Well, What Do You Know?

I guess the Vanguard finally did print my letter about Twitter. It actually saw print in a hard copy form on Tuesday. Not exactly timely, but what’re ya gonna do about it?

It also happens to be my Older-Than-Jesus Birthday, today, too. I wanted to make a lot of jokes about finally taking down the cross I was building in the basement, or that The Romans completely failed to get me (this time), but as it stands it’s probably a bad idea to draw a comparison between myself and Christ, if for no other reason than the fact that I’m most definitely not the son of God, and more to the point, am in no danger of performing any miracles, ever. I’m having enough trouble learning a foreign language; as much as I hate to admit it, there just isn’t anything that miraculous about a poor, middle-aged single white guy who hasn’t finished his undergrad degree yet.

So it goes.

The Good Life

Metaphors Galore
Metaphors Galore

I haven’t listened to Weezer, consciously, in quite some time. I went through a phase where I had to listen to Pinkerton once a day, and had almost all of lyrics (that I could make out) memorized. I would sit in my office (when I worked at the Museum), listen to Pinkerton all the way through, let out a life-long sigh, and get to work.

It was actually kind of terrible; there were a lot of days where I would just start crying before I got to the end.

It’s strange the kinds of relationships we build with albums. Since those cube-dwelling, working-days, my music-listening habits have transformed so drastically, that the only time I sit down to listen to albums anymore is when I actually pull out a record, lift the needle, etc. (And this is generally a fairly social occasion, with other people around.) The i-ification of our music listening habits (through shuffle and random features being prominent in the Apple-dominated world of music listening) has de-centered the album and returned music to the pre-Beatles world of The Single. Songs, Earl-forbid, have taken prominence again, and while I miss the album quite a bit (and still cling to the belief that it will return as a form), I have to admit that the next generation of music fans that have come after me are not as attached to 45 minutes of listening as they are to three minutes. Sad, but true.

Nonetheless, I have faith in the album as something that has an unbreakable hold, at least on this listener: while I was getting ready for school this morning, I shuffled my way through a half dozen songs until “Falling For You” came up. I had to stop, suddenly; I unconsciously began to mouth the words, and my skin began to crawl with the chord progressions. The hours and hours I spent listening to this album had practically become muscle memory, but even worse, everything embedded in listening to that record came back to me in a wash of huge, tangled, complicated, and frustrating emotions that I wasn’t exactly sure how to purge.

The solution was simple: I had to stop the shuffle, and put the album on from start to finish, the way it was meant to be heard. It wasn’t easy; chance is a bitch, and it just so happens that a lot of what I was trying to sort out then has come back to haunt me, now. “The Good Life” has never meant more; “No Other One” & “Tired Of Sex” not only sound just as good as I remember, but it’s weird to think that I still quote lines from these songs in everyday interactions. This record has become part of my DNA, and if I give blood, I imagine anyone who receives it will probably get Pinkerton as part of the package deal.

I just wish, for my own sake, that I didn’t need it so bad anymore.

I Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone

For some reason I keep reading the campus paper, even though I know logically that there’s no reason to. It’s immature, inaccurate, and extremely frustrating for anyone who pays attention to anything that happens off campus. And, yet again, I found an article the other day (“Don’t Tweet Me“) that was just too much, and wrote another letter to the editor. (I’m becoming just like Grandpa Simpson, spending all my time writing letters of complaint about things only I care about.) And, to round things out completely (again), they choose not to publish it. Which is, as they say, lame for them, but not for you:

[With regards to Twitter]: While the history of deriding new technologies merely because they are “new” goes back to the “written language vs. oral tradition” argument way back when, I feel that it’s somewhat irresponsible to claim this new one is so incredibly terrible, based on the evidence provided by one study of social networking services. There is so much new information about the human mind and how it relates to technology, that outmoded notions such as this paint the image of a Luddite more than anything else.

In the Februray, 2009 issue of “Discover” magazine, one of the biggest stories was about how Google & other new technologies are actually making humans smarter by presenting information in byte (no pun intended) sized chunks. (“How Google Is Making Us Smarter” Feb. 2009). David Crystal’s new book, “Txtng: The Gr8 Db8,” not only addresses the issues of technophobes who think that technology is ruining our lives, but points out that people who are avid texters tend to be more literate than other people of the same age. Even Steven Johnson’s “Everything Bad Is Good For You” is now almost five years old, and after his hundreds of radio, TV, & news appearances, you would think that the myth that “technology is destroying our children” would long ago have been put to rest.

This opinion piece also misses a huge point about what Twitter is: just because the posts are limited to 140 characters, this doesn’t mean people only read 140 characters of text before they quit. Twitter, like all blogging tools, allow users to subscribe to feeds that offer everything posted to that feed, not just the most recent entry. CNN uses Twitter for their news feeds, and almost every paper with an online presence (including yours) has started using some sort of blogging tool, often big name ones like Twitter. Ashton Kutcher, while vapid and obnoxious himself, makes a good point in asserting that this is encouraging, rather than discouraging, people to read. Most of the current journalism points to that notion as well.

It’s definitely food for thought, anyway. I’m not suggesting that we should all join Twitter, and that it isn’t a sign of shallowness or stupidity. But I do think that it’s a little hypocritical to mock a technology that your paper avidly uses.

A Broadcasting Proposal

Dancing, With Swords
Dancing, With Swords

While I was watching Hero last night, it occurred to me that there is something missing from my life that I think everyone in America could benefit from: more Martial Arts Ballet films. It seems to me that there is probably a direct relationship between overall happiness and the number of movies like this you have recently watched. Wire sword fighting, ancient Chinese history, elaborate (and beautiful) color pallets, and a Roshomon-influenced storyline, is pretty much all you need to put a smile on your face. I challenge anyone to find better elements in a film that can give the viewer an emotional 180°. For almost an hour and a half, I almost entirely forgot I was unemployed.

I suggest that we, as Americans, need to watch more Martial Arts Ballet. It will not only make us better people, but will give us something we can bond over, which will strengthen us as a nation. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing on TV worth watching on Saturday afternoons, so I suggest that all stations should show films like this starting at 1 PM, and running until the sun goes down. While this might seem like something that would appeal to a limited audience, here’s the question I’d like you to consider first: can you really think of someone who’s life wouldn’t be better because of this?

‘Nuff said.

Open Letter To The Editor

Yesterday, the Daily Vanguard – the campus MOR paper that isn’t actually a daily – gave a B- review to the movie Robocop (referring to it rather negatively), and also managed to refer to William S. Burroughs as just another “crazy” person. Kids these days. I felt it was my duty to write a letter to the editor, which, sadly, they choose not to print. Fortunately for you, dear reader, I saved a copy:

Dearest Daily Vanguard
RE: Arts & Culture Corrections

I take extreme offense with two things mentioned in the April 15th issue of the Vanguard. First, on page 4, the film Robocop is described as part of the “retro kitsch genre,” and, contrary to popular belief, the title does not, “say it all.” Robocop is a brilliant satire, directed by the Dutch master Paul Verhoeven, and is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece that has proven itself over, again and again. This film sets the stage for his other incredible social commentaries, Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers, and Showgirls, (all stupendous statements in their own right) and for people with discerning taste and an eye for what was wrong in America circa late ’80’s / early ’90’s, Verhoeven’s films are note-perfect in virtually every way (and telegraphed much of the new comic book / action genre that is popular now). While I appreciate the Vanguard‘s attempt to briefly draw attention to one of the most important films ever made by human beings, the demeaning context and low rating is something you should be ashamed of.

Second: it is unwise for anyone – even in an opinion piece – to refer to a man who owned as many guns as William S. Burroughs did, as “Crazy Person Of The Week.” Even if he is dead now. Trust me, it’s just a bad idea. Not only does this open up a whole can of right-wing, NRA issues that can’t possibly be resolved in any single issue of the Vanguard, but personalities like Burroughs tend to attract lots of fans, who all own lots of guns. Do the math; I attribute my longevity so far to Ginger Ale twice daily, and saying only nice things about people who own lots of guns. Call me crazy, but that’s how I plan to survive into the 22nd Century.

Thank you for your time.

New Problem

Need More Clothes
Need More Clothes

You can pretty much count on me becoming extremely irritable and frustrated if you combine consumer culture with hip fashion, and those two things came to a head two weekends ago when I went Shopping (with a capital S) for the first time in almost 8 years.

In my adult life I’ve managed to cultivate an extremely economic sense of fashion: old sweaters, cast-off polo shirts, bow ties, pants (occasionally funky, most often utilitarian), and whatever pair of shoes is lying around and, more importantly, creates the illusion of fitting properly. For the longest time, in my mind, clothes merely covered my body to avoid public nudity and shame, and even after I gradually came to accept the fact that Clothes Make The Man (and, sadly, they do say a lot more about you than you actually do), I settled on a look that did not appear too pretentious, overly flashy, and more to the point, seemed to speak to who I am. When all is said and done, I am a bookish awkward kind of guy, and so the pocket protectors and clunky, ill-fitting shoes were all just an extension of that.

However, now I have some Clothes (with a capital C, with the help of The Judge who has a sense for these kinds of things), and in some cases, they are even sort of hip in a, “well, that was really cool a few years back,” kinda way. Now, supplementing my Freaks & Geeks ensembles, I have a fair amount of stuff that makes me look like I’m auditioning for a part on Life On Mars, minus the tough guy cop accents, and focusing more on the background characters who haven’t yet earned their SAG Cards. (Full Disclosure: I have never seen the show, but my sister – a big fan – keeps me abreast of all things TV, and this one actually sounds kinda funny in a really terrible kinda way. Thoughts?)

There was already a heavy 70’s influence on my wardrobe, but now it is completely unavoidable. What used to be just a hint of mid-’70’s teenage suburban youth creeping into my look has now transformed into hip-older-brother of mid-’70’s teenage suburban youth, who not only spends most of his time, on the weekends, in “The City,” but occasionally comes back with a Cheap Trick record and dilated pupils.

I don’t know what is weirder to me: the fact that I bought clothes that I actually think are kinda cool (despite the fact that I’m still out of synch with even the more recent retro trends), or the fact that I now have this incredible urge to go shopping for clothes again for the first time in my life.

What can I say? “I can’t keep up / I can’t keep up / I can’t keep up / Out of step with the world.”


It’s always good to have friends in nearly every sphere of human existence, but sometimes those connections atrophy, leaving you with no access to, say, free day-old donuts, or the inside scoop on the next cool things going down in town (like, another bike-in movie theater in PDX, location and dates open TBA).

It hasn’t been since I worked in the book mines back in the late ’90’s / early 2000’s that I had a decent (and reasonably-priced) book connection, and while school has given me more than enough to do with regards to textual interfacing, I missed the joy that comes with acquiring new, inexpensive leisure-time books. (I have yet to find any joy in the academic past time of acquiring old, extremely-expensive and difficult-to-get-through books.)

Fortunately, one of my old roommates has scored a job at a warehouse sorting books for an amazon.com bookseller. (One of the independent sellers that uses the amazon.com interface to hock their wares.) This has been a two-fold boon for my friends and I: he has a paying job to keep a roof over his head, and we all get to rummage through his “Free Books” box every time they have a party.

I managed to walk out of a party with Libra by Don DeLillo, a cool ’60’s edition of The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, and the Autumn 1972 issue of a really crazy academic journal called Horizon, which includes essays on “How Man Invented Cities,” Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’avventura,” and the life of Machiavelli.

Which worked out great for me; normally I leave a party feeling like I’ve lost something.

(P.S. If anyone’s parents were academics and had a subscription to Horizon– or just happened to collect them in the ’60’s and ’70’s – I would very much be interested in working out a trade for back issues. Please and thank you.)

Some Things You Can Never Outrun.

Repressed Gym Memories
Repressed Gym Memories

The first thing that hit me was the smell: the pungent mixture of stale sweat, old equipment lockers, and floor mats mixing into a sickly aroma that immediately took me back to High School. I could feel the sting of those red rubber balls as some huge kid hurled them at me over and over again; the stitch in my side as the instructor yelled at me for two more laps. I could feel my flesh crawl as I passed the locker room, sensing the steam and masculinity pouring forth.

This is my own personal hell.

I haven’t been in a Gym since my last PE class in High School, and with good reason: that was the one place where the rules of the playground extended into the classroom. The bullying that I normally suffered from between classes was entirely foregrounded in PE, where it was even school-sanctioned in certain ways: the huge, tough, mean kids were often rewarded for being such in PE, while people like me (who normally do pretty well in school) are reminded that if you don’t look like and act like a man, you’ll never be one. PE is one of the sorting social mechanisms in school that galvanizes cliques and establishes how one feels about their own gender. It’s a pretty brutal experience, even for people who are athletically inclined.

For this first time since I started going to PSU, I’m taking a class that meets in the campus rec room, a building I’ve intentionally avoided all this time because of what it stands for in my mind. But I decided to sign up for a yoga class this term, and found myself (yet again) wandering around in a building, lost, while huge, muscular kids ran past to the equipment room, or the showers, or what-have-you.

It was almost enough to make me drop the class. Almost.

Best. Movie. Ever.

Over The Edge
Over The Edge

As a huge fan of Pump Up The Volume, I was completely stunned when I finally saw the movie it’s based on, the 1979 seminal classic, Over The Edge. I have to claim virtual ignorance regarding this film until The Chairman (from Drats!!!) rambled on and on about how his band was releasing a concept record based on the movie. The album was great, but for some reason I kept missing the movie for one reason or another. Even after my friend Marcus hooked me up with a copy, it sat in my collection, unwatched, until a few days ago.

Why, exactly, I waited that long, I’ll never know. Just about everyone told me that I’d freak out when I finally saw it, and for the record, let me say: I did. Not only is this one of the single greatest teen movies ever made (with the possible exception of Badlands), it is pretty much the blueprint for all punk movies, and was directly copied (almost note for note) in the aforementioned Pump Up The Volume. I don’t want to give too much away (in the event that there are others out there who haven’t seen it), but trust me, you need to see this film.

If for no other reason, you will suddenly understand and appreciate Nation Of Ulyssesthat much more. Trust me.