Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thanks, Fall 09 Pop Culture Learning Community

Thanks to everyone in Professor Simon's and my Fall '09 Learning Community, "Don't Believe the Hype": Reading and Writing about Popular Culture, for a great job blogging this semester. Students did eleven blog entries in addition to our 9 graded essays and revisions. For perspective on that amount of writing: the collegewide course requirements for the writing half of our learning community call for a total of 10 writing assignments. LCers, you doubled that, and that doesn't even include in-class writing or portfolio essay revisions. Great job; shake out those fingers.

Visitors, check out the LCers' final blog entries (for the class, hopefully not for forever) under "Links", which provide an overview of our semester.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Blog entry for Wednesday, Dec. 2

For this blog entry, reflect on the entire learning community--the reading and writing parts of the coruse--so far. Discuss the skills that you have had the most success learning about, skills that remain difficult for you, and what aspects of the learning community you have found most and least enjoyable. Be specific: talk about particular readings, videos, activities, assignments, essays, chapters, etc. The purpose of the reflection in this blog entry is to help you prepare your mind and spirit for your final portfolios and tests. Sharing your reflection will also help your classmates prepare.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What I learned from King Corn and Chew On This

Besides learning that I'm kind of homesick for Iowa, but kind of not, I learned that basically, many of the environmental, economic/labor, and health issues are the fault of soda, or as I would have said in Iowa, "pop." I also learned that the problem is huge and involves lots of money, so it's not going to go away any time soon. Farmers are subsidized to grow more and more and more corn every year, so there's always a surplus, which means that they can make corn syrup really cheaply, and Pepsi and Coke can make tons of money. Oh, and we all get diabetes. Oops.

In addition, because all that cheap corn is lying around, we can fatten cows up really quickly and thoroughly (by keeping them in confinement feedlots and feeding them corn all the time), and it makes really fatty meat. Plus it produces soooo much waste. The feedlot in King Corn produced as much wasate as a city of 1.7 million people. Isn't methane from farm animal manure contributing to global warming, too? I think Al Gore told me that.

I have really been trying to stop drinking soda for health reasons, but now I think it's kind of an ethical issue. I don't want to give them my money any more. It just feeds the corn machine. Completely by coincidence, when I was in Whole Foods today, they were giving samples of Snowville Creamery Milk, which comes from grass-fed cows in Ohio. It's non-homogenized (meaning the cream still rises to the top), pasteurized at lower temperatures, and bottled on the farm then shipped to grocery stores the same day. It tasted really, really good, kind of creamier than the milk I usually get (which is already organic and all that, but not grass fed. I got some for Daphne. $3.19 a gallon... I don't think that's that much more expensive than other milk, is it? I'm also going to shop at my local farmer's market more--I got some apples from there last week, and they were like, 100 times better than ones from the grocery store, so I actually ate a few apples this week. Only had cafeteria pizza twice this week. Maybe by next semester I'll be writing, "I am hungry, so I will eat grass-fed organic beef."

Anyway, I'm going with grass-fed meat and milk from now on, and a complete moratorium on soda. If I find I can't afford as much meat, I'll just eat more veggies. I will do a grass-fed meat recipe this weekend and report here what it was like. (My parents had some grass-fed beef recently and they said they definitely could tell the difference... unfortunately, it's the fat in beef that makes it tasty (not the big chunks, but the tiny flecks in the grain of the meat itself), so it probably won't be as good, or as tender, unless i get dry-aged... but then we're looking at $20+ per pound, easy.

Blog entry assignment for Friday, 11/20

For Friday, blog about what you learned from King Corn and Chew on This, and what you can do to have an impact on the problems created by the way food is produced.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It takes two lyrics punctuated

I wanna rock right now. I'm Rob Base, and I came to get down. I'm not internationally know, but I'm known to rock the microphone because I get stupid, I mean outrageous. Stay away from me if you're contagious cause I'm the winner. No, I'm not the loser. To be an M.C. is what I choose. Ladies love me. Girls adore me. I mean, even the ones who never saw me like the way that I rhyme at a show. The reason why? Man, I don't know, so let's go 'cause it takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta sight.

Hit it!

My name is Rob. I gotta real funky concept. Listen up 'cause I'm gonna keep you in step.
I got an idea that I wanna share. You don't like it? So what? I don't care. I'm number one, the uno. I like comp. Bring all the suckers 'cause all them I'll stomp. Bold and black, but I won't protect all of my followers 'cause all I want is respect. I'm not a doctor. Put them in rapture. A slick brother that can easy outfox ya cause I'm Rob, the last name Base, yeah, and on the mike, I'm known to be the freshest, so let's start. It shouldn't be too hard. I'm not a sucker, so I don't need a bodyguard. I won't fess, wear a bulletproof vest. Don't smoke buddha, can't stand cess, yes. It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta sight

Hit it!

The situation that the Base is in: I'm kinda stingy; that's why I don't wanna lend a funky rhyme to a foe or a good friend, but listen up 'cause I want you to comprehend cause I'm the leader, the man superior. I take care of ya and then ya get wearier, so just sit. my rhymes are not counterfeit. The record sells which makes this one a hit. It won't hurt to listen to Red Alert. Take off your shirt; make sure it don't hit the dirt. I like the kids--the guys, the girls. I want the ducats 'cause this is Rob Base's world. I'm on a mission. Ya better just listen to my rhymes 'cause I'm all about dissin' cause
it takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta sight.

Hit it!

I stand alone. Don't need anyone cause I'm Rob. Just came to have fun. Don't need friends that act like foes cause I'm Rob Base, the one who know about things that make ya get weary. Don't cheer me; just hear me out 'cause I got the clout. Shout (Ho!) before I turn the party out. I won't stutter.
Project my voice. Speak clearly, so you can be my choice on stage or on record. Go to the Wiz and select it. Take it off the rack. If it's wack, put it back. I like the Whopper; f### the Big Mac. If you want static, so let's go. So, throw up your hands. Go for what you know. Bro', I got an ego. Yo, talkin' to me? No. Oh. 'Cause Rob is in the front; EZ Rock is on the backup. We're not soft, so you better just slack up 'Cause I'm cool, calm just like a breeze. Rock the mike with the help of EZ
Rock on the set. The music plays; only cuts the records that I say. It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta sight.

Hit it!

All right, now, EZ Rock, now, when I count to three, I want you to get busy. You ready now?
One, two, three, get loose now!

It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta sight.

Hit it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blog entry assignment for Friday, 11/13 (Friday the 13th!)

1. Choose a song you like. 2. Write down the lyrics. 3. Punctuate the lyrics correctly as if the song were sentences. 4. Write the lyrics, correctly punctuated, in your blog entry.

Example: Now, when you bug out, you usually have a reason for the action. Sometimes you don't; it's just for pure satisfaction. ... etc. ("Buggin' Out," A Tribe Called Quest.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What I'm eating

Starting now, 9:45 p.m. on Tuesday: I just ate two chocolate truffles from Whole Foods, in bed. I put them in the freezer for a few minutes so they aren't so smushy. I got them as a treat for when my parents were in town last weekend. I'm also drinking my nightly liter bottle of Harris Teeter seltzer water. I have heard that the bubbles "leach away" nutrients, but I don't believe that. It's a good digestive after meals.

I didn't used to ever eat breakfast, but I've been starving in the morninglately. Wednesday and Thursday (and if they have it this morning, Friday) I had hashbrowns and bacon from the cafeteria. I switched to turkey bacon on Thursday. Supposedly healthier, but I don't know how anything that salty couldn't be bad for you. Also, the pork bacon was somehow dry and greasy at the same time. I eat breakfast on the walk from the cafeteria to my office. Plus coffee. I am down to two cups a day now, one at the apartment from the machine in the lobby (It's Starbucks!) and one at school... you know, the one you see me drink after MC Munchies opens up at 10. That fake Dunkin Donuts coffee in the cafeteria is foul.

I have a small but unhealthy lunch most days. I am hungry, so I eat pizza. (coordination) Because I am hungry, I eat pizza. (subordination) I am hungry; therefore, I eat pizza. (coordination with conjuctive adverb). One slice of sausage on Tuesday, pepperoni on Wednesday, cheese on Thursday. Plus I snack on nuts I keep in my office. A handful or two holds me over. I'm such an idiot, I even had pork chops to bring to work to eat, but I kept forgetting. Now I'll have to throw them away.

This week, all my colleagues had tons of leftover Halloween candy, so I ate too many Reeses, Mounds, and Sweet tarts to count. One day I must have had 10 Reeses in the afternoon.

Dinner--on Monday I made Moroccan spice-rubbed pork tenderloin with sauteed apples and zucchini. (had to get that in there cause I'm proud of myself.) Tuesday was some kind of leftover... I can't remember what it was. Wednesday, leftover pork tenderloin, apples/zucchini. I was surprised that my daughter didn't like that. I thought she would, but she spits it out. Thursday is sandwich night! We go to the Whole Foods after work and buy sandwiches, but I bought a piece of salmon out of the deli case and cooked some frozen mixed veggies with it. Daphne didn't like the salmon either; I was picking it up off the floor. Tonight I'm going to try to talk my wife into going to Trio's, a diner down the street. I want a hamburger.

Why did I eat so much pork this week?

Blog entry assignment for Friday, 11/6

This week, we'll start writing about food. To start with, keep track of everything you eat from now until Friday morning. Describe the food and your experience eating it, and offer whatever comment you have about it. This would be a good entry for do piece by piece, adding new foods and your thoughts frequently.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Erin Macklin's Point of View

When Erin Macklin meets Spenser in his office in Chapters 18 and 19 and he convinces her to help him navigate Boston's ghettos to find Devona's killer, I imagine that she might be a little suspicious of him. But they also seem to share a kind of understanding as they talk and drink whiskey. Maybe she was thinking things like this:

I went to Spenser's office because Susan told me I could trust him, but I was expecting him to be just another cop-type guy, looking to put my kids in jail. I was surprised that he understood so much of what the kids were going through. I could see that he gets that the kids aren't bad, just brought up wrong and living in a terrible environment. I didn't expect him to understand why kids shoot each other over girls or gold chains. The cops just think they're animals. But Spenser said, "something's got to matter," and I knew he got it. I decided to help him, for the kids. Not because I was flattered when I saw him looking at my legs even though he knows I'm friends with Susan and I used to be a nun. Really, men are all alike. Still, it was nice sitting in his warm office sharing a drink with a man who understands me and doesn't feel like he has to talk all the time. If he hurts one of my kids, I'll feel betrayed.

Blog entry assignment for Friday, 10/30

In class, we talked about how the story is affected by first-person narration from Spenser's point of view. To explore that effect, your assignment is to take one part of the story and tell it or describe it from a different character's point of view. For example, tell or talk about one of the confrontations between Hawk and Spenser and the gang... from Major's point of view, or Hawk's, or Jackie's. Or examine one of the times Spenser and Susan cook dinner... from Susan's point of view. Be sure to read to the end of the book in order to have many different parts of the story to choose from. You can use first-person to tell the story as if you were the character if you want, or you can discuss it in your own voice.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Double Deuce

I like all the snappy comebacks in Double Deuce--Spenser and Hawk never give a straight answer to anyone. It would be fun to be able to be that much of a wiseguy. I think that it is because of their jobs. They don't really answer to anyone, so they don't have to worry about offending people like Marge, or the police detectives. They do, apprently, have to worry about offending their girlfriends, though. I guess no one is immune from that.

I also think the portrayal of the "ghetto" in Double Deuce is unrealistic in just how completely barren of any humanity it is. Maybe things are just better now than they used to be, way back in the early 90s (but it feels more like 80s) but come on--the kids had never seen crayons and tried to eat them? Seems unlikely to me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What I read

I read all kinds of stuff all the time--newspapers, magazines, fiction, non-fiction, whatever, so I'm going to have to pick something. How about the 33 1/3 books? Those are a series of books about musical albums. (33 and a third rotations per minute is the speed a 12" record plays at on a turntable.) I've read two lately, about albums I like. One was good and one was terrible. The good one was about The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique. The book was full of all kinds of interesting background information: what the Beastie Boys were doing at the time (partying in Los Angeles), who the weirdos who produced the album were (The Dust Brothers and the reclusive DJ Matt Dike) and what they were like, what samples they used for the songs, how they wrote and recorded the songs. It really gives you a lot to think about when listening to the album. The bad one was about the Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime. It just rehashed the same old stale personal reactions about how cool the album was and how the author listened to it on cassette in his car. I had tons of questions about the album that weren't answered, and he just missed lots of things. Like, he speculates, song by song, about why they left certain songs off the album when they put it on CD... but if you look at the songs, you realize that THEY LEFT ALL THE COVER VERSIONS OF OTHER PEOPLE'S SONGS OFF! One book was written with readers in mind. The other seems to be written for the personal gratification of the author. That's fine, but don't publish it for people to buy then.

Blog entry assignment for Friday, 10/23/09

Two blog entries in a week--we're bloggin' like crazy.

For Friday, describe your reaction to reading the first part of Double Deuce. You could write about what you liked about it, what you didn't, what you could or couldn't relate to, the characters, your experience reading it... whatever!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blog entry assignment for Monday, 10/16

A Blog entry assigned for a Monday? Crazy!

For Monday, 10/16, discuss what you read in your spare time. Newspapers, magazines, novels? Which ones, which sections, what kinds? Stuff online? What sites? You can talk about things you've read recently, what you liked and didn't like about them, how you feel about reading in general, who your favorite writers are, what your favorite book is, etc. etc. Give specific examples.

S9 = S2

So the Metrobus drivers' union has told its members to follow ALL safety regulations no matter what--"don't give supervisors a reason to write you up." This means no passing other buses at stops, which means that an express bus that doesn't make all the stops... has to stop behind ones who do. At all the stops. S9 catches up to S2 and makes all the stops with it. Still, there are more buses running, so it's better than it was before there was an S9... door to door travel is still improved, and if you catch an S9 it's plush and less crowded. But it looks like the days of 30-minute door-to-door commutes between MC and DC are over for the time being. Oh well, I wasn't getting through the whole sports page anyway.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kolaches as folk culture

My family on my Mom's side is 100% Czech. (From what is now called the Czech Republic, but before the fall of communism was Czechoslovakia and before that was once Moravia and Bohemia. My family is Moravian. In the town where my mom grew up, they told "bohemie jokes," as "bohemie" is a disparaging term for Bohemians.

ANYway, around Christmas, my Mom and her sisters follow the tradition of making Kolaches. They are a kind of bready pastry, kind of like a breadier bagel, with an indentation in the middle for fruit filling, usually apricot, prune, or poppy seed. They are great for breakfast.

Not only does eating them remind us of our heritage--my Mom sometimes reminisces about her mom and her grandma making them, and all other kinds of Czech food they had in the house around Christmas--but the process of making them is also a tradition. This is beause they're not easy to make correctly. The dough has to be just right. It is easy for them to come out tough or flat. I should know--that's what happened when I try to make them. So knowing how to make them the right way is something my Mom and her sisters talk a lot about. For me, it means that upholding the tradition isn't jsut about deciding to make them. It's something you have to work at and learn.

Kolaches at wikipedia (Reading this, I was glad to see that my family pronounces it the old Czech way, not the Americanized way I've sometimes heard: a singular one is a "Kolach," not a "Kolachy."

Blog entry for Friday, 10/9

The Popular Culture Learning Community for Friday, October 9, is to write about a "folk culture" tradition you participate in. This can be a family, national, or other tradition.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Being Real on reality TV

Sometimes I think that the more obnoxious, mean, and stupid reality shows are, especially the competitive ones (what are the most over-the-top ones we can think of? Surreal World is pretty bad. For example, there was the time when Vern, who plays mini-me, got drunk. and the [whatever] of Love ones are too) the more "real" they really are. I feel like that when I'm in one of those moods where I'm feeling down on people and judgmental about them--when it seems like every third person I see is throwing candy wrappers in the street or swearing loudly at their kids or cutting me off with their BMW in the crosswalk. That's when it makes sense to me to see people acting the fool, exploiting each other, playing off stereotypes, and selling themselves short, all for a little bit of money. When I'm feeling like that, those shows can sometimes seem like an honest reflection of the way most people really are. But...


Blog assignment for Friday, 10-2

LCers - This week, let's write about "Reality TV." You can write about any of the shows we talked about in class last Friday... or if you can't think of any, you can write about the episode of "16 and Pregnant" we saw. Write on the following question: How "real" is reality TV? So you'll want to think of some ways it is "real," (more real than other kinds of TV?) or some ways it's not real. (Unreal? Fake?) Practice using examples from shows to support your points. For example, students in previous classes have had a good time with "Flava of Love" or "Rock of Love" with this one. If you think hard, there are some ways that even something so ridiculous as that show can be said to be "real" (Realistic?) OR I'll bet you can think of some ways that even a documentary on a serious subject, like "16 and Pregnant" can be a bit unrealistic. We want to move beyond last minute thoughts and get some good ideas down, but this is still an informal assignment. DO spend some time thinking and writing about this (and taking notes watching TV if that helps you. DON'T worry about being "wrong." DO try to develop your ideas with examples. DON'T worry about grammar. Have fun!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Straight Outta Iowa

I like all kinds of music--punk, jazz, rock, whatever--but lately I've been listening to lots of rap. Sometimes I feel weird about it because I'm not very hip-hop looking, sounding, or acting. I first got into it in about '86-'89, through the Beastie Boys, N.W.A., Public Enemy, Kool Moe Dee, Whodini, Cool J, and Native Tongue groups like Jungle Brothers, Tribe Called Quest, and especially De La Soul, who I still love today. I especially love sampling--grabbing bits and pieces of other songs, sometimes very unfunky songs, and rearranging them and/or scratching them to make them funky. For example, De La Soul managed to sample such square groups as Hall and Oates and actually make them funky. Another thing I love is that rap has always valued free speech. Sometimes that involves saying things that are controversial or offensive, but it's a place where people can express themselves without limits. A lot of the resulting free speech I choose not to listen to because I think it's hateful and unnecessary--for example songs that express hatred for gay people and even advocate violence against them. On the other hand, some of that speech takes place in songs that are undeniably funky, like Ice Cube's "Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself." I do like that song even though I think some of the things he says in it are just wrong to say.

I mostly listen to music on iPod (or on vinyl or through the computer at home) but when I'm in a Zipcar, I get to check out what's current on PGC or KYS. I like when they have DJs (like Quicksilver) actually mixing, on the lunch hour or after work. Does anybody know what time those shows are on or whether I can get podcasts of them? Not only is it fun to hear the DJ mixing, but they play old stuff you don't usually hear on the radio. But sometimes I get self-conscious when I pull up to a stoplight with the bass bumping, and I turn it down so I don't look like the guy from Malibu's Most Wanted.There's a hip hop show on WPFW (88.9) every night at 11, but I'm usually sleeping.

I also love to go see live music at clubs, especially the Black Cat. I've hardly seen any hip-hop shows live at all. I mostly go see punk and indie bands from "back in the day" (and kids, my "back in the day" is BACK. in the DAY.) I last saw the Waco Brothers at Iota on my birthday over labor day weekend. They're a country-punk-commie band with songs about unions. It was an afternoon show, so I could get home for dinner with the family. Before that, I saw the Breeders at the 9:30 club. That's Kim and Kelley Deal, twin sisters from Ohio, one of whom was in the very successful 80s-90s alternative band The Pixies. The other is a former drug addict, and her sister taught her to play guitar to give her something to do, and now they're a band. That was great too. They just played again at the Black Cat, but I didn't go. It's just too hard right now with my daughter, plus I only get to really hang out with her on the weekend and I don't want to miss that time.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Blog assignment 9/25/09

This week's Pop Culture Learning Community blog assignment is about music. What music do you listen to? Why? Where? How? Etc. Be sure to mention a particular song somewhere in your post. We will read each others' blogs in class on Friday and comment on some of your classmates' blogs. Of course, you can always comment on each others' blogs in advance of Friday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Watching TV this week

Watching TV ain't what it used to be.

I used to kick back, enjoy a cold beverage and some chips, flip through the digital listings, and set reminders for all manner of great viewing: sports! (not just football and hockey, but curiosities like Australian rules football and soccer.) Movies! (not just new movies but movies I'd seen again and again, like Pulp Fiction or Full Metal Jacket. IFC and Sundance, I love you.) A full hour of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert every night. Seinfeld and Simpsons reruns virtually whenever I wanted.

But now things are different. I have a daughter who goes to bed by 9:00 pm, and we still live in a one-bedroom apartment. I won't get into how this particular routine was decided on, but what it means is that we put baby Daphne to bed in the living room, where the TV is, and we go into the bedroom at 9:00. I've never been a TV-in-the-bedroom kind of person, so I don't see any TV that starts after 9:00. Further, when I do watch TV before 9:00, I'm never JUST watching TV. I'm either watching Daphne, which means reading with her, walking around and around the kitchen island with her, keeping her from banging her head into everything... or if I'm not on baby duty, I'm cooking or cleaning.

That means my attention is fragmented, which I don't get all the way into any TV show. Take the Redskins game last week for example. Normally, I'd be watching closely, ready to break into the theme song from Benny Hill as the latest bunch of multi-millionaire underachievers wearing the racist logo fall behind by a couple of touchdowns, then get it together just enough to make a frantic comeback in the second half but still lose. I'd be waiting for that entertaining shot of the latest coach/savior rubbing his face with his hands. (Norv Turner was my favorite--he always looked like he needed a laxative.)

Well, maybe not watching as much TV will make me a better person, less likely to take pleasure in the failure of others.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Blog Assignment for 9/18/09

This post is the blog assignment for the Fall 09 "Don't Believe The Hype" popular culture learning community. It is due on Friday, 9/18/09.

By friday, write a blog entry of at LEAST one well-developed paragraph on the following general topic: What thoughts do you have about the TV you have watched this week? (You can write on anything related to this topic that you want. If you want, use pictures, links, whatever!)

On friday, we will be looking at each other's blogs and commenting on them. Prof. Wahl and Prof. Simon will be doing their own blog entries too.

Have fun!!!


I ride the S9 now, not the S2. That changes everything.

the "9" busses are the express versions of busses on select routes. They make fewer stops, there are fewer riders, you get there faster... plus all the "9" busses are the new fancy ones with comfortable seats.

SOOOO much less interesting. Fewer drunks, crazy people, cross-cultural interactions. I don't even have to wear headphones anymore.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Diet and the Toxic Environment

What do I eat in a typical day? When I first considered the question, I thought that it would really depend on whether it was a weekend or weekday. On weekdays, I eat from the cafeteria at school, which really makes my diet much worse, I think, because I always have a big, greasy slice of sausage pizza, and often a Dr. Pepper. Also, on weekdays, I don't eat breakfast, which I guess is not good. If my wife remembers to actually put a banana in my hand before I leave for work, I will eat that on the bus, but that isn't a sure thing.

Well, this Saturday, when I think about it, my diet was just as bad. I did eat breakfast, but I ate Raisin Bran, which I'll bet has a bunch of sugar in it...and I always put sugar on top of that. I did have the banana too, but I would have been better off just having that. For lunch on my supposedly healthier weekend day? Frozen pizza, three slices! That and my cafeteria pizza? Definitely a product of the "Toxic Environment" described in Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me." Easy, quick, cheesy, and greasy. No dishes to clean, no tupperware to carry to work, no need to actually sit down at a table. I can gobble it down while walking around campus or grading papers. It's not so much a meal as a transfusion of feeling OK. No sausage on the pizza at home, but it's not exactly rice and beans.

Dinner is my saving grace. We cook at least twice a week for dinner, often vegetables, and since it's just the two of us, we have leftovers for the entire week. Plus, cooking and eating as a family is the opposite social situation as the Toxic Environment. If my pizza is about grabbing something because I'm too busy and lazy (and because, I'm convinced, that the cafeteria puts something addictive in that stuff), then shopping and cooking together is about going slow, planning together, talking, accomplishing something. It's really a thing that brings us together as a family, like our hour-long weekend walks. So, though my diet is partly a Toxic Environment situation, I guess I can feel good that at least once a day I break out of that pattern.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"snitching" in Double Deuce

Why don't the residents of Double Deuce, the housing project in Robert Parker's Spenser novel Double Deuce, just call the police instead of hiring detectives to come and clean it up. Of course, I know what people will say: They're afraid for their well-being because they assume the gang's reach goes so far that even an "anonymous" tip will be traced back to them; the police won't do anything anyway; etc. I do understand those things, but it's too bad that we've things get this far out of hand. We think of "government" as something that rules us, when in fact, it's supposed to be something that we make work for us in the ways we want. We pay for it, after all. The police should be a tool for the people to use, not a part of what oppresses us, so we should demand that they protect us. Now, if people actually feel some empathy for those in our community who bring violence and addiction to their families and friends, well, that's another story. But let's not condemn crimes and do nothing about them.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Professional Development

I am in a professional development class right now. Why is it that when you get a bunch of teachers together to take a class, they always do all the things that drive them crazy when their students do them... like getting online and doing personal things while the instructor tries to teach. Should have turned on LANSchool so she could see my screen from the front. That's what I do. Who knows, maybe she could have saved me from myself and made me learn something. Or maybe it's just my responsibility.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Feelies live in DC

Went to see the Feelies with friends David, Jonathan, and Jason on Saturday night, and they were everything I'd hoped. I've never seen them live; most people haven't, as their legendarily "anti-careerist" career kept the New Jersey / New York postpunk legends from touring very much during their heyday in the 80s.

The whole band sounded great and played really assertively, especially frontman Glenn Mercer. His guitar solos were riveting, never meandering, and we cheered them spontaneously like at a jazz show. His voice surprised me, deep but more out front and confident than on the albums. He's a Lou Reed kind of talk-singer, but he can also really actually sing. It helped that it was some of the best, clearest sound I'd ever heard at a club. (In part because the size of the room was essentially halved for the non-sellout crowd, with the movable stage pushed forward quite a ways.)

Mercer, fact-checking-cuz /percussionist Dave Weckerman, and the rest of the original-mach II band looked really comfortable rocking out post-40 (post 50? It's possible, though they were pretty young when they started out in the late 70s.) Except for Bill Million, who I didn't expect to look comfortable, given that his "personal and family problems" broke up the band in '91 when he moved his family to Florida for a job at Disneyland without telling anyone. He looked kind of anxious and weird, the effort of concentration required to keep up with the "hyper-strum" rhythm guitar evident in his face. But I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he looked that way at the height of his powers either.

They played very lively versions of songs from all their albums, with energy building throughout the show as Mercer began to jump around and Weckerman worked himself into a frenzy. Then FIVE two-song encores, which seemed like a lot of leaving and coming back. Maybe Million dashing from the stage while the last note of several of the encores had something to do with it. The encores were mostly all covers--the VU covers available on Feelies albums, Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot," and Jonathan Richman's "I Wanna Sleep in Your Arms" paid tribute to the band's 70s New York roots. The cover of REM's early "Boxcar," presumably learned for the tribute to REM at Carnegie Hall a couple of nights earlier, worked in the opposite direction, paying tribute to themselves as an influence on REM and the whole indie underground. Neil Young's "Barstool Blues" was my favorite--a perfect choice for Feelie-ization, with metronomic strum replacing Young's quavery swing.

The first time I heard the Feelies was on cassette in Dave's Toyota Tercel in the middle of the night. He, my future wife Diane, and I were coming home to DC from New York, where Dave had taken us to see the Mekons for the first time. With "Crazy Rhythms" cranked and the trees rushing by in the headlights, it felt like were in a time machine. Later, when my wife took me to New Jersey in HER Toyota Tercel for the first time, we made a pilgrimage to Crazy Rhythms Records, where the selection was disappointing and they claimed never to have heard of the Feelies. But they pointed us to a very cool record store around the corner. I bought Mojo Nixon's "Whereabouts Unknown," produced by Roscoe Ambel with Will Rigby from the dBs on drums. The guy behind the counter in that second store looked like he could have been a Feelie or a dB himself.

Check out this interview with Glenn Mercer and Dave Weckerman in the great online magazine Perfect Sound Forever. The interviewer, Jason Gross, also has a music blog, Ye Wei aka Wild Taste.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Baby Borrowers and family relationships

When I saw episode two of Baby Borrowers, it made me want to be really nice to my wife. Seeing the teens sleep deprived, irritable, and fighting with each other struck a cord. Just the night before, my wife and I had had a terrible night of getting up with our little Daphne, who, as they told us in the hospital when whe was born seven months ago, is "very alert," and "loves to be held." Yeah, we noticed: when does that kid ever sleep? Anyway, the night before seeing episode two, I was up until 3 a.m. with her, trying to rock her to sleep and put her down, then I couldn't take it anymore and woke my wife up to take over. In my sleep deprived state, I got it in my mind that it was some kind of affront to me that my wife was sleeping while I was up. I don't remember, but I think I wasn't that nice to her when I crashed. Trying to get a baby to sleep when she doesn't want to is incredibly frustrating. It is absolutely not the baby's fault, and in Daphne's case, she just wanted to lay on our shoulders, not in her bed. Further, there's nothing you can do if she doesn't want to sleep. It's a complete loss of control. Add to that to a happily snoozing spouse (so it seems to a sleep deprived brain), and it can kind of feel like everyone's against you, like it's not fair somehow. I'm amazed that Cory did as well as he did under those circumstances, with Alicia just checking out altogether.

Update: Daphne doesn't like it when I grade papers late at night--that makes her not want to sleep. So I'm planning ahead better during the day...and remembering to be nice to my wife!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I ride the bus

I'm an expert at riding the bus. I takethe S2 bus from 16th and V Northwest, Washington, DC, to Alaska Ave and Georgia Ave. Then I cross Georgia Avenue, cross Blair Park, and I'm at work: Montgomery College, Takoma Park / Silver Spring Campus. Back again on the S2 after work, unless it's the 79 Express down Georgia Avenue to the Georgia Avenue metro stop, then two stops on the Green Line to U St./Cardozo stop, then either a 90-something bus down U to 16th, or walk. Headphones are a must, especially in the morning before coffee, to drown out conversations. Coffee is a must--the bus drivers don't seem to care, and I've never spilled. SmartCard is a must--standing there putting coins and bills in the machine is for chumps. And one more must--greeting the bus driver getting on and saying thanks getting off.

In this blog i'll be writing about my experiences on the bus, among other things.