Wednesday, November 5, 2008


One day you'll have to explain to your kids why yesterday mattered as much as it did. With time you may need to be reminded why even some Republican pundits got teary-eyed. It's much more than just white liberal guilt. That guilt has a source, and that source has to be remembered. Some of it still has yet to be addressed.

I found this clip online of Kenneth Clark interviewing James Baldwin some time in the 1960's. I think it provides an important perspective on what happened last night and why all those popping champagne bottles were absolutely justified. But it also provides some perspective on the daunting amount of work still to be done in the area of justice and equality with regards to all people. Baldwin fit into more than one disenfranchised demographic, and his words here on how to look at radical movements (specifically radical Islam, although not the kind we yap about these days) are just as relevant--and just as ignored--as they were then. It's a devastating and beautiful interview.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Second Coming.

There's a pseudo-religious fervor that has gripped this election and it scares me a bit. The last eight years and the economic crisis have given much of the current discourse a certain tinge of the apocalyptic, so that we can cast our vote for assigning one man the the title of messiah. Looking forward to the moment when the the curtain goes up and the savior is exposed as a mere human, one must wonder what we have in store.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What's my name?

Republicans are obviously all about the working class. But the proletariat don't know what's good for them, and since the labor-oriented pick of Sarah Palin for VP candidate didn't exactly energize working people nationwide, McCain needed a new saint. Now Joe the Plumber, archetype for the politically-manufactured myth of right-leaning American labor, has turned out to be less than a godsend for McCain's campaign. The solution? More Joes. Except they're not all Joe, and they're not all plumbers. That's because diversifying the catalog of working heroes will get us all onboard when we see how much we can relate to somebody on McCain's generic job list of supporters.

I mean, we all know that McCain has the votes of plumbers, moose hunters, and naughty librarians locked down. Now the challenge is to get everyone else. So we are gradually being introduced to Jane the Engineer, Tom the Carpenter, Bill the Electrician, Bob the Builder, Oscar the Grouch, and so on. That's not a joke, it's actually what the McCain camp now considers appropriate content for oratory and political discourse (well, Oscar the Grouch is a joke, but his opinion doesn't matter--motherfucker's probably on welfare, and you know what Mama Palin says: now is no time to be experimenting with socialism!).

Listening to these speeches one gets the sense that the Straight Talk Express is now run by mediocre schoolchildren doing a group project on their weekly vocabulary word, "vocation." They make two columns, then start picking names to go with jobs. But, not wanting to sound like nerds, they actually make a concerted effort to produce the most banal lists possible. So for one column they come up with "plumber, painter, electrician, mechanic, janitor, nurse, secretary." In the other column they list "Joe, Jim, John, Sally, Harold (not Harold, that sounds professorial--Harry), Peggy, and Frank." Draw lines connecting names to professions and you've got yourself a Republican populist litany of saints.

The trick is to be as unoriginal as possible. By aiming for the generic you supposedly cast a wider net and eventually bring in all those faceless, nameless people who can relate to your faceless, generically named examples. But it's not working, maybe because all those nameless and faceless folks really do have names and faces. Maybe it took them eight years, but they've finally figured out that the candidate you want to have a beer with isn't always the guy that should run the nation. Maybe people don't want economic analysis from an unlicensed plumber.

So as I lament the realization that Sarah the Hockey Mom will probably never give a shout-out to Brian the Grad Student, it occurs to me that--for uniqueness and elitism, respectively--one name and one profession could never, ever be in John McCain's canon. And since Joe the Plumber hasn't succeeded in warming us to John the Maverick, maybe it's time we lend our ears (and votes) to Barack the President.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rock the vote?

From The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, a few terms to keep in mind over the next few weeks:

A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.
The greased pig in the field game of American politics.
The leading figure in a small group of men of whom -- and of whom only -- it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for President.
  If that's an honor surely 'tis a greater
   To have been a simple and undamned spectator.
   Behold in me a man of mark and note
   Whom no elector e'er denied a vote! --
   An undiscredited, unhooted gent
   Who might, for all we know, be President
   By acclimation.  Cheer, ye varlets, cheer --
   I'm passing with a wide and open ear!
Jonathan Fomry

Friday, September 26, 2008

This is not an academic blog.

This morning I held the first session of the class I'll be teaching this quarter: Writing 39B, Critical Reading and Rhetoric--Class, Poverty, and the American Dream. Contrary to the barrage of horror stories we were fed in training, I found it a rather pleasant experience. These wide-eyed freshmen were sweet, polite, organized, receptive. They gave thoughtful answers to my questions and listened attentively when I explained to them why critical reading and rhetorical analysis matter.

By the end of the hour I had, on one hand, the sense that everything would be alright; the quarter was off to a good start. On the other hand, I was a bit irked by our preparation: why hadn't we been prepped more about logistics, policy and procedure, rather than spending so much time in teaching workshops training ourselves to think of our students as a herd of fundamentalist sheep out to destroy their leftist instructors? Sure, UCI's undergradute population is rather conservative, but why spend so much time talking about it--actually preparing for it with no little trepidation--prior to entering the classroom?

I was giving voice to these thoughts with my roommate this evening at the In-N-Out near campus when we were distracted by the following exchange taking place between two UCI undergrads just to my left:
Young Lady #1: Yeah, I thought about that, because it's like, Sarah Palin has a whole bunch of kids. And she just had a baby with Down Syndrome, so I just don't think she should be trying to take on that job right now. I mean, she can't really do that job, right?

Young lady #2: Well yeah, but that's not even why Democrats don't like her. They don't like her because, like, they're liberals. And, like, liberals don't believe in God.
I would like to thank these two for making me look like an idiot. For the record, I still have some faith in my students. More faith, apparently, than I do in God.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Small world.

Over a year ago (July 28, 2007) I found myself in an enviable position: having joined a friend on a cross-country drive from Brooklyn to Oakland, I was given the opportunity to take in both days of the Rock the Bells hip-hop festival from onstage in Randall's Island, NY. During Wu-Tang Clan's first day set, I clicked the following photo:

I realize it's a terrible shot, but it was taken merely as a souvenir of where I stood during an incredible show. There were quite a few people onstage at the time, several of whom appeared to be professional photographers and individuals with press passes. I was rather shocked just to be there, and didn't exactly jostle for position when it came to taking pictures. A few days ago, during some random clicking that stemmed from a search for who knows what, I came across the Flickr album of a photographer who apparently stood a few feet to my left and captured a much better shot of the same moment:

photo credit: "Undisputed Wes"

I don't have anything terribly interesting to say about this. I just got a kick out of it.

Thinking locally.

A seventeen year-old boy was shot and killed last week in north Artesia (also known by its gang territory eponym, "Chivas") riding his bike at 1 am under the 91 freeway overpass, a spot I've drunkenly stumbled through countless times on my way home from hotel parties. There's plenty of unsavory activity going on around there much of the time, but I've never actually had problems. Of course, it's rather obvious that I'm not in a gang. By all indications, this poor kid unfortunately had some gang associations even though he wasn't a member. He "looked like" a gangster, which is to say that he dressed the part. It seems he would probably have eventually outgrown that madness if he'd survived, but he rode his bike at the wrong time and was caught up in a rough spot when someone from somewhere else was on the prowl.

Just like that. Candles, crosses, flowers and metallic balloons in a morbid little bunch under the overpass, right under the spot where homeless people piss. A boy died there.

When we moved to Artesia (1988) a fifteen year-old was murdered in gang violence right around the corner from our house. Things like that happened pretty often for a few years, then it calmed down. Apparently it's picking up again (economic patterns neatly parallel the ebb and flow). Still, for the most part, Artesia's a really nice place to live. Even back when that fifteen year-old was shot, most parts of Artesia were perfectly safe to walk around in at night. They wouldn't usually bug you unless you were from another gang.

Yet to watch local news coverage right now is to think that Artesia is crawling with murderous thugs. North Artesia especially is a bloodbath. There's a subtext to every local TV station report that paints the people under and around the freeway as savages. This image really bothered a relative of mine, not for the sake of the north side but for the city's reputation as a whole. "They're making Artesia sound like some crazy, dangerous place," he complained. "Like it's Watts or something." I asked if it had ever occurred to him that maybe he only thinks of Watts that way because the news coverage of Watts has always been just like it is right now for Artesia. "Oh, well, yeah maybe," he replied, "but you know what I mean."

Yeah. I know what you mean. (...sigh...)

Friday, August 15, 2008

"Where are we going, Walt Whitman?"

I hate Ed Hardy clothing. Tattoos belong on bodies, not on t-shirts. Ninety-dollar price tags don’t belong on t-shirts either, especially ugly ones. And rhinestones don’t belong anywhere. I don’t care what a pioneer Don Ed Hardy is in the tattooing world, the designs that grace Christian Audigier’s Ed Hardy clothing line are co-opted counterculture clichés swallowed and regurgitated in a gaudy attempt to cash in on the fantastically hypothetical intersection of hipsters and ‘roid monkeys. How such a strategy can possibly work is way beyond me; but then again, of late overwhelming confusion has become my standard reaction to the shopping mall anyway.
I had not set foot in an indoor shopping mall in a while, and on my last two or three visits I made a beeline for a specific shop, bought what I needed and got the hell out. I don’t like those places. It just turns out that I had to shop a bit this time around, so I got to take it in and I must admit that—much to my dismay—I had a reaction akin to old men whining about the world going to hell in a handbasket.
Since the last time I spent a significant amount of time in the Cerritos Mall, a shop has sprung up dedicated to rhinestone and sequin-encrusted clothing of the Ed Hardy variety. Along with outlandishly expensive distressed v-necks and ridiculous belt buckles, the place must turn a hefty profit if it sells anything, since there is no way that any product in the store costs more than five bucks to make, despite their astronomical price tags. A few doors down, there is a shop apparently (based on a quick look at the front at least) dedicated solely to Hannah Montana merchandise. There’s a place that sells body creams that reek of hard candy melted onto vinyl car seats and incubated in 110 degree heat. “Young lady” sections at the tops of department store escalators where the “women” sections used to be, kiosks selling belt buckles and enormous sunglasses run by young teenage girls in translucent white shorts so that you can see exactly what their underwear look like, obese kids with obese parents waddling to and from five or six different ice cream shops (mind you, this is not a huge mall), bad music blasting from every glaringly-lit and brightly-colored corner, and suddenly the realization that I’ve done a lap around the entire mall without finding what I want because if it’s there it’s hidden. The mall isn’t mine. Nobody above the age of eighteen appears to even have buying power in this place—I’m in a playground, a cafeteria, a…well, a shopping mall. Of course, the mall has always been for teenagers, and even as a teenager I disliked it. This realization at least serves to disabuse me of the idea that I’ve completely morphed into more of a curmudgeon than I’ve ever been.
Still, there is something different about the mall I saw on this trip. Kids don’t use cash. Very young kids dress as though they’re much older and act as though they’re much younger than they are. They don’t loiter in the public areas of the mall like they used to either—they shop, or at least hang out inside the stores, while adults linger on the benches outside sipping on mocha frappuccinos. And there’s so much more useless shit. The kiosks—my God, the kiosks! Do we need an entire cart dedicated to selling different colored glasses like the ones Kanye West used in the “Stronger” video? Do we really? Lingerie and hair-waxing establishments burst with pre-pubescent girls while video game shops cater almost exclusively to grown men. Where did all these kids get the money and where did all these adults get the time?
At one end of the mall there’s a skylight, under which people lounge on benches encircling some plants. The skylight used to be open, and people used to smoke underneath it. I remember when I was a little kid, there was a distinct mall smell that seemed to come from this very spot. It was a mix of fast food, floor cleaner and cigarette smoke—that was the smell of the mall.
The cigarette smoke disappeared when the California smoking ban took effect in the late eighties or early nineties, right around the time that our school district’s test scores made real estate prices explode in the area formerly known as Dairy Valley, which led to an influx of upper middle-class folks with more expendable income, resulting in the building of more shopping centers that then took over the role of providing places like Ross and Target, allowing the mall to focus on cornering more trendy markets for people with money to spend—money that they’re no longer spending on cigarettes.
I guess we’ve got to let our kids get addicted to something, but I wonder if all this crap is any less hazardous than Joe Camel's wares.
Oh, and speaking of expensive trends: don't blame the

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

An innocent game of cards.

John McCain’s camp has recently injected life into its campaign by running two shamelessly crass ads that question—with no substance at all—whether Barack Obama is fit to lead. And when I say no substance, I mean just that: none.
“The One,” which would have the Christian Right burning Obama in effigy had it come from his campaign, doesn’t even aspire to a level of bullshit befitting a general election. In one minute and fourteen seconds of what looks like a public access channel’s reminder that trash pickup procedure has changed, the ad says nothing about Obama’s policies and only mentions McCain to let us know who paid for the commercial. My favorite part is when it quotes Obama making fun of the very type of ad in which the quote is being shown to demonstrate his arrogance—that is, unless we’re to believe that Obama honestly told a crowd that the clouds would open up and God would demand that we vote for him. Hmm…
Then, of course, there’s the furor over “Celeb,” which has even inspired a rebuttal by Princess Hilton herself. This one at least takes some shots at Obama’s energy policy and his alleged pledge to raise taxes. It stretches the truth, of course—Obama plans to repeal Bush’s tax cuts and raise taxes on the richest two percent of Americans, not raise taxes across the board—but at least it tells big league lies and delivers them with somewhat better production value than its Old Testament cousin. The gist of the commercial: Obama’s just another pretty face, but his fiscal and energy policies are unreasonable. Thus he is not fit to lead.
As for McCain’s decision to lampoon the daughter of big name donors (the Hiltons have donated the maximum $4,600 to his campaign), well, some might say it bespeaks a lack of honor, but that’s just crazy talk. The man’s a veteran! A former POW! How dare we question his integrity? He’s just tough as nails, and these soy-latte-drinking Hollywood types better just deal with it! Because he’s a real man! Like us! Fine, fine, but I’ll tell you what: he ain’t like me or anyone I grew up with. I’m not married to a multi-millionaire brewing heiress, I don’t wear $500 shoes, and I’ve never courted those Hollywood types or media folk by whom McCain seemingly feels so jilted. Or perhaps we’re supposed to have forgotten that McCain was himself a media darling admired by celebrities not too long ago. Maybe he’s sad that he never got to take those shoes to the Playboy Mansion.
So, ignoring the whole “celeb” portion of the ad, how about the bit that touches on Obama’s energy policy? How irresponsible, really, is it for a presidential candidate to oppose offshore drilling during an energy crisis? The overwhelming majority of discourse on the topic would have us believe that the answer to this question relies on whether you place greater value on the environment or on the economy, but that is a deceptive move.
The assumption that offshore drilling would significantly lower the price of gas hinges on the mistaken (and, frankly, ridiculous) supposition that somehow that oil will be reserved for domestic use and that oil companies will not use it to capitalize on the exploding demand for oil in China and India. One need only look at Exxon-Mobil’s recent reporting of record profits—followed by a buyout of $8 billion of its own stocks as a cash reward to shareholders—to decide whether oil companies are so altruistic. Of course, they have their moments of charity. For example, as soon as McCain changed his stance on offshore drilling (surprise! He was against it once!), his campaign received $1.1 million in donations from oil companies that had previously given him next to nothing. The truth is that offshore drilling will provide a drop in the ocean of the world’s oil supply, providing increased profits to oil companies with little benefit to consumers and plenty of taxpayer-funded cleanup in the future.
Of course, it’s politically efficacious to cite the most simplistic version of supply and demand in order to get Americans on the side of producing more, more, more, and so of course polls now show over sixty percent of our countrymen/women calling for increased drilling. In response to this wave of support for a bad idea, Obama has shifted his stated views, cautiously floating the notion of maybe drilling in the future.
Flip-flop? Well, sure, if we’re to utilize such idiotic terms, then yes, I suppose this adheres to the definition of a, um, flip-flop. And a purely political one at that (as they all are). That’s a godsend for the Republican talk machine, since they can tarnish Obama’s golden boy image, but does anyone besides the Republicans really see a halo around Obama’s head?
I for one have plenty of complaints about Obama’s imperfections and can identify purely political causes for most of them. For starters, I don’t like ethanol as our primary choice for an alternative fuel, but I also understand that without pushing that button Obama would have had a very difficult time getting a key primary victory in Iowa. I don’t like that Obama passed up an opportunity to critique Israeli policy, choosing instead to run the same old tired lines about Israeli-American solidarity that nobody should even be questioning by now, but of course he was already having problems with the Jewish community. I don’t care for any politician that brings God into the campaign, but a homosexual Wiccan would probably have a better chance of winning the White House than an atheist, so the man’s got to prove his spiritual mettle.
Obama’s not perfect, but every dubious stance he takes is matched tenfold by John McCain and aimed at getting elected. I voted Nader in 2000 on principle, and frankly never felt too guilty about it—but this is another ballgame altogether, and McCain’s continuation of the Bush era scares me to death.
Besides, McCain’s record isn’t free of flipping or flopping. Just to run down a quick list:
-The “maverick” McCain opposed offshore drilling before the presidential candidate McCain favored it.
-McCain opposed ethanol and now favors it.
-McCain opposed Bush’s tax cuts, and now supports them.
-McCain now opposes the campaign finance reforms that he brought to the table with so much fanfare a few years ago.
-Remember when McCain was absolutely opposed to any form of torture? Yeah, me too.
-McCain once criticized Bush for visiting the notoriously racist and anti-Catholic Bob Jones University—now, he’s open to visiting the place himself.
-McCain was pro-choice, but has since gone pro-life (just in time, too!)
-McCain fought tooth and nail to prevent Arizona from celebrating the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. Now? Well, that would just be political suicide.
But we can’t bring that up, because then we’re “playing the race card.”
That most toxic of all hands to be dealt, the race card, is obviously the domain of Barack Obama. At least that’s what McCain would have us believe. This came about because, in response to the aforementioned McCain ads, Obama remarked that his opponent would try to paint him as different-looking, with a funny name and nothing in common with the average voter. McCain’s rebuttal is to accuse Obama of focusing on race. But is Obama the one that brought race into the arena? And is he wrong in his characterization of McCain’s ads?
My answer to both questions would be a resolute “no.” The truth is that, devoid of any substance, McCain’s ads play strictly on the notion that many people look at Barack Obama and think him less “presidential” than McCain, more arrogant, more entitled, more elitist, more “Other.” McCain’s ads, especially “The One,” ask nothing more of Obama than “who the hell does he think he is?” And who does Obama think he is? A senator that opposed an unpopular war, a constitutional law professor at a time when the Constitution suffers daily assaults, a community organizer with a history of championing the poor and the middle class, a politician who has driven low-minded opponents to sheer exasperation by his lack of “dirt”? How did this activist for the downtrodden get painted as an elitist? What exactly makes a tireless worker who made good on the opportunities afforded him automatically don the label of entitlement? What has he done that makes him more arrogant than his temperamental opponent?
A couple of days ago David Gergen—a moderate analyst who has advised the administrations of Ford, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton—put McCain’s strategy in no uncertain terms:
I think the McCain campaign has been scrupulous about not directly saying it, but it's the subtext of this campaign. Everybody knows that. There are certain kinds of signals. As a native of the south, I can tell you, when you see this Charlton Heston ad, “The One,” that's code for, “he's uppity, he ought to stay in his place.” Everybody gets that who is from a southern background. We all understand that.
So who really played the “race card” in this recent dustup? Obama may have come closer to identifying it, but he was simply identifying his opponent’s strategy. In fact, the McCain camp knew all along who its audience in these ads was: those same folks that can’t stand to see a black man act “uppity,” those same folks for whom it matters that Obama’s middle name is Hussein, those same folks that have no time for substance and so rely on a centuries-old foundation of prejudice to inform their opinions. When analysts say Obama may not appeal to white blue collar voters, it’s because he’s black. Soccer moms? He’s black. Nascar dads? He’s black. Latinos? He’s black. Elderly Jews? He’s black and kind of Muslim-ish. There are plenty of reasons for McCain’s supporters to not vote for Obama, of course, but the recent ads address nothing so effectively as pure, ignorant xenophobia.
If that sounds too simplistic then I urge you to take a look at those ads and tell me if there’s anything about them that indicates an attempt at sophistication. The dirty work is done. McCain need not directly soil his hands, because the message is out. As the “Straight Talk Express” rolls on to engage proactive voters, ads like “Celeb” and “The One” will continue to appeal to the basest impulses of the less-informed.
Fortunately, I think, we live in a nation that has at least changed enough to not capitulate entirely to such a horrific plan of attack. Still, there is blood in the water, and I do believe I hear the sound of Swift Boats on the horizon.
illustration by Lukas Ketner

Monday, August 4, 2008

"...words from the heavy set..."

The last blog I put up was posted at 3:32 this morning. Had I been more lucid I would not likely have typed it the way that I did. I certainly wouldn't have admitted to ogling a stripper that went to my high school, but hey, that's how it goes when you can't sleep.

I was up, I think, because of allergies. I haven't the slightest clue what I'm allergic to, but for a week now something has been causing me to sneeze and cough throughout the night and then wake up with a sore throat in the morning. Yesterday one of my coughs was apparently a bit past my throat's limit, causing irritation that resulted in a pretty bad coughing fit that didn't let up until around 5 am.

It was around 8 pm when I got home from the Chariot Festival and I was exhausted. I was thrilled by the prospect of getting to bed early and being productive. I was going to get a full night's sleep and wake up at six. I was going to go to the gym (belly's going soft), I was going to do quite a bit of reading, I was going to type something thoughtful on here about the recent uproar over Obama "playing the race card." But I didn't sleep. I coughed. I got up and typed a blog about Venice Beach. I tried to sleep, but just coughed more. I gargled hot water with salt, drank chamomile tea, tried sleeping sitting up.

I woke this morning with a swollen throat, having slept about three hours. I paid my rent, and I've been a zombie ever since. So now I'm turning my phone off and hoping that tomorrow I can be a real human being again.

Jesus Freaks vs. Typical Garden Variety Freaks, or, The Joys of Late Capitalism.

Saturday night checked out the Orange County Fair and, while standing in line, saw a woman that went to my high school. She was a few years older than me, although I think she had a brother my age. If memory serves me correctly, she used to dance at a "gentleman's club." She's stunningly attractive.

It's difficult to overstate how crazy the fair is, with its deep-fried everything (avocadoes, Twinkies, Snickers, Oreos, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, battered potatoes, etc.), its enormous livestock (worth the $1, believe it or not--they're really big), and its orgy of gaudy lighting in every rusted corner. I love it. The highlight for me is always seeing people make their way through crowds wielding outlandish prizes. One guy had a five-foot tall blue plaid Scooby Doo doll, another deftly balanced two mountain bikes while giving directions to his kids, who led the way excitedly. Both men had the same look on their faces, a sheepish mix of accomplishment and practical dilemma: does a giant stuffed dog fit in the car?

Sunday was still more interesting: the Chariot Festival of Venice Beach, which celebrates Lord Krishna's return to Vrindaban. Having grown up a couple of blocks from the stretch known as "Little India," I can't say that I've ever felt like my life has any lacunae in need of being filled by experiencing Hindu festivals, but this one definitely looked like something new: basically, two flatbed trucks are decked out lavishly in colorful, florid patterns and adorned with statues, pictures, etc. Then a ceremony is held around the floats, and an entire festival--food vendors, ethnic performances and the like--takes place in the general vicinity.

Had I thought more about the thing, I may have factored in the location. I'm glad I didn't, as the surprise provided for half the fun of the experience.

Upon arriving, the people we met told us right away that the Indian food served at the festival was terrible and we'd better get something to eat at another place. So I had a gyro. It wasn't very good, but not terrible. Then we proceeded to the site of the festival, which was literally only what I've described: two decorated flatbed trucks (I should note, they were very well-decorated), a stage where a group of young girls performed a very impressive traditional dance, and lots of shops selling everything from authentic Indian fare to New Age-y trinkets to Bob Marley t-shirts. For the first twenty minutes I saw many Hare Krishnas, countless women in saris, but not one person of Indian descent. It was essentially a gathering of old hippies and Phish-heads.

We did finally run across a contingent of “real” Indians, all gathered together sitting on a little knoll, apparently as bemused by the spectacle as we were. In front of them, somewhere in between Govinda’s International Imports and the Hawaiian Shaved Ice stand, a tall Caucasian man painted blue calmly explained Vishnu’s virtues to an apparent skeptic. Back near the boardwalk, stationed in front of another float under the watchful eye of the police, three men held signs high in the air condemning us all to hell for defying God and Jesus, while their associate yelled through a bullhorn that “You should be eating cows, not worshipping them!” While I was clicking a photo of him, he picked on a Hare Krishna adherent standing next to me and bellowed, “Does grass have a soul?” Then without letting the guy answer, continued, “The tents you’ve erected today are sitting on grass! You’re hurting the grass, you hypocrites!” As we left the scene I could hear him work up to a fever pitch and yell, “God hates you all and will send you all to hell, because you’re a nation of homo lovers. That’s right! You’re all nothing but a bunch of homo lovers!” This was met with uproarious laughter and even some applause from the crowd.

We proceeded down the boardwalk to find a spot on the beach. A guy in a turban with a visor pulled over it rode rollerblades and played the electric guitar. Aspiring rappers attempted to sell their CDs to passersby. Booths along the way sold a rendition of Shepard Fairey’s iconic Obama poster that substituted the Rasta color scheme for the red, white and blue. Caricature artists, tattooists, calligraphers, blown glass, tongue whistles, fortune tellers, body builders, well-trained pit bulls, the "Venice Beach Freak Show."

Following some time spent soaking up UV rays on the sand, and after two or three beers at a nearby bar, we headed back through it all one more time on the way out. Close to the scene of the festival, an Indian family—mother, father, one child, one set of grandparents—sat bewildered on a bench in front of a head shop watching people shop for bongs as a woman stood out front distributing cards and yelling, “Medical marijuana, upstairs! Come see the doctor!” In the spot where we had all been condemned to hell’s eternal flames, three men still stood with signs, but they had no vociferous spokesman and their signs read “SURFING! SKATES! BIKES!” and “SUNGLASSES! $5!”

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shake your moneymaker.

Today's earthquake was one of the biggest I've felt in a long time, but definitely not panic-worthy. It actually provided an inexplicable thrill, maybe due to the fact that I haven't felt one that big in so long, yet without the sheer terror that accompanied the 1994 Northridge Quake. The automatic instinct after an earthquake is to go outside and see if--well, I'm not sure what people go outside to see, but they end up finding each other out there, briefly discussing objects that teetered ominously on the shelf, and then going back in the house to call family and turn on the local news. Upon stepping outside, I was disappointed to see that nobody in my building felt like observing the time-honored post-earthquake block party tradition. The television did not let me down, though, faithfully displaying the needle that still hopped around reminding us that tectonic plates never stop moving, as if to say, "This isn't over yet." Then for the rest of the day there were the standard shots of schools, brick walls, and shiny supermarket aisles littered with fallen merchandise. Still, aftershocks and speculations of "the Big One" notwithstanding, this one appears to be over.

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer actually seemed disappointed by this. I guess now that Obama's back in America and McCain has yet to choose a running-mate the election just doesn't have the same punch it did a week ago, so as they covered major news stories around the world CNN for some time maintained a split screen displaying a live shot of an empty podium. Eventually Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped up and Blitzer interrupted another report to hear the Governator spend a few minutes assuring Californians that everything is fine before moving on to address questions about the state's budget problems.

Serves CNN right for expecting so much with so little sensationalism. The local stations--now those guys can squeeze water from a stone. You don't see Anderson Cooper in a Honda dealership pointing out weather sealing strips falling from the windows and staff moving the merchandise to safety "in record time." I bet nobody at CNN even knows what the previous world record was for moving Hondas out of a showroom.

photo: Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) sunshiny day."

Walking home from the optometrist today I changed course and hung a quick left at Pereira to head for Albertson's. Just because I could see. It felt a bit silly to be so awestruck by contact lenses--not exactly a new technology--but I've never had them, so it was a big deal. I could see, and there was no sliding a frame back up my nose, no sweating on and then wiping off the lens. Just walking to the supermarket, seeing things, stupidly amazed.

It occurred to me at some point that I've become more timid as my vision has worsened. This is actually good news, as lately I've found myself worrying that graduate school is ruining my personality. As it turns out, it's only ruining my vision.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Call me, Ishmael. (Hey! Ishmael! Call me, bro.)

This weekend I went to a bar in Long Beach with a few friends from the English program. On our way into the Auld Dubliner, I spotted my second cousin (also named Brian) in another bar and text-messaged him to come and meet us at the Dubliner. About an hour later he and some of his friends--nearly all people with whom I'm acquainted--joined us. One of these, a guy that I have not seen in about a year, had two very different reactions to seeing me. The first was expected: he pulled my hair. I had a shaved head the last time we met, so he was not prepared for my disheveled locks. The second reaction came as a bit of a surprise, as he happily slapped me on the back and yelled, "Hey! Call me Ishmael!"

"Call me Ishmael." Is there is a more recognizable opening line in the English language? The occasional literary scholar for whom Moby Dick has slipped through the cracks (yes, they exist) can still identify those three words as the opening salvo of Melville's opus. I'd like to say that anyone who reads--period--is familiar with it. I imagine that this assumed recognition of what we consider to be common knowledge abounds with the potential for disappointment when confronted with those folks that, despite apparent intelligence in other areas, just don't know it.

I have never experienced this profound disappointment, but it is not due to any shortage of folks who haven't read Moby Dick. It has more to do with low expectations, stemming from the fact that I have never actually been surrounded by readers. In fact, sadly, I can't think of one lifelong friend or family member with whom I've ever been able to discuss literature. For me, reading has always been either solitary or pedagogical--if I was not reading on my own, I was learning, teaching, or even evangelizing to a non-reader.

This particularly loud Melville reference at the Auld Dubliner was the result of one of the more interesting "pedagogical" moments, one that I had long forgotten. In April of 2007 I attended the Long Beach Grand Prix with some friends. After a long day of drinking we all piled into a car (with a designated driver, of course) and headed to a restaurant managed by an old friend of mine. He and the owner had opened the place up privately for a party, and once the word got out we continued to drink late into the night. Around 2 am, with the place now empty except for the people we'd come in with (and some women we'd managed to keep interested), I got into a conversation with three or four guys about my plans for graduate school. I had just accepted admission to UCI and was explaining my interest in Hawthorne and Melville when somebody interjected, "Melville! I know that name! What did he write?"
"Moby Dick," I answered, and waited for the inevitable snickers.
"That's right! That was my dad's favorite book. I always wanted to read it, but I don't have the patience."
"You should read it," I told him. "It's a great book."

Somehow this exchange led to me quite drunkenly retelling the entire narrative of Moby Dick to four or five other well-oiled individuals on the patio of a bar. I remember stopping occasionally to tell them that if they were bored or if they wanted me to shut up I wouldn't be offended, but they wanted me to go on. Unaccustomed to people at bars having any interest whatsoever in literature, I delighted in the attention and giddily continued. Whether they were enraptured by the story itself, by my occasional self-interruptions for personal interpretation and historical context, or by my unusual enthusiasm I can't say, but when I was done they seemed to have gained a certain degree of appreciation for a novel whose value to most of them was simply that of providing a slightly dirty pun. Of course, simply telling the story (especially when drunk) is not by any means what we do, but I was just happy that someone seemed interested for once.

Still, I never expected any of those gentlemen to go out and read the book. Yet a few months later I ran into one of my captive audience members who, lo and behold, had read--and thoroughly enjoyed--the story of the white whale. I have no shame in sentimentally admitting that this filled me with pride. Furthermore, I was absolutely tickled to hear this same guy yell out that iconic opening line in a crowded bar over a year later.

Maybe this seems quaint, this thrill at having inspired someone to remember the most famous line from the most famous book of one of America's most famous writers; but to me that's something, and I think that approach will come in handy in my chosen profession. In a way we're guardians of a threatened form, one which will only survive if we can convince society at large (and that includes a world of literate illiterates) that it matters. We're literary evangelists.

So sure, it's just one book. One guy reading one book once a year. That's a start. I suppose that if we're doing anything worthwhile in this business, we're going to have to do it one book at a time anyway.

Maybe God still speaks Portuguese.

The Portuguese community in Artesia has for many years circulated a statue of Our Lady of Fatima to homes of community members for increments of a week at a time. The idea is that during that week families are to pray the rosary together. Despite its nod to devotion, such an affirmation of faith seems to me an unintended yet rather obvious acknowledgment of the failure of the very thing it aims to safeguard. That is, if we really believe, why don't we pray the rosary more often? Putting a statue in one's living room (although voluntary) practically makes devotion obligatory. That is probably the point to many, but forced devotion can't be called faith anymore than forced obedience (playing with Machiavelli here) can be called love.

The fact that I can even still pray the rosary in Portuguese is something of a source of pride despite the fact that I haven't been a practicing Catholic or praying Christian in quite some time. I was raised Catholic and served as an altar boy when I was younger; even now I must admit that I've remained more than a little enamored with the pageantry and imagery of Catholicism. Furthermore, deaths in the community (and, in a tightly-knit community such as ours, one stays updated on plenty) are always observed with a rosary, resulting in frequent opportunities to practice over the years. For me the rosary, prayed in Portuguese, has always been more of a way of remaining connected with my culture and community. Sometimes I wonder if that's disingenuous, but I do not think it's particularly unique.

It has always seemed to me that the apparition at Fatima has more significance to Portuguese people as a national event than a religious one. The Catholic Church does not mandate belief in it, and I've known people whose avid faith results in unquestioning adherence to the story of the shepherd children as told by Lucia dos Santos even as they give rational explanations for their disbelief in the apparitions at Guadalupe or Lourdes. From any skeptic's perspective, the only substantive difference between the three stories is the nation in which each takes place. So we venerate Nossa Senhora de Fatima as a matter of Portuguese pride rather than Catholic faith and, in doing so, pray the same rosary that the French pray in honor of the Lourdes sighting and Mexicans pray in honor of the Guadalupe sighting.

If I'm right about this, I suppose in a way it matters more that you remember the words than that you believe in their efficacy. There's something tragic about that realization which is not blunted for someone like myself who--even as a faithful, credulous altar boy--had severe doubts about why the hell Mary would concern herself with Soviet politics.

Getting to the point, I'm visiting my parents this weekend and they have the statue. On my way to the shower, I hear my father ask, "You want to pray the rosary with us?" Now, he can tell I don't want to; I can tell he really wants me to. "It's only ten minutes," he says. And he's right. If anything, it isn't inconvenience that bugs me but rather the creeping sense of my own disingenuousness. I sit down with them in front of the statue and my dad, almost apologetically, remarks, "Might as well. It's been here all week and we haven't even been praying." Then he proceeds to lead the rosary, occasionally stumbling over certain parts and laughing at his own mistakes.

Having personally witnessed my father's crises of faith over the years, the first thing I noted at that moment was that when I was a kid there's no way he would have chuckled in this way. He would not have likely made the little mistakes in the first place. Here again, prayer as such seemed to take the backseat: if to me it's a way of staying Portuguese, to my parents it's a way of gathering the family peacefully in one place.

Oddly enough, realizing this was a bit scandalous to me. If my parents don't fully believe, where does that leave me and my polished Portuguese-ness? For an instant I found myself the returning tourist angered that the quaint village he'd once loved had moved on and, catching myself in that sentiment, I felt ashamed. How dare I exoticize my own parents in this way? And my own culture? Shame! Yet that is (again, assuming I'm right about what really matters here) precisely what we do to ourselves with this statue, with our traditions. Exoticize our past, our culture, our ethnicity, our little blip in space and time. We Portuguese-Americans go to visit our relatives in the old country and lament the fact that nobody goes to church anymore, but it has more to do with our romanticizing of a "quaint" past than with lamenting a loss of faith.

It's patronizing and embarrassing, and yet I genuinely love my culture and its traditions. Maybe I'm a hypocrite or an impostor, but if that's so then I'm not alone. Not within the Portuguese community or any other that I may be a part of. I don't suppose any overt affirmation of a movement or belief can help but serve as a marker for its eventual downfall. Nor do I think that any tradition can help being both bastardized and sentimentalized--otherwise it would fail as a tradition. It would simply die. Then what?

Well, then you wake up in the morning and see if you still agree with what you typed after midnight the night before without giving the thing much thought. That's what.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bachelors and blackjack.

This past weekend I went to Las Vegas for a friend's bachelor party. It was probably the first time in years that we've been able to gather all "the boys" (a group that's been close since early childhood) in one place. We stayed at the Las Vegas Hilton, off the strip, taking taxis on occasion to hit the strip for gambling, eating, drinking, dancing, whatever. Vegas, my friend Carlos says, "has super powers." It's definitely got something about it that's simultaneously exhilarating and disturbing. It's a city whose function is to leave morality outside. A city where adults forget who they are, where they are, what time it is, how much money is worth. Many forget that they're married. In general we're a smart bunch, I think, and nobody got into any trouble (not counting losing a ton of money as trouble, of course). Still, it was a bachelor party. These are a whole bunch of friends that have known one another for a very long time. And this was in Vegas. Whenever I get home from Vegas I feel as though I've successfully crossed a canyon by tightrope. Then again, it turns out I'm pretty good at Blackjack--gambling, in my case, resulted in a free trip. As usual, it also resulted in weird conversation. I urge every grad student to try this: spend an entire night drinking and dancing in a Vegas night club, follow it with a few drinks at a random bar on the way out of the place that hosted the nightclub, and sit at a blackjack table sometime around 4:30 am. After a couple of complementary glasses of whiskey, strike up a conversation: it will inevitably result in "So what do you do?" Now try to explain what it is that we "do." Try to explain how your funding package works. It's really a very unique way of looking at this life we lead.
The moral of the story? None. I just came from Las Vegas, don't ask for morals.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Life in Irvine.

Today I started a capoeira class. Including myself, there were only two newbies in the class, and everyone else had been around for at least a year. That, apparently, means it was simply up to us to catch up. Watch the moves, attempt the moves, get up and try again. One of said moves was a handstand nearly identical to the ones that breakdancers do. Wooden floor. I now have a knot on my head from that one.

So following this little adventure, I decided I'd treat myself to a burger from In 'n' Out. As I waited for my food, a father and his no-older-than-eighteen year old son entered, practically yelling at one another. It didn't take much eavesdropping to figure out what was going on: Irvine dad sends his kid to college, kid develops some liberal opinions, dad gets pissed; family goes to In 'n' Out to talk it over (mom looks around in humiliation).

Kid: It's illegal to tax people? That doesn't make any sense!
Dad: It's illegal raise taxes the way Obama wants to. It's not in the Constitution. Look it up.
Kid: That doesn't make any sense! And, I mean, is the Iraq War in the Constitution?

Oddly enough, I sort of felt sorry for the dad. He wasn't some silver spoon Republican, if appearances are worth anything. Calloused hands, thick neck, dirty jacket, hunched over and tired-looking. He looked like an electrician or a washing machine repairman. Probably worked his ass off for years and just didn't like paying taxes; gets all his talking points from AM radio and Bill O'Reilly. Misguided politics notwithstanding, he reminded me of my own father (I've always been very proud of my laboring dad's informed progressivism). Eventually Mom noticed I was listening, so I averted my gaze and stared at the wall in front of me until the kid at the counter called my number so I could grab my dinner (sans tomato, because of the salmonella scare) and leave.

While eating I turned on CNN. Floods, fires, some teenagers made a pact to get pregnant, Obama's courting evangelicals and James Dobson is telling evangelicals that Obama's a phony. This prompted a panel to debate whether Dobson is right or wrong. Dobson is the one that said teaching kids about racial diversity and tolerance is a coded way of converting them to homosexuality. According to Dr. Dobson, Spongebob Squarepants is an important part of this nefarious plot. People still listen to this guy.

I have a paper to write. TV off. Back to work. Ho hum.

George Carlin, 1937-2008.

When I was fifteen years old, I volunteered at a public access television station in Artesia that catered mostly to the city’s Portuguese community. The most popular show (which still runs to this day) was a three hour-long Portuguese language program hosted by a middle-aged blind man with a seductive baritone voice and a bottomless store of mother-in-law jokes. One day Manuel Ivo, sitting bolt upright with his shade-covered gaze fixed just above my head as always, told me that his neighbor was moving out and had given him a stack of records that he didn’t want to store. “I don’t want them either,” he told me. “Come over and see if there’s anything you’d like.” Long story short: there was plenty that I liked. This vinyl collection ranged from the absurd (“Nilsson Schmillson” and the soundtrack to that appallingly bad Sergeant Pepper’s movie with the Bee Gees) to the eyebrow-raising (a Danish release of Jimi Hendrix’s greatest hits) to the downright exciting (original pressings of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and Led Zeppelin’s “II”). Among the exciting was George Carlin’s “Class Clown” EP. I knew who Carlin was, of course, but I can't say I really knew who he was, why he mattered. All I really knew was that the cover of this album had a picture of the old guy from "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" on it, but he was young. He wore blue jeans and a tight-fitting blue denim jacket with no shirt on underneath, and he sat on a stool with his back turned to a chalkboard. He faced the non-existent classroom with his eyes wide open, middle finger bent to look as if he'd shoved it knuckle-deep into his right nostril.

George Carlin was the perfect anti-hero for a mindset that I don’t think I’ve ever really outgrown: he was the dunce who could outwit his entire class, the erudite underachiever, the intelligent stoner with a "fuck you" always on reserve and bubbling just beneath the surface. I loved George Carlin before hearing so much as a word from that album, but of course the record (which includes the notorious "Seven Words" bit) fully delivered on its sleeve's promise and—angry little shit that I was—I instantly became a devotee of St. George's Church. I don't know if I can say that I absolutely "got it" back then, but I don't think that my angsty teenage understanding of Carlin's humor was so far from getting at the crux of his impressive career.

So, what was to be gotten? Why did George Carlin matter? He was certainly a titan of comedy and a cultural force to be reckoned with, but it isn’t so simple to define what it was that he actually did beyond making us laugh (not to downplay the importance of laughter). The institutions that he habitually punctured remain intact, the injustices and absurdities that he so acutely pointed out have not become less prevalent—so what did George Carlin do? In a popular landscape where everybody has something to say (didn’t Pink write a song about Dubya?), why did Carlin stand out as someone to whom we should all be listening?

George Carlin was an eiron to all the bluster and puffed-up stupidity of an unjust, wasteful and shallow society. He was a trickster character, subverting norms and violating taboos at every turn, whose only concrete agenda was exactly that: to violate every absurd rule that he could, thus chipping away at the ridiculous system that propped up such oppression. Carlin filled the role of ironic sidekick that Kierkegaard assigns to John the Baptist in The Concept of Irony: not the positive force of the Messiah establishing a new world order, but the negative force of one who picks apart the established order from the inside by demanding that it deliver on the promise of its own ideals.

John the Baptist—the disheveled, belligerent, insane prophet—is not the revolutionary hero per se, but lays the groundwork for revolution by rejecting that which is established and accepted as given: “For just like the law, irony is a demand, an enormous demand, because it rejects reality and demands ideality.” (CI 213) Kierkegaard makes this observation in a comparison of John the Baptist with Socrates, in which he notes that—as Robert Perkins writes—both the Pharisees and the sophists failed to grasp “the discrepancy between the phenomenon and the essence and…the seriousness of this discrepancy.” (CI 376) I can’t think of a better way to describe Carlin’s importance as a commentator on American society. The phenomena of American life do not live up to—and in fact all too often shamelessly contradict—the essence of its ideals. The honest, just observer cannot then merely beg for change within the everyday operations of that system, but rather must demand that the system recognize itself as undeniably corrupt—and if the system will not recognize itself as such, it must be dismantled from within. This dismantling must be gradual, and must be propagated through a changing of the minds that operate daily within the very machine that oppresses them. Irony is, like John the Baptist, a presence that wags its finger at a broken world and demands that it fix itself:

Irony is a disciplinarian feared only by those who do not know it but loved by those who do. Anyone who does not understand irony at all…lacks what momentarily is indispensable for personal life; he lacks the bath of regeneration and rejuvenation, irony’s baptism of purification that rescues the soul from having its life in finitude even though it is living energetically and robustly in it. (CI 326)

This passage—especially the phrase “feared only by those who do not know it”—brings to mind Jon Stewart’s infamous appearance on CNN’s “Crossfire,” the interview that allegedly led to the show’s cancellation and resulted in the station’s refusal to renew pundit Tucker Carlson’s contract. Throughout this interview—a YouTube favorite—a progression is visible in the faces and demeanor of hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala. At first, they’re apparently thrilled to have Stewart on. This changes rather quickly when it becomes clear that the comedian does not intend to put on a comedy routine, but rather to censure them about their show “h-h-hurting America.” He berates the shallowness of their coverage, the cynicism of their approach, the worthlessness of their discourse, and the “Crossfire” audience applauds his every statement.

Bewildered, Carlson tells Stewart that he’s not funny. “No, but I’ll go back to being funny tomorrow," Stewart answers, “and your show will still blow.” Laughter, applause. Later, in response to demands that he be funny and not sententious, Stewart sneers at Carlson and mutters, “No. I’m not going to be your monkey.” They trade insults back and forth until even the “liberal” Begala can hardly conceal his disdain behind that creepy grin that’s been painted on since Bill Clinton ran for president. What strikes one while watching this is how desperately lost Carlson and Begala are—they just don’t get it. One gets the sense that their staff handed out tickets outside the studio and deliberately sought out Stewart’s fans, wanting to fill the seats but oblivious to the fact that Stewart’s whole shtick is skewering the very type of show he’s about to be on. To them Stewart is just a “liberal,” like all the other castrated liberals and conservatives they’re used to having, he’s supposed to show up and voice his disapproval of the Bush administration, tell a couple of jokes, side with Begala against Carlson, shake hands, good day. When Stewart doesn’t follow the script, vertigo hits and nobody knows where they are anymore.

Jon Stewart was invited to “Crossfire” for the same reason that big name politicians scramble to get on his show: they hope some of his credibility will rub off on them. And for the most part, it’s rather obvious that they can’t stand how much credibility he has. You can see this in the “Crossfire” incident, when towards the end there’s a hint of hateful frustration in the way Carlson addresses Stewart, who refuses to let up even for a second. For a person whose life has been dedicated to powerful brown-nosing in order to get the hottest scoop, Stewart’s legitimacy as a commentator is the worst kind of usurpation—but that’s precisely why he has that legitimacy in the first place. Americans are perfectly aware of the fact that we’re being lied to daily, hourly, constantly—to the extent that being an insider is no longer a sign of journalistic credibility but rather evidence of the most abject collusion. And since those giving us the story can’t be trusted, and those with access to information continue to distort it, we can only trust those who pick it apart and denounce its corruption.

That is how irony works negatively, and it’s why Stewart’s “fake news” and Colbert’s “truthiness” have eclipsed so much (to be clear, though, not all) “legitimate” political analysis. That negativity is what people like Tucker Carlson seem to struggle to understand: who the hell is this guy, and what exactly does he do? Why is he so important? Of course, when these questions are put to Stewart, the answers are, respectively, “Nobody. Nothing. I’m not.” But a man as well-read as Jon Stewart, as admiring of Twain and Swift, knows exactly who he is, what he does, why he matters—denying his power is simply what makes him effective. It's negation all around.

The sort of romantic irony of a satirist like Stewart is that the strength of his punch comes largely from his charade of weakness. Aware of his own limitations, he loses no opportunity to remind interviewers that he is only a comedian and his is only a comedy show, that nothing he says matters, that his own interviews are notoriously soft-hitting, etc. And with each denial, the aura of respectability strengthens, the immunity of the jester is reinforced, John the Baptist converts another sinner while the Pharisees and Romans alike scratch their heads, unaware of their own impending oblivion.

It is precisely because the satirist denies his own importance that he matters. Should even the sharpest ironist ever proclaim his own positive revolutionary potential, he would instantly become subject to the same scrutiny as his targets. Thrust into an arena with beasts, the adept penman would find himself desperately wanting a sword. But so long as he stands outside and gently harangues the spectators, drawing them in with laughter only to expand their minds with truth, the subversive eiron might slowly set in motion the downfall of the whole corrupted coliseum.

We’ve lost one of those with the death of George Carlin, but we’ve also gained several of them through the influence of his life’s work. One can only hope that, in this age of sound bites and embedded reportage, American discourse does not forget the importance of listening to the ferocious humor of those angry jesters, bitter eirons, mischievous tricksters and insane prophets.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Ninety-one degrees outside. Not a whole lot cooler inside, and yet I've got a paper to write on secularization, political theology, bodies natural and politic, legal fictions, magical language...
I don't know what I'm writing about, frankly, because I can't formulate a thought. Tubes are popping and crackling inside my skull as though somebody just turned off an old TV, no amount of water helps, fans aren't doing the job. So I covered the windows in my bedroom with foil, cooling the temperature significantly so that maybe--maybe--I can actually get some work done today. My apartment looks like a tweaker pad, and inside this den of iniquity I'll be trying frantically to pound out the last paper of my first year of graduate school.
First, though, I'm going to finish watching this game between Spain and Italy. European Cup quarterfinals. Tied 0-0 in the second overtime period. I hate the Italian team and, fully admitting that sour grapes play an important role in my distaste, I just want them out of this tournament. Now.
In related news, the commentators keep trying to wax poetic, dropping amusing, badly-placed literary references from time to time. Two gems from this game:
(1) Regarding the timing of the game and its impressive matchup: "Truly a midsummer night's dream."
(2) Discussing the fact that the oldest teams (France and Sweden), both with several players approaching their early forties, were disqualified in the first round of the tournament: "Switzerland has proven to be no country for old men."
The last line was delivered by an Irishman, so I'm going to pretend that he's actually making a Yeats reference. It's a comforting illusion.

Season opener.

This is simply an opening blog to see how it works. I have never been a faithful journal-keeper, though I've always wished I were. Perhaps my internet time-wasting habits will manifest themselves in chronicling my life and thoughts from now on. We'll see.