31 August 2007
I have made at least one football game at Penn State since 1985 (don't let the math fool you : I started going in high school), and I'm hoping that this year I'll see more than this early season matchup.
Here by the way are my predictions for tomorrow's top 25:
1. USC makes Idaho consider giving up their program. Textbook destruction.
2. LSU played early and won.
3. West Virginia beats Western Michigan. By a lot.
4. Texas mauls Arkansas State.
5. Michigan destroyifies Appalachian State.
6. Florida mops up Western Kentucky.
7. Wisconsin beats Washington State, but looks shaky.
8. Oklahoma schedules a Texas team they can beat: North Texas.
9. Over-ranked Virginia Tech beats East Carolina.
10. Louisville played early and won.
11. Ohio State (how can they be ranked below VTech?) beats gritty Youngstown State.
12. Cal steals this one from Tennessee. Probably the only good matchup the entire day.
13. Georgia comes from behind to beat Oklahoma State.
14. UCLA loses to Stanford.
15. Tennessee sneaks defeat from the jaws of victory. Cal in the last minute.
16. Rutgers played early and won.
17. Penn State beats FIU, but doesn't cover the spread.*
18. Auburn over K-State.
19. Florida State loses to Clemson. More calls for Bobby "Dirty Hits" Bowden to lose his head.
20. Nebraska over Nevada from the beginning.
21. Arkansas wallops Troy.
22. TCU crushalistic over Baylor.
23. Hawaii beats Northern Colorado.
24. Boise State played early and won.
25. Texas A & M way over Montana State.
*College betting tip: if PSU is favored, pick against them because they won't cover the spread. If they're underdogs, pick them.
30 August 2007
But we were watching the Braves and whenever Chipper Jones went up to bat, the stadium PA system played Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train," which of course got us thinking what our theme clips would be for when we entered conference rooms to give papers.
I settled on Guided by Voices's "Watch Me Jumpstart."
I think it's a good choice, which is a long-round way to get to talking about Guided by Voices, perhaps the finest band that ever did play in the 1990's (and I say that as a devoted follower of Pavement, at least up to and including Wowee Zowee...). There's something glorious about watching a band of 30 somethings, who had labored in their basements on this hobby, break it big (as Indie standards go), and proceed to combine the stage theatrics and heavy riffs of the 1970's arena rockers with the 1 and a half minute songs and low-fi techniques of the punk rockers.
Really, to watch Pollard perform, microphone dangling from one hand and an open Budweiser in the other, was brilliant. He treated every stage as if it were a stadium, doing Daltrey-esque microphone swings on cramped bar stages, which sometimes got him in trouble. I watched them open up for Superchunk in State College, PA, on a Halloween night in 1994 or 1995. The bar was a converted multi-level Burger King, and the stage was crammed into a back corner and resembled more or less a triangle. Think the old 9:30 Club, but smaller. Pollard was drunk off his ass, but that didn't stop him from trying his high leg kicks and microphone swinging, and on a few occasions he careened straight into the speaker stacks, running into Tobin Sprout a few times as well.
It was not a great musical performance, but it was one of those shows that built the "mystique" of GbV and a few years later, they're headlining the new 9:30 Club and playing for so long that the club finally turned the lights on to quell their act after about the fifth encore. I swear, the band would have kept playing until the Metro re-opened in the morning if the 9:30 Club would have allowed it.
And speaking of Superchunk, it's pretty damn hard to leave the albums On the Mouth and No Pocky for Kitty off a top 50 list of 1990's albums.
29 August 2007
So these days we make playlists on our iPods or at the very least mix CDs, if we make them at all. Really, I need to get another iPod because I was much more in touch with the connections between songs and bands and my own idiosyncrasies when I tried to figure out a particular playlist on the iTunes. For instance I had a great one about loss that included Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" and U2's "One" and The Shins' "Pink Bullets." Etcetera. It was actually thematically organizized.
So a mix of place name songs seems like an interesting idea to me right now. Here's what I've got so far:
Desolation Row - Bob Dylan (I didn't say it had to be a real place...)
Haiti - The Arcade Fire
Big Dipper - Built to Spill (it's a place, right?)
The Guns of Brixton - The Clash
Holiday in Cambodia - Dead Kennedys (or maybe California Uber Alles...)
Marching Bands of Manhattan - Death Cab for Cutie
Telegraph Road - Dire Straits (I have always loved this song, and I think it pairs well with "Desolation Row")
Mt. Pleasant Isn't - The Evens (for the local flavor and it's a damn good song)
Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash
Ohio - Neil Young (aka Crosby Stills Nash and Young)
Strawberry Fields Forever - The Beatles
Woodstock - CSNY version, not the Joni Mitchell one.
New Madrid - Uncle Tupelo
New Orleans - The Silver Jews
New York - Sex Pistols
A New England - Billy Bragg
New York - U2
Medicine Hat - Son Volt
Zurich is Stained - Pavement. Or should it be "Texas Never Whispers"?
Via Chicago - Wilco
Sweet Home Chicago - Robert Johnson
Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen. Maybe "10th Avenue Freezeout"?
Night Boat to Cairo - Madness
Redondo Beach - Patti Smith
Motorway to Roswell - Pixies
Hotel California - The Eagles (a late addition for MG! )
I'm sure I'll think of about ten more after I post this... (and I already thought of "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zep but have decided against including it, although I could be persuaded to include "Kashmir")
28 August 2007
Or do you think it comes naturally, without his thinking about it?
Having thoroughly embarrassed the US and dropped our prestige considerably through his ill-advised and illegal invasion of Iraq -- with no plan whatsoever beyond "wishful thinking" for reconstruction -- Bush has consistently made grumbling threats about Iran. However, now these noises are starting to get a bit more direction, with Bush again threatening to open another front in a war that's already going so poorly. Here's the best part:
George Bush stepped up the rhetoric over Iran today as he threatened to confront the hardline regime "before it's too late".
By "before it's too late," I assume he means before he leaves office and hopefully someone with an IQ above 70 and some respect for human rights will take office.
27 August 2007
Uh huh. And being an arrogant ruthless buffoon had nothing to do with it...
Then Brooks goes on to talk about how Bush judges people "by character" and if someone has good character, he sticks by them and doesn't pay any attention to their "decisions or judgement" if they have good character.
Wouldn't you say that endorsing torture is more than just a judgement and maybe just maybe goes toward understanding someone's character? Like maybe people who think torture is justified might have a little problem with the concept of human rights?
Of course, I suppose you have to back to the proposition that George Bush, being more or less a moron himself, is hardly the sort of person whose opinion should be taken as trustworthy on any subject, including character.
Of course, I kid, because we all know that Alberto, who considered the Geneva Conventions so "quaint," much like you'd refer to the decor of a remote country cousin's sitting room, would probably prefer to start his own splinter group, because after suffering for a few years under one incompetent leader's hand, he has developed a deep distrust for so-called "leaders."
The saddest thing about this whole affair is that Gonzales will most likely go onto a lengthy and lucrative career defending the interests of corporate criminals against the people of the United States, either with a law firm or some think tank like the Cato Institute or Heritage Foundation.
Unless Cheney kills him first because he knows too much...
24 August 2007
This year is a little different at our school; we were one of the schools selected by then-Superintendent Clifford Janey to receive "Blitz" money, and even after he was unceremoniously dumped by Mayor Fenty, Rhee's regime honored the commitment to the Blitz repairs and our school has received significant maintenance work over the summer. That means that this Saturday, we'll be able to concentrate on cosmetic details, like cleaning pebbles off the playground and washing the playground equipment.
In other school news, it's been a long time coming, but the Post is finally reporting what many parents and principals had been saying since the "missing textbook scandal" first broke in the Post several weeks ago: many of us not only have all our books, but also we received those books early this year under Janey's new system. Here's a nice little excerpt:
Although some were waiting for a handful of books, often extra copies, many principals called this the smoothest delivery in years. Nearly 400,000 new textbooks were delivered in May -- weeks early -- after Clifford B. Janey overhauled the way the system orders books when he was superintendent.
It's been clear from the get-go that Rhee understands that one way to deflect criticism of your own performance or credentials is to pile shit on your predecessor. Hopefully, too, she will learn that the strategy doesn't work when strong contradictory evidence can be found to weaken your thesis.
In fairness to Rhee, she's dealing with a very disfunctional system and there are many problems that Janey had not yet addressed or seemed to be powerless to remedy appropriately (see facilities). I am hopeful that she'll provide strong academic leadership, while at the same time the bullying by the mayor's office will help light a fire under facilities and keep it burning. Regardless, the lesson we parents have learned through experience is that if you see a problem, make noise and keep making noise as loudly and in as many ways as possible.
School opens Monday.
Plus, we're featured in the latest Dupont Current.
23 August 2007
Now that I've got that out of the way, I can talk about important things like Bill Murray's driving a golf cart down a Stockholm street, apparently while he was intoxicated. Apparently he's still feeling psychic repercussions for having passed on reprising his role of Carl the Groundskeeper for Caddyshack II. Or not.
OK. So this post is kind of lame for 600.
22 August 2007
So here he is, in the waning days of his dim-witted Presidency, trying to argue against withdraw from Iraq by invoking the lessons of Vietnam. Say what? Is he a moron? Oh, yeah, I forgot.
If you care to follow Bush's illogic for a moment, you realize that he's arguing that our withdrawal from Vietnam (begrudgingly initiated by Nixon after failure upon failure to defeat the Viet Cong and support a corrupt South Vietnamese regime) was a mistake. Apparently Bush would be happier if we were still in Vietnam right now in 2007, 32 years after the fall of Saigon.
Well, at least we probably wouldn't be in Iraq right now.
For the newbies out there who never studied history, US involvement in Vietnam began roughly in 1955, after the colonial power, France, got defeated at Dien Bien Phu (to be technical, the US had been providing France foreign aid to fight the Viet Minh since 1950). So when the US entered, we just looked like another colonial power and the war of national liberation carried on. US involvement began in earnest with Kennedy, then Johnson, and finally Nixon -- so three Presidents, right -- who begins the "Vietnamization" of the war in theory in 1969, but really we don't see US withdrawal until 1973, after ongoing peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese.
So Bush is trying to use this history of a more or less 20 year war that ended in failure and the famous images of the final helicopter leaving the US embassy in Saigon in 1975 to argue that we need to continue our involvement in a civil war in a country that only exists because of British colonial administrative necessities.
Che Guevera called for "two, three, many Vietnams" as a way to illustrate that lengthy military actions against even technologically inferior enemies are costly to imperialist powers. Unlike in the wet dreams of the neocons, wars don't unfold like Risk games, where you just line up one country's forces against another's and roll the dice. We are now embroiled in an Iraq war that's over four years old and shows no signs of significant change. Nearly 4000 US servicemen and women have been killed in Iraq, and countless more Iraqi civilians have died as a result of Bush's illegitimate invasion.
Bush is now arguing that after twenty years and 58209 US personnel killed in Vietnam that we should have "stayed the course" there as well. Does he really expect the US to sacrifice another 54000 men and women to cover up his entirely avoidable mistake until he can pass it off to another President?
21 August 2007
And yes, to combat those nasty rodents I also stapled some hardware cloth over a gap between a fencepost and a wall that the rats were using to move conveniently from yard to yard. Plus, over the weekend my aunt hooked me up with a different type of rodent trap, the sort that you set by using your foot and therefore avoid all the dangers of pinched fingers trying to set those monstrous old-fashioned rat traps. We'll see.
Speaking of rats, I see Michael Vick has pled guilty to whatever the official charges are when you maintain an illegal dogfighting operation that includes killing the more poorly performing dogs ("executing" them, as one of Vick's fellow fuck-ups had to say. Like it's the dog's fault you've got such moral poverty in your own life that you get your jollies being brutal to animals). It's pretty sad all around. Even Michael Wilbon, who has something of a cottage industry using his column to defend criminal athletes, couldn't seem to get around to labeling Vick a scapegoat for some conspiracy or other, instead bringing the hammer down by calling Vick "so arrogant, so vicious and seemingly without conscience" and further adding that "if Vick really did what his co-conspirators said and drowned dogs after trying unsuccessfully to hang them, he's pretty much scum-of-the-earth material."
Pretty strong words.
(I suppose some animal rights advocates out there among my vast readership will note the seeming hypocrisy between my contempt for Vick's destruction of dogs and my desire to destroy rats. However, if you're that much of an absolutist, I'm afraid I can't do anything for you...)
17 August 2007
So after the usual how's it going stuff was gotten out of the way, we started to name-check some authors, you know, dropping it English-degree style, beginning in Albany with William Kennedy. He declared that Ironweed, which I haven't read, is perhaps the greatest American novel of the twentieth century. Or maybe late twentieth century. I can't quite remember, but at any rate he thinks rather highly of it. So it goes on my stack. Perhaps it'll be next, because right now I'm not feeling very motivated to finish Pynchon's V. and I don't know why, because it's actually pretty good (the only Pynchon I've ever read start to finish is The Crying of Lot 49, although I've made some jabs at Gravity's Rainbow).
So from there it was on to Russell Banks briefly, and then to Cormac McCarthy. You see, we never left New England (at least as far as birthplaces are concerned, and yes I consider New York part of New England so get over it New Yorkers). My friend is recommending highly to me McCarthy's futuristic novel The Road, telling me it's very stark. That his older brother, jaded though he is and an author himself, found himself crawling into his son's bed after he'd finished reading it because he just needed to be near him. That's powerful stuff. As I've only ever read All the Pretty Horses (as has MA) and Child of God, The Road goes on my stack. Hey, it must be good, since it was an "Oprah Book Club" selection. Oh, yeah, it also won the Pulitzer or something like that.
Our conversation came to an abrupt halt, however, when he remembered that he had a fellow prof over while their daughters were having a playdate, and he didn't want to be the neglectful host.
I suppose we'll always have the MLA...
and for the lit geeks among you, half a point to discuss the origins of the title of this post without googling.
16 August 2007
To be honest I know I should do it. Really, I should. But who the hell wants to crawl out of bed around six a.m. to get in, let's say, half an hour of running and get home, shower, and get the kids ready for the day?
I have the tendency to set the alarm early and then hit snooze for around an hour or so at nine minute increments. I clearly do not have the discipline to take up running.
This crucial self-knowledge is mixed, however, with the belief that running is perhaps one of the more effective methods for burning calories and therefore reducing my stubborn weight.
On a completely unrelated note, I simply cannot get Death Cab for Cutie's "I Will Follow You into the Dark" out of my head.
15 August 2007
In keeping with the Bill Murray theme, my wife and I watched Broken Flowers via our netflix supply line last night. It's Bill Murray playing that character he's perfected: detached, ironic, deadpan aging man unsure of his direction in life and behaving more as an observer than as an active participant in the world around him. It's also by Jim Jarmusch, which means you don't get a clear beginning, middle, and end with the handy Hollywood resolution. In fact, you get so little resolution that you marvel that it's an American film at all (then you see that it won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2005 and suddenly things make more sense).
The plot is set in motion when Don Johnston (Bill Murray), a confirmed bachelor successfully retired from the computer industry and seemingly resolved to spend the rest of his days lying on his sofa watching television, receives a mysterious letter purporting to be from a former girlfriend twenty years in the past, in which the writer claims that they had a son together who at 19 years is now on a quest to find his father. The letter is brought to his attention by his current girlfriend (Julie Delphy), as she dumps him and walks out the door. His detective fiction loving neighbor, Winston, takes charge and dictates Johnston's actions that drive the movie forward. At Winston's urging, Johnston compiles a list of his girlfriends from that time, and Winston locates the four living ones (and the one dead one) and dispatches Johnston on a quest to visit each of the four and "look for clues" as to who wrote the letter.
It's brilliant. He visits each, with each encounter getting more uncomfortable and confrontational, culminating in his visit to Penny (Tilda Swinton). The cast of former flames is pretty impressive: Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, and Tilda Swinton all in relatively short but emotionally charged roles (Julie Delphy, whose character dumps him at the beginning of the movie, is on screen for perhaps one minute).
The camera keeps playing tricks with the viewer, though, inserting repetitive images (for example, Johnston's drives to and from each encounter involve the road changing from interstate, to secondary highway, to backroad and vice versa) and ambiguous visual clues (he's been told to look for pink, since the letter writer used pink stationery: all of his ex-flames have several pink items around them).
By the end of the film, I was left thinking of The Crying of Lot 49 and some of the more interesting movies of the last decade that play with memory and perception, like Memento or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Although, more like the Pynchon novel than like the films, because in the end, you haven't unraveled anything.
14 August 2007
Now on to other things...
I can't get rats off my mind. First, it's my bad dreams. Then it's reality, with Rove resigning and then shitbags like Novak and of all people Grover Norquist, Mr. "Sure I'll Launder Your Money, Mr. Abramoff", waxing pathetic over their King Rat Rove. You just can't get away from the rodents in this city.
On the good side of it all, the Post had an interesting article today about how the French have taken to Disney's Ratatouille, a movie I haven't seen yet, but which my wife and son pronounced excellent. Rodents are always much cleverer, cleaner, and cuter when they're animated.
In real life, on the other hand, when they aren't in high positions on the right wing of our government, they're burrowing holes in backyards and rooting around in trash bins making a general mess of everything.
And you can smell them.
Especially when the ground is wet, there's a distinct smell to dirt that has seen frequent rat activity, which I suppose is where the phrase, "I smell a rat," came from. It's a loathsome smell, and right now I'm smelling it in my backyard. I'm not happy.
I'm also not happy that in the last two traps I've put out I haven't caught rats, but birds. I don't like catching birds, so after those incidents I declared a moratorium on rat trap deployment. My neighbor says you need to use a milk crate to cover the trap and then you'll only get rats. I don't know. I'm thinking the best solution is to rent a bobcat and dig up the entire backyard, pour concrete barriers about four feet deep around the perimeter of the yard, erect fencing with mesh so close not even a rat could slip through, and then sit back and enjoy my bunker.
Seriously, though, the backyard is in bad shape. It's overgrown with weeds (which partially explains the rat situation) and since it's been a drought, I've had to get under the deck frequently to access the water hose, meaning I haven't exactly been fastidious with replacing my anti-rat panels that are normally in place to prevent rats from hiding out under the deck.
And now I'm obsessing. I'm turning into Carl the Groundskeeper.
13 August 2007
Already, I see Karl spinning strategies to deal with the Democratic nominee for President, whomever that may end up being. Attack ads with vague allusions to "America's mongrel future" should Obama be nominated; attack ads with vague allusions to "Hillary's homosexual agenda" should she be nominated. Etc.
Let's see if the Rove exit sparks a mass exodus of rats trying to save their careers...
10 August 2007
More disturbing was last night's dream, in which I was walking along a dam made of sticks (much like a beaver dam) and several drowned rats and mice were in the water at the breast of the dam. However, on closer inspection, many of the mice weren't actually dead and were instead beginning to recover and then even worse the rats were starting to recover. I tried to smash one with a shovel, but it got away.
Man I hate rats.
05 August 2007
Seriously, tatoos on the neck, half-turned baseball caps, and thin thin facial hair should more or less be enough to land you a bit part in some crime show as "meth addict #2," except there would be so many of your fellow derelicts competing for the role.
And then you have the twelve year old girls wearing more paint than a Van Gogh and looking like they're trying to land the Jodie Foster role in a remake of Taxi Driver. I can only hope that when my daughter reaches that age, we'll have instilled in her a healthy self-respect and ability to sneer at the crowd. Or at least the ability to sneer.
More stories as I get them.
01 August 2007
Whether it's the multitude of Confederate flag themed t-shirts both in the shops and on the backs of the boardwalkers or the constant parade of jackasses hawking tobacco loogies out of their jacked up pickups, you can't avoid them.
I suppose you could say I'm being elitist, if of course you define anti-racist, anti-sexist attitudes as elitist. Oh well. Seriously, though, the preponderance of racist, sexist merchandise speaks to the market for such trinkets, and that in turn indicates that we've much work to do as a society before we're ready to put the Civil Rights movement behind us, despite what this Supreme Court claims.