October 27, 2004
"No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch in his clothes; yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience." ~H. D. Thoreau This is a pair of linen shorts that I bought in the summer of 2001, when I graduated from college and moved to Boston to start graduate school. I wore them hiking this past weekend to see The Devil's Standtable (photos to come), came home, took them out of the wash, and I figured out that I have actually worn them out, as you can see. I had owned those shorts for three years and had worn them on a three-day train ride from Boston to Chicago to Houston, on hikes, camping trips, around Boston and Baltimore, on 12-14 hour car-drives, to graduate seminars and cafés, on the subway in Boston. I had probably spilled coffee, tea, beer, soda and water on them countless times. It's not that they were my only shorts, by any means. I'm ashamed to admit that I have been known to be a clothes-horse at times, though I have had considerable success over the last year in curing that sickness. They were merely my favorite shorts, and I wore the hell out of them. Why is this a big deal? How many times do we actually wear out our clothes? I, for one, am guilty of either closeting a piece of clothing, giving it away or otherwise not letting it live and die its proper course as human attire, by being worn out. I will also admit that I am not going to patch these shorts and wear them anyway, as Thoreau suggests. My nineteenth century American history is faulty at best, but I am a bit certain that clothing was a lot harder to get in Thoreau's time, not to mention a lot more costly. Henry also didn't have television and the cinema to tempt him, but that's another story. Maybe I'm just making excuses for myself. And maybe I am reading meaning into something that is not as unusual as I am making it out to be. Regardless, I feel really good about wearing stuff out. I have a pair or two of jeans -- of which I admittedly have entirely too many -- I am working on next.
October 24, 2004
A response to Sal's question, because he's a cool guy, and I can't seem to find his email address around here: It seems that the police officer who told me at the scene of the Focus massacre that she couldn't give the bastard who wrecked our car a speeding ticket "because [she] didn't see what happened" wrote in her report that I turned in front of an SUV that was speeding through a bus-stop around traffic and that the whole accident is my fault. If she saw what she apparently says she saw, she should have given me a ticket, too, according to her version of my part in the accident. She didn't take witness statements, even from the lady who approached us to tell us there was another accident at that intersection that week (who sounds like a person who watches the street and just might have seen something, you would think). The officer's beat was on the other side of town (literally). I think she wasn't supposed to be there. I'm totally filing a complaint. Maryland's laws governing traffice accidents just don't work. I thought about taking the old bastard to court, but -- even if he paid for our new car, too -- it would not be worth the drama of traveling back and forth to the East Coast, really. I just want it to be over-with, minus getting screwed with the insurance hikes. In other crappy driving news, we almost sent another old man to his grave today, as he unabashedly broke a traffic law and tested Mazda's 60-0 mph breaking distance. There is an intersection on Illinois Route 51 just south of Carbondale where the traffic on 51 has no stop sign (it's a highway), which is clearly posting for the entering traffic: "Cross-Traffic Does Not Stop." Some stupid Mattlock Jackass Too-Old-To-Drive-A-Car-With-A-V8 decides to test this particular law as I am cruising at 55-60 mph (the speed limit). Mazda did some weird things to the new "3" -- including installing a startlingly loud horn. I see that the idiot is thinking about going and not looking. I blow the foghorn on the tiny "3." He slowly pulls out onto the highway (mind you, he should be flooring it to get up to speed with the rest of traffic). Then, spying the silver hatchback coming directly for his driver's side door, he stops. Yes, he stops. Our $900 (extra) braking system comes in handy as a slam on the breaks and jerk our car around this moron. We're off in some stones, stopped and stunned, and what does he do? He leaves and keeps going. I have half of a mind to spin the car around and tail him to town and scream at him in my Baltimore accent in the parking lot of Wal-Mart or wherever the hell old men drive slowly to on Sundays. But we are on our way to a nice hike to Devil's Standtable down in the state park, and I am shaking enough that aggressive driving might not be a good idea. Anyway, my wife was pretty freaked out, and I was a little disturbed at the idea of what our car would have done to him, seeing as how there was only a piece of metal and some plastic between our car and his actual person. (I have a very good friend who lost a love by being hit in the side, and he almost died himself that night.) Then I thought about the fact that I am usually aware enough of people's stupidity (especially in their cars) to be on the look-out for it and that if I were not expecting him to do what he did, we'd both be in the hospital tonight, if he wasn't dead. So, the way I think of it, my awareness saved that guy's sorry ass today. That thought is good for helping the freaking out, but I'm still angry that people who are that incapable of driving are still allowed behind the wheel. And I'm still disturbed by the idea that you never see the one that gets you -- like when 68-year-olds speed through bus-stops in gigantic SUVs and then hide behind an incompetent police officer and a stupid law.
October 23, 2004
October 22, 2004
For this week's Photo Friday challenge, "Statement." I've had a pretty crappy week, so this is a photo of me relaxing -- contemplating the foam knife in my head, rather than racking my brain over why I have to pay for the accident wherein a 68-year-old jackass in an SUV totalled my car in May, why I can't stop obsessing over pencils, why I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping, or why the hell I can't get any work done.
October 20, 2004
Two weeks ago, I received the mostest awesomest birthday gifts someone who loves Thoreau can receive: his complete journals. Volumes i-vii and volumes viii-xiv. All of them. Half is from my wife, the other from my parents. The photo is terrible, I know. I do receive unusual gifts sometimes from my parents, but it's always what I want, so I suppose it's me who is unusual. While most people probably get either beer or Advil or a bible on their 21st birthdays, I received the annotated edition of Walden, purchased at Walden Pond in April 2000, from my parents. I remember being in "Advanced Poetry Workshop" as an undergraduate, and having to read some John Donne. Knowing this, I requested and received this gorgeous edition of Donne's complete poems. (Geez, now I sound like some spoiled brat.) My professor asked me where I got it, and I told her that my parents gave it to me as a Christmas gift. She thought it was the weirdest thing in the world, though to be fair, she thought the same of me. (Unfairly.) The best gifts are those strange things you want but don't want to spend money on yourself or think you don't deserve. I've given people engraved Space Pens, Moleskines, expensive or antique books, French presses, fancy pencils, backpacks -- all things people I care about were coveting but did not buy for themselves for one reason or another. I've received an autographed copy of Doctorow's ordered-out-of-print-book Big as Life, Thoreau and Poe volumes, a fountain pen, The Boy Scout Fieldbook, watches, journals and Canadian beer in liter cans. Those unusual sundries are certainly the best gifts to give -- and the best gifts to receive, though which is better is another matter entirely.
October 19, 2004
October 15, 2004
For this week's Photo Friday challenge, "Unexpected." It's unexpected because I am quite certain that no one was outside of the apartment building raking leaves and because there is only this one relatively small pile. Heck, most leaves haven't changed, let alone fallen, and today is forcasted to be insanely windy. Why would a person rake this early and then have to do it again? That someone could have been right under my balcony raking, under these conditions, this time of year, this suddenly and without any noise just could not have happened. This mound is in a corner, and I am quite certain that the wind made this little pile. We've all seen the wind pulling together throngs of leaves and twisting them around in mini twisters. Maybe a renegade gust made my little leaf dune. That, or Industrious David snuck into my coffee stash, got hopped up on French Roast, stole my car, went to the hardware store and bought a rake, fought off our resident wildlife and raked leaves into that solitary little pile all by himself. Right.
October 14, 2004
President Bush says that Senator John Kerry is "incredibly environmentally green." Geez, and that's a bad thing? See what the nation's most influential environmental group thinks of Kerry. And, to be fair, this is what they think of Bush.
October 12, 2004
I have a theory about the weather: I am told that some unfortunate souls are affected adversely by a lack of sunlight in the winter and the occasional multi-week stretch of rain and grey skies. I am affected at times with the latter constant greyness but not necessarily the lack of sunlight that bothers some folks in the winter months. Until a few days ago, we had been experiencing piercing sunlight and blue skies for weeks on end. It didn't hit me until this weekend, when the rain and clouds showed up, that perhaps the sleep and eating irregularities I had been experiencing had something to do with the weather. I think that too much sun for long periods of time keeps me from being able to sleep and to rest and that the damp, cool, fog has come in and given me back my good sleep and, thus, my energy. I've been sleeping very well lately and have been getting work done. I'm not going to quote Garbage songs, ("I'm only happy when it rains...") since rainy greyness is not necessarily my preferred weather. I love Poe and Baudelaire, but I certainly do not purport to have some darkness in my soul or a dark world-outlook which makes me hate the sun and love the moon or skulls or some such nonsense. My point is that a lack of such soupy weather for too long leaves me restless and on edge. Now wait until we have weeks of no sun for me to complain the other way around. And, of course, my little theory only counts for me, since I comprise the entire test group.
October 10, 2004
Panoramic of the Ohio River, Paducah, Kentucky. Have had a very busy week. We played hooky from the university last Monday to trek to Paducah, Kentucky -- a quiet little river town in northwestern Kentucky that is across the river from Illinois and is the place where three large rivers meet. I found a copy of Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines at a shop there for a mere $4 that I hope I will get to read soon. Despite the legends of "Kentucky rednecks" and such, the folks of northwestern Kentucky are very nice and some of the friendliest people I've come across. And so polite! I otherwise had a busy week and didn't get to post much, not that I got any work done at all. On Thursday night, we drove all of the way to and through St. Louis, Missouri to pick up a Harvard historian from the airport for a talk she was giving Friday at SIU. She really is a lovely person, and her talk was excellent. My wife knows her from her years at the Crimson Stain (my term, thanks), so she spent several hours with us at our home Friday night, over numerous cups of coffee, talking about history, academia and reading. A wonderful person, really. She's as un-Harvard as they come, and I mean that as a very high compliment. I'm re-committing to getting more work done this week, damn it. And I have the perfect film as inspiration: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It's such a lucid depiction of frenzied studying and genius at work that it gives me, at least, something to strive to. None of that "playing god" business, though. Really, I have no talents for science, and I'm certainly no genius.
October 09, 2004
One of the most famous living philosophers has died. Jacques Derrida died today in Paris, of pancreatic cancer. I'm not necessarily a fan at all of deconstructionism, but this is certainly a loss for the philosophical community as a whole. Very sad.
October 06, 2004
We have a relatively warm and extremely humid climate in Southern Illinois, so the leaves are just beginning to show their colors this autumn. I found a spot yesterday where, among green maple trees, there was one which was totally yellow and another that was totally orange. Non-conformist trees, those two.
October 05, 2004
Regardless of what I'm sure lots of people will say, I cannot award either Vice Presidential canditate victory in tonight's debate. What an informative and...even debate! Yes, the Vice President was getting nasty, buy he really calmed down after Senator Edwards' complimentary remarks about his family. Things were not entirely civil at times, but I think that both candidates really did a fine job of laying out their bosses' positions for informational purposes and for the benefit of undecided voters. Damn it, this is what debates are for. The bits of nastiness aside, there is a winner after all, perhaps: the debate itself.
With the exception of what grad programs are looking for (i.e., if you are looking at physics MS programs and majored in theatre, you're probably out of luck), one's choice of major means very little in real life, according to this article. And Hugh Hefner majored in philosophy. Am I in good or bad company, then?