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.