived and executed; The skull's right eye--apparently the only non-simulated fire in the park.
2. Tarzan's Treehouse: 5 bruised knees. The level of discomfort you will experience during your visit to this attraction will depend upon the time of day you attempt this blatant excuse to call climbing stairs an attraction and the length of time you have been on your feet and or exhausting yourself in an attempt to have constant fun. Things to avoid: hitting head on numerous obstacles; climbing stairs; listening to people attempting to make music on the fake steel drums on the ground level. Things to see: Tree as a structure is actually a very compelling design showing the benefits of applied concrete sculpting.

Mickey's Toon Town:
1. Gadget's Go Coaster: 6 bruised knees (of five). Your femur length must be < or = 0 in order to ride. Things to avoid: Keeping arms, legs, hands, and feet inside car; trying to carry a backpack on board; riding two to a car. Things to see: cute little hand cranking gear to sharpen giant pencil; Gadget's sexy ass just almost falling out of that little blue jumpsuit.
2. Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin: 3 bruised knees. Things to avoid: having little kids doing something disturbingly like frottage to your calves as you wait in line. Things to see: the way Disney blatantly caters to the average fanboy by hiding Jessica Rabbit's smokin' form all over the park, usually amidst tastefully chaste characters from another, more sexually repressed time.

1. Alice in Wonderland: 4 bruised knees. Things to avoid: riding this one twice. Things to see: teeny little caterpillar shoes only visible from the ride as you pass outside and look down on people waiting in line.
2. Dumbo the Flying Elephant: 4 bruised knees. Things to avoid: physically shoving a small child out of the way so you can be the one to ride in the golden Dumbo. Things to see: that childlike glee can still be attained, no matter how black and twisted your thoughts become; the less than one-inch of clearance between Dumbo's belly and the hard concrete when you crank him to the lowest altitude the ride will permit.
3. Mad Tea Party: 5 bruised knees. This ride will thrill and physically exhaust you. Things to avoid: making the "I'm totally not drunk face" as you stagger out; spewing vomit in a copious and highly pressurized stream that would make something like the cycloid curve on a Cartesian axis. Things to see: the changing pallor of your companion's face as you use your bulk to continuously increase angular momentum for the entirety of the ride.
4. Matterhorn Bobsleds: 0 bruised knees (if alone). Things to avoid: punching in the face of young girl engaged in rapturous discussion of Disney Pin-trading with other season pass holders and her oddly-coiffed father; kicking in the head of said father as he calls someone on his cellphone from the ride. Things to see: cool snow-falling-in-the-night effect dating to the first years of the park; the abominable snow man.
5. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride: 5 bruised knees. Things to avoid: thinking about the pain required to ever ever ride this ride again; being a bad driver or disobeying the law. Things to see: the emerging moral pattern of the early Disneyland rides (i.e., bad driving and other forms of civil disobedience will lead directly to Hell--some Wild Ride!).
6. Peter Pan's Flight: 4 bruised knees. Things to avoid: being handicapped and an amusement park fan; being female or a savage. Things to see: extremely skillful scale shifts and modeling as your pirate ship leaves J.M. Barrie's London; Peter rescuing the stupid savages and hapless females tied to posts; people trying to make elegant transfers of basically inert children out of wheelchairs and into rides.
7. Pinocchio's Daring Journey: 4 bruised knees. Things to avoid: being wooden; being an actor; being a gypsy; playing pool; smoking; drinking; being a child. Things to see: the almost comical looks of fine-grained longing on the faces of the other wooden dolls as you pass through back into the real world after witnessing Pinocchio's apoanthropoesis.
8. Snow White's Scary Adventures: 4 bruised knees. Things to avoid: being a woman; being beautiful; wanting to be beautiful; being vain; eating red apples; being a dwarf; being struck by lightning. Things to see: the effect of the beautiful Evil Queen turning into the Hag; the neat glockenspiel-style Evil Queen who looks out at you from the second story of the ride.

1. Astro Orbitor: 0 bruised knees (if riding alone). Things to avoid: sticking your fingers in the exposed machinery; straining your back to reach for the lever that changes your attitude. Things to see: the darkening mists of paralyzing adult fears lifting from your eyes in the wake of all of this glee; all of Tomorrowland spinning wildly around you, alternating with Sleeping Beauty's Castle and the Matterhorn.
2. Autopia: 4 bruised knees. Things to avoid: paying one dollar to have your Autopia Driver's License personalized at the photo booth at the ride's exitl; waiting in line for what is essentially the Calvinist version of a go-cart track. Things to see: the amazing assortment of bad puns that is the jumbotron of Autopia; children slamming into the back of parked friends and siblings while repeatedly being told not to step on the gas; full-grown adults incapable of following the same instructions.
3. Buzz Light Year Astro Blasters: 3 bruised knees. Things to avoid: shooting the same target again and again; playing with someone who's never held a gun before; being colorblind. Things to see: the look on Zurg's face when you blow the ass out of his secret weapon...priceless.
4. Disneyland Monorail: 0 bruised knees. The Mark V is the latest installment of the first daily monorail transport system in the Western Hemisphere and, as such, is a testament to the ability of the American people to go to vast lengths to develop ways to entertain ourselves at amusement parks without actually causing innovation in other areas. Things to avoid: listening to the voice-over announcements in Spanish and English--just like every other ride. Things to see: the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo finally being honored; justification for the commands to keep arms, legs, hands, feet inside the vehicle at all times; the look on people's faces as they try to decipher the Spanish and realize that, yes, caballero does mean cowboy.
5. "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience!": o bruised knees. Things to avoid: seeing this presentation. Things to see: used diaper discarded in the middle of a row.
6. Innoventions: 0 bruised knees. Things to avoid: getting your hopes up. Things to see: the outside of the presentation room for Honda's Asimo robot with the following presentation times: "The Show Just Started," "Not for Another Three Hours," and "We Were Just Kidding about There Being a Robot Here."
7. Space Mountain: 3 bruised knees. Things to avoid: death by starvation while waiting in line; death by dehydration from waiting in line; just stepping into line without considering the people who would be queuing next to you. Things to see: the stylishly metal and futuristic trashcan on the floor of the platform that is not too futuristic for you to be able to figure out that it is a trashcan; photo number 3316, or, a picture of you and your companion with tears streaming down your face in the purest possible demonstration of happiness and concentration, respectively.
8. Starcade: 0 bruised knees. Things to avoid: the crushing uncertainty about the worthiness of all human endeavors that is represented by the existence of a Dance, Dance, Extreme machine; looking like that guy over there playing Initial D. Things to see: people ripping DDE a new one; people required to hold onto the bar and contort themselves around while playing DDE because gravity and the muscles of your legs are not enough to dance that quickly--you must push yourself continuously towards the floor in order to attain sufficient speed; people watching people playing video games with the same reverence they would give a fire-juggler.
9. Star Tours: 0 bruised knees. Things to avoid: being on the same ride as five highschool girls on acid, shrieking "I'm going to miss you!" at the poor middle-aged man in the bad toupee forced to wear that mechanic's flight suit to work every day; dwelling on the fact that that same toupeed man's holding up of the traditional Vulcan gesture of peace and prosperity while calmly saying "Nanu, Nanu" represents more ironic distance than you ever could have mustered in the face of the withering disdain of young, idiotic womanhood; trying to reconcile the ride's frame narrative with Canon, vis-a-vis what it suggests about the battle for Endor's moon.
10. Red Rockett's Pizza Port: 0 bruised knees. Things to avoid: eating there. Things to see: the number of people happily eating there without regard to the many better restaurants scattered throughout the park.
11. Club Buzz--Lightyear's (sic) Above the Rest: 0 bruised knees. Things to avoid: the band's cover of "Turning Japanese"; the band's cover of "Boys Don't Cry." Things to see: the band's cover of "She Sells Sanctuary"; the band's pastiche of costumes from the eighties.

1. Remember...Dreams Come True Fireworks Spectacular with Julie Andrews: 0 bruised knees. Things to avoid: standing, walking, and carrying a backpack for 10 hours; thinking about how insultingly white the music accompaniment is. Things to see: this display. Amazing.

So, in answer to the question that might or might not be fully explored that should be germinating in the back of your mind: yes, I did really do all of those things in one day. McKenzie's organizational skill and maniacal single-mindedness in the perhaps literal--in some cases--explication of the land called Disney resulted in not only all of these achievements, but also the possibility for more. We had two hours left before the fireworks began when all of these things (save the monorail) had been experienced. We could have done Splash Mountain and the Jungle Cruise as well. We could have ridden the Mark Twain. It was merely my obstinance that prevented transcendence.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


A letter one of my Junior Writing II students turned in as homework:

Dear E-n:

You are fat like a girl named Lilac. Thank you for being my friend. I will give your 6o cents back next week, I promise.