Allow Me To Suggest

As a vrai bon vivant, I've tasted my share of life's sweetest fruit(ses). Allow me to suggest a few:
  1. Arrested Development. I didn't appreciate it when it was on the air. Only three seasons were made before FOX realized that they had unleashed a subversive monster that might undermine republican election results. Honestly, I'm pretty sure it's the funniest show ever made, next only to the golden years of The Simpsons.
  2. Brie and carmelized onions on french bread. Your palate will explode with tasty flavors. You will fall over and have seizures...of the goodness.
  3. "Pirate coffee": just really ridiculously strong black coffee. Don't pollute your java with additives, people.
  4. Apple Computers. They're compu-seductive.
  5. The Pacific Northwest. Man am I homesick.
  6. Two-buck Chuck Merlot. The cabernet is acceptable, I don't drink white wine so I don't know, but just avoid the Shiraz. It's really awful. Anyway, the merlot is where it's at.
  7. Iron Chef America. The original Japanese program is probably the greatest thing ever put on television. The first attempt at an American follow-up was an acknowledged disaster, featuring William "fucking" Shatner as the chairman. The Food Network reconfigured its options, and the present iteration was born, featuring the gentleman-scholar Alton Brown as the host. People: it's worth your time. Becky and I fucking love this show. Whether you're cheering Bobby Flay losing or cheering Mario Batali winning, it's awesome.
  8. Redoing your blog's color scheme. Open your heart.
Anyway, Becky and I have been enjoying another one of our patented Wine Nights. Allow me to suggest, also, that you grab your (a) hot young thing and devise a master plan involving crime-fighting and wine-drinking...tonight!


Wait, That's Inverted

I had an odd time of things today: my morning talking about history and politics with a bunch of very smart academics totally sucked and my afternoon of working totally didn't.

I don't have the energy to write the long version, so here's the short one: I'm pretty far to the left, but not as far as people likely to wind up in History of Consciousness seminars at the UC to the SC. I hate arguing, but somehow I always manage to open my mouth to a level of great bigness, and I find myself talking even faster than I do normally as I explain exactly why "revolution" was a really stupid idea as of the 1950s in France. I've asked two people why they think this is (why I always end up arguing) and they told me it's because I state my opinions definitively, which leads me wide open to getting problematized....right in the butt.

(This of course, speaks to the larger academic phenomenon of "problematizing" things [right in the butt]: it's always easier to trash someone else's idea than come up with one of your own. I'm not saying my ideas are all that great, just that grad students are like ravenous hyenas when confronted with definitive statements.)

Anyway, after a very frustrating couple of hours feeling stupid and defensive, I went to work. There, I fixed things, surrounded by the perfect clarity of electronics. It either works or it doesn't. If it doesn't, you figure it out and then it does. I've got a thick skin for complexity and ambiguity, but even I reach my limit eventually. By the time I left, I felt much calmer, and I'm happy knowing that when I wake up tomorrow, all I have to do is get on the bus and get back up to Natural Sciences 2 to get back to finishing up that laptop. It won't claim that rioting is better than voting.


Kungfuramone Tries to Play Softball

My dad was a kind of uber-jock. He was a first-string receiver for Yale, he played hockey competitively from early childhood, and he was well-known as a serious competitor in the local tennis leagues in Eugene. How he had me and my brother, no one has been able to figure out. The only sport I ever played with any seriousness was tennis, and I gave that up in early highschool when I realized what a bunch of ass-hats the guys on the tennis team were. As a result, I have a fair amount of "natural" athletic ability coded into my genes, but basically no training whatsoever.

Thus, my policy when playing a sport is: hit it as hard as I can. A softball, a soccer ball, a tennis ball, a foosball, a lawn dart. Find a way to hit it, throw it, impale it, or otherwise make the best possible use of kinetic energy. This served me well yesterday at the sexy grad student gathering / pre-memorial day BBQ, as I was afforded the opportunity to try and hit some softballs really hard with an aluminum bat. The experience clinched it: I'm totally joining my compadres in Fall when they fire up the intramural league again.

In other news, the best piece of catharsis to come out of the new job is undoubtedly the opportunity it affords me to flush all of my grad-student guilt down the toilet for the summer. I'm not going to read anything. I'm not going to "learn" a new language.* I'm not going to write my master's paper. I'm not going to do a goddamn thing related to the formal academic discipline of history until September. Or, anyway, if I do, it's going to be because I want to, not because I'm besieged with guilt. You just watch.

* Well, maybe I'll try to remember how to read Italian so I can pass my second language exam. But I'm not promising anything.


Working, Stiff

The only history I've read in the last few days was on the bus to and from campus as I geared-up for long days of tearing open PC cases and writing down serial numbers. I really like my job. The three guys I work with are smart and nice and have classic IT-dork senses of humor (senses plural, or one shared sense? It is not for me to say.) They also represent the three archetypes of IT guys:
  1. The ponytail-and-scruffy-goatee Unix admin who always wears shorts and sandals.
  2. The slight, bespectacled PC tech who is consummately polite to everyone.
  3. The older, goofy guy in a Hawaiian shirt who hums to himself all day and makes weird sound effects whenever he does anything.
(I'm the stereotypical humanities-grad-working-in-tech, obviously. Wait...what?)

In other news, we bought a new TV. It's a Samsung. It was pretty cheap. The picture quality isn't as good as that of our now-very-broken Sony, but the sound is outstanding. We found the experience of watching movies on it kind of peculiar, then realized that it seemed weird because we'd been watching them on laptop screens two feet from our faces for a month.

I'm relieved that Monday is Memorial Day; I am technically still a history grad, and I do technically have two more reactions to write up and a presentation to give, so I could use a solid day to get everything ready for next week. People in SC, remember to go to Special K's BBQ on Sunday. I can't drink all of the beer (although I'll certainly try.)

Finally, I'll leave you with this, a sun-dappled bunny. Cats don't have the monopoly on sunbeam-bogartage.


Another Big Day in Paradise

"I'm going to do a blog post" -me
"Why? What did you do today?" -Becky
"I went to work." -me
"Fascinating." -Becky

Years ago, my homie never-a-blog-update scoffed when I told her that I just wanted to sit around and have nothing to do. "You'd go nuts" she told me. It turns out she was completely right, something I've realized over the last few summers. But the thing is, it's contextual: when I told her that, I was overworked, underpaid, and permanently pissed off, and all I wanted was sleep and time to myself. The summers I spent unemployed, broke, and permanently bewildered were not much better (they still were, ultimately...crawling naked through angry, laser-wielding scorpions is better than being on call.)

The point is this: happiness is thoroughly contextual. It's fun to schlep monitors and answer help tickets so long as I know it isn't permanent.


Computers: They are Complicated

It has been exactly three years since I quit IT. On my last day at this place, the IT dept. and the VP of Operations went out to our favorite pizza place and drank about 2 pitchers of beer per person at lunch. That night, we had a going-away party at the home of these two beautiful kids. At the time, I was a fair computer tech; I knew quite a bit about Windows, a little less than quite a bit about Linux, and a little less still about Cisco network equipment.

There are three guys running the IT ops at the place I'm now working and they're fucking smart. I am desperately trying to keep up (as of today, Day 1), but damn. It's not just that I've forgotten things, it's that a lot of what they do I never knew to begin with.

That being said, they're really nice, personable guys, and I have high hopes that it'll be a good summer. I note, however, that they're all family guys and they don't seem to swear very much. This weirds me out a little; my IT experience was always kind of "marines / locker room on PCP, featuring porn." Ultimately, this version is much more civilized, so I'm ok with it. Because I freaking love civilization.



We just returned from the SC library annual huge book sale - books at 1.50/pound. Here's what I gots:
  • Sartre, Huis Clos
  • Gide, La Symphonie Pastorale (I have no idea...it just looks easy to read and short.)
  • Braudel, The Perspective of the World (the Braudel that is supposed to say something besides "cheese is certainly not a luxury.")
  • A four-volume history of philosophy in the 20th century...for 3 bucks.
  • A book about Fifth Republic French presidents.
  • Also, I had some coffee with Tweak, who didn't sleep again.
Today looks promising. I have nothing to do and no intention of going anywhere now that I'm home. Tonight we're going to drink some gin and watch Real Genius, featuring the acting power of (St.) Val Kilmer. Oh, and eat spaghetti. Welcome to the lap of luxury. Take off your pants and stay a while.



I got the friggin' computer job after all!

Coincidentally, I was just translating an interview in which Beauvoir spoke to Sartre about the women's movement in the 70s and I came across these beautiful lines:

Beauvoir: You would say that men are more easily fooled?

Sartre: More easily fooled, and more easily comic. The society of men is a comic society.

Beauvoir: By and large, because each plays these roles and is completely caught up in them?

Sartre: It is so.

(The following is not in the original):

KFR: I am my own little comic society, guys.

Beauvoir: Your French is awful, Chris.


Bow Before Your Robotic Masters, Wretched Human

Andro Unit is going to f'in kill you.

Sorry about all the whining, whinging, bitching, and felching* (ha ha...just kidding) lately. I'm giving my loyal readership of 5 a no-more-whining guarantee for at least the next month.

So, anyway, why do you think robots are so much better than people? And who invented the ninjas vs. robots vs. pirates thing that swept the nation a few years ago?

It's peculiar how pop culture kind of channels and collects like that; my friends and I were totally talking about ninjas and robots and pirates as good and desirable things back around '99/2000, then all of a sudden they were everywhere. The thing is, I'm not claiming "I was into ninjas before you" (although I was...I was obsessing about ninjas before Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles popularized them back in 1987 [w/ the cartoon - the original comic was published in '84.]) What I'm saying is that many, many good-looking kids from all across the nation decided that ninjas, robots, and pirates were good, fun things all at the same time, somehow. It's kind of like how we all realized that synth-pop sounds fucking great at around the same time, maybe in 2001 or 2002.

Anyway, the point is, I have a ninja tattoo on my bicep and I can't wait until the robots take over. We've had about 10,000 years of "civilization" and I think we've conclusively forfeited our sovereignty rights at this point.

* Tweak, the next time you drop a really egregious pun, I'm going to tell you what felching is as punishment.


Worrying: A Lifestyle

So far, it's been pretty mixed in Santa Cruz. On the one hand, I've got the program and my friends, on the other, money and the future. When we got here I spent the first three + months worrying about Becky finding work*, then in winter I was just concerned with finding a master's paper topic, now I'm on to worrying about me finding work.

It's pretty hard to be broke in this town, much harder than it was in Oregon. We spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month just staying fed, and that's TJ's groceries and never going out. We had the fabled porch-couch in Eugene, and a free-as-cheap solution to the perennial "what are we doing tonight" question was "have a BBQ and sit on the porch-couch." Here, we sit and watch movies on a laptop and drink cheap gin and 2-buck chuck. It would all be terribly bohème if there was a little more, I don't know, crazy carefree romance to the experience, but for some reason the literary precedent loses something in the translation to actually worrying about the rent.

The other thing is the claustrophobia...it's not just living in a tiny apartment w/ two people and a monstrous lagomorph. Santa Cruz itself is packed-in like an Italian city, with little windy streets and close-together buildings. There's only one place to go for a walk from our building (down W. Cliff), which is a fantastic walk but which would be well-served by having alternatives. I miss the ability to use walking as real transportation and I miss rent being in the three-digits rather than the four.

So: sellin' some books. Hopin' the temp agency finds something for me. Doin' the robot on streetcorners for cash.

* Becky, it should be noted, never freaked out about the job hunt. She and I trade off on who-freaks-out-about-what, and lately it's been all me.


In the Future, Our Hair is Fabulous

Last night we watched Logan's Run with Becky's folks. It made me think about the future. If I had been coming of age in the 1970s, I would have thought the following about the future:
  1. In the future, our hair is fabulous.
  2. In the future, the women wear little tiny dresses (think first-gen Star Trek and Barbarella, too).
  3. In the future, men wear functional one-piece jumpsuits with sparkly things attached.
  4. In the future, robots look like shiny washing machines and will try to kill you.
  5. In the future, all computers are huge.
  6. In the future, all computers communicate by talking to you.
  7. Most importantly, in the future, if a computer is up to no good, all you have to do is tell it something that "does not compute" and it will explode after getting confused.
Instead, here in the future, 75% of all internet traffic is file-sharing data and the most complicated thing they've got robots doing is dancing on a table.


Laundry, Big-Time

We're off to Novato for a day in a little bit here. Pesto will have to content herself with the vast amount of food we always leave her and the vast amount of litter she gets to kick all over her cage when she gets frustrated.

On the agenda: laundry, car-washing, around-sitting, steak-eating.

Because here's the thing: vacations are an odd duck. In this case, we're visiting Becky's mom for mom's day, so it's different, but in general I think vacationing is strange in that you could, really, just stay home and do most of the same things. Stay up late eating good food and drinking, go on hikes, go to a museum, whatever. And it would be a lot cheaper and a lot easier than flying somewhere and dealing with logistics. I think, however, that the real point of vacations is as much the impossibility of doing what you normally do as actually being somewhere new and interesting. I mean, Becky and I spent every night while we were in New Zealand in our motel watching Kiwi TV and drinking beer, but the fact that we couldn't do work made it fun.

In other news: we still haven't dealt with the broken TV. We found out that so many shows are online and that our cable connection makes streaming video like butter that we haven't really felt the need to either fix our old one or get a new one (if it's the latter, it's all about Craigslist.) And there are less commercials! Holy laptop in your butt, batman!


Hacking Off My Head with a Hatchet

Well, I didn't get the (fucking) tech job on campus I interviewed for through the temp agency; the official word is that they need someone to start full-time, which directly contradicts what the manager said in the interview. But hey. Why worry about details.

So I'm back to broke and terrified about summer. I've hated summers for years now, but right now it's kind of hitting a fever-pitch...the glaring sun, the ugly people in the streets, insomnia, poverty, and boredom.


Reality TV: What I've Learned

This promises to be the most important blog post I'll write today!

I never watched crappy TV until I became a grad student. Unlike several of my friends, I can't keep working past a certain point on things that require actual intellectual energy. I can grade papers or read for sections, but I can't do my own work later than about 4 most days. Thus, when Becky and I were both grads at Oregon we'd usually call it quits by dinnertime and, well, we'd end up watching Survivor. Sometimes.

Over the last three years we've narrowed down the shows we watch. I really hate Survivor and won't watch it anymore, but I'm completely into Deadliest Catch. I've lost interest in Amazing Race, but I've officially come out of the closet regarding America's Next Top Model. And here's what I've learned: It's all about the editing. Almost no one is a saint or a monster, but reality TV is almost completely populated by saints and monsters. Think about it: if someone were to record everything you did for a week, they could splice it together such that you'd look like Gandhi or that you'd look like Hitler. Or, at least, a complete jerk. Maybe not Hitler.

The editors of reality TV shows create characters out of real people; it's not just that the drama of the shows is "real" in the sense that it isn't scripted, it's that the surreality of the format leads the viewer to like or dislike the characters more than they would if they were actors. It's hard not to think that they're "really" like that.

I first noticed this with Amazing Race a few seasons back, when Rob + Amber the Survivor winners were brought on the show. They were complete assholes and when they finally lost to the saintly Uchenna and Joyce, it was a triumph of good over evil. Then I started noticing that other reality shows had comparable villains, but sometimes the villains would suddenly appear in a different light, or the other people on the show would reveal that the character chosen by the editors as last week's hero was actually a total ass-hat.

This has reached its zenith, for me, in this season of America's Next Top Model. Every episode has a new villain, often but not always the girl who is eliminated. At the start of the season, it was arrogant Jazlene. Then it was bitchy Renee, then crazy Jael, then last night it was neurotic, whiny Britney. The thing is, Britney was one of the hero characters until they eliminated the others, then the editors spliced in every scene they could find of her being a pain in the ass.

So: for those of you who watch reality TV, watch for this phenomenon. I find it more enjoyable to trace the editorial decisions than the actual content of the show most of the time.

And yes, I just revealed how low the bar really is with my attention span and general intellectual maturity level. I know, I know, I should be reading Proust or something until late into the night....but I'll stick with Tyra for now.


Particle(s) of Faith

The advantage of being religious is, I imagine, the ability to associate routine hoping with an external referent that has the considerable resources of omnipotence. Being a virulently atheistic tinhorn existentialist can be a complete fucking drag when one is confronted with contingency. In English: it would be really nice if my hope that everything will work out in the next month / four months / year / five years could be translated into faith that it'll work out.

The only advantages with disbelief are that, first, you're not surprised when things go horribly awry and, second, that you can revel in smug satisfaction knowing that you're probably right that there is no god.

As usual, Devo has a song about it (Praying Hands):

You got your left hand
You got your right hand
The left hand's diddling
While the right hand goes to work
You got both hands
You got praying hands
They pray for no man
OK, relax
Assume the position
Go into doggie submission


The Conan the Barbarian Drinking Game, Redux

  1. Anytime anyone gets killed.
  2. Anytime anyone says "Crom!"
  3. Anytime Conan whips his sword around for no reason.
  4. Anytime Conan flexes.
  5. When Conan says "crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of the women" you have to finish your drink.
  6. Boobs.

And believe me, I'm feeling it this morning. Happily, I had the good sense to drink 2 pints of water and have some cereal before I went to bed, so I expect a full recovery in time for the Metalocalypse marathon tonight.


Mo' Betta Master's Thesis Topic

Here's what I've got from my local "ideas.doc" file:

It’s got to be on the Second Sex phase vs. the women’s movement phase. When she published second sex, there was no movement and there was no attempt to create one. There was no way to articulate an effective politics. When she joined the women’s movement post-68, however, efficacious politics had become a possibility.

What must be done:
  • A reading of Second Sex, which is already done.
  • A reading of the reaction. Need to be careful here – the reaction was polemical, but so were reactions to the women’s movement itself.
  • More important to get an idea of what the left was all about c. 1947 w/ the Sartrian school. Thus, may be better to get it from her autobiographies and/or LTM. Usual suspects of books about the French left?
  • A reading of the interviews from the 70s and 80s about B in the women’s movement itself.
  • Secondary stuff on new social movements in France.
The nice thing is that I can work through some of the ideas here for my term paper in the Cultural Studies seminar I'm in. It would be like a thousand guitar solos to have some serious work done on the thesis by the end of summer.

Also, there is a Moustache-a-thon going down in SF. That's so awesome.

Also, people in SC are reminded that we're watching Metalocalypse at this chick's pad on Saturday night. Lest you forget:

(Watch it. You'll be happy you did.)