Monday, September 15, 2008

Swimming in it

I feel like I'd have nothing at all to blog if I didn't read Jay's blog, but hey, such is life. I'm moving Friday. Life is insane, but in a good way.

So yeah, Jay linked to David Foster Wallace's 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech, and it's quite brilliant. Go read it. It starts like this:
Greetings and congratulations to Kenyon's graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you're worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don't be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.
The rest of it is just as great. And if you're still hungry for more, Harper's has a DFW archive online.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Q: What do Lysistrata and Little Red Riding Hood have in common?

A: They were both on the wanna-be-banned book list from our favorite Alaskan, Sarah Palin. By now you've no doubt read about Palin's failed attempt to purge unwholesome influences such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Whitman from the Wasilla stacks. You can read the full list here and join me in a full-bodied sigh.

(Thanks to Jay Bushman for the link.)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

So much work to do

And yet, I cannot pull myself away from the train wreck.

This must be how Republicans feel all the time.

More on the kakistocracy's femme du jour

Thanks to Colin for the link to Sam Harris' op-ed piece on Palin in the LA Times. I know I should just tell you to go read it, but I don't trust that you will, so here is the part that made me guffaw:

McCain not only has thrown all sensible concerns about good governance aside merely to pander to a sliver of female and masses of conservative Christian voters, he has turned this period of American history into an episode of high-stakes reality television: Don't look now, but our cousin Sarah just became leader of the free world! Tune in next week and watch her get sassy with Pakistan!

Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority. No one wants an average neurosurgeon or even an average carpenter, but when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves. President Bush kept his edge on the "Who would you like to have a beer with?" poll question in 2004, and won reelection.

This is one of the many points at which narcissism becomes indistinguishable from masochism. Let me put it plainly: If you want someone just like you to be president of the United States, or even vice president, you deserve whatever dysfunctional society you get.
That line, "This is one of the many points at which narcissism becomes indistinguishable from masochism" is certain to recur in my consciousness more times than is healthy.


Everyone else is already saying what you know I'm feeling about McCain's running mate choice--that it's delightful to watch the Republicans making ridiculously stupid choices.

So just to lower the level of discourse a little more, here are a few linguistic notes:

  • Yesterday during a conversation about Palin's pregger daughter, Nick let me know that "Bristols" or "Bristol City" is Cockney slang for "titty."

  • Then later in the day, my sister sent me an email telling me that she went to a neighborhood party and was surprised to discover her neighbors were all Democrats. "We had a blast Palinizing," E wrote.

  • Stephanie Miller is Calling Palin "Caribou Barbie."

Best knitting project ever

Craftzine's How to Knit a Dissected Rat
(This almost makes me wish I could knit.):

Via tinyblip

Friday, August 22, 2008

Words and images

While I'm sort of anti-word tattoo, strangely enough (I am generally a word person), some of my best friends favor wordy ink. This recording has a nice mini-spread, which I link to if for no other reason than I know Lulu will like it so much.

For my part, several of my fabulous friends gave me some money toward my next, which Lex is drawing for me. The idea is a hamsa but with a realistic looking hand in graytone and a cartoon-y looking blue eye in the middle of the palm. Probably I won't have time to execute the plan until after I move, but if I could have it emblazoned on my neck/back before I go east for the family get-together, more's the better.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The brutality of fact

The Guardian has a nice short piece about Francis Bacon (the painter not the philosopher)--Damien Hirst on Francis Bacon actually:
He talked about the brutality of fact. It's incredibly brave to take that on, to face up to the horror and stare it down. Over and over. I mean, I've made maybe four good pieces and the rest are, you know, sort of happy. He wasn't like that. He was his own worst and best critic. He pushed himself to the edge every time. They give you the shivers, his best paintings. He looks into the room that no one wants to look in. He looks in the mirror and he sees meat. He shuns tenderness. He wants to sleep on a hard bed.

Perhaps it's my moroseness about the impending birthday, but the piece really resonated with me and reminded me of how much I love Bacon, the painter and the meat.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Slavoj, circuit board car, and the Carpenters

Here is a nice triad of yummy links unrelated except that they all came through my magic portal today:

1. The best interview ever(!) courtesy of our friend in Dublin.
Though it's hard to choose, because there are so many good ones, I think my personal favorite line is:

Q: What does love feel like?
A: Like a great misfortune, a monstrous parasite,
a permanent state of emergency that ruins all small pleasures.

And yes, of course, that makes me think of Gang of Four. What of it?

2. The ultimate geek cars, courtesy of someone's Twitter feed, but I cannot remember whose.

3. The first birthday present I've received this year (thank you, Spence). And yes, this is a passive-aggressive way of letting you know my birthday is Thursday. Feel free to send gifts or simply shower me with admiration and virtual cards. Or not.

Finns and pop

While I am most decidedly a word person, I do like maps. I think they appeal to the control freak in me. I like to think of the world as organized. Here are two that landed in my in box this week.

First, the genetic map of Europe which is explained in the NYTimes article of the same name:
The map shows, at right, the location in Europe where each of the sampled populations live and, at left, the genetic relationship between these 23 populations. The map was constructed by Dr. Kayser, Dr. Oscar Lao and others, and appears in an article in Current Biology published on line on August 7.

Having been to Finland so recently, what this map says to me is, "Yes, the Finns are an odd bunch." (The Times explains that the Finns' oddball genes are due to the fact that their population grew from such a small number of people.)

The second map is the pop vs. soda map from one of my favorite sites, Strange Maps. Really I just offer this one because it's kind of pretty and it gives me an excuse to point to Strange Maps. (And I was in Minnesota a few weeks ago as well and so the pop vs. soda linguistic rivalry is still fresh in my mind.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I wouldn't call it a *fear* of commitment per se...

I think "resistence to" or "skepticism toward" might be better ways of putting it.

Backing up a bit: Last week I moved offices down the hall into a larger, less centrally located office. My old office was right at the top of the stairs by the spot my boss calls "the water cooler" even though there is, in fact, no water cooler there. People naturally stop at the top of the stairs to congregate, and everyone feels rude if they don't subsequently poke their head in my office and 1. ask how my weekend/evening/day was/is, 2.compliment me on my hair/outfit/whatever, 3.ask for my thoughts on Obama/McCain/the Griffith Park fires/the latest Hollywood overdose... You get the picture. Given my naturally misanthropic personality, it's not a good thing. I have worked hard to try to develop my superpower ability to strangle people from across the room, but I have been unsuccessful thus far. So now I am down the hall in a new office that's big and has a nice red wall and is far away from "the water cooler."

Somehow it just felt wrong to move my crappy chair down here. The chair I have been sitting in is the kind of furniture item that you could easily recover from a dumpster. In fact, my old task chair from home was a dumpster discovery, and it was a far better chair than the one I have been using lo-these-many years. So this morning, I went to the office furniture place and sat in dozens of chairs until I found the optimum price-meets-performance keyboard jockeying saddle.

Know that I have been meaning to buy a new chair since I took this job.

Know too that I have worked here since January 2002.

What I realized is that having invested the time to shlep my books down the hall; go through my files to at least some degree and determine what to move, what to toss, and what to archive; and box up all my snowglobes for their journey to their new home, I am now maybe ready to actually settle in here. Ready enough to buy a new chair.

One doesn't want to rush into these things. Yeah.

I remember one time I went to an ACOA meeting (Adult Children of Alcoholics) many years ago, and someone there shared about finally throwing away her packing boxes. After living in her house more than five years, she said, she was ready to think about herself as staying there and not needing to be ready at any moment to uproot. And I was like, "Doesn't everybody keep their packing boxes?!"

I'm not judging...I'm just saying...

Of course, all of this comes just in time for me to move houses next month. (More on that front as there is news to report.)