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October 1, 2004

October 2004 Archives

October 29, 2004
Heptathlete

In my anatomy class there is a PA student who is an All-American heptathlete. In addition to other honors, she has been nominated for the NCAA athlete of the year, which I find very impressive. The heptathlon consists of sprinting, distance running, jumping, and throwing, so when I see her I think to myself, “There’s one of the best all-around athletes in the country. And America is one of the most athletic [in terms of individuals, not on average] countries in the world. So really, she’s probably one of the most athletic people on the planet.” Or, to put it less accurately but more excitingly, on the human-superhuman continuum, she’s just barely human.
So, despite the fact that we’re the merest of acquaintances, sometimes I sit near her, because if there’s some kind of emergency (a tornado, a fire, a ninja attack) that requires near-superhuman levels of running, leaping, and/or throwing, I’ll just look to her for solutions. Maybe I’ll even be the one to come up with the: “Quick! Only you can reach the auxiliary power switch in time! Do you have your javelin? No? Then take mine!” Which makes anatomy class just a little more interesting.
I understand these fantasies are juvenile, and I indulge in them merely for the entertainment value and to keep excessive wisdom at bay, but it was kind of a let-down this morning to see her pedaling her bike to class, very slowly and cautiously.

Hey, we’re going to Decorah, IA this weekend for a wedding! Decorah is a significant site in the Aimee and Joel Magical Mystery Tour, as it is where we met, began dating, and where I eventually matriculated with something less than what was necessary to go to medical school. It is too easy for me to think about my college years with some regret, thinking of all I should have done. Not only is this self-indulgent, but it is also just plain wrong in that I’m happy with who I am, where I am, and who I am with, so why regret? We haven’t been back very much since I graduated in 1999 (Aimee transferred to the University of Minneapolis in ’98), so I’m looking forward to lots of epiphanies and whatnot. And, failing that, conviviality ‘round the hearth.
Posted by Joel at 09:12 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Comments
'...keep excessive wisdom at bay...' Ha! I like that =)

University of Minneapolis? Do you mean the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus, mayhaps?

Posted by: Dana at October 29, 2004 10:39 AM

Indeed I do, Dana. Which is where I went my freshman year. So, both Aimee and I have spent a year of college life falling in love with the Twin Cities.

Posted by: Joel at October 29, 2004 12:21 PM

What year(s)? Wait, have we been over this already? Hm...

Posted by: Dana at October 29, 2004 12:44 PM

October 26, 2004
Julius Caesar

Man, what a week. Six days ago we premiered the show at 10 in the morning for 500 high school students. While Aimee was called at 8:30 to warm up and get into costume, Joel had to demonstrate his ability to give somebody an abdominal exam and take a quiz on early development. At 9:20 he biked over to the theater, leapt into his costume, and... had about ten minutes to sit around before the show.

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During the next four days we had five more performances, with Joel's parents and grandmother attending Friday's, and Aimee's parents, sisters, and Joel's sister coming on Saturday. It was a full house with eight guests (counting Taffy, Molly and Doug's dog), but everyone found a fairly comfy place to sleep (aided by big meals and a few bottles of champagne).

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From the safety of the following week, Julius Caesar seems a hazy dream ... A short, wonderous fantasy that filled our opening days here in Vermillion with new ways of being. Thanks to Julius Caesar, Aimee will now proudly show others her Boogaloo and has learned the secrets of Highlights and Lowlights. Joel has learned a great way to read Shakespeare: circle the most important word in each line, while underlining the other stressed syllables. Together we have learned how to best concoct a gallon of fake blood, how to share a fair-faced makeup kit, and how to play the beyond clever Movie Game (although we'll concede that it is best played with more than one other person and with an interrogating lamp poised squarely in the challenger's face).

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Most importantly, though, this show has emphasized the role of art in life. It joins strangers for a beautiful fleeting moment on the sacred stage-land and captures a magic that is never again to be created in the same way. The presence of creativity in our lives is a vital force that rejuvinates the mind after a long day of molecular discussions and medication administration labs and cuts to the quick of our individuality and self-concept. Science and art are not mutually exclusive, but able to co-exist in healthy symbiosis.

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For,

How many Ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over,
In State unborne, and Accents yet unknowne?

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Thank you to all who participated, ye the doers and ye the viewers ... Be well, do good work, and we'll see you at Chalky's.

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Posted by Us at 04:38 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Comments
You guys are so cute I could vomit. You have an electronic journal...f*@#in science nerds. Love you guys, call me!

Posted by: Werner Christensen at October 26, 2004 06:37 PM

This is lovely! Your pictures are a great reminder of the fantastic blur of a week we just experienced. I am grateful every day of the serendipity that allowed us to meet, my kindred. Keep in touch, and again soon we shall eat, drink, and be...well...merry...and maybe also a little drunk. Be well, and don't be strangers.

Posted by: Kari at October 26, 2004 06:40 PM

You guys are great. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with you so that now I can read Joel's humorous anecdotes on daily Vermillion life. Outstanding. It's also great to see the pictures of everyone so that weeks later I can point out to people what we were all a part of. Except that my pointing will be joined with, "If you squint, you might be able to see my arm back in the distance. No. Look closer. Okay. Stop. Look at me. Imagine me in post-Apocalyptic semi-bondage gear holding a club. Okay. Put that image in the picture."

Best to you both. Hope to bump into you around here somewhere sometime soon.

Posted by: Andy at October 26, 2004 06:54 PM

I am so glad I met you guys! You two are super fun!

Posted by: Abby Meyer at October 26, 2004 09:03 PM

As Kari so eloquently put it; Eat, drink, be merry, but most of all drink and be merry. I look forward to our many drunken exploits down at the bars and a possible entertaining wine night or two. It was great being in the show with you. It means a lot to me and I hope a few other theatre folks to share what we so love to do with people who can enjoy it as much as we do.

Give me a call or shoot me an e-mail anytime.

Posted by: Joie Bauer at October 27, 2004 12:18 AM

Sigh... Oregon misses you guys!

Posted by: Lisa at October 27, 2004 09:59 AM
Ah...yes. We shall definitely have to play some board games with you two. I will try not to break anything. As long as Jesse doesn't get to mix me any more martinis, I think we'd be ok. ;) Maybe I should stick to the wine. In plastic cups.

Posted by: Kari at October 28, 2004 10:37 AM


October 21, 2004
Us vs. Them

In biochemistry we’re studying how DNA and RNA work to create proteins for our cells. Our lecturer on these topics is clearly a good scientist and a passionate teacher. He is also a microbiologist, and his lectures tend to lean in that direction. Which is good, as there are lots of importantreasons to study how bacteria function. Many of their mechanisms are like ours, understanding how they work leads to our (decreasing) ability to control them, and, probably most importantly, we just understand them better than we understand ourselves.

Our microbiologist explained this ease of knowledge that we have for bacteria with glowing praise for bacterial simplicity and efficiency. Invariably, when it came time to compare bacteria with how our cells function, our complicated structure was disparaged. The first few times this happened, I diligently noted things like “Eukaryotic mechanism [that’s our cells] = ‘bells and whistles,’” or “In bacteria, one protein does all work that these three proteins do in us = streamlined.” But as the lectures continued (and there were four of them over three days), I gradually took the point: This guy loves his bacteria. He had some of the quality that Kurtz gained as, looking into the darkness of the Congo, that same darkness draped over his heart. What began as a necessary body of knowledge for his work has become a true passion for this professor, and when he spoke of bacteria it smacked of the servant speaking of his master’s grandeur.

Of course, he is a university professor doing a lot of research. One of the primary jobs of these professors is to win grant awards and gain tenure. To do this, they must continually justify their work. This can lead to some bitter competition between/among groups of researchers who are subject to funding from the same pool, as all of our basic biomedical scientists are, so they are prone to elevating their subjects and disparaging others.

Somebody brilliant once said something like (and it sounds like George B. Shaw): disagreements between academics are so passionate because the stakes are so low. But in the case of these biomed researchers, the stakes are actually quite high in terms of human life/death/suffering. Here at USD we have some of that notorious stem-cell research going on that you’ve heard so much about, which could eventually either reveal the secret to earthly immortality or cause blood to rain from the sky. (I should note that I have no direct knowledge of human embryonal stem-cell research occurring.) My academic advisor is working to show that something as odiously common as stress is involved in congenital heart defects, susceptibility to depression, and neural death. Already in her short nursing career Aimee is working with a patient with an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection. Until we develop a new form of antibiotic, his infection can only be contained, not cured. My lecturer is involved in stretching out what is becoming a calamitous losing battle against such resistant bacterial strains.

On a personal level, I’m looking to get involved in some research, and all these areas of are open to me. What am I interested in working with, bacteria or mammals? Our bacteriophilic professor stares into the dark jungle of the microscopic world because, for him, that jungle is the greatest threat to our world. Other scientists prefer to look directly into our own bodies for answers.

My small discussion group for biochemistry was gently deriding our lecturer recently (names have been changed for humorous effect):
Slappy: It’s like he’s bent over his cauldron of bugs and gloating, “My preciousses! You are so wonderful!”
Carl: And, really, look at what we’ve got compared to them! Lookit [clicks his pen in and out]: opposable thumbs!
Joel: Of course, the bacteria are… you know, kind of the dominant form of life on earth.
Carl: Only in terms of numbers!
Slappy: Well… I think in terms of biomass, too.
Joel: And… um, their ability to wipe us out some day.
In the silence that followed, with our elegant opposable thumbs, we nervously clicked our pens.
Posted by Joel at 01:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Comments
I share your professor's affinity for microbes!
In college, I loved microbiology labs--something about watching a small cloudy streak of liquid on an agar plate turn into a lush bacterial carpet in a matter of 24 hours truly amazes me. I also really like the physical work involved in culturing bacteria. Aseptic technique is soothing to me--it seems to provide just the right amount of mental and physical stimulation to keep me interested. You have to pay attention to what you're doing or you'll f--- it up, but at the same time, it's not exhausting or taxing. I think it would be great fun to work with ab resistant bacterial strains for a summer. Real science, relevant, and VERY important.

Posted by: mac at October 22, 2004 06:15 PM

Yeah, being that meticulous is a challenge for me. In undergrad (where, the theme seems to be, I was a big stupid jerk) micro class we received an "unknown" bug and, after culturing it, had to do a series of tests and discover it.
It sounds like a fascinating exercise to me now, but at the time I was lazy. My neglected bug was quickly taken over by a fungus, which was itself taken over by a family of moose. And when I submitted "moose" (Alces alces!) as my answer: zero points.

Posted by: Joel at October 23, 2004 07:52 AM

Mac - you could always practice asceptic technique at home for its soothing effects.

and Joel, such fond memories of taxonomy you bring up - alces alces is one of our favs. Perhaps I could do a blog on this and then not only could I compose that list we've always talked about, but other geeks could help us expand it. hmmmmm.

Posted by: Pam at October 23, 2004 08:50 AM

October 19, 2004
Aimee's Tuesday

Think of Aimee today.

After we finished our second dress rehearsal last night we had a very efficient photo call. Efficient as it was, however, we didn't arrive home until 10:45. Rehearsal always leaves us keyed up and full of chatter, so it wasn't until 45 minutes later that Aimee forced herself to go to bed.

She rose this morning at five, jumped in the car, and drove up to Sioux Falls for her weekly clinical session. For ten hours today she tended to her patients; cleaning, feeding, ambulating, and changing their dressings, catheters, and various tubes, all the while providing positive emotional support.

She'll drive back from Sioux Falls at 4:30, perhaps arriving in time to change and eat a cold supper, or perhaps having to meet me at the theater for take-away.
At 5:30, she'll put on her costume and be transformed into Cinna the ruthless, bloodthirsty, devil-may-care senator.

While I can't help but have sympathy for the rigor of her schedule, I have to remember how capable, how talented, and how amazing she is.

I thought of her all day today.
Posted by Joel at 02:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Comments
She IS amazing (and all those other things). Unfortunately, I didn't read this post until late Wednesday. Therefore, I shall esteem Aimee's attributes on Thursday, if I may.

Posted by: Kris at October 20, 2004 04:38 PM

Proceed.

Posted by: Joel at October 21, 2004 05:19 AM

I got so wrapped up in my life today that I forgot to drop you a line wishing you well on your first performance. Break a leg! Give 'em hell! Die with gusto!

I hope you both are doing well.

Posted by: J.D. Roth at October 22, 2004 11:47 PM

October 16, 2004
Er… Ah, Boo?

Spoiler Alert!

The following blather discusses scenes and action from the upcoming USD production of Julius Caesar in such a way that sort of robs the “Shazaam” from theater magic. If you are intending to come and see the show, you may want to stop here, check back after actually seeing the show, and chuckle knowingly. Those of you who are not able to come and see the show, cretins that you are, feel free to continue reading.

So in the second half of the show, Julius Caesar visits Brutus from beyond the grave. Brutus has just made the decision to fight Antony and Octavius at Phillipi, and Caesar’s ghost mocks him for it. As I’m playing the pre-death version of J.C., it fell to me to also perform his ghost.

Although I’ve been killed in four and a half plays (I only attempted suicide in Ordinary People, although I think many of the audience members wished that I had succeeded), this will be my first chance to perform as a ghost. I put some thought into it, because I’ve seen some pretty ineffective ghosts in my day(did you realize that Sidney Poitier directed Ghost Dad?!), and I didn’t want to join their shambling ranks.

There’s a lot of different ways you can go wrong as a ghost. Obviously, slipping while descending stairs, hurting your ankle and saying “Crap!” dilutes one’s eldritch quality, so I stopped doing that after the first rehearsal of the scene. Also, despite Patrick Swayze’s tour de force turn as a deceased macho yuppy in 1990’s Ghost, strutting does not register as particularly ethereal onstage. I learned this after a couple weeks of trying to play a Caesar who, despite being dead, was still Caesar, conquering and kicking butt in the Elysian Fields. Our director, Ron, said to me, “Could you be a little more glidey?”
“Glidey?” I asked.
“Yes. Right now you’re sort of strutting on and off. You seem almost chipper.”
“Okay, how about this?” I walked a few steps with what I felt was the sinuosity of a greased leopard.
“Better. But could you try to be more graceful?”

Grace has never been my thing. While I appreciate it in others, my constitution has always been more given to slouching alternated with dashing, but acting is all about this sort of challenge, so I practiced gliding around.

We rehearsed the scene using performance lighting for the first time a few days ago and afterwards I asked Aimee how it looked. “It’s good, but do you realize they’re keeping the blue spotlight on you as you’re walking offstage? [I did not so realize.] As soon as you turn your back on the audience you’re doing your head-bob.”
“My head-bob?”
“Right, the head-bob thing you do when you walk.”
Acting is also about self-discovery. I now know that I do a head-bob thing when I walk.

Another issue is my dialogue. My lines as a ghost consist of:
Brutus: Speake to me, what thou art.
Ghost: Thy evil spirit, Brutus.
Brutus: Why com’st thou?
Ghost: To tell thee thou shalt see me at Phillipi.
Brutus: Well: then I shall see thee againe?
Ghost: Aye, at Phillipi.
Brutus: Why I will see thee at Phillipi then…
Shivers the bones, doesn’t it? During warm-up the other day Dan (who plays Brutus) and I played around expanding the dialogue as such:
Me: Aye, at Phillipi.
Dan: Why, I’ll see you at Phillipi, then.
Me: Right. At Phillipi.
Dan: How will I know it is you?
Me: …I’ll be there. At Phillipi. I’ll see you there, and when I see you, I’ll meet you.

And so on. Anyway, my journey with my ghosty-voice mirrors that of my ghosty-walk. I started out trying to be more natural, which Ron (who I greatly respect and love working with) felt was “A bit too jaunty.” So, joking around, I did my Darth Vader, which he actually quite liked. A couple of weeks into rehearsal he mentioned as an aside, “We’ll probably mike you so we can add some effects.”

Effects? Like an echo? Or like I’m speaking through a wah-wah pedal? Something I’ve tried to work on since leaving high school theater behind is my own proclivity to discuss and question the director’s ideas/notes. Just do what they ask as well as you can and let them decide if it was a bad idea. This effort has worked well with Ron, and I think it dramatically increases rehearsal efficiency, but I was very nervous about being miked. Isn’t my voice scary enough on its own? If not, I can work on making it scarier! I felt something of the age-old repulsion of the human for the machine.

Technology, whether or not it improves a situation, always brings with it a new set of rules and limitations. I still cringe when I remember my stint as an understudy of Prospero for Shakespeare in the Park. Prospero wore his microphone on a translucent headband and, when it came time for me to play him, the headband slipped down over my eyes, dangling the microphone into my nostrils. The show must go on, of course, so I gamely wandered through my half-recalled blocking, intoning my lines directly from my nose into the mike. Afterwards the director berated me for getting a lot of the blocking wrong and also mentioned that my delivery was “Just too nasal.”

As we’ve just started our technical rehearsals, we’ve worked with the microphone twice now, and it’s gone well once. I don’t have a sound monitor with which to hear what the audience hears, so I can’t adjust my sound as I speak. The guys in the sound booth who are able to adjust it are good guys, stalwart and true. But they’re sound guys. They do what they do because they like sound of all kinds. They listen to music that, to me, sounds like short-wave radios dueling to the death. When I ask them, “Did it sound cool?” And they give me a very enthusiastic positive, I’m unsure of how to feel.

Fortunately, Aimee is always around to give me the straight story. “It was awful,” she said the first time we tried using the microphone. “You sounded drunk.”
“Ah,” I replied. “But was I glidey?”
“Nope. You had the head-bob.”
Posted by Joel at 12:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Comments
Hmm...for what it's worth, you sounded pretty good tonight, I think. :) And there was minimal bobbing, at least from my vantage point in the stage right wing. So I think it's moving in the right direction!

Posted by: Kari at October 17, 2004 09:38 PM

October 10, 2004
D-Days, Man

A happy routine has settled in here at Toadsville. We have rehearsal almost every day. Our meals hurry by but are filled with happy chatter about the play or our classes. We study, perhaps a little more haphazardly than we did a few weeks ago, but enough to do well enough, which is enough.

A small interruption to our norm came last week with the sudden eruption of USD’s homecoming, called “Dakota Days”, but really just called “D-Days.”

D-Days seemed like a pretty typical homecoming celebration. The students started wandering through our yard throwing beer cans on Friday night (we live on the caravan route between the frat houses and the bars). Then on Saturday morning local groups, politicians, and Greek organizations wandered down main street with their floats and Anti-Augustana propaganda hurling candy. The theme of this year’s D-Days was apparently copped from Theodore Geisel: “The places U’ll go,” but by midmorning the more unwieldy “What with global climate change, mass-extinctions, and the popularity of the H2, littering seems like no big deal,” seemed more appropriate.

That afternoon there was a football game in which the Coyotes trounced the Augustana Vikings 26-0. In high school and college our teams were always laughable, so I’m a little unsure of how to feel about the Coyotes who, as a Division II school, are apparently quite good. Torn between shrugging scornfully at a trivial triumph and purchasing a school hoodie which asserts that I “Bleed Coyote Red,” I’ve settled for lamely muttering, “Isn’t that nice?” whenever I hear of a USD victory.

That evening, for the first time in many years, we went to a bar in order to drink alcohol and rock out to a band. People who know us know that we don’t mind having the occasional drink. And we also like to put a tune on the Hi-fi now and then. But, because D-days are D-days, we had elected to actually do these things in public and at great expense. I bought Aimee, Kari (our local guide into the wilds of Vermillion’s night life) and myself drinks and it came to $14. $14! And I was drinking a Miller! Here’s an issue that I could find myself getting excited and buying a hoodie for. “Better drinks for less money!” I would scream, and boldly display my thematic hoodie.

But the band was great. Doubly great because we’re totally tight with the lead singer. That’s right, because of the play, we have a friend who sings in a band. I was able to shout to Kari, when they let loose with some Reel Big Fish, “Oh, good, I was just saying to Emily the other day that I hoped they’d play some ska!” To which she replied, “What?!” They’re called “What the Funk?” which, when you chant it rhythmically after drinking actually has quite a ring to it, and they sport a six-piece horn section. At one point there was a guest appearance by a French hornist playing, perhaps, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”

In Brookings, where I grew up, SDSU’s yearly homecoming celebration was called, for no good reason, “Hobo Days” (but never “H-Days”). During one particular raucous celebration when I was about eleven, the students rioted. They burned things, broke things, and caused a million dollars’ worth of damage. I remember thinking, “Is there a million dollars worth of stuff to break in Brookings?” At one point the students tipped over the news van of a local television station, but later it was revealed that the television cameraman actually incited the students to do it so he could get a shot. I remember also thinking, “Huh, I wonder how often stuff happens just because the news is there to record it?” which was probably my first post-modern (or “po-mo”) thought.

All in all, it was a strange and good time. For days afterwards I took great delight in talking about the weekend to people, hearing their stories of boozy escapades, fights, parties, and the unlikely actuality of my dancing my ass off to The Darkness’ “Believe in a Thing Called Love”. At the end of each and every story I made it a point to shake my head bemusedly and say, “D-days, man. D-days.”
Posted by Joel at 07:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Comments
Just a coincidence that D-Days overlap with Leif Erikson Day? Or bizarre Nordic conspiracy? Eerie, man, eerie.

How do the politics lean in Vermillion, anyway?

Posted by: Kris at October 10, 2004 09:56 PM

Aim - did you really have to bring up the Cold Mountain book club?? i had to take a deep breath after reading that comment!! Perhaps you can acheive wardrobe self-sufficiency with all of your knitting. :)

good luck with the play and mid-terms.

-p

Posted by: Pam at October 12, 2004 11:46 AM