February 28, 2005

First names I wish I had.

Gabriel; Jorge; Tyler; Michael; Dieter; Jean-Paul; Eddie; Emil; Ronnie; Damon; Dean; Ernesto; Walter; Max; Kingsley; Ian; Clive; Bill; Chuck. Don't get me wrong. John is my father's name, and I would never in a million years change it. Besides, only people I know from from high school and grad school call me John. Pre-high school and especially in college, most people called me Johnny and still do. My undergraduate advisor still calls me Johnny. I remember at what time I met the people I know by whether they call me John or Johnny. There is a funny store where I didn't know my name was John and not Johnny until my first day of first grade (a story for another time). Nor am I necessarily dissatisfied what the name my parents gave me. Except my middle name. My great-grandparents were...uh, not from the city, and they seem to have thought that Frank was a name alone and was not short for anything else. So my poor grandfather was named Frank, which is worse than my father and I who are stuck with something so frank (moan) as Frank for a our middle names. I was going to be named Jean if I were a girl, I'm told. My Polish grandmother goes by Jean, though her real name is something no one in the family seems to be able to spell or remember, forgotten along with my grandmother's command of the Polish language. Names are funny things, but I don't really feel like waxing philosophical on the subject. Semantics and linguistic philosophy lie entirely outside my areas of strong competence. That, and I'm lazy tonight.

February 27, 2005

Boring because of being boring.

I have always been a huge fan of the band Tool. However, the typical Tool fan is generally perceived as an intentional misfit (as opposed to a genuinely unusual or unique person) and as someone who feigns depression and darkness and the like (my own occasional depressions are in fact not voluntary, to be sure, and I'd trade them for sunshine if I could). As such, I am usually not gigantically vocal about my appreciation of and affection for the very few albums that Tool has actually given us over the years and for the band itself. Anyway, I decided to check out the Tool site today to see if there was any news about a new album, the last one being released in May 2001, just before I graduated from college. The site has not been updated in some time, because there is not much going with Tool these days, they say. This is my very round-about way of explaining my web-absence lately. Not much interesting has been going on. We bought a front cover for the car and had splash-guards installed, since the amount of gravel and stones on the roads around here is nauseating. The cover ("bra") itself caused a small and very easy to repair chip in a joint where the fender and bumper meet, but the weather is too cold this week to apply the little dab of paint and have it actually dry properly. I'm kind of excited about being able to fix something on the car myself, after we had to pay the dealership to install the splash-guards. I did put on the bra on myself, which was not easy for someone as out of shape and technically-challenged as myself. I bought a pack of Uni-Ball Vision Exact pens on sale and three packs of some sweet and delicious Faber-Castell Grip 2001 pencils on sale at OfficeMax for a mere $0.70 -- a steal for such precisely engineered German pencils, which usually run for a buck each in the States. I watched Pulp Fiction for the first time in at least five or six years, and it was good to remember what I loved about that film in the first place. What that was exactly escapes me now. I have been drinking entirely too much coffee and have not been to bed before 3:00 a.m. in a few days. That's good. I'm also getting work done, as a result of drinking all that coffee. My current favorite morning drug is Sumatra. Darkly earthly to wake me up from not enough sleep. Lovely. Etc. Etc. Etc. Told you life has been boring lately. But with three sets of house-guests coming in the next few weeks, tons of work to get done, and tons of good non-school books to read, I have a feeling that things will get interesting this week. And that posting will become more frequent again. I leave you with some nice pencil links, via Faber-Castell: the history of the pencil and famous Faber-Castell pencil users. I hope the links work.

February 24, 2005

René Magritte.

Last year, I commented that some of Nicola's Mirror Project photos looked like Magritte paintings. I liked them a whole lot, and I wanted to try some of my own. In New York this past December, I was sitting in a restaurant with my brother and two cousins and all of their respective significant others and my wife. It was extremely cold outside and refreshingly warm inside, and we found a bright yellow balloon against the ceiling. I got it down and convinced my brother to pose for some shots with it in front of his face, like Magritte in his self-portraits (only I actually took the photos). Here is one, with the crowd cropped out. On the way to our table, I whipped out some Boy Scout skills and quickly tied the balloon to my brother's bag, sending him on a yellow-ballooned mission through a crowded restaurant, like a fish dragging a float. He realized what I did and got a little mad at me for a minute, but it was still funny to behold. Guess you had to be there.

February 23, 2005

Sexual instruction.

I have no intention of making this a sex-blog or a link to porn or other things for gross dudes to surf one-handed (ick). Also, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, I'm not telling anyone about my secret moves (ick again). But I've been busy reading Lucretius all day, and I though I'd share this passage that I found a while back, quoted exactly as transcribed here, in a book of poems on marriage from the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets series (of which I have a substantial stash). From Lucretius' The Nature of Things: Women conceive more readily, if taken As animals are, breasts underneath, loins high, So that the seed reaches the proper parts More readily. Wives have no need at all For loose and limber motions, pelvic stunts, Abdominal gyrations. These, in fact, Are contraceptive; if she pulls away, Pretends reluctance, stirs him up again With strain and push and thrusting, she diverts The seed from its right furrow. This is why All whores are so gymnastic; they know well Such acts not only please their customers But also are a safeguard, good insurance Against a pregnant belly. But our wives, It seems, need no such nonsense. Finally, The little woman does not have to be A raving beauty; she can win your love, Without the help of any gods, without The darts of Cupids or of Venuses, Simply by being decent, neat and clean, A pleasant person to be living with. That's about all it takes, and love depends On habit quite as much as the wild ways Of passion. Gently does it, as the rain In time wears through the very hardest stone. [Translated by Rolfe Humphries, in Marriage Poems.] I especially like the last four lines, with their being so pragmatik.

February 19, 2005

Life Aquatic DVD date, very early.

You heard it here first. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou will be released on DVD May 10th, in two formats: a normal disc and a two-disc special edition with all of the goodies we Wes Anderson fans savor. I heard a rumor that it's another Criterion Collection edition (which Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums both were, along with Kevin Smith's underestimated Chasing Amy, definitely my favorite Kevin Smith film). Which would be even better. Of course, this is only if you are one of those people who watched the "DVD extras" for films you really like. Which I am. I know, I watch too many movies. And now I'm off to see Constantine.

February 18, 2005

Photo Friday: Rural.

My entry for this week's Photo Friday Challenge, Rural. I did actually post this before, in a smaller version of lower quality. Problem is, living in Southern Illinois with a digital camera, I have hundreds of megabites of rural photos. It's a lot to look through, and I just like this one a lot. The photo is of fresh potatoes at the Carbondale Farmers' Market, June 2004. I bought a ton of those potatoes, and yes they are as good as they look.

February 16, 2005

A whole year already?

Somehow, I neglected to mention that this here blog turned a year old last week, though it was then on hiatus for a few weeks while we started Blog Collective (which also turned a year old recently), then on TypePad, then back to Blogger this past summer (TP being one less thing to pay for, he whines). I suppose that a year is a hell of a long time in blog-time. You would think I would at least pretend I have something intelligent or thoughtful or reflective or interesting thing to post about this blogging milestone. But I don't. I'm too tired to post much. Too much Foucault and house-cleaning, not enough coffee. Sad story, that is.

February 15, 2005

Happy late V-Day.

I have always liked that Valentine's Day is like a teaser for spring. This was especially so two years ago in Boston, in the middle of a harsh winter, right after a blizzard in fact. My broken toe hadn't healed, so I hobbled (poor me) to the store in one of those stiff medical-type-shoe-dealys to get some flowers for my then-fiancee. The sun came out, and I took the longer walk home along the beach. Walking around for an hour with flowers and a big fat smile on my face was a good harbinger of the spring to come. It was a very nice Valentine's Day that year. I had another nice V-Day yesterday, and Southern Illinois' climate even cooperated, so we're having spring preview here. I was warm yesterday with no jacket and sandals, and I had to wear a light, short-sleeved shirt today. I almost had to put on the AC in the car, since a black hatchback gets pretty hot, but I didn't want to do that in February. Just seems kind of obscene. My wife and I set strict price-limits on Valentine's Day gifts this year, given the poor grad student status we enjoy and what we bought last week. I received a nice copy of Hunting with Hemingway, Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, and "Wonderfalls" on DVD. A good booty, I think. What I got for my wife is another matter. What she picked out was in a small box and only one box and without the bright pink wrapping. But making someone happy with a gift is always fun, no matter how small the box is, I guess.

February 13, 2005


Finally saw Sideways, which is up for best picture this year, I believe. I don't really feel like waxxxxxing intellectual or philosophical or critical about it. I think that would certainly cheapen what the film was trying to do and trying to be, and really you should just go see it because it's more than worth it, and what the hell else are you going to go see this time of year anyway? Really, the only bad effect was that I really don't want to have any wine anytime soon, because I would really feel like a moron after the wine expertise displayed in this film. I should get my friend Chris (from Blog Collective) to teach me about wine sometime, or maybe he can guest-blog about wine here sometime or some such, etc. I hope you're not last-minute V-Day shopping, since that's less fun than last-minute Christmas shopping although I don't know why. I get homemade cookies and coffee and maybe some Asti, and that's pretty damned nice for a Monday.

February 11, 2005

Photo Friday: Lucious.

A little late, I know. But I haven't been keeping up with Photo Fridays lately, so here you go: my entry for this week's challege, Lucious. I haven't been using my French presses lately (for a long time, I only used them like a total snob). So I pulled the small one out when I got home from the university today and had some thick, black brew. Lucious indeed!

February 09, 2005

Hemingway on pencils.

Sorry for the quotation-post. I came across a nice passage from some Hemingway this evening that I thought I would share. Yes, I used a computer and not a pencil to transcribe it, but I went over it three times, and everything is exact and all that. It words sound strange, it's not my fault: "When you start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none. So you might as well use a typewriter because it is much easier and you enjoy it that much more. After you learn to write your whole object is to convey everything, every sensation, sight, feeling, place and emotion to the reader. To do this you have to work over what you write. If you write with a pencil you get three different sights at it to see if the reader is getting what you want him to. First when you read it over; then when it is typed you get another chance to improve it, and again in the proof. Writing it first in pencil gives you one-third more chance to improve it. That is .333 which is a damned good average for a hitter. It also keeps it fluid longer so that you can better it easier." Hemingway on Writing, pg. 51 (exerted from By-Line: Ernest Hemingway, pg. 216). Everyone knows about my affection for wooden pencils, and I've recently inherited an Olympus portable typewriter (more on that when it gets here from Maryland in a month or so). Too bad I'm supposed to be a philosophy researcher or scholar or something like that, and I can't just try to write novels. I have to use what intellectual energy my ADD will afford me for work. Well, I don't really know any good stories, anyway. Anyway, for a really cool film about writing, check out the grossly underestimated Wonderboys, which is on DVD for a sweet price at most stores.

February 08, 2005

Another car for deez folks.

Well, we did it. We bought another car. Another car. Another car. Yes, another car. Yes, another Ford Focus ZX5. What was wrong with the Mazda? It was a money-pit, and I was getting sick of the pressure of driving something sporty and even sicker of the drama of what stones do to a low-sitting car with Japan's new shitty paint (new environmental laws there, I'm told, result in Japanese clear-coat and paint basically being totally junk, but I can't imagine someone with a Lexus would put up with that). Sick of the rough ride and the fact that, at highway speeds, the tires actually cost the same amount of money as gasoline, without the recently soaring prices. That sounds weird, but it's true. Everyone 2,000 mile trip to Maryland (usually closer to 3 or 4) wears out over $100 in gas and $100 in tires (if they last 20,000 miles of the 15,000-20,000 lifespan of Goodyear Eagle RSAs). That's just sick. Had we known that in May, maybe we would have not have bought the Mazda. You know what? I'm upset that I know what the fuck a Goodyear Eagle RSA is! I prefer my former ignorance where I knew how to maintain a car and drive a car and enjoy a car but couldn't intelligently discuss performance tires or the benefits of 17 inch rims and low-profile tires and a tight suspension. Really, I enjoyed being a car idiot (though I probably still am). That said, that mean-looking little bastard was a hell of a fun machine to drive. Zippy and tight and responsive and such. The Focus is more like a cuddly little guy with a dirty mouth (cuz of the stereo), which my wife points out, is like me. The Focus does handle much the same way (especially with the upgraded suspension on the SES models), and the torque is really not that different. (We did beat a girl in a Firebird once with our old Focus, since she couldn't drive her own damned car.) The Mazda was useful at IKEA, but we must have been the most bad-ass people there, among the Jettas, Outbacks, Scions and Focuses. It was too sporty to be what I like to call "an IKEA car." The Focus is perfect for IKEA and travelling, and it actually carries weight better than the Mazda, which drove like it was pulling a dead cow with a fence stuck on it when you had one person in the backseat. Forget trying to stop that thing with two people in the backseat. After the accident with the other Focus in May and after the paint started going away on the Mazda when it was a week old, I really didn't take drives just for the hell of it anymore. I would always take the long way home with the other Focus, and by that I mean that I would take an hour to get home from school instead of five minutes. I would get a CD I wanted on a Tuesday and drive to the Mississippi River and listen to the music in the car. Seriously. I used to put well over 200 miles a week on the Focus (not including inter-state trips of any kind). I drive well under 100 miles a week, now, and that's with trips to Marion with are about 30 miles round-trip anyway. Despite how kick-ass (for lack of a better word) the Mazda was, it was just not working out for us. Even with the moonroof. The Focus was always fun. It's just a regular car that my wife likes to refer to as "so cute." We did get a nicer Focus before, and folks were surprised when they got in it by just how nice a Focus can be. We did just that again. We bought the 5-door ZX5 model with the SES package. Same options as before (alloy wheels, ABS, assorted upgrades over the S and SE) plus one of those annoying alarms, side-airbags and a 500 Watt Sound By Sony system with a trunk-mounted subwoofer. The latter is, of course, the option I like best. I can live without the moonroof; I'd rather have the stereo. I'm afraid that my neighbors and classmates are going to think I actually "have money" or something, because we bought another car, the third one in less than two years. But the second one was not a choice. Mr. Flowers (yes, that was his real name, and I don't give a shit if I get in trouble with my insurance company for saying his name since he wrecked my car and ripped off my insurance company for $4000 and because he's lucky I never got drunk and went to his house to fuck HIS car up and poop on the driver's seat or at least the brush bar that could have killed my wife and grandmother who were sitting on the side he hit because he couldn't control his own fucking cock-extension SUV that 68-year-old men with canes should sure as shit not be allowed to drive) made the decision for us that the other Focus was completely wrecked. This time, though, it makes good financial sense. We are losing money on the Mazda, but the deal on the new Focus is so great that our monthly payments are actually going down, and we don't have to spend $1000 on tires each year and $50 per oil-change for the expensive oil that thing required. I talked to my parents in Maryland, and they seem to think the third time might be a charm. The other Focus was ours for 9 months, and we had the Mazda for about 8 months. Critics who mistake this rash decision for us actually having any money beware. We'll probably have this car for ten years! I'm not really sorry for the rambling, sorry about not being sorry, though. And no, I'm not drunk. Just dileriously tired and dripping caffeine and sugar from every pore.

February 07, 2005

Burned arm.

I burned my arm the other day, and this is it. It looked worse yesterday, and it definitely still looks a lot worse than it feels. It did stink to high hell, though, from the burning hair. I had to remove my Livestrong bracelet, but it is not painful in any significant way. But it reminds me of a story. When I was 18 and just starting college, I helped out on one of those haunted hay rides, where a giant tractor pulls a hay cart full of people around the woods to a series of scary scenes/sites. I was supposed to help organize it and build some of the props, especially the fake guillotine. However, I also worked at said guillotine, usually as the executioner, once or twice as the victim. The whole thing moved like a read guillotine, and we had a bowling ball in a burlap sack which would roll down the hill as the head, and I would usually chase the wagon with the head, much to the horror of kids and the hilarity of adults. The first mis-hap was that I put my head too far forward once and got hit by the wooden blade, which cut me pretty badly but not as badly as the time I split my head open when I was 10. The second -- and much less painful -- mishap involved an old Boy Scout torch can. In the Boy Scouts, we would line trails leading to campfires with large coffee cans that had fire in them. We would soaks a rag in kerosene, paint the outside of the can black and light it up. It would burn constantly and in a totally controlled fashion. Most of us working on the hay ride knew each other from Boy Scouts, so of course we lit the scenes at the hay ride with these torches. One night, we were running low on fire at the guillotine, so I sent someone away for the kerosene can. This can was for the torches only, only for kerosene, and it even said "KEROSENE ONLY" on the side in large letters. Kerosene burns slowly, so one can merely pour some into/onto the already lit fire with minimal risk. So I did. Or so I thought. Low and behold, some idiot put gasoline for the tractor in the wrong can, and you can imagine what happens when you pour gasoline onto a small fire: it comes back up at the stream you're pouring. I jumped back and didn't get hurt at all, but almost all of the hair was burned off of my right arm. No pain, just stench. And no hair on one of my arms. It grew back, but to this day, the hair on my left arm is much thicker than the right, especially my lower right arm. Well, it's not that interesting, but there you go.

February 04, 2005

G-F-in Dammit.

So we took the Mazda into the dealer today to have some shit looked at, from the...incident in the fog three weeks ago (which you should really read about because it's awesome). So we have to shell out a grand (in addition to the initial $300) to fix the fucking thing. That or we can get rid of that car. It's never been as fun as the Focus was, despite its being more sporty and masculine and fast and all that shit. It's too expensive for graduate students, and I sometimes get annoyed when assholes pull up next to us and try to race us like stupid rednecks. (To date, no one has beaten us, since, uh, I won't race anything that I don't think we can beat and that's wimpy and I know and don't really give a shit.) Also, the tire cost for the mileage we put on a car is $800-$1000 annually, since the only tires that fit are expensive and don't last long and etc. and shit. We'll need a new set of tires before the end of summer. So it's crossed our minds that maybe we should ditch this zippy little money pit before things get worse. And we've found a nice new 2005 Focus we like. But I shouldn't jinx it, cuz we didn't get the other one we wanted before we bought the Mazda on a whim.(Don't listen to me, as I'm more than a little drunk and am really typing this more carefully than a person should have to try to do...or something. Excuse me.) Shit, it sounds like I've made buying cars some kind of hobby, which is extra weird to say about someone like me with no fucking money to speak of and only a fancy education and the debt it includes and the pens and pencils all over this room. I mean, someone like me. I hate car shopping. Seriously. Oh, these are pictures of my growing winter beard, per Lorianne's suggestion, because she is awesome, and that's an adjective that I reserve for entities that deserve it. Ask my wife and friends and family how much I love that word. They'll tell you. For real. We want to get rid of the fucking Mazda, But don't cry for the end. I hope it works out, but no matter what, Tonight vodka is my friend. Or something like that. Don't listen to me. I say again. No wonder I don't really write poetry anymore. Although, you have to admit, my spelling and grammar and typing and such are not bad for the amount of the vodka stuff in me tonight. "I will, I will, rock you (clap clap)," I say. Sing along.

February 03, 2005

Does Hemingway make you bored?

I should preface this by saying that I love Hemingway. Seriously and to an unhealthy degree, I suppose. But lately, reading about him and reading his writing, I find myself bored. I don't mean to say that Hemingway is boring or that reading Hemingway is boring. Far from it. Rather, reading about the grand adventures of such a giant of a man makes me feel boring and bored. For crap sakes, I read and study and write for a living. I know, when I was an undergraduate and worked in a bookstore, I longed for the days of graduate funding and not needing to have a part-time job to pay the few bills I had then. Even when I was working on my MA, living on student loans and research assistantships and working at the library for a summer, I longed for my current situation: having an office at a university where I could spend all of my time working on my doctorate. Here I am, and I'm not satisfied, am I? Should I find another line of work? Am I only working on my PhD and the whole academic career because I am too lazy to have a "real job"? Whenever I get a little unsure about the extended education issue, my wife asks, "Well, what else would you be doing?" I don't mean to necessarily question the choices I've made over the last eight years. But they have resulted in a very quiet life that sometimes, just sometimes, I wish would be a little wilder. Papa wouldn't be caught dead doing what I'm spending my 20s doing.

February 01, 2005

All there is?

Funny, I found a post on another blog with the same title as one I wrote last spring. Read here and mine here. What a small world! The blogosphere might be growing steadily, but the connections are also growing. To keep things moving in that direction, kids are blogging now, and it's good for them. Great! -------------------- Another post with the same title, from Bava. If you have not checked out Bava's blog, you owe it to yourself to do so. Yes, right now.