September 30, 2004

Time for a new Moleskine.

So I filled up another Moleskine notebook yesterday, the one I started in Baltimore right after the Focus massacre of May 2004. This one has lots of scribblings on using wooden pencils versus gel pens but then how I read my journals all of the time and how I would be afraid to touch them in pencil but also how Pilot G2 ink is messier than a fountain pen. Yes, I told myself, Hemingway used pencils in the notebooks that are allegedly Moleskines, but his only other portable choice in 1920s Paris would have been fountain pens, and not the relatively neat kind we have today. But Pilot's gel ink is archival safe and so black, and their blue is my favorite blue ink ever. Etc. Oh, etc. In truth, I wasted at least a quarter of the book on such pointless musings, and that estimate is mainly and intentionally false. Other than my chubby little 2005 diary (didn't like the new weekly format for 2005), I've also had a large ruled notebook waiting for me on the shelf for some time now. I bought the latter before I left for Baltimore in May at the Barnes and Noble in Carbondale, the only place anywhere near here to get them. I hadn't had one of the large format books before, and I didn't want to start filling it with angry thoughts about the old jerk in the SUV that totalled my car or with ranting about car insurance companies or what cars I was looking to replace the Focus with. And I had just finished my pocket version by pasting the blog posts about the car accident into it. Bigger, baby, but better? I watched The Saint just before leaving for Baltimore, and, envying Thomas Moore's book in the film, I wanted a larger Moleskine in which I would be more...selective in using up pages and in which I would paste more of other people's work that I find inspiring or just worth reading repeatedly. Sort of a journal/commonplace book combo, with a larger diary for pocket-toting notes on the go. Seemed like a good system. Too bad that I used up my pocket notebook before it's time to break out the 2005 chubby diary (I still have my weekly 2004 version). Oh, well, it's not like the large Moleskine is really that large, is it? I'm going to write in it tomorrow, if not tonight. I promise.

September 29, 2004

Banned books week.

Once again, it's Banned Books Week. I have a pin from when I worked at a bookstore as an undergraduate, but I can't seem to place it. Darn. One could print this button, anyway, and stick it around. And here is the list of the 100 most widely-banned books.

September 28, 2004

Full moon doesn't mean squat?

There's a full moon tonight, and it seems that some lady thinks it means nothing. I'd believe her more if she named at least one of "the studies" she's talking about, etc. That's bad research, man.

September 27, 2004

Hmm.

Haven't posted in some time. Sorry. I haven't been busy, but bored, really. You'd think that would be a reason to post more, not less. Oops. It's cooling off in the Heartland, by small degrees (no pun intended). It's cooler at night, so the AC can be off after dinner. I haven't pulled out a sweater yet, and shoes and socks are certainly still a number of weeks off. Too bad, since I have some swell new Converse Allstars to wear (guess what color) from my birthday a few weeks ago. I watched a good fall film this weekend: Moonlight Mile. It is set on the North Shore of Massachusetts, though, and it makes me miss my two years there. Despite the fact that no one seems to have noticed the film when it came out almost exactly two years ago, it's really excellent. The music is well-chosen and well-placed in the film, too. If you are bored, it's worth a rent. It's not as sad as it sounds. I am reviewing a few papers for our department's upcoming philosophy conference. I have a lot of free time for the time being, so I felt like I ought to help out. We manage to get some "big names" to commit as key-note speakers. We had the secretary of SPEP last year, and we have Boston College's own philosopher of "otherness" this year (with whom I once had a course). With SIU's...unfortunate geographical location, we are lucky to get anyone to come all of the way out here for speaking engagements. No posting, now rambling. Things will look up, promise.

September 24, 2004

September 23, 2004

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Being a huge Wes Anderson fan, I was elated to see the poster for his newest film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at the local theatre over the summer. I was disappointed when it was taken down however, and now I hear that it's not due out until December. Nonetheless, I'm sure it will be worth the wait. Bill Murray was in precious little of The Royal Tenebaums, even after his stellar performance in Rushmore. Old Bill is the star of this one. The star. Officially. Maybe he'll get that Oscar this time around.

September 22, 2004

Happy equinox!

Today, at 11:30 a.m. US Central Time, my favorite season officially begins. It's the autumnal equinox. Sorry I don't have a better photo; I didn't have a digital camera last fall. More later, on how I approached some deer last night outside of the homestead and got an eerie photo of one's eyes.

September 21, 2004

September 20, 2004

Mona Lisa Smile.

So I got talked into watching Mona Lisa Smile this weekend, and I'm going to subject you to my half-cocked review;) An Amazon.com reviewer called it Dead Poets Society for girls. That's not true at all, and I don't say that because Dead Poets Society was a much better film or because I am male and went to thirteen years of private schooling before college and thereby could always relate to it. In Dead Poets Society, John Keating (pun intended, I'm sure) encourages his students to think for themselves, to make their lives extraordinary, to live deliberately, etc. His message has a meaning that transcends the specificity of, say, 1950s Wellesley, where Mona Lisa Smile is set. John Keating's message is no less relevant now that it was in the 1950s, when it was set, or in 1989, when it was released. He encouraged his students to "follow their own way," and they all did, all through different means, with varying degrees of success. In Mona Lisa Smile, on the other hand, Miss Watson just wants the young women she teaches to reject their culturally prescribed roles uncritically. There is a scene where she berates an honor student who gets married and opts out of law school in order to follow her husband to his graduate school. The student has to tell Miss Watson that this is what she wants, that she really thought about it, that she is not settling for anything. There is another scene where Miss Watson's love interest tells her that she is not at Wellesley to change anything for the better or to encourage young women to think for themselves. She's there to get them to think her way. And he's totally right. I'm not going to set myself up for nasty email (!) by pretending that I really know anything about feminism, despite my four years at a girls' college, where I was good friends with very nice and very good feminists. But there is certainly something wrong with closed-mindedly rejecting something and single-mindedly doing the opposite and then calling that freedom. One is then still under the control of what one is rejecting. That seems simple and obvious enough. In the end, I didn't like Miss Watson the character at all. What she decides to do at the end of the film undercuts all of the good she manages to do up until that point. "Okay, I touched four or five people's lives. That's enough. I'm outty 5000." Right. She should have been more like John Keating. They had to kick him out.

September 17, 2004

Thoreauvians?

What's up with so damned many people running around talking about how much they love Thoreau and what a damned Thoreau expert they are because they read excerpts from a chapter of Walden in their high school American Literature compendium? Walter Harding correctly points out that Walden is one of those books that everyone talks about, quotes from and even owns, but not many people actually read the whole book. I can count maybe five people who I know personally whom I am aware for a fact have read the whole book -- not including, of course, the many people who have read it but I don't know it as such. Forgive me my terrible facts and figures. I'm not going to name names, but I read a paper on Thoreau this morning that was just terrible. Awful. It was pointless, badly written, derivative, unoriginal and a waste the paper it was printed on. Really, that someone killed trees to print this garbage is just a crime. I was rather irrate for most of the morning because of this horrible essay. How can someone read Walden -- even if one reads the entire book -- and then download two or three essays from [very] questionable sources on the internet and then declare oneself a Thoreau scholar? If that were William James, it would be different. If someone read Pragmatism and two essays from the internet and then wrote a public paper, he or she would be laughed at, openly. How the hell does a person think he or she can encapsulate a philosopher from such a small sampling of his or her work? That's not yet even vanity. It's naivety. I think this comes from the fact that so many serious "philosophers" don't consider Thoreau a proper philosopher at all. Most people are reluctant to even call Emerson a philosopher and usually only do so if one is talking about "American Philosophy." After all, we don't have much that we've contributed to the great Western philosophical dialogue, have we? But when it comes to Thoreau, reticence is the best we can hope for. Luckily for me, my department is the "American Philosophy" department. Everyone knows that. We don't ignore Thoreau or Emerson or even Uncle Walt Whitman. Hell, there was a graduate seminar on Transcendentalism last semester. I didn't take it, however, since studying that particular band of my heros would just seem...blasphemous to me. When someone asks my religion and I reply with "Transcendentalist of the most nefarious sort," I'm not joking. I'll be the first to proclaim that I don't know anything about the real Thoreau. I've read lots and lots and lots of what he said and lots and lots and lots of what people said (and say) about him. I am pretty familiar with his life, down to his innovations in American pencil manufacturing. But what does that amount to? If Thoreau came to my apartment and saw all of the books with his name on the spine on my shelves (whether under the title or author field), he'd kick me in my bulbous ass -- or want nothing to do with me. What good is reading Thoreau, really, and then going about one's business like Walden is just a nice story and as if John Brown is just some nut who finally got his civic due? I started working on a paper on Thoreau yesterday, but I didn't get anything finished today. Writing about Thoreau, Walden especially, makes me feel like a hypocrite. What the hell am I, a PhD student in philosophy -- itself an oxymoron, really -- doing inside, in an office in a concrete monstrosity (really, you should see Faner Hall), writing about Thoreau, as if that's even a possible manner of really getting to the heart of what he means? As if getting to the heart of what he means is really the point? As if Thoreau really has a "point" for us? At times like that, I feel like I should give in my office keys to the department, empty my desk and go learn carpentry from my friends in Maryland. What a truer existence that would be! But my vocational frustrations are a digression from my initial gripe. There is hope, however, for my original complaint of people spouting off about Thoreau. There are people I have never met but nonetheless am drawn to on the internet who seem to me to certainly really "get" Thoreau, despite their complete lack of pretentions to such a status (and I mean that as the highest compliment, I do). Greg Perry has a nice blog where he simple posts a passage from Thoreau's journal for the blogoshere. What a wondeful thing to do for all of us! And Lorianne and Gary likewise understand and are the people who pointed Greg's blog to me in the first place. Some of my friends capture something that whispers to you when you read "Walking" that makes me feel honored to know them. Even some of the lessons my parents taught me speak of an understanding of where Thoreau is coming from. So all is not lost. For every twenty idiots that don't understand the surface of Thoreau -- let alone the nadir of his life and message -- there is one person who really gets it and exudes a truer and more deliberate life from their very pores. And that makes up for all it, now that I think of it.

September 16, 2004

Punch-drunk philosopher.

If you are a regular reader, then you know that I am not a heavy drinker. Not at all. I suppose that, if I did drink more like my doctor told me to in Boston, I would be a bit more relaxed or laid-back or at least less prone to worrying about things like car accidents or testicular cancer (my friend got it three years ago, and I'm in the age group: 18-30) or what impression I make on my fellow grad students in the department or on my professors or the fact that -- because I have a fellowship and do not have to teach yet and because I am one reticent bastard -- I don't know very many people in my department. I don't think that drinking would make me relax per se, but the same sentiment which would let me allow myself to have a drink more often may be the one that would help me relax. So I'm pretty drunk right now. I know, it's annoying when people blog drunkenly. Sorry. But I thought that the sentiment which would allow me to relax could use a little help. He's not a strong sentiment, and that fear of wrecking the Mazda or of getting a cancerous testicle removed is one strong little son of a bitch, and he wants domination. Screw him. I'm only 25, and I have plenty of time to worry about things in the future, no? Besides, getting drunk and confessing to people I've never met in different countries might be at least a little cathartic, right? I don't know. My regularly punch-drunk* behavior is usually balanced by caffeine, but not so much with the vodka (which is Sky, since the guy who makes it is in Mensa -- "The High I.Q. Society" -- to which I used to belong, until I got sick of paying the dues and until I realized that putting it on my C.V would only make me sound like a tool -- yeah, I fooled Mensa. Me, a genius? Nah. Hah!). Excuse me. My confession turns to rambling and goes too far, and I'm not quite coordinated enough for editing or spell-checking. Shit, this mess is going out to the internet. Oh, well. If you don't think I'm nuts already, now you know. "And knowing is half the battle. G.I. Joe!" *[I have some weird head injuries, including some concussions (football in gym class, falling out of a tree, busting my head wide open once, etc.) and a dent from my forcepts birth (really). Maybe that explains a lot, including my choice of vocation.]

September 15, 2004

Ernie...

Hemingway makes my life seem boring. I don't really still have my base urge to go shoot something and eat it, no, not anymore. I haven't read any Hemingway in a month, and I picked up The Sun Also Rises last night (a birthday gift from a friend who knows me very well). Graduate school is dull, sometimes. Damn. Oh, well. Today is my "long day" -- seminars from 9:30-4:30. Most people work longer everyday, right? I have a pretty good situation, I suppose.

September 14, 2004

On this day in 1814.

Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star-Bangled Banner," inspired by events which ocurred in Baltimore, Maryland. Legend has it that he was at the location of the bridge now named after him at the time of the unsuccessful attack by the British on Fort McHenry. Here is a panoramic view of one side of the fort I had been meaning to work on for a month now. It is composed of six large photos stitched together. Sorry it looks small, though you can get a better view by clicking on it.

September 11, 2004

I remember.

The giant flag at Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland. June 2004. I remember everything about 9.11.01: what I was wearing, where I was, how I found out, how I freaked out because I couldn't reach my father to make sure he was not at the Pentagon that day, how I chain-smoked and saw the fighter planes flying over Boston, etc. I don't want to recount the details and relive it. I'm sure no one does. That's not what remembering 9.11.01 means.

September 09, 2004

Frosh on the Run: A Stolen Picture.

Freshman, first week of classes, two weeks ago. Another "stolen picture." How do I know it's a freshman? I'm in my eighth straight year of classes. I've gone to a tiny liberal arts school, to a first-tier private research university and to a public university. Believe me, I can tell. Most people can. Geez, I didn't mean to sound like a know-it-all jerk. Sorry.

I love bats.

Like spiders, bats keep the creepy-crawlies off of me. My grandfather says that I have "sweet meat" -- to explain why bugs seem to seek me out of a crowd for their consumption. Those natural predators (spiders and bats) do what bug sprays usually fail to do: keep me from getting eaten alive. I have an unpleasant story about a canoeing trip at Boy Scout camp in 1994, when I was almost 15, wherein I almost had to be hospitalized because of the high fever I was running and my head's swelling, after being a snack for too many skeeters at the river's edge one night. I was pretty ill for a few days, and the pictures of what my head looked like are more than a little embarrassing. I should start carrying wolf spiders and little bats in my backpack, like Zarathustra traveled with a snake and an eagle.

September 08, 2004

Bad little bunny huggers.

That's quite an indictment of PETA, including a link to an article by my home-town newspaper. Not that far from true, me thinks. I'm not sure I think about this site, however. I'm too tired to read much about it. And Matt LeBlanc is obese? Whatever. I'm still going to sit on my ass, drinking coffee, watching his new show tomorrow night. I've been very lazy lately, and, frankly, it's too early in the semester for that. Damn it.

Wonderful.

It's chilly this morning in the Heartland. I know that our meteorologists say this is still too soon to settle in with some coffee or chai and to expect this to continue, that it's going to get hot again. But this is nice. Very nice.

September 06, 2004

If you're the prayin' kind.

Please say one for my friend Chris, who lives on the panhandle of Florida, where hurricane Frances is stomping right now. At times like this, I wish I were really of the prayin' sort. Chris on a hike we took at Giant City State Park, June 2004.

September 04, 2004

Sierra Club: I miss the city, part II.

Me at Fern Rocks Nature Preserve, February 2004. [The adventure continues, from part I.] I received a letter in the mail yesterday from the Sierra Club. I received one the day before from The Nature Conservancy, from whom I get mail quite frequently. I suspect this is a result of my former membership with PETA, who sells your address to "like-minded organizations" and then tells you they did and that you can ask them not to anymore, although it's already too late. (And that's still not the reason I am no longer a member of PETA.) Anyway, last fall, I was enamored of the idea of being one of those Thoreauvian, outdoorsie-type-people. Here I am 100 miles from the nearest real city, right outside of the largest wilderness in the huge state of Illinois. I am an Eagle Scout and have always loved camping and hiking and sitting outside all night talking around a fire. The only times I really got outside in Boston were walks on the shore of Quincy Bay where I lived and trips to Walden Pond in Concord. I should really take advantage of my situation here in Southern Illinois and go outside more, I thought to myself. So, in November, I relinquished my Timbuk2 messenger bag from my Boston days and drove 100 miles to get the specific Jansport daypack I wanted -- which is, frankly, the best daypack ever. Mine is black and bears the Moleskinerie buttons that Armand sent me last winter. I shaved my head and grew my winter beard, and I looked more than a bit rustic. My wife and I went hiking on Valentines' Day, like we did for our first V-Day in 1998. All was woodsy and well. But lately, I have been bitching about the fact that there is not much for a city boy to do in Carbondale -- not, however, unjustly. There isn't. I go to the movies a lot and the hobby store a lot and bookstores a lot and Target a lot, and that's the grandest that my adventures really get these days. I haven't even had a nice drive through the woods like I used to enjoy. There may not be a lot for a city boy who loves people-watching, but there is plenty to do. Geez, I won't sit here all day talking about all of the parks and rivers and lakes and canyons and such around these parts. I need to get outside more and to stop thinking about the city and all of the neat stuff I can buy there and how interesting the people are to look at over coffee and cookies. So, this is my round-about way and announcing -- in order to really commit myself -- that I have sent a check and membership form to the Sierra Club accepting their invitation for membership and that I will certainly be making an effort to get outside more this fall. Hell, it's my favorite season. And, dear readers, you get some nice photos of autumn in this region, which is nothing short of breath-taking. But don't worry. There'll be no blogging interruptions:)

September 03, 2004

Chico.

I haven't blogged about the other gnomes I received as gifts in the spring, but I will get off my butt and do so now for one that I was given today. Meet Chico (from the Spanish word for "cute," coined by the person who gave it to me). He is from Mexico, and the red hat is supposed to be for "passion." He has a magical crystal in his hand. Maybe he can cast magical passion-spells. He is hand-made. He is less than a inch tall and is standing on a pocket-sized Moleskine. Itty-bitty, he is. He came from the nice hippies who come to our school once a year, for a week in late summer. He was bought for me as the nice hippies were closing shop for the year. The hippies are very nice people. They make the Student Center smell good. And they were the only place to find gnomes this late in the year. Horray for hippies, for tiny gnomes and the nice people who buy them for you!