Monday, August 20, 2007

Dephunked

Bad news, bears: this blog is essentially no longer in business. I'll keep it up here, and maybe at some point down the road I'll start moving the gears again. Never fear, though: contact me to find out what I've got in the works. Seriously.

Later. It's been fun.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ze tourists, they do nothing!






1) A statue of Jan Neruda, whose last name Pablo Neruda co-opted because his father did not want him to become a poet. And as Bart Simpson said, "I am familiar with the work of Pablo Neruda."

2) Prague's replica of the Eiffel Tower (not to scale). It stands atop Petrin Hill, and if you climb up, you get incredible views of the city. But the line is long, and atop Petrin Hill you already see the entire city.

3) The line to enter a labyrinth of mirrors. Maybe next time I'll go on a rainy weekday.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

City views

From Petrin Hill:

























From Kampa Park:


















A memorial to the victims of communism and totalitarianism:

Friday, July 06, 2007

Highlights of Orloj; a classroom with a view





On almost every Prague guidebook cover, you'll see a shot of Orloj, the astronomical clock that adorns the Old Town Hall in Prague. It doesn't tell the time; it traverses the seasons. Every hour on the hour from eight in the morning to eight in the evening, a small morality play marks the hour. The crowds are amazing, and the show is brief.

Two interesting facts:
  1. The leaders of Prague blinded the man who created the astronomical clock so he could not replicate his incredible art elsewhere. To retaliate, he committed suicide by leaping into the mechanism that controls the clock. It didn't work for almost a century.
  2. The morality play used to include a Jew figure, complete with horns. After World War II, the city removed the horns; now the figure is "Greed."


















On an unrelated note. These photos are of the building in which I attend class and the view from that room. Yes, the view includes a castle.

Various Praha shots

o




1) A random cat in a restaurant where I had fantastic pizza. You know, pizza? That Czech food?

2) A bust of Franz Kafka. Click on the photo and zoom in. The image isn't exactly flattering. But at least it's not a cockroach head.

3) Graves at the Old Jewish Cemetery. This is probably the area in that cemetery where there are the fewest gravestones. Because the Jews in Prague had such little space, they often buried people twelve deep.

4) What much of the cemetery looks like. I couldn't get a broad enough shot to show the variation in elevation--they had to bring in dirt so they'd have more ground to bury Jews in. The cemetery was used from the first half of the 15th century until 1787. There are more than 12,000 headstones in an amazingly compact area.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Picture box






1) One of many tourist-trapping things on the Charles Bridge, an all-pedestrian bridge over the Charles River with beautiful views. I didn't take any photos of the couple dozen caricaturists, who seem to advertise most with their drawings of Angelina Jolie. It's like a long supermarket line, just no headlines.

2) One entrance to the Charles Bridge. Tons of incredible statuary all over Prague.

3) Lots of interesting trompe l'oeil work on the sides of old buildings, often several centuries old.

4) The final photo above is the view from my classroom. I try to face away from it so's I don't get distracted.

A man molested me on the Prague Metro. . .

and all I got was this lousy handprint on my ass.

After a faculty reading last night, I got on the Metro heading home with a group of friends. It was around ten, crowded. When we got on the car, we were closely packed. Right after the door closed, I felt someone squeeze my ass cheek. I turned, and a sleazy looking old man about a head shorter than me looked away. When he glanced back up at me, he looked frightened. I wasn't touched again.

I think he was trying to pick my pocket. I was wearing my jeans with a wallet-outline on the back pocket. Though Prague is much safer than any U.S. city in terms of violent crime, so-called stealth crime is rampant. Gangs of pick pockets work together to distract tourists (and some locals) so they can quickly pilfer a bag without being noticed.

For example: the other afternoon, four of us from the school were getting on the Metro. It was suddenly crowded; the man in front of me was walking backwards, holding onto the sleeve of the man next to him. His eyes seemed unfocused, as if he were blind. The doors closed, and a wad of cash fell onto the floor of the car. My friend Ilene pointed it out and said, "Is that yours?" The old man in the group, who was carrying a shopping bag and standing next to his wife, picked up the cash and examined it. He nodded--it was his. He seemed puzzled as to how his cash had ended up on the floor.

At the next stop, one man quickly got out, and two more waited until just before the doors closed to jump off. One of the ones to jump off was the "blind" man I'd seen. The old man, who was traveling with his wife, started going through his pockets. Ilene, who speaks Hebrew, noticed that the man's glasses had a strap with Hebrew text. She began speaking to them in Hebrew and learned they were Russian Jews on vacation. The man couldn't find his wallet, which had his Russian i.d. and a few rubles. He still had his Czech money.

Last night, on another train, one of the faculty had her handbag against her back. A man slashed the bottom of the bag with a knife. She didn't notice at first, but she felt something odd and turned. He ran, having gotten nothing out of her bag.

In Funkytown (my adopted hometown), there's been a recent spate of teenagers running up to people downtown, punching them in the face, and taking their wallets. For now, I think I prefer stealth theft.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Crazy in Prague


What does Crazy Little Thing look like after 36 hours awake (that's zero minutes of sleep, people), three layovers, a supposedly two-hour walking tour that became an incredibly long three hours, and two very tall Czech beers?








(Please note: double chin added and beard thinned in Photoshop.) I think the best description comes from a sticker on the Metro, advertising a beatbox competition. The entire sticker was in Czech, except for the following phrase: "Battle Shit in the Hell."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Prague Dog Blog

Here's how Olive feels about me going away for a month:




"Dad, I've got my laser eyes turned on. One more step with that suitcase, and you'll be toast."
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Open Letter to my Extra-sensitive co-worker

Seriously, you'll do fine on your exams. And if you don't, then I'm screwed.

There--updatey enough for you?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Torturing Christ

I recommend reading Glenn Greenwald's posts on Salon daily, but if you don't have time (they're longish), at least go read this one. He highlights the bizarre hatred of Muslims from right-wing commentators and rips apart its illogic.

But I want to pose a question based on info he focuses on. According to a 2005 Pew poll, a majority of Catholics and almost a majority of white protestants and evangelicals support torture of suspected terrorists. (Please note: the poll question used the words "torture" and "suspected," so there's no hedging about "enhanced interrogation techniques" or 24 scenarios with Jack Bauer.) Here's part of Greenwald's take (I'm using asterisks instead of quotation marks):

***Note that majorities of white Christians want to torture not merely actual terrorists, but they also want to torture "terrorist suspects" as well, i.e., a group that almost certainly includes perfectly innocent people.

And majorities of white Christians -- Catholics, evangelicals and protestants -- believe in torture not merely in the improbable-in-the-extreme "ticking time bomb" scenario; rather, they believe in torture as a matter of course (i.e., more than "rarely" -- either "often or "sometimes"). (By stark and revealing contrast, "secularists" oppose torture in far greater numbers). Think about how depraved that is: what kind of religious individual affirmatively believes that people should be routinely tortured, including people who have never been proven to have done anything wrong?***

I'd like to emphasize the phrases "perfectly innocent people" and "people who have never been proven to have done anything wrong." Isn't that the defining story of Christianity, that a perfectly innocent person is tortured so the rest of us are saved against our sins? I'm not arguing that Christianity necessarily leads to support of torture, but the connection is interesting (and one I'm sure others have noted before). The sacrifice of Christ, if you believe in the story, seems simultaneously distant and immediate--envisioning it is a purely imaginative act, but there's also The Passion of the Christ and innumerable paintings of Christ on the cross. I wonder if that simultaneous distance and immediacy is somehow related to the widespread approval of torture among Christians in that poll.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Olive is sad, Olive is happy

My poor dog has a cone on her head as she recovers from minor surgery. She's not all that pleased right now, but she's making the best of it. Sorry the pictures are blurry and grainy. I'm not good with our digital camera.




Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Maybe it's the concussion talking

So, as several of you have pointed out to me, I haven't updated the blog in a while. Below is a list of reasons I haven't been posting. You may choose to believe any or all of them. But you have to choose.

  • I've been praying very hard for God to lighten the earth of a religious blowhard. Finally worked.
  • I had an incomplete grade to take care of.
  • I think of my blog as an extension of my penis. And, um, well. . .
  • I've been busy reading for comps.
  • I think of my blog as an extension of my hair. And, um, well. . .
  • I'm going to be in Prague this summer, and I've been getting various things done in preparation.
  • Have you seen Planet Unicorn?
  • Seriously, have you seen Planet Unicorn?
  • Bill Simmons's columns have been better lately.
  • Two words: Blitz Scrabble. (Which leads to lots more words.) Addictive like spearmints. No, like heroin spearmints.
  • I've been watching the Prank War and waiting for one of these guys to murder the other. (If you go watch the videos, watch the oldest one first.
  • I just haven't felt like it, okay?
  • I got clip-on fingernails, and typing is much more difficult now.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Talk Radio Host Reinforces Stereotypes About Talk Radio Hosts

As you may have heard, ESPN employs a vandal. His name is Colin Cowherd, who hosts a show called "The Herd with Colin Cowherd." Like most radio talk show hosts, he's generally unlistenable, mainly because he sees his job as sparking controversy. Now he's done something that violates FCC regulations, asking his listeners (as others have pointed out, who knew he had an audience) to launch a denial-of-service attack on The Big Lead, a good sports blog that's been kind enough to link to me.

I mention this mainly because it's brought to my attention a new favorite word: schrutebag. Thank you, guys at Kissing Suzy Kolber (in this case, Big Daddy Drew, my favorite of the bunch).

For a full list of great blog posts, see One More Dying Quail and Awful Announcing. Also, I'm happy to report that The Big Lead is back online after several days being down.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Monday, March 12, 2007

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Leftover thoughts on "the race card" and the Simmons/Jackson kerfuffle

That's right, I used kerfuffle in the post title.

Commenter JimNantz (not the famous Jim Nantz, presumably) doesn't understand why a white writer using "playing the race card" bothers me. I spent most of the day at work drafting a response in my head, only to find that a quick Google search of "race card" yielded more concise, coherent responses than I would be able to put together for a blog post. First read Jon Swift's gleefully parodic thoughts on the matter, then read Tim Wise's incisive historical and cultural view.

But a basic summary of Wise: the phrase "race card" reflects both white naivete about the institutional and cultural history and presence of racism as well as the term's use as a way to trivialize real racism. That summary doesn't do his essay justice, but it hits the major points.

And I'll add this: like any other cliche, "playing the race card" is dead language that shortcuts serious thought. Because it has to do with such a crucial and difficult issue as race, that shortcutting becomes even more thoughtless and frustrating.

Do I think Bill Simmons is a racist? No. I don't know him, of course, and I suspect he's not a racist. However, his use of the phrase reflects his worst tendency as a writer (really, any writer's worst tendency): imprecision, probably born of laziness. (Notice also that he claims Scoop Jackson uses his race as a "crutch"; see how Wise deals with that metaphor in his essay.)

Do I think Scoop Jackson wrote a thoughtful column about Las Vegas and race? No way. I made clear in my other post that Jackson is a sloppy writer and thinker; Simmons certainly had plenty to criticize in Jackson's column.

And maybe the most important question, since I'm a white male born and raised in the south: do I think I'm free of any racist vestiges because I jumped on Simmons and I support affirmative action? No; unfortunately, free as I'd like to be of any racist (or race-based) impulses and instincts, I'm aware of how incredibly difficult they are to eradicate. I criticized Simmons in the first place because of how much his response reminds me of me.

Update: Oh, one more link to check out: Sports on My Mind's takedown of Simmons.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bill Simmons, stop. Stop. Please. Stop.

For the love of Jebus, Bill Simmons, don't ever again write about college basketball or race. Please. Stop. Is this the legacy you want to leave your child?

I know I've written about Simmons before and nothing's changed. He couldn't care less about what I have to say. Fine. I understand I'm not on an MTV "reality" show, I don't live in Boston, I'm simply one of those pesky New Media bloggers who don't work for a legitimate news organization, and I'll disappear from the face of the earth and no one will mind. I'm fine with that.

But I'm begging you, please, listen, just this once: don't ever, ever again write about college basketball or race. Here's why:

How Bill Simmons is wrong about college basketball:


Point #1: He is not an expert, yet he writes with exasperation that college coaches and journalists can't fathom what is obvious to him. "Watched three college hoops games since my last report on Tuesday." Wow. Three games in three days? I'm not the first to make this point, but you cannot pretend expertise on college basketball if this is your access to the state of the game. (Especially when you're watching the same teams every week.) Why doesn't Rick Barnes run every play through Kevin Durant? You can't think of one good reason? How about this: Durant is a college freshman. He's playing a season that's much more physically and emotionally demanding than high school ball, and it's late in the season, with tournaments coming up. I don't pay attention college basketball and I know this.

Point #2: Simmons freely contradicts himself with no one to call him on it. Here's Simmons on February 13:

"Speaking of [Joakim] Noah, I love how his draft stock dropped because he stuck around for an extra season and everyone started picking him apart . . . . Meanwhile, he's even better than he was last season -- if you applied my Table Test to him, he's still one of those guys who brings X amount of things to the table and takes absolutely nothing off it."

And here's Simmons on March 2
:

"One more Florida note: Noah is quietly playing himself out of the top 5. Nobody is wasting a top-5 pick on a more polished version of Mikki Moore. Not this year."

Just for fun, read those again. Compare "everyone started picking him apart" to "Noah is quietly playing himself out of the top 5." What changed in a month, other than you watching more college basketball?

(Oh, and by the way, about your "Table Test": you once devoted a column to explaining a cliché, then acted as if that elaboration was a wholly new set of ideas. So it's not "your" table test.)

How Bill Simmons is wrong about race:

Here's how Simmons begins his column responding to Scoop Jackson:

"I hate writing a rebuttal to another writer's column. I hate it. These days on the Internet, people spend far too much time writing about other writers instead of just writing about sports. Pretty soon, there will be Web sites devoted to writers writing about writers who write about other writers. We're not headed in the right direction.

At the same time, I couldn't let Scoop Jackson's "Vegas wasn't that bad" column just fade away without disputing two crucial pieces of his argument . . ."

Two points here:

  1. In other words, "Please don't criticize me for what I'm about to write. Please."
  2. If Scoop Jackson's column would "just fade away" (and, honestly, it would--are there people who take Scoop Jackson seriously?), then why even write about it at all? (I have a theory on this, but it's for the next time Simmons pisses me off.)

Simmons then spends an inordinate amount of time criticizing Jackson for "Scoop's assertion that "only" 403 people were arrested during NBA All-Star Weekend, a number apparently obtained from Deputy Lt. E. Sterr Bunny of the Las Vegas Police Department. I don't think it's very smart to base the premise of a column around a leap of faith that Vegas police reported every single crime, mugging, brawl, assault, theft and indiscretion from that weekend (even the ones for which the perpetrators weren't caught)." Hey, not a bad point, except for the fact that Jackson compares the number of arrests with the number of arrests for New Year's weekend. So Simmons' logic about the number of arrests reported works for what Jackson compares it to.
(NB: Simmons isn't entirely wrong about Jackson's column; in fact, Jackson is an easy target because he's a sloppy writer and thinker.)

But that's not the disturbing thing. That's just the logic issue, not the unsettling way Simmons writes about race. Ever ready to reach into the well of cliché, Simmons writes that "he played the race card." Jesus fucking Christ on a stick, "the race card." Could we please obliterate that phrase from the language? I can't figure out why people of color in this country still see racism. Could it have something to do with the shorthand that white people use? (Fyi, I'm a white male. We can talk about this another time.)

But here's the kicker, the thing that made my anger about "the race card" stay up: "Once upon a time, the late Ralph Wiley repeatedly proved an African-American sports columnist could write intelligently about racial issues without using his skin color as a crutch." In other words, "Look, I have a black friend!"

To sum up, if you're still with me:

Bill, please, please, please stop writing about college basketball and race. Come to Funkytown; I'll buy you lunch, take you to a college game, and drive you to the economically depressed, largely African-American part of town. We'll have a blast. I can't afford your plane ticket, but I can promise you good food and bad basketball.

Thoughts on the Write All Night experiment

Congrats to Jim and Mike. They didn't make it until dawn, but they were both productive, so I'm calling last night's/this morning's experiment a success. I didn't last as long as they did, but I still got some crucial work done.

Some random thoughts from my end:

  • I regularly checked my email (for comments on my posts), my statcounter, and the other participating blogs. That proved a small distraction but a useful one. When my energy dissipated, I'd find Jim's energy still going. Jealousy and fellow-feeling prodded me back to work.
  • I hadn't been writing in the couple of weeks preceding the experiment (life managed to get in the way), so I faced the double difficulty of not only writing completely counter to my preference (I work best just after waking) but also getting back on the horse. Still, I was so enthused by the prospect of the Write All Night project that I got back into writing relatively easily. Now that Write All Night is over, I feel the fire under me again to work each day. We'll see how long that lasts.
  • I usually don't caffinate after mid-afternoon, so the cups of tea made it tough to go to bed at three a.m. After lying there thinking about the novel (and realizing something about a character), I convinced myself that if I didn't fall asleep soon, I'd get back up like Hulk Hogan always managed to do after getting "beat up." (Sorry, I'm channeling Bill Simmons.) But then I felt myself snap awake after drifting off and decided, yes, thankfully, I could fall asleep.
  • Waking up this morning was tough, but I felt clearer headed this morning than usual, even if this post doesn't necessarily reflect it. That's a nice change after the last couple of weeks.
  • Head over to JPG Writes and One Toe In to see their progress. Mike, as usual, outpaced us, but Jim and I are making ourselves feel better by mercilessly mocking Mike in back-and-forth emails. (Not true; I actually doubt Jim is awake yet.)

Good night, and good luck

I'm toast. I spent the last half hour outlining; then I realized that I wasn't at all certain about what I was outlining. I'm not sure I can coherently explain. Basically, I ran out of gas. Good luck getting to dawn. I'm looking forward to seeing your progress in the morning, Jim and Mike.

Write all night update

All quiet on the western front. Distraction-wise, anyway. But I'm writing--in two hours, six-plus pages. And since I haven't written in over two weeks (long story), I'm pleased. I'm amazed I made it this long.

Side note: I got a new laptop in December, and it only came with a trial version of Microsoft Word. And the fucker ended two days ago, so I've had to switch to writing in MS Works Word Processor. It's amazing how much that little difference makes. I'd been so used to the way the screen looked that all these little differences keep catching my eye. But Monday I can buy a cheap version of Word at school and get back to normal.

Back to work. I'm not sure how realistic dawn is. I had to break out the icepack for a jolt.

So much for no interruptions

I'm getting sleepy but hanging in. I'm on my second cup of tea. But it turns out writing at night has its distractions.

  1. My next door neighbors. The husband can't smoke inside, so when he goes outside to puff away (where it's 28 effing degrees and "feels like" 17, according to Yahoo@#$% Weather), his friends go with him. Apparently they think it's difficult to be heard on the porch.
  2. My dog. She's in the other room zonked out, but occasionally she whines in her dreams. It's damn cute and also distracting.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

JPG's Up All Night!

So here I am, awake with adrenaline, tea steeping, wife heading to bed. It's time to write all night.

How I got here:

  • Napped this afternoon.
  • Felt the adrenaline already starting at dinner (rice instead of pasta, no heavy carbs to weigh me down), so I calmed myself down.
  • Watched John Sayles' Lone Star with my wife. What a great movie.
  • Showered. Brushed my teeth.
  • Jeans, no pajamas for me.

The dangers of writing at night, as I've tried to prep for them, are darkness, sleepiness, and comfort. Here's how I'm combating them:

  • Artificial light. Big medusa lamp, five bulbs, behind my head. One bulb at the other end of the couch.
  • Caffeine. Tea steeping. First cup, chai with vanilla. Two bags.
  • Leg pain. That's the real reason I slipped on the ice a couple of weekends ago, so I'd be able to stay up. It's sore, and I'll put an ice pack on it later. That'll perk me up.

I think that's all that's worthy of note for now. Let's get this party started. Where's Joe Bob Briggs?

Update: Don't forget to check out the progress of the three amigos: Chevy Chase, Martin Short, and Steve Martin.

Even funnier than yesterday's video

Try not to laugh. Watch.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Try not to laugh.

Go watch this and try not to laugh.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Blog, give me the child!

And we're back! Yep, that's right, hiatus over--Saturday night/Sunday morning is the time to write all night. I'll be occasionally posting as long as I can stay awake; JPG, our fearful leader, promises to do so as well.

And to prove it's fate, there will be a lunar eclipse on Saturday. Spooky. And that's the cause of my favorite illustration ever (for today, anyway). Read all the fine print.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

In one week

The "Write All Night" challenge is one week from today! Well, technically, it's one week from midnight tonight/tomorrow morning. But really, next Saturday I'm going to wake up thinking about it, trying to save my energy. After 11 pm, I'll start brewing coffee. JPG, Mike, George, and I will be writing, staving off sleep as long as we can, posting updates. Go read JPG's challenge and sign on to do it. You know you want to.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hey Douchebag! John Dickerson Edition

I know I'm posting a little too regularly for someone who claims to be on hiatus, but John Dickerson's latest nonsense on Slate required another addition to my occasional "Hey Douchebag!" series. (For more, click here; for an explanation of the "Hey Douchebag!" series, click here.)

The background: David Geffen, founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of Dreamworks, said the following in an interview with Maureen Dowd: "Everybody in politics lies, but they [the Clintons] do it with such ease, it's troubling." Geffen also called Hillary Clinton an "incredibly polarizing figure." Geffen's no right-wing hack; now a Barack Obama backer and fundraiser, he used to donate lots of money to Bill Clinton.

In response, the Clinton team demanded that Obama sever ties with Geffen and renounce his comments. Given the Clintons' history with politics and money, that demand is incredibly ironic, to say the least. (Note: Generally speaking, I like the Clintons, but they have some major moral failures I cannot reconcile with my own personal beliefs.) Obama's communications director, Robert Gibbs, responded thusly:

"We aren't going to get in the middle of a disagreement between the Clintons and someone who was once one of their biggest supporters. It is ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln bedroom. It is also ironic that Senator Clinton lavished praise on Monday and is fully willing to accept today the support of South Carolina State Sen. Robert Ford, who said if Barack Obama were to win the nomination, he would drag down the rest of the Democratic Party because 'he's black.'"

Pretty apt, and a fair defense. Sure, it's a negative response, but it's certainly fair. Geffen's an independent person with no obligation to vet his public views.

Dickerson's Douchebaggery: Dickerson claims Hillary Clinton looks better in this battle because Obama has vowed to run a campaign without mudslinging. Here's the relevant portion of Dickerson's piece:

"The response from the Obama campaign was good, old-fashioned hardball. You call me a hypocrite, and I'll respond by raising something out of your ugly past. But that wasn't the way Obama has said he'll play the game. It's very hard to run in the political system while simultaneously running against the system, but that's what has seemed so audacious about his campaign rhetoric. He has promised to lay down a lot of political weapons, and voters will reward him for taking that risk. But apparently, the weapons are still in his back pocket. (An Obama aide says I'm "overthinking" things.)

Does the Clinton team look a little thin-skinned? Yes, but they'll take the rap for being thin-skinned if they can show their opponent to be a hypocrite."

Ridiculous. Dickerson's first problem: Gibbs' response was accurate and fair; if every campaign had to disavow every statement from a contributor and return donations, campaigns would have little money. Politicans are responsible for what they and their staff members say, not for what their supporters say.

Dickerson's second problem: He says the Clinton team looks "a little thin-skinned." Actually, they look very thin-skinned, shrill, and unnecessarily reactionary. There's something very desperate about their behavior. One of Clinton's top advisors, Howard Wolfson, absurdly refers to Geffen as Obama's "finance chair," even though Geffen is only a fundraiser. Plus, he calls Gibbs' response an attack on "personal behavior." Actually, no, how one uses the White House to repay big donors and relies on endorsements that make baldly backward claims (Ford) is political, not personal. Of course, the Clinton campaign is apparently pointing to Dickerson's piece as support. Douchebaggery all around.

What Chicky missed last night

Last night, I hosted a graduate reading, and it went very well. The three readers were fantastic, and a good time was had by all. Most, anyway.

But C-Wang wasn't there! Chicky, why hast thou forsaken me (and three other people)? Oh, yeah, you're reading for comps. Okay, fine, that's a good reason. But here's what you missed: in honor of yesterday's being Ash Wednesday, I shared an early draft of T.S. Eliot's poem "Ash Wednesday." Enjoy.

Cash Wednesday

Because I hear the train a-comin’
Because I hear
Because I hear the train
I’m stuck in Folsom prison
and time, time present and time past,
both perhaps present in time future,
keeps draggin’ on.
April is the cruellest month in Folsom.

In the room the women come and go
Talkin’ of a boy named Sue.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare to shoot a man in Reno
just to watch him die?” Yeah, I do.
“Do I dare to take a shot of cocaine
and shoot my woman down?” Hell yeah.

I bet there’s rich folks eatin’ on a fancy dinin’ car;
They’re probably drinking coffee
and measurin’ out their lives in coffee spoons.

O O O O that Shakespeherian rag,
so elegant,
so intelligent,
because it’s mine. I walk the line.

We only live, only suspire,
Consumed by a burning ring of fire.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bloggus interruptus

Just to let you know, I'm going on a little hiatus. I'm a little busy even though I have the month off, writing and reading and finishing off some long overdue work. But I'll be back soon, definitely before the all night writing starts.

Monday, February 12, 2007

This seems right to me

"So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one's days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one has slept or shopped or talked with friends." --Graham Greene, The End of the Affair

Well, maybe not 100% correct, but close.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The voice of Funkytown

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
The Inland North
The South
Philadelphia
Boston
North Central
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ahem, Part the Second

Or, An Open Letter to the Students Masturbating at the Urinal of the Third Floor Men's Room of Aged Philanthropist Hall

Dear Masturbators:

It’s time we had a frank, open discussion about your public habits. Despite years of schooling, you’ve decided that you must, you must masturbate in the third-floor men’s room right by my office. About a quarter of my trips to the restroom are marred by your obsessive, noisy, distracting, and just plain sad self-love. For God’s and Pete’s sakes, you’ve chosen to shake hands with the unemployed in a dank, poorly lit public restroom with stalls painted black and a window that looks out on a closed-in bit of roofing, a restroom that often runs out of soap. Have you no dignity, not even the barest shred of care for cleanliness?

Look, I understand The Call: you keep thinking about that ad on the side of the bus, or you almost asked that girl out but didn’t because she saw her friend across the quad, or you had an in-class argument with that girl who annoys you but also kind of turns you on, or you were listening to “We Are the Champions” and felt like the coolest motherfucker on the planet. We’ve all been there. (Well, maybe not “there,” but you know what I mean. Don’t you?) But believe me, you can wait. Even if you live far away from campus, you can hold it in.

I feel compelled to address you not only as a group, but also singly (though God knows you’ve been addressing yourself singly quite a bit). So here goes, in no particular order:

  • Tall Guy: If you’re going to rub one out in public, at least have the decency to sit down. I can identify you; anyone who walks into the restroom can. Your entire head sticks up over the stall when you stand. You’re tall. Believe me, as a tall man, I understand how that goes. But not only do I immediately hear you working when I walk in, I can see your head shaking a bit. Oh, by the way, your hair looks uneven in the back.
  • Radio: Can you hear me over the song you’re playing? I think you can, because I can hear the faint tell-tale sounds of a man turning Japanese, as the saying goes. I suppose I could credit you for trying to cover the sounds of your pleasure, but, quite frankly, it’s odd to sit on a toilet and hear a person quietly walk in, enter a stall, and turn on music. And could you really find nothing better than generic mid-90s rap? That seems like it would be too distracting. You couldn’t listen to, say, Kylie Minogue or Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”? Could you not find your Madonna CDs?
  • Cool Shoes: If you’re going to play with yourself, for Thor’s sake, don’t wear a cool pair of shoes. You don’t want to ruin them. Oh, and could you tell me where I could get a pair? Seriously, those are cool shoes.

Sincerely,

Crazy L. Thing

Interesting link on copyright

Slate has an interesting pop-up photo essay on copyright in art and photography. It's worth your time.

It's me, Thomas Pynchon!

Actually, no, I'm not Thomas Pynchon. Not even close. However, I will be taking part in the most famous midnight ride since Paul Revere's:

This challenge we'll call Write All Night and it's too take place in the wee hours as March 3rd fades and March 4 begins. There's one rule. Start at midnight and go as long as you can, till dawn if possible. If you crap out, you crap out, but at least you tried. I'm going to do it and I'm going to post an entry every couple hours that night/morning just so you know you're not alone.

Feeling the funk? Join in. I'm looking at you, Wanda.

I wonder if Pynchon ever types his name into Google.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Your Ultimate Super Bowl XLI Pick

Why you should pick the Chicago Bears:

Do you really want to be in a group (other than, say, income bracket) with the Director of the CIA, Bill O'Reilly, Larry King, noted predictologist Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, the guy who created Dilbert, Dick Vitale, Jack Valenti, Jim Christ Caviezel, Adam West, Vanilla Ice, Carrot Top, Terl, and Jim Cramer?

Of course, there is one very good reason not to pick the Bears.

One can hope, I suppose


I think Yahoo! News is getting a little invasive, don't you?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Overheard in Funkytown

As I waited for an elevator outside a composition classroom:

  • Teacher: "Remember the salad analogy for the essay. The essay is a salad, and the works cited page is the croutons.

As I walked through the effing cold to my car:

  • Nimrod: "I thought I did great on it, but she gave me a 65."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

All Your Super Bowl X x IV + I Predictions

Good news: I've collaborated with noted predictologist Pat Robertson to figure out all the possible outcomes of Super Bowl VVVVVVVVI. Not all of these will come true, but at least one will.

  • In a dull game with a few YouTubeable highlights, Chicago's defense and special teams do their work. Rex Grossman goes 12-35, 117 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT. Because he merely "manages the game well," voters have no choice but to give the game MVP to the other white guy on the team they know of, Brian Urlacher (5 tackles, 1/2 sack, 1 tipped pass).
  • Standing at midfield for the coin toss, a glint off the commemorative coin catches Peyton Manning's eye, causing his entire life to flash before him. He heads to the sideline and tells Tony Dungy his life has been a waste, a shambles, as he's pursued fame and fortune through advertising and football. "It's all been meaningless," he says. Dungy replies, "So if you're quitting the life, what'll you do?" Manning: That's what I've been sitting here contemplating. First, I'm gonna deliver some balls to Eli. Then, basically, I'm gonna walk the earth." Dungy: "What do you mean, 'walk the earth?'" Manning: "You know, like Ricky Williams." The next day, Manning delivers flowers to Jim Sorgi in the hospital and says, "Dude, I'm so sorry. I really fucked up."
  • Realizing partying like it's 1999 and driving little red corvettes are no longer cool, Prince decides to perform "Sexy M.F." in assless pants. Just before he takes the stage, though, Roger Goodell fires a flaming arrow into Prince's chest. Prince explodes. Plan B, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO?! ELO!!) takes the stage.
  • While the referee reviews a Bears fumble, a depressed Toby Keith walks out onto the field with a microphone. "I'm confused," he says. "I'm a Ford truck man, and I've got an American flag on my guitar. But Johnny Cougar Mellencamp and Chevy say this is their country. I can't take it anymore." He then commits seppuku on the 50-yard-line. Terrell Owens runs onto the field, screaming, "He stole my act!" The crowd cheers.
  • The commercials suck, mainly because too many ads try for the D-I-Y YouTube look. Entertainment bloggers around the country feel superior, then masturbate to Coldwater Creek catalogs.
  • Hillary Clinton reveals herself to be the Whore of Babylon. (Pat Robertson's vision.)
  • Bill Simmons repeatedly hurls various remote controls at his television and screams, "We would have won this game!" (Note to Bill Simmons: the Patriots are not the new Yankees, Patriot fans are now the equivalent of Yankee fans. There's a big difference. We will now return to your regularly scheduled viewing of whatever's on MTV right now.)
  • The Colts win, and there is a great disturbance in the force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Turn down that racket!

If you're wondering what that screeching sound is, it's me backsliding on THE PLEDGE. (No, not that one, the other one.) In the last few days, I've gotten no writing done, not even any arts and crafts. I have good reasons for the lack of writing time (lots of copyediting, snow, some overdue work to catch up on), but they border on being excuses. Tomorrow, though, my reign of terror resumes. Beware, English language, I'm coming after you.

In other news, since C-Wang and the WB comment that they learn more about me when I post about music, I'm going to post more about music. Starting now:

That Song

You know that song, the one you feel like the world's greatest when you listen to? The one you immediately listen to again? Of course, something distracts you the second time through, but that isn't the point--some songs seem like they shouldn't end. That's no new observation here, obviously, but I thought I'd list a few of the songs that do it for me (no mp3s, though. Sorry). In no particular order, except maybe alphabetical for a while:

  • Aimee Mann, "Choice in the Matter": I could've listed any number of Aimee Mann songs, including almost everything on the Magnolia soundtrack and on Bachelor #2, but "Choice in the Matter" gets me every time. It's a fairly regular rock song until about two-thirds of the way through, when "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" changes it in this incredible way. (Note: if you want to buy a Mann CD, don't buy "Ultimate Collection"; she had nothing to do with it and disapproves.
  • Blur, "Beetlebum": I had a friend who was a huge Oasis fan; he constantly bitched about how people would criticize Oasis for sounding too much like the Beatles but not criticize Blur for the same thing. Apparently, "Beetlebum" borrows pretty heavily from one of the songs on Yellow Submarine ("All Together Now," I think). He'd cite that, and I'd think, "Um, but it's called Beetlebum." Anyway, this tells you nothing about the song, but it's great.
  • Elvis Costello. I can't even single out a song. Too, too many great ones. Just go buy the reissues.
  • Frank Black, "Los Angeles": Shifts from rock to slow pathos. This song was actually my way into learning about the Pixies, so it's also got a nice nostalgia kick for me.
  • Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy": Well, of course. Plus, it's really short, which always helps you want to listen to a song again.
  • The Jackson Five, "I Want You Back": Whatever happened to that cute little Michael? Anyway, towards the end of the song, he sings the hell out of "All I want, all I neeeeeed!, "almost as if Pappa Joe is in the recording booth threatening to beat the shit out of him.
  • Johnny Cash, "Hurt": I don't cry at movies or listening to songs, but this remake of the Nine Inch Nails song brings me to the edge. I actually can't listen to this song twice in a row, but after I listen to it, I have to sit in silence sometimes. On a related note, after he died, my friend Jake emailed that Cash's death hit him a lot harder than the deaths of his grandparents, who he'd loved.
  • Weezer, "My Name is Jonas": Sometimes it's hard to take them seriously (especially with all the Weezer-freaks out there), but this song gets me the same way the Frank Black song does.

That's all for now. Add your own in the comments, or fill your own blog with songs you love.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Less Artsy, More Fartsy

I mentioned in a post the other day that part of the work I'm doing on my novel requires some arts and crafts stuff involving posterboard. Well, I spent about 45 minutes yesterday doing the arts and crafts.

See, my novel spans over thirty years; several of those years I wasn't alive for (my oldest brother wasn't even alive for a couple of them), and a few I was alive for I don't remember so well. So I took two pieces of posterboard and cut them into three horizontal strips each. Now I've got a timeline of six pieces of poster with six years on each. Now I can list what happens when in the novel and what might be historically relevant (certain issues of Playboy, for example).

I doubt my own work here has any interest for anyone, but it's worth noting that there's precedent: William Faulkner did something similar for his novel A Fable. And now that I've just jinxed my novel by comparing it to Faulkner, I'm going to go commit harikari.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nuts to you, Wanda

My meme virginity has been stolen from me by none other than Wanda Ball, in fine fettle as usual. So now I have to list five little-known facts about me. Two notes, though:
  1. I'm using "little-known" loosely, thank you very much.
  2. I'm not passing this on to other people. I don't hand people no lines, and I keep my hands to myself.
So here we go, five little-known facts about me.

  1. In spite of myself, I like that Kelly Clarkson "Since U Been Gone" song.
  2. But I refuse to download said song on general principle.
  3. When I was five or six, I bit my best friend on the stomach.
  4. In high school, I dyed my hair a lot. As a senior, I had a half-black afro; in my senior picture, it extends beyond the frame.
  5. I refuse to watch Lost on general principle.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

This is funny

If you occasionally appreciate New Yorker cartoons and stories of rejection, this link is for you.

Forwarding a challenge

JPG over at JPG Writes has issued a challenge to novel writers: no matter how strapped for time you are, no matter how many excuses you can make, write one page per day. He calculates this at 20-30 minutes; I don't know how I'd calculate it, other than to say I've been keeping up, and it varies. (I have a minor addiction to a computer game called "Spider Solitaire.")

I've signed on and, with the exception of yesterday, I've been writing each day, accomplishing at least the minimum. Booyah.

Still, I have a question: I'm close to a point where the project will need research, planning/plotting, and arts and crafts (long story, involving cut-up posterboard; I'll explain in another post) rather than writing. So how do I calculate what I do? Should I follow the half-hour per day rule?

On a related note, I'd like to further the challenge for poet friends who may be skidding ever-closer to comprehensive exams: five-to-ten lines of iambic pentameter per day. (Please note: the novel challenge also applies to story writers.)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Don't forget the veggie bratwursts!

A Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to you all! I hope you're all celebrating safely today, making sure to adult-supervise the kids with fireworks.

Two stories, one mine, one someone else's, about how far and not-so-far we've come in the years since the Civil Rights Movement. Story the first: I study/teach/work at an urban campus, the Funkytown Institute for Increasing One's Future Monetary Value. The neighborhoods surrounding the campus are largely African-American; many of the campus' food and convenience services are staffed by African-Americans. However, only 11% of the student body is African-American.

Ask students, though, as I did one day to my class of twenty (with two African-American students). The lowest guess I got, from one of the African-American students, was 25% black. The highest, from a white student, was 50%.

Story the second: go read it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Glenn Greenwald nails it

The post is long, but if you'd like some sense of how right-wing blogs "work," here you go.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Unbearable Whiteness of, um, Whoopi?

Funkytown has a troubled racial history, to say the least (including race riots within the past ten years), so the following is a little odd. One of the local radio stations for people who don't actually like music (a mix of Bell Biv Devoe, Bon Jovi, Kid Rock, and Jojo) has a billboard advertising their morning talk show, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. "Wake Up with Whoopi," the billboard declares, with a photo of a relaxed, grinning Whoopi and two rows of faces, roughly ten or so listeners.

Here's what's weird: every face is white. So I guess Whoopi Goldberg is supposed to be the non-threatening non-white of the month here. She must be very pleased.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Castle-builders and bricklayers

Since I've pounced when the New York Times Book Review has gone astray, I should probably now praise it since it's done right. (NB: I usually like the NYTBR, but I think it needs the occasional spanking.) Not only do they place a hilarious, scathing review of Michael Crichton's new anti-science novel next to a positive, thoughtful review of Freeman Dyson's new collection of essays, The Scientist as Rebel, but George Johnson's review of Dyson also implies what's wrong with religious attacks on science as dogmatic and anti-god:
  • "It's jarring at first to hear the Scientist as Rebel describing himself as a conservative. But that's Dyson: as resistant to categorization as the universe his colleagues are trying to mathematicize. 'In the history of science,' he [Dyson] writes, 'there is always a tension between revolutionaries and conservatives, between those who build grand castles in the air and those who prefer to lay one brick at a time on solid ground.'"
Dyson's description of the history of science may seem oversimplified as it's quoted (NB2: Note Harder: I haven't read the piece Johnson quotes), but it does acknowledge that scientific fields are fraught with debate and modes of thought that conflict. Why does that matter? Because there's such scientific concurrence about evolution and global warming. And lest some claim that Dyson, a long-time teacher at Princeton, is simply a brainwashed and brainwashing academic, note that he never received a Ph.D., yet worked closely with Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga as they developed the work that would earn them the Nobel Prize in 1965, and has been a lucid, articulate, thoughtful writer on science throughout his life.

Also, and more importantly, Dyson believes in god (here I disagree with him), and his faith is thoughtful. In a lecture, Dyson said, "Both as a scientist and as a religious person, I am accustomed to living with uncertainty." I wish more policy-makers and fervent believers would come to understand Dyson's uncertainty and his intelligence about science and religion.

Hey douchebag! Theory and Practice Edition

What they said.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Pat Robertson: "God waterboarded me"

VIRGINIA BEACH (AP)--On the heels of his prediction that a terrorist attack late this year would lead to a "mass killing," "religious" "broadcaster" Pat Robertson recanted, claiming that God tortured him and threatened his life if he did not make the prediction.

Flanked by his family, an emotional Robertson said, "There I was, crocheting a "Jesus Saves" pillow for the Jew family down the street, when a couple of archangels in black hoods burst into the house." Robertson proceeded to tell a harrowing story of his blindfolded travels to a foreign country. "The food was delicious," he said, "but I couldn't understand a word they said."

And in his most shocking claim, Robertson said he was unmasked, and there stood the Lord Almighty himself, who proceeded to waterboard him. "He wanted me to say all manner of ridiculous, frightening things about a major attack against the U.S. He wanted me to say it was nuclear."

God declined comment for this article.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I want the person of '07 to be ME!

Now that Time declared YOU the person of '06, I want to throw my hat in the ring for '07. That's right, ME, Crazy Little Thing, president, Crazye Little Thinge Enterprises, Ltd. So vote for me. Start calling Time today, before that magazine's unplanned obsolescence drags it down into the muck and they declare Joe Klein their house liberal. Wait, that happened already? Shit.

***

Speaking of Your reign as '06's person of the year, I'd like to note that 2006 was the year of the needless YouTube story. Suddenly, a video's being posted became cause for a newspaper to fill space so their trod-upon reporters would not have to do any, you know, reporting. Don't believe me? Go plug "YouTube" into LexisNexis and get back to me.

***

Speaking of patting myself on the back, in '06, I established this here blog, and I got over 20K page views. That rounds to about 62 visitors a day (the blog started on Feb. 11), though I should note I had big boosts certain days from, among others, Deadspin, Sports Illustrated, Crooks and Liars, Michael Bérubé, Chicky Wang, The Big Lead, Awful Announcing, and assorted others. So thanks. I will give you all big kisses. My goal for this year is to be linked by Gawker, Michelle Malkin, and Time, once it realizes I'm the person of this year.

***

Tomorrow (Jan. 3) is my birfday. Celebrate appropriately.

***

Lastly, at Chicky Wang's arm-twisting suggestion, I'm going to share with you what I'm listening to on ye olde mp3e playere. But instead of mentioning all the cool stuff, I'm going to try and justify the most potentially embarrassing songs I've got on there.

Lily Allen, "Smile": I usually don't listen to britpop, but her name kept coming up on music sites like Idolator and Pitchfork, so I caved in and listened. It's a solid dance tune, and witty to boot. I highly recommend it.

J.C. Chasez, "Until Yesterday": If you're scratching your head trying to figure out where you know that name from, he's one of the putatively straight, non-Timberlake alumni of N*$%@#Sync. Again, I listened on Idolator's recommendation. The lyrics suck, but it's good for working out. Also, you have to appreciate any song with the balls to include the rare lyrics, "If you play with fire then you'll get burned." Truly original.

The Beach Boys, Various Songs: Is it cool to like them yet, or is my appreciation of them a sign that I should just throw in the towel and start wearing Dockers?

Green Day, Various Songs of Recent Vintage: I'm sorry, but these guys are too fucking earnest to be taken seriously, so if you don't think they're embarrassing to have on an mp3 player, you're wrong. And if you do, well, every once in a while, I like to feel earnest.

Liz Phair, "Everything to Me": Unfortunately, this isn't from the "Exile in Guyville" era, it's from the more recent, much-maligned pop era. Yes, I like hooky songs, okay?

LL Cool J, "Mama Said Knock You Out": Does not hold up after all these years. But it did lead to my submitting a potential List to McSweeney's, only to have it rejected. Maybe I'll post it here someday.

Oasis, Various Songs: Basically the Beatles, but with the worst of Lennon's earnestness. But "Fuckin' in the Bushes" is a particularly good opening song when I'm at the gym.

Weezer, "We Are All on Drugs": I know this song sucks. I just can't help it.