Tuesday, January 30, 2007

the weirdest product ever

I was with my wife at the in-laws this past weekend, and we went to the Dollar Store to pick up supplies. They had, and this is no lie, "Placenta Shampoo."

Apparently, when you sell your products for a dollar, you have to do away with such fancy things as "marketing" and "product names that are not utterly disgusting."

As soon as I can get the photo off my phone, I've gotta post it.

I'm living in a third world town!

When my wife was home for lunch yesterday, someone from the city came and told her that our house was under a "boil water before drinking" advisory. Don't they only do this in places where people don't have shoes?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

how lucky I am

Today is the anniversary of the day me and my spousal unit got legally connected, contractually bound. When we were talking about the occasion the other day, I told her that I can hardly remember what it was like before I met her...all I can remember are long nights curled up naked, in the fetal position, sucking my thumb, and letting out slow wails of depression.

Okay, I exaggerate. There was also drinking involved.

So, what did my lovely wife want to do to celebrate this special day? We're going to eat barbecue and see a Ben Stiller film.

This is not just an isolated incident. For Valentine's Day, I made us reservations for the White Castle Valentine's Day candle-light dinner. Now, it would be one thing if my wife humored me in my love for kitsch. But she is actually quite thrilled at the prospect...she did her happy dance.

I told my friend Bob about this, and he said "it looks like you two have a lovely, laid-back life together." I couldn't agree more.

Life is wonderful when you're with the perfect person.

Friday, January 19, 2007

warming up to the truth

I'm sitting in my home office, looking at the massive Ohio snowfall. So far, we've hit 1/4" for the year. My first year in Ohio, I was hit by a 10" blizzard right on New Years. This year, I"ve only had to break out my thick jacket once so far. This clearly is not right.

Personal experience tells me that this whole global warming thing is definitely not a myth. The research backs all this up. The vast majority of scientists at the American Meteorological Society agree that global warming is caused by human pollution.

Personally, I think that global warming is the nuclear war of the 21st century.

Our president seems uncertain, however, and many people who don"t think these things out on their own and just parrot his language like to avoid the evidence and research. This scares me, and you see this manifest in the tremendous number of high rise pickups, humvees, and minivans on the road.

You know what cares me the most, though, is an article from Reuters that outlines how a coalition of major corporations (including Alcoa, General Electric, and DuPont) are petitioning W. Bush to tighten environmental standards. Even major companies are willing to go through major regulation and expense? Global warming must be worse and more imminent than we thought.

Break out your speedos, because those oceans are rising!

specialized Mike vocabulary

I'm trying to start a movement to get people to incorporate more colorful language in their daily lives. The first work I'd like you to use is "squadoosh," meaning nothing, nada, zip. In a (true, unfortunately) sentence:

"Even though I've had several bites, leads, and promises in my 2006-2007 tenure-track job search, so far they have come to exactly squadoosh."

C'mon, use it in your own conversations!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

cheap sensationalism...or art?

Is anything off-limits as a subject for art? Is there anything we're not ready to deal with as a culture? Should there be?

All of these are questions raised (or at least addressed) by a great article in Wired called "I, Colombine Killer" about a video game which puts you in the perspective of the Columbine shooters. It's a great read, and it will really make you think about the uses to which art can be used.

cutting it close

Way back when, I used to be a wild, unadulterated metalhead. I had the requisite long hair, which marked one as a metalhead, and also as a rebel/freak/dangerous person.

(To be fair, I also had the spiked wristbands, the fingerless leather gloves, and oodles of concert shirts, all of which also similarly marked me...but that's another blog post)

Having long hair, for a time, seemed to make one an acceptable target for prejudice and discrimination, especially among those old-line southerners. The police, for one, really loved me. I got thrown out of a McDonalds. I had my car searched. I was frisked at least once. From the non-police side, I also was refused service in a few restaurants and bars, was stared at repeatedly, and so forth.

Part of the fun of having the hair was entirely, I admit, in this shock value. It was always interesting to see how angry some people could get over a simple fashion choice. However, the further we went from the eighties, the harder it became to really provoke a reaction with the hair. Before I went to college, I was working as a temp in a business that required formal wear. More than one of the suits had long pony tails. This was a sign that long hair had gone from political statement, past avant garde fashion, and had become mere yuppie wear.

If it wasn't going to shock, what, I eventually had to ask, was the point of long hair? For those of you who've never had long hair, there are plenty of drawbacks.

  1. You go through a tremendous volume of shampoo. This gets to be pricey.
  2. You spend an inordinate amount of time getting ready to go in the morning.
  3. Ever driven in a car with the windows down? This leads to, in those with hair, massive tangles...and these suck.
  4. Getting rid of tangles really hurts.
  5. Does anyone really have the time in their schedule to devote to dealing with split ends?
  6. Burning your hair when the wind blows it into your cigarette is very stinky.

What are the advantages? 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.

All these things and more were on my mind when I got my hair chopped. The long hair had quit doing what I wanted. Instead, it merely became a social marker, signaling me only as a member of a particular group...and, especially as I was getting ready to move across the country and restart my life, I had no real desire to have any concrete social marker at this point of my life...so the hair went.

The initial big haircut was done at an honest-to-god real hair salon that a friend worked at, during my lunch break. What made this whole process interesting is that I told utterly no one that I was getting two feet of hair removed. Afterward, when I showed back up to work, everyone to a person let out an "Oh My God!!!"...except one professor (with whom I was working) who didn't even seem to notice. When I went home that night, my parents took a full minute to recognize me. When I went to a bar that night, a friend of mine took five mintues to recognize me. The shock of it all was pretty cool...it felt liberating to be removed from all the associations of long hair.

When I got up to BG, I had no idea where to get my hair done, so I went to one of those "Hair Cuttery" mall-esque places. This was never a good idea. When no one working in a hair place has good hair, that should be a sign to go elsewhere. The only plus was that they took off way too much, so I only had to go every six months. The down side was that I often looked like a weed wacker attack victim. Plus, the hair stylists wouldn't shut up, so I was always forced to have some ridiculously inane conversation about the weather or American Idol or something. Also, they usually played Top 40 Country radio, which gave me moderate indigestion.

I then went to one of the local barber shops, and my hair started immediately looking better. The only real problem was that the bartender insisted on talking politics. This is never good. He was a leftie, which can itself good. However, he's a little to the left of V.I. Lenin, which is just unsettling. He also gets worked up easily, and when he's ranting, he gets really wild, redfaced, and loud. At the best, the quality of the haircuts decline when he's telling me with extreme emphasis how Bush and a cabal of masonic businessmen are going to declare martial law, all the while gesticulating with pointy scissors that come dangerously close to plunging into my cerebellum.

I went to a new barber shop today. My hair looks good. The barbers didn't talk to me at all during the hair cut. They had good magazines to read. I didn't have to worry about being socially marked as anything.

Hey, is it a sign of being an adult/old man that you go to a barber shop? If so, that is one social marking I never expected...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

another entry in the ongoing saga of who I resemble

One of my new students told me that my facial gestures reminded her of Napoleon Dynamite.

She must not want to pass.

Monday, January 01, 2007

the best cd of 2006

1. The Drams - Jubilee Dive
Singer/guitarist Brent Best is one of those special breeds. Anyone who followed his previous band Slobberbone knows that when he's on, he can make you want to laugh, scream, and drink yourself into oblivion. With his move over to the Drams, however, Best seems to have decided to try and manipulate every other emotion.

While this not be rawk, it is a tremendously deep, nuanced, sophisticated slab of music. Best lets you know right away that lyrics are important here, from the opening lines of the disk's first track, "Truth Lies Low":

Trumpet blasts blare with ferocity of flame
Is it mourning Taps or Revelry? The email never came
Surely a light will glow
Commonplace come-on's you'd think would never play
Somehow trump the thoughtful things we used to do and say
Sadly these seeds do grow

Throughout this opener, there's a definite sense of disappointment with the world, with commonplace stupidity, with people's expectations, with how we respond to pressure, and with how we go along with the herd...but it still does hold out the slight hope that there are answers, there is truth, and there is a right way, if we're really willing to dig for it. There's also a lot of alliteration, which also amuses me to all ends, and Best plays a lot lyrically, with dual narration, popular references, and the like.

Musically, this album shows a nice range of moods and atmospheres. There are barn burners ("Crudely Drawn" and "Unhinged" are two of the best rock songs of the year), there are lush ballads ("Holy Moses" is something to behold), but then there are song which defy simple description; "Wonderous Life" and "September's High" both show a beautiful blend of creepy, lush, and hypnotic, while building into crashing, eartheal highs. The musicianship throughout is brilliant; guitar and keyboard solos intermingle in "Holy Moses" to near perfect effect, and "You Won't Forget" brings horns into the mix with an uplifting blast, a la The Beatles.

This album is most of what I like about music. It is fresh, it does not follow expectations, it's both approachable and intricate, and there are a variety of moments which refuse to get out of your head.

What's even better, however, is I got to see these guys twice over the past year (including their opening for Drive-By Truckers, my favorite show for the year), and they are, on top of being a great band, really cool people. Don't you love it when that happens?