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 (Mad props for historical reference, and an appreciation for impaling people on stakes, a tried and true pedagogical technique.)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.