30 August 2003
This is just disturbing. The mother in this piece has it right on: the police would have been negligent not to search for weapons, but to prosecute after finding nothing? This just boggles the mind. It seems to me the prosecutor here wants to see the dogs of terror lurking everywhere. People like this ADA are the reason for the term 'bitch-slap.'
This article spells out what should have been obvious to our politicians a very long time ago:
Most economists who have analyzed Canada's and Ontario's productivity challenge conclude that education is an important part of the solution. A more educated, better-trained labour force simply creates more value. Studies show repeatedly that individuals' earnings increase with the level of education. In fact, the best single predictor of personal income is level of education. The best advice parents can give their children is to stay in school. Every extra year of school or additional degree raises income prospects.
Some of us have been talking about this for years.
29 August 2003
Apparently, the Oxford Dictionary of English-- not to be confused with the multi-volume Oxford English Dictionary-- has added a few new words, including "blog," "Muppet," and "egosurfing."
The most curious addition, though: "Eeyorish." Gee, I've had that word applied to me for years, as someone well knows (you know who you are).
As I take care of my morning things, CNN is on the tube, and it's airing time and time and time and time again the open-mouth kisses issued by Madonna to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. One wonders exactly how many diseases and infections were transmitted therewith. One also wonders if CNN can't find something better to do this morning.
And, yes, one wonders why this blog finds itself actually bothering to comment on it. *Shrug*
The NYTimes puzzle aforetitled arrived today, and after the cleverness of last week's this was really disappointing. Composed by Patrick Berry, it contains a lot of awkward clues that are definite 'stretchers.' Examples? Water Sprite = 'nixie.' Lean = 'List.' Huh? Isolate, possibly? = "Ice In". Black varnish = 'Japan'. These are pretty cheap, really. While the primary theme isn't especially difficult, a lot of the small corners or sections of the puzzle will throw most people, understandably. Some other words, not illegal or awkward per se, include 'daphnia,' 'diopter,' 'cassoulet.' And, of course, obscure names: Bendict I, Cuyp, Samsa.
The theme? Oh, silly clues related to celebrities. "Studio started by a TV actor?" = "TEDDANSONSTRUCTION." "Travel services started by a Spanish actress? = "PENELOPECRUZLINE". The others are at least a bit better (Eydie Gorme Foods, Oscar de la Renta Car, Mean Joe Greene House, Tammy Faye Bakkery), but 'Jodie Foster Care is just pathetic. Not impressed with this one.
More than a whiff of desperation here.
I really don't know what to make of the court-ordered release of the transcripts of the September 11th radio conversations of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority. While I understand the desparate of need of some 'to know' what happened, and I understand too why they technically should be released under freedom of information policies, I really don't know what good any of this does for anyone involved, with the possible exception of the emergency personnel who might be able to determine errors in judgment and find ways to prevent similar errors from happening should future attacks take place. I can't say I'm ambivalent on the matter, but I can't say I'm of a pro- or con- opinion either. Is it in any way cathartic or helpful for the survivors? Does it expose any fundamental cover-ups on the part of the Port Authority? Does it really provide any ultimate insight?
My answer to all of those questions, based on what I've seen and heard, is no. Even the errors of judgment seem to me to have been inescapable with the truly horrifying nature of what happened that day; there will always, sadly, be people who make what turn out to be the wrong decisions in the end, given, especially, the situational chaos and the emotional and mental haze that finally clouds one's actions within such a nightmare. I don't know. I think they have to be released, if only for archival purposes, if only for people to know that they're there. In the end, though, the transcripts strike me as artifacts we keep to remember history, to remember what truly can and does happen in this world.
As for me, I don't think I want to study them closely, or even peek in on the dying. Then again, I have no desire to visit the camps at Dachau or Bergen-Belsen, either. Perhaps that makes me weak, or perhaps it means I want to be able to turn at least a partial blind-eye to history, to have not to look right into the horror itself; but I also think that I don't need to watch corpses decompose to understand death better than I already do. I just hope that people treat these transcripts with appropriate sombriety and decency.
For those interested, you can read the piece in today's NYTimes on these transcripts here, if you have the free subscription.
Discovered in my random wanderings these lists from Random House of the "best" books of the past century. You can check out the lists, and I'll supply a few comments here.
Non-Fiction: It's nice to see works by Frye, Bloom and Kermode here, but the list is dominated by the typical texts, not in the canonical sense, but in the ideological sense. Ayn Rand's and L. Ron Hubbards' location at the top of the list is to me indicative of the power of the 'converted' to vote for their texts in a kind of religious nomination. And-- what the fuck?!?!?! Howard Stern's Private Parts is on the list?!?!?! Proof positive democracy is not all it's hyped up to be.
Fiction: This is the list you may have seen in the press just after the millenium turned, and it makes considerably more sense than the Non-Fiction list. Notice, though, the disproportionately high location of Huxley's Brave New World, Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, Dreiser's An American Tragedy and Sister Carrie, McCullers' The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, Orwell's Animal Farm, and Kipling's Kim. Note, too, the relatively low placements for Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Faulkner's Light In August.
Frequently Challenged Books of 99-00: The list here is awkward because it's mostly contemporary, and doesn't include many key texts, like Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice, constant victims of the moral authorities. Notice the primary concerns, though, with sex and sexuality? But of course, Dr J says, in his worst mock-francais.
The Guardian's Top 100 'Best Books' Of All-Time: Don Quixote ranks first, apparently, but no other rankings are provided. Where's T.S. Eliot's Collected Poems? Where's A Portrait of the Artist...? There's just too much to do with this list, but it's worth a study.
For other lists, check here. Looking at these lists makes me remember exactly how futile it is to make such silly things.
Publishers Weekly reported three weeks ago on the pending suit by Van Morrison against Chicago Review Press and biographer Clinton Heylin. By the sounds of it, there's stuff to object to, but Heylin should most certainly have heard about the difficulties that earlier biographers like John Collis and Brian Hinton and Steve Turner went through. Van's notorious about his privacy, understandably, and yet the line-up of biographers ready to face the lion seems undeterred. Fools. I have to admit, too, that I have a pretty fundamental distrust of biographers in general, many of whom are more interested in the salacious and the aspersive than the actual. Of all people, though, to go after Van is just askin' for it: the Man is notoriously litigious about attempts to intrude into his privacy or to write about his life or even to use his lyrics (in many ways, he's much like the Eliot estate, extremely protective). Ya gets whats ya asks fer.
The book has had limited release through Penguin in the UK, but the suit is attempt to stop US publication through CRP. Here is a brief description from the Van Morrison website, and here is a pretty useless review from The Independent, which offers very little about the book itself. Blender offers an equally unilluminating discussion here. The Guardian, however, has a more interesting discussion here (as one might expect from The Guardian); I particularly like the line, "the whole show is dressed up like a mugger in Gucci shoes, with footnotes and square brackets and all sorts of cross-references to lend the impression of professorial authority, all the while hiding the stiletto." Very nice.
I'm starting to think my pair of articles on the Man were very fortunate not to get me sued. ;-) Then again, I didn't give a whit about the man's personal life.
...for Justin Timberlake, of all people: from Reuters: "Timberlake won Best Pop Video, Best Dance Video and Best Male Video -- a category in which he beat out Johnny Cash, a rock and roll legend old enough to be his grandfather.
"'This is a travesty, I demand a recount,' Timberlake said when accepting the Best Male Video award. 'My grandfather raised me on Johnny Cash ... and I think he deserves this better than any of us here tonight.'"
Between this and his muted response to his abuse at the SARS-Fest concert, I have to admit the kid's earned a few points from me. Whoda thunk it?
From Amazon, here is an interesting interview with Sir Frank about his then new work, Shakespeare's Language. Kermode is just one of the elder statesmen of literary criticism who bemoan recent developments in the history of the graduate school in literature. And, damn it, I think he's right on. Shakespeare's Lanaguage is a damn good book.
Also of interest: this link will take you a list of pieces by Kermode for The London Review Of Books on the likes of Auden, Empson, John Updike, V. S. Naipaul, and Martin Amis. Check out, too, this article on writing about Shakespeare, in which he asserts, I think, quite rightly:
...it seems to me wrong to seek to advance your career by professing to be concerned with Shakespeare, while actually writing about what happens to interest you more, forcing a limited set of new interests onto the old topic, using that topic as an excuse to write about these more fashionable concerns. It is true that this approach is now more likely to win institutional approbation, for the institution authorises this evasiveness and firmly supports a historicism which excludes attempts to differentiate between writing that was once regarded as literary, of aesthetic value, and all other contemporary documents.
Indeed. Kermode's attention in the later stages of the article on selected passages is well worth the read for the literarily inclined. He has a fine ear, if a speculative one at times; but he provides in sum a valuable way of considering Shakespeare so as to avoid a lot of the idiotic trappings of modes of criticism that might be described as 'tyrannous in their genius.' I'm seriously thinking of compelling my students to read Kermode's essay, especially considering most of them, by the nature of the course pending this year, if only to provide some much-needed tonic to the course's over-arching generality and thematicism.
28 August 2003
Writing that last post, it's occurred to me how many of the 'elder' statepeople of 'rock and roll' (using that term in its loosest possible sense) have had significant comebacks in the past fifteen years. A few examples:
>> Bob Dylan makes the comeback of a lifetime with Time Out Of Mind, and the album dominates the Grammy awards that year.
>> Carlos Santana has a huge hit with "Smooth," and the source album Supernatural wins numerous awards and finds a suprisingly large audience among younger crowds.
>> Joni Mitchell released Turbulent Indigo to surprise acclaim and audience acceptance. It too wins two Grammys, defeating the likes of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston in its year.
>> After The Best of Van Morrison, the Belfast Cowboy was marketable again, and found his new albums receiving radio play (with songs like "Real Real Gone," "Have I Told You Lately" and "Days Like This"), and his new songs especially finding their way into mainstream films. The Best Of... spent over five years on Billboards Top 200.
>> James Taylor made quite a comeback with Hourglass, which saw the folkie picking up several awards, too.
>> Ray Charles started getting radio play again in the early 90s with his Grammy winning cover of Leon Russell's "A Song For You."
>> Johnny Cash has actually been through this twice. This last time, audiences pricked up their ears again after his rendition of "The Wanderer" proved to be the best thing about U2's Zooropa album.
>> Not that I can stand her, but Cher made quite the comeback, too, with that fingernails-on-blackboard tripe called "Believe." It went to #1, though, and had people under the age of 20 realizing she actually sang.
>> Leonard Cohen made a stunning comeback at least in Canada, with his multiple-platinum selling album The Future.
>> Eric Clapton's Unplugged and his song "Tears From Heaven" from The Rush Soundtrack were huge hits. "Unplugged" won several Grammys, and was the top selling album of that year.
I'm sure there are many more, and I'm not including here the names of people who more or less didn't fade from public exposure too much (The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, James Brown), or those who were only essentially 'reissued' hitmakers (like the Beatles' and Elvis' remarketing stints). All of the musicians listed above were at least 40 when they made their comebacks, and many were over the age of 50. More importantly, all of the above were at one point or another considered 'unmarketable,' and many faced being cut from their record labels, especially during the 1980s. And all of them seemed to come 'from out of nowhere' with their returns, and many of them found their popularity reignited by associations with film (Morrison, Clapton, and Dylan especially). Interesting.
Here is a very good article on the fascinating phenomenon of Johnny Cash's revival among younger audiences. I know it may seem I'm making a bigger deal of this than I should, but it really is stunning that Cash has -- thanks in large part to the quality of the "Hurt" video-- been able to defy all the normal conventions of musical popularity and acceptance. It reinforces a tiny little speck of hope that remains in me that even the most normally oblivious can be touched by the sublime, if only they'll give it a chance-- and even reinforcing the littler speck of hope that they actually might give it a chance. Every now and then, there's diamond in the dross, and it reminds you why you sludge through the dross in the first place.
Friday's NYTimes puzzle ("All Keyed Up" by Jim Page) was very, very clever-- and certainly one of the best they've done in a while. The theme was tricky, and it nearly stumped me: the catch was realizing that at certain points, one had to use numbers instead of letters, and then that in two places one had to use the word (or symbol) for "star" and "pound." Yes, there was a telephone keypad design at the heart of things. Nice topper: I can't say there were any overly arcane clues. So, all said and done: fair, clever, and enjoyable.
When people ask, especially on campus, why I'm not more politically active or politically inclined, my first instinct is to say that politics is not, or is no longer, about the rational discussion of issues but about labelling and rhetorical slander. It drives me up the wall that 'interested' groups, in the advocacy or criticism of issues, tend to refuse to engage the concerns of their opposites, and instead they invoke the language of moral superiority. The buzz-words of the partisans are thrown about willy-nilly, meaninglessly, even abusively-- and that in itself I find objectionable. Oh, you know the words: Anti-Semitic, racist, sexist, and on and on and on. Words like those should be used sparingly and precisely. Question anything about Israeli politics, for example, and the 'especially involved' will trot out the charge of anti-Semitism when that charge may or may not be valid-- but they do so with a kind of knee-jerk defensiveness that makes genuine debate impossible. It also suggests to me closed-mindedness and self-righteousness.
Here is a good case in point, a response to a column written by Liberal backbencher John Bryden. Admittedly, I find many of Bryden's assertions tenuous and bordering on the offensive, but he does raise some questions that should be more thoroughly discussed-- the question of judicial versus parliamentary law-making, the question of whether or not the application of the legal term 'marriage' to same-sex couples has broader implications than we might initially expect, the question of whether or not a child raised by parents of the same sex has any sort of deleterious effect, and so on. That last issue is more of a sticking point than one might suspect, not because homosexual couples are any less capable as parents, and there's no reason at all to think that being raised by two homosexual parents would be any more damaging (or beneficial, for that matter) than being raised by two heterosexual parents. But there remains the question of whether or not a child 'misses' something in not being raised by parents of both sexes (after all, so much of our understanding of sexuality and gender is learned in childhood by simply watching the way parents act and react), and whether or not 'missing' that is even all that important. There remains, too, the issue of the semblance of parody that I mentioned some time ago; clearly, Bryden is reacting in part to that, as many Canadians are. Bryden's article is not particularly persuasive to me, and I think he skirts around issues, but I think it's important to recognize two things: that he speaks for many who have concerns about what same-sex marriage legislation might carry with it (however much one may agree or disagree with him), and that this is an issue that has nasty tentacles to it, tentacles that reach into notions of the family, and they further problematize the always contentions relationship between human rights and religious-spiritual beliefs. There remains, too, the serious issue of whether or not such an issue should be defined by the courts (as the protectors of rights and freedoms, as spelled out in the Charter) or by the legislature (as the supposed spokespeople for the populace).
The respondent article, however, is an extended exercise in self-defensiveness, even if the letter writter at the end makes some important points. The web page throws out the charges of 'bigotry' and intolerance (complete with flashing image accusing Bryden of 'child abuse'), and the holier-than-thou association of Bryden and company with the Inquisition. But, at least as far as I can see, most of the criticism of Bryden is based on inferences about what he said rather than explicit statements per se; and just as the letter-writer makes the good point that to be judged based on one's sexuality is hurtful, so too is the page's (but not the letter-writer's, I should clarify) labelling of him, as is the general dismissal of any of his arguments. I should add one caveat: I don't know if there's any truth to the letter-writer's accusation about Bryden's personal remarks to individual constituents. That may be true, or it may be an exaggeration or even misunderstanding.
The thing is, I know John Bryden. I worked for him for a summer years ago, not in a political way, but as a historical researcher. Many of Bryden's views might be described as 'socially conservative' -- and some might say 'redneckish.' But he also represents a significant portion of society (as evidenced by the uproar in the Liberal caucus, not to mention recent opinion polls), and his concerns should not simply be branded with cheap rhetorical labels better saved for discussions where bigotry is more clearly, and more explicitly, the issue. The approach is manifestly pejorative rather than considered-- and, indeed, the irony is that in these two written cases there is a stronger air of 'intolerance' evident in the article claiming the intolerance of the other. But that is the way things are these days: our activists for tolerance of whatever form are often as guilty of intolerance (and righteous indignation) as those they oppose; theirs can be a Puritanism of a different sort, except it's a Puritanism guised as 'social enlightenment.' Archie Bunker was a bigot. Jesse Helms is a bigot. Strom Thurmond was. But I can't say the same applies to Mr Bryden, whether based on my knowledge of him or based on my reading of his article. If there is a bigotry there, it seems to me relatively latent, and perhaps Bryden's coming discussions of the issue may reveal this; but at this point, and based on what I've seen, the response is all-too-typical of the kind of knee-jerk moral-superiority that utterly disgusts me. Instead of engaging concerns and debating them, the tactic is instead to dismiss categorically and arrogantly. And I find that just as cheap and abusive as any form of bigotry, prejudice, or intolerance. To call someone a bigot or a misogynist or an anti-Semite or whatever is, more often than not, not an act of precise statement but an act of snide besmerchment that is often as offensive (and perhaps outright slanderous) as any social epithet. It's an act of dismissing someone as an ignorant social pariah, an act of outcasting as potentially heinous as the outcasting that closeted, oppressed, or otherwise subjugated countless people, mostly minorities, over the centuries. Yes, we should stand against intolerance and so forth, and we ought to call bigotry bigotry. There is, however, a difference between identifying and naming bigotry and brandishing the word so cavalierly that it loses its meaning-- and, worse, we become practitioners of the kind of stigmatization that we purport to denounce. Sadly, we live in a society all too given to casual stigmatization, as many have learned all too well and all too painfully.
This leads me to a larger point about political and ideological rhetoric: be careful what you say, and be careful how you label-- not just for the consequences to others, but for the consequences to yourself, lest you become just another version of that which you oppose, lest you become what I think the most insidious creature, the righteous hypocrite, the immovable figure that cares only about getting its own way and not about what is best or wisest or fairest.
Stratford is trying to cash in on the 'trendy' factor this season by doing a 'gayed-up' production of Troilus and Cressida. Directed by Richard Monette, the very notion of the project seems ludicrous, from the inclusion of male nudity to the ending of the production with "Closer to God" by Nine Inch Nails. Oh, isn't Monette clever? **Smirk** Check out this review from The Globe and Mail, or this one from The Toronto Sun. As Gary Smith puts it in a review in The Spectator, "When David Shelley [as Patroclus] finally flings off his form clinging white towel to bare all in powerful white light there were an equal amount of gasps and giggle." Gasps and giggles, eh? I'm sure that's what Shakespeare had in mind.... *Shakes head, rolls eyes*
Well, the dreaded day came and went. Thank God it’s over. I won’t bore people by describing the events here, but for those who know what my birthdays are like, suffice it to say that it was pretty much as always, save for two differences: the surprise appearance of Anne (thanks, kiddo!), and the fact the night ended with me stone cold sober (unfortunately), despite Mr Robeis’ gesture of “30 years of Bushmills for The Good Doctor” (i.e., three shots of ten year-old single malt). As Anne learned firsthand, my birthday always seems more like a wake than a celebration, and this was no different. I wound of giving in on exiling myself totally, mainly because my maternal unit made it perfectly clear that she wanted us to ‘do something,’ which meant doing the same thing as always, except with fewer gifts and no cake. On that last clause: the fact of fewer gifts doesn’t bother me at all, and the absence of cake was at my request. And, as usual, most of my ‘friends’ – or people who ostensibly care about me, including many of whom who were insisting that I celebrate the day – were not to be heard from in any shape or form. Typical. In the end, I’m just glad it’s over and done with. Hell, even my horoscope predicted a two-star (out of five) day for me for the day. But thanks to those who did send good wishes (or more): Mom & Dad, Bruce & Yvonne, Marg & Dave, Gram, Anne, Catherine, Karen, Kim, Jere and Mr Robeis. And my gifts? Dinner, The Two Towers on DVD, a bookbag/carry case, forty dollars, two beers, and the three aforementioned whiskies. Yah.
For the record, from the newspaper, on being born on my date of manifestation: “You have the unique opportunity to make a difference this year. You have an unusually gentle manner that separates you from many. You have only good intentions, though sometimes someone misreads you. Responsibility weighs on you, often encouraging you to take another path. For some, there might be a change of residence. For others, a lifestyle transformation might be in the works. The good news is your flexibility. You enter a new life cycle in September that could be unusually lucky, but events and feelings often go to extremes. If you are single, you are likely to meet someone this fall who will knock your socks off. If you are attached, you will often find your partner to be difficult or perhaps overly energetic. Seek guidance from Leo.” Yeah, right.
All in all, pretty depressing. The best part is that I won’t have to go through this again for a whole year. Now that’s something to cheer about.
25 August 2003
It's possible that Johnny Cash might clean up at the MTV Awards for his rendition of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt." I'd just *love* it if he kicked the asses of Missy Elliott and Justin Timberlake. Cash's "Hurt" is something the original song wasn't-- a kind of life-anthem, hauntingly resonant and utterly unforgettable. And since the passing of June Carter Cash, watching the video again has a kind of cruel poignancy, especially in those shots where she watches Johnny sing and you can see her sadness only barely restrained. Johnny's voice itself is unforgettable-- withered yet strong, it carries the lyrics with a kind of broken majesty that few other vocalists could. If Cash doesn't win in his categories, there is no justice.
.... And yes, I do know the MTV Awards are absolutely meaningless, rewarding more often than not the mmost insipid of acts simply because of their popularity and so forth. But I want Johnny to win, mainly because it would be a great personal consolation that people these days would value greatness over the pissant-ic. (Yes, I'm coining a new word there. I kinda like it. ;-) ).
24 August 2003
Canada Links Arrest of 19 to Possible Terrorism Ties: What's more frightening, the details of this story, or realizing this was bigger news in the NYTimes than it was in the Canadian media?
23 August 2003
I have to say I found this funny. Apparently, a friend of mine lost the http address for this blog and searched for "Dr J words" (no quotes) on Google. This blog -- surprisingly enough, considering the relatively common search terms-- came up first on the list of sites. That, however, is not the funny part. Said person then went back to Google and with the same search terms clicked on "I'm Feeling Lucky" and was brought directly to this blog. Of course, inquiring mind that I am, I checked this out, and it's true (at least for now, anyway). So now you know, dear readers, whoever you are, if you're feeling lucky, you'll end up with Dr J.... LOL
Willow: Have you googled her yet?
Xander: Willow, she's 17!
--- from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
**Received this from Mr. Ublansky today. Worth a read-- and good for a laugh.**
Please take time to read this slowly. If you pay attention to the first two judges, the reaction of the third judge is even better. For those of you who have lived in Texas, you know how true this is. They actually have a Chili Cook-off about the time Hallowe'en comes around. It takes up a major portion of the parking lot at the city park.
The notes are from an inexperienced Chili taster named Frank, who was visiting from Canada. Frank: "Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge's table asking for directions to the Coors Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chili wouldn't be all that spicy and, besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted".
Here are the scorecards from the advent: (Frank is Judge #3)
Chili # 1: Mike's Maniac Mobster Monster Chili
Judge # 1 -- A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.
Judge # 2 -- Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.
Judge # 3 -- (Frank) Holy shit, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope that's the worst one. These Texans are crazy.
Chili # 2: Arthur's Afterburner Chili
Judge # 1 -- Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight jalapeno tang.
Judge # 2 -- Exciting BBQ flavor, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
Judge # 3 -- Keep this out of the reach of children. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.
Chili # 3: Fred's Famous Burn Down the Barn Chili
Judge # 1 -- Excellent firehouse chili. Great kick. Needs more beans.
Judge # 2 -- A beanless chili, a bit salty, good use of peppers.
Judge # 3 -- Call the EPA. I've located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I'm getting s**t- faced from all of the beer.
Chili # 4: Bubba's Black Magic
Judge # 1 -- Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.
Judge # 2 -- Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.
Judge # 3 -- I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds? Sally, the barmaid, was standing behind me with fresh refills. That 300-lb bitch is starting to look HOT... Just like this nuclear waste I'm eating! Is chili an aphrodisiac?
Chili # 5: Linda's Legal Lip Remover
Judge # 1 -- Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
Judge # 2 -- Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.
Judge # 3 -- My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from the pitcher. I wonder if I'm burning my lips off. It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw those rednecks.
Chili # 6: Vera's Very Vegetarian Variety
Judge # 1 -- Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spices and peppers.
Judge # 2 -- The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, and garlic.Superb.
Judge # 3 -- My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulphuric flames. I shit myself when I farted and I'm worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that Sally. She must be kinkier than I thought. Can't feel my lips anymore. I need to wipe my arse with a snow cone.
Chili # 7: Susan's Screaming Sensation Chili
Judge # 1 -- A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
Judge # 2 -- Ho hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. **I should take note that I am worried about Judge # 3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.
Judge # 3 -- You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn't feel a thing. I've lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava like shit to match my shirt. At least during the autopsy, they'll know what killed me. I've decided to stop breathing, it's too painful. Screw it; I'm not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I'll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.
Chili # 8: Tommy's Toe-Nail Curling Chili
Judge # 1 -- The perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili. Not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
Judge # 2 -- This final entry is a good, balance chili. Neither mild nor hot.Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge #3 farted, passed out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he's going to make it. Poor fella, wonder how he'd have reacted to really hot chili.
22 August 2003
Oh, my common one . . .
Oh, my storytime one
Oh, my treasury in the sunset
Take a walk with me
And I will show you
It ain’t why . . .
It just is . . .
Oh, my common one
With the light in the head
And the coat so old
Oh, my high in the art of sufferin’ one . . .
Oh, my common one
Take a walk with me
Down by avalon
And I will show you
It ain’t why . . .
It just is.
Oh, my common one with the light in her head
And the coat so fine
And the sufferin’ so high . . .
All right now.
Oh, my common one . . .
It ain’t why . . .
It just is . . .
That’s all there is about it.
It just is.
The words on the screen, I'm sure, don't look profound. And until you hear Van Morrison sing them, they aren't. Let your red robe go....
Ewan McGregor's 'Star Wars' Depression Led to Boozing
Movie star Ewan McGregor has admitted to binging on alcohol in order to cope with the depression brought on by his role in the Star Wars prequels. The Scottish actor saw his career skyrocket when he played the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the hit franchise, but soon felt the pressure of being an international movie star. This fueled the Moulin Rouge actor's hatred of the George Lucas- helmed movies - and he began drinking heavily to get through the intense publicity. Ewan admits, "I used to get drunk before meeting journalists. I thought it would get me through. But then it just leads to you saying things that you wished you'd never said - stupid things." But the father-of-two has now curbed his boozing ways, and is happy to be recognized as Obi-Wan by young fans. He says, "After Attack Of The Clones, I stopped drinking for interviews. Now, I'm very happy to do them, I really am. And I like being Obi-Wan Kenobi. I like it when kids speak to me about it because I remember being that way about the first three Star Wars films myself."
I guess Ewan has learned what Alec Guinness learned-- the pressure of being catapulted from acting into inescapable association. Difference is, Guinness was an older man by the time of Star Wars (he was 63) with a long career behind him. And Guinness never turned to the bottle, as far as anyone knows. Not sure I'd have been that way; like Ewan, I'd likely have developed a distinct distaste for everything except alcohol. And, poor Ewan, he faced the inevitable comparisons to Guinness (including, I admit, from me); a tough act to follow. Suddenly, I actually have some sympathy for McGregor.
I really don't know what to make of stories like this one. Now, the immediate reaction is to say "what bullshit, oh my God...." When one considers, though, how often people around the world wear their ethnicities' (or societies') history of oppression and wrongedness as rationales for their actions, it doesn't seem quite as far-fetched; after all, many defenses, especially, in the United States are based on 'two hundred years of persecution and yadda yadda yadda.' Such thinking is, ultimately, a result of an extremely litigious international society, but I think the problems go deeper than that. The Egyptians can sue for theft, the Jews for persecution; the Jews can sue the Christians for persecution and oppression, the Christians the Jews for supposed accomplicity in the act of deicide; all religions can sue the Mongols for the raiding and looting of their culture in the Middle Ages, and the Mongols can sue, well, I'm sure there's something.... And in this case, I wonder who could sue the Egyptians for their gold, stolen from them thousands of years ago. The Ethiopians, perhaps?
The thing is, we lend credence to some of these arguments. Historical wrongedness remains a quasi-acceptable defense for some groups, but an unacceptable one for others. Human history, unfortunately, is about winners and losers, about victims and victimizers-- and this becomes more and more difficult when one considers who, really, are the victims? doesn't everyone become a victim at one point or another, even as the victimizer? and how long does one accept this victim mentality as a rationale for one's less than righteous actions? And, perhaps, most of all, where does this daisy-chain of mutual fuckery end and begin? And when does the "You done me wrong" mentality cease to be a viable defense?
Round and round and round, pointlessly. Perhaps we should all donate everything we have to whatever the first society was, Eden or Jarmo or whatever, and live the rest of our lives indentured to our history of victimization and wrongedness (and our sublimated and denied period of victimizing and wronging others). Or do we establish a statute of limitations? But if we do this, how do we arbitrarily decide when one should be forgiven, or worse, when one should forgive and forget?
Ask any wronged lover. There is no statute on when 'things just go away.' Sometimes history evaporates, sometimes it lingers. Some injuries are forgotten before the scar is formed; some remain long after the actual injury has apparently healed.
Such arguments are disturbing because they are both intensely rational and historical in nature, but also absurd and pointless ultimately; this is the point where sense becomes nonsense, or when nonsense starts to make sense. And while this can be a profoundly interesting thing in relation to literature and metaphysics, it gets us nowhere in the real world. It becomes the myth of the ouroboros, the snake that eats its tail. It becomes a world only lawyers love.
Maybe Shakespeare had it wrong: First thing we do, let's kill all the litigants!
Oh, but wait, that would just make for more litigants. Ugh. Move on people, move da fuck on.
Writing that leader, I realized yet again how pompous the name 'Doctor J' seems on its own, divorced from the context(s) that brought it to being. Ugh. But there it is, and there it stays. Anyway....
Revamping the blog design today was exhausting, mostly because my own machine seems, like me, to be cursed; not only is it antiquated in many ways, but it keeps shutting down on me and what I see on my screen tends to be very different than what others tend to see on theirs. If I had known how badly off-kilter the colours were before, I'd probably have done something sooner, but on my monitor it didn't look nearly as bad. It was only when, in my frustration with dealing with my own machine, I moved to another that I discovered how much of visual eyesore it was. Hopefully it's better now, but I am frankly too damned tired at this point to really care too much.
Curses and all, I am blessed by two small things: first, the pending departure of the parental units (they leave later this afternoon to go camping for the weekend), and, second, the joy of discovering something very surprising about my eight year-old cat, Trouble. Trouble, you should know, is a character-- the cat who thinks he's John Wayne, sauntering about the house with a misanthropy strong even for a cat. Given his tough-guy, don't-give-a-shit mentality 95% of the time, and his general tendency to ignore and or to sneer at toys or treats or anything of the ilk, I have managed to discover something new.
The little fucker is absolutely ga-ga for grass. No, not pot. Plain, everyday grass.
Now I'm sure you're thinking, Yeah, but lots of cats love grass and plants... I could tell you stories..... And you'd be right of course.
But this is my feline, and that's the difference: this otherwise very stoic cat has been turning into an easily excited 'little boy' of a cat, meowing at me each time I go out the door, and following me as a dog would follow someone with a steak in his/her hand, whether or not I actually have bothered to pick up any grass from the lawn. He follows me, he meows at me constantly, he jumps to the ready at every turn I make, he sits next to me like a child waiting for candy as I parcel out the slivers of grass; he's even reached the stage of 'sitting pretty' as dogs might do for bones or biscuits, and doing so on the couch or on my lap or whatever.
I tell you, the cat has gone crazy, absolutely bonkers. He doesn't do this for cat food, wet or dry, and he doesn't do this for toys, or even catnip. And, even more ironically, he tends to leave the very few plants we have within his reach about the house quite alone. So, go figure.
Of course, once the grass is gone he more or less returns to his cantankerous state. And that's the joy of it, really, that one little gesture on my part (or even not done on my part, just his thinking that I've done it), and the grump becomes a boy-- giddy, excited, happy. That's a particular kind of joy most of us thrive on when we find it, when we know that doing just one little thing will make someone's day, or make them change their behaviour for the better, or whatever. And it's a greater joy when you discover that after a long time; it reminds you that there's always more to discover, whether with another person, or even a sour-puss of a pet. The further irony is this, that it's almost always such a little thing, so little we tend not to stumble upon it even over an extended period of knowing.
And if a sot as miserable as Trouble can turn on a dime-- or, should I say, a few blades of grass-- so can the rest of us. Food for thought, and indeed hope.
21 August 2003
I've revamped the design on this blog yet again in the hope of making it clearer and easier on the eyes. Any feedback would be appreciated, as I especially do not trust my sense of colours. (Alas, the constant frustration with making colours 'match,' and the awareness all my efforts will never entirely succeed.) Ugh. Yeah, the graphical links are a little crudely done (Hey, what did you expect from me?), but hopefully they'll be a little less straining on the eyes than the plethora of text links I might otherwise have had.
I may re-add a writers gallery, but I've removed it for now to make the page load faster. Should I bother? We shall see.
Suggestions are, of course, welcome; just don't expect them to be followed through on anytime soon. ;-)
Cheers & best all,
This is just disturbing, not heartening: General Physician Carries Out Do-It-Yourself Vasectomy. I particularly like the final words from the spokesperson for the General Medical Council: "It makes sense for a doctor to treat minor ailments, or take emergency action when necessary but doctors should avoid treating themselves or close family members wherever possible. This is a matter of common sense and good medical practice." LOL.
A Brazilian man who went to the doctor suffering from ear trouble ended up undergoing more radical treatment than he expected - when he underwent a vasectomy.--- from the BBC News
Valdemar Lopes de Moraes, 39, was suffering from muffled hearing, and thought his name had been called out in the waiting room at a clinic in the town of Montes Claros in south-eastern Minas Gerais state, Reuters news agency reported.
He promptly went into a consulting room - where a doctor was performing vasectomies.
The staff had really called out Aldemar, not Valdemar - but they say they gave the full name, Aldemar Aparecido Rodrigues, of the man who was scheduled for the snip.
"The strangest thing is that he asked no questions when the doctor started preparations in the area which had so little to do with his ear," said clinic manager, Vanessa Guimaraes.
Mr de Moraes, a local farmer, later told staff he thought his ear inflammation had reached as far as his testicles.
The father of two, who had the vasectomy last week, turned up at the same clinic on Wednesday for the ear examination he failed to get the first time - but made no request for a reversal of the operation.
Ms Guimaraes said: "A local newspaper said he is going to sue us, but he did not tell us about any claims."
He thought the inflammation had reached as far as his testicles?!?!?!?!?! Oh, dear lord....
20 August 2003
Associated PressNo comment. Abso-smurf-ly no bloody comment.
Aug. 20, 2003 08:35 AM
OAKLAND, Calif. - What did you do during your summer vacation? Police in Oakland charge a teacher is turning tricks while school is out.
Shannon Williams is due in court today on a misdemeanor charge of soliciting prostitution. She was arrested last week after allegedly agreeing to have sex with an undercover officer for $250.
Berkeley school officials confirm Williams is a teacher in the district.
According to police, Williams told them she only works as a hooker during the summer, to earn some extra money.
But Williams says it's all a misunderstanding. She vows to fight the charges in court. "
Jeebus Murphy, what is with these stories of penile mutilation lately? Last week, a man takes a psychotropic drug and chops off and then cooks and eats his penis, and now there is this...
Associated PressIs there a bug going around? This world just doesn't make much sense anymore. And what about those boys? Anything for a few bucks these days. Sheesh.
Aug. 19, 2003 01:15 PM
MEXICO CITY - A construction worker was hospitalized on Tuesday after getting drunk and paying two boys to castrate him, according to officials at the Aguascalientes state attorney general's office.
The spokesman for the agency in the central Mexican state, Oscar Arredondo, said in a telephone interview that 50-year-old Ernesto Rodriguez Hernandez was drunk at building site in Aguascalientes city on Sunday when he met two 11-year-old boys who had gone there to play.
He told them that he wanted to be "castrated to live more calmly" and because he had no wife, Arredondo said, then offered the boys money.
Arredondo said Rodriguez gave the boys 200 pesos (US$20) after they cut off one testicle with a razor he gave them.
The boys' parents notified police after the children told them where the money had come from. Rodriguez was taken to a hospital and the two boys were placed under court jurisdiction while officials investigate the case.
Over the years, like anybody, I've been subjected to statements that begin with (or otherwise echo) "you know who you look like?" or "you know who you remind me of?" and it's always turned out that the names that get brought out are names I do not in the least understand, or that I do not in any way see the logic for comparison. Moreover, I can't say the comparisons ever feel complimentary. For example, years ago, a woman in a grad class told me that I looked like Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting (!?!?!). I still do not see that, then or now, but it was especially weird since I think I resemble Ewan McGregor as much as I resemble Jar Jar Binks. (No comments from the peanut gallery, please.) Another woman thinks I look like a young Anthony Perkins, which, again, I do not see, but which sends chills down my spine, in part being compared to an actor famous for playing psychopaths. She claims it's more the Perkins of Desire Under the Elms, but I still don't see it, and I still don't like it, damn it. When I've had a beard, I've been compared countless times to Jesus, though it seems anybody with a brown beard gets that these days. But, of course, I've also been told (more than once) that I look like Hitler (!), most recently like the Hitler played by Noah Taylor in Max, and I frankly don't see the basis for comparison. Somebody recently said I look like Ralph Fiennes in The End of The Affair; another, some time ago, said I looked like Jeremy Irons (WTF!?!?!); another said I looked like Willem Dafoe, which I absolutely do not see. It boggles the mind. And people wonder why I wince whenever people say I remind them of someone-- the comparison is pretty much pre-destined to be incomprehensible to me, and sometimes offensive (even if the person saying whatever is saying they don't intend to offend). Now, to be honest, there's no one I think I particularly look like, and there's no one to whom I would particularly like to be compared, but, geez, this is ridiculous. *Shakes head repeatedly* So many comparisons (I'm mentioning only a few here), and not a one I can say "Hey, I like that" to.... Ugh.
On the flip side, I guess I can honestly say that I've never received anything because of my looks. I'm not sure if that's entirely a good thing or not.
19 August 2003
To be a poet and not know the trade,
To be a lover and repel all women;
Twin ironies by which great saints are made,
The agonizing pincer-jaws of Heaven.
I Had A Future
O I had a future
Gods of the imagination bring back to life
The personality of those streets,
Not any streets
But the streets of nineteen-forty.
Give the quarter-seeing eyes I looked out of
The animal-remembering mind
The fog through which I walked towards
That was my future.
The women I was to meet
They were nowhere within sight.
And then the pathos of the bloind soul,
How without knowing stands in its own
Bring me a small detail
How I felt about money,
Not frantic aslater,
There was the future.
Show me the stretcher-bed I slept on
In a room in Drumcondra Road,
Let John Betjeman call for me in a car.
It is summer and the eerie beat
Of madness in Europe trembles the
Wings of the butterflies along the canal.
O I had a future.
--- Patrick Kavanagh
As straphanger Joyce M. Judge, 42, stared out the window of the Boston subway car during morning rush hour on July 30, she started dripping profusely, and a minute or so later, a baby fell out from underneath her skirt and slid around on the car's floor. According to witnesses (some of whom vomited at the sight), Judge at first acted as if nothing had happened, then finally picked up her newborn, declined the help of passengers, nonchalantly continued the ride, and left the train at the next station (stopping only to pick up the placenta when it fell to the ground). She subsequently reported to Boston Medical Center, where the baby was in good condition (and where the mother was referred for a mental health evaluation). [Boston Globe, 7-31-03]
BERLIN (Reuters) - German police have briefly detained a 36-year-old man after he tried to shower naked in a car wash in the southern town of Fuerth.Now I'm sure all of you are thinking: Dr. J, what's with all the sex-related stories lately? Honestly, I have no idea. They seem to be everywhere these days. It must be the summer sun. Or people are just getting sillier and sillier. And part of this blog's self-appointed duty is to note the silliness and snicker at it with according superiority. :-)
"The man stripped off and said he wanted to take a shower, but he couldn't start the machine," a Fuerth police spokesman said on Tuesday. "It wasn't a great idea. He could have been coated in car wax, scalded by hot water or rubbed raw by brushes."
The car wash owner alerted police after spotting the man gearing up for his shower among the brushes and hoses. Police said the man had been looking for somewhere to wash since losing his home at the start of the month.
And Speaking of Silliness....
Somehow, I don't think sexuality is something you choose by default. And check out this sentence: 'Mr Carney said that despite the encouragement for women to "explore other options", married and miserable was still better than alone and free, unless there was abuse.' *Smacks head*
18 August 2003
Here you can find a list of the various things that have happened over the years on August 26TH, the Doctor's dreaded day. Some of the things are cool: Caesar invaded Britain; Joan of Arc entered Paris; Michelangelo was commisioned to carve the Pieta; the Amistad was captured; women were given the right to vote in the United States; and many famous people were born (including, of all people, Mother Teresa and Macaulay Culkin) or died (including Charles Lindbergh and Hailie Selassie).
But note the entry for 1987: Ronald Reagan proclaims September 11 1987 as " 9-1-1 Emergency Number Day." Eerie.
The Ox of Chinese Astrology is no bull in a china shop. Steadfast and solid, this powerful Sign is a born leader, being quite dependable and possessing an innate ability to achieve great things. Oxen tend to be plodding and methodical; they approach projects in the step-by-step manner that serves them best, and they never lose sight of their goal. They are tireless workers who are detail-oriented and believe in doing things right the first time.
The world may perceive Oxen as being far too serious or incapable of loosening up. This sturdy sort is less than social by nature and tends to become introverted in a crowd. To make things worse, they can't be bothered with what other people think and prefer to do what makes them feel best. Behind that calm facade, though, lives an Ox who can feel hurt, lonely and unable to connect with others. Friends and family are a great source of comfort to this beast, even if they don't always understand what makes the Ox tick. As a lover, friend, family member or housemate, the Ox makes a wonderfully strong, tender and affectionate companion who is protective and always reliable.
Out in the world, though, Oxen tend to be stubborn, dogmatic, my-way-or-the-highway kind of people who have no concept of when to back down. Oxen don't care to be pushed, especially since they think they're the good guys of the Chinese Zodiac. There is some truth to that theory, since the Ox is smart, trustworthy, caring and honorable. If you need honest, steady and unbiased advice, call on the Ox.
A good lesson for mighty Oxen is to strive to overcome a judgmental nature that keeps them from getting close to others. If they can learn to value their own good qualities, they'll have more room in their hearts to invite others in.
"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." --- Albert Einstein
"Nothing pains some people more than having to think." --- Martin Luther King, Jr.
"LOVE: The irresistable desire to be irresistibly desired." --- Robert Frost
"Do what you feel in your heart to be right. You'll be criticized anyway." --- Eleanor Roosevelt
"Love built on beauty, soon as beauty, dies." --- John Donne
"Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more." --- Proverbs 31: 6-7
"Do not allow children to mix drinks. It is unseemly and they use too much vermouth." --- Steve Allen
There's an interesting review/study of the recent biography of Katharine Hepburn in today's NY Times. It's a nuanced review, though it certainly evinces self-aggrandization tendency on the reviewer's part. You can read the full (and lengthy) article here: 'Kate Remembered': Bringing Up Biographer.
Below are several answers to a question from sets of course evaluations at Brandeis. Some are silly, some are hilarious, some are just a little too fucking honest (you'll know what I'm talking about when you read it). And, yes, I've had some equally loopy comments on my evaluations over the years....
Area 3: "If you feel that this instructor should be nominated for a teaching award, please explain why."
Because he should be president of his own Latin American country, so this is the least we can do.
Because he's the bomb....
First of all he's got a cool taste in clothes, but that's beside the point.
For miraculously transforming me into a confident creative fountain.
HAHAHA! Yeah Right. I burn more calories dreaming them setting in this class. Don't do this to more innocent incoming freshmen.
"Half Man . . . Half God . . . All that!"
"He can spin piano benches on his head."
He is awesome + really smart. Plus, he's cute.
"He is so like deep, man."
He is the Superman of the department.
"He'll haunt the halls of Brandeis as the reincarnation of Buddha."
He possesses the enthusiasm only young professors have, before struggles for tenure have made them bitter."
He rocks my socks.
He's a great guy, wish he was my grandpa.
He's really good at what he does, lecturing, but this isn't always a good thing.
He's the coolest. Zippy Rules!
"I don't know why, he's just great, you should come see a class."
"I gave the Prof head"
"I'm not sure I understand the question, I suppose it depens on what kind of award."
"I've grown more as an actor this year than any other single year in my life, and I refuse to take all the credit."
"Like Have-A-Cow is the bomb diggy diggy. The man will help you get a job. How cool is that? And he's down with the lingo."
"likes beer, just kidding"
Nice Guy. He gave me dinner.
"No, the reason I'm saying yes to nomination isn't because you probably know who I am due to my handwriting, it is because I thoroughly enjoyed the course."
"Professor's pimp-like status baffled me."
"She is an endless pot of knowledge"
She's cute and she sings to us.
"This class was better than any professional therapist I ever went to."
Very enthusiastic about Reproductive Biology.
We talked about Bees once.
"What's the teaching award?"
You really learn something from this class, maybe you can not get a good grade, at least, you don't waste your time.
"I am in love. His name is the man. I wrote a poem for him:
Oh man, oh man you're so greatAddendum: I have to say, onomatopoeically, the word 'splooge' tops even the great 'twat' in its revulsiveness. You can almost hear.... No, no, no, I will stop there....
To your class I come late (sometimes)
You help me get so huge
When I think of you I splooge.
Because of you my right arm is so strong
Oh man, oh man is our love so wrong?"
17 August 2003
I've been thinking. Tomorrow it will be twenty-eight years to the day that I've been in the service. Twenty-eight years in peace and war. I don't suppose I've been at home more than ten months in all that time. Still, it's been a good life. I loved India. I wouldn't have had it any other way. But there are times when suddenly you realize you're nearer the end than the beginning. And you wonder, you ask yourself, what the sum total of your life represents. What difference your being there at any time made to anything. Hardly made any difference at all, really, particularly in comparison with other men's careers. I don't know whether that kind of thinking's very healthy; but I must admit I've had some thoughts on those lines from time to time. But tonight... tonight!
--- Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness)
16 August 2003
15 August 2003
Well, that was interesting.... 21 hours sans power.... Except for a tendency toward boredom, I actually kind of enjoyed it. Last night, around midnight, I walked through the local darkened streets, surveying the scene, and experienced what will probably be the closest I'll ever know to the feeling people like T.S. Eliot had wandering the streets of London after the Blitz: darkness everywhere, bedimmed faces moving about... No, I did not run into a familiar compund ghost, but it was a truly fascinating experience.
But now, boys and girls, we get to watch the fallout. We know someone's going to lose their head over this. Regardless, it's good to be back, and empowered.
14 August 2003
Here's an interesting article from the Washington Post on the expectation of failure, and its social endemia: Bennifer: Why Are We Hoping for A Flop?. This blog would like to add this caveat, that it doesn't give a badger's ass if Jennufleck fail as a couple, or anything like that; it, did, however, thoroughly enjoy watching two media whores go down in social embarassment with a film that even in the propsectus stage must have said 'For Idiots Only.' *Shakes head* In the words of Homer Simpson, in fantastic denial: "No comeuppance! No comeuppance!"
A hilarious addendum: you know it's bad when.... Purple Hearts might be more appropriate. ;-)
Blender magazine has issued its list of what it calls "the 50 Worst Musicians of All Time". Here is the list, stripped of the compilers' comments. Some of Dr. J's comments, however, are interspliced in italics.
1. Insane Clown Posse
2. Emerson, Lake and Palmer
3. Michael Bolton :IN-deed.
4. Kenny G :The Anti-Christ, indeed....
8. Vanilla Ice :Kind of a no-brainer, really...
9. Lee Greenwood :Good, they didn't leave country alone...
10. Air Supply
11. Latoya Jackson
12. Tin Machine : I don't mind David Bowie, but TM was a broken before it was invented
13. Mick Jagger :Yeah, most of the time, but Wandering Spirit (1991) was a good album
14. Yngwie Malmsteen
16. Oingo Boingo
18. Pat Boone : Good call. Thought they might forget him.
19. Dan Fogelberg
20. Howard Jones
21. The Alan Parsons Project
24. Bad English
26. Celine Dion : Why so deep in the list? I'd have thought her pollution a more serious offence
27. Colour Me Bad : Oh, yes, I remember them. Unfortunately.
28. Crash Test Dummies :One letter, repeated sixteen times: Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm
29. Skinny Puppy
30. Richard Marx : The sort of music only a mother could love: Marx's
31. Arrested Development
32. The Hooters
35. Paul Oakenfold
36. 98 Degrees
37. The Doors : Oooo, controversy! Actually, I agree. I still think the Doors vastly overrated.
38. Nelson : Do they qualify as musicians? They're really rock's Sigfried and Roy
39. Bob Geldof
40. Blind Melon : AGREED!
41. Whitesnake : Ah, yes, I had forgotten these bozos
42. Rick Wakeman
43. Mike and the Mechanics : Okay, I admit to a soft spot for 'The Living Years.' There, I said it. But yes, they sucked
45. Gipsy Kings
46. The Spin Doctors : Yah
47. Goo Goo Dolls : Yah
48. Master P
49. Toad the Wet Sprocket : Oh, I had *so* forgotten those schmucks.... Damn Blender!
50. Iron Butterfly : Agreed
Overall comments from Doctor J: Can't say there's too much disagreement from me here; all of the candidates here are viable, and deserving of a place in the bowels of musical history. I'd posit some other names, though for Dishonourable Mention, if you will:
Bryan Adams: Joe Cocker via No-Frills (or, outside of Canada, insert a no-name brand sales outlet).
The Backstreet Boys: Yes, an easy target, but a necessary one nonetheless. Include here all the other variations on the 'boy'-band, all of whom are pretty much interchangeable with one another.
Snoop Dog and whatever name he's using this month: Ugh.
INXS: It's not nice to mock a band with a dead lead singer, but they were pathetic. Saving grace, their collaboration with Ray Charles on "Please," only because Ray does his inimitable 'thang.'
Mariah Carey after her first album: So much potential, so little soul. I still say she should have been sent to work with Aretha Franklin or Van Morrison or someone who'd have pushed her to use that voice for good instead of for evil.
Britney Aguilera and the rest of the interchangeable blonde bimbos: God help us if they do it again, dirty or clean.
Donovan: Sorry, Catherine, if you're reading this; 'Mellow Yellow' remains a crime against humanity, and I can't for the life of me think of a single virtue to his other music that I was exposed to and tried to like for your sake. If he's the 'Scottish Dylan,' this only advances the myth of the Scots as cheap.
The Cranberries: Why did they have to let it linger?
Culture Club: Do you really want to make me cry?
Whitney Houston: And I-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i will always loathe you.....
Yoko Ono: How could Blender have forgotten this import?
REO Speedwagon: Nuff said.
Billy Ray Virus, er Cyrus: Don't Play That Song, That Achy, Breaky Song....
The Spice Girls: Hurl power.
Devo: I hope someone whips them, and whips them good.
Tiffany: Do I really need to say anything here?
Divinyls: Appropriately, they pioneered musical masturbation.
and Rick Astley: Oh, how soon we forget.... We have Remembrance Day, after all, to remind us 'Never Again.'
There are so many names I could list here... And I didn't even go into the spurious realms of 'house' and 'hip-hop' and so-called 'dance,' and the myriad contortions of musical crap that have cluttered up our culture bodies. But take comfort everyone, even the sternest cheese eventually makes it through the most constipated colon.
Oh, and how could I forget, the bane of every music lover's existence, whose utterly unnecessary shrine can be found here.
Brittany Murphy to David Letterman, on the Ashton Kutcher-Demi Moore "romance":
I suppose the crux of their relationship basically means to him that age doesn't matter and to her that size doesn't matter. Good going for him, I suppose.... Kidding, I'm just kidding! He was always a huge Bruce Willis fan. Oh Lord, yes, of course I'm teasing....
Good girl, Brittany, good girl. :-)
13 August 2003
Re: By The Time They Were Thirty : Counterpoint
>> Shakespeare was still a playwright in the making, languishing with the difficulties of writing blood-and-guts plays like the Henry VI plays and Richard III, and the slight comedies, The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew. That said, Shakespeare is writing like a madman-- and with King John, Richard II and the Sonnets in the offing, he'll soon surpass his rival Christopher Marlowe.
>> Wallace Stevens was only starting to publish in magazines, and was still trying to find stable work.
>> Alec Guinness had some small stage work (including a scene-stealing Osric in Gielguds's Hamlet), but aside from a bit part in Evensong, he had yet to make an impression on film; his performance as Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations is two years away. Like many English actors, however, Guinness found his acting career delayed by service in WWII; in a strange irony, due to an error, Guinness and another actor wound up being the first Brits to land on the shore of Italy before the invasion begun. Check out Guinness' brilliant autobiography Blessings In Disguise for more information.
>> James Joyce is in his own private hell after the destroyed publication of Dubliners and as Portait of the Artist as a Young Man lingers. Only Chamber Music, Joyce's very small book of verse, is in print.
>> Henry James had only one novel publish, in serial form in the Atlantic Monthly, the generally-forgotten Watch and Ward. Roderick Hudson doesn't appear for another two years.
>> Northrop Frye is still three years away from publishing his breakthrough study of William Blake, Fearful Symmetry.
>> John Dryden is still two years away from writing his first play, The Wild Gallant, now largely ignored, and All For Love remains six years away.
>> Virginia Woolf has yet to publish a novel. The Voyage Out remains three years away.
>> Emily Dickinson may be writing, but no one knows a damned thing of her, mostly by her own will.
>> Dante Alighieri is only on the cusp of finishing the Vita Nuova after the death of his beloved Beatrice; the Commedia remains at least five years away, with its beginning (the Inferno) not coming to development until 1290, when Dante was 35.
>> Walt Whitman remains six years away from publishing the first edition of Leaves of Grass, the volume (comprising just twelve poems) published at Whitman's own expense.
So, there's some consolation, I suppose.... So, to be Eliot, the young poet who rises to prominence in his youth, or to be Stevens, the poet (more than any other) associated with middle-age, that is the question.... Not that I'm near middle-age yet, but.... Oh, hell, one never knows, does one?
By The Time They Were Thirty:
» T. S. Eliot had written Prufrock and Other Observations, and was only two years away from completing The Waste Land.
» Orson Welles had directed Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, and become the definitive Mr. Rochester in the film version of Jane Eyre. He had, of course, already stunned North American audiences with his famous radio production of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.
» Van Morrison had released nine solo albums, including Astral Weeks and Moondance, two albums regularly cited among the top ten albums in rock and roll history, as well as the classics Tupelo Honey and Saint Dominic's Preview. He had also written "Brown-Eyed Girl" and "Gloria," staple songs for garage bands everywhere three decades later.
» Arthur Rimbaud was already past his prime and was settling into what would become the pattern of his self-destruction.
» Jodie Foster had already won two Academy Awards for Best Actress (for Silence of the Lambs, 1991, and The Accused, 1988, respectively), and had cemented herself as one of the icons of North American cinema.
» Alexander the Great (c. 356 - 323 B.C.) was only three years away from his death. Under Alexander's reign, the Macedonian empire reaches its apogee, and just prior to his thirtieth birthday Alexander and his armies had recrossed the Hindu Kush (in modern Pakistan) to begin the invasion of India. Previous victories: the defeats of Thebes, Persia, Tyre, Babylon, and Susa.
» Joan of Arc was embers: she was burned at the stake at nineteen.
» As Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart turned thirty, performances of The Marriage of Figaro had begun, to little acclaim; it survived for nine performances, though it is now considered a classic. He had already written numerous symphonies and concertos, and the Unfinished Mass in C Minor. He died at 35.
» Michelangelo had just (at age 29) completed his famous sculpture of David, and had just previously completed the Pieta now resident in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
» Winston Churchill was a controversial member of the House of Commons, and had already written his first book, The River War. Before turning thirty, Churchill was ambushed and taken prisoner by the Boers while reporting on the Boer War in South Africa.
» Leonard Cohen had published The Spice-Box of Earth, one of the few volumes of poetry to sell more than 100,000 copies in Canada. He had also written two other volumes of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies and Flowers for Hitler, and one novel, The Favourite Game.
» Hannibal had with 60,000 troops crossed the Alps into Italy in an ill-fated siege on Rome. Around his thirtieth birthday, he celebrated the successful ambush at Lake Trasimeno.
» Napoleon Bonaparte had reached Egypt and had defeated the Mamelukes, but had already lost to Lord Nelson in the Battle of the Nile. At thirty, he was five years away from being proclaimed Emperor by the Senate.
» Marco Polo was in China taking care of goverment business on behalf of Kublai Khan.
» John F. Kennedy had just (at 29) been elected to U.S. House of Representatives.
» Bob Dylan, born in 1941, had already released The Times They Are A-Changin', The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Another Side of Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited, Bringing It All Back Home, Blonde on Blonde, and John Wesley Harding. He famously "went electric" in 1965 at the ripe old age of twenty-four.
» Ray Charles had already recorded the iconic hits "What'd I Say?", "I Gotta Woman," "Lonely Avenue," "Hallelujah, I Love Her So," and "Georgia On My Mind." It's generally agreed that Charles' "I Gotta Woman" (alternately "I Got A Woman") was the first song of the genre now called 'soul music,' a genre that blended gospel, blues, and jazz sounds.
» Sir Philip Sidney was two years away from his death in the fields of Holland and had already written his key works, Arcadia, An Apologie for Poetrie, and Astrophil and Stella.
» W. B. Yeats had his Poems published in his thirtieth year. This followed the publication of The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems, The Countess Kathleen, and The Celtic Twilight.
» Sylvia Plath was less than a year away from her suicide. The Colossus and Other Poems had been published, and in her final year she was compiling the poems later published in the Ariel volume.
» Graham Greene had published his third novel, It's A Battlefield. His previous novels-- The Man Within and Stamboul Train-- are still in print over seventy years later.
» Robert Lowell had already won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Lord Weary's Castle.
» As best as we can tell, by the time of his thirtieth birthday, Jesus has begun his ministry and had been baptized in the Jordan River.
» Katharine Hepburn had already won her first Academy Award for Best Actress (for 1933's Morning Glory). She eventually won four such awards.
» In her thirtieth year, Bette Davis was about to win her second Academy Award for Best Actress in Jezebel (1938). She had previously won for Dangerous (1935).
» Emily Bronte, born 1818, had just published Wuthering Heights (1847). She died in 1848-- in her thirtieth year-- of tuberculosis. Her sister Charlotte, born 1816, was in the process of completing Jane Eyre in her thirtieth year.
» England's King Henry V had already won significant victories at Agincourt and Normandy, and had begun the advance to Paris. At 33, he would defeat the French forces and be declared Regent of France. It is under Henry's reign that England last has a presence in continental Europe; the territories in France are eventually lost in the regency and rule of Henry VI.
» Charles Dickens had already published The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby and The Old Curiousity Shop. He was visiting America in his thirtieth year.
» John Milton had just published Lycidas, still considered by many the seminal example of the elegy. He had also already published Nativity Ode, Petition of Right and Comus.
» Charles Darwin was in the process of publishing his Journal of the H.M.S. Beagle.
» George Gordon, Lord Byron, had published the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and the first canto of Don Juan. His contemporary, John Keats, died at 25, author of Endymion and Hyperion. Endymion itself was a poetic effort of 4,000 lines that was finished, albeit not to Keats' satisfaction, within a year.
» Sir Isaac Newton had already started giving his Optic Lectures and had written De Methodis. He was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University at roughly age 27.
» Bill Gates had already started, with Paul Allen, at age twenty the company that so utterly controls our lives now, Microsoft. By the time of this thirtieth birthday (1985), Gates and his company were in the process of developing the Windows operating system.
Geez, all this makes me feel stunningly inadequate.... And yes, I compiled this myself, so I have no one to blame but myself....
12 August 2003
The truly awful Ethan Hawke Hamlet is on A&E today. It is only one step above unwatchable, and I'm not sure of that, because I quite literally forced myself to watch it through some years ago for a paper a former student of mine wrote at the time, and I remain to tell the tale. Watching Julia Stiles as Ophelia is a drudgerous calisthenic exercise in itself. Saving grace, sole saving grace: Bill Murray has a few glimmers as Polonius. But, what did not kill me....
I had to run out today to pick up flowers for some friends of my parents who are celebrating their anniversary this evening. And, of course, I had the experience of walking home with flowers in my hand which, of course, gathers curious looks from everyone who passes by-- and not just looks, but 'knowing looks,' 'speculative looks,' and 'aw, isn't that sweet looks.' How humiliating. Anyway, as I'm walking home, flowers in hand like some young lover with machinations for the evening, it occurred to me how long it had been since I had bought flowers for anyone, and it took me some time to think of when it was, probably seven years ago. Yes, it seems everything happened 'a long time ago.'
Strange isn't it, though, that at least in North America we associate flowers with either love or death, with romances or funerals. Stranger still, these days to give flowers during a romance is a faux pas, a kind of grandiose overstatement that supposedly identifies the giving party as taking things entirely too seriously, or, at least, too naively. That's too bad, really. I truly wish we lived in a society that was less jaded, less given to exaggerated interpretation; after all, we think nothing of bringing a bottle of wine when we are invited to dinner by someone, and yet to give flowers is not seen in a similar perspective. I dunno. Especially as a male in this ever-so-jaded society, it's harder and harder to know what to do and what not to do, what's right and what's not; every gesture, even simple, apparently innocuous ones, can be perverted from their intention in one way or another. Years ago, on campus, I saw a young woman coming up just behind me as I was about to enter a building. I waited the extra two seconds, and held the door open for her. She responded by stopping and slapping me in the face and saying, "What, do you think I can't open a door for myself?" I stood there, half agog, half resisting the temptation to the slam the door in her miserable face; but it speaks to the extent to which try to read whatever we want into common everyday gestures, and how we try to typify people according to our own expectations, and at the cost of undermining the basic codes and principles of a civilised and well-mannered society. And, to be totally honest, I find myself feeling very anachronistic a lot of the time.
We live, sadly, in a society that more often than not simply has to find a cynical way of looking at things. And as much as I embrace cynicism in other ways, such outright cynicism is debilitating. After all, as Freud reminds us, even if we take him as being defensive in his original context, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a bouquet is indeed just a fucking bouquet.
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