It's been so long...

yea, well -- it was the holidays, and I'm reaching the point where I'm associating my computer with my dissertation. So yes, I haven't blogged much lately (it's been almost a month!), but I'm here now and I'll try to find my rhythm over the next few days or weeks.

I thought I'd start easy by letting you know which books I got for the holidays. I didn't get a lot of them, but what I did get will keep me busy...

  • "Towards a New Architecture" Le Corbusier; I opened this one early (let's call it a Hanukkah present, shall we?) and look forward to reading it. It'll go hand and hand with Jane Jacobs' "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" which has been foundering on my night stand for months, right next to Peter Gays' "Freud: A Life for Our Time."
  • "Soccernomics" by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymans. Modeled on "Freakonomics," this book takes a detailed look at the numbers behind soccer. I bought this for my cousin and loved thumbing through it so much that a little birdie must have passed it along that I'd love to own it myself.
  • "2666" by Roberto Bolano. I've been sitting on Bolano's "The Savage Detective" for quite some time, but "2666" is the next book in my online reading book club's list (after "Infinite Jest" and "Dracula") so I thought in order to read this tome I'll need a little help from my (online) friends.
  • "Tim Burton" This retrospective of his career is a great supplement to the exhibit currently at MOMA. Awesome show, awesome book!
  • Currently, I'm tearing through Neal Stephenson's "The Confusion" from his Baroque Trilogy. I've written about Stephenson before, with particular love going out to his "Cryptonomicon." His Baroque Trilogy centers on Isaac Newton, gold, science, philosophy, history, warfare, shipping, and a number of other characteristics -- it's a lot of fun and keeps you thinking. I'm only on part 2, so I'm loving it and looking forward to its conclusion.


Design(ed) Websites...

Day three of my proctoring ordeal continues on, now with driving snow, which is not so bad, that will turn to rain, which is bad.

As I sit here, drying off, I want to share some websites that I've been delving into lately. They're inspired by the desire to create individual pages for each blog/entry...very creative stuff that I wish I had the time/energy/talent to create myself. I guess they're calling them blogazines, crazy kids.

Anyway, check them out below:



I haven't memed in a while, heck I haven't truly blogged in a while, but I thought since I had a fairly productive morning (2+ hours actually writing) I would take a little break and pass on this fairly interesting, and a little scary, project -- found over at DesignNotes.

Go to the address bar in your favorite browser, and type one letter. Start with “a”, end with “z”.

F. facebook.com (The Fatted Calf was a close 2nd)
R. ralphmcquarrie.com (hint, hint -- X-mas is coming...)
S. salon.com (I'm surprised about this, as I read Slate.com much more than Salon)
X. ??


Hit in the Head...

...with a deck of cards.

**Spoiler alert -- the following post contains much poker-related content.**

In addition to the numerous kitchen table poker games that spring up around the holidays here, I try to get to the casinos (nominally boats, but they sure don't look like boats) as the closest and biggest poker room in St. Louis is about 5 minutes from my house. This is about 110 minutes closer than the closest poker room to my apartment in Boston. So, this Thanksgiving I got in two separate trips: the first I ended up about $45, but it should have been more as I played hungry and tired and stooopid; my second trip I got hit in the head with the deck and ended up $125. Both sessions were$3-6 limit, by the way.

This second trip was fun -- I had quads in a pot with 6 runners pre-flop; flopped a couple different full houses and even had a Broadway straight withstand a third heart on the river (these seriously old, and loose, players were in it to win it with any two cards). As I was stacking chips, I remembered my session in L.A.: those crazy gamblers play $4-8 w/$1 chips so that there are piles and piles of chips in the pot, so if you win a pot it takes a number of hands just to stack all the cash. I won about three huge pots in one round and was just trying to keep up -- stacks and stacks of chips; always a good time.

On my first trip, I had quite an interesting first hand. I sit down in the big blind; I have trouble getting my chips out of the rack, and then fumbled them a little bit posting the blind. A Paul Darden-esque (PD) jerk to my left limps in and literally everyone else folds. I check my option w/78o and see a flop of 9-10-5 rainbow. I check because I tend to play pretty tentatively during my first round and PD bets out. I call hoping to turn the nuts: this doesn't happen, but I do make a pair on the turn (the 8 of hearts). I check again, and PD hesitates before betting once more. My spidey sense is tingling; either he's got QJ and the nuts, or he's got nothing. The river brings an off-suit nothing card (2 of something).

Here's where it get interesting: I check, he checks. He says, "Two pair." My heart sinks a little and he makes a feint towards flipping over his hand; but, he never does it. I'm holding onto my one pair and waiting: finally he says, "What do you have?" I, of course, said, "I called you, brother" as our game of chicken continues.

I finally decide that his vocal two pair is junk, and flip over my cards announcing the lone pair that I had. He flashes J4o (in 1st position!) and mucks w/a not quite sheepish grin on his face.

Moral of the story: protect your hand at the table; don't release your cards until you're positive you have a loser, and often you should just flip it over -- especially if you're playing out of your element, in an Omaha game or something.

By the way, he chastised someone later for misreading his hand. Ironically, PD won that particular hand -- and he was still belittling the older gentleman. PD busted out a few rounds later...!


RBOC: Never-ending November Edition

No rest for anybody these days...one house guest leaves and another shows up! Therefore, I present you another edition of RBOC:

  • We walked the entire Freedom Trail in one day -- we did stop for lunch, but otherwise we walked from Park Street to Bunker Hill. Beautiful weather and cupcakes; what more could you wish for?
  • Plymouth Rock evoked different emotions from Sarah and I: simultaneously, we blurted out opposite opinions. Can you guess who thought what?
  • We capped off the visit with a visit to Barbara Lynch's dual establishments, Sportello and Drink. But before we even got there, Sarah and I had a Candid Camera moment: we reached Congress Street, but weren't sure which way on Congress to go. As we stood there, a car pulled up and a girl asked, "Are you looking for Drink?" Next, she asked if she could walk w/us as the three of us searched for the address. As Sarah pulled out her Iphone to doublecheck everything, another woman walks up to us w/the same question, "Are you looking for Drink?" At this point, I was convinced we were on Candid Camera. Eventually we discovered that we were standing right in front of the place -- very minimal, indeed.
  • The food was incredible: Al got a spicy tomato soup to start and Sarah & I split a Fontina fondue. Next, Al got gnocchi which is apparently the star of this place; Sarah got a risotto with quail pieces and I had a brown-butter bigoli (a kind of pasta) with lobster and sage. As the pictures & name (Sportello means counter service in Italian) illustrate, you sit at a counter and the waitresses are very intimate and knowledgeable. Well recommended!
  • I had a great week w/Sarah, and I'm sure I've left out from stuff...of course, "Reckless" and the Beehive at the BCA, as well as our discussion of Freud in the car! Exploring the North and South Ends, as well as Plymouth -- a great time was had by all, I think!
  • "FC Ph.D", our current indoor soccer team, started the season w/a 5-3 victory. It's always good to start on the right foot, so to speak.
  • And I'm flying home on Tuesday -- I hope that the Fatted Calf is back open again.



In the end, I didn't run up the "Rocky" steps, but I did end up walking up them, which felt like quite a victory as it was. Unfortunately, the morning we toured the city was a little misty -- not exactly raining, but enough to ruin our landscape photos. We saw Independence Hall, and I reminisced about 1776.

We had fantastic meals, including a stop in the lobby of 10Arts -- Eric Ripert's restaurant featuring Jennifer from "Top Chef". I kept looking through the kitchen door, but I never saw her!
We also ate lunch, although both of us had brunch, near the touristy part of town at Farmicia. This place was definitely not touristy, though -- from their play on formica, to their farm-fresh, local produce, this restaurant is worth tracking down. We're certainly going there again, if we're even in Philly again. The most remarkable building in Philly, from my limited experience is the City Hall. Is it some mix of Beaux Arts and Greek Revival?

I'm particularly proud of this photo -- it was taken left-handedly and out of a moving car, as I was driving; not too shabby?


Beer Pong...

Just what kind of beer pong is Jimmy Fallon playing these days? (Oh, who am I kidding?) It's January Jones -- enjoy!



Watch this clip. I've never down anything like this; I ripped a guy's shirt once, but he deserved it! Found over at Unfogged.


Movie Character Interactions...

Check out this guy's chart of the interactions of movie characters in LOTR, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, et. al.

Maybe I should consider reformatting my fourth chapter in this style?


In an October State of Mind...

Isn't October great? The weather's fantastic: the leaves are beautiful (so I'm told); it's not too hot, it's not too cold; I can still play soccer outdoors. October is capped off by my favorite holiday, Halloween; you get a plethora of scary movies (my DVR's still loaded with 'em), and you are required to buy candy on the off-chance that some kid rings your doorbell, which they haven't in our neck 'o' the woods in three years now. Academically, the petals haven't fallen from the bloom, so to speak; there aren't too many papers to grade yet; perhaps a mid-term, but nothing too drastic. And the major holidays are right around the corner, or square in your face if you walk into a Target or Walgreens.

Too bad I was sick for almost half this month; perhaps that's responsible for my overly-rosy assessment?

Sure there are better holidays out there, but overall what month can compete? December -- waaay too cold, for some people. July -- just the opposite. I'm taking bets...somebody try to counter my hypothesis, I dare you.


TV/Movie talk...

Just a random collection of TV/Movie ephemera today.
  • Not only is NBC's "Chuck" returning sooner than March, but it's gonna be six episodes longer, as well. If only they would switch it to Tuesday nights, when there's absolutely nothing on television.
  • Speaking of TV, it's been announced that the Olympics put the final season of "LOST" on hiatus for two weeks (Thanks to Al for the heads-up). Are they really worried that hardcore "LOST" fans aren't gonna be able to tear themselves away from Ice Skating or the like?
Finally, TW & I had mixed emotions last weekend after we saw Where the Wild Things Are. I'm sure if you knew us personally, you could decide who did & didn't like it; maybe I should add in a poll for the readers?

Looking around the interwebs I discovered/remembered that Spike Jonze, the director of Wild Things, is pretty much known for his talents as a music-video director. Check out the Fatboy Slim video, "Weapon of Choice", starring Christopher Walken, and compare it to the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are.


Red Rum

In the full swing of the holiday, I've been taping and watching some horror films lately. During lunch today, I caught the last 25 minutes of Psycho -- the updated version starring Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn and directed by Gus Van Sant. How incredible is Vince Vaughn at recreating the role of Anthony Perkins? I mean, it's just spot on, and creepy.

But I digress...

For the remainder of my lunch break, I began Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. That opening shot, high above the solitary car on the mountain road is incredible. For those who don't know, the scene is underscored by an eerie musical motive; it's a musical setting of a Latin hymn, famously found in a Requiem. Dies Irae is translated as "Day of Wrath", if you needed any help in setting the mood.

Even w/o knowing that musicological nugget, the ominous music perfectly foreshadows the ultimate conclusion of the movie.

[Mild spoiler ahead, if you've lived in a cave or somehow never learned how to read or participate in popular culture]

When I read The Shining for the first time, waaay back in middle school (yes, I had a creepy Stephen King phrase which earned me the title, "Person Least Wanted to Meet in a Dark Alley"), a helpful reader scribbled in the margins above the third statement of Red Rum, "It's murder, backwards, you idiot."

Well, gee, thanks for that...this is partially why I hate reading books from the library. Speaking of books, I'm still working on Peter Gay's bio of Freud and it's pretty interesting -- I've been thinking about my childhood alot lately; interesting stuff.


"Make that an extra-large popcorn"

I've never been one to leave a theater for food or restroom purposes; I don't know why, but I've paid the cash, I'll see the trash. But, check out this review of Lars Von Triers' The Antichrist. I didn't have interest in seeing it, but now I'm kind of interested in listening to the audience shriek...from the outside in the lobby, that is.

By the way, I haven't seen Where the Wild Things Are yet, but I'm dying to. Anybody out there in blogland seen it yet?


RBOC: "The Bright Side of Life" edition

Today's blog is brought to you directly from the living room couch where I've been camped out for the better part of a week. Sounds perfect for some RBOC, right?
  • I'll keep saying it till someone listens: Modern Family, Weds on ABC, is the funniest show on TV (Sorry Glee, I'll get to you in a minute). Watch this week's episode, via Hulu, below.
  • Glee, oh Glee...I do appreciate having music on Primetime TV, but what good is it if it's always super-produced, and lip-synched out of its mind. You have Broadway singers, Beyonce-backup dancers and the like. Show us some mistakes, please. William Hung wasn't a sensation because he was good...trust me, showchoirs across the country sound nothing like Glee -- we can handle it, give us something real. I've read numerous accounts of how stringent the producers/directors are about incorporating the musical numbers into the show so as not to have people spontaneously breaking out into song. Fine, I love it; but stop giving us over-produced numbers right when for the first time the students receive their sheet music.
  • I don't know anyone who watches Jimmy Fallon these days (anybody, Bueller?), but I was certainly intrigued by his house band, The Roots. For further evidence of their awesomeness, check out Eric Idle w/t Roots, below.


Well, duh...

From the Things-I-never-thought-of-but-make-perfect-sense files:

The vomitorium was not, as urban legend has it, a room for ancient Romans empty their stomachs, so to speak; it was a passage that allowed play or sporting-event spectators to exit an ampitheater quickly.

If you clink through, you'll discover that we now shorten vomitorium to "vom" for a theater exit, often in front of the proscenium.

Who'd a thunk it?

I used that term for years w/o having any sense of its history...


"Myriad myriads of lives teemed forth"

Earlier this morning, as I was cranking away at the dissertation (2 pages a day, this week!), I got tripped up on a word that I've had issues with in the past -- a myriad of issues, so to speak. Noun or adjective, the word myriad has come up recently in high-ranking editorial sessions back home.

So, I looked it up in my handy Oxford American Dictionary widget; the standard descriptions note the double status as an adjective and noun, but I was struck by the following passage, entitled "Word Note". As I read the note, posted below, I noticed its increasingly idiosyncratic writing style and I thought to myself, "This certainly reads like David Foster Wallace." Lo and behold, the signature -- DFW; voila!

If my little epiphany today wasn't enough proof, I've decided to take a little time off from DFW -- although, don't worry, my X-mas list has a truckload of DFW books on it. Anyway, what am I currently reading? Dracula, by Bram Stoker...fun stuff, particularly for October.

As an adjective, myriad means "an indefinitely large number [of something]" (The Local Group comprises myriad galaxies) or "made up of a great many diverse elements" (the myriad plant life of Amazonia). As a noun, it's used with an article and of to mean "a large number" (The new CFO faced a myriad of cash-flow problems). What's odd is that some authorities consider only the adjectival myriad correct—there's about a 50-50 chance that a given copyeditor will query a myriad of —even though the noun usage has a much longer and more distinguished history. It's really only in nineteenth-century poetry that myriad starts showing up as an adjective. So myriad' s situation right now is confusing. It's tempting simply to recommend avoiding the noun usage so that there's no chance a reader will be bugged. The truth, though, is that any reader who's bugged by a myriad of is both persnickety and wrong—and you can usually rebut sniffy teachers, copyeditors, et al. by directing them to Coleridge's "Myriad myriads of lives teemed forth…."

Conversational, opinionated, and idiomatic, these Word Notes are an opportunity to see a working writer's perspective on a particular word or usage.


Infinite Jest: By the numbers

Size: 9.3 x 6 x 2 inches

Weight: 2.4 pounds (shipping weight according to Amazon)

Pages: 981

Notes and Errata: 96 pages; 388 endnotes, some of which run to chapter length

Chapters: 28; but don't let that fool you -- there are over 189 scenes in this book

Time Spent: 92 days (June 21st to September 22nd; 75 pages a week) w/a little help from my friends at Infinite Summer

Necessary Bookmarks: 3; one to mark your page, one to mark your endnotes, and one to mark the following:

"Chronology of Organization of North American Nations' Revenue-Enhancing Subsidized Time, By Year"

(1) Year of the Whopper

(2) Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad

(3) Year of the Trial-Sized Dove Bar

(4) Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken

(5) Year of the Whisper-Quiet Maytag Dishmaster

(6) Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-East-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/Interlace TP Systems For Home, Office, or Mobile (sic)

(7) Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland

(8) Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment

(9) Year of Glad

Yes -- I'm finished; yes -- I'm happy I read it; no -- I'm not sure what to read next...For a more elegant summary, read the original NYTimes review.


RBOC: Fall TV, 2009

The new fall season's shaping up to be one of the worst in quite a while. Thus far, I've only found 1 new show worthy of my time:
  • Modern Family, Wednesdays at 9pm on ABC, gets my winning nod. It's a look at an extended family: Dad's remarried a (much younger) Colombian woman w/a child; his adult son is gay and just adopted a child w/his partner; adult daughter has a 16-year old and two others -- just add water; watch the hilarity ensue. Actually, the Lion King bit is pretty funny.
  • Cougar Town, starring Courtney Cox, is not even worth my mention. Save 22 minutes for yourself and read a book -- remember those?
  • HIMYM: Ted's lapse in front of the class, whilst trying to remember how to spell "Professor," is a terrifying moment that will haunt my dreams from now until whenever I'll have to do that in the (hopefully near) future.
  • Glee, which I've talked about before is on probation -- as far as I'm concerned. I think it's a quality show, but the lip-syncing is making me a little crazy (I do like the a cappella intros, however). Granted, "I'll be auditioning for the role of kicker" is probably one of the greatest lines of the season.


I wonder if Aaron Sorkin ever read Infinite Jest?

'There's these three statisticians gone duck hunting,' he said. He paused. 'They're like statisticians by trade.'
'I'm with you so far.'
'And they gone off hunting duck, and they're hunkered down in the muck of a duck blind, for hunting, in waders and hats and all, your top-of-the line Winchester double-aughts, so on. And they're quacking into one of them kazoos duck hunters always quack into.'
'Duck-calls,' I said.
'There you go.' Stice tried to nod against the window. 'Well and here comes this one duck come flying on by overhead.'
'Their quarry. The object of their being out there.'
'Damn straight, their raisin-debt and what have you, and they're getting set to blast the son of a whore into feathers and goo,' Stice said. 'And the first statistician, he brings up his Winnie and lets go, and the recoil goes and knocks him back on his ass kerspalt in the muck, and but he's missed the duck, just low, they saw. And so the second statistician he ups and fires then, and back he goes on his ass the second one goes, from firing, and they see his shot goes just high.'
'Misses the duck as well.'
'Misses her just high. At which and then the third statistician commences to whooping and jumping up and down to beat the band, hollering "We got him, boys, we done got him!'"

Taken from Infinite Jest, p. 867.


RBOC: Breakfast-for-Dinner Edition

At the end of week 4, the dissertation steadily marches on -- like an ancient sea turtle that returns to nest, my dissertation mojo has returned. I get a solid 2.5 hours in every morning -- consistent, quality work that hasn't occurred for quite a while. The afternoons, well, they're another story...

Seeing as the intellectual parts of my brain today are pretty much exhausted, I am reduced to providing to you -- oh gentle reader, you -- Random Bits of Crap with which to subside until you (inevitably) stumble upon some other mind-altering, yet utterly useless, website.
  • My reptilian brain won yet once again today, in what looks like quite a lopsided battle between it and whatever else the other part of my brain looks like, as I bought sandwiches for a lunch date w/TW. As I stood there, waiting for my steak & cheese to get panini'ed, I was rendered inert -- staring at the baseball-sized arancinis sitting by the checkout register...delicious!
  • Did you watch "Fringe" last night? This delightfully kooky, 'did-they-just-do-that?' kind of show premiered their 2nd season last night, and they didn't miss a beat.* Survivor also premiered a new season (their 19th) last night, w/a record-high 20 people starting. Favorite lines included, "Everybody knows black men can't swim," which of course had to be followed by Jaison -- the Yale alum and water-polo team member -- torching his competitor in the swimming leg.
  • Breakfast for dinner, tonight. What more needs to be said?
  • See The Sports Junkie NY if any of you are dying for a POV of any NY-area games. This guy -- my college roommate of 4 years -- is probably the sharpest sports mind I've ever seen. Oh ya, and he sprinkles in discussions of the Real World/Road Rules Challenges too!
  • Finally, I can't end a post w/o any reference to IJ. I'm right at 100 pages to go and I still don't want it to end; at this point, trying to slow down feels like walking upstream -- but I'm determined to milk my initial reading of this book for all it's worth.
* See lines like, "Feel his anus. It's soaking wet."


What more can I say?

I might be changing my mind...

via kottke



Tomorrow -- Sep 12 -- marks the one-year anniversary of David Foster Wallace's self-inflicted death. I don't have much to add: I didn't know the man personally, but I do know his writing.

As my introduction, I read the New Yorker article about him in March along with the excerpt of his unfinished novel, The Pale King. I immediately went out and picked up Infinite Jest (IJ). Despite the reputation as his masterpiece, the book sat on my shelf for months. I was finally spurred into action when I stumbled across the online book club, Infinite Summer. Now I had a community -- albeit a virtual one -- to help me across the finish line of this monster tome.

Am I finished? No -- I'm on pg. 785 out of 980. But a strange thing has happened: I've stopped reading IJ. But that doesn't mean I've stopped reading DFW -- oh no, my friend. I've read Consider the Lobster -- a collection of his non-fiction writings, and I'm just discovering that a slew of his other non-fiction is floating around the internet (something I'm sure DFW would surely love).

Public Service Announcement: read the article DFW wrote for Harpers about a trip he took on a cruise line: it's called, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again."

But I can't bring myself to finish IJ -- I don't want it to end; I've fallen hard for this book, and I've already told TW that I want to read it again, pronto. Those of you who know my reading habits, know that I tear through a book -- especially the final 1/4.

Ask me to give the denouement of any pop-culture book of the last five years and I couldn't do it -- "The Da Vinci Code" was set in Paris, right? Didn't "The Historian" have something to do w/vampires?

I just don't want this feeling, I mean book, to end...

I don't have anything moving to say: all I can offer you is to open yourself up to DFW; I think you'll be very happy once you've done so.

Here's a few other DFW-related links:
(1) One author's personal take on DFW
(2) How to write like DFW (this will be extra funny once you've read some DFW)


"Glee" roundup...

Hello all,
Don't forget to set your DVRs tonight! That's right, "Glee" is premiering right after the speech so if you're sick of all the post-speech spin you can get your saccharine fix filled.

For now, here's a couple of little nuggets you'll like:

Rachel Berry was Wendla, from Spring Awakening

"Gold Digger" -- what more can I say?


DFW's take on the Bricklayer/Workman's Comp story

As taken from Infinite Jest (p 139-40):

"Workmans Accident Claims Office
State Farm Insurance
1 State Farm Plaza
Normal, IL 617062262/6

Dear Sir:

I am writing in response to your request for additional information. In block #3 of the accident reporting form, I put "trying to do the job alone", as the cause of my accident. You said in your letter that I should explain more fully and I trust that the following details will be sufficient.

I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, March 27, I was working alone on the roof of a new six story building. When I completed my work, I discovered that I had about 900 kg. of brick left over. Rather than laboriously carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which fortunately was attached to the side of the building at the sixth floor. Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the brick into it. Then I went back to the ground and untied the rope, holding it tightly to insure a slow descent of the 900 kg of bricks. You will note in block #11 of the accident reporting form that I weigh 75 kg.

Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor I met the barrel coming down. This explains the fractured skull and the broken collar bone.

Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulleys. Fortunately, by this time, I had regained my presence of mind, and was able to hold tightly to the rope in spite of considerable pain. At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel from the force of hitting the ground.

Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel now weighed approximately 30 kg. I refer you again to my weight of 75 kg in block #11. As you could imagine, still holding the rope, I began a rather rapid descent from the pulley down the side of the building. This accounts for the two fractured ankles and the laceration of my legs and lower body.

The encounter with the barrel slowed me enough to lessen my impact with the brick-strewn ground below. I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the bricks in considerable pain, unable to stand or move and watching the empty barrel six stories about me, I again lost my presence of mind and unfortunately let go of the rope, causing the barrel to begin a..."

And I imagine you can fill in the rest. Either way, a little workmans-comp humor to brighten your day, via DFW. See also the Mythbusters take on the urban legend...


Infinite Summer

"'...for the game's finest players frequently close their eyes entirely as they wait, trusting the railroad ties' vibration and the whistle's pitch, as well as intuition, and fate, and whatever numinous influences lie just beyond fate.' Struck at certain points imagines himself gathering this Wild Conceits guy's lapels together with one hand and savagely and repeatedly slapping him with the other -- forehand, backhand, forehand."

So, for the previous passage to make any sense, it might behoove you know that a certain male teenage tennis phenom named Oliver Struck is reading a passage about the history of a certain, 'chicken-like' game involving Canadian youths & a leap across train tracks w/a train en route. Wild Conceits, by the way, is a journal in which Struck is researching a connection between said 'chicken-like' game & a group of wheelchair-bound assassins infiltrating the lower 48 states in order to overthrow the Organization of North American Nations (O.N.A.N.). I am reading this passage, by the way, in a footnote that occupies 5+ pages.

The passage continues: "'They will jump athwart the tracks in front of its high speed nose at the final moment, each trying to be the last to leap and live. It is not rare for several of the le Jeu's finalists to be struck.' Struck tries to decide whether it'd be unrealistic or unself-consciously realistic to keep using his own name as a verb -- would a man with anything to camouflage use his own name as a verb?"

Two things: (1) the back & forth between Struck and his passage mirrors that between the reader & his footnoted passage; (2) I'm sure some readers have wanted to slap David Foster Wallace's face -- "forehand, backhand, forehand" -- but I've felt that way about other authors, of the academic stripe mostly.

This extended passage is particularly wonderful for many reasons. First, it's occurring in a footnote about 3/4 of the way through the text and he's (DFW) still giving us exposition -- the book is 900+ and he's still introducing material. But, he does it in the most roundabout way possible: believe it or not, the wheelchair-bound, Quebec Assassination squad is pretty vital to the storyline, and DFW introduces their whole reason for being chairbound in what turns out to be a secondary character reading an academic journal in a footnote that the reader is reading -- did you follow that?

I just realized that I'm on p. 740 (out of 978!) and still loving the book.


RBOC: Wanna bet edition

  • The Clintons got so tired of the persistent rumors about their daughter's upcoming (and fictitious) wedding that they bet $1000 against any so-called anonymous tipster that Chelsea wouldn't be married by the end of August? Of course, they got no takers...

  • As most of you know, I have a weakness for a good gamble every now & then. Heck, I've been in a doctoral program for the better part of my adult life IN THE HUMANITIES! That should be good enough proof that I'm always up for a challenge.

  • I'm already getting excited about some serious bowling on Saturday night...I'm looking forward to overcoming the 99-1 horse coming in for a push last time Al & I went at it!! That's right, I'm still sore about that...

Speaking of horses, I'm finally back on the dissertation horse. Week #2, day 4 of the final push has seen me settle into a pretty good routine: 9-12 in the morning, 12-2 for gym & lunch; after that, however, is a little harder. I'm still figuring out what's best for me...perhaps I'll try to recapture my old early grad school days of working from 8-11PM...who knows?


Seriously? Seriously...

...or not? Who knows, but I came across David Foster Wallace's Top 10 list of favorite books. Two Thomas Harris books, one each from Tom Clancy and Stephen King -- who knows? I'm on board...

Here's the list, as found over at toptenbooks.net:
  1. The Screwtape Letters -- C.S. Lewis
  2. The Stand -- Stephen King
  3. Red Dragon -- Thomas Harris
  4. The Thin Red Line -- James Jones
  5. Fear of Flying -- Erica Jong
  6. The Silence of the Lambs -- Thomas Harris
  7. Stranger in a Strange Land -- Robert A. Heinlein
  8. Fuzz -- Ed McBain
  9. Alligator -- Shelley Katz
  10. The Sum of All Fears -- Tom Clancy
All right, we're back on track -- 2 full days of cracker jack dissertation work (that's good, in my opinion). I've been formulating a (gasp) musicology blog entry, but it's still in its embryonic stage...more to come!


RBOC: "Not Dead Yet..."

"I'd like to go for a walk..."

That's right, folks -- I'm still around. In the last 15 days, I've vacationed in 3 different states/countries (although all were in the same time zone)...Since I'm not quite home yet -- that'll be sometime on the day after tomorrow -- I'm keeping today's edition very short, random-bits style...

  • Jersey Boys is actually a fun, little show.
  • Did you know that Joe Pesci was pretty instrumental -- so to speak -- in creating "The Four Seasons"? The show is essentially a history lesson wrapped around a string of hits from the 50s & 60s that you would know.
  • Gay men are apparently bad at spelling and great at naming Bette Midler movies. So to cap off our 4 days at Fire Island, we went to trivia. Three of the questions involved spelling some fairly easy words -- karaoke, quintessential, etc. Can you name 7 Bette Midler movies? I couldn't, but our team captain could.
  • Check out The High Line's website for more information on this awesome little park on the Lower West Side (more pics to follow).
  • Sleeping pills work wonders when one must sleep in a skeevy place...
  • Traffic sucks on Long Island...
  • TW's zonked out on the couch after an 1 1/2 car ride -- what a wuss...
Enough bits for now -- more to come once I return home and properly screw on my brain!


You tell me...

Well, in honor of today's last class & quiz, I'm questioning you -- my loyal readers (all 3 of them). How would you do on today's multiple-choice portion of the quiz? Answers to follow...

(The mini-essay is about the stylistic evolution of the Beatles as seen in their album covers: pick 1 cover from the early, middle & late years to illustrate your point about their evolution)

1) What is unique about the final songs on Abbey Road?

a. They are all in the same key

b. They are all sung by the same singer and have similar subjects

c. They are all sung by different singers and have dissimilar subjects

d. They all merge together into a montage

2) Who perceived imaginary messages in the Beatles’ White Album?

a. Phil Spector

b. Charles Manson

c. Sharon Tate

d. George Martin

3) What song on the White Album mentions at least 3 previous Beatles’ songs?

a. “The Long and Winding Road”

b. “Julia”

c. “Glass Onion”

d. “Back in the U.S.S.R."

4) Why was John’s first version of “Revolution” deemed unfit as a single?

a. It was too fast

b. It was too slow

c. He was ‘out’ on violence

d. He was ‘in’ on violence

5) Which posthumous album was released after the Beatles broke up?

a. Revolver

b. Abbey Road

c. The Beatles, aka The White Album

d. Let It Be

6) Who was brought in to re-mix the Get Back/Let It Be tapes?

a. Phil Spector

b. Charles Manson

c. Sharon Tate

d. George Martin

7) What song did George write while using Eric Clapton’s acoustic guitar?

a. “Here Comes the Sun”

b. “Something”

c. “Layla”

d. “Wonderful Tonight”

8) The Beatles released the single “Hey Jude/Revolution” during what significant event?

a. 1965, Sandy Koufax’s perfect game

b. 1963, JFK’s assasination

c. 1969, Woodstock

d. 1968, Chicago Democratic Convetion

9) Who was Billy Preston?

a. The producer of Let It Be

b. The leader of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

c. A pianist George brought into the Get Back/Let It Be sessions

d. All of the above

10) Which Beatles was once a member of the Traveling Wilburys?

a. Paul

b. Ringo

c. George

d. John


These aren't the droids you're looking for...

Wow, check out this CG clip circa 1980! The musicality of the video is surely helped by the Beatles' clip "Flying" used as the soundtrack...

Vol Libre from Loren Carpenter on Vimeo.

Found over at kottke.org

Officer Krupke

Holy cow, it's been a long time -- 12 days since my last post, and it seems like ages since I wrote anything substantial in any sort of forum. My Beatles class has really come along nicely: we're winding down, actually -- tomorrow's on Politics, with emphasis on the Revolution/Revolution 1 discrepancy; and I'm gonna throw in a smattering of the "Helter Skelter"/Tate Murders because I'm fairly certain that these kids don't know/haven't even heard of Charlie Manson.

I, on the other hand, read the prosecutor's book (Bugliosi?) back when I was in middle school -- sheesh, couple that grisly book with all the Stephen King books I read back then, it's no wonder that my 7th-grade class voted me the "Student You'd Least Like to Meet in a Dark Alley."

There's a lot bouncing around in my head right now, but the "Skip" Gates controversy really boils my blood. Christopher Hitchens' article in Slate is particularly to the point: if Gates was white, none of this would happen. Officer Crowly -- coming off more like Officer Krupke, if you ask me -- ascertains that this short, old, black man using a cane is indeed who he says he is. Gates does so by issuing his Harvard ID -- at this point, what officer wouldn't take the high road and walk away? Okay, what if Gates did start talking about Crowley's momma?

How do you not recognize this guy? Now, I've read a short segment from his seminal work "The Signifying Monkey" for a class I took a while back on Thomas A. Dorsey. Fine, let's assume this guy hasn't read a lot of Afro-American Lit/Crit Theory...does he not watch PBS? There's an 80% chance that Gates is one of two black men on a constant loop on PBS these days (the other being the fantastic astronomer/astrophysicist/constant Colbert-Report-guest Neil deGrasse Tyson). Gates has been doing these episodes where he researches bloodlines of prominent black Americans, including Oprah, Quincy Jones, et al. Come on, seriously; you've at least flipped through one of these shows, right?

{{there's a guy totalling primping in the window at the booth; he's directly in front of me (<12") and can't see me!!}}

How does Officer Crowley end up escorting this guy out of his house, off the front porch, in handcuffs?!?!?!?

I'm not even gonna touch the woman who called in the 'suspected breaking & entering.' Um, you live in Harvard Square -- how do you not know "Skip" Gates? Wow...

Enough for now...hopefully I'll be checking before I hit the road for August. That's right: Toronto, South Carolina & Long Island all are on the docket this August, so I'm working my tail off now, so I can enjoy the beach/golf course/High Line/Broadway.


"...a lacuna where trailer-park trailers are concerned..."

Infinite Jest, oh how I love thee; the playful word-i-ness; the offbeat, wacky characters; the names (Orin and Hal, two of the protagonists, which have fairly conservative names); the conversations...

Here's an extended conversation between Hal, the younger tennis phenom whom we've just found out received a hugely important shock to his system at the age of 13* (spoiler below, not like any of you are gonna read this book), and his older brother Orin, who's a placekicker for the Arizona Cardinals, and quite the ladies man apparently.

Orin: 'I said I think I'm being followed.'

Hal: 'Some men are born to lead, O.'

'I'm serious. And here's the weird part.'


'The weird park is I think I'm being followed by . . . by handicapped people.'

As they discuss the evidence cited by Orin, including that prior to and after a tryst in a trailer park, Orin sees the same man struggling to get his wheelchair out of the sand, Hal, the slightly out-of-touch tennis phenom, seeks to fill a hole in the O.E.D. where trailer parks are concerned:

'But this trailer. This lady you met's trailer. Confirm or deny the following. Its carpet was wall-to-wall and extremely thin, a kind of burnt yellow or orange.'


'The living-room or like den area contained some or all of the following: a black velvet painting featuring an animal; a videophonic diorama on some sort of knickknack shelf; a needlepoint sampler with some kind of frothy biblical saw on it; at least one piece of chintz furniture with protective doilies on the arms; a Smoke-B-Gone air-filtration ashtray; the last couple years' Reader's Digests neatly displayed in their own special inclined magazine rack.'

'Check on velvet painting of leopard, sample sofa with doilies, ashtray. No Reader's Digests. This isn't especially funny, Hallie. The Moms comes out in you in these odd little ways sometimes.'

'Last one. The trailer-person's name. Jean. May. Nora. Vera. Nora-Jean or Vera-May.'

'. . .'

'That was my question.'

'I guess I'll have to get back to you on that.'

'Boy, you really put the small r in romance, don't you.'

LOVE IT...seriously, I'm completely devoted to this book.

* Hal discovered his dad's own suicide, by way of a microwave; he analogizes the scene to the remnants of a microwaved potato that was not cut open.


LOVE: The Ultimate Mix Tape

No, I'm not referring to my recent 1-year anniversary, which was excellent by the way...thanks for asking...I'm blogging about George Martin's new soundtrack to the latest Cirque de Soleil production entitled LOVE.

In collaboration with Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia Harrison, George Martin and his son Niles have revisited and recombined the original Beatles' masters at Abbey Road Studios. The result is a unique soundscape featuring all of our favorite hits in dramatically new settings. Bass lines from Revolver end up paired with melodies from the White Album; ambient sounds from "Revolution #9" end up as segues from song to song. It's as if someone left the cages open at the zoo, and you show up the next door with the zebras and penguins cooly co-habitating in the same pen.

Remember when I used to end my blogs with an update on my dissertation's status? Well, a number of factors -- including, but not limited to, my winning a fellowship for next year, and my Beatles class, and my papers for Boston & Toronto Haydn conferences -- has kept me from dedicating any solid work to the diss. Soon, after my (very fun) month of August vacation(s) my dissertation will be swept off the shelves and into a defendable form of writing...hopefully.


Right on track...

...with the book, that is. Infinite Jest just keeps on coming; every page a new idea, concept, structure. The book is post-modern in every sense of the word: it's a pastiche of different styles, points-of-view, locations, places and characters. It includes 100 pages of endnotes, most of which are completely necessary to the storyline; and DFW quotes urban legends and jokes, or at least embeds them within the narrative (google "bricklayer story + DFW" for more info).

But for me, the jokes, the descriptions, the overall usage of words is incredible. I'll include a few instances below, which are completely stripped of their significance but I hope they can convey just a little bit of meaning:

  • "And who could not love that special and leonine roar of a public toilet?" p. 15

  • "The sun, if your fluttering eye catches it even slightly, gives you the blue and red floaters a flashbulb gives you." p. 16

  • "She was the kind of fatally pretty and nubile wraithlike figure who glides through the sweaty junior-high corridors of every nocturnal emitter's dreamscape." p. 38-39

  • "Mario, what do you get when you cross an insomniac, an unwilling agnostic, and a dyslexic?" "I give." "You get somebody who stays up all night torturing himself mentally over the question of whether or not there's a dog." p. 41

  • "The defecatory posture is an accepting posture, it occurs to him. Head down, elbows on knees, the fingers laced together between the knees. Some hunched timeless millenial type of waiting, almost religious...The mute quiescent suffering of generations of salesmen in the stalls of train-station johns, heads down, fingers laced, shined shoes inert, awaiting the acid gush." p. 103

  • "...even [earplugs] do not solve the problem of a snoring roommate if the roommate in question is so huge and so adenoidal that the snores in question also produce subsonic vibrations that arpeggio up and down your body and make your bunk jiggle like a motel bed you've put a quarter in." p. 201


RBOC: Glass edition...

It's been waaaay too long since I've graced the interwebs with another RBOC edition. Over the past week or so, I've been intrigued by architectural articles in Slate and The Times; so, some of my Random Bits Of Crap will be related to buildings.

  • Chicago's Sears Tower now has an entire landing made out of glass. File it under D for "Don't Look Down."
  • Did someone say glass? Well, before the Sears Tower added a measly little outcropping of glass, Phillip Johnson designed an entire house out of it...located in Connecticut, this jewel of Modernist architecture is certainly on my travel wish list.
  • One final bit of architectural interest appeared in the Times today: apparently an entire building made of pods is scheduled to be torn down. One wall of the pod has all the electrical stuff: oven, frig, tape deck, etc; while the other end is anchored by a giant porthole window (made of glass!) that creates the effect of living in a fishbowl!
  • I almost forgot this little nugget: St. Louis and public art made the Times; has anyone seen these sculptures?
  • The Beatles class (rhymes w/glass) keeps on ticking. Yesterday's class was the first day that I actually taught anything (day 1 consisted of syllabus discussion + a viewing of "A Hard Day's Night"), and I think it went pretty well. I laid out some common language for discussing early Rock 'n' Roll (what's a backbeat? Electric guitars?)
  • Super fun, really trashy gossip about one of my students that I suppose I shouldn't really publish out in the world-wide web -- definitely fodder for a phone conversation!


"I like big...

...books, and I cannot lie." Seriously, I don't know why but I've always been attracted to books that can double as doorstops.

Let's take a look at the numbers:

Ayn Rand's Fountainhead = 694 pages
Stephen King's IT = 1090 pages
Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon = 1130 pages
Robert Caro's The Power Broker = 1166 pages

And in my current book, David Foster Wallace takes 981 pages, plus an additional 100+ pages of endnotes, to lay out his masterpiece (so I'm told) Infinite Jest. The story, as far as I can tell 147 pages into, concerns Hal Incandenza -- a young tennis phenom -- and is set at the fictional tennis academy in Entfield, MA. I really enjoy the actual references to local landmarks here in Boston: Allston slums, the Red and Green lines, Harvard Square, et al.

In addition to Hal's extended family, including two brothers and his parents, both of whom founded the tennis academy, there seems to be an underlying moral about the eroding nature of pop culture as it's delivered through the television. A certain videotape is making the rounds, and by making the rounds, I mean sucking people into watching it over and over until they actually succumb to it.

Peppered throughout the text are multiple points-of-view, including local dialects that take a couple different readings to actually process...the most poignant passages, however, concern depression and suicide. Once you read these passages, DFW's own suicide seems 10x more tragic.

I'm about 10 pages behind today's deadline, but I've still got tonight to catch up. 10 pages seems like nothing, but when you get a single sentence occupying a full page plus endnotes it takes a little longer than normal. Still, it's very worth the effort -- at least, thus far.

I'm off to the first class of The Beatles today, so I'll leave you with a little taste of what we'll be doing:


Just doing a little housekeeping here in my little corner of the internet (as he sweeps away the cobwebs)...

Over the past week, TW & I tore through the first two seasons of Dexter (obviously, we loved it!)

I was heartbroken over the weekend, as the US Men had a lead going into the half against Brazil -- unfortunately, they're still a green to beat them for the full 90. Still a great tourney for them, overall!
I made the first deadline for my online book club; 7% (and 75 pages) down, 93% (and I don't even want to do the math) to go!

Currently, I'm sitting here watching the clock crept ever-so slowly...

One week exactly until my Beatles course begins...I'm
about 3 parts excited, 2 parts nervous!