Tuesday, December 23, 2008

So May It Be Said Of Us, And All Of Us

Just finished Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy. Loads of fun, though I liked Brideshead more. But the version I have features an intro by Frank Kermode, with perhaps one of the best statements ever:

"Meanwhile he [Waugh] grew more and more pugnacious and unreasonable in his dislikes and in his desire for vengeance on his enemies."

I think I want that on my tombstone.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's been a busy few days. And by busy, I mean I've been doing a lot of things that aren't in any way work, but have kept me hopping nonetheless. To catalogue:

-Last Friday, we celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition. That's right, we're serious drinkers up here. And we didn't do any kind of namby pamby drinking, either. This was a night of straight up, hard-living cocktail drinking. And not just mixed drinks, but actual cocktails, with bitters, and grated orange peel, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice, etc. TGD and The Mixologist were our bartenders, and they did right by us, with a varied menu and very stiff drinks. My personal favorites were the Aviation, the Martinez, and the Ward 8. Highlight of the night was the Mixologist's request that we bring actual ice to the party, since he didn't like to use store-bought ice in his shakers. Note that: the ice wasn't even going into the actual drinks. Just the shakers. And it still had to be proper ice. Damn, that man's an artist.

-Saturday we had a going away party for Boots and Hambone, as they prepare for their six month South American tour. From Friday night's classy drinking, we transferred to the much-more plebian atmosphere of the Come Back In, with its boots of beer, and free popcorn and peanuts (large baskets, still in the shell). Bars with an endless supply of free food are inherently great, and I firmly attribute my lack of a hangover to that fact. B&H put up a fine show for their departure, and I expect to hear good things of their travels. Either that, or Hambone will be kidnapped and forced into white male slavery. Which, if that's the case, dibs on his Playstation.

-Finished Season 2 of The Wire. Good, but no Season 1. I just never cared as much about the overall arc as I did with the boys of the Pit. Though it did have a lot of very fine moments. But I hear good things about Season 3.

-Spent the bulk of the non-drinking weekend watching the short-lived Cupid, which aired for a season in 1998. Made by the guy who would later make Veronica Mars, and which is currently being rebooted (slated for airing starting in March on ABC). It's a very fun little show starring Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall, about a man who thinks he's Cupid and has to match up 100 couples before he can return to Olympus. It's sweet, romantic, and clever, and the banter between the two leads is phenomenal. It only ran for about 16 episodes, and you can get them all on youtube. If you're looking for a time-waster, I'd really recommend it. And I'll plug the new version, cause hey, Rob Thomas always needs a hand.

-They're cancelling Pushing Daisies. This saddens me, particularly after last week's wonderful episode. Damn the man.

-Heroes, however, continues, even as it continues to suck. And yet I still watch it. Largely because it follows directly...

-Chuck, which is all kinds of awesome this season.

-Oh, and I guess I've been doing some work, too. Gave a guest lecture today, which didn't seem to go too poorly. So I've got that going for me.

-Lastly, if you're not a Madisonian, you may not be aware that it snowed a fuckload today. God bless the winter.

-That's about it for now. As a signoff today, here are a few clips to put you in the holiday mood. From one of my favorites as a kid, the Claymation Christmas Special. You can find the full thing here, here, and here, but here are two of my favorite clips. Again, just to whet your whistle and encourage you to waste a full 22 minutes watching the whole thing.

Carol of the Bells

We Three Kings

And, though I couldn't find it on youtube by itself, I'd really suggest you watch for the rendition of "Angels We Have Heard on High" featuring ice dancing walruses and penguins. Shit cracks me up every time.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Don't Even Know What the Posthuman Is...

Nice relaxing and thoroughly uneventful Thanksgiving. But I think that my home has become some weird kind of conduit for my dreams, specifically my dreams of what I wish the profession were like. Last time I was home, you may recall, I dreamed that all the English grad students were ninja assassins competing for a magical dagger. Well, nothing quite that odd this time.

Instead, this dream was all about theory. For those of you not in the academic world, there's this "hot" topic currently in vogue, called the "posthuman." No one is quite sure what it means, but I think it has something to do with how we relate to shit like dogs, and zombies, and robots, etc. You know, win them over so they don't try to enslave mankind. (But forget about the dolphins. There's no placating those bloodthirsty fuckers.)

Well, in my dream, all of academia was abuzz because someone had just written an article that supposedly clearly solved the problem of the "posthuman." Not just a debatable article, either; this was the "key to all mythologies" of the posthuman, something that definitively settled the problem forever. But for some reason, I had the only copy of the article (I didn't write it in my dream, I just had it), and all these competing factions wanted it. Some wanted to embrace the posthuman, others wanted to destroy the article and thus erase all records of the problem ever being solved. Massive conspiratiorial shit was going on in my dream. I guess the original author was dead, or lost his backup copy, or his hard drive got destroyed, who knows.

No real resolution to the dream, sadly. Just yet again a sense of increasing competition and espionage within the academic world. I guess I subconsciously find our lifestyle boring, and could do with some more ninjas or spies or whatnot.

And the kicker? I couldn't even figure out the article in my dream. I guess I don't even subconsciously understand theory. All I knew was that it had something to do with WALL-E. Figures.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's a Paul Rudd Weekend!

Watched The Great Gatsby last night (the 2000 made for tv version). Was about as ungood as expected. Paul Rudd, as I predicted, made an admirable Nick Carraway, and the film did do some things right by including a hefty dose of Nick's narration verbatim from the book. But Gatsby was laughably unimpressive, Daisy seemed mildly mentally challenged, and the whole movie felt like someone was doing "The Great Gatsby: The Highlights" rather than building an overall film. Guess that's the drawbacks of tv. Of course, I hear the Redford version is similarly awful but for different reasons.

Seeing Role Models tonight. I hear good things. And again, Paul Rudd.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Teaching Philosophy

For those not in the academic world, part of applying for a job involves writing up a philosophy of why you're a teacher. I'll have to do this next year, so I'm taking a preliminary stab at it now. Let me know what you think.

Teaching Philosophy

I teach because I can.

I teach because I abhor stupid people. This way, I get to put a face to my enemies.

I teach because stupidity fills me with contempt. And contempt for others allows me to forget my own insecurities.

I teach because the stupidity of others validates me.

I teach because it is one of the few professions left where people come to you as supplicants.

I teach because they pay you for the privilege of being your supplicant.

I teach because I fear the real world.

I teach because I have no idea how to do actual things.

I teach because I believe the children are our future. I must mold that future in my image.

I teach because the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. It's my job to inform them of that.

I teach because I can write like the wind. This is a skill with few practical applications.

I teach because I can do it hung over.

I teach because I can do it drunk.

I teach because I crave attention.

I teach because I am a ham.

I teach because it combines performance with the arrogant display of knowledge.

I teach because I am smart.

I teach because I am smarter than most of the rest of the world.

I teach because I am smarter than your children.

Except M. & B. C.'s children.

Those kids are freaky smart.

Like, superintelligent crazy children of the corn smart.

Seriously, Mr. N.S. probably taught them Latin at age 4.

Where was I?

Oh yes.

I teach because I loathe the summer and want nothing to do with it.

I teach because I enjoy having Christmas off.

I teach because there are few things more wonderful in this world than the face of a young adult.

Particularly the look they get when you tell them their work isn't good and they have to start over.

That shit is priceless.

I teach because it is priceless.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Blog for the Asking

So hey there, blog world. 'Sup?

I know, been a while since we last spoke. Been a lot of speculation going around. Talk of panda love. Some kind of voting thing went down. Might have been some drinking takin' place in the old Mad-City. Might have been a trip home in there somewhere. And all that's cool and all, I ain't gonna lie. Just haven't been in a blogging place, lately, since I been too busy livin' my life.

Like a guy I recently had the pleasure to meet told me: The Game's out there, and it's play or get played.

Fella name of Omar. Some of you might have heard of him. Badass out of Baltimore, has a tenuous relationship with the five-oh.

So that's my longwinded way of saying I've been spending a lot of quality time recently with season one of The Wire. Which, unlike most things in life, really does live up to all the hype. I'm still not convinced it's better than Deadwood (it'd take an act of God to dethrone Al Swearengen), but it's unarguably one of the top three shows I've ever seen. And Omar is indeed a badass.

Ok, life update. Full of anecdotes, lots of sound, little fury. Since last we spoke, numerous things of various consequence have been happening. First, and most time-consuming, I'm applying for fellowships this semester, one of which is due in under a week. My life has been a suck-fest of writing a dissertation abstract (transforming what will be a roughly 250 page document into five pages) and editing down 49 pages of dissertation chapter into 25 pages of writing sample. Yeah, it sucks. And yeah, my friends and colleagues on the market currently will tell me how much easier this is than what I'll be going through next year. To which I respond, the promise of future suckitude does not lessen the suckitude of the current moment. I think Gandhi said that. Or maybe Socrates Johnson.

Ok, on to amusing things! We like amusing things, right? As I noted above, I went home for a weekend back in October. My brother recently got engaged, so this was the big meeting of the families (and when I phrase it like that, it sounds like some kind of mafia deal. It isn't. Or so my lawyers say.). Her parents and brothers, my parents and me, the bride and groom, various other significant others and children. Twas a night of fun and merriment. The Dubs clan upheld itself well, though we did end up waiting outside in the cold cold car for about 10 minutes waiting for my bro, rather than going into the restaurant to meet these strangers awkwardly. I triumphed by not getting plastered and embarassing them all. My parents were shocked, shocked I say, that I could actually uphold my end of a conversation with strangers (the bride's older brother and his wife). Granted, my current schooling has basically weaned me away from ever talking with people who are not also English grad students or scholars, their lack of faith wasn't all that surprising. But they didn't need to seem so shocked when they told me I was actually "charming." I guess all those years of cynicism and contempt for my fellow man may have colored their expectations a bit.

Still, the Clan Dubs did get kind of served in the meeting, due largely to a matter of preparedness. The bride's grandmother came, and she's apparently famous for making her own caramel and giving to her grandkids at holidays. So, to make a good impression, yours truly ended up with a shit-ton of caramel. This was bad enough, but apparently the daughter of my dinner conversationalists is some kind of crafts prodigy. So it being near to Halloween, this fifteen year old girl brought my parents a pumpkin hollowed out and stuffed with wildflowers in an absolutely stunning arrangement. Seriously, kid's got mad skills. But between that and the candy-making granny, my side of the family looked like chumps, comparatively. I was tempted to start juggling the candles on the table while singing some Don Gionvanni just to hold up our end. Who knows, a few more drinks and I might have. Or maybe I'll just bust that out at the wedding.

Also, while home, I dreamed that all my fellow grad students and I actually lived in our office building, but it was some kind of Wudan-esque dojo, and we were all ninja assassins. I had a magic knife, and everyone else was trying to steal it from me. They did not succeed, because, hello, ninja. Luckily, Ninja Scholar wasn't there. She has magic authentic ninja powers, strength beyond my dream ninja powers. And that Hapa Ninja Baby, he'll cut your ankles off before you even hear him coming.

Speaking of NS, she, myself, the Hillbilly, and one other colleague have all submitted papers to a conference for next year (Boston in March of '09!). I believe we're in a competition to see who could submit the worst paper proposal. But since the judges are NS and myself, I think we've got a fair shot of getting in. Though I can be a fair critic, and may reject myself on principle. All the swearing in my proposal may be off-putting.

What else, what else? Halloween party this year, awesome times, went as Igor (or random hunchback). Surprisingly, being hunched over all night did not result in a sore back. But drinking all that wine did result in a sore head. And apparently me yelling at passers-by from the balcony. Which I don't remember at all.

Hmm...election night, election night. I'm happy it's over, so people will stop asking me if I know where my polling place is, if I'm registered to vote, blah blah blah. Yes, it was an exciting night. Yes, the folks here in Madison marched spontaneously from the capital to the university after the results were announced. Yes, even my cynical heart felt genuine stirrings of emotion with the realization that we had witnessed an historic moment in our nation's history, capped off by an extremely moving speech from our new president-elect.

But that doesn't mean I didn't want to throttle the obnoxious woman at our election party who kept yelling things in triumph. Like, awkard yelling, solitary yelling, like she was drunk on Obama or something. Seriously, yelling when everyone else is yelling and clapping is cool. Yelling out things in the middle of Obama's speech, as if he can hear you and will answer, is annoying. I imagine Brownsox was in a similar state. If he wasn't wedded to his iPhone, that is.

And I will admit, I'm a touch sad that I didn't get to see a democratic loss. But only because I thrive on the misery of others, and there were few funnier moments than four years ago when W. got re-elected, and the entire grad program here became a collection of the most depressed m-f's in the world. Made me laugh from deep in my cold cold heart. But I don't miss it that much this time around; after all, I did vote for the man myself.

Also, seriously, why did multiple people just assume I voted Republican? Even Batman asked me if I was feeling alright, since my candidate had lost. I like to think I've been fairly vocal (for me, at least) in my McCain-Palin bashing over the past few months. So really, do I come off as that conservative? Is it the Catholic thing? The white male who mocks the misfortune of others thing? My prep school ways, my disdain for public school systems and public universities? My affection for fine scotches? My cocky stride and my musky odors? Oh, I'll never be the darling of the so-called city fathers, who cluck their tongues, stroke their beards, and talk about what's to be done with this Dubs...where was I?

Anyway, enough politics. What else, what else? Hmm... Just read all of Y: The Last Man, a ten volume comic series about a plague that wipes out all mammals with a y-chromosome except one dude and his pet monkey. Conceptually it sounds ridiculous. In execution, it's one of the best things I've ever read. Check it out; Quantum can vouch for it's goodness.

Is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?

Yeah, I got nothing else. Future updates to hopefully come more regularly. But for now, I'm off to spend some quality time with Jimmy McNulty.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I May Be Naked and Reeking of Panda Love...

I believe I referenced this poster several times last night. It followed naturally from the panda drawing on my beer margarita cup. Yup, good party.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Day of Suck

Today is going to be a day of suck, I can already tell.

I slept for about seven hours last night, and yet I feel like I've been awake all night. My alarm woke me up right during the middle of a dream (about Hogan's Heroes, I shit you not), and now I feel very disconnected, as if not all the synapses are firing properly.

Damn brain.

Good weekend, though. Friday was bowling and drinking. Hambone (formerly Boone's) was celebrating his birthday, so we got him stupidly drunk. I believe he had at least one shot of every major type of alcohol, not to mention a shot of Goldschlagger to top the night off. Saturday was a sweet little party where I got to remember how horrible red red wine can be the following morning. And on Sunday, H's actual birthday, we had cake. With oreos crumbled up and mixed in. Not in the batter, mind you, but in the middle layer of frosting between the two sections of cake. And not only oreos, but mint oreos. Boots, Hambone's significant other, really outdid herself in the baking of this masterpiece. Though we did mock her slightly for the chipper little face she drew on top of the frosting. But all in all, cake on a Sunday night is definitely a good thing. Maybe even the best thing.

Now working Writing Center on both Sunday and Monday nights. That kinda blows.

Watched the season premiere of Heroes last night (mild spoilers ahead, so be warned). All in all, seems like a nice start after a craptacular season last year, though it did feel like they were just throwing plot after plot after plot against the wall, just to see what stuck. I think too much was happening too fast, with very little setup, which worked for the plots they had laid groundwork for last season (Nathan, Peter, Claire), but very poorly with the new plots that just felt thrown in for the sake of having new plots (Hiro, Mohinder the Abysmally Stupid). I think they got so much flak for moving too slowly last season that they tried to counter that right from the get go, but they still need to find a happy medium.

Some specific gripes and thoughts:
-The whole Mohinder-infusing-powers Spiderman/The Fly subplot is already irritating me. It came about far too quickly, and seems like an ungood way to go. And it seems to offer further testimony to the fact that Mohinder is, without question, the stupidest scientist ever to live. Ever. Plus, it has Maya in it, who deserves to die.

-Whatever happened to the Haitian? I'm ok with the fact that we got no Micah thus far, since he always annoyed me. But the Haitian? Where's he at?

-How the hell did Sylar (last seen fleeing Mohinder the Abysmally Stupid's lab in NY) manage to get to California in what seemed to be in series time about two hours, let alone find Claire's house, where she was supposedly living incognito? That irked me.

-Since when do Peter's powers involve the ability to put someone in someone else's body?

-How awesome is it that Weevil and VM are hanging out again as supervillains? Loved that.

-Seriously. Mohinder = Stupid. Can't emphasize that enough.

-Linderman! Whee! I really hope they're taking a page from BSG and making him like the Invisible Six. But please, no red dress for Mr. L.

Ok, that's all for now. Still trying to fight off lethargy and finalize paper prompts. Peace out, blogodrome.

Monday, September 08, 2008

After the Boys of Summer Have Gone

That's right folks, it's the start of a new school year. Sorry I've been away for so long. I wish I could claim I was busy. I wish I could claim I was sick. I wish I could claim I was just too drunk and hungover to post. Ok, I can kinda claim the last one. But even with that in mind, there's been a criminal negligence of blogging on my part. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

I'm still working on a post dealing with Dr. Church's wedding (seriously, I have a partial draft saved), and I promise a post on Cryptojew and Hillbilly's wedding and my subsequent New York debauch. But tonight's about the start of the school year, not the end of summer, so those tales will have to wait.

I'm just gonna say it. The start of this school year has been majorly majorly odd. I'm teaching a class for a postdoc that none of us could contact until the week before school started. We had no idea at all what we were teaching. No idea who this person was. Not that we would have prepared, mind you. But we're educators. We like to be in the loop.

I'm teaching sections on Wednesday afternoons, with lectures on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That also is massively screwed up, since I'll be leading discussions on texts we haven't finished yet, or forcing the students to remember stuff we talked about the week before. Now, I'm not sure about you, but when I was an undergrad, I never remembered stuff past the week we read it. There's like a rule or something--once Friday afternoon hits, you are entitled to forget that week's work until the midterm comes around. So that should make sections interesting.

Also, my student rosters have changed about 90 times over the course of the week. I'm now back up to 29 students, when at one point I was down to 27 (out of two sections, when usually you have between 35-38). At least I'm back up to even numbers (14 and 15), as opposed to this weekend, when I was at 11 and 16. I guess I can run a section with those numbers without too much trouble. Excepting, of course, the trouble from the whole Wednesday afternoon thing.

Finally, I'm teaching an extra workload in the Writing Center this semester, so I need to constantly be double checking whether I'm scheduled to be working at the time. I believe, right now, that schedule boils down to working Sunday and Monday nights, and Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Which means that Wednesdays and Thursdays, between WC and section or WC and lecture, will be extremely stressful. Of course, that still only amounts to roughly 5-6 hours of work on each of those days, as opposed to the usual 8 hours or so most people work.

God I love being a grad student.

On the plus side, some good stuff has been happening as well with the start of this school year:

-I keep getting asked to do stuff. Which is really awesome, since it lets me pad out my CV further. And since the bulk of my energies this year involve me getting ready to go on the job market next year, every line is a little bit of help. Though that does mean that I have to keep doing things for people. Oh well.

-We now have a new office mate, Woodford Reserve (or possibly just Woodford for short in future posts). Despite the loss of the Red-Headed Stepchild, this is still very good news, since WR rocks quite a bit, and is actually a good friend of mine, as opposed to getting stuck with some noob that KH and I need to smack around.

-I'm doing fairly well at not meeting the new people. I've met a few, and the few I've meet seem sociable enough. But I've met enough people. No more new people. Unless I've already met you and we exchange pleasantries (like the new person who is one of my fellow T.A.s for lecture), then don't plan on establishing any meaningful relationship with me. I'm sure you're very fine people, but I'm not going to be around long enough to make it worth your while to know me. Which is your loss, since I'm awesome.

-I handed in a draft of my second dissertation chapter today. Fuck yeah!

-Captain Americanist is squatting in the office across the hall this semester, since the usual prof there (Spousal Hire) is on leave. I foresee many idle hours wasted as we throw shit at each other across the hall.

-We drank five boots of beer last Friday, after spending several hours at the bar with $3.00 pitchers. All in all, drunkenness seems to be at its usual September levels.

-The tv I'm watching is really stellar at the moment. Burning through Dexter season two with the Norwegian, and tearing up Deadwood season three on Netflix. Really doesn't get much better than that.

Finally, per usual at the start of the semester, I've asked my students the staple "Who would win in a fight, Batman or Sam Jackson" question. I'm assuming the awesomeness of The Dark Knight is really stacking the deck against old Sammy, since Gotham's defender won handily, 21-6 (of course, these numbers reflect the students who were there last Wednesday, and may in no way correspond to my current students). Some choice responses, with blogger comments in italics:

-Batman. Dude's got heart.
-Jackson, because he's Mace Windu and jedis would destroy Batman. Loses points for referencing Star Wars prequels, but leads to an interesting intellectual exercise. How could Batman ever beat a Jedi?
-Batman, because Christian Bale is amazing and has Heath backing him up. Umm, maybe they didn't actually see the movie, where Heath did his damnedst to kill Batman. Plus, Heath? Dude's kinda dead. Although a zombie Heath Ledger might well help beat up on Sam Jackson.
-Batman has Morgan Freeman on his side. Now that's another fun question. Of the wise, badass black superstars, would Freeman take down Jackson?
-Batman, because Samuel L. Jackson is whack. Did they change the meaning of "whack" since I last checked? I thought whack was a good thing...
-Batman, b/c SJ doesn't have a cape. Clearly this person never saw The Incredibles.
-Jackson. He was eaten by a shark and is still alive to talk about it. At least until "Deep Blue Sea 2: Deep Blue Sky (Sharks on a Plane)"
-Batman, b/c Dave Chappelle is a better Samuel L. Jackson than Samuel L. Jackson is. Ok, that's kinda awesome.

Ok, that's all for now folks. I'm off to have some bourbon to celebrate the end of this chapter. More posts promised on a much more regular basis.

(Oh, side note for my Northwestern friends. One of my students this semester is from a little town called Minnetonka, MN. I nearly burst out laughing when she told me this, and could only respond that I knew someone from there. I didn't have the heart to tell her that my drunken college buddies and I had made a pact to burn that town to the ground and salt the earth. Which we still need to do, by the way...)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Quick Solicitation

I promise, I'm currently writing a post about my trip to Tennessee. But for the nonce, I'm soliciting advice. Another wedding to go to this weekend. Do I wear:

A. The more traditional gray two piece (slight herringbone pattern)


B. The charcoal pinstripe three piece that makes me look vaguely like either a mobster or a fat cat from the 20s?

Poor quality pictures below.

And, just as importantly, what color shirt works?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Look Away, Dixie Land

This weekend I'm going down to Chattanooga for Dr. Church's (a.k.a. Sergio's) wedding. Given that this wedding is going to feature the convergence of Uber260, Quantum, Brownsox, (I believe) Irish McJew, and myself on a small town in Tennessee (a tiny hamlet called Signal Mountain), I'm expecting hijinks to ensue. Largely because of the presence of Brownsox, a thoroughly obnoxious Bostonian, and Quantum, a New York snob of epic proportions; McJew has at least a passing familiarity with the South, I believe, while Uber knows his ways around small towns, and I myself originally come from a border state. But still, there's something about the concept of "the South" that should prove to be off-putting for a bunch of yankees like us.

In fact, I'm fairly sure we're going to get drunk and act like a bunch of carpetbaggers. (Particularly Quantum, whom I'm now encouraging to bring an actual carpet bag and buy up some Southern land with his epic wealth.)

In consequence, I anticipate several drunken brawls, many re-enactments of the Civil War (which I refuse to consider as the War of Northern Aggression), at least one shotgun wedding, and us being run out of town on a rail. In other words, typical fare for a bunch of drunken former Northwesterners.

So to prepare for this trip, I'm inviting you, dear readers, to contribute things we can do to really offend the Southerners there. I'm beginning a list below, but please feel free to add with your own comments.

1. Refer to everyone as "Johnnie Reb."
2. Affect a faux Southern Accent.
3. Constantly be humming the banjo motif from Deliverance.
4. Ask how many of them are born of incest.
5. Faulkner jokes. Lots of them.
6. Act surprised by any evidence of modern technology, constantly repeating "I had no idea you had x this far South."
7. Narrate every event with the following opening: "Now folks in Hazzard County..."

That's about all I've got thus far. Other suggestions?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I Have a PhD in Horribleness

So if you're one of the three people on the interwebs who has yet to hear about "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," then what the heck have you been doing with your time? Why are you even still reading this blog, when you could be going to this site and seeing it in all it's horrible-ly goodness.

Still not sold?


Ok, so it's a live-action musical comedy in three acts about a wannabe supervillian who blogs about his attempts to conquer the world, join an exclusive club called the Evil League of Evil (led by the tyrranical Bad Horse, the Thoroughbred of Sin, he of the terrible death whinny), and defeat his nemesis Captain Hammer.

Still want more?

Ok, it's created by Joss Whedon, and it has Nathan Fillion in it.

That just sold half of my readership right there.

It stars Neil Patrick Harris.

That just sold the other half.

Seriously, go check it out. It's broken into three parts, each for free viewing only this weekend. Part three debutes on Saturday, I believe. Each part is roughly 14 minutes long, and each part is comic gold. And the music ain't half bad.

But really, go check it out for all the NPH goodness. "It's about destroying the status quo. Because the status...is...not quo. The world is a mess and I just....need to rule it."

Ok, go.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

These Eyes Have Seen a Lot of Love, But They're Never Gonna See Another One Like They Had With You

And so today was one of the more surreal experiences of my life.

I was doing an outreach for the Writing Center this morning, where I go to classes and teach a bunch of high school students how to prepare for and write in-class essay exams. This particular group was a bunch of high school juniors, nice enough folks, but at the end of the session they somehow raised the issue that, to use their words, I "looked like that dude from Superbad."

Yeah, they couldn't get over that.

So apparently I look like Michael Cera, because this isn't the first time someone's thrown that my way. Could be worse, I guess. They could have thought I looked like "that fat dude from Superbad" or "that McLovin dude from Superbad." Michael Cera, pretty ok in my book.

Luckily, this seemed to give me cache with the youngsters, including the several who wanted their pictures taken with me. God bless the digital age, when every high schooler has his or her own camera with them at all times. I expect to be showing up on Facebook in the not-too-distant future. (Though they didn't seem to catch my Iron Man reference when I told them I didn't want to see this popping up on their MySpace pages. Oh well.

But I drew the line when they asked me to sing "These Eyes" and do the dance. That's just not how I roll.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Of Weddings, Brakes, and a Moratorium

As promised, this week was a highly elaborate event of blogworthy proportions. This past weekend, my very good friend the Puncher got married in mid-state Michigan, which prompted a road trip, an excellent time, and the further destruction of my car.

Day One: Thursday, myself and Sarah drove up to the tiny little town of...someplace. Yeah, I don't even remember the town's name. It may have been Springfield Township. Population like 25. Not sure exactly. But the Lady in Black lives there now (her hometown), and she had volunteered to drive Sarah up to Midland for the bachelorette party, thus cutting roughly two hours of travel time off my trip. For I, instead, was headed back down to Ann Arbor to visit Irish McJew and see this other college town that claims some kind of rivalry with Madison.

Needless to say, McJew pulls it through when his boy comes to town. Granted, he lives right in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, thus violating the cardinal rule of being a grad student: Never live where the undergrads live. Equally granted, this made parking a bitch, as everything was metered, and I ended up parking in a garage that I had to vacate by 6:00 am the next morning. I, of course, was horribly hung over and missed this deadline, and was trapped in said garage until a maintenance man came to collect more money from me to let me out.

But just as equally granted, living at the heart of downtown makes all the downtown stuff all the closer, particularly the bevy of bars that we went to. We met up with some friends of his and hit up 3-4 different places, including a truly spectacular place that had $.55 PBRs and Big Buck Hunter, as well as live karaoke. We easily matched his mates drink for drink; indeed, we did them one better and showed how we partied Northwestern-style. This means that, while they had about 5-6 beers, we had about 5-6 beers after we pre-partied by consuming a half a bottle of Bushmills (while killing things that were different than us), and we closed the party with very stiff Crown & Cokes. That's just how we roll.

Day Two: Friday, after hungoverly watching The Simpsons for about three hours, we went out to this extremely dive-y greasy spoon that wasn't so much in a building as it was a trailer. But the food was excellent, and the tons of potatoes included were more than adequate for staving off the death of a PBR hangover. This more than mitigated my earlier parking difficulties.

Bidding McJew adieu, I commenced my journey to Saginaw, land of the wedding and the affordable hotel (not to mention a fairly high crime rate, so I would later learn). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had been upgraded from the room I had reserved--single room with a king-sized bed--to one of the larger suites. Said suite, of course, was bigger than my old apartment, with two king sized beds, a fully-stocked living/dining room, two tvs, a pseudo-jacuzzi in the bathtub, etc. In a word, it was decadent, and I took full advantage of it by napping and tv-ing my hangover away. Red-Headed Stepchild was splitting the room with me, but as she didn't arrive until roughly 3:00 am, I got to lounge around and feel like a big man. Which I did.

Day Three: Saturday was the wedding. Slept in until 12:30, had a rushed lunch with Red and Sarah, and then got our wedding on. I of course was a bit unnerved by the Presbyterian-ness of the church and the service. Particularly the church. No icons, no stained-glass, no statutes, no false idols or graven images for me to worship at all. The writing on the walls was in English, not Latin. There were notepads in each pew for churchgoers to take notes on the sermon. For a Catholic such as myself, it was very unsettling. I managed to perform several moments of sacrelige just to calm my nerves.

The wedding of course was wonderful, and the Puncher looked absolutely gorgeous. There were brief moments of hilarity in the vows section, when the minister's love of pausing led to some egregiously-oversimplified repetition on her part (e.g. Minister: [husband's]...... ; Puncher: [husband's]....., with just enough of an ironic eyebrow lift on her part to evoke a giggle from the row of Madisonians). But by and large, the wedding itself was very tasteful, and the Madison crew of course came looking respectively dapper and smokin' hot, as is our want.

Reception followed shortly, as is the style of the times, where we drank, danced, enjoyed multiple desserts and a late-addition nacho bar. Turns out the Hillbilly and Crypto-Jew can really cut a rug together, the Puncher can walk like an Egyptian with the best of them, and drinks at reception bars are always, in fact, significantly watered down. Unless you order a white russian. Then you apparently get a glass full of rubbing alcohol. Sadly, though I drank and drank I did not get drunk. Though I guess that's just as well when you have a seven hour car ride the next morning. Side note: the groom got the best job ever, since the tables' names were all derived from "Stuff He Thinks is Cool." We personally were split between the Vampire table and the Bear Grylls table, but they also had the Chuck Norris table, the Bacon table, etc. Good times.

Day Four: We returned home, after breakfasting at a local eatery called Tim Horton's, which is apparently the Canadian equivalent of Dunkin Doughnuts. Tasty stuff, I suppose, though I'm told it's kind of a big deal if you live up north.

The entire way back to Madison, including a side detour in Lansing due to Mapquest and US Interstate idiocy (seriously, Sarah can back me on this, for some reason the exits changed numbers and skipped a few), my brakes were grinding something fierce. That combined with the general strain of the drive led to some severely short nerves and shorter temper on my part, which I adequately vented on the moronic drivers of downtown Chicago who caused me to slam on my brakes every 20 seconds. I believe she thought I was going to either have a heart attack or start murdering people. Truth be told, I wasn't all that far from either.

Anyway, long story short (too late), we got back, I took my car in, and now I'm spending a small fortune to get my brake pads and rotors replaced. Given that I just spent a fair amount on one wedding, with two more to go this summer, I can tell already that my lavish expenditures are all to be curtailed for a while. No more crack for me, I guess. But along with that, I'm placing a moratorium on weddings. No more weddings for a while. Seriously. Stop getting married, people! I forbid it!

Ok, got that out of my system. But really, don't do it. All it does is cost me money and remind me how horribly sad and lonely my life is. Oh, and I suppose the married couple gets something out of it, but really, who cares about them?

Notes from the trip:
-Ann Arbor, while cool, is not "Madison" cool. Suck it, McJew. Advantage: Badgers.

-The Lady in Black seriously lives in the middle of nowhere.

-Seeing LiB and the Puncher reminds me just how much I miss them both and how awesome they are. More trips to Madison are demanded. I'd come to you, but apparently my car will fall apart.

-Michigan has a town with the largest Christmas store in the world. I'm proposing a winter road trip right now (in someone else's car).

-No more weddings. Just live in sin like decent, god-fearing folk.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Because I have nothing new to report, I offer you these selections from Vladimir Nabokov's Pnin, which will most likely only be funny to grad students. Sorry, everyone else. Drunken escapades coming this weekend.

On the start of a new semester:

"Again in the margins of library books earnest freshmen inscribed such helpful glosses as 'Description of nature,' or 'Irony'; and in a pretty edition of Mallarme's poems an especially able scholiast had already underlined in violet ink the difficult word oiseaux and scrawled above it 'birds.'"

"And still the College creaked on. Hard-working graduates, with pregnant wives, still wrote dissertations on Dostoevski and Simone de Beauvoir. Literary departments still labored under the impression that Stendhal, Galsworthy, Dreiser, and Mann were great writers. Word plastics like 'conflict' and 'pattern' were still in vogue. As usual, sterile instructors successfully endeavored to 'produce' by reviewing the books of more fertile colleagues, and, as usual, a crop of lucky faculty members were enjoying or about to enjoy various awards received earlier in the year."

On teaching:

"You may laugh, but I affirm that the only way to escape from the morass...is to lock up the student in a soundproof cell and eliminate the lecture room."

"Tom thinks that the best method of teaching anything is to rely on discussion in class, which means letting twenty young blockheads and two cocky neurotics discuss for fifty minutes something that neither their teacher nor they know."

Seriously. I think I may try that soundproof cell idea. Regardless, Pnin is wonderful, a real joy to read. I strongly suggest everyone do so.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No TV and No Beer Make Dubs Something Something

The other day on the phone, Quantum asked me what I've been doing with myself recently. Now, anything that I come up with is comparatively going to already be inferior to what they're doing out in New York, because those boys are crazy drunks, while I... am a slightly older, no-longer-quite-so-crazy drunk. Sadly, it occurred to me then that my days of having "hijinks" are diminishing. I'm not necessarily distraught about this, given that my last night of debauchery led to a bruised tailbone (that still hasn't completely healed), several unexplained cuts and bruises, and a cold that incapacitated me for several days. I wouldn't do anything differently, mind you; but I'll be the first to admit that my days are no longer filled with martinis, dizzying action, and seductive women of mystery secretly spying for foreign agencies (man, were those a crazy couple of months).

Of course, most of the blame for the more-sedentary lifestyle I've recently been enjoying stems from two factors. The first is that I somehow hurt my foot last week; I have no idea how, or when, but it pains me to walk. Given that my beloved Madison is a very pedestrian town, I've been ranging out less than usual (and given that I got snookered last Tuesday and walked home on said hurt foot in my drunkenness probably didn't help). Hopefully, this problem will have remedied itself by next weekend, when I venture to the great desolate wastes of upper Michigan for The Puncher's wedding and open bar extravaganza.

The second, and far larger problem, is my frighteningly growing addiction to serialized television on dvd. For this, I wholeheartedly and totally blame t., whose constant recommendations of truly excellent shows has crippled my work ethic these past few weeks. When I was on Deadwood, things would progress nicely; I'd work during the day, and watch one or two episodes at night. Then came the Dexter incident, wherein I watched all of Dexter season one in about three days. That's not the end of the world, given that the season was only 12 episodes long. But it whetted my appetite for the serial mystery in a way I haven't seen since Veronica Mars-gate 2006. Which set the conditions for the knockout punch:

Twin Peaks

Have you ever watched this show? Part soap opera, part mystery, part character study, part weird supernatural drama, part crack, part crystal meth. "Who killed Laura Palmer?" seems like a fairly straightforward question, right? Wrong, skippy. Dead wrong. This cursed show is a maelstrom of cracked out midgets and giants, ghosts, spooks, doughnuts, and unending mysteries, a vacuum that sucks you in and destroys your ability to function in the real world. On Sunday, I watched over eight hours of Twin Peaks, and I still didn't know who killed that damn girl. All I did know is that I really really really wanted a piece of cherry pie. That night, I couldn't sleep, because I was thinking about the show. I dreamed about it. I pondered it all the next morning, and I'm fairly certain I advised several students in the writing center that the owls were not what they seemed.

Anyway, my point is that I'm a sucker for serialized shows that constantly end in cliffhangers, and I'm a sucker for mysteries. So this show is like my holy grail. I've watched at least five episodes today, with another six or seven yesterday. Thanks be to Krishna, it ends after the second season, which I'm told gets increasingly poor right around the point I'm now at. I figure it'll be like getting to the poorly cut and most likely toxic cocaine after you've been flying high on the good stuff for a while; eventually I'll crash, run out, realize I've been poisoning myself, and have to go into withdrawl. I'll try to resume my life, my work, and reintegrate myself into polite society. I might get the shakes every once or twice, and sure, I may feel the temptation to rent Fire Walk With Me, but deep down I know there are no answers that way.

Which is for the best, really. Cause Deadwood season two is currently at the top of my netflix queue. And then The Wire is shortly after that, and I hear there are at least five seasons of that beast.

In other words, good luck finding me anytime this summer.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

St. Louis Blues

So a lot has happened since my last post. Here are some highlights:

-Went out and got snookered on my birthday. I am now 28 years old, with a slightly more damaged liver and a bruised tailbone. Still not sure how that happened.

-27 was a good year. I meant to write a reflective post on what happened during 27, but then I watched a lot of NewsRadio instead. I stand by my choice.

-I read the Dark Materials trilogy, which, despite its woefully uninformed critique of the Catholic Church, was somewhat entertaining. Though I'm somewhat skeptical that God could be defeated by what amounts to bow and arrow technology and zepplins. God forbid the Almighty be assailed by a squadron of F-15 Strike Eagles. They'd be able to conquer heaven before the echo faded.

-St. Louis is seriously the armpit of Lucifer himself. I've been home for a week, and there hasn't been a day when it's been less than 90 degrees with at least 60% humidity (often much more). I'm a fairly active person, so being cooped up inside the air-conditioned house all day every day has been quite maddening.

-I got to spend a lot of time with my parents. I love them. They are awesome. They go all out when I come home. And if I have to stay here one more day, I will most likely murder them in their sleep.

-On the plus side, I got a new suit for Cryptojew's wedding, so I won't feel like such a shlub (sp?).

-I also met a very nice 80 year old European tailor, who seems to be able to cut down my old new suit (old that I've had it for a year, new because I've never worn it because it was huge on me) to an appropriate size.

-Seriously. St. Louis sucks ass. I cannot emphasize that enough.

-I went to Chicago for the F15 10 year anniversary. Completely blew my voice out and got sick. But did an awesome rendition of "Any Way You Want It" at the karaoke bar.

-Discovered that tailbone injuries hurt like hell for a long time afterward. Especially when you're sitting for six hours in a car.

-Rewatched all of Heroes season one. Lamented the fact that season two ever happened. Eager still for season three.

-Lost finale. Awesome. Words cannot express the awesome.

-Started watching Deadwood. More swearing than I like to hear from a cadet in peacetime.

-I desperately want to play poker and/or euchre and/or whist when I get back to Madison. Someone needs to make this happen.

-Will require much drinking to forget the time spent in St. Louis. I get the impression this won't be a problem.

-Managed to piss away the first three weeks of summertime without doing really any work. I blame my cold, which completely nerfed my second week in which I had slated a lot of time to do work. Damn germs.

-That's all I got for now. Will be back tomorrow in Mad-city, so fun must recommence.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Everything's Coming Up Milhouse!

Recipe for a great day:

-Wake up at 10:00.
-Go to a coffee shop. Procure beverage and pastry (I recommend chai and scone, cranberry if available).
-Read The Code of the Woosters.
-Walk home listening to The Band ("Ain't Got No Home" suggested).
-Enjoy beautiful weather.
-Ponder drinking later in the day

So far, that's all I've got. I may factor in a walk later, or possibly some other Wodehouse. What I'm not doing, at all, is working. And it's really paying off.

That is all.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

It's Amazing How Spending Money Can Make Things Better

This past week or so has been excellent, for a number of reasons. Many of them are alcohol-related. A few are work-related. But by and large, they have to do with money.

With the department follies / Red-Headed Stepchild's birthday celebration last Friday, and Standard's one-act reading on Tuesday, there's been a significant increase in my getting drunk on various days that end with "y," and I must say, I'm a fan of the trend. Plus, I can't remember the last time I got drunk on a Tuesday. But let me tell ya, I'm glad it's coming back into style. Also great, so I've discovered, is showing up to a bar already drunk. You totally miss out on that early awkward phase where it's noisy and you're not quite comfortable yet yelling at the people across from you. Plus, you save money that way (or spend more because you aren't accountable for your actions).

As for work, I really haven't done a lot of that recently. Been meeting with students and helping them with their papers a lot, true. But largely, I've just been lazy. After the conference, I really couldn't bother myself with that whole dissertation thing.

Instead, I spent my time far more productively reading The Zombie Survival Guide, which is incredibly fun, if a little scary at just how in depth he goes. I can totally see some paranoid nuts out there actually buying land up to prepare for the zombie apocalypse after reading this book. Of course, when the zombie masses do rise up to slaughter us, I guess they'll be the ones laughing.

Well, them and me, because I've read the book. So I feel qualified now to easily hold out at least several weeks, should the situation arise.

So, in essence, fuck you, zombies. I won't play your game.

With the recent return of my hard-earned tax money and the promise of an economic stimulus check to come, I've spent an egregious amount of money in the past few days, largely on frivolities designed to amuse me. Saw Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanimo Bay, and would recommend it to anyone who liked the first movie. Also saw Iron Man, which I would recommend for anyone who likes kickass stuff. Seriously. It's a great comic book movie, a really great action movie in general, and Robert Downey Jr. is just pitch perfect. Plus, it's really a nice departure from the traditional comic book movie where the hero has a dark, tragic past, or is some kind of loser, or who is always tormented and torn about living a normal life, blah blah blah. Tony Stark is having a blast as a superhero, and it's fuckin' great to watch.

Of course, Quantum will be the first to point out that the tragic, brooding hero was in turn a nice departure from the old school superheroes, who had no personality at all and no real problems. But after Spiderman, Batman, the Hulk, the X-Men, etc., the trend of the tragically torn superhero/flawed human in comic book movies has really gotten kind of repetitive. Iron Man just does away with that nonsense, and I kinda love it for that.

Though it did make me realize I miss seeing comic movies with Quantum and the gang. Nothing like having a bona fide comic book expert in your circle to really enhance the viewing experience.

Finally, I have at last joined the 21st century and bought myself an ipod. And let me tell you, that thing is going to be the death of me. You'll find me on the streets, cold, alone, and destitute, but with 80GB worth of itunes. I can tell already. I may have to start selling blood to feed my itunes addiction.

But at least I don't have to carry around my discman anymore. So I got that going for me.

In conclusion, consumerism rocks and is a great way to both assuage a hangover and make you enjoy life more in every possible way. Especially if you combine the consuming of alcohol with the consuming of material goods to distract from the aftereffects of alcohol.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

So Cal is Where My Mind States, But It's Not My State of Mind

Man, California in April is vastly different from Madison in April.

In Cali, it was 80 degrees. There were flowers. And palm trees. And an ocean. And a patio at the hotel, where we sat in the shade under a ring of flowers and drank overpriced drinks.

In Madison, it snowed today.

So this weekend, as I mentioned in my last post, I went to Long Beach for a conference. This was my first time in California, and my first major conference, as well as the first time I presented part of my dissertation to people who weren't already my friends and thus obliged to tell me it was worthwhile. All in all, things went very very well. My paper was well received, and if I didn't get a ton of useful feedback, I got some good questions that I felt I was able to answer adequately, as well as some sense of validation that my ideas are in fact worthwhile.

The seminar I was a part of was stupidly good, with the 11 papers involved connecting in very interesting ways, which is odd when you consider our topics ranged from Dickens to the Vietnam War, from Dead Like Me to The Big Money, from artworks about genocide to a discussion of the zombie as emblem of the post-human Other. All of our papers were related, in some way, to death and narrative, but beyond that they wove together along lines none of us really expected. Given that the majority of panels I've ever been on have had nothing whatsoever in common, this was really refreshing. Also refreshing was when the very pleasant Irish scholar took the time to revise her paper the night before she gave it specifically to reference my paper from the day before.

Only actually went to two other panels at the conference, which isn't quite so bad when you consider that I had to attend three of my own seminar, so all in all I attended ten hours of conference panels over the course of the weekend. Anyway, it was freakin' California, and damned if I planned to spend the entire time inside the hotel.

Though I did spend a fair amount of time just outside the hotel, on that patio, under the ring of flowers, drinking.

Yeah, that was nice.

So, things I noted about the weekend, in no particular order:

-Jet Blue is really the way to travel. They have a tv on the back of each seat, with a DirectTV feed and all the basic cable channels. Even the flight back, which had multiple screaming babies, was enjoyable, due to the pleasures of drowning out said babies with The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man 2.

-Sitting on the aisle is a mistake. I'm a window seat man, and I need to embrace that.

-Long Beach Airport is ghetto. It may as well be a series of tin shacks. Seeing that there were multiple places you had to walk outside just to get to the baggage claim, we Wisconsinites wondered what they did in bad weather. Then we remembered we were in California.

-California is fuckin' expensive. Sure, I expect to get gouged by the hotel bar, but we were hard pressed to find anyplace we could eat for less than $15, even for lunch. God bless you, income tax return!

-Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor there. Yeah, I already knew that, but it's still surreal to see him on tv as the actual governor of the state you're in. Hilarious.

-A man got eaten by a shark, while training for a triathalon. Apparently his wetsuit made him look like a seal. TGD and I got quite a few laughs out of this while reading the paper poolside.

-It's a good thing I don't have a continental breakfast provided for me every morning.

-Zombies are funny. They are also apparently the working class of the horror industry.

-The desert is big.

-So is the ocean.

-Other parts of the country have mountains in them. Who knew?

-I can actually see fairly well with only one contact lens in, provided it is in my right eye.

-Brownsox somehow called me from the future. As he still has yet to call me back in response to my return call, I can only assume he has somehow managed to find a tricked out DeLorean and has an important message of future peril for me.

-There's something very liberating about being entirely out of internet contact for a weekend.

-TGD is a Navigation Hero.

I'm sure there are other things I'm forgetting, but it's late. Since we got in today at about 1:00am, I took the entire day off until my writing center shift this evening. Slept till 10, watched all the tv I missed this weekend (Lost and BSG = Awesome, Supernatural = Cool, Smallville = Lame Beyond Belief), answered a few e-mails, and generally rested.

Needed to recuperate after my vacation, after all.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Purposeless Update

My life is boring. There, ya happy? I'm not blogging because nothing of note is going on. So here's a blog post about all the uninteresting things that I'm doing.

Exception: Watching the start of Season Four of Battlestar Galactica is awesome, exciting, and just cool. Particularly great was the season premiere, when the Disserator and I went to a social gathering specifically because they had a tv with cable there. We left our friends after 45 minutes, went into the basement, watched the show, and came back up. All the while enduring the catcalls from our friends upstairs, who kept asking things like "Are the aliens attacking yet?", which just shows how little/nothing they know about the awesomeness of BSG.

Ok, so priority one in my life right now is editing down a dissertation chapter into a conference paper. Dissertation chapter: 56 pages. Conference paper: 8-10 pages. This is like trying to pour a birthday cake into a funnel. You end up with a big mess, you lose all the structure, and while it may still have some decent taste to it, there's no style or overall sense left. You just end up with a pile of frosting and cake all mushed together, and probably very dirty hands. That's how I feel about that.

In essence, I've cut out the main two argumentative points of the chapter. I barely talk about the book at all now. Much of my theory has gone by the wayside. And I can't tell if the sections all add up to something, or if I've just got a collection of random stuff. And I'm still two pages over the limit. Luckily, I'll be presenting this paper in Long Beach, CA, so even if it isn't any good (and I have to endure scorn from the Yalie grad student on my panel), I'll still be someplace pleasant and warm.

Priority Two: Still been dissertating. Second chapter progressing slowly, but not nearly as rapidly or coherently as my last chapter. This is a problem that arises when you use up all your good ideas in the first chapter.

Priority Three: Grading papers. I plan to do this at some point, despite the fact that the bulk of them are probably very bad papers about Emily Dickinson.

Priority Four: Halo 3. I've been playing a lot of this recently, largely because the catharsis of killing people helps bleed off the tension of all the work I should be doing and am constantly thinking about. And yet, despite this constant thought, I don't actually seem to spend all that much time working. Not sure what else I'm doing with that time, except...

Priority Five: Rome. Ok, this isn't a bad priority. Rome is a phenomenal show that I'm going through on dvd (blessed Netflix!). It's a badass retelling of the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Empire, centered around the lives of two Roman soldiers. It was originally on HBO, so it has no problem with violence, sex, gore, language, etc., which was made abundantly clear in the penultimate episode of season one, where Vorenus (one of the soldiers) kills a man with a spiked mace. Of course, he doesn't use the spikes or the giant metal ball on top. No, he drives the mace's handle through the man's neck so it looks like he has two heads. Just because he was pissed off. I've learned a lot of cool things about the Roman civilization. People were apparently sleeping around a lot. Togas look much cooler than one might anticipate. And apparently every domestic/social function involved a lot of lying around on couches. Seriously. I could get behind a civilization that let me lie on a couch while at a party. Though I might pass out from drunkenness much more quickly.

But still, Rome is awesome. Check it out.

Yeah, so that's about all that's going on right now. Hopefully I'll have something slightly more amusing to post about soon. Or at least some more colorful metaphors about cake. Which I kinda want now. Mmmm.....cake.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Another Friday Night, and I Ain't Got Nobody

I know, I need to update. Just not a ton going on, largely because my peers are lame people who prefer working to going out and doing things, particularly on Fridays during Spring Break. Lame, I say!

Anyway, if you haven't yet seen Garfield Minus Garfield yet, you should check it out. Constant hilarity. Larger update coming soon, I promise, once I have fun things to talk about.
Oh, and Battlestar Galactica comes back this Friday! If only I had cable, I'd be set!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Wanna smash? Yeah, let's smash.

For a brief but blissful period of my life, I and many of my friends lived in two distinct worlds. In one, we were bright, energetic, somewhat alcoholic but nonetheless charming college students. We spoke of the usual things college students spoke of, we did some of the usual things college students did. We were never exactly normal, but we still existed as if in a world commonly shared by the bulk of college-going humanity.

But in our other, more awe-inspiring existence, we lived and breathed an entirely different society. This society had its own knowledge-base, its own skill sets. Its own lexicon. It was a hermeneutic system so self-contained that even those with whom we shared common interests could not bridge the gap without extensive exposure.

This world was the world of Super Smash Brothers.

Yes, many people played Smash across the college campus. But I highly doubt that anyone else brought to it the slavish, almost fanatical devotion that we did. At any hour of the day or night, you could probably find a game going on in the dorm. We left the N64 out in the common room, plugged into the tv, and people could just wander by and join up. I became a non-res at the dorm specifically so I could continue playing after I moved into my first apartment. It was almost sickening how much we played this game.

And we were good. You'd be very hard pressed to find people better than us at the original Smash. We all had our set characters, we played for hours and hours and hours, constantly rotating in and out, where victory was the only thing that kept you in the game. I was good at Smash beyond any measure of ever being good at anything. When I die, whatever my achievements, they'll never surpass the skills I had developed at Super Smash Brothers. I could win a Pulitzer, but whatever I had written would be less skillful than the skill with which I played this video game every day of my sophmore and junior years of college.

We were all damn good. It got to the point that, while a distinct and unofficial hierarchy existed, there were many of us with whom it would come down to what we had just eaten, or how much we had slept that night, to determine who would go on a winning streak. But I don't think it too hubristic to claim that I was one of the top three players of the game in the dorm, which would probably make me one of the top players on Northwestern's campus. I was freaky good at that game in a way I've never been as good at anything.

But more importantly for the purposes of this blog post, we had created an entire world around Smash Brothers. We had a name for everything, our own unofficial language that was completely impenetrable to outsiders. I mention this because last night I was playing Smash Brothers Brawl, the new version for the wii, and all those old memories came flooding back in a visceral, almost violent way. I found myself thinking of those times as I walked back from TGD's place, and I couldn't keep away a stupid, asinine grin.

So, to clarify matters a bit for those with whom I will now be playing Brawl, and as a fond trip down memory lane for all my Northwestern folk, I offer you the following lexicon:

Dark Samus: My character of choice. It was Samus Aran, but an evil version.
Insanely Powerful Back Kick: Samus' weapon of dealing ungodly pain to her foes.
The rat (or the fucking rat): Pikachu, the electric little rodent.
Tomacco: A large tomato with an "M" in the middle. Restores 100% of your health.
Jigglybitch: Jigglypuff, the weakest character of the entire game. Her weapon was song.
I got your face!: The act of ingesting someone whilst playing as Kirby, thus stealing their power. Always exclaimed with a tone of glee.
Cock-rocket!: Quantum's battle cry whenever he activated Fox McCloud's rocket pack.
Ness of the D'Ubervilles: A typo on a Tess paper's title page after an epic five hour session. Courtesy of Ranger.
Dubs-Slayer: The name given to a friend of ours who came out of nowhere to beat me, due largely to his extremely unorthodox Link fighting style.
Beam Sword: The equivalent of a nuclear bomb in sword form. Turned your average Yoshi or Kirby into the equivalent of Voltron wielding the blazing sword.
Death by fan: The most ignominious death known to man. The equivalent of getting your ass kicked by Jessica Simpson.
Fox McCloud of the Clan McCloud: Starfox, the Highlander.
Electro-Condom: Fox McCloud's personal shield.
Booooooooom!!!!!!!!: The battle cry of Luigi's superpunch. Exclaimed always in a high, nasally voice.
Egg-e-mon: The pokemon that gave you eggs.
Dragonmon: The pokemon dragon.
Ass-Gas: The gas-emitting pokemon
Coin-e-mon: The pokemon who emitted harmful coins.
Rock-e-mon: The pokemon who dropped rocks on you from above.
Fatass: The pokemon who falls from the sky, crushing you with his giant ass.
Star-e-mon: The star-shooting pokemon.

I'm sure there were others, so I invite my fellow Smash-addicts of yore to chime in. And for those of you who will be playing with me (and losing to me) at Brawl, please keep in mind that whenever I say something that seems completely incongruous if not downright stupid, I'm not insane. I've just traveled back in time about seven years to a far more idyllic period.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Who Keeps the Martians Under Wraps?

This past week I had one of the most surreal experiences ever as a T.A. A student came to meet with me, with no real clear idea what he wanted his paper to be about. But he had narrowed it down to two options (after I explained to him that the story he had spent the most time on was not, in fact, one we assigned for the class), so we went over both of them. The first was a faintly intriguing though very nebulous investigation into Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher." The second was a bit more...unusual. Here is a reproduction of the conversation as best I remember it:

Student: Also, I was thinking of writing on "The Cask of Amontillado."

Me: Ok, why did you find that one so interesting?

Student: Well, there's that one line about him being a Mason, and I thought that was really interesting because I'm a Mason myself.

Me: (incredulous) Ok...?

Student: I'm really fascinated by all the history, and I think the fight in the story might have something to do with the Great Schism of 1753, which would be a really cool thing to look at.

Me: (shocked and confused): Ok.... And how would that help understand the story more? Why might that matter to Poe?

Student: Yeah, I'm not really sure.

Me: You might want to go with the other one, then. Seems like there's more to work with.

So now I've got a Mason in my section. And I'm terrified that if I give him a bad grade, his masonic brothers will rise up and bring about my downfall in some obscure, hidden-hand fashion. Or maybe they'll just wall me up inside a crypt in a bizarre bit of irony.

On the plus side, I'm really tempted to ask him just how true the National Treasure movies are.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Meet George Jetson?

Did you ever think that maybe we're missing the boat spending so much time on a better computer? That, had the computer industry not boomed and come to dominate the technological marketplace, we might be living in a far different society?

I personally believe there's a direct correlation between our ability to have a laptop thinner than an envelope and our increasing inability to have a flying car.

Back in the 50's, didn't everyone believe that by the year 2000, we'd all have flying cars? Not to mention time travel, interstellar colonies, and several intergalactic wars with alien species? Then boom, computers hit, and no one talks about flying cars anymore. It's all e- this and inter- that and micro- something or other.

I want my flying car, damn it.

Furthermore, don't say I didn't warn you when we invent computers smart enough to annihilate us as a species. Flying cars, see, they just fly around and take you places. They don't enslave mankind.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hollywood's Whipping Boy

If you're a habitual reader of Gray Matters, you probably noticed my extensive comments on a recent post which asked the question "Who would win in a fight, the superintelligent sharks from Deep Blue Sea or the aliens from Aliens?". As my comments revealed, I spent extensive time (at least an hour at the bar and at least three hours in my office) trying to come up with chains of causation, to determine which beast would best its opponent. These moves were similar to the Kevin Bacon movie game (at which I am also an expert), where I scientifically determined that an alien could beat a shark, or vice versa, based upon who had defeated them in their movies. For instance, the alien lost to Sigourney Weaver, who lost to x, who lost to y,..... who lost to Samuel L. Jackson, who lost to the sharks. Q.E.D., alien would lose to a shark.

Now, I was able to do this for both sides (although with a few contentious moves that I still feel kind of dirty about using), but it was much harder to see how the aliens could beat the sharks (scientifically it seems easy; using these causal chains, it's really frakkin' hard). This took me several hours in and of itself, for two reasons: first, the sharks were only defeated by two people, LL Cool J (who never loses; even when he was in Halloween H2O he survived) and Thomas Jane, who just isn't famous enough to have lost to a lot of people [I ended up using his obscure almost throwaway presence in Face/Off]). Second, through a sense of perverse pride I tried to get back to the aliens through Bill Paxton. And while Paxton's Hudson did die most spectacularly at the hands of the Alien infestation on colony LV-426, and his character is by and large the first thing people will remember about Aliens ("Game over, man! Game over!", "Maybe you haven't been keeping up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked!"), using him remains a critical problem for someone attempting to win this game.

Because Paxton never defeats anyone.

This was something we used to joke about a lot in college, so it may seem familiar to some of my NU readers, but Bill Paxton is seriously Hollywood's whipping boy. You need someone who's gonna be kind of a douche and then get defeated or killed? Call Bill Paxton. He'll be obnoxious about it, and then die gloriously. He's almost made a career out of being the guy who either dies or who we wish would die before the movie's out. Hell, he played the treasure seeker in Titanic, and while he didn't die per se in that film, I wasn't betting against it right up until the end of that movie. Somehow that old lady would toss him into the sea or something.

And because I had this very real attachment to Bill Paxton, I tried desperately to find someone for him to beat. I looked at movies I hadn't seen in a while; I checked out his imdb resume, desperately seeking some kind of resolution; I even tried to go with the larger theological conceit that he had defeated Satan somehow in Frailty, but even then he ends up getting the short end of the stick. Or maybe you could go through the tornado in Twister, but then where does that take you? Or you could argue he beat the moon in Apollo 13, but then who does the moon ever beat? Maybe Tommy Lee Jones in Space Cowboys, but that's a very debatable point. And Paxton's still kind of a douche in Apollo 13; I mean, come on, he's up against Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Gary Sinese. Which one of these is the loser outcast astronaut that sits at home on Saturday nights and cries?

Just look at the man's resume, highlights presented below:

-Terminator: He's the punk leader whose clothes Arnond steals. Thus establishing early in his career a willingness to get his ass kicked by his betters.
-Weird Science: He's Chet, the older brother, who gets turned into a slug-like mass by his dorky brother's sex genie.
-Aliens: Yeah, he's kinda cool, but he's also the tool of the outfit. Just look at the knife scene where he screams like a little girl.
-Predator 2: Death by Predator. Fuckin' Danny Glover lives, but he dies.
-Tombstone: The Earp posse consists of Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer (as badass Doc Holliday), Sam Elliott, and Paxton. Which Earp brother do you think is going to die, and which is going to still be killing people with only one arm?
-True Lies: He plays Simon, the car salesman/faux spy. He doesn't get cashed, but he pees himself twice, so close enough.
-Apollo 13: See reasons above. Also, defeated by the moon, which you know Neil Armstrong never let him forget.
-Frailty: This was a movie we had high hopes for in college. The premise is simple: Bill Paxton believes he is chosen by God to kill demons (i.e. possessed humans). To do this, he has a magic axe named "Otis," that apparently gains is magic from the very sharp edge which can cut through human flesh. Given our love for Paxton, it seemed like a "can't miss" film. And it was awesome. We saw it in the theaters. But still, things don't turn out well for our boy Billy.

That's pretty much all I've got. I know he's been in other films, and is apparently in this "Big Love" tv show that's supposedly pretty good. But really, poor Bill Paxton just cannot and will not ever be known as a guy who gets shit done. Though maybe that's a viable career choice; maybe, when you're a big Hollywood director or producer and you need a guy who's going to be kind of cool, kind of a tool, and end up getting cashed to show just how serious the situation is, then it pays to be Bill Paxton, King of the Whipping Boys.

(As a side note, Paxton was definitely in the all-star cast of our projected film Free Ben Stein, in which Stein is kidnapped by terrorists, and a crack team of special ops soldiers is put together to rescue him. He played, obviously, the guy who got killed halfway through to show how serious things were. But I'm sure he'd get off a good line or two before he died.)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

When We Have Found All the Mysteries and Lost all the Meaning, We Will Be Alone, on an Empty Shore

First off, suck it, Patriots and Patriot fans! Not only did they lose, but Brady got hit a delicious number of times. Though he was not horribly crippled, scarred, or set on fire, as Throat Punch and I had hoped. (See what happens when no one suggests nicknames? I come up with stuff like Throat Punch.)

Not much of a notable weekend, though I did drink a fair amount over the course of three days. So today's post is more of a comment diversion than anything, mainly for my Madison folk (sorry outsiders, will try to involve you more in the future).

Now, this year, as we know, is the first year the MAs don't have to take the egregious MA test that all the rest of us took. And while we've debated the gross injustice of this move and how we may or may not think less of our new brethren because of the relative ease with which they shall procure their degrees, I'm more concerned today with the loss of works, the truly wonderful works that most of us would likely not have read.

So for today's post, I'll ask you to submit: what work or works should we demand that people read, just because they are awesome? This isn't about being great, or important, or any of that academic bullshit that we spread around like so much manure. No, I want to know what you liked, what was totally outside your field, but you loved regardless. These are the gems of the now-defunct list, things that made the gruelling hours and days and weeks and months of reading worthwhile for a brief shining moment. What really worked for you? What made you happy that you were a scholar and a student of literature, because you got to read cool stuff like that?

Submit your responses, and then we can generate a "must read" list to unofficially force upon our peers.

To start, my choice would be Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. I never would have read this play in a million years. Not because I dislike Stoppard or contemporary drama; it's just not something I would have come across if not forced to read it. And it's brilliant. Single best thing I read that entire summer. I reread it at least once a semester (of course, it doesn't hurt that you can tear through it in like an hour or two, tops). It's hilarious and moving and really helped me formulate my motivations for being in this crazy, almost masturbatory profession that so many of us have chosen. And because it's Stoppard, it's witty and verbose and insanely intellectual, not to mention pure joy to read.

So yeah, check out Arcadia if you haven't already. And send along your submissions for the list, so that we may force it upon the next generation.

And fuck the Patriots.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Shorter Post, Because My Students Aren't Inventive

And yet again we're at the start of a new semester. I had hoped to bring you a lengthy post reporting back on my students' responses to the humorous question I posed in my first-day surveys. (For past results on my Sam Jackson v. Batman contests, see here, and here.) This year, the theme of our course has to do with the supernatural, so I decided to make things a little more open, since the SJ v. Batman had grown a bit stale (not to mention that, now that I live with Batman, I tend to side with him, as he pays half the rent).

Unfortunately, my students appear to be not very inventive in their responses. Many completely ignored the section of the question that asked them to justify their choices. Many others just gave lame reasons. But there were a few intriguing ones, so here they are for your enjoyment.

Question: Of the following, who would win in a fight and why: Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein's monster, the Ghost Busters, Ash (circa Army of Darkness), Buffy, zombies, Samuel L. Jackson.

The Breakdown: Samuel L. came in with a resounding 15 votes, due largely to his general badassery. The Ghost Busters came in a distant second with 8 votes, with their victory over the Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man as a prime justification for the ability to overcome all obstacles. Buffy took the third position with 6 votes, for reasons unspecified. Ash and his boomstick garnered 4 votes, while Dracula claimed a mighty 3 and Frankenstein's monster a morose 1 (which is ironic, considering the monster's main complaint in the novel is that no one loves him). The Wolf Man and zombies earned no votes whatsoever, which tragically ignores that both can raise entire armies of creatures like them with just one bite.

Choice responses:

-Samuel L. Jackson in a Ghost Busters suit (unspecified whether or not suit includes proton pack).
-Buffy: She has that whole "I'm a little girl, don't hurt me thing" going on for her. When really she could kill you. (Apparently Buffy is far more homicidal than I remember.)
-Samuel L. Jackson because he always wins. (Unless he's fighting a shark with an enlarged brain, of course.)
-Dracula because he was actually a Prince and controlled an army in Transylvania. He impaled his enemies on stakes. He was a total badass because he drank their blood afterwards. (Mad props for historical reference, and an appreciation for impaling people on stakes, a tried and true pedagogical technique.)
-Ghost Busters: Igon would find a crazy way to either trap or perhaps blow up the rest (lasers?). (Substitute "unlicensed nuclear accelerators" for "lasers" and you're correct.)

My own thoughts: I personally would have to go with the Ghost Busters on this one. They're scientists, for one thing. Furthermore, and far more importantly, each of them carries a long-range nuclear weapon on his back, giving them the ability to strike from distance, terrify their opponents with technology, and the ability to make all life as you know it stop instantaneously and every molecule in your body explode at the speed of light. (Right, that's bad. Ok, important safety tip.) Compared to a man who may or may not have a handgun and who was once eaten alive by a superintelligent shark? Ghost Busters 1, SJ 0.

"We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!"

Other thoughts on the matter?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Winter Break - The Highlights

Ok, so I can't really come up with one thing to sustain an entire blog post at the moment, so the following is a collection of highlights of break, followed by a dilemma. Because nothing invites comments like a dilemma, and a blog is lonely when it isn't commented upon.

1. MLA: I went to the Modern Language Association's annual convention, because it was in Chicago. While there, I attended numerous panels on war and violence (since my dissertation is about war and violence and the aftereffects). Sadly, not one of these panels had anything to do with literature or any kind of theory that would aid my own thinking. I also attended a panel that had papers I could have written as an undergrad (including one paper I'm pretty sure I did write as an undergrad), and one really kick-ass panel on Hawthorne, of all people. Don't get me wrong, I loves me some Nate-Dog H., but if you'd told me beforehand that the highlight of the conference for me would be a panel on Hawthorne, I'd have laughed in your face.

Oh, and apparently hotels feel no qualms about charging you $11 for a vodka tonic. I didn't realize this until after I had ordered two of them. C'est la vie.

2. New Year's: Had people over, was a fun time. Mellow. After everyone left, I opened a second champagne bottle and drank most of it myself. Because I couldn't figure out the wire thing on top of the cork, I cut it with wire cutters. I was drunk.

3. Ninja Drunk, take two: Got plastered off some Wild Turkey Barrel Proof, nearly fell over while playing pool. Don't remember the end of the night, but apparently had a drunk dial conversation in which I claimed to have paused the internet. Am researching this power for future use. May require more Wild Turkey.

4. Bar Golf: Got plastered again a week later at Bar Golf. For those unfamiliar, each bar counts as a hole. Each hole has an assigned drink, and a par. Drink one, get par. Drink two, birdie. Etc. Our course had 6 holes. I made it through four consciously, but still managed to stealth order a drink at the last bar in spite of a concentrated effort to stop me from drinking. Depending on who you ask, I shot either a -2 or a -3, or I was disqualified because I can't remember anything past the fourth hole and passed out at the last bar. But I say that last drink keeps me in the game. To wit: two rum & cokes, two Miller Lights, two martinis (Hendricks and Ketel), scotch and cigar, vodka tonic (and a chicken ceasar wrap I swear to the gods of Kobol that I didn't order). We started at 3:15, I was home by 8 or so, and at roughly 12:15 am, I regained consciousness and was back out in the street calling to find where the group had gone, only to realize everyone had gone home hours before. Went back upstairs and passed out again.

Also, Boone's (so nicknamed for his taste for the wretched drink) won with a -6. Because he is an inhuman drinking robot. Or a Cylon.

5. Poker: In Wudan tradition, we played some high stakes poker, with some nice upper shelf alcohol. I won $15, and rediscovered my love of Hendrick's gin and Bushmills 10 year. Batman won big, though a snafu with the pot kept him from claiming all his winnings. Still, won enough to put a new layer of armor on the Batmobile. Oh, and TGD got hilariously upset at my lucky streak (which was, admittedly, entirely luck and not skill).

6. Semester Kickoff Party: In which I discovered that beer does not make you as drunk as liquor. Thus, I was able to drink steadily for roughly 8 hours (8pm-4am) and still remember the entirety of the evening. I found I am pretty good at baseball (the drinking game), and that Boone's does in fact taste awful. Which is why we passed around two or three bottles of it at the end of the night and just took turns taking swigs. (I also discovered that sleeping in till 2:00 the next afternoon is a great way to avoid a hangover.)

7. The Hill: Today, on the way to campus, traffic was backed up way past my apartment. I was able to walk to campus (roughly 30 minute trek, all down one road) in a shorter time than it took the bus that was at the stop outside my apartment. I passed three other buses en route, and beat them all. Why? Because we had snow yesterday, and cars couldn't get up the hill about a mile down the road. Because, you know, in Madison, they don't know how to keep the roads clear or salted. Still. After one of the snowiest winters on record. All in all, it was a hilarious testimony to the ineptitude of both drivers and municipal officials. Though it did mean I had to walk a long time in the cold and the snow. Which kinda sucked.

That about brings us up to speed. I'm sure there are some other things I'm forgetting or neglecting. I didn't do nearly as much work as I planned. I managed to stave off guilt through alcoholism, BSG dvds, and movies (go see Cloverfield).

Oh, and the dilemma. I'm rapidly adding people to the cast of characters that comprises this blog, and I need nicknames for them. So I invite you, the readers, to submit nicknames for other people I know. Granted, this is mainly my Madison readers, but others can feel free to offer outlandish suggestions that I might randomly apply to others as suits my whim.

Finally, check this out, courtesy of Bourbon Samurai. Hilarious.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Side By Side By Side

First post on the new laptop! First post of the new year! Lots of tales to tell since Christmas. Ok, really just one or two. Probably a post on MLA. But that's all forthcoming, because today I'm going to talk about my New Year's Resolution.

While attending the Annual Modern Language Association Convention in glorious old Chicago, it occurred to me that I know a lot of people who are coupled together. When dining, it was quite often the three of us, or the five of us, and I realized that a large majority of the people I now associate with and consider my friends tend to come in pairs. Similarly, back in St. Louis, my associates generally consist of my friends and their wives. At my New Year's party, it was the same: people and their partners. Wherever I go, I tend to travel in packs of odd-numbered people, largely because I make up that added extra.

This isn't necessarily a problem, of course. I like all my friends, as well as their partners, and would conceivably be friends with either or both regardless of their coupled status. I've gotten very good at not feeling like a third or fifth or seventh wheel. I like to think that my inherent charm and panache overcome the oddity of the numbering. So please don't feel I'm self-pitying or lamenting the cruelties of fate. But it is noticeable.

Now, intellectually, I have nothing against couplehood. The human tendency to form pairs and travel within these pairs has many benefits. It makes every gathering inherently more crowded, because twice as many people are there, thus making conversation easier and more varied, particularly when you feel the urge to move from one conversing group to another. It allows for humorous paired costumes at Halloween. It means you only have to e-mail one person instead of two, and you can just assume that both people will hear about it. It often can halve the amount of Christmas presents you have to buy, as one gift for a couple is inherently less expensive than two gifts for two individual autonomous people. More often than not, it provides a designated driver, should the need arise. I'm told the added companionship is pleasant. And there are other benefits, I suppose.

But still, the odd man syndrome, while beneficial in that it often provides a spare chair at any dining establishment (useful for storing coats, bags, and the occasional parcel), has more than its share of drawbacks. It's very difficult, for example, to carry three drinks at a time, making collective ordering at a bar somewhat problematic. Five people make a car too crowded; three means one person is alone in the back seat. And good luck finding seating arrangements for seven at all but the largest tables at any decent dining establishment. Little things, one might say. Petty trifles, another might scornfully dismiss. But God is in the details, or so I've heard it said. And who are we to question the will of God?

So this had led me to my current resolution for the year of 2008. Rather than simply sitting back and passively accepting the situation, this year I'm going to be much more proactive. I'm going to address this issue head on, and put forth my efforts to remedy the issue of the odd numbering. The solution seems quite obvious, does it not?

Break up my coupled friends.

This seems by far the most effective and obvious way of ending the current status quo. It caters to my inherent love of strategy and mind games. It'll give me something to do instead of work on my dissertation. And it just sounds like fun. Therefore, I'm beginning an intricately laid web of lies and deceit focused solely on splitting up any and all romantic engagements amongst my friends. This is not done out of malice towards them or the institution of couplehood per se. Rather, I do it solely for my own well-being. Some might call this selfish on my part. Others, ghastly and inhumane.

I prefer to think of it as heroic.

So welcome 2008, and the fun and exciting new possibilities it brings.