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.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

gotham interlude

Yesterday, we took a break from the city and explored New Jersey:

  • We visited a Pennsylvania Dutch superstore. There was a Penn Dutch butcher, a Penn Dutch baker, a Penn Dutch fudge maker...and, for some reason, a sushi shop.
  • Afterward, we went to Lambertville, a town on the NJ/Penn border. We decided to stop for a drink, and that turned into several drinks...but it was a fun way to start the day.
  • We then went to a cigar superstore, which turned out to be an outlet for my online cigar stop. They had a bar, so we did cigars and beer.
  • Finally, a great steak place called Arthur's, where I got a 24 ounce steak. The cow, I can assure you, died for a good and delicious cause.
  • NJ is not entirely toxic waste factories and suburbs...something I knew, but it's nice to see firsthand.

Back to Gotham today...Staten Island Ferry, Little Italy, Chinatown.

gotham thought 2

While going through New York, much of it felt familiar, but for a strange reason. For example, when we were on the subway, we passed Atlantic Avenue, and I suddenly started wondering if it were a yellow or green property. I realized that there was no possibility of actually building a house on Park Avenue, let alone a new Hotel. And I was quite expecting to see a giant shoe or dog.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

another quick gotham thought

Somewhere on the subway ride to Coney Island yesterday, there was a part of the voyage where we had an Orthodox Jew sitting across from us, two Chinese women next to her, a Russian man reading a Russian novel in Russian across from him, a Latina behind him, and a few African Americans at the other end of the train. In fact. there were no other people who were, by strict definition, "white."

Compared to life in Bowling Green, this is a world away. Most of my students think that they are down with diversity because they have one black family in their hometown. It really highlights just how insular life in the midwest can be. Reality is diverse. Reality involves people sort of like you, people a little bit like you, and people nothing like you at all.

It's one of the coolest things about New York so far.

Friday, June 20, 2008

things I learned in Gotham--day one

  • The New Jersey Metro line into New York is...well, I was expecting a bullet train. I got a lightly tossed pebble train instead.
  • Bathrooms in New York are problematic. The ones in Penn Station smelled like concentrated human sweat. The ones in the Coney Island subway stop were so horrific, I still can't fit it in with my version of reality...the men's room had some guy washing his clothes in the sink. Most others had more water (?) on the floor than in the toilet. There was very little hand soap to be seen anywhere. The bathrooms in Grand Central Station, however, rocked, high velocity air dryers and all.
  • Coney Island had the shabby working class thing going for it. I kinda dug it, but I can understand why developers feel it's ripe for redevelopment...or at least the next generation of Bruce Springsteen
  • For some reason, there were a number of hot Russian teen girls working the Nathan's stand...either (to invoke some stereotypes) waiting to get into the mob, or they just haven't been invited into the world of adult films yet.
  • Many roller coasters shock, frighten, or play with you. The Coney Island Cyclone basically beats you to a pulp. My neck still hurts. I'm glad I did it for the historical thing, but thank whatever deity you have that they don't make them like this anymore.
  • The Brooklyn Bridge is a cool walk. Somewhere, I read it's one of the few places where you can fly over someone walking over someone driving over someone in a boat. Great sights, though.
  • Grand Central Station is certainly grand. They have a food market, where the spousal unit and I got an organic baguette and some parma salami for a great snack.
  • Central Park is confusing. We got trapped walking on some jogging/horse track, and while doing that, we somehow got turned around and were halfway to Harlem, on the other side of the park from where we started. I suspect it's a hole in the space/time continuum...and we hit one later, when our subway train skipped ahead four stops. Apparently, in New York, the fabric of reality is already unwinding.
  • New Yorkers are friendly. We got out of a subway stop, and we had some nice lady ask us (unbidden, mind you) if we needed directions to the Met or the Guggenheim. Maybe we just looked too oblivious for her liking.
  • The Guggenheim was undergoing some renovation, so it was all scaffolded up. It's a shame, because I wanted some know, "I saw that on Men in Black! That's where Will Smith chased an alien off the roof!"
  • If the street performers in Central Park are anything to go by, it seems that synchronized break dancing is making a comeback. This is cause to start drinking, if you ask me.
  • The sandwiches at the Carnegie Deli were both size and taste. You have to physically unhinge your jaw to bite into one. They actually have one waiter on staff named Francis who specializes in helping along your dislocation.
  • The last ultra-tourist thing we did was hit Times Square. The spousal unit regressed into her sugar rush 4 year old state and demanded that I take photos of signs for Broadway shows she wishes she could see. For me, it was like a bunch of Rolling Stone ads threw up. It was lightweight Tokyo without the potential for Ninjas.

Tomorrow, less touristy stuff.

on the road--big city edition

So the spousal unit and I are doing as close to a vacation as we're gonna get this year...a weekend visiting a spouse friend in New Jersey. Naturally, this will mean lots of trips to New York City. I hear that if you can make it there....well, your chances elsewhere are fine.

My main reason for coming along, other than keeping the spousal unit happy, is that I've wanted to see Coney Island for some time, ride the roller coaster and all that. Well, next off-season, that's all getting torn down so that yuppie condos can go up. So this is my last chance.

I also want to eat pizza, bagels, and hot dogs, and New Yorkians are always arguing that they have the best. I'll be the judge of that, damnit.

Yesterday was taken up by traveling. Wee. Some observations:

  • For all the variety in this great land, the world is awfully boring, dull, and monotonous when driving on the interstate. Yes, this isn't news to anyone, but I often like restating the obvious, as my spouse will gladly tell you.
  • Someone in Pennsylvania got goofy with their road signage...there are "Buckle Up for the Next Million Miles" signs, as well as places where they've painted big circles on the road itself, to visually demonstrate how much following distance you should have. And it works...when the circles are on the road, no one tailgates. Of course, they go back to riding your bumper soon enough when the circles go by-by. Better driving via like.
  • Somewhere in PA, we passed a truck owned by someone who likes TGIFridays so much, he festooned the back of his vehicle with bumper stickers. I would like to blame Guy Fieri, but people have been enjoying their frozen, pre-made food for ages before he started mugging for them.
  • Every stereotype you hear about New Jersey drivers is true.
  • New Jersey also loves their signage, but their love is more demanding. They have signs at rest areas telling you not to run through flower beds, not to throw things in the urinals, to wash your hands, to dry your hands. On the road itself, they have (for some reason) signs telling you to maintain your speed even if you're driving up-hill. They think, I have concluded, you must be an idiot, or they're just into the whole police state thing.
  • The spousal unit's friend's place is nice, in a nice neighborhood, but it is one of the noisiest places in existence. The birds started their atonal chirping at 4am. The street sweeper made seven drive-bys at 7am. These people need to sleep, damnit.

Today, we go to the city. We will negotiate the trains and subways. I will ride the Coney Island Cyclone. We will eat hot dogs. And I will report back...because that's what I you don't have to.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

two festivals and a party

Last Saturday, I actually had a full complement of events on the social calendar. It's unusual to know that most of your day is planned out when you wake up, yet you will get no actual work accomplished...but it's a feeling I can live with. Anyway, much was learned.

The first event was a friend's birthday celebration. We all met up at City Park, drank covert drinks (alcohol technically isn't allowed, so rather than bring beer cans, I had a carafe of summer vacations. We then munched on snack food before playing croquet. I'm not sure why croquet, but the game is fine by always puts me in a Heathers kind of mood. So what did I learn at this event?

  • I utterly suck at croquet.
  • When your croquet lawn is at regulation size and no one has played the game before, each game goes on forever.
  • I wanted to start a movement to take croquet away from the upper class and push it as working class entertainment, but a friend told me "It's not like the upper class are doing much with it anyway."

The next event was the McClure Radish festival. McClure OH is apparently the radish capital of the world. I've been trying to go to this festival for years, but something always comes this year, I refused to miss it. What did I learn here?

  • When you've been trying to go to something for several years, expectations tend to rise.
  • When an event charges $6/person admission, expectations rise further.
  • Unfortunately, an event called a "radish festival" at the "radish capital of the world" should, one would expect, have radishes involved. This, however, is not necessarily the case.
  • Every festival apparently has to have a tent with beer sales (usually a crappy domestic) bought with tickets rather than cash, some really mediocre band playing a weird pop/polka hybrid, and ugly dancing people. Unfortunately, this was all they had at this one.
  • The only radishes they had were in trash cans scattered around the tent, and were first come, first served. Whenever these cans would be refilled, there was a pretty funny scrum between old ladies rushing to fill bread bags full of them...I guess they have to live off radishes.
  • I shouldn't expect much of a festival when I don't even like the celebrated food, but I do anyway.
  • My life is full of stupid disappointments.

(my friend Andy has some cool photos of RadishFest here)

The final event was the Whitehouse Cherry festival. This one puzzled me, because I didn't even know we grew cherries up here, and I'm pretty sure that if we did, they wouldn't be in season yet. But it was still educational.

  • There were cherries here...but they were mostly canned, dried, and in desert stuff. So apparently, you definitively don't have to have any of your festival's namesake in a fresh form.
  • Carnie rides are sometimes powered by old tractors.
  • You can put together a cover band where no one likes the same kind of music and still be successful. The one at this fest had a guitar player who obviously wanted to be in a death metal band even though they were playing stuff like "Hang On Sloopy."
  • Metal beer bottles may be practical, but they are still silly.

(cherry festival photos again courtesy of Andy)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

more mixology

Boredom and general summer had caused me to create another customized beverage. I call this "the summer vacation":

  • four ice cubes in a pint glass
  • 1 1/2" to 2" vodka
  • a splash of triple sec
  • fill up 1/2 of the remainder with cranberry/something juice
  • top off with soda water
  • stir, add stupid garnishes, wear shorts, contemplate sleeping in late

Monday, June 09, 2008

partytime in a small town

It's the time of the year the good boys and girls of Northwest Ohio look forward to all year long. Yes, this weekend is the 27th Annual McClure Radish Festival! Party!

I will be going if at all possible. Actually, I've been planning to go to the last several of these, but I always miss it. And it's not because I'm a radish fan. Actually, I hate the things. However, you gotta love an event held in honor of something people normally think so little of...and the fact that it's the highlight of the town's social calendar.

McClure has signs up that claim they are the radish capital of America. I will go to verify their claims and report back. It's my duty.

anniversary (of a sort)

My web-surfing blog, interwub postcards just hit post number 100...but if you're one of the two people who read that blog, you know this already.

Friday, June 06, 2008

victory! sweet victory!

About an hour ago, I finally submitted my New Orleans essay to a journal. I've been working on this sucker for roughly 20 months. I am pleased.

Now, if only the journal is equally pleased. The only real thing that worries me is there is a chance they might ask me to shave a good 1,000 words from it. Eeek.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

a good excuse to close windows

I was sitting at my computer, getting ready to work (okay, I was playing Tetris), when I realized that I'd been hearing some weird noise for the last fifteen minutes. It was a weird swirling sound with what resembled high-pitched screams buried within. Honestly, I was beginning to suspect someone nearby was playing a horror film a bit too loud.

It started to puzzle me, and the mystery was very distracting (although not as much as Tetris). Suddenly, it dawned on me...I'm just 2 blocks from a slaughter house! They must've just received a fresh load of pigs!

Ah, the joys of living in Bowling Green.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Lucas, leave us alone

(warning: here there be spoilers)

In my continuing effort to avoid doing the piles of work I plan to hit over the summer, I went this afternoon to see the new Indiana Jones movie. I did not have high hopes. Most people I know claimed it was dreadful (in language too obscene to print here), and the one person I know who liked it, well, he also liked the Star Wars prequels...and even he said it was more like Temple of Doom than the others, which made me both question his judgment and whimper a little inside.

Bottom line? If my review here scares one person away from watching this travesty of a movie, I will have done my job.

Don't get me wrong. The movie did have a few entertaining parts and was, I suppose, technically well-constructed. And if this were not an Indiana Jones movie, I might be more apt to forgive its flaws. Also, I fully admit that I went into this with heightened expectations to which the movie could never live up. However, it was, all things considered, dreadful and repulsive. What's interesting to me, though, was that the dread is mostly philosophical on my part.

George Lucas has a habit of killing his creations: The Star Wars prequels prove that, and when someone described the sequel to American Graffiti (called, creatively enough, More American Graffiti), that one apparently fits the bill as well. At first, I thought this was because Lucas hates his fans and wants to crush them whenever possible.

After seeing Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, however I have a better answer: Lucas has lost all faith in God.

We go from Hindi gods in Temple (the first movie chronologically) to the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders to the Holy Grail in Last Crusade aliens? Really? That's just silly...but it leads to all kinds of silly stuff like psychic KGB agents, crystal alien skeletons, said aliens as archaeologists, the alien mothership destroying the Inca temple at the end before going into another dimension, and so forth. Furthermore, what would seeing alien technology do to Indy's faith? After all, he also has definitive proof that God exists via the ark and grail.

Star Wars fans, though, saw this one coming...they had the Force changed from a spiritual entity that surrounds and connects all living beings in the original movie to nanite-esque symboitic organisms in the prequels.

And in this movie, you need some faith, because a Lucas world is clearly not one where logic operates all that much.

There's lotsa scientific stupidity in this film. Giant two inch man-eating ants? That carry you back to their hive? Anyone living after one of the waterfall jumps, let alone all three? Indy surviving a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator...even if it were lead-lined (and why would that be in a blasting range?)?

Plot holes: Why did Jones get not only reinstated at his University but promoted to Assistant Dean? If he was being watched by the FBI, why did they let him fly to South America? Why did the government suddenly quit caring about him? It's not like they saw him defeat the evil commies...or, more accurately, the resurrected alien's spacecraft drown them.

Just plain puzzling moments: Why did they bring up the anti-red scare stuff, then bring in actual KGB agents, and then drop the theme? Is this anti-red scare or not? Also, is he a teacher or secret agent? Why did he trust Mac a second time after the Area 51 betrayal?

There were some good moments in the film...the reunion with Miriam Ravenwood was cool, and the obligatory chase scene through the jungle was well done. And, as a first for a Lucas film, I didn't want to strangle the young/cute cast addition. But these just highlighted how awful the rest of this film was.

Overall, though, this film didn't just make me horrifically angry. It did, however, make me question my own whether I will ever see another George Lucas film again.

Monday, June 02, 2008

'tis the season for unconsciousness

This morning, two good friends left after a long weekend marvelous friend defended a doctoral dissertation, and the partner accompanied for moral support and drinking opportunities. Since both are dear friends and readers of this blog, the spousal unit and I opened up our house to them...and they repaid our kindness by bringing Old Style 30s and by refraining from trashing casa DuBose.

Somewhere in the visit, however, I got an e-mail from another friend. He's moving away at the end of the summer and wants to go out and drink this week. I told him that I could be persuaded to agree.

Later, I received an e-mail from another friend. Him and his spousal unit are coming for a BG visit (not sure why, but whenever anyone talks about a BG visit, I always think of the line from Bull Durham: "People who leave the Carolina League don't come back"). Of course, we will get together, socialize, and inevitably drink.

What does this all mean? With friend 1 and 2's visit, there was consumption on last Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. I go back to bar for friend 3 this Tuesday. Then starting Thursday, I have drinking with friends 4 and 5.

I like seeing good friends. I like socializing. I enjoy a beer or twelve. However, I doubt that I will be tremendously coherent come next week.

The dangers of summertime, I guess.

where's my gub'ment handout?

Today, I finally got my welfare check. You know, the thing that our glorious leaders call the 2008 Economic Stimulus check? By any other name, though, it's welfare, but our glorious leader (yes, the repeated Boris & Natasha reference is on purpose) cannot call it that and still think of himself as a conservative...although when you think of it, anyone who expands government, starts two wars, and increases government intrusion into the lives of citizens (thanks, Patriot Act) cannot really be conserving anything.

End soap box moment.

Anyway, I've been thinking of the best ways to spend our welfare check. Part of me wants to follow some great liberal stereotype. Why not? I've felt like a stereotypical liberal waiting for the damn thing to arrive ("where's my free money?"), but it would be more fun to use it to induce a stereotypically racially-other welfare mother to not get a job or something like that. However, I really didn't get that much money. What other options exist? I thought about hookers and blow, but that's more Republican than Democrat, isn't it?

Ideally, I would like to donate it to some worthy charity. Hell, I'm of the mind that instead of cutting everyone a check, we should've used the money to build solid levees around New Orleans or maybe even houses. This would've stimulated the economy and done some good at the same time, but I guess my government thought that landlords, gas station owners, and other elites needed a few c-notes more than did the devastated Katrina survivors.

In the end, though, I'm probably not going to do anything more fun than satiate my own creditors. Oh well...poverty wins out over idealism.