What We're Loving: Disfigured Narrators, Success Waffles, Interstellar Misleads

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Ryan Callahan is superficial, Jonda Robinson believes in waffles, and David Allison aims for the stars.  imgresWolf in White Van by John Darnielle is a book I judged by its cover. Okay, it wasn't solely the cover; I read the inside flap of the dust jacket and the blurbs on the back. but the half-hypnotizing-half-headache-inducing cover sold me on the book more than anything else. The cover was like a Magic Eye painting. It pulled me in with the promise of worlds hidden in plain sight.

Wolf in White Van delivered on that promise. But. unlike a Magic Eye, which reveals a schooner or Micky Mouse, Wolf in White Van creates a world that, when squinted at, reveals an entire world hidden in plain sight: a desolated wasteland where everyone is alone and the only options are go forward or die, where the game never ends, and where our goals and dreams will forever be out of reach. The book takes place entirely inside the head of Sean Phillips, the creator of a mail-order role-playing game who lives primarily in seclusion due to an accident as a teenager, which left him horribly disfigured.

Wolf in White Van has no plot. Sean's narration jumps between the past and the present, between the game he created and the real world, all a series of overlapping memories. Through the memories, more information is revealed. We learn more about Sean, his game Trace Italian, the terrible accident that led to his creation of Trace Italian, and the terrible accident his game caused. The novel is dark and beautiful, full of evocative sentences and well-observed moments between a young man and his parents.

John Darnielle is apparently a well-known musician, the vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats. I knew nothing of his work prior to picking up his book. But now I'll have to listen to all of it. Or buy all of it, listen to one song, tell myself I'll listen to the rest someday, and move on to another interest. - Ryan Callahan

imgresWhat do you believe in? Yeah, this just got deep. The reason I pose this question to you is because it’s a question I’ve recently asked my eighth grade students. We’ve spent the past week studying up on what others believe and figuring out how to pick and portray an idea that we really believe in. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time checking out what other people believe at www.thisibelieve.org.

The website belongs to This I Believe, Inc, a “not-for-profit organization that engages youth and adults from all walks of life in writing, sharing, and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives.” Based on a radio program that ran in the 1950s and was hosted by Edward R. Murrow, it’s a place where individuals can publish essays explaining their beliefs on a topic, with the end goal being to encourage people to have a respect for the beliefs of others. When I was browsing the site, I decided to check out the “humor & laughter” section, because hey, I like humor! I like laughter! I was not disappointed when I stumbled upon an essay entitled “Give Me a Waffle,” because waffles are delicious and a great way to celebrate successes, deal with whatever is going on in life, or distract your friends when needed.

The website features thousands of essays on a variety of topics, ranging from everyday people talking about courage to Albert Einstein explaining his belief that we should put service to others above our own gain. Check it out, and maybe you’ll feel inspired to let the world in on something that you believe. - Jonda Robinson

lsff-logoThis week, I’m loving the ol’ silver screen herself, MOVIES.

Most cinematic attention this weekend will be directed toward Interstellar, which seeks to answer the question, “Can Matthew McConaughey fly a spaceship as well as he can drive a Lincoln?” I am very excited for this flick, but I’m sure you can find detailed breakdowns of it from much more qualified people that have a PhD in gaffing or whatever. Because of that, I want to use this space (GET IT??????????????????????) to talk about the opposite end of the spectrum—The Lone Star Film Festival.

Each fall, Fort Worth hosts a showcase for independent filmmakers and movies with very little distribution, known as The Lone Star Film Festival. It’s a five-day event that not only includes full-length films and shorts, but also gives us local yokels a chance to interact with real-life famous people! For example, 2013 saw Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall participate in a Q&A (which is movie insider slang for Question and Answer) about their motion picture, Jayne Mansfield’s Car. I’m most excited for the short films, a medium that is a great opportunity for emerging artists on a tight budget to create something fantastic.

You can find out more about The Lone Star Film Festival by looking it up on the Internet. - David Allison

On the Nature of Waiting

dreamstime_xs_22343826Waiting. There are proverbs. Good things come to those who wait. The best things in life are worth the wait. There are the olde tyme folk sayings. A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains. There are the New Age self-help slogans. Life is the matter of waiting for the right moment. The men and women who spoke and shared these words clearly had good intentions, clearly tried their best, but clearly led the most sheltered of lives. It’s doubtful they ever waited in the express lane at Tom Thumb while a pasty, swollen, 38-year-old woman in a mismatched sweat suit spent five minutes trying to find her ID so she could buy a six-pack of Coors Light. They never booted up their computer to write a proposal due in twenty minutes and sat, stupefied, as the little loading circle spun and spun and spun. They never stood in line at Comic Con for three hours only to be told that, we’re sorry, Ron Perlman is done signing autographs today. Anyone who extolls the virtues of waiting has never truly waited. Here’s the thing about waiting: It is the worst, the absolute worst. Every moment I spend waiting, for a cashier to find the barcode on my 20-ounce Red Bull, for the woman pushing the stroller to get across the damn street already, for the answer to a question I asked over two seconds ago, is a moment I could spend doing something important. I could be at home, alone, in my sweatpants, eating day-old pizza, watching Sons of Anarchy. I could be at home, alone, in my sweatpants, eating ice cream straight from the carton, reading an Elmore Leonard novel. I could be home, alone, in my sweatpants. Every moment I am forced to wait is a little moment of heaven forever stolen from me.

My life provides constant validation of Einstein’s theory of relativity. The time between the traffic light turning green and the Chevy Tahoe in front of me moving feels like a year. The time it takes for a movie to buffer on Netflix feels like a decade. When I’m having coffee with a friend, the time between the last word of my sentence and the first word of his? Eons. What is he waiting for? Doesn’t he know that I have things to say and after that more things to say and after that things to do? I’ve gone to the trouble of thinking of what I’m going to say next while he’s talking so that I may begin speaking the moment he stops making noise. The least he can do is show me the same respect.

There are people out there – you know who they are, the slow movers, the calm talkers, the shoulder massagers – who will tell you to slow down, to take a moment, to breath. They push their zen philosophy on you like it’s some magic solution to all problems. Enjoy every moment, they say. Take in the beauty of the world. Be present. Relax. Obviously, these people are slow-witted, or dying, or both.

Relax? I have 132 movies in my Netflix queue. I could die tomorrow, run into Cary Grant in heaven, and have nothing to say when he asks my opinion on I Was a Male War Bride. Enjoy every moment? MY DVR is at 88% capacity. How can I enjoy one second of Justified when I know I have two more waiting right behind it, and a new one each week? Slow down? Do they know how many books I own that I haven’t read? What if a friend visits, grabs my copy of Against the Day off the shelf and asks me if it’s any good? I’m going to look like a real jerk.

I appreciate the advice, slow-witted, dying people, I really do. But there will be no deep breaths, no slowing down, no enjoying the moment. Things will remain the same: I’ll tap my feet, drum my fingers, shift my weight from side to side, let out the occasional exasperated sigh, and when the moment truly warrants it, like when an old lady questions the price of can of peaches during the checkout process, I’ll shout “Come on!”

I’m not an unreasonable person. I’m not naïve. I understand that there will always be waiting. I understand that the world doesn’t run on my schedule.


But there’s a lot of time left in 2014. And I have big plans.

Ryan Callahan is a current DCH student who loves crime novels and pro wrestling. He’s the brains behind WikiFakeAnswers.