March 30, 2005

Chugga chugga chugga choo choo.

We were in Cape Girardeau, Missouri this weekend. Not far from Carbondale, really. It was an extremely nice spring day on the Mississippi River, and I was lucky enough to get two surprises, both pleasant. First, a freight train came through town on the riverfront, only a few feet unland of the flood wall. I was on the river side of the wall with my camera out, so I was able to get really close to a moving freight train, much closer to a moving train that I have ever been unless I was riding on it. Talk about shaking and rumbling! At several points, I thought it was going to fall on me, but that was probably just my clautrophobia acting out. Anyway, the most loyal of readers will understand that I love trains and always have. You knew that, right? The other treat was finding a genuine copy of the first edition of the last full-lenth novel published during Hemingway's lifetime, Across The River And Into The Trees. For $7. Really. I don't collect Hemingway first editions. Too much money, for one thing. And what would be the point? I just thought it would be worthwhile to say I own at least one. And for $7, how could I not? I also found a first edition of Doctorow's Ragtime at another antique shop in Cape Girardeau a few months ago for one dollar. Apparently, some of the owners of the antique stores don't really a lot of American fiction. I have some more photos of that day. I might upload them. I might not. My mother-in-law just flew back to the East Coast today, and my own parents are coming out for a visit this weekend. They both qualify for awesomeness of the highest order. If posting is light over the next few days, forgive me. I'll have copious amounts of photos from the adventures of the coming weekend and hiking and etc. and etc. So much for the unctuous account of my possible absence for a few days. Maybe I'll just post more just to never stick by what I say I'll do. That's more like me, after all.

March 28, 2005

Flow, see "Going with the-"

You don't read Flow yet? The new blog from Gary? What the hell is wrong with your internet connection then? It's fucking awesome (winks at Lorianne). Seriously, though, you know I don't tell you something is awesome if it's not. Especially fucking awesome. That's reserved like the good tea or china-dishes. You know it. Have I ever steered you wrong? No. I thought not.

March 27, 2005

John in person, sorta.

For Nancy in Berlin, per her teasing about there not being whole photos of me on this here blog. This is the photo from my identification card for doing research at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. in January 2003. I was doing some research for a best-selling non-fiction author (no names, as I don't think he'd appreciate my name-dropping) for my last year in Boston, and I put together a small "research team" (as the author-dude called it) to hit the largest library in the history of the entire human race (ain't America grand?). Unfortunately, they don't actually let you find the books on the shelves yourself. You fill out a nicely bureaucratic form, and then workers bring the books you ordered to your desk. Strange procedures, but it made me feel very important. After all, who else in that room must have been breaking new intellectual ground of some kind? I felt like more than a research assistant. Or at least, like a very special research assistant. I look like a Polish terrorist in that photo, I'm told. I know. And I really am a quarter Polish (shh!), so I can't help but think of that everytime I see it. And I did get some post-9/11 bullshit that day from a security guard because my messenger bag chocked full of photocopies said PETA on it. I was (at the time, not now) a fierce vegan and a moderate member of PETA. And some people consider PETA to be a "domestic terrorist" organization (what a stupid term -- like "reverse racism") because they are supposed to all be nuts and are allegedly associated with the Animal Liberation Front, a sometimes-violent animal rights organization. Once I realized that he was not going to detain me or any such nonsense, I thought it was a little funny that the bunny-huggers (my term, sucka) are watched at the Library of Congress. Or, at the very least, the ones who look like Polish terrorists.

March 26, 2005

March madness.

Or rather, late March incoherence. My brain feels as blurry as this sunset photo from a few weeks ago, taken while driving. While I am sure that a lot of people start to feel that way from a lack of rest, I'm feeling that way from a lack of work. During this first week back from spring break, I have only gotten two days of work done. I was raised Roman Catholic with all of the famous Catholic-school guilt. So not getting enough work done also comes with the guilt of not making suitable progress in said work. Sometimes I feel like a bratty little schoolboy who feels bad for doing something other than the work he needs to get done. I have all but forgotten that it's Easter weekend. Tomorrow, we will have a quiet, rainy day of movies and homemade food with my mother-in-law, who is in town for a visit. My wife and I usually watch Chocolat, eat chocolate and get drunk on merlot on Easter Sunday. It's certainly not the celebration I grew up on, and I don't get new clothes for the occasion. But it suits me and reminds me that the new spring is more fun for me to celebrate than anything churchy. Maybe my patented Easter celebration of a film about a small [minded] Catholic town during Lent, candy and red wine is a minor way of holding onto my Catholic roots, despite my rejection of going into the seminary (long story) and practical abandonement of my faith. Maybe it's just an excuse to get drunk on a school night.

March 25, 2005

Photo Friday: Tiny.

I know that posting has been slow lately. But here is my entry for this week's Photo Friday: Tiny. It is yours truly under a sandstone bluff last Valentine's Day. Winter 2004 beard and all. More fun soon, I promise.

March 21, 2005

To J. Dickinson.

You carved your name into the stone walls of the Giant City at Giant City State Park. Only that year did it become an Illinois state park, in what was not yet the Shawnee National Forest. So it seems that you were seeking some kind of fame or renown. Your name is larger and deeper than other other name carved there, even more than the names of the Civil War soldiers hiding in the bluffs there. I could not help but notice, and I suppose I am not alone in the three-quarters of a century that have passed since the carving of your name into the sandstone. Here is some fame for you via a medium you could never have imagined, to people who might never stand in the seemingly perpetual shade of the bluffs that comprise the Giant City.

March 19, 2005

Photo Friday: Glow.

For Photo Friday: Glow. My friends Brian and Carrie at Tres Hombres in Carbondale, last week. This is late because Blogger has been acting up lately, as everyone who has had trouble leaving comments knows (thanks for the emails, ya'll). Blogger ate my post. But it's free and always awesome, so I won't complain. In fact, I want that new Blogger T-shirt. Oh, yes, I do.

March 17, 2005

Moleskine Cahiers.

Yeah, I ordered a set of Moleskine Cahiers. Because I wanted them. Because I keep telling myself that I'm going to start writing all these short stories I keep putting off writing. Because they are pretty, and I can't wait to touch that "buff" cover. It guess these are notebooks that work out and watch what they eat, to get so buff. If I were a notebook, I'd be a little round in the middle but otherwise slender, fuzzy and quiet and with dirty words just inside the cover so that no one would see them, but so that they would still be there for me to know, and for people who know me really well to know and to hear and to read and to experience. I would prefer cedar pencils. I would accept mis-spelled words as the best part of being human. I would look like a regular notebook, though, brown cover, normally lined pages and all. I would like to be taken outside and to have some dirty earth smeared onto me sometimes. I would want to get wet. I would not be as rugged or prestigious as a Moleskine. Hemingway and Chatwin would never write in me, that's for sure. But university students and academics would appreciate my modest price, excessive quality, and moderate ability to soak up coffee. If I were a notebook, I would always protect your thoughts and affections and rememberings and reminders. I would not care if you ripped a page out of me to take down a phone number for a booty call or if you took notes on Sartre or Shakespeare in me. If I were a notebook I would never be a waste of money. And I would never let you down.

March 15, 2005

Fucked with: a joke.

Do you live in Southern Illinois? If so, did you blow your car horn at four pedestrians last Thursday? If so, that was my friend and I who put that trash under the wiper of your car, on the passenger side, so you wouldn't see it until after you left. Yes, it was us who waited for you to leave, took a photo of you leaving, put a bagel sandwich in foil under the wiper of your car. Yes, it was I taking the photos, while my co-hort stuck the food there. I won't take the credit (or blame, B.M.!) for the idea or the actually placing of said foiled food under said wiper, but now it's me telling everyone about it. Because you were an asshole. Not only is blowing the horn at pedestians illegal around here, it's unsafe (which is why it is illegal). Besides, we weren't blocking the fucking parking lot; you could have easily gone around us. The usually empty lot was really empty right before springbreak. What if you scared one of us, and we fell under your car, and you killed us? You'd feel like a real jackass then, huh? Well, you should feel like a jackass anyway. As for us, we found the thought of you on your way home, seeing a piece of food wrapped in foil stuck under your windshielf wiper, hilarious. No, we didn't scratch your piece of shit car. We were careful. No, your car can't be indentified on the net now because of these photos. Nothing actually got on your car. Chill. You were an asshole. We were assholes. End of story. When you are tempted to blow the horn at people walking again, you'll laugh your ass off thinking about that food in foil, and you'll forget to blow the horn, and that is a good thing. See, we did you a service, the world a service and got a nice harmless laugh in the process. Besides, we could have done worse, like actually damaging your car. But we wouldn't do that for you blowing the horn at us; that would have been extreme and mean and stupid. We did not do what we did in a mean spirit, nor what it some kind of revenge, "Fuck with us, and you get fucked with," kind of deal. That would not have been a joke. Neither would following you and calling you an asshole to your face. You don't even know it was us, but now you do. I know, we should feel immature and like jackasses and assholes -- and idiots for thinking this is all so fucking funny. I do feel like an asshole-idiot type dude, but I really don't give a shit. I am an immature ass sometimes, and I'm Okay with that. Anyway, my face hurts from laughing about it. Yours should, too, horn-blowing-man, if you can take a joke.

March 13, 2005

Bye bye beard.

Lorianne suggested I chart the progress of this year's winter beard on this here blog, and I only did once. And now, after a few days of spring-like weather and getting everything in my beard from mustard to spiders, I have decided that it's going away tomorrow morning. I will miss tasting coffee on my beard for an hour or two after drinking it, and it was interested to have a jumping spider use my beard as a perch and jumping off point yesterday, in its journey from one boulder to another. And hell, I like smelling like hippy. And beards really are part of the philosopher uniform sometimes. Nonetheless, the clippers are coming out tomorrow, and the thick, red, musky beard is going into hibernation for the long long season of warm and hot weather in Southern Illinois. It's my personal declaration of the arrival of spring.

March 11, 2005

Still here.

Having fun with some house guests and such. Many photos and stories, though, including some minor vandalism/fucking-with of which I also have photos. More soon, very very soon.

March 08, 2005


A funny read for your reading and funnying pleasure, via The Spirit of Things. Yes, I made funny into a verb. I didn't major in English or philology. Sorry.

March 07, 2005

Fort McHenry sticker.

I went to Fort McHenry in Baltimore this past August. This is my self-portrait. A sticker, plaid and a thumb. Very exciting and revealing, I know. And I think you could see my soul through my shirt that morning, since it was chilly for August. Yeah, here it is, just so a poopy-meany (ha!) post is not at the top of this page for a sunny day tomorrow. That would be a shame, I guess. Listening to Cat Stevens, it's hard for me to find anything to really be mad or sad about right now. I guess that's a good thing. Download "Can't Keep It In" for a nice tune, or email me (see at right), and I'll send you the mp3 as a mood-lightening email attachment. Yes, I am that nice tonight. And no, I have not been drinking. Not even enough coffee.

March 06, 2005

Fixed Focus and Starfucks.

I actually fixed something on the car, namely that pesky paint chip, so it wouldn't get worse. I know, I'm nuts, etc. But it bugged me, and I wanted to be sure that my technically-challenged person could actually fix something on the car. I did. It worked. It's over. Hallelujah. It's going on at Blog Collective, too, but the wife and I have been talking a lot lately about why people hate Starbucks. A new one opened at our university over the summer, and it employs the nice mother and daughter team who worked at the previous crappy-coffee-place that closed at 2:30 p.m. and had terrible coffee. It also competes with one of those places that is "independent" and serves the shittiest coffee you could ever spend $3 on. The coffee is organic and served from a cart, and you are supposed to be impressed with the earthiness of it. If earthiness means that the coffee tastes like dirt with copious amounts of intermixed insect scat, okay. They don't clean their gear properly, and you can taste it and smell it and see it, which is only made worse in their ultra-thick foam cups with an unintentionally 70s retro print on them. It's a thick, foul sludge, and I have not gone near that stuff in over year. More than once, I chugged a few Cokes, rather than get caffeine there. Yeah, it's that bad. Anyway, we've known a few people who won't go into the new Starbucks at school, even though it's actually run by the school, the cash-strapped place that educates us, who makes some dough from the new Starbucks. Everyone has their reasons. Some people are anti-corporate, and I can respect that. After all, I'm the one who won't buy from animal testers and who doesn't wear leather. If people want to shop with principles, even loose principles, that can't be a bad thing. We could all use a little of that, I suppose. But I can't stand when these folks who claim to hate everything corporate still shop at Wal-Mart and still tote around their fucking iPods and still sport their GAP duds. I can't stand when people just decide they hate Starbucks or Wal-Mart or Fox or Google or Microsoft just because they want to be cool or intellectual or heady or contrary or just to be an asshole. If someone has a real beef with Starbucks, who am I to argue or judge? People usually leave me alone about the meat and leather thing, so I try to reciprocate to the rest of humanity. If a person has a real reason to hate Starbucks, fine. What's a good or real reason? I don't know. But hating a company or brand or store just to be a member of some in-crowd or ultra-coolness-gang is just fucking stupid. I hated Starbucks for a while once, too. Then I realized I was being an idiot and that I hated it for no reason and that my caffeine affection is Okay with Starbucks and got over it. I know, I'm essentially saying that hating some entity for no reason is wrong, even though I totally do it all the time. Whatever. That's not what I mean, since hating Starbucks to be cool is not hating it for no reason is it? No. It's not. Thank you. Nor do I have anything against people who don't like Starbucks or who hate it or people who hate corporations. Everybody hates something, and everybody's got their reasons. Yeah. Some of my favorite people in the world hate Starbucks, and that's cool. None of them hate it just to be awesome, though. So don't leave comments calling me an asshole for hating on Starbucks haters. Hate what you want; I don't really give a shit. But realize that you're a tool if you hate shit to be cool. Hey, that rhymes. I apologize for the rant. I just had half of a French press full of Starbucks coffee, and I suppose the rapid rapid rapid fingers show, huh? Personally, I don't hate Starbucks, and I don't always love it, either. It's there. I need coffee. I don't always feel like bringing it with me. I know better than to skip my afternoon fix. We're friends for now. Oh, and check out one of my favorite Starbucks posts, from one of my new favorite blogs.

March 04, 2005

Photo Friday: Obsession.

My Photo Friday entry this week, Obsession: a stack of Moleskines, out back on the balcony (really a deck with a view) on a nicely warm Southern Illinois morning, promising a nice weekend. Nice enough for a hike perhaps? We still might get some rain tonight and have gotten a lot of it in recent weeks, but I don't really care about getting muddy at Giant City State Park. With the way the area is designed to draw water through the park, I cannot say I have ever been there when it was not muddy. Hell, the reason it exists at all is because of the water that flowed down this way when the glacers of the last ice age melted and slunk across the landscape. Rather than getting flattened like the rest of Illinois, our tiny corner here stayed hilly and earned itself some spectacular sandstone bluffs. I'll just hike in Tevas and wear flip-flops in the car on the way home. This, of course, depends on getting enough work done today, on the weather holding out, on getting enough sleep tonight, etc. We'll see. I have not gotten out of the car anywhere in the National Forest since before the new year, though in my defense, I was also out of town for a while and between cars and am terribly behind in my work. It would be nice to get outside, but then again, Juliette Binoche's new movie opens today...

March 03, 2005

Philosophers' Carnival.

This is cool: a post of mine about Sartre is linked to in the current Philosophers' Carnival. That's especially awesome considering the fact that I rarely ever "get philosophical" on here, which is odd, of course, considering that it's what I do all day. The mention is along-side many more worthy and rigorous posts. I had no idea that so many philosophers and philosophy students have blogs. WE'RE EVERYWHERE! Mwha ha ha ha! Philosophers' Carnival homepage.

March 02, 2005

Black is my template.

In case you didn't notice, the template is just a wee bit darker now. My old banner looked like it should have had a psalm inserted into the photo or something. And I took the damned photo myself last year, at sunset over the national forest. This new banner looks fuzzy for some reason, but I don' t really feel like messing with it now. I've been sitting in the half-light of the computer for over four hours straight, doing various things. So my ass hurts, despite it's "tooted" shape, which my wife says is unusual for a white dude. As a side note, check out the latest REM release, Around the Sun. I really didn't care for Reveal (2001), but I liked this one a bit when it came out in the fall. I heard it twice tonight, and I think it's more on par with and in the vein of Up (1998), one of my favorites. At least download "The Outsiders" (featuring Q-Tip) and "Final Straw" from some online source, legit or otherwise. Or the whole album. Whatever works for you.