Sunday, August 31, 2008

home, one day early

i got on the first car, knowing it would be the closest to the turnstiles when i reached my stop. a man was standing, staring intently out the front window the train, his cart of luggage behind and to his right. as the train accelerated, i noticed the locked wheels of the cart sliding reluctantly against the mottled blue floor. i wondered if i should say something to the man - 'you know, your cart is actually moving. the wheels won't turn, but it can still slide.' i imagined him arguing back, thought of providing some retort about friction and how it wasn't enough, in this case, to keep something from moving even when it's barred from moving easily. the wheels, the cart, its progress along the floor became a matter of great interest. at one point, i leaned accidentally against it, presumably releasing the brake, for this sluggish friction-bound object suddenly moved several inches away from me, as if my slight brush against its handle was powerful and decisive, clearing the grey-wheeled infringer out of my path. somewhere in this drawn-out examination of my situation, i realized my hypocrisy. my own luggage, two decidedly non-wheeled bags, were lying on the floor, their coefficient of friction assumedly much lower than that of the creeping cart.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

don't think too much

one of the more amusing things about the passing of time is the sudden discovery that you can honestly say things like 'i've had that for something like 10 years,' or 'we've been doing this trip for twenty years.' the family/church camping trip has gone on so long that i can hardly remember it not being an entity. i've gone from one of the proud few who'd been to them all to missing it due to geographic impossibility, on into skipping because college seemed more exciting, and back and forth between wanting to have my own life and desperate to get outside and do something tough. it's not just a camping trip, it's also an annual hike that i'm certain will be more difficult this year than most. of course, i could be wrong about that, but i'm probably under-fueled and certainly in sub-optimal shape. i did find the high-tech hat i bought last year, so at least i've got the equipment down. weather remains a concern, so there's a distinct possibility something not completely difficult will be substituted as a practical measure.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

whatever arrives first

summer's been mild; weather-wise, it has been outstanding. it wasn't the greatest for me overall, but there have been some highlights. i certainly am better off right now than i was at the start of it, which is really all one might ask. what i am beginning to remember is how great fall can be.

Monday, August 25, 2008

there are three types of milk in the fridge

i am against a lot of things, but i like muffins. i also like biscuits.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

where's my education?

a friend asked yesterday about the cost of applying to graduate school. it's not cheap, and for some programs it's probably extra expensive, but i have never thought it was hard to spend the money on applications. these past couple days i've been getting emails from one of the schools that accepted me this year. they don't seem to have successfully excised my name from their list after i chose not to go, but it's weird to think i could be starting classes right now. it's definitely not a waste to give myself the option, it's just weird that i always end up deciding i don't want to attend the schools that accept me.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

yes, the moment has arrived

the new jennifer o'connor disc arrived tuesday. honestly, i haven't gotten my copy yet, but i did one better than that. saw her perform most of the songs from the new effort, and it's definitely worth your time. if you check out her stuff online, be sure not to listen to 'i was so wrong dump remix' first, because it's a bit weird. any of the other stuff she's streaming is excellent. just buy the record, k?

Friday, August 22, 2008

that didn't go so well

sometimes it's more fun to watch from the sidelines. or the bench. i barely made it to any of the games this year (scheduling conflicts), and so it didn't matter to me whether i played or not. the other team was better than we were, but on a rare day where things go right we might have been able to win. it wasn't a big deal to me, but i guess i've attached greater weight to different trivial matters than company softball.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

championship day

my third year playing company softball. first year we were terrible; last year we were better and made the semis; this year we're inconsistent but made the finals. definitely the best team we've had this whole time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

i'm in favor of lunch

just saying, if it comes down to skip lunch or eat're wise to eat lunch.

Friday, August 15, 2008

these are not from the backlog

...the're just short

the pat hobby stories
-f. scott fitzgerald

an amusing collection of material he wrote close to the end of his life, these stories are brief, sometimes effortless episodes from the 49th year of a whiskey-soaked hollywood writer's life. fitzgerald doesn't dazzle here; he's just out to amuse us, but in doing so he presents a hollywood that is tangibly real.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

not everyone gets a shot, seriously

the cult of the amateur
-andrew keen

andrew keen has to be the world's biggest fan of knol, and if he's not, he's even more of an idiot than he lets on. he actually talks about a similar-sounding site that started up 2 years ago. not having heard of it, i'm assuming it hasn't done well. keen may just be a nostalgic fool, relentlessly attacking the participatory internet, but he has a few points that are worthwhile. the problem is, his main point is that too much participation is bad. stop making music, posting videos, or writing online; if you're good enough and try hard enough you can do it professionally. then andrew keen will give you a shot. this is actually what he says, straight up. he's afraid the record labels will disappear, no one will have the million dollars (yes, literally) and year's worth of time necessary to make a decent pop record, and he won't be able to find anything good because there will be too much lousy music out there. he relies on exaggeration, assumptions, and hyperbolic rhetoric to further his arguments. it's probably not worth reading the whole book unless you're like me and you feel forced at times to investigate viewpoints you immediately hate. what keen seems unwilling to accept is that technological progress brings change. this book is the yin to michael lewis' yang in 'next,' but lewis is the better writer. it's hard to read someone so bitter - he hates craigslist because it's free, youtube because it's not limited to professionals, and online music stores because they sell songs for too little. he talks wistfully of the days when a giant record chain provided deep selection and knowledgeable staff. all i remember about that place was high prices. you start feeling a bit sorry for him when you realize that he liked the world a certain way and just wishes it wouldn't change. he fears that iconic newspapers will continue to decline, somehow assuming nothing will take their place. he whines that cherished reviewers will, someday soon, have no well-paid platform from which to guide us to the most worthy culture and media. he only acknowledges that new media platforms still give rise to hits and influential figures when he's using that fact to reinforce one of his complains such as his assertion that bloggers, even popular ones, don't make appreciable money.

keen's best point is essentially borrowed from mattathias schwartz, and at least partially quoted and cited. it is that online poker poses a definite threat with is intensely addictive action. keen leads this section with the same shocker schwartz begins his article with, and does not cite schwartz for the story itself. citing and quoting schwartz on other elements of the poker story is fine; this is how books are written. the problem is, keen doesn't want web content to be recontextualized and repurposed. he rants about tagging and remixing content, when that is essentially what he does with schwartz' article, using its most effective and relevant elements to add to his own text. this is one more example of keen's shortsightedness; having railed extensively against the internet's application of a concept that's generally accepted offline, he actually employs the same concept for his own purposes. how he used schwartz' article is at least mostly ok; his hypocrisy is not.

i think one of the worst things keen does is to call illegal downloading and legal paid-for downloading of music the same thing. both threaten the music industry's status quo, and keen likes cultural institutions to endure unchanged. somehow, he never seems to consider the positive consequences of things he dislikes. if the barriers to producing music, for example, are lowered, there may eventually be so much music out there that no one will finance a million dollar recording effort. to keen, that's a problem; the million dollar estimate is from a musician he admires, and he wants that man to be able to go on the way he always has. he doesn't want future talents of the same magnitude to miss out on their chance to make a million dollar record. it might comfort andrew keen to know that that record doesn't have to cost a million dollars if technology has radically democratized production of music. even more importantly, that democratization means more talented people will have a chance to make something great and share it. keen argues the opposite is true, and i think it's a shame he can't see that history argues against him.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

not really re-visted

thus far, history may have stolen my series on first albums from canadian indie groups, but it's time to revisit that never-written material this evening. it's hard to ignore 'funeral,' but i ignored it for several years until i actually bothered to obtain a copy. 'apologies to the queen mary' is probably the most important to my meandering explorations of music, as it's a lot more rocking than just anything else i had at the time dave gifted it to me (thanks). i'm going to say, however, that 'feel good lost' is my sentimental favorite for right now. i'm going to go on and add that i do not by any means own every first effort from every worthwhile band up north. as it is, i'm more likely than not to ignore exciting new bands (see above) until some chance encounter that proves it's not such a bad idea to just give something a shot when people are enthusiastic about it.

strictly speaking, it must be a novella

-tahar ben jelloun

translated from french, this morrocan novel is remarkably short. the protagonist is one honest man trying to stand for his principles in a society where everyone seems to be taking or handing out dirty money. he struggles with a lousy marriage that's not completely his fault, but this is primarily a tale of inner turmoil. i didn't think it was great, but the main character's philosophizing didn't work for me the way it probably should have. its told in terse prose, and manages to avoid the monotony that i find in many tales related by introspective first person narrators.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


question: do you find yourself wishing that the world/your neighborhood/your life still was the way it was back when ____? i've been reading a book lately that is borne of a lot of authorial angst, all of which basically stems from the regret that certain cherished institutions have vanished and the fear that that more will do the same. have we reached the point where we're like this, or will that come later in life? personally, of course, i do look backwards a lot, which is a new phenomenon since i moved here. i think of it that way at least, and i don't recall other phases of my life where i've had to think 'things were better back when...' all that often.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


some days there's pie
-catherine landis

a story about a small town girl who runs away, first from home, then from the man she left with, this is a book of characters and relationships. it's a journey that mostly takes place in one place; a chance connection between two women that grows into a deep friendship. in a way, it seems closer to real life than many novels, because it's hard to form an opinion of people until you hear the narrator share hers. the narrator has a peculiar refusal to contract the phrase "did not," which, given her background, seems odd. maybe i just missed the secret explanation for that.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

stuff i don't own

riot on an empty street
-kings of convenience

that one track - i'd rather dance with you - gets annoying. as fun as it is initially, don't judge the group by that song. after several dozen listens, it may end up being the worst effort on this disk. different tracks keep popping up on internet radio and they've all been worthwhile. i've heard misread, gold in the air of summer, cayman islands, and surprise ice. none of them have the pretentious/infectious beat of i'd rather dance with you, and i am fine with that. seems like a new record is in order from these gents, but i see nothing on their fairly terrible website to indicate that it's happening.

Monday, August 04, 2008

a little more

crossing california
-adam langer

i read a brief review of this book and it disappointed me. i don't really review books, and i probably don't do a good job of explaining them, but i do recommend books, and you should read this one. spanning the transition between 70s and 80s, carter and reagan, it introduces us to several mostly jewish chicago teens and their parents. there's a trick of narrative overlap where one character will experience something and we soon bump up against the same event from a different point of view. i started wanting to become friends with these people, which says something about me and about langer's ability to write. he's good at it, and i like clever people. the best thing is that all the characters are flawed, and many of them are appealing for different reasons. i think generally if you know most people well enough you'll like them; langer has made sure i like his characters by giving me enough insight into the soul of several of them that i can excuse their shortcomings. 'half of a yellow sun' was good for the same reason; in that novel, most of the main characters had done something fairly awful, yet they retained their appeal.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

a partial accounting

the last summer of the world
-emily mitchell

i read this because it involves wwi, a subject i'm curious about lately. this is the other book with the photographs, which appear as captions only before we hear a story that fleshes out what happened before the picture was taken. the protagonist, edward steichen, is a historical figure, and an imperfect one. the author does a decent job of making her characters flawed without making me hate them.

half of a yellow sun
-chimamanda ngozi adichie

set in Nigeria in the 1960s and dealing with the civil war with Biafra, the book seemed daunting because of its size and subject matter. the characters were fascinating and convincing. i expected a lot more blood, and while i'm glad there wasn't too much to read through, the horrors of the war affect everything in the landscape of this novel. it follows the lives of a select group of privileged Biafrans, who are brought lower and lower as the war progresses, but who are never personally dragged as deep into the terrors of warfare as many of their countrymen. their education, money, and social class allow them to escape or ameliorate certain elements of the wartime suffering, but their own suffering remains frightening.


we were supposed to go to the beach today, but it rained like crazy and it was a long ways to travel if we were going to end up soaked. instead, we went to a rooftop pool at my temp roommate's friend's place. it was a lot of fun. i can't even remember the last time i went swimming.