Wednesday, December 19, 2007

2007 in music

Top Ten Albums

  1. You Am I, Convicts—Rock! Awesome three chord rock! It lives!
  2. Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank—Weird, funky, catchy…what a combination.
  3. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky—This shows what a great band can do with a song. Awesome arrangements. Worth it just for “Impossible Germany,” if nothing else.
  4. Two Cow Garage, III—Working class garage rock with improved songwriting
  5. We Are The Fury, Venus—Toledo area Glam Rock hits the national stage. “Saturday Night” might be the perfect pop song of the year.
  6. Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, Follow the Lights—Honest, soulful alt-country. Too bad Easy Tiger, RyRy’s full length release, didn’t have this level of emotion.
  7. Jason Isbell, Sirens of the Ditch—A great but sometimes overly subtle debut. There’s hidden depth on this.
  8. Jesse Malin, Glitter in the Gutter—Great songs for car rides, but this has hidden depth. Fave line? “One day you wake up, you’re 30, and you can’t even drive a truck.”
  9. Glossary, The Better Angels of Our Nature—My spousal unit told me, after listening to the disk, that “This is Mike music.” How true. (you can download this for free from their website)
  10. Grand Champeen, Dial T for This—Minus the ending track (a very sappy “Olivia”), this turned out to be a good album…unfortunately, though, it just doesn’t sound much like Grand Champeen. C’mon, you don’t have to stop rocking to grow as musicians

Too New to Tell

  • Weakerthans, Reunion Tour
  • Maritime, Heresy and the Hotel Choir (what I have heard is pop dynamite)
  • Keller Williams, Dream
  • Martin Sexton, Seeds
  • Robert Earl Keen, Farm Fresh Onions

    (yes, this is more than I would normally buy, but I had a good haul from the BGSU Music Library sale)

“Meh” Albums

  • White Stripes, Icky Thump—Some of this is good but sounds like “running through the motions,” while other songs are just annoying.
  • Ryan Adams, Easy Tiger—This is entirely too polished and commercial for my tastes

Top Songs

  1. You Am I--"Secrets"
  2. Wilco--"Impossible Germany"
  3. Two Cow--"Should've California"

Best Concerts

  1. Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor MI
  2. Route 33 Rhythm and Brews Anniversary Show, with The Drams, Jason & the Scorchers, and more, Wapakoneta OH
  3. The Hold Steady, some theater, Columbus OH
  4. Modest Mouse, some amphitheater, Columbus OH
  5. You Am I, Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland OH

cutting through philosophy

They have released yet another version of Blade Runner. Apparently it's now the "Ultimate Version" least until someone else needs to make a profit. You gotta love the modern DVD market.

Blade Runner is a Ridley Scott film, and I have always had mixed feelings about that man's work. While the movies can be beautiful to look at and are magnificently constructed, they are usually emotionally cold and sterile. In many ways, his films are affect-free, almost a parody of bad academic views. If they weren't so damn evocative as a rule, I would generally hate his work. As is, I often can't look away, even though I get really angry as I think of them afterward.

Blade Runner is a great case in point. The premise is staggering: a cop/bounty hunter who specializes in killing androids, with the potential for the requisite "what does it mean to be alive?" philosophical questions. The vision of the future--nasty, raining, class-divided, dark, ecologically wasted--is refreshing in light of the "gee wiz" future of Star Wars. The visuals are stunning. And there are great moments of depth, with the real highlight coming from Rutger Hauer's dying android Batty: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die." It's chilling to watch, perhaps one of the finest moments of cinema in the last 25 years.

But the movie has some real problems. First off, while no one can dispute the power of Harrison Ford, he gives a remarkably lethargic performance here. Hell, Rutger Hauer, veteran of over 100 B movies, acts Ford's ass right off the screen, particularly in his death scene (the home of the above quote). Maybe Ford was trying to underplay it, but it doesn't work for me.

I kind of doubt, however, that it was an acting decision. To me, Ford's underplayed performance points to more a philosophical problem with the movie. In an admittedly cool Wired interview, Scott says: "the hero, or antihero, finally gets his butt kicked by the so-called bad guy — who turns out not to be a bad guy. That's what's interesting about the movie, right? Otherwise it's all down to bad guys and good guys, which is really boring."

In other words, what is interesting about the movie is that there's no moral center. Wee. Does the film suggest an alternative? Some other way of looking at morality, humanity, or any number of other issues? Not to my eyes, and not from what I gather from the Scott interview. "We've moved beyond good and evil" is a fascinating statement, and it is one which I think has great merit, but unless you complete the equation and try to make sense of the world, it's the same reductive nonsense that a lot of bad postmodernists spout...and it just is not enough.

Later in the same interview, Scott admits to never reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the Phillip K. Dick novel that Blade Runner was "based" upon. This somehow doesn't surprise me in the least, because there are very few similarities between the two. I experienced the Dick novel before I saw the Scott movie, and I was absolutely blown away by the philosophical depth of the story. In the novel, it wasn't just "bounty hunter battles robots"; instead, the novel had great stake in matters of life, spirituality, characters, and much more. The novel was a ride of both emotions and philosophy. Ultimately, the film leaves us with style...which is nice, but it's not life-altering.

I'm not saying that none of this exists in the movie, but it's very much overwhelmed by the sheen of Scott's production. This is a shame, because the novel is entirely adaptable...and I think it would still make one hell of a flick. But Scott found the book too "dense" and instead went for a neat design.

Actually, this reminds me of a whole bunch of bad theory articles I've encountered in my coursework...except that they didn't have Darryl Hannah in a bodysuit and bad makeup.

the 2007 themikedubose best of blog

(yes, this is self-indulgent, but it's my blog, damnit)

  • More than once, I had some hot blonde want to discuss hair care or offer to crimp my hair (hey, it was the eighties)...but if a woman is really interested in your conditioner, I seriously doubt they're looking at you as an object of lust. At the very least, it never happened to me.
  • Lonliness is never like it is in the movies or in overdramatic novels. There's no wailing, no shaking tears, no cavernous bouts of depression. I'm just empty.
  • (on the Valentine's Day dinner at White Castle): It was probably the most romantic V day I've ever had...which says something about me, no doubt. The wife also enjoyed it very much...which, no doubt, also says something about her. This is why I love her.
  • We were following these two native Baltimore women over a bridge spanning one of these, and I heard one say that she’d once seen a severed deer head floating in the water.
  • "Damnit, if you just liked men instead of other women, all those brave heroes of 9/11 wouldn't have had to die."
  • In a faculty meeting today, one of my bosses leaned over to me and whispered "You might be the meanest bastard in this department."
  • roomie: "I have two rules about food. I wouldn't eat human flesh unless I was pretty certain it was procured in an ethical way...and I don't like cilantro."
  • I still love the bars. I really enjoy drinking as a social activity...and bars have a great ambiance that allows you to overcome social anxiety and limitations on suitable topics of conversation. As a result, I've had some of the best academic, theoretical, theological, and philosophical conversations of my life over minipitchers.
  • Tony Orlando, did you have any clue what madness you had wrought? If you knew your lame song would've ended up supporting everything from right wing politics to wiener dogs, would you still have released it? Do you feel shame or remorse? Can you sleep at night?
  • Suddenly, my life flacked before my eyes. I was assailed by a montage of scenes...a number of military bases...a selection of crappy cars...smelly bars...countless years spent making pizzas...bad horrible fashion can I have loved yet stupidly cave-like high school...all the horribly awkward social situations that took place in my cave-like high school...hangovers...students with the "deer in the headlights" look...

the Mike in review 2007

Last night, I had one of those "epiphany" moments you keep hearing about from all your friends. I had finished all my Christmas shopping for the year, had wrapped all the gifts, and was busy marking the next year's batch of calendars (including the European wine label one for the kitchen, the pagan art and philosophy one for the study (don't ask), and the Calendar of Bunny Suicides for my office). My lovely spousal unit was on the other couch, writing out Christmas cards. We spent some time in lively debate about what losers were going to be dropped off our card list, what to actually write on the cards, and why the whole thing was her responsibility (and not mine).

Suddenly, it hit me: M*A*S*H has more relevance to my life than I would've expected.

(yeah, I know...just wait for it, okay?)

It's been a strange year in all regards, but mostly, it's strange that I survived it without resorting to antidepressants. Lots of stuff has gone on (much of which I haven't actually discussed here), including various family illnesses, my lovely spousal unit getting laid off, my book proposal getting bounced from 6 of the 8 potential university presses, a horrifically depressing 2006-2007 job market run (punctuated by one school, who, in an interview, told me about my skills: "that's what we were thinking of when we wrote the job post" and then not even inviting me for a campus visit or sending me a "thanks but no thanks" letter), plagiarizing students, friends moving away, people who I thought were friends making it clear they didn't really like me all that much, my car trying to kill me, me having serious doubts about my scholarly abilities and future, and other such wonders. And, rather than my normal exaggeration in an attempt for humor and sympathy, I'm actually minimizing the misery that was 2007...for some reason, I just don't want to dwell on it right now.

What's surprising in all of this is that much good has still happened. Old friends who I thought hated me have re-integrated me into their life. I've turned a few acquaintances into very good friends. Someone gave me a guitar (bottleneck, here I come!). My 4+ years in the backlog article for The Journal of Popular Culture finally came out, and as the lead article! I became an active scholar again, getting one article accepted, three more submitted, and a revised book contract making the rounds, along with three (count 'em, three) articles underway. I started another blog (which brings up the question...if I write up a blog and no one reads it, does it exist? The internet is so damn zen). My lovely spousal unit still seems to like me for some reason, and she makes me feel really warm inside when I see her.

With so much good, and so much damned near awful stuff happening, my major struggle has been with achieving balance, maintaining perspective. I'm very happy for my academic friends, for instance, all of whom seem to be having enormous, well-deserved successes. Among them, there is one book in press, at least two book contracts, full time employment, and much more. In the meantime, I'm producing but not really seeing any results, and I will most likely be sitting here come the end of the month instead of interviewing at the MLA. In terms of tangibility, my career really hasn't progressed since I got my current job, and that makes me wonder sometimes if I should've stayed at Little Caesars.

There are, I have to admit, times where I slip, when the bad stuff starts to outweigh the positives. There are times where I start to feel bitter whenever I hear someone else's good news. There are times when I despair and start to imagine an existence where I remain completely stagnant: at a job outside of my chosen field, in a town where everyone I know will move away each year, in a state of profound broketitude, driving a rapidly disintegrating car, and continuing to moan and whine on a near-Olympic level.

The positive side, the bit I have to keep holding onto, is that I am at least making strides. I am improving. In many areas of my life, I am actively trying to make things better.

It would be nice to have some reciprocity for my efforts, though, and actually start to get some rewards from life, instead of the series of cold kicks to the groin which seemed to come my way this year, particularly in the first half.

So this was what I was thinking last night, while marking the 2008 calendars, and I suddenly remembered a particular episode of M*A*S*H. It's from one of the later seasons, and it's one of their "concept" episodes, a "year in the life" thing with the standard later M*A*S*H mixture of humor and pathos. The framing device is the New Year's Eve partys both before and after, where Col. Potter acts as the old New Year (complete with fake beard) and marks the new year with the same speech...only in the second New Year's party, Potter is tired, forlorn, and depressed, as he utters the phrase: "Here's to the new year...may it be a damn sight better than the old year."

Hurry up, 2008.

Friday, December 14, 2007

heavy head

My head weighs 87 pounds. My sinuses have been cemented shut, and the glories of store brand Day-Quill just are not working. Worse, I have only one more serving of the spray nasal decongestant left, before I just get to deal fully with the pain.

Worse yet? This all hit just as I finished grading.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

fall decap

The last class meeting is over. I've spent the last 16 weeks with four classes of students. I've read their papers. I've met with them one-on-one. I've gotten to know them each a little. I've seen all of their growth as writers. In each of my on-campus classes, the students filed out without even looking back.

Not a single student said "thanks for the class"...or "I learned a lot"...or "have a good semester"...or even "goodbye." And it's not like it's the first time this has happened (see a previous rant), but it's still a little sad.

Don't get me wrong. I love my job. By and large, I like my students. But one of the real dangers of only doing comp is that I am never around to experience their growth. I am firmly convinced that they don't really get everything I do until later in their college careers. I plant seeds, but I don't get to reap the benefits.

This is why I am on the market for other jobs. Of course, there's been utterly no positive motion on that end as of yet (other than three rejects, there's been no motion at all), but the year is still young. There is still time to get a bunch o' MLA interviews. I think my application material is as solid as I can make (and all that writing I did over the summer, I think, helped). Now I just have to hope that someone bites.

Anyway, this is a depression for another day. Now onto grading.

Friday, November 30, 2007

gimme a brake...

This morning's commute started out pretty much as always...idiots on the road, tailgating SUV elitist bastards, flicking off anyone who had either a W sticker or drove a Hummer, thick black coffee, singing along to The Jayhawks at the top of my lungs. I enjoyed the scenic views of the crappier sections of Toledo while dodging the utterly endless barrage of semis. I found my exit, signaled, pulled into the exit lane, applied brakes. least, I tried to apply brakes. The pedal had other ideas and sank to the floorboards. Suddenly, my life flacked before my eyes. I was assailed by a montage of scenes...a number of military bases...a selection of crappy cars...smelly bars...countless years spent making pizzas...bad horrible fashion can I have loved yet stupidly cave-like high school...all the horribly awkward social situations that took place in my cave-like high school...hangovers...students with the "deer in the headlights" look...

I knew that I'd eventually get to the good stuff (starting with the Spousal Unit, my friends, and Myle's Pizza), but I didn't really have time...because the brakes finally started working. I got to campus safely, but boy, let me tell you, I most certainly increased my following distance. I also thought long and hard about how my life needs better writers...or at least a good cleaning.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

on carnivores, magic, and trees

One of my favorite lines from comics is when John Wilder (a character from Warren Ellis's Planetary) talks about living for the rare moments when the world is different than advertised...more unusual, weirder, more mysterious, more magical.

The problem is that these moments don't come around very often. Usually, we get caught up in our routines. Lately, I am dealing with the end of a semester, and my thoughts turn to how the issues my students have never really seem to change; the paper topics are different, but that's about it. My job never really changes; since all I teach is freshman comp, there's little about my semesters that presents new challenges. I drive the same way to work each day, drink the same coffee, go to the same house in the same town I've lived in for the last nine years.

I hate negative change. It makes me think that the world, this existence, is a place of decline and repetition...and there's no magic in that.

So it makes me particularly happy when I get to see something unusual, something unexpected, something that reminds me that the world is still a place with great mysteries in store.

A while back, I read a news article about some carnivorous trees in India. Really. I've heard of carnivorous plants before, like the tres-cool Venus Flytrap, but these are on a whole other level. These have been seen trying to eat cows...yes, cows. Rumor has it that they have also grabbed humans.

Of course, I can't find a photo anywhere. But even though I can't see it, the very idea that these meat-eating trees exist excites me. There are new things out there to explore, to experience. Life throws a lot of stuff at us, and it's reassuring to find out that life can be stranger than any science fiction. It's cool that this kind of thing is out there, and it makes me want to broaden my experiences, find some more unusual stuff myself, personally experience more of the mysteries of life.

Doesn't the very idea of a man-eating tree just scream magic? Mystery? Wonder?

disturbing food trend

Americans think they have a special relationship to theme restaurants. After all, we are the culture which gives the world (or at least its tourists) such jems as Johnny Rockets (I wanna relive the fifties! Do I get race riots with that?) and Rainforest Cafe (I've always wondered if they regularly slash & burn their food). And people love these things. How many travelers will eat at a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company place while on vacation instead of hitting some hip local joint? How many people dream of having Hard Rock Cafe shirts from every country?

Well, folks, America has officially been one-upped. In Taiwan, some crafty businessmen run a chain called (no lie) Modern Toilet. It is a theme restaurant that's centered guessed it...toilets. Toilet food bowls, toilet seats, toilet paper for napkins.

Personally, I'm relieved to find out that there are weirder people than us out there. However, the zenith of this concept would be if either Denny's or Taco Bell did a toilet theme. It would, seeing the quality of their respective food, be a natural fit. At any rate, it would at least speed up the process of eating their crap.

Every pun here was intended, by the way.

on cucumberophones...

I am weird. This should come as no surprise to those who know me, who take classes with me, who read this, or who have had any contact with me whatsoever. I am not, however, weird just for the sake of being weird. All of these moves, as Clouseau said, are carefully planned...I'm trying to evoke a specific reaction with my weirdness and am usually trying to make some kind of political statement (except for those things I just don't realize are weird).

But as a naturally/strategically weird person, I have a particular disdain for those who are just trying to be weird just to be weird. Why waste the opportunity to actually say something worthwhile, get people to reconsider some stereotypes, misconceptions, or innate assumptions?

It is with this in mind that I direct you towards the website of the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra. It is a group of musicians who (according to the website) "performs music solely on instruments made of vegetables. Using carrot flutes, pumpkin basses, leek violins, leek-zucchini-vibrators, cucumberophones and celery bongos."

This would be neat if it weren't for the fact that the music (at least according to the audio clips) is gawdawful. Why are they doing this? Are they just self-important blowhards? Overly arty people who should be force-fed playoff football and chicken wings?

One would think that they can't make a living doing this, but they have concerts scheduled in Hong people actually go see them (and presumably pay to do so).

Maybe I should start hating their audience more than I hate them.

the battling midgets

Just ran across this article about a hockey brawl. Not news, right? Well, it was a game of eight year olds!

Strangely enough, though, I don't really read this as an "Everything that's wrong with sports in our era" article. The main screwed up thing about contemporary sports is its valorization of the "Look at me! Look at me!" attitude (see Susan Faludi for more of this). No, this is more "what's wrong with society. However, at least it wasn't the parents yelling and brawling this time, so it might be progress.

If there were ever a need for a YouTube video, it would be for this.

robots in space

Over at Wired, they have a photo gallery of behind the scenes images from Futurama. The show is back this week, starting with a direct to dvd feature which will be edited down for Comedy Central episodes. Frankly, this is long overdue. You bring back Family Guy before this brilliant show?

Futurama is everything good television should be: equally stupid and smart, escapist and political, approachable and unusual. Moreover, it's great US tv sci-fi (something I've ranted about before). My favorite aspect? The complete and utter, active dislike...for authority and industry. Whenever tv shows go against corruption in society, that evil tends to be limited to government. Futurama would take on government (see the hilarious robotic Richard Nixon) but would equally skewer big business. Isn't Mom's Friendly Robot Company really just Wal-Mart in disguise?

If I wasn't so durn blame broke, I would be lining up for this.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I am increasingly arty

I came to the shocking realization that I am becoming an increasingly arty least in my movie viewing habits.

The last three films I've seen (King of Kong, The Darjeeling Limited, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) have all been at the art cinema in town. I can't remember the last popular film I've seen.

Part of this isn't much of a surprise to me. After all, it's not like I go to see thousands of films (too busy and broke), so I'm naturally a little selective. However, I can't decide if I'm just stupidly anti-blockbuster (sorry, couldn't get excited over Saw 47) or turning into a film snob. I would like to just chalk it up to most mainstream movies sucking, but I'm not totally sure if I'm just doing that for my ego's sake.

My television viewing, however, still has dips of non-arty...although to be sure, I need to watch some more wrestling or something.

bumper wisdom

It's so hard to make a coherent, notable, or even entertaining statement in the space allotted in the average bumpersticker. Can anyone create something that is engaging and worthy of thought?

What does one say in the limited space of a car bumper? I've always hated the jingoistic (such as "Subvert the Dominant Paradigm" or "Take Back the Night") for their sheer unoriginality. Most bumper statements of nationalism simply scare me, and I mentally impose "love it or leave it" over any American flag sticker I see. Furthermore, I've never cared what charity you support or where your child is an honor student. Rednecky stickers can be briefly fun, but if you've seen one "Come Near Me And I'll Kill You," you've seen them all.

The ribbon manufacturers have been trying to get over the inherent limitations of space by going to symbolism (something I've written about here before), but they have more than run their course. Today, I passed a car with a dark blue ribbon, and I didn't even bother to tailgate to read it.

I'm not even going to get into the various things on which Calvin urinates.

Anyway, yesterday, I saw the only truly great bumpersticker I've seen in ages: "Jesus was my co-pilot...but we crashed in the Andes and I had to eat him to survive." It's both funny and offensive in more ways I can count!

Any personal faves on y'all's end?

Friday, November 02, 2007

PTA trailer

For those cinema buffs among my readers, here's the trailer to the new Paul Thomas Anderson film. It's been too long.

Friday, October 26, 2007

b movies

As previously chronicled here, last night was the B movie double feature, with 1964's The Last Man on Earth and 1954's Devil Girl from Mars at one of the local chains. How was it?

When I stepped up to the concessions to pick up my popcorn and drink (I've never trusted those who can watch a film without popcorn), the worker asked me what I was seeing. when I told him, he went on a mini-rant about seeing ads for a new Will Smith adaptation of I Am Legend, the book which The Last Man on Earth is based. He then bemoaned the fact that most films are either "remaking some old film or ripping off some Japanese film. Why can't Hollywood try to do anything original?"

Why indeed. While many people would be put off by hearing a clerk moan and complain, it kinda made me feel good, because it was obvious that this guy liked movies and cared about them. When we went into the theater, there was another worker who was asking the audience trivia questions about the night's films, and it was also clear that he was excited about being able to be part of something different.

It must be a real mixed blessing for a film buff to have to work at a theater. On the plus side, you get to see all those cool movies...but on the down side, most of them will suck. Do we, for instance, really need Saw 4? Furthermore, do we need it on three screens? Were there really that many unanswered questions from the previous three films? It seems that there are many film directors who just love recycling mediocre ideas more than trying something new (case in point: 2 Shanghai Nights films, 3 Rush Hours)...and I bet that no one knows that more than the movie theater workers.

The crowd was also into the films. Honestly, it was like living in MST3K...really fun. The films themselves? Last Man was kind of slow...30 minutes of setup is entirely too much. Devil Girl from Mars, though, was a perfect bad film. I won't spoil the plot for you, but in order to demonstrate the awesomeness of this movie, I'll leave you with one quote: "I'm a scientist...that means I believe what my brain tells me to believe."


Follow the Lights

When I first moved to Ohio, I was ready for a musical change, because I was losing faith in most of the things I used to listen to. What passed for heavy metal in the nineties was boring, predictable, and monotone. The grunge movement left me cold, and I got tired of having bad musicianship, nonsense lyrics, and moaning/whining singers being passed off as "cutting edge." Pop music was the same incomprehensible and unredeeming waste land it ever always sounded like music for those who don't really like music...or at least don't want to think about it.

Luckily, though, a friend of mine had a slight evangelical streak, and he took pity on me by lending me a massive stack of alt country disks. I tore through Uncle Tupelo, sailed through the Jayhawks, and listened to a bunch of others. One listen in particular sticks out in my memory, however.

It was a bleak midwestern winter's night, snow everywhere, in the middle of a stretch of days where I'd seen nothing but dirty snow and gray skies. I was coming home from Toledo, and I grabbed one of my friend's cds...the only real reason why was that I liked their name. So, into the cd player went Whiskeytown's Stranger's Almanac.

I'd never heard music like this before. It didn't sound like any country I've ever heard...which had been mostly New Country/cheesy Poison-esque pop with fiddles. It had rock tendencies, but it didn't fall into any of the typical rock cliches. The lyrics were intelligent, poetic, and magical...I think I replayed "Houses on the Hill" three times on that ride home alone. The music didn't just sit there and repeat built, to great heights, to wonderful conclusions, as when "Waiting to Derail" left me zoney and drained, wondering if I just listened to a tune or instead fought a heavyweight fight.

I became an instant fan, of the genre more generally, but specifically of Whiskeytown. When I next saw my friend, I cornered him and would not let him go until he gave me everything Whiskeytown had ever done. At the time, though, it wasn't earlier album, one solo album from the singer...but I got copies of each, and I particularly wore out the solo album: Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker.

I became a big Ryan fan. When he released his second album (the week of 9/11, in fact), I got it immediately. I dragged my spousal unit to a Ryan show all the way in Cleveland, and she became a convert as well. We've seen him several times, and while I know others who've had bad Ryan experiences which seem to drive them to an illogical level of disdain and hatred for someone who is, after all, a mere musician, every show we've ever seen has been golden.

Ryan quickly went on some weird recording/cd releasing trance/spree, flooding the market with disk after disk after disk. Some, such as Jacksonville City Nights, I instantly liked very much. Some I had to learn to like, such as Love is Hell. Some, like 29, I had to scan for good tracks and throw out the rest...but nothing ever hit me quite the way that Whiskeytown disk did.

Today, on my drive to work, I popped in his new ep, Follow the Lights. It was like I was transported to that first Stranger's Almanac experience. It's only seven songs, but every one of them is magnificent. Two songs are completely new to me, and they did sound wonderful, but it's the rest of the disk that blew me away. Ryan finally recorded one song ("My Love For You Is Real") which has popped in and out of his live shows for years, and this recording makes you wonder why the wait was necessary. There's an Alice in Chains cover that works surprisingly well as an alt-country's one of those covers that make you think this is the way the song should've been recorded, not how it was originally done. The other three tracks are all covers of previously released Ryan Adams songs, but they're all surprising and new. "This is It" sounds like it was written as an alt-country song rather than the alt rock recording original. "If I Am A Stranger" is done in a slow Heartbreaker-esque style. "Dear John" becomes a piano gospel song. None of it, however, sounds forced. Actually, every song on here sounds like the ultimate version, like how the song was ultimately meant to be.

EPs are usually throwaways, but this might be my favorite cd of the year so far. At the very least, it's reminded me of why music is such a large part of my life. After listening to it on the drive into work, I walked from my car into my office with every track stuck in my head at once, and although I have tons of other cds, this one might have to just stay in the car cd player for a few months.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

attack of the "B"s

I like Halloween, but my wife is a Halloween geek, though...she gets all excited, does her happy dance, and generally acts like a four year old. It's cute.

I feel the same way about bad movies. I love cheesy acting, cheesy writing. I love seeing people take themselves way too seriously.

Tonight, our two loves come together. A local multiplex cinema has been playing B-movie double features on Thursdays, and we finally get to go. Our films? 1964's The Last Man on Earth, with Vincent Price being pursued by alien zombies. The second film is Devil Girl from Mars! One of the taglines is "Invasion from Outer Space!...Sights too weird to imagine! Destruction too monstrous to escape!"

This will be good. Details to follow.

Friday, October 19, 2007

selling bad actors

In doing research for my Van Damme post, I ran across the Steven Seagal homepage. It's amazing in that not only does Seagal push his "acting" ability, he also calls himself an "accomplished musician," in addition to also selling his own energy drink (which is lie...Stephen's Lightning Bolt). There are brief music clips, and it's much better than you'd expect...but then again, I had no expectations at all.

Compare this to the very amatureish Van Damme homepage. The best thing about this is that it has a Van Damme can test your knowledge on the celebrity! Of course, the best thing about JCVD is the fan page, which has a hilarious selection of Van Damme wallpaper.

I know you're just dying to get the image of him doing karate splits...

Van Damme-it

Slate has a rather remarkable article which is paying homage to Jean-Claude Van Damme. If you have never seen a Van Damme movie, you don't know what you're missing...

Van Damme has a lot in common with Stephen Seagal...except Seagal is a much better actor. Van Damme can't show any emotion, growth, skills other than kicking people. And yet this man has been in 36 movies.

I should hate the man, but in spite of my sometimes elitism about popular culture, I kind of like really bad movies...and Van Damme has made a lot of them. However, he's never really sunk to the true level of dreck that makes a classic bad film.

Van Damme still has a ways to sink yet. He hasn't done the marvelously self-aware commercials that Seagal has. He hasn't made anything as classically hideous as Over the Top, Commando, or Road House.

When he really begins to bottom out, I might have to start liking him.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Halo 3 for God

The New York Times has an article on church groups using Halo 3 at their meetings. Personally, I find this fascinating. I wonder if their game play is any different, or it's just used as "kill aliens while I talk to you about God."

The possibilities are, of course, endless. You could specifically interpret the game as some gargantuo metaphor...are the aliens demons? (hey, they actually are demons in Doom) Is the game a great recreation of the crusades?

Are there any actual explicitly Christian video games out there? Any that incorporate the level of action as the average 1st person shooter? I smell a market niche...

(incidentally, you might've seen this story if you've been reading interwub postcards, my other blog...hint, hint)

worst product idea ever?

There is a company in Delaware which sells a product called The Back-Up. It is a rack that fits under your bed's mattress and holds either a shotgun or a rifle...the theory being that you might need to shoot someone without getting out of bed.

I can't begin to count the ways that this is a bad idea. The temptation is very strong to make a redneck joke, but I'm going to refrain. At any rate, it is this kind of product which is going to make the gun lobby look like a continuing joke in this country.

The best part of this? When the bedspread is down, it hides your weaponry! Be deadly and still have good decorating taste!

I've posted the demonstration video on Interwub Postcards.

Monday, October 08, 2007

a view of life after the collapse

Last Sunday, I was taking a shower, and I slipped (and no, this is not one of those "I've fallen and I can't get up" stories). Nothing serious, but I fell against one of the walls to regain my balance. And although I didn't hit the wall particularly hard (I expended about as much force as when someone falls into a couch after a busy day), the wall collapsed around me.

This was pretty shocking, although it was not as shocking as it could be. Like most rental properties, my house isn't the best maintained place in the world. The bathroom has a tremendous moisture problem, and this has led to a never-ending battle against mold, rotting walls, and places in the (old) shower where the tile grout had worn away. The wall I hit had tremendous water damage, and the backing material was very damp...and this is why my bathroom fell around me...not just because I need to lose weight.

So, I called the landlord, and they quickly dispatched one of their handymen, who came out and plastic-coated the wall in question. He was a nice guy, nicer than I would've been they had called me away from my house on a Sunday afternoon when football was on to help some moron who broke his shower, and he told us that him and his boss, when out to our place for an earlier service call, had noticed the water damage. This made me feel good...because I had vague fears of the landlords trying to take the expenses out of our deposit when we moved.

Anyway, he also told us that they would decide if they were going to re-tile or replace the whole unit, and someone would be over on Monday to start working. Monday came and went. Tuesday came and went. Finally, on Wednesday, they called me up to tell me that a contractor would be over on Thursday.

I got off work and pulled into my place around five on Thursday, and there was a construction van still there. When I talked to the workers, they told me that not only did they have to replace the tub and install a new surround, when they ripped out the old tub, they found puddles of water in the crawlspace. Also, they had to re-frame half of the bathroom because all of the wood under the tub was rotting. So, although they had been working all day, there were still gaps around the new surround where we could see the studs and insulation.

Friday morning, we were not able to use the shower because of the exposed stuff, so I had to settle for spot-cleaning: pits, feet, crotch, and stumbling into the kitchen so I could shampoo in the kitchen sink. It sucked beyond belief, and I couldn't help but think of the Monty Python sketch "The Golden Age of Ballooning":

Moreover, I felt an awful lot like a frontiersman...and in the spirit, I thought about going out and brushing my teeth with a sassafras twig or something.

They came the next day to do the drywall...well, at least start it. It is a process, they tell me, that will probably take most of this upcoming week, because they have to do several shots at the wall joints, and they plan to replace the flooring as well.

The new shower? I hate it like hot death. It's about 3 inches more narrow, which means I have to stand sideways. Worse, however, is the new "low flow" shower head they've installed, which makes me realize that my life is everyday becoming more and more an episode of Seinfeld:

In the end, however, the main effect of all of this is to make me reevaluate my life. I have friends who've moved onto tenure-track jobs. I have friends who are buying their own house (while I, on the other hand, can't imagine even being able to finance a used Kia). I have friends who have children, families, who are true and bona-fide adults.

Where am I? Standing amongst broken tiles, collapsed walls, breathing grout dust, wondering what I did to deserve a rotting bathroom.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Eons ago, way back in the distant past (the 70s), there was a man called Tony Orlando who performed a song called "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree." It was an annoying little ditty about someone getting out of jail who was writing his wife, looking for a signal that he was wanted back (and hopefully, you can figure out what that signal was from the song title). At the time, it was not really a life-changing tune or concept.

This changed, however, in the late 70s-early 80s, when the Iranians stormed the US embassy and kidnapped its workers. Suddenly, the yellow ribbon became a sign of support and welcome for these hostages as they finally made their way home right as Ronald Reagan became president. There was at one time plans to wrap the Empire State Building in a giganto yellow ribbon as the hostages flew into New York, so they could see it from their plane...don't think they actually did it, though, and putting that sucker up would be one job I would not want.

Then our country invaded Iraq (first, because Saddam had "weapons of mass destruction" and then for a myriad of revolving reasons), and those damn yellow ribbons made another comeback, this time as car magnets. Although the explicit message is supposed to be "we support our troops," they actually say something along the lines of "Prez Bush II was right, and we should support him sending the Army anywhere he wants without questioning his infinite wisdom, because doing so would be unpatriotic" the very least, they seemed to have been sold in a multi-pack with those "W 04" stickers that still litter cars to this day.

Then everyone got in on the scam, and we started to see ribbons for AIDS (a worthy cause)...and Breast Cancer (again, worthy)...and then POWs, Autism, Child Abuse, and every other malady/misfortune you can imagine. They span the range of colors, from red to pink to plaid, and we now have to carry around a mental rolodex to figure out what cause the driver in front of us is trying to support. One wisenheimer company started manufacturing ribbons that simply said "One Nation Under Ribbons"...I liked that rare showing of irony.

The other day, I was driving to work, and the car in front of me had a white with black border ribbon magnet. I got closer so I could see the writing and figure out the cause...because this was a new one on me...and it said "I love my dachshund."

Do I even need to say that this has gone too far?

Tony Orlando, did you have any clue what madness you had wrought? If you knew your lame song would've ended up supporting everything from right wing politics to wiener dogs, would you still have released it? Do you feel shame or remorse? Can you sleep at night?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

new ways to discriminate

Just ran across an article that some apartment complexes in Texas are refusing to rent to people who have extensive tattooing or multiple piercings. Apparently this policy is perfectly legal...but it's still pretty sad.

In a world where most people seem aware that outright racial prejudice and stereotyping are wrong (although not all...there are still schools that hold segregated proms), I'm always slightly disgusted at the new ways which people find to let their hateful sides out and be nasty to large chunks of the population for no apparent reason. This is just another example.

I'm not surprised, however. Every day when I walk around the campus where I teach, there's a great chance that I'll hear someone refer to someone they don't like as either "retarded" or "gay"...and every time I hear someone struggling for a new way to prejudge or oppress, as if they are actions necessary for life, I fear for the future of humanity a little more.

We've got a lot of work to do.

fall television review II--House season 4

Last year on House, the status quo changed nicely. This is something that this show is very good at doing. Season 2 ended up with House's shooting and "cure" of his bad leg. The leg went back to normal (meaning severe pain and disability), but the whole next season became about House's efforts to achieve normalcy in the rest of his life...through drugs, antidepressants, police harassment, and much else.

It ended cataclysmicaly, of course, with him losing his entire team. Rather than just applying the "quick fix" this season, though, the premiere promises to make "the quest for family/belonging and the haunting of the past" explicit themes for the rest of the year...but in a non-saccharine fun way, with sexual harassment and insults.

The episode ended with House auditioning a new team...out of 40+ candidates. This has the potential to stretch out for a while, and House does play well...albeit reluctantly...with groups. The "on next week's" segment brings back the old team, but in hallucinations...or alcoholic fever dreams, which I would prefer (imagine...if they were back but not really? for the WHOLE season?).

The writing was as sharp as ever. The House/Wilson interaction took on new levels, with House pulling the ultimate attack in a feud by breaking into Wilson's house and deleting tivo'd episodes of a reality show...personally, I'd kill whomever did this. And the House/Cuddy rivalry was also fun.

Line of the night?

Cuddy: Where did you come from?
House: Apes, if you believe what the Democrats say.

I need my House fix. I spent most of the summer working on a paper on this show, and even so, I was jonesing for the premiere...and it delivered the rush I expected, one I'm gonna have fun riding all season long.

fall television review I--Chuck

Last night, for professional reasons (no lie--I love being a Culture Studies guy), I watched the TiVo'd season premiere of the new NBC show Chuck. For those of you not in the know, it is about a computer techie for some big box store (an obvious Circuit City Geek Squad parallel) who somehow (don't ask) has the contents of Homeland Security's computer database implanted into his brain...and thus becomes involved in the whole spy game.

While it was watchable, there was absolutely nothing remarkable about the program. You have a tv show featuring a nerd character? This said nothing new or interesting about nerds. Guess what: they suck at dates! they play video games! they watch online porn! they're socially inept! Stereotypes, every single one of them.

The spy community didn't fare much have the stereotypical hot lady spy and the slightly paranoid and violent guy spy. Also, this seems to take place in a Los Angeles devoid of either Blacks or Latinos...or any non-Caucasian ethnicity.

I object to a lot of the standard television output, mostly because so much of it is totally lazy, and this show was a typical example. There is very little thought going into this program. The characters are dull and predictable.

It's a shame, because it gives one the impression that all network tv is this unimaginative. This show does have potential, criticize the "big box" store mentality, the geek stereotypes...let's hope they actually can follow through.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

the ghosts of crappy cars past

My first car was admittedly not was a very solid 10 year old Chevy Impala. Of course, I wrecked the thing after about a month by running into a pickup truck carrying a horse trailer, thus shortening it by almost two feet. Compounding this was the fact that it wasn't actually my was my father's, and that led to some difficulties.

Second car was a '73 Valiant that was classic, had a torque-filled beast of a motor, and would blow IROC Camaros off the line. It also leaked oil and had some bad seals and heads, though. This one died after I wrecked it by running it into a 3-yr-old Monte Carlo SS.

Car three was a '73 Duster. This was the ultimate hell car. The motor was a very sluggish slant 6. The driver-side door didn't open from the outside. The passenger door didn't open from the inside. There was no foam left on the seat, so I had various raincoats wedged down there to stop the car from giving me a steel spring enema. It had a vinyl roof that was covering large pockets of rust, and one time when I was on vacation, it rained so bad that my Dad had to drill holes in the floorboard to drain out the water. Ever since that day, there was a constant mini-ecosystem within that consisted mostly of a weird, sticky, indestructible green mold that I had to scrape off the surfaces weekly. It got horrific gas mileage, and people were embarrassed to be seen in it...which limited its potential as a make-out car. I eventually pawned it off on my brother, and then it threw a rod one week later.

Car 4 was a 80-something Honda Prelude. This would've been a nice car if the previous owner hadn't trashed it. The transmission slipped and the a/c didn't work. Plus, a Prelude is not a big car, and I am 6'5", so it looked like I was getting out of a clown vehicle. Eventually, the tranny died, so we managed to drive it up to the junkyard and sell it before it completely shut down.

I then got my parent's old Oldsmobile, which I still drive today. It was really nice and swanky when I got it...power everything, cold a/c, looked immaculate. For a while, I briefly had panache.

That was a long time ago, however, and age has definitely ravaged this set of wheels. I did some mild front-end reconstruction to the car...meaning I had a few accidents. One was caused by a squirrel running in front of the car in front of me...the squirrel lived, even though I still want it to die horribly. Then someone pulled out of a parking space in an icy lot without seeing if anyone was coming...and I was, so I crashed into them. Then there was the mishap with a parking garage metal pole...

My Olds hasn't only suffered collision damage, however. The driver-side back door decided to just quit working one day when I was hauling a friend to the airport. Then the driver's window quit working. Shortly thereafter, the a/c died...of course, this happened in the middle of the summer...and I can't get it fixed because it's too ecologically unsound and requires an expensive conversion kit, and I am, after all, poverty-stricken.

The last thing to happen was that the fabric hood liner started to bubble and come down. At first, this was just an annoyance. After all, no one really likes having cloth hanging on your head when you drive. So I bought the special spray bottle of adhesive, but that only kept it glued for a day or so...then we were back to ceiling fabric bubbles.

It grew worse, and I finally had to resort to a staple gun to get the increasingly vast volumes of billowy fabric off my skull. This worked for a few months in spite of the staples not really having anything to grab onto. Over the last few weeks, however, all of the fabric glue gave out, and the weight of the cloth became more than the staples would take, so the whole fabric sheet flopped down about a foot below ceiling level. Even worse, dried up glue started to regularly shower me whenever I hit a bump in the road.

So yesterday, I got to attempt exploratory surgery on my car. I went up to the local coin-op car wash, took a razor knife to the fabric, and cut it away. Dried glue flew everywhere, and I was thankful for my forethought to buy a dust mask. I then had to rip out all the fiberglass insulation over the whole ceiling. Finally, I vacuumed out all the debris, which took four cycles of the pay vacuum cleaner. The only difficulty was my arms and legs itching like hell from the insulation for the rest of the night.

The car now looks pretty cool inside. My ceiling is down to bare metal framing, and it is uber-industrial. I fear that when we get snow, the car is going to be really friggin' cold, though, and I will have to take care not to lick it, unless I want my tongue stuck to my car roof...but I think I can manage that one.

Unfortunately, I still can't operate my window, and the a/c still doesn't work, but I'm just taking baby steps...and keeping in mind that one fine day, when I'm rich enough to afford a Kia, I'll look on this car and laugh.

tunes on the road

On the way to work today, I was listening to Jesse Malin's latest album, Glitter in the Gutter. It's not a magnificent album, and if you try to listen to it while you're working, you're going to want to kill someone. BUt it works very well indeed in a fast-moving car.

Of course, being the overly analytical type that I am, I needed to figure out why it works better in the car. If you are just sitting down to "listen to music," this ends up being rather monotone and one dimensional. In a car, though, you don't need to have dynamics because, chances are, the wind noise would drown out any intricacies.

Where you are listening to music and how you are listening to it are just as important as what music you are listening to. The equipment and the environment determine an awful lot of your reactions.

Ever wonder why 60s pop music is so boring? They were writing for AM radio.

Think about it.

but a star uses this brand...

Yesterday, I got to do some emergency repair work on my car using a razor knife (do you really want to know?), and I thought it would be a good idea to get a dust mask. So I went to the local mega-annoying box store and trooped over to their hardware aisle...and I saw the most amazing thing there.

Amy Wynn, celebrity carpenter for the TLC show Trading Spaces, endorses a particular brand of dust mask. Yes, you can use the same type this hot wood-cuttin' babe uses to keep sawdust out of her lungs.

Celebrity endorsement has officially gone too far.

Monday, September 24, 2007

the future of civilization is in the tea leaves

The other day, I bought a bottle of "gourmet" iced tea...something I normally would never do, but I had an upcoming meeting and was thirsty enough to ignore the fact that I was paying $1.89 for something I could make myself for pennies.

The shock came when I looked at the label. Ingredients? Water, tea essence, tea concentrate, caramel color, and some unpronounceable petrochemical compound.

Iced tea is the simplest thing in the world to make. You boil water. Pour over tea leaves. Let sit. Strain out the leaves. Chill. This ain't brain surgery, folks.

Why did they need concentrate and essence when leaves would've been just as easy? Caramel color? What are they hiding with this? Why would you need chemicals?

If we are living in a world where something as simple as tea has to be chemically engineered and sold as "gourmet," the end of society as we know it can't be too far behind.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

chopping down walls

The other day, I was watching American Chopper. For those of you not familiar, it's a reality/documentary show about an upstate New York family that builds custom motorcycles.

This didn't sound interesting to me in the abstract when I first heard of it, but my first show turned out to be a fascinating hour of television, and I am totally hooked. More than anything, it's a study of how machismo, family, and business interact. Hint: they express love for each other by yelling.

Anyway, last week's episode had a segment where the son/chief designer went back to his junior high and spoke to the kids who had learning disabilities. Paulie Jr. has them himself, had to get special help in high school, and he was there to give them a bit of inspiration and help them realize that in spite of their difficulties, they can become huge successes.

In what's usually an hour of machismo, it was quite brave and refreshing so see him admit to a disability. It also filled me with hope. If someone who's held up as a macho icon can admit to learning disabilities, maybe there's hope for society as a whole. We need to destigmatize and inform, and talking is the only real way we can do this.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

this time, maybe I'll get it right

I walked to the post office today and boldly mailed out a job application. It's the first of yet another year on the job number 5 (or possibly 6). Naturally, this mailing came with mixed emotions.

During my time trying to get a tenure track job, I have sent out possibly over 500 applications, and I have seen a lot of weird stuff in that time. I've gotten numerous one sentence rejections. I've gotten campus interviews without phone interviews. I had one rejection notice that started out with a paragraph on the candidate they did hire and her wonderful qualifications before saying "needless to say, this means we will not be considering your application." On the same day that one arrived, I had one rejection notice that was a five paragraph explanation of the process, and it was the nicest letter I've ever seen. I've been told in interviews that my skills were exactly what the institution was looking for, only to be passed over for a campus visit without notice.

Frankly, it's weird, and I hate the whole process. The worst part is that I have a hard time getting honest, straight advice from people as to why the hell I don't have a tenured position yet. One year, after getting passed over for 100+ jobs, I had three different people tell me my application material "looked fine." Um, obviously not, fellas, but thanks for the effort.

Putting yourself on the job market is such a risk to the ego. You are judged on your abilities, intelligence, and potential for a future career on the basis of five pages of written material. Suddenly, the stupidest things become major concerns because they might kill your chances for a job. Did I use the wrong font? Do they want me to use a breezy tone or look like a gearhead? Should I go out and buy expensive woven paper with watermarks? Will they dump my application if I use a Darth Vader stamp on the envelope?

I knew I'd be facing all these dilemmas and heartaches, but I really need to move my career forward. While I have possibly the best Lectureship I could hope for, it is still a non-tenure job, and I spend so much time grading (especially in the fall) that I have to struggle to do research. So many of my friends have moved away, and I don't have the money to see them. I have to go to conferences to be an active scholar, but each one puts me a grand or so in debt. I love teaching, but I get more value from the writing and research I don't seem to have the time to do. So I need to either move on or figure out another career path.

This summer, I did everything I could think of to increase my chances of success. I finished a book proposal (which looks very solid, if I might say so myself) and started shopping it around to several publishers. I got an article on class structure within the academy accepted for publication, and I was able to persuade a journal to fast-track my already-accepted article. I wrote two new articles and shipped them out to journals, and I recycled an old paper for a third possible publication. I have enough stuff on the go to make me look like a serious scholar as well...and if this doesn't help, I might have to scream or listen to Motorhead.

I've also undertaken a vast revision of all my job material, and my cv now looks fun and shiny. I'm currently debating between two basic job letters. I'm scouring the web for job postings. I've gotten a ton of great advice and help from friends and colleagues. Overall, I am in full "let's get Mike a job" mode, and I have high hopes.

It's the final step to becoming a grown-up (at least in some ways), and I'm ready to take, let's hope I don't screw up.

Monday, September 10, 2007

on further contemplation

Maybe the whole quality of television thing I brought up in my Dr. Who post has to do with the sheer number of episodes a year they have to produce. There's usually around 24 episodes per year of a show, minimum. Can you produce that much stuff and not have it come out stupid?

Of course, there are great American shows that don't treat you like a moron...The Shield, Dexter, The Sopranos, and so forth. You only really get them on pay channels or cable. It's the networks that have to do wall-to-wall programming and, as a result, get so many episodes of each show that the quality has to suffer.

Once again, everything is the fault of the big businesses...and let me tell you, that makes me feel much better.

Doctor Who

After a very long delay, I've gotten back into Dr. Who... watched the first two episodes of season 2 this weekend. If you're not familiar, try either BBC America, SciFi, or get the back episodes on Netflix.

All I can say is, wow, why can't American television be this good? Dr. Who is very cool, and that's not just because it's a scifi television show...something our major networks never seem to attempt. What's remarkable about the program is the depth which they give the characters...all the characters.

The good guys all have some sad, pathetic, or scary side to them in addition to their standard hero tendencies. The bad guys also have emotion and depth. Everyone is sympathetic to some degree, even the people/creatures you end up loathing.

In short, everyone in the show is a well-rounded, 3-d character...kind of like in life. In our standard American tv shows, there is a firm reliance on moral binaries. The good guys are all very good indeed. The bad guys are all totally evil. If there's someone who is a hero, our shows want us to root for them 100%. If there are villains, our shows will make them totally unredeemable.

Why are they trying to brainwash us? Why doesn't our entertainment ever treat us like reasoning, logical adults?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

poetry in the suds

The other day, when I was driving to work, I had You Am I just blasting. For those of you unfamiliar with this band, they're a great rock band. Someone on a mailing list described them as "ACDC fronted by Live at Leeds-era Pete Townsend," which I guess is as good as any description. A friend of mine just called them "the quintessential Mike band."

I hope that was a compliment.

Anyway, I realized that they were singing an awful lot about beer, bars, and drinking in general. I then thought about this (because that's the kind of person that I am), and I realized that a large chunk of the bands/artists I like also sing a lot about getting drunk. Ryan Adams, Slobberbone, Drive-By Truckers, ACDC, the list goes on.

I am, for the record, self-aware enough to know that there are good reasons why I like these bands. And I do have enough personal control that this realization does not scare me.

But I wonder why there's been little other art (of the high culture variety). Yeah, there's Bukowski, but is there anyone who's less of a jerk about it? There were too many writers who were drunks for me to blank out on drunk art like this.

And on a related note, who do I have to strangle to get Barfly released on dvd?

public television and academic discourse

Earlier this week, I did something I used to do a lot of when I was much poorer than I am now...I watched PBS.

Now, I enjoy PBS. They do great programming, and their shows are usually intelligent and insightful. However, it's hard for them to compete with stupid, campy fun...what would you rather watch at the end of a long day, Nature or an American Gladiators repeat?

But I did catch a very good episode of Nova on Typhoid Mary. It was cool, and not just because they gave Tony Bourdain a long interview (he's my hero, and I'm contemplating ways to teach his book on Mary). No, it was cool, because it was truly interdisciplinary.

History? Sure it was, but it was more. It also went into the history of science, on how people used to think about diseases...we sometimes forget that antibacterial handsoap has not always been ubiquitous. It also went into class...because the working poor at the time had much greater pressures than the rich. Of course, it went into race...Mary was Irish, and this was at a time when everyone (including government officials) treated them as one of the lowest groups of scum. Damn straight that gender was an issue. And there was plenty of more stuff as well, more approaches.

It does go to show, though, that most of the academic divisions we normally use are fairly arbitrary. We divide disciplines for many reasons, but it's infrequently a neat or surgical affair. There is always overlap. You cannot talk about one thing without having to talk about many others.

And it addressed these issues in a forum available across the country, for free. Man, I need to watch more of this channel.

higher education, tech style

I'm in the middle of doing my second batch of conferences for my online class, and I'm doing these conferences electronically. Yes, it's real 21st century stuff. I meet my students in the chat room, and we discuss just like we would in person.

There is a problem with the whole procedure, though. While I appreciate the ability to do this from anywhere in the world, we have the basic issue that very few people can type as fast as they would talk. Practically, it means that I fire off a question, I wait for a little while, then I get a response. While I'm responding, the student has to wait for me.

It's not horribly efficient. Conferences I would normally finish in 15 minutes take about thirty. I have to think fast, but I still can't type as fast as I think or would talk, so there's plenty of unused time.

It does have its upsides. I have found time to do these journal entries, for instance. But all in all, I'd rather not be staring at a computer screen right now. I do enough of that through the day.

Why can't the machine just tap into my cerebral cortex?


So I'm in the middle of doing conferences, and I have a slight break. My rss feeder shows me this article entitled "On the overuse of exclamation points," and I just have to look. This is really one that everyone who e-mails or text messages should read.

I have a love-hate relationship with the exclamation point....okay, mostly hate. 95% of the times a comma is used, it's to stress something that is completely unworthy of stress. It's a nice day! Okay, sure, but is this really the type of thing you should shout?

Much like the writer of this piece, I don't want to sound like a fogie or a grammar cop. And while the concept of medium difference is intriguing, I don't think that's entirely the case. People don't just have much faith in the power of words to convey information. Why else would people be forced to mark their "funny" lines with LOL?

Besides, isn't being misconstrued half the fun?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sigmund was never equipped to handle this

one of my dreams last night revolved around some genetically modified shrimp that, in addition to being tasty when boiled, each had the ability to store an mp3. Me and some other people were trying to figure out how to broadcast the shrimp tunes.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

teaching and the immediate future of this blog

The semester starts Monday for me (weee!!!! I was getting so tired my own boss? Having no schedule? Working on whatever the hell I wanted to?), and this time around, I'm requiring my students write a twice a week media journal...critical reflections on the the media they experience. To show them what an egalitarian guy I am (or to trick them into thinking I'm anything less than a ruthless dictatorial bastard), I'm gonna do the assignment alongside with them. I'll be cross-posting my media journals here. Watch for them...they'll give you a clue to the state of higher education in this country.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I'm like jelly here...

On the writing front, I managed to convince a publisher to move an article of mine up in their 5+ year cue for articles. So, if anyone is a subscriber or has access to The Journal of Popular Culture, look for "Holding Out for a Hero: Reaganism, Comic Book Vigilantes, and Captain America" by yours truly. It will be in volume 40, issue 6. Only please, be was written years ago.

mr. stage diver, it's not about you.

The spousal unit and I went to see Modest Mouse last night in Columbus. Ultimate conclusions are two-fold. First, Columbus is just too damn far to drive for a weekday poor lovely spousal unit had about 4 hours sleep. Secondly, Modest Mouse might be the best band playing today.

I have before expressed my love for their new album. Well, I saw a live clip on Conan (I think), and I was nervous, because the sound on that one was awful. No worries live, though. The band was tight, the sound was amazing, and the bass player was particularly smoking. Lots of songs from their last two albums, of course, but there were dips into the back catalog (most of which I own, but I realized I really have to give it more attention).

The problem was the crowd. As it was in a major college town one week before classes start, it was overrun by "hip" teens and such. Most of them looked identical to each other. Many of them were stoned out of their gourd (often smoking pot directly in front of us). There was one girl behind us for a few songs who insisted on yelling every two seconds, and she sounded like a cat in heat...and not in a good way.

There was a ton of crowd surfing and stage diving. I've always found these to be slightly annoying. Maybe it's the old, curmudgeonly side coming out, but I'd rather pay attention to the band than to lift some jock geek over the crowd or, worse yet, have them jump on me. But it got worse, because some of the people insisted on getting up on stage and staying there...dancing, waving their arms, shouting "look at me." The band was not amused, and the singer eventually made several snide comments, such as "if you want to put on a dancing show, we do have other things we could be doing...we could check our e-mail."

Eventually, the security did finally wake up and start doing their job, and the second half of the show was mercifully light on such knuckleheads. Good thing too, because the band was smokin'.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

another themikedubose blog

I've had another blog for a while and had no idea what to do with it, so I decided to rename it interwub postcards. I'm going to use it to post links to neat websites and such that I run across in my daily interwub know, the standard blog thingie. This is still my main blog, and I will still keep all my writings and musings here.

But hey, if you wanna know how I waste my time, check out the new place!

Friday, August 10, 2007

so, when was your first time?

I've seen the commercials just like you have. However, I'm still not sure if "to internet" really is a verb.

But when did I first internet?

I took a typing class when I started going to college...well, to the community college down the street. I probably should've went to a better school, but I worked 35+ hours a week during high school, partied the rest of the time, and consequently didn't get that great of grades. Besides, the community college was much cheaper, and at that point in time, the only real reason to go to college I had was that I didn't know what else to do. I did, however, holdthe sneaking suspicion that Little Caesars Pizza really shouldn't be my career.

So I went to college, and someone told me that I would have to do papers for higher education. I further realized that even if the profs would've accepted handwritten work, chances are they wouldn't be able to decipher my Sanskrit-esque scrawl. So I took a typing class, and it has paid dividends. I know people who've written their dissertation using "hunt and peck," but frankly, I don't know how they do is, my hands don't keep up with my thoughts.

The fringe benefit of typing class, however, was that I got to use a computer for the first time in my life for something other than playing horrifically bad video games such as Leisure Suit Larry. The class had a bit of de facto word processor training build in, so I got to play with that state of the art program, WordPerfect 5.0.

(For those of you who've never had the pleasure, if you wanted to do anything at all other than just type, you had to use an arcane combination of weird keystrokes, such as doing a control-F7 combination (or something like that) to make text didn't just click on a button, because there were no buttons, nothing to click on them with anyway...and woe betide those who lost the template explaining the myriad of keystrokes needed to do anything whatsoever. This program also had the added advantage of the screen looking nothing at all like your printout...ah, the glory days).

After the typing class, I figured there might be something to this whole computer thing...yes, I was a visionary even back when I was an obnoxious I took another class which was 1/3 WordPerfect, 1/3 dBase, and 1/3 Lotus 1-2-3. I didn't use the other programs at all, however. I didn't own my own computer at the time, so I spent a lot of hours at the computer lab writing. Then I got my A.A., worked pizza and selling water, and forgot computers altogether.

Then I went back to school and became reacquainted with computer labs in general and WordPerfect specifically. Soon, however, I noticed the "new" computers at the lab...they had some weird attachment that I later found out was called a "mouse," which you used to click on "icons" in "windows." Wild. Then the library installed some computers and, while killing time between classes, I jumped on one and saw an icon labeled "Netscape."

That was my introduction to the must've been 1995 or so, so web sites went beyond text only, but the content out there was pretty strange. I remember looking at a lot of Netscape's Site of the Day candidates and seeing stuff such as "The Men's Guide to Urinal Etiquette," "Bert is Evil," and "Virtual Bubblewrap." I did also find some useful sites, but strangely enough, the stupid ones are the ones I remember with a certain fondness.

Soon, I saw a flyer which said that my university would give me a free e-mail account. I had no idea why I would need one, but it was free, so I signed up. The e-mail client? PINE, which was no graphic, two color, and ugly as hell...but at the time, it still reeked of "the future" to me.

Exposure to the web and to e-mail eventually made me realize the possibilities. I did research. I looked into graduate schools. Eventually, I started my own internet literary journal, which ran for three years and six issues and published some really nice work. It was eventually taken over by someone else when doctoral school robbed me of any extra time, and now, the web site address is being held by some weird site which has links to "Online Poker," "Debt Consolidator," "Airline Tickets," and "Bisexual Dating."

I've been online a long time, and I've experienced the medium as it has grown into something remarkable. I remember when my old 33.6 modem was state of the art. I remember when Internet Explorer didn't exist. I remember when there were no "Social Networking" sites.

I can't imagine being without internet access. Nowadays, I get tons of mail to multiple e-mail addresses. I do most of my research from my home and have access to material I could've never touched just ten years ago. I get news feeds, photography from the Hubble telescope, letters from family and friends, all delivered daily to my desktop.

Even though I rely on the internet to a staggering degree, I have to admit that, for the last few years, we've been doing it on the cheap here at casa DuBose/Lamb. I have been running dial-up, and whenever I mention this fact to anyone, they react in abject horror.

No more, however. Next week, we make the leap to high tech. I have cable internet being installed, so we'll finally be able to grab music, use youtube, download pdfs, work from home.

We will be getting rid of our land line entirely. We will still be available, but you're gonna have to call me or my lovely spousal unit on our cells (e-mail for the number if you don't have it).

Once we get cable internet added to our satellite television and cellular telephones, we will be 100% digital.

Don't hate us for our technology.

(post 300, by the way)

Monday, August 06, 2007

on being a gentleman loser

Alternative Country musician Robbie Fulks once said that once you hit a certain age, country music is sitting there waiting on you. While I don't know about that (I'm a bit more open to country than I ever was, but I still like very little), I have found myself drifting more towards Steely Dan than I ever had.

When I was younger, I had grandiose notions of eventually becoming a rock star...and that was mixed in with a lot of loner hero imagery, which I suppose is pretty typical for a lot of angst-ridden, painfully shy teens. That mostly died in me bit by bit as a result of failed band attempts, failure to even get jam sessions with friends, and seeing the bands my friends did have destruct for a number of weird reasons, including egotistical band members, a key musician either starting to drink heavily or quit drinking altogether, or the stereotypical "band getting screwed by one too many bar owners."

It was probably just as well...most professional musicians either end up as drunk/drug addicts, in severe debt, divorced from their porn starlet wife, and the subject of a very embarrassing and formulaic VH-1 special, and I'm not just that telegenic.

When I adopted the student lifestyle, I initially assumed it would require monastic/hermit living conditions. At first, such a lifestyle was necessitated by the fact I was working 3 jobs while going for my M.A. When I started going for my Ph.D., I had a fair problem finding people in my department to drink thought I was an alcoholic because I could have more than three beers in an evening.

Eventually, I found people to hang out with. Then, as we were all in grad school, they all moved out, and I found myself relatively friendless. I lucked into new friendships, and then those friends got jobs and moved away. So I got another batch of friends, only to have them either move or go into dissertation freakout mode. My last group of amazing best friends moved away last month, and I miss them terribly. And while by this time I realized that people would eventually scatter, it threw me a little more than did the previous times. By now, I don't work at BGSU and in fact have very little connection to the school, so I have no real idea who's gonna be my next hang-out friend...I just don't have many close contacts to my local hang-out scene. I am currently auditioning, and there are some really good candidates and wonderful people, but I'm not sure yet which ones of them will put up with me.

Aside from the transient nature of non-tenure academics, I have to put up with none of my departed friends being within close driving distance save two, and I'm really too busy to plan the full-day trips that hanging out with them would require. And I don't have time to do the Michigan-Wisconsin-Minnesota-Iowa road trip to go hit bars with departed friends/drinking buddies. Not only that, I have a number of friends who don't drink at all anymore. It's perfectly alright by me, and if someone doesn't feel it would be healthy mentally or physically for them to drink, I certainly have never wanted to push anyone towards it. But it does really change the normal evening out procedures in ways I still haven't 100% grasped.

The problem is that I still love the bars. I really enjoy drinking as a social activity... I'm long past doing it to alter my mood swings... and bars have a great ambiance that allows you to overcome social anxiety and limitations on suitable topics of conversation. As a result, I've had some of the best academic, theoretical, theological, and philosophical conversations of my life over minipitchers. Bars relax me. But going to bars by yourself is just a little creepy, let alone boring, and I don't really have many people right now who I can call up on a whim and ask if they wanna share some drafts.

It's left me feeling a bit like I'm pining after lost glories. That's where, I guess, my current Steely Dan infatuation comes in. When I listen to them, their music is largely "whatever happened to the world, and why isn't it as cool as it once was?"...and this is how I've been feeling.

As I was checking my mail, I had the mp3s on, and "Midnight Cruiser" came up. I got a bit fixated on the line "For one more time, let your madness run with mine."

Most of the people with whom my madness used to run now live elsewhere. Consider this an open call.

is there anything more boring than...

So I'm sitting at my home computer working on a paper. Well, working only in the barest possible sense, as there's nothing whatsoever creative in trying to fit a potential journal's style guide. Saturday, I got to go through the entire paper and eliminate any instance of two spaces after punctuation. I just finished changing all the citations from MLA to the journal's own twisted version of Chicago. My next exciting task is to, and I quote from their style sheet, make sure I'm using "single quote marks for integrated quotations within the text, double quote marks for quotes within quotes"...for some stupid reason.

What's even worse: "when quotation marks enclose less than a complete sentence, the closing quote should precede the final punctuation. When quotation marks enclose a complete sentence or more, the closing quote should follow the final punctuation. If the source/page numbers appear with the quotation, place them in parentheses after the closing quotation mark but before the final full point." I'm not sure I even understand this, and I teach writing, for Christ's sake!

What gets me is that Word is utterly no help. I've been a big critic of Word's strange compulsion to screw up my margins and indentations, but it can't automatically change citation styles? Is anyone who works on word processors listening? Us academics could use some assistance.

I need to figure out all this stupid crapola before I get to the real business...gutting a few thousand words out of this essay and doing a new intro. Wee!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

publication, baybeee!!!!!!!!

Another publication! Woohoo! I just got word that my article/narrative “Two Years in Hell: My Life in the Adjunct Class” has been accepted for the forthcoming collection Thinking Class: The Adjunct Experience. Another line on the ole c.v. is great, and it's inspiring to know that my crappy experiences have come to some good after all.

Now, how do I celebrate?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

a good academic journal?

I am putting the finishing touches on (what I think is) a pretty good paper on the tv show House. Any advice on where to send it? I unfortunately just don't know the good television/media journals like I should.

C'mon, this is your time to let your voice be heard! Tell me what to do!

Monday, July 30, 2007

the best news of the week

Ex-Queen guitarist Brian May is finishing up his Ph.D. in astrophysics!

It's just a good thing he's not getting a Culture Studies Ph.D., or I'd feel like he's infringing on my territory and would have to become a famous rock star in retaliation.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

on writing and such

Yeah, I know, I've been away from here for a while. There is, however, a reason...I've been trying to get my writing agenda through before I return to the teaching grind.

There has been some progress. The book proposal is I just gotta write the cover letter and start mailing. The House article is 98% there and will be done as soon as I think up a good closing hook (and incidentally, if anyone watches the show, would you let me know? I'd like another opinion on the show-related paper content). I'm starting on the horror chapter of the book into article, and as soon as I can figure out how to cut about 3,000 words, I'll be fine.

I'm not sure how much of my football/race paper I'll get done. I'm gonna have a valiant push, but I might have to go into the Fall. This will, of course, necessitate recycling my comp I lesson plans entirely, but you gotta do...

Not gonna get to the cyberpunk/models of identity paper at all, but I am working on getting that up for a conference next Spring. It's the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts meeting in Orlando. This leads to one other beg/request for help from any academic friends floating by.

Anyone interested in helping me (and a good friend) put together a panel for this conference? If you have something on scifi (or, for that matter, fantasy) and how people adopt identity, gimme a shout.

Conferences are 100% more fun when you have people you know with's been scientifically proven.

Friday, July 20, 2007

on the sadism of sidewalk engineers

Mother, I hope you're okay...I pray. Yes, I admit it...I might've strayed, even though I swear I was trying with all my heart...but it's a long walk back from the bars, and there might've been a moment when I...I hate to admit...stepped on a crack. I can only pray that your spine is okay.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wapakoneta music fest

It was years ago when I first started my relationship with and love for Wapakoneta's roadhouse Rhythm & Brews. I was just getting into (the now unfortunately defunct) band Slobberbone, and I wanted to see them play live. I heard they put on a magnificent rock show, and, as I was starting to lose faith in rock and roll (corporate rock and reunion tours just sucked the life out of the music for me), I really wanted to be proven wrong, to find out that rock still mattered.

When I checked out the band's tour schedule, I saw that their only Ohio gig was in Wapakoneta. I had never heard of Wapakoneta. I had to break out a map to figure out where it was. When I saw that it was, essentially, in the middle of nowhere, my curiosity really was...made more curious.

I drug along the lovely spousal unit to the show, and it was amazing. Some quotes from a mailing list post on the night:

Rhythm and Brews in Wapakoneta was a much nicer place than I was girlfriend described it as "something out of Urban Cowboy"...minus the mechanical bull, however....

The crowd was also different than I was expecting...much more diverse. There were even balding 60 year olds there, and almost everyone knew all the words to all the songs.

Since that night, I managed to find my way back there several times. I saw Slobberbone on multiple occasions (including their farewell tour), I saw Two Cow Garage, I saw the Bottle Rockets, and I saw The Yayhoos (chronicled here). I always loved the bar. It is perhaps my favorite venue ever for live music. It is very intimate, they draw a wonderful crowd of enthusiastic fans, it sounds great, and, as an added bonus, they have good pizza.

This past Saturday, the spousal unit and I headed down to Wapak (as the locals call it) for Rhythm & Brews' tenth anniversary party. The show started at 7:30. We got to see:

  1. Nashville singer Stacie Collins was act number one. We saw her walking around the bar before the set started, and it was obvious that she was one of the performers...her sprayed on clothing, ridiculously high-heeled boots, cowboy hat, and arm warmers definitely marked her as "not civilian." As a performer, she was amazing. She was a great singer and a killer harmonica player. Her band included Georgia Satellites/Yayhoos alum Dan Baird and former Jason and the Scorchers guitar player Warner Hodges (and the Scorchers drummer as well). It was balls-out country/blues/rock.
  2. Next was the Yayhoos drummer's band, Terry Anderson and the Olympic Ass Kicking Team. Ultimately, good bar rock, but the wife didn't like Anderson's voice.
  3. Former Jason and the Scorchers singer Jason Ringenberg was third. He started out with a few solo acoustic songs, all very politically charged. One really cool one chronicled the life of a Tuskegee airman. He then played a song from one of the Cowboy Jason albums ("Punk Rock Skunk"), which is his kiddie music was fun.

    Then we got a full hour of a Jason & the Scorchers reunion. All I can say is, why in the hell didn't anyone turn me on to these guys when they were together and regularly putting out albums? They were amazing. It was the second set of Warner Hodges on lead guitar of the evening, and he might be one of my favorites I've seen in years.

  4. Next was Warner Hodges again, this time with his own band, The Disciples of Loud. They had a second guitar player who looked like an anorexic Dog the Bounty Hunter. This guitar player and their bassist were wearing matching zoot suits. They were very loud...almost painfully so. I actually considered going outside to give my poor ears a break.
  5. The Drams headlined. They were a little drunk, but when a band doesn't go on until 2:15, I guess you have to expect that. They were still good. We only got about 3 album songs, a few Slobberbone covers, two Neil Young songs, a decent amount of new material, lots of rambly speeches. They had the club owner join them on drums for "Powderfinger." We got "Robert Cole" as an encore song. It was beautiful.

When the evening was finally done at 3:45am, I stumbled to our car. I felt drained, blown out, thoroughly finished. It was a hell of a lot of rock and roll. It was very fun, probably the most fun I've had at a concert in ages.