Tuesday, June 02, 2009
If you've never watched "Chuck," then I feel really sorry for you. But the good news is, you can totally watch all episodes from season one for free on http://www.thewb.com/shows/chuck. Bear with it for a few episodes, as it has a bit of a slow start. But it's probably the best example ever of a show that figured out exactly what it wanted to be between the first and second seasons. The first season is good, if a bit shaky, and the writer's strike messed it up. But the second season was far and away the best thing that just aired last season. You're a chump if you don't check it out.
I can't sleep. I don't understand it. But I hate it. When I was growing up, I used to have horrible insomnia. I'd lie awake at night for hours at a time, generally not falling asleep for at least 2-3 hours after I'd been sent to bed. Nerves would exacerbate this, to the point where I couldn't fall asleep at all the night before big events. (Mainly this would manifest on the night before the first day of school. One year I fought this problem by staying up all night the night before the night before school. I watched all three Godfather movies, which may explain why I hate the third one so much. Other than the obvious reasons, of course.)
But it was a recurring condition. I'd drink warm milk, take cold medication that promised drowisness, etc. One time, my mom even pretended to spike my warm milk with sleeping pills, believing that it was psychological and I just needed to relax. That didn't work particularly well either.
Mainly, it's just a problem of falling asleep. It's balls hard for me to do. Sometimes I'll get a song stuck in my head, which will repeat and repeat, and I just can't rest. Sometimes my mind will just wander excessively and I'll be thinking so fast that I just can't get tired. Sometimes it's just noise that prevents it. (That's why I'm such a horrible person to share a hotel room with, and I slowly grow to hate any people that even vaguely coinhabit the places I'm trying to sleep. Nittany Lion, I'm sure, remembers extensively our time together at CryptoJew and the Hillbilly's wedding.) But the point is, it is fucking hard to fall asleep. Once I'm out, I'm pretty much gone for the duration, and could sleep through a tornado. But getting there is the challenge.
Now, this hasn't been a problem for a long time. I'm exercising more, worrying about less, and wearing earplugs when I sleep. I never have problems falling asleep anymore, and, barring a few isolated incidents, haven't since early college. Which is why these past few nights have sucked so much ass. Seriously. A lot of ass. Two nights back, I just got in a rhythm of pondering all the things that had been going on since I started grad school, and imagining the possibilities of what I would do if I could go back and start working on the dissertation again. Cause that's always a productive mindset to get into. That randomness, combined with the fact that it was just hot enough that I didn't want to use a heavy blanket and just cold enough that my sheet wasn't enough, and you had me tossing and turning for three hours before I finally nodded off, thus leaving me with a remarkable 4 hours of sleep. Which was great for my productivity and my temper the next day, let me tell you.
Last night, I figured I'd be aces. I had only slept for four hours the night before, I'd walked about seven miles that evening just to wear myself out, and I tried to avoid all sugars or caffinated drinks for at least five hours before sleep. But then I got "Mr. Roboto" stuck in my head, didn't fall asleep for two hours after that, and woke up three hours later after some very messed up nightmares involving the Cold War and espionage in a vaguely Hungarian setting. So yeah, things ain't looking too rosy at the moment, and I'm sure as shit not writing anything coherent in this dissertation of mine.
So I guess the point is, what do you all recommend for sleeping aids? Any home remedies that seem to work? Other than drinking, of course, which is tried and true, but also not condusive to working the next morning. Any other insomniacs out there, former or current, who can suggest remedies should this persist?
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Eagerly anticipating my sojourn to the City that Never Sleeps, I ended both of my sections early, after collecting papers, juggling for my students, and explaining the concepts of synchronicity and diachronicity to them, just to make myself look smart. The plane rides from Madison to Chicago to New York were uneventful, luring me into a false belief that there would be no travel-related incidents, unlike the last five times I've flown through Chicago. Ah, naivete.
Arriving in the early evening, I met up with Quantum at his office in Hell's Kitchen, where we ditched my bags and went to a bar. He had a show going up at 8:00, for which he graciously procured me tickets, so we had a little under two hours to get drunk enough to enjoy it. It was a quick "two beers and out" scenario that turned into a "three beers and out" fiesta, due to the presence of the Guinness Girl. The Guinness Girl, for those of you playing along at home, was an attractive woman in a Guinness shirt, giving out Guinness quizzes and keychains, and promoting the new, 250 year anniversary edition of Guinness, which they had on tap at the bar. Apparently it uses carbonization instead of nitrogen, or some crazy thing like that, has a slightly sweeter, more mellow taste, and doesn't feel like you've eaten a loaf of bread afterwards. As it was free and she was attractive, we each had one, and would proceed to push them on all our friends over the next few days. It was tasty, but not quite Guinness. But since I don't particularly like Guinness, that worked for me. And I got a keychain out of it, and learned that the Guinness founder took out a 9,000 year lease on the land where the brewery now resides. God bless the Irish for their forward-thinking ways.
Quantum had to leave after an hour to help get the show ready, but Hubris and his girl showed up to keep me company and in my cups. After what was possibly the world's fastest consumption of a plate of wings, we went to see the play, which was a 90 minute musical, basically a one-woman show (though it did have three supporting singers) about the life of this woman, an actress that I knew primarily from my copy of The Last Five Years soundtrack. The show was basically a cabaret about her life, growing up Mennonite and moving to New York. While I was distracted by 1. The fact that I actually owned a soundtrack this woman was on and therefore was kinda geeking out, and 2. The myriad issues involved in drinking three beers in a short amount of time, I enjoyed the show, though it isn't anything I'd particularly call noteworthy. It was an amusing 90 minute diversion, and as it was free, I bear it no ill will. Plus, she really is a good singer and enjoyable performer to watch, so take that for what it's worth.
Afterwards, Quantum, Hubris, his girl (whose blog name I don't know), and I went to yet another bar for dinner and more drinks. Whilst there, we fairly predictably alienated the bar and possibly Hubris' girl through our very drunken and dorky behavior. High points included the owner of the bar admonishing us for playing quarters with our very heavy Guinness keychains, the repeated discussions of the tv show "Gargoyles" (followed by the repeated bursting into the humming of the theme music), our geektackular discussion of Wolverine fighting Batman, and a breakdown of the "Battlestar" finale. We stayed there from around 10:00 to 3:15, and I consumed another 5 beers and 4 shots of Ketel One. (Though I'm man enough to admit that Quantum and Hubris had at least two more beers than I did. They're still young.)
Spent the night at Quantum's parents' place on the upper East Side, which is what I believe where Fitzgerald had in mind when he talked about "wherever people played polo and were rich together." It's a 10th floor apartment with a spectacular view of the East River, and I felt like a dirty interloper just stepping through the door. I'm fairly certain the doorman was judging me every time I walked in the lobby. But I had a bed and my own private bathroom, which were awesome, though I'm fairly certain I got Quantum into hot water with his sister, whose room I was crashing.
Following morning/noon led to a slightly painful wakeup, and another trip into the city. Quantum had to put in an hour at the office, so I got a bagel and wandered down to the Hudson. It was about 85 degrees and gorgeous, which was a wonderful hangover cure, though the constant noise of the city is something I think I'd never entirely get used to. After completing his work, Quantum and I met up with Bourbon Samurai and his girl (whose blog name I don't know), and were later joined by Teach. Lunch and more beers were consumed (by them, at least--I wasn't drinking lest I be drunk or sick for the wedding that eve), followed by a return to Quantum's to get ready for the wedding. We cabbed downtown together, where he had to go back for another show, and I continued on to Chelsea.
Now, right here seems like a good place for a brief aside. There are many things that make New York different from places where real people live. But the one that always strikes me the most is the fact that there don't seem to be any traffic laws in that city. Lane markings seem more like suggestions than rules, stop lights are brief reminders that, hey, someone else may be coming, so you might want to slow down. And the laws of physics? Don't get me started on those. I'm fairly certain those cab drivers can bend reality with their minds. Otherwise, I just can't explain how they can fit between two cars in a place where there is no lane, doing roughly 60 mph. It just isn't possible. I've heard horror stories about muggings, murders, coke fiends, Giuliani killing the homeless, and all sorts of other crazy stuff in the city (dogs and cats, living together). But those cab drivers...man, those fuckers are scary.
Ok, the wedding. The wedding was at a place called the Chelsea Pier Lighthouse, which was a wonderful venue. The ceremony was performed in front of a windowed wall looking out over the Hudson, at sunset. String quartet, open bars, men walking around with trays of food (crab cakes! miniature burgers! ). Roses everywhere, open seating for dinner, watching boats go by, and a pretty spectacular band. All in all, the wedding seemed about as wonderful as it could get.
For the bride and groom, at least.
I, on the other hand, didn't know a soul there (with the exception of one fellow high school friend that I could talk with, but was never really all that close with), and I'm craptacular at mingling with new people. So I wandered from bar to bar, basically, drinking until I either worked up the courage to talk to strangers, or blacked out. Luckily dinner intervened before either of those things happened, and I sat with the high school friend and his mother and her friends, and got to talk about St. Louis. Baker, if you're reading this, know that I thought it was a beautiful wedding, and that you seemed ecstatic to be getting married, and your bride looked lovely, and everything seemed perfect, and fun was had by pretty much all. If I weren't so cripplingly socially awkward, I'm sure it would have been great all around. But congratulations nonetheless, and I'm glad I could be there for it.
Afterwards, met up with Quantum, Arsenal, and Kodez at a nearby bar, where, on top of a myriad of open bar drinks at the wedding, I added another beer and two shots of Jameson. Just, you know, to end things in style. We sang along with the 80s music playing, and impressed women with our knowledge of the A-Team and Mr. Belvedere (I kid you not).
That's pretty much it for the New York trip. Other than that, I got to LaGuardia at 9:30 the following morning for an 11:00 flight. We boarded the plane, and of course we sat there for roughly four hours because of thunderstorms in Chicago. Of course, they didn't let us off the plane at all during that time, but they did manage to tease us several times by telling us we had gotten clearance to leave, only to take it back. We did actually go to the gate once, but that was just to refuel, not to, you know, let us do anything. Got back to Chicago after a two hour flight, and then sat at that airport for 45 minutes while we waited for a gate. Got put on standby for the last flight back to Madison, which I didn't get (my actual connecting flight had left two hours earlier), but the airline was kind enough to comp my bus ticket home. So in travel time, figure a half hour cab ride, an hour in the airport, six and a half hours on a plane, and two and a half hours on a bus. Yeah, I fucking hate flying through Chicago.
And that's the end of Dubsgiving 3. A brief, whirlwind tour of the Big Apple, that reminded me yet again why my friends are awesome, and why my liver would mutiny if I ever tried to live there.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Let's see, lots of stuff happened since my last post. I went to ACLA at Harvard, which was pretty sweet. Got to see t and Brownsox and various others I haven't seen in forever. Drank the special Harvard ale they brew there, and got nice and drunk at John Harvard's Beer Hall. My paper didn't get laughed at (at least not to my face), so I've got that going for me.
Did a workshop on my dissertation chapter that I'm currently writing, which wasn't the train wreck I anticipated (given that half of it was a conference paper and the other half was ten pages I wrote in under a day's time). Went out for drinks afterwards with my advisor, TGD, the Dissertator, and Captain A, which was nice. My advisor let slip there that he can't watch women's figure skating, because he finds it too distracting. "Like porno on ice" were his exact words, I believe. Because he's awesome.
Saw Adventureland, but I was fairly drunk throughout, so no idea whether I liked it or not. It seemed ok.
Went to a talk this past week by one of the more famous Americanist scholars in the country, and my body conspired against me in practically every possible way. Roughly five minutes in, I got an eyelash under my contact lens. Then, after dealing with that, I started to nod off, even though I'd slept plenty the night before. Then, when I conquered my body's need to sleep, I started sneezing, and couldn't stop for about five minutes, which left me continuously blowing my nose throughout the rest of the talk. So I slunk out of the room with my tail between my legs right as the Q&A started, having no idea whatsoever what the actual talk was about. Cause that's how I roll.
Other than that, not too much going on. There's a general buildup of hatred and rage and weariness pervading the department at the moment, which is about normal for the end of spring semester. When all is said and done, the drunken revels to end the term should prove to be epic in proportion.
And if you're looking for some fun stuff to watch on tv to while away the hours of pain and misery, a few suggestions from what I've been doing these past weeks. First, "Better off Ted" is perhaps the funniest show I've seen in a long time (while I like "Chuck" more, I think "Ted" makes me laugh more consistently). It's from the same guys who brought us "Andy Richter Controls the Universe," if you watched that, and it's another corporate comedy. Last week's episode was probably the best thing I've seen this season. In it, the company replaced all motion detectors (that activated lights, elevators, water fountains, etc.) with a new system that worked by recognizing light bouncing off people's skin. Unfortunately, it couldn't detect black people (but it does recognize whites, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Jews). Thus, they had to hire white people to follow all the black people around, mirroring their movements to set off the sensors. But then, via affirmative action, they'd have to hire an equal number of black people, and then hire more white people to follow them around. And so on. Seriously, if you get a chance, you should check it out online. The pilot is good but not great, but it gets much better as the weeks go on.
Secondly, I just burned my way through "Slings and Arrows," which is a Canadian show about a Shakespeare troupe. (I know, right? Who knew Canada had tv?) It ran for three seasons in the early '00s, and is available via netflix. Each season is six 45 minute episodes long, and each one deals with their attempts to put on a new play. It's both wonderfully funny and dramatically well-acted, and should be seen by anyone with aspirations to either English Literature or the theatre. I could describe it more, but it'd be far too complicated. It'd be easier to just accept that I'm right, and rent it yourselves.
Ok, that's all for me for now. I'd like to promise regular updates again, but I'm not willing to commit to that right now. So at best, I'll promise to try.
Monday, March 02, 2009
But I'm more intrigued lately by the ways tv shows use songs. And not just using very famous songs to underscore moments, but rather the ways that, songs I've either never heard of before or never cared for that much can take on new meaning or new levels of enjoyment because I associate them with specific television moments. For instance, The Fray's "How to Save a Life" has been misused/overused by every medical tv show known to man, and I believe it's a song that really only caught on because the slavering fans of Grey's Anatomy took to it. But I still listen to it on the radio, practically every time it comes on, because it makes me think of a specific Scrubs episode that closed with it particularly well. Scrubs does this quite well on a regular basis, and I've found that a lot of the previously unknown (by me) music on my iPod comes from there (Colin Hay's "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin," Joseph Arthur's "In the Sun" are two examples).
Similarly, I've found that Aaron Sorkin shows tend to use music sparingly enough that when it pops up, I always take note in some way. There's an episode of Sports Night that closes with "Sloop John B," which made me go and download it immediately. And more recently, thanks to CryptoJew's loaner of all seven seasons of The West Wing, I've developed an overzealous interest in Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms" and Tori Amos' cover of "I Don't Like Mondays," which also led me back to the original version (which, in turn, I enjoy more because the clip I found of it on youtube opens with Hugh Laurie playing the opening piano riff). These particularly intrigue me, because while I like the songs, I also realize I never would have actually downloaded them if I hadn't seen them in a context that predisposed me to enjoy them.
And then, of course, there's the way Battlestar has completely changed the meaning of "All Along the Watchtower" for me. But that's another point altogether.
I recognize a lot of television uses music to illustrate its point, to provide background to ending scenes or ending narration, to structure a montage, etc. And most television does this quite badly, often making me dislike songs that I previously liked quite a bit. (Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" serves as an excellent example, given that practically every drama of the last five years has seen fit to sample it.) Most often, I just tune out whatever background song is playing.
So I guess I'm just curious, what are the songs that you associate not just with their own singers/bands, but with specific tv shows? Or, more specifically, with particular episodes of shows? What are the songs that you never would have listened to, never downloaded, never even heard were it not for specific shows? Feel free to provide links, clips, etc., as I am bored and grading papers, and can use the distraction.
p.s. Sorry this post isn't particularly amusing. Funny stories of drunkenness coming in the future.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Repeatedly, I have to fight the urge to go Risky Business and just start up an impromptu dance routine through the halls.
Yeah, that's how I roll.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Style, it turns out, was indeed the operative word of the evening. We set forth with a party of seven, mostly his family members, all good men and true. Four of us had graduated from the same high school. One of his relatives was a Northwestern alum. And his brother had lived in Madison for several years shortly before I myself arrived here. So we were in good company all around.
They had chartered a limo, and the general plan of the evening was "Bar, dinner, bar, bar, bar, ad infinitum, requiem in pace." The limo, of course, also served as a bar, as it contained a cooler full of various beers and a bottle of Macallan 12 year for post-dinner consumption (not in the cooler, as that would be blasphemy of the grossest order). When you get to travel from drinking establishment to establishment, and the longest you're without a beer is the ten second walk from the bar to the limo, you know it's gonna be a fun time.
We started at a place called McGurk's, which seemed a very fine establishment. I had been warned beforehand by my mother, though, not to make a scene at this particular imbibery. Apparently my maternal family has quite a history there; they have been kicked out of that bar more times than she could remember, for reasons ranging from brawling to spontaneous Irish singing. While a part of me was tempted to start some shit in deference to my illustrious heritage, cooler logic prevailed.
Dinner was superb, particularly the variety of foods available. I had escargot for the first time ever (quite tasty, served on a puff pastry), lobster, crab cake, and veal dumplings, all as appetizers. Then, for entree, a filet mignon sliced along the side and stuffed with lobster and shrimp, with a bearnaise sauce on top. As many of you may know, I am a firm believer in the increasing need for meats stuffed with other meats, and this particular dish, as a tripartite alliance of meats beneath a sauce banner of brotherhood, elevated the evening to an entirely new level.
(The Baker, sadly, did not partake of this delicacy [though four of the other diners also did]. He instead opted for a rare rack of lamb, which I am firmly convinced led to the extremity of his downfall later that evening. But I'm getting ahead of myself.)
Following that, we traveled to at least two other bars, and then returned to our point of origin. On the way, we consumed a liberal quantity of the aforementioned scotch, while I repeatedly cautioned my compatriot not to vomit on my shoes. He obligingly, did not.
That profound moral restraint didn't persist once we arrived back, however (around 1:30 or 2:00 am, I believe, though my time sense was fuzzy by that point), and he spent the next hour or so being tended by his betrothed while desecrating the porcelain altar. We, his merry men, retired to the bar/basement, equipped with a full, professional-looking bar and pool table, where three generations of SLUH graduates engaged the enemy upon the red felt battlegrounds of Billardia. Upon our triumphant completion, the gentlemen were escorted home by their wives, and your illustrious blogger crashed on the couch for a few hours until he was sober enough to drive home.
It was just like I was back in high school, except this time I actually drank. Now I see what all my friends were talking about back then.
The drive back to Madison, however, was not so pleasant. Driving six hours, with a hangover, on four hours of sleep, is never advised. Though we may have been partying like it was high school, I just don't recover that fast anymore. Sadly.
So, final tally:
Limos rode in: 1.
Bars visited: 4 + limo.
Beers consumed: 7 (4 before dinner).
Glasses of wine with dinner: 3.
Glasses of scotch consumed: 1 liberal pour, neat.
Glasses of Irish whiskey consumed: 1.
Shots of Jäger consumed: 1.
Other beverages consumed: ???
Number of meats consumed: 9.
Hours of sleep on a couch: 2?
Hours of sleep in a bed: 3.
Number of Starbucks near my parents' house: 0.
My increasing rage at not being able to find a cup of chai anywhere to wake me up for the drive home: great.
Amount of work I got done on my dissertation over the weekend: 0.
Next weekend, Mimi comes to town, and I show her how we party Madison-style. Sadly no limo, but I may bring a flask just in case...
Monday, January 12, 2009
In this multicultural, homogenized, globalized world in which we live, we often feel the pressure to try new things, to embrace ideas and traditions from cultures outside our own. Often this leads to great advances in a more tolerant, more understanding world. Like Laotian restaurants. And margaritas.
But far too often, as well, the plethora of choices available to the modern man or woman leads to ignorance of one's own cultural heritage. As we learn more and more about the world, we find less and less time to delve deeply into the traditions that once bound our ancestors together, the shared knowledge base that provided community and a sense of purpose. My resolution is to rectify that neglect.
Too long have I ignored the simple truth of my past. As a white, upper middle class, private and prep-school educated member of the intelligentsia, I feel it is my duty to my people to learn more about our great and glorious past, to gain a firm grounding in the traditions of our forefathers. So my resolutuon is to spend the year acquainting myself with all those traditions that I have shamefully neglected in my first twenty eight years upon the earth.
Therefore, in the month of January, I am beginning to compile a list of things to accomplish. Things that will bring me closer to the inner Anglo-American snob that has too long remained suppressed within me. The shame I have brought upon my noble lineage shall finally be overcome, and I will be able to hold my head high amidst the glorious accomplishments of the past.
As such, I am soliciting suggestions from you, my readers and peers, as to things I can do in pursuance of this goal. Texts, activities, knowledges to pursue--any advice is welcome as I strive to bring myself closer to my heritage. So far, I have comprised a preliminary list, which is admittedly brief at the moment, but will hopefully grow as the year develops.
1. Read classical texts, particularly Greek and Latin tragedies. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey as well as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Other suggestions welcome.
2. Read Dante's Divine Comedy.
3. Watch Gilbert and Sullivan operas, particularly H.M.S. Pinafore and Pirates of Penzance.
4. Learn something about wines.
5. Read something by Proust.
6. Listen to more classical music. Suggested composers/pieces I can get from iTunes welcome.
7. Continue education in fine Scotches. Maintain snobbish disdain of blendeds.
A short list to be sure, generated solely upon one night's brief reflection. Further suggestions and advice are welcome. Remember, any insight you offer will not only be for my personal edification, but will aid greatly in the preservation of a noble tradition in the modern world.
Sunday, January 04, 2009
So it's January, during that magical time when school hasn't started, deadlines are still blissfully out of sight (excepting the fellowship deadline on Wednesday and the article I planned to send out by Christmas), there are no obligations other than what I set for myself, and Batman is out of town. All these things add up to a wonderful existence that I only achieve for about two weeks out of every year. Basically, my life becomes a complete inversion of normality. I wake up later and later each day, go to bed even later every night, so that eventually I'll be waking up at 3pm and going to bed around dawn. "Surely he can't be serious!", I can hear the naysayers naysaying. Well, I am serious...and don't call me Shirley.
Yes, I can achieve this total transformation through a series of machinations designed to fill my days with an endless succession of activities that require no real time schedule, just time commitment. Largely, they involve my tv and Xbox. My bautiful, beautiful Xbox, that brings me such wonderful things as 30 Rock episodes (via Netflix online!), Left 4 Dead online, and Bioshock, on loan from the Mixologist, which is perhaps the most freakily terrifyingly awesome game ever played. It's a horror/shooter/mystery game set in an underwater society with 1950s decor and an Ayn Rand philosophy. And it's terrifying. Particularly when played at 2:30am with all the lights out.
Beyond that, my blessed friend of Netflix constantly brings me movies to cure hangovers (Tropic Thunder) and season three of The Wire, which is leaps and bounds better than season two. I'm perfectly willing to admit that this is the better show, though I think I still enjoyed Deadwood more just because of the more colorful characters. But season three has sold me. Other than that, my marathon Lord of the Rings viewings and enjoyment of season one of Entourage (a gift from my brother) provide enough variety for when I don't feel like watching one of the other things on my list.
So yeah, I've been spending a lot of time in front of the tv. Eventually, this is all going to crash and burn, and my reckless abandonment of sense will bite me in the ass. But, like most good Americans, I choose to recklessly ride out the good times rather than anticipating the bad.
Other than that, break has been fun thus far. Went to my 10 year high school reunion, and I totally staved off the patheticness of still being in school by recognizing that I was one of the few of my class who didn't look like they had swollen in some way. Small compensation compared to their wives and jobs and homes and success, but in many ways I'm a small, petty man.
Plus, a ton of my classmates are now lawyers. So I am set if I ever break the law in St. Louis. And given my feelings for St. Louis, that's probably where I'm most likely to break the law in some way, shape, or form.
New Year's with TGD, Red-Headed Stepchild, et al. Good times, don't really remember the ending. If I did anything embarassing, I'm totally shifting the blame onto the Mixologist for giving me that manhattan with absinthe in it. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Lastly, I'm in the market for a New Year's Resolution. Since I did so poorly with my last one, I'm thinking of aiming much much lower. This year is guaranteed to suck already, at least in the period between September and January when I'm on the market, so low expectations will be a blessing. Any suggestions?
Ok, it's 2am and I'm bored. I guess I'll go kill some zombies or something.