Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Steelers 23, Ravens 20

Wooooooo Jeff Reed!!! [significant endorphin release]

Watched regulation with Stu at comfortable beer-n-wings place Archie Moore's here in East Rock till midnight, then heard the decisive series here in the apartment on the radio. (On Friday I'd invited a few people over to my apartment for the game, but that was before I realized Comcast actually had to send a guy out here to upgrade my ass-basic cable. So that get-together got cancelled.)

Somewhat more seriously, let's hope Andre Frazier's spine injury turns out not to be as scary as it looked. Also, Happy Rosh Hashanah.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Comprehensive List of Food Items I Ate at the Durham Fair Today

When temporarily not eating, you can ride a ferris wheel and view the Durham Fair from above
Did a lot better than last year, quantity-wise. Splitting everything down the middle with the girlfriend makes it a lot easier.
● Chopped BBQ pork sandwich with onions and peppers
● Elephant ear (i.e. fried dough) with cinnamon sugar
● Lime rickey
● Fairly large thingy of fresh ribbon-cut potato chips with bacon bits, chives, and cheese
● Crushed-ice cherry limeade
● Lemonade
● Roasted corn
This was over the course of about three and a half hours. We almost bought our lime rickeys from a stand sponsored by the Middletown Republicans. But fortunately Ellen noticed in time, so we went to the other lime rickey stand instead.

I had the experience this year to come hungry. There are still some things I wish we had gotten to eat. The key here is recognizing that you can't imagine individual items you wanted to eat, but rather imagine the sum total of everything you wanted to eat. Then you recognize that, even if you'd managed to waddle back to the parking-lot shuttle after eating that much food, you'd probably never want to eat again. Also, eating more food would have made it inadvisable for Ellen to ride that mechanical bull.

Next time I'm getting a kielbasa sandwich, though. And a turkey leg. Those looked good.

Two other words to the wise: (1) find out the name of the parking lot you are in, so you get on the correct shuttle bus; (2) bring cash, because the ATMs are hard to find and unreliable, and you will have to run around for ten minutes wondering what kind of hell it would be if you were at the Durham Fair but unable to buy food.

Gorgeous day, too, after a rainy weekend and in spite of predictions of more of the same.

Only one cow was painted this way. Why do all the other cows hate America?

Friday, September 26, 2008

And with the Price of Sugar Going Through the F-ing Roof...

While we're embedding video, the ad wizards over at the Corn Refiners Association have apparently put out a couple of totally awesome old-school advertisements for everyone's favorite sweetener:

err... well, damn I can't get the embedding code to copy-and-paste correctly, so go watch this:


I assume this ad is real - it could just be a straw man, though, I suppose. High Fructose Corn Syrup is bad. I'm not going to rant about it (plenty of that over there on the youtube), but it is.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Stakes Are Too High for You to Stay Home

Slate's video rundown of some classic campaign advertisements (via the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens) is worth watching, not least since it directs one to this Lyndon Johnson ad from '64:

Aaaaand, scene.

I've watched this guy several times in a row now, and he's not getting any less captivating. We should require our political ads today to feature a nerdy white guy lighting a cigarette and quietly ranting for four minutes about Barry Goldwater.

Live Blogging from Classical Radio Show

It's surprisingly easy when you're broadcasting a 40-minute string quartet!

Playlist below. No, I didn't get around to "actually" writing about what I'm playing this week. And yes, I forgot it was Shostakovich's birthday when I pulled a bunch of random CDs this morning.
Claude Debussy, Fêtes (from "Nocturnes"), arr. Ravel for 2 pianos, 1901
Luciano Berio, Quattro versioni originali della "Ritirata notturna di Madrid" (Boccherini), 1975
Carl Nielsen, Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, 1926
Franz Liszt, Totentanz, 1849
Maurice Ravel, Pavane pour une infante défunte, 1899 (orchestrated 1910)
Jennifer Higdon, blue cathedral, 1999
Ludwig van Beethoven, String Quartet in C-sharp minor, op. 131, 1826

Further Adventures in Overvaluing the Sandwich

At some point—I can’t recall this specifically (and please correct me if you know, Dad (assuming you’re still reading the blog))—my father had me watch enough of the movie Five Easy Pieces, starring Jack Nicholson,—I assume that it was on A&E or something, and Dad was like “Hey, there’s a funny bit in this, let’s keep watching it.”—to see the part where, on the road from southerly oil-drilling town, on the way to the Pacific Northwest to visit his dying father, Jack Nicholson’s character, an ex-Classical pianist, stops with his car-load of womenfolk at a roadside diner for a meal—let’s call it brunch—and encounters a stubborn waitress. The menu states that there are no substitutions allowed, but Jack Nicholson’s character has something in mind that he’d like to eat that isn’t on the menu: a tomato omelet with a side of wheat toast. Nicholson’s character concocts a system of ordering within the rules of the menu to get what he wants—the sequence wherein he orders a chicken salad sandwich, hold the lettuce, mayo, lettuce, and go ahead and hold the chicken too, is genuinely hilarious, and regardless of the specifics of how it is that my father got me to watch at least that much of the movie, it’s worth it just for that. This—the initial watching of the this piece of the film (or, at the very least, the relating of this particular scene to me by my father)—stuck with me enough that I eventually purchased a digital print of the movie on laser-readable disc.

At another point, just after quitting the study of the performance on the instrument popularly known as the French horn, I was watching this movie (I owned it and watched it (unlike Zisek, apparently, I actually watch my DVDs) back when I still was a “horn player”), my friend Zac, who was and continues to be a successful musician, decided to go ahead and watch it with me. Upon viewing the film in its entirety—including the aforementioned hilarious scene of sandwich-ordering—Zac had absolutely nothing good to say about it, but at the same time recognized what appealed to me in it (aside from the hilarity), perhaps best exemplified by the following snippet of dialogue, spoken by a female character—a violinist—who, upon meeting Jack Nicholson’s character, is utterly shocked by his no-longer-a-musician-ness:

Violinist: The only thing I find very difficult to imagine is that one could have this incredible background in music and then just walk away from it without giving it a second thought at all.

Jack Nicholson’s Character: I gave it thought.

But, of course, the blogishness of the above writing let’s me stray away from the point that I intend to make with quasi-biography. I mean only to try and contextualize my enjoyment of this particular film at the same time that I intend to point out why and how it’s something of a guilty pleasure for me. In the end, the movie is a guilty pleasure because its misogyny outweighs its more generally-good qualities, mostly because its main character is generally awful, other than the fact that he’s talented and charismatic (again, this post does not, at all, reject the film—or the character’s—appeal).

In fact, the sequence in which the aforementioned totally-awesome-sandwich-scene occurs is probable the most problematic of the movie’s many problematic sequences (the sequence, to put it in the usual 3-act movie-structure-analysis is something of a bridge between the 1st and 2nd acts). It involves Jack Nicholson’s character and his girlfriend, on the way to Jack Nicholson’s character’s father’s house, picking up two female hitchhikers who had just been in a wreck. These two hitchhiker’s are essentially just stereotypical hippie-lesbian types, and every aspect of their involvement in the movie are unnecessary. Except, maybe, for the fact the movie is made by men about a particularly charismatic man, who would certainly have seen these women in the way that movie portrays them (the camera never (if ever) strays far from Nicholson).

And, at risk of writing another long post (and basking in the fact that one can be unacademic and unrigorous on a blog and still get the points across (one hopes) that one wants to, without bothering with the bullshit of getting, say, and an MLCS (Master’s in Literary and Cultural Studies) or looking up any particular references or seeing what other people have said (written) about similar topics), the general weakness of the female characters, and general awesomeness of Jack Nicholson’s character (he was, in fact, nominated for an Oscar for this performance, for whatever that’s worth) is fundamentally problematic for any viewer that is, like, hip to equality.

That being said, however, and being, hopefully, more or less hip to such things as equality, and further wanting to explicate things about the movie that remain good despite its problems (cough cough, sort of like, uh, Wagner, I guess (many of my peers at Grad school like to laugh at me for my “cough cough, sort of like, uh, Wagner…” moments)), let us look at another snippet of dialogue, from a scene where the violinist from the above scene has just convinced Jack Nicholson’s character to finally play the piano for her (and Jack Nicholson has played):

Violinist: That was beautiful Robert, I’m surprised.
Jack Nicholson’s Character: Thank you.
Violinist: I was really very moved by it.
Jack Nicholson’s Character laughs.
Violinist: What’s wrong?
Jack Nicholson’s Character: Nothing, it’s just, um, I picked the easiest piece I could think and uh, I uh, played it first when I was ten years old and I played it better then.
Violinist: Can’t you understand it was the feeling I was affected by?
Jack Nicholson’s Character: I didn’t have any.
Violinist: You had no inner feelings?
Jack Nicholson’s Character: None.

Wow! Women sure are dumb, aren’t they?

But seriously, folks, what can we take from this? Well, let’s re-read it, replacing piano playing with acting. What ends up being good about this, then, is that Jack Nicholson is not a method actor. Do you know where method acting gets you? Ask Marlon Brando or Heath Ledger. It get’s you crazy or dead. Jack Nicholson? He still shows up in some decent (The Departed) or even good (About Schmidt) movies. I’m certainly one of those indie-hipster “boy method acting sure does suck” types (see, most recently, perhaps, George Clooney in Burn After Reading for an example of why not being a method actor is a good thing), but at the same time, it’s probably a stretch to try and explain away my liking of a generally unlikeable movie by re-reading it by being about the Actor (sort of like how David Lynch’s Inland Empire is not and never will be a good movie).

The natural tie-in to all of this is the broader notion of literary misogyny (for God’s sake, the viewer is led to believe that Jack Nicholson’s character sleeps out in the open on a dock in this movie), which is, as I see it, the umbrella concept for how males go on being unfair to females through cultural mediums (despite their pronouns). And here—again, keeping things in their short-blog-forms—we can reference, say, Roth’s Zuckerman, Foster Wallace’s reading of John Updike, Norman Mailer’s reading of Norman Mailer, etc. Also—though this would require an additional additional post, which, so far as I know, would mean anything to maybe two of the reader-at-large of Of Mild Interest—Stan Brakhage. Total F-ing misogynist.

But, in terms of the movie trying to be character-driven and, like, totally “fair,” let’s looks at one final scene, where Jack Nicholson’s character gives a talking-down to a totally stuck up feminist middle-aged lady-person, in a scene where Jack Nicholson’s character’s woman wants to watch the TV and the middle-aged feminist is having none of that, and the feminist tries to exemplify Jack Nicholson’s girlfriend as the embodiment of a set of characteristics that, essentially, are what woman shouldn’t be:

Jack Nicholson’s Character: Don’t sit there pointing at her.
Middle-Aged Feminist: I beg your pardon.
Jack Nicholson’s Character: I said, don’t point at her, you creep.
Middle-Aged Feminist: But I was just telling her about…
Jack Nicholson’s Character: Where the hell do you get the ass to tell anybody anything about class or who the hell’s got it or what she typifies; you shouldn’t even be in the same room as her you pompous celibate.
Middle-Aged Feminist: Oh, this is really too much.

Right, so, clearly the movie sets up a fake Nicholson’s character-oriented view of the world, wherein, though the “feminist’ voice gets a voice, it is stereotyped and easily ridiculed. This is perhaps balanced by the totally irredeemable qualities of Jack Nicholson’s character—how can we buy into a movie about such an unlikeable bloke? And even the movie’s moral: “shouldn’t like this guy, and there he goes again...” shouldn’t be enough to salvage it.

So damn, then, other than trying to further introduce the kind of gender-related stuff (literary misogyny, what, what?) that I am apparently interested in blogging about these days, what good is all this? Well… I don’t want cheese or chicken on my toast either, God damn it!

Super Embarrassment Comedy Bros.

Given that most of my engagement with the outside world takes the form of sitting on my butt and watching things, I may as well note that I'm excited that the next season of The Office starts up tonight. I am guessing that the show will continue its trend of treating its characters more and more affectionately, as it moves still further away from (and becomes increasingly more popular than) Ricky Gervais' British original, which was less laugh-out-loud funny and way more existentially bleak. Despite the Americanized show's soapier, sitcommier instincts, it still puts the screws to its people pretty effectively, though. For those who really like their comedy the way they like their black coffee it may be sufficient to supplement the show with CBS News' video of Sarah Palin trying to answer Katie Couric's questions.

Happy Shostakovich Day 2K8

My verses, written so early
That even I didn't know yet that I was a poet;
Gushing forth, like splashes from a fountain,
Like sparks from rockets;

Rushing, like little devils
Into a sanctuary of solemnity and incense;
My verses on youth and death --
Unread verses! --

Scattered about in the dust of shops
(Where no one bought them, and no one buys them!),
My verses, like precious wines,
Will have their time!

- Marina Tsvetaeva, "My Poems", trans. Laurence R. Richter. See also Shostakovich's musical setting in his opus 143.

Here's hoping all of your Art makes it out into the world with a minimum of hardship.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

An Extra-Long Response To Similarly Read At One's Leisure

This is a response to Pete's post about gendered pronouns but it outgrew the comments section. Not quite up to post-of-its-own standards in terms of clarity but here it is.

It doesn't surprise me that a publishing house doesn't like "they" and "their". If there were a graceful and stylistically consistent fix for the language we would have it already.

I half-remember Steven Pinker (?) writing that using "they" as a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun used to be acceptable, before a bunch of rules ("don't end a sentence with a preposition" and its friends) were invented to create a more upper-crust English language. But I would have to track that down to confirm.

"They"/"their" causes some jarring disagreements between the singular and plural but rigorously using "he"/"his" creates some dissonances too. Pinker (again, I think) has a good example or two of how you can effectively launder a person's gender through that rule, such that you end up referring to them as "him" even though you know they are female.

My examples are a weaker tea, but as Kyle and I were talking about this last night we found these sentences can illustrate the sort of insidious effect of gendered pronouns. They're grammatically equivalent but note how they're not all equally comfortable to use, due to how "obvious" it is that the subject is male:

* It's every doctor for himself.
* It's every bus driver for himself.
* It's every nurse for himself.
* It's every cheerleader for himself.
* It's every spouse for himself.

So you wouldn't necessarily want to walk around saying (or at least formally writing) "It's every person for themselves" (or "themself"). But since we mostly just avoid sentences like the above already (again, for most people only if they feel odd) I would probably advocate for a more formal acceptance of "they"/"their" in combination with a possibly more strenuous policy of avoiding awkward constructions made possible by that. I'm not prepared to prove a grammatical Incompleteness Theorem but I don't think any rule you cook up for pronoun use is going to be consistently graceful in every single case. And given that we have strong, unhelpful biases in our culture around being male/female but not around being singular/plural, I think the latter confusion is the lesser of two evils.

So there are my thoughts, jumbled and lacking citations. To summarize, though:
1. No rule of language use will sound right all the time, so that's not a useful expectation.
2. It is bad that our current language rules suggest that the default state of being is being male (and that being female is an exceptional, less intuitive case) so the prospect of change shouldn't be rejected on the grounds that there's nothing wrong with the status quo.

And I may as well tack on
3. I have no idea how one, or one's culture, would go about fixing this, but I think it's a minor moral imperative for any writer to try to make their work gender-neutral (as does Hofstadter, more gracefully than I am doing in here) regardless of whether the Anglophone world's style guides ever change.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Roethlismurdered!, and Other Sunday Observations

Like Pete I spent a chunk of Sunday afternoon getting ornery in front of the T.V. Instead of getting mad about that Grandaddy song in the Toyota commercial*, though, I got to be dispirited by the content of the Steelers/ Eagles game. Somehow the line of eight sacks against Pittsburgh doesn't seem to summarize the game story adequately. This photo by the Post-Gazette's Peter Diana conveys the proper tone if not the full scope of the affair:

Just about every snap looked like what happens in the venerable Nintendo game, Tecmo Super Bowl, when the player on defense chooses the correct coverage: Eagles streaming in on the quarterback from all directions. Roethlisberger's hand was apparently injured near the end of the game but I'm happy the man is even alive; the Philadelphia defense did just about everything to him short of taking off his helmet and making him crash his motorcycle into Brian Dawkins' car.**

I can really only think of two highlights from what I watched yesterday, both involving Troy Polamalu. One was an improbable, leaping, one-armed interception of a tipped pass that actually looked more convincing in instant replay. (Basic outline of couch-based play-by-play directed at not wholly interested girlfriend in kitchen: "Whoo Troy! That won't possibly hold up under review, will it?... Yow. That's hardcore. Go Troy.")

The other was much later when Kyle and I were watching an episode of "The Daily Show" from last week: Jon Stewart, milking a joke about the scraggly-looking genitals of a bull in a Merill Lynch commercial, remarked not unfairly that "that bull[bleep] looks like Troy Polamalu of the Steelers". This, incidentally, illustrates one of the jarring aspects of transitioning from the baseball season to the football season as a Pittsburgh fan, in that the Steelers have bona fide star players that casual observers of the sport have actually heard of. The Pirates are not in a place where our nation's premier TV satirist is likely to compare, say, longtime shortstop Jack Wilson to animal genitals of any kind.

The process of watching the game itself was still fun enough, thanks to the culinary pleasures of some Rogue Shakespeare Stout and a batch of chicken wings that Kyle and I made in her slow cooker. The rest of the day was awfully nice too: We woke up early and drove out to the Columbia River Gorge for a four-mile hike up to Angels Rest. The view from up there was mostly obscured by clouds and persistent light rain but we did get a nice, moody view of the bend in the river to our west, plus a test run of the attitude (widespread and pretty necessary out here) that during the six months or so of glum weather you just have to put on your raingear and get out into it.

(Photo by Kyle; the arm's-length ones I took of the both of us came out off-centered for some reason.)

Right before dusk we headed over to Chapman Elementary School to watch some of the thousands of migrating vaux swifts that spend nights in an old chimney on that building every fall. It's pretty remarkable; a vortex of swifts gradually accumulates overhead, sometimes growing suddenly denser, sometimes dissipating, until the group reaches some critical mass and the swifts start swirling in batches down into the top of the chimney. The crowd, mostly gathered on blankets and in folding chairs on a grassy bank above the school, react with appropriate "oohs"; the much larger bird of prey that made a single, apparently unsuccessful try at nabbing one of the peripheral swifts was greeted with some cheers and a smaller number of boos; the pervasive shrill twittering overhead more closely matched the effect of Bernard Herrmann's ambient sound-effects score for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds than any actual bird sounds I've heard before. The evening had happily cleared up enough for some painterly sun-on-clouds effects in the sky, out of which flocks of small swifts would suddenly materialize. Neat.

The moral: Always make sure the happiness of your day isn't wholly contingent on some professional meatheads correctly blocking some other professional meatheads.

* "A.M. 180" is indeed a great song, and it is with a feeling of giddy -- dare I say Pete-like -- contrariness that I note that I'm listening to it on my iPod as I type these very words, having bought that song as a single mp3 download several months ago.

** My personal odds of misidentifying Eagles linebacker Brian Dawkins in conversation as "Richard Dawkins": Like one in six.

What de Hey?

I don't care if there's no reason to post this, it still cracks me up.

That one lobster really sounds like Emmet Otter for some reason.

I Got Crapped On by a Bird Today

I got crapped on by a bird today. It was during midday, right after meeting a friend for lunch. I was trying to recall when the last time I got crapped on by a bird was, and I couldn't remember. So I'm entering this into the public record: today, September 22, 2008, I got crapped on by a bird. We shall see how long a duration emerges between crappings-on.

My friend claimed it was good luck. I disagreed, on grounds that if it was such good luck, then how come I just got crapped on by a bird?

Later on, I decided that instead of deflecting the concept by deliberately misframing it for humorous effect, you should take a very specific point of reference and claim that your luck does improve, according to the law of averages.

More seriously, it was good luck in the sense that it missed my head by like two inches. Was back to baseline satisfaction in ten minutes or so.

* * * * *

I would have registered today as the Arbitrarily Selected Day of Pittsburgh Pirates Mediocrity Recognition, like last year, except that they have the day off so they're unable to lose. Also there are reports that they're close to tying up this Pedro Alvarez matter, which could turn out to be a serious mediocrity counterbalance. So: we shall see how the wind has turned, come 9/22/09.

For Fear I May Lose [Them] Again

I was just talking with a friend of mine a couple of days ago - Wednesday, actually - about how the single-song download shouldn't be taken as the major offense perpetrated by the iPod (whose offenses are many and come in various flavors); the album really only existed as the primary form a popular-music artifact could take during the 70s and 80s (if I'm not mistaken, The Beatles certainly had something to do with the album-as-semantic-unit-of-fetishism's rise in popularity), and in fact, the Album, especially in its Compact Disc form, especially in it's egregiously price-fixed CD form, should be an affront to people of only mild taste. The notion that a single should be tied in any way to its album of backing, generally worse material was only a passing fancy (with the obvious exception being the band that made a radio-friendly single in one vein of music only to put it on an album of generally otherly-styled music (for instance, say, the terrible single "Circles" from the otherwise listenable Soul Coughing album El Oso or there's always a track or two that can be labelled similarly on Radiohead (most overrated band since The Beatles, right?)).

What is more concerning to me, then, re: single-song downloads, is the now-several-years-old model of being an "indie rock" band that has a song in an iPod, GAP, or car commercial which instantly becomes a hit because of the airplay it gets backing images of the latest commodity. This seems really too bad - it was okay, I guess, for the occasional Hollywood movie to chock its soundtrack full of small label bands, thus launching some to a brief flash of known-ness (and making money for both the artist and the small label - can't really complain about that). My general sense, as of last Wednesday, when I was talking to my friend about this, was that it was kind of crappy, but not that completely terrible - the difference between being played uninterupted but sandwiched with commercials on the radio or being the relatively foregroundy background music to some visual commerical.

But then, as I settled down yesterday afternoon to write the post below this one and watch some football (seeing the Dolphins beat the Patriots was surprisingly entertaining (the Steelers game did not air locally so I did not watch it)), I happened to hear one of my favorite songs ever, "AM 180" by the band Grandaddy playing from the TV, for what turned out to be a Toyota commercial. What the fuck? That song is already a decade old - it doesn't need to be popularized! Fucking ruinous. But also an interesting case, because the song was used in a mainstream movie with an indie-rock soundtrack - 28 Days Later - the part where they're getting food from the grocery store, it's playing then, if memory serves me correctly (which is additionally interesting, as a movie soundtrack, since it also featured the notoriously pretensious (and therefore liked by me, despite myself) band Godspeed You! Black Emporer (if Mogwai is a balloon, then GSYBE was a Zeppelin (with cello)) who I would have thought would have been, like, way too punk to soundtrack any movie).

But, can I really be pissed about it? It's a legitimately good song. How do fans of The Beatles feel about hearing their favorite (overrated) songs on commercials? Does it ruin the song?

One can assume that most indie-rockers (Grandaddy, at least, was legitimately indie, back in the day (I mean, like, back 11 years ago)) are just hipsters and can use the money (since they've disavowed all the money they've gotten from their parents over the years), right?

And what the hell am I doing watching television?

An Extra-Long Post Which the Reader is Invited to Read at His or Her Leisure

I don’t generally claim to be in touch with the youth of America—nor would I generally bother to bring this fact up; it goes without saying. But, I’ve recently signed on to write a weekly article for a friend’s multimedia website (and don’t worry, I will be shamelessly plugging it once it starts) and trying to come up with my angle on the thing—the website is generally pop-cultural and oftentimes comics-oriented—has reminded me of my out-of-touchness. And don’t you worry, faithful of mild interestlings, for surely come up with a weekly topical article should not adversely affect my typical atopical of mild postings. Case in point:

The influence of Richard Dawkins on my own intellectual outlook is not to be underestimated—I generally credit my having read The Selfish Gene with launching my interest in science at large, and certainly of the evolutionary-hyphenated way of interpreting the world. And though I quickly tore through the books of several other related authors (in order: Diamond, Hofstadter, Dennett, Pinker) who now own similar shares of my intellectual background as Dawkins, it will be Dawkins that owns the central place of influence. Which is not to say that I worship (ha) the ground he walks on—Dawkins as polemicist, generally, is less interesting to me than Dawkins as the popularly-accessible scientist. In fact, Dawkins’s explicitly-designed atheist tract, The God Delusion, is certainly the biggest (perhaps the only) let-down of his output (especially since most of its material was a rehash of ideas already made available by A Devil’s Chaplain). But an earlier let-down, and the first that I encountered, is in Dawkins’s preface to The Extended Phenotype, where he writes:

I announced that the book was a work of advocacy, because I was anxious not to disappoint the reader, not to lead her on under false pretences and waste her time.
The linguistic experiment of the last sentence reminds me that I wish I had had the courage to instruct the computer to feminize personal pronouns at random through the text. This is not only because I admire the current awareness of the masculine bias in our language. Whenever I write I have a particular imaginary read in mind… and at least half of my imaginary readers are, like at least half of my friends, female. Unfortunately it is still true in English that the unexpectedness of a feminine pronoun, where a neutral meaning is intended, seriously distracts the attention of most readers, of either sex. I believe experiment of the previous paragraph will substantiate this. With regret, therefore, I have followed the standard convention in this book.

What disconcerted me about this when I initially read it, and what continues to bother me now is not so much the sentiment expressed, but the way that it is dismissed. It is difficult for me to read Dawkins’s claim that half of his imaginary readers and half of his friends as well are female as anything but sarcastic (or, more kindly, self-delusional). It may be the case that his process of writing is so rigorous as to include his weighing a given passage against imaginary readers of both sexes, but this seems to skirt the issue regardless—that Dawkins’s own “linguistic experiment” happens to be using a feminine third person pronoun to replace “reader” should not shift our focus as readers; that is, Dawkins seems to set himself up here for an explaining away of his pronoun situation by unfairly weighting his example towards the “reader,” for it is certainly the case that he also uses the masculine pronoun to replace any other nonspecific person as well (e.g. “scientist,” (and wouldn’t that shift our own perception of this passage!)).

The pith of Dawkins’s argument, in fact, involves the actual readers of his book, not the imaginary ones, for it is the concern of “seriously” distracting his readers of both genders that motivates Dawkins to stick with the status quo. We are left to take Dawkins word for it—that his “experiment” of a single (already shown to be problematic) sentence inserted at random into his preface is enough to demonstrate the seriousness of the distraction presented by any attempts to overthrow the patriarchy. Dawkins’s stance, then, is that randomizing his pronouns would be too much a distraction, even for the female readers who would be the ones most benefited, apparently, by his mixing up of his pronouns. Not mentioned, conspicuously, would be the option of shifting entirely to feminine pronouns throughout—except that, of course, the male pronoun doubles as the neuter in English.

Dawkins, to my mind, is correct to point out the issue, and correct again to explicate his stance on the issue, but to come up with some faulty, dare I say haughty, quasi-experiment to ground his argument is problematic and offensive. I do not have at the moment the wherewithal to look up a greater spread of texts on the gendered-language debate, especially as it stood in 1981, but its hard for me to believe that the argument for randomization was ever given much credence. However, a fully committed switch to feminine pronouns would certainly be readable and not distracting, especially if the same space in the prefatory matter prepared the reader for the stance being taken by the author.

We can compare Dawkins’s approach to the issue to Tom Robbins in his Author’s Note to Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1976):l

Throughout this book I have used third person pronouns and collective nouns in the masculine gender. To those readers who may be offended by this, I apologize sincerely. Unfortunately, there are at this time no alternatives that do not either create confusion or impede the flow of language; which is to say, there are no acceptable alternatives. Here’s hoping that when and if I publish again, there will be.

Perhaps Robbins has the advantage because his note appears before a wildly discursive/digressive piece of popular fiction as opposed to a serious work of scientific prose. Without recourse to “experiment,” Robbins is simply able to appeal to the novelist’s need for style. He can “apologize sincerely” and let his readers judge for themselves, and thus avoids the trap of being arrogant in the manner of Dawkins. It is Robbins’s hope for “acceptable alternatives” in the future that makes his appeal for the same essential stance as Dawkins that makes it additionally sympathetic; he is not against the overthrowing of the patriarchy, just unwilling or unable to do anything about it himself (and less cynical about it than Dawkins). One is left, instead, to wonder as to whether or not Robbins should be more active in his pursuit of alternatives (I’ve read a couple of Robbins’s later novels, but unfortunately don’t recall anything about his pronouns).

What is interesting about both of these, then, coming from as disparate genres (except for their shared “popularity”) as they do, is that they must interface with the same issue. Enter (and who didn’t see this coming…) Douglas Hofstadter. By the mid-80’s, Hofstadter had issued what amounted to an apology for using masculine-biased pronouns in his Gödel-Escher-Bach, and further written as convincing an argument for de-masculinization as I’ve read (unfortunately the family copy of Metamagical Themas lives with someone else (Chapters 7 and 8 are the two at issue here), so I don’t have the text on hand to quote from), and furthermore has committedly written in gender-neutral terms ever since. For instance, from 2007’s I Am a Strange Loop:

When I was fourteen years old, browsing in a bookstore, I stumbled upon a little paperback entitled “Gödel’s Proof”. I had no idea who this Gödel person was or what he (I’m sure I didn’t think “he or she” at that early age and stage of my life) might have proven, but the idea of a whole book about just one mathematical proof – any mathematical proof – intrigued me.

We’ve discussed I Am A Strange Loop to some extent on this blog before. As is often the case with this book, as I’ve mentioned before, there is as much to be gleaned from Hofstadter’s unstated assumptions as from what he wrote. And I will also mention that reading this book, one does notice that it is written gender-neutral (though, again, when I was reading it I was already well aware of his stance on the issue so was probably prone to noticing), but it certainly is not distracting, and most definitely not “seriously distracting”—the extent of my distraction went something like “Oh, this is written gender-neutral. Cool.” And then I went back to reading.

What Hofstadter takes as given, in his brief aside there, is that the “he”-bias is learned (this is appropriately taken as given). This helps to anchor our interpretation of both Dawkins’s and Robbins’s stances; they both learned the “he”-bias, and whether concerned with style or readability, are unwilling to unlearn their biases or re-learn (or invent) a new solution. But here in this short passage, we have the implied narrative (an end note, in fact, references the reader to Metamagical Themas) of Hofstadter’s own success in un“he”ing his language (which he seems to accomplish mostly through avoiding sentence structures that lend themselves to needing such pronouns in the first place, or using “one,” or “he or she,” or whatever when he needs to).

Though I’ve already successfully detached myself from teaching college-level essay writing (opting for some computer-hacking instead (still waiting for my tab)—which you’ll surely be linked to from here once that (an online literary journal) exists on the internet as well), but in my single year embedded in the front lines in the battle against college-entrance level sub-mediocrity, the pronoun issue came up several times. It does seem that feminism has seen some amount of success on this issue—professors and theorists alike are still concerned about the matter, and, in fact, “he” as the default pronoun is no longer a given. But along with this, a different problem has arisen, which is surely the sort of style-problem of which Robbins, at least, was wary: “their.”

In language, both written and spoken, “their” is being used more and more as the pronoun for gender-neutral, singular, nouns. “Their,” of course, is plural, and the resulting language is hideous and schizophrenic (and I must admit that it took some amount of work to expunge this particular habit from my own (especially spoken) language—though I’d generally claim that I’ve been successful in that project). It’s also the kind of thing that I didn’t have time to teach in my college writing class – there were plenty of other even more fundamental problems to deal with, and barely enough time to teach the core curriculum (I, of course, am thus assigning this problem to all other situations of other people that are/were similar to my own).

So the solution I would give to the problem explicated above is now given as education at an early level. If some of our best writers and stylists are either so committed to “he,” “him,” and “his,” or had to be so pro-active in adjusting their methods, what chance does the everyperson (ha ha ha) have? Yeah, like education is gonna get fixed anytime soon. So the question, then, since this (misusing “their”) seems to be the only solution available, is whether it is better to have people, rightly concerned about gender-bias in their language, misusing “their” writing off the issue to the future to solve and standing by the default to the masculine? As someone who likes to think that I consider my own style when I write, it’s hard to see (I don’t see) “their” as better than “his,” but at the same time I cannot believe that the masculine default reads better than a text riddled with “person”s, “one”s, and “he or she”s. One certainly mustn’t argue so strongly, though, for his or her own’s masculine bias. Or at least apologize for it (I don’t know that Dawkins has ever returned to the subject).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Up and At Them

I'm about a third of the way through Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which I think is the single best work of nonfiction I've ever read. You should track this down, or borrow it from me during the holidays. (Or from Pete, since I got this for him for his birthday last year, before I'd read it.)

The front cover points out rather quickly that the book (published in 1986) won Rhodes the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. It is indeed that kind of book.

In part I, Rhodes interweaves a survey of the advances in physics from about 1900 (from Ernest Rutherford's discovery of the nucleus; it's mind-boggling how much took place within a half-century) with biographies of the major figures involved (Rutherford, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi) and who'd become involved later on (Oppenheimer, Edward Teller), following their work and their displacement from Hitler's antisemitic campaigns of the 1930s. One chapter describes the gas warfare and air raids of World War I as a precursor of the industrial-scale war and modern military technology to follow in World War II. This adds up into a sweeping story that, simultaneously, accessibly recapitulates the early development of nuclear physics, crisply sketches the fascinating scientific personalities involved, and grippingly evokes Europe's tilt into World War II. Rhodes paces himself extraordinarily well. This is just a really good book.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hard-to-Understand Matters of Actual Import

That is to say, not the strong suit of the classic amateur blog. Yet:

1. Does polling overstate the election-day performance of African-American political candidates? The effect has been observed in the past, but research by a grad student up at Harvard suggests that no such gap has persisted beyond the early 1990s. Well, let's hope that's correct.

2. How much global-warming-induced sea level rise are we looking at before 2100? Items reported by RealClimate, here plus followup: could be a couple of feet or more. (Maybe you follow this more closely than I do, but I've usually understood sea level rise as more catastrophic but also much more distant, that is, beyond the point where we can't unscrew ourselves over.) But, who knows.

Financial system? Not touching that one.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bobblehistory, plus Bonus Palin-Related Laffs

The real beauty of Wikipedia, I believe, is in the stuff it occurs to you out of nowhere to look up and for which there's not much at stake if something is a little inaccurate. Don't ask me why I looked up bobbleheads today, but there's a rich and storied history here:
The earliest known reference to a bobblehead is thought to be in Nikolai Gogol's 1842 short story The Overcoat, in which the main character's neck was described as "like the necks of plaster cats which wag their heads". The modern bobblehead first appeared in the 1950s. By 1960, Major League Baseball had gotten in on the action and produced a series of papier-mache bobblehead dolls, one for each team, all with the same cherubic face. The World Series held that year brought the first player-specific baseball bobbleheads, for Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Willie Mays, still all with the same face.
Well, they all mostly looked alike anyway. From there, the history is a couple decades of neglect and an eventual resurgence in the age of plastics.

Under "External Links," a single item:
Jewish Currents magazine- Bobblehead doll of Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem.
I may have thought about bobbleheads because I acquired one at the Pirates game I saw in Pittsburgh three weekends ago. Pictured at right: Richie Zisk, who played on the '79 team that won the World Series when Nate and I were still in utero. Everything I know about Richie Zisk I learned from this bobblehead:
Richie Zisk Fact #1. Richie Zisk had a '70s mustache.

Richie Zisk Fact #2. Richie Zisk was sponsored by SONY.
Those are all the facts I know about Richie Zisk.

Bobbleheads can be kind of a curse: they feel too expensive to just throw away, but there's only so much you can do with them. I guess Nate's free table at work method of ditching his Willie Randolph bobblehead is probably the way to go. I doubt there are many Richie Zisk fans at the Press, though.

Those are all the facts I know about bobbleheads.

* * * * *

Bonus Palin-Related Laffs! This video has been on The Internet long enough that you've probably already seen it, but in case not:

Classical Playlist Goodness 9/18

Radio playlist for tonight . . .
Arthur Honegger, Pastorale d'été (1920)

Bohuslav Martinů, Nonet (1959)

Vincent d'Indy, Symphony on a French Mountain Song (1886)

Vítĕzslav Novák, "In the Church," from Slovak Suite (1903)

Claude Debussy, Cello Sonata (1915)

Max Bruch, Scottish Fantasy, op. 46 (1880)
I meant for this to be a late-19th-century lineup, but you see the pull the 20th century exerts. The must-hear on this list is the Debussy sonata. I'm really very fond of the Bruch fantasy too.

Hat tip to Robert A. Fradkin's pronunciation guide The Well-Tempered Announcer, which no one had previously checked out of the School of Music library since 1998. I've finally broken down and started saying "Honegger" without the initial "H."

Thursday 6 to 8 pm is definitely on as the official timeslot. Actual blogging in conjunction with this show will begin shortly, by next week's show if I pull my act together.

Streamlining One's References

Excerpted from a Gmail chat w/ Jack during his radio show, discussing how Yale's AM radio station manages it's empty time slots:

Jack: no, there's a robot DJ machine that plays randomized tracks
Pete: huh
Jack: it's actually a robot
Pete: (simpsons reference)
Jack: like, with metal arms
Jack: oh, good Simpsons reference

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Palin-Related Laffs

Via Talking Points Memo, I'm reminded that George Saunders has a gift for taking rhetoric to its weird, malignant extreme. And via everybody, I'm glad to see that NBC is leveraging the uncanny resemblance between Tina Fey and Sarah Palin, which since the Republican convention has tempered my political depression with an out-of-place wish that 30 Rock were airing new episodes already.

I guess I'll link to some Looming Financial Meltdown-Related Laffs, too, if I find any.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Hot Hot Music

So, as happens occasionally, something that I am involved in has surfaced on the internet. This time, a song recorded back in the day by my band Dirty Weekend, posted recently by my good friend Nick over at his podcast/blog: Scallions.

And don't worry, it's an instrumental track, so totally safe for work.

You Know You Got It When You're Going Insane

In a recent car ride with two friends of mine (Jamie and Dave), we found ourselves - I don't recall exactly how - talking about Ted Nugent, or "The Nuge." So far as we can tell, he's something of a phenomenon (and perhaps that goes without saying) - he became famous by singing a song about venereal disease (this may be how it came up - I was mentioning "Cat Scratch Fever" as a song which I had heard many many times as a child without ever figuring out what it was about), and for all intents and purposes should have been another one hit wonder with that song. I'm sure the Nuge himself would credit his persistence in the pop-cultural tapestry to this raw animal power (I'm thinking here of some concert footage that I saw at some point where he was running around on stage with his guitar wearing nothing but a loincloth and a raccoon-skin cap).

Simply put, The Nuge, somehow, was not just a one-hit wonder, and we were trying to determine other similar cases, whether also in rock n' roll, other genres of music, or any other field at large. I hereby open this discussion up to the greater Of Mild Consitituency, to find other Nuge Analogues. An example (come up with by Dave):

Al Franken. Al Franken had, what, like one funny character as an actor on SNL? They did, after all, make a movie about Stuart Smalley, and S.S. is still recognized by older-than-20 types as a pop-cultural reference. Somehow, though, despite any solid reason (I guess he's funny, that Al guy?), Al Franken has maintained some kind of visibility in the public eye, mostly through quasi-comedic liberal punditry. To the point where he's now running for senate in Minnesota. The Nuge, as you all probably know, has been an insanely conservative radio talk show host for quite a while. Therefore Al Franken is the Ted Nugent of liberal political comedy.

Now its your turn!

RIP David Foster Wallace

So David Foster Wallace killed himself on Friday. (Here's the LA Times obit.) This is somewhat shocking to me - I read Infinite Jest some year's back, and snippets of his other writing as well over time (including most of his most recent book of Essays, Considering the Lobster). It seems odd to me that I writer so in love with his own writing could be so suicidal. Infinite Jest has a special place, in that while I've never regretted having read it, the book had a remarkable decay-in-resonance after I read it; that is, I liked the book less and less as more time passed after I had finished it (this can be partially blamed on Wallace's terrible book about Infinity alone). So when the writer that you love to hate kills himself, that's shocking.

Also, within the context of the fact that I'm a grad student in creative writing, of all things, I can also state that most people assume that I really like David Foster Wallace, and often times find that my writing style is influenced by his (for instance, replace all the parentheticals I've ever written with footnotes, and uh oh...(and I was reminded late Saturday night, when I was first alerted to DFW's death, hanging out with a few other grad student writers, that I have, in fact, written a poem with footnotes). To the point where I would think to myself of the "Cartoon Wars" episode of South Park where Cartman goes off on a rant, saying "Don't you ever compare me to Family Guy!" and includes people just assuming that because of his sense of humor, he must like Family Guy, only I would be saying "Don't you ever compare me to David Foster Wallace." (Which is ridiculous, I know - don't think that this anecdote bears any kind of self-importance of my own writing.)

But, yeah, so at any rate, I guess literary suicides pop up every few years (the last being, correct me, Hunter S. Thompson (who totally earned his, I mean seriously, that was shocking, but not surprising). I'll be curious to see what kind of wildly discursive posthumous writings appear from DFW. I hope there's something.


And if you care to read something in the meantime, this commencement address DFW gave a couple years ago is worth reading (though I'd bet its been hyperlinked to like a motherfucker in the last couple of days).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Steelers 10, Browns 6

Well, it's not the most dynamic Steelers game ever, but this is a good win to have, and the defense looks good. Roethlisberger comes up with a handful of huge pass plays even in the remnants of Hurricane Ike, though I hope we don't have to worry about that shoulder. Much of the story is still the Browns' shoddiness near the end zone, especially the awful clock management by Romeo Crennell.

Watched this one in the quietude of my own apartment, though with liberal texting back and forth with Nate: the nothin'-special status quo for nationally broadcast games.

Happy workweek, everyone. . . .

Park and Beacon

Sunday may be a day for doing chores around the house and watching football (I'll let the reader estimate the proportion of each activity), but Saturday was a day for driving a couple hours west to the Hudson to visit two artistic landmarks across the river from each other, the spacious Storm King Art Center and the post-60s gallery Dia:Beacon. Going with Ellen and one of her friends, Bekah, and Bekah's boyfriend Ben made this a kind of high-concept double date, I suppose.

This is a day trip well worth making within a radius of a couple hours' travel.

I went up to Storm King a couple of times when I lived in New York but hadn't been there for a few years. It's a pretty special place, with these large steel sculptures set out with way more space around them than they get in the urban plazas or museum courtyards where you usually see them. A particularly great area is populated by several compositions by Mark di Suvero, who works in a signature style of large steel-beam constructions. (He also works in Long Island City, Queens, and created the Socrates Sculpture Park there, though I always found that spot more notable for its scrappy energy than for its up-and-comers' artworks.) Also at Storm King are some large, late stabiles by Alexander Calder and a few installations by Alexander Liberman, who also created a sculpture outside the federal courthouse in New Haven.

It was a bit muggy for an extended hike up and down the park's hills, but I always like being there.

Dia:Beacon is surprisingly large in its own right, situated in a onetime box-printing facility that always seems to have another huge, high room beyond the one you're in. The collection harbors a kind of modular-minimalism fixation -- many of these sprawling rooms are occupied with inexactly repeating forms, whether they're paintings (Blinky Palermo) or wall drawings (Sol LeWitt) or nonfunctional IKEA-looking boxy white sculpture things (LeWitt again) or plywood cubes (Donald Judd). One room contains the only Andy Warhol work that I've genuinely enjoyed looking at, a series of variously colored abstract prints titled "Shadows" that mix-and-match a couple of forms with a large handful of bright or gloweringly dark colors. I felt that it hinted at an amorphous subsurface anxiety. Warhol called it "disco decor."

My favorite installation in the gallery is the four-part series of Torqued Ellipses by Richard Serra, these large weathered-steel gizzies that barrier off some then aesthetically charged interior space and, in one case, nests one form within another to create a disorienting fold of a corridor into the center. The moral of the story, similar to Storm King's, may be that art you can wander around in is a treat.

In between art landmarks we stopped for lunch, managing to find a barbecue place having its grand opening this very weekend in centrally located Newburgh. Very satisfying.

(from left: Ellen, Ellen's friend Bekah, Bekah's boyfriend Ben.)

Brett Favre!!!

All right week 2 here we GO! Jets Patriots: can BRETT FAVRE be the awesome like dynamo MATT CASSEL? I'm so there, like on my couch! I'm all ready with some REALLY AWESOME food products like chips and Desert Pepper Trading Company brand Peach Mango Salsa and some Boca Chik'n Nuggets with barbecue sauce! And a sixer of Brooklyn Brewery Oktoberfest!! I encourage you to make SIMILAR CONSUMER PURCHASES

Wow, missed field goal by the JETS!! This game is so off the hook already!

Link to my blog now: http://ofmildinterest.blogspot.com/2008/09/brett-favre.html

Thursday, September 11, 2008

You're Never Too Old for College Radio

So I did my first show on the local Ivy League U's undergraduate AM radio station tonight, so I think I'm back in business on the College Radio front. The story's that if I broadcast another show next Thursday from 6 to 8 pm, I've got the time slot for the semester, which is good news. I will keep you posted.

* * * * *

Updated 9/14 with playlist. Supplied by popular request, if by "popular" you mean "Nate." Once I ramp up the radio show to full power I plan to start blogging about what I'm playing. Nate, in return for this I want you to post your IKEA cartoon.

(I'm linking to Amazon pages for these CDs for ease of identifying the recordings -- don't read any kind of equivalence between artistic appreciation and commercial consumption into the act.)

Howard Hanson: Serenade for Flute, Harp, and Strings, op. 35 (1946)

Samuel Barber: Violin Concerto, op. 14 (1939)

Alan Hovhaness: Symphony No. 2, "Mysterious Mountain" (1955)

John Adams: The Chairman Dances (1985)

Peter Schickele: String Quartet No. 5, "A Year in the Country" (1998)

Christopher Rouse: Rapture (2000)

No real theme here, outside of these all being 20th-century American pieces written in varying modern but expressive styles.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Incisive Political Analysis!

In the course of a typically intellectually charged email correspondence today, Nate contextualized the current Obama/"lipstick on a pig" kerfuffle from the crucial Muppets Take Manhattan angle:

In all seriousness, anyone who considers Frank Oz to be unprepared to voice the next Vice President of the United States is a despicable elitist.

I Enjoy It When Nobel Prize-Winners Think Like I Do

No, I'm not talking about Henry Kissinger...

rather, Rajendra Pachauri...


"By the numbers, Pachauri is absolutely right. In a 2006 report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions — by comparison, all the world's cars, trains, planes and boats account for a combined 13% of greenhouse gas emissions."

..and further...

"So is Pachauri right that going vegetarian can save the planet? (At least the 68-year-old Indian economist practices what he preaches.) It's true that giving up that average 176 lb. of meat a year is one of the greenest lifestyle changes you can make as an individual. "

Monday, September 08, 2008


Something on The Internet makes a point about opportunity cost and the relationship between economic and psychological well-being and includes a Carlos Kleiber anecdote! Let's link to that. (via Tim Mangan.)

Music and undergraduate-level economics, together at last.

The best part is Herbert van Karajan's description of Kleiber, quoted from this 1990 article about Kleiber in the Guardian:
He tells me, "I only conduct when I am hungry." And it is true. He has a deep-freeze. He fills it up, and cooks for himself, and when it gets down to a certain level then he thinks, "now I might do a concert." He is like a wolf.
I don't believe in the "There Is a Single Best Recording" paradigm of classical music listening, but I might make an exception for Kleiber's recording of the Beethoven Fifth and Seventh Symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic. Really, it's the "If You Only Listen to One Classical CD in Your Life Make It This One" disc.

* * * * *

One wonders, "Say, here's a recording I think is the 'If You Only Listen to One Classical CD in Your Life Make It This One' disc. I wonder who is rating it like one or two stars on Amazon?" Let us hear the rebuttal by one Mr. P. Fitton of Oldham, Manchester, UK:
if this is the greatest classical recording/performance of all time - as seems to be the general consensus - then shouldn't the tympani sound a bit more like tympani and rather less like someone banging a door with a mallet? The kettle drum sound is appalling throughout, which might matter a little less if they weren't so ludicrously prominent in the mix or if their owner didn't seem to have had, at times, only an approximate idea of when his job description required him to hit the things. I take it this is the same player who marred some of the Maazel/VPO Sibelius cycle some years earlier? Either way it sounds like he's building a shed.
He has some further criticisms, but they're less hilariously crotchety.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Are You Ready For Some Pancakes Football?

Today is a day of almost Biblical auspiciousness in my annual Pittsburgh-sports-team-following cycle: The long slog through the desert of following the Pirates gives way to the promised but still frequently difficult land of following the Steelers.

They play the Houston Texans* starting at 1 PM Eastern time. However, in a change that I've been looking forward to, I'm in the Pacific time zone where the game starts at 10 AM local time. So: Football breakfast!

A downside is that I'm no longer within broadcasting range of an AFC North market like Baltimore, so fewer of the Steelers' non-primetime games will be viewable through my bare-bones cable package. (Today, for instance, the Regional Action being served up by the local CBS affiliate is Jets/Dolphins, whose play-by-play I suspect will just be a repeated "Brett Favre Brett Favre Brett Favre".) So, at least for today, football breakfast cannot take on its comfortable at-home form, which I assume would be eating leftover muhammara** from a potluck yesterday out of a Pyrex bowl while sitting on my couch in my pajamas. But Kyle and I will try out the sports bar closest to my couch, four or five blocks away; she plans to invite her sister so they can converse like humans while I, in all probability, will just be muttering to myself while watching the game on a soundless secondary screen. Good times, especially if they have mimosas.

* I kind of hope the NFL will relocate that franchise to L.A. someday, but make it keep the same name.

** The girlfriend and I like this recipe a lot; the pomegranate syrup is critical. Also we like to blender-ize ("blend"?) it to a slightly grainy puree.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Stripe-shirted Men and the People Who Cannot Find Them

Reading about the various evils of the newly announced conservative corporate vice-lackey in running (I was going to write "to be" there and crack another joke about how people like me not voting are going to lose the upcoming election for the "good" guys (and gals), but Jack asked me to stop joking about my untenable quasi-apathetic stance on the whole issue, so I'm not going to (especially because I may finally be tipped towards, like, actually voting, or something)), I stumbled across the tid-bit that she once upon a time, when Mayor of some podunk dorf, she called her library to inquire about how she might, as mayor, go about banning books (okay, throw a book-banner on your ballot, I guess I have to go out and vote against you; see what I mean?), which led me to checking out the ALA's list of the most frequently challenged books of the 1990s. Pretty interesting.

I think we can all go ahead and assume that Ms. Jesus-is-my-CEO was, back as mayor, looking to ban #88 on the list: Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford. What did Waldo ever do to anyone? I mean, I'll admit, that last page where it's all people dressed like Waldo is tough, but do we really have to ban the book from our libraries just because it's challenging?