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.