Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Here comes the sun.

If you have not been to Orkney, then you logically have not visited Maeshowe, and you may not know that this chambered cairn, built around 2700 B.C. is designed so that the last rays of the setting sun on winter solstice shine in through the entry way, and light up the interior of the cairn. (And you probably have not seen the cool runic graffiti, from the time of the Orkneyinga Saga, when some Vikings sought refuge in the tomb--writing things like "Ingigerth is the most beautiful of all women" and "Thorni fucked; Helgi carved"--but that's another story.)

Solstice means "standing still sun." Here, today, we get about 10 hours of sunlight, from 7:35 a.m. to 5:25 p.m., which feels short enough. In Orkney at midwinter they get only six hours, and not the strongest sun either.

Many linguists believe that our word "Yule" comes from Scandinavian origins, referring to the festival around the winter solstice. I can well imagine that in northern climes the urge for the sun to get its ass back over here would be powerful. Traveling in Scotland (the same summer I went to Orkney), I stayed at a bed and breakfast on the Isle of Skye, and the owner was very clear that it is Prozac and Prozac alone that got him through the Scottish winters.

But even here it is good to remember that the light is coming back, even if we have to beat on drums (literal or figurative) to remind it we are here.

I learned recently of the Icelandic tradition of the Yule Cat (or Jólaköttur), who eats lazy people. Jóhannes úr Kötlum wrote a poem about this cat, and here is a part of it:
He roamed at large, hungry and evil
In the freezing Yule snow.
In every home
People shuddered at his name.

If one heard a pitiful "meow"
Something evil would happen soon.
Everybody knew he hunted men
But didn't care for mice.

He picked on the very poor
That no new garments got
For Yule - who toiled
And lived in dire need.

From them he took in one fell swoop
Their whole Yule dinner
Always eating it himself
If he possibly could.

You can help the little poor children not get eaten by the Yule cat by giving them something new and warm to wear, so that the kitty won't assume they are lazy. Ultimately the Yule Cat is a lesson about working hard and also thinking about your community.

I'd like to think that Mina has just gone out to serve as the Yule Cat. She is a vicious beast, and I know she has always looked with disdain at lazy people (and especially at lazy cats), so it would not surprise me a bit.

In the meantime, Come on back, Sun! And happy solstice to all of you in Blogland.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Baby, please come home.

If you have seen a brownish tabby, fairly small but very fluffy, with a high-pitched meow and an occasionally friendly demeanor, please tell her that we miss her very much, that we promise to try to keep it warmer in the house, and there is plenty of canned food to be had at home. Oh yeah, and that we are really worried.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

All I want for Xmas.

First, let me thank all the powers that be for the restoration of my electricity. You should have seen the poor little feline ladies curled up into shivering little balls. The lowest the indoor temp reached was 47 F, and I did not lose anything from the freezer or fridge--thank goodness we bought a new fridge last summer. I feel very sorry, though, for folks around the Upstate who may not get their power until Monday or Tuesday or even later.

One of the real pleasures of the PP is his record-keeping ability. Before he embarked on Christmas shopping this year, he pulled my last year's list from his file, and asked me whether there were items I wanted to add or delete.

Given my birthday's relative proximity to Christmas, last year's had been an all-purpose list, and from the looks of it prepared in late October or early November. First on the list was "A new president." Well, we all know how well that worked out.

But you can't blame me for trying again this year. So for all of you who are looking for last minute gift ideas for me, here is this year's list.

1. Buried cables for the Upstate.

2. Indict Rove, indict Rove, indict Rove.

3. Some sense that although I oppose the war, my e-mails, phone calls, library list, and shopping tendencies might not be monitored by the National Security Agency.

4. For the people who fear Peak Oil to have a conversation with the folks turning the Upstate into a sprawl zone.

5. A media unafraid to publicize the likes of Harold Pinter's Nobel speech.

6. A new desk for my office at work--and preferably one in which all the drawers close and do not make screeching sounds in the process, and in which none of the drawers randomly lock themselves, although I do not nor have I ever had the key.

7. The ability to watch Law & Order at any hour of the day or night. (No wait, I got that one.)

8. For the new little strip mall in town to have more than sub shops and cash advance stores in it.

9. The flatter stomach I need and deserve.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Peaceful Solstice, and Happy New Year to all of you. May you have a day or two in there without the fury.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Jack Frost nipping at my nose.

Roy Orbison has a song that begins, "A candy-colored clown we call the Sandman / Tiptoes to my room most every night / Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper / Go to sleep. Everything is all right."

We joke sometimes about this candy-colored clown, because really, who needs a clown, candy-colored or otherwise, trolling your bedroom? And what exactly is it he's up to anyway?

Well, who knew that last night it would be Jack Frost masquerading as that aforementioned clown? I am fine with JF doing his nipping while I am walking in a winter wonderland, but I get more cranky when that wonderland has settled inside the house.

All of which to say: still no electricity. The indoor thermometer read 47F this morning, and all the cats were in little balls, each in her own blanket.

As for me, I relied on the kindness of friends, and found myself a cozy guest bed where I could evade that sneaky clown, if only for one night. I would have hated to become one of those people who show up in the local paper, found dead from exposure in their own house.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The weather outside is shiteful...

...but how delightful is it, really, to sit in a cold house with no lights and grade papers by headlamp while ice-covered branches pelt the house, such that things get spookier and spookier with each branch, since it still is not possible to see outside and the PP is out of town too? No, no, let me tell you: not that delightful.

And it was the classic scene: when the sun came up, I could see that there was not all that much ice out there--just enough to send some branch cratering onto the key powerline.

But here in the office there are lights! And an outlet where I could plug in my hairdryer! And most important of all, computer access!!!

I am not, however, complaining about the drive in. The roads were fine, and all the bamboo along my street bowed to me as I went by.

Meanwhile, I am reflecting on the solstice and the darkness. This is the time of year when we cherish the darkness, and remember that it must be here for the light to come. This morning for the first time in I don't know how long I got to be in the dark, without the glaring streetlights even, to be in my house and my skin without seeing. The part of me that doesn't get chuffed about schedules secretly hopes that the lights are still out tonight, so I can go back to that darkness and deal with what is there.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Not the most wonderful time of the year.

I am confident that the world will be a happier place when I get through my seemingly endless to-do list, but I need to take a brief break to note that my least favorite part of being married is the Christmas-card assumption that I should be addressed as Mrs. Patient Partner. I suppose we should have sent out those wedding announcements that Martha Stewart recommends, letting people know how to address us. My current hero, though, is my Belgian aunt, who sent a card assuming that we had both taken MY last name. Granted, this may have been because she was not sure that Patient's last name is Partner, but it still warmed my heart.

Now let's go dig into some of those chestnuts.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Powered by Panjabi MC: Meet Report # Whatever

You know that feeling you get when you work your lungs so hard that if you try to breathe at anything more than a super-shallow level, your whole body goes into coughing convulsions? PP says, Oh right, like you get from running. Well, PP, I personally have never gotten this feeling running, which tells us all we need to know about my running. But I do get it from swimming, and I am still battling it this morning after 2 days at the Team Greenville Holiday invite.

Day One of the meet was a tough one. I kept trying to remember something I had learned from a book I got for my birthday: FAILURE IS FEEDBACK, AND FEEDBACK IS THE BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS. For me on Saturday, the failure came early, in the form of a 200 IM. Apparently I took the fly out too fast, and then my backstroke is really bad (no, I mean REALLY bad) and it demolished whatever rhythm I had going, so when I got to the breaststroke, I was done. You must understand that usually this is where I can turn it on, but there was nothing to turn on. It was all so bad that my breaststroke leg was actually slower than my backstroke leg, and that never happens for me (although my coach insists that for most swimmers, the backstroke leg should be faster). The one bright side of the event was that I swam the best 50 fly of my life: all the elements of the stroke seemed to come together with ease. (Of course, it is probably that feeling of ease that led me to take it out several seconds faster than I should have, thereby totalling the event.)

So in part, I suppose, it was just bad race strategy that did me in. But I also felt like I got slammed by a severe lack of energy--much more than I would have expected in the first event of the day, even of the meet. It took forever for my heartrate to come down, and after it did, I could not get warm, and I could barely stand up. So I suppose it was a combination of the poor swimming and perhaps the time of the semester or something.

I did manage to power through the 50 free. That is what I love about 50s: you hardly have to have anything to get through them.

I swam the 200 BR the best I could under the conditions. I tried to work on my turns, which are pretty slow and a place where I could really cut some time before Nationals in May.

But man oh man, was it nice to be done with that day, or what. The PP and I stayed in G-ville for the night, going out for quite a lovely and sinus-clearing Thai meal that couldn't be beat, then retired to our hotel for about 12 hours of sleep.

The next day I was a little worried when I felt exhausted after warm-ups again. But I really wanted to go after the 100 fly, especially after the way the fly had felt in the first 50 of the 200 IM. My coach said, "just swim the 100 the same as you swam that 50 yesterday--but don't stop after the 50."

The first 50 felt great, and I even felt OK through the 75, although I was starting to get a little tired and I had to concentrate more (on not drowning, for instance). The head official (who we sometimes swim with) said afterwards, "You would have dominated if it had been an 80 fly," and that about sums it up. With about 15 yards to go, I could hardly move my arms, and I was in serious oxygen debt. I finished by cutting 3 seconds off my seed time, and 2 seconds off my best.

In the open division of USA swimming, there are no 50s for any strokes except free, so in order to go for a masters' national cut in the 50 breast, I have to get creative. Yesterday I swam the 100 breaststroke, but announced that I was going for a split, which means that the time after the 50 would be official, as long as I finished the event legally.

Inspired by that 100 fly, I decided to go for the cut. I told the official and then worked to get psyched--stretching, focusing in, and most of all, listening to Panjabi MC. Do you know that cut that samples from the Magnum PI themesong? Well, what better motivation is there, really, than memories of Tom Selleck in Hawaii?

The national cut for my age group in the 50 BR is 37.28 and I managed to swim 37.15. Whew! And although I was wobbly on the blocks, and could have been called for a false start (although the PP who was timing for my lane thought I looked slow off the blocks), only 1 referree saw it. And as one of the team parents pointed out, Rowdy Gaines got a gold medal on a disputed false start. So there!

Made it through the 100 free with nothing to write home about, and then enjoyed the hell out of a tepid shower.

200 IM 2:53.88
50 FR :30.96
200 BR 2:55.47
100 FL 1:16.73
100 BR 1:23.32 [split: :37.15]
100 FR 1:07.80

Friday, December 02, 2005

Go ahead, treat yourself.

Had a long week? Sick of what the world has to offer? Looking for a last-minute birthday gift for that special someone? Ready to be taken away, but all out of Calgon?

Then look no further than Barney v. Tupac (via ropeadope). No really, go look at it now.

Monday, November 21, 2005

This is just to say

that I did not tell Bob Woodward that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent.

If you can say the same without risking an indictment for perjury, won't you join Michael Bérubé in doing so?

Danger: Neil Diamond ahead.

According to John Gormley, it is the new Neil Diamond CD that has created the most problems for people loading Sony CDs onto their computers. Not Celine Dion, but still.

Congratulations to Tim for an outstanding performance on 650 CKOM AM representing The Sony Boycott today: articulate, clear, thoughtful consciousness raising. Go Tim.

And what I love best about listening to Saskatchewan radio is that the weather guy says the temp is -1, that tomorrow night the temps are "only going down to zero," and there are ads for Sorrell boots, suggesting you get some decent footwear before the cold weather hits.

I miss the north.

The only station in Saskatoon for breaking news.

Tim is going to be on the air on 650 AM CKOM Saskatoon in about 10 minutes, discussing the Sony Boycott.

There is a live stream: give it a listen!

Congrats to Tim for the well-deserved on-the-air recognition for his good work over at The Sony Boycott Blog. I believe John Gormley just said was that Tim's site is the "best on the web" on this topic. Hear! Hear!

Sunshine, get in my belly!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Happy Birthday to me.

Good morning, Nittany Lions.

Thanks to atombrain over at the Penn State Football Forum for the link. Imagine my surprise at 8:15 this morning when I discovered that this humble blog had received 25 hits already this morning. You know this blog well enough to know that such would be amazing traffic for an entire day! And it turns out that since 7:30 or so last night, nearly all the Nittany Lions have come to see me, and all because I wrote this.

Now mind you, I wrote that a month ago. And then some.

On the Penn State Football Forum someone wrote that the Wolverine fan who keeps posting on that site about the Michigan victory is paying PSU a huge compliment, because that victory was obviously the highlight of the UM season.

And that person was right!!!!

So welcome, Penn State fans. You have a fine program over there. I admire your coach tremendously. Just cut a UM alum a break, and let her relish a rare victory.

Go Lions. Beat the hell out o' them Spartans.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Little Debbie, Little Debbie, I'm a-comin' home, Baby!

Send your gurgling good birthday wishes to the Cod today. It's number 29 again, I understand.

In honor of The Birthday Cod, here is a collection of food songs. They are not all the kind requested, true odes to ingredients, and yet, and yet, and yet. How can you scoff at the menu?: jelly rolls, pasta with pesto, english muffins, Captain's Wafers, waffles, crawfish pie, fried neck bones (and some home fries), cherry popsicles, a wish sammich, polk salad, fillet mignon, and some sweet tea--a Grade-A meal, when I'm in the mood.

If you'd like your own copy, let me know.

Meantime, Happy Birthday to You, TGC!

Bessie Smith, "Kitchen Man"
Beastie Boys, "Finger-Lickin' Good"
Lyle Lovett, "Texas Trilogy: Daybreak"
The Evolution Control Committee, "Breakfast"
Simon & Garfunkel, "Punky's Dilemma"
Little Milton, "Grits Ain't Groceries"
The Evolution Control Committee, "Lunch"
Southern Culture on the Skids, "Banana Puddin'"
The Chips, "Rubber Biscuit"
Original Broadway Cast of CAROUSEL, "A Real Nice Clambake"
Tom Waits, "Ice Cream Man"
Kelis, "Milkshake" (I know)
Royal Crown Revue, "Salt Peanuts"
Southern Culture on the Skids again, "Camel Walk" (EP version)
Willie Bobo, "Fried Neckbones and Some Homefries"
Chico O'Farrill and Clark Terry, "Spanish Rice" (DJ Dolores remix)
Tony Joe White, "Polk Salad Annie"
The Evolution Control Committee, "Dinner"
Fats Domino, "Jambalaya (on the Bayou)"
Reverend Horton Heat, "Eat Steak"
The JBs, "Pass the Peas"
Bessie Smith, "Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl"
Bob Dylan, "Country Pie"
The Beatles, "Savoy Truffle"
Diana Krall, "Peel Me a Grape"
Tom Waits, "Eggs and Sausage"
Talking Heads, "Stay Hungry"

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Low-maintenance girl with a high-maintenance haircut.

Recently I have realized some significant problems with my training journal, and I think it is time I took them seriously.

For one thing, I tend to use it too much like the kinds of diaries too many of us kept as adolescents.

Dear Workout Journal, Can you believe that set we were supposed to do last week? I mean, Oh My God, how in the world did the Coach believe that was do-able? And p.s. I think the boy in lane 2 is kind of cute. Oh wait! He's my HUSBAND!

But more importantly, although I try to keep track of how much swimming I do, and what I eat, and whether I get any extra exercise (raking leaves counts!), I have not come up with a matrix for monitoring the ever-growing presence of crapola in my life. Ahem, my work life--details too boring to enumerate, but I feel confident you can all insert personal analogues and know what I mean. And yet, this crapola has a serious impact on my athletic performance.

Or at least that is how I understand what happened at practice last night and then this morning, when I was simply incapable of completing sets that should not have posed significant challenges. Or really any challenge.

And that last night I had a dream about swim practice (having lots of those lately: please, will the psychoanalysts among you help me? 10 cents please). In the dream I was trying to swim a set of butterfly, but I could not get my arms to move forward. It was a little like a drill we do in practice where you swim the butterfly pull like normal, but then on the recovery part, you bring your arms forward underwater instead of over the surface. But in the dream, where I was somehow swimming the stroke but experiencing the drill, it was even harder than usual, because the resistance of the water was almost overwhelming.

Now I realize that I was trying to swim through the crapola that is taking over my life.

So once you realize that your life is spiraling out of control, and that you are fundamentally violating your own principles (such as: Your job is a job, not your life.), what in the world do you do to regain control?

Help me Obi-Readers. You are my only hope. (Well, you and holiday break.)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bank Holiday Madlib.

If you find yourself too filled with rage and dismay reading President Bush's Veterans Day speech in Tobyhanna (login required), fear not, because I have the solution for all your woes.

Presidential Speech Madlibs! The idea is simple, but indebted to The Sony Boycott Blog for its origin. All you need to do to play is to provide a list of words to fit the following categories:

1. [group of people]
2. [another group of people]
3. [a different group of people]
4. [ideology or system of beliefs]
5. [noun, modified if you like]
6. [region]
7. [principle or idea or feeling]
8. [another principle or idea or feeling]
9. [plural noun]
10. [adjective]
11. [celebrity]
12. [another celebrity]
13. [place]
14. [celebrity]
15. [profession]
16. [celebrity surname]
17. [current-events-related noun]
18. [another current-events-related noun]
19. [same place as #13]
20. [name for a group of people]
21. [well-detailed action, using a verb in the infinitive]
22. [another well-detailed action, using an -ing verb]
23. [same place as #13]
24. [noun]
25. [noun]

OK! Now we're ready to play! Simply insert your twenty-five results into the blanks I have provided in an abridged version of our Commander-in-Chief's speech!

You will find the version with the blanks open at the bottom of this post, but here is what the PP came up with:

Some call this evil Jedi knights, others steroid-using ballplayers, and still others evangelical Christians. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from existentialism.

First, these extremists want to end American and Western dirty socks in the Milky Way, because we stand for rage and fraternité and stand in the way of their earmuffs.

And the shiny, happy world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to Stradivarius to Jacques Monod, consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history.

This week, the government of Mt. Everest took two disturbing steps. First, it arrested God for serving as a masseuse. Then President Rumpelstilskin delivered a strident speech that attacked both the majority whip and the failed presidency.

The government of Mt. Everest must do what Manchester United has demanded: unclog the jammed-up copy machine, and stop riding other drivers’ asses and flashing their lights like a chucklehead.

The government of Mt. Everest must stop exporting Birkenstocks and start importing long-haul truck drivers.

Some call this evil [1], others [2] and still others [3]. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from [4].

First, these extremists want to end American and Western [5] in [6], because we stand for [7] and [8] and stand in the way of their [9].

And the [10] world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to [11] to [12], consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history.

This week, the government of [13] took two disturbing steps. First, it arrested [14] for serving as [15]. Then President [16] delivered a strident speech that attacked both the [17] and the [18].

The government of [19] must do what [20] has demanded: [21], and stop [22].

The government of [23] must stop exporting [24] and start importing [25].

And don't say I never gave you nothing!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Meet Report #3

This weekend was the Rock Hill Rays Fall Fling. Let's just say my performance was acceptable but nothing to write home about. Or to your blog about, yet here I am.

In case you are thinking of traveling to Rock Hill, South Carolina, you might bear in mind that there is no road in or out of the town that is not under construction. And you know what? Those orange barrels really are not that helpful when the construction equipment is also orange, as are the outfits the workers are wearing, and so is the dirt. SC Route 5 from the highway toward town is about to be widened, yet rather than completing one part before moving on, SCDOT appears to be doing it all at once. Or all not at once, given that I did not see much progress happening--but that hasn't kept them from tearing out trees and flattening the ground along the sides of the existing road. I said to the PP that the whole scene reminded me of the way I have imagined some of the Soviet Union looking--stripped land, bleak dirt piles, and 50-year-old construction equipment.

But oh yeah: I was supposed to write to you about the meet. Well, don't get too excited. One best time (100 BR) out of seven events, but let's chalk this one up to meet experience--getting some feedback from the coach, learning some things that I need to work on between now and May, practicing dealing with jitters.

There was a mom there wearing a shirt that said, "If I only had one day left to live, I would spend it at a swim meet, because those last forever." And she was not kidding. After I swam in the 200 IM, I cooled down, talked to the coach, put drops in my ears, dried off, found my glasses, and walked up into the bleachers to see the PP (who had to sit with all the moms, since the deck area was restricted), and by the time I got there, we still were nowhere near the end of the event, which had something like 12 heats.

200 free: 2:30.37
100 breast: 1:19.43
100 fly: 1:19.58
50 free: :30.18
200 IM: 2:48.04
200 breast: 2:54.50
100 free: 1:07.63

Onward to the Greenville meet, in early December!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Tomorrow comes today.

I don't really understand why everyone has been calling the last week or two The Waiting Game. I understand that there are some serious things we might all still be waiting for--waiting for the night or a train, waiting around to die, or even waiting for the great leap forwards. We all wait for these things. Some of us must even confess that we have been rightly pegged as an accident waiting to happen.

But somehow, I don't think that's what all the cognoscenti are talking about. There seems to be some larger sense out there that something's coming and it's gonna be good.

But as for me, I have received all the fulfillment I could ever ask for. What my dedicated readers may not know is that I live for photos of people driving--or being driven to work.

And this is my big week!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Hangin' with my best friend, Paranoia.

People, I know I just said no to political postings after the election, but I just can't help myself here. I am trying to figure out whether, as my self-declared paranoid friend suggested yesterday, we are being set up for a tremendous fall by the anticipation over the Fitzgerald investigations. My friend's sense is that the administration, by suggesting that Scooter or Karl or even Dick Cheney himself might be in Fitzgerald's line of fire, is setting us up to think that anything less is "nothing," not worth worrying about, not an indication of wrong-doing.

The trouble with my paranoid friend is that sometimes he turns out to be right.

Meanwhile, why are people not marching in the streets over Exxon/Mobile's profiteering from Katrina?

And I still can't figure out whether to celebrate that Harriet Miers is withdrawing from consideration for the Supreme Court or to shake in my boots over how this was also some scam on the part of the administration to rally support for an arch-conservative ideologue nominee?

Or should I have called this post, "When the world is running down..."?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Dynamic covers for your Tuesday.

Check out and Jonathan Coulton's cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot (who he notes is not a real knight, via Vreem) and rx's cover of Grandmaster Flash, featuring the hot hot vocals of everyone's favorite emerging artist.

You won't be sorry you did.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Oh sure.

Over at Michael Bérubé's blog, talk is a-fluttering about some vast right-wing conspiracy to break Penn State's undefeated streak. Harrumph. Luckily readers of this blog know better. It is hard, hard work to win a football game.

Next thing you know, he'll claim the FEMA director is UM grad, or that Halliburton got a special contract for the endzone restoration project, or that it's only cronies who get admitted to the law school.

Oh wait, scratch that last part.

Did I say harrumph yet?

Digesting my own liver.

Today's goal: take an essay that clocks in with 6,333 words and hack at it until there are fewer than 5,000 words. (i.e., 4,999)

It's a strange and lonely process: sure, there are some words that need to go, especially when you're as wordy a writer as I am. But others? The private pain of self-destruction!

So far I am down to 5,551--better than half-way. The bad news, of course, is that the obvious fat is trimmed away and in the trash.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Unbelievable: Penn State 25, Michigan 27.

[WELCOME NITTANY LIONS: Please read this.]

Readers of this fearless blog will remember that the PP had a bad tendency, until recently, to assert that North Carolina had a basketball game wrapped up, even though there were something like 5 minutes left on the clock.

So when, at the 3:11 mark during the Penn State v. Michigan game he claimed that Michigan was all set, I about blew my top.

Don't these patient people ever learn, that you never never NEVER say those things? Never?

He had a point, of course: Michigan had control of the ball, and they should have been able to wear down the clock. But of course they did not do that: they were going for it, and they blew it, and had to kick after 3 downs or something.

Then, as you may know if you just spent the last few hours the way I did, Penn State scored a surprising touchdown, much to the delight of the fans in the fuzzy Nittany Lions hats. I gave the PP one of those looks, and he pointed out that it was not his fault that I had such bad luck choosing schools to attend.

When Michigan got possession again with something like 50 seconds remaining, I really did not have a lot of faith.

But remember: this had been an amazing game, with a stunning interception, a pair of 2-point conversions, and surprise touchdowns a-plenty. There had already been at least two times when, despite fatigue from this morning's swim practice, I had lifted myself off the couch to express disbelief through some blasphemy or another.

But as the seconds ticked away, and Michigan got closer and closer, and kept stopping the clock so they could get closer still, it really was amazing. I thought to myself, well, at least this has been an amazing game. Those Wolverines really gave it everything they had. Lloyd Carr even argued to put 2 seconds back on the clock at one point, but a little later it seemed they were performing their last play (3rd down) with 6 seconds remaining. That did not go so well, so they took a time out with 1 second left.

Then would you believe it? A touchdown, caught by Manningham, the same freshman who had caught an earlier amazing touchdown.

Fucking unbelievable.

But the really good news is that the PP is off the hook for his little comment. Everyone wins--except Notre Dame. Never assume the spiking fake.

Can I get a witness--I mean, an answer?

A friend--who has supplied me with blogarific material before--sent me a question, and since I find myself unable to devise a decent answer, I will bounce it to all of you:

A man holds a woman by the hand and dances with her in front of everyone. Does that serve the national interest?

Can I get an answer? Please??

Friday, October 14, 2005

Kick back, dig, while we do it to you in your eardrums.

In a continuing spirit of reminding me that the weekend is coming, the Cod has gifted me with tunes to funk my shit up. You people are out of luck, because you are not listening to this fine CD with me--the JB's, Jimmy McGriff, Maceo Parker (2% jazz, 98% funky), The Cat Empire. What? You haven't heard "Hotel California" funked in French? And if you are still wondering whether or not it is funky now, I can tell you in three different ways, yes it is.

Reminds me that old news is better than no news, so in the spirit of Friday gifts, I give you this from The Onion a few years ago:


CHOCOLATE CITY—After months of ceaseless debate, including last week's record 76-hour filibuster slap-bass solo from Senate Rubber Band Minority Leader Bootsy Collins (D-OH), the National Funk Congress is no closer to resolving its deadlock over the controversial "get up/get down" issue, insiders reported Monday.

Senate Rubber Band Minority Leader Bootsy Collins (D-OH).
"Get up-uh, get on up! Get up-uh, get on up!" shouted Getuplican Party supporters on the steps of the Capitol as the debate, as well as a massive 14-piece instrumental jam, raged within. The pro-up-getting demonstrators' chants were nearly drowned out by those of a nearby group of jungle-boogie Downocrats, who called upon all citizens to "Get down, get down!"

The bitter "get up/get down" battle, which has polarized the nation's funk community, is part of a long-running battle between the two factions, rooted in more than 35 years of conflict over the direction in which the American people should shake it.

The beaten generation.

An amazing thing happened here last night. Some grad students and former grad students and other students held a reading commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Six Gallery reading (there is some dispute over whether it happened on October 7 or 13), and people came. And they stayed. And listened. And some of them stood, and they listened, and they seemed to enjoy it. Can you believe it? Here?

Well, it's true.

No one organized this reading because some teacher wanted to, or told them to. Excuse me for effusing, but the poetry told them to, and they listened. And then we listened.

The reading was in halfs--first poets who were connected with the Beats somehow, but maybe later on, and who maybe spun off in their own directions. Then the things that were read at the famous Six at Six--Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Phil Whalen, Jack Kerouac, Kenneth Rexroth.

And don't forget Allen Ginsberg, who premiered Howl, written 2 weeks before, the story goes. Our guys made an exception for historial accuracy and read the whole thing, not just the first part.

I have heard Ginsberg read the poem, but you know, these guys did it justice. They were channeling something last night, and I don't think it was just the jug burgundy they had brought--for historical accuracy of course.

Their goal had been to memorize it, but the reader for Part I pointed out that there were something like 300 long stanza-like lines in that section that all start with "Who."

The readers who followed did not disappoint--part 3 was recited from memory, seemed to be born fully formed from its reader--and the poem was alive again, there in that surprisingly mod little sushi bar.

Some of you who were there haven't been here long enough to know how amazing this was. Here. Wish you could have come, and the jug wine was not bad.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Good reading.

While I go at my to-do list like a crazy person with blunt knives, you might have a look at the following:

A Small Cafe takes on the problems of National Coming Out Day in a seminary of a church that won't ordain gays and lesbians;

The Gurgling Cod makes pizza, letting us all feel a little better about our respective kitchen disasters;

150 mg of happiness assesses the limitations of the Jr. Roastbeef Sandwich.

And do keep Jarrett in your thoughts. He's having rather more than his share of despair today.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Dear fans,

I just came across this, which perhaps was not intended for me, but fuck it: I'll jump on it. After all, I think the flaming puck suits me, don't you?

I hope that by this time next week you will all be wearing FURY thongs. Yes, all of you.

2 weeks running.

The cinetrix keeps coming through for me when I most need it. Can it possibly be that I have had two not so hot weeks in a row? Well, maybe.

So just in case you are with me on this, and in the spirit of giving that the cinetrix so finely models, I gift you with this.

Don't say I never gave you nothin.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The suspense is over.

The qualifying times for the 2006 US Masters Swimming Short-Course Yards Nationals in May have been posted!

I know, I know--you were as eager to see them as I have been. After all, how do you know what your goals are if you don't know what the time standards are?

Perhaps you have already done the math that I did when I finally saw the QTs, and so you already know that my 100BR time from this past weekend--1.19.80--qualifies me for that event--and by 9/100 of a second. How about that?

So I am all set for May, with QTs in the 100 and 200.

Which of course means that I'm looking at the time for the 50BR. Right now my best time, when all I'm doing is racing the 50, is a :39.07. And the QT is :37.28. But but but, if you count the first 50 of a 100, which is a perfectly legal way of getting a time for a 50, my best is :38.01, only a little more than 1/2 second too slow. Attainable, I say!

And if you're wondering why I can swim a faster 50 when I have to swim another 50 right after than I can when all I have to do is swim a 50? Don't ask. I don't know.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Meet Report #2

On our way to Saturday's competition at the Clemson Classic, the PP and I parked our car beside what seemed to be an intramural cricket tournament. Not a usual sight here in the upstate!

This was a multi-day meet, and I competed in two days of the meet. (Thanks, but I'll pass on the 500 free.) The team goal was 65% best times, and I am proud to say I exceeded that goal, just barely, securing 4 best times from 6 swims, one of the non-bst-times was a new event for me, so there was no way that one could be a best time, by our coach's rules. (I tend to believe, on the other hand, that just by swimming it I got a best time! But no no no he says.)

One of the officials, a parent from our team, pointed out how easy it is to find me in the heat sheet: just look down the age column until you see one starting with a "3."

Started out Saturday with the 200 free, which I was reluctant to push since it is a longish event and it just preceded the 100 breast, where I am trying to get a national cut this year. But of course I was nervous, so I went out pretty fast on the first 50, and then dialed things waaaaaay back. After the swim, the coach pointed out how the splits for that race SHOULD look, which, need I say, was not how they DID look, and one day I will have to come clean about dogging the race.

Then on to the 100 breast, where I cut a little less than a second from my last season's best time--bringing me halfway to the national cut. Or, I should say, last year's national cut. This year's times have not be released yet, so I am estimating. That was an OK race, but my advice to you is: during a breaststroke race, do not breathe in water.

Then the 50 free, which is a hard race to settle into, because just when you do, it is over. But I certainly powered through it as fast as I could.

END OF DAY ONE: Time for calzones, TV crime, and lounging on the couch.

On Sunday I started off with the 100 free, which I was treating as my target event for the day. Went pretty well, and I felt strong and fast throughout. I need to bring the second 50 back faster, though, I learned afterwards. Best time!

Then the 200 breast, which I figured would not be a best time, since I had put everything into the 100 free. But every turn was perfect, and I felt big and strong throughout, and I managed to knock 2 seconds off my best time from last year (the national cut).

Then the 100 back, which, please people, don't laugh so loud! I know, I know, my backstroke is a misery, and it does not help that I can't do a start worth a darn AND that I got 1.5 goggles full of water! So back off me--at least I swam it.

The coach says that steak times get steak dinners, and the PP was kind enough to provide. I added that that Ridge zinfandel times get Ridge zinfandel, so we popped a cork on that too.

Then I slept 12 hours. Ahhhhhh.

200 FR: 2:33.63
100 BR: 1:19.80
50 FR: :30.59
100 FR: 1:07.12
200 BR: 2:52.59
100 BA: 1:23.67

Friday, September 30, 2005

If your week...

... has been anything like my week, then you need to watch this (courtesy cinetrix).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bollywood's dark underbelly.

Or should that be overbelly? Hard to say for sure, when what we are talking about is the replacement of guitars and horns with strings, and the taking out of flashy percussion. The effect is dark indeed--haunting, insidious, even a little spooky. But the means is surprising. Even with the inclusion of tabla, finger cymbals,an Indian trap set--this is clearly westernized vision.

But the record transforms those western instruments into something that will not surprise listeners of the Kronos Quartet's earlier recordings. They do sound like they belong there in these songs of old Bollywood. Yes, they have replaced the crackles and red-zone sound distortion with a modern richness, but they've retained something of the spirit of oldness that is transporting about the music itself.

Which is to say, the songs on You've Stolen My heart: Songs from R. D. Burman's Bollywood build a vision of Bollywood that both is and isn't. It isn't the strange smiling that often accompanies the lip-synched performance of the musical numbers in the movies. And it isn't the oversaturated colors of saris and silk and sometimes cushions and sparkly shoes. But it is the imaginative space that the films create through their stories and even more through their music.

But just listen to the first number on the disc, Dum Maro Dum. It's altogether slower and smokier and more unsettling than the one from the movie, like if you looked at all those saris through sepia-tinted glasses. It's got a low bass insistence (synth and cello?) that comes straight from Peter Gunn or Link Wray and his Wraymen.

The sound grows more complicated with the inclusion of the liu qin and pipa on these tracks--in place of such Indian instruments as santoor and sarod. And in lieu of the more simple percussive elements on some of the originals, there is djembe, talking drum, batajon. The liner notes link these sounds to "Burman's musical polyglotism," and a musical form associated with a particular nation--or even nationalism, if you think of songs like Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (not reimagined by the Kronos, alas)--is allowed to speak of its international appeal.

I was very excited to see that the album takes on the heavy-breathing numbers that I love about Bollywood--like Piya Tu Ab To Aaja. The whole song sounds like it is coming out of an old gramophone, if you could imagine not just your head but your whole body inside the horn. But the esteemed Kronos Quartet doesn't back away from the back-and-forth on that song--the breathing of the exotic dancer, the calling of her lover--even as they let their strings take on the gypsy quality that Burman's song goes after.

But how can it be that Asha Bhosle still sounds as fucking fantastic as she did back when those old classics were first recorded? How is it her voice sounds just as perfect with this reinterpretation as with the originals? I suppose I should not be surprised, when her career as a playback singer spans almost sixty years and more than 800 movies--so far (including 2 pix from 2005). It is the same way that the amazement of that sound could be embodied by so many beautiful women who mouthed her voice on screen.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

News flash from informed citizen.

So usually I just skip straight to the magazine, break out my pencil (and eraser) and start with the puzzle, but this week I thought I would try to be informed. OK, and I was sucked in by the traffic jam photo on the front page, I admit it.

But you'll want to know that inside the Week in Review section a debate is raging.

About garlic. About peeling garlic. It seems Mark Bittman set this one off earlier in the week with a report about pre-peeled garlic, and Lawrence Downes wrote in celebration of the discovery. Now I am all in favor of time-saving tips, but I have to agree with Helene Cooper, who wrote:

Any real cook will tell you there is nothing better than grabbing a big, wide knife, or meat cleaver if you like, positioning it on its side over a ripe, fat garlic clove, imagining hte face of an ex-boyfriend is that clove, and then smashing the living daylights out of it with your fist.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that the real pleasure of cooking is the knives. I have a friend who always gets nervous when I say this, and she quietly discloses that she keeps her knives dull deliberately. Where is the fun in that, I say? Of course, now I am careful to wear thick-toed shoes in the kitchen, after my toes' near-miss from the guillotine that was a falling chef's knife.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

What doesn't kill me, almost kills me.

Do you remember that old Cheerios commercial that showed a stick figure swimming enthusiastically, and then slowing down, and then looking completely pooped, all while a voice-over said, "This swimmer is runnnnnniiiinnnnnnggggggg oooouuuut of steam"? Well, that was me at swim practice this morning.

It turns out that I swam further this week than I have since February 2004. For four practices, totaling about 6.75 hours, I swam 18,100 yards. For you runners out there, that is a little over 10 miles. My highest recorded yardage in my adult swimming career is 19,100, and I feel confident I will surpass that this year.

And I am surprised to report that I am not reclined on the couch as I type this. Granted, I was hurtin' during the set of 12 x 225 that was the big set in this morning's 2-and-a-half-hour practice. The legs were still heavy from either Thursday's or Wednesday's swim or the winning combination of the two. And although on Thursday morning I felt like I was, after a lot of time in and out of the water this summer, beginning to get my aerobic capacity back, that good feeling was nowhere to be found this morning.

But still: I feel better than I felt after last Saturday's swimmeet. So this is good, right?

Good. Then I'll go lie down now.

Friday, September 23, 2005

So you want to be a textual editor?

Think again.

Unless, that is, you fancy poring over to a text, just to make sure that the person who keyed in the version you're using as your electronic text, didn't skip a period, and I don't mean the life-generating kind.

Or unless you relish the prospect of trying to find the birth and death dates of obscure folks who make brief and unmemorable appearances in a pretty important text.

Or if you're really jazzed by the prospect of explaining why you chose the text you did as your copytext, and then explaining why it is OK to correct a printer's error.

Or maybe you're the gal who gets off on checking and quadruple-checking page numbers in the annotations you put together?

The precision is enough to make your head spin.

So forget that: after a morning's work, what could be better than


This makes a big batch, working on the theory that that is one fewer dinner to worry about this week. You could easily halve it.

And chili is the gods' gift to those who don't want to fuss with exactness. Feel free to improvise to your heart's content.

Start by sauteing for about 10 minutes in a mess of olive oil: 2 chopped onions, 4 chopped cloves of garlic, 2 chopped bell peppers (or the equivalent sweet peppers when they're in season, which they are here, which means I found some mighty fine red and purple ones at the campus farm sale), and however many chopped jalapenos you care to handle.

Then add 2 chopped tomatoes (if you don't have any left in your garden, you can substitute those little salad tomatoes, the only thing in the produce section of the grocery that tastes even remotely like tomato), 2 15-oz cans of diced tomatoes (I like the no-salt no-added-carp variety: add your own crap), and 1 cup water.

And the spice concoction of your choice: I like 2-3 T chili powder, 3 t ground cumin, 4 t oregano, 4 t basil, 1 t fennel seeds, 2 t salt, 1 T black pepper.

Add the heating element of your choice in the quantity that suits you. Heartily recommend sriracha sauce.

After you stir all this stuff together, bring it to a simmer and cook uncovered about 20 minutes.

Then add 4 cans of beans. Why not use a variety for added color? Maybe pinto, black, cannellini, red beans. Or whatever you like really.

Then my recipe calls for 1.5 pounds zucchini, but the students are farming baby eggplants these days, and they're so fresh and nice.

And don't forget the 2 tablespoons of dill, for the added fresh taste. It gives veggie chili a little kick that makes it taste less like chili with no meat.

After this cooks a while longer this afternoon, I'll tuck it in the fridge and then reheat it tomorrow for added flavor, all in time for an afternoon of TV-viewing.

If you're a dairy fiend (who me?) you can add sour cream to your bowl: As Horvus Callithumper would say, Not bad.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bring on the deep-fried chicken lollipops.

My plan was to comment on the socio-linguistic aspects of hyphenated Chinese food, but my analytical capabilities wither in the face of "Seafood soups, fried rice with pork, scallions and tiny shrimp, and chicharrones de pollo -chicken cut into small pieces and deep-fried in the Cantonese style" and "Dishes like chili-spiked, deep-fried chicken lollipops ... and lo mein topped with chunks of peppery jerk chicken."

I was going to get all Homi K. Bhabha on their asses for saying "But Chinese food has never been quite what outsiders think it is," but then I was mesmerized by this:

Questions of ethnicity, some of them awkward and others simply mysterious, inevitably come up when tracking the cuisine of the Chinese diaspora. The passionate relationship between American Jews and Chinese restaurants, for example, is well documented.

"These people love Chinese food," said Dov Kemper, a customer at Eden Wok, a strictly kosher Chinese restaurant in Midtown, gesturing at his fellow Orthodox Jews eating barbecued (veal) spare ribs and (mock) shrimp fried rice. The wontons in the chicken soup - "just like kreplach," Mr. Kemper said - are stuffed with ground beef, scallions and ginger.

So, OK, forget it. Just whip me up some of them lollipops.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Update to previous post.

I have decided that I have to be more honest about the lead-up to that meet. Yes, I was nervous about competing with kids, even though I was really just supposed to be thinking about improving my racing techniques and achieving a better time.

But the real thing is that I have been very frustrated and anxious about my swimming recently, so the prospect of a competition, which might show diminished abilities, was scary.

I think it is the return to full-time work combined with regularly ramping up the swimming yardage--a bargain at twice the price--that was wiping me out. But you know how all that goes: you feel tired, so then you don't swim well, but then because you feel tired, you feel doubly shitty about the whole thing. And then (because you're tired) you freak out about it, and then have trouble sleeping (causing guess what).

In the best of all possible worlds, my coach would have seen all this going on and offered me some of those peppy encouraging words that coaches seem to live and breathe, but I don't think he knew what was up until I told him. Then he was very nice, but this was after the crisis had abated, because who wants to admit a crisis in the middle of one?

But in part because of the meet, and in part because of some solutions I have come up with to make all this work better, and in part because I think walls can only stand up to so much head-bashing, these feelings are passing, and I have renewed (if revised) hope for my season.

And May 11 is a long way off.

Meet Report #1

I have made it over the hurdle of competing in my first kids' swim meet as a non-kid. This is not unheard of: there are not very many Masters meets in this area, so adults who want to be competitive often have to swim in the Open Division at the USA Swimming meets. But still: it feels a little dorky to be at least twice the age of anyone else in the pool. And besides: the meet was in a 25 METER pool, and we train yards, which means every race feels about 10% worse than you expect.

So yesterday morning was the 3rd Annual Anderson Swim Club Early Season Invite, and there I was along with all the kids from our team, in my team cap and team suit. Too bad I was warming up with the 12 & unders, so taller (and wider) than anyone by quite a bit.

But once things got going, it wasn't so bad. The kids on the team were great about wishing me luck, just as they do each other. Plus, I won my heat in my first event, so that was a good start. (Too bad there were no Heat Winner ribbons!)

The bad news is that it was 5 events in about 4 hours. To race 550 yards in that amount of time may not sound too bad, but really it was. Or I should say, it was bad for me: when I saw all the kids at Frodo's Pizza (yes, I know) afterwards, they seemed unfazed. Lucky them. We'll see how they feel in about 20 years.

Anyway, we started off with the 50 free, then the 100 butterfly of death, then the 100 breaststroke, then 100 backstroke (please: I have the worst backstroke on the team, if not the planet), then (for good measure) 200 IM--which would have been sooooooooo much better at an earlier point in the meet.

I was very pleased with my time in the 100 breaststroke, which, if converted to a yards time, was about nine-tenths of a second faster than my best time in that event last year--pretty good for the very beginning of the season, especially since I trained so sporadically over the summer. I think the bonus 10% helped me in that race, since I am more accustomed to racing the 200.

Let's face it: the 100 fly sucked. The PP claims that I looked strong all the way through, but he was just being nice.

100 back? It was all down hill (if a pool can be such) after I emerged from my ass-kicking underwater streamlines, off the start and every turn.

And for the 200 IM, I felt pretty good during the fly and breast segments, but I was just too wiped out to pull out a decent free leg in the last 50.

But so it goes: it's the beginning of the season.

50M FR: 33.92
100M FL: 1:29.02
100M BR: 1:28.52
100M BA: 1:35.67
200M IM: 3:12.10

Onward to the Clemson Classic, just two weeks away.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Do you know what it means?

Tim says it's OK to keep writing about mix tapes. If you're sick of it, well, sorry: I am trying to stop.

And he posted recently about our dearly beloved drowned out city. I admit that my own experience there has been all too brief, although as a friend I was there with commented on the morning we were leaving, while we were sitting in the train station, "we did have a little conversation, and we did drink a little red wine, and we did catch a little bit of them cajun girls dancin' the zydeco."

To which the only fair response really was, "Et toi!"

But although heard some fine music that trip, that same friend never convinced us to go on the voodoo ghost tour that a former student of hers--and one who could be trusted--had recommended so highly. I wonder what that will be like, when the city reopens for tourism, which I understand is about to happen.

Anyway, last week I made (you guessed it) a mix tape (really a playlist and then a shortened CD version) with the things that I had had to pull up and listen to, even though some of them were so upsetting in a new way. Maybe it is indicative of a shared cultural heritage that I named my CD the same thing Tim named his post. Or maybe it isn't: when I finally went to post it at Art of the Mix I found that someone had beaten me to the punch, though of course I believe my mix is better.

So here it is:


Louis Armstrong, "Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?"
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, "Amazing Grace"
Henry Ratcliff, "Louisiana"
Professor Longhair, "Go to the Mardi Gras"
Dr. John, "New Orleans"
Them, "Baby Please Don't Go"
Buckwheat Zydeco, "Zydeco tous pas tous"
Fats Domino, "Jambalaya"
The Rebirth Brass Band, "Do whatcha wanna"
Beau Jocque & his Zydeco Hi-Rollers, "Don't Tell Your Mama"
Beausoleil, "Zydeco Gris Gris"
Percy Mayfield, "Louisiana"
Zachary Richard, "Iko Iko"
Paul Simon, "That Was Your Mother"
Clifton Chenier, "Squeezebox Boogie"
Harry Connick, Jr., "Basin Street Blues"
Roy Orbison, "Blue Bayou"
David Roe & the Royal Rounders, "I Wish I Was in New Orleans"
Bessie Smith, "Backwater Blues"
Queen Ida & her Zydeco Band, "Sad, Lonesome and Blue"
Four Year Bender, "New Orleans Lament"
Arlo Guthrie, "City of New Orleans"
Doug Duffey, "New Orleans Rain"
The All-Star Marching Band, "Didn't He Ramble"
Evan Christopher's Clarinet Road, "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?"

If you don't know the Henry Ratcliff song, it is a field holler recorded in 1959 at Parchman Farm in Mississippi--now available as part of the Southern Journey series of the Alan Lomax Collection. Those work songs, of course, represent the blending of West African heritage and North American experience that made the Blues--these are the chronicles LeRoi Jones (now Amiri Baraka) wrote about in Blues People.

There are obvious gaps: I couldn't find the version of "House of the Rising Sun" that I wanted, and there are no Neville Brothers, no Preservation Hall Brass Band, no Clarence Gatemouth Brown. Missing New Orleans indeed. And even though the all-day train I took to New Orleans was NOT the City of New Orleans, I always blend the two in mind. Earlier this week, lying groggily in bed, I fleeted in and out of an NPR story about the plight of New Orleans musicians--many of them not Nevilles or Marsalises or Connick Jr.s--after the storm. I see now there have been many such stories--many with terrific audio links.

I dare you to listen to "Blue Bayou" after all these years without getting a little tight in your chest. Last weekend when I went home for my grandfather's 90th birthday party, I took a copy of the disc for my dad. Good timing, it turns out, because having flown into the Norfolk International Airport, I had the quintessential Peninsula experience: back-up in the bridge tunnel. So we drove around downtown Norfolk to another tunnel and then back onto the interstate. The whole time we are driving in the beautiful clear air with my dad's car windows down and his fancy sunroof open and blasting this CD.

"That song really isn't about missing a woman anymore, is it?" he said.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


You see what happens? I think to myself, I should really stop writing about mix tapes. I have just about exhausted that topic.

And then what? What is there to write about after mixtapes?

Well, look at the recent couple of posts. Nothing. That's right, nothing.

But let me say a word or two about what nothing signifies. Nothing could mean the things that happen when a person who has managed to escape the drolleries of the working world plunges back in, during the same couple of weeks when that person's swim coach is ramping up the practice yardage by doubling it each week. Or nothing could mean a grandfather's 90th birthday, and the required travel to attend, and thereby escaping web access to see some of the people who had attended a certain wedding, and we all know that you never get to talk to the people at your own wedding.

That place holder stands for all the time spent not only on the dumb wordgame that was for a time the pit into which my soul was poured in an almost sisyphean fashion, but also the need to read every article published about the plight of the people in New Orleans, and look at all the pictures just to make sure you don't forget, even though the media probably will.

And in place of this nothing there might have been something if a certain person's university/employer had not changed over its collaborative learning environment during that person's year away, meaning that tasks that were simple have to be relearned amidst much swearing and stomping around the room.

And do you, dear reader, have any idea how much fun it is to play with all your music once it is all happily stored there on your hard drive? How quickly you forget what all is in there? How easily those things that don't sort to the beginning or ending of the alphabet disappear, only pleading to be searched for?

Did I mention I have been swimming my fool head off?

So forgive me, please, for having had nothing to say.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Monday, August 29, 2005


Try to keep this on the DL, will you?

Dear Boss,

In case you have been wondering about my productivity of late, I gift you with this:

Click here to play Make-A-Word word game, and TRY to score better!

That should count for something, shouldn't it?


Friday, August 26, 2005

Have you got anything without spam?

Forgive temporary blocking of comments. I'm getting rather a lot of comment spam at the moment.

All that's left behind.

A friend of mine has said, “I think that mix tapes create a network of influence and obligation. The better the mix tape, the greater the chance it will change your life.”

Interestingly enough, I have four tapes from that friend, and one changed life. In fact, that life has been pulled and pushed and tweaked and twisted, just by those tapes.

These are tapes that know how to build a world, wrench it out from under you with a brilliant segue, then put you right back into it so that you could understand it for real this time, just in time to have it altered again.

Sometimes they would give you a song that let you know how incomplete the world you knew was, how much you were starving for this wilder, richer, sometimes quieter world, where there was room for your head to spread out and consider things you were mostly ignoring before.

Or sometimes they would give you a song you thought you knew, but sandwiched in a place that made you realize you had missed the whole point, but now you could see it.

The world they made is not one that anyone would want to leave, and yet it was a world that for years I could not bear to visit, because when I stepped into it I could not but remember how I had tainted that world by not knowing how to live in it.

It was a world of gifts, where every little piece, every relationship, every melody or dissonance, every call to arms, every musical joke, every repetition or resonance or version--“every scratch, every click, every heartbeat”--every sound matters, every one gives you an insight, or represents an invitation, an evocation.

Now, years hence, these tapes each represent a different world, and really a different me who could listen to them differently than I can listen to music now, with a sense that I was capable of accepting invitations.

And where would I be now without them? Not just without the music, which I do not say lightly, because these tapes let me really hear jazz for the first time, and they showed me how jazz and classical and pop and whatever we were calling alternative then spoke to one another, and they gave me pieces that have become a profound part of my psyche. And not just without having had my curatorial sense enriched by what someone could do with music he loves, or my taste influenced by what is amassed on these magnetic strips, or my sensory networks shaped by how these songs sing to the music in my head. But where would I be without being able to go back into that created world, and that distant time, and that earlier version of me? What if this whole sense of what it felt like to be alive then were no longer available? What if I were no longer obligated to this very real and crucial piece of my past?

Thanks, Tim, for four amazing tapes. Thanks for kicking my musical ass with the back-and-forth of Sonic Youth and Hilliard Ensemble on "Polyphonic Youth." Thanks for insisting that I get a copy of Górecki’s third symphony. Thanks for letting me in on what you have heard. And thanks especially for the worlds that “The Skies and A Sweet Caress” and “The Knotted Chord” let me live in for a time and still allow me to visit.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Unrealized potential.

I am sad to report that the Weather Channel Blog has not reached its full potential. Yes, there are entries from a variety of weather experts, and yes I am pleased to see that Jim Cantore has on his Weather-Is-Serious face.

And really I was downright thrilled to see that the most recent entry is from none other than my meteorological hero, Stephanie Abrams.

But all that said, I just don't think the Weather Channel understands what blogging is about.

Blogging really is not just a feeder for your website or your TV channel: unlike the new Barbie movie, it should not be about just another product tie-in.

Tony Pierce has noted that you really should not blog about the weather unless it is something serious or part of a good story or a a lead up to really hot sex.

But the Weather Channel is still figuring out their potential, even though the station came on the air for 23 years.

Mark Strand knows that the weather matters. "That's all / There was to it. No more than a solemn waking / To brevity, to the lifting and falling away of attention, swiftly, / A time between times, a flowerless funeral," he wrote in "A Piece of the Storm."

Mrs. Dalloway opens her day wondering whether it will be fine for her party. Weather is about the passing of time and the fading (weathering) of things. It is also something we talk about to pass the time. It is beyond our control but flavors the happenings of our days. It is the way that the present and the future interact, although it is rarely mentioned when unturbulent.

The best blogs give you a flavor of a life, regardless of whether you know the person writing or don't, and regardless of whether that blog is, as Jarrett has said, an "I brushed my teeth today" blog, a political or economic blog, a series of musings on various topics, a blog obsessed with music or cooking or movies or babies or houseplants. Weather should be no exception. Surely we could get some flavor on that blog, couldn't we?

Here are just a few ideas for future entries:
1. A list of suggestions for what to do with your sinuses when a low pressure rolls in.
2. True rants of the househusband plagued by mildew and mold after the most humid summer on record.
3. Exclusive Insight for Southerners: what it feels like when your nostrils freeze--and when they thaw out.
4. Why it is not a good idea to go surfing when a tropical storm is rolling in, even though you see people doing just that in the background of the Florida footage.
5. What Landslides Mean for You, and Your Pets.
6. My Obsession with Tracking Hurricanes, even though I don't live on the coast (A True Story).

Are you listening Weather Channel? I've already got my very own Weather Channel mug, and I would kill for one of those jackets.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Truly Fine Compilations.

The first tape I got from my main homey Mike D. (a special individual) was called "Tunes from Clemmons," because that was where he lived, and he sent me the tape from home while we were all on summer break, after my freshman year in college. After the intense social interaction of college, which in itself was a revelation after the doldrums of high school, summertime was dull, lonely, filled mostly with a summer job that I hated and a commute to said job that I hated even more.

So Mike's tape, with the multi-page handwritten explanatory notes was an amazing break from that boredom. I suppose any letter from a friend would have been, but Mike's tapes, as I would continue to learn over the years, were themselves a blast from a richer and more complicated world than I had imagined in my pop-music listening.

I still have never been to Clemmons, but he insisted that it was near Winston-Salem. Singing lyrics by Woody Guthrie, Wilco insisted that everything in Winston-Salem is against the law, and given what I now know if it, I don't doubt that, but because of "Tunes from Clemmons," my first impression of the place was that while all I could get my hands on in my hometown was a tape of Velvet Underground rarities, or Peter Gabriel singing in German, or Brian Eno ambience, or some of David Byrne's music for stage plays, Clemmons seemed to hold Pere Ubu, and They Might Be Giants, Mary's Danish, Michelle Shocked, and Brave Combo.

Clemmons sounded pretty good to me.

Now I can't find those liner notes: I bet they are in my vast archive of letters, but that lives at my parents' house, so I am not going to lay my hands on it soon. But listening to that tape brings me back to that summer, and the moment where I realized that I had no idea how to find all the cool music in the world, unless I could keep Mike convinced that he should send me more tapes.

Lucky for me he did. Mike D. introduced me to Lyle Lovett, now a personal fave, on the only tape that could not be abbreviated TFC. I remember there was some joke that we got going about that abbreviation, and so from then on every compilation we sent each other had those initials.

Alas, Mike never listed the artists on his tape inserts, and none of his tapes have dates, so now it is almost impossible for me to reconstruct the exact sequence. But somewhere along the line he sent me "Tremendous Flying Carbuncles (Twenty-Four Canciones)," "Truly Funky Cows," "Trendy Feldspar Christmas" (which included Christmas tunes the likes of which I had not previously heard), "Truly Fine Covers" (including the Kronos Quartet doing "Lonely Woman" and Big Joe Williams' version of "Baby Please Don't Go," not to mention a bevy of songs whose originality or coverage I could not assess then or now), and "Talk, Funk, and one more Cover" (Mike speaks!).

Along the way in college, Mike and I each got radio shows, and the highlight in my book was when we did the New Orleans Mardi Gras theme show together, which featured music from and about New Orleans, not to mention Mike's linguistic factoids about creoles and such.

And because Mike studied abroad in Mexico, I got a distinctively Mexi-flavored compilation, and then, when he and his wife moved to Nijmegen, "The Netherlands: The Friendly Country," with some very fine El General, Soul Coughing, Spearhead and Zap Mama, Xavier Cugat, and Peter Tosh.

Mike is one of those people who I have not seen in years, but each time I have seen him (and his immensely cool and beautiful wife Laura), I have remembered why he was one of my very favorite college friends. I wrote to him recently to tell him that I would be visiting his fair city and that I wanted to see him and Laura and their 2 kids (who I've never met, but for the birth of the first one I sent them "Tunes for Children"). "Holy dookey!" Mike wrote back, and now the plans are laid. I can hardly wait.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Heavy cloud, also some rain.

Just now a cable repair guy drove down our street in his van, scoping out the damage. I think he was especially admiring the PP’s work propping up the part of the cable that had been drooping across our driveway.

I know the exact moment the tree fell across our street, because it was the very moment the cable TV went out. It is no surprise that I was watching the Weather Channel, checking up on the severe thunderstorm warning that was ticking its way across the bottom of the screen.

"Who are they warning?" the PP asked, because at that moment there was more rain and wind than I had seen since Ivan blew through last summer. Just about the time they were telling us to look out for nickel-sized hail and reminding us that lightning is a killer and we should get inside NOW, all was static.

Here is why:

We spent most of the storm standing in the carport trying to keep our sad drainage system draining. The little grates tend to get blocked up with pine needles and leaves and twigs, and then the water pools up. But this time, even after the PP had pulled the grate off, the water could not drain because the pvc pipe that runs under our sidewalk and dumps the driveway water into the backyard was at capacity.

Between that drainage, and the less engineered drainage from our neighbors behind us, it was not long before our backyard was a stream bed. Luckily it flows around the compost pile, so all the rotting goodies stayed put.

There was enough wind that you could see the rain being driven over the hood of our parked car, and over the peak of our gardening shed.

The good thing is that it was only the cable TV that went out, because there was a cable drooping low across our driveway, and as we were walking back toward the house, the PP hit it with his head.

His head!

But no one will hit the cable with their head now!

Of course by that time the power was out, too, which turned the evening into a real neighborhood social event, with everyone in the streets and in their yards clearing branches, chainsaws a-revvin’.

But I don't think the cable is coming back soon. Maybe this will cure us of our recent Law & Order binge.

Cindy tells me.

It will be no surprise to readers of this blog that I spend too much time thinking about pop music. Or that I have spent too much money on same.

But now that I have hooked into one of the vast ethereal jukeboxes, and I am deep in the midst of digitally reconstructing many of the wonderful mixtapes that I have received from friends over the years, and that are only a play or two away from self-destruction, I want to pay tribute to those friends.

I'll start with Cindy, because there are more of her tapes on my shelves than anyone else's.

Only Cindy would give me a tape titled "More Music You Probably Already Have or Couldn't Care Less About Anyway." She gave me that tape in 1988, and it may single-handedly have been responsible for setting me on the path of alternative music. Maybe even though you know me well, you don't know her well enough to know that I did not already have any of the tracks on there, and that I have listened to the tape so many times that those tracks have etched their way into my brain. Those are the lyrics that pop into my head to help me understand confusing behavior on the part of colleagues, boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, parents. I am talking about Boomtown Rats, James Brown, Dead Milkmen, OMD, Cheap Trick, Monty Python.

I may owe Cindy a huge debt for building my camp sensibility. I am thinking here about "Better than K-tel, it's HITS OF THE 70s" and "Cindy's 70s Favorites, vol. 2." Mind you, she made these tapes before disco was cool again. Wait, was disco ever cool again? Regardless, thanks to Cindy, "Ring My Bell" is one of my all-time favs, and the first song I wanted to hear after I decided to get married was "Wedding Bell Blues." Not to mention that stupid melting cake in "MacArthur Park" and the sheer oddness of Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy," when you think about it.

I have some fabulous birthday tapes from Cindy, the first of which was "Oh, You're Going to Hate Me for This One," whose homemade jacket featured a clipped out picture of the Rocky Horror cast asking me not to look at the track listing until I had listened to the thing. Side One was Sex & Violence (several years before the Talking Heads tune) and Side Two "Love and Other Silly Stuff." Iggy Pop, Love and Rockets, Kate Bush, Squeeze, Oingo Boingo, with a little David Lee Roth and Cyndi Lauper thrown in for grins.

Cindy introduced me to early-90s dance music before I had any idea it was there--Black Box, Deeee-Lite, Monie Love, mixed in with King Missile for contrast.

Cindy and I went to about a million concerts together. We were sure that Michael Hutchence was singing to us, and very amused with ourselves for being such idiots. We edged our way to the front of B-52s and Indigo Girls shows, danced like crazy during They Might Be Giants and Dead Milkmen shows, and generally acted like idiots for the Tom Tom Club.

Thinking about Cindy convinces me that all those people who say only boys were into making mixtapes and coming up with lists of theme songs had no idea what was going on. But who cares, ultimately. I can thank Cindy for much of the best music in my life (and the worst--heh).

After a while Cindy and I fell out of touch. Then a few years later she wrote to me, from out of the blue, and sent me an mp3 of "Free Me From My Freedom," a song that had featured highly in a million jokes, although I don't remember how any of that started. I wrote to her, because I was thrilled to hear from her, but then I dropped the e-ball. I feel like a shmuck for that.

So I suppose in this post I am working up my nerve to write to her again.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Friday, August 12, 2005

And my LP records, and they're all scratched.

I know you would want to know that how I spend my spare time these days is making mixes. You know, the problem with digital music is that the mix making goes so much FASTER than it did, back in the day of tape decks and stops and starts and trying to make sure you didn't accidentally get a snippet of the beginning of the next song in there.

Yes, it is a problem, because making a mix used to be a real labor of love, emphasis on labor. To make a tape for someone meant, assuming a 90-minute tape, that you spent at least a couple of hours ont eh venture, not counting the time you spent searching through your CDs or tapes or records or all three for just the right songs and, more importantly, the good segues. Now you can try and retry with a drag and drop. If a transition doesn't work, just cut the song and try another--no rewinding of the tape, trying not to get too much space left in there or leftover noise.

But fuck it, it is still fun.

Here is the latest. At the request of another Art of the Mix patron, "Well, can you or can't you?"

How can you say no to someone who made a mix called "A Ukelele Interlude"?

Buon appetito.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


OK, so not so complete after all. I got a new Pietra Montecorvino CD in the mail today, and I discovered a few discs I had missed, including More Songs About Buildings and Food, hiding out in my glove compartment, and Paul's Boutique, which I was sure I had lost.

New totals: 10,266 tracks and 38.2 GB.

(And don't worry: I will not post an APB every time I buy a new CD.)

Adventures in playlists, pt. 1.

I absolutely love the playlist feature in my now digital music collection. I have been playing with relationships between songs. So far I have not made it any further than being amused by what I can find in alphabetical order.

So the first results of my playing, "Attenzione: A Few Do's and Don'ts," is up at Art of the Mix.

I will note right now that the mix I posted there is an attempt at hitting the true CD length. I have a supersonic bonus mix that would go way further, and that still cannot encompass all the Don'ts, which far outnumber the Do's. Hmmmm.


When I say "finito," I do not mean it in the sense that Italian restaurant proprietors use it, to say that, for instance, the porcini mushrooms are finished, meaning gone, whether for the night or the season.

Rather, I mean to say that it is official: I have ripped all my CDs onto my computer. I suppose I should clarify and say that about a half-dozen did not allow ripping--annoying, of course.

As expected, the classical discs went much more slowly than the others because I had a lot of tinkering to do with the fields that appear in the track list on my screen. I decided to skip the advanced tagging at this point, although at some later point I may go back and add more detailed information about record label, conductors, performers, nature of ensembles, etc. For now I tried to get as much as possible into the tags that are visible on screen. This means using the "artist" track to give information about performers (including soloists, conductors, and ensembles--but within reason), the "album" field to say who the composer is (except for on CDs featuring music of many composers, where I had to give the composer at the beginning of the track name), and the "title" field to name the piece, the movement, and usually the tempo.

According to the Creative MediaSource Organizer, I have 10,212 tracks. This does not include the 700+ digital files on my work computer that I need to bring home gradually. According to Microsoft Explorer, I have 38.1 GB in my "My Music" folder. I will be eager to see whether all that can fit on my Zen Touch.

Now to play with the music! I am very excited about the possibilities for playlist creation, and also to have everything in one place.