Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lilliputian or Bunyanesque?!

I took this photo last weekend when we met some friends at an Alabama state park. One does not typically associate Alabama with rock outcrops and sheer drops and dramatic vistas, but sure 'nuff, there they were. You can't argue with reality.

You know what I mean. Because I argue with reality all the time, and that's one of the reasons you come back to this blog. There's something--oh, I don't know--arresting about seeing someone hit their head on a hard wall over and over again.

But as I was saying...

This lovely state park had several areas of dramatic cliffs and terrific rock towers. In general they were easy enough for the kids to scamper their way about safely but scary enough for the parents (i.e. me) to worry that the kids would fall to their deaths. And such a scenario was a real possibility, as the footing was made more treacherous from all the fallen leaves.

This photo shows an area where there was a nice rock outcropping from which one could descend through a narrow path and then twist around the bottom to the right, out of sight. Here a couple of our kids had made it half-way down. I thought it would be a great shot to have Steve pointing to the kids from many many feet above them to create this weird perspective.

Here's yet another example of how I'm willing to (let others) suffer for my art. I asked Steve here--one of my closest peeps from my grad school days, and a terrific counterexample to the notion that academics must be nincompoops--to stand near the edge of a cliff to get this shot.

Me: Just a little closer Steveroni. You'll be fine.

Him: I don't know. That's what, a sixty foot drop?

Me: At least. Probably eighty feet. Anyway, could you get a little closer?

Him: Sure, but....

Me: Okay, now point down.

Him: Like this?

Me: No. More over there. It would be much easier if you just stood right there on the edge.

Him: Maybe since you have the camera, it might be easier if you were to move a bit and triangulate that way.


Him: Okay.....

Me: Some people...sheesh. But if you do slip, would you mind throwing me your camera as you fall? I'm just saying that would be a waste and all. It's a nice camera and all....

Okay, it didn't go exactly that way, but it could have. Turns out that Steve was like a mountain goat, and he was pretty much fearless on the cliffs. But that makes for a less interesting story.

Here's the original photo.

And here's another view.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Some autumnal photos. I may have posted one or more of them before. Which thought will nag me until one of my faithful readers lets me know whether and when I did it. Which reminds me of how I don't have an adequate way of organizing my photos on my computer.

Any ideas out there?

I'm asking for help, people. How 'bout some love for a brother, huh?

And the photos aren't autumnal, are they? They're just photos of autumn leaves. Anyhoo...

I really like Thanksgiving. I'm in the kitchen now and, having peeled the potatoes, I'm sitting at the kitchen island, listening to Johnny Cash and other artists from my "happy music from a variety of genres" playlist, and chatting with my wife as she cuts onions and celery. It turns out she's not as fond of receiving instruction on cutting vegetables as I am of giving it. (But the thing is, a knife really isn't a saw. If it were, it'd be a saw. It should be used as a knife. Also paring knives have an important function, and using them on a chopping block ain't one of them. If it were, then it'd be a chopping knife. Wait....that doesn't work. Anyhoo, you've learned something valuable. You're welcome.) So we're chatting and she has no idea I'm blogging about her as we speak. Mostly she can't imagine this because she can't imagine me doing more than one thing at once.

Which is true. Ahh, but you see, I stop typing when I speak with her. Clever, no?

I think gratitude is a horribly underrated virtue, so here's a brief and incomplete list of things for which I'm grateful.

1. Air pumps for basketballs.
2. Anaesthesia.
3. Clean drinking water.
4. Fools who think it worth their while to write poetry.
5. Mount Ranier
6. Fresh dry socks.
7. Grocery stores with a ridiculous variety of food, including Dunkin Donuts' coffee.
8. Good buttermilk pancakes.
9. Cheap sunglasses
10. Good cutting knives (used properly)

I'm also really really really grateful for the usual suspects on lists such as this. You know. Mom, Dad, children, in-laws. My long-suffering and patient wife, who loves me for reasons I can't fathom but shouldn't try to guess. My sweet sweet friends, old and new, who know that to be with me is essentially the same as doing unpaid counselling work. People who are patient with me. People who aren't patient with me but who are good to (and for) me.

Here's a particular shout-out to someone I'm really grateful for. My sister--i.e., my daughter's fun and doting Aunt B. She's a great listener and a loving and giving kind person. I'm proud of her, and I'm grateful that's she's my sissy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

the next ten minutes or eternity

What's the deal with this blog?

You and I both know people who are good at planning. Perhaps you are one of those types. There's absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in this, and much indeed to be proud of. (Translation: Be ashamed.)

I hate to plan. I can plan out a week, a month, or a year ahead, sure, but for me it feels like someone putting a pillow over my head and slowly suffocating me. I struggle to see the point of it because I find it challenging to think of the future as real. More precisely, I don't think of my future self as real.

When I think of my daughters learning to drive or graduating or joining the Peace Corps or marrying or starting a rock band, I can picture them with their sisters. Sometimes their mom is in the picture. But I'm not part of the scene. Just not at all.

(Note: This post is not one of those subtle cries for help or an intervention. I promise you that you will not have the opportunity to whisper to friends, "...and yet he seemed so happy...I just don't...understand." To begin with, you'd never say that anyway. You'd probably say, "dude, I always thought he was joking..." But I won't give you the opportunity even to say that. So relax.)

Here are the two time frames through which I view the future:

1. The next ten minutes.

2. Eternity.

Now of course I'm exaggerating to make a point. Sometimes I look twenty minutes out.

Putting sillines aside for a moment, I can say I do sense that I dwell in these time frames far more than do most people, and I spend far less time, I think, than most people do in anticipating or planning for the next weeks, months or years.

It seems so pointless to me, just a bad exercise in hubris and wishful thinking.

That being said, I'm really glad that there are folks who plan for (and attempt to mold) the future. I appreciate these people in much the same way I'm grateful that smart and thoughtful people balance the books of major corporations. Things would fall apart without these good, careful, earenest, responsibile, stewardship-minded people, but it doesn't mean (does it?) that I need to be that kind of person myself in every respect.

And as for all this, my blog resembles that remark!

Imagine plotting one's thoughts and the events of one's life on a continuum of profundity, with one end being pure minutiae and the other end being the "great big thoughts." The middle ground is most everything, the place that most of us live 90+% of the time. Picking up the kids. Planning and making meals. Working on a report. Reading the newspaper. Scrambling around searching for one's keys. Looking at one's ever shrinking portfolio. Trying to figure out why the vacuum is making vacuum-appropriate noises but not doing vacuum-appropriate sucking.

Life stuff.

This blog has extraordinarily little life stuff, all things considered. Only incidental chronicling. No sense of normal life sequencing such as birthdays or big benchmark events. In the vein of the ten minutes/eternity dichotomy, the majority of what I discuss is either pure trivia (if angry and principled trivia--for instance, my stance on cauliflower) or serious (if stab-in-the-dark) attempts at thinking through the issues of love, death, god, godlessness, terror and joy in the pursuit of figuring out what the hell these few years as something rather than as nothing are all about.

Or my favorite: embracing both categories at once. Playfully mocking (brutalizing?) the serious and dignifying the trivial with opinions and thought. Showing how the eternal can be teased out of the tiny and transient, and showing how the big thoughts contain their own brand of silliness.

Hello. My name is Horton, and I hear whos.

Ten minutes or eternity. Trivial pursuit or soul gazing. Nothing or everything.

Or all of the above simultaneously.

But don't expect to learn from this blog about what I do in the course of a day or week or what's up with my family and friends. Or what's taking place at my work. I'll let others write that kind of blog.

And that's just fine. Terrific, in fact. (Translation: Not fine.)


And the photos? I'll discuss them later.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

friggin' nightmare

Lyrics from Leonard Cohen's The Future:

"Things are going to slide,
slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul.

When they said repent
I wonder what they meant."

being raked over from the dirt's perspective

how is this possible?

it's not.

but we can pretend

and pretending is good.

it's more or less all we have, anyway.

that and remembering past pretending.

there is more than that, true,

but pretending is the only thing

that makes it worth the while.

circles and diagonal lines

Nuthin' but a co-co thang.

(Translation for my less hip readers: composition and color.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

When photos refute theories.....

1. This is only the second photo I've ever posted taken by someone other than me.

2. My wife took this photo in 2006 at "her" annual Oscar Party. (It's definitely her party.) She offers prizes for "a movie trivia quiz" as well as for earning the highest (or lowest) score for guessing the Oscar winners. (Excuse me. Not "winners." That's not the politically correct Oscar language, for i forget that there are no losers at the Oscars. What I meant to say was for guessing correctly the persons to whom the Oscar went. pshaw!!) In 2006, she also gave a prize for best impersonation of a celebrity attempting to maintain anonymity.

I came as Ted Kaczynski. But I don't have to tell you that because if you are reading this blog you are not blind.

The visual likeness is striking.

3. Here's really what I'm writing. The beard simultaneously affirms and refutes various parts of the theory exposited here:

The photo affirms that facial hair can (and perhaps inevitably must) reveal important character traits of the person sporting the hair. The author of the essay, Ms. Shinigami-Sidhe, advances an absurdly rich and side-splittingly hilarious account of facial hair history that delves into the nature of moral virtue, the prejudices of grooming, and why some would-be conquerors of the world were incapable of keeping the lands they conquered.

I think it crucial to point out at this time that the author was once a student of mine, and everything good you see here--the originality, the charm, the breadth of knowledge, the quirky eccentricity, the flashy brilliance--is likely (i.e. absolutely) attributable to what she gained from my instruction and counsel. That goes nearly without saying, true, but sometimes truth warrants reinforcement.

Unfortunately, the photo also refutes a central point in the theory, which is that facial hair is a good thing. True, it can be a good thing; it has its time and place. As do ramen noodles. The photo strongly suggests that in this one case, at least, not shaving facial hair can be a terrible error of judgment.

Now is the time to reveal, reader, that Ms. Shinigami-Sidhe took only one class from me. I didn't have time enough to fill her with all of my wisdom. We just scratched the surface. I am in no way responsible for the flaws in her essay.

Those are hers.

4. I'm anti-Hitler from head to toe. Even my moustache is anti-Hitler. Whereas Hitler grew his moustache in a little Charley Chaplainesque square, my lip won't grow hair there. At all. Take that, you bastard.

Friday, November 21, 2008

life is a hoot in the most unexpected ways!

This morning I woke up refreshed after having had a terrific sleep (10:15-5:15) feeling happy happy happy, and I turned on the computer thinking I would check my email. But there on my desk was an odd snail mail letter that apparently arrived the day before. There was an address in the return address spot but no name. Not really a mystery; I know the family who lives there and I had visited this family within the last month. Still, the letter was amorphously soft, which certainly piqued my curiosity. The letter was sealed so securely with tape I couldn't open the dang thing, and I began to wonder whether I had just received a state secret of a squishy nature.

Finally, using my swoon-inducing manly strength, I ripped it open and found only two things:

1) A sock, and

2) this note, which I present to you in its entirety:

"Nice sock! You're lucky we don't have any single amputees here!"

I tell you, I made good use of the "O" and the "L" of LOL.

And if you're justcurious who sent me this note, I will NEVER EVER SAY!!


Here's how much of a bozo I am. I already had this photo on file. Apparently I have photos for every occasion.

Like I said, sometimes life is just sorta funny. And much happier after a good sleep, too!

Thursday, November 20, 2008 chaff that the wind blows away...

Eyeball and hand

Here's what you need to know this morning: Not much.

* I've got the insomnia thing going on pretty well. I woke up (for good) at 2:20, and after an hour or so of tossing and turning and whirring my mind to no good effect, I decided to get up and look through some photos for the ol' blog.

* Which proves I'm always thinking of you, my dear reader.

* So...everyone laments about how little sleep they get, but what they don't know is this. No one cares. Well, maybe people care a wee bit but only vaguely and half-heartedly. Only so much to appropriate the "I care" look. It's the level of care you might feel for a friend if they complained about having lost a button, but far less care than if they said their zipper broke. Sleep deprivation lamenters also don't know or don't want to acknowledge this: they're bragging. (And when I say, "they," I, never mind; I've said too much already!)

All that being said, I do care for selfish reasons about the amount of sleep my pilot and surgeon have had.

But back to where we were. When I said a post or two ago that I'd explain why people brag about their lack of sleep, I did so with the solid confidence of a man in firm possession of a sensible and, frankly, mind-blowingly insightful theory. And now since it's so early and I haven't had any coffee, I must say that the best I can do is tell you that once upon a time I was a man who had a (mind-blowing) theory about why people brag about their sleep deprivation. Now I'm just a sleep hypocrite--bragging about my life-victimization without offering a redeeming story or theory for wasting your time. I could scratch around to dig up some lame explanation, but I don't want to insult you. I'll move on.

Oh theory of sleep deprivation, why did you abandon me so??!!

* I'm going to go brew some joe. (I'm back now.)

* My in-laws and their spouses are ridiculously smart, as is my wife. It's my good fortune to know tons of people much smarter than me.

* When I got to NOLA, as I do virtually every year, I go to Cafe du Monde and order chicory and their world-famous beignets. I'm no culinary expert, but they taste and have the texture of a doughnut gone wrong, but for the better. They're not quite as sweet as doughnuts, but they pile an outrageous amount of powder sugar on top of them. If I were to tell you the amount, you would not believe me. So I won't.

But looky:

When I'm finished eating, I look like Al Pacino in Scarface after he sticks his face in cocaine.

Lookey here:

It's how I feel, too. Seriously. After that intense rush of sugar and caffeine, my heart beats wildly and I'm dizzy.

So predictably I return every year.

Which is one more proof that it's best I've never tried cocaine. Cocaine is the last thing I need in my life given my personality--and people have told me as much. (True, not often; it's not the most frequent of conversations.) Despite what I said in my last post about being soulfully cool, there are some who (quite wrongly) claim I'm actually kind of wired and jittery. I know. I know. It's hard to believe.

* I don't know what to make of this photo. True, it's in keeping with my motif, my photographic idiom as it were. But I took this years ago, probably in 2004, when I bought my first digital camera. I didn't know at this time what my motif would be though I have always paid close attention to eyes and hands. The story of the photo is too complicated to share, which is to say that I don't remember it and probably wouldn't choose to remember it if I could. I confess it is indeed an odd pose she's striking, and I all I know with surety is that it was my student worker SD's doing (i.e. his fault).

I know you aren't surprised. He was always ordering me around, telling me to take strange photos.

* I need a new camera, btw. Oh, you've heard that already.

* I need to do some work now.

* Dang you, lost theory!!


Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I like this photo, and I like it for its "slightly off" atmosphere; it's an unsettling effect. I created it, first, by taking it in a cemetary (natch), but also by tinting the photo, sharpening the tomb with the cross, and slightly blurring the rest of the photo. So I hate to ruin the effect of it with this silly story, but the connection between the photo and the story is this: creepiness.

At my wife's teacher faculty meeting, one of her colleagues conveyed this story to the group: a student worker rushed up to her in a state of alarm and said, "There's a man with a beard wearing shorts walking down the hall! Doesn't....doesn't look right!" To which my wife's colleague replied to the student worker, "Oh, that's just Dr. B." Apparently all the staff laughed the laugh that comes from easy recognition--hopefully recognition of knowing me, that is, and not recognition of the "...doesn't look right part." But I'll never know. (But I do! And it hurts.)

What happened was this. I biked to my wife's school, which is about 4.5 miles away from my office. I had worked up a sweat, I suppose, and probably I looked flushed or who knows what.

I blame my creepy look on the bike ride. (Okay, mostly I blame it on the student worker who couldn't tell the difference between strikingly distinguished and creepy.) My wife blames it on the beard, about which she told the group, apparently, that she's asked me to shave it a million times.

Anything for a laugh, I guess, including lies and slanders. Harrumph!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Water and light, pt. 2. (and ducks, pt. 1)

So here's what you need to know this fine morning (I started writing this at 3:56 am my time):

* I'm having a little trouble sleeping. Yesterday I got up at 4:20. Not to be ungrateful to You Know Who, but I feel like I need more hours in a day than what I'm given.

*I virtually never speak of my job on this blog. And why would I, since I find most persons' work stories as something I need to suffer through politely. Listening to them is like listening to others' dreams. Dreams and work-stories are both important for the one who experiences them but relatively uninteresting for the listener. I find most shop-talk (outside the workplace) not only deathly dull after a while but also extraordinarily repetitive and a lame excuse not to stretch one's conversational imagination. There have been multiple times when I've had work colleagues over to my house and one of them has asked my wife what she thinks about some major work brouhaha, to which she replied that that's the first she's heard of it. The reaction: an abrupt silence, a swiveling of heads to her, and then to me. Whuuuhh?! seems to be the reaction. My response: Why bring work home, I say? We have other stuff to talk about.

None of the above is an absolute, of course. There are stretches of time (and now is one of them) in which work talk is the consuming topic at home and elsewhere. But these are unfortunate moments, I think, and as I said before, these moments eventually just bore the unfortunate victim/listener.

Oddly, I enjoy talking about my wife's work experience, but perhaps that's because she has so many funny and amusing stories.

But all this was preface for me to provide you with my job description, not as it was originally written but as it should have been written: Reading and responding to work emails. This is more true than I wish even during the best of times because everyone at our work is inundated with a flood of emails. It's as though emails have permitted us to remove the internal interlocutor in our brains that helps us decide whether what we're thinking is worth the sharing. The basic email rule seems to be this: If you think it then surely you're obligated to send it out as a work-wide email. Or so it feels. And when controversy raises its icky head at work, then the email downpour shifts from a chronic Seattle rain to a deluge of Biblical proportion.

So let's recap my work story: I read and write lots of work emails.

Pretty interesting, eh?

HEY!! No snoozing on my blog.

* People love to brag about how little sleep they get. On a future post I'll discuss why this is. But for now allow me merely to apologize for my own transgressions along these lines this morning.

* One of the nice things about a blog is that it provides a nice forum to be self-indulgent. No one feels obligated to look at it (except for this blog, where my 80,000 daily readers understandably feel they're letting themselves down if they don't read it daily), and one can be as silly or trivial or confessional as one wants with relatively little guilt. It lets the writer to selectively share with the world what he or she wants while giving the reader a chance of learning more about someone else in the comfort of anonymity.

Here are a couple of blogs I randomly came across but look at from time-to-time (once a week?) and quite enjoy. One is It's genuine and insightful and funny--the reflections of a single mother trying to make sense of life in the face of craziness.

Another one I like is: I don't read it often or thoroughly, but whenever I check it out I'm really wowed by her fabulous writing and really nice photography. I suffer from a real case of blog envy with this one.

*I like Regina Spektor. She's s perceptive if perhaps slightly unbalanced soul whose unbalance fuels terrific creativity to produce unusually thoughtful and sensitive songs. She's coo coo for cocoa puffs, but we're the beneficiaries of her coo cooness. I guess that's true with a lot of artists.

And why would that be? Maybe 'cause artists are all about seeing things differently, and depending on how one looks at it, being coo coo for cocoa puffs helps you see things differently or seeing things differently is what makes you coo coo for cocoa puffs.

I'm talking to YOU, Vincent Van Gogh's ghost!! You heard me.

* I hereby go public with my opposition to milk.

My stand isn't absolute or comprehensive. Milk is like sex--there's a time and place for it. It can be fabulous, but only in the right contexts. Milk is different than sex, however, because they have different trajectories in our life. Whereas with sex one must grow into readiness for it, with milk one should eventually outgrow one's use of it.

I am a hypocrite. I drink a few glasses of milk a week, but I can only do it when I don't think about what I'm doing.

Because it's just gross. Disgusting. If you don't believe me then just think about it for a while. I can wait. (tap tap tap. yawn. tap tap tap.)

See? Disgusting. I am not making this up at all: if I think about milk long enough I begin to gag. Like right at this instant.

True, I didn't always hold this stance. But others were out there leading the way. I had a good friend from Brooklyn who helped. (David was the opposite of me: perfectly sociable; practical; nonathletic; sweet; optimistic; steady in habits and disposition.) We were once eating dinner at our dorm, and I sat at the table with a slice of pizza and some milk. When he saw the food crime I was committing he literally gagged.

What the....??

And it was then that I first learned of how adults must eventually shift to non-milk beverages: water, tea, coffee, wine and beer. (Snapple is not adult but acceptable in moderation.) Sadly my white-bread culture didn't provide for me a Bar Mitzvah life-preparation course to teach me the ways of adulthood, so I lingered in the land of childhood beverages for far too long. Embarrassingly long. Even today I slip into old habits now and again.

Here is an incomplete list of milk-related words that make me uncomfortable when I hear them to the point of freezing up and shuttering: pasteurize; sour cream; coagulation; spoilage; sterilization; "udder"; nipple; milky; creamy; curds and all curd-related words; lactic; butterfat; sour; mammary; lactose; emulsion; "expiration date"; weaning.

And let's not forget "mammal." And "milkman." And "suckling."

Not to mention "goats."

I better move on. I'm feeling ill.

* I suspect that I am an African-American. Or Jewish. Or Italian. Maybe all three. Or something--anything--besides 5/8th English, 5/16th German and 1/16th Polish. And everyone who knows me agrees that I'm the most soulful white man this side of Bill Clinton. They don't say that, but they think it. Well, they don't think it either, but they should. Because that's who I am despite my sallow or ruddy skin tone. Consider my aptitude for quick and easy conversation. My dislike of the t.v. show Friends. My confusion about NASCAR. My cringing when the t.v. camera lingers on a lone (and lonely) African-American face at the GOP convention. My aversion to James Taylor. My choice not to live in Idaho. My fear of crickets. Okay, that's not a soul thing, but it is a Marlon Brando thing in "On the Waterfront." And Marlon Brando scores about as low as it gets on the whiteness scale for a white man.

* Just a few shameful oldies I love:

Hooked on a Feeling. B.J. Thomas. It ain't right, I agree. But I am who I am. If I could change it, I would. I just love that chromatic move up the scale in the background when he sings, "All the good love, when we're all alone."

Most anything by The Carpenters. I hear Karen Carpenter's voice and instantly weep wracking sobs of sorrow and yearning.

I'm a Believer--The Monkees

Blue Moon--Sha na na

I got you babe--Sonny and Cher. Out of tribute to my in-laws, Groundhog Day, and my youngest daughter, who love this song.

Joy to the World--Three Dog Night

Time of the Season--The Zombies.

Lots more oldies later.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

light and water, part 1

I took these a while back and I don't think I enhanced them. I remember the evening looking magical.

I was standing at the side of the shore of this lake with a walking path. The sunset was gorgeous, and it was one of those "what a miracle life is, and what a miracle beauty is" kind of moments. I was alone, but I very much felt connected to the goodness of the order of things. Cliched as it was, I felt part of nature, and I was glad for the feeling. The goodness of being itself seemed unquestionable at that moment.

In the midst of this beauty, bathed in this gorgeous sunset, a middle-aged and clearly blue-collar woman walked up to me and said, "What you taking pictures of? A fish?"

....yes, well maybe the moment wasn't as universally magical as I had at first thought.

"No ma'am, just the sky."

"Huh." And off she walked.

Maybe it's true. Maybe I am a weirdo.
Promise: More shameful songs coming.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What, am i bugging you?

At the risk of putting awful tunes in your head (thus the title above), here I want to ask you about some of your favorite most shameful songs--songs that you can't help but dance to or turn up the volume to but are embarrassed or semi-embarrassed to admit to it. I have, oh, about 2, 100 such songs. In no particular order, here is a VERY incomplete list. Here I focus just on some dance songs I love.

I want it That Way--Backstreet Boys

Your woman--White Town. What a great song.

Still D.R.E.---oh, fo sho.

Remember the Name--Fort Minor. Dumb and stupid. Just stupid. And dumb. And I crank it every time.

A fifth of Beethoven--Walter Murphy. 80% Beethoven + 20% Disco = 100% dancing like a fool.

The Hustle--Van McCoy. If you only knew how much I like this it brings back incredibly powerful complicated feelings from my childhood.

California Love--Tupac and Dre. Music don't get much better than this.

Stayin' Alive--Bee Gees

How deep is your love--Bee Gees. This song nearly makes me cry and, no, for the reason it makes you cry. I think it's so sincere and sad and kind of desperate. "Cause we're living in a world of fools/breaking us down/when they all should let us be."

Okay, most things by the Bee Gees.

Waiting for a Star--Boy Meets a Girl. I have ALWAYS loved this song just from the opening strain. Can't help it. This completely baffles my wife who hears this song and just knows in her gut that I really detest it. Nope. Love it.

Hit Me Baby One More Time--Britney Spears. I love this song.




I play poker with some guys, and I'm the music guy. I had a playlist that included this song. I'm still living that moment down. And will forever need to live it down. I don't care. No apologies here.

Because you know what, I always knew that her loneliness really was killing her. I could just tell from the song; I believed her.

Mmmmbop by Hanson. This song is FABULOUS. No joke. It's a great song. The lyrics are really smart if you give them a listen.

Safety Dance--Men without hands.

Gonna Make you Sweat---C&C Music Factory

Everytime we touch--??

Butterfly--Crazy Town. Look away, I'm hideous. White-boy rap at its whitest and most ridiculously nasty. Just stupid. But turn it up, will ya?

Groove is in the heart--DeeLite. I also loved the video. I had a thing for Miss Deelite.

Heaven---techno version. DJ Sammy

Freedom--George Michael. Okay, there's nothing wrong with this song. It's great. What's embarrassing is how MUCH I like this song. One of my all-time favorites. Just an obscene beat and rhythm and bass.

What is Love--Haddaway. Go ahead. Laugh. But you try not to dance, you big faker.

Centerfold--J. Geils Band. Memories of the 8th grade basketball trips on the bus.

Big Pimpin'--Jay-Z. Sometimes the best songs just happen to be about pimpin. In this case, big pimpin'.

Sexyback--Justin Timberlake. STU-PID. But impossible to turn off; I gots to take it to the bridge.

Gold Digger--Kanye West. Man, a GREAT song. Fantastic. Sexy beat and funny lyrics.

Milkshake--Kelis. No comment.

Something--Lasgo. Techno shouldn't make you cry. This one comes close. Beautiful.

I need to know--Marc Antony

Get UR Freak on--Missy Elliott. Just the best song ever written. Or just about. "Holler!!!" No shame in putting this on the list.

Take Me Away--Mix Factory. I find this song strangely moving.

Let it rain--4 strings.

Sabotage--Beastie Boys. Dude, this song rocks.

Okay, not all those are embarrassing. Still, you get the idea. Bring 'em on. I'll list some non-dance music next.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

square with the railing

Here's what you need to know today.

* My Canon PowerShot A640 makes me sad. It burns through batteries way too quickly; something is wrong with the camera. My next camera is going to be solar-powered or nucular-fueled. (I'm going to say nucular while I still can.) Plus I am not happy with the images--they lack depth and clarity. My wife has been encouraging me to get a new camera because she's grown weary of my ongoing laments about this one. But before I make the plunge I'm waiting to find out if I qualify for one of Obama's target tax credits--I'm making a pitch for blog photographers, and my guess is he'll deliver.

* A couple of days ago, I spoke with a person who reminded me of me. Mostly on account of her tyranny. She is a student who I've never had in class before but who I see a fair bit in the course of most weeks. She "pals around with" (my new favorite phrase) with some of my students and she takes classes on my hall and I see her at a student organization for which I'm a sponsor. Also, she somehow seems ubiquitous. And not just because she shares a name with one of my daughters. In any event, she knows that I'm down with the cool music. (Cool music defined: music I listen to.) She looked at the playlists on my iPod and expressed opinions about it. Some positive, some negative--which is to say, partly right and partly wrong. I'll let you guess how. She noticed a gap in my music collection and said she would remedy that. (The nature of the gap: Music that she likes.) That was weeks ago.

Then a couple of days ago she gave me two CDs that would somehow redeem my music collection. Well that's nice, I thought; I like checking out new music. And I was especially happy that the music she gave me was basically secular. She's an extremely devout woman, and I feared I would receive a collection of Christian contemporary. Though I suppose that too would have been fine because, let's face it, Christian Contemporary music pretty much is awesome. (Defined as used here: not awesome. Also defined here as: don't think that I hate God because I'm not wild for Christian contemporary music.)

Ahem, well the point of all this is that she was good enough to give me music, but I was surprised to find she also gave instructions. They're not to be listened to at work. Too distracting. Can't be listened to on short trips around town. Too disrupted. Some songs are best at night. Some must be listened to only on long car trips. Some are for my daughters. Some songs must only be listened to in the car when I'm lost. This is to be listened to only with my daughters at night while lost on a long car trip. And so on.

As I listened to all these instructions, this thought occurred to me: So this is what music tyranny feels like from the other side. So this is what I'm like.

A couple of years ago, I learned of the "enneagram" personality typology. It's just one of many such tests like the Myers-Briggs test. Career counselors love them, though I was a skeptic until I took the enneagram test and felt personally violated by how closely its description of my type matched my own personality. Anyway, the place where she works required that they take the enneagram test, and her type is the same as mine. Though there wasn't a "music tyrant" category per se, it's clear that my type (as described by the enneagram test) is a rich source for music tyranny.

By the way, the music is fabulous--mostly sad and soulful.

* Why didn't you let me know?! Shame on you.

I did a radio interview about the election results this week with the local affiliate of Georgia Public Broadcasting, and it was kinda fun. Got to go to the studio and spout my opinion about stuff. I didn't hear it on the radio, but they posted it online. But what you should have told me long ago is that my voice is awful and that I clip my words and I speak in staccato-like bursts. I speak like a an AK47--a spray of words followed by odd pauses where apparently I'm reloading the clip in mid-sentence.

Shame on you! A little help up front would have been nice. Not telling me how I speak (so I could work on it) is a little like letting a guy walk around with his zipper open. Or with a piece of spinach in the teeth. Or a piece of cauliflower on the plate. It's just not right.

Shame on you.

* I'm on my fourth cup of coffee, and it's just past 6:00 am. I love early morning. It's my favorite time of the day. By far. I've got the house to myself (in effect), and all is quiet. My sweet family is still slumbering away. I don't even listen to music most mornings, though I am this morning. (At this moment: Patty Griffin's "Rain.") The quiet and solitude is lovely.

Which is not to say I hate humanity. Or my family. I don't. I'm pro-humanity, and I love my family.

Shame on you for saying otherwise. Your manners this morning are awful.

* What happened?!?!

We received in the mail some photos we ordered from Snapfish. A couple things caught my attention. First, there was an 8X11 photo of my three daughters all cheerful, smiling, and looking at the camera. Huh?? What happened!! Then I remembered that my wife took this picture, not me. I stared at that photo. Wow. That's kind of nice, I thought. Maybe I should take photos of the girls in their natural happy state instead of putting them in caves and capturing their faces after I tell them there's a monster in the cave with them.

I'm JOKING! I don't do that. That's abusive. I tell them that there's a bear in there. Because there could be.

Those happy faces made me rethink the morose-is-good motif.

Second, my girls are growing up. Which is better than them shrinking, I admit. But still....oh, this growing up thing is hard.

But why?

I have theories, but I don't have time to discuss them now.

So you got that to look forward to in the future. Plus I have a great question for y'all, but you have to promise to respond.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I voted for W in 2000. Not good.

Okay, the ethos of this blog is under serious strain. What I have to say here ventures away from the more important subject matters of zucchinis and vegetable tyranny and sad songs and the undermining of art by pod people, so it feels awkward and wrong. And yet I proceed. Just this once.

This is why I’m down on poor ol’ W: it's not because of any single policy decision (except his pushing of war in Iraq with scant evidence that they threatened us). Nor is it because of the alleged massive deregulation Obama complained about--because frankly I didn't see a whole lot of deregulation going on in his administration apart (regrettably) from environmental controls. It's good for government to be cautious about issuing regulations. No, my problem with W is his hypocrisy and his unwillingness to own up to simple truth. I'm talking about the twilight-zone feeling I have when I listen to the man speak--a "holy crap, this man is walking around in the buff and I can see his wee little winky right there floating in the breeze and he pretends he's wearing a tux" kind of incredulity.

Now admittedly finding instances of hypocrisy in politics is as about as challenging as finding photos of eyeballs on this blog (the crucial difference being that my readers clamor for more eyeball photos), but W’s is a special kind of hypocrisy. It is a hypocrisy that has poisoned politics and has led to the lowest levels of confidence in how things are going since such polls have been taken. Here are three expressions of his special brand of not walking the walk.

1. Irresponsibility. In 2001 Bill Clinton left office after having governed over eight years of peace and prosperity. More or less. How much credit he deserves for this is up for debate. I speculate that he deserves more credit than his critics would give him but (a lot) less credit than what his supporters would have us believe. His failures weren't policy but personal, specifically with his discreditable lack of self-control. The man was blessed with extraordinary ambition and the ability to connect lots of dots, but he was enslaved to his enormous appetites and he indulged them like an adolescent. By all accounts he was shamelessly self-rationalizing about his own personal foibles, and he ran the White House like so many late-night bull sessions. But he was smart and he was lucky (no, not in that way, perv, but in that he presided over a bull market and the downsizing of the military from the end of the Cold War), and he used his presidential powers effectively and competently. You might have disagreed with the man, but he knew what was happening on the ground. He was informed. His most formidible opponents such as Newt Gingrich admitted that when they discussed matters with him in private that they found him disarmingly persuasive. He made decisions based on information. He offered reasons for his decisions.

W campaigned in 2000 as an adult alternative to the teenage-minded Clintonites. He was morally serious. Self-controlled. He chose CEO types in those most sober and adult stiff-collared types like Rumsfeld and Cheney. True, they were the whitest human beings in the history of the planet, but everything comes with a price. This would be the accountability president—the president that would make the hard decisions, take the unpopular route if it was the right route to take, and claim ownership over the consequences. I found that promise very attractive. (Admittedly W did capture the unpopular part.)

What W delivered instead was the most chronically, systematically, jaw-droppingly irresponsible administration in history. No qualifications there. Just ever. Period. Regarding Iraq and the lack of WMDs. Regarding the events around 9/11 and the administration’s shameless misleading of the public's thinking on Iraq's connection to those evil actions. Regarding the hundreds of prisoners from Guantanamo who W said could just never ever ever—just ever!!--be released because of the threat they posed to civilization, but then who were quietly released years later because, um, oops, many if not most of them them turned out to be unconnected to terrorism. ("Ha ha. Just kidding. Anyhoo, it was good knowing you, and enjoy the rest of your life not blowing things up. No hard feelings, right? The weather here in Cuba. PER FECT!! Okay. See ya!")Regarding Katrina. Regarding our deficits. And on and on. Never once has the Bush team owned up to their mistakes in a simple and transparent way. Not regarding its treatment of Valerie Plame. Not regarding an Iraq occupation which felt like one of those bad dreams of taking a test over something you forgot to study.

Not regarding nuthin'.

The party of responsibility and morality and virtue and manliness turned into the party of moral and political abdication. And prevarication. And cowardice.


2. Disregard for the rule of law. W’s was an administration that championed the rhetoric of constitutionalism but which systematically put waste to the Constitution. Its assault on the rule of law was sometimes subtle (signing-statements) and sometimes “slap you in the face” obvious (its claim it did not need Congress to wage war), and it was ongoing and corrosive. And intentional. This was an administration that understood one thing: Power. Getting what it wanted. Using any scare tactic available to get it done.

From illegal and unconstitutional wiretapping, to creating military commissions without congressional authority, to the suspension of U.S. treaties, to ignoring the writ of Habeas Corpus, to unwarranted uses of executive privilege for partisan gain, and on and on, this is a presidency that embraced as constitutional gospel Nixon's stupid throwaway line to David Frost that "if the president does it, it's not illegal." I confess that I'm no crazy radical leftwing court guy. I’m a little uncomfortable with a number of liberal rulings. I, too, want justices who attend to the text of the Constitution. Fair enough. But I will also say this. At least these crazy wacky liberal judges all acknowledge the existence of Article I (Congress) and the Bill of Rights.

People criticize Bush for not asking folks to sacrifice more in the war on terror. I disagree. He did ask us to sacrifice something: namely the Constitution.


3. The myth of small government. I’m kind of a fiscal responsibility dude. When Clinton was prez and the R’s were in Congress, it was ugly but it was a nifty combination for sane budgets. The R’s ensured that no wacky progressive program got off the ground (for both good and bad), and Clinton ensured that the R’s desire to cut taxes was held in check. Combine Clinton’s cutbacks in the military, the R’s unwillingness to spend much more socially, the booming economy, and the comparatively high taxes on the rich, and the planets aligned perfectly for a shift from a 290 billion dollar deficit in 1992 (Bush’s last year) to a surplus of 236 billion in Clinton’s last year.

W. took that 236 billion dollar surplus and squandered it. A perfect storm of bad luck and worse judgment ruined it. He cut taxes on our taxpaying citizens (the rich), increased spending enormously—and not just on the military but also on Medicare—and these measures coupled with a weak economy led to deficits of over 400 billion dollars.

Clinton took a federal government that accounted for 22.1% of the economy in Bush’s last year in office and reduced spending to 18.4% of the economy—a remarkably large drop. Spending under Bush is once again over 20%. And this is not an anomaly. The Reds like to spend money. Reagan’s highest year for spending accounted for 23.5% of the economy. George Bush’s was 22.1%. Carter’s, in contrast, was 21.7% of GDP.

Those out-of-control spending liberals.

It’s not just spending where we see more federal government under W. Consider W’s willingness to intervene in local and state government—for example, in education in unprecedented ways, or in his willingness to overturn California emission standards. Consider his desire to intervene in the cases of Terry Schiavo or gay marriage—what old-time conservatives would think to be matters of state and local concern. Consider the new layers of bureaucracy created by the Department of Homeland Security. Consider the new creepy intrusion into our personal lives (such as library reading habits) made legal through the Patriot Acts.

If you want small government, the Republicans are right in claiming you shouldn’t vote for a Democrat. But they’re wrong in thinking you should vote Republican. But here's a difference. Though both parties support lots of regulations and lots of spending, only one party is willing to pay for what it spends. The other would have you believe that really it's not spending loads of money and therefore you don't need to pay for it and, moreover, if anyone suggests to you that you should pay for what you're getting, you can't trust them. They're being fiscally irresponsible, out-of-control liberal tax-and-spend politicians.

Which surely makes sense in some "alternative logic" world.

If you want limited government, vote libertarian. Because if you vote Republican, you’re going to get huge government. Republicans just won’t admit it.


To which all I can say is this: you're doing a heck of a job, W.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

photos of ice

This last photo here is a negative. The rest are pretty much left as taken. I left a disk of ice on top of a cup, and it slowly melted into the form of the cup. Then the rest of it is just playing with a disk of ice, a cup, a flashlight, a dark room, and a poor obedient child, whose hands were nearly frozen off in the shoot. Poor thing, the trooper. But any real artist must be willing to endure other people's pain. And I am.

My pain, not so much.

Friday, November 07, 2008

reflection of sun in the water


I'm becoming or have already become that most boring person in the universe: the middle-age guy whose thoughts go constantly back to work and whose daily highlight reel is topped by the putting of one's head on a pillow at night.

Monday, November 03, 2008


As the election results come in tomorrow I hope I can echo the words of an American now dead who once said, "Our long national nightmare is over."

Let it be so.

I posted the most exuberantly cheerful and happy non-portrait I own.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Some evidence suggesting that GA will (probably) stay Red

I'm teaching three classes this semester. I asked the students in my two lower-division introductory courses (American National Government) what grade they'd give W for his two terms. Here's how the numbers broke down.

A 2
A- 3
B+ 1
B 7
B- 5
C+ 4
C 10
C- 8
D+ 2
D 3
D- 6
F 3

That amounts to a GPA of just over a straight C. (2.03) Not great, but you can graduate with a 2.03. Your degree is just as valid as for the 4.0 kid.

I asked my upper-division students (in my Presidency and Congress class) the same question. They were tougher graders.

B- 1
C 3
C- 5
D- 1
F 3

That's equivalent to a D+ (1.37).

I also asked the students (all anonymously, btw) who they believe was the greatest or best president in United States history. Here's what my lower-division students said.

FDR 10
Reagan 10
Washington 8
Lincoln 8
Clinton 4
TR 4
W Bush 2
Truman 1
Nixon 1
Jefferson 1
Jackson 1

And for my upper-division course.

Lincoln 6
Washington 3
Reagan 1
Jackson 1

Just a couple of comments. Reagan is far more popular than JFK, whose day among the youth has come and gone--or at least for this group of students. He's as ancient history as anyone else from the past. FDR did better than I would have guessed, and the old standards of the first George W and Lincoln also did quite well. Tommy J, my erstwhile favorite, doesn't carry much appeal with the youngin's today.

About 25% of the students in the lower-division classes said they had voted early. Thirteen of my fourteen upper-division students had already voted.

Photo taken in Savannah, GA.