Thursday, December 08, 2005


the belly of the beast

clovers is on the road, possibly coming to a town near you. if you live in boston, new york, new haven or DC, drop a line.

I am currently unsconced in the harvard zoo' library. this is an amazing place with 4 librarians and 2 patrons. why? because just setting fire to a pile of money would have been obscene.

I went to a harvard grad colloquium. apparently in humanities grad school, "asking a question" is actually code for "rambling on for 5 minutes about something obscure and not really asking anything." after which, the speaker deflects your question and rambles about something tangential out of respect for you. but the chairs are so comfy, the lighting was beautifyl, and there was brie! at UMan we just have a box of timbits.

being at harvard got me thinking about the value of spaces. I used to hate this kind of discussion as an undergrad, but walking into a library that is shining wood and pristine, padded chairs made me realize how different I felt. It seemed like people were imbued with a sense of confidence and importance. at UMan, there are no comfortable chairs. consequently, we view academics as a monastic choice--painful but pure. where I woul imagine here, academics seems like something that society values externally which changes ones whole perspective. Just reading and writing affords one this rather beautiful existence. It would seem to at the root of both the ivory tower anti-intellectualism and the famous lack of perspective. people just leave their laptops in the library. At UMan, I lock the lab door when I go to the bathroom.

The library reminded me of a board room with its scrupulous attendance and heavy, impressive decor. Is this a byproduct of the professionalization of the university, or is it simply a modern menagerie--awing the unitiated with the power of capital.

Now i live on both sides of this fence, don't get me wrong. And with my tousseled hair and laptop I walked right past the attendant both days without an ID check. perhaps my undergrad ID would be sufficient proof that I would comport myself respectfully and not ruin the atmosphere. Isn't that what doormen are really all about?

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Best movie I've seen in 2 years

I went to see "be here to love me" last night, and "walk the line" last weekend. They are the same movie: non-traditional country star struggles with drugs and alcohol but writes bomber songs while hurting the ones he loves. The primary difference is in the way they are expressed.

David Foster Wallace described the difference between major studio movies and independant movies as (and I paraphrase), "independant movies are meant to make you think about your life, while major studio movies are meant to make you forget your life." He fleshes out the argument with an idea of the audience working vs. being entertained. This sums up these movies well. Where WTL drops a clanging, happily-ever-after block of text, BHTLM shows tasteful, funny, moving home-video from performances at Townes Van Zandt's funeral. Where Johnny's abandoned children are left out of the movie, the interviews with townes' introspective adolescents are fascinating. And nobody's wife really looks like Reese Witherspoon.

The highlights of both are obviously the music. The scene where June and Johnny are belting out bob dylan's ode to moral failure, "it ain't me, babe" while Johnny's estranged wife sits in the front row is one of the most electrically comic scenes I have encountered. The high-comedy for Townes comes where he is singing "the ballad of poncho and lefty" on an 80's nashville TV show while he is backed up by tight-jeaned, big-haried, doo-wop male country singers. UIC rating 93. Watching Townes sing "waitin' around to die" in his house in Texas is magic.

Another highlight of both is the interludes involving other musicians. The walk-on by waylon jennings ("insufficient fundulation") as well as the interactions with a young elvis ("that boy elvis sure loves to talk poon") and an oddly doogie-howser Jerry Lee Lewis are the backbone of WTL. The musicians are real in BHTLM. Guy Clark is laugh-out loud funny every time he speaks from his hammed up tequila toast to his final funeral joke in BHTLM. Steve Earle looks and sounds oddly like a tech-boom yuppie in his interviews as does Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth. But this is an advantage in a movie which highlights the incandescent lovability of Townes Van Zandt as opposed to WTL which has its thunder stolen by these cameos.

I would be remiss without discussing that bit of hipster sadness which comes from having one's spot blown up by a movie. I assume I will no longer whip out my Townes cds and drop the jaws of uninitiated while dropping a bit of 'all falls down' ("you ain't up on this?"). But given what a beautiful movie this is an how underappreciated he was, this development is for the best.

I also admit that despite loving the Son Volt and Kelly Willis version of "Rex's Blues" for years, I had no idea until last night that it was a townes song.

Go out and see "Be Here To Love Me: a movie about Townes Van Zandt" as soon as you can. or wait and netflix it. But do not miss it. seriously.


We don't need no water let the mother-"hee-haw" burn

I apologizes for the lack of posts. I had to turn in an enormous fellowship application that if I win will pay for all of next years schooling including tuition, rent, food and disposable income. Given my predilection for sloppy work as I am sure you have seen, it took extra-much time and effort to make it just right.

but back to the show:

In Winnipeg, despite the fact that the phoenix coyotes have existed for the better part of 10 years, you can still buy $200 authentic Winnipeg Jets jerseys. and "selanne #12" jets t-shirts. It is sortof like the phantom limb for amputees. a whole corner of River City Sports is dedicated to jets mechandise. One can also buy nordiques apparel. The gear would be punk, if it weren't so sad.

Additionally, the cultural regulation is so tight that when male wrestlers fight girls in WWF, canadian networks go to commercial. swear to god. they used to just pan to the audience, but apparently the commentating still offended enough people.

In other amusing cultural happenings, on the radio, instead of substituting funny sounds or blank-spots for swear words, they just cut the whole verse. nowhere is this more noticable than in kanye west's "golddigger" in which "when he get up on, he'll leave your ass for a white girl" is wholly omitted. it is the most absurd censoring since the disney channel's "genie in a bottle" swap of "my body's saying 'let's go,' but my heart is saying no" for "EVERYBODY's saying 'let's go,' but my heart is saying no." I thought Tipper Gore's parental advisory stickers were supposed to solve this mess.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


leftist alert

We had a woman come to speak at UMan yesterday--Nancy Olivieri. She is a sort of Canadian academic cult hero. She wanted to report a negative side effect from a drug she was running the clinical trial for, and as a result she got fired. Big Pharma totally screwed her over with a good bit of help from a complicitous university interested in maintaining its private funding source. Pretty awful stuff. I think I am insulated from the insidious side of medicine because I don't have people trying to cram anti-aging drugs down my throat. Is anything not corrupt?


turtle power

so it appears I am a complete idiot when it comes to managing the technical side of this blog (in case the way I display links didn't clue you in), but I think everything is free and clear.

As a peace offering, I bring you my favorite fact of the last 2 week.

do you all remember crang, the master villian from teenage mutant ninja turtles? Shredder was just his henchman.

well, I was reading 'arctic dreams' last night, and it turns out a 'crang' is a whale carcass that has been stripped of its blubber and other commercially useful parts and then returned to the ocean. The are noted for being pink, fleshy, and foul-smelling.

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