Friday, September 29, 2006

It sure starts early

In a post a while back, I wrote about Norah Vincent's book Self-Made Man. One of the conclusions the author came to in her book was that "the patriarchy" is a rather nebulous concept, and certainly not the omnipotent monolith it's often thought of as. One example of the daily helplessness of males is the fact that they are almost to a man at the mercy of women's sexual and social attention. Men do the propositioning, and women do the picking and choosing that makes or breaks a man's spirit.

Today at The Job, I played some of my kid-friendly rock CD mixes and the children (aged three to five) spontaneously started dancing in pairs.

And damned if the girls weren't completely in charge of who was dancing with whom.

The girls bartered their partners with each other ("I'll dance with him and you dance with him") without the briefest attempt at asking the boys what they thought or wanted. The girls refused offers of dances from the boys, and even told one boy that he couldn't dance with someone (and the pair obeyed). The boys accepted all this with perfect equanimity, as if it were totally natural that the girls should utterly control this realm.

And maybe it is natural.

Veracity is the heart of morality

At the Hangout tonight, the wife of an acquaintance came by the bar and asked everyone where her husband was. She had been crying. The bartender said he had left , saying he'd be back in fifteen minutes, "but that was three hours ago." Everyone there, including the wife, knew that the guy was with Waitress W. She's infatuated with him, and he lets her worship him, and sleeps with her, and stays married to his wife. It's a sad situation all around. Later, Waitress W and the guy came back, and he left with his wife. There was no scene. There was no need for one; I'm sure it had all been said and thought before.

The thing is, the guy is smart and pleasant to be around; he's a nice guy. I've laughed and joked with him, and I really appreciate and respect his extensive knowledge of film.

But someone who goes around causing pain to the people who love him, and won't stop... That's not a very moral person, is it? Maybe not such a nice guy.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Too much cutesy

In Art, we had two more lesson plan presentations. In the first, we made paper models of the solar system. The planets were cut out of paper, decorated and then hung in a line off a wire coat hanger. I am not in favor of this kind of half-assed art project and think it's damaging to learning. First, the planets are nowhere near scale. I understand that true scale is impossible in a quick solo project, but at the least, Mercury should be tiny and Jupiter huge. Second, putting the planets in a row gives the student the erroneous idea that the planets are somehow linear; much better to think of some way to emphasize their rotation around the sun.

Also, Pluto was included in the planets. Personally, I wouldn't.

I am appalled at the number of prospective teachers who did not know the order of the planets' distance from the sun.

The second project was painting a paper plate like a bee (and decorating it with pipe cleaner legs and antennae and googly eyes). This is okay, although the cutesy googly eyes give kinds the impression that insects have pupils. I mean, how hard is it to give the kids representations of faceted eyes?

Maybe I'm just a nit-picky curmudgeon today.

Class ended early because Ms. M had to go somewhere. We worked on our posters, decorated an advertising flyer for a children's book 9good idea), then went our separate ways.

I spent my time in the library, studying for the Diagnostic Reading test. It was 40 multiple choice questions and then several definitions. As I feared, the multiple choice items were incomprehensible; Dr. C's bird brain can't focus long enough to write questions with definite answers. Still, though, I think I did fairly well.


After class, Friar and I went out to two clubs. At one, the drummer from Auric's band was playing with his own side project. Being just a lame-o drummer, of course, he goes completely unnoticed even in his hometown. After the show as we chatted with him, Friar said, "P here is one of the ten best drummers in the country, yet he just stands here alone like some nobody." I said, "Yet Auric is probably not even in the top hundred vocalists in the country, yet if he were here, he'd be smothered in groupies." Where's the justice? Though, I added, to be fair, Auric is one of the top five songwriters working today. I think so, anyway.

I can't read graphs

When she was passing out last week's tests for review tonight (which she later collected again, a professorial habit I dislike), Ms. H asked me what grade I was planning to teach. I said I was aiming for 3rd or 4th. She replied that I'd be good teaching 5th graders; "you have the kind of humor they appreciate."

I really doubt I'd like teaching fifth grade; they're too hormonal and lack empathy. But Ms. H was referring to some of the word problems I wrote on the test.

To illustrate a "take-away" subtraction problem, I wrote, "Jack has five crackers. Suddenly, a demented crow swoops down and grabs three of them in its talons and flies off, cawing triumphantly. How many crackers does Jack have left, and how long will it be before he gets over his subsequent ornithophobia?"

To illustrate a "missing addend" subtraction problem, I wrote, "We have ten basic freedoms. The Powers That Be foster a national state of panic and pass laws that effectively take away a few of our natural rights, allowing us six (for now). How many freedoms did these laws strip away?"

You have to amuse yourself somehow during exams.

I got a 97 on the test. The problem I was concerned with, which required listing all the possible combinations of less than ten coins that equal 42 cents, I seemed to muddle my way through. It turned out there wasn't a formula one could use to figure it out. What I did, the guess-and-check graph, was apparently the way to do it, and I got all the possibilities.

I lost three points making a glaringly obvious careless error. The question asked the value of a line on a given graph. The question even noted that this line began with a value of 20 and not zero. I nevertheless failed to take this into account and just wrote down the value at the intersection point (when I should have subtracted 20, of course).

After going over the test, we reviewed division strategies, a few basic rules of exponents (such as 23 x 24 = 23+4 = 27), the greatest common factor and the least common multiple. Basic stuff.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bill Clinton is my hero

Although I'm passionate about a lot of political issues, I don't often write about them or even discuss them. For one thing, many bloggers do politics a thousand times better than I ever could. Secondly, especially given the current state of the dialectic (where the name of the game is utter degradation and vilification of the enemy, with everyone who isn't completely in lockstep with every single aspect of your thought falling under the rubric of "enemy"), talking about things you believe in seems an exercise in pointlessness for an open-minded intelligent person.

This post is no exception --- I'm still ill-informed and can express myself but poorly in this arena --- but I found something I needed to share.

Anyway. There's a big discussion in all the blogs and chat shows over how the best president of the 20th century let his emotions get to him after being needled by the a loyal foot soldier of the GOP's media arm. And good for him.

The best response to the fray.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Philip K. Dick sucks!

Whne I was in college, I read a few Philip K. Dick novels and stories. Recently, as part of my "books on audio during the long commute to school" kick (which I hope will last for many more hours of aural enjoyment), I listened to a few PDK stories for the first time in about thirteen years.

God, I'm old.

Anyway. Kurt Vonnegut has a stock character, a penniless science fiction writer named Kilgore Trout. Trout has only two fans, has never published a book with the same company twice, and has never seen one of his books for sale. He is a man who has terrific ideas, but is a terrible writer.

Listen: Philip K. Dick is Kilgore Trout. He has great ideas, but he sucks at executing them.

He has all the typical pulp writer flaws --- the characters all talk the same way; they react unblinkingly to bizarre, life-altering events; they have paranoid suspicions, but not reasonable ones based on what is actually happening to them --- but he goes a step beyond, to the point where his stories don't bear any scrutiny whatever.

Take, for example, the story "Paycheck," which apparently is being made into a movie. In this story, Jennings, an engineer, is hired to work for a mysterious company. After a two-year stint, his memories of working there are erased (so he can't reveal company secrets). Bizarrely, he further finds that he's agreed to exchange his paycheck for a handful of apparently useless trinkets. And as soon as he steps outside, the secret police detain him and try to question him about the company. He escapes, using the trinkets, and realizes that his past, pre-brainwiped self has left him a series of clues to something to do with the company.

Okay. This is a perfect example of one of Dick's great ideas dressed up in shoddy writing. This whole story is one huge plot hole: either the super-secretive company took the two seconds necessary to actually glance at the trinkets Jennings left himself (including a key card to one of the company's supposedly off-limits doors!) before letting him go, in which case they wouldn't allow him to leave himself those things. Or they didn't look at all --- in which case Jennings could have just left himself a lengthy written report on what he was to do and how in order to get one over on the company, saving himself a lot of worry and trouble.

Yes, I know time travel is an absurd concept, but when the story is supposedly dramatic, these things ought to be fixed a little.

Or another story, "Second Variety." After a devestating world war, soldiers find that robots originally desgined as weapons have become self-replicating and can now design themselves to look exactly like humans --- and now, they're hunting all of humanity's survivors! Again, a good idea, and there is some drama here, but let me just suggest this. If four people suspect that one among them might be a robot, how about finding some very simple method of proving one's humanity, such as, say, cutting yourself a bit to show you have blood and not wires inside?

Another thing that I found amusing, and this applies to PDK's stories in general, is how the premise will be based on one mind-bogglingly advanced future tech like a "time scoop" or "pre-crime" or implanted false memories, but the rest of the world will be one in which music and computer data are inscribed onto tape and there are coin-operated phones and stereos, gas-powered cars, carbon paper, and typewriters, and women exist only as secretaries or housewives. Way to envision mankind's glorious techno-future, Philip!

Maybe it's just me, older and more used now to reading the classics, or at least intelligent historical fiction. Maybe I've outgrown imaginative fiction altogether. (I have always found Tolkien to be boring.) But maybe it's just that Philip K. Dick is a terrible writer.

Just give me some of that rock and or roll music

The Hangout had a big outdoor music festival tonight. It was in their parking lot. There were about four or five bands, including one of the Friar's and a good local covers band. Apparently there was an entry fee, but I just walked right in. That's the way to stick it to the man, who in this case is my friend Mr. Hangout. Oh, he doesn't mind.

I drank and listened to the rock and played video games with the Friar and K (haven't seen her in a while!) and even 74, who is never allowed out by Zaftig, joined us. I also briefly saw Gunner and Waitress T. Oh, and Skullfuck, the city's least funny comedian, introduced the bands, throwing off some truly atrocious one-liners. Example: "If you lose your virginity tonight, check in the lost and found bin." Seriously, he sucks.

74 and I, quite plastered by closing time, shared a taxi home. As the Friar said, "A cab is cheaper than a DUI, and I'm the one who'd be representing you for free, so get in." He was right, too. I've gotten into the habit lately of driving under the influence. Not definitely drunk by any means, just perhaps a tiny fraction over the edge, enough that I might flub a gross motor skill or two if a cop pulled me over. Tipsy enough that when I get home, I kind of wonder if it was a wise idea. Yes, I know. Bad habit.

What with all the cigarette smoke --- especially including all the times 74 exhaled smoke into my face to distract me as I beat him in virtual golf --- I feel like I breathed in about the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes. Yuck.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Another step toward the grim embrace of death

Palfrey arranged for a party for the Friar tonight. His birthday is in a few days. The party was at Green Margarita, a truly vile Mexican restaurant that Friar (who has vile taste in restaurants) absolutely adores. All the old familiar faces showed up --- T-Bone and his wife, Anacreon and his wife, Muffin (who is now pregnant) and her husband, Gunner, Friar's boss, some other old friends, and the Mayor. I'd had no idea that Muffin was even in town, which shows how close we are, right?

Only for the Friar would I attend such a gathering. I know these people are my friends, and most of them wish me well and no who was one there dislikes me... But even if they don't judge me, I judge myself. What can I tell these poeple, my old friends, about myself that doesn't resound with defeatism and rightly invite condign opprobrium? It's a plain fact that at this stage in my life I'm a failure in every aspect, from social to professional. Everyone around me is making enormous money, into their fifth year of marriage, expecting a child or the proud parents of one or two. This is the normal stage to be in at my age. How can I sit with these people as if I were one of their peers?

Only for the Friar. No one else.

After the dinner, most of us went to the Hangout, where we did the usual stuff. I stayed out until 3:00 a.m.


Waitress T got a text message from her boyfriend and laughed in geniune appreciation. "That's so sweet," she told me. "I had asked him if he were going to the concert, and he just replied, 'You bet your fine ass I am.'" She smiled. She meant her praise, too.


Has the manly art of sweet-talking a woman really become that retarded and pathetic? "You bet your fine ass" is now considered to be a silver-tongued boyfriend's sweet compliment, worthy of comment?

What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action, how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a god!

Big-Ass Music Meme

Turnabout is fair play, so I took this meme from Samurai Frog. I don't have nearly his patience, so I cut some of the questions.

Name some great late night songs:
"Can't Run But," Paul Simon
"Highlands," Bob Dylan
"Perfect Day," Lou Reed
"Killing Moon," Echo & the Bunnymen

Name 5-10 wistful/bittersweet songs:
1. "Father And Son," Cat Stevens
2. "Girl from the North Country," Bob Dylan
3. "Redemption Song," Johnny Cash with Joe Strummer
4. "Can't Stand Me Now," the Libertines
5. "China," Greg Brown
6. "Boots Of Spanish Leather," Bob Dylan
7. "Wishlist," Pearl Jam
8. "Time," Tom Waits
9. "I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You," Tom Waits
10. "Things Behind the Sun," Nick Drake

The 4 Best Songs Ever Written:
1. "Good Vibrations," Beach Boys
2. "Like a Rolling Stone," Bob Dylan
3. "Tangled Up In Blues," Bob Dylan
4. "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," Bob Dylan

3 Current Favorite Songs:
1. "Thunder On the Mountain," Bob Dylan
2. "I Want To Make the World Turn Around," Steve Miller
3. "Highlands," Bob Dylan

Classic Early Evening Drinking Music:
"One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer," George Thorogood
"Jigsaw Puzzle," Rolling Stones

3 All Time Faves That Never Get Old To You
"Good Vibrations," Beach Boys
"American Music," Violent Femmes
"Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," Bob Dylan

Song You Want (or did) To Play At Your Wedding:
"I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket," Ella Fitzgerald

4 Records You Really Dug from 2005:
I can only think of one: No Direction Home (Bootleg Series Vol. 7), Bob Dylan

Favorite Records From This Year So Far:
1. Modern Times, Bob Dylan
2. Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, Arctic Monkeys
3. Rabbit Fur Coat, Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins

While one is a masterpiece, one is very good and one is pleasant but average, those three are all the records from this year I own. I really don't buy a lot of new music.

Good Angry Songs:
"Positively 4th Street,"Bob Dylan
"Out Of Control," Rancid
"Rise Up," Pressure Point
"Screaming At the Wailing Wall," Flogging Molly
"Song For the Dumped," Ben Folds Five
"The Guns of Brixton," the Clash
"Fuck tha Police," N.W.A.
"California Uber Alles," Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
"Fight the Power," Public Enemy

One of Your Favorite Lyrics:
"I wish I was a lesbian and not a hetero. I wouldn't have to mess with men and all their come and go."
"IWIWAL," Loudon Wainwright III

5 Cover Songs Arguably Better Than the Original:
I don't know. Everyone always says "All Along the Watchtower" as done by Jimi Hendrix, but I of course prefer Bob's version; Jimi's pyrotechnics have never done anything for me. And covers other people revile or dismiss, like lounge covers of metal songs, or metal covers of easy listening sounds, I find endlessly interesting. I've got an album of covers by a goofy a capella called the Bobs that might send some hipper-than-thou rockers out of the room sniggering, and I love it. To me, the only bad cover is the one that just copies the original.

Ironic Song to Brutally Murder Someone to in a movie:
"Why Can't We Be Friends," War.

Great Dance Song You Maybe Never Realized Was a Great Dance song Back in the Day:
What day? Dance music? what?

Good Album to Clean the House To:
I wouldn't know. Ha! Oh, all right, let's say Indestructible by Rancid. Energizing.

Good Dining Music:
I'm not sure I understand what these questions are getting at. What is dining music? How about The Future by Leonard Cohen.

Good Album to Love On Each Other To:
The Heart of Saturday Night, Tom Waits
also, Graceland, Paul Simon

A Good Album to Put You In the Mood (that is NOT Sade, Marvin Gaye or Barry White):
Ten New Songs, Leonard Cohen. He's the white Jewish Buddhist poet folk rock Barry White.

Good Album To Sleep To:
Generally I can't sleep while music is on. If I had to... something classical, perhaps?

5 Good Rock Songs That You Can Dance To:
1. "Government Center," Jonathan Richman
2. "Road To Nowhere," Talking Heads
3. "This Kind Of Music," Jonathan Richman
4. "Rudie Can't Fail," the Clash
5. "Closing Time," Leonard Cohen

Song That Is Too Damn Sad:
"Time," Tom Waits

Great Love Song:
"Wished For You," Squirrel Nut Zippers

Song To An Ex That Isn’t Mean-Spirited:
I don't care to know any.

Song To An Ex That Is Kinda Meanspirited:
"Think For Yourself," the Beatles

Song to Listen to While in the Country Looking at Stars:
"Starman," David Bowie

Song to lose your Mind to:
“Suite-Pee," System of a Down

Song To Cry In Your Pillow to:
"Meter Shower," Rhett Miller. "I cannot make light, I'm so burned out. I know where you are. I cannot believe how much it hurts. I'm a falling star."

Songs That Make You Feel Amped and Inspired:
Almost every Rancid song

Great Semi-Obscure B-side:
"Blind Willie McTell," Bob Dylan

Criminally Underrated Band That Didn’t Get Attention and Then Broke Up:
The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
The Low & Sweet Orchestra

Best Screw You I Am a Teenager in Pain Song:
"Longview," Green Day
"Mental," eels

Feel No Shame, Great Current Pop Songs:
I don't know any.

Album No One Would Expect You To Love:
I have very broad taste.

Emo Album You Actually Like:
I don't know what that emo shit is and don't care. S-frog wrote a paragraph explaining what emo was in his answer, but my eyes glazed over after four words and I deleted it.

Good, But Overrated Cause Of Indie Revisionism:
I also have no idea what the hell indie refers to anymore.

5 Desert Island Discs off the top of your head (30 sec clock):
1. Rain Dogs, Tom Waits
2. Blood On the Tracks, Bob Dylan
3. Modern Times, Bob Dylan
4. Bringing It All Back Home, Bob Dylan
5. And Out Come the Wolves, Rancid

3 Contemporary Artists That Were Your Faves 10 Years Ago:
Bob Dylan, They Might Be Giants, Steve Wynn

Fave Electronic Record You Own:
Don't have any.

Hip-Hop Song You Know All the Lyrics To:
"Without Me," Eminem

Random Album You Loved In High School But Are Afraid To Admit It:
Oh no! People will laugh if I say I like Steve Miller or Don Henley or some un-cool guy! Actually, my appreciation for those two artists is rather new. In high school was too "cool" to like them. Sometimes it takes a man to get a man's music. I've come to love lots of atists I was too much of a stuck up prig to listen to in high school, like Echo & the Bunnymen, the Cure, the Smiths, and so on. In fact, the only artists I'd say I liked a lot in high school and now like less is the Grateful Dead. But I'm certainly not "afraid" to say I liked, or like, any music.

Album You May Have Listened To More In High School than Any Other Album:
Greatest Hits, Bob Dylan

If You Could Enter A Wrestling Ring to a Song It Would Be:
"Bloodclot," Rancid. "My guns are blazin'! I can see 360! I can see all around me! I'm a bad motherfucker! So don't you even bother!"

Album To Clear A Room With:
One time I played Another Side Of Bob Dylan and my roommate in college fled my room from the sheer awfulness of it to his stupid hick inbred ears. However, I would say most people would not appreciate Daniel Johnston's music. Or for the older generation, just toss a little black metal like Deicide on the stereo and that room will be empty. Totally empty, because I'll get out too. Deicide sucks.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Drowsy numbness pains my sense

I like having Wednesdays off.

When I got home last night, I did my classroom floor plan assignment for Art using the art tools in PowerPoint. Then I stayed up late putzing around on the web because I could.

I woke up at 10:00 a.m., walked the dog, ate a big breakfast, and went to Art. We had a quiz. We learned how to make die-tye sheets with baby wipes and markers. We split into small groups, and out group made a poster about the learning theories of good old Vygotsky (he seems to pop up a lot). And we got another nifty acronym. This one is a ten-point strategy for adapting lessons with particular student needs in mind (cultural diversity and disabilities and so on).

Place - the setting of the learning must be adapted
Amount - the time and materials
Rate - the frequency of the work
Targets - the lesson objectives (everyone's a winner where there aren't any!)
Instruction - adapt teaching strategies
Curriculum - change the scope and sequence of items taught
Utensils - use different media or tools
Level of difficulty - ease the complexity
Assistance - offer scaffolding (there's Vygotsky again!)
Response - allow new ways for the student to show learning


And then later there was Diagnostic Reading, which is such a clusterfuck of confusing instruction and mind-deadening parroting that I can't even post about it. Worst class I've had at State school.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

me = baffled

Today I did something very much unlike me. I finished and posted my Book Talk and Reader's Theater (which was actually a blast to write) for tomorrow's Diagnostic reading today! Imagine that; me, not procrastinating.

In Math Concepts we had our first test. Everything went fine (unless I made careless errors, often my bugbear), except for one baffling question. It was basically this. if you have less then ten coins that add up to $0.42, what are all the possibilities of coins you can have?

I couldn't think of any formula for figuring it out or any kind of graphic aid, so I just wrote out an inkblot-festooned list of all the possibilities I could think of. After about six or seven, I gave up and left.

Home early!


Depression returns, more mild than before but certainly rooted in my psyche. I sleep reluctantly and wake up just as unwillingly. Last night I was like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five, unstuck in time, going back and forth through my life and revisiting with vivid, crystal clarity moment after moment from the past that stick like shards of cut glass in my mind. None of them is a happy memory, because all the events and promises end badly or just wither away to this disappointing desert that is my life currently. And most are vicious memories, deep gashes in the soul itself; I find myself choked with rage at betrayals of the heart from ten years ago. Sleep when it came was plagued by oddly terrifying and detailed nightmares in which pairs of crabs fought, their big claws knocking and scraping with hard stony sounds against their carapaces as they skittered like spiders up the walls and under furniture. I was afraid for my bare toes. I'm reading Overcoming Life's Disappointments, by Rabbi Harold Kushner, and every page is like a reprimand rather than a comfort. Courage means not scaring others. It's strange how we fear death even when we don't care about life.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Worky worky!

I have a math test on Tuesday. For Wednesday, not one but two written assignments of several pages each are due for Diagnostic Reading, and an assignment that I haven't even looked at so I don't know what it entails is due in Art.

No time to blog. Enjoy these pictures of nice, peaceful Muslims enjoying the comforts of Europe's rule of law while threatening to kill Westerners and overthrow our governments for daring to imply that theirs is a culture of malevolent hegemony supported by violence.

Got the power up there, waving a wand of confetti in the air

Woo! Rock!

I picked up Waitress T at her apartment and we went to the rock show. This was completely a "just friends" thing, but like any guy, I enjoyed drinking, laughing and rocking out with a very pretty girl in a tight shirt and miniskirt.

She swore me to secrecy about her boyfriend of three months --- it's her boss. (They're about the same age, and he's only a low-level manager, not the owner.) As far as she knows I'm the only person who knows them both and knows this secret. I told her I doubted that the guy could keep such a bombshell to himself among his guy friends, though.

So first we went to Oktoberfest. Even though it's September; go figure. She scored some free passes through her employment, and we wandered the, uh, Biergarten a while. Even though I hate beer. I had a glass of wine. She drank an enormous beer. We had some bratwursts. It was all very touristy.

After that, it was time for the show! We drove out to some place way out of the city (the same venue where I saw Brian Wilson and Bob Dylan last year). We were offered tickets on the way in by scalpers. Then a kid sitting on a railing on the stairs above us called down, "You want some X tabs?" T said loudly, "What?" The kid was embarrassed and mumbled, "Uh, I'll catch you up here." It turned out T wasn't messing with him; she really hadn't heard. She told the kid that she'd given up that stuff ten years ago, and he expressed shock at her age (twenty-seven, but she looks quite young).

Anyhoo. The opening act was some guy I had only vaguely heard of, Matisyahu. He played a set of heavily Jewish-influenced reggae-rap-jam-rock. I don't know how well this transfers to studio recordings, but let me tell you, this guy tore the roof off the sucker. He danced by flailing around with very little grace, he told long rambling stories, he ran around stage like a bozo, and he transfixed everyone. There was some kind of power or presence in him, at least tonight on stage. He also did some damn fine beatboxing. I was thoroughly impressed, as was T. We both couldn't help raving about it.

Then came the main course, the Flaming Lips. Now, I own a few albums by these guys and I very much enjoy their music. However, they put a bit too much emphasis on spectacle for me. Throughout the show, girls dressed in alien costumes and guys in Santa costumes danced; the roadies were dressed as superheroes; giant balloons were released and tossed around; a video screen showed bizarre images, mostly from what were apparently Japanese TV shows; colored lights flashed everywhere; and Wayne Coyne shot confetti and streamers out of some kind of tube. Hey, one of the Santas even proposed marriage to an alien (she said yes, of course).

(The Friar, who joined us briefly with Waitress W in tow during the Lips' set, leaned over and said to me, "I bet they do that proposal every night.")

Well, it's all in the name of enjoyment and letting go and having fun while we can during this infinitesimally brief blip we call life. And I understand and admire that, I really do. But look, about thirty percent of the concert was taken up with Wayne telling us to be brave and not be afraid to love and enjoy life, that is when he wasn't shooting confetti into the air. And that time could have been taken up with more music! They didn't even play "The Spiderbite Song," dammit! And part of the spectacle was kind of dampened by the fact that all the balloons and streamers drifted off into the corner, propelled by the AC.

(The Friar kept on with the cynical commentary while they played "Do You Realize??" He'd say, "Do you realize, Wayne's the only guy with confetti on him?" Or, when spotlights shone into the crowd, "Do you realize, those lights are really fucking bright?")

After the show, I dropped T off at a bar where her housemate was, and I went to the Hangout. I sat in the back with the Friar, W and others, and heard three of the most offensive jokes I've ever heard. Let's just say that if I were to even mention the content of the least of them, I would risk this blog being tagged by the FBI.

Say good night, Gracie.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Five --- whoops, twenty --- songs

At the Hangout tonight, the Friar asked me to think about this: what five songs would you pick to demonstrate the breadth of your musical taste? Not your five favorite songs, obviously, or even necessarily the best songs by particular artists, but just five songs from disparate genres.

My immediate answer was:

1. "So Long, it's Been Good To Know Yeh" a.k.a. "Dusty Old Dust," Woody Guthrie --- folk
2. "Singapore," Tom Waits --- the original alternative
3. "Out Of Control," Rancid --- loud fast punk
4. "Without Me, " Eminem --- rap
5. "Fly Me To the Moon," Frank Sinatra --- swing/big band

But then I got to thinking that maybe including Eminem wasn't fair because he represents the sum total of all rap I listen to, aside from the not-quite-rap Spearhead, and also some of the songs weren't representative of enough disparity. So perhaps:

1. "Song To Woody," Bob Dylan --- love of the disciple implies a familiarity with Woody as well
2. "Memphis," Rancid --- new reggae-influenced punk, implying the Clash as well
3. "The Patriot Game," the Clancy Brothers --- I listen to a lot of Irish music, and this combined with Dylan and Rancid hints at their descendants Pogues and Flogging Molly
4. "They Can't Take That Away From Me," Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong --- implying a wider appreciation of the big band/jazz voices than just Frank
5. "The Earth Died Screaming," Tom Waits --- his song with the most clang boom steam, hinting at the array of non-traditional rock I listen to

But wait! I left out:

1. "Folsom Prison Blues," Johnny Cash --- authentic bad boy country
2. "Mammal," They Might Be Giants --- geek rock
3. "Thank You For Sending Me An Angel," Talking Heads --- afro-beat rock
4. "You Shook Me All Night Long," Hayseed Dixie --- demonstrating my love for bluegrass covers of hard rock
5. "Good Vibrations," Beach Boys --- to show I can dig harmonies, too


1. "Mojo Hand," Lightnin' Hopkins --- blues
2. "Big Iron," Marty Robbins --- crooning country
3. "Like a Rolling Stone" (live at Manchester, 1966) , Bob Dylan --- blisteringly electrified folk, bringing down the sacred cows
4. "Pampa Lirima," Wayanay Inka --- traditional Andean music
5. "Heave Away My Johnny," Louis Killen --- I own more CDs of sailor songs and sea shanties than most people

As I wrote this, the playlist on my computer offered up "Danny Boy" as sung by Johnny Cash, followed by "I Love Paris" by Frank Sinatra, followed by "Francoise," by Henri Dikongue, a Cameroonian artist, followed by Tom Waits covering the Ramones' "The Return Of Jackie And Judy."

It's all too beautiful, man.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Women and Men

Women and men
Bringing with them messages of love
And every where they go love will grow
When you see the faces of the women
And the men, you too will know
--- They Might Be Giants, "Women & Men"

I just read Norah Vincent's non-fiction book Self-Made Man. Since I'm interested in gender relations, this unusual book hit a chord with me. The author, a lesbian journalist, disguised herself as a man for a year and a half to infiltrate the "male world" and see how men are treated. As "Ned," she joins a men's bowling league, goes to an Iron John type of men's retreat, visits a monastery, goes on dates, and works at what she calls a "Red Bull" sales office (for the ostensibly testosterone-fueled atmosphere). This much more than a "people on the street no longer undressed me with their eyes" exposé.

Vincent is eminently fair to men, the male experience, and how society shapes it. She's in fact remarkably perceptive; her ability to see others' perspectives undoubtedly contributed to her success at masquerading as a man with little more disguise than a rumpled shirt, a sports bra, and square-framed glasses. Indeed, at times Vincent is quite scathing toward women, especially when dissecting their dating strategies and behaviors.

The conclusions that she reaches --- that a men's movement is necessary to heal both men and women; that masculinity is an integral part of the male experience and should be preserved; that men and woman are startlingly different on nearly every scale, from perception to expression; that a lot of men are in pain from familial and social pressures to subscribe to a warped emotional isolationism; that men are at the mercy of female attention and sexuality at least as much as women are at the mercy of male power, and the effect on both sides is belittling --- are based on solid reasoning drawn from her experiences. I was very impressed with this book.

In her introduction, Vincent apologizes to the reader for her mass deceptions, which were necessary to write the book. I myself don't care too much that she infiltrated a monastery or a men's retreat (though I understand those that would find it intolerable) --- however, I keep thinking about the lonely, hurt women she dated in the name of "research." Playing with people's hearts is to me her cruelest deception.

Diagnosis: boring

Art, Music and Physical Development was an online class. We were given a four-part assignment: to look over three art-based websites and do a few quick tasks there, then to reply to a posted comment on creativity, failure and art and how the three are related.

My reply was something along these lines: Both entrepreneurs and artists make their livings from new ideas, and both fail regularly. The key to success is to learn from failures and to adapt an idea until it does work. The difference in art is that sometimes the "failures" turn out to work better than the artist's intentions. To be an artist, you have to learn to know what the art is telling you instead of always being its creator.

There was more to it, but that was the gist. I suppose there's a smidgen of truth under all that bullshit.


In Diagnostic Reading, Dr. C lectured on a wide variety of subjects, mostly old familiar concepts like phonological awareness, visual impairments, high stakes testing, Piaget's assimilation and accommodation, factors that influence learning to read (educational and non), and so on. And on and on.

Dr. C has a magpie mind; she constantly changes subjects in midstream, constantly being reminded of something past, present or future, something in her family life or some assignment due in three weeks or something we just went over a few minutes ago. It has the cumulative effect of being both incredibly boring and totally mystifying. Very few of my fellow students are completely sure what assignment is due when. Oh, there's a syllabus, but its stark, black and white clarity is obfuscated by Dr. C's weekly emails, which always contain extraneous information about assignments that aren't due that week.

I do know that I have to write a sample Reader's Theater and a booktalk for next week. At least.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Not as clever

If it's Tuesday, this must be Math Concepts.

I didn't do all that well on the weekly quiz because I wasn't quite sure which was the union symbol and which one meant intersection in set notation. And I made a careless error. And I didn't read a graph correctly. What a dummy.

In class, we talked about the models of multiplication (repeated addition, array and Cartesian product), as well as the properties of multiplication (commutative, associative, distributive, etc).

We also went over some very odd strategies for subtraction problems that normally would require regrouping (a.k.a. borrowing ten from the next highest place). One of the useful ways is to add the same amount to each element of the problem, making it an easier one. The amount you add varies with the problem, but usually involves making the subtrahend (the thing being subtracted) end in a nice round zero. To wit:

43 - 38 can become, when you add 2 to both the minuend (the number you're starting with) and the subtrahend, 45 - 40. That's a much easier problem than borrowing ten from the tens place; you can do this in your head automatically.

Akin to this strategy is the method where you add ten to the ones place in the minuend and so accordingly add ten to the tens place in the subtrahend. Thus:

53 - 38 becomes 53 - 48 (where the 3 in the 53 is actually 13, represented as usual in borrowing, with a one at the 3's upper left corner). So you subtract easily in both places (13 - 8 in the ones and 5 - 4 in the tens), and get 15.

On the other hand, there were also some startlingly stupid strategies. I can't even coherently represent the worst one. It has the student starting at the left side of the problem, going through each place value. Then, depending on whether the next place value's answer on the right requires borrowing or not, the student writes either the answer or the answer minus one. If at any place the subtrahend is larger than the minuend, the student writes the difference between the subtrahend and ten plus the minuend. And so on.

It's hard to explain, harder to understand, and useless. Now how that helps students understand number theory or place value, I don't know.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A war can be won, you'd have us to believe?

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud
--- Bob Dylan, "Masters Of War"

Dave Away From Home wrote a few words.

Samurai Frog posted a cool picture.

That is all.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

If life makes you scared and bitter, at least it's not for very long

Your life is historically meaningful
And spans a significant time
Slumber will come soon
And you are helping put it to sleep
--- Bad Religion, "Slumber"

Gunner sent me an email in which she mentioned that she thought Friar and I were two of the coolest people she knows in this city.

Ha ha! What a poor deluded naive fool!

She also sent me this stupid meme of Extremely Infrequently Asked Questions, which I will do in lieu of posting my usual whining about girls:

When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was your first thought?
I look like the mutant son of Tom Cruise and a chimp.

Favorite planet?
Earth, obviously.

Who is the 4th person on your missed call list on your mobile?
That is an unusual question. Who thinks of these things? It's the Maddening Angel.

Favorite ring on your phone?
"Blitzkreig Bop."

What shirt are you wearing?

Right now, I'm shirtless. Form an orderly line, ladies!

What were you doing 20 minutes ago?
Lifting weights.

Name the brand of shoes you're currently wearing?
I'm barefoot like a hillybilly at the moment, but even if I were wearing my shoes I doubt I could tell you the brand. Brands and fashions are not something I spend a lot of my brainpower on. [Eerie synchronicity moment: Just as I typed this, I heard the line "Please don't judge me by my shoes" from the Band song "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)," playing on my PC.]

Bright or dark room?
It depends on what you have in mind!

Daytime or night time?
The night time is the right time to be with the one you love. Also, it's the right time to surf the web, go to bars, read, or watch movies.

If you're in a room with two beds, which one do you sleep on?
The one furthest from the door. That way your startled screams can awaken me when the killers creep in.

What were you doing at midnight last night?
It's all a blur.

What did your last text message you received on your mobile say?
"get pumped by listening 2 them" You didn't ask for the context.

How do you like your eggs?
Fried, yolks unbroken but liquid inside. Delicious on bread. Or on flour tortillas, like Lyle Lovett.

What's a word/phrase that you say a lot?
"Fuck me!" And I am ashamed of it. I'm trying to stop.

Last thing you touched?
The keys on this keyboard, obviously.

How many drugs have you done in the last three days?
Zero, not even alcohol.

Favorite age you have been so far?
That's tough. I liked high school a lot, but I wouldn't want to be 17 or 18 again. I guess my late 20s was nice. But this age is good too, if not the accompanying lifestyle.

Your worst enemy?
If I'm important enough to have an enemy, I don't know it.

What is your current desktop picture?
The Taj Mahal. I have a few cherished memories of India, though I'd never want to return.

What was the last thing you said to somebody?
"They cancelled trivia because of fooball."

If you had to choose between a million bucks or to be able to fly, which one would you choose?
Being able to fly is easily worth several million dollars. As long as government scientists don't try to vivisect you in an attempt to discover the source of your power and to replicate it so as to create an army of flying super-soldiers, that would be awesome.

The last song you listened to?
David Bowie's "Star."

If the last person you spoke to was getting shot at, what would you do?
What the hell? I guess I'd tell her to duck.

If you could punch one person in the face who's in your life right now, who would it be?
No one I allow in my life deserves a punch in the face from me, though I wouldn't mind trying to slap a little sense into the Ex.

Have you ever been stopped, detained and searched by the police?
Yes, at a mall. I was seventeen. I used to dress like a hooligan, and six mall cops (real police, but hired by the mall) thought little ragamuffin me was enough of a threat, I guess, to search me and question me for about a half hour. They kept me even after it was clear that I had a key to the car I was supposedly loitering around. Later, my parents went to the mall to investigate, and the cops lied through their teeth about pretty much everything that happened. For one example, I had been wearing a Grateful Dead T-shirt. As they milled around detaining me, one of the cops asked me if I liked the Dead and I replied, truthfully, that I thought they were okay but really just liked the cool skull motif in the logo. In the official report, the cops wrote that I was jumping up and down, screaming "I'm a Deadhead! I'm a Deadhead!" Amazing.

They did let me go after half an hour and nothing came of it. However, if this twisting of justice and the truth could happen to an upper-middle class white boy with a car, it's not hard to imagine what regularly happens at the hands of the police to those with fewer resources and more melanin in their skin. Yikes.

Since that time, I've been asked by the police to submit to searches, but being aware of my rights (as they existed until recently, anyway), I always refused. This has led me to being smelled by a drug dog (for which there is no right to refusal) on more than one occasion.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The faces that I greet never know my name

A strong heart will prevail
It keeps on pumping
It still needs something
Just give me something
I'll take nothing
--- Badly Drawn Boy, "Pissing In the Wind"

I got a brand new computer (this Toshiba laptop is four years old and has a pathetically tiny hard drive). However, I have so far been unable to connect it to my existing DSL connection. In this day and age, you need to be on-line to do pretty much everything (install software, recognize CDs you're burning, install virus protection, register for help, etc), so at the moment, my brand new sparkling PC is nothing more than an extremely expensive Freecell console.

On the plus side, I am very, very good at Freecell.


Yesterday, I got Greg Rucka's third Atticus Kodiak novel, Smoker, from the library. I read about 200 pages of it in one sitting, just before going to bed. All last night, I had vivid dreams, closely related to the book's plot, in which I was Atticus. This is, of course, a colossally nerdish thing to dream about.

Anyway, I'm about as much like amoral tough guy bodyguard Atticus Kodiak as Clay Aiken is.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Soft in the middle

I need a photo-opportunity
I want a shot at redemption
Don't want to end up a cartoon
In a cartoon graveyard
--- Paul Simon, "You Can Call Me Al"

A few days ago 74 asked me, "How much of popular and high culture do you think you first encountered in cartoons?" Now, 74 and I are lucky to have grown up with the classic Warner Brothers cartoons --- Bugs, Daffy, Elmer et al. So naturally I replied, "A great deal." It's hard to determine exactly how much, because after you mature and encounter the actual things that were parodied and lampooned, you can forget there was once a time in which they were not familiar. But I'm sure that I saw parodies of Peter Lorre, Of Mice And Men ("I will hug him and squeeze him..."), Humphrey Bogart, Groucho Marx, Bing Crosby, Liberace ("I wish my brother George was here," gushed Bugs Bunny, at a piano) Buck Rogers, Sherlock Holmes, and many, many more, before I had ever seen a frame of their films, read a page of their exploits, heard a note of their music. And music! Warner Brothers cartoons exposed me to opera and classical music that I never would have heard otherwise.

And culture also includes history. As a very young child, I absorbed references to World War II, the Depression, and Vaudeville through Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

Honestly, in a lot of ways those old cartoons were the bedrock of my education and my outlook. A lot of people my age today don't have any sense of the past or of history. Not just dry academic history, but all the things that make up our inherited culture: the Beatles, Prince Valiant, Jimmy Stewart, etc. I'm not saying that I'm an expert on Our Glorious Heritage --- far from it --- but I've kept my eyes and mind open when considering the relics of America's past, and I think that's in large part because I was so influenced by those old Warner Brothers cartoons.

I wonder if the cartoons of today use the culture of two generations ago as a springboard for parodies and jokes? And if so, will tomorrow's adults care about their past?


Here are the graphic novels I bought since my last purchase of the (boneheaded) Fantastic Four collection for four bucks.

9/1 - Hellblazer: Haunted - $10

Warren Ellis does a straightforward revenge story. As I dig stories about truly bad guys getting their comeuppance, I was a little disappointed with this. I mean, it was okay, but it didn't exactly have me cheering on the angel of rough justice, as, say, Lawrence Block does in his Matt Scudder novels. Ellis does write convincingly about London's seedy side, though.

9/4 - The Heart Of the Beast - $4

Never heard of the title, author or illustrator, but it has nice art and was four bucks. I was pleased with it; writer Dean Motter updates the Frankenstein myth, which is right up my alley. I love retellings of classic works.

9/4 - Violent Cases - $4

Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean tell a story about Al Capone's osteopath. Huh? Pretty damn good, actually. Flashbacks and multiple layers and terrific art.

9/4 - Spirit Jam - $4

Fifty comics writers and illustrators get together and try to honor Will Eisner's Spirit, but none of them are fit to shine Will Eisner's shoes and they end up creating a big stupid mess that is the exact opposite of a loving tribute. I had to reread some Spirit archives to get past this travesty.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Breaking like a firecracker

And love won't play any games with you
Anymore if you want it to
So we better shake this old thing out the door
I'll always be thinkin' of you
--- Ryan Adams, "New York, New York"

My father went off to New York today, just as my mother got a tremendous back sprain. It's nothing chronic, but the pain is severe. I turned down social invitations from the Friar (regretfully) and the beautiful Waitress T (extremely regretfully), staying home so as to be on hand in case the ailing mater needed help.


A few days ago, my father and I were in the new Kia. There's a rather extensive array of switches, lights and controls on the car's dashboard, steering wheel and roof. My father looked around at all of it. "I really should figure out what all these are," he said.

I opened the glove compartment. "The manual here will tell us---"

He slammed it shut. "I never read that shit," he said dismissively.

He's a man of many contradictions.

Later, he told me this story. He was talking to a Lebanese woman at the dry cleaner's, and mentioned that he was going to New York for a few months.

"What you going to do there?" she asked.

"I'll be working at the United Nations," he said.

"United Nations, what that?"

"Well, it's..." He groped for words, temporarily stymied by the dearth of expressions in the language to adequately express his consternation. "Look, it's... It's just the United Nations!"

"That some kinda bank?"

[Cue incredulous sputtering from my father.]

So, in conclusion, it's not only Americans who can be ignorant of world affairs.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Damn right I'll rise again

It burns being broke and it hurts to be heartbroken
But always being both must be a drag
--- The Hold Steady, "Your Little Hoodrat Friend"

I stayed up well past midnight last night, not drinking, as those who read this blog might be quick to assume, but doing school work. First, I printed out materials and reviewed information for the lesson plan on spiders we did in Art today, and then I worked on a Book Talk project due in a few weeks for Diagnostic Reading.

I had the usual slow and lazy Wednesday morning, then went off to Art. The lesson plan was a great success, I thought; we had the students make spiders from two pieces of painted Styrofoam ball held together with toothpicks. We used pipe cleaners for the legs and lots of googly eyes. Then they glued the spiders to paper plates and drew webs around them. I felt like this was a good lesson, because the art component wasn't just a throw-away like a handprint turkey, but reinforces the notion that spiders have two body segments, eight legs, many eyes and no antennae.

The other group did a cute lesson on jellyfish, which we made out of paper bowls, streamers and patterned tissue paper.

And then we got our recorders. I am one of the most musically inept people on the planet, but I gamely squeaked and tooted my way through the B, A and G notes of "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

Diagnostic Reading was an online class today, and since I did the electronic part of the assignment last night, I went home and spent the rest of the day goofing off. Since the down time between classes is normally when I do my Math homework and Art reading, I therefore condemned myself to some study time in my weekend.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The important thing is to understand what you're doing rather than to get the right answer

It won't do you a bit of good to review math
It's so simple
So very simple
That only a child can do it!
--- Tom Lehrer, "New Math"

I had a hangover all day long at work. Ugh.


In Math Concepts, we reviewed last week's material (Venn diagrams and graphs), had the weekly quiz, and then turned our collective attention (such as it was) to numeration systems. Well, really just the one: our current Arabic-Indian-derived numeration system, with its emphasis on place value. That is, in our system, the value of numbers represented by digits is determined by the place in the number. So when you subtract, say,
you start at the right and say, "six minus two is four" --- and then where most people would go on to say, "five minus three is two," you should actually say "fifty minus thirty is twenty," because even though you're writing single digits, what you're really doing is subtracting three tens from five tens. Which is all very elementary, but it's good to be precise in your terms, mathematically speaking.

We also briefly talked about other number systems than base-ten. For example, what we write as 15 in our base-ten system is written, in base-five, as 30(f). Seems simple, because 30 is twice 15, just as 10 is twice 5, but it's not that easy. It's 30(f) because in base-five, fifteen is counted out:
1 2 3 4 10 11 12 13 14 20 21 22 23 24 30, or three groups of five.

So what is 38 in base-five? If 15 is 30(f), does 38 become 76(f)?


It's 123(f). 38 is 25 + 10 + 3. Twenty-five is base-five's 100, so you write that first 25 as 100(f). Ten is two groups of five, so it's 20(f). And three ones is still 3(f). Voila! 123!

Now you can understand Tom Lehrer's song, linked above.

Finally, we went over the properties of addition. The new one on me was the closure property. This says that for every set, if you do a certain operation (say, addition) and the result is a number not in that original set, the set is not closed for that operation. If the result of the operation is only numbers in the set, it's closed.

For example.

The set of {4,9} is an open set for addition, because 4 + 9 = 13 which is not in the set.
The set of {even numbers} is closed for addition, because any even number plus any other even number is always an even number.
The set of {odd numbers} is open for addition, because any odd number plus any odd number is an even number, which is not in the set.

Fascinating stuff, eh? No? ...Fine. Then here is an X-ray of a cell phone inside a prisoner's anal cavity.

Monday, September 04, 2006

You poor take courage, you rich take care

The sin of property we do disdain
No man has any right to buy and sell the earth for private gain
By theft and murder they took the land
Now everywhere the walls spring up at their command
--- Billy Bragg, "The World Turned Upside Down"

A little Bard of Barking for Labor Day.

I have been doing this blog for one calendar year now.



The final Hangout Trivia for some time (we're being postponed until the end of fooball season) was a fair to middling success. The atmosphere was congenial, the winning team was made up of strangers who didn't know there would be a quiz and spent $100, and a good time was had by all.

I stayed out far, far too late for a working man. But when people are laughing and joking and talking about Oliver Stone films and Todd Rundgren anecdotes and Leonard Cohen and their experiences in the film industry, it's hard to tear yourself away.

(If my time in the Hangout has taught me anything, it's not to make snobby assumptions about people. Live and up close, people are more informed than the general dumbing-down of the national consciousness would suggest. I have been surprised time and again by boozy barflies telling me interesting, obscure nuggets about American history or Chinese culture or world literature. The winning team tonight was made up of people I would have written off a year ago --- a couple of baseball cap-wearing, fooball-watching yahoos and their girlfriends. Yet they were cheerful, friendly, and were able to quickly toss out geographical locations, the titles of novels, and the like. And who woulda thunk the kids today would care about, much less make witty and informed conversation on the topic of, Steve Irwin's death?)

Requiescat in pace Steve Irwin, by the way. A most unusual accident, in that stingray attacks are so seldom fatal (he had very bad luck to get it in the heart). On the other hand, if you'd asked me yesterday, "Which celebrity will be killed by a stingray tomorrow?" I hardly would have said, for example, Bill Gates.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

He's the king of that goddam town

Well I've been saving for a custom van
And I've been playing for a cover band
And my baby doesn't understand
Why I never turned from boy to man
--- Fountains Of Wayne, "Utopia Parkway"

I had a long phone conversation with Cousin this morning. Apparently, he broke up with Smokin' Hot Girlfriend. I asked why. "Well, it was either that or get married," he said.

"Were those in reality the only two options available?" I asked.

"It seemed like they were," he said.

He lives in Los Angeles and works at a bank. In the course of our conversation, it became clear that he has never heard of Wikipedia, MySpace, "The Colbert Report," or CafePress. There is either something very wrong with him (a protopathic buffoon blind to the ever-changing world around him) or something very right (he focuses his attention, honed like a laser, on practical reports instead of being distracted by the vagaries of this modern, virtual world).

He's six feet tall. He works out far more than I do, weighing over 200 pounds with probably about five percent body fat. So naturally, I want him to go to CafePress and order a muscle shirt with a picture of himself flexing and the line: "My God, I'm Huge!" And then I want him to take a picture of himself wearing that shirt and flexing, and order another shirt on CafePress with that picture on it. I think that would be hilarious.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

We'll roll round the mountain, drive down in the valley

Yeah I wanna drive your, your long and beautiful,
Your rounded-body, wheel-to-roll limousine
I've never had the thrill of riding such a wonderful machine
--- Chuck Berry, "I Want To Be Your Driver"

Added to blog sidebar: Blurred Clarity. Written by one D. Hoffmann-Gill, a smart fellow.

Speaking of blogs, because I switched to the "Blogger Beta" update, I can't comment at any of my favorite Blogger blogs for the time being. Stupid blogger!

(A whim prompts me to make the following two Google searches:

"I hate blogger" = 16,900 hits
"I love blogger" = 13,200 hits

And that shows someone something.)


In lieu of content, here is a stupid meme. These may pop up with more frequency in the near future, as I try to cut back on the reporting of my social life for a while (it makes me over-analyse everything).

Do you enjoy birthdays? Even when I was a kid, I never liked the fuss. A bit is okay, and I appreciate the gifts, but let's not make a big deal. No parties or stupid questions about how it feels to be another year older, please. Just let me get my cane so I can hobble over to my rocker and rest these weary bones.

What's your favorite Christmas song? "We Three Kings." I especially like it when it is sung by the kings with a chorus of camels in Claymation. (I saw this on a Christmas special once, many years ago.) And I like to sing (very badly) "Gloria in Excelsis Deo."

Do you do push-ups? Yes, at least 25 a day, part of my strength regimen.

Have you ever done Ecstasy?
I have never done any illegal drugs except a puff or two of the old marijuana, which was many years ago, except for that one time back in February with Waitress W.

Do you like Disney World? I have never been and have no interest in it whatsoever. I try to resist these crass consumer-heavy commercial centers.

Do you like the rain?
What the hell kind of question is that? I like a light sprinkle, I guess, but who wants to sit in a downpour with the thunder and the lightning and the hey hey?

Favorite perfume? As a male, I am incapable of registering perfumes on any level.

Middle name? Everyone on this blog has a pseudonym. Let's say Sweeney.

Name the last 3 things you have bought today.
A CD of T.S. Eliot reading his own poetry; a bottle of Dr. Pepper (for charity); and... uh... No, I only bought two items today.

Name five non-alcoholic drinks you regularly drink. Water (at least 36 ounces a day); juice (orange or lemonade); Silk brand chocolate soymilk; milk; Odwalla protein shakes.

Name five alcoholic drinks you regularly drink: Apple cider; pear cider; vodka and tonic; vodka and juice; Tom Collins.

What time did you wake up today?
About 9:00 a.m. Why, are you implying that I'm some sort of slug-a-bed?

Can you spell?
Impeccably, except for typos. I think fast, and my stubby little fingers can't keep up.

Current worries? Well, this blog has about 120,000 words detailing my current worries, but in a nutshell, my ludicrous lack of social, financial and professional success given my age and experience.

Current hate?
The current political administration's disregard for the purpose of good government and its determination to ride roughshod over the sacrosanct will of the people in order to fellate the false god Mammon.

Favorite place to be?
Geographically, that's hard to say. At one point, I would have said Oregon. Now I'm not so sure. More specifically, I guess I like to be at the Hangout, drinking and playing with my friends.

Least favorite place to be?
Bars and social scenes I'm not familiar with. Crowds make me uncomfortable.

Where do you want to go? Why, are you paying? I'd like to see Ireland and Australia. The place I've been to that I'd like to revisit again is Paris.

Do you own slippers?
What? This is Texas.

Where do you think you will be in 10 years?
In some nice laid-back college town teaching elementary school.

Do you burn or tan?

Yellow or blue? I like blue.

Would you give up your current life to be a pirate? Pirates are too romanticized. I've read a lot of books about what life at sea was really like. No thank you.

Do you sing in the shower?

What did you fear was going to get you at night as a child?

How much cash do you have on you?
$105, oddly enough.

Last thing that made you laugh?
The Comics Curmudgeon, just before writing this.

Best bed sheets you had as a child?
Uh... What kind of sick twisted freak has fond memories of childhood bedsheets?

Worst injury you've ever had?
Being born.

Where have you been out of your home country?
Canada, England, France, India, and Nepal. Stopovers in other countries don't count.

Who is your loudest friend?
The Maddening Angel.

Who is your most silent friend?

Does someone have a crush on you?
That's extremely unlikely.

What song did you last hear?
"How a Resurrection Really Feels," by the Hold Steady. Incredible band.

What song do you want played at your funeral?
"Death Is Not the End," by Bob Dylan.

What were you doing at 12:00 last night?
I was reading or surfing the web. Look, I don't have to account for every hour of my day to you. Is this over? Am I being charged with anything? I can go, right? Fine. You'll hear from my lawyers about this.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Gone so fast

It starts with just a little glance now
Right away you're thinkin 'bout romance now
You know you ought to take it slower
But you just can't wait to get to know her
--- Beach Boys, "Here Today"

"'And after all,' she said, pouring out the wine, 'why do you pursue me like this? I give you no encouragement, I never have. I told you plainly at Bruton Street that I liked you as a friend but had no use for you as a lover. Why do you persecute me? What do you want of me? If you think to gain your point by wearing me out, you have reckoned short; and even if you were to succeed, you would only regret it. You do not know who I am at all; everything proves it."
--- Patrick O'Brien, Post Captain

It's like Ram wrote that about me, even down to the oh so familiar chastisement, "You don't know me." Uncanny.


I was reading a book about animals to the kids at The Job. One of the animals identified was a blue-footed booby. "Hee hee," giggled J, a three-year-old boy. "Booby."

The Beavis and Butthead experience starts early, don't it?


The insurance company of the woman who rear-ended my father a few weeks back appears to have admitted responsibility at last. They're paying for the rental car my parents had to get, and have offered a pittance for the value of the totalled vehicle --- but that's better than denying responsibility, as before.

My mother bought a new car, a Kia. They're supposed to be cheap and reliable.


Speaking of cars, I met up with the Ex --- who is due to spawn her little bastard next month --- and we completed our last transaction on the car. She paid me the balance of the absurdly tiny price I asked of her for it last year, and I handed over the title. It's the end of another era; there seem to be quite a few little acts of closure in this saga, but then, that's natural, I suppose. When you build a life together over four years or so, the pieces unravel slowly. Some things last longer than you think they will. And there are other things you can never kill.

If you've ever seen how wars are won

Hard times are only the other side of good times
but if you ever wished hard times were gone
you know what it's like to wish good times would come
And don't it seem like a long time
--- Rod Stewart, "Seems Like a Long Time"

Went to dinner at 74 and Zaftig's house. We talked about old times, new computers, getting older. 74 expressed amazement at his situation. He works for Very Well Known Software Company, makes a lot of money, and regularly gets sent to work conferences in places like Hawaii courtesy of his employer. He's reached that early stage of real material success, where one doesn't really believe it or understand how such a thing could happen, but actually deserves it after a decade or more of less rewarded toil. Most of my peers are in that stage of life. I'm still on the bottom rung, myself, but I suppose it feels sweet.

I'm listening to The Call Of the Wild on CD in my car now. I talked to 74 about how reading the classics is wasted on high schoolers and maybe even college kids. "For one thing," I said, "few high schoolers understand that this book, for example, is not really about things that happen to a bunch of dogs, but is an extended metaphor for Jack London's atavistic philosophy. Another thing high schoolers don't often pick up on is that Call Of the Wild sucks ass. That's the kind of fine discrimination of taste that only comes with later intellectual maturity."

But seriously, what makes an adult reader? Not being force-fed classics which are above your level of understanding --- or does it? What's the alternative? Not reading, or just reading junk, probably doesn't later develop into interest in reading serious material.

Here's another topic of our far-ranging and erudite conversation: do you like ice cream with stuff in it, or plain ice cream? Most people have a strong preference for one or the other, we thought. I myself like my ice cream to be packed with extraneous goodies: I don't eat a lot of the stuff at all, but on the rare occasions I do, I like rocky road, cookie dough, and Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby.


Gunner, the friend's sister I mentioned a few days ago, let this drop in an e-mail to me: "Remind me to tell you about the time I was playing softball with [famous actress] and [household name] knocked me into a bush." Gunner is practically half my age. I tell ya, being a Pretty Young Fun-Loving Celebrity Hound is the life, apparently.


A co-worker, whom I've mentioned before as someone who's been flirting with me, made it very clear she wanted to go out with me. I (gracefully, I hope), said it was a total impossibility due to her age (much younger than me). When I later relayed this to Friar, his only response was, "Well, is she cute?" And that's the real crux, of course, though I'd be loath to hurt anyone's feelings. I, though a twisted ugly troll, rebuffed her because I don't find her attractive. This is like ray-eeeeee-ayn on your wedding day.


Survey: Money More Important Than Looks In a Man
In other breaking news, guys dig boobs.


I was all set tonight to write about how Ram was certainly out of my life, that I deleted all her information from my phone (not for the first time, but --- I thought --- certainly for the last), and that I wouldn't ever subject myself to hanging out with her again, since all she seems to want to do is ask me for academic help and rebuff me. Much to my surprise, however, she texted me today while I was at work, asking, "So I guess we don't speak to each other anymore?" Which was kind of weird, since it had only been a week, and we've gone months without a single communication before. But I guess the "your loss" exchange had the same note of finality to her as it did me, and, amazingly, she appears to have been to at least a tiny degree uncomfortable with that. I replied that I would love to hang out with her any time, but that she was extremely busy. Which is true.