Monday, October 27, 2008

Starting Late

It is getting to be that time of the year, my friends, as November 1 ushers in National Novel Writing Month. I will be giving it my best again this year, after not quite making the grade last year. Unfortunately, we won't return from Oregon until Sunday, which will put me two days behind (unless I do things the old fashioned way out west, which I might). We are still in the planning stages here, but hoping to have a clearer view by the weekend.

I hope to post as I go.

I am still fighting with the crud that invaded me on Friday (or before). I went up to school this morning, but I am still feeling kind of tired and dizzy. A trip this week could be a bad idea, but what else am I going to do? I'm sure I'll be fine.

If I don't communicate with y'all again, have a great week!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Letting My Guard Down

Friday signalled the end of first term, leaving me with just a few piles of exams to grade and grades to enter before a week of school-less bliss. However, as is often the case when a high-stress job hits a lull, I immediately came down with a nasty chest cold.

A dizzy spell while I was still at school Friday afternoon alerted me to the fact that I might be feeling poorly. Plans for Friday night were scrapped, as I came home earlier than I wanted to (with papers left to grade) and went directly to bed.

I woke up Saturday morning with a chest full of crud (and a Barry White-esque voice--very sexy). Needless to say, I did little but read, lay about on the sofa, and eat a gallon of soup. This morning, I was feeling better, but decided that one more day of rest would be a good idea, so I sent Monkey off to Omaha by herself. I did finish my grading this morning, but, mostly, today was just a reprise of yesterday, with some vacuuming thrown in.

I'll have to go up to school tomorrow to do some last-minute things. Then, it's off to Oregon for a few days on Tuesday. The weather doesn't look too promising, but it rarely does for that part of the country. I am looking forward to feeling well and enjoying the Pacific Northwest.

I'll try to post tomorrow, but that should be it until November.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Roon Arledge, Are You Responsible For This?

So, I waded my way through my Monday, and I find myself, having just returned home from my BS tenure class, in a conundrum. To wit, I didn't watch much football this weekend, due to grading and other commitments (all enjoyable). I would really like to sit down and enjoy Monday Night Football. However, some dumbass at the league office has scheduled Denver vs. New England (I don't know if it's in Denver or Foxboro).

This game for me has no appeal whatsoever. I loathe both of these teams. Usually, on a Monday night, when I don't know who to root for, I at least know who to root against. Tonight, I don't even know who to root against.

I suppose, in the grand scheme of problems to have, this is no problem at all. So, I will watch the game, being completely neutral. It'll be a negative kind of neutral, in which I root equally against both of the teams. I will not cheer their successes, but I will equally enjoy their mishaps. That's not very nice, is it?

You know what else isn't nice? Having no choice but to root for the freaking Phillies in the World Series.

I believe my next post will have nothing to do with sports. But, I could be wrong.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Just Hanging On

It appears that the past few weeks have left me only with a few spare moments to blog. This past week, I thought I would have more time, but it didn't work out that way. Even this weekend, which was a productive and mildly entertaining one, left little time for other pursuits. And so, before I retire for the night, to rest up for the last week of term one (which will lead us into Fall break, and a visit to the Beaver State), I thought I would check in and leave you with a few weekend thoughts.

I didn't really like seeing Sarah Palin on SNL this weekend. It was amusing, but, gosh darnit, there is something about that woman that I just don't like. I also felt like she was smirking her way through the whole thing. It was clear, though, that she has been a professional news broadcaster (but, of course, not a member of the left-wing media elite).

I would so love to see football players use their arms to tackle ball carriers. In both the collegiate and the professional ranks, it seems that defenders only wish to launch themselves on a trajectory in order to "blow up" the ball carrier, rather than wrap the player's legs or body up with their arms. This sometimes results in spectacularly violent collisions, sending the ball carrier abruptly to the turf, and occasionally dislodging the ball. More often, it results in the defensive player glancing off of, or missing entirely, their target, who then scampers for several additional yards. It drives me crazy, even when I am watching a game I have no rooting interest in.

Any show that combines an experimental jazz/rock band (a la Aloha), a semi-traditional country/roots rock band (a la Bare Jr.), and a blue grass band, complete with washtub bass, is bound to be bizarre.

My iPod is dead. After 14 months, it's just out of warranty. I feel cheated, but I also feel no recourse but to take the 10% discount on a new one.

Okay, it's well past my bed time, folks. I hope to post before next weekend. Keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Weekend Update (Part Three): Attempts at Civility, Gone Awry

Abandoning my musical progression, which, after the point at which I stopped yesterday is hardly as interesting as the formative years, I turn my focus to a short column in today's paper. It appears as if the two candidates for president have turned more strongly toward attempts at being honorable opponents (not that they had gotten as deeply into the mud-slinging as previous years' candidates). Obama continues to remind voters of McCain's military service and his harrowing experiences as a POW in Vietnam, which he should. Say what you want about McCain, he sacrificed quite a bit in those years, and, according to the stories told of his time as an unwilling guest of the North Vietnamese, acted impeccably as an officer and a human being. Obama is correct in reminding all that the campaign is, and always should be, about issues, substance, and ideas.

McCain tried to take the high road in Davenport, Iowa, recently, also. After reading recent reports of crowds at his rallies calling Obama a "traitor" and threatening him and his former associates with bodily harm, I was appalled. McCain, who has, as far as I know, never actively engaged in calling Obama names, or making spurious remarks about his religion, race, or personality, has never really censured his supporters for their remarks or outburst, seemed to take offense at a comment made at his Hawkeye State rally yesterday.

When a woman ignorantly referred to Obama as "an Arab" (how can people still believe this?), McCain took the microphone from the woman and "contradicted" her, calling Obama a "fine, family man, citizen." On one hand, one might say, "Well done, John. Fight your own supporters' disinformation." On the other hand(the hand I am viewing this from (does a hand view? well, no, but you get my drift), one must say, "Hold on there, McCain. Did you just say, in effect, that the OPPOSITE of an Arab is a fine, family man?" Are the two mutually exclusive? Does the world contain a dichotomy: fine, family men on one side and Arabs on the other (thereby making Arabs incapable of being fine, family men)?

This is the kind of black and white thinking, the kind of unspoken attitude of people that leads us down a path of hatred, ignorance, and violence that we, as a nation, seem to be at odds with all of the time. Our history is a sine wave of ignorance and enlightenment, with different groups being the focus of our attention in different eras. From Native Americans to African Americans, from Irish and Italian immigrants to Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants to Mexican immigrants, from Germans to Arabs, our mentality seems always to swing back to dark attitudes of "the other," no matter how seemingly enlightened we become of groups we once despised.

Sadly, this leads me to the conclusion that we never really do make any social progress as a nation. Certainly, groups make strides, slowly gaining legal and social acceptance, but, in the hearts of the people, there lies this clear need to find an enemy, a scapegoat, a villain that can be hated, hunted, and hoisted. And, even more sadly perhaps, even our attempts to appear unbiased sometimes reveal this deep-seated attitude.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Weekend Update (Part Two): Musical Evolution

Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before....

But I got to thinking about music the other day, wondering what it is that attracts people to some music more than other kinds of music. I started looking back in my own experiences to see if I could lay a pattern on things. I couldn't, but the meanderings of my musical attractions is kind of interestingly scatter-shot.

My earliest years, of course, were influenced by two people: my dad and my grandmother. My dad, as long as I can remember I guy who always had a number of irons in a number of fires (motorcycle building and racing, real estate, catering, entertainment representation, etc.), used to be a sort of local agent for some musicians during my formative years. Most of these bands were cover bands, nobody ever made more than a demo tape, as far as I knew, but their eight-tracks were always lying around. And, of course, there was plenty of vinyl in my house, mostly of the popular variety--Beatles, Stones, Sonny and Cher, Black Sabbath, Rod Stewart, etc. So, I listened to a good deal of that.

I also spent a lot of time with my grandparents, during the summers and on the weekends. They only lived a mile or so from my parents house, and everybody eventually wound up there anyway, my parents, my aunt and uncle, my great aunts and uncles--everybody. My grandmother, being from a previous generation, always had her radio tuned to the local "old music" station. So, I got a heavy dose of the pre-rock and roll years of popular music--Frank Sinatrta, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan, Nat "King" Cole, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, the Andrews Sisters, The Inkspots, and on and on. It made for an interesting mix tape, and I loved it all.

The first album I ever picked out for myself, was a Wings album, At the Speed of Sound. Not a great album in the eyes of posterity, but, I liked it. Paul and Linda McCartney with Denny Laine, Jimmy McCulloch--Sir Paul still had some awesome melody-writing abilities, as witnessed by "Silly Love Songs," "and "Let Em In." I also wore out the grooves on Wings' live triple-album, Wings Over America. The opening 11-minute medley of "Venus and Mars/Rock Show/Jet" was candy to my seven-year old ears. And side three's "Picasso's Last Words" resonated in some unclear way to my burgeoning sense of poetry.

Any sense of poetry that may have been developing was certainly not a factor in my next-recalled musical obsession: Pat Benatar. There, I said it. It's out there. To this point, very few people knew this about me (and, considering the number of people who will read this, that won't change), but, I am not afraid of this truth anymore. It probably started in about 1983, and by the time it had run its course, I owned every album she and her band released from 1980's In the Heat of the Night to 1988's Wide Awake in Dreamland.

There are several reasons I can see for my (still) enjoyment of the Queen of Rock: 1) I was 14, and she was hot; 2) her songs (or rather Neil Giraldo's songs) RAWK (in an eighties sort of way); 3) the woman can flat out sing; 4) Myron Grombacher is one of the BEST drummers ever; 5) her "Wuthering Heights" kicks Kate Bush's ass and her "I Need a Lover" kicks John Mellencamp's ass. By the time I was 19, however, I had tired of Pat and had moved on to my next BIG musical obsession.

In 1986, I first heard REM on the radio. I fell in love to "Fall on Me," and I dove into my passion for this Athens-based band of art school cast offs and record store clerks. The southern jangle of the music and the mumbled pretentiousness of the lyrics where a 180 degree shift from Chrysalis-slick AOR music, and it made me see and feel how music could be serious and important. I don't know if that makes any sense, but let me try to explain. I was growing up...and so was my music. I guess that sums it up a bit better.

Truth be told, the shift wasn't immediate. In that sort of transition time between 1985 and maybe 1988, I doused myself in classic rock, and discovered a real connection to Jethro Tull. So, in a way, my progression kind of went like this Seven the Hard Way to Thick as a Brick to Document. Is that odd?

That brings me to the college years. As good a place as any to call a time out.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Weekend Update (Part One): Disappointing Debates

I have been ruminating on some posts lately, but haven't found the time to write them. I will try to work them into my weekend plans, starting now.

The debates this past Tuesday left me feeling underwhelmed. The format was bizarre, the candidates ignored their own negotiated rules, and, well, Tom Brokaw just drives me crazy. More than anything, however, the longer I watched, the more I saw a candidate I have placed so much hope in behaving more like just another politico.

I guess I haven't lost all of my idealism. I decided in the primary season to back Obama over Clinton because I thought that, while Senator Clinton is qualified, dogged, and liberal enough, she didn't have that sense of revolutionary spirit that had attached itself to Obama. He is less experienced in the ways of Washington, but that seems like a good thing. Senator Clinton had so much baggage that would fester, in my mind, so much more animosity with conservatives in Congress, that I wondered if she'd have a hope of getting anything accomplished as president. Moreover, Senator Obama seemed to have the right things to say, the right spirit to lead this country in the right direction--he possessed the right tone of commitment to bettering people's lives.

I still believe this to be true, but, on Tuesday, I felt like Senator Obama had fallen into a kind of trap, either one set by McCain's camp, or one dictated to him by his own advisers, that led him to simply spar with his opponent in a finger-pointing, business as usual sort of way. I know that that is a nasty reality in politics, the need to attack and defend, but, I was hoping to see something loftier, something more honorable.

Don't get me wrong, I still feel that Obama is the right man for the time. It would take a revelation of ponderous import for me to even entertain voting for McCain and his "Youbetcha" running mate, but I still want Obama to be my Kennedy-type ideal. I want to envision Camelot in the White House. I want a leader who is less about rhetoric or action for the sake of action (and benefits for the few) and more about substance and action for the sake of positive results for the many. Clearly, judging by the little substance that was delivered on Tuesday, Obama/Biden is head and shoulders above McCain/Palin. I guess I'd just like to see it more clearly.

As always, that's just, like, you know, my opinion, man.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tiny News

The bills are paid for the month.

We bought a paper shredder.

I dropped off a dozen pairs of pants and a shirt to the Goodwill on Saturday.

The tomato plants have been pulled after an acceptable late harvest.

I am waiting on three beet plants, then the garden is done for the season.

My iPod is not working properly, and restoring it has not helped. Next stop: the Omaha Apple store.

Jolie Holland has a new album out.

Term One ends in two and a half weeks!

My newspaper keeps arriving late, and, this morning, we received a copy of Financial Times. We don't subscribe to Financial Times.

Sometimes, I wish my tiny news were more exciting.

Friday, October 03, 2008

That Centrally Significant Month

October is an important month here at Central Standard. Yesterday marks a third year here at this home-spun little blog of mine.

I recently spent some time talking to a few blogospherians, and they were making suggestions that might increase my blog's "visibility" or readership. I might focus on one topic, such as books or teaching, writing, biking, whatever. But, of course, I am not going to do that. I guess I am not interested in increasing my profile. I am just interested in having a forum to tap out a few random thoughts about every three days, so that a few close friends and relatives can check in on me occasionally. What more could I want?

Another work week has come to an end. It almost always comes as a surprise to me when I make it through one. I don't know why. I know that I have been complaining up a storm about work, but things are seeming to improve, little by little. And today, I got one of those emails from an old student that reminds you of the value of the job, so that is definitely a positive. All in all a good day.

No travelling this weekend. Monkey and I will stay home and get some chores done, root for the Tigers to defeat the home team Huskers on Saturday, and I just might get in a little basketball on Sunday (which would be the first time in about two months, I'd bet). Looking forward to that.

The debate last night was fascinating, I think. I am particularly biased, but I think Biden clearly won. I have heard people say that Palin did "what she needed to do," which was not come off as quite as much of a jackass as she has appeared. I guess she did that (although there were a few moments when I thought she was ridiculous (winking at her dad; correcting Biden's "drill, drill, drill" comment; evoking the Black Sox scandal of 1919 and the ghost of Ronald Reagan when she tandemed "Say it ain't so, Joe," with "There you go again;" and attributing the "City on a Hill" comment to Ronald Reagan instead of John Winthrop (see "A Model of Christian Charity"))), but is that even close to being a good thing? My, Republicans MUST be desperate.

Looking forward to the next presidential square off...aren't you?

By the way, a shout out to a few CoMoians (particularly Boring Election) whom I did not get the opportunity to see last weekend: catch you at T/F (if you're not too crazy busy!).