Thursday, January 28, 2010

5 Thoughts On A Thursday

1) I went into the bathroom this morning at 5:00 am to take a shower, only to find not one but two cats in the bathtub. They took one look at me and then bolted for the door, both with very furtive and guilty looks on their faces. (Tub was clean, though...)

2) Howard Zinn is dead. So is J.D. Salinger. "These things always happen in threes." chimes in Robyn. Who'll be the next to kick the bucket? I hope it's not Lou Reed.

3) Speaking of J.D. Salinger... The Catcher In The Rye, more than any other book that I have ever read, is the single book whose value is solely based upon when and how you read it. I remember reading during the summer between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college and being overwhelmingly unimpressed with whiny, sniveling Holden Caulfield. On the other hand, I have friends and acquaintances - people whose opinions I highly and deeply respect - who will swear by the power and the genius of The Catcher In The Rye. I think that it's just the absolute perfect novel to read when you're 15 and white and male and full of existential angst. But give me Joseph Heller's Catch-22 over it any day of the week.

4) But what are the most formative novels of your youth? Those books that you remember reading in the attic with the bubble gum smell while you're watching Sesame Street, or that novel that you just couldn't put down, even though that meant throwing up all over the school bus in the morning? I tried starting a blog posting about this almost a year ago, and this is the list I came up with:

1) The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien, 1994 (Joel, age 10)
2) The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane, 1996 (age 12)
3) The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1999 (age 15)
4) Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte, 2001 (age 17)
5) The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoevsky, 2003 (age 19)

This should be a longer, independent post, about how it's important to take into account the entire environment within which you exist whenever you encounter a book. Because, you know, Wuthering Heights is actually quite absurd, even though he completely rocked my world when I first read it.

5) You know what's kind of messed up? I'm sitting here eating Mesquite Flavored potato chips while I'm watching "BBQ Pitmasters" on TLC. This is making me so hungry, watching them cook chicken, ribs, pulled pork. Look at me. I'm drooling.

P.S. - got for more awesome comics. All comics by Kate Beaton.

Hehehehe... "I bet you're not here because of Faust."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Un-Live Blogging The State of the Union

8:10 pm - I like it when Joe Biden cheers. He is cheering louder than everyone else, and you can hear his voice over the TV. It reminds me of that scene in "Rome" when Titus Pollo is cheering for Caesar louder than anyone else, even though he is actually cheering because he knows that Caesar's son is actually his own. That's a metaphor.

8:11 pm - Yes! First historical reference: The First Battle of Bull Run. Despite initial setbacks, America always finds a way to rally and win in the end. Plus, we're gonna stick it to the South again.

8:13 pm - "1 in 10 Americans cannot find work." PBS cuts to Timothy Geithner. Booooo.....

8:15 pm - John McCain looks angry. Drink.

8:17 pm - "Americans deserve a government that embodies their strength." Biden just about lept out of his seat on that line. Seriously, he is psyched about this speech. He also keeps nodding and clapping when no else is.

8:18 pm - "I hate the bank bail-out... The bank bail-out is as popular as a root canal." Zing! Cut to Geihtner. (Booooo.... "He's a witch!" "Burn him!" "Make a bridge out of him!")

8:21 pm - The Republicans refused to applaud when Obama talked about tax cuts, and he called them out on it. He's gotten as many laughs as he has rounds of applause so far. He looks to me like he's relaxed and having fun. Or maybe he's just being flippant. You say tomato, I say vodka.

8:24 pm - "Jobs must be our #1 focus in 2010." The Republicans are applauding that one.

8:26 pm - John Boehner has the worst fake tan ever.

8:29 pm - "I want a jobs bill on my desk right away." The House Democrats are applauding that like crazy, and are way more excited than their Senate counterparts. I know that other people have said this before, but why is the U.S. Senate the only legislative body where you cannot pass bills with a simple majority, but some kind of mysterious and sacred "super majority"?

8:32 pm - "I am not interested in punishing banks." Cut to Chris Dodd. The ball is in your court now, Eyebrows.

8:33 pm - I like that Obama is calling out the Senate while he praises the House for passing necessary legislation. It is squarely on Harry Reid's shoulders to get something done, and he, so far, as proved to not be up to that task at all.

8:35 pm - "I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year." That's 3, Reid.

8:36 pm - "I know some disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on global warming." Zing! Obama can be so sassy sometimes. Especially when he's trying really hard not to be pissed.

8:41 pm - Education reform. Again, the major theme so far seems to be that, while the House has been getting things done, the Senate has just been sitting on their... hands.

8:42 pm - "I asked Vice President Biden to chair a taskforce on middle class families." Cut to Biden: "Oh, shit! I completely forgot to do that!"

8:43 pm - Healthcare. Bum bum bum. "First, let's clear some things up." Run laugh tracks.

8:45 pm - I like it when Michelle Obama smirks and glares at her husband. "She gets embarrassed," he says, to a laugh. I think she's just criticizing him with her eyes.

8:48 pm - Mitch McConnell looks like a turtle.

8:49 pm - The national debt. Also known as the, "Why George Bush Sucks" part of the speech. Cut to John McCain. He's laughing.

8:51 pm - Woah. PBS just cut to a crazy roof camera shot. That just gave some wicked vertigo.

8:54 pm - That was weird. Obama just announced a spending freeze to huge applause, and then, after the applause, said that it would begin... next year. Then everyone laughed. Very surreal.

8:56 pm - The local PBS channel just cut out. Switching to ABC.

8:57 pm - Calling out the Supreme Court on allowing unlimited corporate investments in political elections. Then everyone stands and applauds: Shame! Shame on you Supreme Court! Seriously, though. You guys do suck.

9:02 pm - Awesome, calling out the Republicans. Robyn hears a boo or two.

9:04 pm - Switching to foreign policy. Shot of Janet Napolitano looking worried.

9:05 pm - Al Franken is sitting right behind the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For a second, I thought that he was a general. That would be weird. And awesome.

9:06 pm - "This war is ending, and all our troops are coming home." Applause from both sides of the aisle. Joe Lieberman looks sad.

9:10 pm - I love it when they cut to the scan camera and you can see that all of the Senators who are not standing and applauding are madly Twittering away.

9:13 pm - Obama just promised to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. ABC cut to the Joint of Chiefs of Staff all looking very stern and army-y and not gay at all so don't even think about it. (Except for maybe Al Franken.)

9:16 pm - Hmmmm... probably not the best idea to title your speech, "2010: We're Starting to Lose Faith."

9:17 pm - That dude was totally picking his nose.

9:20 pm - Obama just looked at the camera for the first time in his speech at the very, very end of the whole thing. The man definitely grew up in the age of television.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What I Am Reading (or Have Recently Read)

From the Desk of: Joel

1) "When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present," by Gail Collins

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present

"Gail Collins's When Everything Changed points out what the women on "Mad Men" know: that period in our history was less enjoyable for the ladies.... The early pages of Ms. Collins's book are peppered with accounts of incidents so outrageous they almost seem like jokes....but Ms. Collins underlines the serious consequences of such risible moments by including the stories of individual women-from overworked housewives to marginalized politicians-whose lives were cramped and deformed by the culture's low opinion of their capabilities.... Ms. Collins reminds us of how many aspects of our lives were affected by the battles these women fought. And even readers who lived through this era may be surprised to discover how much they never knew, or have forgotten" (New York Times Francine Prose )

2) "The Portrait of a Lady," by Henry James

The Portrait of a Lady (Penguin Classics)
"Rich people and the traps that they set for themselves. I had a hard time relating to the subject matter.
Henry James is an excellent author, his cheracters are vivid, his stories very well written but Mr. James was born into money and it shows all through this story.
I found the frequent use of French phrases and expressions inconvenient because I had to keep referring to the appendix to be able to follow the story.
Although I enjoyed the story, my enjoyment was tinged with the impression that the people in the story had too much time on their hands and were in need of more constructive pursuits than meddling in the lives of others." ( Customer Review)

3) "Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege" by Antony Beevor

Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943
"Antony Beevor's thoughtfully researched compendium recalls this epic struggle for Stalingrad. No one, least of all the Germans, could foretell the deep well of Soviet resolve that would become the foundation of the Red Army; Russia, the Germans believed, would fall as swiftly as France and Poland. The ill-prepared Nazi forces were trapped in a bloody war of attrition against the Russian behemoth, which held them in the pit of Stalingrad for nearly two years." (Official Review)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

5 Thoughts On A Thursday

From the Desk of: Joel

1) Last week, I received an e-mail from Vice President Joe Biden that had the title, "We Want Our Money Back," and I was worried for a minute because I couldn't remember when exactly I had borrowed money from Joe Biden.

2) On a related note, sure it sucks that the Democrat Martha Coakley lost Ted Kennedy's old senate seat to Republican firebrand Scott Brown this week. But I tend to agree with the theory that the Democratic Party hasn't exactly been doing much to inspire any confidence in them on behalf of the electorate, and just maybe getting their asses handed to them in Massachusetts will light a fire under their asses and make them get their asses in gear. Because that's why they're asses.

3) In other words, I guess that I agree with when he says:

But probably the most fundamental reason for Coakley's loss is that the Democrats were elected in 2008 to provide change and failed to do it. When the banks collapsed due to their own recklessness, they were bailed out. When the auto industry came begging, it was bailed out. The health-insurance bill battle dragged on and on, in no small part because Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) was desperate to get one Republican vote. For a lot of people, the Democrats care as little for them as the Republicans do and they were punished for that.
Also, as Gail Collins says, "On the one hand, the Republicans have a new superstar, Scott Brown, the senator-elect from Massachusetts. On the other, he’s already beginning to come off as a little strange."

4) My favorite pirate movies as of this moment:
1) Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
2) Cutthroat Island
3) Captain Blood
4) Muppet Treasure Island
5) Pirates XXX*

5) Tim Curry playlist!

* I honestly have not seen this film, yet. I'm just more fascinated with the concept.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sports Give Our Lives Meaning!

From the desk of: Joel

Well, that sure was a stupid ending to the College Football season....

I tuned in for the first half of the Alabama-Texas game, slightly supporting Texas because I hear that Austin is a cool town and they have several excellent Nietzsche scholars there. But I turned it off at halftime after their poor, deer-in-the-headlights freshman QB turned the ball over and gave Alabama a 24-6 lead. Yawn. I guess that the Longhorns made something of a game of it later, but still, the fact of the matter is that the SEC has now won four straight national championships. I believe that the SEC is overrated, and that they get an unfair advantage in the rankings, but until somebody beats them on the field, it's really all just sound and fury.

It's kind of the same with the Pac-10. I watched the Rose Bowl from our friends' house in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Nobody cared about the game but me, and I was jumping all over the room, yelling and screaming at the television while everyone was made fun of me and played Presidents and Assholes. The point is that, while I still believe that the Ducks are better than Ohio State, and that they played a bad game, and they were jinxed by their stupid white helmets, the fact is that they lost. Add that to the Pac-10's 2-5 record in bowls this year, including blowout losses by the Beavers against BYU and Arizona against Nebraska, and it looks like we're in for yet another year of people ignoring the Pac-10 and/or saying derogatory things about it. Oh, well.

So, on to the next sport! The Blazers beat the Lakers last night! And are right behind Denver in their division, despite playing without half of their team! Go buy your Juwan Howard jerseys, quick!

Also, for those of you who were wondering, St. Augustine of Hippo defeated Simone de Beauvoir to win the Ultimate Philosophers Championship this year. It was epic.

Also, Stupid White Helmets:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Baby Fight Fail

From The Desk Of: Joel

I was sitting in the lobby at a doctor's office this afternoon (don't worry, I'm fine) watching a young mother pacing back and forth and bouncing her cute little baby girl in her arms. From where I was sitting, I could look around a corner and see another mom walking back and forth holding her (only slightly) older son. This second mom then turned and was about to enter the room where the first mom and her child were standing, unawares. "This will be great!" I thought to myself, "Those babies are totally going to freak out and go berserk when they turn that corner and see each other! Hilarious!" But then I realized that this was a behavior more common among cats or small dogs, and not young children, and I became gravely disappointed.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010: Living in the Future

From The Desk Of: Joel

Happy New Year's! Robyn and I got back from a rather epic holiday adventure on the East Coast, and have had a rather nice day spent running errands and trying to endure the bitter and uncommon cold here in Urbana, Illinois. (A very big thanks to everyone who let us crash on their couches, by the way!) I go back to work tomorrow, and get to have more adventures chasing the darling children around the room.

When I was a kid, I used to despise New Year's because of the whole "New Year's Resolutions" thing. My attitude towards the situation was heavily influenced - some may say inspired - by Calvin's belief that the world should change to fit my needs, not the other way around. I'm perfect just the way I am; if other people didn't agree, then that sounded like their problem (not to mention, shortsightedness!). But as I've grown older, more mature, larger assed, I've come to see what everybody's been talking about all these years!

Now, I happily embrace the holiday as a chance to take part in the time-worn tradition of refashioning one's self anyway you choose! It doesn't matter how often you've failed in the past, or how completely against your nature your New Year's Resolution happens to be, you can still accomplish anything if you but set your mind to it!

So, with that in mind, here a few of my resolutions for 2010:

1) Write. Write every day, whether in a journal, on a blog, a cocktail napkin, whether it's the deepest insight ever known to mankind or just flat-out copying out of the phone book. But, yes, write every day.

2) Get better at correspondence. This is one of those resolutions that I've made year in and year out and have never come close to fulfilling, but, then again, that's another wonderful thing about New Year's, isn't it? Still, I am and always have been terrible at responding in any timely fashion to letters, e-mails, facebook messages, telegrams, homing pigeons, whatever. If you are one of those many people who have written me in the past several weeks, months, or years, and have never received a reply, I am terribly sorry. I resolve to respond.

3) One word: