Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Clump of Prose a Bit More Mangled Than Usual

I don't think, re: Jack's comment on last week's post about books, that become a completist for any one author suddenly makes my reading any less diverse. Certainly not the case. What I am more curious about, is his comment to the post before that's reference to Powers being like Pynchon--a comparison that almost certainly was gleaned from some blurb or another. My one German friend who reads these dudes in German translation reads them both and he also made the association--possibly from a blurb translated into German, so I reckon its there for the making. But, knowing that Jack is out of town for a week (though I'm sure he'll read this soon enough, with just me and Nate blogging (which is practically just me), there probably won't be much backlog of posted matter (I've been pretty successful, at least for May, in only going to the internet intermittently, which should keep up, so even if I wanted to post every day, "every day" is only a couple days a week anyway)), maybe I should wait, since he's the only person I know that reads this blog that has also read enough Pynchon (Jack, since he's apparently against such things, has not read all of Pynchon's books the way I have (not that anyone can read the way I do--I read often and doggedly--even in my holiday mode of reading this May (just reading novels) I've still read more than necessary (just finished Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle yesterday), or more than I have at any period of my life where I haven't spend relatively large portions of most days on public transport... man, sorry, I lost track of this sentence, got caught up in my own self-celebrating, I guess... I mean, kind of preemptively embarrassed, like "here he [Pete] goes again, talking about how much he f-ing reads all the time..."

But, the aforementioned Murakami book also had a blurb comparison to Pynchon, as did a blurb on the next book I started reading, David Foster Wallace's Broom of the System (a book which, given my apparent track record as a reader, above-terribly-failingly-self-praised, many associates of mine had assumed I'd already read by now). So I guess, if a modern American (male) that isn't Philip Roth and isn't Richard Ford writes a book that seems at all ambitious, it gets compared to Pynchon. Reasonable and not. And there's many ways to compare different authors. I'm trying to think if The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was compared to Pynchon in any of its blurbs (could've been compared to Infinite Jest, though, since it joins the quasi-pantheon of great-novels-with-footnotes (filling out said grouping: Puig's Kiss of the Spider Woman and Danielewski's House of Leaves; others out there?)). It sort doesn't mean anything, though, comparing stuff to Pynchon, like comparing stuff to any other established masters, except that I don't get any sense of lineage from Pynchon to these younger writers, certainly an influence, but not lineage.

I'm liking Broom of the System quite a bit, incidentally. Reading it pretty swiftly (or maybe that's just the being-unemployed day-melt of hours-less-meaningful-as-units-of-time-when-you-only-do-what-you-care-to-be-doing-at-any-given-mini-epoch); I'm remembering fondly the breakneck pace at which I devoured Infinite Jest (something I actually nostalogize about kind of often), and then the way that slowly, with time, I liked IJ less and less. Reasons: 1) nobody else has read it, or not all of it anyway, so I've never had a conversation about it that didn't mostly go "Wow, you read that whole thing? I got maybe 200 pages into it and just stopped..." (not quite true; I know two friends that read it and like it more than me (but neither of them have read Gravity's Rainbow)) 2) DFW's oft-maligned-by-me book about Cantor/infinity, which was bad to the point of making me dislike IJ in retrospect.

Not that I'm about to go on a tear and complete my DFW readings (I'll wait 'til his unfinished last novel is published before even beginning to bother).

Anyhoo, all for now.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Off to Quebec

Sorry for not writing anything this week. And then tomorrow I'm off to Quebec with Sarah for the next 10 days. So don't wait up!

Happy Memorial Day, etc.

Baseball & Books & Beer

I went to the Marlins game last night with a couple of friends. We had had notions on getting in on a sweet ticket promotion--box seats for only eight bucks (insert robotic comment link to similar promotion)!--but the game being a doubleheader threw off those plans. But, several parking lot beers and a handful of scalped tickets later we wandered into the stadium at about 8:30, as the majority of fans poured out, just in time for the second of the two games. Marlins vs. Diamonbacks. '90s expansion classic. Not particularly compelling baseball, but my general liking of baseball continues. Our seats were in the front row of the Marlins bullpen box, so afforded a decent view of the field of play as well as the delightful distraction of watching various pitchers warm up.

And trying to get the attention of the bullpen catcher, to get a baseball. But there were too many damn anklebiters around for cynical fatsos like myself to get any tossed-ball action. The damn wiener kids seated a few seats over from us, both of whom already had baseballs, kept asking the catcher for more. WTF, kids. F-ing Miami, materialists, greedy. Daddy I want two Mercedeses. As with any slow baseball game, though, this ball-distraction and related cynicism added to the quality of banter, and I think I really had my A-game out last night, in terms of my cynical/witty/caustic/etc running commentary.

The game went into extra innings as well. We didn't stick it our for the whole thing, but were there in the ninth inning when Cody Ross, the Marlins' right fielder, popped out with the bases loaded. And then listened on the radio in the I guess it was eleventh, when Cody Ross hit into a double play with the bases loaded. Which, while it sucks, is kind of awesome, because Ross is inexplicably popular with the fans down here. I guess he's the kind of guy you can't help but like. Short, ugly, hard-working, bats around .250 with generally unimpressive numbers, but looks appropriately unhappy with himself after batting and fielding mishaps to keep the fans cheering for him. I think there were several years around the turn of the millenium where the Pirates fielded entire teams made up of Cody Ross types. So that's probably why I was so quick to scorn the guy. But he earned his scorn.

In other news, I did just complete my becoming a Richard Powers completist. His first couple books are okay, nothing special, but definitely concretize my sense of who he is as a novelist. I think Jack's comparison to Brahms is very apt, but I've been scratching my head in trying to flesh out more author-to-composer analogies. Pynchon is Berlioz? And who is the Petterson of novel-writing? Who writes the angriest, crunchiest novels?

It kind of makes me want to do more entire-corpus reading. I also remembered the other day that I've read all of Curtis White's books. But no one's ever heard of him. I've come close on a few other authors over the years, like Philip K. Dick, Faulkner, Barthelme, Kundera (plus a few of those "science" writers we like so much have had most of their book-length publications read by yours truly (Dawkins, Dennett, Hoftstadter, Pinker, Diamond). And read the complete poems of several poets. I guess Philip Roth occurs to me as the next writer that I could go through a major phase on. I really liked American Pastoral, and the Human Stain, so it makes sense to go back and read his other 30 books from the last what? like 50 years? And once David Foster Wallace has been dead longer I'll go back and pick up the scraps of the books of his I haven't read (though I don't think that'll include trying to reread his book on infinity).

And finally, although my current jobless state should demand a certain amount of fiscal responsibility (it does and is), I'm sneaking off to Delaware next weekend with a few friends from the program down here, for a weekend vacation at a friend's parents' beach house. How can I rationalize such a thing? Dude's parents' beach house is, apparently, maybe 10 minutes away from Dogfishhead Brewery/Pub. Can't miss it. I'll be taking requests all week for beers you'd like me to drink on your behalf, fresh from the source.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Super Happy Orchestral Fun Hour

Kind of a blocky radio playlist tonight (Strauss! Hindemith! Dutilleux! Nielsen! Metamorphosen! Violin Concerto! Tout un monde lontain! Symphony No. 5!), so I'll simply refer you to the somewhat strange Wikipedia page for F-flat major, which turns up when you're trying to look up the exact composition date of Metamorphosen.

New laptop = more involved radio, soon. Stay tuned.

Miami Livin': Bowling Edition

Last night I headed up to Hollywood, FL (named after the *real* Hollywood in California) with a few friends and a couple handfuls of friends and co-workers of one of those friends to do some bowling. It was actually my first bowling outing in Florida since the family was down here back in ought-seven and we went bowling on South Beach, which is too bad, since I really like to bowl, somehow. I tend to assign it to a Pittsburgh heritage thing, since the 'Burgh has got its fair share of alleys. The family went bowling over the Winter holiday, to generally good effect; we tend to go bowling, either as a nuclear or a extended family around the Winter festivals--I bowled pretty well then (not "good" but not "bad" either).

At some point, a while back, down here, trying to drum up some interest in bowling-going amongst my fellow MFAers, I let drop the fact that I have own my own bowling ball, which immediately garnered me with some reputation of being, like, a pretty good bowler (and back in high school, when I used said bowling ball with the most frequency that I ever did--there was a summer where I went bowling with our Grandfather pretty much weekly, and I was consistently in the 150s, 160s, which is quite respectable, I think; certainly not Mikey-caliber scores (but then again, I don't have any ganglion cysts in my wrist either), but pretty good). So, of course, leading up to the bowling outing last night, there was some expectation that I would kick everyones ass. Unfortunately, as per typical, I bowled rather poorly.

Actually, I bowled almost as bad as I did during an ill-fated handful of games that I bowled once upon a time in New Haven, in a bowling outing Jack and I both agreed to never speak of again (in fact, this bowling that I'm speaking of--it doesn't really exist, this is hearsay, legend, myth), which marked the worst bowling I'd done since the quasi-legendary time I went bowling back in college, in the evening after gorging myself at an Indian buffet for lunch, when I bowled something like a 54 because there was more food in me than my stomach and esophagus could hold let alone digest (I later threw up much of that binge-meal on Forbes Avenue, right at Murray Ave, having had to leave the post-bowling bar because I was too full to drink beer and was feeling quite lousy... hmm... maybe that last bit is too gross to have just admitted to on the blog?). Indian buffets will do that to you, though, if you're not careful (though I've never had a repeat of that sort of eating catastrophe, I still tend to wind up with more food on my second plate than I can ever eat, which is consistently embarrassing (as opposed to throwing up at/on a major intersection, which is awesome and a great story)).

At any rate, I bowled badly, and was embarrassed. Especially because two-thirds of the group were people I'd only just met, or only met in passing once or twice before. And all of them were astounded/horrified by the ridiculous velocity at which I throw/roll a bowling ball, and the terrible crash it makes when it mercilessly crushes the pins. When the Pete method of bowling works, it's pretty great, because strikes are about the best things ever since the pins disintegrate from their places with alarming speed and sound. But, man, when I have an off night, it's pretty ugly, especially since an army of young people seemed more horrified ("A lot of anger and stress in that throw?" "You don't have to kill the pins." "When he hits the head-pin, its all over, but..." etc.) and less impressed than the average collection of blood relatives, in terms of said caveman bowling power. And of course, I can't really bowl with finesse anymore, and when I buckled a bit under self-applied pressure to be less ridiculous, and tried to not throw the ball as hard as possible, I did even worse. Recovered in the third game, barely, and had the high score on my screen, but other than that, little to no evidence that I was ever a respectable, however cavemaniacal, bowler. "I'm usually much better. I swear."

The only slight ameliorative was some successful coaching of a friend who had only bowled a few times in his life. Basic pointers, like don't throw across your body, throw the ball out onto the lane, hold the ball like such, etc, but did it without nagging and he actually considerably improved (actually beat me one game (that's how bad I did, ugh).

As for analyzing what went wrong, other than an appeal to the same kind of anxiety which plagued me as a musician, cracking under the pressure of trying to impress strangers, I'd say that the lack of 16 pounds balls didn't help, since part of me doing better as a set of games progresses is eventually my arm and wrist getting slightly tired so that I can't throw the ball as stupidly hard, even when I want to; with a 14 point ball I had too much stamina. Hence the better score in the third game.

At the very least, despite the fact that it will be the middle of summer, when we're back in Pittsburgh, we're going bowling, guys. Gotta get my bowl-mo-jo back.

This Week in Posturing

So, my digital-pictorial presence on the internet as poet-imposter has seemingly doubled (not counting instances on the facebook (which are still hopefully at least quasi-private)), thanks to this picture on this other blog.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gone Hikin'

Nate + Kyle, originally uploaded by nateborr.

This is a kindly passer-by's (passer's-by?) snapshot of me and Kyle most of the way up the Dog Mountain trail on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge last weekend. The mound in the background on the right is the 1800-foot Wind Mountain (like Pennsylvania, the Northwest apparently also has "mountains" of extremely modest height, along with the legitimately large Cascades) whose elevation relative to us was an important barometer on the hike back down to the only restroom at the trailhead.

This is not the most flattering picture of me -- here I'm wearing my sunglasses from 1998 and some too-warm, matte gray synthetic clothing layers that I think look like sweaty pajamas would on Star Trek -- but Kyle looks good, and I think something of the awesomeness of the scenery is conveyed.

Tonight we're starting our drive towards Yosemite for a three-night camping trip there. Really looking forward to it -- I haven't been to the park before -- though there's been some last minute packing and trip-coordinating that's been eating up time since this past weekend like a bear scavenging an improperly secured food locker. So, yay, but also, slightly, aaagh.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Burgh Ball, Such as It Is, in Queens

The Pirates had their yearly away series against the Mets this weekend, and actually for the first time I dropped in to watch them play, along with Sarah and Stu. There were a few Pirates fans around, although none of us had a lot to cheer for -- this was Saturday, so we saw Paul Malholm get shellacked for seven runs over five innings. Maholm managed to hit a home run in one of his at bats, a lofting fly ball that must have just barely cleared the right field fence. (We couldn't see that corner of the field from our seats in the right field Promenade, the high-altitude section. This way we also managed to miss Brandon Moss sliding more or less towards a shallower fly ball that subsequently bounced past him for a triple.) That was the Pirates' only run, and really the only glimmer of anything good that happened to them on an overcast and muggy day. Also, I'm not sure what possessed them to match black jerseys with gray pants, but they need to not do that. I'm almost completely fashion-blind and even I know not to do that.

Tiny baseball!
For those of you scoring at home, the Pirates have spun that promising 11–7 start through an evening-out at 12–12 and on towards a projected finish of something like 12–150. Hey, there's always next year. Or seventeen next years from now.

Citi Field doesn't impress me that much (although the Post Gazette's Dejan Kovacevic loves it) -- it seems like a larger, more corporate version of the new wave of old-style parks. There's not a lot of character; the air-conditioned rotunda you enter into feels like an airport; there's no view of anything in particular past the stadium (mostly that's the same old situation in Flushing, Queens, though); the obligatory outfield-wall notch looks more arbitrary than distinctive. There's a very bland-looking sign underneath the jumbotron reading "Let's Go Mets" in a similar font to the Citibank logo. (Citibank! Like the Mets, they've got a metropolitan name, a building in Queens, and a decent chance of collapsing before the end of baseball season.) It's probably a lot better down from the nosebleed seats, where you don't hear the crack of the bat on the ball, unless Carlos Beltran happens to slug a 440-foot line drive off of Paul Malholm. And I think it would look good lit up at night. The park looks great from the outside, though, all bricks and beams.
Mmmmm, knishes.
Seriously, make your own sardonic joke.
We'd driven down (borrowing a car from one of Sarah's friends) and so afterwards we drove up the Grand Central Parkway into Astoria and the old neighborhood, enjoying the improving evening by admiring the Hell Gate Bridge at Astoria Park and having a really excellent dinner at Agnanti, one of the fine Greek eateries (and the only one with sidewalk seating right adjacent to the park): good tatziki, fresh pita, salmon-stuffed grape leaves, excellent octopus. And we took the pleasanter-than-95 Hutchinson Parkway on the way home, with Sarah reading a couple of chapters out of a charming Japanese novelette the title of which eludes me. So all and all it turned out to be an excellent day. That might be all the Burgh Ball I get this season, though.

The Triboro, the less scenic of Astoria Park's two bridges. But good company!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nuevo Laptop!

I've finally gotten around to replacing my old dead laptop (2003–2008) with a new living laptop, a Toshiba Satellite something something that Consumer Reports rated highly with good value. (Yes, I am my father's son. And my own brother, or so would think the Consumer Reports website pay-content login page. Thanks Nate!) It's a bit on the ugly side, but I didn't get a good look at it before ordering it and then picking it up at the local Best Buy. But much like a person, a laptop gets more tolerably ugly when you realize that it can be useful to you. Anyway, the upshot is that I've rejoined the late 1990s technology-wise.

The Musical Sound of the Ever-Expanding Sea

I was noticing to myself yesterday (or really, have been noticing this fact on and off for the last 11 days or so), that normally, by this time of the year--for the last two years anyway--my contribution to the ol' blog here would be multiple-times weekly reports from all the amazing concerts I've been attending in Berlin. Of course, I'm not in Berlin (and not even in New York, as was the pre-recession plan for my summer, where I could be currently getting at least something of a Berlin fix with the Boulez/Barenboim/Staatkapelle/Mahler thing going on at Carnegie Hall), and not going to any concerts, so that obviously precludes my writing any concert reports. And the combination of not having internet at my apartment and not wanting to go to campus any more often than I have to will probably even limit my internet usage (emailing and blogging) to only a couple days a week. Which is perhaps most similar to the Portland months, except that Portland was such a nice city to walk around in that I ended up going to the library to internet almost every day. At any rate, I do like having the internet as a place that I go to, since it has a non-standard preposition that way.

But I am left, Berlin-less, concert-less, and scratching my head and just what I'll have to say for myself, especially if my current shiftless laying about extends for many weeks. So here's a couple things I've meant to blog recently but haven't gotten around to just yet:

1) I recently read Richard Powers's Operation Wandering Soul, as part of my 2008-09 quest to become a Powers completist. I'm now 6/7 of the way through Prisoner's Dillemma, and will have only Three Farmers on Their Way to a [the?] Dance left before being totally caught up. I think the completist impulse is common enough, but the only (fiction) writer that I can think of that I've actually read everything by is Thomas Pynchon. So it'll be good to have a second name to add to the list. And Pynchon and Powers get compared now and then, so it's within profile (a couple nights ago I was out with the miami poetry collective, and someone was actually asking about books we'd read recently, and I mentioned liking Paul Auster's most recent novel (a gift from the parents for the winter solstice co-opting seasonal gift-giving holiday), and immediately commented on how in-profile it is that I like Auster (and Powers, and Pynchon). But Powers has written several bonafiedly amazing novels, any and all of which I whole-heartedly recommend: The Goldbug Variations (a spontaneous gift from Dad not associated with any holiday), Gain (probably my favorite), and The Time of Our Singing are all great novels that I'm sure with more distance will be recognized as great novels of the era. Galatea 2.2. is good, and better if you've read the other books that he refers to in them. And Plowing the Dark isn't great, I don't think, but not bad, same with The Echo Maker.

But Operation Wandering Soul was particularly notable because its main character is an ex-French horn player. There's a small scene where said character is in Boston, in the winter, holding his horn at a T station outside the conservatory, having decided (or deciding) to quit playing forever which hit particularly close to home for me, for obvious reasons (all I did was shift the scene from Huntington Ave over to Commonwealth Ave and it was pretty much dead-on in resonance). So, yeah, it's kind of awkward to find a protagonist of a novel you're reading share a basic piece of backstory that is inescapable for yourself as well (I'm still incapable of explaining myself as a writer or a poet or even a graduate student without mentioning the failed French horn venture). I figure there's some chance that I'll eventually write the "French horn Poem" as some kind of major opus, or if I ever have that idea for the next great American novel, some character will have to play or have played the French horn, but to know that it's already happened, and in a great book by a famous author doesn't help my odds any.

But what can I do? When I still was a horn player, I always found amusing the number of people I met that were ex-horn players or closely connected to an ex-horn player. And now I'm numbered amongst them, and any literary value thereof has already been tapped by a better writer. Crap.

2) The beach in Miami, always beautiful, is especially so right around now. This is something I didn't know about last summer, since I was in Berlin by now. Not that I wouldn't rather be in Berlin, but you know, I'd rather be independently wealthy too and that's not the case either, so... But the air and sun are hot, but the water is still relatively cool, so it's pretty much the perfect combination, which somehow isn't the same as November, when the air is cool and the water is still pretty warm. So, yeah, May in Miami has its perks. I live slightly closer to the beach this year than last as well, so it's that much easier to get myself over there, and I don't this year experience the same kind of "what am I doing here?" quandaries when I get there like I was last Spring. Which is nice.

3) As usual, I felt like, when I was starting to number these things, that I had more news and notes to plug in here than I actually do. That happens with incredible consistency, so far as I can tell. I'm sure there's something else, I just can't remember what...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Raga Mans

There's no way to frame this without sounding (accurately) like a huge dork, so: here's a website for generating anagrams. You know you're going to have fun with it, you nerd.

If you rearrange the letters in my name, you get the eerily accurate "Rehab crack job."

Suggested Listening for a Rainy Night

Radio show playlist this Thursday:
Bedrich Smetana: Vltava (1874) for orchestra
Erwin Schulhoff: String Quartet No. 1 (1924)
Karol Szymanowski: Symphonie Concertante (1932) for piano and orchestra
Nikolai Miaskovsky: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1944–1945)
Antonin Dvorak: Piano Trio, op. 90 ("Dumky" – 1891)
Schulhoff was a Prague-born Jew killed in the camps during the Holocaust; he wrote some excellent chamber music, in particular, including this quartet, which I think I heard in New York a few years ago (it may have been his second quartet) as my introduction to the composer. He wrote in an interesting blend of lyrical folk-influenced music and slightly punchy modernism.

The Miaskovsky piece is just plain beautiful, although it's hard to take wartime Soviet romanticism without a really chilling reminder of cultural control.
* * * * *
Classically otherwise, the Washington Post's Anne Midgette has an interesting bit about Honeck and the PSO; since I haven't gotten to hear them together yet, I'm still very curious for reports about how things are going. (Andrew Druckenbrod in the Post-Gazette has been enthusiastic, which is a reliable good sign.) I was also excited to read her reminiscence there about Wolfgang Sawallisch's 1999 performance of "Tod und Verklärung" in Philadelphia; I went to one of those concerts and despite it being a full decade later I can still remember leaving that concert hall in a daze like it was yesterday. I didn't realize that Sawallisch's wife had just died, but he conducted that piece like the world depended on it -- every moment of that piece was part of a living breathing whole. One of the best orchestra concerts I've ever heard.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Purple Monkey Dishwasher

I ran out first thing this morning to get a new smell phone, having woken to find that the buttons on my now-replaced smell phone had mysteriously stopped working, motivated to act so swiftly (actually I've been putting off getting a new smell phone since September, when my previous plan/phone hit their two year mark and the end-of-contract-new-phone times that such anniversaries always bring ("always" maybe overstates it; this is only the second new phone I've gotten, since my initial jump to smellular telephony)) by the vague notion that maybe a potential employer would, like, call me and, like, I'd need to be able to answer. I switched back to Verizon, from my previous "The New" AT&T via Cingular, though I think my savings in this switch are negligible (maybe 5-7 dollars cheaper, but that comes more from not signing up for a text message plan--that's right, I'm going back of txt messaging, until further notice (until I get so many SMS messages that it seems cost effective enough to pay extra for it (only time it was ever really cost effective was in Portland, where the hip kids were texting all the time, and maybe during Steelers season, depending on how much the inter-brother message sending continues in the '09 season))), which, I suppose, is the reason why I waited until my phone actually broke before getting a new one.

Luckily, though, the ad-wizards at Verizon were able to get my old address book of my old phone, despite its unbuttonablity, so I don't have to do any of the contacting people to re-get their phone numbers thing (a right of passage in this smeullular world that I have still managed to avoid, thank goodness). I don't like to shop, so that's probably part of the delay as well, but I think this is the kind of scenario where I'm at my best (not that I'm ever particularly anti-social, and even if I was, working in retail so long, for a company that commanded cheeriness, certainly changed me forever in that regard), where I can, having only just gotten out of bed (it was, like 11:15 AM, so I suppose the nice woman who helped me wouldn'tve guessed I'd only been awake for maybe forty minutes--I'm still trying to scale back my time of waking-up, after the debacle in sleep behavior that was my past semester, managing to get up at 9:30ish yesterday, but relapsing by an hour today, with the eventual hope of actually getting up, like, early every day (and maybe even, one day, have a job to go to)) go into a store and request their cheapest product with their cheapest usage plan. The saleswoman was even able to guess that I didn't need the car charging adapter. Pretty sweet.

So now I have a new phone, and lost all the sweet-ass pictures I had on my last phone. Which is too bad. I had a bunch of pictures of postcards I'd painted, and waterfalls in Oregon on there that I never figured out how to get off the phone. O well. Serves me right for ever becoming attached the the camera phone thing in the first place. Though now that I look at it, the new phone was a camera too, and probably newer technology which could blast those pictures all over the place, for some not-nominal fee. Not that I would want to do that , anyway. Really, I don't want a phone at all. If it were at all practical, I'd get rid of the thing and switch back to a landline. Which is maybe practical, cause it would be way cheaper. And I'd probably get one of those pay-as-you go phones to still maintain the portable telephony. Is it really worth it, to pay all this money when it seems like the only reason I'm doing it is just to keep the same phone number I've had since 2004?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Worthy Cause, Unfortunate Logo

In part one of a one-part series I'll call "Worthy Cause, Unfortunate Logo" I present the following image from the Child Abuse Team (C.A.T.) of the Portland Police:

Where once there was a picture of Garfield, there now is this alt text

This is the only copy of the graphic that I've been able to find on the Internet and it's sort of blurry and unimpressive. But I see a more striking, four-foot tall version of this in a police station window every time I walk between the bus stop and my office downtown.

Now, to be clear, child abuse is very bad, so props to Garfield creator Jim Davis and Paws, Inc. for trying to harness the hydra-headed, globo-corporate Garfield brand to promote something that's good for children instead of Embassy Suites or whatever. And in a lot of contexts I think pairing a picture of Garfield with the phrase "STOP CHILD ABUSE" would have the desired effect.

Here, though, with Garfield seeming to aim a punch at the middle of the viewer's forehead? I see three possible, conflicting interpretations of how Garfield and text work together and I don't think the first is the most plausible:

  1. Garfield is raging more or less abstractly against the existence of child abuse as a pattern of behavior. The words represent his own point of view.

  2. Garfield is violently punishing a child abuser, quite possibly within a prison setting. The text cheers him on with perhaps unseemly enthusiasm.

  3. Garfield is abusing a child. The helpless logo-narrator implore us, the viewers, to stop him.

After thinking about this for about fifteen seconds twice every workday for three weeks I'm putting my money on the second option. Who knows, though? This sort of ambiguity of meaning enriches most art, including cartoon art, but for child welfare advocacy I think it just muddies the water. And not to pretend to be Mr. Policy Wonk but I think the message should emphasize education and coordinated police and social services intervention, not threats of cartoon cat violence. You can't just kick the problem off of a tabletop like it's your owner's mute, oblivious dog.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Departure of Baseball-Related Disappointment

OK, I think I'm done being disappointed now. That didn't take all that long, really. Well, here's to four months of wondering idly whether Limas Sweed is learning to hold on to the football.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Did You Get a Load of the Nerd?

The news of Supreme Court Justice David Souter's retirement announcement brings to mind, first and foremost, the Simpsons episode where Homer goes back to college (from the height of the Conan O'Brien era, in 1993):
Bart: Listen to yourself, man: you're hangin' with nerds.
Homer: You take that back!
Marge: Homer, please! These boys sound very nice, but they're clearly nerds.
Homer: Really? But nerds are my mortal enemy!
Lisa: Dad, nerds are nothing to fear. In fact, they've done some pretty memorable things. Some nerds of note include popcorn magnate Orville Redenbacher, rock star David Byrne, and Supreme Court justice David Souter.
Homer: [gasp] Oh, not Souter! Oh, no!
There's the passage of time for you, Republican presidents appointing moderate Supreme Court justices and the Simpsons still being funny.