11 November 2005

Look elsewhere

Howdy, folks—it’s been a while. I’ve moved the blog, which should give me room to do what I want more easily. Check out the new Drasty-Blog!

26 October 2005

Theory meets reality in today’s Achewood.

25 October 2005

The Starbucks Challenge

This just in: Starbucks policy requires its baristas to brew you a cup of fair trade coffee if you request it. Find out more about the Starbucks Challenge and get asking! (Link via kottke.org.)

24 October 2005

Just say “No” to technology

Are you interested in the Luddites? Come to Loyola on Thursday to learn more.

23 October 2005

22 October 2005

Steve Prince exhibit

Last night we went to an exhibit of art by New Orleans artist Steve Prince at the Eyekons Gallery in Grand Rapids, Michigan—very interesting work, with unfolding visual layers. I especially liked his sequence on the parable of the prodigal son. (Check some out some art for yourself.)

13 October 2005

Harold Pinter has won this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature.

03 October 2005

Harriet Miers?

She’s the new Supreme Court nominee. No one seems to be talking (yet) about her connection to Exodus International. How involved is she in a group that advocates “Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ”? If she’s involved at all, he’s throwing a bone to the religious right, despite what Nina Totenberg & NPR think.

Update: Josh Marshall picks up on the Exodus line but cautions that there is a ministry in Dallas by the same name that works to help former prisoners return to a normal life. The second option actually sounds worthwhile. Scott McClellan has confirmed that she did work for the prison ministry. I stand slightly relieved. But her nomination still reeks of hackery.

02 October 2005

Revision and creative writing

Creative writing is hardly spontaneous, regardless of what Wordsworth might claim. Now Matthew Kirschenbaum wants to track revisions systematically. If you’re a creative type, check out his post and contact him if you’re interested.

27 September 2005

The Amazing Race tells it like it is

The first family was eliminated on The Amazing Race just a few minutes ago. They were the token minority family on the show, are African-American, and have the family name “Black.” Imagine our amusement, then, when host Phil Koeghan informed them of their last-place finish: “Black family, you arrived last, and are eliminated from The Amazing Race” (the quote may not be accurate after the first two words). So we’re stuck with a bunch of white families for the rest of the show. Oh, the irony!

I ♥ poststructuralism

Michael Drout has an excellent post about the state of the MLA.

I blame poststructuralism for the problems he identifies. If nothing has inherent meaning (or even significant cultural connotation), one can’t argue for anything. If indeed everything is meaningless, let’s keep that under wraps, so we can go on living. Sound like a deal?

(More later, I hope. . . .)

26 September 2005

I love Everybody Hates Chris

If you somehow missed the premiere of Everybody Hates Chris on UPN, you missed the best new show on television. Take heart, however, for I bear good news: Google has gotten into the video streaming business, and they have made the entire first show available until September 30. Follow that link now!

12 September 2005

Book lists are fun

In the next couple of days, my reading lists for PhD qualifying exams will be approved. To honor the occasion, I’ve set up an Amazon.com wish list. If you’d like to help a guy out, feel free to buy some books for me! (If you don’t like Amazon.com, or they don’t have the book, I highly recommend Powell’s and ABE, especially ABE. Just e-mail me that you’ve ordered something, so I can remove it from the wish list!)

For the morbidly curious, here is my reading list.

08 September 2005

Katrina

I haven’t posted about the hurricane because I don’t know what to say. Andrew Vestal comes close to reading my mind, though. The aftermath has been horrifying, in terms of devastation and willful incompetence. Fire everyone.

01 September 2005

Variation on a theme

I have previously expressed concern about plagiarism and its repercussions. The internets are a favorite resouce for the nascent plagiarist. What do you suppose will happen, though, now that a graduate student has accused a paper-mill of plagiarism?

31 August 2005

Purdue rocks!

I’ve long been a fan of the Purdue Online Writing Lab, one of the better composition-oriented resources on the web. But the university has outdone itself this time: some of its classes will be available via podcast. Here’s hoping it’s a success.

(Tory & Jordan, your alma mater is fabulous!)

29 August 2005

Lennard Davis lecture

Lennard Davis will be giving a lecture at Loyola entitled “Why Disability Studies Matter.” Everyone is welcome to attend! Here are the details:

  • Wednesday, 7 September 2005, at 4:00 p.m.
  • Hussey Lounge, Damen Hall (Lakeshore Campus)

18 August 2005

Validation!

So, it looks like blogging is good for you. I’m working on a sort of “Blogging Manifesto” anyway, so look for interesting things to come.

16 August 2005

Call for papers: “Abandonment and Exile in Anglo–Saxon Prose”

This is a “Special Session” at the 41st International Congress on Medieval Studies, held at Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 4–7, 2006.

Old English literature is rich in poetry that explores solitude, from The Wife’s Lament to The Seafarer. But what about the prose? This session seeks to explore the legal, literary, social, and theological functions of abandonment and exile in that prose. Papers that address law codes, penitentials, homilies, hagiography, and other prose Anglo–Saxon texts are encouraged.

For questions or abstract submissions, please contact me. The deadline for abstracts is September 10, 2005.

05 August 2005

Fun with design

Is it time to redesign the alphabet? Join the debate! (Link via Jason Kottke.)

03 August 2005

Hurts so good

Dan McKay has won this year’s Bulwer–Lytton Ficton Contest with this gem:

As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual.

Congratulations!

This is just to say

It has been a hectic and eventful couple months. And it looks like perpetual nose-to-grindstone for a while, so here’s a brief update:

  1. Erica and I have been to five weddings since April and have put over 8000 miles on the car since the beginning of June.
  2. Chaucer class was pretty un-fun.
  3. We had a great time exploring some National Parks and Monuments on our quickie trip to LA and back. (My favorite was El Morro.) Some day I might post some pictures.
  4. Work on academic stuff is proceeding slowly, but proceeding.
  5. Once I’m done with reading lists for qualifying exams, I’ll announce some big plans, if I remember to take a break from studying. (Ha!)

26 June 2005

Dashboard

Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Infocom, reformatted for Java

The Dashboard version of Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

So I upgraded to Mac OS X 10.4.1 this weekend. It’s pretty sweet. I especially like the “Spotlight” feature, though the Dashboard is fun, too. I wish I had found this while I was taking Steve Jones’s class on digital media. I don’t know if it’s any fun, but hey: Nostalgia in a widget!

14 June 2005

Achtundzwanzig

Cover of postage stamp booklet that costs $6.66

Wingnuts beware!

Today is my birthday! I’m 28. Erica’s taking me to Resi’s Bierstube tonight to satisfy my German food craving. Hooray!

It’s also Flag Day. My family has a long-standing joke that the nation flies the flag in my honor. So there’s a flag (and a little something extra) in this post. I might as well honor myself, after all!

Oh, and this comic makes me very amused.

02 June 2005

BS!

Read it and weep.

01 June 2005

Lies: redux

I think I’ve got this “podcasting” thing almost figured out. Stay tuned over the weekend, when I finally talk about George W. Bush at Calvin. A preview: he quotes Alexis de To-quah-ville.

In the meantime, urge media outlets across the country to address the Downing Street Memo, which the Times of London reported a month ago.

Benjamin Imdieke

Ben—I hope you like to Google yourself. Are you still at IUPUI, the coolest acronym around?

26 May 2005

Torture

Slate just posted an incredibly thorough piece on torture. Not for the squeamish—but if we’re to be an intellectually honest and ethical nation, we need to know the face of our own evil.

24 May 2005

If I had a story . . .

Some of the “new media” folks are running a competition called “60-Second Story.” Check some of them out; if you want to enter the contest, you have until June 8!

23 May 2005

Nuclear option

Tomorrow I’ll be digging out our apartment’s “scary room,” which I will use for a study space as I prepare for PhD qualifying exams. It’s also supposed to be our guest bedroom, and since we have guests arriving later this week, it has to be done now, instead of “some time this summer.” I’d show you a picture of the room as it is, but all our cameras refuse to function within a 10′ radius.

In light of my own “nuclear option,” I have a few words of advice for Bill Frist. Remember that during the Cold War, one of the key reasons we never nuked the USSR was because of this thing called “mutually assured destruction.” Think hard before you push that button: your political life may very well depend on the more reasonable decision!

Chaucer, day one

Chaucer class begins today. We’re beginning with the “General Prologue,” whose beginning is wonderful:

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages),
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke. (1–18)

In high school, I remember thinking, “This Chaucer guy really can’t spell.” Once I learned that he writes in Middle English, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for what’s going on here. I like the promise of spring and how April’s healing rains refresh the land and the plants that grow on it. Compare that to the parable of the sower, and there’s a logical connection with the desire for pilgrimage: the pilgrims wish to thank the saints who healed their own sicknesses, who brought them back to life.

22 May 2005

Belkin Voice Recorder for iPod sucks!

Well, I was planning to do my first podcast on George W. Bush, et al., at the Calvin College graduation. But the Belkin Voice Recorder for Erica’s iPod picked up nothing. So I’ll need to extract audio from our video recording, and it’ll take a little longer to do something with that. Stay tuned for my “Dubya Extravaganza”!

20 May 2005

Obligatory Star Wars review

A bunch of us saw Revenge of the Sith yesterday. It exists and doesn’t cause indigestion—like very bland comfort food. Except: Everything Obi-Wan told Luke is a lie!

16 May 2005

Intelligent design

Only because I’m having trouble sleeping:

<crankiness class="extreme">

I’m more than a little sick of the faith–science binary. I seriously doubt that “intelligent design theory” and “evolutionary theory” are quite at odds. There’s nothing explicit in either position that necessitates the exclusion of the other. But a couple of my favorite social critics have fallen on their faces to mock the proponents of intelligent design.

Ruben Bolling equates the “intelligent design” question to an artificial debate concerning the temperature at which water freezes. I guess I don’t really find “straw man” arguments to be particularly humorous. Besides, 32 is an arbitrary number. You’re smarter than this comic, Mr. Bolling!

Slightly less egregious is Tom Tomorrow’s comic on the same debate. But he uses sexual reproduction versus baby-by-stork as his false parallel. It’d be funny if evolution were as visually obvious as childbirth! HAHAHAHA! Er, but the debate isn’t even about whether evolution is plausible! Golly, Tom, is that the best you’ve got?

On a different note, I listened to today’s Odyssey, on “Motherhood on the Margins.” It was a pretty good show and raised some important questions about how motherhood is treated in contemporary cultures. At the same time, the guests frequently fell into the cliché, “we only think this way because someone wants to make a profit.” At one point, though, things really got out of hand: one of the guests asserted that all white women are inherently racist. No one asked for clarification—not even a simple “What do you mean by ‘racism’?” or the slightly better “Do you mean to suggest that only white people can be ‘racist’? If so, isn’t that assertion itself racist?” Sometimes we academics get a little too lulled by our own pet phrases.

</crankiness>

More than survival!

This semester turned out great. I gave two well-received papers at conferences, have at least two three excellent grades, and feel good about the work I did in all my classes, including having been TA for Verna Foster’s intro to drama class. Quite the change for me. Needless to say, I am happy.

This summer I’ll be taking a Chaucer class, going to weddings, and preparing for my PhD qualifying exams. And in the fall I’ll be Edward Wheatley’s research assistant. He’s working on the medieval handling of disability, very cool stuff, which could gel very nicely with my own current interest, “abandonment” in the middle ages.

Note: Updated from Saturday, with the important change noted with a strong element.

13 May 2005

Digital Lazarus 2

One of my projects this term is on line. Feel free to check it out—and give me feedback in the comments for this post!

(Caveat lector: the project doesn’t quite render correctly in Internet Explorer.)

12 May 2005

Bush at Calvin: redux

Dale Van Kley, Calvin alumnus and former history prof. there, is pissed off!

To the Editor:

That my former professor and colleague Nicholas Wolterstorff should have had to yield the podium on Commencement Day to President George W. Bush via the agency of Rep. Vernon Ehlers represents a particularly poignant moment in Calvin College’s progress from an institution of Reformed Christian higher learning into one of the high points in a Republican Party pilgrimage.

A man of many parts and for all seasons, Professor Wolterstorff exemplifies at its best the Reformed Augustinian project of learning in the light and service of faith. If Calvin enjoys more than a local or even national reputation in the world of higher learning, this is due in no small measure to Wolterstorff’s long and distinguished tenure in the college. The field of philosophy and ontology in particular will not have been unaffected by the way he minded it. Institutional self-respect should have ensured him the podium against any and all comers; everyone would have been the wiser for whatever he might have said.

By dint of a perseverance greater than that of the saints — an inertia even greater than that of ennui itself — as a professor at Calvin Vernon Ehlers almost single-handedly distracted the faculty into self-induced suffocation by committee in the form of governance known by the acronym of Fosco. While reducing to platitudes the injunction to do all for the greater honor and glory of God, as a congressman he has not resisted a social Darwinian “conservative” conversion to an ideology devoted to the proposition of making the rich fewer and richer and the poor more numerous as well as poorer still.

In need of no introduction, George W. Bush’s chief achievement before becoming president is to have given up drinking, although the whole world would perhaps be better off were he still on his back in a Texas saloon. In his self-styled role as the Lord’s Anointed, he has launched the country on a bloody crusade without a plausible semblance of a cause. While George H. W. Bush may have killed his thousands, George W. has killed his tens of thousands.

What, finally, is one to make of college president Gaylen Byker’s contention that students are going leave the college “challenged” by this experience? Is it conceivable that students at Calvin might have had the opportunity to be similarly “challenged” by, say, Albert Gore or John Kerry, had either of them become the nation’s president? So much as to ask that question is to answer it, and the answer is “no.”

What, further, does the “challenge” amount to in the instance at issue? How are students as students to be “challenged” by someone who, having had privileged access to some of the nation’s finest educational institutions, learned absolutely nothing from them and moreover takes pride in that fact? And how, except negatively, are they going to be “motivated to renew God’s world” by someone who has set out with ideological malice and aforethought to squander its remaining resources?

The benefit that will accrue to George W. Bush and his junta from this event is clear enough. It will lend additional credibility to his blasphemous claim to be the leader of an American Christendom. The benefit for Calvin College is less clear, aside from making indelible its already prominent place on the educational map of the Religious Right. But what will it profit the institution if it competes on equal terms with Liberty University while it loses its own soul?

—Dale K. Van Kley, ’63

Allow me to answer a couple of your questions, Dale. The graduates will be “challenged” by wondering why all their family and friends won’t be able to see them graduate from college, since tickets are even harder to come by, thanks to the presence of the greatest man on earth. They’ll also be “challenged” by his tortured sentence construction. They’ll be “motivated to renew God’s world” when they realize how much damage the greatest man on earth has been able to do to it.

I’d like to end with a snarky “I can’t wait to be ‘challenged’ and ‘motivated’ by the Preznit!”—but I probably won’t be able to get in. Then again, neither will some of the graduates’ blood relatives. Maybe we can chat outside, or something. . . .

06 May 2005

Live from Kalamazoo!

I'm blogging from the Waldo Library on the campus of Western Michigan University. It is day two of the 40th International Congress on Medieval Studies. Yesterday I got to preside over two sessions, and I presented at another.

My presentation was a variation on my SEMA paper from October. I feel very good about that paper and how it went, especially here. (Though I did almost get accused of heresy for the way I described the function of the Eucharist in time; but more on that when I want to be pendantic.) After the session, one person suggested that I try to get it published. Another wondered if my comments on Ælfric and direct discourse could turn into some sort of dissertation combining Ælfric’s works with J. L. Austin’s “speech act” theory. I suppose I could also incorporate my favorite theorist, since he’s got some other interesting ideas about language. (I’m getting pedantic again!) I really should pin this stuff down. Exams are only nine months away!

In other news, last night I participated in Steve Jones’s “Digital Media and Culture” class, by way of the internets. Technology is grand. (Aside to Ben & Doug: Very fun puzzle / game you set up. I’d like to see your “write-up.” Aside to Sara: Please don’t sue me!)

Time to hear some people talk, I suppose. . . . Which reminds me: Yesterday a couple presenters went over their alotted time, but as this was my first time presiding, I didn’t know how to handle it. It’s not as if these sessions ran long overall, but It’s unfair to the other presenters if someone becomes a time hog. Any suggestions for how to handle this in the future would be welcome: I want to be an enforcer, but I don’t want to look like a jackass!

28 April 2005

I ♥ politics

27 April 2005

Half a season, and a “retrospective” episode already!

WTF! The “new” episode of Lost is a plot summary! Why, you bastards? Why?!?!

Update, 9:00: Erica speculated that this episode was to get people caught up—those who might have been interested but were intimidated by the convoluted plot. The obnoxious voiceover didn’t help! This episode absolutely obliterated the axiom, “show, don’t tell.”

26 April 2005

Art for change

25 April 2005

Best. Sonnet. Ever

I’m trying to resuscitate the blog. I’ve realized that I’ve virtually abandoned all hobbies where I produce something tangible. Part of my abandonment has come from my own anxieties & self-defeating strategies about writing. So, in an attempt to rekindle my love for writing, I hope to write a little more here. And next year, when I study for my PhD exams, I’ll try to post some thoughts about my reading. It’ll help my consolidate thoughts for various aspects of that arduous process. To begin, then, my favorite sonnet, with a little commentary afterward:

The Rural Carrier Stops to Kill a Nine-Foot Cottonmouth

Lord God, I saw the son-of-a-bitch uncoil
In the road ahead of me, uncoil and squirm
For the ditch, squirm a hell of a long time.
Missed him with the car. When I got back to him, he was all
But gone, nothing left on the road but the tip-end
Of his tail, and that disappearing into Johnson grass.
I leaned over the ditch and saw him, balled up now, hiss.
I aimed for the mouth and shot him. And shot him again.

Then I got a good strong stick and dragged him out.
He was long and evil, thick as the top of my arm.
There are things in this world a man can’t look at without
Wanting to kill. Don’t ask me why. I was calm
Enough, I thought. But I felt my spine
Squirm, suddenly. I admit it. It was mine.

— T. R. Hummer, 1982

I could probably sum up by stating that Hummer’s poem appeals to me because of its unabashed description of violence. The poem succeeds, though, with its internally-expressed discomfort with that same description (and, of course, the actions that predicate it). Hummer recalls the enmity between man and serpent described in God’s curse from Genesis, so he succeeds in thoughtful biblical allusion. Finally, Hummer amplifies the reader’s discomfort by employing slant rhyme (“uncoil” and “all”; “end” and “again”; “grass” and “hiss”; and “arm” and “calm”). Something isn’t right here, and it’s pretty damn cool.

24 April 2005

Viva Bush!

Well, I’m officially excited for my sister-in-law’s graduation this May. Anna‘s getting her BA from Calvin College, a fine liberal arts school in Grand Rapids, MI.

Seeing Anna graduate would be fun in itself, but we get the pleasure of hearing George W. Bush deliver a righteous message about comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted. You know, what Jesus would do. His speaking will preempt the previously-scheduled Nicholas Wolterstorff. Clearly Calvin is not trading up.

This will be the second time I’ll have the pleasure of hearing a right-winger speak at Calvin’s commencement, since I was there for my sister-in-law Emily’s graduation, when William Rehnquist told the class of 2001 that life was like a shopping mall. You can read a more engaging account of that process at Joel Swagman’s blog. I don’t know Joel but enjoyed his work uncovering Rehnquist’s racism. In response to the four year plan for inane commencement speakers, a high-ranking college official said, “We're getting used to these kinds of things and are proceeding with the marketing of the college as a DeVos/Republican institution safe for frightened parents.”

I would like to practice “discernment” at Anna’s graduation and therefore am soliciting ideas for an intelligent, pithy, terse sign, shirt, or something along those lines (preferably one that won’t get me arrested).

03 April 2005

RIP, old friend

Picture of 1990 Honda Civic Hatchback

1990 Civic > 220,000 miles

On April 17 we sold the Civic. Here’s a shrine in honor of 6 years’ service!

07 March 2005

Thanks for ruining Spartacus!

Congratulations to Pepsi for ruining my favorite sword-and-sandals epic. In case you’ve missed their new ad, Pepsi alters the “I am Spartacus” scene. Sure, the original scene is a little campy, but at least the original is about how everyone loves and wants to protect their revolutionary reader—a slightly better message than “I love Pepsi so much that I’ll lie to get some.” Come on! It’s poo-colored sugar water!

27 February 2005

In case of Rapture, can I have your car?

From The Daily Show: Ed Helms on the Rapture.

I just had an enjoyable time at the Illinois Medieval Association conference. And one of these days I'll actually post to this blog again.

28 January 2005

No to Gonzales!

Alberto Gonzales MUST NOT be the next Attourney General!

Image from Slacktivist.

Urge your senators to vote against Gonzales’ confirmation!

(Other stuff later. But this is too important to ignore. As was the tsunami—sorry for my relative silence on that one; it was too horrifying for words—remember that donations will still be helpful for years to come.)

12 January 2005

Can’t wait

I’m a bit of a technophile. And when the MacWorld Expo comes around, I get a little frothy. (Which is bad, since I have work to do!) Anyway, this is the product I’m most anticipating. It’s not iPod Shuffle or Mini-Me Mac Mini, but oh well.

11 January 2005

Spring 2005

Spring semesters are unusual for me. Loyola doesn’t start back up until a week from today, but I’m already in class. Each spring the Newberry Library, through their Center for Renaissance Studies, offers an Old English seminar. Because Loyola doesn’t have enough resources, without the Newberry I wouldn’t be able to study Anglo-Saxon language and culture beyond the introductory level (aside from independent study, of course, but learning languages in a group is better and more fun, I think). All this isn’t to deny that the Newberry seminar is a great thing. This time around, John Niles is teaching “The Discovery and Invention of Old English Literature,” which is right up my alley—a mix of my interests in language, textual criticism, and cultural production.

Next week I’ll add two more classes to the docket: “Digital Media and Culture,” with Steven Jones, and “Re-Imagining the ‘Classical’ in English Poetry,” with Thomas Kaminski. I’ll also be TA for Verna Foster’s “Introduction to Drama.”

That’s next week. This week, however, I’m still digging out from last semester and translating Old English.

03 January 2005

New Year

As I started making “resolutions” for 2005, I realized that I had too many. So here’s my blanket resolution: to do better at as much as possible without going insane.

One thing that means is that I’ll probably blog infrequently about things like politics. The current situation has me feeling pretty down. Horrifying earthquakes and tsunamis have ravaged a quarter of the world, there’s a war on, and our president is about to celebrate by throwing a $40,000,000 inauguration. Then he’ll gut social security, help the rich get richer, and appoint people who like torture to the Supreme Court. Happy days ahead.

The other thing that means is I’ll probably be posting a lot of my thoughts about literature and related things. That’s supposed to be my upcoming chosen profession, and I need to be more proactive if I’m going to succeed at it. One of the things that I’ve long believed is that frequent writing often leads to better writing—but I haven’t really practiced that on things that really need it. So you’ll probably see things here that are closely tied to research I’m doing, classes I’m teaching, and so on. I’ll still post about other stuff, but consider yourself warned if you don’t go for medieval English literature, drama, or textual criticism.

I close this long post with one of my favorite passages from Shakespeare, Miranda’s potentially ironic lines from the last act of The Tempest:

Arise and say how thou cam’st here. O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in’t!

Happy New Year, I hope.

07 December 2004

Temporary silence

A couple things are up for me. The first is multiple papers, which I must complete in the next week or so. That means I’ll be writing those, instead of blog entries.

Erik Vorhes and J. Orville Moe

Grandpa & me

The second, and in many ways more important, thing is a request: please keep my grandpa Orville and my mom’s family in your thoughts and prayers. Grandpa’s health is failing quickly, and his death is imminent. He has lived a full, wonderful life; but it’s hard even to contemplate his being gone from this life. To the left is a picture of him and me, from this August, the last time I saw him:

Update (6:50 a.m., 12/8): He passed away last night, at about 8:30. More to follow, but after the funeral.

01 December 2004

Forthcoming

This is the film I’m most looking forward to . . . er, to which I’m most looking forward.

Aeneas, et al., approach. Command?

Once again, Alabama looks like the pinnacle of Americana. State Rep. Gerald Allen wants to rid all public libraries of texts that contain non-heterosexual protagonists, that deviate from heterosexual norms, or that somehow promote the “gay agenda.” Dave Friedman has already noted some of the literary implications of Allen’s bill; he also observes that certain kinds of textbooks (especially psychology and biology) will also be banned.

Friedman and his sources (here and here) seem primarily concerned with works written in English. But the ban will—thank goodness!—free Alabama from the threat of Plato, Homer, Ovid, Vergil, and their ilk. I, for one, think it’s about time that we ended their corrosive influence on our cultural values.

I suppose they’ll need to get rid of the Bible while we’re at it. It had an early, insidious affect on English culture, one that has perpetuated itself almost beyond repair! The Anglo-Saxons, for example, appeared to take great pleasure in the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters (Gen. 19.30-38):

Wer sæt æt wine mid his wifum twam
ond his twegen suno ond his twa dohtor,
swase gesweostor, ond hyra suno twegen,
freolico frumbearn; fæder was þær inne
þara æþelinga æghwæðres mid,
eam ond nefa. Ealra wæron fife
eorla ond idesa insittendra.

A man sat at wine with his two wives and his two sons and his two daughters—beloved sisters—and their two sons, noble first-born men; the father was there with the uncle and the nephew of each of the princes. All told, there were five lords and women sitting within.

OK, I included that last bit just to show off my mad Old English skills. My goodness, though: Alabama will need to get rid of everything under the sun!

23 November 2004

Hello & bye-bye (for now)

It has been a long time since I’ve posted. And now it’s time to depart for the great white north of Minneapolis & St. Paul. I’ll be back in Chicago on Sunday, so know when to hit the apartment, burglars!

I was going to write some long-winded thing about how the Pilgrims came here for religious freedom and not a theocracy, but then I remembered that the Massachusetts Bay Co. was essentially theocratic. So, sans long-winded rant, have a joyous Thanksgiving. & safe travels!

08 November 2004

Some comfort

I’m still not entirely happy about the result of the election, though these cartograms help a little (especially those at the bottom).

Even more helpful was a viewing of The Incredibles. I’ll post a review at the Ole Movie Review Circle when I get around to it (backdated for timeliness, of course). Needless to say: the movie is incredible, the best new movie I’ve seen since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Both of those things are distractions, though; they don’t change the fact that Bush was reelected. One of Erica’s seminary professors, when he was serving in churches, would routinely preach on Psalm 146 after an election. Check out verses 3 and 4:

Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
On that very day their plans perish.

The psalmist provides sound advice, even if the election turned out otherwise. Human efforts are transient, but the work of God is permanent. I can be disappointed and upset that Bush was reelected. But his reelection is not the end of the world, as much as my apocalyptic paranoia would have me believe otherwise; and I can do my best to improve the world, regardless who the leader of this country is. I should trust that God won’t let us destroy ourselves, and I shouldn’t put my faith in something so brief, so ultimately meaningless as another election. Things will change again, as they have already done.

03 November 2004

I don’t understand.

Unless Kerry takes Ohio (unlikely), Bush will be reelected. What happened? Here are the fruits of the Bush administration:

  • the US has jettisoned the Geneva Conventions and tortures prisoners of war;
  • we’ve entered a horrifying quagmire in Iraq with no real solutions;
  • Osama and his bunch seem frighteningly healthy;
  • US citizens are denied the right to due process;
  • our borders are no safer from terrorists;
  • assault weapons are legal;
  • budget deficits have returned with a vengeance (even discounting the costs of Iraq and 9/11);
  • the economy has lost jobs during the span of a presidential term for the first time since the Great Depression;
  • the rich get richer and everyone else gets poorer; and
  • the abortion rate is higher than under Clinton.

By sending Bush back to the White House, we are affirming this terrible record and giving him (and a stronger GOP majority in Congress) our endorsement to do more of the same.

How can this be what we’ll wake up to? It certainly doesn’t seem like reality.

02 November 2004

The end and the beginning

Erica and I just returned from the polls. She’s off to school, and I’ll be off to Loyola soon. The library beckons!

We hope that you’ll vote, too, and encourage everyone else you meet to vote.

31 October 2004

Almost too late . . .

but as someone into textual criticism and the history of print, I couldn’t pass up directing everyone to this useful Reformation Day costume.

28 October 2004

Why the NFL matters

As Gregg Easterbrook noted on Tuesday (and Sports Illustrated confirmed today), the outcome of the Washington–Green Bay game will decide the election. From SI:

Since the Redskins became the Redskins in 1933, the result of the team's final home game before the presidential election has correctly predicted the White House winner. If the Redskins win, the incumbent party wins. If they lose, the incumbent party is ousted.

You can be assured that, even more than usual, I will be rooting for the Packers this Sunday. I encourage you to do the same!

On a side note, I apologize for the short missives that have been flooding my blog. I have a lot that’s due in the next week or two, and I’m reading William Langland‘s Piers Plowman for the first time. I wish I had read it much earlier—I love it and must write more about it.

27 October 2004

Where to vote

If you are planning to vote on Tuesday, make sure you know where to go.

Thanks to Kevin Drum for the link.

26 October 2004

Useful voting information

25 October 2004

Emerald Nuts: Anti-Nordic?

As a Norwegian-American, I’m highly offended by part of the new ad campaign by Emerald Nuts. In the “Encouraging Norwegians Love Emerald Nuts” spot, they shoot the Norwegian! This is shocking, repugnant treatment of a people who love everyone and have never, ever, ever hurt a soul!

Swedes must be in charge of their advertising.

RAGE!

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. SEMA was excellent, and my paper was well received. I also had the pleasure of meeting some top-notch scholars, especially among the Anglo-Saxonists.

At the same time I feel good about that experience, my mind is filling with rage! Why? Because the Bush administration is awful. Yesterday’s disclosure that 350+ tons of high-powered explosives have been “lost” in Iraq only compounds the issue.

Meanwhile, Bush is accusing Kerry of ignoring Abu Musab Zarqawi in Iraq. The argument: Kerry says that Iraq is not part of the “war on terror”—but Zarqawi’s a pretty awful terrorist, and he’s in Iraq! This is a risible accusation, to say the least. The Bush administration had the opportunity to take out Zarqawi without invading Iraq! So it’s Kerry's fault that Zarqawi is beheading people and blowing stuff up with the explosives we didn’t guard? Please, please, electorate, vote for the reality-based community and against this administration of lies and horror!

13 October 2004

Going south

Tomorrow, very early, I’m headed to Charleston, SC, for the 30th Annual Conference of the Southeast Medieval Association. I’m giving a paper on St. Oswald of Northumbria and am very excited to be going. If I can get to an internet cafe, I’ll blog some of my impressions of the conference and of Charleston.

Between now and then, I’m going to Quimby’s to get In the Shadow of No Towers signed by Art Spiegelman! And later, I’ll probably feel outraged by the debate. Lots to pack in!

Baristas of the world, unite!

I would like to congratulate the entry of Starbucks baristas into the wonderful world of manufacturing! Now that you’re “real” workers, you can help push the revolution: substitute decaf in the suits’ morning drinks, and the capitalist system of control will crumble!

(The New York Times has the scoop, as does just about everyone else.)

11 October 2004

Rotten cheese

One of my guilty pleasures as an academic has been a deep love for the Green Bay Packers. Tonight, though, is really trying my patience. I haven’t had an opportunity to see a game for a while, since I live in Chicago. Their defense is a shambles, which puts tremendous pressure on their offense to play perfectly. (Which the offense isn’t, especially tonight.) My goodness, do the Packers stink this year!

Kerry: consistent in his inconsistency?

William Safire has the scoop on how the belligerent, abusive Bush “beat” Kerry at the last debate, by attacking him as a “flip-flopper” and as horrifyingly consistent. On the grounds Safire lays out, both allegations are false. More important, though, are such accusations on general grounds: can one be attacked for consistency if one is inconsistent (and vice versa)?

Aside from W’s shouting down moderator Charlie Gibson, my favorite moments from the debate follow:

  1. It is reassuring to know that Bush won’t appoint judges who support the Dred Scott ruling! (Though it is troubling that Bush doesn’t know why the decision went the way it did.)
  2. At the end of the debate, Bush was so delusional that he could only blame others for any possible mistakes in his administration—his only error was to mention people whom he appointed & who shall be named later. The best part of his answer was when he accused the questioner of trying to trick him into admitting that Iraq was a mistake. Isn’t it usually a bad idea to accuse the electorate of anything?

It should be an intense last debate. Maybe after then I won’t feel like this.

06 October 2004

Too many deaths, either way

I don't know if anyone has explicitly discussed casualties in Iraq in relation to last night’s debate, but I want to get my 2¢ in quickly, so here goes.

Last night Cheney disputed Edwards’s claim that the US had sustained 90% of the coalition casualties in Iraq. Instead, he said, Iraqi troops should be considered as part of the coalition—and therefore have sustained “almost 50%” of the casualties. FactCheck.org shows this percentage is wrong. Moreover, no one is keeping an official tally of Iraqi deaths, so any number is really an estimate.

FactCheck.org attempts to be dispassionate in its analysis, so it overlooks this important issue: the Vice President’s statement is troubling for more than its factual error. It seems Cheney wanted to use this number to minimize the number of US deaths in Iraq. Since we’re playing percentages, the actual number doesn’t go down. But by counting more deaths, Cheney is attempting to make the situation in Iraq look seem better than it is. Welcome to the land of doublespeak, where more deaths means better situation. By this logic, we should hope for even more deaths in October than there were in September. In the Bush administration, it seems, death and violence are good things.

Forgive the 1992 reference, but regarding this Bush administration, “It’s time for them to go.”

05 October 2004

FactCheck.com

During tonight’s debate, Cheney referred to “FactCheck.com” as an unbiased site about politics from the University of Pennsylvania. He meant, of course, FactCheck.org, a truly excellent site run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center—but I would like to thank him for directing traffic George Soros’ way. Soros unbiased? Hardly!

Misfire

I’m feeling a little down right now, which is not a good thing, as things seem to be getting busier. Time to soldier on.

In the meantime, if you live in Illinois, you have just over four hours left to register to vote. Other voter-registration deadlines are fast approaching, too. I wish every state allowed for same-day registration, but that’s (obviously) not the case and can’t be helped this time around. So, get to it, people!—register ASAP.

21 September 2004

Time to reload

This post has nothing to do with the recent expiration of the assault weapons ban; but those deer don’t stand a chance, now that I have my Tec-9 back.

Rather, I’m temporarily signing off from the blog. A few projects on my plate are looming near or are already past due, and I’d like to rectify that situation. I have prophecy, vision, dreams, and Oswald of Northumbria on the brain, and I need to clean up those cluttered spaces before it’s too late.

More personally, I also need to figure out what exacly is driving me at this point. Why do I study literature? Why medieval literature? What in my life is causing a disjunction between careful reading and thoughtful scholarship? The answer to some of these questions seems easy—I know I love this stuff, and that should be enough. But I’m training not just to read for pleasure (though that is part of it); I’m training to read and write professionally and to teach others to read and write better. So I need to get my head around at least part of the why. The gap in my work is more intimidating; often I feel like the dreamer in Pearl, who sees the gap between himself and the vision of his deceased daughter as insurmountable (it’s more complicated than that, but let me simplify):

The More I frayste hyr fayre face,
Her fygure fyn quen I had fonte,
Suche gladande glory con to me glace
As lyttel byfore þerto watz wonte.
To calle hyr lyste con me enchace,
Bot baysment gef myn hert a brunt.
I se3 hyr in so strange a place—
Such a burre my3t make myn herte blunt. (169-76)
 
The more I sought her fair face, when I had perceived her fine form, such rejoicing glory began to glide to me as little before then was accustomed. Desire to call her began to provoke me, but confusion gave my heart a shock. I saw her in so strange a place—such a shock could stop my heart.

I also want to figure out the purpose of this blog. Is it just a place for me to ramble? I don’t know. I also need to figure out for whom I want to vote on November 2. (Obama’s a given—but Cobb or Kerry for president?) You can expect to hear why I’m still “undecided” before then, unless I make up my mind before I post again. Look for my return around mid-October, after SEMA 2004. Maybe I’ll have a few answers by then.

18 September 2004

Cyclists, beware

You’ve probably already heard this news, but I thought I’d pass it along: Kryptonite U-locks can be opened with a Bic pen. I am loath to try it with Erica’s or mine, as we don’t have a receipt for hers, and mine is about 5 years old, earlier than the recall that Kryptonite has announced. Either way, this sucks—for all of us urban cyclists, especially.

Shakespeare quartos at the British Library

This is exciting news for Shakespeare scholars & fans as well as for textual studies folks: the British Library has made all of their quartos avalable—for free—online. Check it out here. Thank you, BL!

14 September 2004

Pearl

The first stanza of Pearl (late 14th c., anonymous), something I’m reading these days:

Perle plesaunte, to prynces paye
To clanly clos in golde so clere:
Oute of oryent, I hardyly saye,
Ne proued I neuer her precios pere.
So rounde, so reken in vche araye,
So smal, so smoþe her sydez were;
Queresoeuer I jugged gemmez gaye
I sette hyr sengeley in synglure.
Allas! I leste hyr in on erbere;
Þur3 gresse to grounde hit fro me yot.
I dewyne, fordolked of luf-daungere
Of þat pryuy perle withouten spot.

Enjoy!

11 September 2004

Web standards

I’m no expert, but I wanted to pass along a link noticed by the Web Standards Project: Dave Shea has compiled a list of standards resources for beginners, which I’m sure I’ll find useful and hope you will too.

10 September 2004

Insert attack ad joke here

Let the smear campaign begin: the Daily Kos has the dirt (from Mad).

Write for the President

Andrew Sullivan noted this handy tool, and I thought I’d pass it along.

He also has a sane & thoughtful take on Cheney’s “vote for us, or we’ll kill you” statements (at The New Republic; free registration required). But I like Fred Clark’s thoughts more—I get a kick out of literary parallels, even when the thoughts are grim.

07 September 2004

Cheney: enemy combatant

What’s up with Dick Cheney? Today our lovable Vice President made this not-too-veiled threat:

If we make the wrong choice [on Nov. 2] then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.

We could infer that Cheney is arguing a stay-the-course approach. As the current administration proved in early 2001, an incoming administration can miss its predecessor’s repeated warnings about Al Qaeda and other terrorist threats; the transition to a Kerry administration would open a window for terrorist activity again. One problem, though: it’s not like the whole government shuts down when we get a new President! And I doubt any officials would want to be in a position where 9/11-2 happened on their watch. So unless Kerry also willfully misses any intelligence passed on to him from the exiting administration, we probably don’t have anything more to worry about than we already do.

Since it seems unlikely that a Kerry administration would be more incompetent than Bush II on fighting terrorism, one is left with only one conclusion: If Bush isn’t reelected, Cheney will bomb the US! Let‘s preemptively lock him up without access to due process. Ashcroft is getting good at that kind of thing. Plus, it’ll distract attention from the sagging economy and ever-climbing death-toll in the administration’s own terrorist breeding-ground.

The third, and most plausible option, is that—contrary to some RNC delegate assertions—Bush/Cheney is bin Laden’s ticket of choice, since their go-it-alone, blow-s——t-up policy toward Iraq likely cements opposition to the US and may push more people over the edge.

I used to think that I wasn’t much for conspiracy theories. They seem awfully fun, though!

06 September 2004

A quality addition to the syllabus

The medieval English literature class I’m TA for is focused on apocalyptic literature. Do you think Prof. Frantzen would approve this addition? I think he might!

05 September 2004

Bad Monster

Monster.com has a new ad out, in which a bunch of people say what kind of job they’re looking for. It’s a very diverse ad, with men of varying ethnicities looking for blue- and white-collar jobs and two white women looking for traditionally female jobs: one wants to be a waitress and the other wants to be a sec—, er, an “administrative assistant.”

Maybe it’s not so diverse, after all. Get a clue, Monster: women have proven themselves able to do just about anything. Or is Pat Robertson your ad exec?

Coffee

Yum. Yesterday I picked up about a pound of “Organic Love Buzz” coffee, from Equal Exchange. I’m plugging it not only because it makes for a tasty wakeup beverage, but also—and more important—because fairly traded coffee is the way to go. (I’ll probably elaborate later this week, when I’m not feeling as weekend-busy.)

If your favorite coffee shop doesn’t offer much in the way of fair trade, encourage them to change. One “option” isn’t enough; I’m looking in your direction, Starbucks, Peet’s, and Caribou.

31 August 2004

Media bias (seriously)

You decide: I am a) a fascist or b) a right-wing nut

You choose, you loose!

So much for “liberal bias” in the media. MSNBC comes up with an internet poll question worthy of Fox News!

Thanks to Josh Marshall for the link.

Media bias!

CBS 2 Chicago misidentifies my browser

There’s something wrong with this picture.

Too bad Safari isn’t a Netscape-based browser; too bad, too, that I can look at Windows Media at other sites. I guess CBS 2 thinks it’s still 1999.

26 August 2004

New year

Monday begins the new academic term at Loyola. It promises to be an exciting and busy semester for me: I’m taking classes in Middle English literature and rhetoric and pursuing an independent study of medieval Latin manuscripts housed at the Newberry Library (I’m especially interested in the account of Mary of Egypt, the prostitute-turned-saint). Add to that conferences and being the TA for Allen Frantzen’s upper-level medieval literature class—December will be here before I’m ready, that’s certain.

24 August 2004

Why Dubya will probably win

Alas, even without the swift boat BS, it looks like Kerry will lose the election, unless he can find enough electoral votes to overcome Florida. This article explains.

Writing manifesto, part 1

There’s a brief article in today’s Sun Herald (courtesy Knight Ridder) about blogging and writing proficiency for incoming college students. It turns out that, according to Samantha Blackmon at Purdue University, those who blog usually are better prepared to write well at the college level. (Incidentally, Purdue has a fabulous online writing lab, if you want a convenient resource.)

Blackmon’s conclusion doesn’t really surprise me; Peter Elbow has been arguing something similar for a while now (though he hasn’t necessarily focused on specific technologies and their impact on writing). Elbow believes that frequent writing is the best thing one can do in order to improve as a writier, in order to be able to write efficiently and effectively. So one can logically move from the general—frequent writing produces better writing—to the specific—frequent blogging produces better writing.

All this may be stating the obvious, but if there are ways to foster a love for writing, proficiency is more easily taught. So three cheers for the blog. One of these days it might even help my own writing!

23 August 2004

Secure browsing

Not much is going on here. Or rather, I’m feeling busy enough that I’ll probably neglect this blog for a while. In the meantime, check out Browse Happy, a resource for secure web browsers (i.e., not Internet Explorer). There’s something there for just about any operating system under the sun, so no excuses!

You might also want to peruse The Ole Movie Review Circle, a fun “new” blog about movies and their hangers-on. Enjoy the rest of August; you’ll hear from me pretty soon, I’m sure.

17 August 2004

Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn

I’ve noticed that in this space I rarely write about what I’m reading, even though I’m technically training to be a professional reader. I should try to do a better job of sharing that aspect of my life. Here goes:

Recently I finished Mark Dunn’s Ella Minnow Pea (New York: Anchor-Random, 2002), an epistolary novel set primarily in the fictitious island nation of Nollop, “21 miles southeast of Charleston, South Carolina.” The plot revolves around letters disappearing from a statue whose tiled lettering spells the famous sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” As letters disappear from the statue, the council bans their use in written and oral communication.

The result is far more suspenseful than I thought it would be. Dunn moves the novel beyond simple writing exercise (i.e., “Write with an ever-decreasing number of letters”). This starts out as a seemingly easy exercise—the first two letters he excises are z and q—but as more frequently used letters disappear, Dunn’s style is forced to become increasingly creative. The characters seem well-developed (which helps), and each has his or her own writing style (which makes them compelling individuals). Dunn ultimately critiques unthinking devotion but more importantly appeals to the value of language. He persuasively asserts that words and letters have intense power and must be treated with sensitivity, love, and respect.

Part of his critique is aimed at “quick” means of communication, such as e-mail and instant messaging (and probably—ahem—blogging). For Ella Minnow Pea and for Dunn, language and writing are essential elements of thinking, which I find a persuasive position, but that’s a topic for another time.

14 August 2004

Quit pretending you’re “live”

One reason I wish I had access to the CBC is a Plan 9 moment from NBC’s coverage of the opening ceremonies last night: Tom Brokaw is in the studio (with a backdrop of the lit Acropolis). He’s there to reassure us that the Olympics are “safe” and leads into a report from someone at the Olympic stadium for further details. Now it’s daytime, but everyone is behaving as if his report and Brokaw’s intro are at the same time. Ed Wood would be proud. (This report is especially silly, since the opening ceremonies were already complete by the time of the US broadcast; no one here is wondering whether there was any terrorist activity, since the event already happened. Why bother?)

In further foolishness, the coverage of the opening ceremonies pretends to be live for US audiences as well. NBC runs commercials over the very cool and not at all cheesy opening dramatization rather than “pausing” the coverage for a break. Why, NBC? WHY?! It’s not live coverage—quit pretending it is.

12 August 2004

Beat a drum

Last night we went to Rhythm, a club near Chicago’s Greektown. On certain nights, for a $5 cover, you get to play a djembe with a group of people in a drum circle and beat out rhythms, following a leader’s instruction. What fun! If I had a regular nine-to-five, I imagine that this kind of thing would be a godsend—a way, literally, to beat out one’s stress and anxiety.

PS Sorry for the limited updates—Erica & I spent the last several days in the UP, including Marquette, one of the most livable places in the US. (My home town rocks.)

03 August 2004

Danger!

The recent terror alert from the department of homeland security seems typically timed. At the time of the announcement, the buzz surrounding Kerry’s recent nomination seemed still to be growing; and the administration seems bent on doing what it always does when things appear to be going badly: ratchet up the fear and distract us from what’s really going on. This is a habit of the justice department whenever Ashcroft is on the hot seat, for example.

Now, it could be true that Al Qaeda will attack Citibank’s headquarters and other prominent locations, and any threat of terror should be taken seriously. Fred Kaplan has some wise words concerning how to handle the warning. For now, though, I’ll consider it yet another case of the administration crying wolf and playing politics with our national security, as they’ve done so many times before. After all, Tom Ridge sure did a bang-up job of keeping politics out of this alert when he said:

We must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president’s leadership in the war against terror.

Where was the president’s leadership in early August 2001? Oh, I forgot: there wasn’t a war on terror yet; Al Qaeda wasn’t an administration priority.

Third black senator since Reconstruction—guaranteed?

The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that the GOP might tap Alan Keyes to run against Barack Obama. I didn’t realize Keyes was from Illinois. Then again, Hillary isn’t from New York.

I don’t know much about Keyes except that he ran for president in 2000, when I remember hearing that he was pretty far out in right field, i.e., a nut job. Regardless of his politics, the Illinois senate race should be more interesting once Barack has an opponent.

31 July 2004

More on Obama

One of the more moving passages from Barack Obama’s speech follows:

If there’s a child on the South Side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief—I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper—that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. “E pluribus unum.” Out of many, one.

I love this kind of rhetoric (rhetoric to me is far from a perjorative) for several reasons: its parallel construction, its thoughtful Biblical allusion, its breadth and depth of thought and feeling.

Something about this segment seemed to echo well into the cobwebbed parts of my brain, from my US history class in high school. This idea, of someone else’s plight affecting one’s own situation, recalls the words of Eugene V. Debs, one of my favorite political figures from the late 19th and early 20th century:

While there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Debs is a bit nuttier than Obama, but there is a rhetorical connection here, and probably an emotional one. Both wish to lift up the downtrodden, to speak up for the voiceless. May Obama’s career be brighter and longer than his rhetorical predecessor!

28 July 2004

Political fun night

Last night we went to see Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in Grant Park. Jimmy Stewart is great, as usual.

Before the movie started, though, I got to hear Barack Obama give the keynote at the Democratic National Convention. Wow. Obama’s brilliant; I don’t think I’ve felt so compelled by a candidate at any level. Don’t take my word for it, though: judge for yourself (link from C-SPAN).

Oh, and Erica and I took a walk around and under “Cloud Gate.” Contrary to previous cynicism, this piece is incredible, beautiful, a perfect fit for the new park. Sometime during daylight, I’ll head downtown and take some pictures and post them for your amusement.

26 July 2004

Clinton’s money shot

Line of the night from good ol’ Bill: “They need a divided America; we don’t.”

Amish in the City

It has been a while! And it will continue to be a while, as I need to finish a paper on Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and prophecy, revise a paper on Ælfric’s life of St. Oswald of Northumbria, finish work for the IMA, read pamphlets by Anna Trapnel, and merge this blog (which will be more or less generically renamed) with my “real” site. Hooray for things to do.

Erica is back from Guatemala, too, which means that I’m not regularly playing the role of lonely-guy-with-internet. I still have lots of things to say, however, and I’ll probably post again after Barack Obama’s keynote address tomorrow night. (Show the whole convention, networks! How are crappy “reality” shows and reruns more interesting than something potentially historical?)

In the meantime, read this important article about Amish TV. I generally agree with that assessment, aside from two things: I don’t think this will lead to overt, violent persecution of Christians; and the show is on UPN, so no one will watch it anyway. Nevertheless, this development is highly disturbing: because the Amish believe strongly in non-resistance, there’s no organized objection to this show. I doubt we’d see a show trying to get Mormons to drink coffee, for example. So it’s time to speak up—object to UPN’s decision to air this show! Lobby in favor of the Amish! Stand up for people who believe in something!

UPN conveniently provides no contact information on their site, so you might need to contact your local station directly. Your thoughts are encouraged.

05 July 2004

Keep Ehrenreich—please!

Timothy Noah has posted a great article on Slate calling for the New York Times to keep their guest op-ed columnist of the month, Barbara Ehrenreich, on staff. I couldn’t agree more. Her columns are brilliant, and a powerful message from the left.

After reading her essays, if you agree with me, please contact the Times directly, letting them know what a great presence Ehrenreich adds to their paper.

As far as more “original” work on my part goes, check back later this week—I have a few things in the works that need to be tweaked before they go public.

29 June 2004

“The Bean” (er, “Cloud Gate”)

In the next few months, Chicago will see a new work of art near the lake shore. The Chicago Tribune has some pictures, if you’re curious. The sculpture seems benign enough, but I’m concerned that it’ll blind people on Lake Shore Drive as the sun rises. Scary!

28 June 2004

Go left, young man!

By now you’ve probably heard that Michael Moore’s Farenheit 9/11 was this weekend’s top-grossing movie. This is coup for leftist propaganda—and it seems that it did well even in heavier GOP areas. There are issues with the movie, of course, and Christopher Hitchens complains about many of them. (Some of his complaints are highly overblown, but that’s a topic for another post.)

I saw Farenheit 9/11 on Saturday. It’s definitely an incendiary movie, and worth seeing. What struck me, though, was the atmosphere outside the theater. It felt like waiting to get in to see the latest Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings movie: everyone seemed eager with anticipation, and some of the people were bragging about how many times they’d already seen it. Most of the people were middle-aged hippies, though, rather than the usual overexcited movie-geek crowd. A very surreal experience.

23 June 2004

School’s out

Well, not really. I’m working on a course on the Brontës, which so far is OK, and on an independent study on the Puritan revolution, which is much more fun. And I’m doing some work for the Illinois Medieval Association, which is a nice change of pace from academics.

This post is mostly air to direct you to this article at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s site, re: degree mills. On especially busy days, part of me wishes I had just plunked down a couple thousand dollars instead—but I have the consolation of not feeling guilty and actually having learned something.

20 June 2004

Women in office

I’m a member of the Christian Reformed Church, which “ordains” women as pastors, elders, and deacons. (Erica and 20+ other women are ordained as pastors.) I usually use quotes around ordain, though, whenever I discuss the issue of women’s ordination and the CRC, because female clergy are not afforded all the responsibilities and privileges of the male clergy. Only two women serve as parish pastors, absolutely no women are allowed to be delegates to Synod (the national assembly), and each classis (“fleet,” which the CRC uses to signify one of its regional divisions) has the option not to ordain women.

The issue of women in office is hardly a CRC-only issue, however. Most evangelical and conservative confessing churches face difficulty with it. While some of this difficulty comes from legitimate theological qualms (e.g., honest biblical hermeneutics), it seems that most of it serves as a mask for misogynistic views. Case in point, this wonderfully untrue statement from Pat Robertson:

The key in terms of mental ability is chess. There’s never been a woman Grand Master chess player. Once you get one, then I’ll buy some of the feminism . . .

(Thanks to Fred Clark for noticing this and for his great rebuttal; check under “She came, she saw, she conquered.”)

Opera-man strikes again!

A professional vocalist lives in the building next to ours, and he loves to rehearse with the windows open, which is a great—though slightly surreal—experience for us. Even better is when we’re outside and he sings as he makes his way down the alley.

It brings back memories of particularly obsessive members of the St. Olaf Choir, especially as winter thawed to spring.

King Arthur

I just saw an ad for the summer’s latest blow-s——t-up epic. Dude! I can’t wait for this!

My favorite (and their most cumbersome) promotional line: “The untold true story that inspired the legend.”

If it’s untold, how did these schmoes find out about it?

16 June 2004

How bad will this get?

Yesterday Paul Krugman exposed a disturbing pattern regarding my beloved John Ashcroft—whenever it looks like he’s in trouble, he announces another terror attempt in order to deflect attention from his own anti-American activities. I know Krugman has his own biases, but it’s pretty unsettling nonetheless.

And now the New York Times has learned that Rumsfeld and Tenet have been secretly detaining Iraqis (so-called ghost prisoners), so that the Red Cross can’t monitor how the prisoners are treated. Rumsfeld wasn’t kidding when, not long after the prison scandal broke, he assured us that things would get much worse.

I haven’t been much of a Kerry fan, but I’m 99% sure that I’ll vote for him. It’s well past time to get this administration out of office.

Meanwhile, we’re almost totally ignoring the horrors that are going on in the Sudan. Then again, we tend to ignore almost all the bad things that happen in Africa. What else is new?

15 June 2004

Back

I’m back and will have more soon, but I wanted to cover two things. Lots of other things have happened over the past week, and I wish I had been around to write about them. Alas!

First, Erica left this morning for a month of Spanish-immersion in Xela, Guatemala. Say “hi” to her if you see her!

Second, if you’re reading, Bingo, I’ve responded to your comment re: Troy.

Third: in more exciting news for me, I recently found out that I have a paper accepted for the upcoming Southeast Medieval Association conference. The paper essentially is a “source analysis” that explores the differing accounts of St. Oswald of Northumbria in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People and Ælfric’s Lives of Saints. Yay!

Hope the summer is going well for all of you.

03 June 2004

Summer fun

I’m still around, but have been in and out for a while, and blogging has been pretty low on my list of priorities. I do have things to discuss, but they’ll probably have to wait until about a week from now. These things include

  • how Supersize Me is probably one of the scariest movies I’ve seen in a long time;
  • what I think, several months later, about The Passion of the Christ; and
  • anything else that comes up, including work, life, movies, and politics.

See you soon—I turn 27 in just over a week, so I’ll come back older and dumber. Caveat lector.

27 May 2004

Bunnies, friends, and ogres

Yesterday Erica and I went to Milwaukee, to bid adieu to our friend Colin, who starts medical residency at the University of Minnesota next week. (Congratulations, Dr. Colin!)

brown bunny by Belmont Harbor, Chicago

Isn't it cute?

We got a later start than we wanted, though. It seemed like a nice morning, so we went for a walk on the lakeshore path. On the return trip, lo and behold, by Belmont Harbor we found a couple abandoned pet rabbits, including the one on the right. They were probably someone’s Easter present, and the owner/owner’s child probably got sick of them. (It makes us mad when people abandon their pets!) We got a box from the harbor master and passed them off to Erica’s sister, who brought them to the Animal Welfare League.

truck carring food-grade sweetener

Yum.

That made us a couple hours late in starting our trip to Milwaukee, but we saw something highly disturbing on I-94 that made it all worthwhile—It’s nice to know they keep the food-grade sweetener separate from the many other sweeteners out there.

We also saw Shrek 2 last night. It’s very funny, though I’m not sure if it’s better than the original. I’m also perplexed that DreamWorks feels so bullish about their animation studios. Sure, the Shrek movies have been commercial (and critical) successes, but what else have they done that’s, you know, good? (Prince of Egypt is OK, but seriously, what else?)

25 May 2004

Gas

I’m back from a visit to Grand Rapids, where Erica’s brother graduated from college on Saturday. Most of their family was there for the party, and it was good to catch up with people I see only infrequently.

Our budget takes a hit every time we travel by car now, with gas prices at more than $2 a gallon (low-grade gas in Chicago costs over $2.25). I can’t complain too much over the cost, though: prices are significantly higher in Europe, the cost in “real” dollars is still less than it was 25 years ago, and we drive an old Honda Civic hatchback that still gets about 35 miles per gallon on the highway. But I miss the halcyon days of 1998-99, when we could routinely find gas at about $0.90 per gallon, when a round-trip from Northfield to St. Paul would cost less than $3. Sigh.

My hero Gregg Easterbrook has an excellent column in today’s New York Times that speculates how our current oil crisis could have been averted and, he contends, could still be corrected. The column alone is worth the hassle of creating a free account at the Times site.

20 May 2004

Go, Johnnie, go!

Dennis Hastert doesn’t like John McCain. Hooray! Maybe this will help push McCain into the Democratic party, or at least convince him to be Kerry’s running mate.

I’ve said before that I don’t particularly like Kerry. If McCain were his running mate, I might be able to vote for JFK without holding my nose.

19 May 2004

Is the local Perkins now a campaign stop?

Wonkette has a great photo of John Kerry campaigning with Howard Dean. Wow: it’s so big!

18 May 2004

Go Barack!

Occasionally I like to write about politics (OK, more than occasionally), and I don’t really have anything else I feel inspired about today. So I’d like to make a plug for Barack Obama, our future junior senator from Illinois.

17 May 2004

How to conquer Troy in 15 days

I saw Troy over the weekend. The acting was very good all around, though the script was absolutely awful (and I won’t even get into my Trojan War purist stance regarding Ajax, Menelaus, Agamemnon, Aeneas, et al.). Wolfgang Petersen’s direction was poor, too—especialy his tendency to have Brad Pitt do obnoxious statuesque poses whenever he’s holding a sword and not killing anyone.

I was most bothered by the film’s representation of the war, though. According to the war’s vast mythos, it lasted ten years. The “shock & awe” approach that the film takes belies the brutality of the thing, despite its violent battle scenes. With another near east war going on, you’d think Petersen would be interested in showing how war can be and feel endless—especially considering the skill with which he handled this concept in Das Boot.

Complaints aside, Troy is worth seeing. It’s a decent popcorn flick with solid acting and beautiful set and costume design. And campy sword-and-sandals epics can be fun in the summer. I give it a C+.

14 May 2004

Early modern blogging

Someone has done the remarkable: turned Samuel Pepys’ diary into a blog. I’m into electronic editions, and though I have qualms about this version being based on a 19th century edition, it’s still very cool to see someone employing the medium in interesting ways.

Hear THIS!

We use Verizon, and there have been a few instances when I’ve felt like this guy. Mostly for the insane cost of the stuff, the fake “national” plan, and the month last fall when I kept being notified that I had new voice mail, when I had none. They gave me additional minutes for that last one.

But what really steams me about Verizon is my penultimate complaint. Last fall I went home for a high school friend’s wedding. (I grew up primarily in Michigan’s upper peninsula, and my parents still live there.) When Erica and I signed up for Verizon, we chose them because their national calling area included at least the western half of the Upper Peninsula. Apparently they changed this before I went north last fall though, because I was charged a good $13.00 for the couple times I called to check in with Erica. Verizon “forgave” the charges when I called to complain, but it’s insane that they—or anyone—charge 69¢ a minute for roaming.

I’d switch, but only Cingular seems to cover the UP without roaming, and they have shoddy coverage where we live. Bah.

So, from my readership of n, what’s your take on wireless providers? Praises? Pans? What should I switch to, if I feel like paying the excessive contract termination fees for Verizon? Flood my comment board!

12 May 2004

The Apocalypse should be more fun than this

I’m watching the preview to The Day after Tomorrow, and I think the promotions staff made a huge mistake by having a ten-minute preview of this drivel. It comes across as uncompelling in every way; the only reason even to think about seeing this tripe in a theater is for the special effects, but even those are uninteresting.

The studio has been promoting this thing as “from the director of Independence Day,” but they’ve got the wrong film from his résumé. The Day after Tomorrow reeks more of Godzilla.

But an even more puzzling question than “How did this get made?” is “Why did Ian Holm sign on?”

11 May 2004

Nutter

I’m listening to senate testimony on the Iraq prison fiasco, and I’m appalled at one senator in particular. I wish I had caught his name. He ranted for his entire allotted time, with this overt theme (taken almost verbatim): “I am appalled that people are horrified by this and are using it for political gain. These Iraqi f——rs probably deserve it.”

How’s that for foreign relations?

Update: It was James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Josh Marshall has more.

This whole situation—not just our own inappropriate behavior—makes me ill. I wish there were something I could do to end the trouble. At moments like this I become my most eschatological: come quickly, Lord Jesus!—we need your grace now more than ever. . . .

Update 2: Slate’s Timothy Noah has an astute take on the whole Iraqi prison situation.

10 May 2004

Switch

Hello! Until now I’ve kept myself occupied with a LiveJournal, but I’ve recently decided that I might want more flexibility in the format of my blog. So here I am.

Over the next few days I’ll be porting my LiveJournal entries here, so you can expect the “archive” to grow.

If you have biases toward a particular blogging format—or have suggestions for other good (and free) places to host a blog—please let me know.

19 April 2004

Random text

This meme is from Aphistis:

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 23.
  3. Find the fifth paragraph.
  4. Post the text of the paragraph in your journal along with these instructions.

From The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon:

“What is that?” his mother asked him, looking as if she was going to be ill.

But what does it mean?

Come forth!

Here’s a little something that I’ve been working on. Let me know what you think!

Like I say at the project’s website, I need to switch the edition to XML, a language I don’t yet know. If you have any suggestions for good (and free or at least cheap) tutorials, please tell me. . . .

The semester has been good. My writing class has its “final” tomorrow—they had to revise an essay and come prepared to discuss their topic, their research methods, and whatever else strikes their fancy. Meanwhile, I’m done with my own coursework, and I get a couple weeks off before summer terms start. Yuck. I’d rather have a break, to work and make some real money!

06 April 2004

Reminder!

Hope to see you at the McElroy Shakespeare Celebration!

How out of touch is our president?

Quick—what is Iraqi administrator Bremer’s first name? In Bush’s recent “insistence” that we will pull out of Iraq by June 30, he calls him “Jerry.” But isn’t his name Paul? I’m probably too nitpicky here, but this seems in line with recent allegations from Suskind and Clarke that our president is embarrassingly out of the loop.

For a different reading of Bush’s comments, check out Mickey Kaus. “As ‘firm’ as the day is long!” asserts that Bush might not be insisting at all; rather, he’s trying to hedge his bets. Looks like we could be in Iraq longer after all. (Which would probably be a good thing, if we’re serious about stabilizing the region.)

01 April 2004

“The Generator”

I’m tired of recapping The Corrections here. Not to say that I’m tired of the novel, just thinking back at the same time I need to think ahead—we finish it on Tuesday, and I have a project of my own due a week from next Thursday. Blah.

You can still view what’s supposed to happen at my English 106 page. No fooling.

31 March 2004

Good-bye, McElroy?

Every year Loyola puts on a fabulous event, the McElroy Shakespeare Celebration. (You can find out about Bernard McElroy here.) The usual format involves a renowned scholar presenting on a play or plays, with professional and student actors performing some of the relevant scenes.

This year, Richard Strier, from the University of Chicago, will be presenting “Bangs and Whimpers: Scenes from Two Versions of King Lear.” The talk promises to be stellar; if you’re in the Chicago area, I encourage you to come. Maybe we’ll grab coffee afterward, or something. Here are the details:

  • Date: Tuesday, April 6
  • Time: 7:30 pm
  • Location: Mullady Theater, Loyola

If you want to see the McElroy in all its glory, this is your last chance—word is, the endowment that funds it has no more money!

30 March 2004

“At Sea”

The next section got really tricky. More sex! Between Alfred and Enid! With Denise in the womb! It seems that Franzen has converted my classroom into a sex-focused literature classroom. Oh well, it isn’t the only one: Zach Lamm beat me to it, and it’s all his class is about. . . .

I’m interested in Alfred’s hallucinations in this section, especially how Franzen frames everything on the instability and treachery of the sea. It makes the “turd” scenes all the more poignant.

I’m also interested in the frequent references to The Chronicles of Narnia, especially The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. What is Franzen trying to do with these references?

Next up . . . “The Generator”!

27 March 2004

Procrastination

One of my classes this semester was at the Newberry library, one of the greatest places on earth. It was on Anglo-Saxon saints’ lives and taught by Paul Szarmach, of the Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University. Great class, prof., other students, etc.

The final paper was due yesterday, and we had to mail it to WMU. The post office closed at five, so I worked on the paper until about 4:30, ran to the post office, and figured I’d buy a mailer and send it first class. (Incidentally, “priority” mail is a rip-off—usually first class gets there just as quickly and is a lot cheaper.) I arrive at the post office to learn that the credit card machine is down. This wouldn’t be a problem, except I had a dollar in my wallet. The postage would cost $0.83, and the post office doesn’t sell mailers for seventeen cents! By now, it’s 4:50, Erica’s still 45 minutes away at school, and it’s a ten minute run home. I explained that this had to get out today, but I didn’t really believe that the post office would stay open late just so a lowly grad student could mail his term paper at the last minute. Panic! All my thoughts would be fined by the FCC.

Fortunatley, one of the postal workers dug in his pocket and pulled out $0.30 and gave it to me. I almost hugged the man. Then I bought a mailer and postage, folded my 17 pages in half, and dropped it in the mail, at 4:55 pm. Five minutes to spare. I owe the USPS $0.30 and my butt. Thank you USPS!

I walked home gleefully, until I realized that my paper sucks and I forgot to include a pretty important paragraph on direct quotation in Ælfric’s passio of St. Oswald of Northumbria. But I can regale you for hours on St. Oswald! (Time to renew my new years resolution: not to procrastinate so much. Arg.)

To relax, Erica and I went to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Now that is a great movie. And unlike CK’s previous work, it ends hopefully. And Jim Carrey, et al., were great.

25 March 2004

“The More He Thought about It, the Angrier He Got”

Hooray! We talked about sex today!

This section deals with Gary and Caroline and the political positioning they take with their children.

Sex plays an important role in the whole novel, and we’re beginning to establish the different ways it works within the text. So far, Franzen seems to portray sex as an ultimately destructive act. Is this a misreading? If not, do you think he will redeem what is usually viewed as something literally creative?

I’m not feeling particularly lucid right now—which is a problem, since I have a paper to mail in fewer than 18 hours!

23 March 2004

“St. Jude” and “The Failure”

Whew. First day of class was OK. This is a lot more reading than my students are used to. A few interesting things:

Think about the clutter in Alfred and Enid’s house. How is this emblematic of what follows?

It seems pretty obvious that the second part refers to Chip, who doesn’t come across well in any of his adventures. But are there other “failures” here? (A key is to pinpoint when the events occur in relation to what happens in later sections. (E.g., could Denise be a failure? Alfred? Gary? Enid? Gitanas?)

What are some of Franzen’s key terms so far? I’m intrigued by his flexible use of correction and to correct. Also, keep track of Mexican A. It’ll turn up in unexpected locations.

For Thursday: “The More He Thought About It, the Angrier He Got”

20 March 2004

Jonathan Franzen “log” forthcoming

So, over the next couple weeks I’ll be updating on Tuesdays and Thursdays mostly to “discuss” The Corrections. Feel free to read along with my English 106 class! For Tuesday we’re reading the first two parts, “St. Jude” and “The Failure.” Any feedback, of course, is welcome!

Al

So, there are more important, more exciting things going on in the world right now, and even around Chicago. But I need to make a plug for The Aluminum Group. Their song “Mr. Butterfly” has been haunting me for about a month now; fortunately, it’s a good thing I can’t get it out of my head.

10 March 2004

Success!—but next . . .

Maus came off really well in class; I think my students were actively engaging with the text and seemed genuinely interested in interpreting Spiegelman’s work. I suspect that it was a hit partly because we are living in what I’ve heard called a “post-literate” society. I’m not sure exactly what this means, but I think it signifies that the dominant cultural currency is the image. The printed word is not as powerful as it used to be. Am I proclaiming the death of print? Definitely not—the book is far from dead, and people still read articles, essays, and stories. It seems to be more of a cultural shift than anything; and my experience with Maus, I think, lends credence to the anecdotal evidence. Welcome to the “new medievalism”! (Maybe this will mean that I’ll have an easier time getting a job once I’m working on the dreaded dissertation. . . . One can hope!)

In other news, next week we begin the daunting culmination to my class: we’re reading Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. I love this novel, so I believe I can teach it with enthusiasm. But how to teach it? As the “bad” Hamlet puts it, “Ay, there’s the rub.”

08 March 2004

“Crap” (Smith 93).

The original LiveJournal entry has comments! This is a rarity, so I’ve chosen to archive it rather than re-post it. Enjoy—if you can—our brief dialogue regarding plagiarism.

01 March 2004

Worthy of our efforts

Again, a rare LiveJournal entry with comments. Tasty!

D’oh! Oscar!

Lord of the Rings won in every Oscar category for which it was nominated. Wow. I suppose this is a good thing—I love the three movies that Jackson, et al., put together—but I don’t feel all that great about the wins. Sure, the academy is rewarding all three movies at once, but this seems to slight all the other worthy films; in some categories, after all, The Return of the King wasn’t the best nominee. Plus, I blew it in my Oscar pool. What punishment movie will it be this year?