Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Sense of Style

So I'm told by numerous people (granted, many of them inebriated) that I need a new hairstyle. As I have no personal sense of style, I can only assume they must be correct (as many of them are, in fact, quite stylish, and not just a bunch of shlubs). And while I'm fairly certain I'm not going to follow one line of thought and get my head shaved, I'm in the market for a new hairstyle. So I open the floor to you, gentle readers, to solicit your opinions. Feel free to comment with links to appropriate pictures, vague descriptions, or any other feedback.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Homo sapiens senilius

I had the unique experience of encountering two very amusing old men yesterday.

The first, on library mall, was wearing black dress shoes, black socks pulled all the way up, khaki shorts, a white polo shirt, and a pith helmet. Yup, an honest to God pith helmet. As if he were preparing to breach the jungles of the subcontinent in search of Dr. Livingston. But he had the dark socks and dress shoes just in case a formal event broke out. Which they tend to do in darkest Africa, or so I'm told. Wasn't that the point of Heart of Darkness?

The second, a seemingly innocuous old timer, was hanging around a gas station I stopped at to get a bottle of water. As I was out for a walk, I had my portable cd player with me. This fine specimen of old timery wisdom noted my equippage, and informed me rather stridently that pieces very similar to my little Sony originally cost $1500. That was the entire bulk of our conversation, and yes, I can call it that, because he emphasized the point several times. You know, so I'd appreciate how valuable my cd player with the crappy radio reception really was. Or I'd just appreciate how old he was, as he can remember back to a time when these things were apparently made out of gold.

Nothing really more to say. I just find the elderly amusing.

Oh, question for my Madison folks. Do any of you know of any competent movers in this town?

Second question for my Madison folks. Do I want SSF as a third reader in my dissertation? TS seems to think this is a good idea, as she can fill in my large gaps in narrative theory. Of course, I could have printed his entire e-mail to me as a blog post in and of itself, as it is quite amusing in its brevity and its powerful use of all capital letters embedded in my own text. But that's another story for another day.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday Musings: The Efficacy of Lumber

Teddy Roosevelt famously said "Speak softly, and carry a big stick." I personally feel this would serve as a great mantra for my life. Specifically, my life in the dissertation proposal stage, where much of my existence is spent at libraries and coffee houses reading books. If I were to adopt this as a guiding rule, then I could nicely explain to all those around me that they, as well, should speak softly, and not in a loud, shrill, high-pitched voice that grates your senses until you just can't concentrate on the obscurely-written theory in front of you and you just want to scream. Or else, you know, I'd hit them with my big stick.

Recently my work at my coffee house of choice (Espresso Royale, home of the addictive chai) has become beleagured by addle-pated ninnies who seem to think that a coffee house is a great place for their loud, rambunctious, inane chatter. Never mind that there is a studious-looking individual reading a book about trauma theory right in front of them. But if there was a studious-looking individual reading a book about trauma theory with a big stick right in front of them, I bet they'd think twice.

I find myself fantasizing about that scene in The Untouchables, where DeNiro's Capone just clubs a man to death with a baseball bat. Seems like an effective way of getting some damn silence, or at least a muted conversation.

Other applicable uses:
-People who come to the Writing Center and demand you proofread their obscure scientific text. Learn the damn language or learn where to hire an editor, lest yet get smacked with my stick.
-People who feel that the perfect time to go for a long run is right before your Writing Center appointment, so that you reek to high heaven just in time for a studious-looking individual to sit very close to you and sit almost with heads touching while you together read your crappy personal statement that you clearly wrote the night before in about fifteen minutes. Seriously, on what level is that a good idea? Stick-whacking for you!
-People who talk in the theatre.
-Slow drivers. (This would be more difficult, as you'd have to account for windows, range, and uneven surfaces. Maybe some kind of hood-mounted car paddle.)
-People who have air conditioning in their public buildings and yet refuse to turn it up, even though it is insanely hot and humid.
-The organist at our church, who clearly has no sense of tempo, no idea of what genre of song is appropriate for a specific part of the mass, and who seems to delight in finding all the variations on the same melody, thus leading us to constantly singing the same tune with different words week after week after week. (Granted this is a religious institution, so the stick-beating would not be as fierce. Maybe a ruler-knuckle rapping, a la nuns.)
-Hugh Jackman.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I'm an Idiot

So I just got to the office, excited to finish revising for the day and actually send a draft of my proposal off to my committee members, when I realized that I hadn't e-mailed the file from my home computer to here. I wrote about 8 pages this morning, and now rather than sending them off in a timely manner, I have to go back home to do so. As I had planned to spend several hours on campus reading, this is a major inconvenience. All because I'm too stupid to realize that just because a file is on one computer, it may not be on the other. Yeah, I'm a putz.

Granted, this really in no way causes problems beyond the slight alteration of my schedule. I've missed no deadlines (other than a personal one), and will incur no wrath. So really I'm just whining at my own stupidity because it slightly makes me change my schedule. Feel free to mock me if you wish.

But on the plus side, I think I finally have a handle on what the fuck anything has to do with Vietnam. Or at least, I can bs my way into a convincing answer. Hah!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Oh, The Places I've Been

Well, there's really only two. Two places. Chicago and St. Louis. And not nearly long enough to warrant this Brownsoxian dearth of posts. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

Anyway, school's out now, and I'm in dissertation proposal mode full-time. But it wasn't always so. Once I traveled the world. And by the world, I mean the upper midwest localized around the Wisconsin-Illinois-Missouri area. Yeah, I'm just cool like that.

A few weeks back was the Freshman 15 spring concert, "Epic Show." Considering there were going to be more alumni at the show than actual members in the current group, I wasn't about to miss it. So I proctored my exam that Saturday morning (7:45am!), then drove down to good old Evanston, IL. This, I'll say, was kind of freaky, as for the first time Evanston felt like this strange town, rather than my college town. I guess five years away will do that to you. Not to say I didn't enjoy walking around campus, watching rehearsal for Shakespeare at the Rock, and then lazing around on the lakefill for a few hours. The shows were awesome, including an epic cameo by Hodgkins as Hades, and we would go on to prove that night that yes, we can still act like we're in college. Which means, of course, lots of beer pong, excessive drinking, and staying awake till 7:30am because someone simply has to talk with you once everyone else has gone to sleep (which was fun, granted, and there's no conversation like the 6:30am drunken conversation that you don't really know what the hell it's about and you won't remember it entirely the next day anyway), but the fact that I only got 3 hours sleep that night was sorely felt the next day when I drove back to Madison. Mad shoutout to all my F15 boys; you still know how to party.

A few days following, I returned to the place of my birth to celebrate my 3^3 birthday with my family. St. Louis, as I've said before, is always kind of odd now, because most of the folks I know who lived there have since relocated to better climes. So it was mainly me and my parents who, god bless em, can't quite party like they used to. But they did buy me a very excellent steak dinner. And I got to see my oldest friend from high school with his new house (awesome) and his new baby (which totally weirds me out, as my friends from high school should not be parents yet, regardless of how cute said baby may be). I had planned to blog from St. Louis during my massive downtime, but apparently DSL means "Damned Slow and Laggy" at my familial manse. When it's difficult just to check your e-mail, blogging is out. So I was stuck reading a lot of non-essential books (mostly Isaac Asimov robot stories, one of my dad's favorites that he had lying around the house) and watching their satellite tv (ah Veronica Mars, it was bitter to watch you end, but sweet to watch it on DVR, skipping mirthfully over commercials).

So now I'm back here in Madison, and will be until August (unless I end up jaunting to Chicago again to see Bluesman). We went out for the cubed birthday, and while we did travel to several bars, it was mostly because they were all too crowded to be fit for human occupance. We started at The Local Tavern, which promises "Good food, good beer, good friends, good cheer." Well, the food was mediocre, or so I'm told, but the beer was good, as were the friends and cheer (I imagine it didn't hurt that we were practically the only people there, and we were a party of at least 20 at one point, so the waiter was fawning over us). But then sadly, I led a valiant charge to Karaoke Kid. Unfortunately, apparently this Saturday was "Every Undergrad in the Tri-State Area Go to State Street and be Drunk and Obnoxious Night." There was no karaoke to be had, and we spent the majority of our time scouting out other possible bars, before walking almost all the way back to where we had started. We stayed out till closing time, then I apparently went home and made hot dogs and watched Batman Begins. I know this because there were two hot dogs less in the fridge, my grill was clearly used, and Batman was on the tv screen. I have no recollection of any of these events. But apparently I was cogent enough to hang my clothes up rather than sully my newly cleaned room (when you're only other option is to read dissertation stuff, you find ways to fill the time).

And now I spend my days reading about Holocaust survivors and thinking about Vietnam, trying valiantly to answer the Dude's question "What the fuck does anything have to do with Vietnam?" All I know is that I didn't watch my buddies die facedown in the muck to not write a disseration proposal. At least, I'm assuming they died in that muck. I never actually stopped to check, because I'm lazy and don't like to get muck on me. But then, Brownsox hasn't posted in a long-ass time, so he may still be muck-bound.

In closing, a brief representation of the kind of theory I'm reading these days, as illustrated by Saturday night / Sunday morning. I'm reading a lot of trauma theory, and this is what I gather from it: The traumatic event is something that the mind itself cannot cope with during the instance. For example, the cooking of hot dogs and the watching of Batman Begins. The mind is too scarred by the event, and cannot fit it into a linear framework of causality, and therefore rejects it, as clearly demonstrated by my inability to remember said events. However, the trauma does not disappear; rather, it constantly haunts the mind, forcing re-enactment on a literal and psychological level. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that, Sunday eve, I made more hot dogs and re-watched the end of Batman Begins, because I had no memory of doing so, yet I felt the compulsion to see the end of the movie I've already seen at least 20 times. So Sunday was, literally, a revisiting of the previous forgotten events in an attempt to reconstitute them into the awakened psyche. And now, this blog serves as the witnessing of the trauma, as I seek to cast my message and my testimony out in search of what Celan refers to as "an addressable you." My witnessing will neither be complete nor psychologically fulfilling unless it is heard and witnessed by others (i.e., commented upon). Whether the Other can ever really be addressed, or whether it is even desirable to find this Other, remains to be discussed by my dissertation.

Oh, and see Knocked Up. It's awesomely good.