Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's 1789

Best of 2006? Norse saga regarding the expedition to Oregon for Christmas? A detailed account of what I've eaten today? No, just bullet points.
  • Highway 101 obviates the need to deal with putting on chains since the highest pass isn't much over 2000 feet. It's also a lot more scenic than I-5, so I recommend it (although you do have to put up with driving through Eureka...god there are some ugly kids in Eureka.) It's about 10.5 hours from Novato to Eugene, as opposed to 9 hours on I-5.
  • The xmas loot was excellent this year. Becky got me an American Apparel hoodie, the in-laws got me some sweet Pumas, and my mom got me an unsolicited and unexpected iPod. Oh, and my homie Crystal got me a t-shirt with a ninja jump-kicking with a guitar. I'll be styling like an undergrad in 2007.
  • I was unable to see most of my Eugene homies, although we did score a precious hour or so with E. Our one-night-and-a-lunch trip to Portland was great; we saw an elite cadre of good-looking people.
  • Did you realize that Mt. Everest is over 29,000 feet tall? It's about as high as commercial jets fly. That's crazy.
  • We played 20 questions in the car. Me: "Uh...does it live on the east coast or something?" Becky: "oh! Wait, I lied on question number 1. The answer was yes."
  • Pesto hates driving. In fairness, she's new to driving stick.
  • A whole lot of eating went down. This morning, Elizabeth was kind enough to have me and the missus over for a delicious breakfast. More eating went down.
  • Our new year's plans consist of (wait for it...) not leaving the apartment! What a shocker!
And, as ever, let's all hope next year sucks less than this one did. Huzzah to the Democratic takeover of congress, to the brilliance of my new colleagues, and to my ongoing success in avoiding having to have a real job.


Come With Me, Big-Haired Kim Basinger

We're back in effect in the SC after executing our holiday visitations with military precision. Scratch that: with academic precision. I'll compose an epic poem describing our adventures shortly, but in the interim, I will point out that there are numerous spots along Highway 101 in northern Cali that look a lot like the scene in Batman (the 1989 version) wherein Batman is blasting toward his Batcave in the Batmobile with his big-haired BatKimBasinger. That was one of the things that kept us going on the 10+ hour hauls up to Eugene and back.


On to the Beaver State

We're heading out this evening, carting two kids (us) and a bunny (our manager.) The bunny's staying with the in-laws in Novato, then we're on to pastoral Eugene the next day.

Nathan, Toki, Swiskgar, Pickles and William wish you all a merry xmas and a very metal 2007.



Sure, normally a nadir is a bad thing, but I don't see why we can't have positive nadirs too. Today's a rainy Thursday in Santa Cruz, the most productive thing I've done so far is write an e-mail to family members I won't see over xmas, and I'm declaring today to be the nadir...of fun. To help celebrate, I'm calling on the powers of The Nuge. Rock it, Nuge! Take your reactionary politics and your teetotaling lifestyle and rock it!

Here comes a little bit of stream of consciousness.

1. I think the perfect band for me would be halfway between Weezer and Slayer.
2. I'm willing to drive up 101 just to skip the Shasta curves in the rain on I-5.
3. If we weren't all disatisfied all the time, do you think we'd just lay down and starve?
4. Why do I love to wear these hats so much?
5. Was Hitler right when he said that one's basic personality is established by 22? It reminds me of that Modest Mouse song ("I'm the same as I was when I was 6 years old...")
6. While I was falling asleep last night it occurred to me that religion is like a virus. When people find it, it's like they've caught something and thought and willpower are powerless against it.
7. It would only take 40 minutes or so to get some work done. Think it'll happen today?

I just talked to my friend Erin on the phone. It doesn't look like I'll get to see her while we're up in Eugene. Moving away from your friends never stops sucking, does it?

(At least there are so many good-looking people studying history here; I find comfort in that.)

P.S. Here's a link to a story about a study about the fact that NINETY FUCKING FIVE percent of Americans, men and women, had premarital sex. That INCLUDES the bloody right-wing abstinence-only Christian fuckwits. You'd like to think this would put another nail in abstinence-only sex education, but I doubt it.

I can now say this literally: fucking morons...


Mechanical Turk

The ever-watchful Ransom brought my attention to the Amazon Mechanical Turk program, in which (apparently) you can choose tasks submitted by software engineers and random businesses and complete them for money. The idea, as far as I can tell, is to substitute human intellectual piece-work in lieu of artificial intelligence.

The tip-off arises from a conversation Ransom and I had a while back about using spare brain cycles in the same way the SETI at home project uses spare CPU cycles to look for extraterrestrial intelligence.

This makes me think of two things. First, I'm reminded of my friend Kate's piece-work editing. I'm not sure if she still does it, but when I met her she had a backpack full of rough-drafts from various corporate entities and would rip through them correcting spelling and grammar. As memory serves, when she had work, she could pay her way. When the work would dry up, she ate a lot of ramen.

Second, it reminds me of Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash, in which people upload all manners of data (pictures, videos, print-outs they find in the trash) to a massive media network in hopes that someone will want to access it and they'll be paid a royalty.

The idea of using spare brain cycles to make a living is appealing because it seems like the kind of thing you could do when you'd otherwise be sitting around wasting time (something at which I'm a 5th Dan Black Belt.) On the other hand, it's also a bit ominous since there would be zero accountability on the part of the employer; globally, piece-work is one of the most pernicious ways to insure maximum efficiency from workers while paying out a bare minimum in compensation. I'll probably still look into the amazon thing; I'm sick to death of my one video game and without a grad lab to keep me honest, I get next to nothing done for school while I'm on break.

On an unrelated note, as far as I can tell, it's impossible to significantly modify the layout on this stupid system. I wasted a good 25 minutes trying to talk the XML template into letting me have some borders around the text of my blog, but the best I could do was force it to accept one on the left (which just looked all wrong without an equivalent on the right.) I guess I'll have to wait until they start allowing more customization options, not just trying to keep it from breaking every week.

Holiday task for everyone: go burn a sweet mix CD and play it while you're hanging out with your homies.


Moving Karma

Don't fuck around with moving karma. When you have the chance to help your homies load up boxes and heft furniture, get on it. I don't believe that there's a shred of justice or reciprocity in the universe, but I do believe that moving karma is real. So I built some up today helping Elizabeth and Nick move. It was highly succesful.


My Insanely Awesome Trucker Name is Coach Flaps.
Take The Trucker Name Generator today!

In other news, the weather is currently holding for our drive up on Saturday. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. When we were in New Zealand, one of the things we delighted in was the fact that they don't bother with extended forecasts. In fact, they only do a forecast for one day out (i.e. "tomorrow will be such-and-such. After that, who the hell knows.") I often feel that American weathermen should just admit that they don't know a sirrus cloud from a waterspout and give us tomorrow-only predictions as well.



Ok: My homie Elizabeth and her husband, Nick, hooked me up with a bike a while back. It was Nick's trusty ride for many years and has all the character that a slightly beat-up bright red 21-speed mountain bike could possibly have. I recently removed the toe clips (they scare me), lowered the seat (I've never liked sitting as high up as you're supposed to on bikes), removed the water bottle thing, and figured out how to inflate the presta-intake tires. You can see where this anecdote is going, n'est ce pas?

So: today I vowed to take it for its inaugural spin, having wimped out all last term (despite UCSC's award-winning bike shuttle, which whisks you up the hill to campus). Here's how it went down:
  1. Number of times chain fell off derailer: 2.
  2. Number of times I struggled to shift gears: 8 - 12.
  3. Number of times I felt extremely self-conscious wearing a bike helmet (as Becky pointed out, we've spent enough time and money trying to increase the size of my brain. One must protect one's investment): 40+.
  4. Number of minutes spent riding to spot where bike shuttle leaves and back home: 20-25.
  5. How many minutes of hard panting it took to regain equilibrium upon returning home: 5-10.
There are muscles and varieties of cardiovascular exertion that I have not used for many, many months. In the long term, me-on-a-trusty-mountain-bike will prove to be an excellent way to stay in shape and to skip having to wait around for the bus to get home. In the short term, however, I'm going to have to seriously de-wimpify.


Xmas Break

I officially gave up on doing anything productive today. It's the weekend, and my working girl wife and I are eating very rich foods and drinking cheap vino. On the agenda:
  • Watching Goonies.
  • Watching best-drinking-movie-ever Van Helsing.
  • Not reading a word of French, not reading a single bloody article about intellectual history, not waiting for the bus.
You know what I wish I could do? The following dance moves:
  • Jumping straight up and landing the splits. Good for celebrations and gang fights.
  • The Robot. Like a total stud.
  • The lindy hop thing where you run up a wall and do a flip.
Here are some facts:
  • When there are more than about 20 surfers in a given spot, they look like bugs from the shore.
  • House rabbits are easy to litter box train.
  • If you're reading this, your ass is of note. I say that as a friend.
In solidarity,


Rock Your Nostalgia

I went up to campus earlier and soaked up the no-students ambience while picking up some books from the library. I called my homie Cori while waiting for the bus and we shot the shit for a while. A few months ago Cori joined the ranks of the beautiful people I know living in Portland and now she, too, gets to enjoy the reasonable cost of living, the many scenic bridges, the many fun bars. I've been warming up to SC, but I will never stop missing Portland.

Fortified by the conversation, I decided that the best thing to do was to sit around and listen to the Murder City Devils and drink coffee and think deep thoughts about getting older and missing all of my old friends. Naturally, I haven't reached any useful conclusions, but I'm still having fun (in a perverse, half-assed self-pitying way, obviously.)

Becky and I aren't sure what we're going to do in a few years. If she gets a career going here and we're happy, I'll finish the PHD and break dance on street corners for money (or, you know, teach at a community college.) If we're both at a loose end and I can't get a tenure-track position somewhere (likely not), we may well head back north. In the meantime I'll hang out with my new homies here and read more books, drink more coffee, and get even balder.


Good Luck, Soggy Homies

We move away and the rain comes to the NW something fierce. But I'm not complaining; we've had some bitchin' rains so far here in the scenic central coast, and we're well into the big wave season. Becky said she saw some surfers getting pummeled the other day while the otters were just slipping under the waves (and making fun of the surfers in otter-speak.)

Hmm. Sometimes blogger's blogs of note are actually of note. That one is pretty of note. Oo! Good new phrase. "Hey man, that's of note." "Your ass is totally of note, baby." "The second-to-last Queens of the Stone Age album was definitely of note."

Coffee, Capitalism, Pad Khee Maow

This will be a three-parter. Hope you're good and excited, because you're going to end up good and bored by the end...

1. I had a fierce craving for coffee last night while at dinner (see below for details on dinner.) After dinner, watching Mythbusters, then trying to fall asleep, I was stoked to wake up this morning and get to drink more coffee. And here I am, living the dream.

On an unrelated note, for the last few days I've been off the sauce. I realized that I've been tipsy every night since moving to Santa Cruz, which clocks in at, oh, just about three months. I felt fine and I felt functional, but in a perfect world, I would only drink on weekends. I'll probably treat myself to some more delicious cheap wine tomorrow, but I'll be trying to dry out a bit otherwise.

2. I'm linked to three brilliant anti-capitalists whom I know from UO:
  1. My beloved friend and ally Ms. Rossi.
  2. My esteemed Americanist francophile V.
  3. My favorite decorative and erudite Spartacist.
I'm also participating in the capitalism/anti-capitalism reading group at UCSC. In the midst of this swirl of influences, I've been thinking quite a bit about the problems with talking about capitalism as such, the most serious of which seems to me to be the fact that the destructive things capitalism does (make some people rich and most people poor, advantage nations that are already wealthy over ones that aren't, gut safety nets in favor of false meritocracies) are not obvious in the lived experience of most Americans, and furthermore "capitalism" is such a tiny signifier in relation to that which it signifies that it becomes almost useless as a descriptive term. To really get a handle on how capitalism works seems to take the thorough and thoughtful reading of a great number of very, very dense books (starting with Marx and going through present-day critical theory like the stuff we're reading for the study group: David Harvey, Mike Davis, Hardt + Negri, etc.)

Meanwhile, most "capitalists, " among whom I'd include 99% of Americans who are just interested in living a decent life and owning some nice things, don't have to read a lick of theory or analysis. They just try to get a job and then try to get a raise. I don't even think it's particularly helpful to use concepts like "hegemony" or "reification" in trying to explain it because doing so implies a kind of "true" outside-of-capitalism consciousness that has been buried or subverted, but I don't think there's anything "false" about the way most Americans look at their own vocations, nor do I think the pursuit of comfort and advantage has been limited to modern capitalist societies.

That all said, I've never been more interested in and concerned about the (political and economic) state of the world. As a grad student, I will continue reading and talking about it. And as a watered-down political pragmatist, I'll vote for the Democratic candidate every single election.

3. We went out to Thai food last night. Ana + Colin ended up paying for it, because they threw money down on the check and refused to take it back. In the same sense that certain albums are just perfect all the way through (The Hives' Veni Vidi Vicious, Turbonegro's Apocalypse Dudes, Nick Cave + The Bad Seeds' Let Love In), certain meals just nail it every time. I will thus take this opportunity to salute Chicken Pad Khee Maow + Thai Iced Tea. You can't go wrong.



Ah, getting your vehicle's oil changed: it always takes longer and costs more than one thinks it ought to. But at least one has the opportunity to catch up on back issues of Time magazine while earnest men inform one that one's air filter needs to be replaced.

Santa Cruz's streets are not like American streets. American cities usually live on a grid, which is one of the constituent elements of American naivete. Brought up to be friendly and honest, living in towns with easy-to-navigate streets, we travel only to find that the rest of the world is cautious and cold and that their streets were established by decree of the Bishop some 1100 years earlier and have not changed since then. Like those of European cities, Santa Cruz's streets loop randomly, radiating out from the old mission that stands at the center of town. Highway 1, which becomes Mission St. while in town, goes west when it says it's going north and goes east when it says it's going south. Streets change names mid-street and, since the planning board was always stoned, the streets constantly recycle names (W. Cliff Drive, E. Cliff Drive, Cliff St., Cliff Ave., Cliff Ct. [I'm not making this up]). In short, being able to navigate Santa Cruz proves that one has put down roots.

Santa Cruz: come for the otters, stay because you can't figure out how to get back on the highway.


An Evening Chez Brooks

During Pat + Lowry's visit to Santa Cruz, we did the following:
  1. The walk down W. Cliff Drive. Giant waves: sighted. Big fuzzy otter: sighted.
  2. The dinner at Saturn. Vegan diner food: munched.
  3. The drinking-a-lot at our apartment. Fat Tire and 2-buck Chuck: gone.
  4. The watching of American Astronaut. The bathroom dance scene: appreciated.
  5. The picnic at Natural Bridges. The monarch butterflies: sighted.
Now it's pouring again and I have the best of intentions about getting some work done today. Bonne chance, me. Merci bien, me.


Santa Cruz :: Eugene

Two moderately-sized towns / small cities, two subjects, one blog post:

1. Downtowns. Eugene's downtown is a bad joke that never gets any funnier. For decades, the "once-thriving" (when? When it was a mud-streeted cow town? When men with beards declared that there's gold in them thar hills?) downtown of Eugene has been a commercial graveyard, full of an ugly gang of mall rats and lots of empty storefronts. Every year the city council tries to revive downtown with various zoning schemes, but it never works.

Santa Cruz's downtown is thriving. This is deeply confusing to me, used to decrepit downtowns as I am. Walking the ten blocks down Pacific from Laurel to Mission is overwhelming; hundreds of people milling around, street performers, theaters, restaurants, colorful shop windows, more-or-less-good-natured hobos. Christmas shopping for Becky this year will be easy. Semplice

2. Hippies. Eugene has an undeserved reputation as a hippy town. It used to be an authentic hippy town, probably as late as the early 90s. There are still hippy hot spots in town as well; we lived less than a block from Sundance Natural Foods, which was as hippy as Jerry Garcia eating pot brownies. Most of the town, however, is not hippy at all: the university and the surrounds are just frat houses and jocks and as soon as you get outside of the city center it's just rednecks as far as the eye can see (to the north: rednecks. To the west: rednecks. To the Springfield: rednecks.)

Santa Cruz is a lot of things, among them hippy. Real, authentic aging-60s-radicals hippy and real, authentic present-day-leftist-activists hippy. The surfer reputation and the university reputation precede the hippy reputation, but I feel like there's more of a true hippy core to this place than there is to Eugene.

On unrelated notes, I'd like to send a shout-out to R! for his tip about the best of Craigslist. That is some funny shit.

Also, it's been raining like nuts since yesterday. As we drove up to Kelly's last night to eat cookies and drink I thought we might get washed away. This morning it's been coming down steady. Our beloved homie Pat is visiting from Oregon and we sincerely hope he and his lady-friend Lowry make it over the 17 without being run over by a Californian confused by falling water.


Salvation: Protein!

In celebration of Becky's employment status, and armed with a gift certificate we received as a graduation present from a family friend back in June, we went out to the Crow's Nest last night and had (motherfuckin') BURGERS for dinner. And clam chowder and beer. It was raining over the harbor, there were xmas lights up all over the place, and a wee otter wriggled past in plain view of our harbor-view table at the bar. Then we came home and watched the original Batman with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Becky fell asleep halfway through, as she is wont to do.

It was this weird, giddy feeling of elation going out to eat. We haven't done that under our own power (i.e. we paid for it) in months and months. We've been so broke for so long that it's just confusing when we get to go out (you mean, you don't want me to do the dishes? I mean, I'm a former professional dishwasher. I can take care of it.)

Becky addendum: She saw a bobcat in Natural Bridges park yesterday. Happily, it didn't try to claw her face off. Also, she saw five dolphins the day before that. Monterey Bay is cool.



So far, Becky's new job consists of sitting in a cube, reading pamphlets and the company website. The word around her office is that things will pick up significantly after the new year, but in the meantime she's way bored. Way bored and making more as a temp than I made as a salaried IT guy. Which got me to thinking:

One of the idiotic aspects of corporate capitalism is the inverse relationship between the pain associated with a given job and its corresponding salary or wage. Example: it's much harder and more painful to be a fry cook than to sit in a cube and answer e-mail, but your average fry cook is going to make half or a third as much as an executive assistant. The most egregious case I can think of is that of consultants; men (maybe there are female consultants, too, but I never saw one) with MBAs and a few executive jobs on their resumes who tool around the country charging 100 bucks an hour to "streamline" and "restructure" other people's businesses. Think of the Bobs in Office Space: they show up, they fuck around, they fire a bunch of people.

For a great insider perspective on what utter horseshit consulting in the IT industry is, see this post from Joel on Software.

Becky, being, uh, given to tension, has found the situation at the new job really confusing. "But I'm not doing anything! Aren't they going to get mad, or send me home early or something?" But that, I point out, is not how corporate America works. As a call center customer service rep, every second you're on the phone over the target time counts against you. As a grocery store shelf-stocker, you'd better be stocking shelves the whole time you're on the clock. But as you move up the food chain, less and less in terms of concrete work is expected of you. At my last corporate job we had a guy whose job was, officially, to sit around and think about the company and how it fit into the industry. And he made six figures.

The point is: here in the heart of the neo-liberal economic order (and neo-conservative political order), it's possible for educated kids from a middle-class upbringing to make a lot of money doing next to nothing. And when things are going badly at school, sometimes I think I should. All I've got to counter-balance that notion is a great love of essays and continental philosophy and a few remaining shreds of self-respect and optimism about the role of education.


Freak of the Industry

Browsing through the posts of various members of my cohort, I note that there are a few shared themes:
  1. The term, she is over.
  2. The free time, we do not know what to do with her.
  3. The grad lab, we want it back (we've been moved to a new one, in a basement, but it's still under construction.)
Years ago, my homie "infrequent updates" Kenna warned me that I was not the type who could deal with free time. I was working in IT at the time and I thought she was nuts, but graduate school has realigned my perceptions and I am ready to admit that, yes, I loves me the structure. I conclude that we are all the freaks of the industry, giving up the possibility of real income in favor of hoarding library books and re-writing research proposals ad nauseum.

On an unrelated note, Becky has prompted me to report two things about her new job:
  1. She has a hydraulic desk. It's for the ergonomicals. It goes up and down to ease typing.
  2. She was there for 7.5 hours yesterday and still has no idea what her job actually is.
Jeff, this one's for you:

"Awright stop what you're doin', because I'm about to ruin, the image and the style that you're used to. I look funny, but yo I'm making money, see, so yo world I hope you're ready for me, so gather round. I'm the new fool in town and my sound's laid down by the Underground. I'll drink the bottle of Hennessy you got on your shelf, so just let me introduce myself..."

(Early 90s hip hop left its mark. I still know all the words to The Humpty Dance and I could probably keep up with most of the stuff from two or three Public Enemy albums. If I had to.)


My Abusive Relationship with Simone

Simone de Beauvoir knows how to bring the pain. I've taken a breather from my work on Deuxieme Sexe, but it was time to get back to it today. Everything about her intellect is overwhelming; she cites examples from psychoanalysis, Marxism, developmental biology, the literatures of several national traditions and, of course, philosophy. She writes in long, winding paragraphs and backs up every assertion with a dozen examples. It seems like she had spent about sixty years in the library of the Sorbonne before starting work on DS, but she was only in her late 30s (I think) when she wrote it.

I had lunch with my advisor yesterday and we were talking about various items of interest to European intellectual historians and he mentioned how all of the normaliens were like Beauvoir. It's the kind of education reserved for an entire prosperous nation's most elite students, something that has only happened haphazardly in the US. It's both a testament to the capacity of the human mind and a humiliating reminder of the fact that I chose to study the smartest people in history and, thus, to feel very, very dull by comparison.

My point is that Simone is very mean to me, but I know that she loves me deep down.

Thanks for all of the nice comments about Becky's newfound El Dorado of temping. She's there right now. She called at lunch and said that it was ok so far.

And with that, I'm off to listen to Turbonegro and clean the bathroom. Basically, I just pour pure bleach on everything and scrub until I'm about to be overwhelmed by the fumes.

Edit: 100th post on blogger. I hereby dedicate this post to the now-clean bathroom.


Landlord like a Sub-Woofer

Our landlord, Ron, has a voice like a slammed cadi with a thumpin' sound system. He's in the apartment below us fixing something and talking to someone and it's like a stereo with the treble all the way down and the bass all the way up, or perhaps like a movie about Santa Claus at high volumes through a thick wall. WUB WUB WUB WUB WUBWUB. That kind of thing.

Becky got a temp job. It pays well and it starts tomorrow.

Having spent the last few months worrying about Becky much more than she worried about herself, I find myself in a familiar position. It seems like most of the bad, hard things I've had to deal with in the last few years leave me so enervated that when they're over I barely have the energy to feel relieved. Still, here's me hoping that it turns out to be a good gig for her.

To our friends in Oregon: our trip up for xmas is going to be fast and short. We'll be in touch, as we'd like to see everyone who'll be around the week of xmas if we can. We're making a trip up to Portland for a night and a day if at all possible.


School (of fishes) Parliament (of owls)

Murder (of crows)...so many good group-names in biology. I bring this up because an elite cadre of history grad students are starting a semi-formal Foucault reading group next term and while outlining the readings and getting our ducks in a row earlier we realized that, with a little luck, we'll someday be referred to as the "Santa Cruz school" (of thought, of theory, of nap-taking, whatever.) Whether or not that happens, we now have a Foucault website to which we shall post when we get rolling next term.

On an unrelated note, my homie Elizabeth has a husband, and her husband does remarkable artwork. Go check it out; his comics are really neat.

Here are two unsolicited haiku:

Dearest Santa Cruz:
Please offer my wife a job
Or I'll beat your ass.

Happy holidays
I got you several hugs
Oh wait, I need those


No More Moustaches

When Becky would leave town for a few days to visit friends or family, I would traditionally shave a moustache into existence long enough to take a picture of it and put said picture on the internet (in this case, "traditional" means "I did this twice.") Becky's been up in Novato since Thursday but before she left this time she told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to fuck around with moustaches.

Becky has preternatural senses; I think it's part of being a wife. You know how moms can just find things when you're a kid? You leave your ninja turtle lunchbox up someone's butt and you can't find it and your mom is like "it's up that neighbor kid's butt! Go get it out of there!" Well, wife-powers consist of the ability to sense all and know all, even if there is no discernible way to find anything out. My point is that if I had crossed her and grown a moustache, she would have known. So I didn't.

On an unrelated note, Stephen Merritt's (of the Magnetic Fields, The 6ths, The Future Bible Heroes) bubblegum goth band The Gothic Archies have a newish album based on the Lemony Snicket series of children's books. It's fantastic. The best song on the album is "We Are The Gothic Archies," which features this priceless stanza:

"Though gothic we are archie
Though archie we are goth
No satan worshippers we
We worship Yog Sothoth."

(I also like "We are the Gothic Archies, with whom you should not mess, the apogee and zenith, of Gothic Archieness.")

And to everyone who was there last night, you know how I know you're gay? You macramed yourself a pair of jean shorts.


Fat Tire

I just returned home from a Graduate Student Association™ end-of-term fiesta on campus. My homie Kelly was the bartender. Let's just say the 2-drink limit was, uh, loosely enforced.

And now! Fun pictures!

(This is the best picture I have ever taken.)

(Pesto, IT analyst)

(An older picture of me trying to keep up with Becky's extreme cute.)

Appropriate Situationist Project

Let's keep the Situationists in mind (yes, that's a Wikipedia link. It's ok to do that on a blog, just not in an essay.) It occured to me this morning that I should put on one of my snappy sharkskin suits and go downtown, either here or in Berkeley, and panhandle for thesis topics in European intellectual history. Think I'd have any luck?

La reform, non, la chienlit, OUI!


Just a Quick Follow-Up

If you're at all interested in follow-up to my anti-Axl Rose post that caused a few internet trolls to crawl out from under their rotting stumps the other day, CHECK THIS SHIT OUT. That's my BOY firing back. And, interestingly, it seems Axl isn't just a dried-out has-been, he's a completely insane dried-out has-been. Good to know.

Stay tuned for more bullet-point lists about graduate school and/or whatever else it is I post about.

(edit: I forgot to add that my homie Alexis now has a blog. I note that her latest post features of a picture of a much younger version of herself.)


Nietzsche argued that all choices are aesthetic in nature: having no access to empirical truth and trapped in a language of metaphor and allusion, everything we do is predicated on our aesthetic sensibilities. Following my boy Friedrich, I'd like to mention a few of the aesthetics that inform my ongoing decision to remain in graduate school:
  • Coffee (no surprise)
  • Sweaters
  • Scruffy facial hair
  • Foucault
  • Poverty
  • Libraries
  • Academic buzzwords
  • Contemporary Marxian critical theory
  • The bus
  • Not working
  • Being surrounded by brilliant women


Sherpas = Studs

The last real class of the term is today (I don't count the stare-blankly-and-space-out pedagogy seminar as a class.) The shift in the weather seems to have been responsible for the insomnia that swept Santa Cruz two nights ago; none of us are used to the menthol-fresh crispy-cold air at night (and, following a conversation in the grad lab yesterday, it sounds like none of us want to/can pay for heat.) As a result, being on nigh-military rations of sleep, I'm not in a big rush to head off to campus this morning.

I stayed up a whole extra hour last night and watched the Discovery Channel Everest Show. It's really well done. I have no idea how the cameramen hauled their gear, considering what a horrible time everyone (except for the stud Danish guy who doesn't use bottled oxygen and the doctor from Oregon [represent]) has trying to just drag themselves up.

The real point of the show is, of course, sherpas. Days before the tourist climbing parties head off for the summit, the sherpas have already been up and down the mountain several times dragging bottled oxygen and supplies up to the four camps on the way to the summit. Each tourist climber is assigned a sherpa who tries to prevent their dumb honkey ass from getting killed. And, as far as you can see in the interactions with the tourists and the sherpas, the latter are generally in good humor about the whole thing (probably not least of which because they're getting paid buttloads of western currency in Nepal.)

Which brings me to a point: my new imaginary band name is the Sex Sherpas.


In Defense of Blogging

Following a couple of comments from a random internet troll, I thought that I'd write a quick post in defense of blogging.

People tend to conflate blogging, social networking sites (myspace, friendster, facebook), and chat rooms. People also tend to assume that involvement in any of the above leads to some kind of perverse internet addiction that precludes the ability to function in the real world. Those assumptions and comparisons are manifestly absurd.

I'm not interested in arguing about social networking sites or chat rooms since I don't “use” either regularly. I'll just point out that social networking sites, while they can expose people to e-stalkers and so on, can also be used to get back in touch with old friends. (I've been lucky enough to re-establish old friendships with people who I would never have seen again otherwise via friendster.)

I do “use” blogging, however. Blogging serves two basic purposes: First, it allows people to keep tabs on their friends who they may or may not see regularly in the real world. As groups of friends move away from one another for work or school, blogging allows a degree of genuine knowledge about one another's lives and, via e-mail and blog comments, correspondence can (and does) occur much more regularly than it did in the era of paper letters. Thanks to their blogs, I have regular contact with friends from Austria to Seattle.

Second, blogging can serve as a useful form of social networking, not in the sense of some kind of crude corporate hob-nobbing, but as a forum in which to exchange ideas and extend approbation or disapproval to them. In other words, blogging can be a socially useful form of gossip.

People critical of blogging usually accuse bloggers of “wasting” their time and/or having no contacts in real life. Regarding the latter point, I suppose it would be possible to sit there in front of a computer and blog all day using only what one found on the internet, but the fact is almost everything people actually blog about is based on things that happened in real life. The archetypal blog post is a funny anecdote about something that happened earlier that day or that week. In fact, blogging doesn't lend itself to use by people with no “real life.” The more one lives in the real world, the more one has to blog about.

Regarding the former point, that blogging is a waste of time, it can only be considered a “waste” if conversation itself is considered a waste. Again, blogging is a way of carrying on conversations between people who might not have the chance to do so in person. Most of my circle of co-bloggers (i.e. people whose blogs I read and who presumably read mine) live 500+ miles away. Even when posts are read by people who do see each other personally, it's an ideal forum in which to exchange ideas in print, which allows a degree of reflection not possible in spoken conversation.

Finally, even someone like me who posts about once a day and reads 20 or so blogs a day spends a grand total of 20 – 25 minutes a day with blogs. How much time do most people spend commuting? How much time do most people spend watching television? How many utterly useless activities take up most of the leisure time of most Americans? I'd argue that blogging is much less of a “waste” of time than most other leisure activities (of Americans, anyway), period.

So, trolls or no, I'm going to keep plugging away.

P.S. Regarding Guns n' Roses: I'll be the first to agree that Appetite for Destruction was a great rock album. But face facts: both of the Use Your Illusion albums were lousy, and hair metal's demise at the hands of grunge was long overdue. It was too ridiculous on too many levels to take itself that seriously. What pissed me off about Axl's comments (I doubt the troll that started this bothered to read the link to the article I included in my previous post) was that they betrayed how little he's changed: he still thinks he's king-shit rock star, 15 years after the fact. Eagles of Death Metal fundamentally work because they know just how ridiculous the paegentry is. Something can be silly and over the top and still be great (think The Darkness).

I'll stand by my original argument: Axl is washed-up.

Insomnia, Axl Rose

First of all, please take a gander at the sad, tired sack of shit to my left. It seems Axl did not get the joke and Eagles of Death Metal are no longer touring with the current iteration of Gn'R. Here's me hoping the feds crack down Axl like he was Willie Nelson. What a washed-up waste of skin.

On an unrelated note, I decided to employ my patented lie-awake-until-god-knows-when technique last night. It probably had something to do with not excercising yesterday, but then, it doesn't seem like I usually need a "reason" not to sleep. I think insomnia is proof positive that humans are a poorly-implimented product that was released without the slightest bit of quality control. Were I in a management position, I'd pull the plug on the whole project and start work on our robot replacements ASAP.

Two more days of "classes" here and then the term is over, here in the vortex of Santa Cruz, California...


Mistakes and Regrets

I'm in the grad lab, reading Beauvoir. I find my French is best in the morning, for some reason. A few minutes ago I had a brief exchange with Elizabeth and Tweak about Beauvoir's lingual abilities (I know she was fluent in English and Latin; I think she knew German as well, since so much of her stuff is based on a particular reading of Hegel).

This got me to thinking. My constant bitching about my lack of lingual musicality is really just a symptom of a larger problem: my shitty undergraduate education. I made it through four years of college and learned next to nothing that I can use as a graduate student. My writing improved, I took some solid history classes, and I started reading and thinking about existentialism, but there are still huge gaps in my low-level knowledge about the history ideas, the history of Europe, and everything else I'm ostensibly a Master (of Arts) in/of. At the time, I got good grades, felt like I was learning a lot, lived in England for a year, and generally had fun, but in retrospect there was absolutely no system to how I approached education, nor did I ever get any guidance that was worth two shits. I've arrived here, funded in a PHD program, thanks to a kind of haphazard spew of essay-writing and my ability to work fast, if not particularly thoroughly.

I used to take pride in having no regrets. But the thing is, having no regrets at 20 is pretty easy relative to having no regrets at 28. If I could do it again:
  1. Two years of French and two years of German.
  2. Year abroad in a non-English speaking country.
  3. Systematic surveys in Western Civ and World History, then concentrations of classes on France, Germany, and Britain.
  4. A philosophy minor.
Still, I'm happy I worked in IT before going back to school and I'm happy that there was a lot of sex, booze, and nerd rock in college. That eases the burden a bit.

BTW, "Mistakes and Regrets" is the title of a fine song by the very-late-90s band You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Like me, they love rock and they love D+D.


Toy Poodle

When it comes to rituals, I like to pick and choose. When it comes to Thanksgiving, I say yes to the traditional foods, because they're tasty, and I say yes to having a light lunch and eating dinner early, because that's the whole point, and while I disdain the stupid Macy's Parade on TV, I say yes to the National Dog Show.

Like most people who didn't give a crap about dog breeds, my introduction to the dog show phenomenon was the fantastic Christopher Guest / Eugene Levy collaboration Best in Show. Ever since, I like nothing more than kicking back with a beverage and cheering on some good-looking pooches. Except that, just like in Best in Show, there's always a goddam poodle. And this year, the goddam poodle won the fucking show. There were all of these funny cute puppies running around, and the stupid judge had to choose the stupid poodle. God, poodles suck.

It's also always interesting to watch dog shows knowing that they came out of the racist eugenics craze of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The vast majority of the breeds are about 100 years old; it's not like there have been Doberman Pinschers since Charlemegne (or whatever.) That being acknowledged, it's still fun to see puppies running around in a circle (as it is to see their awkardly-dressed humans running around in a circle), so I have no problem with it.


Recreational Tryptophan Use

Happy stuffing day, everybody. We're packing things up here, including a 7-pound lop, as we prepare to head north to scenic Novato for Thanksgiving and the day after. Remember:

1. Eat a load of stuffing.
2. Drink a whole bottle of wine.
3. Take a long autumn's nap.

These are the factors that come together to make Thanksgiving the Best...Holiday...Ever!

Also, I hope everyone gets laid.


Crafty Girls

This picture doesn't really do it justice, but this is the snowman holding a pink bunny that Becky made over the last week or so. Please note the glittery snow crunchies, the pinkness of the lop, and the scarf. She's decided to throw craftwork (not to be confused with Kraftwerk) into high gear and start selling stuff. She's going to go on etsy.com, possibly sell stuff through local shops, and sell crafty crafts at a market with her mom next year. I support these decisions.

When she and I had been dating for a few months and all of my homies in Eugene had adopted her, Becky organized a punk rock sewing circle that was, in fact, the cutest thing that had ever been. A cadre of elite girls whipping up clothes and bags and random stuff, generally while drinking PBR. I'm glad that I still know most of those girls and that they continue to be crafty.


Straight to Video

As anyone with the good fortune to hang out and watch hilarious music video compilations with me knows, I've long taken advantage of the combination of the world wide interweb, linux video wrangling software, and cheap blank discs to come up with low-cost entertainment options. Since Becky and I basically have enough money to get everyone hi-fives for Christmas this year, I thought it would be a good move to put together some kind of fun movie disc as a hi-five supplement. To that end I've been struggling to get a cheap-as-free way to convert .avi files and MPEG1 files to dvd-compliant MPEG2 files. Check this tasty little number out (she's a sweetie):

transcode -i met02.avi -y ffmpeg --export_prof dvd-ntsc --export_asr 3 -o ep02
-D0 -b224 -N 0x2000 -s2 -m ep02.ac3 -J modfps=clonetype=3 --export_fps 29.97

Then throw in a little:

mplex -f 8 -o ep2.mpg ep02.m2v ep02.ac3

It's worked on one file so far. I have 15 specific files which I got, uh, legally, and I swear by the power of my +5 Vorpal Greataxe that I will get them to burn to a standard DVD for purposes of watching on a standalone DVD player.


Unemployed in Greenland

Whew. It costs a lot to live in Santa Cruz. And health insurance companies won't let you sign up for temporary insurance if you're eligible to be covered by a group plan. And the UC system won't let you opt out unless you've got health insurance through another carrier. That's 550 bucks I could have spent on, you know, food, but maybe I'll get sick or hurt and need to go in to the doctor in the next 3 months. For the first time in 10 years.

My iPod is (still) broke, I left my laptop power supply in the grad lab at school, and I was feeling sort of crossed up about everything (Camus reminds us that "life has no more inherent meaning than a muscle spasm") when I dropped all of the Trader Joe's macaronni on the floor out of the box. Becky and I kind of looked at it for a few seconds, then decided that yeah, we'd get down on the floor, pick it all up, and proceed with the boiling and eating of it for dinner. I think I said something like "so it's come to this, huh?" After dinner I promptly went back to Trader Joe's to resupply the 2-buck Chuck and gin rations. We're hanging on by a thread as it is; let's not tempt fate.

Myspace Sucks, but Blogs are RAD

Sorry, no edit mode this morning, it's 8:00am on a Monday and I was really enjoying my weekend of sleeping in, reading Beauvoir, and getting drunk with Becky.

In the meantime, I'm pleased to announce that another one of my UO history cohort has a blog now. Nous sommes le pouvoir, V, nous sommes le pouvoir. Oh, and hurry up and link to me, damn it.

Because here's the thing: we're all far too cool to waste time in chat rooms, on myspace, or with various online communities. We've got real life work to do in a real life context. Wasting literally dozens of minutes blogging and reading blogs, however, is completely justified, because it allows us to coordinate our efforts. I mean that in a creepy, cult-like way.

Anyone catch Iron Chef last night? I don't hate Bobby Flay anymore. Now I feel kind of sorry for him. He gets his ass beat all the time.


Clash of the Dick-Titans

Q: Who would win in a hatchet fight between Shatner and Regis?

A: All of us would win, big time.

Oh, and regarding bunnies, Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit is awesome. Highly recommended.

That is all.



Let's talk about Hegel (baby, let's talk about you and me...): Of all the things Hegel talked about, "Geist" was the most important. Geist means "spirit" or "mind." Hegel's philosophy was about the evolution of Geist in humanity through history. He believed that Geist achieved greater maturity and self-awareness over the centuries, culminating in his own lifetime with the modern nation state. There are two ways to interpret this:

Most people claim Hegel was being very literal, and that he believed that there was a human spiritual essence tied to God, and that the appropriate English-language translation of "Geist" should be "Spirit." Slightly more iconoclastic scholars, however, argue that Hegel was talking about a very historically-grounded and accessible concept of progress. He was talking about the French Revolution. He was writing in the aftermath of the Enlightenment, and for the first time a western nation had tried (albeit abortively) to extend universal rights to its citizens. Thus, despite all of the bloodshed and horror leading up to the early 19th Century, there was the possibility of universal legal and social (and, in a sense, spiritual and mental) liberation for the inhabitants of western Europe. Said scholars prefer the translation of "mind" for Geist.

I bring this up because I finally figured out a broad topic to work on. Anyone who has had the misfortune of talking to me about school in the last few years will be unsurprised that it's about existentialism. I have, however, a little more specificity in mind, finally:
  1. Big project: existentialism as a latter-day Hegelian philosophy of progress which made certain ontological (i.e. to do with the nature of existence/being) claims, from which existentialists concluded certain logical political positions.
  2. Smaller projects: examples of this. The utility of existentialism was in concrete political scenarios in which groups and individuals were being disenfranchised by arbitrary traditions. This means racism, sexism, colonialism, and classism.
  3. Paper topics: I'm starting with Beauvoir on sexism in Deuxieme Sexe, but I think for my (second) master's essay I'm going to work on her and Sartre on Vietnam, Cuba, and China.
My next blog post will be about bunnies, I promise.



My iPod shuffle iBroke overnight. It won't play, it won't charge, it won't do anything. And, conveniently, the 1-year warranty ran out 1.5 months ago. The 512MB model I have costs 99 bucks now (it was 110 when I bought it), which is also the amount Apple charges to repair it. I'll take a pass.

I was a quick convert to the Apple cult after getting my iBook near the end of the last school year (funded by Becky selling her car.) It's fast and all of the programs are seemlessly integrated. It obeys the first law of personal computing: It Just Works. I'm still a much more proficient Windows (and Linux) hacker than I am an Apple hacker, largely because one rarely has to hack anything to get an Apple computer to work.

HOWEVER: I'm not really a member of the Apple cult, when it comes down to it. My homie Ransom and I passed in the compu-night last year; just as Becky and I were getting Apple laptops, he was ditching his and getting an IBM Thinkpad, on which he loaded Linux. He was utterly sick of his iBook's hard drive dying and having to argue with Apple for weeks to get it replaced. Likewise, our grad lab is stocked with about 8 iMacs and eMacs, half of which Don't Just Work. They won't boot, they boot but they don't get a login prompt, they get a login prompt but won't get on the network, whatever.

The point is that, in my (albeit limited) experience, Apple reliability is not actually much greater than PC reliability. I still love my laptop, but I wouldn't be that surprised if it up and stops working at some point a little while after its warranty runs out (the difference being, I'd definitely have to get it fixed.) Unlike broken PCs, I can't do anything about the broken Macs in the grad lab. And Ransom, he's a smart guy (a smart guy with a CS degree) and he went over to the other side.

Most importantly, now that my shuffle is iBroke, I will be forced to listen to people on the bus. Steve Jobs owes me drinks and a back rub.

Links for Breakfast

I have new blog links. Can you feel their power?!
  1. There is my history-of-religious-women-in-the-US-logic-dropping ninja assassin homie Elizabeth. Now featuring Brando.
  2. There is my speaks-French-but-does-China homie Amanda.
  3. Then there is my old, old astrophysicist (I'm not kidding) homie Evan, who is back at the south pole fiddling with giant telescopes. (Again, I'm not kidding.)
It's funny with Evan; we've known each other since we were 3, where we met in the tiny logging town of Cottage Grove, Oregon. Roughly 25 years later, we're both in PHD programs in UC schools, although I'll give "looking for evidence of dark matter" precedence over "looking for a topic in French intellectual history" any day.

Normally I'd be en route to the bus by now, but instead I'm drinking coffee in my PJs. I'm just not feeling it. Maybe I'll do my usual chunk of Beauvoir reading/note-taking at home and scoot in to campus later to, well, look for a topic in French intellectual history.


Ice Cold

It is literally impossible to dislike Andre "Ice Cold" 3000. He has the coolest clothes in the world and he shimmies and shakes with the best of them. And there are a number of compelling arguments available that "Hey Ya" is the best pop song of the 21st Century so far.

I bring this up because my homie Jeff turned 33 yesterday and the Brain Trust went out to karaoke to celebrate. Jeff's religion forbids moderation (he's kind of like Rasputin) so within about 40 minutes the bar was out of spirits and almost out of mixers. Then he sang "Hey Ya." My favorite part was when he exhorted the sedentary middle-aged crowd: "all Beyonces and Lucy Lius, get on the floor. You know what to do. You know what to do."

It was a cathartic outing.


Post on Behalf of my Wife

Becky had two excellent ideas this evening:

First, people should make t-shirts (silk screen, use those iron-on things you can use with a computer printer [side note: those actually work], sharpee on a white t-shirt, whatever) of bands that don't exist. Said t-shirts could draw out hipster confusion ("how could I not know about that band!") and would just be generally entertaining. They'd also give those of us who have always come up with band names without necessarily starting the band an outlet.

Her idea:
  1. A goth band called "Alone in the Dark" (it turns out there's a movie and a video game called that, but she didn't know when she came up with the name.) The t-shirt would be a person silhouetted in a window, with rain streaking down.
My ideas:
  1. A star-gazing cutsey indie pop band called "The Icy Breath of the Reaper." The t-shirt would have the band name in drippy Slayer-album-cover letters with a bunch of bunnies running around on a field of flowers.
  2. A punk band called "Straight to Video" with a kind of Tron-inspired theme picture.
  3. A stoner metal band called "Relentless Warlock" with a huge pile of swords.
Also, Becky just pointed out to me that men are screwed because they can't stand shows like Gilmore Girls. Apparently, men on shows like Gilmore Girls are sometimes extremely romantic. If a guy really wanted to be romantic, he'd have to watch Gilmore Girls and take notes. This raises the bar to nigh-unreachable heights for real-life guys who have no interest in Gilmore Girls and other shows of that genre. I guess I'll just keep doing the dishes and cleaning the bathroom; I'd like to think there's some real-life romance in being the kind of husband that actually does half of the cooking and cleaning.

Argyle, misc.

Despite the best efforts of the California sun (which is a different sun than the rest of you have), it's sweater weather at last. You ought to ask yourself if you've been keeping up with the fabulous archival clothing blog. Its operator manages to keep us informed about 50-60 year-old waxed cottons and wools while holding down a full-time managerial post at a major state university. Impressive. My own aspirations are more modest: I celebrate sweaters and sweater weather when it arrives. I've still got a date with my hot wife and a bunch of thrift stores one of these days to stock up on cool poly-cotton blend shirts and hopefully a couple of sweaters. There is yet hope that I'll find a really bitchin' argyle sweater this season to supplement the nouveau argyle sweater Becky picked up for me last year.

In other news, you've been a good kid and you owe it to yourself to watch the latest Strongbad e-mail. HI-larious, people.

It's funny. I'm not really a lot more screwed than I was while pursuing my M.A. at Oregon. But somehow I feel more screwed. This is the mystery with which I grapple at the moment.


The Horror...The Horror.

Becky is visiting her family in Novato tonight. The results of me being left to my own devices can be seen here. (Don't worry...it's disturbing, but I'm not naked.)

In other news, I had an excellent time yesterday. Surrounded by three brilliant, beautiful women I got to see a whole mess of monarch butterflies, some dolphins, and another adorable otter doing otterish things. Then our homies Leah + Bob joined us and everyone had Indian food and vino. E stayed with us for the night, then took off for her hotel in scenic suburban strip-mall hell Mountain View; I just heard from her a few hours ago that she's able to cut her business trip short and go home tomorrow.)

Back to the salt mine tomorrow. I'm meeting with a research librarian to discuss the fact that everything I could possibly write about has already been written. Should be a hoot.

I Don't Waste My Time Hanging Out With Ugly People



I sympathize with people who believe in the following things:
  1. Jinxes
  2. Hexes
  3. Curses
  4. God
  5. The Old Powers that Slumber in the Dark Places Between the Stars
  6. Knocking on Wood
  7. (fucking) Angels
Because, yeah, it seems like there are causal relationships between unrelated things. Someone says "jeepers, I hope I don't get hit by a bus!" and pow! Hit by a bus! Someone prays "God, please give me some money" and pow! They get a .25 cent /hour raise at the Jiffy Lube.

I bring this up because of my experience getting home yesterday from campus: I'm just letting the gallows comedy of the Santa Cruz bus system wash over me, I'm not imputing causality to my waiting at a particular stop just long enough to get sick of it and walk home instead, only to see the bus drive past three minutes later. It's just random that it took me 1.5 hours to get home. There's no wicked spirit doing this to me, or preventing my wife from getting a job, it's just because life itself is FORTY GALLONS OF HORSESHIT IN A TWENTY GALLON BUCKET. That's all!

Anyway, in unrelated news, we watched Capote last night. I don't know, you guys. It wasn't that good. Phillip Seymour Hoffman earned his Oscar and everything, but the movie itself kind of sucked. I didn't mind too much since we were well-supplied with gin and luxury grilled cheese sandwiches, but I doubt I'll ever see it again.

Today: it's rainy. And we're going to take some out-of-towners to see the Monarch Butterflies. Then we're going to cram 6 people into our 2-person-limit apartment and I'm going to make everyone Indian food. Salute!


A Fated Meeting

Yesterday in the bathroom, I was using the facilities when my homie Jamie, also in my program, walked up next to me and started to use them as well. This happens with us a lot; I'll be in there and Jamie will show up out of the blue. Being comfortable, natural, normal guys we struck up a conversation (also as per usual), this time about the definition of a "discursive formation," a phrase that gets tossed around quite a bit in the kind of stuff we have to read. We discussed and debated for a while before concluding that a discursive formation was a singular noun indicating the result, the end-point (albeit temporary) of a discourse about something. Discursive formations are usually contested, of course, and they thus give way after a certain amount of time until new discursive formations arise.

We zipped up, washed our hands, and were on our way.

I related this story to some of the girls in the grab lab a little while later, noting especially the fact that Jamie and I always end up in the bathroom at the same time. My conclusion was that "it's a little homoerotic and a little academic...kind of like me!"

The Jamie-in-the-bathroom phenomenon is funny because my officemate and trusted comrade Matt and I always ended up in the bathroom at the same time at Oregon. I'm glad that there's someone in Santa Cruz to carry on the tradition.


Poetry Jam!

I know what you're thinking
I can't break dance
I just dress like that

Otters are fuzzy and cute
Toodle doo-doodle doo doot
They live in an undersea world
Like oversized big fuzzy wet squirrels

Peut etre
If I keep:
Complaining, complaining!
I'll suddenly:
Know French!


Facial Hair Debate

I've been rocking the scruff lately. I find that it eliminates the need to shave and it turns out that Becky likes how it looks.

The problem with being a skinny guy with a shaved head is that there's nothing I can do to alter my appearance besides wear different hats and shirts (ergo, I own three different flat caps.) With the scruffy, I have some brand new ZAZ!

More to the point, there's a long-standing connection between academia and beards. I'm 80% certain that growing a really serious Karl Marx beard results in instant fluency in German, but I'm still hesitant (actually, I just wouldn't be able to grow a Marx beard, so the point is moot.)

I've noticed that male faculty at UCSC actually have less facial hair than their counterparts at Oregon, and again, German is the deciding factor. There were no fewer than four male Germanists in history at Oregon, and their predilictions resulted in beards. Here, there is only one Germanist, and even he is clean-shaven. Thus, I conclude that once a critical mass is reached with all of the ES WAR SCHLECTs und LIEBE IST KRIEGs und ICH HABE EINEN GROSSEN STEINs, poof! Beards!


Lie on the Floor

The image to the left was my favorite of those that popped up on google image search when I typed in "lie on the floor." I like the fact that sit-ups guy has white sneakers and is bald.

Today was a beautiful confluence of things I hate: the sun, self-doubt, exhaustion. I realized today that I have more than one serious problem (language), I have two: language and topics. I have no topic to write on. When you write about a person (i.e. Beauvoir) you're competing with everyone else who has ever written about her or him to come up with new things to say.

I called it quits at about 2:30pm and promptly hopped on the wrong bus. Apparently not all of the busses go from campus downtown; some stop down in the endless suburban wasteland off of W. Cliff Drive. So I started tromping home and called my homie Alexis to pass the time while I walked. During the conversation, I realized that my real interest in life consists mostly of lying on the floor. Deviations from lying on the floor result in irritation at a ratio equal to my distance from a comfortable lying position.

This is not self-pity; this is exasperation.

Voting: Last Thing

After this there will be no politics in my blog for at least a few posts.

You should vote because:
  1. Local ballot initiatives. Even if you're completely cynical about (American) democracy, you should at least acknowledge that local initiatives have a concrete impact on your community.
  2. The lesser of two evils is still THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS. You're not cashing in on your principles by putting a Clinton (or, more to the point, a Gore) into office in lieu of a Bush.
  3. Politics are so polarized that a small number of votes frequently decides an election.
For me, all of this really hits home because of how much I hate George W. Bush and how close both the 2000 and 2004 elections were. You can write a book about how the Dems are in bed with corporate American (no shit, sherlock), but the fact is we wouldn't be at war in Iraq if Gore had won. We wouldn't be allowing drilling in the the Alaskan Wildlife Preserve if Gore had won. The various assaults on civil liberties which have taken place since 9/11 would at least have been greatly mitigated if Gore had won.

I respect my radical homies' right to vote Nader-equivalent, but despite NAFTA and despite the occasional cruise missile, the Dems are still infinitely better than the 'Pubs, and Dems actually win elections sometimes (of course, it would help if they would ever field a candidate with some FUCKING CHARISMA for a change. Kerry? Phil Angelides? You guys listening?)


Politics, Affirmation

UCSC is a highly politicized (highly political? Highly polyvalent?) campus. There is a long and glorious history of radicalism at the university; Angela Davis is on the faculty, there were various intersections with radical groups from Berkeley during the heyday of the New Left, and the political climate remains overwhelmingly leftist. I'm going to a meeting of the (anti-)capitalism reading group on Wednesday. One of its organizers informed me that "yeah, most people are pretty pro-revolutionary." Having been the voice of the left for all those years in the corporate environment, now I'm the voice of the center here. Bizzare.

One thing being at UCSC (along with hanging out with political sharpshooters like Ana all the time) is doing/will do is making me clarify my politics. I have a feeling that I'll be called out a lot more than I was in the past, so when I'm defending voting for Democrats and looking for long-term electoral strategies in lieu of advocating revolutionary change, I'd best have my ducks in a row.

On an unrelated note, all grad students really want is kindergarten-style affirmation. "You're doing a good job! Yes you are! Your primary-source-based research project sounds promising! Yes it does!" A certain professor a group of us are working with right now is notoriously impossible to please and I got a wicked dose of that via e-mail today. I deleted the snipey parts of my reply before sending it, but neither am I just going to roll over when confronted with this horseshit.


Our Numbers are Growing

It is with great pleasure that I welcome the Fists of South Dakota to the links section. At this point, the actual majority of people in the incoming class of the graduate program in history at the University of Oregon, 2004, are represented in blog format. I'm fairly certain this will allow us to coordinate our tactics and, you know, take over.

In unrelated news, I'm not so sure about Jim Jarmusch. We watched Broken Flowers last night and it was kind of like a film school project with a larger budget that ended up getting a C, despite the best efforts of my main 7-foot-tall actor, Billy Murray. On the plus side, we finally got some gin the other day, so it all worked out.

Santa Cruz history graduate students are reminded to report to Tweak's tonight for purposes of a productivity seminar and motivational roundtable.


Thoughts on Grading

"For those regarded as warriors, when engaged in combat the vanquishing of thine enemy can be the warrior's only concern. Suppress all human emotion and compassion. Kill whoever stands in thy way, even if that be Lord God, or Buddha himself. This truth lies at the heart of the art of combat. "

-Hattori Hanzo

Adventure in Poverty!

Here's the refrain from my favorite song du jour:

"I can offer you a life...of adventure in poverty! And together we will roam the world! And together we will roam the world! I can give you a life that would not be the same without me! And together we wil roam the world! And together we will roam the world!"
-Billy Nayer Show, "Roam the World"

Becky and I were talking last night before we went to sleep about the state of things. The job market here continues to deliver crushing blows every week. It's really hard. That said, we've still got our 450 sq. foot apartment, we've still got our cupboard full of Trader Joe's groceries, we've still got 11 bottles of 2-buck Chuck racked up by the table.

The most important reason I quit Corporate America back in 2004 was the fact that my life never changed, I just got older. As underpaid as I was, I made so much more money back then than I do now and will do for years to come. And yet here we are, Becky looking for work, us living on some grants and fellowships, and we live pretty much the same way. No new tattoos and no going out to bars, but besides that it's all exactly the same. So we'll stick it out.


A Marked Contrast

Yesterday our Methods class had an excellent discussion of Foucault's Discipline and Punish, a book which every intro graduate seminar is required to read...by law (or by the carceral system. Same difference.) I continue to be impressed by my cohort; the quality of the discussion, the insights, and the eloquence are all at black-belt, break-your-neck levels. The professor leading the seminar, my advisor, even concluded that he'd have to reconsider his reading of Foucault based on the discussion. That was a nice compliment.

Then I watched most of the retrospective of this season's America's Next Top Model with Becky. Holy cow. That was quite a shift. I have to say: the show is a train wreck, the girls on it inspire as much sympathy as revulsion (that's just to say that they're so young...they're not evil, just kind of confused), but Tyra Banks is kind of amazing. She can do these weird things with her eyeballs, kind of projecting a medusa-like power to petrify or paralyze. She's like a 20th level supermodel with 200 hit points.

Then they fucking killed off Mr. Echo on Lost. That sucked.

In other news, it's totally raining. That's so awesome.


The Bands that Rock it on my Headphones

Here are three important updates on the music.

First, I mentioned a while back the existence of American Astronaut, probably the best movie ever made. The band that made it, The Billy Nayer Show, is among the better bands
ever made. Right now I'm rocking out to the soundtrack to American Astronaut and their latest album, Rabbit, which is about sex.

Next, I'd like to mention Ladytron. Their second-to-latest album, "Lights and Magic," was a disappointing mix of amazingly good songs and really lousy songs. Their latest one, "The Witching Hour," in stark contrast, rocks all night long.

Finally, everyone has already freaked out about Gogol Bordello, and I won't belabor the point, but I would like to share an observation I had courtesy of my iPod Shuffle: Gogol Bordello is better than The Pogues. It's true. I was walking home, a Gogol Bordello song came on (off of "Multi Kontro Kulti vs. Irony," I believe), then a Pogues song came on, and it was just a hands-down win for the former. I almost felt bad for The Pogues.


Circle the Wagons

We aren't going out tonight. About four blocks away, all of downtown Santa Cruz will be fenced in and patrolled by over 100 cops. They're up against the 25,000 people who annually show up to get wasted and party like (aging, fat) rock stars. From my perspective, there are so very few reasons (for me) to go out most of the time anyway:
  1. I'm really, really broke.
  2. My going out has absolutely no relationship with my chances of getting laid. If anything, a late night = less chance.
  3. All of my friends in Santa Cruz, since they're students, can't afford to go out either! So when we hang out, it's usually at someone's house.
This will come as no surprise to anyone, but I'm really interested in factor number 2. There's an inverse relationship between party fervor and long-term relationships. Parties exist basically to get people laid. Once party attendance no longer increases one's chances for that evening, the appeal really drops off.

Speaking of, I'd like to salute my homie Kelly for her latest blog post. I will summarize its salient themes: "I gots wine and I'm gonna GET LAID TONIGHT!" Salute, Kelly! Salute!


I Don't Even Turn Around

Thanks to the inimitable KungFuKitten, I now know that:

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

More to the point, there are fully 1,556,837 people named Christopher out there (I say people because .29% of them are female.) The above explains why googling me doesn't really go anywhere. It also speaks to the fact that when someone shouts "hey! Chris!" in a crowd, I just ignore it. Eight other guys standing nearby will all turn around to see who's talking to them.

Wow; you know, the US just passed 300 million. That means that about .5% of everyone in the US is named Christopher. Dear mom: couldn't you have named me something cool, like "Hannibal Bloodcharger" or "Draco Guitarsolo"? Or at least "Spencer Moody"?


Dancing Gangs

The purpose of musical theater is to portray street gangs that do battle primarily in the form of frenetic dance. The best scenario in a good musical theater gang rumble is the "everyone jumps in the air and does the splits" move. The second-best scenario is when the gangs are dressed like they are in Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video: lots of leather and tight pants. One gets the impression that the Sharks and the Jets should just throw in the towel and hit the gay bar.

I bring this up because I watched, well, a musical historical comedy about the Declaration of Independence last night with Jeff and Tweak. There were definitely parts that were cringe-worthy, but overall it was pretty fun. I say this because Tweak is sort of a fanatic about early American history, so it's only fair that she's watched this thing a million times. If someone made a musical comedy about postwar French intellectuals, I'd be thrilled.

Especially if there was dancing in tight pants.


Berkeley, CA

Today I was my homie Jeff's research assistant at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. We dug through the archives and found him some nice juicy primary sources for his dissertation.

Nine of us were on our official field trip. Sadly, there was neither nap time nor juice boxes. But it was still fun.

More to the point, we had three of us (Jeff, Tweak, me) trapped in a car for something like 4.5 hours there and back. We decided to get gang jackets. Possible gang names:
  1. The Great Big Pussies.
  2. Dork Squad.
I'm leaning toward the former; we could have a unicorn insignia. We also found a great nickname for Tweak: Tweak. Because I've never seen a girl that small drink quantities of coffee that large.

On the way home I drove the wrong way. As we realized that we had to go over some gigantic bridge, Jeff suggested I ask what bridge it was. The tollbooth lady replied "San Francisco. The Bay Bridge." So we got to take a detour through San Francisco and down the coast rather than, you know, just driving home.

Now Becky and I are drinking pumpkin beer, watching Nightmare Before Christmas, and carving pumpkins. Mine looks angry. I'll put up a picture of him tomorrow.


To Rock or to Stop the Rock?

It's been about three years since I was in a band. I had vague notions of joining one/starting one when I got to Santa Cruz, had the abortive Craigslist metal band try-out ("What do you mean "tune down" my bass?"), and then the school year started. It's possible that I miss playing in bands, but it's also possible that I really, really don't. Let's explore these possibilities:

1. Being on stage with a decent crowd is fun.
2. I love rock n' roll. Put another dime in the jukebox, baby.
3. I have a great amp, sleeves, and a lot of denim clothing. It only seems logical.

  1. The people who like the kind of music I like are complete fucking jerks 50% of the time.
  2. Being on stage without a decent crowd is NO fun.
  3. Amps are heavy and I live in a third-floor apartment.
Craigslist has nothing going on right now. But I'll keep looking.

Transportation, part deux

The advantage of a bus so full it literally can't fit another passenger is that said bus will speed along to its destination, leaving bus stops full of beleaguered and confused would-be bus-riders. This is a disadvantage for them, but a wonderful advantage for everyone who got on at the downtown metro station.

My homie Elizabeth's husband Nick hooked me up with a free bike. It's a little banged-up, it's got some wobbly bits (hey, who among us doesn't?), but it's perfect for my purposes. I just need to get a helmet that makes me look a little less like Dark Helmet from Spaceballs and I'll be all set.

Things I don't want to do today: write another gender reaction paper. Things I'm going to do today: write another gender reaction paper.


I Am So Hot

This will be the most interesting post ever.

I have three things that make me uncomfortably hot all the time:
  1. A shaved head / kickass male pattern baldness.
  2. Tattoos more or less covering my arms and lower legs.
  3. A furnace-like metabolism.
Factors 1 and 2 make me hot because I have to wear a hat all the time to keep my scalp from getting sunburned (this is ok; it gives me the excuse to wear cool hats) and I have to wear long sleeves to keep my ink from being exposed to the sun. So far I'm also sticking to not showing off the ink while on campus; this puts me somewhere between tactful/respectful and just chickenshit. So you have a be-hatted and be-sleeved me at times when I really want to be there sans hat and avec a t-shirt and shorts. Oh, and the metabolism speaks for itself.

Becky and I were discussing new fashion directions that might help me out now that we're California residents. I love thrift-store button shirts with a 65% polyester, 35% cotton, 100% stylish blend. I can sport one of those and be comfortable on hot days; they breathe and they cover up the tats. We resolved to hit the local thrift barns. Then Becky dropped a bombshell:

"Have you ever thought that it could be your PANTS making you so hot?"

Those are words to ponder, and not just for me. I'm asking all of my hot friends (and there are a lot of you reading this): have you ever thought that it could be your pants making you so hot?


Intellectual history 101

Back in the 60s, the German emigre Fritz Ringer published The Decline of the German Mandarins. It was a massive survey of the intellectual currents running through German academia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, leading up to the Nazi takeover in 1933. It was an important book; it redefined intellectual history, in part, by introducing the notion of doing field-surveys rather than just a series of intellectual biographies of important thinkers (which is how intellectual history had always been done previously.)

With the rise of cultural history in the 1970s, intellectual was again redefined as people started blurring the line between the "intellectual" and the "cultural" and arrived at the "conceptual." People started writing books tracing notions or curents or discourses through time (a recent one by a very big name is about changing ideas of what "experience" is.) The history of cultural practices, say, how death is remembered and commemorated in Germany from 1945 to the present, land somewhere between intellectual and cultural methods, since it's always easiest to just read what some smart person has said about something and call it history.

I bring all of this up because I've been feeling pissy and resentful about history lately. The insane fetishization of archival research by historians leaves little room for traditional intellectual history (since most of the sources for intellectual historians are, by definition, published) but I'm completely underwhelmed by conceptual history. Simply put, who cares how the notion of "experience" has changed over time? What possible social or political impact can that have, or have had?

This is probably coming to the surface because of a field trip I'm participating in on Friday to the Bancroft Library at Berkeley. Surprisingly enough, there is nothing there that I need to look at, because Simone de Beauvoir didn't accidentally leave a valise full of unpublished papers in the foyer.

Anyway, back to work on the latest pile of boring articles saying the same things.