August 31, 2005

Blog Day.

So, I think that Blog Day is a really good idea and that good will come of it. But I am not really sure that I know about a lot of blogs that everyone who reads this does not also know about. But you know, I's gots a few, so I won't be stingy. Here are my five, in no particular order, just in the order they came off of my FireFox bookmarks when I looked for them. Timberlines -- Pencil royalty. This is a very new but also very well-done blog by a nice guy whose living is making pencils. What more could you ask for? He's also gotten himself some nice Moleskines recently and a hidden talent for drawing, so I know we're in for some treats. Front Porch Living -- Deliciously impish blog by Neighbor Girl who is from my hometown, of all places. If you don't get the title at first, watch a nice John Waters movie and notice how everyone in Baltimore likes to sit on their porch or steps or stoop. The newest post is called "At least I'm rockin the cleavage," so you know you're in for some good reading. That Shadow My Likeness -- Alcarwen kicks ass because she is also from Maryland and because we went to the same college that I did, though I can't say that we ever met. Her boyfriend does look familiar, though. Good graduate student blogs are really hard to come by, and this one definitely qualifies. Slimbolala -- Great stories and drawings, and a nice guy who, luckily, got out of New Orleans before Katrina hit. Been a steady reader for a full month or two now. Criminently, Nutsey! -- The brain behind Notes to Netflix. And a pencil fan, to boot.

August 29, 2005

Aliens and lazers.

So a certain forum on which I can occasionally be found has a section about UFOs and aliens, with the question, "Do you believe?" Because I am being birthday-lazy a day early this year, I am just posting a rant from there here. I never claimed to not be lazy, so don't look so shocked! (Sorry you have to be subjected to this again, Bowman.) Really, though, I'm just boring and have nothing to say to the masses tonight. Woogity boogity boo.
There most certainly is intelligent life out there from other planets. When I go to the store in Hick-land (where I live), the rednecks tell me, "You don't look like you're from around here, bo-ah." I say, "I'm not. I'm from the East Coast." They say, "I can tell." Then I tell the rednecks that I am not from the East Coast but am actually a spy from another planet, "Uh, Jasper, I'm from another galaxy, brother," I say, but they always think I'm joking. "That queer-looking sissy bo-ah from the ocean state says he ain't from around here, and he means it, by golly! Bubba, get me ma gun." Then the rednecks make fun of me for my educational pursuits, for the fact that I voted for Kerry but still love my country and because they think I look gay and and think that gay people are either evil or funny. So I get upset and send a message to my home planet to come and get me. Because I'm not finished with my work here (that being to study Western philosophy in an attempt to get to the true nature of what it means to be human so that we can figure you all out before we take over the universe and everything in it), the elders of my planet refuse to come and get me. This is very annoying, since the Earth body they picked for me is too large and hairy, and it's hot in the Bible Belt. So I beam the elders back an official letter of complaint. In order to shut me up, they do allow me seven lazer obliterations after this. So I hunt down the redneck who made fun of where I come from and displayed an apalling homophobia, and I use one beam on his fat ass. One on the rest of him. Three on his huge pickup trick. One on his tractor and another on his mailbox, just because that's funny. This makes me feel better, so I can stay here and complete my mission. I'm patriotic. I work hard for my planet and our cause of interplanetary conquest. Okay, intergalactic conquest. I do get paid a lot of alien bucks for my work from the elders, but I can't use it on this planet. You humans and your lowly plastic and paper money. Damn you. So yeah, I believe in aliens. I ain't from around here.
Thanks to "Sgt. Slaughter" for letting me share his story with you. But, between you and I, I think he might really be from another planet. Seriously. That dude is scary.

August 27, 2005

Cameras, boredom and boogies.

So I just haven't really felt like taking a lot of photos lately. The kiddies and little dudes are all back on campus now, and the people watching is the best it's been since April. I've spent a lot of time in Starbucks this week enthralled. Still, no photos. I don't think that my camera has set it's lense on campus since July. But, you see, my old Canon Powershot A60 is just not that fun to play with anymore. A few times this month, high humidity has made the screen flicker, and the photos I took at the department picnic last weekend look terrible, since the temperature without the humidity was above the "operationg temperature" for the camera. I know, it's my fault for whipping it out in a sauna like that, but it's never been bothered by it before. I can't count how many times I dropped that camera or got parts of it wet and got who-knows-what under the screen. Hell, I almost dropped it into the Mississippi River once, and still got it a little wet from the splashing Mahtay Mississipp'. I can't really complain about the durability. When my family and wife asked what I wanted for my birthday next week, I said that I would like everyone to chip in and get me a new camera. Because either I rock or they rock (come on, it's me who does it like that), that's just what is happened. So my new camera is coming Monday from Dell. The faster memory card is right behind it. And the mini tripod and case later in the week. At first I automatically decided on the Powershot A95, since it's an evolved A60. But I think that moveable screen is going to drive me nuts. Plus, that thing is heavy and is a year old. I changed my mind when I held the Powershot A520 at the store around here. It's smaller and lighter and newer and comes with better software. It does not have as many megapixels as the former (four, rather than five), but I have literally never ever ever printed a photo of mine. The bigger the file, the worse off I'll be. Truly, the A510 (3.2 MP) would be fine, but the sale at Dell made the price difference only twelve dollars, and I like the color of the 520 better. I know, that brings up why I don't just keep my current camera. Come on, everyone likes new toys. And I am going to start being a birthday brat tonight, and continue until after Tuesday. I really hate secure digital cards, but I found the SanDisk Ultra II that promises to be fast. Canon is fazing out Compact Flash, the memory type I like (hey, they are big, but they are fast). Time for me to get with it. And all that. So there you go. That's why I haven't been making other people's lives more awesome lately with photos and goodies and etc. But that will change soon. I'm always strangely sober on my birthday.

August 26, 2005

Photo Friday: Chaos.

Punks In Car Window. For this week's Photo Friday challenge, Chaos.
This is a photo of my two brothers that I took in the reflection of Tom's Focus while I was in Baltimore for the holidays in December 2003. In fact, I think that's Christmas. Why chaos? Come on. They look like punks, especially with that spray paint behind them on the wall. They look like they are getting ready to steal my new camera that I had just gotten that day. Or my kidneys. Even in their p.j.'s. Especially in their p.j.'s.

August 25, 2005

Let them eat evil!

Nevermind how I know. Nevermind where I found The Oprah Magazine that has it. Nevermind etc. Let's just say that I little bird told me that Jodie Foster contributed a list of six books she wants everyone to know she likes to the "Bookshelf" section of Oprah's ad-fest of a publication. The first on the list is The Flowers of Evil, by my personal favorite French poet of the macabre, Charles Baudelaire. You know, I'm just gonna quote this, because I won't get it right otherwise:
"I went to the French lycee in Los Angelos, and, like every high school student in the French school system, I studied the work of 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire. At 15, the height of brooding and dark self-discovery, I recited his poems by heart and thrilled to the exotic language, filled with taboo ideas and strange metaphors involving death and decay. It's a must-read for any depressed adolescent."
Wow. Personally, I hit the adolescent nadir all through the ages of 15-17 and only came to be a little (very) more sunny when I got to college. I did my duty and read my Poe constantly when I was a teenager. I memorized several of his poems, and I can still recite "The Raven" if I've had enough to drink. A friend of mine tells me that she knows someone who had her life saved by Poe, by realizing that "there was at least one more fucked up person out there" and that her dark thoughts did not necessarily kick her out of the herd of the rest of us. But I still don't think I'd actually recommend this stuff to depressed teenagers. Look what reading too much Poe did to me: I'm a philosophy student. The sad little dudes should read their Whitman. Uncle Walt can save the day. Or if they really want to read the French, they should read Rimbaud between math and lunch. Totally. Though for you grown-ups, you should read Baudelaire's Paris Spleen. That's yummy stuff.

August 23, 2005

Sorry I'm so lazy.

The start of the semester is always busy, whether in a good way or in a bad way. For me, it's busy in a good way so far this year, that is, since yesterday. A lighter schedule and a dissertation prospectus to work on, getting more exercise and getting to read more of what relates to my dissertation topic. Life is good this week. No more exams for a while and the promise of cooler weather in about a month. It is strange to see the new students coming to the university this week, though, especially yesterday. It's been eight years, but I remember the feeling of getting to a new and bigger school and of not knowing anyone but assuming that everyone else knows one another already through some esoteric meetings that we shy kids didn't know anything about. I think that I can pick out the little dudes who don't know anyone yet out of a crowd of people who are all walking alone to class, just by the look of sadness and fear on their faces. Little do the little dudes know that they will have more friends than they can ever keep in touch with by the end of the first month of classes. They'll come out of their shells, fall in and out of love, make friends in the faculty and not want to leave when graduate looms yonder. Poor little dudes. I wish I could tell them, but I don't think that they would believe me. That, and I am probably more shy than they are.

August 19, 2005

Photo Friday: One.

The Claw.
This is my friend Chris' hand coming through a tree that we found which sports a hole on both ends. We each took some shots through the tree, with the background in focus and with the tree in focus. But I like this one for Photo Friday: One.

Take that, stupid exams!

Dear Prelims, I accept your apology for stealing my summer and my sanity. I realize that I was a baby to complain so much and to worry so much and that I really wasted my own energy and mental health in over-preparing for certain things. I would also like to apologize, dear prelims, for kicking your ass. I didn't mean to beat you so quickly and to bloody your nose and split your lip and knock you down. Unless, of course, I find out that you are a faker and are really Okay and that you poison-darted me somehow and that now you win. That I have to re-take you and have only one more chance before I fail out of my graduate program. In that case, I take back my apology and promise you that the next person you face will make you cry and etc. Your tires are not safe, and I will steal all of your sugar and milk, Mr. Prelims. I'll cut your electricity when you are emailing your other exam buddies to talk about how poopy you are -- just before you hit "send." I'll put beer in your shoes, Mr. Prelims. In your shoes! Mwa ha ha ha. Mr. Prelims, stay down, sucka. Do it. Love and kisses, John

August 18, 2005


I'm sure that the topic du jour in a lot of circles today will be the "Flag" button that Blogger has added to the Nav Bar. I don't have a Nav Bar, since formerly ad-free blogs don't have to display them. (Yup, I rock that much.) This whole thing would, at first stink of the kind of all-out censorship that MSN applies to blogs hosted there. But come on, this is Blogger we're talking about here, one of the pioneers of that fact that every cool cat and complete moron can publish his or her thoughts on the internet. Are we really gonna believe that Blogger is going to start censoring us? Read on in the article. They are not going to delete anyone's content or account except for those annoying spam blogs. It sounds like the whole point of the new Flag button is to get rid of the spam blogs. Yes, they are not wild about hate speech and the like, but I'm not either, and you know you'd never see actual hate speech here in the first place. Hate speech is sometimes viewed as not protected by the First Amendment anyway, and Blogger still won't delete it automatically. So I don't think this is cause for worry, but rather cause to be happy that Blogger pays attention to the annoying things people use Blogger for and will stop the "Enhanced Bust Made Easy" and "Real Estate for $5" blogs. I for one plan to spent an hour or two today hitting "Next Blog" and flagging every spam blog I can find as a "Thank You" to Blogger for making itself better for us all.

August 16, 2005

Prelims update.

Not sure I killed the metaphysics and epistemology section yesterday, but I certainly kicked it down and made it cry. I did forget some details about Aristotle's Unmoved Mover (stupid mistake), but I doubt they'll fail me for that. I got that sumbitch finished first and ran away from the room. I also finished with my sanity moderately intact, which is always a good thing I guess. Oh yeah. They're nice, but don't take an exam with a Flair. Even if what you're writing has to be copied so that you can't use a pencil. Eighteen pages with that, and your hands are black. While it comes right off the paper (!), it won't come right off your hands, no matter how much afternoon beer you drink or how much you yell at it. I tried. Tomorrow's exam is on ethics, political gear and aesthetics, the latter two being some of my weak points. So doing some more prelims kicking again will depend on what kinds of questions they throw out. Until I get that paper, it's still not clear if I will be able to kick that thing while it's down or if it will pull me down and eat my leg. I hope the former. I'm too tired to study anymore, and I am, as it were, incredibly attached to my leg. Both of them.

August 14, 2005

Blog Bowman.

This is my cousin (or, rather, future cousin-in-law) and very good friend Kevin, who has just started a blog called Blog Bowman (cuz that's his name, Bowman). When he's not getting his rear handed to him (!) playing Call of Duty with yours truly or working on his degree in computer technology, he hustles people at the pool hall in Harford County, Maryland. Ok, he says he's not hustling them, but you know. That's still funny. He takes all their money and makes them cry in front of their girlfriends. The way I figure it, he needs his impressive computing skills, his dangerous pool skills, and a blog to take over the world. Now he has all three, so look out. Remember who your friends are when you are wrecking souls, Kevin. Who loves you? Make sure to bookmark Blog Bowman, for all your present and future hustling needs, and for orders when the end comes.

August 12, 2005

Photo Friday: Violet.

Blurry Train.
For Photo Friday: Violet. There is not really any violet in this scene, but there is a blue train and a red train. With a very slow shutter speed, their colors mixed into a purplish blue. There you go: Violet. I'm surprised that I don't have any more photos with the color violet in them. That's strange.

August 10, 2005

Cram that, sucka.

Back from cramming my head full of texts and notes. Now I have three days to connect and remember all that crammed gear and one day to relax the brain and do finger exercises (exam is hand-written). How tired all of this is making me is causing me to wonder about my own abilities, however. I've never really felt that it's all that important to impress colleagues and classmates with my supposed knowledge of philosophical texts. I mean, haven't all of us philosophy students read and understood Plato for crapsake? Name-dropping about what one has read has always been a turn-off for me. I certainly know some people who care so much about people thinking they are smart/well-read/superior to the rest of us that they really go around acting like total jackasses. Most of us got out of that crap before the end of our first semester of graduate school, when we realized that eveyone has read what we've read and is just as capable, for the most part. I know one person (not in my department) who wants me in particular to feel stupid in his glorified presence, to the point where I really want to run him over with the Focus. It pains him to no end to find out that I have one more year of a graduate fellowship and I've read the same books he has and understand them as well as he does but then don't waste my time letting everyone know about it. "What's the point of reading this stuff if we're not going to talk about it every frickin second like we are philosophers first and people second?" seems to be his credo. I like to think that his hopes that I am not as smart as he is will be crushed like the Diet Coke can I just recycled. When I get old and write my opus, I'll dedicate it to this academic punk-kid. What does Baudelaire say?
A man goes pistol-shooting, accompanied by his wife. He sets up a doll and says to his wife: "I shall imagine that this is you." He closes his eyes and shatters the doll. Then he says, as he kisses his companion's hand, "Dear angel, let me thank you for my skill!" (Intimate Journals, pg. 37.)
Sorry for the violent imagery. But I'm gonna write me a nice doll one day and send it to this person with a picture of me. The picture's caption will say, "Ha ha. You're a tool. Call me, and we'll do lunch." Seriously, though, doing little else lately but philosophy shouldn't really exhaust my little ole brain like this, I think. At least, I hope it should. Because it does. I feel like someone hit me with a shovel, possibly the one I wanna smack that dude with sometimes.

August 08, 2005

Moldy thoughts.

In The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin mentions the desire to go "away from libraries and other men's work" (pg. 75). Only away from what everyone else has written and thought can he begin to write what he thinks. I really should have started to get serious about studying for my prelims -- in one week! -- earlier than I did, that being a week ago. I dabbled in a little ancient gear before that, but that was not serious studying. Boiling down all of Aristotle in two hours on a Saturday afternoon does not count as serious work. But now I'm in the thick of it. I'm disturbed by Hobbes, thinking about William James in the shower (no, not like that) and having dreams involving Hume, Kant a bog and German beer. This happened during my second year of college and my second year at BC when I was studying for my MA comps. I can't sleep, and I'm restless and edgy. This comes from confining myself to other people's thoughts for extended periods of time with the goal of learning them and remembering them and being able to ape them for an exam. I've written a few essays about the dangers of relying too much on the philosophy texts that we already have -- and really pissed off at least one professor who called me "overly contentious" and was right to do so. Another professor pointed out that there is much to be said for mastering the literature, and he's also right. There are more reasons to actually master this stuff that I feel like writing about this morning, to be sure. But what do we do once we've mastered it? Write essays about it and present them to other boring people at conferences or in journals that only a dozen or so people will actually read? I'm not going to write a long post about what's wrong with academic philosophy. I could just paste an essay I already have and guarantee not to have any readers anymore except for the dozens a day who get here looking for Life Aquatic images (third on the list). That would be pointless and foolish and might get my bum kicked by some colleagues and rightly so. What I mean is that I'm not going to insult my fellow philosophers or myself. We all know what's wrong with philosophy in the academy. But it's really the only place to learn philosophy with other people, so we do what we can. I'm sure I'm not the only one who is tired of reading Locke or Kant, as if it's really going to change the way I think any more than it already has. I can't be alone in feeling like we are required to learn and spit back all this old stuff over and over again as an end in itself, like the "training" never stops. More folks than I must wish there could be more time and energy and encouragement to do some original thinking in academic philosophy: original as in from one's own reason or experience of the world. This is not starting from someone else's books as we are wont to do, though learning from said books can certainly be an advantage. Not that I'm in the habit of having any original thoughts. And the ones I have, I'm storing for my dissertation, whose prospectus I have to complete this fall, lest I contribute to the mold problem more than I have to in order to get a job. Fellow philosophers, please don't tar and feather me. Buy me some beer, since you alone know how soul-crushing it can be to bend one's will to ape Kant's ethics.

August 04, 2005

Wiggity biggity boo.

This is my Polish grandmother, Memorial Day 2005. I just like the photo is all. And no, I am not Polish, just my mother. That part's not genetic. Or something. Kidding, I don't mind being Polish. Nietzsche was really of Polish stock, I'm told. And crazy stock. So I'm in good company. Yeah, Friedrich and I will whoop your odbyt, we will. So ignore our ancestors' charging tanks on horses with wooden lances. It was about courage. We's ain't stupid.

August 03, 2005

Minor frying of the brain.

I got up at 7:30 today (yeah, that's early for me) and got right to work on the paper for my summer research project on Thoreau's pragmatism and Scheler's sacrifice and then studied for my prelims. It's been an all day/night adventure. I'm convinced that I've fried my brain like a wok full of snowpeas. I swear that my head is even hot to the touch, regardless of only sporting 1/8 of an inch of hair this summer. The brain can barely get my chubby little fingers to type, so I'm sorry you don't get a photo tonight. I'll get some to you, dudes, honest.

August 02, 2005

Blurry bike.

I took two hundred photos one night last week of Chris on his bike, around sunset. In the fading light and with the zooming motorcycle, many of the shots came out blurry. I like this one, though.

August 01, 2005

Later, Morris.

Chris and I took an evening trip to Morris Library last week, to get some photos (especially of old pencil sharpeners) before the uppermost six floors of the building close today. I never spent as much time there as I could have, since I'm lucky enough to have an office on campus. And there is something decidely...Cold War about its design. I don't mean to call it ugly, but it's not pretty. As, anyone here in the summer can testify, the climate control system is antediluvian enough to belong in the Smithsonian. And I'm terrified of those elevators, regardless of the fact that those steps make me hurt for two days after hitting the sixth floor for research. While hot having a library in the traditional sense for years will certainly be unpleasant for the university, having a new, modern building will be a boon for the future of the Saluki-Nation and Carbondale in general. But still I'm pretty sad that I will most likely never get to go there as a student at SIU ever again. The dates I've read for its completion are January 2008 or December 2008, which means (in my experiences with university building projects) that it will be finished in 2009 or 2010. Hell, I'll be Doctor Johnny G. by then, provided I pass them there prelims in yonder two weeks. Southern Illinois is not exactly a tourist's dream, but I would come here just to see the library one day. I really would. And this all reminds me that, regardless of my pretentious and haughty disdain for much of the Heartland, I'll miss parts of it when my time at SIU is up and I've moved somewhere else. I never thought I would miss the Sunday morning half-mile walks to the market when I lived in Boston. Or the two-hour train(s) ride to Boston College. Or the crowds and tourists. But I'd kill to be in Beantown today, buying more books than I can fit in the Focus or afford or read, taking so many photos of people that my head spins.