Thursday, December 29, 2005

they finally notice something!

It took a paid advertisement to get the Toledo Blade to notice, but the local paper finally printed an article on the labor woes which have me in a panic...I do wish, however, that they would've gotten some of the very real sense of uncertainty and panic that I feel at the University of Toledo across.

end of year/bloggaversary thoughts

So I had thoughts of doing some grandiose "State of the Blog/State of the Mike" post which would sum up the whirlwind changes I've encountered over the past year, everything from the rent-a-cop interviews to crazy adjuncting to full time employment for the first time ever...but on second thoughts, screw it.

Whenever I reflect, I tend to get a little morose, and I definitely don't need any more of that in my life. Let's face it...although my situation has definitely changed for the better in many ways (employment!), there are many ways where things are just as uncertain now as they were last year (once again, employment). So why would I want to spend a day thinking up an entry which sums all this up? Although there are a whole lot of positives, I would inevitably dwell on the negatives, because that's just the kind of weirdo I am.

So, briefly, I've become better friends with some people, started to regain connections with a few people with whom I've lost, and have all intentions of regaining contact with those with whom I've been matter whose fault. Instead of being a pretender in four different uncertain jobs, I'm only a pretender in one uncertain job...which is some improvement, I guess. While I might not have gotten a whole lot of scholarly work done, I at least now have an agenda and concievably time to do some of it. And I stay married to the most wonderful person on earth. So, overall, it's a lot better than it could be, and I remain fairly happy.

I do know that I gotta move on a few things, but if all goes to plan, 2006 should be okay...or at least a move forward, which is all one could hope for...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

festive films

For a number of years, the cable network TNT used to play the original Star Wars trilogy every Christmas day. In our house, it became a little bit of a competition to see how much Lucas one could stand. Myself, I usually gave out about an hour into Return of the Jedi...of course, my nicotine addiction at the time probably did as much to make me give up as did the overbearing weight of the three movies. One year, my father actually made it through all three films...I was torn between being proud of him and being jealous and a little peeved at my own inadequacy.

My Christmas memories are, as a result of this tradition, triggered as much by sci-fi as they are anything else. I never had much appreciation for the average Christmas special on television, and a few years working at various Little Caesars located in shopping centers that played carols from November 1 to January 10 made me utterly despise Christmas, it was light sabres, rather than any of the traditional Christmas trappings, that rung in the holidays for me.

Unfortunately, when Lucas released the "special editions" of the original trilogy, TNT quit playing Jedi...then, soon after, they quit playing any of the movies. A small, geeky part of me died a little, and I have been searching for another weird holiday tradition to call my own.

For a few years now, Spike TV has been playing James Bond movies during the holiday season...they call it "The 008 Days of 007." I like the Bond films...if you watch them in sequence, you get a pretty good timeline of:

  1. the cheese of special effects
  2. the evolution of ethnic stereotypes
  3. the increasing fantasy of female body imagery
  4. the age and deterioration of the various principle characters...Miss
    Moneypenny, for example, becomes very matronly during the later Moore
  5. how sexism does (or doesn't?) change

...amonst other things.

Of course, the James Bond villian is and has been a stereotype for quite a while. They never live up to expectations...Dr. No was much more frightening when they didn't show him, and you have to wonder how Communism lasted as long as it did with all the idiots working in SMERSH/KGB. Yet James Bond villians never caught on, even the James Bond villians who were not in Bond films...Buffy the Vampire Slayer even had three characters who aspired to be Bond villians...and who, hilariously enough, would debate which Bond was the best.

Like most people, I gravitate towards Connery's Bond...none of the others really strike me as having the "badass" quotient. Would anyone really be afraid that Roger Moore would take them in a fight? And none of them were very smart or seems like an unsuspecting yet smug Bond always gets himself bonked on the head by the one bad guy who snuck up on him.

I suppose, however, that critiquing the lack of intelligence in Bond films is a little like using logic to study wrestling ain't about that. Which is why, if I were asked to name my favorite film of all these, Moonraker would be my doesn't even pretend to be logical. Six undetectable space shuttles, a plan to kill all humans and repopulate with "perfect specimens," Jaws finding love, and more's all so beautiful.

The women--or, as they're called in popular terms, the "Bond Girls"--are also funny. Some are skeletal (especially in the one set in Bombay), some are scary (Grace Jones, anyone?), and even the ones that supposedly have college degrees (the A View to A Kill one...who went on to That 70s Show) still talk and act like pinheads. They also follow a set pattern in terms of order of appearance and fate...the quick fling at the beginning who never comes back, the good one who gets killed, the one who turns evil, and finally, the good one who goes on to have climactic sex with James at the film's climax.

I'm not sure if it's really an appropriate film series for Christmas, though. Do the Bond films have any Christmas references (as does Die Hard, which is more festive as a result)? Yes, there is good versus evil, but do Bond's quirks, sinful as they are, ameliorate his goodness?

The one thing the Bond films do have going for them, however, is that they are stupidly addicting enough to make one not do any of the multitude of work assignments one might have hanging over one's head...and for that, if nothing else, you gotta love them...or is this opinion just my severe procrastination coming to light? I wonder...

nightly entertainment

So my darling wife and me went to the movies last night to see The Ringer. Several points of interest there:

  1. The "chef" at the theater's Szbarro's (or however you spell it) got to wear the really goofy, puffy chef's hat...I guess it was intended to allow him to lord his position over the popcorn flunkies. Anyway, before this, I never really thought about the hierarchical order of concessionaires before.
  2. Who really goes to the movie theaters for hot dogs, pizza, and smoothies?
  3. Why can't theaters pop fresh popcorn? It ain't hard.
  4. There were three people working our line at concessions, but two of them couldn't work register. One of them, when the others were off getting various food items, was stuck with nothing to do, so he did a goofy dance. It was nice of this schmuck to make light of the fact that we're waiting and he was totally useless to us.
  5. The Ringer is marketed a little bit as a gross-out movie, and that type of humor apparently attracts the kids.
  6. Why do teens like to sit right next to the screen and adults like to sit a mile away?
  7. The previews were all pretty much for movies with a main selling point of making fun of the overweight. Included in these was Alyson Hanigan in a truly dreadful-looking film which was to date films what Scary Movie was to horror least that's how it was being marketed. She's a much better actor than that, so I'm only assuming she must have a drug problem or something to accept a role so far below her talent level.
  8. The actual film itself was fine. The plot was predictable, of the "you could see that coming a mile away" variety, but the acting was quite good. They used a large cast of mentally challenged actors, many of which were very funny.
  9. One of the coolest things about the movie was how self-aware the mentally challenged characters were...they were under no illusions as to how people saw them and how they could use that information to their benefit. The characters were well-rounded, never characatures...and Hollywood rarely does that for anyone. To do that for a whole group of people who otherwise wouldn't even be used in our media was quite extraordinary.
  10. Ultimately, The Ringer was more sensitive and enlightened than it had any right to be...and I wonder how many of the teens, undoubtedly drawn to the theater for a "retards are funny" film, felt like they were bait and switch victims. Using the trappings of car crash culture to educate? Maybe it's a viable approach.

Afterward, I went drinking with a friend, which went the way such things tend to go.... We eventually ended up at a local bar which has a drag night...which is as much (a) a straight meat market and (b) a place for enlightened straights as it is a gay hangout. We saw many wonderous things, including a very scrawny woman shaking an ass that she did not have for two obviously gay guys, who nonetheless participated in dirty dance grinding...which is relatively puzzling. We did stay for the second show, which mainly raised the questions (a) where else can you see transexuals wearing whipped cream? and (b) why are so many drag queens black? These are somewhat important questions that deserve some study and serious answers...although that research is not going to come from me, as my life is weird enough as it is.

Friday, December 23, 2005

year end blog review I--quotes

While preparing for the first annual "State of the Blog" address, I reread every entry. These are a few of my favorite quotes from the year:

"rather than being wined and dined by senior faculty from around the world, I'm sitting here in Bowling Green, staring out my window, looking at the snow-covered shrubbery, and contemplating a trip outside to look for child-assembled snowmen to knock down and beat up."

"sooner or later we may see CSI: Wood County, OH. Coming up on this episode, the gang of super sexy forensic experts in low cut tops examine the crime scene for clues on who tipped the cow, Bessie."

"the ability to teach Intro to Ethnic Studies doesn't help convince an employer that I can ring up the newest Nu-Metal cd or pour an icee."

"Now, forgive me if this offends or makes me look more like a pig than I actually am, but I found the whole experience of watching women's curling to be terribly...erotic. There were some mighty attractive curlers there (even the ones whose hair was straight, HA HA HA HA HA...sorry)...I think either the Ontario or the Manitoba team had the most babes. And then they started to play, and they started to yell... "Woah!!!!".... "Harderrrr!!!!!!!".... "Yeasssss!!!!!!".... "Curl!!!!!!!!!" Tell me, it's not a stretch to get turned on by this, is it?"

"I have seen people without dissertations get jobs. I have seen people apply to only a handful of places and get jobs. I have seen a few people with diminished social graces and limited classroom skills get tenure. I have seen the black wombat of Satan on the horizon, fangs glistening with ichor, bearing down for one last bite..."

"the female (hot in a redneck housewife kind of way) asked me if she could clean her glasses on my shirt. How do you respond to this kind of question? I couldn't tell if she had no social grace or if she was coming on to me."

"Is dressing formally really that far behind? Will I quit drinking too much? How about getting mad at the young whippersnappers across the street who make noise to all hours of the night? Will I start complaining about how today's music doesn't have melody like it did in my age? Who can indeed understand these kids today? Somebody give me a comic, quick!"

"Having a big head isn't all it's cracked up to be. Sure, it attracts the wife was telling me the other day that the sheer size of my melon was what first set her heart all aflutter...but you face other difficulties. Guys, driven to sheer envy by the inadequacy of their own skulls, used to beat me up on an hourly basis, and my head provided a big target."

"Wal-Mart is very close to what I expect Hell to resemble. As you get closer to Christmas shopping season and the Wal-Mart crowd increases, you move down to a more perilous circle of see, Dante was wrong in the details. We did run into one of those plastic animatronic mounted deer heads that sang Elvis' "Suspicious Minds," and that was the highlight of our visit."

Stay tuned for the actual year end address, which hopefully will be the last of the ego-building grandstanding I'll do for a while...

programming note

Sometime yesterday, I realized that I missed the one year anniversary of this blog...bummer. So, in between making a tomato sauce and cleaning house, I plan to spend a little time assembling the "state of the blog" address today.

I am also going to make an effort to keep posting over the break, unlike many of my loser friends who are using the excuse of being in other states or on the interstate...weenies.

upon further review...

Had to go to the grocery store yesterday to get last minute food, and I came to this inevitable conclusion...I really friggin' hate people.

I swear, there's something about groceries which makes everybody oblivious idiots. No one was looking where they were going. Everybody was moving at .071393 miles per hour. Shoppers spending three minutes (no exaggeration) trying to decide what variety of frozen fruit they were gonna buy. People shopping as a family experience, which would not be a problem, but they were walking four abreast. Mothers sending their four year old to pick out the proper variety of non-diary creamer, and then yelling directions from the end of the isle.

And of course, in light of all the frustrations, I forgot a few key ingredients and had to go to another store upon unloading the swag from store one...from now on, I'm giving serious thought to shopping at 3am, just to avoid the morons.

Friday, December 16, 2005

the whole pomo thingie

Remember when we were talking about the whole postmodern thingie? Well, Brian has once again posted something that makes me feel like an go check out his take on postmodernism and religion and start a lively discussion.

Friday, December 09, 2005

help me plan

As I'm actually finished with my grading, I'm putting together my syllabus for next semester, and I'm trying (as I always do when I do these things) to focus all the course material to put my students on the right track....that is, assuming any of them read my syllabi and related course material to begin with

To this end, I am assembling two lists:

  1. topics I never want to see (such as papers on abortion, the death penalty, and so forth)
  2. phrases I never want to read (including "due to the fact that" and "according to Webster's Dictionary,")
and I would love y'all's suggestions. I will eventually post my final lists.

C'mon, everyone, do my work for me!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

brief moments of lesser pain

After two marathon sessions of grading, where I stayed on campus untill 7:30 and just slogged endlessly through papers, I finished most of my obligations for Fall semester (I did three classes yesterday. Note to Meredith: HA!). Save a few stragglers, not to mention actually entering the grades into the U's system, I am done. And, not to take anything away from the generally nice group of students I had this year, it feels good. I stayed home and slept in today. Note to any BGers reading this: I am ready to drink, so call me.

The bitter part of this is that, with the impending labor situation, I am not really sure when I will actually start back up each day when I leave campus, I have been taking a load of books home with me...assembling an office in exile, so to speak.

I now have a break where I have to plan two courses, one of which I've never taught and for which I still don't have a textbook. Thanks to Jen's hard work (you go, girl), I now have to write a paper for the Cultural Studies Association in DC this year. I've been reconsidering my exit from the job marked. I have a lead on a publication I need to pursue. I have a book proposal to revise, which has been sitting around too long. And Mr. Thunder and I still have an upcoming intellectual excursion into the Toledo nightlife underworld. So I need to be sure this holiday season is not a time of screwing around.

But I can now sleep. I am free from deadlines, at least for a while. I can not wear pants for days at a time. All in all, things are okay.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

vocab help

What words would one use to describe the feeling you get when you find out the cookie you just bit into, which you thought was chocolate chip, was really oatmeal raisin? Suggestions, please!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Thursday, December 01, 2005

vinyl memories

A friend of mine burned some of my lps over to cd last week, so I've been able to listen to some great songs I haven't heard in a long, long time...tuesday, on the way to campus, I was listening to Black Sabbath's Technical Ecstacy ("Dirty Women" is one of their best songs). What I was not prepared for was how crappy records can sound. Yes, the records had a few skips in them, but the level of hiss and noise was tremendous.

I still miss lps, but it's mostly for the cover art. I have become, it seems, a total cd-head. Now, if they could only get better packaging for the suckers...

okay, there's one good thing about Wal-Mart

To be perfectly fair to Wal-Mart, I do enjoy the fact that whenever I enter that store, I'm instantly one of the most attractive people in the place...a unique feeling, for sure.

mondays aren't just the first day of the week

So I drove to campus yesterday, ready for a fun day of students going over drafts, still panicking from the approaching (and possibly catastrophic) labor strife and difficulties and wondering when someone would give me some information and maybe a textbook for the Scientific Report Writing class I'm teaching next fall. I decide to stop and get some gas at the 7-11 by campus. What could possibly go wrong?

First off, I've been listening to Two Cow Garage, so I have "Smell of Blood" stuck in my head, which is good. I'm able to fill up my tank for under $30, which is also good. Then I go to start up my car, and....nothing, save errant clicking.

I try two or three times, in the vain hope that the automotive gods (who is the patron saint of Oldsmobiles anyway?) will be kind, but no dice. Then I have to push the car away from the pumps and into a parking space...which would be easy if I drove a nice compact, but no, it's a late eighties Delta 88, and I have to push I'm out of breath, sore, and feeling very much like a weenie loser...more so than usual.

I then powerwalk to class (only 3 minutes late) and sit through draft days and then, at my office, through a few hours of conferences. I call AAA and go back to my car, wait an hour and a half, and the guy comes to give me a jumpstart...only he can't start the car. Rather, the battery starts smoking. He tells me the battery must be dead. He was an observant guy. He can, however, sell me a new battery for $95...but that is installed. I politely decline.

I call my wonderful wife, and she agrees to bring me my tools after she gets off work, so I can buy and replace a new battery that night. So I return to my office to warm up, drink some tea, and play some poker (I play online at UltimateBet in case anyone wants to join me). I lose tremendously...every time I get trips, someone else flops a straight. Thank the heavens I'm still in the free games.

My lovely wife arrives...I'm very glad to see her...and then she realizes that she forgot my tools. She does have some in the car, though, so we go to (shudder) Wal-Mart to get a new battery...yes, I know they're evil incarnate, but they do sell cheap car batteries, and right now, my finances outweigh my ethics.

At Wal-Mart, we encounter people walking on the wrong side of the isle, elderly in those electric carts directly in front of us who suddenly and mysteriously shift into reverse, parents who push their kids in front of our cart, idiots who don't look where they're going, and other travesties of man and corporation. Wal-Mart is very close to what I expect Hell to resemble. As you get closer to Christmas shopping season and the Wal-Mart crowd increases, you move down to a more perilous circle of see, Dante was wrong in the details. We did run into one of those plastic animatronic mounted deer heads that sang Elvis' "Suspicious Minds," and that was the highlight of our visit.

So we got my battery and got out of there. While I was putting the battery into the trunk, I checked Lori's tool box...and all the tools I'd need had mysteriously been removed. So I go back into Wal-Mart to look for one of those all in one tool thingies...the really handy guys reading this will know what I'm talking about...and they don't have any. So I pick up a plastic tube of 5 tools for the home for $5 dollars and what ends up being the worst beef jerky product I've ever tasted.

We drive back to the car, and needless to say, the cheap tools are useless. I can't get anything to budge, and I'm getting weary and frustrated, so I break down and call AAA back for a tow to a Bowling Green service station. The whole time, I have the Drive-By Truckers song "Outfit" stuck in my head, particularly the line "don't ever say your car is broke." I feel like a loser, out of touch, like less of a man. I can't even change the stupid battery in my car. I'm going to have to turn in all my macho clothing and forget the secret "real man" handshake.

Lori runs to McDonalds, and we are just finishing our value meals when the tow truck guy pulls up. He's nice, but he looks a little too much like a psychotic Amway salesman I know. He informs me that he could just tow my car to his shop, because his mechanic is still there, and they could install the new battery there. The only thing is, if AAA asks, I have to tell them that they took it to BG. I agree, but somewhere deep inside me, the "watch out for scam-o-la" light clicks on.

We get to his shop. There's a whole bunch of used cars littering the lot, and not once but several times, various people working there try to sell me a used Crown Victoria. Every single person there is smoking Marlboros, even when working on my car. One gentleman complains about the cold, and another responds: "If you think you're cold now, just wait untill I piss on your let and it freezes." While they're installing the battery, someone else tries to sell me another Oldsmobile.

They get the battery in,'s dead. The car won't turn over. After speculating that I might need a new starter or alternator ("which we can put in for you tomorrow"), they jump the car, and it turns out that the brand-new Wal-Mart battery was dead on the shelf. They let the car run, test the battery, test the alternator, and try four times to convince me that I need to let them perform a tune-up ("you can drop off the car on your way to work tomorrow").

I ask them how much for their trouble, and they tell me $30...only $5 less than the battery cost me. I tell them I've got $20 cash or we'll have to go to credit card. Luckily, they don't have a machine, so I'm off the hook for the cheaper price. I have a feeling that I've inspired them to upgrade their technology to better fleece stranded motorists...they realize they can get more for their services if they take plastic. They then give me two sets of directions home, one hideously complex, one very far out of the way.

Yes, I eventually get home, and the car does work now. I didn't get to hit the grocery store, put up my window insulation, get a much-needed hair cut, cook my famous jambalaya, or do anything remotely fun. Instead, I stared blankly at the television for a while, thanked my wife a few times for being so nice and not abandoning me, and then went to bed, where I dreamed I was street-racing Santa Claus, and I disconnected his sleigh from his reindeer, causing Santa to tumble from the sky...

My car made it to work just fine this things are looking up, but I do realize it's still early.