December 11, 2009

I'm Proud To Be an American, Where At Least I Know I'm Free

"At least"? What does that "at least" mean?

Okay, the whole song makes my skin crawl, not that I myself am not glad to be an American, because I am, though what I feel about it isn't pride, exactly, but extremely lucky I got born where I did. Makes you wonder why all those other people didn't choose to be born here, huh? I mean, what's the matter with them? The song bothers me the way "Dixie" bothers me when old men sing it slowly and solemnly. Again, not that I don't occasionally wish myself in the land of cotton. My old times there will definitely not be forgotten.

But here I am in downtown Philadelphia, where a lot of this America stuff got sketched out, so while I'm going avoid politics (I avoid politics religiously), I'm going to float an observation or two.

First, if there's a heaven, it's liable to be a lot like the Reading Terminal Market.

Second, and this gets me back to the whole America thing, I committed two social errors yesterday (which admittedly sounds like a pretty good day for me ... and incidentally I would have used the term faux pas, but I'm too ignorant of the Anti-American Freedom Hater language to know what the plural should be ... Fries, anyone?). See, I like talking to people. If I'm interacting with people professionally, be they a salesperson in a conference booth or an "engineer" from the hotel who comes up to fix the internet connection, I'm liable to strike up a conversation. If they sport accents that indicate that they're not from around here, I'm liable to ask them where they're from. It interests me.

But it turns out that people really don't like that at all. The foreigners I've met in the U. S. recently haven't been too comfortable telling where they come from. Even the British guy ("our staunchest ally") who was trying to sell me a big expensive piece of software was hesitant to acknowledge his origin ... though eventually we were talking about his adopted home in Atlanta, his dogs and his wife, who is a cancer survivor, and his lower middle-class education, which involved learning a higher than upper-class Oxford accent. All of this was after we established that I wasn't buying the software. I should have asked him to sing "Dixie."

Hours later, I was in the hotel room trying to get some work done, and the scandalously expensive internet connection quit on me. The tech--excuse me, engineer--who came to my assistance is clearly Not From Here. Still comfortably stuffed full of my dinner (carryout from the Reading Terminal Market) of falafel, hummus, grape leaves, tabbouleh, etc., I asked him where he was from. "South Phillie," he replied, stiffly. "Oh, okay," I said. "I thought I heard a little accent." Turns out he's from Egypt, not from Cairo but from farther north. He told me a little bit about it, we joked about the weather, and then he fixed the internet connection and got the hell out of there.

In my line of work we spend time in conferences and meeting rooms talking about "celebrating difference" ... and we feel pretty good about ourselves when we do so. But the barriers to doing so are many and complicated.

November 29, 2009


Here in the Keystone State the Thanksgiving holiday bleeds over at least until Monday for public schools, since Monday is The First Day of Deer Season. When I grew up and moved to Ohio, I was incredulous ... I just assumed that everybody got the first day of dear season off. Everywhere. At least in America. The university where I work will be open tomorrow in spite of deer season, but I imagine we'll be a little short-staffed.

As a non-hunter I'm usually able to let deer season pass me by with barely second thought: a few more cars driving around with dead deer strapped to them, maybe, a few more gun shots heard in the distance than usual ... nothing more. But having just moved into my new abode last week, I've found several things that need fixing, and some of them are beyond me: a new subpanel in the basement, for instance, and some alteration of the roof over the garage to allow for the truck. Turns out there will be no home improvement for the next few weeks, since most of the people who do that sort of thing will be out hunting. Well, I hope they bag their limits tomorrow, because I've got some big ideas.

So: holidays, home improvement, and hunting--how to bring all of this together? Well. This is the season when outdoor critters start looking for heat, and this house having been bipedally unoccupied for some time prior to our arrival, it has been home to at least one resident, a mouse who decided to present himself in the kitchen during the preparation of the Thanksgiving feast. Ah, nothing brings three generations together like a mouse hunt! We might have been able to ignore it, or at least postpone the inevitable, had it not taken refuge up in the top part of the stove, mere inches from where the succulent giblets would soon simmer.

Madcap hilarity, shouting, violence, and remorse--Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings!

November 23, 2009


So in case you haven't noticed, the Wordshed has been on hiatus for the past couple of months ... what can I say? Work has been challenging but rewarding, and the idea of stealing a half an hour or so during the day to post something is pretty much out of the question. I'd rather be busy than bored, though, so I'm not complaining.

I spent the last week moving out of the crappy apartment. I can honestly say I'll miss the place, and the incessant hollering from the floor below. "ANDREW!" "MOOOOOOOM!" "MITCHELL!" Stomping, swearing, shaking my floor from the floor below--I don't even know how you'd do that. But it was great listening to two adolescent boys who ain't quite right practicing the F word when mom's out. Swearing is an acquired talent, and I was tempted to help them out. And it was great smelling burning microwave popcorn night after night after night. I'll miss it. I really will. Really.

So from a cramped apartment to house that's larger than we need on two acres with two views ... definitely a step in the right direction in spite of the general dilapidatedness of the house itself. The dog is having fun discovering the yard and the various interesting droppings deposited by deer and bears. The cats are still in hiding during the day, but they come out at night and raise galumphing, elephantine hell all night.

For everything I fix, I find two more things that need fixing. I guess that's what they call job security.

September 22, 2009

I am a new man

Don't laugh, boys and girls ... this will change your life. Really.

September 17, 2009

Even my nightmares are stupid

Well, you know you're out of stuff to talk about when you start talking about your dreams. So here goes.

Last night--early this morning, probably--I dreamed I was in one of these stupid Saw-type horror movies where you have to do all of this weird crap or else something bad will happen to you or a loved one or a puppy or something. Along with several other people (none of whom, oddly enough, I knew, either in the dream or in real life), I was being held captive in a house by a psychotic guy.

How were we held captive? That's the thing. We knew we were being held captive, and there was some vague threat about leaving. But this guy was nonchalant enough about the whole business that at first I kept thinking, "Why the hell don't we just gang up on him and kill him?"

Alas, none of my colleagues could be talked into it. So then I thought, "Why don't I kill him myself?" I'd like to think it was because at no point during the entire dream did the psychopathic villain harm anybody. But in fact I was probably afraid of ludicrously complex booby traps or something. What a stupid nightmare.

To be fair, he did keep the mummified remains of his mother (golly, how original) stashed under his bed. But these were cool, interesting remains ... a hardened, resinous boglady type mummy, not a nasty drippy dead body. I remember thinking, "That's really cool ... I wonder how he did that."

Still, there's this vague sense of dread. When he takes a nap (yes, the psychopath(et)ic villain naps daily), I broach the subject of murdering him, but by this point, my heart isn't in it. Instead, a bunch of us apparently go out to a SCHOOL BOARD MEETING. At which point, my unconscious's voluntary suspension of disbelief comes to a screeching end. What a stupid, stupid nightmare.

If you only click one of these links, please make it the "puppy" link above! Oh, and "house." You won't be sorry.

September 15, 2009

Trust me--I'm a doctor ...

... although I must admit I'm not a physician per se. I was washing my hands in the men's room today, as is my wont (which ought to mean, but doesn't mean, that I wont wash my hands in the men's room).

Oh, Apostrophe! We cannot contract without thee.

Anyhow, when I wash my hands I like to pretend that I'm Trapper John ... M.D., that is--not Hawkeye's cooler sidekick, but the competent surgeon whose sidekick was George Alonzo "Gonzo" Gates in a show I never once watched willingly. Which is to say, I wash my hands. With soap. Including the wrists. Often up to the elbow, as if I'm preparing to deliver a breached calf. Though I guess that would make me Trapper John, D.V.M.


I'm trying to work my way around to a BVM quip, but holy cow, I can't get there from here(tic).

So I'm in the can, washing my hands religiously, not the holy water dip but really cleaning them, because other people touch stuff I touch, and other people are often disgusting, when I see the sign on the mirror telling me to Fight the Flu by washing my hands. Because if you use soap long enough, you kill the bacteria.

Now I'm not a physician. Per se. But I'm pretty sure that with the flu we're talking about a virus, not a bacterium. I guess I should keep my mouth shut, though, and let people be scared into washing their hands, because after all, they go around touching the same stuff I touch. And I don't like it.

But I do like this:

September 14, 2009

Eschewing the obvious quip

I guess Jim Carroll died on Friday. I just heard about it.

Catholic Boy is truly a classic album. Not an ounce of fat. If you don't have it, get it. If you've ever drilled into a piece of steel, you know that the shavings that come out are small and very sharp. If you try to brush them away with your hand, they get embedded in your skin, where eventually they'll work their way to your heart or brain and cause serious problems. A lot of Jim Carroll's lines are kind of like that.

September 01, 2009

In memoriam, with a touch of guilty ambivalence

Writing here is not, generally, a form of therapy for me. Well, I guess it is, but not directly ... I write this because I have a pathological urge to pontificate, an urge that borders on the papal. But it's not like I'm trying to work through issues, as far as I know, because I think that's a lot of hooey.

Once I was driving along listening to a radio shrink on public radio, and she was describing a condition known as generalized anxiety disorder: "excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about everyday things that is disproportionate to the actual source of worry." Turns out it's a "condition" that can be "treated." Holy crap, I thought ... my whole damned personality is a condition that can be treated. My point is, I guess, that any issues I have are mine, and I'm keeping them.

But today ... today a colleague and erstwhile friend died. Erstwhile? Well, yeah. I hadn't seen him in several years, and we were not on good terms, particularly. I had heard, through mutual friends or acquaintances, that he was unhappy, that he viewed me as Part of the Problem, even though I wasn't too sure about what the problem was ... to the point where I didn't feel like I could pick up the phone and talk to him, even though I'd heard he was gravely ill. Well, hell.

Fifteen years ago, he hired me. Of course, the department hired me, but he was my main proponent as far as I could tell, and when I went to Charleston to look for a place to live, he graciously allowed me to stay in his home. He also gave me a TV. He was generous, maybe too much so. If I were able to join our friends in mourning, I'd gladly recount dozens of stories about the ten years we worked together, some of which would probably surprise those of you who knew him as a serious and demanding professor.

And, finally, we had our differences ... unimportant in the grand scheme of things, I'll freely admit. No point in dwelling on them now, though my memories, and probably those of our mutual friends and colleagues, are infused with these disagreements.

So, there's that. There are a lot of poems about death, and they're not necessarily the ones I'd quote here. But one of my favorites is Auden's "In Memory of W. B. Yeats," which reads, in part:

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Goodbye, Tunie.

August 18, 2009


... is how I would describe my new job as going. Therefore the video I'm embedding below is in no way a comment on that. But it's funny. Maybe. Or not. Thanks, filmdrunkcom!

If you're sensitive, please be forewarned that parts of this video would be blurred out if shown on network TV (or even Comedy Central).

August 09, 2009

Surviving the sellout

If you allow it, your Tivo will make suggestions based on your recording habits and fill itself up with stuff you might like. I can say that I'm not always comfortable with the picture that it throws back at me.

That said, I'm watching a Bob Saget standup routine that it chose for me ... and laughing at it. I don't think he's going to make my standup top five or anything, but here's a guy who has actually survived the sellout. That loathesome sitcom, the smarmy home video show (most of which are so painfully staged--I mean, yes it's funny that you stepped on the rake and hit yourself in the crotch, but why the hell are you filming it? Don't BS me with fake blows to the groin. Is what I'm saying.

But here he is in 2007--profaner than he needs to be, I think, but aren't we all? He's looking good after all these years, rather funny, and obviously able to put some butts in theater seats while talking about getting rich and famous for doing things he wasn't very proud of. So good for him. Hey, I don't know if he's happy or not, but at least he's doing something he can respect.

And then there's Jim McMahon. I hated this guy back in the early 80s, mainly because I shared much of 1985 with a guy hight--or dare I say yclept--Young Jerome, the boyfriend of my girlfriend's roommate (there ought to be a word for that), and he was a Bears fan ... bad enough in any epoch, but intolerable in 1985. The effing ineffable arrogance of this cocky jerk--McMahon, I mean, not Young Jerome--with his beer and his sunglasses and his 80s hair (which I suppose we must forgive), and his apparently meteoric rise to stardom. That rap song. Ugh. But he played a lot of football even after he crashed and burned with the Bears. Not good football, particularly, but he stuck with it, and that's something, even as a backup. Maybe it was because he burned too many bridges in Chicago to get away with hanging around and snipping ribbons in front of new businesses in that bizarre ritual of symbolic circumcision. Did he survive the sellout? I wouldn't call it an unqualified success, but maybe it could be said that he earned it retroactively.

So ... who else? Surprisingly cool, maneless Peter Frampton maybe? And why are these stories so compelling?

July 24, 2009

Anglophilia and other social diseases, part I

I'm always surprised when people assume that because I studied and taught English, I must be an Anglophile. For one thing, lots of people study "English" without spending a whole lot of time reading English literature; lots of undergraduate English programs are set up to facilitate that--for better or worse.

Anyhow, if I remember correctly, I wrote my dissertation on some books written by an Irish writer ... and even though he was born a British subject and--correct me if I'm wrong--remained one by choice until (and presumably after) his death, he certainly wasn't English. Most 20th century British literature worth reading is likewise not precisely English.

So ... I haven't been to too many exotic and foreign places, and certainly the UK is someplace I'd like to visit, but I don't expect to love it exactly. I don't feel drawn there or anything. I just don't get that--it's not like I'd get to live in any of the books I've come to know and love of the years.

Once I read a paper to the ladies of a local Jane Austen Society chapter, and they were all dressed in some semblance of period costume for their post-lecture "high tea," during which I--trying modestly to avert my eyes from the little old ladies in their Empire dresses while leaning down close enough to hear their enthusiastic discussions--realized that they were engaged with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in a way that I just couldn't be. I could live in London for the rest of my life and never be invited to a party at the Dalloway home, is what I'm saying. I don't read the stuff because I want to experience it. Most of the stuff I read about I'd hate to experience firsthand.

It might be that pretend history is easier for people to swallow in places like in the very historical southern town I used to live near, because about that same time I also met a person who had a pronounced--yea, even mispronounced--British accent he had somehow picked up after spending ONE SUMMER in the UK as an ADULT, defying everything anybody knows about dialect acquisition. Embarrassing--to everyone but the one who should have been embarrassed.

That's the kind of thing that makes me leery, to say the least, of Anglophilia.

To be continued ...

July 12, 2009

After long silence

I did, I confess, think about quoting in its entirety the Yeats poem "After Long Silence," but upon reflection I'm not fond of it, and it's not relevant. I might as well have quoted "After great pain, a formal feeling comes," which I also don't like much and which is also irrelevant. And from there it's only one short step to the After the Fire version of "Der Kommissar."

Go ahead, you know you want to. We'll wait.

Well, it's been an eventful month: one campus interview right on the heels of another, with a job offer from the first interview coming as I was waiting to begin the second interview. For a short while there, I felt like I was a very hot commodity indeed ... hotter, in fact, "than hell itself." As Tom was wont to say.

If you bothered to follow the link, you might also want to check this out. I would live in that world if I could--that trumpet, that voice.

The (self-perceived) hotness was mitigated only a little by the subsequent revelation that the second interview will not result in a job offer, that I will not be the subject of a battle royale (with cheese) amongst my current employer and two prospectives. I wasn't the top choice in Georgia, and I couldn't string the other place along long enough to see whether Georgia would work their way down to me (it happens), so I gladly accepted the first offer and will be starting there August 17. I'm sure it would have been my first choice in any case, but it might have been good from a negotiation standpoint.

I'm not putting the details here because I like to keep this space separate from my professional life, at least in the search engines. But folks, if you're having trouble getting yourself mentally ready for an interview, it's always helpful to watch this clip (it includes some not-safe-for-work language). Even if I shared this with you recently, it's worth watching again:

I also like to watch Apocalypse Now before a campus interview. Gets me in the right frame of mind to go up the river and into the heart of darkness.


June 21, 2009


I woke up this morning not thinking about blues songs that begin "I woke up this morning," but rather about interstices, which are yet another unacknowledged casualty of the so-called digital age.

Cast in cement or etched in stone on a building where I work is the maxim "Wisdom is the fruit of reflection," and that might be the wisest, truest thing I've heard there (though it was probably merely an attempt, in a pre-digital age, to console students and faculty making the long trudge from one end of campus to the other ... of course now, instead of reflection in service to wisdom, we have cell phone conversations: "Where are you?" "I'm walking on the sidewalk." "Where are you?") You're not going to get wiser with ear "buds" in your ears, or talking on a cell phone. Wisdom is not the fruit of banality.

So whence wisdom? Beats me. Maybe people used be wiser because they'd use the time their bodies were busy and their minds weren't to think rather than to be entertained, to be amused to death.

All I know is, I sat down just now to talk about certain interstices, certain special moments of silence: between "Heartbreaker" and "Living Loving Maid." Between "Waitin' for the Bus" and "Jesus Just Left Chicago." Between "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions." Hell, even between "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" and "City of the Angels." Maybe that's where we can find a few seconds of enlightment: between the tigers and the butter. Think about it.

You're never going to attain enlightenment with your Ipod on shuffle, people.

June 16, 2009

Happy Bloomsday!

And for those of you who've never found time to read the greatest novel ever, this. Listen live starting at 7.

June 10, 2009

Cat People, Dog People

I've always considered myself to be a cat person, probably because I've always had cats. I like cats and I have trouble understanding why some people don't. Cats crack me up. They are graceful but unwilling to act within the bounds of grace. And if you have a pack of cats, you have a whole that adds up--in ways that can actually be kind of creepy--to something more than the sum of its parts. It can be ominous, if cats can be ominous.

Some people, apparently, hate cats. I don't get that. I love cats.

And yet, as it turns out, I'm also a dog person. I had a friend in graduate school--and so did many of you--who claimed, credibly, to prefer dogs to people, and who claimed, not so credibly, that if she had to choose between running over a dog or running over a person, she'd probably hit the person. This was all the more perplexing to me because her dog was the one dog I've ever met that didn't like me.

But, you'll say, that dog didn't like anybody. That's not the point. Animals love me, dammit. Did you ever see a statue of St. Francis with his hands outstretched and birds flying around him? Well, I can assure you that birds are more likely to crap on the statue of St. Francis than they are to crap on me. So there.

I resisted letting my family get a dog, because I knew from experience that dogs are a lot of trouble. They have to be outside a lot, and their interactions with strangers can be problematic (as I experienced as a youth when my dog Max, a rescued doberman, had an altercation first with a horse, and then with the angry Amishman whose buggy the horse was pulling). Funny looking back on it, and a little funny even at the time ...

Everybody in the family insisted that the dog would be no trouble to me ... they'd walk it, they'd feed it, they'd clean up after it, etc. Suuure. But I knew that I'd be hearing that "my dad wouldn't let us have a dog" line for the next 50 years, so I relented.

Well, Annie (how did we end up naming our dog after the one dog I've ever met who didn't like me?) sure was a cute puppy, and I held the family to their promise. And of course fell in love with the dog. A year or so later, the family took a vote and said that the dog was too much trouble, that I had been right, that they wouldn't mind giving her away. My response was this: "If we start getting rid of things that are too much trouble in this house, we're NOT starting with the dog." I glared significantly and waggled my significant, even Dickensian eyebrows (ah, the joys of ageing), and everyone got the point. The dog stayed, and so did they ... so far.

And so, seven or so years later, I'm an animal person, not a cat person. The dog is sweet-natured and not overly brave, so I'm all the more impressed when she responds assertively to perceived threats (a noise on the porch that isn't somebody ringing the doorbell, for instance ... or the wheelbarrow in the yard, which she apparently thinks is a very slow-moving three-legged bear). She maintains order amongst the cats by breaking up their wrestling matches and naps. She recognizes about five words, and if you say one of them, you can watch her slowly checking down through her short list of concepts to see which one might be relevant: Out? Treat? Snack? Cookie? Toy?

So while I guess I continue to value human life over animal life in general, I do find myself prefering the company of animals. They might be sneaky, but they're honestly and frankly sneaky. They don't lie, and they don't want more than they need. And they're not big complainers.

Hooray for animals!

Birds, though ... I'm not big on birds.

June 05, 2009

Never too busy to rock

Well, it's been a busy time out here in the Wordshed ... I've been working the Richard III and MacBeth angles in the workplace to some positive effect. Add to that the impending graduation of the elder child, including a weeklong visit from biodad et al., and a visit from MY folks with all of the frantic housecleaning that entails ... and it's been exciting.

Not, however, as exciting as hooking up with fellow WSRD fans on Facebook. If you grew up in or around Youngstown, you might remember how cool that station was. I can honestly say that it made me what I am today, for better or worse.

It's nice remembering the lost classics. If you're from Cleveland, Youngstown, or (dare I say it) Western PA and of a certain age, you may remember these guys.

May 27, 2009

When I was back there in middle school

I loved this book when I was a kid. I can't wait to read it again. For free. On my Kindle, baby! Also available as a free audiobook, if that's the kind of thing you go for.

I don't remember much about it, so it will be interesting to see if I can remember why it spoke to me or what it said when it did.

What I remember most about middle school is hating middle school. I remember a kind of creepy PE teacher who, in my imagination, looked and talked a lot like Col. Kilgore. Rumor was, he was still going overseas and flying missions on the weekends.

We didn't have recess; we had "Recreation" every other Wednesday, and it was a pubescent version of the prison yard. There was a kid who was called "Dirt Ball," and he had a game named after him. Somebody would yell "dirt ball!" and everybody would pelt him with footballs, basketballs, baseballs, whatever. And he would cry. I don't know if he was dirty, but I'm pretty sure his family was poor. Ah, the innocence of youth.

Not my scene, even though I wasn't Dirt Ball. I hated it, so I asked Kilgore if I could spend recreation in the library instead. He looked at me as if I were a pathetic, greasy-haired little punk in clothes his mom made him. Which, to be fair, was not far wrong. He let me go, though, probably because I was beneath his considerable contempt.

As an aside: this was recreation, not PE. PE was worse, because Kilgore could not tolerate lazy, idle little schemers who wore their underwear under their shorts rather than a jock strap. There were spot checks. And he was very concerned with cleanliness. After PE, the communal shower was excruciating, and if there was horseplay in the shower, the punishment was to assume the pushup position, unpleasant enough at the best of times, even worse when you're twelve, in shower with twenty other twelve year olds, in six inches of plugged up drain water, holding yourself in the "up" pushup position and hoping your hands didn't slip out from under you in the scummy water. There wasn't a lot of horseplay in the shower under the watchful, watchful eye of the PE teacher.

I loved the library though. The librarian was a younger guy, soft-spoken, patient, tolerant. Polite but not personally friendly. I and a few other unathletic types would sit there and listen to records ... Bill Cosby and Elton John are ones I remember. Once we "accidentally" pulled out the headphone jack while "The Bitch is Back" was playing, and this got us into a little obligatory trouble.

I signed out books by the armload and spent as much time in the library as possible. The librarian let me spend a ton of time in there and made sure I picked books that would make me want to read more books.

For this I am truly grateful.

Changing Lanes and Other Tangential Ruminations

My theory on changing lanes is that in general, there's little or nothing to be gained from changing lanes. Whatever lane you get into will probably slow down to a stop as soon as you get into it. There's probably a reason for it, like the ripple effect of people tapping their brakes in traffic. Or maybe it's just perception.

But I think it's real. And it's not only the case when you're waiting on the interstate while an accident is cleared or while people are jockeying for position whilst funneling down to one lane. It's also the case in the checkout line in Walmart.

Also: the self-checkout line isn't usually faster. It just isn't! And it's a ripoff, since you have to pay the same to check out your own stuff. That's how they get you.

I also am against people waving other people on. When I'm about to turn left in front of you, don't wave me ahead. Just go so I can turn left. You wave me on, I take your wave as a free pass, and the next thing you know I'm pulling out into oncoming traffic. The rules were designed for a reason, people.

May 12, 2009

A mere scutcheon

When I taught the Brit lit survey, one of the themes that emerged was the idea of honor ... easy to follow through Beowulf, 1 Henry IV, and Paradise Lost, for instance. And since I was running an honors program, I guess I had the idea on my mind.

So when I saw Star Trek last week, I was forced to realize that everything I think about honor probably came from the original series ... very disconcerting.

Of course, I can pontificate on the subject all day to little effect ... or I can point you toward this, if you haven't seen it already.

May 05, 2009

Sunshine on a Stick!

Ah, the hard lessons of childhood: Pixie Stick powder, stirred in water, does not make Kool Aid. And healthy as it might be, nothing you freeze yourself is going to have the consistency of a popsicle:

I'm not even sure juice is that good for you anymore. Full of sugar, isn't it? I also remember "Timer" urging me to eat cheese all afternoon ... and cheese, correct me if I'm wrong, is basically congealed fat.

And if you're bored on a rainy day and want to do something fun, waiting for juice to freeze in the freezer might not be the greatest thing.

But did you catch those metal ice trays? Anybody else miss ice with jagged edges?

April 30, 2009

Air quotes as gang signs?

I like music, but I hate a lot the music I hear. Know what I mean? When somebody tells me about this or that band I'd probably really like, I know that I probably won't actually like them. I try, I really do.

Some people I trust more than others, because they really have my number, tastewise. Other people try passionately, and I try to be openminded, and sometimes it works.

I admit to my prejudices. Just as I'm predisposed to hate any film with a Verbing Proper Name title, I'm not likely to like a band with an apparently ironic one word name title. The exception is Cake.

I suspect that if I'd heard Cake back when I was trying to write songs, I might have just given up, not in despair exactly (as happened when John Popper squashed my harmonica aspirations) but out of ... what? Respect? The vague and probably erroneous impression that they and I would call the same people @$$holes?

Cake is a band I can go for months without thinking of, but now that I hear them weekly over the opening credits of Chuck, which I admit to watching (there are several fairly witty shows on my radar now), I have them in fairly heavy rotation on the old mp3 player. Less insistently whimsical than Jonathan Richman, less nihilistic than Warren Zevon, less oppressively intellectual than Timbuk3 ... good stuff.

April 29, 2009

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful

Many years ago in a faculty retreat I was subjected to some form of a personality test, and it turns out I'm the kind of person who is bugged when 0 of 2 people find my review helpful on Bugged enough to bug my wife into asserting that she found said review helpful.

So now, 1 of 3. And the 1 is a fake. Well, maybe it's a fake. She wouldn't click the damned "yes" button until she read my review and asked a couple clarifying questions. Sheesh.

April 28, 2009

Hey, Christian Bale!

Hey, Christian Bale! Where can I buy me one o' them fat-tired motorcycles that you can't lay down? Gotham Moto Mart maybe? I guess I need to buy one in case there's a robot apocalypse.

Seriously ... how many movies does something have to appear in before it's a cliche? Just saw a trailer for Terminator: Put Us Out of Our Misery, and here we go with these batcycle-style toy motorcycles again. I don't care if do they exist in real life (because I'm sure somebody is itching to tell me allllll about them) ... I don't believe in them. I don't find them credible. I deny their existence. And I don't want to see a movie full of them, any more than I want to see a movie where an annoying boy races an absurd flying chariot through the desert against a collection of malignant muppets. Where's that big old sandworm when you need one?

Back to the trailer. Did you catch that one giant robot that looks like a large version of the buffoonish Spy Vs. Spy robots from "Episode 1" of the Star Wars debacle? Seriously, if you're making a Terminator movie and can aim no higher than pretend motorcycles The Phantom Menace, the mindless soulless robots have already won. They're here already! You're next!

Remember The Road Warrior? That was a good movie. Muppet-free as I recall, and the vehicles, though fanciful, were real.

I guess I'm just tired of watching cartoons ... but if the director is named McG, I guess you have to be prepared.

April 24, 2009

Q: What might have saved Star Wars I - III?

A: Basically, an elite group wearing these.

INcidentally, at some point in the movie I insist on calling Star Wars, because that's what it was called, Darth Vader is addressed (by Peter Cushing, I think? Or Obi-Juan?) as "Darth."

Implying that it was his name, not his title. I'm just saying.

I know Star Wars wasn't that good to begin with, but Lucas's retrobuggering of Star Wars just ... bugs me.

Sorry, fandroids, but I'm not quite willing to believe that this line of Darth Vader's dialogue from "A New Hope" wound up on the cutting room floor:

"What the hell? I think I built that f---ing robot."

April 23, 2009

Blanketly II: Electric Boogaloo

Because I've been getting some hits from Google searches on "blanketly," I decided to check it out, and I found this link.

Allow me to declare my opposition to an "open dictionary" if it's going to imply validation of a nonword like "blanketly" and THEN call it a verb. Like most words ending in -ly, it's an adverb. Or it would be if it were a word at all. Which it isn't.

What contumely.

April 22, 2009

Setting the tone

Weird how the song or two I hear on the radio on my way to work can set the tone for the whole day.

Bonnie Raitt's version of the song is very nice, especially in this performance; I think it's a little too slow on the record.

The record!

April 21, 2009


Blanketly: this is a word I learned in a meeting yesterday ... as in, "we're not going to make these cuts blanketly." To be fair, the speaker was being grilled by an angry mob, or what passes for one at my place of work.

I also listened to a colleague describe an upcoming "Supposium." This one I like ... it suggests a group of people gathered together to discuss the possibilities. Maybe that's just the kind of outside-the-box thinking we need, where the rubber meets the road.

April 14, 2009

Hardy Har Har

Back when I taught Survey of British Literature, we'd be hitting Thomas Hardy right about now, hitting him the way the Titanic hit the iceberg.

(pause for laughter)

(pause for awkward silence broken only by the sound of chirping crickets)

Of course, one of the poems we discussed was "Convergence of the Twain," because it gave me the opportunity to speak disparagingly of "Leonardo DiCrappio" (who, I must admit," is actually pretty good, even if I don't like most of the movies he winds up in).

I would always ask them what "convergence" meant, and what "twain" meant, and then suggested that if they found poetry difficult they might begin by trying to understand what the WORDS IN THE TITLE mean.

A convergence is things coming together, you see (Mike--no.), and "twain" means two things, so it's two things coming together, like two twains on the same twack.

Two ... twains ... on the same ... twack.

Q: How come it's funny when Leno and Letterman repeat their bad punch lines during their monologues?

A: It isn't.

April 12, 2009

Before the rain came ...

... and before I wussed out and made us bail because I knew my crappy Buick was never going to get out of that hilly parking lock after the rain came.

The video's a better view than we had, that's for damned sure. But hey, I think you can see us in the shots from over the drummer's shoulder.

Oh, uh, embedding disabled by request, but here's the link.

If you ever let me drag you to a show, thanks, dare I say it, for the memories!

April 05, 2009


I think I missed my epoch. I would have liked to live in the 40s and early 50s, I'm sitting here watching a half decent procedural called Down Three Dark Streets, and I think I missed my calling. I should have been an old time movie detective.

1. Snappy dialogue, witty repartee
2. Everything looks cooler in black and white
3. Dames saying things like, "You boy scouts got names?"
4. Men in suits, pointy women in dresses
5. Unwavering faith in the law=good equation
6. Voice-overs to provide helpful context
7. Smoking and drinking

But it wouldn't work. I'd never fit in ... and it's all because of the beard. Bearded people barely exist in these films, and if they do, they're suspect at best. It's the kiss of death (if you will), like having a too-wide tie, an accent or an Italian surname. Any ONE of these makes you a suspect ... two or more and you're a marked man.

Fun film, by the way. Grandpa Fred from Sixteen Candles is in it, and so is Claude Akins of B.J. and the Bear fame.

April 04, 2009


Against my better judgment I went to see Knowing last night. If you're interested, you can read my review here.

March 31, 2009

Time and place are everything

First time I heard this song, I was in a rental car in Miami, Florida, in the eye of a relationship hurricane if you will, driving or riding--strange that I can't remember which--in sulking silence and listening to public radio. It must have been Sunday morning.

It's hard to describe ... even hard to remember ... how it struck me as something sublime.

The other classic Blind Willie Johnson recording is this one:


I hate it when perfectly nice people say irritating things. They might talk about the "drinkability" of some piss beer. They might say "and et cetera." Or they might describe things to which one might relate as "relatable."

When I'm sitting in a meeting of people (often not from the academic side of the house) who talk about this situation or that textbook as being "relatable," I just want to say, "Oh, it's relatable? Then go ahead and RELATE IT."

Look: the Iliad and the Odyssey are "relatable" in that they are stories that one might relate. "The Three Little Pigs" is relatable ... not because one might identify with this or that little piggy, but because one might relate, or recount, a children's story. First Year Seminar is not relatable. A Practical Introduction to Literary Study is not relatable. (Shameless, I know, but at least there's no hyperlink.)

My cousin, in contrast, is not relatable, relative though she be. E equals emmereffin' emcee squared isn't relatable, though it is related to relativity. Get it?

Folks, the boulder that is the English language is rolling down the hill, and all we can do is throw ourselves in front of it to slow its inevitable downward momentum. Come all you sissified Sisypheans: can you relate?

March 29, 2009

Help me, Spock!

Flipping through the channels at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning, you can get a real cross-section of the self-loathing to which advertisers pander. I didn't notice this until now, but when I was in Jordan earlier this month, I don't think I saw a single infomercial. Those poor, unenlightened, people.

It's funny ... people presumably watch TV for escapism, right? Yet every five minutes we're reminded how bald we are, how fat we are, how undefined our abs are, how untrusty and prone to malfunction our penises are, how mysterious our credit reports are, how clogged with crap our colons are ... how damned we are. What exactly are we escaping from? I guess the escapism lies in the dream that these conditions are correctable.

Oh, and uh, just for the record, when I said "we" in the paragraph above, I didn't mean me specifically ... I wouldn't want you to get the wrong idea about my credit report.

The other thing I've found is the episode of Star Trek in which Kirk, Spock, a mildly crosseyed Abraham Lincoln, and a vulcan named Surak or something take on Genghis Khan, a Glenn Fordish guy who, unlike Glenn Ford as far as I know, led a genocidal war on earth in the early 21st century (in a snazzy red jumpsuit), a wild woman with a nice looking midriff who conducted some kind of genetic experiments, and Somebody or Other the Unforgettable, the guy who introduced badness to the Klingons.

All at the behest of a giant steaming dog turd.

When I was a kid, I loved this episode, and I was horrified when Lincoln died at the business end of a pointed stick. As I watch it now, there are some problems with this episode, but none more glaring than the fact that the bad guy's strategy relies on Genghis Khan's relentless talent for ... mimicry.

I just skimmed the wikipedia article on the Mongol warlord, and I guess I need to head over there and add some information about Genghis Khan's most dangerous skill.

March 27, 2009

Who is this impostor?

I don't know who this "LeBrown James" character is, or whether he's trying to stalk me by taking on some bastardized version of my name and presenting a weak imitation of my skills, but it's really kind of sad.

March 26, 2009

Satan on skates

It's been a busy week so far. I went to a hockey game last night and felt like I was at home somehow. That's not a comment on the level of combat in my home ... maybe I should said I was in my milieu.

"Hockey arena" and "milieu" aren't usually adjacent in my thoughts, I must admit. But: while there I saw ads for "The Dead," who will be playing there next month, and yes, I'll be attending. I haven't been excited about the show, but en route to our seats we saw a poster, with a variation on the "steal your face" image, and I gotta tellya, it got me going.

They were also selling a lot of Celtic-themed Penguins merchandise, which needless to say I liked. Though not enough to buy.

The game was good. The Satan of my title is, of course, Miroslav Satan. Not the other guy. Anybody for a "when hell freezes over" joke?

Forgot to mention: I received a substantive comment on a past post. Check it out!

March 21, 2009


Hi gang ... Somebody named JB just posted a review of Twilight over at Whiskey Fire.

March 18, 2009

A nice short scary movie

Yes, I know I've been relying a lot on videos this month, but it's been a wee bit busy around here. The good news is, this is a nice little film ... very creepy. Not in the way the rabbit cartoon was, but yeah, a little. So ... enjoy.

Nota bene: there's some NSFW language in it ... F-words and whatnot.

I wonder if this is the kind of stuff the creators of Youtube had in mind, or if they really meant it to be mostly idiots lip-syncing or shaking their asses.

March 17, 2009

And It Stoned Me

Huh. Well, Van Morrison's people have done a good job of hiding his stuff from me. Ordinarily I avoid these Youtube covers like the plague--or indeed like the plaque, as you know from my references to flossing--but you know ... every now and then you get lucky. Check out this nice piece of Irish-ish music, and Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Here's another, with one obvious problem, but once you get past it, it's also very good. Can you tell I love this song?

March 16, 2009

Top o' the mornin'? To me?

The Today Show crue is in "Ireland" now, and sure and begorrah, were they offensive this morning. My theory is that the worse the economy is, the more Americans throw themselves into St. Patrick's Day. Where are the media analysts and cultural critics who will analyze this phenomenon (do doo, do do do) for me?

So they met Obama's Irish 8th cousin today. 8th cousin. I'm not a genealogist, but I'm descended from some (I slay me), and it seems to me that everybody's pretty much everybody else's eighth cousin (or less). Ridiculous. And the Irish Obama song was fun before the election, but dammit, the election is over. Today Show, quit campaigning for him already. How about holding his feet to the fire about these bailouts? Nah ... instead we'll walk around the gardens of "Ireland."

Are you wondering what the quotation marks around Ireland were for up there? Are you eager to jump on me for using them for emphasis? Well, sorry. I say "Ireland" to refer to the place where American telejournalists go in March. I would love to go to that "Ireland." It looks so simple, with people living amongst sheep and all. They presumably whittle their soap and all that.
Wear sweaters and cool tweed caps. That would be cool. I could live like that. Does "Ireland" even have electricity?

I think it must be a lot like the magical kingdom of OZ.

And really, who cares about the real Ireland, if there is such a thing? It's probably way too complicated.

March 13, 2009

Too Tired To Rant

I've heard and read about people falling asleep doing the strangest things. Well, the things they were doing weren't necessarily strange, but the fact that they could fall asleep doing them might have been considered surprising. But I can honestly say, whatever it is, this week I can imagine falling asleep during it.

When I was a kid, my dad raced stock cars at a nearby dirt track. I'd sit in the front row and cheer for him, and often I'd fall asleep during the races. And these races were loud ... not Nascar loud--should I have written that NASCAR, with the italics indicating speed?--but pretty damned loud.

I've also dozed off while getting a haircut--oh, geez, not another haircut entry!--and while having my teeth cleaned. I have some of the crookedest teeth in the developed world, and I floss them like the proverbial emmereffer. And I prefer the good old fashioned mechanical scraping to the screechy ultrasonic water laser thingy they tried on me once. Couldn't sleep during that.

I've fallen asleep at the movie theater, and I've fallen asleep during operas (sorry, Peggy). And I've fallen asleep during more afternoon sitcoms than I care to count (again, apologies where due). Last night I dozed, unapologetically, during an excruciating county band concert in which the progeny performed.

Wait, what? Did you think I said "The Prodigy"? Well, if you insist ...

Same time last year.

March 12, 2009

New Template

This will do, at least until St. Patrick's Day.

Brought into the 21st century by the underrated Daredevil film and My Name is Earl!

Wordpress Envy

Okay, no love for the format change ... I can understand that. I don't like it much either, especially since it has elements that I don't need and that don't work.

But I'm tired of the old, people. Let be be finale of seem, is what I'm saying.

So I'm thinking ... just thinking, mind you ... just kicking it around ... about seeing how Wordpress works, rather than Blogger. Because Wordpress looks a little cooler, a little more control freak-friendly. Just kicking it around. Any thoughts? any experiences?

By the way ... Bleak House is pretty damned good, it turns out. Especially on the Kindle (2)... easier to read in the growlery. If I must die (and empirically, I think I may be immortal ... so far so good!), one of the acceptable causes is spontaneous combustion. And if you've ever been around me when the Steelers are playing poorly, you know it's not that hard to imagine.

Just preferably not in the, uh, growlery, pace Elvis.

March 09, 2009

Don't leave me hangin'!

Wow, I can't believe that the template change provoked no comment ... if you can't say anything nice, right? OR my clever yet prurient allusion to David Lynch's masterpiece, Dune.

Come on ... what do I have to do to get a rise out of you people?

Oh, okay.

March 08, 2009

Oh, and ...

I hope you like the new template: creator credits are at the bottom of the page. I would have stayed with the old one if I could have figured out how to make the text part wider. But it was time for a change, I think.

Let's see if this works

Clicking should take you to the Picasa album, where you can view larger images if you prefer.

March 05, 2009

Penultimate night

I love the word "penultimate," because people misuse it, thinking that it means "more ultimate than ultimate." I really love the word "antepenultimate," just because I think it's weird that we need a word for "the one before the one before the last one." It's a hopeful word, and a word with a lot of syllables.

So ... today was spent in meetings, which was actually kind of relaxing after hiking all the f--- over Petra yesterday. Thing is, you can't stop. Everywhere you look, it's "Holy crap! Can you believe that? Can you believe that something like that actually exists?" And then, when you start thinking about the technology that went into it, it's really pretty unimaginable.

Also unimaginable is that up until pretty recently, people still lived in those caves ... and in fact, it looked to me like a lot of the vendors lived in there even now. Or at least they stay there a lot.

I'll post some pictures when I can, for those who are interested. In the meantime, this.

The highlights of the day for me were two: first, a conversation with a guy selling jewelry who told us a lot about the economy of the place, and claimed to have been raised in the ancient city. About that, I don't know. But he proved the gems were real and not plastic by holding them over a lighter flame, which I thought was pretty cool. When I looked at one item, he said, "Don't buy that; it's a fake."

Then, much later, when we were climbing the mountain path to an unspeakably spectacular view, a young woman called to me to come behind her table to look up because it was safer (I was backing up while looking up the mountain, and she thought I was going to step too far back, I guess). This was the only traditionally dressed woman to talk to me, and she did it without any self-consciousness at all, even though her mom was glaring. She asked me if I had kids, and I told her about them, and it turned out she's right between them in age: seventeen. This might explain her more outgoing attitude, as opposed to the older women, whose sales pitch is limited to "One dinar! One dinar!"

On my way back down she sold me a couple of necklaces made out of camel bone. She said, "Good, you came back. I've been waiting--it's time to go home. It's a long walk with my baby." Like an idiot I looked around for the baby, but he/she hasn't been born yet. If I'm being romantic, I'm thinking that kid is going to have an amazing life, living close to the land in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. If I'm being cynical, I'm wondering what opportunities the kid will have for education, etc.

If I'm being honest, I'm somewhere in the middle. I'll tell you this, though ... these people have some amazing eyes. I felt like Muad'Dib or something. Especially when Sting attacked me in his jock strap. Wait, that wasn't me.

March 03, 2009

If I could I surely would

Monday was a tourism day. We began by driving (being driven) out to Madaba, where there's a famous mosaic map of the region. That was interesting, but the drive out of town was much more so. People we spoke to told us about how real estate prices had gone through the roof outside of town, since many people who had left Iraq with lots of money "no one knows where their money comes from" had relocated there." We also drove past mansions owned by "nomadic" Bedouins, with their tents and livestock in the gardens. Times and fortunes change.

From Madaba we went to Mount Nebo, where Moses was granted his distant view of the Holy Land, and where he died and was buried by God. Needless to say, the view was stunning. The name of the country across the river never quite makes it into conversation, I've noticed: "That hill belongs to Jerusalem" is about as far as one gets.

Coming down from the mountain and heading toward the Dead Sea we saw some really dramatic scenery, and lots of tents without big mansions attached to them. Herds of goats on or near the roads, though I couldn't see anything around for even goats to eat. During a conversation about milking and/or goats, our driver told us, "Goat is the best lamb." My new motto.

On the road to the Dead Sea there were a couple of checkpoints: "What kind you got?" the soldier asked our driver in Arabic (it's great traveling with native speakers). I guess the driver responded with our nationality, since the soldier smiled and said, "Welcome to Jordan" in English. Along that road I saw camels for the first time, and the only armored vehicle I've seen as well. The Dead Sea was, well, still dead. There's salt just lying around down there, and interesting salt crystal growths on some of the rocks. Pretty cool.

Then it was on to the site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. We met some British folks whose daughter lives just a few miles down the Susquehanna from us. Small world. Set foot in the Jordan river, which, slightly flooded from the recent rain, is barely a creek (and you know, if you know me, that that's pronounced "crick"). But across the river in the neighboring country was an impressive concrete ... thing? bunker? ... looming, impressively, with big flags flying. Assertively to say the least.

I've been asked to say more about the food, and I'll try to do justice to the dinner we had last night in a future post. I did have a revelation last night, not in the mosaic church, not atop Mt. Nebo, and not at the site where Jesus was baptized, but outside the shawarma stand back in Amman. Traffic is insane in Amman, but it works. People drive aggressively and with little regard for people behind them, as I guess is necessary in places where traffic is guided by circles, and where streets have grown organically rather than through planning, but it works. Everybody seems to know that everybody needs to get where he or she is going, and there is apparently some sense of fairness to the whole thing. Double parking is reasonable as long as the inconvenience to others is within reason. It makes some kind of sense.

I'll leave you with one final observation, a followup to not speaking the language: banal pop music on MTV is a lot better when you can't understand the words; it's exotic and compelling. So, that's something.

March 02, 2009

On not speaking the language

I don't know whether a language can be inherently beautiful, independent of the quality (dare I say timbre in a pretentiously French accent) of the speaker's voice or the content of the utterance, but if so, I'd say Arabic would be a good candidate for a highly beautiful language. Then again, maybe some world traveler is sitting in a hotel room in the states right now, marveling at the beauty of English as it trips off of Ann Coulter's treacly tongue. And yes, that's as close as I ever came to talking myself into throwing up.

I'm not much of a traveler in general, which is strange because I like being in places where I don't speak the language. I first noticed this at MLA in San Francisco many years ago ... no, not at a Derrida panel, but in Chinatown, where I wandered aimlessly for several days, interviewless. I was staying at a hotel called the Californian. Me making the reservation:

"So, let me get this straight: I can check out any time I like?"

"Yeah, but you can never leave. Ha ha. Never heard that one before."

Well, screw you, buddy ... it was new to me. Though I did adapt his response for use when people ask me if I feel good. "Oh, yeah, I guess he and I do have the same name. I never thought of that before. That's pretty funny. I guess I have a kind of funny name. Thanks for pointing that out."

I used that one once on the clerk at the BP--Sohio, it would have been then--on Lane Avenue right near Grad School U. It was about 3:30 in the a.m. and I was buying a half-price just-expired egg salad sammich with my gas card. The power of nostalgia is such that I look back at the time with a certain fondness. Anyhow, I continued to ask the clerk what his name was, forcing both of my eyes to focus at once on his name tag, which read "Miles."

"You have a kind of funny name too, Miles. Are you 'Kind of Blue'?" I said it just like that, with the hyperlink. He was edging toward the phone as I left.

As I think I've demonstrated, there's something liberating about being someplace where you can't speak the language, and I'm not talking simply about a calculus class or something. I mean a place where you can't even tell what sounds the letters on signs make, or when one word stops and the next one begins. How much of our brains is dedicated to parsing useless words in the background? People walking around wearing stupid slogans on their stupid shirts, car radios blaring, the television on 24 hours a day ... stuff like that.

If you can't understand a word spoken to you, it's probably a lot like being a cat.

March 01, 2009

Jordan, Day 1

Actually day two ... we got in last night, had a fair amount of line-waiting getting a visa and all at the airport, which was annoying after basically 24 solid hours of travel, but okay. The drive from the airport was dark and rainy, and occasionally interesting because the roads are not built here with drainage in mind. But our driver was equal to the task, and I was too tired to worry about it.

(In Paris, incidentally, I had the pleasure of introducing the Amazon Kindle to airport security ... yeesh. But I dig the thing immensely, especially since you can read pretty much anything from Project Gutenberg on it. And living an hour or so from the nearest full-service bookstore, the Kindle makes a lot of sense.)

So, after a good night's sleep (assisted by Charles Dickens's Bleak House, I must confess!), I got up this morning to be shown around Jordan, specifically the old city near the amphitheater. I took some photos that I think will look okay, but the damned Kodak camera will not play with Linux, and when the Wordshed goes on the road, we kick it Kubuntu, baby!

So the pictures will have to wait. Since it was raining, that's probably no great loss. Lots of stores, mostly.

We had lunch in a restaurant with no menu ... they just bring you food: hummus, falafel, and the like. Very satisfying ... even more so since the price for the three of us was JD 3, about five bucks. We ordered from one waiter, and when another came and started serving us, we asked him what was going on (since generosity seems often to be accompanied by the expectation of dinars); he informed us solemnly, "I am responsible for the falafel." I like people who take their work seriously.

The point is, I think we're going to beat the per diem. And that, my friends, is the first rule of travel.

February 23, 2009

I don't stay up late

Stupid people doing stupid things = not funny.

Smart people doing stupid things = funny.

February 22, 2009

Whiskey Fire

I wrote this yesterday:

Gerry may be the first film I've seen in which all of the named characters are named Gerry. It's a good film, but it's not for everybody … including, perhaps, me. The premise is pretty simple: two guys go for a hike in the desert without food or water and get lost. Reminds me of a student summary of Hemingway's masterpiece “Big Two-Hearted River”: “Nick goes fishing.”Whiskey Fire, Feb 2009

You should read the whole article ... if you want to.

This automated reblogging function is courtesy of Zemanta, which is pretty cool, but not as cool as I want to to be ...

February 21, 2009

Beloved be the one who sits down

Okay, so I'm watching Songs from the Second Floor even as I type. I don't recall what motivated me to put it in my Netflix queueueue in the first place, but years later, it's here. So I'm watching it. It's surreal. Not Andalusian Dog while my Spanish professor plies me with wine and offers to read my palm surreal, but surreal enough nonetheless.

Since I'm pretty much resolved not to rant about work in this venue, I don't really have a lot to say ... I've had my nose to the grindstone, my ear to the ground, my balls to the wall, pedal to the metal ... It's like a game of Twister I tell ya.

And of course a week from now I'll be literally halfway around the world. It's been fun mentioning this trip to people. If I say the name of the country I'll be visiting, people say, "Oh wow, that's great." If I say I'm going to "The Middle East," then it's a whole different thing. Interesting.

Since I'm not a habitual traveler, I can't say that my destination is the kind of place I'd have picked to visit on my own, but after sitting through much of Songs from the Second Floor, I believe that I prefer it to Sweden.

February 16, 2009

I am in awe

This is the greatest:

As seen on

The only thing that would be better is if there really were zombies. Not lizard people zombies, though. That would be too much!

February 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Chuck D.

Yesterday was Charles Darwin's birthday, and I forgot to get him anything. If you see him, fling some poo!

This is a fun link for Devo fans:

Devolve me!

Are we not men?

February 12, 2009

Hit me, baby, one more time

In the last week or so, several people have found happiness (i.e. this blog) by searching for "inappropriate self disclosure." Could it be that the ol' Wordshed (i.e. this blog) is becoming a mecca for those interested in inappropriate self-disclosure? Would that be a good thing? And what, exactly, are they looking for? It's like a porn search for the INTJ crowd, right?

Do they expect me to reveal something inappropriate about myself? That, for instance, mime was the only form of communication permitted at the dinner table when I was growing up? Or that I once promoted full-duplex toilet paper as a conservation/cost-cutting measure? That as a child I dreamt of writing the autobiography of Jorge Luis Borges? That I once unknowingly flirted with a little person in a bar ? That I've had the song "On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe" running through my head for the last ten years?

What do these people want from me?

Oh, another popular search phrase is, I'm sorry to report, "superior drinkability." Sheesh. I'm ahead of Bud in the Google search, incidentally.

February 11, 2009

Corporate Recognition at Last!

I had a hit from General Mills today, searching on the terms "shut up steve." While I would like to consider myself an impartial critic of media and culture, the message I really want to get out to people is this: I CAN BE BOUGHT. Call me.

Seriously. Do you want "The box says 'shut up Steve'" to be the next "Where's the beef"? I'm your man! (Incidentally, I spent a long time trying to decide where to put that question mark relative to the quotation mark, and I'm not entirely happy with the result.) Let's make this happen!

Seriously people. From "magically delicious" (don't get me started) to "better eatcher Wheaties" (better) to "Shut Up Steve"?

Uh, let me guess: The box says, "STFU Jim." Am I close?

February 10, 2009

I Got to Ramble

The trip to Chicago was a short, happy little jaunt. The conference was reasonably valuable and only slightly tedious, and Chicago is a pretty cool destination. It would have been cool to have more time to look around.

Of course the high point was getting together with Bill, whom I hadn't seen since 1987 or so, and meeting his wife. This has been quite a year for getting together with people I've known for a very long time, including the Columbus contingent in November and cousin Tom (whom I've known since I guess 1965) last week. It's great knowing that one still has stuff in common with folks after all these years.

And now there's more travel in my future, since I'm traveling on behalf of my employer to Jordan at the end of this month. Very exciting! This is only my second trip abroad, the first being the trip to the Principality of Monaco, where my first wife was brutally attacked by a hair-eating monkey.

My understanding is that Jordan is relatively devoid of monkeys. But I would have thought the same of Monaco.

February 04, 2009

Upon Further Review

I've recovered sufficiently from the Super Bowl to offer a few observations. Please indulge me, or not, as you please.

1. Anhedonia. I'm not that kind of doctor, but it seems to me that if you run an interception back one hundred yards for a touchdown--essentially a fourteen-point play--you might be expected to be smiling once you've recovered your breath. Not James Harrison. Nor did he smile while being interviewed after the game. He is an emotionless force of nature. Unless you count rage as an emotion, which I guess it is.

2. One-Yard Personal Foul. If you're going to beat somebody--literally beat him--on the football field, a good time to do it is when you're buried deep, when "half the distance" is measurable in feet, not yards. I'm a charitable soul and am willing to assume that that guy had it coming.

3. The "O Line." Nice of Ben to give a shout out in his post game comments, but I still don't see how "porous" is an effective strategy. They didn't protect you that well, Ben, but yeah, stay on their good side, if they have one. Hint: it's not behind them.

I wonder if they watched the way the defense blocked for Harrison on his 100-yard journey?

4. Fast Willie Parker. Trade bait. Somewhere out there a team can use his considerable talent, but it's not a good match for the Steelers.

5. Bruce Arians. Finally we see some imagination in the offense, aside from the third-and-long strategy that dragged them through the regular season. Apparently the ban on passing the ball prior to third down has been lifted! Let us rejoice. I think the Steelers could do better, though, as do others, apparently. That guy the Steelers used to have was pretty good. Ken something? Does the Rooney Rule allow for the hiring of "arians"?

6. Bruce Springsteen. Pretty good, but anything beats the atonal cryptkeeper debacle of Super Bowl Forty.

7. Santonio Holmes. His post-game interview was a little self-centered and arrogant, but he is a wide receiver, after all, and a little later he spoke at some length about Hines Ward's mentoring. He had a great game and managed to avoid shooting himself in the leg.

January 31, 2009

Counting down

This warms my heart. Joan Jett? Bob Weir (see you in April, Bob, though you probably won't see me)? Ted McGinley?

I hope they're right!

January 28, 2009

Radio Days

I was driving home from work yesterday and flipping through stations on the Sirius tuner. Even with all the variety available there, it's not unusual for me to get home without hearing anything I particularly like, because the drive home is only ten or fifteen minutes long.

I happened to catch a Simon and Garfunkel song on the radio and I remembered an afternoon I haven't thought about in many years: late along in grad school, I took my guitar over to Paula's house, and she taught me how to play the song on the guitar. It was a pleasant afternoon, but by no means a remarkable one, and there's no story there I'm afraid ...

... but I realized then that I think so fondly of that period of my life at least in part because I had so little to offer the rest of the world during that time aside from my charm and good looks, and still, people were by and large nice to me for no tangible reason. So, that was nice.

January 25, 2009

I'm secure

If we accept the pop psychology theory that insecure men drive big trucks to compensate for some kind of gender insecurity, what do we do with the current truck ad that talks about "tranny fluid"?

January 24, 2009

All blogged out for today

I just reviewed a movie over at Whiskey Fire ... kind of working a different persona there, but if you're interested, check it out. I'll probably do a movie review over there once a week or so ... but I probably won't always be as cutting-edgy as today.

January 20, 2009

The box says, "Shut up Steve."

Thin-skinned woman vs. doofus: who ya got?

This commercial--what cereal is it even for?--irritates the crap out of me. Because it's clearly supposed to be obvious to the viewer that the guy is a dumbass, even though a fairminded viewer must admit that the woman is a cup of coffee or two past rational thought.

The original commercial is apparently British:

Ah, hell. All I really have is that I hate this damned commercial. His face, her face. Ugh.

January 17, 2009

The real Road Warrior prequel

Today I watched--sort of watched--The Cars that Ate Paris, directed by Peter Weir. I'd heard about this film and tried to like it, but I found it to be too little, too slow. Motel Hell without the fun. The Wicker Man without the Equalizer. Or Captain Corelli for that matter. Peter Jackson might have been able to make something of it, but then I really wouldn't have wanted to watch it.

Now I'm trying to watch The Terror of Tiny Town. The IMDB plot summary suggests that I might reasonably expect some "zany antics" at some point to "ensue." Hmm. A barbershop ("tonsorial parlor") with a barbershop quartet--zany? Perhaps, since there's also a penguin in there. Eighteen minutes in, and no antics to speak of, however. And I'm thinking that some of these actors were hired for reasons other than their acting ability.

Tomorrow, or soon, I will write about why Psych is the best show on TV. Dulé Hill visited our campus a while back to talk about Obama and was smarter than one might reasonably expect an actor to be, but at that point I hadn't seen the show, so I didn't go up and say something stupid to him. And I never watched West Wing (gasp!).

January 15, 2009

Branford Marsalis on students

Well, I guess I was hoping for something a little more inspirational, but at least I'm not the only grumpy old fart harrumphing about kids these days.

But, uh, when he's talking about "the generation before them" ... he's not talking about me, is he?

January 12, 2009

Freakin', frickin', friggin' ...

Dang I'm tired of hearing these wienified variations from commercials, television shows, and the mouths of my children. Shoot, people: It's the F word. If you mean it, say it. And if for some reason you must instead use a diluted euphemism, find one that doesn't sound exactly like the word you're trying to not quite say. Go for one that's really silly, the way they dub R movies for broadcast. Get what I'm saying, motherfooler? If not, forget you!

Since we kick it PG-13 here at the Wordshed, I prefer "emmereffin'," which I stole from Maureen.

In a separate but related rant, I also like it when people say "bugger" as a way of avoiding "bastard" or something. Like, if you call my nephew a "cute little bugger," I might look at you askance. "Yes, he's quite the little sodomite." Is that really the response you're looking for?

For the record, I don't have a nephew. I'm just saying.

January 10, 2009

The flower fades to make fruit

Among the many other things today undoubtedly is, it's also Robinson Jeffers's (Jeffers'? hmm.) birthday. So, happy birthday Robinson Jeffers. According to my sources, Jeffers was born in Pittsburgh, though it doesn't seem to have held him back none.

I remember going over "Shine, Perishing Republic," which is one of my favorite poems, in class a while back, and the footnote in the text mentioned bread baking or candle making or something like that, and it surprised me, because it seemed obvious to me that the metaphor in the first stanza was about a foundry.

What a good poem. When I finish reading it, I want to read it again. I find it perversely affirmative, and that's just plain fun to say.

January 05, 2009

Sometimes things hit you funny

On the right day, in the right mood, it's weird how things hit you. I know a guy who saw The Break-Up with a group of people and found it devastating. He was weeping. I haven't seen the movie, I must confess, but my impression is that the movie was supposed to be funny. Am I wrong about that?

It happens to me too. I have to confess that I frequently find episodes of the British situation comedy As Time Goes By to be unspeakably affecting. Field of Dreams doesn't do it for me because I can see that it's trying to manipulate me, but I have a blind spot where ATGB is concerned. Why is that?

Incidentally, and this may be a digression, I can live with it when the dog dies in a movie, but I won't see a movie where the whole point of the damned movie is apparently that the dog dies ... even though the parent in me understands that death is a big part of why pets are important.

I used to show the film Grapes of Wrath when I taught film, but I wouldn't watch the film with the students ... from when Tom finds his family's home abandoned ("It's just an old shoe") onward, I'm pretty much a wreck.

Bruce Springsteen's "Ghost of Tom Joad" is here. Rage Against the Machine version here.