Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I had a headache yesterday, so I needed to kill time while the medicine took effect. I did this by falling in love with Bloglines, an online service which will deliver feeds from any blog to one webpage. If you're curious, you can now view my blog reading list. If you spend any real time online, this service rocks.

it's more important to look good than to feel good

An in-law is getting married. I was asked (through relatives...not directly, mind you) to be a groomsman. Okay, sure. But instead of renting a tux like at most weddings, I was told to wear a dark suit.

Now, those of you who know me realize that I'm not really a suit kind of guy, so it's not like I have one laying around...well, actually I do, but it's a thift store find, and while the jacket fits well, the pants are designed for someone with a 52" waist. Whomever owned this suit before me must've been one ugly freak of nature...I do not want to know what his build was like.

Anyway, other than that, no suit. This meant that instead of renting a tux for $80 or so, I had to instead go buy a $400 suit. I have spent less money buying a car. Yes, I now have a piece of clothing which cost a little under a week's salary, and I might wear it five times in my life...more if relatives start dropping like flies, but I'm not a freshman, and no one's going to give me a relative-killing exam or essay.

And it's not like I can wear the damn thing for work. I'm a 6'5" guy, a big guy, and I tend to intimidate my students anyway. If I came to work wearing a suit, it would either scare them or make them think I must be getting sued. No, if I want any hope of connecting with my students, I ihave/i to dress dressing down for teaching is a stategic move, a carefully thought-out pedagogical strategy (and it has nothing at all to do with my utter loathing of ties, honestly).

So I'm down to wearing the cursed suit for the occasional conference and (hopeful) eventual job interview. Since a suit is a big investment, however, I need to find more places to wear it...maybe on the occasional jaunt to a martini bar or while shopping for comics. Suggestions are, of course, welcome.

I took some friends with me on the suit purchasing run, because I wanted to make sure I didn't end up with a 70's suit with ruffles, and because I'm always horrifically indecisive. They were both excited at the prospect of critiquing my choices. They were also excited to be going to a Men's Wearhouse to see what types of men were currently on the market, and to find out how much a man currently runs.

What did I learn from the experience?

  • When we got to the store, my two friends went to the pet store next door to look at kittens, and I had to call their cell phone to get them to come over and give their opinions. This is when I learned I am not cute enough to compete with kittens.
  • Men's Wearhouse provides surprisingly nice, personalized service. I guess I was expecting a Best Buy-esque anti-customer service, but they were very professional.
  • Apparently, not everyone can wear a three button suit jacket, and sadly enough, I am in that category. One friend speculated that it was becuase I was "too buff," but this is doubtful. It's a shame, because I had to move into a higher price range to get a good 2-button (which, admittedly, did fit better).
  • There is a genderized hierarchy inside the male garment industry. The person who helped me with my selection was a male. When they had to get my alterations marked, they pulled out a female. I guess real men can know fashion but cannot know how to sew.
  • Standing in the bay of multiple mirrors is weird. I never want to look at myself that clearly again. The only thing I could think of doing was the removable thumb magic trick...and that seemed inappropriate.
  • Apparently, one of my shoulders (my right) is lower than the other. After the shopping extravaganza, we all went to a bar, and a friend speculated that it was because of too many years hauling around bookbags.
  • Suits are much like cars in that there's a tremendous amount of unavoidable add-ons. Alterations cost extra. Cedar hanger? Extra. Garment bag? Extra. The one that really got me was the silicone treatment to keep the creases crisp...which is admittedly a good idea, but when the salesman told me about it, I was waiting for him to also try to sell me the undercarriage anti-rust treatment.
  • My wife and my two friends all told me that, in my new suit, I looked good. It's nice having the lust and adulation of those around you.

Maybe I'll have to adopt a whole "upper class" image to go with this suit thing...fine wines, a good car, a real hairstyle, opera, art films...

Monday, November 27, 2006

art photo sale

One of my favorite artists, the incomparable Katie West, is having a Christmas sale. I have two of Katie's prints in my office, three at home...and I will get more. Katie has a real eye for's great stuff.

If you like good photography, this is a great chance to own some prints from a good artist for very little money.

nighttime conversations

My darling, wonderful wife has a tendency, from time to time, to wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me something, even though she's fast asleep. I'm a fairly light sleeper, and it does usually take me a little while to get back to sleep from these interruptions...but I don't mind, because when she wakes me, it's usually fairly cute or funny.

The first time this happened, she called my name a few times in a panicy voice. When I asked her what the problem was, she said, "I changed the sheets!" before rolling over and going back to sleep. I, meanwhile, was fairly puzzled. I spent the next hour or so trying to figure out what was wrong with the sheets. Of course, the next morning, she remembered none of this.

Saturday night, I was fast asleep and dreaming that me and my buddy Davin were picking up writer Joss Whedon from the fast food place at which he worked, and, to pass the time, Davin was teaching me a new system for abbreviating dirty words. Lori then poked me in the back a few times, waking me from this (albeit nonsensical) slumber. Groggy, I asked her what was up, and she asked me, "Are you liquid?" She didn't wait for an answer, though. I hit the restroom, and by the time I got back, my wife was once again snoring like a wildebeast.

The cutest one, however, happened a while ago. She came close to me, hugged me, and let out a satisfied "hmmmm." Then she rubbed my bootie, let out an even more satisfied "hmmmmmmmmm" before rolling over and going back to sleep.

She didn't remember that one, either, but I'll never forget it. I look at it as proof that my animal magnetism is so severe, I can woo 'em even when unconscious.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

and they start...

I just got my first rejection from a Canadian university, so the job
market search is progressing much as expected...

In grading/end of semester hell. Updates coming, including on the
student who wanted to write about why we fight 6 pages.

Monday, November 13, 2006

you have a talent for causing things pain

I remember it as if it were last week...

I had a dentist appointment last week, and, even worse, it was my first time at this particular practice. I was happy with our last dentist, but, after hearing the rumors of malpractice, unnecessary work, virgin sacrifice, and general ineptitude, my wife insisted we change dentists. And who am I to disagree?

I got to the waiting room and suffered through the normal 378 page bundle of paperwork...although I'm still not completely sure why they need my power of attorney or the dna swab. From that point on, I just had to brave the 37.9 degree waiting room until the albino nurse with the raspy voice called my name. While waiting, I got into a minor scuffle with one other patron, the homeless man wrapped up intermittently in toilet paper who kept muttering under his breath, but other than that, the time passed as well as could be expected.

When the nurse called my name, I went to the back, stripped down to my socks, and tied on the pink leather apron as they requested. They took me to what they called "waiting room aleph cerebro" and had me gargle with mouthwash...I had my choice between spearmint or hero's bile flavors. Then, after the nurse removed the ice packs from the dentist's chair, I sat down, they stuck an IV of some luminescent green fluid into my arm, and the nurse told me that someone would be with me shortly.

The dental hygenist came in after an hour or so...she's one of those super perky types (as hygenists seem to be), and she seemed to know her stuff, but I could've really done without the random bouts of maniacal laughter. She tried to make small talk, but I've always found it difficult to respond when I have a few dozen tools lodged in my mouth. She then propositioned me, and after I told her that I was married, she instead tried to sell me some tooth-whitening product...she said that her bosses make her suggestively sell a variety of products. The hygenist then started the cleaning.

After she finished her scraping and chiseling, the dentist himself came in. Like most dentists, he looked like a cross between Don Knotts and Josef Mengele. After taking about five minutes to stroke my hair, he poked around my teeth for a while before saying the words that every person over 5'7" dreads: "We need to schedule you for a filling."

Even as I sit here in my office and try to find ways to avoid work, the very thought fills me with a slight panic. I start to go over my list of sins to try and figure out what I did to deserve this, but alas, I continue to draw a blank. How could this happen to me?

I've never had a cavity before. Even as a kid, my teeth were very strong, strong enough that my father would use them to loosen tight bolts whenever he worked on the 1976 Plymouth Scamp. And I never really took care of them, much to the chagrin of my siblings, both of whom had so many cavities that they were fitted with dentures in fourth grade...all this in spite of them brushing eleven times a day to my monthly brushings. Yes, I had always been blessed with wonderful teeth.

No longer. I finally have a cavity. And while I realize that most of my friends have had cavities, and that they seem to deal with the stigma and shame, I had always pictured a better life for myself.

I think of the things which, now that I have a cavity, I can no longer do. I will now never be chief justice of the Nebraska supreme court. I will never have my own Playboy column. I will never be allowed to shake hands with the President. I will never be the star of my own video game. And I will never be an astronaut.

This must be how the rest of you feel.

I have the filling scheduled for this Friday. I don't know what I'm going to do during this, my last week of freedom. I might write a play. I might smoke a cigar. I might try to break my own record for jars of honey eaten at one sitting.

I know I should try to enjoy myself, but it's hard, when everything reminds you of the fact that fillings are imminent. I hear the construction workers drilling outside my office, and I think of the drilling which I'll soon have to undergo. I see my department secretaries in their scrubs and masks, and I think of the hygenists. I see my students, and I think of the dentist, living only to inflict pain on others.

If you see me on the streets and I'm crying, please try to understand that I'm going through a rough time in my life.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

connections, or, hey man, I'm with the band...

I was driving into work today, listening to a cd of mp3s on random play. It started out with Black Sabbath, a band that's very important to me. If anyone ever asks me how I learned how to play guitar, I could just hand them a copy of's as good of an answer as any.

After I stopped to vote and get gas, The Daileys' "Toast the Town" came on (at least I think that's the title). The Daileys were friends of mine who played around Jacksonville. They never released anything, but as the singer was one of my best friends, I got a number of demos and live tracks...and I love them almost as much as Black Sabbath, although in a very different way. You see, with The Daileys, I experienced the band much differently. I got to hang out with them, ride to shows with them, drink with them, help them set up and tear down...and these are experiences I could never have with bands like Black Sabbath.

I've often thought about my move away from being a heavy metal guy. If anyone knew me in high school, they'd know I had the heavy metal hair (including a brief stint with the Bon Jovi perm), listened to metal pretty much exclusively, dressed in the metal uniform of jeans and concert shirt, and I even owned some spiked wristbands.

Since this time, I've broadened my tastes significantly. The first big non-metal band for me was Living Colour, who took metal and expanded the playing ground significantly with hip-hop and funk, among others. Then came my huge Frank Zappa phase, which taught me that boundaries are not at all necessary. The next big one was Son Volt, who taught me that country and rock could and should go hand in hand. The last big one was the now unfortunately defunct Slobberbone, who taught me that rock could be vital again, and it could be something with which I could still connect.

My move away from metal wasn't just a matter of being bored with the music. Metal is at times seemingly impervious to change (see this article on 80s metal acts on tour for a demonstration), but I still need the crash of guitars, so I often put up with the stagnation. The most important factor for me, though, is I quit being able to relate or even stand the "star/performer" aspect. Jeff Tweedy wrote that "every star that hides on the back of the bus is just waiting for his cover to be blown," and I started to suspect the same thing...and I think I increasingly needed a greater connection with the bands.

A good number of the bands I now listen to and go to see are those to whom I can relate. They may have day jobs. They're probably going to be loading in their own equipment. They'll be riding in a van, not a bus. You probably can approach them at the show and talk to them over a beer.

Case in point: a while back, I got an e-mail from The Drams' mailing list asking for volunteers to work merchandise for some shows on their tour with the Drive-By Truckers...and since they were playing Detroit, and since both bands are among my current favorites, I volunteered. They chose me, so on October 20th, me and a good friend made the trip.

I was told to find "Keith," who would help me get the merchandise set up...when I made it over to the table, I found out it was the bass player for the band. He was a little "rock and roll" but still a very nice guy. After their set, he came over, looked at the merchandise sales figures, and hugged me. Jess, their guitar player, came over, introduced himself, and snagged a cd for his parents. Tony (the drummer) and Chad (the keyboard player) both came over, introduced themselves, shook my hand, and thanked me for helping them out...and at the end of the night, I talked to Brent (the singer/guitar player) for a few minutes. I felt a little like a VIP, but it was cool just being able to help. I think The Drams are one of the best bands out there, and I just want them to keep playing and putting out albums...and I'll do whatever I can to help.

I was thinking about this, because I am also a very big Drive-By Truckers fan, and I was also excited to see them play. I've seen DBT play twice before in Detroit, but it was at a smaller club...this time, they were in a theater. And by watching them, it was clear that they've made some kind of hurdle, because all I kept thinking was "they sure aren't a club band anymore." Maybe it was that they had stage props and professional lighting, or maybe they'd just gotten better, but they seemed made for playing big rooms. They projected themselves well, and the set was rollicking, explosive, and, as any good rock show should be, just a little transcendent.

I did not, however, have the opportunity to meet them. They now have a full road crew, up to their own merchandise guy. They have a bus, not a van. They are, in short, professionals...and they never came out from backstage. The thing is, I love that band, and their performance was amazing. And they've worked very hard and deserve every bit of success that's in their grasp.

I don't, however, have the same connection with them that I had with The Drams. I'm a fan of DBT, but I'm rooting for The Drams...and in some small way, I feel like I'm a part of them. I truly want The Drams to be huge, but I know that if they ever do achieve fame, it will take them further away from me.

Maybe this conundrum is just another sign (like I need another...) that I'm getting old. I love my art as much as ever, but since I no longer fit into a mass of fans (back in high school, I hung around a whole lot of metal kids), I look for those connections with the artists themselves. Maybe I'm just more political and would rather give my money to a cool group of guys like Grand Champeen who actually need my money than to Foo Fighters, who could buy and sell me many times over...but maybe helping out the little guys is just another way for me to connect.

Music, like art, is often about connections...and although the show made me fear that I might be losing another band to the big time, I did, after all, get to go see the show with a good friend, and we did share some new experiences, and maybe we became a bit better friends because of it. And I guess I can let my favorite bands become bigger and maybe more distant if I can then share my love for this music with friends, thus helping strengthen that connection...after all, it's the connections that are really important.

science request?

Can anyone tell me why toilet paper seems to staunch blood flow in shaving cuts? Why don't we use it in first aid kits?

I pull my shirt off and pray...

Today is election day in the US. For all of our sakes, get out there and vote.

The number to keep handy is 1-866-OUR-VOTE, which goes to The National Campaign for Fair Elections. Please keep an eye out for any irregularities in the election proceedings. Anything out of the ordinary, call them.

You want news on the election? Check out BBC News's site...they're generally fairly unbiased on such matters.

Monday, November 06, 2006

curses to ye, traffic gods...

So I'm cruising up to work, and I see the roadsigns..."I-75 down to one lane; seek alternate route." So, smug in the knowledge that I know multiple ways to go, I jet over to I-475. Soon, however, that slows down to a bumper-to-bumper crawl, and I have to take still another route to campus. No problem, I go Airport Highway to Reynolds...which I soon find out is also under construction and down to one lane each way. I then realize that even if I would've made it to Secor, that's been under construction for a year or so and subject to random closings.

There was no avoiding it...traffic was inevitable, unavoidable, unstoppable,'s just another curse of living in a different city than the one you work.

Now, for my Southern readers, you have just learned another negative to living in the frozen northland. Not only do we have to put up with snowy roads in the winter, we also have to put up with construction crews who, as soon as the snow thaws, tear into our roadways with an orgasmic frenzy, scraping asphault, installing a plethora of traffic cones, drilling, cutting, pouring asphault. They do this with a manic intensity, driven either by the need to keep ahead of the ravages of winter or by the desire to make us commuters wait as long as possible.

All this is further reason for the hovercraft industry to get off their arses and go into consumer sales...