December 26, 2005

Merry We-Ass.

Unless I'm crazy (resist, Anonymous -- resist lest I smite you with veggies and beer gas), people are getting really nuts with this whole, "I won't say 'Happy Holidays.' We're all Christians, and it's 'Merry Christmas' in America" crap this year. An un-named Scout leader for whom I have massive respect told his troop that last week, and I almost respectfully slugged him in the throat. The BSA is a fundamentally non-denominational organization, just like the good old U S of A. They have the coveted religious medal for all sorts of non-Christian denominations. And, much to the dismay of people who buy their religion at Wal-Mart along with a crate of cupcakes, there is no such thing as "Christianity." If we are a Christian nation, what kind of Christian nation are we? Catholic? Russian Orthodox? Like I said to a nice and reasonable -- although moderately radical -- member of the Right whom I love like a family member, if the religious Right didn't have the Godless Liberals (Godless and bearded! Oh my!) to fight against, they'd just be fighting against one another over who's right. You know, there is no "Christian" position on the birth of Christ that has the same implications for all Christian faiths. Same Bible, different interpretation. The whole American Christian Christmas does not exist. There is no such thing as an American Christianity as a whole of everyone who puts their faith in Jesus anyway. Take the gay marriage issue off the table, and I know some Baptists with some nasty things to say about Catholics, and vice versa. And any intelligent, scholarly or non-lazy person willing to do some research (or to at least watch The History Channel) knows that Christmas was never intended to be a Christian holiday. It had nothing to do with the birth of Christ. It predates him. And it is only recently a Christian holiday even in the United States. So take that my super white cupcake brethren. You're wrong. The whole "I wouldn't get offended if someone said 'Happy Chanukah' to me" thing is complete bullshit from anyone I've heard say it. If one is so narrow-minded and evangelical, this person would most certainly take offense at another religion. The insistence on saying "Merry Christmas" and meaning "Happy Christian Holiday" to a non-Christian indicates a closed mind and an implicite judgment. It's borderline violence if you ask me. The whole argument that starts from the supposed fact that "most" Americans believe the same thing (which is absolutely false anyway) and ends that the rest of us should suck it up and go along is abominable. Most of us are white, too. Should everyone else (and by that I mean everyone who's not a boring white person) go away or just "act white" the best way they can? Come on, are we really that stupid? Add this up to the long list of reasons (kept in a fancy notebook of course) of why I hate white people. Even the white dude I happen to be. But that might be a joke. I don't really hate anyone. Or everyone. Or whatever. And didn't "Happy Holidays" used to mean both "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year" anyway?

December 20, 2005

Baggage.

I suppose this is a busy time of year and that not a lot of folks are really reading blogs. Add to that the small number of nice folks (YOU!) who read this blog, and you get the idea that blogging this week might be in vain. I'm glad that things are hectic and that the year is closing. I started this year with a lot of baggage and issues and crazies and obsessions and compulsions, etc. Mazda drama. No more Mazda. Focus drama. Moving drama. Getting rid of car altogether drama. Getting a little in shape challenge. Spinning my wheels academically. Personally. Not reading enough. Not working enough. Not going outside enough. I'll go ahead and say that 2005 is not my favorite year and that I'll be very glad to see it over. So glad I'm thinking about it a week and a half before 2006 starts. I'm ending 2005 in slightly better physical shape. With new ideas, academically. The resolution to read more, explore more, write more, draw more and to live more. A six-week with no trimming save the uni-brow (at the request of the Mrs.) beard that is far redder than the hair on my head -- yeah, like Santa in training beard. A dedication to leading a simpler lifestyle that's been working very well for the last three weeks. Recognition that I've wasted a whole year that I can't get back and the determination that I won't do it again, at least not this year. I'm not sure how I feel about New Year's Resolutions. I made one in 2003 to go totally vegan, and it lasted until late August, when I moved to Southern Illinois. I vowed to quit smoking several times, but that only worked when I quit on a whim in June 2002. Last year, I swore to myself that I would get in shape. That's only started to work lately. I think I'll be setting myself up for more self loathing if I have a resolution this year. But we'll see. Depends on libations and eating that night. Who knows? But I think I already have the implicit resolution to just make 2006 better than 2005 was. And I'm getting a running start already.

December 18, 2005

Chicago is awesome, etc.

Here we are, in Balitmore City. The train from Chicago to Washington wound up running over five hours late. This is more the fault of the gubmint who values freight over people, outside of the "Northeast Corridor" than Amtrak. And the ride through the mountains of Western PA, MD and WV was more than enough to put one in a nice holiday mood. I mean, I've lost no love for the rail. It's still my pal and buddy, and I would buy Amtrak a coffee or beer if I could. So it was cloudy all day in Chicago, but it did snow a ton, which as awesome and cool and a nice change from too-warm Carbondale. Not to mention that I'm a city boy at heart. My friend says it's weird that someone who likes Thoreau so much would be a city boy, but I think my appreciation for the "outdoors" comes from living in cities my whole life. Now that I don't, I don't appreciate the clean air, the stars and the trees. I suppose it's a defect in me that I need to be deprived of something in order to appreciate it's value, but I think I share that malady with much of our species. I'm certainly not the first one to notice that. I'll write more about Chicago later. I'm busy enjoying the company of my family now, and I'm going shopping with one of my brothers today. Thanks for sticking around though. Love you.

December 17, 2005

Photo Friday: Depth of Field.

Old Union Station. Chicago, Illinois. USA. A little late, my entry for Photo Friday: Depth of Field.

December 14, 2005

Leaving on a wet train.

Make a song out of that! We're out of here in a few hours for a 3:16 a.m. train to Chicago. A little layover to kick around The Windy City and then a train from Chicago tomorrow that gets into Washington, DC Friday around noonish. Then a MARC train to Penn Station in Baltimore City. Home. Yeah, it would seem like this is more complicated than getting into the car and just driving, but no. It's not. I get to sit and read and write and listen to music. That's awesome. I don't have to psyche myself up to being a driving machine all night or all day or at all. Don't have to worry about the fact that I'm tired -- probably won't even try to sleep tonight. This kind of travel makes me excited, not stressed out. Trains are the slowest way to travel from here to Baltimore, and the most expensive. But totally worth it. Totally. See ya'll this weekend.

Bottom.

I think I've been letting down some folks lately. Just thought I'd mention that. You know who you are. I am very sorry. Seriously. I am one of those people who can really take his friends for granted, and considering his semi-reclusive/academic lifestyle situation, he's lucky to have good friends. If you're in Baltimore, I'll make it up to you at the Hon Bar or One World Cafe'. If not, I'll send you some pencils. If not still, come to Carbondale, and we'll take a nice bike ride or walk around the lake nearby and confide in one another and be merry.

December 11, 2005

Setting semester.

You know, with the idea of moving, the car drama (and finally, the resolution thereof) and assorted lifestyle choices that had to be made, I hardly got a lick of work done this semester. True, I thought about my dissertation prospectus a lot. Save for the "works cited" pages, I think I could crank it out tomorrow morning if I had to. But I'm supposed to really be working harder on it. My wife passed her "hearing" last week. Oh, well. Next time. That tends to be how I work. Lots of mulling, and a quick write. I usually work on papers for a while and then write them in a few hours (Okay, more like all morning) -- ADD and the writing process at work. Whatever works. I'm almost a little sad about leaving Carbondale and the idea that this is the last holiday season we'll spend here. We went to dinner this week after the Mrs. became officially A.B.D. and walked back to campus at dusk. Waved to the nice guy at the bike shop downtown. Rode our bikes into the sunset and our warm little apartment. Then again, life my wife says, anyplace is nice this time of year. Maybe so, but I'll sure miss the view from the side of our "balcony" and front door. There are some gorgeous sunsets out here. That's the sunset from today in the photo. But if you're from Baltimore (and Hampden in particular) then you might be familiar with sitting in St. Mary's graveyard on Roland Avenue with some Dunkin Donuts coffee, watching the set over T.V. Hill. Can't be beat. And there's always my parents' back roof, at their house in Baltimore, where I'll be watching the sun set for a few weeks, starting Friday. I'm very excited for the trainride.

December 09, 2005

First snowfall.

I don't remember when, but I told you that there was an oak tree behind my apartment that never loses its leaves. And that I had photos from two years ago with snow to prove it. Well, here it is today. With the temperature in the teens and snow all around, with its leaves still attached. That's one persevering tree I tell you. It has the spirit that Thoreau talks about in "A Winter Walk" -- not shunning the unpleasant parts of nature, just because they are disagreeable to us. I know, this is weird coming from someone who cringes at the idea of leaving the house in 95 plus degree temperatures. Don't say it.

Photo Friday: Weight.

For Photo Friday: Weight. A freight train along the flood wall in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. March 2005. It's been a while since I did a Photo Friday. I wanted to take one of my bike in our old parking space for last week's "Experimental," but the weather didn't cooperate. It's good to be back. (Click image for a somewhat larger one.)

December 06, 2005

First bike photo.

My good buddy and bike champion Brian has been urging me to post some photos of my bike, especially since he's posted some of his wheels. There's always an excuse on my part. It's too dirty -- I'll do it after the tune-up at the bikeshop. It's raining -- I'll do it tomorrow when the sun's out. I'm too lazy -- no solution for that one. Well, here's one of the warning on the brakes. I'm not sure why it's there, since you can't exactly read it while you're riding. I guess the brakes are...complicated or something like that. I sure never mess with them and let the nice guys at the bikeshop (and I mean nice like I will hug them when we move because they rock) who know what they are doing adjust them. I know, I should take this stupid little sticker off, but I like it. Makes me feel dangerous.

December 04, 2005

"Drink this...

....it's good shit!" Statue in front of the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. Really cool museum, but they do not allow cameras inside. Dang it. Went there the day after Thanksgiving. My old troop was going to take a trip to Frederickburg, VA, but only one kid was going to go, and let's just say all four of the leaders would love to leave him there. So we cancelled the "official" trip, and four of we leaders went to the museum in Harrisburg instead, on a very very cold and windy day. Stopped at the Amish market, where I found a cool red cedar pencil cup. Chinese food, then beer and cards that evening. Male bonding at its finest.

December 01, 2005

Decipher this.

We did it. We ain't got no car no more. [Bike photos coming soon.]

Later, bee otch car.

This was me saying "Don't let the door hit you where natural selection split you" to the Mazda last February. In the spirit of the death of the first Focus, etc. Drunk and cross-eyed and stressed out. A little bit of a beard. Long time readers and heroes of the useful will remember the stupid car drama of the last two and half years of my short life and how much of it was actually my own fault through a faulty worldview. It all ends tomorrow. I think we sign some papers, write a check for what we owe (after the dealer's check) -- which is more than I want to lose, but whatever; we start saving this week -- and leave. That's it. At least, I hope so. I suck at paperwork. We've had two weeks to really really think about this, 1,700 miles, etc. I have only driven the long trips to Baltimore since then. Didn't touch it in Baltimore for a week and a half, not even to get gas. Walked to the market since getting back to Illinois, which is actually faster. Same for biking to Faner Hall -- faster. Not to mention the lack of guilt and the nice cold air. We feel very good about this. Reminds me of how...romantic life was when we lived in Boston. A nice feeling, and a nice time of year to feel it. Between warm weather, car nonsense and personal failings, the fall just sucked this year. Hard. I'm trying to start winter off better. I should post a newer photo (or take one) of me saying "Kiss my bum" to this car. Which is (hopefully) going to be gone in like twelve hours. In protest of I forget what, I haven't shaved at all since November 4th -- not even my neck or uni-brow. That would be a fuzzy photo. I'll take a bike ride first, so I'll be sure to be smiling.

November 30, 2005

Stark.

The wind and storms tore away the leaves as soon as they changed. I hope winter is prettier. Maybe some nice snow. And everything was still green in mid-October. Now I miss the color. Any color. Too bad my bike is black.

November 29, 2005

$Yall.

I know, I promised photos. But I'm at the university, and my photos are on the home computer. Sorry. We made the last 850-mile trip between Carbondale and Baltimore by car. Can't say I'm sad, though I do get sentimental about things like that. In my mind, the car's already gone, though. It's sitting at home, while I rode my bike to school, with a package of mixed-paper recycling strapped to the rear carrier. How "poetic" is it to walk to a local market, get some goodies, pack paper for recycling in a paper bag and then bike it to the recycling center a mile or two up the road on a cold day? Then to have some hot coffee and do some research? Yeah, I can't be unhappy with the way my life goes. It's sweet.

November 28, 2005

Leaving.

Leaving very soon for Southern Illinois. I mean in like a half hour or less. Very tired. Itching to not have to drive this way anymore. No more thinking so hard about being rested enough. Fed just enough (too much would be bad). Do my shoes feel Okay? Is this big cut on my finger gonna affect the way I drive through the Appalachian Mountains? Is the $25 in change I'm carrying gonna be Okay even though there are not any toll roads the way we are going? Are the "strong storms" in Kentucky gonna affect the drive? I miss the whole, "We packed?" "Yes." "The train leaves at 6:25, right?" "Yes." "Okay, it's 6:00, guess we should call a cab." Bickety bam, on the train, done and done and done and seated and reading and relaxing and looking out the window like the curious little dog I used to be. Can't wait.

November 26, 2005

Not dead in a mall.

I'm not. Good news, no? I did manage to get pretty fat in a few days' time, but I'm telling myself that some bike-riding next week will help that. I'm telling. Myself. Not that 13-16 hours of driving Monday is going to help. At least it's the last time we have to do that. No more telling myself that I don't mind, thinking that I have to do it for three more years. Or using it to prove my "manhood" -- "Yeah, well, can you drive 850 miles non-stop?" With how hairy I am, you'd think I wouldn't do things like that. For Christmas, we're taking the train. Yes, it's more expensive than flying, and it takes longer than driving. But it's my favorite way to travel. I'm not fond of flying. Land at Logan enough, and you won't be either. I love trains. Always have. I'm actually looking forward to some travel. Gonna treat myself to a new Timbuk2 bag for it, since I'm sick of suitcases and am about to start saving a ton of money not having a car. And I really really really want to go to New York in December (hear that, Bowman? get Jen and Tom to planning!). I'm trying not to get stuck up about the no car thing or the bike thing, though. We'll probably have to get a car a few years anyway, if we get jobs far away or totally away, etc. You never know. I tried not to get all self-righteous when I went veggie and quit smoking. It's easy not to, though, since I often miss each thing I decided to do without. It's not like I ever had to force myself to feel a certain way about meat. I stopped eating it because of a feeling, but I still get crazy around turkey. (Yeah, Thanksgiving is fun now.) I do love to drive. Won't forget that. And I certainly have nothing against people with cars or who eat meat. Etc. You know this. Me be gentle on the beings on wheels and furry ones, too. Word.

November 22, 2005

Driving dangers.

We went to the automatic car-wash Wednesday to wash the car, put the bra on and then not think about it. We had to take our bikes in for check-ups Thursday anyway. The "touchless" carwash decided to get stuck on our car. The soap ate through some paint by the time I got to the manual carwash to wash it off. And I noticed that some coal that blew out of the powerplant at school did a sand-paper job on the front of the car last week. Fucking hell. Not to mention what a bitch the lady at the gas station was about the whole thing. You know, I'm sorry your expensive piece of shit of a machine fucked my car up. Sorry! The wife and I were talking about how much we wanted to get rid of the car next year anyway, just the day before. But the loss on the sale would equal paying for it for a year. So we though, Okay, we'll just keep an expensive car we don't need or want. But I got pissed Wednesday. Really pissed. So we decided to get rid of the car as soon as we get back from Thanksgiving break, start saving money for our last months in the Dale and just bike around. When I rode my bike Thursday downtown to the shop and then home again in the evening, I had the same big stupid smile on my face that I had the day we bought them, when we thought we were getting rid of the car. (I call it my Bike Smile.) The decision to keep the car has never sat right with me, and I feel guilty for driving to school and good for biking. So that should tell me something. Thursday, I woke up, feeling better about getting rid of a car I'm sick of owning, worrying about and paying for. And, I'll say this, too: sick of driving. Carbondale drivers make driving in Washington D.C. at rushhour on a Friday seem like fun. I'm sorry. Maybe it's not the locals but the kids at school or the people from out of town who come to the "city" and have no idea how to drive around other people. Whichever, driving in Carbondale is scary. I've driven there and in D.C. enough times to know this. Being stuck in traffic is better than almost dying at the hands of someone who never pays attention to the people they walk into at Wal-Mart, let alone the people they almost run over in their big-assed land-yachts. I didn't want to drive to Baltimore on an hour or two of sleep Friday. I was too keyed-up to sleep. So I announced that I wanted to leave forthwith. Damn. Right away. As in, it was 11:00 p.m., and I wanted to drive nearly half-way across the country non-stop right away. And I did. On the way, the damned Focus got hit with tons and tons of rocks from asshole truckers who can't even do what they do for a living (drive) properly. Mind you, I love truckers. I'm talking about like one in a hundred that drive like assholes and will probably kill someone one day. I drank enough coffee (some good, like from 24-hour Starbucks, some terrible) to kill several horses, I think, provided said horses are not caffeinated to the extent that I am. I only almost fell asleep once, and that's not my fault. It's Ohio's fault. Thank you. We saw three wrecks. The first was some little white boy in a Neon with a damned wing on it. I said outloud, as he passed us on the right in Columbus rush-hour traffic, "Damn, dude, it's only a Neon," as in, "you're going to blow up your small car driving like that and I should know since I'm driving one." A minute later, he was in the far left lane, having totalled the damned thing on the back of a very nice pickup truck. He was Okay, though. Standing, not bleeding. Another was I don't remember where. There was a Land Rover with a wheel missing, the windows smashed and the other wheels buckled in. There was no one there, save for a state trooper directing everyone around it. The people were gone. Don't know if they were hurt, dead or Okay. But their luggage was in the trunk still, and it made me feel sick. After everything that happened to the car and the two accidents, I decided to accept three wrecks as a sign/indication that we should indeed get rid of our car as fast as we can. The third accident we saw was when we were only an hour from Baltimore, and we were stuck there for well over an hour. The chopper came three times. When we finally passed, we saw too mangled wrecks of what used to be cars (one with the roof cut off) and someone's body under a white sheet, with their feet sticking out. We drove the rest of the way in almost total silence, and I won't be sad if I never drive a car again.

November 21, 2005

Baltimore beats the Dale (sorry, little dudes).

Yeah, so I'm tired of convincing myself that I don't wish I were back in Baltimore, especially since I'm here now. It's nice to feel welcome and that people are happy that one might be back next year. Very nice. So I'll take some photos. And post them here. And all will love them. And etc. It's a good program! I don't feel welcome in Carbondale. I said it. I'm sick of people staring at me because it's fall and I don't have any camouflage on and that my wife is not some over-fed white lady with big hair. Yes, I wear sweaters and sandals. Yes, I shave like once a week or less. Yes, I'm "not from around here." Yes, I read for fun. Yes, I think you're funny-looking, too. There, I'm staring back via the net.

November 17, 2005

Teaching them there kiddies.

My "mentor" in philosophy once told me that philosophy is "the science of everything." I'm certainly not into philosophy of science, but I've always liked science, regardless of not really having a talent for it (patience, focus, imagination, etc.). I was in the Biology Club in high school; I was even the dude holding the skeleton in the yearbook photo one year. I helped a friend of mine dissect something after school (I held the skull open) even though I wasn't taking science during my last year of high school. What I mean is, I think science is really interesting, fun, etc. My old metaphysics professor writes a lot about the nature of science in his magnum opus on metaphysics, a discipline which he counts as the science of being qua being. I took a year long course with him and argued about some things (he hates Pragmatism, and I can't seem to stop being a Pragmatist) and really admired the sheer rigor of his thinking. I've never known anyone to be more on top of practical concerns (paperwork, meetings, grading) than this gent, and he was in his mid-70s! I don't know why I mention this, but this is just disturbing: Kansas is changing their definition of science to leave room for the supernatural. Now, I'm not against accepting the unseen. Hamlet's words to Horatio are true, I think. Any good Pragmatist and any good Jamesian (which I suppose is a fair label for me, in a way) is aware of the strange mix of science and religion/belief in the supernatural that we inherit as Pragmatists and the openness which characterizes Pragmatism and calls us all to accept all parts of human experience. Even -- and especially, I think -- the parts we can't quantify. What I mean is that I am not against exploring what goes beyond the physical in human inquiry. But science is the not the universal study of the universe. Sciences are particular. Philosophy is universal. There's really no such thing as "science" anyway, just sciences. They all have their own methods and subject matter, as Blanchette points out. So the solution is clear. Less science for the youngins, and more philosophy. Come on, learning about cell structure is over the head of a fourth grader anyway, else the youngins would not learn that same stuff again in middle and high school. Maybe the whole idea of intelligent design or humankind's place in the universe is over the little dudes' and dudets' heads, too. But come, on. It's good exercise! There, Kansas. Your solution. Someone should start paying me for my services now. Kansas State School Board, call me. We'll talk. You can pay my student loans and buy me a laptop, and I'll teach ten teachers Plato, Aristotle, James, Nietzsche and Sartre (good start for the youngins). I have never taught before, and I probably don't know what the hell I'm talking about. But I just kick enough ass that you should pay me for this anyway. Okay? Okay. I'll check the mail for your check when I get back from Maryland, for which I am leaving first thing in the morning.

Shoes!

It went from spring-like storms (and my complaining about it) to very cold weather which requires even the likes of me to wear shoes and socks, over-night. Hell, our heat come on last night, and this completely charmless shoebox (eggwhite, of course) is pretty damned airtight. I even went shoe shopping for a brief bit, with no fruits. Turns out that I have extremely wide feet and skinny ankles. Damn it. Nothing like Tevas for that custom fit. I wonder if I can pull off that freaky Bohemian sandals with fleece socks thing...then again, Teva makes shoes now. And some are non-leather. I think Teva even makes running sandals now, too. Hmm.

November 16, 2005

Washed not away.

So Carbondale is still here. I saw on the news yesterday that part of downtown got flooded a little. Then we had another round of storms. But the tornadoes missed us. Missed Jackson county. Someone un-named whom I know said it's because Jackson was the one blue county in this part of the state -- which would of course confirm my theological suspicion that God's not quite on Bush's side, regardless of who thinks whom is an avenger for Goodness and all that is Right. But yeah, I don't know anything about that.

November 15, 2005

Cracker storms honky cakes.

One tires of the constant "severe weather" we get in this part of the country. And it's not like it's even as bad as what the folks a little further North and West get. A "Tornado Watch" until 5:00 a.m. in November is a bit much. Come on. And all of the major weather networks are calling for the end of the world tomorrow. So, like, if you don't hear from me for a while, Carbondale's gone. If you do, then it's not. See, very easy. Simple. Teach Mother Nature that. November is for cold. Cold rain, maybe snow. Not thunderstorms and tornadoes. Geez. Not weather such that Johnny is still in Tevas and that Johnny wore shorts today to the market. And you know, I've never been a fan of warm weather, but it's not like I'm always hot and that I'm crazy for wearing shorts and sandals. I saw one of those Moms who thinks she's hot at the market today wearing flip-flops, too. And the Mrs. wore them today, and everyone knows she's the sane one. Etc. Oh, Mom who thinks she's hot? Come on, you know what I mean. Leathery skin from too much tanning, half the make-up aisle on her forehead, dangerously low-cut shirt to take her daughter to the market and that "I want me a bagboy" smirk. Come on, you know. You know you know. Hot Moms are Okay; don't misunderstand. If you have a hot Mom, please don't send me hatemail, nor if you are offended by the term "Hot Mom." My Mom's hot, but not in the leathery way. And my Dad, well he's one sweet piece of Southern tail!

November 13, 2005

Moving (no question mark).

Yeah, so we're out of here. I like Southern Illinois. I like SIU. I can stand Carbondale on good days. Time to leave before it gets so that I hate them all. For crap sakes, I was wearing shorts and Tevas yesterday. It's November. Hello, Southern Illinois, it's November. I haven't resorted to shoes and socks yet. I'm in for it when we leave to visit Maryland in a few days. I haven't Okayed anything with my department of my disseration director. But I don't think they'll mind that I don't expect them to pay me for the next two years. And I don't think many people will notice anyway. I suspect that my wife is unhappy in her department anyway. There are a few unpleasant people there. Why the hell would you send someone an email with social advice, when you're a veritable shut-in and nasty person who is just...creepy? I can understand the nosey questions she gets about her degree progress and her pre-SIU background. But some people just cross lines that even freaky graduate students don't usually traverse. A crazy white lady tried to tell her how to be black! That just takes the cake. (My wife is black, in case you're new here.) At least I'm lucky enough to not have that bullshit in my department. Half of the folks there don't even know me, since I don't go to parties enough and since my fellowship relieved me of teaching duties since I've been here. I don't have any beef with the philosophy department at all. In fact, I maintain that the philosophy department has to be the one full of the most "normal" people of any graduate student body of philosophers in the nation -- despite one or two people I'll celebrate never having to see again. I really like my department. It's just time to go. In thinking of being here for five years when I got to SIU and Carbondale, I think I thought of that as semi-permanent. I mean, I hadn't been in one place for that long since I started this academic circus game of jumping through stupid hoops and trying to learn something along the way. The idea of leaving, working on my dissertation full-time next year and applying for jobs next year (rather than in two years) and of even looking for a job outside of academia is a strange thought and an unnerving feeling. It seems risky, unwise and likely to end with me working at a bookstore again but with "Dr. Johnny" on my nametag and a serious chip on my shoulder. But this was inevitable. I'm just pushing it up a year and getting through with my very long education a year early and getting on with the rest of my life. I think some people think of graduate school as the start of a academic career. They are very concerned with publishing, presenting, teaching and what they can put on their precious C.V.s. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that approach. The free time and flexibility that comes with being a graduate student can't be beat! But I just want to get it over with now. I'm stagnating. Whenever I get a "good idea," I have to do something else, and it has to wait. Such is my dissertation topic. I've been thinking about it since the month I got here, but I haven't been able to do much with it. And having a fellowship has made me lazy and bored. I know myself and how I sometimes need what my father would call "a swift kick in the ass." With teaching for the next two years (assuming I even get the funding) and writing, I know what's going to happen. I'll take longer. I'll get depressed. I'll be too scared and too busy to go to the conferences I need to go to. I'll start to hate SIU, Carbondale, philosophy and academia altogether. So this is me kicking myself in the ass -- swiftly. I just hope my foot doesn't get stuck and that I don't wind up living in my parent's garage.

November 10, 2005

Moving?

If you know me, then you know I'm not wild about the idea of teaching next year, when my fellowship runs out in mid-August -- assuming that I even get departmental funding, which is likely but not certain. I've developed a stuck-up and bratty life-style with this fellowship. Not getting paid in the summer and getting paid less the other months will make it necessary to either move to a cheaper apartment, get rid of the car, stop my gourmet coffee affection (never!), take out student loans, or several of the above. No matter what, I want to get rid of half the junk and bullshit I've been dragging around the country with me over the last few years and to move to a smaller apartment. I'm sick of lining my landlord's pockets paying for an apartment I don't need. And I am sick of car ownership, regardless of the recent decision to keep the Focus we made a few weeks ago. I biked to school today, and I feel good about it. When we bought the bikes, we boughter "nice" ones, because we had an eye to not owning a car and to using them for transportation. And you know, I don't at all feel guilty about how much those bikes cost. Plus, I don't know how I'm going to write my dissertation with teaching four sections of logic, intro or ethics. Let's put aside the absolute horror I feel with a sickness in my stomach when I picture myself teaching next year. If you know me, you know how good of a public speaker I am. Or am not, as the case certainly is. So apparently my wife wants to leave Carbondale and didn't think I would want to. She was wrong. We've been talking about it, and it looks likely that we're moving this summer. At the very least, to another apartment. More likely, out of Carbondale. Perhaps to Baltimore or Boston. We both miss the East Coast and the city. And Dunkin' Doughnuts. We will apply for fellowship after fellowship. And the worst case scenario is that we will have to take out student loans and live in Baltimore for a year and finish our doctorates. I did the math, and the amount I'd have to take out to stay here for two years and make the amount of money I make now (which is embarrassingly little) is more than enough to live in Baltimore city for one year of full-time dissertation writing. Finishing with school is a weird thought. I suppose I've ignored the fact that it's around the corner anyway, even if we were to say here. I've been in "higher education" since 1997, a few weeks before I met my wife. I've had my eye on the prize for so long, that the idea that I might finish my doctorate and be Dr. Kickass in a year and half is strange. Freeing, but scary, too. It's definitely high time that I quit screwing around and thinking about the future ("Can I put that on my C.V.?") and making a career out of being a student. If leaving here, busting my ass over my dissertation and job-hunting for a year of grad-student no money, that's fine. This cushy fellowship has made it too easy to waste time with things which are not work and that in fact get the way of work. And these days, I'm not so sure about how much I want to be an academic or teach. The more I get into Pragmatism, the less I want to be a "philosopher" in the academic/professional sense of the word. We have some professional connections in Baltimore and Boston, and I think that having a PhD won't exactly hurt me on the job market. And damn, I miss my friends and my brothers. A lot lately.

November 09, 2005

Brian is back (Call Chris, too).

My cycling exemplar, philosophical cohort and very very good friend Brian has a blog. But he hadn't been posting to it. Now it he is! And you should read it. Because he is awesome, and you know I reserve that word for things like coffee and pencils. So you know it's true. I figure that, if people read Brian's blog, Brian will continue to post. And he's into collages now, so we're in for treats as his readers. He made me one for my birthday called "Current Still-Life With Babbling Buddha." I won't post a photo of it, since that would be best on Brian's blog. See, you always learn something cool here. Hug me, dudes. Now we have to work on getting Chris to post more of his awesome photos on his blog...

November 07, 2005

Freedom?

So I have that George Michael song "Freedom 90" in my head, and I have for two or three weeks. Hell, I arranged it for the mandolin and learned the bassline and downloaded the video. Come, you know you like that song, regardless of whether or not you are a reasonable George Michael fan like I am. (Reasonable fan: like the music and think he's a cool being, but I have no posters of the Faith era look, regardless of the fact that I totally wore a cross earring like that in the early 90s because I've always thought he was an awesome guy.) Our philosophy conference was this weekend, and it was a big success. That seems like it's par for the course these days. Carbondalies throw a kick-ass conference. And myriad thanks go to the dudes and dudets who made it happen. Anyway, there was a paper Saturday morning (and I confess to being groggy, foggy and froggy that day) wherein the presenter argued for a notion of moral responsibility without the necessity for free will. There's all this "science" and all these "statistics" that point away from free will. She said that Buddhists don't require it. Etc. Maybe I'm too much of a Sartrean, Jamesian, or maybe my Catholic upbringing in a Catholic city is something I can't get over. But the whole idea that anyone would believe that we don't have free will was completely abhorrent to me. When I see closed-minded people, fundamentalists, evangelicals and moral dinosaurs (yeah, I said it) get all upset and indignant at the idea of gay marriage, inter-racial couples and religious pluralism, I always look down my nose at them. "I'm more enlightened than that," I tell myself. "I would never have a gut reaction to something that is entirely alien to me and say that it's wrong right away and that I am right and that the perpetrator is evil. Not me." But I did it. I had a gut reaction. I got really upset inside. Turns out that I didn't have the intellectual bravery that I thought comes with being a philosopher. For at least a few minutes (or hours) Saturday, I was as bad as the hags that protest gay rights and who protested racial equality decades ago. I was talking to a colleague after a guest lecture Thursday about not being able to turn off being of a philosophical mind-bent. I think it can be a sickness at times, and the inability to turn off the hyper-critical world-view leads to nothing but unhappiness or discomfort very very often. I can't help but approach most things critically, whether it's finding ten things wrong with a particular pencil or feeling nauseous when I see obese mothers buying their already obese 8 year olds $6 coffee ice-creams from Gloria Jeans. These are not sources of pleasure at all. But I turned it off Saturday and thought just like a moronic, unreflective ape of a person who gets upset because someone disagrees with him and is ready to piss his pants. I was told not to feel badly, that "everyone" does that. But that's the worst excuse I have ever heard for doing anything. I was going to blog about free will, and I might work on an essay on it just to make myself feel better. But not here, and not now.

November 04, 2005

Photo Friday: Warmth.

For Photo Friday: Warmth. I know, it seems like there's nothing warm about this photo. But there is! It's from last holiday season when I was visiting my parents in Maryland. This is the back roof from where the second floor does not extend as far as the second on their house. They live on a hill in Hampden, which is already on a hill, and you can see all the way to the Key Bridge and Harbor from there. If you look West, the direction the photo is facing, you can see the sunset. One of my brothers and I used to go out there when we were teenagers and when my parents weren't home to play bass and guitar for the whole neighborhood. I distinctly remember cranking out a decent version of Bush's "Everything Zen" one time and getting compliments from the drumming low-life who mooched off his girlfriend and "lived" up the street. I used to go out there to smoke and to think when I was 15-19. The first time I inhaled the cigarette properly, i.e., made myself sick from the sudden rush of nicotine, was on that roof. I used to write bad teenage poetry there by the fading l ight of the sunset, since it was too high for street lights to reach. Whenever I am in Baltimore for a visit, I like to look out that window at dusk and remember. Because while I thought I was going through the worst time of my life back then, I can see now that I was lucky and that everything is probably downhill from there. I just wish I appreciated it more when I was sixteen.

November 03, 2005

Fallin'.

The winds have kicked up enough today that I think any leaves which are not the most hardy will find their way to the ground and off of the trees where they have been shining against the bluest sky all week. There are some oak leaves that I'm sure will make it, but oaks usually just turn brown before they lose their leaves. There's a small oak tree behind my apartment that actually kept most of its leaves (in a tan, leathery form) all winter two years ago. Seriously. I have pictures of them with snow on them, but I don't really feel like digging them up. Come on, you trust me! At any rate, I'm sure my landlords are happy about the wind. The parking lot which was full of dead leaves and the dust of dead leaves being driven over repeatedly by autos and my bike is now bare. The winds have swept it completely clean and pushed all the mess into the woods behind the place. That's good, since the dudes would just wake me up with a leaf-blower and pick up the leaves with a shovel, put them in a pickup truck and probably throw them away in the trash. I prefer it this way, and not just because I can sleep until 9:00 a.m. All you Southern Illinoisians and Salukis, don't forget the Building Bridges Philosophy Conference that kicks off tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m., with a keynote talk by a Boston University gent tomorrow evening. I'm sure there will be free coffee, and comtemplation is always free, not to mention good for the soul.

November 01, 2005

B.B. and the leaf.

I always get sad when October's over. I think I spend half the month waiting for fall to "really" start (cooler temperatures and leafy color) and then miss my favorite month. But November is a nice substitute for October, since it includes a holiday and a trip home to Maryland. So I can't complain too much. And for those of you in Southern Illinois enjoying the nice day today, stop to think about your existence and it's meaning and your place in the universe for a second. See? Fun? Good. Come on out to the Philosophy Department's conference this weekend, Building Bridges. You'll be glad you did and sorry if you don't, and come on who really wants to be sorry?

October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, from my pumpkin to yours.

October 30, 2005

Happy Birthday, Bowman!

Very happy first Blogosphere Birthday to my very good friend and fellow-blogger Bowman today!

October 28, 2005

Photo Friday: Delicate.

For Photo Friday: Delicate. Some really cool witch balls for sale at Vulture Fest this year. I have one from Spring Fest 2004 in my living room.

October 25, 2005

New camera.

I treated myself to a cheap tripod today and played with the "My Colors" settings on my camera tonight. This is a cool [fake] Tiffany lamp that always reminds me of chilly and rainy March days and reading reading reading (reading) over a pot of coffee in tiny cups. With these settings, you can select a color that will come out, while the rest of the image is black and white. I didn't think I'd like it, but it's sure fun to use. And I love that lamp. It's about time I got around to posting more photos. I'm glad I bought a cheaper camera, too.

October 24, 2005

A410 in the house.

Why don't I use a Canon Powershot A520 anymore? Well, I don't want to talk about it. I'll talk around it and mention that I have owned four and rejected two more at stores. Not to mention the two A620s I had to return (and pay the restocking fee on one because the jerk Geek Squad bonehead didn't believe me about one). Canon's new 4X zoom lense is crap. They all have lint, dirt or hair under them. One of them was actually chipped! Every photo I've taken since getting that damned thing has a huge white dot in it. Damn it. So I thought I'd give Canon my consumer finger and buy something from someone else. But I couldn't find anything anywhere made by anyone that didn't get bad reviews, cost too much or look and feel ugly to me. Nothing else worked. So I was ready to spend a lot of money I don't have on an expensive Canon. A fancy one or a sexy one that is the size of a credit card. Then I thought about it. Number one, John ain't got much money. Number two, I'd just baby it and never use it. Number three, I didn't want to give Canon much more bread. Number three, why complicate my life more by getting a complicated camera for hobby shots? So I bought the Powershot A410. It's brand-new (came out like last week), but it only has 3.2MP. So what? It does more than the A520 (and A620, since the A410 has a supermacro mode). It has full manual controls and some cool modes. And it was cheap. And sexy. Since my photos are for blogs that get reduced in size and quality anyway, I really don't care about the MP. I don't print photos anyway. If I did, I'd get a film camera and save some money. This baby has the new DIGIC II chip, is USB 2.0 compliant, is very small and fits 535 pictures only my SanDisc Ultra II memory card. And it can take close-ups wherein a pencil point fills up the whole shot. That's sweet. Yeah, sweet. The LCD screen is small (which I like, since I'm always paranoid about scratching them), and Canon cut a few more corners to make it cheaper. But at only $149 for a really nice camera from Canon, you can't really complain much. However, Canon, if you can read this, I'm flipping you off right now from my computer for making me run around like I did. Wankers.

October 20, 2005

No Pity: a little ditty.

NyQuil is great, it is good, it is true. You can't have my NyQuil, no, not even you. It helps me to sleep because I'm a little sick. The green kind tastes yucky, sucky - ick! Once in college I tried that crap Thunderbird, And it tastes like garbage, soaking in terd. Well that green NyQuil tastes much worse, And I wanted to drink Thunderbird or poop from a horse Or something more foul or disgusting than this, Such as waking up an ulgy old hag with a kiss. Cherry NyQuil is also bad, tastes like trash, And it's a sick color, like fake blood or a rash. But I can swallow it without gagging And get around without lagging And buy it without nagging* And build up my nice winter time stash. [*They took out the Pseudoephedrine, that redneck drug dealers use to make meth, so the old ladies at the store don't eye me up for buying it anymore.]

October 19, 2005

Fests.

I'm always sad that I miss the Fell's Point Fun Festival in Baltimore, the first weekend in October. I had already developed a taste for going every year when I met my wife in September of 1997 and had our first official date at the Festival on October 4th. True, it's gotten more "commercial" over the years, but it kept Fell's Point from getting booted for a highway. I didn't get to go when I lived in Boston, nor for the last two years, but I made it in 2003. We got married exactly six years after our first date, so the festival was that weekend. We stayed in the Admiral Fell Inn that night and hit the festival the next day. When we got out here to Southern Illinois, we checked out Makanda on my birthday in late August, and I immediately dug it. I was excited when I learned that there would be a festival in October, my favorite month. We went, and I found Vulture Fest to be way...cooler than the one in Fell's Point. Less food and beer and more hippies, artists and interesting people that you are thankful to learn live around here and don't wear camouflage all fall, even to the mall and the market (not that there's anything wrong with blending in with the hunting aisle at Wal-Mart). I don't have the blog power to convince you to go to the Vulture Fest or the Spring Fest in May. Nope. You'll have to trust me and go. I'll even give you a ride, maybe, as long as it hasn't rained around then.

October 18, 2005

Letter B.

So, I think I have concluded that bloggers are some of the nicest people you are likely to meet. Either that, or especially nice people like to blog. Behold the bountifully bestowed bevy of beautiful chocolate and sugar that I received in the mail Friday from fellow blogger and Baltimorean Neighbor Girl! Damn, I say, damn. That's a lot of candy. Good candy. And yes. What you're wondering about: my pants do fit a little more snuggly since Friday. I'm cool with it. I'll ride my bike soon, promise.

October 14, 2005

Photo Friday: Conspicuous.

So, yeah, this is a re-post. Sorry. But come on. This is the epitome of this week's Photo Friday challenge: Conspicuous. Bet you can't guess what's in this can. I'll have some new photos from this weekend's Vulture Fest, I'm sure. There are always some...interesting people there to steal photos of. And my parents are coming to visit. Hey, I like my parents. We will go hiking, shopping and get a little drunk. Bonding! Yeah, my folks kick ass. They are driving 850 miles to visit me for a weekend, and I haven't seen anyone in my family since the spring -- won't see anyone else or my beloved Baltimore until Thanksgiving week. I miss you, Mobtown.

October 12, 2005

Sleepless under this blanket.

Yeah, that's my bedspread blanket type thing. My 2006 IKEA catalog came the other day, and guess where that cover-up dealy is from. It's warm, but not too warm. I can't sleep if I'm hot. So, dude, I was up the other night/morning at 4:30 because I was waking-dreaming about Nietzsche and pencils. Re-read Twilight of the Idols that day and was organizing my pencils that night. Yeah, I have that many pencils. Come on, you know this. Love dictates knowing it. Love! One particular German pencil I have had affection for is not made of cedar, and I was jolted. Had to revaluate my pencil values. Kept me up. Yeah, that's the second best philosophy joke ever. Maybe the third. I'll tell you the other two one day, if you haven't heard them. Call me, dude. I can feel your anticipation. But you have to have been force-fed Thomas Aquinas at some Catholic school or university to get the second one. Force-fed because oxen are not fun, no matter how good the exercise is. Ah, so much philosophy humor. I should go on tour. Leben lang die Jesuits!

October 11, 2005

Dooty.

Trying to sound smart is not my thing. Should erase the last post. Ever wake up dreaming of pencils? I did last night/this morning. That's alarming. Very.

October 10, 2005

Book burning.

Two weeks ago, I got to go to a reading of banned books organized by the staff of Morris Library. It was even a gorgeous morning for the reading. I don't remember anyone's names, but I'm pretty sure that this lady was reading from Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Whomever was going to read Ginsberg was ill, so there was nothing from "Howl" read. I have to admit that I was disappointed that no one selected any Hemingway, since he's as banned as Steinbeck. I was suprised by the kinds of things that books get banned for. Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms is banned because of the extra-marrital affair and pregnancy and because of the drinking. Harry Potter encourages witchcraft and general cheeky-ness. It seems that books get banned because they have naughty characters. But how come no one bans things like Nietzsche for the ideas (save for Communist books, I suppose)? It's probably a good thing that books don't get officially banned because of the ideas as often as they get banned because the characters drink and sleep around, and I am sure that there a lot of books that never make it to publication because of the ideas expressed in them. I realize I'd be setting myself up if I were to ignore that. But it is strange to think of how Puritanical and judgmental we are as a society. I suppose that the gay marriage debate comes more from this than from the Bible. And with a lot of other things. There's nothing in any holy book that says that weed is a sin. But it's illegal. Etc. We're not pious. We're uptight.

October 07, 2005

Photo Friday: Five.

(Click HERE for larger version!) The nerd in me wanted to get a photo of two people giving/taking five. Or of myself with five arms or heads or something -- but I don't use photo-editing software, really, save for resizing. So, for Photo Friday: Five, here are five Moleskine Diaries/Planners, including my current big fat daily version and the 2006 daily desk size that a friend sent me for my birthday. The pocket weekly was ruined (if you ask me) when they went verticle. I even tried to use it, but I liked the page a day version. However, I find that it's an unhappy medium. With the weekly versions, you only get enough room to make lists, even the larger one that my wife uses. With the pocket daily, you think you could use it as a planner and diary -- maybe even for notes and doodles. But there's not enough room for that, so you wind up having to still carry a notebook with you. Carrying two books is a pain. I'm really really excited to get started on my 2006 large daily format, because I know it's the only book I'll have to carry with me. There's enough room for planning, recording what I already did, notes and library books to check out, addresses to jot down, doodles to doodle and pencil haiku to write (yes, I actually do that). True, it's the "large" one, but large Moleskines are no bigger than a trade paperback or other academic book or modern novel -- smaller, often. I always have a bag or the car, so that's no problem. And I get the convenience of carrying one book. And, you know, that might just be the sexiest Moleskine I've put my hands on yet.

October 05, 2005

Big belly.

"Look into my eyes!" the gnome says. Gned, rather. Gned with a G. You get it. I didn't name him. The person who gave him to us did. You can see my sexy new camera in Gned's eyes if you click the image. Gned has a divining rod for finding water, and someone (not me) kept putting him behind the flying pig on the table between the chairs, in front of the window. The height of the rod was equal to the pig's tail. Yeah, use your imagination. They had to be separated. (I didn't do that, either.) So today I ate a lot. And I think it's funny. I ate three left-over veggie tacos (they have fake ground beef in them), a handfull of Quakes (some weird cheesy puffy dealies that the wife likes and I eat all of before she touches) after dinner. Pasta for dinner. Three left-over fake meat "hot dogs" for lunch. A croissant and half a box of candy (movie theatre) for breakfast. One cup of tea. Three Diet Cokes. Six or seven cups of coffee. Yeah, I just think it's funny that I ate half a box of candy for breakfast. Charleton Chews. Oh, yeah. Biked a lot (over an hour), so I don't really give a shit that I ate too much. It's the what, not the how much. What's the line from "Doo Doo Brown"? Something like "Never drink Pepsi, always Coke/You got the right one, babaay"? Yeah, that makes no sense. That's the Pepsi slogan from the early 90s. He's saying to drink Coke. Still, if you're from Baltimore, imagine the doo doo doo doo doo da doo part sung by a drunken white guy with a thick Baltimore accent, serenading his Baby Mama (her name is always Ashley) with this little tune of moderately short-lived fame. That's as funny as eating candy for breakfast and waiting behind your front door for the FedEx man to leave, pissing yourself like a kid on Christmas because your Dick Blick order is here. I'm a barrel of laughs tonight, I tell you. That, and fake meat.

October 04, 2005

Poopy.

I took this last year on my wedding anniversary (today) in Paducah, Kentucky on the riverfront. My nickname in high school was Poopy, applied by the principle, a nice Friar. Long story, but it didn't involve any lack of control of my own body functions, more like art class. Yeah. Whenever I talk to the very very few people from high school that I ever have contact with, they still call me Poopy. I think it's funny. I dont' dye my hair red or wear my golf-green Dr. Martens anymore.

October 03, 2005

Who you callin' maladjusted?

So, like, I was thinking last week. But I didn't want to say anything, because I'd prefer to avoid having internet stones thrown at me. I was watching "The Simpons" and wondered about smart people, more specifically, the over-achieving kind. And I'm married to one, so think of that before you accuse me of not liking the intellectually blue-blooded. In the episode of "The Simpons" where Bart is in danger of failing the fourth grade (a very early episode), Martin is reading under a tree while the other kids play ball. The ball comes over, and he's clueless about what to do about it. He has no idea of how to be a normal person. Yeah, I'm gonna assume some level or type of normality out there. Yeah. So, I wondered it, to some extent, the over-achievers start to run the country (our present fearful leader excluded, of course). Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar, for instance. They run companies. Etc. Is that why nothing works? Or maybe I have my facts all wrong. Maybe the over-achievers never amount to anything usually. Maybe it's the terrible under-achievers (like me, and proud of it, sucka) who run things. Lazy people who don't like to work for work's sake. Maybe they run things, and that's why nothing works. Maybe there's no connection between them, too. I've been known to imagine connections that are not there. But do at least some people become academics because they are too entirely maladjusted to function as normal people? They don't know how to play ball, so they just read under trees? I'm trying to think of some successful academics who are still regular people, and I can't think of very many. I'll brag that I prefer the company of writers, carpenters and computer geeks to my fellow academics, most of the time. The exceptions are the few academics who are still normal people. People who can get drunk or hyped up on caffeine and never once want to talk about some damned philosophy book that "everyone" has read or the current state of public schools. I disagree with the implied adage around universities that a person is fun to be around and an adept conversationalist because of the books he or she can work into "casual" conversation -- because the GRE words one uses daily. I sometimes respect people more to the degree that they can exist without having to mention the latest fucking translation of Twilight of the Idols or anything by Milton in conversation. Or is the problem that we marginalize smart people as a society, so they don't feel like they can play ball and that they have to find something else to do, like read under a tree? That we always lord over smart people that they can't catch a football or get laid -- so that they throw their German-speaking abilities and vast knowledge of Shakespeare in everyone's face in retaliation? Whenever someone makes fun of me because I don't know how to fix a car or rock-climb, I admit that I love to respond that "At least I'm not a stupid piece of shit who can't read Kant" -- whether I actually say it or just think it. And come to think of it, being able to read Kant is not necessarily a desirable quality in a person. I do feel the prejudice against intellect in the United States. And it always makes me want to call everyone I can stupid. I've spent entire afternoons in Carbondale making fun of the stupid ways that people try to drive automobiles: "Look at that dim-witted sumbitch trying to handle that Excursion!" has become my favorite saying. And I love to point out how stupid celebrities and talk show hosts are. I know I'm not alone in this, since my favorite people all do the same thing. Maybe it's a vicious circle (or least a mean one) where smart people act like asses, and we treat them like crap. And they act like bigger asses, so we treat them even more like crap. And so on. Or that we treat smart people like crap, so they act like asses, etc. Whoever does it first, it doesn't seem likely to stop anytime soon. But that's Okay. Watching inane television is all the more fun if you feel superior to the host.

September 30, 2005

Photo Friday: Darkness.

Apologies that I've been absent most of the week. It was a very busy few days, in a good way. To make up for it, here are some photos for Photo Friday: Darkness. The first was taken in the upper floors of Morris Library before they were closed on August 1st for the expensive and lengthy renovations that probably mean I'll be Dr. John before I ever set foot on the upper floors again. I think that darkness in the library is appropriate this week because it is still Banned Books Week. (See the pencil version here.) When I think of a world that bans things in practice like Hemingway and Catcher in the Rye, and where myriad other works can be banned at will in principle by well-meaning people who think they know what is best for us all, all I can think of is a dark world. Sounds trite, yes. But true. I attended a reading of banned books on the library lawn Tuesday, where library staff members read from banned books of their choosing. Unfortunately, no one was up for any Hemingway, but they raffled off some banned books, wrapped in brown paper. My wife won Jon Stewart's book (I don't know who bans it, sorry). It felt almost subversive, since being in the Heartland, I was most likely sitting there not that far from possibly well-intentioned people who want certain things banned. I'm anticipating resistance if Brokeback Mountain is released in one of the Carbondale movie theaters, not necessarily from Carbondalies, but from local judgmental types who only want what's good for us (right?) and might be willing to come from surrounding areas and states to protect us (HA!) from the subject matter of the film. I'm experiementing with some counter-measures to protesting films and burning books. I call two of these measures "Protesting The Protesting Via The Wicked Spank" and "Flaming Dog Doo On A Stick." The former involves me riding back and forth through the homophobic protestors on my bike with no pants on and my hairy bum hanging out, asking the protestors who only want what's best for me to spank me with their picket signs, since I have such a filthy mouth. The latter is just that: stinky poop on a stick, lit on fire on the lawns of book burners. Now I just need my own personal army, Project Mayhem or police force to help me in these measures. But then again, I have faith in the people of Carbondale that they won't protest a movie just because it's about two cowboys that fall in love. Love is certainly nothing to protest.

September 26, 2005

Spiders in the house.

Well, outside, really. I spotted this frighteningly large fella outside of my apartment this afternoon. I ran away from it like a sissy though. I mean, no I didn't. That's a joke. I'm not scared of spiders. I splattered one the other day, all over the hallway wall. Splattered. Yeah, them's no scaring me. I've blogged about the scary spiders that live outside the front of my apartment before. See, two sets of photos. I ain't afraid I tell ya. Really, though, I leave them alone, and I love them, since they keep me just a tad more bug-bite free. Nice little creepy things.

September 23, 2005

Photo Friday: Burn.

Burnt Arm, ii.
For Photo Friday: Burn. I think I've been going over-board with waiting up Thursday night for the weekly challenge to come out and then finding a photo I already have to use and get posted ASAP to try and have the lowest number on the list of submissions. Kinda defeats the challenge part to not actually take the photo for the theme -- at least, for me. I have been neglecting my sexy new camera. So I used the A520 for the first time in a week, and I took a new photo for the challenge today. Which is easy because I'm stupid enough to burn myself with an alarming regularity. Yes, I burned my arm getting a pizza out of the oven earlier this week, and this is what it looks like today. Yes, I did that a few months ago, too. Yes, I'm just that clumsy. At least I didn't fill the kitchen with the smell of burning hair this time, and it didn't hurt as much. It looks much worse than it is. Long live Neosporin!

September 21, 2005

Perfectionism?

So I went for an hour and half bike-ride today and sweated my rear off. Despite tomorrow being the first day of autumn, it's hot in Southern Illinois. Big surprise. At least I haven't ventured to the "winter beard" yet. Did the math. For a 150 pound person, you burn 300 calories in a half hour biking. I weigh more than that and biked three times that long, so I'll assume that I burned 1000 calories and sweated out more water than my modest bike bottle holds. That's not bad. Despite being hot as hell, sweaty and tired by 2:30, it felt good. Felt good to do something. I've been feeling fat-assed, lazy and wasteful lately. It was good to do something about it. I honestly wanted to go for another ride before dinner, but the old legs were just not having it. That's Okay, though. Then I saw what appeared to be a ding on the door of our car. I shouldn't admit to spending an hour (actually more like eighty minutes) outside looking at it from different angles, stopping only because the sun went down. I shouldn't admit to going back out in the darkness to feel for it. I could see something, but I could feel nothing, and there's no reason for me to go back out and look to anyone who looks on as if I'm contemplating breaking into my own humble car. See, the Mrs. is pretty sure that there's something wrong with the paint that plays a trick on the eyes in that spot. I know that Ford's computers half-assed the paint on that car. For being seven months old, there are a lot of bubbles between the clear-coat and black paint, and it's not put on evenly at all, etc. Not to mention what happens when bug guts get baked on a black car in direct sunlight all day. I've become Okay with the paint stuff. It happens. To hell with it. But dents from jerks I am not ready for, not since what happened to the other Focus. But what's up with that? I'm not a car nut and never have been. I don't even change the oil myself. I know how, but I still don't. I seldom bother to wash it, and my interior-care gear has never been used. But I get so protective -- obsessive. I can't explain it. My wife thinks it's because I have not been working very much and that my mind looks for something to think about. Not sure if that's it exactly. I think it's probably some control issue or something. I have tons of stories about what a perfectionist I was as a child. But when I stopped caring about my grades in high school a long time ago and stopped being in shape and not a fat ass hairy guy with a bad haircut (think Dignan from Bottle Rocket), I really began to hesitate to identify myself as a perfectionist. What kind of perfectionist has two B's on their graduate school transcript? What kind of perfectionist has a beer gut that has nothing to do with beer? And all that. Are perfectionists only so about certain things, though? Maybe that would be me, then. I'm anal about the dumbest things, but I let important things slide. Backwards, yeah. Stupid, yeah. Pointless, yeah. The solution is not necessarily to lose myself in work. I did that during the first year that the Mrs. and I had the long-distance relationship thing in college. It kept me from thinking about how shitty things were, but it also kept me from dealing with it. Besides, doing nothing but philosophy and loathing when you're 19 is not good for your sanity (very good for getting the fundamentals of Western philosophy though). I realize that I'll have to act differently. You can't just change the way you experience the world and the way you act toward it through thinking about it. I'm not naive enough to believe that's possible, that I can reason my way out of this little rut. I don't have the life I want. Neither did Henry D. T. So he did something about it. I could take the tire-iron to the car and solve it's metallic perfection right then and there. I could vote to get rid of it. But I don't really think the car is the problem, just a manifestation of whatever the problem is. The problem. I suppose I should figure that out somehow. What it is, and all that.

September 19, 2005

Up close.

The world looks very different[ly] when you've driven through it at 60 mph, riden a bike through it at 10 mph and then walked through it much slower. There's a lot that you miss when you're walking and not crawling or standing or sitting. So there's even more that you miss when you're driving in a car with the stereo turned up loudly and the windows closed, since you're too lazy to wash the windshield that the Southern Illinois humidity always fogs up at night. You might see the two deer on the right of the road, stairing at your black car in fright or wonder or a combination of the two. But you might also miss the four other deer on the left, only a few yards behind the treeline, doing what deer do when no one's around with a loud car. You miss a lot of smells in the car. Leaves are either dry and annoying as they fly around after you drive over them, or they are wet and slippery. On a bike or on foot, you can appreciate the fragrance of wet leaves, dry leaves, burning leaves, green leaves, the absence of leaves. But you know, there's a lot to be said for the big-picture, too. Thoreau must have know this, with his prodigious surveying abilities. Not only was he familiar with his own corner of Walden Pond. He surveyed and mapped the entire pond. So he had the big-picture bird's eye view and the close up macro shot of a man in love with the earth. While the close-up, non-motorized view of the world is desirable for its...candor, the big-picture view is another way of looking at things that you miss on foot. Of course, there is the even bigger picture, such as from a plane or celestial camera. I used to love to find my apartment on the shores of Quincy Bay from the plane when leaving Boston to fly to Baltimore. And you can get a seriously big-picture view via Google these days, too. Maybe we'll call the car-view the fast picture. I can't favor one view over the other. The combination seems to me to grant one an interesting way of looking at things. You can tell what your home looks like up close and how it fits into the surrounding area, how the surrounding area fits the rest of the world. How you fit into the world. The universe. Everything. Without sounding like I'm going to wax mystical on a Monday morning, self-awareness can be gained this way, no?

September 16, 2005

Photo Friday: Divine.

Photo Friday, Divine. So my relationship with the Catholic church and the faith that I usually ignore is now a long one, and a strange one. If you are a long-time reader, you know how I almost went into the seminary once when I went to a shindig with the Cardinal and that I went militant atheist for a while (like most philosophy majors) but then cooled down into a mild Transcendentalist who never goes outside. I mean, I don't read the Good Book for solice, but I can read St. Augustine and find some very useful things. Nice way to be. We went to see The Exorcism of Emily Rose last weekend. I think Tom Wilkinson is awesome ("I'm the money."). It even has Laura Linney, who played The One on "Frasier" before NBC yanked it -- a year too soon, if you ask me. Now, this is a movie that is definitely worth seeing, if you like thrillers or if you like movies that are decidedly Catholic (like Constantine or Dogma). So I will try not to give anything away. There is an element in the film where Linney's character is walking outside in the snow and finds a locket on a chain. The locket has her initials. She talks to the priest and tells him, and they agree that this cannot be a coincidence, or it can be. She can look at it either way. She takes it as a sign that she's on "the right path." Well, we leave the theatre, get some caffeine in the adjoining mall, etc. and head back to the car. What do I find on the ground in my way but a wooden cross on a string. I'm not in the habit of pocketing what I find on the ground, but I did this time. It was too...weird not to. I've been avoiding thinking about what this could mean, if anything. Calling me back to Catholicism, even though I really have issues with their more politically-oriented teachings (birth-control, gay marriage, priests marrying)? Telling me I'm Okay going the way I'm going? Warning me that the Mrs. will leave me and render me fit for the priesthood? I know it's the coward's way out, but I really don't want to think about it right now.

September 15, 2005

Maybe keeping the car.

Talk about see-sawing. We actually bought nice bikes yesterday and rode around Carbondale. Very fun. Riding by the apartment and seeing our little car made me sad, though. We thought about keeping it. Then it rained hard early today, and we had a whole car full of recycling to take to the center, and we were glad to have it. In the afternoon, it cleared up, and we took a long bike ride just for fun. Felt nice. Shrink the gut, get some air, see parts of Carbondale up close. Good to do. After dinner, however, we thought, what if we kept the car and the bikes? Not to ride bikes all the time and just pay $500 a month to have a car on Saturdays or to make it to the movies on time. We're sure as hell not rich enough to have a weekend car. But to have a car for transportation and bikes for fun and exercise. Sounded good. So we went to Target (far enough away that you would really not bike there just to get Method products that you can buy online) and a late-night trip for something for me to put my dozens and dozens of pencils in. Turns out that we just worry about the car and the nice black paint and wiggity biggity boo too much. Not a very good reason to get rid of it. When we bought our first Focus, we went nuts. Happy nuts. We were in Baltimore for five weeks after two years in Boston and before moving out west to Southern Illinois. We were driving 200-400 miles a week, since we just never stayed home. It had been three years since I had a car at the time, and I was enjoying it. I really love to drive, and Foci are fun to drive. Maybe it's my aversion to Baltimore's buses, but you can't have much fun in Baltimore without your own set of wheels. I lived there for a long time with them and a long time without them, and you're gonna want an auto in Mobtown. For sure. We went nuts because car ownership was freedom, and we could go wherever we wanted. When that Focus got killed, and we put that stupid car bra on the new black one, we were convinced that it was invincible. But it turns out that no car is (duh), and we went nuts over every single paint chip. Ones from idiots. From the landlord carelessly murdering an asphalt curb all over the side of our car with a weedwacker. From getting things in and out of the back hatch. But, you know, this shit happens. Cars get scratches. I dont' think I could handle a deep dent in the side from Betty Sue getting out of her big-asses SUV, but I should be able to handle getting a few scratches. I might as well say that I don't want to own a car anymore because Carbondale drivers make driving in Washington DC fun (yes, I mean that). Shit happens. Yes. But why is it so difficult to change the way I react to it? Those little things drove us nuts. We never drove anywhere, unless we had the whole lot to ourselves. Stupid, yes. Very stupid. We wound up paying almost more than we can afford for a car that was only driving us crazy most of the time. For me, that was the biggest reason I wanted to get rid of it. Paying all that bread for something that takes my sanity away didn't seem to make sense. But hanging out downtown and chilling and driving in the rain (which I love to do for some reason) and going shopping for a $3 plastic box until 10:30 on a Thursday night reminded me of why having a car can be fun. Why I shouldn't sit here in the apartment wondering if a tree branch is going to fall on the hood or if I'm right that the sun is ruining the paint. Damn. How anally, materialistically, and insanely of a waste of energy is that? Confronted with selling our car and having the fact that I've lost sleep worrying about its state not make any difference at all, I could see how foolish I've been acting and thinking. And, confronted with being less...mobile, I suddenly appreciated what having a car means to us. So we're keeping the car, at least for now. We can always change our mind and sell it. But, if we sell it, we can't swing getting another once, since we'd stand to lose close to $7,000 instantly. We're thinking about re-financing it, since we have totally kick-ass credit these days, and if the paint gets worse, the whole damned car is still under a warranty. And now we have bikes, so maybe I can shrink the gut. My wife thinks that we wanted a change of life-style. And hell, I think I'm looking at the world differently tonight than I was at the start of the week. I feel like going out to get a beer, and I haven't felt like that in a long time.