Monday, December 29, 2008

The Year That Was - media edition

Best Music

Yes, this is only a "top 9"...there just simply wasn't a tenth album I will claim as good. A weak year, musically.

  1. Two Cow GarageSpeaking in Cursive

    While I have been a big fan of this band for quite some time, this album is a monumental step forward, in terms of depth and quality. Just buy it already.

  2. The Hold SteadyStay Positive

    Take off one or two songs with gratuitous keyboards, and this thing really rocks. "Lord, I'm Discouraged" alone has enough lyric power to make you weep. Combine it with "Hey Sapphire," and whoooboy. Plus Craig Finn now sings!

  3. Ben FoldsWay To Normal

    Many have expressed disappointment with this album. They're nuts. "Kylie from Connecticut" alone (one of the most beautiful songs of the year?) should propel this into your top album lists. Good, rythmic virtuousity as well.

  4. The Pink SpidersSweat It Out

    While the production is poppier than I would like and there is (unfortunately) a power ballad (skip "Don't Wait For Me"), this is still a very good album. "Gimme Chemicals" and "Seventeen Candles" are catchy as all-hell.

  5. Magnolia SummerLines from the Frame

    Many have brought up the Jayhawks comparison. I'll just say that this is alternately lush, rocking, and lyrical. Go buy it.

  6. Jay BennettWhatever Happened I Apologize

    The best thing he's done since The Palace at 4am. This all-acoustic effort is sweet, complex, and fun. Plus, you can download it for free!

  7. The RaconteursConsolers of the Lonely

    A good second album of rock, although this sounds more like a band effort than their debut. Consolers more than makes up for the disappointment that was the last White Stripes disk.

  8. Paul Westerberg49:00

    Sloppy, sticky, catchy in parts, and (sadly) no longer available through official channels.

  9. Gaslight AnthemThe '59 Sound

    Nice bar rock with (if I'm not mistaken) a little Clash thrown in.

Top Songs

  1. “Brass Ring,” Two Cow Garage
  2. “Lord I'm Discouraged.” The Hold Steady
  3. “Glass City,” Two Cow Garage

Musical Disappointments

  • We will probably never see another album from Brent Best, Caitlin Cary.
  • You Am I forgot how to rock.
  • The Drive-By Truckers lost it.
  • Ryan Adams has gone all slick

Music I'm Looking Forward To

  • New Wilco, Grand Champeen, We Are The Fury, Jason Isbell

Someone I Discovered Much Too Late

  • Josh Ritter

Best Movies

  1. Wall-E

    Gorgeous. Hardly any dialog, but the emotion and meaning couldn't be any clearer. A scathing critique of consumerist culture, and a tear-jerking tale of love and hope at the same time.

  2. Vicky Christina Barcelona

    Woody Allen makes a fresh film. It's young, lively, and gorgeously shot. The only down side is that the supreme gorgeousness of everyone in it might make you question your own looks...if you were not as pretty and confident as I.

  3. Zach & Miri Make A Porno

    Kevin Smith knocks one out of the park. Both hilarous and touching, more so than it should ever be.

Cinematic Crap

  • Cloverfield

    This one wouldn't be so bad except for one thing: I hate everyone in
  • Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull

    Space aliens? Space aliens??? Is this really the best they could do?

Why in the Hell Haven't These Opened Here Yet?

  • Synecdoche, New York
  • The Wrestler
  • Zombie Strippers (okay, so I could probably rent this one...)

The Year in TV

  • The Shield ended perfectly
  • I got absolutely hooked on Burn Notice
  • Jeez, The Office is SOOOO much better post-strike

My Year in Technology

    Why buy newspapers when you can get Darkgate Comics Slurper
  • I know I'm late to this one, but I love my Wii
  • Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog was probably my favorite bit of entertainment all year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

taking the chill off with a lovely beverage

I call this one "The Sub-Zero":

  • take a mixer and fill with ice
  • add

    • 1 measure dark rum
    • 1 measure tequila
    • 1 measure vodka
    • 1/2 measure triple sec
    • 1/2 measure strawberry liqueur
    • 2 TBSP sugar syrup
    • 2 measures grapefruit juice
    • 3 measures cranberrry juice
    • light squeeze of lemon

  • shake vigorously
  • pour into glass 2/3 full
  • top off with seltzer/soda water
  • garnish with lemon wedge
  • sip and try to forget your heating bill

frozen dreams

My favorite band right now is Two Cow Garage. I first met them when they got up and jammed with Slobberbone after one of their Wapakoneta OH shows. While Slobberbone was brilliant (two separate sets, each about 1 1/2 hours, with a 30 minute encore), Two Cow was an unexpected pleasure, unknown, unannounced, raw, energetic. They even did most of their own songs (save a jam/duet/whatever on "Give Back The Key To My Heart" with the 'bone), and each of their originals had a spark, an energy that I really needed to hear in rock at the time.

They were obviously talented, and I was taken with the guys. I wanted to tell all my friends about them. This being the era of the internet, I talked an awful lot online with friends from all over. Word spread. When their first album Please Turn The Gas Back On came out (awesome, raw rock, with some raw country thrown in for good measure, they had established an online fanbase.

As much as I liked album one, it was The Wall Against Our Back that really grabbed me. As well as pure rock your face off tracks like "My Concern" and "Make It Out Alive," the guys in the band started to really think about their situation, the career of an indy, small rock and roll group. They started to explore the class and status structure of rock and roll. Do you hold on to some vague desire for authenticity, or "sign on the dotted line" and become corporate? Do you remain who you are, in the face of overwhelming odds?

This continued with III, perhaps more explicitly. As someone who was struggling with my own job dilemmas (trying very hard to find a tenure-track professor gig, wanting to move into a job where I felt like a scholar and academic rather than just a mechanic, blindly teaching courses outside of my training, specialty, and interests, making entirely too little money and working entirely too much), I could relate. In fact, I needed to have this music. Realizing that other people in other fields were having the same issues as I made me feel a little less alone, a little more hopeful.

It's not much of a stretch to say that The Wall Against Our Back got me through my years of adjuncting, and III helped me adjust to teaching in a field pretty foreign to me. Their latest album, Speaking in Cursive (click on the link, buy it for $5, it's unbridled awesomeness) shows amazing musical and lyrical growth, but part of the reason I'm so taken with it is the theme of "what happens if we never become rock superstars? Is what we have enough?" which pretty much mirrors how I've been thinking of my own career. It's always nice to know you're not alone.

What made my love for this band even better is the personal connection I forged with the guys in the band. One of the first times I saw them, Shane, bass player and singer extraordinaire, came over to thank me for talking them up online. Every time thereafter, we talked a bit more, got to know each other a bit more. And while I don't know him nearly as well as I would like, I do think of him as my friend. I've also gotten to know guitarist/singer Micah, and this personal connection brings a new dimension to their music. I'm not just a fan. I feel I have to fight for these guys, push them wherever and whenever I can.

And, of course, see them perform whenever I can as well. After completely missing their last BG show (even though I was at the bar three days before, I saw no flyers or ads to tell me they were playing), I was pumped to find out that Shane and Micah were scheduled to play an acoustic show at Toledo's Frankie's Innercity. So I gathered up some friends and went, but it was just fated to be one of those nights.

The first issue was the bitter cold. In order to celebrate the first official day of winter, the weather plunged down to a lovely -2...not including the wind gusts of up to 35 mph. My car fought me, but it did eventually start. Of course, it took a good ten minutes to come up to temperature, and my foggy breath was steaming up the windows.

Of course, the drive necessitated going down many roads which have been studiously avoided by any plow or salt trucks, so it's always fun to know that at any minute, you can lose control, slide across intersections, and get run over by a similarly out-of-control semi. But in spite of the mortal peril, we made it.

There was the third issue, related to my inability to find a designated driver. It's always hard to see good rock and roll without beer, but hey, I love these guys, so I was willing. Of course, the bar had to rub my sobriety in my face by having the $1.50 special on PBR, Blatz, and Black was the trio of destruction, and I could not partake.

Unfortuntately, after an hour or so, we got the announcement: Micah and Shane were stranded outside of Cleveland in a blizzard. So, since I couldn't even drink my oblivion away, I instead had to settle for introducting my mad Romanian friend to White Castle hamburgers.

The guys at Freankies told me that Shane and Micah are planning to try to reschedule for next weekend, though. Hopefully I'll have a designated driver then...or at least, maybe it won't be so damn cold.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

a day in my life

In an effort to satisfy those who are bored with my Twitter feed reposts (hopefully it's better than nothing, but who knows?), I realize that I need to provide some original TheMikeDuBose content...after all, you are the ones who pay big money for subscription fees to this site, who send me mountains of fan mail (the photos are particularly appreciated), who give up their jobs and family to follow me on tour, I realize that you deserve something just for you.

Unfortunately, though, my life was (up until yesterday) pretty much filled with grading, conferences, and similarly exciting stuff. And what did I do to actually celebrate was read a book. Trust me, describing myself sitting on the couch under a blankie turning a page does not make exciting, edge of your seat prose. In fact, I've done absolutely nothing that warrants extended writing.

But, in an effort to satisfy my throng of fans, I realize I have to provide something. So please forgive the randomness and look for whatever jewels that might come. After all, even a disjointed TheMikeDuBose is better than none at all. We present you, the reading public, moments in my day:

  • Last night, I had another Little Caesars Pizza dream. I worked there 9.5 years (throughout school and such), and on average, I still have one of these dreams every week or so. In these dreams, I'm always the avenging savior assistant manager, sent over to bring law and order to a store on the edge of destruction. This was pretty much the role I played in real life, so the subject matter doesn't surprise me that much. However, what does it say about me that, even in my dreams, that the most heroic role my mind can imagine is to save a pizza franchise? Superheroes, after all, don't usually work for minimum wage, and pizza workers don't usually get the girl. Oh well.
  • Even though we're renters, we had to spend a few hours doing home improvement. We live in a very small (some would say cute or petite) little bungalow in town, which has as its main advantage washer and drier hookups and no undergrads living either above or below us. Unfortunately, though, if this place is insulated at all, it's with one or two 37 year old copies of The Toledo Blade, which, as you might imagine, doesn't cut down on the wind very much. Our windows are even leakier...sometimes I'm surprised that sparrows and other small birds don't just fly through the gaps. So yesterday, after the spousal unit and I dined on White Castle stuffing for lunch, we went out and applied window insulation's basically double-sided tape and humongous sheets of plastic wrap. Of course, whenever we've had to do this, the BG wind picks up and gives us hell. But now, our place leaks much less. It's a pain, though, and I often wish we could just tent the house with a giant ziplock bag.
  • I am used to my car being against me. I am also used to computers trying to sabotage me by randomly freezing or erasing data. General paranoia has made me immune to most shocks when things go horrifically wrong. However, now my own body is trying to kill me. I have a problem where I get hot really easily. This means that when it hits 75 degrees, I start to sweat. My doctor, after hearing my tale of woe, told me that I have "Heat Intolerance" (neat name, at least), and he gave me a prescription for a super-strength antiperspirant, which is basically a super-concentrated solution of the over-the-counter active ingredient, and it glues up your armpits for a few days. Well, I put on my Thursday night dosage before bed, but when I woke up, my armpits were red, tender, and burning. My body has randomly developed an allergy to the only active ingredient in mass-market antiperspirant. I'm sure friends and family will be thrilled to hear this.

So there you have it, folks. My post-Fall semester has so far been taken up with an armpit allergy, saran wrap windows, and pizza dreams. Exciting stuff, huh? Rest assured that over the break, as I'll be occupied with syllabi planning, writing, and teaching myself video game theory, that there will be more wacky adventures. Bet you can't wait.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

the sutured wound

In honor of my addled-finger state, I have invented another drink, which I call "the sutured wound":

  • fill pint glass with ice
  • fill 1/3 with rye whiskey
  • add a splash each of strawberry liquour and triple sec
  • top off with good ginger beer (note: ginger ale, particularly the syrupy mass-market crap, is not acceptable), stir
  • sip gently while watching sport and dreaming about that perfect location for a nice, sexy scar

injury, triage, treatment

I was applying pressure to the wound, hoping against hope I could staunch the flow of blood. Meanwhile, as my head started to sway inside the confines of my skull, I could hear the uneasiness and pain enter my wife's voice. Shock started to set in, and I wondered if I would make it to a safe refuge, or would I instead collapse, blood pooling around my prone, inert body?

What had in fact happened, I wondered as later I sat in the emergency room, my memories still too fuzzy to really know for sure? Somewhere, deep in the confines of my subconscious, I had visions of rage-filled students coming at me with butterfly knives, and me disarming them, protecting my fellow instructors cowering behind me but getting sliced up and mortally wounded despite my eventual victory. Or had I lacerated my torso when, upon entering my house, a bomb planted by some crazed Sara Palin groupie exploded? Had my past as a hardened criminal finally caught up with me when my old comrades Lefty, One-eye, and Chuckles jumped me, whispering in my ear that no one really ever leaves the life?

Unfortunately, none of the above. My life just doesn't have that level of drama, much to my chagrin. I would rather be able to tell people that I wounded myself breaking up a hostage situation. Somehow, cutting my pinkie while trying to core a cauliflower for a curry doesn't have the same level of excitement to it. But at least it was deep.

I could've lived without going to the ER, but when she saw the wound, my spousal unit immediately got the "I must take care of you and protect you from your own macho bs" look in her eyes, so what choice did I have? Later, when she told me she was glad we came, I told her straight out that I knew she wouldn't shut up about it if I didn't go. I could get away with saying this to her, being wounded and all. Me being in pain will lessen her physical displays of rage.

When the ER staff saw that I had a sense of humor about everything, they were quite pleased. A nurse asked me if I needed another pillow, and I said only to stifle the screams. The doc then picked up a towel and mimed strangling me. When the spousal unit said she didn't want to look at the wound as the doc sewed it up because she might get dizzy, the doc encouraged her..."go two have good insurance, so we could always admit you if you passed out and hurt yourself...more business for us!" I figure that you have to have a pretty sick sense of humor working in an ER, but I was quite surprised to find out it's almost the same as a restaurant worker's humor. There's a paper in there, I think.

I got a tetanus shot, and the nurse was good...I hardly felt it. When the doc gave me a local anesthetic, though...shots to the pinkey really bleedin' hurt. A good rule of thumb is when the doctor tells you something will "sting," find something hard to bite down on, quick.

Strangely enough, the lady in the bed next to me also was in for some cauliflower-related incident, but I didn't get particulars. I then asked the ER doc if he thought there was some connection, and we discussed it for a while. I brought up the possibility that cauliflowers were really alien brains out to destroy humanity by inducing kitchen-related injuries, a theory I think the doc liked.

Unfortunately, even though I did get five stitches, the fact that they are on my little finger doesn't make them cool enough to brag about, in spite of their relative grossness. I tried wearing the hospital bracelet all night, but as there were no parties where I could impress people with inflated tales, it was kind of pointless. I did hang out with two friends, but they were notoriously unsympathetic.

That's the problem with cauliflower-related injuries...they just don't sound bitchen'. Story of my life, I suppose....I can't even hurt myself in novel, interesting ways.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

a smartass thought about writing

If I was one of those "gee, see how clever I am" academics, I would point out how Reagan is very close to the word regain, and I would tie that all into the nostalgia tendencies. I would then bring up the etymology of regain, twist something in that to make myself clever, and then throw in some dense theory written either in French or in some East European (but that I will leave in the original language, sans translation) to show that the desire for nostalgia and nationalistic resurgence was built into the linguistic infrastructure which inevitably let to Ronald Reagan becoming president. I would, incidentally, have a smug look on my face while I wrote the above section.

Luckily for the reading public, I am not that kind of academic or writer. But I wonder...if I was that much of a poet/gearhead, would I have an easier time finding a tenure-track job?


The major benefit of grad school is, I think, the ability to multitask. When I was a grad student taking classes, I had to:

  • plan for the next class I was teaching
  • grade papers
  • stay in touch with my department and professors
  • keep up on department news and politics
  • take 4 classes, each of which involved

    • at reading one reading apiece
    • usually at least two papers
    • weekly discussions
    • a zillion different theoretical constructs/approaches

  • keep my house in workable order and cleanliness
  • keep my then-date now-spousal unit appeased

How did I do it? What makes this all the more fascinating is that I had a fairly active and regular social life, as did all my friends (each of whom were balancing similar workloads). But then, I was on fire. I could do thousands of things. The world was my oyster.

Today, I've had to take care of some students. When I finish with them, I find myself having to adjust back to writing. I go in the bathroom to shave, and I have to run back to the computer to type something important. I finish shaving, come back to type again, and have to run back to plug in the razor to charge...because I know otherwise I'll forget it. I have to then clear blocks where I can write, because when I actively work on my own stuff, I can't really do much else.

Sometimes, I find myself wishing I had half the mental faculties and multitasking ability I had in grad school. But then again, it did take me several years to get the dissertation done, so maybe I'm just being nostalgic.

Now, what did I have to do next?

a brief programming note

I am experimenting with doing this blog over at Wordpress. Blogger has lots of advantages, but there is no way I know to back up your blog. At Wordpress, you can do that. So, please feel free to check out the new experiment at It might change, as I get ideas/try to avoid real work. Also, feel free to leave suggestions/pass judgments in the comments to this post.

events are conspiring against me

At the beginning of the week, I was looking forward to a long Wed.-Thurs.-Fri.-Sat.-Sun. stretch of writing. I planned to do a lot of work on the (now overdue again) book manuscript, get that damned theory chapter that's been bugging me out of the way, bust out pages like nobody's business. So what happened?

Wednesday, I had a doctor's appointment. When I gave myself runner's knee over the summer, the doctor gave me a knee brace. Said brace did stop the knee, but it also made me walk just differently enough to tweak my old heel spur in the other foot...and it just would not die down. Now, I have a nifty new night splint I get to wear. It's awkward. It takes 5 minutes to attach. I now have to limp/stumble if I have to go to the restroom at night. Plus, I have to get used to sleeping a completely different way. Wee.

Afterward, the spousal unit and I went to vote. That killed over an hour, but I really like the idea of early voting. I hope it causes more people to get out there and vote. The whole time I was at the office, though, I kept whispering to myself, "don't screw it up, America, don't screw it up." These two events, of course, led to me getting nothing done.

Thursday came, and I realize I had essay proposals to review. My students are picking a specific example of someone/thing that goes against normative gender roles and analyzing it. Needless to say, a large part of the assignment is figuring out what they can write about. So far, they want to write big important issue papers. One student wants to write about (paraphrase here) how guys see other guys. So my responses to them took all day, in between bouts of grading.

Friday, was that a day for writing? Of course not. While going to bed the night before, the spousal unit found some water patches in the hallway. This was kind of mysterious, as there were no leaks on the ceiling. They were still there the next morning, so I called maintenance. Our cool maintenance guy looked them over, realized they were next to a vent in our supply/utility closet, and checked out our water heater. Prognosis? It was "about to explode." So maintenance spent all day tearing out the old water heater and installing a new one. I of course couldn't actually write with all this going on, so I got my grading caught up, dealt with "why am I failing" student e-mails (as the result of the aforementioned grading), and ran to a produce stand to get some orchard-fresh apples.

That night, we had the Halloween party. I went as a Mad Scientist. Spousal Unit went as a witch, but a friend asked her "are you some Renaissance Fair person?" A good time was had (and I'll post photos of costumes and our carved pumpkin later). Of course, this meant a late night, so I slept in way too late on Saturday. Spousal unit was on the desktop from the time we woke up until 6, and I just can't do any serious writing on my laptop, as much as I love it.

No real work done so far today. Part of this comes from dealing with students, but there's also the case of I've been away from it for about a week now, and I need to re-immerse myself, saturation, the dunk tank method. Of course, it's almost lunch time...and I still have to write to my publisher-to-be and explain why I'm not done...and there's more student contact to come...and my computer's version of Doom is calling me...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

deadline reminder

I'm trying to reach people through as many different ways as possible, so consider this to be a warning...and not your last one.

The Popular Culture Association's 2009 conference is in New Orleans from Wednesday, April 8, through Saturday, April 11. The deadline for submissions is November 30. On their website, they have a complete list of areas, each with its own address or call for papers.

While this conference is used by some academics as simply a vacation spot (and, hint-hint, it is in New Orleans, a great place for a vacation), there are still good panels and papers (including mine). So everyone I know should go.

Plus, it's New Orleans. Jazz clubs. Awesome food. Drinking on the streets. Voodoo stores. How could this not be fun?

Please go. I want to get everyone I know there, so we can act like a street gang and take over the place.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

little known facts about me

It's a secret that I've been hiding for ages, and it's finally time to come clean. My soul can't take the deception any longer. Yes, I, themikedubose, have physical deformities. To wit:

  • I have a mysterious spot on my left leg where, in a perfect circle, no hair whatsoever will grow. This is puzzling, because I'm quite hirsute otherwise. My parents know of no birth defects, forceps gouging, or massive burns. My theory? Alien abduction.
  • When it is cold outside, my pinkies are significantly more chilled than the rest of my hand. Maybe this is a sign my hands will still turn into hooves or something.
  • I get hot entirely too quickly. When I told my doctor this, he thought about it, and then diagnosed me: I have heat intolerance. Oooooh.

Okay, so maybe it's not enough to let me join a circus...but have pity anyway. And quit looking at me!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Star Trek and deadlines

One of the best things about Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, other than the very awesome Kirk scream, is its applicability to real life.

Bear with me here.

The Genesis Device (all such sci-fi devices are unique, destructive, and therefor must be capitalized) is about to go off. The Enterprise's warp core is not working. Someone's giving the countdown of doom. Kirk keeps asking for distance from the explosion and time until detonation. If they can't travel fast enough, they are all dead...and with the warp core down, they will certainly be obliterated in the explosion.

Kirk looks worried. But it is not him with whom I identify. Sulu is at the helm, and in a resigned voice, asks no one in particular: "We're not going to make it, are we?"

Star Trek is infamous for putting the ship in mortal peril. They always seem to escape. Sulu knows this. Yet his voice gives away a hint of awareness that their luck might have finally just run out.

It is now October 22. I am supposed to have the book done by the end of the month. And boy, is this thing fighting me. I am having to go do mortal combat with the damn thing every day. I've cut my football back to almost nothing. I've eliminated most of my television viewing...and for that matter, culture enjoyment of all sorts. But the book is working against me at every turn.

Nine days. I know how Sulu felt.

Of course, they did make it, so maybe I will. But they had Spock, who was willing to sacrifice himself in order to save the crew. The good of the many sometimes outweighs the good of the few.

Where's my Spock? Who will take my classes, the dilithium crystals of my life, and fix them so I can heroically escape death by missed deadline?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Zappa Plays Zappa

A brief time out/work avoidance moment to tell you about our experience at Zappa Plays Zappa last night.

I'm a big Frank Zappa fan. I got into him while he was still alive but (unfortunately) after he had stopped touring. I'm a biggest fan of the One Size Fits All era, but I have several timeframes represented. Even so, I feel inadequate...I've only got about twenty of his seventy or so albums.

When I found out that Zappa's son Dweezil had put together a touring Zappa tribute band, I was intrigued. Dweezil always had the technical skills, but he was much more manic than his father, and I wondered if he would have the discipline to pull this off. However, every time I checked their tour dates, they seemed to be focusing on festival shows, and they seemed to never be around where I live, so it was all a moot point...until last night.

Zappa Plays Zappa came into Ann Arbor last night, and I managed to snag two 4th row seats...the joys of working at home. First, it was nice to be so close, I felt like the luckiest little girl in the world! Second, it was one of those shows where the spousal unit and I were lowering the average age...pretty much the exact opposite of what happened when thmarn and I went to see My Chemical Romance. Third, I love knowing that there's no opening act for me to groan my way through.

The band was utterly amazing...almost three hours of music. We got a lot of the classics: "Peaches," "Zombie Woof," "I Am The Slime," a couple songs off Joe's Garage, a dance contest, a smokin' "Cosmic Debris" that featured solos from everyone including the awesome Ray White, and a version of (get this) "Billy the Mountain" must've went on for a half hour, weird and funny as all hell.

Dweezil smokes. Having to sit and learn all of Frank's music was really good for him...he's more fluid than I've ever seen him, both faster and with more emotion. He's starting to look a lot like Frank, and he sure as hell can channel his father's playing. More importantly, he was sporting the "how lucky am I?" grin through most of the evening.

I'll never get to see Frank, but this evening made me a little less sad of that fact.

ps: With a crowd that old and a set list that long, people were constantly getting up to hit a bathroom. If Dweezil was more of a commercial slut, he should've had the whole deal sponsored by FloMax.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

another beverage

I call this one the "Writing Depression":

  • Fill a pint glass up with ice
  • fill 1/4 with vodka
  • 1/4 wild strawberry liquor
  • splash of triple sec
  • top off with club soda (preferably Big K brand)
  • sip while watching football, trying to figure out how to fix your manuscript problems, become self-deluded that you'll actually finish the book in 11 days.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

so, how's it going?

I have just finished stitching together a draft of the completely new chapter of my book. It has 100% of the structure/organization, 85% of the sources (and I know where to find the others), and 70% of the actual language. I should be able to get it more or less complete by the end of the week, if all goes well.

Then I just have to stitch it together with the rest, stitch in the conclusion and expand it, and reword the entire thing. And I have 17 days to do it. Piece of cake!

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to anyone whom I might've insulted, ignored, or generally treated in a questionable manner during this process. I think I've been handling the stress and workload pretty well, but one thing I learned in the dissertation is that perspective and judgment are the first things to go.

Kind of like in a whiskey drunk.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

lazing on a sunday afternoon

Somewhere in Matt Groening's book School is Hell, there's a piece about graduate school, where someone is in the doorway of a graduate student, asking them if they wanna come to a picnic. The student, without looking up from his book, replies with "Sounds great! I'll be there in four or five years.

I spent until 10pm yesterday at my computer busting out job applications. I worked until 9 most nights last week. Today, I'm sitting at the computer again, going over some criticism. It's warm, and in order to battle the heat from the cpu, I've got the window open.

Across the street is one of those mega-apartment complexes for undergrads. If you look through the trees, you can see the "kids" playing volleyball. I assume there's also beer involved.

I remember spending weekend days at a friend's house, drinking beer, playing volleyball in the front yard. Now, I'm thinking of that experience while I watch some other lucky teen punks play volleyball in the sun. In between bouts of bitterness and loathing, I write about really horrible literary criticism.

One would hope this eventually evens out.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

blogging activity

Yes, I haven't been around much...been working...but I have not abandoned this. Later this week, I have to type up an entry I handwrote while at the Detroit airport. Then I get to tell you about my new car (pimpmobile). I still have to give the results of my MySpace and Facebook experiment. And there are, of course, more horror stories from work.

However, if you haven't noticed, there is a summary of my Twitter feed on the right. I started Twittering a while back...the short space fits my current workload. If you Twitter, please let me know so I can follow you.

Also, I have a blog chronicling thoughts, ideas, and rants-in-progress about my book and other scholarship. You might've heard me mention it before, but it was previously invite-only. I'm changing that. I'm also moving the academic blog to another site which allows backups (which, inexplicably, Blogger does not). So if you have any interest in seeing what I've been up to in terms of scholarship...or in telling me how I'm wrong...please check out Thought Emporium, my new home for scholarship.

Now, I'm going back to work so I can get this damn book done, move onto a tenure track job, buy a house, start homebrewing beer again, have kids who will take care of me when I get (more) old and decrepit, and spend more time admiring my awesome spousal unit.

Friday, September 12, 2008

seven years gone

I wasn't going to do a post-9/11 post, but someone on a mailing list wrote something that shook me to the core, and I just had to work out some thoughts (albeit a day late). An expansion of my reply:

My experience pales to most people, but I do remember the utter disorientation that everyone at school seemed to exhibit...everyone was walking around like a zombie. I was sitting in my office doing some grading, and one of my colleagues kept wandering the hallways, listening to a portable radio. When I finally asked him what the hell he was doing, I didn't believe his response at first.

I went down to my department's conference room, where there was a tv set up. A number of people had gathered to watch the that time, the second tower had already fallen...but no one was really saying anything. I stayed for an hour or so, and then went to my only class of the day. The teacher there had the tv on, and likewise, everyone was just staring, silent. I stayed for about 30 minutes before heading home. I didn't break out my cd player for the walk as I normally would...somehow, I just really needed to hear some quiet.

I got home and watched coverage for a few hours before my mind snapped, and I just couldn't take it anymore. However, nothing else was on. Even Food Network has suspended their coverage, which I understand, but it was a shame...I really needed a diversion at that point.

That night, the spousal unit and an old roomate and I went to BW3s for wing night. We were sitting on the deck, right across the street from a gas station, and it seemed that every 15 minutes, someone from the gas station would come out and raise the prices on the sign. Afterward, we went to Howards (the ultimate BG bar), and we got to see the President-appointee's "I've finally finished reading kid stories and am now ready to pretend to be a leader" speech to the nation, where he begged us, the nation, to show unity by going (wait for it) shopping.

It's a shame those are my two most vivid memories of that day. But it was obvious by them that something in the world (and particularly in the US) had changed for the worse. I was never one of those "capitalism is evil" types, but I became much more cynical about government and authority after trying to juxtapose the gas gouging and the presidential pleas to shop. I still think that 9/11 is the day that W became unglued, and our country and the world has suffered the wrath of a government becoming more egotistical, more evil, and less empathetic ever since.

On the plus side, the actual people of the country drew together in a way that gave me hope. Locally, our Muslim community started to pre-emptively reach out to the area and become more open. The population showed the enormous courage, unity, charity, and grace that those in power so clearly showed they lack.

(Actually, come to think of it, the Katrina aftermath was pretty much the same thing.)

I want to be hopeful here. I want to believe that the people of this country will work not only for their own best interests but for the best interests of us all, even when the government is clearly wrong. However, many good people still actively support a very bad government, one that's making us all look bad and get our souls messy. Please, America, we have a chance to finally do right by each other. Do the right thing.

Monday, September 08, 2008

two completely unrelated thoughts

These have nothing to do with each other:
  • My friend Andy, who does political rage better than I, has a good post entitled Dear America: WTF? An Open Letter. If you have heard and even stopped to consider any of the McCain/GOP rhetoric, please read this.
  • You will notice my Twitter feed to your right. As I get busier, I'm more prone to micro-blog. Please use Twitter...I'm finding it fun, and I wanna follow more friends.

Friday, August 29, 2008

anxiety and the book

A while back, I started on another blog, one designed to help me get back into the swing of writing my book...or, if you prefer, converting my dissertation into a book manuscript. I read a lot of theory, figuring I needed to reflex my brain muscles, become as intellectually nimble as when I was a grad student and being nimble was my only real job. The blog became home to my thinking, my rants, my tangents discovered while diving into theory. I put up somewhere around 25-30 pages of material, and much of it still will find a way into my scholarship somehow.

Then I had a semester of classes for which to prepare. (damn, it might be proper grammar, but that sentence looks funky) Then I had much welcome and enjoyed house guests. I've made a few stabs at getting back into research mode after they left, but there are a few things that have made me rethink my approach.

First, a colleague here at UT who is a creative writer started revising his MFA book..."redlining," he calls it. Then one of my old roommates just published his book (which is both highly entertaining and gorgeously designed), and I'm insanely jealous. These things brought me to some kind of epiphany.

I think what I've realized is that, by submitting myself to a theory overload, I've been trying to put myself through a "DIY" version of doctoral school...and I don't really think I actually need that at this point of my career. I need to remember that the book itself, as the early draft stands now, has more than enough theory in it and behind it. And while I will be revamping the theory section (moving it around, refocusing, all that), it is not going to be a "gearhead" tome.

There's not a lot on the eighties as a decade, and out of what is out there, none of it is really current. My book will not be one of many. It will be an invitation back into the subject, a good reminder of why this decade should be studied, and as such, it has to be approachable. I have to keep it if not informal in tone, then at least accessible. There will be plenty of time to write the heavy theory follow-up article version of the theory real need to do it now.

When I was working on the dissertation itself, I had one particular moment of clarity (there were others, but this is the one that's relevant). I was sitting in the library, having just worked my way through a stack of material on Reaganomics and SDI, and I looked at the pile of sociology books on my table. Suddenly, I realized that what I was trying to do was not write my project but become an expert on everything in the world.

This was unnecessary. It was not really helpful. It contributed to and exacerbated a lack of focus (whether real or perceived). On top of all this, I wasn't sure if the need to know everything in the world was either a desire to be the ultimate authority (and thus a signifier of a heavy work ethic) or of a desire to avoid actually finishing the damn project (and thus a signifier of either laziness or fear of the post-grad world).

In my attempt at total theory immersion, I realize I was doing the exact same thing over again.

So I've made a conscious decision. I've decided that, on a general scale, I'm smart enough to do this as-is. I will still do research and reading, but I'm not going to teach myself anything from scratch.

Second, I've decided that I have to have faith in the bones of the project as it currently exists. I might've been trying to start from scratch, to do the dissertation as I'd do it if I were just now becoming ABD. I need to have faith that all I really need to do is refocus and revise what I've done. While much of the language may change, what I have right now is, I need to remember, a worthwhile project that deserves to see the light of day, and sooner is better than later.

I'm moving on to writing. Screw this misplaced desire for total mastery of all knowledge. I'm not that kind of guy, I'm not that kind of academic, I'm not a theoretical gearhead. Time to start acting and writing like the kind of academic I am.

(note to my readers: If you are a theoretical gearhead, please don't be offended by anything I say here. I understand your scholarship. I need to see a lot of your kind of stuff. Deep in my heart, I wish I was you. But I am not. If I have a potential niche as an academic/scholar, it's essentially my ability to apply neat, unusual, skewed perspectives on subjects that manages to provide some kind of neat insight. This is just about playing to my strengths.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

death of nerdy?

Someone I know is playing D&D tonight. And now I'm starting to feel sadness that I'm not playing with them. Suddenly, I am not in with nerd/geek culture anymore. This is the weirdest mood I've been in for ages.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

the evaporation of summer

The end of freedom is definitely in the air, and that's something you particularly notice while living in a college town. The traffic on the roads has visibly picked up, you can hear the gentle strains of the mating call of the wild frat boy whenever you step outside, and there's a general sense of anticipation mixed with healthy amounts of fear and drudgery.

Yes, fall semester starts on Monday.

It's always a time of contrasts for me. There are ample opportunities to meet new people, and even though I'm no longer really a part of my doctoral program, I've already started to get to know some of their fascinating new members. Even amongst the established BG veterans, there are increasing levels of contacts and camaraderie...perhaps we're all finally starting to get over losing new friends to jobs and other programs, and we just crave connection. Socially, I feel really good, which is frankly amazing, considering the scores of friends who have left this town, moving onto "elsewhere" and a new chapter in their lives. Most falls, I feel their absence, but the possibility of new connections is, right now, my strongest social sensation.

There is also a new semester of challenges on the horizon. Monday, I walk into my classrooms for the first time. For many of my students, I am the first university teacher they will have, the "welcome to college" sign in their lives, and this is indeed a heady feeling. There is so much to teach them, so many preconceptions to eliminate, so many new intellectual discoveries to facilitate. While I know by experience that not all will make it, I am looking forward to seeing how much most of them will grow.

And I did get a lot accomplished this summer. I've had an unprecedented level of scholarly production...2 reviews, 2 articles, and a start on the book. I've got to travel...the brief sojourn to New York truly being a highlight experience. I've got to see departed friends return for visits. I hosted two wonderfully fun parties, and each yielded unique memories.

There are downsides, though. My health has ground to a bit of a halt. I started off the break by swearing to get out, be active, and I committed to a morning walk and an afternoon bike. Then my knee started to give out. The knee brace helped with that, but then, of course, a heel spur in the other foot that hadn't bothered me in years decided to flare up and just will not heal (perhaps exacerbated by my need to shift my weight to that leg). Now I've been forced back to immobility, and when I do go out, I get to repeatedly answer the admittedly good question of how someone who never runs can possibly get runner's knee while simultaneously trying to decide which method of limping will be the most effective.

And although I did more writing in a summer than ever before, I still didn't come close to finishing my research agenda. My book, although I wanted to have it to the press by the end of summer, has miles of work remaining. Instead of polishing a rewritten manuscript, I have a plan, a bunch of notes, and some stream of consciousness rants that still await incorporation. Now I am facing a heavy writing load and deadline on top of teaching 16 credit hours.

It's a time marked with possibilities and impossibilities, the mixture of the rush of hope with the fear of failure, positives and negatives. After all these years in the academic life, you think I would've gotten used to this feeling by now.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympic hero

Dara Torres is my new hero. She swims the 50m freestyle for America. Why is she my hero? First, she's 41. Yes, a forty-one year old Olympian. Also, she's the number one seeded for the finals in her 41.

This is impressive, but it's not all. During her semi, she noticed that the swimmer next to her had a rip in her suit and could not change in time. While the other swimmers were going to their blocks or performing weird pre-race rituals, Dara ran over to ask the judge to hold up the race for the late swimmer. She then told all the other swimmers what was going on, that the race would be a little late. She then raced and kicked ass, posting the fastest semi time.

Normally, I don't get sucked into the "rah rah" bits, but Dara is cool beyond belief.

Friday, August 15, 2008

back to real life

Last week, I had some Bowling Green exiles return for a quick visit, and they stayed with the spousal unit and I. Now they are gone, and there are some big adjustments to be made:

  • I have to actually do work again
  • I feel compelled to restart my daily schedule
  • I have returned to eating stuff other than cheese, cheese curds, and tubes of meat
  • my spousal unit is my only audience for jokes, and she's long since learned to ignore me
  • my house is considerably less cool than it was for my friends' visit
  • I no longer have to make sure I'm wearing pants or have shut the bathroom door

This is what it must be like for soldiers returning from distant lands.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

watching the Olympics

I have learned:

  • the Croatian female ping pong players wear very mini-skirts and have awesome legs
  • water polo is next to impossible to follow
  • amateur wrestling is pretty dull and boring...I understand by professional wrestling was souped-up
  • there's an Israeli swimmer who's named Nimrod..when I mentioned that Nimrod lost, my spousal unit thought I was being mean
  • one Chinese swimmer prepares for his events by shaking his left man-boob
  • I'm both scared to death of and severely turned on by the female fencers

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

killing more time on the interwub

I have now joined Twitter. I have no real idea why, except for maybe wanting to find more ways to kill time when I should be working. Anyone here also on Twitter? Who should I follow?

car talk

Throughout my driving career, I've had a number of pieces of automotive machinery. They've all ended with a certain amount of doom.

  • Car one was a 1982 (?) Chevy Impala...well, not really mine but my parents's vehicle. The coolest thing about it was the air conditioner was labeled either A/C or (teehee) MAXCON...which always made me feel like I was working in some underground bunker for the government. This was also the car I killed the fastest, in the silliest way. While driving to a friend's house, I somehow didn't see a pickup truck...carrying a horse trailer. The redneck drivers (I don't stereotype...I met them, and they certainly fit the bill) only said to me "Boy, you almost bought yourself a thoroughbred." Then they hired the city's biggest sleazeball ambulance chaser lawyer and tried to sue me...which would be depressing if it wasn't so much can you really get from a broke teenager? The net result of this was that the car was 2 feet shorter in the front, and I was looking for new wheels.
  • Car two was my first beater, a 1973 Plymouth Valiant with a radio that ran off vacuum tubes. It was cool...big, powerful, and fast as all hell. Unfortunately, it didn't take me long to kill this one either. I was driving to another friend's house (a pattern I quickly noticed...which is why I no longer have friends), and I must've went to adjust the radio or something and missed a red light. A brand new Monte Carlo SS was my target this time, and it hit me directly behind the driver's door, pushing the metal between the front and back doors in two feet, causing the roof to dome. It also broke my rib, which sent me to the hospital. While there, I had a 97 year old woman next to me in the emergency room who specialized in whining ("I want to go home. Why won't anyone let me go home?"...for two whole hours) and a doctor who, upon hearing I thought I had a broke rib, pushed down on it with all his might ("Does this hurt?" "AAAAAAHHHHGGG!"), and gave me a prescription for ten whole painkillers...enough to last almost a week! Yeah, a rib will really heal in that amount of time. Compound this with me getting back to work after two weeks and getting fired a week after that, and my memories are not good.
  • Car three should've bypassed me and went straight to the compactor. It was a '73 Duster. The litany: the roof was rusted out under the vinyl roof; the driver's side door didn't open from the outside; the passenger door didn't open from the inside; the foam in the driver's seat had disintegrated, so I had to stuff an old raincoat down there to keep from giving myself a spring enema. I went on a vacation once, and my Dad went to start my car after a few day's rain. He found two inches of water in the car and had to drill holes in the floorboard to drain it. After that, the car had a permanent mold ecosystem that bleach would not kill. I actually outlasted this one, gave it to my brother after he had an accident, and it threw a rod on him after a week. A fitting end to a car that sucked so bad and was so nasty, it can single-handedly be blamed for three years where I could not get a date...any woman who would get into that piece was not someone I wanted to be with.
  • Car four was a red 87 Honda Prelude. Hondas will last forever if you take care of them. The previous owner didn't know this, so he beat it to hell and back. The transmission started slipping on me about two weeks after I bought it. It did last for a few years, and the whole time, I felt like I was driving a clown test this, I actually drove seven people to Gainesville for a concert. This car, although it didn't hold rainwater like the Duster, also had an unstoppable mold problem. Finally, the transmission died on me, and we were just able to drive it to the junkyard.
  • Car five is an 1987 Oldsmobile that I got from my parents...thus, it was the nicest car I'd ever had, as it was the first one that ever had been taken care of. It was also the first car I ever had where the a/c actually worked, too, which was a nice luxury in Florida. The engine died almost immediately (the timing chain broke), but my parents paid for a new one since it was one month from my purchase date. Eventually, though, the car started to wear down. I bumped the front on a pole while exiting a tight parking garage, and then I had a car pull out in front of me on an iced-over parking lot. Eventually, the a/c quit working. The transmission died, and I got it replaced with a junkyard unit. Then, when I was working at the zoo (see the first blog posts), the driver's window also quit working. The driver's back door quit opening about the same time. My last repair was to get the rusted-out brake lines totally replaced, after a fun drive to work where the pedal sunk to the floor.

I would like to say that the transition from car to car signaled some great motion in my life, but the only real conclusion I can have is that I've left an awful lot of damage in my driving wake. The only thing that makes me feel better about this is that since all the cars were drastically used by the time I got them, I haven't really made much of a carbon footprint.

Anyway, my parental units called me this week to tell me that they were getting a new car, and would I like their old one? As it's much nicer than the Olds's current state, I heartedly agreed. In a month or so, I will fly down to Florida to pick up a 1997 Buick Riviera. It's pretty parents usually buy the demonstrator models, so they have every accessory you can imagine (including five way sun visors and climate control, with separate passenger controls). I will also pass the Olds onto a carless friend, so there are winners all around.

I am thankful to get reliable wheels again...the Olds is valiant, but I'm getting old and wimpy enough to really want air conditioner. Plus, the car is in really good shape, so I hope to get at least eight years out of it before I kill it in some manner. And I'm hoping its the last car I ever own that's fueled by petroleum. The next one should run on either hydrogen, electricity, fryer oil, or live puppies.

Will my Oldsmobile look at me badly? Will it know that I'm giving up on it? Will it sulk? I'd ask it, but typically, it's in the shop...this should be its first clue that it's going bye-bye.

for those of you following the knee saga

After mysteriously starting to hurt and then mysteriously getting better, my knee mysteriously started to hurt again. Luckily, it did this in time for my last annual physical, and I was able to get doctor's advice...which included x-rays and a knee brace. The first night with the knee brace was not a success, but I'll give it a bit longer.

This is what this blog is reduced to: me bitching about my health. What am I, ninety?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

themikedubose overload

I don't think I've mentioned it here before, but I'm also a contributer on Crunchy Stuff, a product review blog run by some friends of mine. Through complete and utter chance, every new product I've tended to buy over the last few months has been dreadful, and my review posts reflect that in their tone. Not getting enough snarky Mike? Then give a visit.

where my mind goes during walks

While on my daily coffee walk today (my knee having mysteriously healed after finishing the House paper), I came to two weird observations:

  • The first thing I discovered was a new metaphor to describe my current state as an academic. I believe I am currently a cover band in a dive bar...good, serviceable, but not really able to do any of my own songs. With my current bout of research, I'm trying to slip a few in amongst the "Freebird" and "Stairway to Heavens" my University calls on me to perform, but the audience is too busy drinking to really pay attention.

    When I was an adjunct, I was a "fill-in" musician in a cover band, basically covering Fred's parts while he recovers from the flu. As a grad student, I was one of those "guitar player looking for band" ads at the music store bulletin board. I'm really hoping, with all the research I've done lately, to become an indie musician, and I'd love to be one of those artists who can play national tours. I do realize I'll never be a Grammy-winner, and I'll probably never be on the cover of the Rolling Stone (sing along with me!) (sorry, Almost Famous flashback), but that's okay...I'll never have the cool Cornell West hair anyway.

  • I've been in Bowling Green to the point where I know more houses where friends used to live than I know current friend residents...which is really strange, and makes the whole daily walk that much more interesting.

Friday, July 18, 2008

the Mike of days past

As step one in the book manuscript process, I've been plowing through all my theory-related stuff on my computer. What I found of particular interest is that, if my various doctoral theory classes were any indication, I've always been a real smartass. Here, for the amusement of all you academics out there, are the Greatest Hits:

  • [after reading some postmodernism] Honestly, it is enough to make one disgorge their flagon of mead.
  • One of the distinct powers of heavy critical theory is that it has the ability to render one a blithering idiot in no time flat. Thankfully, the idiofying (?) works in many directions. Not only are the readers rendered incapacitated, the authors also come across as (as Y puts it) obfuscatory idiot bastards. My question is: this stupification encoded, decoded, or recoded?
  • late capitalist reality is an endlessly f$@#ed up realm of self-reciprocating commodified signification a la Baudrillard meets some voodoo economists
  • [after a day of Adorno and Horkheimer] If any of these authors are still alive, can someone please tell me—I want to kill them. They will die a slow, bloody death. I have always enjoyed reading material which argues against the object of which I plan to spend the rest of my life studying.
  • Adorno reads like Baudrillard in the middle of a bad whiskey drunk.
  • I found myself praying that I would hurry up and get through Habermas so I could read something intelligible, like...Baudrillard. Clearly, this signifies a strange turn of events....Habermas, though, runs into problems with his gawdawful prose, which is as dense as high-school chili.
  • In answer to X’s question, I’m not really sure if this post is the same post that’s in postmodern or postcolonial; what I do wonder about, however, is if the fact that my breakfast cereal was made by Post affects the issue. Maybe I should print out this question and find a post on which to post it. Excuse me...that was the guy from the post office.
  • Last semester, I actually had a freshman ask me what the true nature of reality was (no kidding). The topic also came up in my history class, in several of my papers, several times while drinking, and once on a date (and let me tell you, that one went well). So I have been giving thought as to how someone who believes in the postmodern world can have the courage to do anything other than curl up in the fetal position, whimper, and suck your tongue. I wonder about this on a daily basis. Honestly.

(insert secret devil salute here)

Back in high school, I was Mr. Heavy Metal (although I didn't capitalize it back then). I had the hair (at its longest, it went to within a few inches of my waist), a closet full of heavy metal teeshirts (which fit in with the uniform, of jeans and a denim jacket), a collection of cds with scary-looking covers, and I regularly drank the blood of goats.

(just kidding on that last one...or am I?)

This was in the eighties, when heavy metal moved from being a much-ridiculed form of music from the fringe to being a much-ridiculed form of music with mass popularity. Tons of people wanted to be heavy metal. They were fairly easy to spot. Short hair...or, more accurately, hair that just hit their collar last week...was one clue. Another was the giant backpatch on the back of their brand new Levi jacket. A third was an unholy love for glam/hair metal. If you liked Poison, Ratt, Bon Jovi, or someone like that, there was a 97% chance that you were a wanna-be. If you pretended look stoned, you were a wanna be.

I could go on, but this is already reading like a stoner version of Jeff Foxworthy.

For many of the new bands, the influx of glam/hair involved choreographed stage moves...weirder and weirder spandex pants...super-teased hair sharpened into potentially lethal heavier than a drag night...bad sing-along concert segments. The list goes on. Obviously, this meant that metal was becoming silly and in need of serious change.

I remember the first time I heard speed/ was Metallica's Ride the Lightning, before it ever hit big. It was faster, louder, more aggressive than anything else I'd ever heard. I've often lamented about how I will never be able to let my students, many of whom have been listening to the band all their lives, really know how revolutionary Metallica sounded at the time. They provided a new template for being heavy.

All of a sudden, after Metallica hit big, any new band had to be heavier. That meant playing louder, faster, heavier. I remember one local band, where the guitar player, in an attempt to be heavy, ran his guitar signal through five separate distortion was the aural equivalent of burning magnesium, and it sounded dreadful. Another band decided that everyone in the band had to sound heavy...they all had to have "thump" in their sound...the result being that the drums, bass, and guitar all fought for the same few eq frequencies. Too many singers decided to just start shouting.

Eventually, the model for becoming heavy was no longer glam, no longer had become the cookie monster. Once I heard Cannibal Corpse, I knew the game was up. No one could play faster...their notes blurred together. No one could scream more...the singer's voice sounded like he was snoring (albeit angrily). And, to boot, their songs were usually less than two minutes long. Where could heavy metal go from there? By just stressing screaming and noise at the expense of complexity or innovation, metal was once again turning silly.

This didn't stop heavy metal bands from trying to be heavier. It did, however, make me very bored with heavy metal and sent me running for other options.

Lately, I have been very conflicted about heavy metal. Ozzfest sounded like they'd be great shows, but they were balanced out by the pure disgustification I felt by Meet the Osbournes. For every hint of respectability metal crept up upon, it was balanced by another cookie monster screamer.

Personally, I think metal has been pretty stagnant for over a decade. While I am all for heaviness, the abandonment of melody and singing never really seemed like a forward step. But you need some real hook, something very cool, something unique to make metal interesting for me.

So, BBC has a story about a 62 year old Capuchin monk's heavy metal band. The video is really interesting. I'm not sure, however, if it's cool or silly.

How do you interpret screaming monks?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

why I blog

Why do I do this blogging thing that I do? Am I crazy? Have I run out of procrastination ideas? Do I do it for the throngs of admiring fans, and the underwear with which they pelt me? Is it the fame, the glory, the street-level recognition?

Well, yes, all of the above. I love being able to keep in touch with distant friends, and the blog is one way I can do that. But there's something more.

I do this for myself.

When I was struggling as an adjunct, when I hadn't written anything in a year after my dissertation, I needed to remember that I enjoyed writing. I needed a stress-free way to write, with nothing really riding on the results other than my writing chops. I needed to vent, to blow off steam, to catalog my feelings of misery at the time.

My situation eventually improved immeasurably, and I'm convince this space had a lot to do with that. Writing the blog helped me get into the swing of writing in general. Now, I'm producing finished pages at a rate which rivals tenure-track faculty with cushy teaching loads. Take that, you 2/2 pinheads!

Later, I realized that I ran across an awful lot of cool/helpful/weird web sites. Yes, folks, it's a marvelous world out there online. I first got into the internet all the way back in 1996 (the technology actually existed back then). If it wasn't for the "what's cool" websites, I probably would've never figured out what the world wide wub was actually good for. So, in an effort to catalog all of the cool stuff I saw online and give others the chance to be introduced to the web in the same way as was I, I started interwub postcards (that is, after several aborted blogs at the same spot).

Now, I am starting heavy revision/writing work on my book project. I am having to deal with a lot of research. I need somewhere to ramble, to spell out my thoughts, to litter with stream of consciousness thoughts on my work, somewhere to put all the stuff which may either end up in the finished project or just get me thinking in the right direction. So, what did I do?

You guessed it...I started another blog!

It's a closed blog, meaning that not just everyone can come and look. This only makes sense, as this is going to eventually end up in book form. But you, my dear readers, are my friends, and if anyone really has an interest in seeing the process of dissertation-to-book; is interested in the eighties, popular culture, or complexity theory; or just can't get enough of themikedubose, e-mail me, and I can add you to the blog roll.

If anyone wants to see what I'm up to, that's cool by me. But ultimately, even if I hear only crickets chirping (as I do on interwub postcards), this will have served it's purpose.

Plus, the web address is pretty cool!

Monday, July 14, 2008

I'm Voting Republican

Will everyone get this as satire?

summer writing update

So far this year, I've produced 75 pages of finished scholarship, which alone makes this one of my best years in terms of production. That includes three articles (one already accepted) and two book reviews (one published, one forthcoming). When you consider that I teach what's essentially a 5/4 (really a 4/4. but I'm responsible for 16 credit hours in the fall), this pretty much rocks.

I should be ecstatic, but instead, I'm stuck in "nose to the grindstone" mode. Why? I still have a book manuscript that I need to get done (get this) by the end of summer if possible...that's in a little over five weeks.

And strangely enough, I think I can actually pull this off. Have I finally hit my stride as an academic? Will this help me finally get the crankin' tenure-track job? Or am I completely delusional?

Bets on the last one.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

there goes our freedom

Joining habeas corpus as a basic right taken away from us is our rights to privacy and free speech. This afternoon our president appointee will sign into law a law that gives official sanction to wiretapping on American citizens.

Thanks, prez. Thanks, congress. Anything else about our constitution that you wanna eliminate?

Monday, July 07, 2008


At casa DuBose, the spousal unit and I decided to hold a 4th of July cookout/party. Unlike most of the events I try to host (which are fun but woefully underattended, thus leading me to believe I just suck at big bashes), this evening went fabulously. Highlights of the evening include discussions about Jameson and postmodernism, firework displays over the top of our neighbor's houses, a threat from one female to impregnate random people with a turkey baster, intoxicated tap dance demonstrations, entirely too much sangria and beer, five different types of grilled sausage, a drunk friend dancing while waving around sparklers, slight antagonism between smokers of light cigarettes and normal ciggies, spilled drinks, fervent arguments about superhero fiction, cigars, random explosions, a late night run for bug repellent, a confession that “I'll probably throw up tonight,” and several abandoned vehicles (including many cars and a bicycle).

Throughout it all, we were adults...there were no beer games involved.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


I'm revising an article about the tv show House, M.D., and my knee starts to hurt. Went to the doctor yesterday, and he told me it's a ligament or tendon (can't remember which) swelling under the kneecap. The net result is that just as I'm working on a paper about a character with a screwed-up leg, I start to limp. Lovely.

I'm just glad I'm not writing about zombies.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

be very afraid

Every so often, I run across things that scare me. This week has three of them.

  • Thursday, when I went into the kitchen to make myself lunch, I saw a half loaf of bread that I didn't remember buying. I checked out the bread itself, but it looked fine--still soft, still moist, no mold--so I figured the spousal unit must've bought it this week. Then I looked at the package, and it had "Best if used by 29 May." Yes, May. The load of chemicals, preservatives, and gold kryptonite the manufacturers crammed into a loaf of bread had kept it relatively fresh for a month after its expiration date. I gotta wonder what this does to actual cannot be good.
  • While browsing my blog subscriptions yesterday, I ran across an AP story that said Texas's High Court has ruled exorcism to be constitutionally protected. Yes, exorcism. Apparently, if you live in TX, you can abuse someone under the guise of exorcism and are immune to litigation. This made me run to check my calendar, and indeed it is still 2008.
  • We got a free local paper today for some reason, and I headed straight for the Parade section...on the philosophy that one should always keep an eye on what their enemy is thinking. They had an article on home schooling. There was a poll attached, where 95% of Parade readers believe you should not have to get teaching credentials if you want to home school your kid because "a degree is no guarantee of teaching ability." Really. I suppose this is true in the sense that having a fire fighter's certificate does not technically guarantee you can put out all fires. If my place is burning, however, I would still prefer someone who's trained. But that's just me.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

let's get

When I first moved to Bowling Green, one of the unique things was that, as a teacher, I would have an office, something I'd never had before. Unfortunately, my offices were utterly nothing to write home about. In my first one, there was a hole in the ceiling over my desk. The next one had ants. The third was in a basement. I finally got a nice one after the basement in terms of newness, but it looked more clinical than anything else...but the assistantship sucked, so I was only there for one semester.

When I switched assistantships, I became a research assistant working with a residential learning community. My office was in the same dorm floor as the community (so I could counsel them and impart the benefits of my magnanimous wisdom, I guess), and boy, was it sweet...I even had my own easy chair. The only real negative was that there was no computer, and in order to hook my personal cheapo laptop up to the network, the learning community would have to pay Information Technology $2k to turn on my office port. I never quite understood this...really, what did they have to do other than flip a switch?

My main concern, however, was in how to personalize the space, claim some sense of ownership over my surroundings. I brought my standard array of decorations I'd accumulated from my four offices prior, but they didn't seem to work. After all, blinking Christmas light may be fine when you share a room with ten other grad students, but they don't exactly make you look like an independent authority figure, a scholar, or an adult. I had no real artwork to bring to the surroundings...I was a grad student after all, and consequently broke, without resources.

I searched through my personal photos to see if any of them would work, but most were fairly dull. Lots of the blame for this lay in my camera. All I had at that point was the absolute cheapest camera I could was a basement-level Kodak that was only about a dollar more than the disposables. The only thing it did automatically was flash, and that was on whether you needed it or not. There were a few really nice shots in my pile, but they numbered about three in a stack of a few hundred.

I didn't have time to do too much decorating, however, because this assistantship only lasted one semester. After that, I had one year as a research assistant elsewhere (where I got to use a couch) before moving on to the wonderful world of part-time teaching. In the three places where I was an adjunct, one of my offices was behind the abandoned five years ago records office, and its general state of degradation made decoration kind of pointless. Another one of my institutions put me in an office with four other people, so there was really nothing to personalize. The third place did not even give me access to an office, so I had to hang out in a building atrium, along with bored commuter students and fake fica trees covered with dust.

When I got my current job, I was thrilled for many reasons, not the least among them was that I'd finally achieved some sort of academic stability. It was the first time that my career wasn't at the whims of enrollment numbers, vindictive supervisors, or university politics. I was finally a salaried professional, after seven years of being the academic equivalent of a migrant worker. There were many visible signs of this transformation, including a profile on the department website, business cards, and a permanent mailbox, but the one I was most excited about was finally getting my very own office.

Of course, this brought up the question of how I would decorate the space. Obviously, the Christmas lights I'd rejected for my first solo assistantship office would not do, so, after finding out I could get my office painted a different color (I eventually chose a shade of green that matches exactly the wonderful McDonald's Shamrock Shake), I went to search for real artwork.

I knew I didn't want to just put up poster reproductions of Dali prints or blacklight artwork...that was something that undergrads would tack to the walls in their dorm rooms, and I was trying to distinguish myself...I was a professional, damnit. So, the spousal unit and I went to a few art shows to search for real, honest-to-goodness art. This was not a success. All the paintings would either cost my next five paychecks or looked like they were painted by five-year-olds...who were stoned on cough syrup and helium birthday balloons, no less.

The photo booths were no better. For whatever reason, the type of "art" photographer who shows up at art shows usually has a boring, sophorific range of subjects. There were a whole lot of shots of barns, horses, puppies, and the like. This would not do...not only did I not really want a photograph of alpacas frolicking in a meadow hanging in my office (it would make entirely the wrong statement), these prints were entirely too expensive, often in the $50-60 range. On top of that, anything under $100 just was not that good. My main impression from these art fair photo booths was "I could do better than that."

So, adopting the DIY principle full-force, I went out and bought a digital camera and decided to make my own artwork. I ended up with a decent entry-level Cannon and went hog wild. The coolest thing about a digital camera is that you can really experiment with very little risk. Something doesn't look good? Just delete it. Want to play with the settings? See the results before you plunk down money to get prints made.

I took some really good shots at first, but they were as much due to luck as anything else. At first, I would take a hundred shots that were worthy only of instant deletion before I took one that anyone would want to see. Really, the process of digital photography has been, for me, a process of self-education and discovery. I had to learn how to frame my subjects. I had to learn where to position the sun in my daytime photography. When I finally realized that my camera's worst feature was its flash (which makes everything look like a magnesium bomb is exploding in front of them), I started to play with natural lighting.

Lately, this experimentation has really started to pay dividends. I found an online article on how to take good black and white photos, which has really early black and white attempts just looked flat, but my newer ones pop and have more depth and character. Thanks to the advice of my friend Andy, I started to play with exposure speeds, which really helped some of my New York photos. And I just found an article on producing better low-light photos that I'm really going to study.

The rise of digital cameras is what made this all possible. If I had to use my dad's old analog, with it's dozens of lenses and settings, I would've never taken up photography. My "nothing automatic" analog camera gave me no control, but at least I knew what I would get. Moving any higher up the photography ladder would've required either spending gobs of money on experimental prints which probably sucked, or converting my apartment bathroom into a dark room, which was not exactly a practical choice.

The digital revolution has changed so much about how our culture operates. With MySpace, any band can internationally distribute their recordings, and this is one of the things that's shaking up the record industry. The bloggosphere means that anyone can be a writer with a legitimate audience. YouTube has placed the power over visual entertainment into the hands of the population for perhaps the first time ever. Wikipedia similarly has moved power over knowledge into the hands of the masses.

If you pay any attention to the media, though, you will hear most of the above trends attacked. Among politicians, the "bloggosphere" has become almost an obscenity. Many musical critics and artists (most often those signed to lucrative deals) bemoan the open-source nature of music that's causing the downfall of major labels (good riddance, I say). And even I have, on occasion, been guilty of thrashing on Wikipedia.

Digital art, however, is something that I find undeniably awesome. It makes me feel good to know that I am personally responsible for most of my photos, and that they work on some level other than "hey, that reminds me of a vacation." It's cool that I can have, both at home and in my office, photos from friends on display. I appreciate the fact that, instead of having to search for an exhibit of shots from my favorite artists (such as the incomparable Katie West), I can just check their website or have their Flickr streams delivered.

I truly believe in Art with a capital A. I also truly believe that it should not be the domain of others, and digital cameras help facilitate the democratization of Art...which is why they're one of the most important inventions of our time.

When I have my camera, there's always a part of me that's looking for subjects. When I see something worthy of immortalizing on (digital) film, there are two things I immediately do. First, I try to understand exactly what I'm seeing, why it's important, why I find it significant. Secondly, I try to find an interesting, unusual, or enlightening way to frame it, so that I can highlight whatever significance I see, so hopefully others can also see it.

Wouldn't it be a great world if everyone tried to do the same thing throughout their life?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

final gotham reflections

It was the end of our last night in New York City, and as we were walking back to the car after a cool night trip on the Staten Island ferry, the spousal unit asked me the standard, innocent question: "What are you thinking?"

This is a dangerous question to ask me. If I'm to answer truthfully, I'm either going to say "absolutely nothing but the chirping of my head crickets," say something so weird and alarming, it will immediately stop all hopes of further conversation for at least an hour, or just start going off onto tangent upon tangent until the questioner's eyes glaze over and they start shambling like a zombie.

In this case, however, it was an apt question, because the trip had made me mull over an awful lot...about multiculturalism, about the standard perception/fear of New Yorkers themselves, about class, about food, and about tourism, to name a few. My major impression, though, was of the unique relationship that New Yorkers have to New York as a place...and as a state of mind.

New Yorkers love New York. They think it's the best city in the world. Moreover, they take great pride in New York to the point of pitying other people for not living where they live.

It's an arrogance, for sure, but it's an arrogance that has some basis in reality. Gotham is truly a magnificent place. In terms of food alone, I lost count of how many times I felt maddeningly jealous of its citizens. Products? Everything was insanely fresh, with a selection of which I've never dreamed. Restaurants? You could eat at a different place each day, enjoy amazing food, have a different cuisine every day of the month, and never run out of options. The same goes for people, sights, experiences.

It's an attitude which extends beyond the city itself. New Jerseyans (such as our host's significant other) think and act like New Yorkers. People from upstate think and act like New Yorkers. Everyone thinks and acts like New Yorkers...except those wearing Mets caps.

It carries over into some rather possessive attitudes. I have lost count of the times in my life where, when mentioning the word "pizza" to a New Yorker, they roll their eyes before going on a dissertation about how pizza only exists where they are from, that the rest of the country...nay, the rest of the world is being fed some lie, some cheap imitation, some heretical abomination.

Now, the NY pizza I had was very nice indeed, but I'm just not ready to declare it the Platonic ideal and declare that everything else (including the Italian original, at which New Yorkers still sneer) does not equal pizza. I'm for variety in forms and types.

New Yorkers, however, are also for variety...hell, it's possibly the most diverse place in the US. But New Yorkers only like that variety within the borders of their city. They're diverse, but in an insular fashion, if that makes any sense

Really, the relationship between the city and its citizens is pretty unique. The closest analog I can come up with is between some obsessed Southerners and the South, although the circumstances are very different indeed.

The other "different" thing about New Yorkers you just can't avoid is their relationship to 9/11. I heard our host's significant other mention the towers several times during our final day, as if they summed up the city and acted as a crown to its grandeur. Without them, New York was just a little less "big."

Indeed, the effects of 9/11 are everywhere in the city. You can't go into the Statue of Liberty anymore because of terrorist threat. The subways and train stations all have "heightened terrorist alert--bags subject to search" signs. Most of the major attractions have massive security checks (which, incidentally, is why we didn't go to the Empire State Building). New Yorkers take this all in stride, however, as just another cost (along with commute time, dirty bathrooms, and expensive restaurants) of living in the greatest city in the world; they refuse to suffer any of the defeated attitude that plagues even the most prideful of Southerners.

I loved my time in New York. I'd jump at the chance to live in Manhattan, but the odds of me ever scoring a job that pays enough to allow me to do that are slim...I've come to terms with the fact that I'll never be a superstar academic. Would I live outside of Manhattan? That's a lot more problematic...I'm not sure how tolerant I'd be of either the commute, the pollution of surrounding areas, or the exorbitant rent.

New York was fabulous, and I can't wait to visit again...but as fascinating of a place as it was, and as interesting as were its citizens, I would still rather live in Toronto, which, in many ways, is New York perfected. They don't have the pizza, and it's still expensive as hell, but they have great street hot dogs, they're tremendously diverse, they have a cleaner and less confusing subway system, and they have better beer.

This was what I was thinking upon leaving New York. Of course, there were New Yorkers within earshot, so I censored myself somewhat in answer to the spousal unit's query, lest they think me anything less than a gracious visitor to their amazing city.

Because I truly do love New York like the teeshirt said. I also couldn't quit singing Sinatra the whole damn time I was there.

(This is, by the way, the last you will hear about New York City from me for a while.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

gotham in pictures

For those of you anxiously following my New York City visit chronicles, I just finished uploading a Flikr set of the "best of" Gotham photos. I've been experimenting with black and white, which works very good for some of these subjects. As always, let me know what you think.

I actually have a ton of photos that I've been meaning to photoshop/tweak and get posted...guess that will be my new time-waster.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

last day in gotham

Sunday was to be the spousal unit & I's last day to visit the relatively sizeable pomaceaous fruit of the malus domestica. This time, we had our host and her significant other as guides. Once again, there were a whole bunch o' things learned.

  • Our hosts assured us that while New York might have the lock on pizza, New Jersey was their equal in terms of bagels. While I'm not gonna render a judgment on that one, the NJ bagels we had were mighty fine.
  • While New Jersey is a diverse state with many beautiful areas, the area around New York is about as disgusting as you've heard. The good thing about having guides for this trip is that we could get a running commentary as to what manufacturing process was causing what particular smell. "That's methane...they trap it from the world's largest landfill and use it for power. That smells from this plant, this smell comes from manufacturing..." This is, of course, fascinating, but I just wanted a city-sized can of Lysol.
  • Staten Island is much like New Jersey at least in terms of smells and visual appeal, if the part we drove through is any indication.
  • New York roads are the worst ones I've personally ever seen, and everyone drives like homicidal, axe-wielding maniacs with constipation. I survived the car rides by focusing on the surroundings...but, as I've said, since it was mostly chemical waste dumps, that didn't help all that much.
  • There does seem to be a tremendous dropoff between Manhattan and the other boroughs.
  • The Staten Island Ferry is a cool way to get into New York. It's free, it's scenic, and it takes you within a pretty good distance of the Statue of Liberty. Since we didn't visit the statue otherwise (you can no longer actually climb up the statue...thanks, terrorists), this was a real plus.
  • When I saw Manhattan from across the East River, I kept thinking of The Crimson Permanent Assurance. I saw, however, no rampaging accountant/pirates.
  • The subways don't work as frequently on weekends as they do during the week...and this greatly annoyed our host's partner, who, being a native NJ resident, is not tremendously patient for such things by default.
  • I finally got my chance to try New York pizza at one of the approximately 2,683 Rays pizzas (don't know which one it was, but it was a bagel/pizza place). Very nice and cheesy, and the crust was good. I'll talk more about this in a later rant.
  • We spent a decent amount of time in McSorley's Ale House, a bar that's been open since 1854 (and only allowed in women in 1970). It's a classic place to have a beer...they have "light" or "dark" only, served in 1/2 pint glasses with a good 1" or more head. By the time we finally finished up and I was settling my tab, our drink count (among the four of us) was either 48 or 56. Later, when I told this to my spousal unit, she immediately replied, somewhat defensively, "I don't think I did any more than ten"...before we both immediately burst out in laughter.
  • After a few more slices of NY pizza (to soak up all that ale), we started to wander down to the Chinatown/Little Italy area before being caught in a horrendous downpour. After about an hour, we finally got tired of smoking cigars under a store awning while waiting for the rain to stop and decided to get a cab. Once again, however, this led to an unfortunate stereotype reinforcement period...our driver was middle-eastern. He was real fun, though.
  • Chinatown was really cool, and I was amazed by the variety of fruits and veggies (many of which I've never seen in person). Some of the shops also had a tremendous selection of astoundingly fresh fish. Unfortunately, everyone else wanted to eat Italian, so we didn't spend nearly enough time exploring the area.
  • Little Italy was an interesting mix of tourist t-shirt shops and restaurants. The spousal unit was, true to character, buying souvenirs for everyone she ever knew. We then went to a very good Italian restaurant (don't remember the name), ate a great meal (I had a delicious pan-fried trout in an olive oil/garlic/rosemary sauce), and talked until very late.
  • The ferry ride back was cool, because the city and the statue look even neater at night, all lit-up.

Coming up: a final thoughts rant and links to the photos.