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].


[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.


[My Name]

And that was after only four cups of coffee!

November 18, 2008


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

... 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?"