Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I Know, I Promised To Stop Writing About Jane Austen

However, this is just about the funniest thing I've read all year. This beats all film adaptations of the book by a long shot. It's the definitive version of Pride and Prejudice. I daresay it would be impossible to improve upon it.

Hat Tip: Marginal Revolution.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas In America

I overheard this little cultural artifact in the grocery store's PA system over the weekend:
All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names
They wouldn't let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games
'Till one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say:

*crrt... SHAWNA, LINE TWO! SHAWNA, LINE TWO! ...crrt*

Then how the reindeer loved him as they shouted out with glee
'Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, you'll go down in history!'
The timing was absolutely flawless.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Ok, So I Finished Reading Pride and Prejudice.

Happy December to all, and welcome to my second consecutive blog post about the magnum opus of all Chick Lit, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. While the future is as unforeseen by me as by any other, I trust it shall also be the last. I got some insightful comments on my last post on the topic, and (intentionally, I might add) engaged multiple people in discussion about this book over the holiday weekend, and I shall attempt to bring all of the wisdom I've gleaned from such endeavors to bear in my final pronouncements on the novel, though I don't know why I should bother. As with most things I write, if you like you may happily discard my thoughts if they disagree with your own, secure in the knowledge that I am not as smart as you are. Now then, on with it!

My first conclusion upon the completion of the book, and I have yet to controvert it, was that it's not a very "serious" book, nor is it trying to be one. This counteracted, for the most part, my disappointment. You may disagree with me here, but at least some of the persons with whom I discussed the book generally agreed with me on this point: it's just a fun yarn. It's just a love story. If that's all you're looking for (and there's nothing wrong with reading just a love story), you're in for a good read. The prose style is very enjoyable, and you may experience that warm internal glow at the conclusion of the novel that comes with knowing that the good characters all received their just rewards (in this case, marriage to one another), and that the bad characters were likewise paid their due (also marriage to one another). That's it. The book sets out to introduce to you its setting, endear you to one group of characters and acquaint you with less fondness with another group of characters, tell you the reason they all can't be blissfully happy together, and then have their innate goodness (and money) overcome whatever that reason may be. Fin. It's a warm, fuzzy kind of a book. It doesn't challenge anything, or make you think too hard, even for a moment, about anything.

It has been suggested to me that the story depicts some form of feminine liberation, though perhaps diluted to be more acceptable to the general public at the time it was written. If what I've already said above has not convinced you of my own beliefs in the matter, let me say explicitly that I do not believe this to be the case. Elizabeth Bennet is not a standard bearer. She does not change, nor does she attempt to change the male-centered dynamic which dominates the social structures present in the book. She just learns to play ball, and wins. The novel ends when she realizes how stupid she was to refuse the advances of the incredibly rich guy, because at first he wasn't especially charming. The point at which she begins to see him in a different light is when she takes a tour of his gigantic mansion. After that, she wants nothing more than to be the instrument of the issuance of his progeny. If you're looking for symbols of liberated femininity in Pride and Prejudice, you'll have to content yourself with the contrasting figures of Charlotte Lucas and Lady Catherine de Bourgh (really), and they don't get much dialog. Overall, as I said before, I don't believe Austen to think very highly of her sex. The whole of the novel contains only two likable females, the two eldest Bennet sisters. They are exceptions to an otherwise steadfast rule.

In the end, while I suppose that I'm glad that I tried, I didn't really like the book. In my first post I suggested that nothing happens in the book, a comment for which I was rebuked most heartily by my wife, among others. Allow me now the luxury of editing my own words, by affixing them with qualifiers: Nothing happens in this book that I find particularly interesting. It is an adventure story, where the sorts of exciting events that take place are new neighbors coming to town (and leaving it again), dinner parties, dances, and the occasional, can't-put-the-book-down moment where the protagonist's best friend marries an absolute fool. If this is the sort of excitement you're looking for, then dive in. You'll like it, and why shouldn't you? It's The Three Musketeers for women. For myself, I couldn't stand it. I began to enjoy the book when Lydia unexpectedly elopes with the villainous Wickham (though he barely deserves the term), and then felt cheated (and really quite bitter) when everything ends up so neatly sewn up in the end. All of the main characters were a fool about something in their turn, and in the end, with no harm caused by any of their follies, they go on their merry ways. Wealth and goodwill easily surmount all obstacles to happiness. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, it's just not the sort of thing I enjoy. I also, in a rare instance of sticking up for myself, assert that there's nothing wrong with me for not liking it.

I've tried not to let my own biases cloud my judgment too much in my reading of the book, though I'm afraid that their continued influence is considerable. Given what I've said about what I suppose the novel's aim to be, I can't gripe too much about it, save to say that I still think Austen spends far too much type on her more obnoxious characters. While the book would suffer from the absence of such characters, the amount of attention they're given by the author hurts it almost as much, if not more. If you're the last human being who has not read this book (I was among the last), go watch one of the shorter film versions (trust me), and if you think you could stand a few hundred pages of that, this might be the book for you. If you're stuck with the six-hour version, well, then you don't need to bother with the book at all. Ciao!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When Do I Get To The Good Part?

Unemployment has re-introduced to my daily routine, for the first time since early adolescence, the ritual of breakfast. Lindsey still has no time for it, and I hope that I can soon discard my discovery in favor of gainful employment, but for the past several mornings I've enjoyed having a short time set aside to drink coffee, eat toast, and collect my thoughts over a work of fiction. That said, for the life of me I've been unable to ascertain the cause of the enduring popularity of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I've been subjected to various films of the thing over the years, and been bored out of my mind. I've been derided even by male friends for not wanting anything to do with what, supposedly, is one of the greatest works of fiction in the English language. And so I pose the question to you, my (possibly only) reader: what is supposed to be so good about this book? I'm about halfway through this thing, and am determined to finish it, but it's really hard, because nothing happens. It's always been sold to me (or so I thought) as this terrific love story, but the characters are (forgive me) really pretty shallowly drawn, and the thing seems to have been constructed originally as some sort of social commentary with a love story as the main plot vehicle. I'm probably reading this thing totally wrong, but what I'm getting out of it primarily is that Jane Austen hated a) the rigid middle-to-upper-class social structure of her time, and b) women. The book is, so far, more than a little unkind to the fairer sex. Maybe that's the point? That the social structure of the time turned women into a conniving mass of mercenary vixens, intent on getting their hooks into some unfortunate (though rich) fop of a man, so that the rest of their days can be lived out in an endless string of dinner parties, card games, and social dances. That's one of my hypotheses. There also seems to be a lot of discussion of preconceived notions ("prejudices," as one might say), and their influence on decisions. I guess that would gel more with the title. Whatever the point of the thing (I'll get back to you when I finish it), Austen spends entirely too much time on characters about whom it is absolutely painful to read. The absolute stupidity of these characters defies disbelief. My third (and favorite) hypothesis is that this is actually a work of Science Fiction, about robots that have been programed to destroy the human soul. I'm sorry about the rant, here. I know that many, many people love this book, and can name all of the characters and houses featured therein, and recite their favorite passages from memory. I'm trying to keep an open mind here, really. Otherwise, I wouldn't be reading the book in the first place. I already know the story. I'm not expecting it to suddenly be full of interesting things, like sex, violence, revenge, fear, guilt, redemption, or even passion, but wow. What am I supposed to be looking for here? Am I just supposed to like this because it's British, and I get to read about places (that aren't subdivisions in Southeast Michigan) called Derbyshire and Pemberly, and to hear London simply called "town?" I don't even know. As always I welcome any comments, as I suspect that I've offended someone's sensibilities, and must now submit to a snarky, yet nonetheless righteous defense of such a hallowed tome. I want to like this thing; I really do.

Either way, I'll try to put up some final thoughts when I finish the book, which (as I said) I'm determined to do.

"You might have to think of how you got started sitting in your little room..."

Hello again, friend! How've you been? Thanksgiving is approaching, and I'm thankful for the possibility of seeing family, and perhaps friends returning from out-of-town. I'm looking for a job these days, an employment which I've found less rewarding (in more ways than one) than actually having a job, but so it goes. I have too many friends who are also looking for work to feel that my own situation is either hopeless or terribly unique, and I derive some comfort from that. Everyone goes through this at some point, and most of them seem to get through it none the worse for wear. I've also been very encouraged in my prayer times of late, and feel that the Lord has some means of making me useful to someone, and He's never disappointed me before. Still, any prayers are greatly appreciated.
I just got back from a weekend hunting trip with a group of some of my oldest friends, which was terrific. As much as we've all changed and grown over the years, it was amazing how much like stepping into a time machine it was to get us all together in the woods, away from our wives and jobs and day-to-day lives. It was, in many ways, like being twelve again.
In another way, it was much better: the process of growing up has only increased my admiration for the friends I've had since childhood, as they have all turned into truly admirable men. I shall perhaps put a few pictures of me in orange and holding a gun up here, when I'm able to get them off of the digital camera.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wrapping Things Up

Greg Mankiw has an excellent NYT op-ed, with advice for the new President Elect. My favorite part:

"[E]ven if the laws of arithmetic are ignored during campaigns, they become a real constraint when making actual policy."

As a bonus, see if you can spot Mankiw's trademark humorous (and shameless) self-promotion.

This blog will now return to our regularly-scheduled programming of stream-of-consciousness nonsense, rants about technology, and creepy adulation of Neil Diamond.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Before The Riots Start

Anne Appelbaum has a short list of things that are very likely true about elections here. I will now be turning off my computer, and avoiding listening to the radio, or watching television, or reading anything besides books and my own résumé, until at least tomorrow. If you have any more thoughts to contribute to the discussion of a few posts ago, please feel free to do so. I've greatly enjoyed reading all of your posts, and should you post any more I shall attempt to respond to them tomorrow.

Now I just have to lock my door and put the fire department on speed dial, before Ann Arborites take to the streets and party like they live in East Lansing (which is to say, very badly).

The Best Two Sentences I Read Today

From Tyler Cowen:

"In other words, both voting and not voting are motivated by the thought that you are better than other people. I am glad that we have an entire day devoted to this very important concept."

Happy "I'm better than you" day!

A Keep In The Vote Update

Nay, a veritable Keep In The Vote manifesto, written in 2006 by Harvard Professor and rock star of the blogosphere Greg Mankiw, who is also (I can't resist pointing out) my friend on facebook.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dean's Response

Here's Dean's response to my email from this morning:

Cous,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. As you (probably) know, I completely agree with you on the fact that I want no abortions to happen, period, but I hesitate to align with a "pro-life" candidate for the following reasons:

1. Studies have shown that abortions haven't decreased under a Republican White House/Congress combo, abortions are strongly affected by economic situations, and I'm not convinced most Republican candidates really intend to work tirelessly to defend the child in the womb. Sure, it's easy to drop a sound byte here or there, but I have to admit that I don't know what the Republicans I campaigned for in Hillsdale have done to decrease the number of abortions.

2. Overturning RvW would put it back in the state's hands. Which is strange to me considering that those trying to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment want the moral enforcement in the hands of the feds, not the states. But I digress...

I think overturning RvW, which probably couldn't happen for 15-20 years considering they've tried 5 times already, would create a big mess. Then we'd be back to dealing with young girls hopping buses to California or whatever other states kept abortion illegal.

The bottom line for me is that abortion is a "no big deal" to a ton of people in America. That is unsettling for me. But Christian voters, like with many issues, just wake up on election day, pull the lever for the pro-lifer, and go back to hibernation for another 2/4 years. Or they stand on the road with a sign that says "choose life." Neat. My struggle with all of this is that I knew two girls in high school, both of whom got kicked out/disowned by their "Christian" families. One ended up having an abortion because she had no where to turn (her church had thrown her out too) and the other was taken in by a family and allowed to raise her baby alongside/with her adoptive family.

I think this goes to a lack of understanding among Christians and especially a lack of willingness to get their hands dirty. "I can love Jesus by holding this sign on the street, but having to take someone into my own home? I can't make that kind of sacrifice!"

It's my belief that the only way Christians will change the world is by truly, seriously, loving their neighbor.

Blessings,

Dean
Civil comments are, as always, more than welcome.

On A More Serious Note

Given the usual quality of the content on this page, I can't blame anyone not inclined to take me or my views seriously. That said, Dean has been leading an excellent discussion on his blog (particularly here) on the problem that pro-lifers face in the political sphere, and this morning he sent me the following email:
Cous,

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this article? http://ncronline3.org/drupal/?q=node/2389

This man, Douglas Kmiec, seems to be a reputable Catholic, but I could
be wrong.

Dean
I encourage you to read the linked article, as well as a summary of Archbishop Chaput's (personal) views here. My (perhaps overly lengthy) response is as follows:

Dean,

Thanks for the email. I've enjoyed the lively and intelligent discussions you've led on your blog on this issue, as well.

The question of how a pro-life Catholic such as myself must vote has been on my mind a great deal of late, as you can well imagine. It is, as you noted, a very difficult problem, and trying to break it down to its essential elements has been of great interest to me. The two essential components of the dilemma, as I see them are:

1. The absolutist dynamic of the two-party system. The two major parties are, at this point, very entrenched groups of ideally separate ideologies and constituencies. It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to vote (for example) in favor of higher environmental standards or more welfare programs without implicitly or explicitly also voting in favor of abortion.

2. The moral severity of abortion. It's nearly impossible to conceive of a greater moral evil in the modern world than abortion if it is, as pro-life advocates (such as myself) claim, the extinguishing of a human life. The incredible global scope of abortion, combined with its increased social acceptability over the past few decades exacerbate the problem greatly. If one reasonably believes that by his or her vote they may diminish the number of abortions in the world, there is a moral imperative to do so, even at the expense of lesser (though noble) concerns.

There are, of course, other components to the problem, but I believe the above to be the principals. This issue has come up to a greater degree in the current political climate, I believe, because of the immense popularity of Senator Obama and the desire of many Catholics (among many others) to transcend the current divisive political climate and difficult economic times by supporting a fresh and seemingly open-minded candidate. This is also (I believe) largely due to a high level of dissatisfaction among pro-lifers and various other stripes of social conservatives with the Bush administration's general disenfranchisement of their primary concerns in favor of foreign wars, among other things.

I'm afraid that I can only offer my own views on the matter, based primarily on my understanding of Church teachings, and also on my own conscience and reflections. I do my best to be logically and morally consistent in my thoughts and actions, but it goes without saying that my intellect is limited, and my actions can easily be clouded by my own pride and biases. That said, I'll proceed.

Obviously, the main contention of Kmiec's (and others I've encountered recently) in favor of Obama is that Obama's proposed policies will alleviate poverty, and therefore result in fewer abortions and a more moral world than we would have under McCain, whose pro-life stance is based upon a "top-down" strategy of eliminating abortion gradually through changing the law.

My personal problems with this contention are as follows:

1. It smacks of Liberation Theology in its reliance on government as the primary means of social improvement. This is a view to which I do not personally ascribe, largely because I believe that it is used by Catholics (and others) as a means of not accepting personal responsibility for our neighbors. "If only we had better government," the saying goes, "we would live in a better world." I don't believe that this view is realistic, nor do I believe it to be an accurate interpretation of the ministry of Christ. When our Lord ate with tax collectors and sinners, He did not instruct the tax collectors to organize socially to lower taxes, or to tax only the rich and give it to the poor. He called them instead to personal conversion, to sell all of their belongings and to give the money to the poor, and to follow Him. I do not believe that voting for politicians who say they'll help the poor is the same as helping the poor, nor does it alleviate our responsibility to do so. I myself cannot claim total innocence in this regard.

2. The jury is still out on whether or not, in general, welfare problems alleviate poverty in the long run. I do not believe they do. I admit my bias here as a student of economics who generally aligns with the Supply Side, but either way it is foolish on its face to simply accept that a proposed plan to help the poor will actually do so. In any case, countries that have a higher level of social safety net do not have a significantly lower incidence of abortions than the united states, regardless of poverty rates. (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/25s3099.html - see Table 1) I should note that there are significant cultural and social factors contributing to abortion rates, but I don't have any quantified research on them. In general, it should be noted that abortion is more acceptable in developed countries than in the developing world.

3. Obama is, himself, strongly pro-abortion. If this is not the case, he should do something about those television and radio commercials I've been hearing, generated by his own campaign, in which he proclaims himself to be so. If his proposed programs will end up decreasing the number of abortions (which I contend they will not), it will be by accident. If I have to choose between the guy who says he'll do everything he can to keep abortion as available as possible and the guy who says he'll work to combat the legality of abortion, even if he's not likely to do very much on that front, I'm going to have to vote for the latter, if only to try to keep things from getting worse.

The bottom line is that the anti-abortion movement has been concentrating too much of our energies on the political front, without working hard enough to change the hearts and minds of those around us. The pro-abortion movement has had overwhelming success (despite what you'll hear from them) because they first made abortion legal with Roe v. Wade in 1973, and have since then had a downhill battle against the anti-abortion movement, while abortion has gradually become more socially acceptable. We need to focus our efforts on changing minds and convincing individuals that human life at all stages is worth preserving.

There is no easy answer, and there is no perfect solution to be found behind the ballot box curtain.That said, I don't believe that we can in good conscience give up in the political fight against abortion, which is what a vote for an openly and proudly pro-abortion candidate amounts to.

Cous
I'll have Dean's response up in just a few minutes. As you might well suspect, I'm posting this correspondence in the interest of honest, open discussion. You'll note that Dean and I reach radically differing conclusions on a few points. I tend to think of myself as either cynical or pragmatic, but in the end, he reveals me to be more of an idealist than I had previously thought.

So please, feel free to participate in the discussion, either here or on Dean's site. You are (of course) welcome to offer opinions that differ, however strongly, to either Dean's or my own. All I ask is that you be civil.

Another Keep In The Vote Update

Wait. This dude kisses babies? Shit. Forget all that other stuff I said, everyone. Looks like you should vote after all!

...

...

No, no you should not.

A Keep In The Vote Update

Courtesy of the great Gordon Tullock, with a nice lesson in Economics thrown in there, as well. The video is well worth a quick viewing, even for those who don't share my love of economics and
Radiohead (the intro music is "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" from their album In Raibows), as it is quite entertaining. (NB: I will be voting, and I guarantee that I won't like it per se, but as I feel morally compelled to do so, my behavior is perfectly explained by the Utility function described in the video.)

Hat tip to the ever-excellent Alex Tabarrok over at Marginal Revolution.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And what is with airline food?

Any Gmail users on the blog tonight? Come on, don't be shy! I love Gmail, I really do, but it also kinda scares me. You ever take a look at those ad banners that pop up on the side of your email? Those scare me! Someone, or something, is reading my emails! So, I'm emailing my wife this morning, and somewhere I mention that I haven't been sleeping well lately, and then suddenly this shows up (click for to make bigger):


I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords, but there's more: Play a didgeridoo? What? You're offering me an aboriginal flute to help me sleep? This calls for a quick consultation of the Font of All Human Knowledge!

"A 2005 study in the British Medical Journal found that learning and practicing the didgeridoo helped reduce snoring and sleep apnea, as well as daytime sleepiness. This appears to work by strengthening muscles in the upper airway, thus reducing their tendency to collapse during sleep."

Huh. It's worth pointing out that the study was of a mere 25 patients, including the control group, but still. Weird. I mean, is this a joke? Is there some email-reading robot out there playing a joke on the Cous? It certainly wouldn't be my first encounter with a malfeasant android.

How am I supposed to get to sleep now?

So for those of you who had trouble following along at home: insomnia, robots, didgeridoos. Got all that?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blogroll

I was going to go through my blogroll and update it a bit (and I have, to some extent), but was dismayed by the number of people I've got on there who seem to have taken an extended hiatus from blogging. I've removed a few people who haven't posted in over a year. Perhaps some of you have also changed your blog's address and I missed it, I don't know.

My point, such as it is, is this: If you read my blog (a long shot), and have a blog (probabilistically diminishing), I would like to read it, and link to it. If you have one and haven't used it in a while, what gives? I know, I myself have never posted more than when I had a self-imposed quota for the year of 2007, averaging one (substanceless) post per week. That's not much.

So, good talk. I'll see you out there.

And looking up, I noticed I was late

A few days ago, Eric was talking to me about The Best Purchases he'd Ever Made (BPsEM). This distinction is given usually to something simple and relatively inexpensive that greatly enriches your experience of life. He and I disagreed somewhat on the particulars, but this was to be expected: we have very different personalities, and value different things, well, differently. The value of things is (neccessarily) highly subjective. I'm not especially into things, or at least I don't like the degree to which I seem to accumulate them. Once I have them, the damned things seem to be so hard to get rid of. Somewhere, some extraterrestrial being with a far superior internet connection is laughing at the dividedness of my person as regards the accumulation of chattels, but I digress. For your pleasure and amusement, I now present to you an uncomprehensive and unstratified list of my own Best Purchases Ever Made, excluding for reasons of brevity any music albums:

1. The pear I'm eating right now. I doubt that it's even the best pear I've ever eaten, but it's hitting the spot.

2. My winter coat and scarf. I love being warm.

3. Socks. I really think that if we dropped clean socks from planes onto our enemies, they would cease to hate us. Somehow those mechanically-woven cotton foot coverings contain within them the secret to world peace. Paradoxically, once a sock has a hole in it, it becomes the physical embodiment of suffering in this world.

4. Fragels. Once while leaving the hallowed spot from which flows these delicious fried things, clutching the weighty paper bag full of them as if 'twer full of gold, I whispered to my brother: "We've won! We're leaving with all of their fragels, and all they got in return was money!"

5. Books. I won't list specific books, though they are obviously far from equal. I don't buy books especially often (and sadly, I don't read as much as I'd like to), but I'm always so eager to take them home and plunge into their murky depths. Getting them from the library is nearly as good.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some. What are yours? Comments are (as always) open.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"No news, no new regrets..."

It's raining today, and if you're stuck inside and can't see the rain I'm sorry for you, because I believe that rain is one of the nicest things that can happen on a given day. There's still plenty of green to be seen in the trees if not the fields, but the air is cold and damp in a way that can only happen in autumn, and the seemingly defiant holdouts of Indian Summer are beginning to hint at the inevitable loss of their chlorophyll, and the listless end of their brief and sunlit existence. But you know that already, and there's no point in repeating it to you, save, perhaps, the fact that I like to read myself think.

I watched a televised debate between politicians last night, an experience which was far more instructive than I'd expected it to be. When it was all over, and the networks worked frantically to retain their viewers, the television chirped with this commentator or that, plus the occasional (supposedly) real human being, giving their estimation of who had won and why. What surprised me was that everyone who managed to crowd their way into the glowing Idiot Box in my sister's living room seemed to get exactly what they were looking for out of the thing. They all thought their man had won, and were able to point to a specific sentence uttered by him to support their assertion. "These idiots!" I said to myself, "those two buffoons stood there and said absolutely nothing for two hours!" (Actually, I don't know how long it was.)

That's when it hit me: That's what I was looking for. Damn it. Don't misunderstand me, I've always known that I have my biases. I just forget about them until I run into them again, which is always a frightening experience, given how influential biases can be. It's a little like arriving at some unintended destination, and then realizing that you have no idea who's been driving the car (or so I imagine; it's never really happened to me). Who is this person, and where has he taken me?

I've always said that it's important to understand yourself, yes sir, but I never did end up telling you how it came to be that she married so young and so wealthily to the Railroad and Axle Grease Baron, who was only after her looks and the way she could clear her throat before reciting a poem, which I suppose isn't so bad a reason as you might at first think, since we're not going to be around long enough to enjoy all of those telegrams and warm wishes and Canned Cream Corn (CCC) nearly as much as we would like to. She once told me that if she had her druthers, which is a rare thing for someone to have, like a deathbed conversion in the belly of a whale (you might say), she'd have played accordion at the Conservatory and maybe gone on to teach there as well, but then she never did learn to play the ridiculous thing, and I doubt that they'd have much use for it on Walnut Street if she did. You see, there was never enough time or money in the house, and so those of us who cared about such things (as I did at the time) did a great deal of looking for them outside of the house, which in its way was more productive than probing the ether for some nebulous Meaning of Life, since that's what we found anyways, by accident. If only we hadn't lost it we could have told her what it was, and whether or not it was alright that things turned out exactly the way she'd always said they would, but we did, and so we couldn't.

Oh well.

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Keep In The Vote Update

Newsweek: Bruce Springsteen rocks for Obama at O*** State.

It's just... wow. My head hurts. There's so much going wrong in the headline alone. Springsteen continues his relentless assault on rock music as an art form, at a rally for a politician that is also a voter registration drive, at You-Know-Where.

I'm trying to convince myself that this trifecta of pure evil is an incredible fluke, and not some sure sign of the impending apocalypse, but I'm not doing a very good job of it. America, we hardly knew ye.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

From Elsewhere on the Inter-nets

1. Ok, this is hilarious.

2. A little perspective on $700 Billion (HT: Marginal Revolution).

3. Obama vs. McCain: the fan edit.

The River Is Wider Than A Mile

Bad news has a way of finding you, or maybe you have a way of finding it. If you're not careful, it can crawl under your skin, and slowly devour you from inside. There's always enough bad news to go around, or so it seems, and it's sometimes easier to latch onto and recognize and welcome into your home than good news; it's a familiar face that you've somehow grown attached to. Good news, now, that's a different thing. Good news walks with just a little too much spring it its step, and smiles just a little too wide, so that you always suspect that it's up to something, or maybe after something that you don't have enough of anyways. And besides, where has it been all this time? Bad news may make you miserable, but at least it doesn't make you nervous.

Fortunately, despite the bad news and sometimes because of it, there's music. Music won't make the bad news go away and it isn't supposed to, it's just one of those coping mechanisms for the human condition that helps remind you that there's actually some bold, defiant beauty in a world that keeps trying to convince you of how ugly it is. Don't let it fool you.

The funny thing is that while I'm writing this, I'm not thinking about Brahms' concertos, or gospel choirs singing some Moses Hogan arrangement about my home being over Jordan, though those are wonderful things indeed. No, I'm a low-brow plebeian from the Great American Middle West, and right now I'm just talking about popular music.

The 8th installment of Bob Dylan's "Bootleg Series" is being released in less than a week, and you can listen to the whole thing online here. It's incredibly good. I can't wait to have it in my car's CD player. No, I don't have an especially impressive sound system or anything in my 10-year-old Accord, I just do my best music listening in there. The Bootleg Series Volume 8 (entitled Tell Tale Signs) is a collection of various studio outtakes and live recordings spanning from 1989 to 2006, a period in which Dylan has made six albums that are among his best work, including two with producer extraordinaire Daniel Lanois. I'm incredibly grateful to Columbia for continuing to release these collections; the stuff Bob Dylan throws away is better than what most people ever make. They do serve as something of an indictment of Dylan (or his people) though, because several of the tracks he's nearly left in obscurity over the years are among his best recorded work. Christmas is only five days away!

Also on the fast-approaching horizon are new albums from the british klavierpop trio Keane, Las Vegas' own The Killers, and country rocker Lucinda Williams. I've been a fan of Keane since their debut record in 2004, and they have yet to make a record that isn't both great and quite different than what came before it. Of course, this is only their third record. The same goes for The Killers, who are probably one of the most ambitious acts out there right now. If their third album (fourth, if you count last year's B-sides collection) fails, it won't be because they weren't trying hard enough. The lead-off single for the new record can be heard on the band's official site. Williams probably lacks the appeal of both of those bands, but at her best is very good indeed.

I also understand that Mates of State and Calexico both have released records this year that I have yet to hear. I'm going to have to start selling crack if I want to buy all of this stuff.

Happy fall, and happy landings!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Keep In The Vote (A Continuing Series)



Is that cartoon anthropomorphic patriotic gas pump shooting itself in the head with its own nozzle, or is it just hanging it back up? I don't know.

You see, Josh K. is voting (presumably for the first time, having just registered) for Barack Obama because gas prices are high. Either that, or because his wages are low. It could be either one, really. Josh, dude, I'm going to say this right now, because I care:

That is a really stupid reason to vote for a presidential candidate, because they aren't going to do anything to help your current situation.

They can't. Only you can, Josh. You see, gas prices aren't high because of who's president; they're high because of two things we call supply and demand. These two things are pretty complicated, Josh, but they end up having little to do with who the President of the United States is or is not. Supply and demand are also (and this is crazy) responsible for the fact that you only make about $7.00 an hour. Maybe I'll explain that in a later post.

Me, I'm going to vote for Cynthia McKinney, because the most important issue to me this election is that we colonize Mars by 2012. Wait a second... I just realized that McKinney isn't going to do anything about that, if she gets elected. Why would I vote for a candidate who's not going to do anything about the issues I care about? I wouldn't. You would, Josh K. That's more of a Josh K. thing to do.

The point, Josh, is this: Don't vote. In fact, I just heard that there's this, like, sick new skate park opening down on Madison on November 4. You should check it out, brah.

**Update**

Yesterday morning I heard the radio commercial version of the above ad banner, complete with Josh K's actual voice (and several others) telling me of his stupid reason for voting. It was incredible. Not one sound bite of some idiot saying "I'm voting because..." contained anything less than a complete fool believing (and repeating) a bald-faced lie. Most of them seemed to be implying that if McCain is elected, health care will suddenly become unavailable, World War III will break out, and all of our jobs will be put on a boat and sent to, like, far'ners. You know, brown-skinned folks who don't talk no aenglish. I have no sympathy or respect for either party when its members routinely attempt to appeal to their audience's xenophobia. My radio nearly suffered a most horrible and unwarranted bludgeoning. I hate politics so much.

I'm now considering a door-to-door grassroots campaign to tell people not to vote. Keep in the vote!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stand Back, Everyone! I'm Going To Write About Politics!

...But only because my last few posts have reassured me that almost nobody's reading this thing, and also because I don't want to think about the financial sector buyouts right now. I will warn you now that this post will be rather jumbled, Sam, because (to steal from Kurt Vonnegut) there is nothing intelligent to say about politics. Not this year, anyhow. I'm just going to brain dump here, so feel free to redirect your browser over to Youtube to watch a home video of a Jack Russel Terrier doing backflips anytime you want out. I don't mind a bit. Now, the first thing I should say is that I don't like politics one bit. No sir. You yourself probably don't like car accidents one bit, but if you see one you'll probably crane your neck to see if there's any blood on the pavement (or whatever it is you're looking for), and you're a very kind and wonderful person. Human nature's a heluva thing that way. As I said, I don't like politics, but in some hideously morbid way, it (they?) fascinate(s) me. I guess it's because I like people. On a personal level, if I meet someone, I'll probably like them, or at least find them interesting. On a large scale, as the writhing, unwashed hordes, people are morbidly fascinating.

A casual observer might think that because we have them relatively often, people are rather fond of wars. I don't like to think that's the case. I rather suspect that alcoholics don't especially like having distilled beverages be the focal point of their existence. In any case, ostensibly because we don't particularly like wars, we invented democracy to decide who gets to form the government instead war, which is the default system. In fact, we had to have a war just to get the whole democratic republic thing going on the right foot. This system isn't perfect and has arguably led to a not insignificant number of wars on its own, but it's still probably better than just having wars all the time.

And so, instead of bashing one another over the heads with clubs to see what kind of government we'll have, every few years we put a two groups of middle-aged lawyers on television who will verbally claw at one another like teenage girls for about a year, and then on the first Tuesday of November we decide which of them we hate the least, and they get to be our Fearless Leaders. Let's go to numbered points to talk about Election 2008 in more specific detail:

1. Barack Obama, Son of Promise, Child of Hope, is probably going to be our next president. This election will probably continue to be nasty and catty up until the very end, with both platforms and their constituents accusing the other of being the real cause of Apartheid and the Holocaust, but I'll be very surprised indeed if he doesn't come out of this on top. At this point (and I know the polls are pretty close) he'd pretty much have to be caught on tape eating a baby. The very nature of the debate has been framed as "Obama (Who Is The Promised Messiah) or Not Obama," and that doesn't bode well for Not Obama.

2. I myself will not be voting for him. You don't and shouldn't care who I'm voting for, but I'm just saying. If you're not wondering why I'll be voting against the man (yes, I will be voting), then feel free to hit up that Youtube video of the acrobatic pooch. I'm sure it's out there. If you are wondering why, I'll tell you:
a) He is The Messiah. His entire campaign has been based on a personality cult. Paradoxically, I don't think anyone has any idea (or cares) who the hell he actually is. For myself, I'll stick with my policy of being skeptical of messiahs who are trying to become one of the most powerful people on earth.
b) My vote against him will merely serve to counter one vote cast by an ill-informed voter who, like most humans, is far too easily swayed by the ability to look good and speak well on the teevee.
c) I intensely dislike the level of muckraking that goes on during an election, but Barry O. Hasn't actually explained away a single objection that people have raised agaist his person, like that whole snafu with his pastor of many years being a raving lunatic. He has, like a good politician, sidestepped and dodged and changed the subject, which brings me to:
d) He is just an ordinary politician. Yes, he happens to be African-American. I don't care. He is neither post-racial nor post-partisan. He is a middle-aged, Ivy League-eduacated lawyer turned U.S. Senator running for President. This should sound familiar. He does not represent "change" in any meaningful way. This may be alright, since I rather doubt that people actually want any meaningful kind of change. People usually don't.

3. I like Sara Palin. I don't especially care at this point what she stands for (she isn't going to win). She scores points with me on two main fronts: first, she's pretty damned good-looking for a mid-forties mother of five, and second she has the uncanny power to drive liberals through the roof. The sheer level of hatred emiting from the left towards Palin has been incredible to behold. It has defied all semblance of reason. I derive a sick pleasure from seeing people with whom I idealogically disagree screaming like teething babies until they're blue in the face. I enjoy that.

4. I've never much cared for John McCain, mostly because he's been a U.S. Congressman or Senator for longer than I've been alive, and "lawmaker" is not a profession which inspires my admiration. He's a career politician, and that probably means he sold his soul to someone along the way. It turns out that his voting record over that period of time has been pretty consistently ok on the one or two issues I primarily care about, but it doesn't matter much: he won't win. From what I can tell, Republicans have been pretty unfair to him over the years, as he's held to most of the party's supposed principles better than the party itself has. Then again there was that whole McCain-Fiengold thing, which is dumb. Whatever. Like I said, he's a career politician, and that probably means he sold his soul to someone along the way. He's got my vote, but that represents a lack of options more than it does a choice. I'm not in love with the guy by any means.

5. I don't like either political party, or the fact that they are my only two realistic choices. Every issue has been bundled to so many other issues thatI think some people actually believe that they have to take their party's stance on everything. A vote for lower taxes or (maybe) more restrictions on abortion is also a vote for war with Iran and oil drilling in Alaska. You want nationalized health insurance and less free trade? Hope you like killing babies, too! This is fun! You're probably aware of my own set of issues (at least the political ones I favor), so I won't go into them at this time.

6. I have said this before, but for the love of God and Country, if you are not already registered to vote and didn't just turn eighteen, don't vote. Just don't. You didn't care enough about national politics to get involved before the College Democrats approached you on the 'quad and told you about just how, like, critical this election is for our country, or you saw a popular singer do a commercial on MTV, and you don't deserve the franchise. Watch this election from your living room in horror, then watch all of the winners renege on all of their promises, and in two years take what you've learned and think about becoming politically active.

7. Great googaly moogaly, I just want this election to be over. This is worse than Hockey's interminable playoffs. It's on every channel. I went to a freaking rock concert, and (I kid you not) the drummer had Obama's pretentious-arsed logo painted on his bass drum. That, and the fact that he wasn't very good, nearly killed rock music for me. I mean, how incredibly lame do you have to be as a musician to actively campaign for a political candidate? That's right: Springsteen lame. Pearl Jam lame. That's incredible.

We either need to shorten the Election season, or else have the race for national office be decided by a Beach Volleyball tournament. It would be a heck of a lot more entertaining, and I don't think we'd end up with a lower caliber of leader, honestly.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Untitled

A few years ago my brother Neil and I met a grizzled, toothless man on a side street in Dingle, in County Kerry. His long beard and hair were extremely unkempt, and he was visibly inebriated. I couldn't guess his age, but it seemed to me that he had grown old prematurely. Naturally, I expected him to ask us for money, but he didn't. Instead, as he looked up at me though bloodshot, watery eyes which conveyed perhaps the deepest sadness I've ever seen written across human features, he offered me the following advice:

"Son," he said, "don't drink."

That brief meeting has stuck with me since then, sometimes returning to my conscious thoughts at odd moments, as it did this this morning as I drove in to work, listening to the radio. I couldn't tell you exactly why it did, but please don't think I'm trivializing that man's sufferings or his sage advice when I offer you the following, as someone who knows:

Son, don't listen to the news.

Friday, August 29, 2008

It's The Arts

Friz Freleng presents: politics.



Discuss.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Another Update: I Should've Known Better

Ok, sorry about the Neil Diamond bit. All of that was really to say that after a few months' hiatus (I had good reasons, I swear) I'm back to blogging at the ol' Republic. So, I guess I'm just letting you know that if you're still out there, I'm out here too. Anything in particular you want me to write about? Drop me a line or leave a comment. I'll probably oblige, goodness knows I have nothing else to say.

An Update: He Should've Known Better.

Darn it all, Neil. Years in the music business, years making enduring and beloved hits, and then you stumble like an amateur into Columbus, Ohio. What did you think was going to happen? Honestly, Neil, I could've warned you. I've been there. I've walked its desolate streets, and choked on its unsavory atmosphere. Once I even thought of returning there, but fate stayed me, and steered my path towards more wholesome environs. If only you'd called me. You never do return my calls, Neil. Not even last Christmas, when I sent you that marble bust of yourself that I painstakingly sculpted myself, after learning how to sculpt just so that I could make it. Didn't you like it, Neil? It wasn't perfect, Lord knows I know that, but it was as good as I could make it. I never could capture your eyes though, Neil, not in marble. Such deep, knowing eyes. Neil's eyes. Neil Diamond's eyes.

Call me, Neil.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

And Just Like That, The World Ended

I probably shouldn't be blogging right now. I admit that my main (and originally only) reason for being at my computer right now is to buy child-sized bow ties for the ring bearers (three) in my upcoming wedding. The thing is, I got distracted. This might have something to do with the fact that I'm moving, and figured that it's better to just finish off that bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, rather than have to pack it and move it to my apartment. I know, I'm a freaking genius. Anyhoo, I flipped a few channels on telly to discover that Spike TV is currently airing the special edition (you know, the only one George Lucas will admit is extant) of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, also known over at the People's Republic of D.Cous. (which is the fictional country/blog your browser is currently displaying, for reasons unknown) as one of the finest films ever made. You're probably aware of my opinion of the special editions: The remastered sound and picture, not to mention the widescreen format, are an incredible improvement over previous VHS versions of the films available. The added digital effects? They have always been worse than the now 30-year-old special effects that used actual physical models, and now they also look worse than contemporary digital effects, which still look worse than the 30-year-old techniques utilized for the original films. Also added were a few moments of footage originally cut from the film, right before the rebels attack the Death Star, where Luke reconnects with his old pal, Biggs (you know, Biggs). It's actually pretty sad, since they're both so excited to be rebel pilots just like they've always dreamed of, and the final words spoken by Biggs before they board their respective X-Wings is "They'll never stop us!"

And then, ten minutes later, Biggs, while shouting the word "Wait!" gets killed by Darth Vader. So sad.

As I said, I got a little distracted. It was in this state of distraction (relax-I also found my initial query) that one of the blogs I sometimes read directed me to this video.

Holy freaking crap, am I right? I have to admit that this actually makes me feel sort of important, since I now know exactly when and how the world will end. I feel sort of like Chuck Heston in Planet of the Apes, realizing too late that mankind's inventiveness proved to be its undoing.

On September 26, 2008, it's gonna feel pretty *@#$%&*#* real to you too! Anyone not wearing two million sunblock is gonna have a really bad day, get it?

As an aside (as if I had a main thrust from which to deviate here), another possible sign of the coming apocalypse is the fact that my spell checker in Firefox did not flag the word "blogging" as any kind of mistake. Apparently, the popular abbreviation for "Nerdy World Wide Web of Information Superhighways Diary/Captain's Log" is now a verb in the English language.

I now believe that I have referenced so much popular science fiction in a single blog post that I have probably broken the Inter-webs. I apologize.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

For The Interested...

Lindsey created some attractive (at least on her) Ever Whatcha Need t-shirts, available from Cafe Press! I wore mine for the first time on Saturday, befuddling my friends to no end. Know someone who needs more befuddlement in their life? Ever Whatcha Need t-shirts are the perfect gift! Why wait?

I should point out that I receive no money for the sale of these things, and don't really expect you to buy them, since they're kind of an obscure inside joke.

When I Rule The World

The thirteenth item, and any subsequent items brought to the express checkout lane, will not be sold to you. It doesn't matter what that item is, or how important it is to you, relative to the first twelve items scanned. The machine will not accept it. The grocer (who, when I rule the world, shall be a robot) will politely inform you that he or she is very sorry, but this is the "12 items or fewer" isle, and they cannot sell you any more than that. You'll have to go get in line in one of those other isles.

Despite its apparent charm, and its being programmed to speak with a British accent (current grocery store scanning robots, with their obnoxious Star Trek computer voice, will be no more), the robot will not change its mind based on the fact that you are a charming elderly woman, who in no way will remind it of its robot grandmother (who I guess might be very much like the Star Trek computer-voiced checkout machines of today).

You will then be sent on your way, perhaps with a pamphlet explaining the importance of the grocery store maintaining its credibility with regards to the express checkout isle, and that had the robot sold you the 13th through 25th items as you had wanted it to, this would have been horribly unfair to the people in line behind you, who were adhering to the store's policies regarding the express checkout lane.

Won't that be nice?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oh Yes. For The Record...

Remember how Waffle House sells only one kind of waffle, with no fruit and no whipped cream? Remember how their "hot maple syrup" is two travel packs of syrup in a cup of hot water? Remember that Waffle House's website was advertising for a bicycle race called the "Tour de Georgia"? Yeah? Well. With just a little negotiation (and no additional charge) with a very nice waitress named Britney at the International House of Pancakes, I got this:


No, your eyes are not deceived. Those are blueberry pancakes with strawberry topping, and whipped cream. They tasted like the triumph of freedom over tyranny, like everything that is right and good in this crazy world of ours, like manna from Heaven.


Bless you, IHOP. BLIHOP (don't ask). We probably paid a little more at the IHOP, but it wasn't really a significant difference, and unlike Waffle House, they took credit cards. Also of note is the fact that IHOP's website advertises something called the Tour de French Toast. Take that, Tour de Georgia!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Fine How Do You Do

Sheesh. What kind of person promises to give his reader an insightful travelogue of a quintessential American city, and then instead takes an overlong hiatus from blogging? What's that? That was me? Oh. Never mind.

Given that my trip to New Orleans (No Wall-ins!) is no longer fresh in my memory, and given that I'd like to use this space to muse upon other things (oh just you wait), I'll be cruelly brief in my assessment of the place, for which I can only apologize. All that I can really say about the place is that if you like to go places, you should try New Orleans. It's like a whiskey-breathed ballerina; it's both beautiful and a little dirty at the same time, and I've never been to anyplace quite like it. It felt to me like a distilled version of the United States, packing a wallop and leaving a bitter aftertaste, but when all is said and done you'd like another shot, please. Bad simile? Probably. The place gave me a weird kind of feeling everywhere I went, some strange juxtaposition of conquistadors and carpet baggers, fur trappers, slick salesmen and jazz musicians, riverboat gamblers playing Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette for fools while Clifton Chenier sits back and chuckles to himself, and Tennessee Williams calls everybody names. I'm probably getting it all wrong, if it's possible to do so in a place like that. Part of me likes to think that anything you can say about New Orleans would be true as soon as you said it, but not before. I ate breaded shrimp on a submarine sandwich down there, and it was just about the best sandwich I've ever eaten. Whatever I leave out of my willy-nilly description of the place, that sandwich seems like an important enough detail to leave in.

Visiting my family was wonderful, and it's really what made a three day trip worthwhile. Lindsey and I stood as godparents for my brother's son, Pascal, which was a wonderful experience and a great honor. I got to spend some time talking and hanging out with my two brothers and my sister-in-law, which even with the miracles of modern communication is too rare an occurrence. My nephews are both delightful. The youngest (Pascal) amused himself for the most part by sleeping and eating, but he was decent enough to give me a good looking-over before giving his honest assessment of me (he cried). The oldest (Gui) was eager to include Linds, Reen, and me in whatever he was doing, which for the most part consisted of keeping the streets of New Orleans safe from poisonous caterpillars. He's a keeper.

That's just about all I have time to write, though I wish I'd gotten to it while it was still fresh in my mind. I'll leave you with some pictures:
A house with no visible front door. Picturesque, no?
Magazine Street, from the porch of the old bus barn, which is now a Whole Foods Market.
Another caterpillar prepares to meet its fate. He would knock them off of trees and houses with a stick (they're poisonous to touch), and then step on them.
I'm not sure which of us took this picture, but I like it. It's that shot in National Geographic with the caption: "Each year, ten thousand people play pool in New Orleans, which has helped the tourism industry, but there's a darker side to the story as well." It will probably then talk about someone who owns a billiards bar that nobody comes to anymore. Neil takes aim in pool. I think he won the game.


More pool.

Katie's first Irish Car Bomb. Lindsey is very excited.

Liam, in his signature pose.

Neil, in his.

Liam et fils, regardant un grenuille. French = artistic title.

Then we spotted Hilary Clinton. Ooooh! Topical. Current. Win.

Gui, in what he called his "castle tree" (for reasons which should be fairly obvious).

The Champagne of Beers. I'd forgotten how much champagne tastes just like dirty water.

Park and house exterior, daytime.

Neil and Reens spotting their first alligator, in a totally not-posed-for picture.

Gui and Maureen

A sidewalk, or something like one. Note the absence of pavement.

Pascal's patented uneasy look. He loved Lindsey.

Reen is either standing on a step, or is as tall as Neil and I. You decide.

Maureen, Gui, Lindsey, and Neil. I thought this was a nice group shot.

My brother Neil, enjoying a cup of coffee.

Guillame hamming it up (as usual). Very cute.

That's his prized caterpillar killing stick, perilously close to my face.

He had that mischievous glint in his eye pretty much the whole time.

This is the doorway of Neil's "shotgun" apartment. The composition of this shot looked way better to me in my mind's eye.

Just a house that I thought looked neat.

Pascal. Cute, ain't he?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In Which Our Hero Goes On A Road Trip

Hello friends! Over this past weekend I took a long-awaited road trip from southeast Michigan to New Orleans, Louisiana, with my sister and my fiancée (for the record, they are two different people). It was a bit of a marathon trip, leaving Friday night at about 23:30, and arriving back at 7:30 on Tuesday morning, a round trip of just over 2,000 miles. It was a lot of fun, and I hope to post about my impressions of the City of New Orleans itself soon (as that is apparently what one does with a blog), but first I'm going to break with convention and let you all in on the official (and requisite) inside joke of the road trip. As is often the case with road trips, we had already stumbled upon various inside jokes which had some potential to be the Official Road Trip Inside Joke, but we just weren't sure.

Certainly,Waffle House is almost funny enough to be The Joke in and of itself, but it's so ubiquitous that it felt too old hat. Speaking of hats, the official Waffle House site is selling hats to benefit something called the Tour de Georgia. They also have a testimonials page. For Waffle House. We stopped for an early morning breakfast at a Waffle House, and it was just as ghetto as I remember it being. It turns out that they only serve one variety of waffle, and they sell exactly zero fruit toppings for said waffle. Call me crazy, but I expected a little better. Not only is the word "waffle" in their name, it's the first word in their name. Just look at that sign:If you only read one of those words, it's probably going to be "waffle." If Burger King sold only plain hamburgers, with pickles and ketchup and no cheese, I don't think they'd be doing so hot. By the way, if you ever happen to go to a Waffle House (and come on, it's gonna happen), ask to have your maple syrup heated up. We did. Much to our surprise, they didn't take the little syrup pitcher thing off of the table, but instead walked away, only to return a few seconds later with two cups. Each cup was full of warm water, with two travel packets of maple syrup floating in it. That, my friends, is Klassy with a capital K. Perhaps even funnier/scarier than Waffle House's apparent success is the existence of imitators (click for to make bigger):Waffle House, meet Omelet Shoppe. Omelet Shoppe, Waffle House.

But what am I talking about here? I was going to tell you about the Official Inside Joke of the trip. It was only a short while after passing the Omelet Shoppe that we pulled into the town of Bessemer, Alabama, looking to make a short stop for supplies, and there it was. We knew as soon as we saw it, despite having not slept the night before, that we were witnessing something special. It was Destiny that had led us to that exit, to that small town whose most distinctive features were a large iron pipe foundry, and someplace called Red's "Ok" Barbershop (we at the P.R.D.C. can neither encourage nor discourage your patronage of said establishment).
Then, it happened. My memory of that moment is both vivid and unclear. It was a sunny day. April 19th, 2008. My sister was driving. Lindsey was asleep in the back seat and I was in the passenger seat, camera in hand, aimlessly photographing the passing scenery. We were stopped at a red light, wondering aloud why a town of this size wouldn't have a Wal Mart. I turned to look out my side window and there it was, gleaming in the noontide sun. I was transfixed. I felt a rush of pure euphoria, as if the answer to every question I'd ever asked as I stared into a starlit sky were immediately answered, and that every answer led to a thousand more questions. I don't know what happened next. Before I knew it, the traffic light had changed, and we had moved on. I found myself once again on a wide thoroughfare in Bessemer, Alabama. Everything seemed the same as it had been a moment before, but somehow I knew that it wasn't, and that it never again would be. I looked down at the camera in my still-shaking hands. Somehow, without my being aware of it, I had taken a picture, a picture that contained within its four corners a glimpse into the infinite:
EVER WHATCHA NEED! EVER FREAKING WHATCHA NEED! A phrase so beautiful that language itself had to be destroyed for its creation to take place. I have spent hours since that fateful moment trying to figure out how to use that phrase in an actual sentence or conversation. It cannot be done. Ever Whatcha Need defies context. I'm going to have a t-shirt made of that, and I'll wear it everywhere, spreading hope and joy and confusion wherever I go. I'm going to make a poster board containing only that phrase, and I'll hold it up at sporting events. If they ever invent a specifically Catholic sport, I can spell it out as Ever WhaTcha Need, and they'll show it on Catholic cable television. I'm going to name my firstborn child Lambert "Ever Whatcha Need" Cous (Lambert's a good name, right?).

Ok, whew. That's all for now. Stay tuned for my upcoming post on the City of New Orleans, as well as an exciting comparison of Waffle House and the International House of Pancakes.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Quote of the Week (Another Short Post):

"[It] finds its rightful home in the subtlety of a fine and rich analysis, one which is not afraid to pronounce - and sometimes to withhold - judgment where mere affirmation might be found wanting. It allows the writer to link ideas without breaking a train of thought; by contrast, over-simplified communication and bald, efficient discourse whose simplistic style is the best guarantee of being widely understood is naturally wary of [it]."

"It," of course, is the point-virgule, or semicolon. My PG-13 rated (for language; the author is British) source comes with a hat tip to the ever-excellent Marginal Revolution.

Not everyone is so fond of semicolons, though. From the same source, Kurt Vonnegut had this to say about them:

"They are transvestite hermaphrodites, standing for absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college."

For my part, you may have noticed that I very seldom use them, though I often use a comma where a semicolon ought to be.

Where, now?

When Jessop was a member of the sect, it was centered in Colorado City, Ariz., on the Utah border.

Come on, that's just plain confusing.

Source.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

How Can I Tell It's 2008?

I can tell because I just saw a television commercial for green-friendly chips. That's right, chips that are good for the environment. You can now be smug about the chips you eat, people. It is a new era in which we live.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Apparently, today is Opposite Day.

Paradoxically, when you really think about it, it also sort of isn't Opposite Day. Let us ponder this.

I don't know if I should, like, tell you this, man, but I just had a good experience at the mall. To use the parlance of our times: I know, right? As you are no doubt aware, oh loyal friend that you are, I hate shopping with a passion, and hate malls even more. At this point, I worry for the security of the universe as we know it. Here's how it all went down:

For starters, I was there for work. We need a raffle prize for a business expo thing this week, at which we have a booth. Hence my presence at the mall, on purpose, on a weekday morning. My first clue that something was amiss came almost immediately upon my entering the mall, when my ears were assaulted by the incessant, bubble-gum teenage pop of... Mozart. That's right, this guy. I thought about turning back, then and there. Something was not right. On the other hand, I reasoned to myself, what is not right here is that something is right, in a place where it should be very wrong. Taking heart in that revelation, I swiftly made my way past the jewelry store and the advertisements for whatever's new on the Style Network, to the kiosk that has a map of the mall on it. Blast. My objective is practically on the other side of the mall. How was I supposed to know where to park? I moved at as rapid a pace as was unlikely to be called "running," noting along the way that Abercrombie & Fitch still blast techno and saturate the air in the vicinity of their store with their distinctive musk. I can't abide those clothing retailers. Disgusting creatures! I passed them quickly enough, and once the repetitive dance beat had faded to background noise noticed that ol' Wolfgang was still coming through the main PA. Thank God. Finally, I reached my objective: the Apple Store.

As an aside, I am in no way an Apple fanboy, though I have known some scary ones in my day. I respect Apple for noticing that people who want an aesthetically pleasing computer (women, and some men) were an under-served portion of the market. I sort of like Steve Jobs as a persona. I don't think I'd like him as a person, but he's a smart dude, and I like how he gets behind his product. The way I see it, their products have two main selling points:

1. I'm not sure why, but people who buy their stuff seem to think it gives them license to be smug about it, as if their computer/mp3 player/whatever isn't made from wires and plastic like those other ones, but is somehow carved from a single gem found only on the moon, and harvested by dwarfs riding Pegasus-Unicorn hybrids. This is the main thrust of Apple's ad campaign, so I at least know where they get this idea.

2. They're soooo cute! I personally think that iPods look like they're supposed to be taken as a suppository, but my authority on the relative cuteness of things (and no, she refuses to comment on my own appearance) informs me that to women, an iPod looks how a big hug from a Care Bear would feel. I'm not kidding.

Anyhoo, to return to my story, I found myself in the Apple Store. It was weird. The space was wide open, with a row of high wooden tables going down the center of the room, and display tables along the walls. For a relatively small retail space, it felt quite sparse and roomy, with the interior designed to look something like a spaceship. I was actually able to wander around for a good couple of minutes, eying the wares and all, before a sales rep approached me, to ask if I was being helped, and exactly what kind of clone army I was looking for. I told him what I wanted, and he slowly backed out of the room while bowing, only turning his back on me when he reached the door. He was very polite. A few seconds later he returned, bearing a small (and cute!) box, containing an iPod roughly the size of my toenail. "Ok, I'll take it." I said, glancing around the room for a cash register. There wasn't one. Just more product displays. "Oh, you can check out right here," he said, scanning the iPod's barcode with his Tricorder, and taking my credit card. He produced a bag out of nowhere (seriously, maybe it came out of his sleeve? I don't know), and put the iPod in it while walking me to the front of the store. When we got there, he reached for the underside of a table and produced my receipt. I half expected him to reach behind my ear and pull out another iPod Shuffle. The man was a conjurer, a master of the art--nay, the science--of prestidigitation. He said goodbye to me in the traditional way of his people: "Thank you, come again!"

I strolled out of the store, iPod in hand, and made my way for the exit, humming along with the Mozart. I stopped at the Crackbucks booth on the way out for a tall Americano, just to convince myself that not being miserable whilst in the mall was not some fever-induced hallucination. "Would you like an extra shot of espresso in your coffee? I just poured it and I'll have to throw it away otherwise" said a suspiciously gregarious barista. Before I could contemplate what his ulterior motives might be, I found myself saying "yes, I would." Next thing I knew I was back in my car, merchandise in hand, sipping an extra-strong coffee.

Cous: 2

Monday: 0

Incidentally, I now want one of those iPod Shuffles of my own. I guess they win.