Tuesday, September 26, 2006
But I'd like to list what I'm taking in the morning while I'm sick, just to give you a sense of how unhuman I feel right now:
- Methylcobalamin, sublingual B-12 (dissolved under the tongue)
- Generic Sudafed (not with pseudephedrin, but with the other ingredient)
- Two teaspoons elderberry syrup
- Homeopathic sinus/cold remedy, dissolved under the tongue (two pills)
- Three asprin
In a completely unrelated note, Sports Illustrated football "expert" Peter King was 7-7 in predicting the weekend's games. My congrats to him.
Friday, September 22, 2006
- A few years ago, I went into the men's room at a Barnes & Noble. At the urinal was a bald man wearing a shirt my mom would describe as "loud," kicking her faint Southern accent into full Arkie (that's Arkansan) mode. As he's urinating, he farts loudly, then sighs. Why do I note this? He was my therapist at the time.
- In my second or third therapy session of all time, I was describing my making out with a girl outside a bar the weekend prior. The therapist interrupts and asks, "Was there heavy petting?"
That's all. Go about your business.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Atlanta 14, Tampa Bay 3
PK's Pick: Tampa Bay 16, Atlanta 13. King writes, "You know how Jon Gruden is. The sky is falling, the world is ending, the entire planet will grind to a halt if we don't win this week. That's what he's telling his team this week. And I'm naive enough -- particularly with John Abraham's ouchy groin either limiting him or sidelining him -- to buy it."
I'd like to note here that Michael Koenen, Atlanta's kicker, went 0-4 on field goals, so the game wasn't really as close as 14-3. Perhaps he has what King calls an "ouchy groin." After the game, King was found in the NBC men's room hitting his head against the hand dryer and repeating over and over again, "Why am I so naive?"
Buffalo 16, Miami 6
PK's Pick: Miami 16, Buffalo 14. According to King, "I like the Bills a lot more than I thought I would. But if you think they're going to win at Nick Saban's house, after Saban limp-wristed the replay flag in the fourth quarter during the Pittsburgh loss and after the Dolphins have had three extra days to prepare, you're crazy."
See, if you predict the future accurately, you're crazy. And Sunday night, King went to Saban's house, where he screamed about Saban's "limp-wristed play calling." Saban responded by punching King in the face and instructing Daunte Culpepper to throw a football at King. Fortunately for King, the ball slipped out of Culpepper's hand.
New Orleans 34, Green Bay 27
PK's Pick: Green Bay 17, New Orleans 12. Still angry about the Saints winning in Week One, King writes of this pick, "I don't know why, really. I guess because this game, quite literally, is the Packers' season. They're at Detroit, at Philly and at Miami for three of their next four, and starting 0-2 at home would end any hopes they have of salvaging Mike McCarthy's rookie year."
Yes, Peter King knows football. I don't know why, really.
New York Giants 30, Philadelphia 24
PK's Pick: Philadelphia 19, New York 17. King writes, "I loved hearing Tom Coughlin the other day. Everyone's anointing the Giants as a very good team (me among them). He came out and said: Hey, you gotta win to be a very good team. Winning. Pretty important factor."
To King's credit, had he picked Philly to win at halftime, I would have agreed. This game will probably lead to Bill Simmons recalibrating his "Levels of Losing"--not that Simmons would rehash an old column because he's out of ideas. Hey, why's it quiet in here all of a sudden? Anyway, notice that King says absolutely nothing about the game. You know, everyone's anointing King as a football expert. Correctly picking games. Pretty important factor.
Minnesota 16, Carolina 13
PK's Pick: Carolina 23, Minnesota 20. King: "I have a bad feeling about the Panthers right now. Really bad. Dan Morgan's fifth concussion, Maake Kemoeatu looking like a turnstile against the Falcons' run game, Travelle Wharton out for the year, necessitating Jordan Gross' move from right to left tackle. But John Fox will be Grudenesque this week. It's must-win time."
Why isn't King reading the first things he writes before making his pick? Again: "I have a bad feeling about the Panthers right now. Really bad." At least he was right about John Fox being Grudenesque.
San Fransisco 20, St. Louis 13
PK's Pick: St. Louis 20, San Fransisco 13. Man, he almost had that one perfect. King writes, "Talked to Scott Linehan the other day. What a cool cucumber. Raved about two of the best leaders he's seen in the league: La'Roi Glover and Corey Chavous. They might be pretty good."
What do cool cucumbers do? They rave. Chavous' stats? One tackle, assisted. Glover's? Zero tackles. Yes, they might be pretty good.
So all in all, King didn't pick so badly; just six losses (I'm writing this before the Pittsburgh/Jacksonville game is over, so there could be a seventh loss; it's an exciting 0-0 halftime tie as I write). But when he's off, man, he's way off. Seriously, though, seriously: he's got an ouchy groin.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Every Sunday I open The New York Times Magazine, I tell myself, "No, Crazy Little Thing, don't read "Questions for ________." You'll just get mad that they've chosen the idiot they've chosen this week for a shallow, boot-licking "interview." And it happened again this morning, when I turned to "Questions for Lee Siegel," which was right after a nice short piece by Michael Bérubé about "liberalism" in the university and why it's not a problem (though if you've ever been to MB's blog, you've read similar things before). By the way, all you need to know about Lee Siegel is that he's a self-indulgent cultural critic who got suspended from blogging for The New Republic because he anonymously attacked his critics in comments to his own posts.
So how bad was "Questions for Lee Siegel?" Bad. Bad bad. Me stripped of words and stuff to articumulate it. (More on this in a moment.) It all begins with the first clause of Deborah Solomon's first question: "As one of the country's most eloquent and acid-tongued cultural critics..." Ahem. I know it's spoken in an interview, but how about this eloquence from Siegel: "Seriously, the blogosphere strips argument of logic and rhetoric down to the naked emotion behind it."
Point #1: Nice generalization, sprezzatura. That generalization had the appearance of no effort. Point #2: While the rhetoric on blogs may be weak or poorly thought-out, it's still there. See, if it were just the "naked emotion behind it," it might look like this: kljma,.mkljw y;hqgjakl/nmfsad;ljasjdgahfsadaaaaaaaargh!
I will praise Deborah Solomon for the greatest question ever asked of Siegel: "What are you talking about?" But even asking that crucial question, she's still indulged him too much. Consider the following:
Did you feel that you were doing something ethically questionable when you posted, for instance, a comment by Sprezzatura that carried the headline “Siegel Is My Hero”?
Every man is a hero to his alias. No, it never occurred to me at the time that I was doing something wrong. There are other people who appear anonymously on Web sites; they do battle with their detractors. Anonymity is a universal convention of the blogosphere, and the wicked expedience is that you can speak without consequences. What was wrong about it is that I did it under the aegis of The New Republic, as a senior editor of the magazine.
But beyond the breach of your journalistic compact, don’t you think it’s intellectually lame to express one’s opinions anonymously?
I do indeed. Everyone seems to be fleeing from the responsibilities that come from being who you are. I think that is why the blogosphere is thriving. It allows people to develop a fantasy self.*****
This brings me to my point: I blog anonymously (seriously, Crazy Little Thing is not my real name). A few points on this. I'm not a hero to my alias in any sense; anonymity is far from being a "universal collection"--see Daily Kos, Crooks & Liars, Think Progress, any number of the bloggers at Science Blogs, the above-linked Michael Bérubé, even Instapundit and Michelle Malkin; the error was not blogging anonymously "under the aegis of The New Republic," it was "the dishonesty and sockpuppetry"; and finally, thanks again for the overgeneralization of "everyone seems to be fleeing from the responsibilities." Eloquent, indeed.
So why do I blog anonymously?
- I'm a grad student working toward a Ph.D., and I also teach undergraduates. What I write on the blog has little to do with my academic work, but given the discomfort many in academia seem to have with blogs, anonymity allows me a certain comfort to know irrelevant ramblings won't adversely affect me on the job market someday.
- I'm also a fiction writer, but that work is also distinct from what I do on the blog. I don't want to use the blog as a stepping stone for publication, but as a conversation with a few friends and, sometimes, for a wider audience.
- The blog can function as a kind of journal, which allows me to post more personal things with confidence and comfort.
Friday, September 15, 2006
So why "Hey douchebag!" and not, say, "A reasonable dissent from the tone and style of Slate?" Because I'm aping their silly contrarianism, the penchant for startling headlines.
(Note: I regularly visit Slate, and I often enjoy what they produce. This is, in part, an effort to enjoy more of what they produce by curbing the badness in any small way I can.)
For the first installment, let's look at how Slate approaches science: with dilettante Gregg Easterbrook, who has no qualifications to write on science. Yet he tries to tell us that String Theory is junk, based on the fact that he's read one (count 'em, one) book. Now, Easterbrook, summarizing Smolin, might be right about string theory. In fact, other scienticians who've read the book take Smolin's argument seriously. And Smolin is a reputable scientist. (NB: I'm also not a scientician, and I'm happy to let actual scienticians do the research.)
However, let's bear in mind that Slate gives us the review of Smolin's book through the filter of a writer manifestly unqualified to write about science, a writer who clearly has other axes to grind. For example, here's Easterbrook's opening paragraph:
"The leading universities are dominated by hooded monks who speak in impenetrable mumbo-jumbo; insist on the existence of fantastic mystical forces, yet can produce no evidence of these forces; and enforce a rigid guild structure of beliefs in order to maintain their positions and status. The Middle Ages? No, the current situation in university physics departments. I just invented the part about the hoods."
So we know what Easterbrook begins with. All university physicists are trying to protect their narrow, myopic world. (By the way, Easterbrook only recently came around to "believing" in global warming, and he advocates teaching Intelligent Design in public schools. Just fyi.) Easterbrook again:
"If you worry that even in the 21st century, intellectual fads have as much to do with university politics and careerism as with the search for abstract truth, The Trouble With Physics is a book you absolutely must read."
Yes, folks, that's right, let's base our approach to this book on overgeneralized biases about the state of the university. Because nothing helps out "the search for abstract truth" like overgeneralized biases.
"The physics establishment reacted adversely to Smolin's cosmic natural selection because the idea implies direction: Over time, existence progresses toward a condition more to the liking of beings such as us. In recent decades it has become essential at the top of academia to posit utter meaninglessness to all aspects of physics."
I'd like to note that Easterbrook cites absolutely no one who claims that science must look toward meaninglessness. I'm sure he can find plenty of scientists who note the difference between study of the physical world and study of the metaphysical world (i.e. science and religion). However, noting that separation and arguing for meaninglessness are not the same thing. Of course, then we get to Easterbrook's particular axe to grind:
"Today if a professor at Princeton claims there are 11 unobservable dimensions about which he can speak with great confidence despite an utter lack of supporting evidence, that professor is praised for incredible sophistication. If another person in the same place asserted there exists one unobservable dimension, the plane of the spirit, he would be hooted down as a superstitious crank."
Poor Gregg, unable to tout his religious ideas in a scientific forum. But let me be the first to say: whether or not Easterbrook is a superstitious crank, I don't know. But he's certainly a crank.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Now, if you include sexual abuse in a novel, it can be a narrative cliche. But in a memoir? A tragic event from someone's life is now a cliche? What the fuck?
(Sorry, by the way, for the lack of accents in "cliche" throughout the post. I can't figure out how to add them.)
I grew up in what was essentially a non-religious household. Though my grandparents (who lived near but not with us) believed and went to church, we only began going when I was around nine, and then only because my older brother was curious about going. We attended a Methodist church led by the friendly Brother Steve, and my parents bought us King James Versions of the Bible. I still have mine, complete with my name and the date I received it written on the first page in thick calligraphy.
Mostly we hated church, though I enjoyed the day we got to dress in surplices and light the candles on the altar at the beginning of the service. The ritual was fun. And I still remember fondly our exit among the crowd, with Brother Steve waiting for us all at the entrance/exit with a firm handshake and a smile. Still, the enduring feelings (not memories exactly, but sensations) are of exhaustion--the difficulty of keeping still against the hard-backed pew and keeping my head erect, not lolling near my shoulders--and the oppressive ache of perfume.
Despite my feelings for church, I prayed. Not in any actual sense Christianity might condone, but in the hopeful, immature yearning of adolescent boys for heaven-sent girls. I remember one night, when I was twelve, running up to the hill near our apartment complex and sitting on the wet grass (I hated sitting in wet grass but endured it anyway), praying that the overweight girl with a crush on me would give up and that the girl at school I liked would come around.
So in the long run, I had little to sacrifice in terms of faith. My older brother, who's fierce in his intelligence and his opinions, helped me "see" the lack of evidence for God's existence. Eventually, I came to understand that faith is not a matter of evidence or the lack thereof; both faith and doubt rely on the same assumption: that something we cannot understand with our senses or scientific measures does or does not exist. I'm comfortable making the leap that no God exists.
And that's what's strange to me about my deconversion narrative. I don't remember the key moment I became an atheist; I only remember moments in the mellowing of my atheism. I used to be an aggressive atheist, starting arguments with believers for the sake of knowing I would win them; after all, no one could prove God existed. I remember hearing an agnostic say, "I can't be an atheist because it's the same leap. If life has taught me anything, it's that there's little I ever remain certain of."
And finally, what's strangest to me is that I admire faith. I like the idea of it, that we could blindly place authority in something, that we could trust something. I admire the great things faith has led to, even in the face of the cruelties, prejudices, violences, it has led to.
So there's my deconversion narrative. And now I'll never be able to run for public office.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Peter King, coffee-drinker and Kissing Suzy Kolber-lover extraordinnaire, went 9-7. But he does it with such verve, not only picking the winner, but also the final score, some stats, and the major play(s). But I don't think he ever gets called on his predictions, which is odd given how much time seems put into them. So here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to show which games PK got wrong, then predict what he did after learning how wrong his pick was.
New Orleans 19, Cleveland 14
PK's pick: Cleveland 20, New Orleans 17. King writes, " It's not an ideal debut for Reggie Bush, losing his opener and getting pelted with milkbones at the same time, but I have a feeling he'd better get used to it -- at least the losing part."
Bush actually produces over 140 total yards. King commences to chant, "He's still overrated," as the Starbucks employees sweeping up call the regional manager for advice on getting him out of the place.
Baltimore 27, Tampa Bay 0
PK's pick: Tampa Bay 16, Baltimore 10. King writes, "Simeon Rice, meet Steve McNair. Three times. The Ravens had better learn how to protect McNair or he'll never last 16 games."
McNair gets sacked only once and leads the Ravens to victory and notches a 94.8 quarterback rating. King calls Jon Gruden and offers Mary Beth King's services for the rest of the season.
St. Louis 18, Denver 10
PK's pick: Denver 34, St. Louis 20. King writes, "Jake Plummer laughs at the people trying to give away his job. After a series of those chuckles, he strafes the Rams for 330 yards. Oh, and the Denver running-back job? Looks like Mike Bell's. He's one of the day's rushing leaders, with 132 yards."
Plummer turns the ball over four times and, um, strafes the Rams for 138 yards. He also gets sacked four times as Jay Cutler giggles mightily behind his clipboard. Also, Tatum Bell outrushes Mike Bell by 45 yards. After the game, King asks Bob Costas for a hug. Costas politely turns him down and stands on the other side of Chris Collinsworth from PK.
Seattle 9, Detroit 6
PK's pick: Detroit 24, Seattle 20. King writes, "After this game, no one at Ford Field boos president Matt Millen. They're too busy cheering new coach Rod Marinelli and his offensive genius, Mike Martz."
After the game, King consoles offensive genius Mike Martz by driving them both naked to Wendy's.
NY Jets 23, Tennessee 16
PK's pick: Tennessee 20, NY Jets 17. King writes, "Kerry Collins looks across the field and says: Where am I? Back in New York? With only two weeks of his nose in the playbook, Collins outduels old pal Chad Pennington and leads the Titans to two fourth-quarter touchdowns. The Cardiac Titans win their opener."
Pennington's line: 24/33, 319 yds, 2 TD, 0 INT. Game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Collins' line: 17/38, 223 yds, 0 TD, 2 INT. Unfortunately, King had no way of knowing Tennessee had signed Collins just two weeks before the season started. After the game, he calls Dr. Z and leaves a long, rambling message about the virtues of lattes and the shortcomings of wine and Z sits in his easy chair smacking his forehead.
Jacksonville 24, Dallas 17
PK's pick: Dallas 21, Jacksonville 10. King writes, "After the game, Byron Leftwich shakes the cobwebs out after a seven-sack afternoon. "I never knew where they were coming from," he says. "Seems like two guys were coming free every time I dropped back to pass." That, friends, is the 2006 Dallas defense."
In reality, Leftwich gets sacked once. King drives to Leftwich's house and tries to tackle Leftwich as he walks from his driveway to the front door, but King misses and lands in the shrubs. That, friends, is Peter King.
Update, 9/13, 2:00. Check the comments; apparently, I miscounted on Simmons and his wife. Even with the numbers in front of me, I screw up. At least King is just guessing.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, my newspaper didn't come. I was getting ready for school (I had just started a Masters program in English then), and I needed some kind of noise as I ate breakfast and drank my coffee. So I turned on the Today Show around 8:30 and went around my apartment. I had finally sat down on my ratty, twenty-year-old couch to sip my coffee and drift mindlessly on pablum before heading to a class on modernism, when the show comes back from commerical to a shot of the first tower on fire with part of a jetliner sticking out.
Katie Couric was interviewing an NBC producer who lived near the towers by phone. As the second tower was hit, Couric was asking a question. She continued asking through the shot and through the producer's screams of "Oh my God!" for about five seconds. For that reason, to this day I cringe when I see or hear Couric.
I called my mom and told her to turn on the television. I went to class, where I was the only grad student in a class of 30. Before class, people were talking, sharing rumors (a bomb outside the State Department, hijacked planes all over the country), and I felt like even more of an outsider, unable to share in what they knew and didn't know.
After class I spent some time trying to log onto news sites; I informed a fellow grad student, Bill, of what had happened. Several times over the next few years, he reminded me that I was the one who made him aware of what was happening on September 11.
I tutored a foreign-exchange student in the Writing Lab, part of a new building designed to house all the university's tutoring and career help centers. I kept looking away from her essay to the 80s televisions on rolling stands in the distance, when through the crowd around the TVs I could get a glimpse of the towers falling. "Why are all those people watching the TVs?" she asked.
"People flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon this morning."
"Why would people do that?" she said, now unable to think about the essay that had been the cause of her day's anxiety until then.
"I don't know," I said.
I went home afterward and watched news coverage all day, glued to recurring shots of jumpers, of the tops of the towers surreally sliding earthward, taking the rest of the towers with them. Footage of concrete dust billowing, then blackening the street, then giving way to a gray haze. Tom Brokaw and the skyline of wind-blown smoke behind him.
I had bad, predictable dreams in the weeks afterward. I tried to write a September 11 story after declaring only awful ones would be written. I have nothing new to say, nothing new to feel about it, nothing new at all. So if you've kept reading, thanks.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Monday, September 04, 2006
Friday, September 01, 2006
But I'm not here to discuss alternative medicines. The guy at the GNC store was nothing like the guys I've seen in other stores--not the big, beefy, neckless wonders who wear the store's shirt one size too small. No, he was a post-Avril Lavigne punk rocker, complete with a black t-shirt and black jeans, heavily gelled black hair, silly tattoos on his forearms, and gigantic earrings. I kept wanting to ask him if he was robbing the place, but instead I asked, "Where do you keep the B vitamins?"
And going to the GNC reminded me of a great story. Several years ago, when the first rumors that Mark McGwire was taking andro and creatine were going around, my friend Gary and I went to the local Smoothie King for smoothies. While we waited, we checked out the wall of supplements and found creatine. One of us, in our worst surfer-dude impression, said, "Dude, gimme some andro!" As if sparked to life, one of the Smoothie King employees came up and said, in a hushed voice, "You guys want some andro?" We laughed and said no.
After he walked off and disappeared into the back, I said, "Look at how skinny we are. I can't believe he thinks we use andro." Just then, another employee came up and said, "You guys want some andro?" We bolted when we got our smoothies and never went back.