28 March 2008

Being Stupid Isn't a Crime

"We have no intention of prosecuting Rush Limbaugh because lying through your teeth and being stupid isn't a crime," said Leo Jennings, a spokesman for Democratic Attorney General Marc Dann.
People say funny things sometimes.

27 March 2008

Dum Da Dum Dum

So I haven't listened to anything except Iron & Wine in the last week, so there's no music news to report. I did lock myself out of my car yesterday with it running. At 1730 it's hard to find an available locksmith. So the car ran for over an hour before anyone could come and rescue me. No matter, I got back in and made it safely to school; then I got to go home.

In other news, Hanners is awesome.

DAILY KOS--John McCain: The Maverick Thief

John McCain is breaking the law.

When McCain’s presidential campaign was in trouble, he opted-in to public financing through the primary, limitingrobber.gif him to a $54 million spending cap. But laws aren’t for “mavericks”… McCain’s latest spending report, filed by his own campaign, shows he has spent in excess of $58 million so far — a public admission by his own hand that he has broken the law. We filed a formal complaint to Federal Election Commission yesterday, and we want you to sign-on for a second delivery of signatures later this week.

View the signers and add your name to the list.

26 March 2008

Wednesday Political Musings

There's really nothing much to say. No one much likes China because it's polluted and they're mean. No one like Hillary because she tells lies and no one likes Barack because his preacher says some things that make people mad. Everyone seems to like Alan Greenspan even though he is being blamed for leading us into this mortgage fiasco and I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that said, "When Bush took office gas was $1.46." I really want people in Pennsylvania to vote for Obama on April 22nd but I don't know how many people will listen to me. Jenna and I are officially registered to vote in PA though we feared that Jenna's was somehow lost. Some of the people I work with think he's a secret terrorist. I sometimes think people are ignorant; but that's no excuse for racism, or sexism, or most other -isms. Love. Love. Love.

If you have anything to say please do so.

25 March 2008

Fitness Revolution Update #11

The scale read 224 this morning. It is still declining, so that's good; but not quickly enough. Now I know it's not going as quickly as I would like because I haven't been working out, so I won't complain too much. I was sick all last week and when one is sick, he doesn't feel like working out, right? Unfortunately, Lent is over so I'm back to being able to eat anything, so a healthier diet will now be a bit more difficult. Let me tell you, a cheesesteak for lunch yesterday did not sit too well with the stomach. I need to ease into this food business.

20 March 2008

The Shepherd's Dog by Iron & Wine

So I've never been just a giant fan of Iron & Wine. I, like everyone else, loved his cover of "Such Great Heights" on the Garden State soundtrack (and apparently released as a b-side to The Postal Service's single of "Such Great Heights") but that's been the extent of my devotion; listening to the album The Shepherd's Dog, however, has changed my mind. It is just so close to perfect that I have had trouble wrapping my mind around it.

I'll only focus on one track: #9 "Boy With a Coin." I know the album was released in 2007, but I didn't listen to it until 2008 so I'm putting this song up as a nominee for the best use of subtle handclaps as a rhythm section of 2008. Sam Beam (the man behind the nom de voix) uses his voice to perfection on this song and it sounds as if the vocals are mixed at the same level as the accompaniment affording an otherwise unexplainable honesty to the song.
I doubt it's happenstance that during most of my time spent listening to the album, I've been reading Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. There's a certain ephemeral quality to Beam's lyrics that are likely influenced by the poems of the American Bard. Also, Beam has a pretty righteous beard.

19 March 2008

Barack Obama

Since Wednesday is supposed to be something about politics, I've decided to be like every other blog writer in the blogosphere and open up the floor to Obama's speech yesterday in Philadelphia about race and his pastor. Here's a link if you haven't already heard it. It's a very good speech, like most of Obama's and I admire his honesty and willingness to come at a particularly dicey issue, rather than skirt around it. Let me know what you think about it.

O, and Obama went to work out in a Philadelphia gym yesterday. If only I lived in Center City and worked out in the mornings.

Day-Late Fitness Revolution Update #10

Sorry this is a day late. I had a terrible stomach disease yesterday so it was taxing enough to move from bed to the couch. I did, however, weigh myself yesterday. At my lightest, I was 222 lbs, but that shouldn't count because I couldn't eat all day and other gross things. So after a meal of rice and apples (I'm on the BRAT [bananas, rice, apples, toast] diet until I'm fully better) last night, I weighed in at 225 this morning. I'm making progress, but without a significant change in habits I don't know that I'll make it to 215 by April 15th. I haven't gotten to exercise this week because of classes and sickness. We're driving to Ohio on Thursday night, so I doubt I'll get to exercise at all, we'll see how this goes. Have a lovely day!

17 March 2008

The Story of an African Farm

It's probably a cop-out, but today I am writing about a novel that I was made to read for class. I would rather write about books that I have read for pleasure, or have at least chosen myself, but graduate school gets in the way of pleasure reading so this is what I am reduced to.

The novel The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner is not a book that I much looked forward to. It was assigned for my 19th Century Victorian Empire, Sex, and Gender course and I have never been a huge fan of Victorian literature. I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I have enjoyed many of the texts we have read and was not disappointed by Schreiner. The novel takes place on a 'kopje' is South Africa on the farm of a Boer-woman and follows the lives of those living on the farm. The primary characters are Waldo, Em, and Lyndall. Curiously, Schreiner was heavily influenced by Emerson so she published the novel under the nom de plume Ralph Irons and has characters in the book named Waldo and Em--I would argue that she is, perhaps, a bit obsessed.

Though many scholars view this novel as a bastion of feminist ideals, I read the primary character to be Waldo, the son of a German farm-hand, not the niece of Tant' Sannie, the farm owner. Rather than focusing on feminism and the female struggle for power, Schreiner dwells on the universal human struggle for intellectual place. Her primary characters struggle with a belief in God that does not seem plausible and eventually find an element of the divine in nature, not in the God of their ancestors. The novel is not wholly atheistic as much as it is agnostic. Schreiner, after the death of her sister at a young age, put her faith in nature and the tangible and that faith shows itself in her novel.

15 March 2008

No Country for Old Men

I know I know, this post is both a day late (movies are scheduled for Friday) and several months late (the movie is already available for rental); but here it is nonetheless. Jenna and I have only seen two movies in the theater since we've lived in Pennsylvania--one great (Le Scaphandre et le papillon), one awful (The Other Boleyn Girl)--so we didn't see No Country for Old Men in the theater. I really had intended to read the novel before seeing the movie; but academic reading overwhelmed me even before I could finish Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. No Country, along with The Border Trilogy are on my summer/free time reading list. Anyway, on the film.

I approached the film very much wanting to enjoy it, and I was not disappointed. I would expect to be impressed with the combination of McCarthy and the Coen brothers and they certainly didn't let me down. Javier Bardem (who looks ridiculously like Jeffrey Dean Morgan aka Denny Duquette) certainly deserved his award for Best Supporting Actor, Tommy Lee Jones was better than I ever expected him to be, and the actors, all together, were excellent.

The cinematography and directing (as expected) were excellent. Having not read the novel, I cannot attest to the validity of the adaptation award, but the flow of the plot-line ran very well and seems in line with the style that McCarthy imposes upon his novels (in my opinion, gleaned from reading half of one novel).

Over all, I had very high expectations for the novel and I wasn't disappointed.

13 March 2008

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

The last few days, I've not been able to stop listening to Spoon. Just yesterday I was able to stop playing Gimmie Fiction, only to move right on to Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Spoon are (I'm working on sounding British in my music reviews, British=Pretentious in American) coming to Philadelphia on April 25th; but I haven't yet gotten tickets.

Anyway, my favorite tracks from Gimmie Fiction are "The Beast and Dragon, Adored," "I Turn My Camera On," and "My Mathematical Mind." And from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga I adore "Don't You Evah" and "Rhythm and Soul." Given the chance, I would make an entire, hour-long cycling class mix made entirely of songs by Spoon. There is a consistent bass thump, various rhythms, and surprisingly catchy lyrics.

All this having been said, in the words of my good friend Jordan, Spoon is "the lick of my spoon."

12 March 2008

Thoughts Recollected in Moments of Tranquility from NPR

State Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, AZ, quoted on NPR this morning, said, "America was founded as a nation of laws." Pearce is a champion of strict laws, primarily immigration laws. The last few days, NPR's Morning Edition has featured different influential people regarding the immigration issue in Arizona. I am, personally, an advocate of of fairly open borders; but because I have had little experience in areas that are immediately affected by immigration (like Arizona, Texas, and Southern California) I don't know that I have much room to speak on the issue.

Until that quote by State Rep. Pearce, I hadn't heard anything that was too against what I think, even from those that are staunchly anti-immigrants. The notion that the U.S. was founded as a nation of laws and rules runs directly against what I believe my country stands for. I believe that the U.S.A. is a nation of freedom--not laws. I do not have a great knowledge of American Constitutional history, so if I am misrepresenting our history, then please correct me.

In better news, Barack Obama won Mississippi handily and won more delegates from Texas. If only Ohio had come through for me.

11 March 2008

Drugs in the Water, Fire in the Sky

According to analysis, there exist traces of 56 different drugs in Philadelphia tap water. Apparently there's penicillin in there too. Since I'm allergic, I guess I can't be guzzling too much anymore.

I'd like to look at this not as a problem but, like Westley in The Princess Bride, I will view this as an opportunity to make myself unfazed by a various number of pharmaceuticals. Good plan, no?

All in all, the amounts are measured in parts per billion and even trillion, so I'm not too worried. As long as the water doesn't come from the sink in the basement of my workplace (it stinks of sulphur), I'll drink to my heart's content!

Fitness Revolution Update #9

This morning, the scale read 227.5 lbs. It's a full pound loss from last week, but only a net loss of .5 lbs over two weeks. I probably sabotaged myself with a heaping plate of Buddha's Delight from New South Chinese last night, but it was so delightful--that or Mike & Ike's. Either way, I'm making progress, it's just not as fast as I would like. I have a little over a month to get down to 215. I still think I can do it; but it will take better discipline.

I went to a spinning class at the Y last night with a teacher I've not had before--Jen B. tried to kill us! Luckily, most of us survived. Tonight they're having an open volleyball court, so I think I'll stop down and see how bad I've gotten after having not played for a year. Wish me luck.

10 March 2008

White Noise

On most issues of literature, if Harold Bloom speaks I listen. You may or may not have noticed, but I took the title of this blog from Bloom's theory of poetry. While I don't agree with some of his theories (especially regarding the origin of the Old Testament), I had to pay attention when I discovered that Bloom listed (in his opinion) the four major American novelist of our time: Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Philip Roth, and Cormac McCarthy. Since my professional goal in life is to live and work as a scholar of modern/post-modern American literature, I have set on a mission to read the vast body of work these four novelists have produced. While I am not a strict worshipper of Bloom's notions, I believe that his favorites are good places to start--if only I could love Shakespeare like he does.

Anyway, on to the novel.

I recently finished White Noise by Don DeLillo and thoroughly enjoyed it. A few friends have told me that the novel is a great starting point into DeLillo's work, and I agree. It is a nice representation of his voice and late enough into his career that he has discovered his unique voice. Some complain that his earlier novels lack a certain element of finish; but such accusations cannot be waged against White Noise--if anything, the novel is polished.

The central character is J.A.K. Gladney, the dean of a Hitler Studies department and the originator of the field of study. Gladney has had many wives and his many wives have also had many husbands--a typical post modern family. While the concept of the characters can seem a bit campy, DeLillo toes the line of believable quite nicely and the novel never quite jumps the shark, much to my delight. The novel, essentially, tells the story of a typical family and their typical struggles with everyday life. I'll say no more, mostly because I want you to read it.

DeLillo has been accused of boiling down modern (as in present day, not the Modernist period)American life to daily boredom comprised of television, consumption, metro, boulout, dodo. White Noise certainly falls into this category, but I find no fault in the portrayal. He approaches common problems with honesty, humor, and wit that I haven't encountered before.

I will admit that I haven't read any academic criticism of DeLillo's work, but I'll be getting there as soon as school/life slows down. I'm still working out my own feelings about the novel and I want to give my mind a chance before Bloom and others take over.

07 March 2008

The Last Kiss/l'ultimo bacio

disclaimer: While I try not to spoil too much, it is difficult for me to ascertain what the essential plot elements are for others, so I may be giving them away. Also, in this discussion I am, in my mind, assuming that the primary version of the film is the American version, though it was made second as an adaptation of the Italian film.

After wanting to see it for several months, I finally was able to see "l'Ultimo Bacio" on Wednesday night. I saw the American version, "The Last Kiss" featuring Zach Braff, in theaters and have watched the DVD several times since its release. I didn't really anticipate liking the Italian original more, and I was right. I've not watched too many Italian films, save for "La Vita è bella" and a few different operas, but I was expecting this movie to be highly sexually charged. The American version was uncomfortable sexual tension at times, and with my impression of Italians as overtly sexual (they recently passed a law banning crotch grabbing in public), I expected even more tension. It's not that I was disappointed by the lack of graphic material (on the contrary, it was a pleasant surprise because it's always awkward) but I believe it lacked some of the essential elements (at least for me) that the American version so deftly added.

While not equally so, "The Last Kiss" is similar in tension to "Closer." I've never felt more awkward/amazed as I did after watching "Closer," and "The Last Kiss" maintains many of the same elements of tension, struggle, and pain. "l'Ultimo Bacio" lacks that tension, but it still tells a good story very well and the acting is good, though it's hard for me to judge non-English speaking actors because I'm just not familiar with the natural inflection.

The Italian film developed many of the side stories better, and while that provides a deeper picture of the periphery actors, I believe it takes away from the primary quintet of characters: man, woman, mom, dad, and girl. There is a significant difference in the endings and it sharply paints one of the characters in a different light. That's all I'm going to say about it, perhaps I've said too much already.

06 March 2008

Happy Birthday Magic Realism

Today is Gabriel García Márquez's birthday. According to most places I've checked, he was born in 1928 and is, therefore, eighty today; but according to wikipedia he was born in 1927 and is eighty-one today. I attempted to edit the wiki page, but when I went to the editing page there was a hidden note telling one not to change his birth date because he was actually born in 1927 and everyone else is wrong. Since I'm no Márquez expert and I haven't read a definitive biography, I have no idea which is right.

Either way, it's his birthday. So pick up a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, curl up in a soft place, and sing Happy Birthday, to our favorite Colombian novelist.

ps--I realize that Márquez is probably not the originator of magic realism, his work was my first foray into the genre so, to me, he is the touchstone of magic realism and all the beauty found therein.

edit- With minimal further reading, I discovered that Márquez's brand of magic realism was directly influenced by Kafka. It turns out that I read Kafka before Márquez and am a liar.

Linton Kwesi Johnson

As an assigned listening (that's not common for non-music majors) for my 20th Century Post-Colonial Lit. course, I was exposed to the music/poetry of Linton Kwesi Johnson. LKJ is one of the best known British dub poets and released his first album, Dread Beat An' Blood, in 1978 and hasn't stopped writing and recording since. Born in Jamaica, LKJ immigrated to London early in his life and identifies as a British citizen.

Dub poetry is essentially poetic verses set to reggae music. Though I haven't heard more than a handful of dub poets, the music is completely wrapped up in the lyrics and the lyrics are semi-sung (think Rex Harrison, only deeper and with force).

My favorite LKJ poem is called "Sonny's Lettah (Anti-Sus Poem)". Every dub poem I have heard is politically charged, and for good reason. Sus, denounced in "Sonny's Lettah," is the practice of British police officers arresting people on the street for looking suspicious. It, not surprisingly, happened primarily to black, accented men. His political leanings are sharply anti-Thatcher and occasionally violent. He was an early member of British Black Panther Movement. He's recorded many anti-fascist songs and has compared the modern anti-terrorism movement to the strife of blacks for centuries.

Beyond the political message of dub poetry, the music is wonderful. The lyrics fold directly into the music and the thumping bass drives the song. I know these descriptions aren't too technical or descriptive, but it's what I like.

05 March 2008

Wednesday Open Forum/Politicking

Super Duper Tuesday Deux has come and gone--without much fan-fair, really. Sure, Clinton took 3 of 4 states available, but only took a few more delegates total and hasn't yet come close to closing the gap between she and Obama. I'm feeling a bit too lethargic to look up some hard and fast numbers, but Mark Elrod has a better analysis of the whole situation with the appropriate slant favoring Obama. Feel free to tell me what you think and discuss whatever your heart desires. Again, I'm pretending that people read this blog and are interested. Have a fantastic day.

04 March 2008

Fitness Revolution Update #8

So it wasn't a great week for my fitness revolution. Sure, I'm still not eating anything not-vegan or carbonated but I have discovered that most chips are vegan-friendly and since I've had a weird school/work schedule and little desire to make lunch/dinner for myself, between work and school I've been heading to Wawa for some apples and chips on most days. On top of that, I didn't go to the Y at all. I'm not doing a good job of revolutionizing my fitness. The scale this morning said 228.5 lbs. A half-pound gain. I need to do better, that's all there is to it.

Check me out, two posts in one day, mostly in the same hour! I figured I would start my schedule a day late (not a great start, I know). I figured that I'm either preponing my schedule for next Monday, or I'm just a day late. I'll go with the former. Have a fantastic day.

Daffodils by Ted Hughes


Remember how we picked the daffodils?
Nobody else remembers, but I remember.
Your daughter came with her armfuls, eager and happy,
Helping the harvest. She has forgotten.
She cannot even remember you. And we sold them
It sounds like sacrilege, but we sold them.
Were we so poor? Old Stoneman, the grocer,
Boss-eyed, his blood-pressure purpling to beetroot
(It was his last chance,
He would die in the same great freeze as you),
He persuaded us. Every Spring
He always bought them, sevenpence a dozen,
'A custom of the house'.

Besides, we still weren't sure we wanted to own
Anything. Mainly we were hungry
To convert everything to profit.
Still nomads--still strangers
To our whole possession. The daffodils
Were incidental gilding of the deeds,
Treasure trove. They simply came,
And they kept on coming.
As if not from the sod but falling from heaven.
Our lives were still a raid on our own good luck.
We knew we'd live for ever. We had not learned
What a fleeting glance of the everlasting
Daffodils are. Never identified
The nuptial flight of the rarest ephemera -
Our own days!

We thought they were a windfall.
Never guessed they were a last blessing.
So we sold them. We worked at selling them
As if employed on somebody else's
Flower-farm. You bent at it
In the rain of that April - your last April,
We bent there together, among the soft shrieks
Of their jostled stems, the wet shocks shaken
Of their girlish dance-frocks -
Fresh-opened dragonflies, wet and flimsy,
Opened too early.

We piled their frailty lights on a carpenter's bench,
Distributed leaves among the dozens -
Buckling blade-leaves, limber, groping for air, zinc-silvered -
Propped their raw butts in bucket water,
Their oval, meaty butts,
And sold them, sevenpence a bunch -

Wind-wounds, spasms from the dark earth,
With their odourless metals,
A flamy purification of the deep grave's stony cold
As if ice had a breath -

We sold them, to wither.
The crop thickened faster than we could thin it.
Finally, we were overwhelmed
And we lost our wedding-present scissors.

Every March since they have lifted again
Out of the same bulbs, the same
Baby-cries from the thaw,
Ballerinas too early for music, shiverers
In the draughty wings of the year.
On that same groundswell of memory, fluttering
They return to forget you stooping there
Behind the rainy curtains of a dark April,
Snipping their stems.

But somewhere your scissors remember. Wherever they are.
Here somewhere, blades wide open,
April by April
Sinking deeper
Through the sod - an anchor, a cross of rust.

-Ted Hughes

(I typed this poem because the internet versions I discovered didn't have the spacing the book itself has, and the Hughes approved spacing is more visually pleasing to me.)

This poem has been my favorite for nearly a year now. Dr. Organ required it as part of our British Literature II class; but we never covered it in class. Instead, we discussed the less beautiful, more typical poetry by Hughes such as "The Owl" and "Pike". Hughes, throughout his career, was known for his jarring word and subject choices, along with a rather pessimistic view. Many feminists hate him, blaming him for the demise of his late wife Sylvia Plath; but many neglect his lovely collection called Birthday Letters published first in 1998, the year of his death. Many considered Hughes callused toward his wife's suicide because he rarely spoke of it, and seemingly never wrote of it--Birthday Letters showed a different side of the poet--a side affected by loss, a side showing vulnerable humanity. While in London last spring, my lovely then-fiancee-now-wife purchased this collection for me--what a wonderful Piper-Pal present.

I encountered "Daffodils" while reading along in the back house during the spring semester of my senior year of college. It was, and still is, the only poem that has brought tears to my eyes. The few lines, "Our lives were still a raid on our own good luck. /We knew we'd live for ever. We had not learned / What a fleeting glance of the everlasting / Daffodils are. Never identified / The nuptial flight of the rarest ephemera - / Our own days!" still gives me chills. I cannot fathom losing my wife, and even further from my understanding is the ability to present such powerful emotion in a succinct poem. As Wordsworth said (and Dr. Elliott quoted incessantly), poetry is "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility," and Hughes has mastered such recollection and reflection--life supplied the overflow of powerful feeling.

It's a bit puerile of me to begin my literary blog exploration with a poem I love based on sheer emotional/aesthetic value; but that's what's happening. Most of my literary posts won't deal with poetry because it's a form with which I am not comfortable in my skills as an explicator; but I so love this poem that I had to include it--especially since we didn't get to discuss it in class so long ago. Thanks for indulging me in my literary exploration, I hope you're not too bored.

03 March 2008

Blog Schedule?

I would like to write here more often. If nothing else, it will help to work out a personal style of writing I've been struggling for years to find. Steven (linked on the right), at one time, kept a nice schedule of blog topics and I would weekly look forward to his topics relating to culture, music, and theatre. So what I'm going to do is lay out a schedule for myself and see how this goes.

Weekly Schedule:

Monday-talk about something I have recently read.

Tuesday-Fitness Revolution Update

Wednesday-Something political/open forum (Like I have more than three people who read this)

Thursday-Some music related thing that I like

Friday-Links or Movies

I know, I know . . . there is nothing specific about the posting schedule and, seeing that I'm scheduled to write five days a week, there's no way I'm going to faithfully keep to it, but I'll try.

Wish me luck as you wave my goodbye. Cheerio! Here I go, on my way!