December 19, 2008

Look, I'm just saying


A lot of evidence seems to be converging. Evidence, I mean, of

LIZARD MAN APOCALYPSE!!

Don't say you weren't warned. Do say you were. The unretouched picture above links to the story. Apparently Bret Favre is ahead of Lizard People in this race, although are we sure that it's not a false choice? I'm just asking. He does seem to favor lizard-hued garb.

December 17, 2008

Don Kirshner Presents Rock Power


I have very fond memories of this Ronco LP from way back when I could play a Ronco LP without being embarrassed about it. And in fact I played the crap out of this one. I don't know how I got hold of Don Kirshner Presents Rock Power, but I suspect that I got it from an older cousin in a gift exchange, perhaps as a regift.


Happily, Don Kirshner Presents Rock Power managed to survive my aunt's vindictive acts of censorship; one of the other As Seen on TV albums in my and my cousin's joint collection had "Squeezebox" on it, and my aunt (for some reason) decided that that song had to be scratched the hell off the vinyl. The music was not all right.


Some of the songs on Don Kirshner Presents Rock Power appealed to me more than others, of course. "Rock On" is a classic, and I still can't get tired of it. If I ever gave you a mix CD, it was probably on it. Similarly, "Right Place, Wrong Time" ... songs I wish I were cool enough to have as the soundtrack to my life. Hell, at this point I'd settle for Seals and Crofts.

A1 Barry White - Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up
A2 Aretha Franklin - (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
A3 The Stylistics - Break Up to Make Up
A4 The Grass Roots - Two Divided by Love
A5 Alice Cooper - No More Mr. Nice Guy
A6 David Essex - Rock On
A7 Love Unlimited - Yes, We Finally Made It
A8 Seals & Crofts - Hummingbird
A9 Dr. John - Right Place, Wrong Time
A10 Five Man Electrical Band - Werewolf
B1 Al Green - So You're Leaving
B2 The Spinners - I'll Be Around
B3 First Choice - Love and Happiness
B4 Gladys Knight & The Pips - Midnight Train to Georgia
B5 Procol Harum - Toujours L'Amour
B6 Bachman-Turner Overdrive - Let It Ride
B7 Black Sabbath - Paranoid
B8 Faces - Cindy Incidentally
B9 Steppenwolf - Magic Carpet Ride
B10 The Doobie Brothers - China Grove

How disappointing

I can't believe I didn't get a single nibble on my Nuggnuts post.

December 14, 2008

"Nuggnuts?" Really?

If anything could have put me off those gristly, mystery-meat morsels McDonalds purveys as McNuggets, I think it's the coinage "Nuggnuts."

Sadly, I couldn't find video of Ronald McDonald or any other clown getting kicked in the crotch (the only imaginable objective correlative appertaining to "Nuggnuts"), but I did find a nice video of a guy wearing a clown wig kicking an unsuspecting guy in the crotch (about as funny as you'd imagine) and one of Pakistani protestors abusing a Ronald McDonald statue. Not what I had in mind, but I've got my video camera ready in case a clown shows up.

December 12, 2008

Words fail me

I consider myself to be a fairly effective teacher, and I think that means, in part, being able to explain complex concepts so that they are more understandable.

I am a failure. Let me explain.

They're making these flat screen TVs wider than TV. Don't know if you have one, or if you noticed this. But if you make the picture fit the screen, the people look distorted and flat. It seems to me therefore that the right way to watch most TV is to have the black bars on the side and leave the shape of the screen alone (4:3, I guess?).

I am utterly incapable of communicating this concept to my family. "Why get a big TV if you can't stretch the picture to fit?" they ask.

"Can't you see that it's wrong? Can't you see that nobody looks like that?" I ask, agog, as we watch the flat, wide people solving their flat, wide crimes, by picking through the flat, wide, sticky evidence.

They look at me like I've lost it. I mean, I'm no artist, but I think it's amazing that people who live and die by the CRT and the LCD can't tell that an image is askew. I just like things to look right. I don't mind the black bars at the top and bottom of How the West Was Won, and most people would agree with me. Why then is it so hard to understand that the black bars on the sides of the local news belong there, that the news is squarer than the screen?

December 11, 2008

Help save me from becoming a libertarian

Or at least postpone the inevitable.

Check this out.

Got my chips cashed in

Today I say goodbye to an old traveling companion:



This truck rolled off the line back when I was a mere bachelor of arts, but the convergence of the proverbial twain didn't happen until 2004, when I acquired it in very much the condition you see here. I did replace the exhaust and rebuild the floorboards, but that was more or less it. I drove it in the wintertime, taking advantage of its four-wheel drive capability, which was pretty effective if I threw a few bags of gravel into the bed to give me some weight. The rest of the time it generally just sat.

Last time I took it in for inspection, I was told it needed tires and brakes. Rather than spend the money, I parked it and tried (well, maybe "try" is too strong a word) to sell it. I did use it as a repository for yard waste, as you can see, and thought last week to take it out on one last, stealthy, run to the local mulch emporium.

But it was not to be. See that puddle underneath the front wheel? Brake fluid. The brush is back in the yard now, along with the hornet nests, bird nests, beaver dams, and other assorted wildlife that took root in the vehicle, and the truck is on its way to the Kidney Foundation (via tow truck). Ordinarily donating stuff makes me feel all smug and superior, but in this case I actually feel what I imagine must be guilt.

Ehhhh, okay, I'm over it.

December 10, 2008

While your mind is untainted

Do yourself a favor and get hold of the the 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still and appreciate its many, many strengths before seeing the remake.



It's one of my all time favorite films. I don't know much about the remake aside from the cast, which worries me. I also expect that the new version will take an ecological slant, which just wouldn't make sense in the original: Michael Rennie explicitly didn't care if we destroyed our planet; he just didn't want us threatening other civilizations.

The original isn't perfect, of course. It's no better than its time period, which is no excuse for its shortcomings. For instance, we are shown a Washington D.C. with about three black people in it, as I recall: a custodian or waiter, and two spectators maybe at the spaceship landing. Not exactly enlightened. Patricia Neal's strong character turning into a basso profundo scream queen is also kind of cringe-worthy, but her sexist dick boyfriend (Hugh Marlowe, if I recall correctly) is at least portrayed as such. She's a widow with a young son,

The film is also a product of its time in terms of the Cold War and nuclear threat issues; as I've said, I don't see how today's world would be of any interest to these aliens, since we don't seem to be threatening them, except maybe with tool boxes and other assorted space junk. Or maybe the inhabitants of Pluto (ticks and fleas) are pissed because their planet isn't a planet any more? I guess I'll have to wait and see.

I keep thinking of the remake of Planet of the Apes, where though the original set the bar lower than did Robert Wise's DTESS, the star-studded remake didn't even come close. If I'm wrong, fantastic. I'll be glad to be wrong. In the meantime, though, take in the fantastic Bernard Hermann score, Sam Jaffe's excellent portrayal of the professor, and Aunt Bea's wonderful character turn. Take in the scene where the physicians at Walter Reed(!) sit around puffing madly on cigarettes as they marvel at Klaatu's amazing lung capacity. It's a great film.

Why don't they try remaking some failed films instead of putting their grubby mitts all over the classics? If you want to dabble in science fiction, hell, take another swing at Lost in Space. If you want to take a good idea that wasn't a great film and try to do something with it, how about A Boy and His Dog?

December 09, 2008

The Pros of Downsizing

Saw a piece on The Today Show earlier (or, as they act like you're supposed to call it, Today--because yes, NBC owns the f---ing DAY) ... and yes, I did see the piece TODAY, on Today, and if you type that word enough, it stops even looking like a word, which is so far all I've done of note TODAY.

Except, see, there was this story on how food companies are reducing the size of their products to avoid having to raise the prices. Apparently this is some kickass marketing ... even though it costs a lot of money in retooling to change the portions and the packaging, it's cheaper than the loss of sales would be if they raised the prices. We saw this with coffee a while back, of course. A three pound coffee can now only has, what? 7.3 ounces of coffee in it? Before you ask, yes, I did have my coffee this morning.

It probably sounds like I'm on some AndyRooney-esque rant here, but no--even though the only part of me that's old so far is my eyebrows, which are frankly out of control, so Andy and I have that in common if nothing else--I think downsizing the food is a good thing. Because it's the processed food that's getting downsized, and frankly most of it is melamine, rat turds, and corn syrup.

Downsize away!

Hell, even real food (i.e. meat) undergoes a little downsizing when you cook it. Especially the fat-laden hormone-impregnated fake meat product they sell you now. A quarter pound precooked weight winds up being about an ounce.

If they fried me up, I'd wind up weighing about 38 pounds probably.

December 07, 2008

Character

First of all it, of AC/DC it must be said that there's no need to do more than one thing if you do it well. I guess there are two camps: those who turn it up, and those who turn it off. I am, I must confess, of the former persuasion.

And secondly, have you noticed how different football looks now as opposed to 20 or 30 years ago? I blame it on the video games--everything's clean and bright, and the camera's always moving. Stats fly in, stats fly out. And don't get me started on how fantasy football's emphasis on individual performance seems to warp people's understanding of a team sport (can you tell my FF team is doing poorly?).

Anyhow, you probably have to have something wrong with you to be as emotionally moved by this video as I was, but dang--Jack Lambert was a force of nature. You get the idea he'd have played for nothing and that when he went home at night he just stared up at the ceiling fan until it was time to go back.

If you're not obsessed enough to stomach the whole video, you might like at least to check out the piece from about 2:00 to 2:20 or so. Seems like they've changed the penalties for taunting and late hits over the past 30 years. The old way made for better TV. I'd like to see a little Lambert magic in today's game against the Cowboys, even if it costs them 15 yards.



There's a good Sports Illustrated article about Jack Lambert here; the typing's a little rough, but you'll manage, and the illustrations are good. I was a little surprised at the line or two about him holding out on a contract ... I didn't remember that. But in the larger context of the article, I think it's excusable. It's not always about money; sometimes it's about respect.

December 03, 2008

Goodbye, Columbus

Well, it was a nice visit, though too short. It's amazing how much you forget over time--maybe you don't, but I do. And it's as amazing how much of what you forget isn't really forgotten, but just buried.

For instance, I had forgotten until yesterday afternoon (driving across PA, listening to Mojo Nixon's radio show on Sirius) that going with Nils to see Jimmie Dale Gilmore at Stache's was one of the greatest evenings I spent in Columbus.

I know you never click my links, but dammit, give this one a listen!



Yes, JDG is Smokey (I think?) in The Big Lebowski.

November 30, 2008

Breaking the silence

I've been traveling, so the posts have been more erratic than usual. Today, though, was a very good day (and not just because I didn't have to use my AK).

I went to Woodcraft and spent some money and talked some woodworking with the folks who worked there. That was good. Drove around Grad School City for a little while, taking in the changes (many, even upon cursory examination), remembering things I'd thought I'd forgotten (mostly about people I wronged, and those who done me wrong), dining with friends (a majority of the people who bother to read this, frankly), and watching and listening to the Steelers as they beat--as in, administered a beating to--the Patriots.

If you like football, you should turn the sound down on the tv when you watch it and listen to the local sportscasters on the radio if you can; it's so much better that way. They show no respect to the other team, and they slander the good guys mercilessly when they're playing poorly, as good fans must.

Anyhow, in honor of this victory, which I think establishes the Steelers as a team deserving of some respect at this point in the season in spite of their potentially crippling lack of offense, I offer you some vintage music from the Iron City. It's Joe Grushecky and the [Iron City] Houserockers from 1988:

November 29, 2008

You know you want to!

Join the Ulysses Reading Group, I mean.

It will be fun.

You know you want to.

November 24, 2008

You'll curse me later

I don't care if this song gets lodged in your head, necessarily, but it needs to get out of mine, and the only thing that seems to work for me is to pass it on:

November 23, 2008

Urkelvision Redux

Fifteen years ago or so, I moved into a tiny two-bedroom house with minimal furniture and a crappy little television. I had my first full-time job, no social life to speak of because I didn't know a soul, and a crappy little television. And on every one of the 3.5 channels I got over the air, Family Matters was in heavy syndication twenty-four hours a day. All Urkel, all the time. And I watched, God help me ... I watched.



Now I've got access to hundreds of channels, without even counting time-shifted Tivo, Amazon Unboxed movies, Netflix, etc., and tons of video on demand via the internet. And what does all of that capability give us? As far as I can tell, the ability to watch Scrubs, any season, any time we want to. It's beyond postmodern, if you ask me ... it's more pre-future. And at some point J.D. passed Urkel on the annoyance scale, though he's still way behind Elliot.



Did Joss Whedon sue them over this episode?

November 20, 2008

I am impervious

Oh, crap. I'm that guy. You know the one. The cranky guy who teaches cashiers how to count out change even if the register's broken. When did this happen? I know, I know ... I've been this way my whole life.

In response to my email reporting a missing issue of a magazine I subscribe to, I received the following email:

Dear [My Name],

We have in all total 68 Issues in a year. November/December 2008 is a combined issue. Your have enquired only about December 2008 issue.

Please check and confirm back which issue you have missed.

Thank you for subscribing to [Magazine Name].

Sincerely,

[Her Name]
Email Customer Service.

* When contacting us please include all the pervious emails*

To which I replied (copying the editor of the magazine, who enjoys bantering about typos in his periodic email newsletter to subscribers):

Dear Her Name,

You have "in all total 68 issues a year"? What does that mean? I don't understand what you're saying. In answer to what I think your question is, I'm referring to the issue that's listed as the current issue on your website and is currently in newsstands. I didn't receive it. It is identified on your website [hyperlink removed] as December 2008, so I don't see why you don't understand what I'm asking for.

By your count, you apparently owe me something like 60 issues, "in all total." I don't know that I'll have time to read them, but I'll do my best.

Finally, what are "pervious" emails? I assure you I've never written an email that could be called "pervious" and I don't appreciate the suggestion.

Seriously, though: the unprofessional nature of this communication does not reflect well on your organization's commitment to customer service.

Sincerely,

[My Name]

And that was after only four cups of coffee!

November 18, 2008

Bind-Tenure-Kill

It's the season where several people I know are updating their binders. If you're in the higher ed game, you know what I mean. You have to collect documentation of every little thing you've done over the last five years in order to prove yourself worthy of retaining the job you've been holding for the last five years.

I'm all about evidence-based decision making (all evidence to the contrary), but the process is kind of absurd. I have people coming to me and asking for letters to thank them for their service on an ad hoc committee that met maybe three times, four years ago. On the other hand, having reviewed activity reports FROM PEOPLE I'D NEVER MET who claimed to have served on a committee I WAS CHAIRING, I can see how documentary evidence can be a good thing. Still, I think you need to put a weight limit on this binder.

Back at Former Employer U, we had to put together something like 17 copies of our binder. Ridiculous. At Staples, the day before the applications were due, I ran into a colleague in the binder aisle. She looked at my armload of binders disparagingly. She was going for the nice ones ... the brand name ones. We chatted a bit, uncomfortably; it's hard not to feel competitive under such circumstances ... there are only so many promotions to go around, after all. Then she said something that took me by surprise, and she said it very bitterly, very sarcastically, very--dare I say--inconsistently with Our Institution's Holy Mission:

"Of course, you'll be fine. You're the Golden Boy."

I'm the what now? That really blew my mind. I've never been the Golden Boy. Hell, I'm an only child and I still felt like I was in some kind of losing competition for my parents' esteem. And I'd always fancied myself as something of a pain in the administration's ass, a gadfly if you will. An enfant terrible, maybe, but certainly not a wunderkind.

It was the most offensive compliment I'd received.

My Heroic Struggle with Hubris

That's all I've got.

Seriously. Laugh it up, Mary, but I'm wearing my glasses today rather than contacts. I sanded some red oak over the weekend, so maybe I'm having some kind of reaction to the airborne sawdust. Something is making me look like a white rabbit, though, even more so than usual.

Hmm, white rabbit, bloodshot eyes ... follow me ...





So silly, so wonderful . Who knew Selma Blair was in Jefferson Airplane?

November 14, 2008

A: Oh good! A PowerPoint Presentation!

Q: What is ... something nobody has said since 1997?

Well, maybe our panel at last week's conference would have been better attended had there been PowerPoint in abundance, but dammit, I just can't bring myself to admit that words alone are not enough. I mean, are we not men (and women)? So we read to each other--to ourselves and to a couple of people who were guilted into listening. The world will never know what it missed!

Anyhow, the best part of the voyage was of course renewing friendships with my South Atlantic colleagues, mainly those with whom I worked at Former Employer University. Interesting to see how easy it was to settle back in to the dynamic of the colleague relationship, even though one of these people had the temerity to shave off his beard in the four years since I last saw him. Very disturbing. In general, I expect things to be as I left them. Come on, people.

In a couple of weeks I'll be returning for the first time in thirteen years to Graduate School City, home of Oversized State University. I do not imagine things will be as I left them. For one thing, lots of people I know have moved on to greener, or browner, or perhaps more asphalt pastures, most of them before I did. And of those who remain, whom I hope to make arrangements to visit with, I've seen documentary evidence that some of them may have aged at least slightly, even as I, Dorian Grayishly, have not. This is both a taunt and a lie, of course.

I also expect to get lost. I don't think I know my way around at all there anymore. I was looking online to see if there were any woodworking businesses there, and I found one ... I recognized the streets in the address, but I realize that I would have no idea how to get there. I'll be like a babe in the woods, or like a pig in the city (please pronounce this word "citaayyy").

I don't expect to visit Oversized State at all, at least not intentionally. I only really care about one place qua place, and that ain't it. And I know that most of the denizens of Ugly-Ass Hall will be rank strangers to me, and I to them. And that's fine. Needless to say, I won't be visiting the Weber Rd. duplex I shared with Sasquatch, nor the bachelor pad near the impound lot on 18th Ave., nor the pleasant but shabby newlywed place in Suburb Heights (damn you, vindictive monkey, damn you!), nor the crummy townhome in Greater Stripmall ... so many stories!

For posterity, let me clarify: chronologically, it went Suburb Heights, Greater Stripmall, 18th Ave, and Weber Rd. Throw in Ugly-Ass Hall, where I really lived, and you've got a pentagram of sorts ... a veritable Star of Solomon. More information is available in the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It's a veritable Da Vinci code.

Leonardo da Vinci was of course mostly lizard man, as were several renaissance artists, hence their representation as turtles in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You can look this up.

And the Green Knight? Don't even get me started!

November 12, 2008

Vindicating Cassandra

I hate I hate I hate the "Verbing Proper Name" film title cliche. So here I go, breaking all the rules ...

Well, I can't say I didn't see this coming. Signs like these are popping up all over the place. I've been trying to spread the word about the lizard man phenomenon for decades now--literally decades! This is happening, folks ... we are the generation.

Here it is: it seems to me impossible to deny that before humans evolved, a species of bipedal lizard people walked the earth (for an interesting and less tongue-in-cheek discussion, see here).

I maintain that these lizard people walked the earth at the same time as our ancestors. There's tons of evidence to support this, of course ... the serpent in Genesis, lizard- and snake-headed beings in warm-weather mythologies all around the globe, Quetzalcoatl and whatnot. What else could explain the Jungian persistence of these images in our pop culture?

So what happened? Quite simply, climate change. They outlasted their fellow dinosaurs because they were able to move inside, but ultimately, the placental mammals beat them out (my antimarsupial bias is showing, I know). Where did they go? The answers are obvious: to Atlantis, which sank (if this is so obvious to me and to Donovan, why can't the rest of you grasp it?); to the center of the earth (hollow earth theory is everywhere on the web, but I'd prefer not to link to it here); and of course into space.

They also retreated into us (this is the part some of you will find implausible, I suppose, but bear with me). They operated sophisticated breeding programs, burying their genetic code and whatnot (look, what am I, a scientist? I'll leave the details to others) in our apelike ancestors. They fragmented themselves and scattered themselves across the globe at the molecular level, and over the epochs, these genes or whatever are gathering themselves together again, randomly but inexorably, and certain people--some of them in positions of great power--are in fact about 49% lizard people, unwittingly working their reptilian wills on us as the rest of us devolve, getting the world ready for:

The Lizard Man Apocalypse!

Don't say I didn't warn you. I hope everyone who reads this understands how seriously I'm taking this and how sincere I am.

November 11, 2008

A sudden burst of perspective

I saw this:

fail owned pwned pictures
failblog.org

... which is kind of funny, and then read the comments, some of which poke fun at the Circleville event, and it was all I could do not to chime in with something like, "Actually, the Circleville Pumpkin Show is a pretty big deal!"

Deep breaths ... deep breaths ...

Of course, that's not all Circleville has going for it ... it's also the home of Ted Lewis:



I have a special fondness for vocalists that kind of talk through the songs rather than sing them. Sadly, the video is just stills, but it's a better song than the better-known "Me and My Shadow."

November 08, 2008

Not my town, I guess

Three people on my panel, two in the audience. They wept with envy when they heard my paper. Not really.

Many years ago I presented a paper here in this same town, and there were two people on the panel and NONE in the audience. The other person's paper was in French, so there was little point in continuing.

I ascribe this phenomenon (do DOO doodoo doo!) to the fact that one of my nemeses came from here.

No, not Muhammad Ali. I have no beef, nor chicken nor fish with him.

November 07, 2008

Four years ago

Four years ago this song came out, and it got into my head. I'm not too sure about the visuals presented here, but the song's the thing, so listen.



This is as close to a gloat as I'll get, so high five me now.

I'm posting from Louisville, with a bunch of old friends around, but it seems strange not to have the actual Louisville friends around.

EDIT: To be clear, I don't think the clips in the video represent the song very well, and they don't necessarily represent my worldview very well either. But it's the first video I found with the studio version of the song. The whole album is strong, though, and you should buy it. I did.

November 06, 2008

What, again?


You know I don't usually wax political, and I particularly hate to do so twice in a row. Partly that's because I can't compete in the deep end of the B'og (I hate, I hate, I hate the triteness of "blogosphere" as much as I hate the tired, asinine "surfing the web" ... high school students are taught that research is a matter of "browsing" and "surfing" ... never reading or digesting. There's no depth. Surfing is all about avoiding depth, correct? If you experience depth while surfing, you're doing it wrong. See how hard it is to avoid these damned internet cliches? At least I can spell better than my cats can!). And partly it's because I'm a lover, not a fighter. What can I say?

Anyhow, usually I'd rather read Whiskey Fire than talk about politics. Every now and then the man says what I didn't even know I was thinking, as, for instance, here.

(Clockwise from 2:00: Gus (yawning), Riley, and The Doctor.)

November 05, 2008

Rational Exuberance

Okay, like most people I know, and like a clear majority of those who voted yesterday, I'm happy with the outcome of the election. But I don't think I'm happy enough. Call it a rational exuberance.

When this campaign began about thirty-seven years ago, I started out supporting the Coiffed Adulterer, but after his withdrawal, which was apparently wasn't soon enough (ha-HAAAA!), I vacillated between the Last Two Democrats, eventually casting my primary vote for the male LTD, the Irish fella O'B, but figuring I'd be happy with either one. When he got the nomination, I was glad more due to the fact that a black guy earned the nomination than because of anything he actually stood for. Had his opponent won (I'm all out of epithets, alas), I would have been glad more due to the fact that a woman won. Also, I got to shake hands with Chelsea ("I remember you well ..."), so that was cool.

Moving forward, as it became clearer and clearer that on the Republican side, "My Friend" didn't have anything to offer except being allegedly a proven leader (?) and "ready" ... ready eight years ago, maybe, ready like a Christmas turkey left in the oven several hours too long because Uncle Virgil got caught in a lake effect snowstorm driving down from Conneaut, Ohio, all dried out and tough and tasteless ... anyhow, as it became clearer that there was no viable alternative, I became more enthusiastic about O'B.

And I'm glad he was elected. But we're in the crapper, country-wise, and it's a long, slippery climb up a steep slope of wet porcelain. This could be the best thing that ever to our country, and I'm glad and still surprised that an African American was elected president. But let's not get smug about it. Remember how long and crappy the 1970s were? We could be in for a lot worse. Certainly radio today makes me long for the days of disco. And that's saying something.

All I'm saying is that there's a long way to go just to get back to where we were. Knock a buck off the price of a gallon of gas, and nobody's talking about alternatives to fossil fuels anymore. I'd love to feel like everything's fine, and I think we're better off today than we would have been if My Friend would have won. But it's a little early to bang the gong, and I'm getting a little tired of people high-fiving me.

I mean, really. Do I look like a high-fiver to you?

November 03, 2008

Quantum of Solace

I already have trouble taking Bond movies seriously, and I gotta tellya, the title of this one isn't helping. It might be stupider than driving a car around in a castle carved out of an iceberg, but frankly, from here it looks like a tossup. And yes, I know that a lot of them have stupid titles, but so what, really?

At least Octopussy doesn't make me think about the line from Baron Munchausen: "I have learned from experience that a modicum of snuff can be most efficacious." From here on out, I'm going to pretend that I've forgotten the name of the Bond film: "What was that movie? Modicum of Snuff? Something like that?"

October 31, 2008

A monkey on her back

Okay, it's time to tell the story of the Monegasque Monkey Attack. Several of you have indicated a mild curiosity about the tale of the monkey, and Dan even called to beg me to write it.

Actually, that's not true. I called him. But the story did come up in our conversation, and he can at least vouch for the fact that I do have an ex-wife, and that she was (and presumably still is) a very nice person who

a) did not deserve to be attacked by a monkey.

2. did not deserve the irritation that being married to me might possibly have caused.

In fact I'm not sure how one would even go about deserving to be attacked by a monkey.

So there we were in the Principality of Monaco. I was presenting a paper at a conference there. Monaco is wonderfully nice, but not a great place to be a poor graduate student (and, I'm forced to admit, probably an even worse place to be the spouse of one). Since we weren't really the casino, Grand Prix types, we decided to go to this little zoo they had there. It was an old-school, cages with bars type place. The monkey cage had plexiglas screwed to it to thwart their coproshenanigans.

The smear and glare on the plexiglas was such that in order to view our simian cousins we had to get kind of close to it and cup our hands around our eyes, Viewmaster style. We were, at least, on the clean side.

While we enjoyed the antics of the cavorting little homunculi, one of them crept close to the cage and perched over the plexiglas, reached out, and SNATCHED a huge hank of my wife's hair right out of her head, banging her head into the cage as it did so! And then it scampered back to the back of the cage, laughing--yes, laughing--and grimacing, and then shoving all of the hair (and probably some scalp ... this was a fairly brutal attack) into its mouth.

She was in pain and so surprised she could hardly figure out what happened. I mean, who expects to be attacked by a monkey?

Needless to say, this was a sensitive situation. So there were two reasonable things I could have done at this point:

a. I could have given her first aid and attempted to succor her.

2) I could have demanded assistance from the zoo staff, and satisfaction in the form a big payment from the Prince of Monaco (which I would undoubtedly have gone on to lose at the casino).

The third choice, of course, is the one that tells you why, less than a year later, I was living in my hopping East 18th Avenue bachelor pad across from the convenience store, the storefront church, and the Salvation Army (okay, yeah, I'm skipping some of the other life choices that got me there, but fun as they were at the time, they're predictable and trite, so I prefer to blame my divorce on the monkey attack):

Can you guess what I did?

Yep: I. Laughed. My. Ass. Off.

I know, I know. But what was I to do? I'm only human.

Listen, if that had happened to me, wouldn't I have laughed about it (eventually)? Wouldn't I be telling pretty much the same story as I told you here, with me as the butt of it? Even as I tried to stanch the blood flow and effect a debonair combover, I would have been composing the story I would tell everyone when I got back to Ohio and somebody asked me, "How was the trip?"

"'How was the trip?'! I got attacked by a f---ing monkey!"

It would have been awesome. Instead, I have to tell it this way, and it kind of makes me look like a jerk. Still, it's pretty funny though.

I need you to

Lately I've been sucked into the first seasons of two prime time soaps--uh, serial adventure shows--that everybody else has been watching for a long time and is probably already tired of: Lost and Heroes.

On both of these shows--and on that X-Files ripoff that looked promising but I've already gotten tired of and quit watching--I've noticed that at least once per episode, somebody--maybe Jack (there's always a Jack, isn't there), maybe Skinny Freckly Federal Prisoner, maybe Humorless FBI Agent--will begin sentences with "I need you to ..." As in, "I need you to tell me where the bomb is!" "I need you to quit bleeding!"

Why? Is it just one person with one particularly annoying mannerism writing all of these characters? Or is it part of some greater mandate?

I need you to explain this phenomenon. Because it's irritating me.

October 27, 2008

An open letter in which I get political

Dear Representative Paul Kanjorski,

I'm sorry to inform you that I won't be voting for you in the November election, because voting for you would indirectly reward your decision to plague my household--a household of three voting citizens--with automated phone calls. I'm not kidding.

We received three such calls--one for each of us, I suppose--over the weekend. The first, on Friday, was a hangup, which was convenient since I was in the middle of making a meatloaf and would not have had time to listen anyhow. Also, the phone kept slipping out of my hands, covered as they were with raw hamburger, eggs, bread crumbs, and my secret blend of herbs and spices (which tastes and looks suspiciously like A-1 sauce). If I didn't have caller ID, I'd simply blame one of my daughters' stupid friends ... but as it turns out, even hormone-crazed adolescents have more phone courtesy than you do. Rule 1: don't call me. Rule 2: If you call me, don't hang up on me. These rules are not just for you--they're almost universal.

Saturday's call, the second, was merely a minor annoyance. I was watching a movie on TCM and hoping Mike would review it so I could open up a can of snark on him. I listened long enough to verify that there was no human on the other end, and then hung up, after ordering my daughter to wash the dried dead cow and chicken embryos off the phone. Rule 3: If you call me and don't hang up on me, be a person and not a machine.


Jack Lemmon as Shelley "Machine" Levene

Sunday's call is the reason I respectfully will not vote for you in the coming election. It came during the Steelers-Giants game, specifically during the first-half goal line stand. The Steelers' finest moment in the game. Rule 4: Person or no, if you are not bleeding or on fire, do not call me during the game. Again, it's not personal.

Sir: do you know what state--nay, Commonwealth--you're representing? This is Pennsylvania, in the United States of KMA, and we spend our fall Sundays in prayerful contemplation of the Eagles and the Steelers. Your fake phone calls are not welcome.

Sir: do you have any understanding at all of the people you represent? Most of us answer ourown phones, and you do not. How about if I call you in your home on a weekend when you're making a meatloaf sometime? Would that be okay with you?

And don't just call me when you want something. Even my brother in law has more courtesy.

Sir: do you have any evidence, provided by somebody other than the people you're paying to automate these phone calls, that they work? I'm willing to bet that this strategy angers as many people as it persuades. For the sake of your continued tenure in office, I hope that most people are less irritated than I am.

You see, I want you to be re-elected, and I assure you I will not be voting for your opponent. If you have any questions, please feel free to give me a call sometime. Apparently you have my number.

October 26, 2008

Alternate Halloween-related content

Since the haunted picture turned out to be a bust, here's some alternative Halloween content for you:



Actually, this one is more topical:



The trick-ee, Mr. Schnitzel, is rather Flandersesque. Incidentally, "Umm ... you're a weenie" is one of our favorite family sayings now. In fact if you say "umm" in our house, somebody will almost certainly volunteer, "You're a weenie?"

Deleted

Hmm. I deleted the haunted picture post because when Mike followed the link, it went nowhere, and when I did, I got a virus warning from Avast. I don't really think there was a virus threat there, but better safe than sorry. Dammit.

October 25, 2008

Tiresome technology linkfest

The other day, while finishing up what should have been a routine "update" (couldn't find the SNL Weekend Update video I wanted to link here--Quinn was the best Weekend Updater, and that's not open to discussion) my home computer refused to boot. Very irritating. Needless to say I had ALL of my photos and personal documents backed up. Yeah, sure. It helpfully offered to reformat itself and restore itself to its pristine, untouched state (which reminds me of a story, but not now).

I figured my stuff was still on there. So I made a USB drive bootable with Linux and backed up all the vitals onto DVD (and a USB-connected hard drive). Then I left it to reclaiming its retroactive virginity. I'm very pleased at its quieter performance, and I spent a pleasant morning trying to tinker everything back to the way it was before, or better.

So I got to thinking about this underpowered laptop I'm writing on now. It's an XP machine, and it usually runs at a snail's pace ... it will spend a week downloading some update and another day or two trying to install it--this even though under normal circumstances (increasingly few and far between) it runs most day to day applications acceptably. I figured the XP installation was pretty much screwed, but the recovery disks are long gone at this point.

Instead, I installed Linux: Ubuntu to be exact.

Anyhow, this puny Gateway laptop seems to be running a little happier than before. I don't know anything about Linux, but the computer is doing what I want it to do--light document editing, Firefox, reading the occasional PDF--a lot more quietly and happily than it was before. Now if I could just have the first half of my weekend back!

October 23, 2008

I need a henchman to help with my minions

We have so many animals in the house that I've seriously considering acquiring a monkey to serve as their overseer. That way I'd only have to deal directly with the monkey, who would presumably walk the dog, clean the litterboxes for the three cats, and vacuum up all the pet hair.

Something tells me, though, that the monkey would cause as many problems as it would solve.

This seems like a great opportunity to tell you about how my ex-wife was attacked by a monkey, but since there seemed to be little interest in the story last time I mentioned it, I won't bore you.

Pictured: Doc, the youngest of the cats.

October 20, 2008

Collect 'em all!


I've been drowning in requests for the last Elmers "studio" album, so at long last, here it is: Shut Your Piehole.

If you're feeling selective, start with "Labor Day," "Handyman," and "Too Far Too Fast." If you're feeling really selective, you might want to look elsewhere!

October 19, 2008

I love this

Isn't that spatial?

This is a little more irritating than I anticipated. 3.56 on my first and only try, but I did resist the temptation to hold a protractor, ruler, or even the corner of a sheet of paper up to the screen.

The compass played hell with my LCD.

October 17, 2008

A revelation

Earlier, for reasons that aren't important, I was looking up the word "darkling." That inquiry, in a real life dictionary book, led me to what is now my new favorite word. If it's not your favorite word, follow that link and then click on the audio pronunciation link you find there until it IS your favorite word.

And have fun, my darklings.

October 16, 2008

Hectic Red

When I miss teaching, which is often, I often miss teaching Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind." Why not go check it out? Go ahead, I'll wait.

I was thinking about this poem Tuesday whilst (see, I'm being poetic) driving from Indiana (PA) through Altoona and up through State College. It's a pretty part of the state. Heading north and east you drive along one long valley, the valley on your left for miles and miles. The leaves were beautiful. It looked like a sunset had drained out of the sky and filled up the valley.

Of course, in Shelley's poem the leaves have already fallen, but Tuesday, it was all just glorious.

This poem is a well-oiled, precision machine. Even "thy skiey speed" is forgiveable. Nice job, PBS.

October 15, 2008

A telling statistic

So far twenty-one percent (21%) of today's hits to this blog have been the result of my mentioning academic retirement giant TI@@-CR&F. Of those hits, seventy-five percent (75%) have originated from [that organization] .org.

Originally I was going to spell out the name of the organization again, just to see if that would raise the number of hits from them, but I thought I'd head off the feedback loop. Besides, I'd rather have them manipulating my money than reading my blog.

How'd you get here?

Most of you readers are regular readers, but every now and then some visitors stop by, misdirected by Google or some other search engine. So far today I've had two visits from TIAA-CREF, probably since I mentioned them in this morning's entry. I wonder how many Googlers they keep on staff to monitor their reputation in the b'og? Welcome, TIAA-CREF to the Wordshed!

Can you get people to notice you by mentioning them in your blog? Not Morgan Freeman, apparently. Maybe certain people, I don't know ... people who google themselves, or pay people to google them. Should we try a few? It's the opposite of stalking ... I want these people to stalk themselves, for me. I'm not even googling these people to see what they're up to these days (a semi-truth ... I had a bad feeling about Doug Henning, whom I was going to list here, so I looked him up and learned that he died a while back).

I would like to hear from Donnie Iris and/or Joe Grushecky. Drop in and say hi!

Who else? Louis Lipps and/or Bam Morris.

Norm Abram. Colum McCann. Linda Ronstadt.

The balls are in your courts, celebrities. Did I catch you googling yourself? Hey, it's okay ... everybody does it.

Generally I get one or two visitors a day looking for "Marion Ravenwood" photographs. This morning I had someone looking
for "make a better door than a window" "origin" ... I'll bet he or she was disappointed, though as it happens I am the creator of that phrase.

I could be misremembering that.

Someone found us yesterday by searching for "examples of irony in Led Zeppelin songs" (without the quotation marks, though now it will work even with the quotation marks).

Ain't life grand?

My Old School

You may or may not have noticed that I've been absent the last several days. I took the elder daughter around to look at some universities in which she has showed some relative interest. One of them was my alma mater, that PA school with the funny name. It was an interesting and mildly disorienting trip, during which I kept seeing students who reminded me impossibly of people I knew from a generation ago. Aside from those flashes of deja vu, though, the differences outweighed the similarities.

For one thing, my dorm is gone. And not just mine, but most of the rest of them too. Traditional dorms are being replaced by super fancy residence halls. Microwaves, once contraband, are now provided . The rooms looked nice, and security is a lot higher priority than it was ... okay ... here it comes ... BACK IN MY DAY.

It shouldn't have surprised me that almost nobody on the faculty back in the early 1980s is still around ... especially since I tended to gravitate toward the dead white men among the faculty when choosing my classes. Well, "be" has become finale of "seem," it seems, and even though a lot of those guys were probably younger then than I am now, they've moved on ... as I surely will have 26 years from now, assuming TIAA-CREF manages to get my retirement back on track sometime between now and then.

The only person I saw whom I knew was one of a small handful of good friends from the college years whom I still hear from (usually when an old prof dies); she teaches there now. It was a little disorienting in that the office she occupies is in a converted dorm in which she stayed one summer, and where I visited her on a couple of occasions. It was like being back there, sort of, except unlike me, she has aged a little (although very gracefully, I must add).

If somebody had told me back in '84 while we were sweltering on her single bed (platonically, always platonically--she was inexplicably resistant to my charms, as hard as that must be to imagine), watching Three's Company reruns on a 12" black and white TV on a summer afternoon, that we'd be sitting down the hall in her office talking about strategic planning, tenure and promotion, and the use of the SAT in the admissions process (platonically, alway platonically), I don't know if I would have believed it. Though I don't know how else it could have all turned out.

I see that the elder daughter is wearing her new T shirt with Alma Mater University's logo to school today. I have mixed feelings, but I guess I could think of worse things.

October 08, 2008

Times Square


I've never seen the film, but for a while, the soundtrack--which I picked up at random from a bargain bin sometime in the middle 1980's--was one of my absolute favorites. I don't think it was ever released on CD, alas, and if my cassette is still around and still functional, I'm going to guess that it's not in great shape. It was one of those "two LPs on one cassette!" deals that really meant that the tape was thin and stretchy and breakable. Wow, thanks for the convenience!

Anyhow, as unlikely as it is that you'll ever have the opportunity to grab a copy of this album, let me tell you, you it's pretty darned listenable ... even the cuts of the movie people singing their movie songs. IMDb provides the track listing here.

Highlights: Gary Numan's "Down in the Park"; The Pretenders' "Talk of the Town"; "Babylon's Burning" by The Ruts; Patti Smith's "Pissing in the River." Stuff you might never hear again if you don't go out of your way to.

October 07, 2008

Today's my day



Don't ask me why, but when I was out for lunch at Panera, that sad excuse for the vastly superior Atlanta Bread Company, I had so many people smiling at me I had to check and make sure I wasn't shedding five dollar bills. Outside of Lowes I looked at myself in the reflection of the store window just to make sure I didn't have a kitten on my head or something. Everybody was sending me the warm and fuzzy vibes.

Every man I saw seemed poised to buy me a beer and offer to change my brake shoes and turn my drums. Every woman I walked past made eye contact, smiled, and said hi to me. I'm talking three generations here.

This might surprise you, but this sort of thing doesn't happen to me every day. I'm going to stop and buy some lottery tickets on the way home.

October 06, 2008

Philadelphia Freedom

Okay, I'll post, but grudgingly. I was going to wait you out. Frankly, I think the gum post might be the best thing I've ever written, and I'm stunned--stunned and shocked--that it didn't elicit more comments, positive or negative. What, after all, is more controversial than gum-chewing policy?

When I was of middle school age, kids would buy some of the newfangled gum that was then all the rage. I think it was a quarter a pack. And then they'd sell it to other kids for a dime or even a quarter a piece. That's when I first realized the evil of gum and of my fellow man. Well, not first. And not evil. And not gum. But you know what I mean.

In 1976 I went to Philadelphia with our church youth group. I was an outsider amongst them, because I was the only pubescent Presbyterian from my school district, because my family drove by several Presbyterian churches to go to the one in the next town. I figured it was because our church was better than all those other churches. But they all knew each other from school, and they didn't know me. Kids can be so cruel. *Sob!*

Anyhow, the kids called me "Freck." Because, well, I'm covered with freckles. Now, of course, I'm covered with freckles and hair, but at that time, mostly just the freckles. Is it weird that I still hate them all? Even the one I had the doomed, unChristian crush on? To this day she defies my Google.

I mean, you know the whole point of youth group, right?

Anyhow, do you remember in that year--if you remember that year--that there were these shirts that became popular ... they were made of a villainously plasticky unbreathing material, and the front panel would have an ACTUAL PHOTOGRAPH printed on it? Amazing. Like scenery ... a sailboat on a lake. Or the Liberty Bell. Or the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Am I really the only one who remembers this brief fad? It was worse than the whole rest of the 1970s, I assure you. Worse even than the curvy combs with the thick teeth that everybody had to carry to comb their creamy Shaun Cassidy parted-in-the-middle feathered-back hair with. Anybody?

Why would I dream of owning a plastic shirt with a picture of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on it? You tell me.

October 01, 2008

God, if you're there, I'd like you to smite somebody.

We live amongst pigs. Pigs!

I work at a facility where smoking is banned both indoors and out. I'm a nonsmoker, and incidentally, the outdoor smoking ban strikes me as overkill, and in fact it makes me want to smoke every time I go outside. That's how I am.

So if you want to ban something, how about banning chewing gum?

It's a disgusting habit and it produces disgusting waste.

Honestly, gumwads (I'm calling all inconsiderate public gum-spitters gumwads) ... is it too much to ask that, when you get done snapping, chomping and drooling over that technicolor, turdlike wad of plastic goo you've jammed your gob with, you find an appropriate receptacle for it and throw it the HELL away?

Or, failing that, how about cramming the slobbery wad into the alternate orifice of your choice? Why not? It's already been in your mouth. And out. And in again. Tell me how every blown bubble ISN'T basically a spiderweb for germs and disease. (Weird ad ... I'm not sure "finance company" and "bubble about to burst" are concepts that I'd want to put together.)

Anyhow, in case you haven't guessed, I stepped in gum a little while ago. In a public dining facility.

I wrote a short play on the subject:

Me: Damn, I stepped in gum.

Other guy: That's disgusting.

Me: Wow, people are pigs. I really hate stepping in people's gum.

Other guy: Me too. Well, have a great day.

Me: A great day? Didn't you hear me? I STEPPED IN GUM.


You see, reader, a "great day" is a very fragile thing, the kind of thing an ignorant ruminant can ruin with impunity.

Go ahead, read that sentence again ... you know you want to.

September 30, 2008

I guess it could be worse

I'm going to get serious for a minute. I'm disappointed with the Steelers.

Look, I'm not a fair weather fan. Heck, I didn't even start watching them seriously until after the 1970s. Nobody who weathered the Malone, Brister, O'Donnell, and Stewart years can be considered a fair weather fan, it seems to me. Nobody who's shouted at their television "Put Tomczak in!" is a fair weather fan.

I know I should be happy that the Steelers won last night, that they beat the Baltimore Felons. But I'm not happy. I'm not satisfied. So I'm not watching. I would rather have seen them play well and lose than play poorly and win (exception here, and for really poor playing, check this out).

An athletic team has to deserve my time, and right, now, the Steelers don't. And they won't, until they play two decent halves of a game of football, in a row, in the same game. Until then, I will not sit and watch them. I will listen to them on the radio while doing something worthwhile, be it woodworking, yard work, house work, sewing buttons onto clothes from which buttons have been lost, what have you. If a great play is made, I might even run to the television and catch it on the replay, but until they turn things around, they may not have my undivided attention.

Call it tough love if you want. But those are the rules.

September 27, 2008

Asynchronous Debate Commentary

I didn't watched it, but I listened to part of it. So did some of my esteemed correspondents. I hope they don't mind if I share their wisdom:

First, a comment on this entry:

Jim, hope you're watching the first Obama/McCain debate--McCain just used the word "festooned"! He must be one of your loyal readers!

That gives me some hope. Ah, the bodaciousness--bodacity, if you will--of hope.

Then, from another correspondent:

Should McCain really be using phrases like “I didn’t win Miss Congeniality” when his running mate is a former beauty pageant contestant?

And:

Now I think he just said, “explectations.”

To which I replied:

I'm not watching the debate. I listened to a little of it, but ugh. McCain's "heh heh" is as ludicrous as Bush's ... if I were him, I'd try to find a different laugh, if it's not too late in life. Maybe HO HO, or Ha HAAAAA!

The response:

Imagine being in a room with Bush, Cheney and McCain all laughing.

[...]

Crap -- he just said "Talipan."


I imagine that room a lot, but I can't imagine being in it.

"'Festoon!' Heh heh. Heh heh. I dare you to say 'festoon' in the debate."

Or maybe Festoon McCain was the real McCain, the 2000 McCain, held prisoner by Sellout McCain, sticking to their script but trying to send a signal out to tell us he's really okay.

Or maybe what he was trying to say was "Why don't you pass the time by playing a little game of solitaire?"

That last one came from a guy I was talking to at the football game last night. Incidentally, the good guys lost, but they fought hard doing it. I guess we need to keep our explectations realistic.

September 25, 2008

Rescue Me

Once upon a time and a very good time it was I was able to taunt the young souls in my charge with boasts like "I know more about your culture than you do!" By this I meant that I knew more about popular music, television, pointless internet idiocies like the dancing baby, All Your Base, Tourist Guy, AND etc.

BOOM!

I never said I hoped I'd die before I got old or anything, but it never occurred to me that I'd quit liking ANY new music ... or to put it more solipsistically (solipsism? in a BLOG?), it never occurred to me that new music would suddenly and totally start to suck quite to the extent that it does.

Is that really what happened? If my radio is any indication, yes. The thing is, I hate thinking that I'll never hear anything new that I'll like. And I don't really believe that there's nothing good under the sun. So I put it to you: what should I be listening to?

I really don't consider myself to be closed-minded when it comes to music, though you'll probably think so if I don't like what you like. What post-2000 albums have I heard and liked, from artists I didn't already know I liked? Hmm. Tool's Lateralus. Adrienne Young's Plow to the End of the Row. Old Crow Medicine Show's O.C.M.S. Can't think of much else. Oh, the Once soundtrack.

So ... rescue me. I'll set up a Pandora station with your recommendations, and I'll listen to it for a week or so before I start nixing songs. Maybe I'll even live blog it a while, as you know I do if you've ever sent me a mix CD (even though I'll bet you don't really read my comments, do you? Kind of like my longer blog posts, eh?)

Oh, and I already know about these guys. Didn't like them that much the last time around.

Futility

Lately I've been kind of fascinated by futility. It's why I keep trying to play the guitar. But that's another story entirely.

I hereby propose this brief clip as an apt metaphor for ... hmm ... I don't know what. Something besides itself, certainly.



If I apply the method I used in my dissertation to an interpretation of this video, it's all about the cat.

September 22, 2008

Buddy Holly: Unlocking the Mystery

If you're like me, you've had the occasional epiphany ... and then wondered whether you were only then coming to realize something that everyone else already knows. In grad school somebody called these "cliched epiphanies," which is, in a word, apt. I propose "duhpiphany" as the word for this. But somebody has beaten me to it.

I just googled it and found some references, but they don't get at quite what I mean by the term. My definition is better. By definition. If you will. As it were. Etc.

(One person I work with says "et cetera, et cetera" all the time. I think you only need one of them, or preferably none. Drives me nuts. Another says "and et cetera." Wow. If you ever hear that I've died as a result of spontaneous combustion and or (don't click this link ... it's not for the faint of heart) Scanners-style brain explosion, assume that the last words I heard were those.)

But I digress ... you came to hear about my realization about Buddy Holly. First of all, I like Buddy Holly, but I've never been quite comfortable with what I took to be his earnestness. But then it hit me ... that high voice of his sounds pretty darned sarcastic, doesn't it? Sneering, even? I sat and listened to some of his biggest hits with my ears tuned to Sarcasm, and wow! Check this one out, right about :22, and see if I'm wrong.

And once you start down that road, the whole Holly oeuvre takes on another layer of meaning. I've always found this song to be kind of threatening in a "my love is bigger than a Cadillac" kind of way ... except when the Dead do it. Et cetera, et cetera, and et cetera.

Boom!

September 20, 2008

Same old song

I've decided to do nothing worthwhile today, so instead I did this. If I were creative I'd probably create something.

September 19, 2008

Toad or small dwarf

Every week I receive The Scout Report, a list of websites of potential interest to academics, and occasionally I find something in it of potential interest to me, because, after all, my interests are startlingly eclectic and yet superficial.

Today, it's the Index of Medieval Medical Images. I'm not a fan at all of contemporary medical images, and I've been subjected to more than my share of them ... but what can be more compelling than "Seated teacher. Semi-nude grotesque man. Bird with snake"?

Actually, it's not as cool as it sounds ... and the Steve Martin Medieval Barber sketch I was going to link to for my big finish is alas no longer available on Youtube.

September 16, 2008

Public Radio is Dandy

Why, oh why do the "on-air personalities" on local public radio have to be so ... so ... so like they are? (As a side note, is being a person better or worse than being a personality?)

Next time I phone in my pledge, I'm going to take my issues up with them. The morning disc-spinner also does the news, and I swear she can't get through a sentence without messing something up. It's like she's working from somebody else's scribbled notes, which might be true. Or maybe she's reading off the internet? Maybe she's reading this right now!

I know some people have trouble reading aloud, but I think if it's your job to read aloud in public, you need to identify the strategies that will increase your chance of doing it successfully. Type the stuff out verbatim. Boldface the words, or even the syllables, that need to be emphasized.

Look, we're in a small market, and I'm sure these people aren't making a fortune ... so please notice that I'm not mentioning names or even naming the market. I'm just venting.

Imagine a world where somebody has nothing more important to complain about!

And there's this other guy. He's got one of these pretentious, classical music type voices, but I can live with that. I'm pretty damned pretentious myself. But just once I'd like to hear somebody spinning the classical wax with a drawl. This guy can make me pound my head on the dashboard with a single word.

The word is sonata.

Look, I don't want him to say "snotta" or anything. That would be vulgar. But this guy, this dandy, swallows the "t" so sanottily that it comes out "sonaha." I drive around praying, literally praying, that he won't play a sonaha. Play a fuguing fugue. Play a sweet suite. But please don't play a muhhafuhhing sonaha!

Come on, man ... Did they send you to some special school to teach you to sound like you're better than everybody else?

Hmm, well, yeah, I guess they probably did. Okay, never mind.

September 15, 2008

Are you ready for some racism?

Anybody else watching Monday Night Football?

They're promoting Hispanic Heritage month tonight.

Anybody else notice that after they presented a replay called by a Spanish language announcer, one of the 'merican speaking announcers said something like,

"I took high school Spanish, either he said he's not going to be caught, or please pick up my dry cleaning tomorrow."

Awful Announcing attributes the line to Tony Kornheiser. (What do they teach their English students up there in Binghamton?) I don't even know that it was him ... I don't know their voices that well.

So, mmm, well, whoever it was, I wonder what exactly he meant with that dry cleaning crack? Probably nothing, but he did apologize in the 2nd half for something he absolutely shouldn't have said earlier, and I guess that must have been it. Wonder if he flashed on Howard Cosell at all while his mouth was talking?

Angry Candy

Angry Candy. That's how I feel today. I woke up pissed off about something, but happy that I'd have something to gripe about in this venue. But somehow this morning I got so absorbed in being pissed off about the very situational, mundane shite that occupies my waking hours that I just forgot what I wanted to write about.

(Nice footnote in the above-linked poem, by the way ... next time, instead of noting the one thing I could look up online with a simple click, howzabout telling us what Cambridge ladies are (for instance)?)

Instead, I'll pose a political (for which I apologise (pull out his eyes) question or two:

Is it only since the millennium that the Gulf coast has been menaced by hurricanes?

If not, what does it seem like that's the case?

If not, why didn't gas cost a buck a gallon more every time it happened back then?

I mean, what's different now?

September 13, 2008

September 12, 2008

So, so meta

So last night I'm bowling--yes, bowling, on a bowling team, in a league. One of my teammates is a burly guy with a flattop and a forthright way of speaking. He's making a career out of harassing Donnie, a shy, skinny, scraggly-bearded guy on the opposing team.

It's all I can do not to ask him to say, "Shut the f--- up, Donnie." But I don't, because it would hurt Donnie's feelings. Instead I ask him if he's ever seen The Big Lebowski.

He looks at me like I'm an alien for a minute and then asks, "Would I like it?"

"No," I reply. "No, I don't think so."

We're getting shirts. I want "The Dude" embroidered on mine, but I don't have the guts to ask. Oh well.

September 11, 2008

Upon further review

Maybe twenty years ago I was assigned, and read, Notes from Underground. Astonishingly, it did nothing for me. Now, as I grab it off my shelf this morning as a distraction from the fifty or more administrative flies I ought to be swatting this morning, I read this:

I was a spiteful official. I was rude and took pleasure in being so. I did not take bribes, you see, so I was bound to find a recompense in that, at least. (A poor jest, but I will not scratch it out. I wrote it thinking it would sound very witty; but now that I have seen myself that I only wanted to show off in a despicable way, I will not scratch it out on purpose!)

When petitioners used to come for information to the table at which I sat, I used to grind my teeth at them, and felt intense enjoyment when I succeeded in making anybody unhappy. I almost did succeed. For the most part they were all timid people -- of course, they were petitioners.

[...]

But do you know, gentlemen, what was the chief point about my spite? Why, the whole point, the real sting of it lay in the fact that continually, even in the moment of the acutest spleen, I was inwardly conscious with shame that I was not only not a spiteful but not even an embittered man, that I was simply scaring sparrows at random and amusing myself by it. I might foam at the mouth, but bring me a doll to play with, give me a cup of tea with sugar in it, and maybe I should be appeased. I might even be genuinely touched, though probably I should grind my teeth at myself after-wards and lie awake at night with shame for months after. That was my way.


And I feel a little less alone in the world. I wonder if I should go back and reread every book I read before turning forty?

September 09, 2008

Critical Theory

I've been trying to think of something funny and self-deprecating to say to introduce these venerable recordings, but everything comes out like "the most fun I've ever had with two other guys in a bedroom." I mean, it's true, but it's not exactly what I ... oh, the hell with it.

Anyhow, the name of the band was Ivory Tower, and the name of the game was work (and for me, home) avoidance. The name of the beer was Natural Light, and after all these years, that's the only thing I'm ashamed of.

If you listen carefully, you might hear a smug literary allusion ... maybe two!

Critical Theory by Ivory Tower (later the Elmers) circa 1989.

September 06, 2008

Not exactly political

I direct your attention to this link knowing--knowing, mind you--that no reader of this blog is likely to find it interesting or compelling. But I do. Because, really, that's how I am.

There are many paths to enlightenment

If by "enlightenment" you mean "this blog" ... people get here through some pretty interesting means. Most people who weren't specifically prodded to visit get here by searching "superior drinkability" (why? why? why?) or "marion ravenwood" ...

Last night somebody stopped by from Rush Presbyterian-St. Lukes Medical Center in Chicago after googling "i go first indy"

Seems like there's a story there, doesn't there? Maybe a sad one.

September 05, 2008

High school football

I like high school football--it's one of those institutions that make me like being a Pennsylvanian, and I guess an American. Of course, it's more fun when you win, as the hometown team did tonight, even though they were playing away. And it's even more more fun when they beat the rivals in the next town over. They suck because they're not us. It all makes sense in the heat of the moment.

For years after I wasn't in band anymore, the sound of a marching band made me nostalgic. Now the sound of a good marching band playing good marching band music gives me pleasure, but bad bands grate upon me like nothing else ... except, I guess, an actual grater. Like if somebody came at my scalp with a slaw grater or something. That would suck.

Tonight, sitting amongst the parents, I actually felt like part of a demographic, if only briefly ... this never happens to me. Usually I feel kind of alien. But today, sitting with other kids' parents, around hundreds of people more or less like me, I felt like one of a crowd of people who were generally decent people who often try to do their best, whatever they're trying to do.

And out of the thousand or more people there, I didn't see one of them--not one--whom I'd want to have as vice president. Huh.

September 03, 2008

This is nothing like the rabbit movie

Laugh if you want, but this is pretty remarkable.



I think this is pretty damned inspirational if not metaphorical. The most interesting thing to me, though, is that this guy shares a first and last name with my mother's cousin.* We could be related.

My favorite line: "Like I said, it's not done, it's got a bunch of other stuff to be done." Even before the end of the video, I was wondering, what do you do when you've finished something like this (besides stand there and crank it)?




*And as a former small town mayor, my mother could easily be a step away from the vice-presidency, so the significance of this is transparently self-evident.

August 27, 2008

Worst news all year

I've been brooding about this for a while now, and I guess it's time to talk about it: the American version of Life on Mars.



I'm the only person I know who saw the real Life on Mars on BBC America. I loved it, not because it was British, but because it was good: science fictiony police procedural. What's not to love?

And I'm not an Anglophile. Ask anybody. When you teach English, especially British lit, people seem to expect you to go weak-kneed over all things British. Not me ... for one thing, my main interest is in Irish lit, which is a significant distinction. For another, I don't like the idea of being a fanboy.


So, yeah, Life on Mars. The American version will probably suck ... suck the life and novelty out of the idea and spit it all over the inside of my TV screen. Part of what was good about the real version was the fact that it ended ... they understood that a series is a novel, and all good novels end, many of them sooner rather than later. Think The Prisoner. And the series ended well: convincingly and satisfyingly.



And it started nicely. They had me, I have to admit, at Archie Panjabi ... but aside from the show's kind of silly premise, I love the way it plays with the cop show genre and the opposites-attract-and-repel buddy dynamic as well. Watch the American version if you must ... the casting doesn't look half bad, with Harvey Keitel as Gene Hunt (but the British Hunt is kind of large and menacing). But if you get a chance, try to see the original. I'm guessing, sight unseen, that it's far superior ... and even if it isn't, it's damned good.

August 24, 2008

And speaking of Leonard Cohen covers

This one is pretty transcendent, IMHO. Sorry for the maudlin, but hey, it beats this one:

"Sore eyes for meddlers"

That's how my maternal grandparents (and occasionally my mother) would often answer when I'd ask, "What's that?" Apparently other people say "layover for meddlers" in the same circumstances.

The other day my daughter came in to report that she'd seen a grinny on the front porch, and it kind of cracked me up. A grinny, of course, is a chipmunk. I was pleased to learn that this was not merely a piece of family linguistic weirdness but is an honest to god regionalism, like "red up," which I won't waste your time with. I'm no linguist, mind you, but I thought I'd do a lazy Google search on some of my favorite grandpa-isms to see what else I could come up with:

Gornick: A fist-sized rock. Googling "gornick rock Pittsburgh dialect" turned up among other things the resume of an actor/model whose credits include "physically remove accountant." I'm not linking to it because I don't want him to think I'm making fun of him. Even though I'm not an accountant! The word feels like it ought have an origin in English coal country, Scottish, or Scotch-Irish dialects, but I don't know.

Board's a-play!
: This was my grandfather's way of crying shenanigans during a card game or board game. My grandparents were great players of games ... I think it was a generational thing. But if you got around my grandfather in a game, or if you miscounted something, he'd say "board's a-play." We still say it, but I don't know what origin, if any, it has. He's been gone going on 23 years, but this phrase more than any of the others, more than anything I think, reminds me of him. I always looked forward to him coming over for a visit because I was an only child with a great store of board games I never got to play (cue violins ...).

More to follow as they occur to me.