25 December 2006

Line Up

The American Spirit of Christmas is alive and well this year and i would like to take this opportunity to try and educate us all how we can make a slightly better world.

We Americans have an abysmal habit for forming a line. Everyone is so interested in winning the line lottery, sneaking into the new register that just opened up, beating a total stranger to the check-out & we all suffer for it. While i'm surely not the first person to point this deficiency out, i was so struck yesterday at the liquor store by how uncivilized we all are, that i feel it's my Christmas duty to try and fix this.

Step 1:
Everybody chill out. You are not that important & an extra 45 seconds out of your day is a small price to ask for universal harmony. Don't be so discontent with where you are in lif(n)e that you are constantly looking at other lines to see who's going faster or slower than you are. Line envy is just where the trouble starts.

Step 2:
(this is the hardest step) - we need to work toward a more civilized queue.


***

Finally posted on 3 March 2010 - the basic idea was that we need not, as a society, play a constant line lottery... if we all gave it up, we could just all be happier...

22 December 2006

so sure

So, Friday i bought an awesome Christmas gift & i'm so sure that brooke so never reads my blog, that i'm spilling the beans here, early.

I got her an awesome new bike, that looks something like this one, except that it is more burgundy colored and even awesomer, because it's a bike and not a pixelated image of a bike.

I got a hugely good deal on it, too, because the dealer was switching over from this bike maker. It's gonna be awesome. Happy Christmas, Pleasant Hannukah, and a Supreme Festivus.

21 December 2006

therein

All of my PhD applications are fully in and submitted and i now just have to wait until i start hearing the laughter start to burble out of the vaunted institutions to which i've applied. To celebrate my great turn-in, i've started reading Foucault's The Birth of the Clinic, which will be the first Foucault i've really sat down and read. That guy seems to be kind of full of shit.

I mean, he's taken the first 19 pages to say, essentially, that doctors study disease & the patients are something of a distraction to that study. His point is that the only reason doctors need to learn about human physiology (anatomy? biology? erg, it's so frustrating now that i've been kicked off of UChicago's OED subscription, i don't know what anything means anymore) is so they know what to subtract when studying disease. That is, what it is that may be causes & effects that have nothing to do with the disease, but are naturally occuring in the body.

Ok, so why am i reading Foucault, you may be wondering. Well, when i gave my presentation on Body Worlds, i was pointed toward this book as another way of approaching the ideas i was dealing with. I didn't get around to it until now, and last week, when the great green god granted me an extra 10% off my employee discount, i bought it. Well, thus far it's miserables (that's a french joke), but i do hope it helps me along as i am wanting to rewrite that paper and submit it for publication (so i can send along "amended CV's to all my schools). Oh, speaking of which... this is insane. I'm a film editor now... i didn't even know i was applying and was told by my brother that he'd given somebody my name... suddenly, i'm it. So, if you would like to write a film review about a German film, send it along my way & you, too, can be published (i'll "edit" it). Ok, so this post has lost its trail, but i must prepare to teach the young minds tomorrow, so i'll sign off.

09 December 2006

A Teacher For One Week

I've now come through one week of teaching at Metro Community College and at this point i've not yet been chased out of class or booed. My first week of teaching was a bit nervy, but enjoyable. I'm generally a bit awkward, particularly with new people, and these classes were no exception. I tried to bridge the totally scripted/seat of your pants style of presentation for the first class. I'm not very good at either extreme and found an ok place somewhere in the middle. I must say, i was a bit weirded out by how much of an authority my students seem to see me as. I've, somewhat randomly, come up with some things to say, some things to talk about, and they listen (sometimes) and write down (very occasionally) things that i say.

It's not that i think i haven't anything that i think they need or could at least use, but the arbitrariness of what i'm telling them impresses me, sometimes. In my film class, i showed A Trip to the Moon for no other reason other than the fact that it was a short film i could lay hands on. I had literally never seen it before when we all watched it together in class, which i know is irresponsible (my VCR at home seems to not function any longer), but i had some sort of pedagogic sense behind it. I thought, if we were all just seeing it, we could share initial reactions in a very gutty, reflexive way, but it's just so weird. I surely know a lot more about movies than they do, but for them to write things down that i'm saying... that just ain't right.

Also, on my first day of film class i noticed that my book was a wholly different color than that of most of the students. At first i had a faux-oh-n0 moment thinking that a new edition had come out. I checked the nearest student's copy, which happened to by the 10th edition of an entirely different book. That wasn't good, as i'd planned an entire syllabus based on my book and (after consulting the department and realize that i am a peon) now i have to change it all over to this other book, that i've never read. But, whatever.

The other problem, or at least concern, i feel like i'm running up against is that i may not be thinking of these students as they actually are. The first day of film class i talked about Stan Brakhage, and while i haven't brought it up yet, i'm going to very soon introduce the concept of 'warrant' to my Comp classes. I worry that i may be thinking of these students as if they were University of Chicago students (or even Luther kids), but they're beginning community college students, some of whom are in very job specific programs, not really wanting to write papers (or understand the work of the filmic object in the world). I think there's something to the idea of talking up to people, but perhaps i'm just talking at them...

I dunno. I worry, sometimes, that Chicago really spoiled me. In any case, the students are mine, for now at least. I survived my first week, my first department meeting, and an assassination attempt (more on that later)...

02 December 2006

Veeder strikes back

When i started grad school last fall, i briefly turned over a new leaf, namely, that i would be a better and more contientious (i cannot for the life of me spell this word) student. I thought that i had been exceedingly lucky in duping UChicago into the idea that i was a real and valid student and that the only way not to let the secret out was to actually act as if i were a totally for real student.

Alas, at the end of the first quarter at Chicago, Professor Veeder hit me with the words, "if you won't have the final paper done by the due date you can drop it off at my home." This disastrous line opened the door for the habit i'd gotten into late in my undergrad... that of 'testing limits'. Seeing just how late "late" actually was. At first it was just minutes or an hour that i messed with... A professor'd say "due @ 5pm", i'd walk in at 5:15 and drop it off... but soon it became days and weeks that i was messing with. Fortunately when Veeder said this during that first quarter, i somewhat ignored it and handed in my Gothic paper almost on time, but with other classes i was not so careful. My zombie paper for Cults of Personality became an "idea for a paper" that, true enough, eventually became a thesis, but i did not hand it in that winter...

And now, as i implied earlier, Veeder has struck again... He's kindly agreed to write me a letter, and in an email requesting more information (read reminder) on who i actually was, he told me that PhD application due dates are actually bluffs. Which i read, again, not as a simple statement, but as some sort of challenge. Let's see when i absolutely cannot get into Cadwallada, and when i might have... (anyone know what Cadwallada is? not sure of the spelling... but it strikes me as a fictional university i know from somewhere)

I used to be so into due dates. I remember when the Nottingham program chose not to take me along, part of what so pissed me off was the fact that Perkins had handed his application in late, but was still chosen over me. In the end, i think, all worked out as it needed to, but at the time that was a real problem for me.

But somewhere along the way, i found deadlines to be more schedules to keep someone else in line and not for me. Yet on Monday, i will find myself in front of a class of college kids, taking a class on 'paper-writing' and i will be expected to teach them how to write a paper in a timely manner. Me, who still has application essays to write, with the due dates fast approaching... I will tell them to hand stuff in on time.... or else? Or else what, they may ask... Or else they'll turn out to be a real burn out like me, i suppose...

01 December 2006

Semi-Celebrity Sighting

Tonight as i worked for the Great Green Devil i saw the bizarre, funny guy from the KXVO news. He was walking through the store and at first i couldn't place him, but once i figured it out, i was so excited. I stalked him a little, shelving books in whatever area he was shopping (he seems to have an overzealous interest in astrology). I tried to share my enthusiasm for my mini-sighting, but nobody seemed very excited (or interested, really).

Omaha's channel 11 news is a truly surreal experience. This guy stands up and delivers "the news", which is a collection of celebrity gossip and short video pieces, interspersed by the slightly more ludacris local Fox News people doing "real" stories. The half-hour broadcast is hysterical and often a bit uncomfortable. It's the best kind of satire, because, i think, it doesn't even know how smart it really is.

Anyway. I was briefly pretty excited for the m-list celebrity sighting.

21 November 2006

Back to Basicks

It occurs to me that both of you loyal Roman Numeral J readers may have, in recent days & posts, been disturbed by the blogs tendency toward the overly political -- Whether it be solving social secuity, finding deep political arguments in juvenile comedies, or pointing out the persecution of atheists going on all across the world (by which i mean america).

But, i am now announcing a turn toward the undead... again. As i put my PhD applications together, making statements of purpose justifying my year spent thinking with zombies & editing and rewriting my Romero paper. Also, i will try to turn the blog back toward the momentary and incidental (everything is momentary and incidental, i suppose, but i'll shoot for what most would consider trivial)...

On that note, i had some tawny port tonight... after work. Watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the first third with subtitles (which i initially thought were part of the movie... thinking it 'really arty'). Now i'm hanging out with my guinea pig for a while. Yeah. that's exciting...

but, in an exclusive announcement, i'd like to toss out some feelers for a Christmas Party... December 16th? who might make it? An exclusive (and by exclusive i mean hardly anyone will show up unless you readers make it sweet) party at the Martha house... anyone... anyone...

17 November 2006

Fix and Foxy

Yesterday, as i was working for the great green god i spied an old guy. He was walking out of the store with his wife (old lady) and he made me pause (what does it mean to give me pause? he may have done that as well). He was wearing a sweet sky blue jacket, with a brown fur collar and a large ABCthis...is abc television logo on the left breast. It was possibly the coolest piece of retro clothing i've ever seen.

When i saw it, it occurred to me that i have, singlehandedly, solved the social security problem that we aren't facing. Any young hipster out there, who is walking around in the world, if you see an old guy (or lady) wearing an article of clothing that is really cool, you offer to buy it for some exorbitant sum of money, say $100, something it's absolutely not worth. Soon, old folks will have all the money they need for food and medications and such. Of course, it won't work for you all to continue to buy these things at the Salvation Army or garage sales, as you won't be handing out enough money.

Of course, because we're doing all this for the betterment of society, we will be able to deduct whatever amount you pay out for these awesome items from your tax income. But, you'll need proof of the purchase... if the old-time doesn't give you a receipt (note: you must pay in cash)... snap a photo. Send this photo in with your next tax return. I love the idea of thousands of photos showing up at the IRS next April. It's gonna be great. So get out there. Buy that fantastic fur hat you've had your eye on. Go for the piebald pants you see scooting by every Taco Tuesday. Just Buy It.

13 November 2006

Alls That

Sacha Baron Cohen's brilliant character Borat worked perfectly when translated to the big screen. I'm overjoyed to see this morning that it took first place at the box office for a second straight weekend. The satire is biting, hilarious, and completely relevant. If you haven't seen this movie yet, you must. Not only is it so funny you'll embarrass yourself by how loudly you're laughing, but is also at times haunting at how dangerously ignorant, bigoted, and gullible Americans can be. The film, in my view, points out not how backward Kazakhstan is (as the anti-defimation League & Kazakh government officials have claimed), rather it points out how backward the U.S. is.

Baron Cohen clearly has a political agenda in the film (a valid & well thought-out one, but still definitely there) in who he chooses to interview and how he treats them, but comparing scenes where he talks to young black men late at night deep in an inner-city ghetto to his scene riding along on an RV-road trip with a few white frat boys is truly telling.

After seeing the film, i'm amazed Baron Cohen is still alive and free. The number of times you think he must have been arrested or utterly torn apart by a mob is astounding. I suppose someone might make an argument that it demonstrates the exceptional civility of Americans, how they can take a verbal assault without resorting to violence, but i think it's more likely a product of the sheepish American tendency to bend over and take whatever is doled out to us.

I see a parallel with the stolen election of 2000. Pundits called it a credit to American democracy that we didn't take to the streets and shut down the world, but it was instead a credit to the American plutocracy. Borat's comic bullying is only possible, because of the incredible ignorance displayed by the Americans he finds that are willing to believe that the Borat character is a real, viable representative of a true Kazakhstani. The film is, at its core, a fairly accurate representation of how American's view people from other countries (or counties for that matter) as cardboard cutouts. They are statistics, news stories, and maybe causes, but surely not real flesh-and-blood humans. The film explores (and to an extent explains) how we can accept people dying of AIDS or hunger or poverty in other parts of the world... how we can care so much about 2000 some dead American soldiers and so little about tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

But seriously... it's really funny. Go see it.

09 November 2006

Membership Drive

A new feature on Roman Numeral J, where i attempt to recruit new readership by telling stories about people using their full names, thereby making them "find themselves" when they randomly google themselves. Today's subject: Ryan Gjerde.

As a side note for this new feature, the stories told are not necessarily "true", but they are accurately retold from my memory of the occurance. It was the fall of 1998 & my roommate miron & i were throwing another really quite terrible party. In attendance, besides miron & myself were my girlfriend Brooke (i think), Ryan Gjerde & possibly Sandy (or maybe Toni {or maybe & Toni}). The party was so bad that conversation had turned to Ryan Gjerde's middle school journals he had made for a grade in 7th or 8th grade. He'd been describing something he'd done in them, and then said suddenly, "Want to see?"

We all did, of course, and he ran accross the hall. Only years later does the question really occur to me, why had Ryan Gjerde brought his middle school journal to college with him, particularly, because this was his senior year... I mean, i can sort of see it as a freshman thing, with the thinking that it might be "an interesting conversation piece" and helping to "get to know people", but three years into college, it seemed an odd thing to have along...

[please permit a short aside about Ryan Gjerde - this may be the part where things i say are not entirely "true", but at least they're "truthy". - Ryan told a family history story, about how in the 1800s (or earlier... or later) when his family were living around in Iowa, they were being discriminated against because of their foreign heritage & Norsky sounding name, so they decided to change it. Their family officially changed their name, in an effort to seem less ethnic, from Gjerde to Knudson, no joke (though possibly a lie). After a few years of seeing this hadn't worked, they went back to their original name, Gjerde]

So, Ryan returned to the party with his middle school journal and read out two very memorable pages, the first words that almost rhyme with silver (pilfer, sliver, gold), followed by words that almost rhyme with orange (door hinge, cringe, gold). Both of these lists were incredibly long, very funny, and well constructed (particularly for a middle schooler). Shortly thereafter some more people showed up and the party rose from totally lame to kinda crappy.

And so, faithful readers, we come to the end of the membership drive, with the hopes that Ryan Gjerde has found us and will continue to enjoy the blog about once every 6 weeks, thus tripling readership. Also, this feature reminds me of two separate blogs i'd considered starting, but never got around to. One would be a blog called "After Further Review" (or some similarly terrible punny name) and would be reviews from everything from coke blak to plastic corpses to Hollywood blockbusters. The other would be called "This One Time..." and people would tell stories about other people they know. Both would ideally be open enrollment sort of blogs where lots of people would submit, but i only want to start them if anyone is interested in writing at least occasionally.

08 November 2006

Awkward Off-Rythm Clapping on Both Sides of the Aisle

Alas, the finest of the candidates in some races didn't win through, but a moderately non-bad result to the evening's elections. The Democrats control the House of Representatives and the Senate is still up in the air as of this writing, but much closer than it was. Overall, it seems that people were slightly swayed by the story that they were displeased by "the way things were going", but some of the most interesting races have turned out disappointingly.

First off, all you Texans, shame on you for not electing Kinky Friedman as your next governor. What the hell, a former country singer and mystery novel writer & you pass? Granted, he refused to raise any money, not wanting to take part in the absolutely necessary bullshit of electioning, but still, Texas, i thought you were better than that.

And then the Republicans successfully re-elected their man, Joe Liebermann, to the Senate over pretty cool guy Ned Lamont. This win, i think, simply comes down to the fact that republicans, who have no souls, can vote strategically much more easily than Democrats (or even us Greens). They came out in great numbers (enough to elect a Republican governor soundly) & voted for Lieberman without even holding their noses, i think, because they knew, he was their man. Well, Connecticut, i'm sorry for your choice, it was the wrong one, but i know it wasn't the true sentiment, it was a team Right ploy that worked well.

I also found out, only just tonight, that Malachy McCourt was running for governor of New York. How could you not have chosen him, NY? he's Frank McCourt's brother. In all seriousness, though, this qualifies him to be a public servant more than most any other politician, republican or democrat, can claim.

In Nebraska it was a less-depressing experience than usual, with many of my local choices winning, several of the ballot Initiatives (Nebraska had more than any other state... that may or may not be true) going the right way... & even our house seat, still up in the air, though Esch will likely lose before the morning... He was so much closer than anyone thought he would be. Also, Doug Patterson appears to have garnered 5% of the vote for Secretary of State, thus giving the Green Party official status in Nebraska. Next cycle they can actually run candidates full time, rather than spending so much of their resources on ballot access. I hope that sticks. All in all, it's been, as i said, a slightly non-depressing evening of election results. It's hard to get very excited about anything that goes on with people that are so almost entirely opposed to the things i am for, but yes, the pseudo-left has won tonight, and that's better than the whole-assed right, so hooray.

Everyone go see Borat to celebrate...have some deviant sex, mock a deity, and wear some American Flag Underwear. This isn't a win, it's one of those wins where the other team misses the field goal in the closing seconds and you just say, whew, now we have to get serious (or else you lose to the Dolphins two weeks later).

07 November 2006

I - Am - Job

My former employer, Metropolitan Community College has decided to bring me back into their fold, handing me a part-time teaching job beginning December 1st. Actually, i start sooner than that, writing up a syllabus and "preparing", but my first day of actual class teaching is the 1st.

They had me in for an interview and on the very same day handed me two Comp II classes (writing a research paper) and a film history and appreciation course. I'm so terribly excited i can hardly stand it. I can choose, i think, any film i "deem appropriate" for the film class, although texts have already been selected. Basically, i can put the classes together how i want. Now all i have to do is figure out how to teach. Any suggestions?

04 November 2006

I Enjoy the People

It's another lovely evening in Wisconsin. I've given 4 hours of my life to Barber Shop related causes & spent the balance of my evening out in the boondocks near Brodhead, hanging out with most of my Wisco folk.

What it mostly makes me recall is how much i love having friends about. I hate being in a city that everyone i know doesn't live in. I wish i was one of those people who knew only people that lived within golf-shot distance (golf-shot distance has become my favorite distance measure, because it's so arbitrary & really makes you seem like a better golfer than you are). And so we come again to my commune idea... Granted, the franchise commune plan that i've devised doesn't put everyone i know within a decent 3-iron, but it does surround myself with people i like & gives people the chance to do just what they like...

So, here's the plan, in summary. We (and by we, i so far just mean me, but also mean anyone who wants to join me) begin to accrue. While most communes are founded on left-y ideals of sharing and community (and ours will rather be, too) we have to start with building up the empire. So when one of us finds an old farmhouse or sweet house in the city (or perhaps we'll start with an RV) and buys it, it becomes the property, at least in practice, of the commune. And we spread out as we accrue more properties & people. So, for example, let's say i finally purchased that decked out 70s era RV that's been parked at the Greek restaurant in Millard for years & simultaneously, Lee buys an old house in Brookings (i believe Lee is really the only person vital to this whole plan working, at least of people that i know, because he can turn a pile of garbage into a moped & relocate doors at will). If Lee wants to take a vaca, he puts in for transfer to the RV & if i want to be in Brookville for a time, i take his spot there. We trade places & both get to experience a new life for a while.

Now, imagine this on a much larger scale, where there are tens or hundreds of folk moving around the world to the different places we own. Eventually, you'll be able to summer in Greece & spend a couple weeks a year at our condo in Playa del Carmen (right near where the guy makes the seashell lamps). It's going to be sweet, but so far, all i have is me & a mid-sized refrigerator box.

24 October 2006

Get to it

a google image search of 'cultural critique'OK - so i've just started reading Barak Obama's The Audacity of Hope, and recently finished a Chomsky documentary and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, and additionally just saw a good friend show up on a random episode of Nightline...

And so, this story which is my life (in which you all must be bit or not-so-bit part players) rolls on as i start to get serious about applying to grad school and am a hardCore greenGod bookseller, but i wonder to myself what am i doing here exactly... and what will i be doing.

I would like to model myself (as Un-uChi of myself it may be) off of Chomsky's model... in the sense that he started off as a dreadfully important academic in his own area... becoming one of the most important linguists ever... Then
moved on to be somebody who thought it was vital to try an change the socio-political landscape and essentially abandoned his normal life to pursue it... But the bridge from some random field of academic solitude to the battlefield the current political fight isn't so far as i might once have thought. And so i can fall back to the original 'what am i doing here' question and voila!, i'm a cultural critic, whatever the hell that is...

An Intelligently Designed Argument

Just think of how different things might be today if William Shakespeare had won, when he ran for king in 1604. Just imagine that world. There would have been no Hitler, the French Revolution would have happened gradually, but sooner, and with less bloodshed. The world would today be a vastly different place had the powers that were not stolen that election.

It is a well documented and indisputable fact, that Adolf Hitler descended from the lineage of Will Shakespeare. William’s eldest son, Ronfrey, married late in life & he and his wife Jane had a daughter who was forced to leave the country in her middle-teens. The daughter, Lizzy, was thought to stay with family in France, but recently discovered evidence now shows, clearly, that Lizzy moved on to Vienna and lived there to the end of her days with a child she had out of wedlock. The child grew up to be a servant in a wealthy house and bore the master of the house two children, one of whom would go on to be an ancestor of Adolf Hitler, and the other an ancestor of Walter Benjamin.

It is a truly harsh historical irony that the great thinker Walter Benjamin was separated only by a few generations from the man who not only made his life so difficult but to whom he (Benjamin) dedicated his life’s work to combating.

This fact of Hitler’s heritage is not in dispute. The only interesting, and worthwhile question, is what would have been different had Shakespeare won that election? To be sure, the family would not have returned to Stratford on Avon, so Ronfrey would likely have married earlier and to a more stately woman, but this change is not the least of what would have been different. Although Shakespeare’s success in his writing career afforded his family some comfort in Stratford, the family was somewhat outcast by locals because of the social oddity that accompanied Shakespeare’s ‘artistic nature’ (not least of which the insistence on being called “Shakespeare” all the time). As a duly elected king, these ‘social oddities’ would have been taken as kingly discretion, the right to behave as one will, but with the disputed Tudor victory, Will was forced to stay in his lifely station and pretend that he hadn’t even run for king. The loss was hard on Shakespeare, particularly because it was so disputed and the outcome questioned.

Shakespeare’s concession speech, recorded only in personal journals and writings of the time (since newspapers would not be invented for another 73 years!) was succinct and not malicious (though it was surely full of irony): “Although I strongly disagree with the decision reached by the powers that be, concerning the election, I will not fight the decision and split this population and declare myself the (il)legitimate leader… rather, I concede to the decision and will move on, as we all must move on.” (No blank verse for this soliloquy).

Sadly we will never know how history might have turned out differently had Shakespeare won in his effort, but we too, must accept the decisions of history, and live with it’s consequences.

23 October 2006

the Blind Rice Cooker

Within a period of 24-hours brooke & i have accrued two rice cookers where previously we had (and presumeable needed) none. I've never had a lot of trouble cooking rice, so when i learned we had accrued one at a garage sale i was skeptical. But when i saw it i was impressed. our rice cooker is not this niceProduced by Sanyo (who incidentally also manufactured both of our cell phones), the rice cooker is a 50's-style retro design, though, i'm guessing it wasn't originally retro.

The other rice cooker we accrued was as a late wedding gift from my aunt & uncle. Made by Kitchen Gourmet, this rice cooker is retro more in the sat-in-my-basement for 10 years sort of way. Having decided that we definitely don't need 2 rice cookers (and likely don't need 1) the trick now is to figure out how to unload a rice cooker.

All in all i now have in my possession a lot of machines i never had before, and i think i was doing quite fine without them. I'm not sure exactly how this happened and haven't decided really how good or bad a thing it is...but it certainly is a thing.

16 October 2006

At least i'll be gone by then...

I went to see Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth this afternevening & it was, i think, the scariest fucking movie i've ever seen. It's one of those movies that you see and you think, just what is it, that i think i'm doing here? Al Gore, who is decidedly not a scientist (but is a pretty damn smart guy), dedicates his work to solving Global Warming... Me, i dedicate my work to thinking about zombies & corpses... I suppose it all amounts to the same

I'm also currently reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. Both of these texts are of the life-changing sort... at least in their textio-mission statements are concerned. Inconvenient Truth first and foremost is a work that wants to convince all viewers (and by extension [six degrees of it, seemingly]) the world needs desperately to sort this whole "we're all gonna die" situation out, but is also, in the end a 'what-can-i-do' today sort of conclusion.

Dawkins - who i've never read before, but loved for quite some time (via Douglas Adams) - creates a text whose stated goal in the first chapter is to convince agnostics that they should entirely abandon the idea of an active, interested God & that believers should similarly abandon their faith in the face of such absolute improbability of the existence of God. I'm not too terribly far in, as of yet, but the project seems to surround first breaking down "logical" arguments for the existence of God and then constructing the vast improbability of the existence of God (versus the odds/likelihood of a Darwinian-style natural selection of the universe).

Now i've just witnessed the Bears come back from a 23-3 deficit near the end of the 3rd Quarter and if i were more desperate to find God in the world than i am i'd say the victory was a minor miracle (a miracle in the tradition of the unexpected parking space close to the destination - which, as Dawkins points out takes the space away from someone else), because they were terrible offensively & scored 3 defensive/special teams touchdowns to win the game in the 4th Quarter. I'm sure there's some amount of 20 years of suffering (20/40 what's the difference) neccesitating great glory and happiness in the land to come (by which of course the first 6 weeks of the 2006 season)

Anyway... point being (was, beed?) a movie & a book that everyone needs to experience. Go now... you here four hours, you go now!

11 October 2006

...Excuse me, do you have an appointment...television

For the first time ever, tonight, i watched Lost as it was intended, as a weekly television show. Having seen season 1 on DVD & downloading all of season 2 off of iTunes, then having to miss last week's episode, picking up my brother (and waiting for brooke to finish season 2 {and ultimately having to download the first episode of season 3 from the increasingly inferior iTunes 7, because my other brother [not Daryll] either failed to record the premiere or gave me the wrong tape this, i think is my favorite lost character...[although he did give me a tape with most of the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner, so all was not lost]})

I non-figuratively cannot recall the last time a show was on that i truly felt i could not miss. Of course, with the luxury of being able to see anything you miss on abc.com or iTunes or even (if you are so archaic) video tape the necessity to absolutely be there is less extreme, and, since this is the first time in a long time since i've been in this situation, i am, clearly, no expert... But damn i've missed it. I've spoken before about the beauty/loss of the TV-on-DVD (o fuck... we've got one of those giant ass late season flies in the house {he seems to have gotten a lot bigger just over the course of the afternoon/evening} and i've just watched him, seconds ago, get caught in a spider web. Now, i know this spider. He's a big guy & i've killed members of his family in my house, but i generally let spiders live, because i know it is their policy to kill other pesky bugs. $10 prize to the first commenter who tells me how i came up with this image... NO JOKEBut to see the brutal reality laid out in front of me... i wonder if i sit here long enough, if i will be able to watch him actually come out and chow down on this fly...) anyway... I loved the wading through the commercial breaks, the rush to grab a fresh drink and the challenge at the end of the episode to have to wait a whole week to find out what might happen next (truth be told, i figured out this evening what the scope of the storyline is for the next 1 to 1.5 seasons, but i'll not spoil the suspense for you all)

And so, i'll wait for a week. I'll play along with the bargain you're striking with me, ABC, just this once. Mostly it's not worth it, but occasionally it is... and i have the next Battlestar Galactica, Season 2.5 DVD coming from netflix tomorrow, so i'll have that to tide me over. Galactica is in fact the other show that i would be willing to log in as my appointment TV show of the year, but alas, i have not yet caught up (i discovered it too late), i don't get the Sci-Fi channel (something i would remedy if i were caught up and cable companies allowed you to just choose a couple of the channels you wanted), and it's on friday nights... come on, even Friday Night Lights isn't on Friday nights...

Anyway, get Lost, that's the first thing... as you're catching up on it, start trying to find your way back to Earth with Battlestar Galactica. These are the two best shows on television right now, and you can take it from me, someone who really doesn't watch or enjoy much tv.

07 October 2006

Presenting... The dead.

I've now made my first ever conference presentation. And it was much more painless than i expected. Attended by only about 12 or so people, I talked about Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds and how it helps us/hinders us thinking about our own deaths (as individuals and as a society). I was the 3rd of three folks to present at my session, and thus garnered the most questions, both because i had lots of cool pictures to look at (see left) & because i was freshest in all their minds. It was the first time i'd ever tried to simply read a paper i'd written straight out (i wrote it in a slightly more conversational tone than i normally do because of this plan) and i felt like i was looking straight down at my paper non-stop, not realizing anyone else was in the room whatsoever. Perhaps had i gotten the words down on paper (and by paper i mean Word) earlier than the morning of the presentation i could have looked around a bit more during my presentation, but as it was, i felt that i could not risk losing my spot and looking like a total boob (until the point when my paper just stopped & i then started talking about the things i thought i might have included, but couldn't figure out how to fit in).

I think part of the reason my presentation went so well, despite not being fully thought out or "finished" was because i didn't (as i usually do) pretend to know everything about anything. I admitted that there were parts of my thinking in this paper that didn't quite work & that it was a work in progress and so a lot of the questions/comments garnered were helpful, pointing me in new directions... sometimes possibly helpful (Foucault's "Birth of the Clinic") and sometimes perhaps less so (J.G. Ballard's Atrocity Exhibition), but overall i was pleased as hawaiian punch to have received a response other than pretensious scoffing & academic one-upping & felt a huge success afterward... so much so that i drank myself into a stupor later that evening in celebration.

02 October 2006

Got Wins!

Today was a huge day in the world of Sport Joel. In addition to the 7 or so mile walk along the Iowa Riverside Trail, the Twins won their final game of the season, securing the AL Central title over the Tigers and the Bears had a huge and convincing win over the Seahawks on a national broadcast.

Both my teams won in a big way today, and though i'm not normally one to write about my sports excesses, today is a rare day indeed. The Twins managed to avoid a first round showdown with the Yankees, which (no matter what "expert" columnists say) is a very good thing. Of course you can speculate on whether a 5 or 7 game series against the biggest threat is better, but in my mind ending on a winning note, securing home field in the series against the A's, and possibly letting someone else be the team to knock the Yankees out doesn't seem like a bad situation to be in.

The Bears, meanwhile, decimated last year's Super Bowl losers (& only other remaining undefeated NFC team) the Seattle Seahawks. They clearly won out in every phase of the game and proved, i think beyond all doubt, that they are a serious Super Bowl threat. It's been so great this year watching the Bears play a balanced game. They can suddenly throw and catch and (occasionally) run & for the first time in a long time they don't seem to have a better chance at scoring when they're on defense.

At one point, when i was in Vegas in July, i got it into my head that i should put money down on the Twins to win the World Series and the Bears to win the Super Bowl. Both pretty far-fetched long shots (and still, to be sure, rather unlikely). But i was waylaid with alcohol and failed to put down the money (at least 1 person, my brother Tim, can attest to my intention in this matter). Just think if i'd put those bets down, how wealthy i would be in a few short months. Hundreds of ones of dollars could be mine all mine.

30 September 2006

Michaels or Sorkin

Sitting here this evening watching (what i think is) the season premiere of Saturday Night Live, i am quickly realizing that the fake SNL on Monday nights this season is a hell of a lot more entertaining than the actual SNL. It's all part of the recent TV phenomenon of to create shows about what folks wish their real work was like. To my knowledge, the tradition started with Ally McBeal & on with David E. Kelly's other shows, where he made shows about what we all wish our lives were like. Boston Public tried to show what teachers wished their lives were like. The Practice was a dreamy lawyer's life & shows like The West Wing and Gray's Anatomy follow the same model, where we watch every week and see people doing what we wish people in their positions were doing, were being. More real.

The first episode of Studio 60 had Judd Hirsh, essentially as Lorne Michaels apologizing for the past years of network cowardice and selling out the material for political correct-ness and sponsor friendliness. The question, though, is whether SNL (or any show) was ever any kind of idyllic challenging, comic programming that we like to imagine once existed (and has been since lost.) And i think the easy answer is no.

** updated (finished) 13 November 2009 **

I can't quite remember what the catalyst for this post was, but I suppose it stands on its own...

27 September 2006

Master J

I often wonder to myself, "self, just what the fuck were you thinking when you decided to go spend around $50,000 to get yourself a Master's Degree in zombies," and i almost never have an answer. Certainly, i am not the foremost expert on the unpleasantly undead that i hoped to be. The UniversityC of Berkeley decided my zombie thinking wasn't up to snuff (or perhaps that i didn't have enough acadeCred built up), so i can't present my thesis on zombies at their conference entitled "The Undead".
poor zombie
Furthermore, the book coming out next year, entitled Zombies in Film and Literature also doesn't seem to think that my paper on Romero fits in with their project. wtf. They cordially refuse to include my thesis.

Which sucks.

And so, i am an undead failure. I am not the zombie-genius, nor the supreme academic knowledge on death that i'd hoped to be by this point... And so... ...

A party. October 28th? Anyone? A Halloween Party in Omaha. We have not formalized yet, but would like to know who might want to/be able to make the trip... You're all welcome. I will be coming as Mr. Clean, shaved head & all, to symbolize the zombification of our society (paper pending)... but, just want to know who might want to come to a Halloween party in Omaha the last weekend in October...

26 September 2006

For Your Consideration

Last night i tried a new drink and was very impressed: the Lost-inspired tequila & tonic. It was all the good flavor of tequilla with none of the blechy-suckiness that often goes with it (though i didn't drink 8 of them, so you never know).

Tequila & Tonic


2 Parts tequila (preferably an añejo or a reposado, but any gold will do in a pinch)
3 Parts Tonic Water
1 Lemon Wedge
4 Ice Cubes

Mix the drink in an 8-10 oz. glass, squeeze the lemon over the ice & drop it in, then pour the tequila and top off with the tonic.


I can't guarantee that the drink works with rot-gut tequilas like Montezuma or Jalapeño Pepé (seriously, it existed - though it seems it may be no longer) as we made it with the Mexico-bought Reserva 1800 Añejo. It may have been just that the watered down good taste of that tequila made an excellent drink, but i think there's more to it than that. I found that the lemon wedge (as opposed to the traditional lime with tonic) accented the drink much better (also only had lemons around at the moment).

So, a new drink to add to your bar & home-bar repetoires. Via con dios.

20 September 2006

NECO suave

I really should have looked more into the MAPH white-outing track instead of studying film & contemporary literature. It probably would have been handier today on this, my first day back into the world of temping.

It's a two-day gig at a company called "NECO" that makes ridiculously large things that stir corn... or something. Anyway, in a very John Locke way, i pushed a button for the first part of the day, and then set to whiting out lots & lots of prices. It's terribly mindless and soul-sucking work if you can get it.

Ah temping. It's certainly not the worst temp job i've ever had (Target - Minneapolis where i placed thousands of color swatches into a "machine" and quite litearally pushed a button), but it sure sucks quite enough thank you.

16 September 2006

Hard at Work

In a truly Nebraksan turn of phrase i start this entry with:

Today i went over at my brother's place t'help him tear down his fence.

That's what i did today. I took a good bit of sun in the process & rather enjoyed myself. I am not an overly skilled laboror when it comes to building or repairing things, but in my mind i am one of the best at breaking them. My general method of destruction was to essentially walk through portions of the fence and tear it down by hand. Various neighbor men would wander over as we undertook the project offering advice and better tools - power screwdrivers, crowbars, hammers, and gloves - and offer neighborly help showing how to do the job better.

In addition to my unpaid work as of late (fence-breaking, paper-writing, and applying for PhD programs) i've actually been making some money as of late... quite the change for me, i know. In the last week or so i've been awarded monies (or future monies) for discussing my shaving habits, partaking in a bit of morphine, and selling books at the great green demon Barnes & Noble. While the pay at B&N is pretty bad i do get a pretty decent employee discount, plus the ability to "check out" books for a couple weeks for free. Hopefully, if i ever get any "actual" employment i can keep a few hours a week at B&N to hold on to the perks... Besides, the work isn't too bad, selling something i actually want people to buy, without having to hawk credit cards that people probably shouldn't get... The "orientation" was a little cult-ish "get more members, get more members!"...

At least someone is giving me money in exchange for some work, even if it's minimal (both the money and the work)...

11 September 2006

Midget of Political Thought

I finished Thoreau's essay, Civil Disobedience, today, and i am, admittedly, unmoved. I know i really ought to utterly stop supporting, even passively, all causes for which i have no support or motivation, and as such i should refuse to pay taxes of any kind, but, you know... Thoreau's just so hard to fully buy.

I am a big-time fan of Walden, love the nature, love the thumbing of noses to the daily grind, but i really cannot get behind Thoreau's desire to utterly remove himself from society. Take for instance rssl's C.L.O., which presumes to separate cali from the rest of our sorry state, and would so, if it could so, in a very Thoreau-lian way if it could, i'm sure, but I sadly think that the more folk that step out of the way of "the state", the more the state can just pretty well do whatever the fuck it wants to.

Tonight, Brooke and i went to a club that may or may not be called "The Max" in Omaha. It was a rather gay club, by which i mean i estimate 35%-45% of the folk were gay and the other 55-65 percent straight... (not unlike the present day Gay 90's scene in Minneapolis). Whatever the percentage of man-loving-men or lady-loving-chicas, i would estimate that 99% or more of the folk there were gay friendly, young Nebraskans... --a situation that seems hardly worth mentioning in many parts of the world, but in Nebraska is quite a rare sort of place to find-- Simultaneously, i would estimate that less than 15% of those present were registered voters, even though simply taking the folk there tonight they represent a sizeable voting bloc in the Omaha congressional and local districts... go green, go Esch ... The fact (or guess, rather) that none or few of these folk are voting even though they're motivated (or ought to be) to vote out the right-ist government in Nebraska sets me a-thinking.

--Hello, it's me, morning-after sober joel. Saturday night after coming home i had a mind to go on a drunken political rant and it was moderately cogent so i present it here, unchanged (except for double-dashed commentary)--

Incramental vs. major... 3rd vs. through the system... nathan's 'progressive' work...image by Bethany Friedericks, genius, 2006 --These are three notes i scribbled to myself before deciding to putter off to bed. The arc of argument i had in mind saturday night was really quite grand, with a mind to cover the problems of taking baby steps toward a better world vs. revolution, the constant argument i hear from stolidly (does stolidly just mean solidly, but more rigid?) democratic friends about sticking with the party rather than voting green or something else, because it's the best chance we have & my good friend nathan's company that runs around the country helping folks put together sophisticated, interesting campaigns and winning unlikely elections (Ned & Kinky to take just two).

But this morning i have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself (which is to say my windbag has run out and my drunken soap-box broke). So, i'll leave it at this point, and let this be a plot of fertile thought soil instead of a jungle of political rantings.

07 September 2006

I am a builder...

I make things. Things that come from a box. Today (and i guess tomorrow) i'm going to build this. It's going to be awesome. Right now it's just a pile of wood and screws (minus two necessary screws, because in the bag they were to have come in there was one screw broken in half and two screws short). However, the screws are somewhat ornamental - the top drawer - so i'm hoping to mostly finish.

I do have some IKEA building experience, having put together my bed, but this piece seems a bit more complicated.

Once i've finished it, though, i plan to carry on my building career by "making stairs" that go up to my front porch. Currently, i have a set of stairs that lead up to my porch, but they have large cracks in them and they bend severely when you step on them. I would prefer concrete steps that didn't bend, but the landlady seems incapable of hiring somebody to construct them, so i thought i would just go figure out how to build them myself.

Beyond these construction projects, i have no current plans, but possibilities include a back-yard half pipe, a device from which to hang curtains, or a really big bong. In the meantime, does anybody have an extra 100864 screw?

27 August 2006

Stuff It

Reinhabiting the Martha house has been more of a challenge for me than i expected it to be. This is mostly due to the fact that brooke and i have very different senses of style and stuff viability (sV).

Having taken 1 year in Chicago, while brooke stayed with her job in Omaha, she seems to have developed the sense that the Martha house, where we've both been since July 2003, is now her house, rather than our house as it formerly was...sort of. Part of the problem is the fact that having recently had a mid-sized wedding, we have an inordinate amount of new stuff, which necessarily requires space for it to be housed. This space is generally created by getting rid of old stuff. So far, very logical.

The problem is, i often have a very different sense of an items sV than brooke does. Our first major purchase after our wedding was a brand-spanking-new couch and chair for the living room. This made our old chair and couch obsolete, so we called St. Vincent's and had them come pick up the excess furniture. As it was being carted away, however, i was thinking about what a great couch this one had been. It had the rare commodity of being a couch i could completely stretch out on, great for sleeping, and we already owned it.
i miss my Yöt
There is a hobbit term, which i can't verify at the moment (not having the trilogy on hand), called motham (i think), the idea being that it is an item currently in your possession for which you have no use, but you hold on to it with the idea in mind that it will be useful at some point in the future. Books, in particular, i am unable to part with, because i may need to refer to them at some point. Or a coaxial cable splitter, a 3-prong adapter, a set of James Arthur Vineyards wine glasses; at some point, i may want them again.

I know i am not alone in these thoughts of stuff. Sites like ebay, freecylcle and the amazon marketplace thrive on people wanting other people's old crap. This isn't the first time i've had thoughts like these, but now that i'm in the throes of a new round of throwing away and passing along, i just needed to think them out loud again. I like stuff, i enjoy it, and does anybody want the last two years of Entertainment Weekly's?

22 August 2006

I'm sailing away...

serious sailor Saturday morning arrived sunny, hot and lovely in Omaha and while we weighed various options i thought i could come up with nothing better than sitting in a car for 5+ hours en route to Minneapolis.

So it was that i was able to attend the 2nd bienniel (is that the word for every two years?) Luau, hosted by Nate & Lissa. The party was once again, a success, though i did miss portions due to "seasickness". Nathan allegedly drove a moped through his yard & the cops showed up at 3:45 AM... a good party by any standard. The cops came to the door, alleging they had just seen the front door wide open and were checking in. They warned that thieves often see a party going on, walk in, swipe a few purses and leave... not a bad idea, in fact. Their scenario reminded me of the first luau, two summers ago, at the Longfellow house. Some stranger was wandering around the party and at some point in the evening we approached him. He said he couldn't find the people he was looking for (we hadn't heard of them). We eventually realized he was at the wrong luau. He'd actually been going to a different luau on Longfellow Avenue (which in retrospect seems unlikely).

always turn INTO the wind (or is it away?)Nate's small sunfish was again in the backyard, beached and filled with ice and beer with a christmas light sail. There were several pitchers of tropical drinks, of all shades - a blue, a red, a pink, and a yellow - mostly terrible and terribly fruity.

The next day, miserable and hungover, i decided against the Twin's game, and we went down to Lake Nokomis and sailed the very same sailboat. I got the chance to take complete control of the boat for the first time ever (almost flipping us over twice), we played a game of wiffle ball (which i think i won) and then drove our sorry asses back to Omaha.

Overall it was a fun, fleeting weekend. The Twins took two of three and gained a game in the Wild Card hunt & we made a quick stop at Crate & Barrel to pick up some stuff off the registry that we really wanted.

18 August 2006

Life Lessons in the Office

According to Ricky Gervais, a great philosopher once said:

"There are three things you need in this life. The first is an important relationship with someone else, the second is an occupation that matters, and then you need to know you make a difference."

Who the fuck is Ricky Gervais... and who the fuck is said great philosopher. Tonight, two lovely... consumptions ... i moments ago, finished watching The Office dvd on generous loan from Nate & Lissa, and earlier in the evening went to Omaha's Jazz on the Green, tonight, featuring Heidi Joy (doesn't she look a bit like the Adventures In Babysitting girl?)

I think, perhaps i fear, that something about me has fundamentally changed. And i don't know quite when it started or if i want it to continue. As Gilbertson and i sit here and write this entry, my mind is a-flutter with thoughts of what can be gleened from The Office, and my viewing on Wednesday of Superman Returns (the Superman thoughts definitely have a strong connection to Zizek.)

Two books arrived on my doorstep today about Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds, and i'm so excited to dig into them, i can't even describe it. So i'll try. All i want to do, is (have some fun) write some papers. As i mentioned previously, i'm actually currently garnering absolutely no pay for my days labors, but i find, more and more, that i can't stop fucking considering everything.

Why is it that Superman so often flies around saving one person at a time (how many other people are simultaneously dying that he's not saving)? Why is it exactly that von Hagens wants to industrialize the plastination (and preservation) of dead bodies? Do you really need all three of those things or is that just a 'best case scenario' and one or two will do you fine?

I don't know really, quite, what i'm getting at (my head's full enough of Shakers that i wouldn't pay attention to me if i could help it), but Brooke said something tonight to me that worried me. She said she saw me (future-gazing here) as an old academic, sitting in a leather-clad room, puffing a pipe (she said cigar, but i think her angle must have been bad) just talking about shit. And that can't be what i want to do, can it? Can i really live a life where i just talk about things? (This is where Zizek comes in)... Or is it that in thinking about these small things, academia is really pointing at larger things, and so my function becomes something of a go-between, a being who walks in both realms & tries to take the "real world" (so obviously absent from so many who go to UChicago) to the academy & the thoughts of the academy to the real world... Maybe i could be like some kind of academic Messiah, except i'd prefer to turn my water into vodka... wheat-based, 6-time distilled, vodka.

15 August 2006

Work to Live

The last couple of weeks have been busy ones, full of much work (all of it, as yet, sadly, unpaid), some play & many plans. Yesterday i poked my head in at my beloved ex-company OfficeTeam to see if i could get some temporary work to tide me over for a while. wouldn't you hire me?Unfortunately, the OT team was far too professional for me & couldn't be bothered to meet with me immediately, rather setting up an appointment for tomorrow morning.

In addition to my search for temp work, i've also been pounding the pavement in search of actual work & non-work, in contacting two other former "employers," Metro & Harris Labs... Both of which i've tried to get in at, and am waiting to hear back.

But at least i'm not bored waiting for the phone to ring. I've plenty of TV-DVDs to watch and have also been working on a new dining room table (for the dining room) as well as keeping a few academic irons in the fire. I now have two conference papers to write (one wholly new, the other a pieced together work from some of my UChicago stuff) and a Berkeley conference to get into. I'm trying to piece together application materials for this coming fall and constantly still working to make my zombie thesis better (in hopes of it getting into the zombie anthology that i submitted it to).

All in all i have plenty to take my mind off the fact that i have, at present, no incoming income whatsoever (though i did, just moments ago mail off a $3 mail-in rebate for Seagrams gin), including my newly purchased & nearly finished book The Ruins, by Scott Smith (an excellent read, go get it, right now).

But fear not for me, dear friends, i'll likey be ok (though if you want to donate to me via paypal, i won't say no... just a couple cents... come onnnnnnn...)

10 August 2006

Dinner Party of Five

... though, only if you count Gilbertson.

Tonight we hosted a small and successful dinner party, which seems to be nothing special, really, but is definitely something i've often thought to myself i should try more often. Tobi (our pleasantly surprising 3rd wheel roommate for the 1st month of marriage) invited a friend from her nursing program over for dinner to celebrate their completion of the 18-month Creighton nursing program.

I made a shrimp fried rice, that i must say, came off just about perfectly, Brooke boiled some corn on the cob and we drank a risky bargain-bin bottle of white wine from that also was pleasantly surprising. Rob, said friend, was excited to discuss zombies and religion and anarchy, so the rather short event, which culminated in slices of watermelon (which were passed on to Gilbertson after we ate our fill), was never boring. In fact, Rob is even excited to read my zombie thesis, which will then, likely, be the last we hear from him...

...but anyway, lovely evening.

08 August 2006

Gamer

Tonight, Brooke jumped out to an impressive lead in the SeegerOlympics, a slightly embarrassing, extremely diverting past-time that is a family tradition... at least if you can call a 4-year-old event a tradition.

Since the 2002 World Cup Final, my two brothers (andy & tim) and i have competed in all sorts of events and awarded the Dick Koch trophy to the overall winner. I'm on a two-year winning streak, but this year jen & brooke both joined the ranks of competitors.

At first i assumed this wouldn't change too much, since many of the events played are video games or ridiculous child-ball events around the house, in other words, the sorts of events that my brothers and i have been training for our entire lives.


But in a single evening of events (which only rarely get played because we competitors live all across the country) brooke jumped out to a commanding lead (3 to 1 to 1 to 0 to 0) by doing reverse crunches, rolling a disc across a room into a bucket, and finding the word "very" in a book (she also dominated in her first ever game of a PGA Golf video game {a generic version of Golden Tee} at Brewsky's).

So, the competition gauntlet has been thrown down by... my wife. But play will continue and the fight for the trophy will be tough. Keep up with the games at the new SeegerOlympics blog. You can even play along, submit ideas for events, or trash-talk your favorite seeger.

06 August 2006

Review of "The Walking Dead"

This review was originally posted (and better so) in Four Color Comics. To see the original version (with an image that simply will not work on my blog for some reason) go here. But, since it fits my theme, and i haven't posted on zombies for a while (except for my wedding post) i submit it here for your amusement & edutainment. But do check out & bookmark jd's wonderful comics blog. I plan to write for it once in a while & it's just a damn good site all round.

The Walking Dead (Vol. #1-4)
Image Comics
Reviewer’s Grade : C-

When my set of all four volumes (thus far) of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead first arrived from amazon.com I was positively giddy… I’d heard nothing but good things (from reviews that evidently were written by his mother) and was thinking I was coming into a world of Romero-level zombie thought in this exciting new series.

BUT, instead, what I found was a cliché-ridden work of zombie survivor fiction that’s been told too many times, and always in the same way. Kirkman does not help his cause in the introduction to Volume 1 when he writes:

“To me, the best zombie movies aren’t the splatter fests of gore and violence with goofy character and tongue in cheek antics. Good zombie movies show us how messed up we are, they make us question our station in society… and our society’s station in the world. They show us gore and violence and all that cool stuff too… but there’s always an undercurrent of social commentary and thoughtfulness.”[1]

Even casual fans of zombie films and literature see such societal critiques at work, but for Kirkman to explicitly make such a blatant statement in the introduction to his first volume bodes ill for the whole run and is a sign of what’s to come. Kirkman suffers from over-writing and an often painful lack of subtlety, a trait shared by artists Tony Moore (Vol 1.) and Charlie Adlard (Vols. 2-4).

The story traces police officer Rick Grimes who awakens from a coma in an empty hospital some days (28 perhaps?) after the zombie necropalypse has hit earth. We follow Grimes as he heads home, discovering his old neighborhood mostly abandoned and slowly discovering the new world order. Through contrived conversations with another survivor and a horse we learn about his wife and child (which we also found out about several panels earlier in the artwork), who he leaves town to try and find.

Kirkman shows disrespect to his readers by having to spell out every notion in words. He seems to not trust his artists, who in turn seem not to trust him (using the most extreme ‘surprised’, ‘angry’, ‘sad’ looks in any frame they want to express emotion).


Some of his frames are so full of words there’s almost no room for characters to walk around in them. When his characters fight, their dialogue feels like an 8-year-old at play: “I’m going to blow your head off” says one survivor to another at one point, presumably before she is about to blow someone’s head off.

With all its negatives, though, the most frustrating thing about The Walking Dead is its amazing potential. The artwork, when it’s not painfully obvious, is quality black and white, which adds to the bleakness of the world the characters inhabit. The covers, all done by Tony Moore are beautiful, if a bit repetitive and the splash pages, few and far between are used very effectively. Walking Dead is at its best when Grimes is wandering alone and there are two or three wordless pages in a row, capturing the voiceless zombie threat more perfectly than any conversation can, but Kirkman again finds a way to spoil many of these with a speech bubble filled only with “…”.

Kirkman is asking very interesting questions about humans living in extreme circumstances, I just wish he could sometimes avoid asking them right out loud.

[1] Kirkman, Robert. The Walking Dead: Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye. Introduction. Berkeley: Image Comics, 2005.

02 August 2006

Weeks in Review

It has embarrassingly been a month since my last post on Roman Numeral J, and while i want to apologize to my faithful readers who've been reading the same mildy-drunken post of july the 4th for 4 weeks (sorry rssl, sorry Ci), i say in my own defense... it's been a slow last couple of weeks, so i've had trouble finding topics to talk about. Nonetheless, that's what blogging's for, right? writing about meaningless daily occurrences.

My Ulyssian epic begins just two short days after you last heard from me. On July 6th, andy, daveT & i cruised down to the Rockford airport for an Allegiant Air flight to Las Vegas, Nevada. After a couple gin & tonics on the morning flight i was ready to hit the Strip at a full sprint. We met tim at our hotel, The Imperial Palace, and wandered the nearby casinos. The Minneapolis foursome arrived late that night & i continued wandering with them until 4:30 in the morning. From $1 Margaritas at the Casino Royale to $2 drinks of any kind at Barbary Coast, we found our section of the Strip very accomodating. It was a Bachelor Party, so i forwent sleep in favor of good times & woke up with the early room that had retired before holliday, davewake, gilkerson & JP had arrived. Around 9 or so we hit the mediocre ImpPalace pool and then were off to the races again, cruising the strip, winning money, losing money, losing money. All in all, the weekend in Vegas was a pretty damn good trip. I drove a Hummer, saw the lovely American spectacle that is Las Vegas, and met some good life-long friends (shout out to Kylie!). Sadly, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so details necessarily must be few and far between. So, after a late-saturday night (3:30 am or so) which almost culminated in a fist fight with a drunk guy we got on a plane at 6am and headed home...

...arriving just in time to watch the World Cup final at home with my parents & andy. While the outcome was immensely disappointing, and Zidane's head-butt inexplicable, i am glad i got home to see the game.

The next week began lazily enough, making a few last minute plans, and Thursday night hoardes of people began arriving in the small hamlet of Clinton along with a lovely large RV from Finnegan's in Beloit. The RV Extravaganza was about to begin. We toured several local bars, karaoke'd at Rockin' Roger's (especially Grant), peed in an enormous urinal at the Boar's Nest (in a confederate flag-themed bathroom). Then i almost left my credit card at Sud's in Beloit & we ended up in the loft at the Hog Cabin. The evening was a blast, fun had by all, and afterwards i slept in the RV.

The next night was another extravaganza of sorts. The Rehearsal on the Green started out with Pastor Tom talking... a lot. First we talked through what the ceremony would be like. Then we walked through what the ceremony would be like (with continued talking about what it would be like), then we talked some more about what it would be like. Tom continually referred to the Miron's reading of a dialogue from Posession as a "dramatic reading," which we thought wasn't entirely accurate, but turned out to be right on. After the actual rehearsal we went out to Turtle Greens golf course for dinner & golfing. I hit what might be my best golf shot of all time teeing off on hole number one, a long straight hole with the road directly off to the right (behind a thin tree-line). My tee shot floated to within maybe 20 yards of the green. On the trip down to my ball, everyone took a few more shots (jackie taking one at the photographer, nearly nailing him in "his childhood"). My second shot, which was meant to be a lofting chip instead line-drived directly to the right, through the tree-line and perhaps over the road. The ball was lost, but i found another one, chipped over the green then picked up my ball and called it quits. I should have ended with my drive, but i got greedy. After a lovely dinner we headed to the Beloit Inn & i put the "finishing touches" on my slide show for the next evening.

The next day was kind of exciting. On Saturday, July 15th, i got married. And that was pretty cool. The entire day is in something of a blur, partially due to the excitement, and partially due to the heat-stroke induced by outdoor photography in july. Brooke & i both agree that it was fun, but that it might have been more fun if it had been somebody else's wedding. We constantly felt like we were missing out on lots of good times because we had 'obligations'. We did manage to get a fair amount of dancing in, both took part in the limbo competition & had a chance to harass the DJ for playing crappy music a few times each. I hope everyone had as good a time as i did (or better). In the end, there was little wine left over, seemingly no beer, and suit-coats were recovered from Club Impulse.


We bolted the next day & headed to Chicago before flying early Monday morning to Cancun Mexico for a weeklong honeymoon in Puerta Aventuras. We had a blast exploring Mayan ruins, swimming in the ocean, drinking, eating, and eating at our 'All-Inclusive' resort. The resort actually got a bit old after about a day. There is only so much swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and laying on a beach you can do in one place, but the food was excellent, the booze was free & our massuese Ernest had magical fingers. In the end we owned 1 hammock, 1 sea-shell lamp, 5 bottles of tequilla and some postcards of mexican art more than we arrived with. It was a great week, but we were happy to be home & now i've landed myself back in Omaha and am currently looking for gainful employment.

So, that's what went on while i was away. Now i am returned, hopefully with abandon. Looking for work, pining for school, and doing ok as long as i stay in the AC as often as possible...

04 July 2006

Paper Man


Today is the 4th of July. As you likely know. Today is America's birthday. a la

...

Brooke, Andy & i headed over to daveT's family picnic. They're a total pyro family. I am really regretting that this is the first year in perhaps 6 years that i've not been in Brookings, SoDak for the 4th of July.

I'm sorry to be missing it, friends of Brookings, and i wish i could be there hitting up Jim's Tap (home of the strongest drinks this side of the Rio Grande), but c'est la vie, eh? It's hard to miss you all, but i'm sure it'd be even harder not to miss you all (given the fact that i leave for a 3-day Las Vegas bachelor party in less than 60 hours).

Hope all is right in america. And hope you all feel 'proud to be an american... where at least you know you're free', because, you know, america... it's awesome.

26 June 2006

Didn't Mind Body Worlds...

Yesterday afternoon i went to Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul. It was exhilarating, disturbing, and sometimes sad. Some of the most interesting questions were ones of motivation. Why do all these people come to this show? What are von Hagens' goals in the display? And whether the exhibit is really about the science or more an art installation.

The installation is absolutely worth seeing, although the experience itself is less than ideal. Far too many people being ushered through simultaneously. Most of the time slots sell out at the show in St. Paul, despite the fact they are selling as many tickets as people could physically fit in the space.

While part of what makes the show disturbing is the fact that every piece you're seeing is a dead body that has gone through a process known as 'plastination' (invented by von Hagens, plastination takes real human bodies & body parts, fills them with plastic, allows them to be molded into various poses, and then hardens them, allowing the bodies to be preserved for up to 10,000 years, according to von Hagens), the question of why all of these people pay so much to see the exhibit is, for me at least, equally disturbing. Surely von Hagens' works would not receive nearly so much attention if he used exact plastic replicas of every body part. What makes people flock to it is the fact that death is truly present in the halls.

Questions have also been raised about whether the fact that von Hagens is German complicates the morality of experimenting and displaying bodies in such a manner. While i do think this is a valuable and interesting question, i'm more interested in the question of just what von Hagens is up to. His figures are displayed in a variety of life-like poses, with accompanying text explaining that the poses allow for a better understanding and illustration of the body, which is to some extent true, but does not necessarily extend to the chess board, basketball, or top hat that the bodies have with them. The exhibits are lit artfully and position mirrors and other reflective surfaces strategically to maximize aesthetic effect. Though von Hagens constantly calls his work science, with its aim to facilitate a better understanding of the human body for all people, i think his work is as much an art exhibit as it is a science lesson.

In the end, i guess, i don't necessarily have a judgement about this last thought. I have no problem with art, with using corpses as art, or with mixing art and science into one impressive performance, but the installation poses a lot more questions than just 'what's it look like if you take somebody's skin off?' I highly recommend the exhibit to anyone who has a chance to see it, but if you miss it this time around, don't worry, they'll be around for a while.

22 June 2006

Stomach-y


It's halftime of the U.S./Ghana game. A must win. Italy is winning their game (which is what we need), but we're down 2-1, not holding up our end. In our own defense, the penalty kick awarded Ghana in stoppage time looked pretty questionable, but we do look like we're controlling most of the pace of the game. Still. I'm feeling pretty queasy. When the U.S. equalized late in the first half off a beautiful pass from the all-but-invisible DeMarcus Beasley to Clint Dempsey i was running around Jackie's apartment like a madman, only to be crushed by a go-ahead goal by Ghana.

Thanks, Jackie for letting me come to your place to get my soccer fix.

16 June 2006

Shy Town

Brooke & i took the train into Chicago yesterday to pick up her car and take another load of stuff home from my room. I was only in town for a matter of hours, but soon realized it really didn't feel like home any longer (if it ever did). On the bus ride back to Hyde Park, i was personally affronted by someone talking louldly on a cell phone; walking around downtown was too crowded, busy and noisy for my small-town ears. My pacing is changed. In just a single week i've adapted back to life in southern Wisconsin, meandering walks through town, driving everywhere (for a minumum of 20 minutes), lazing around watching World Cup matches.

I hope i've not yet completely lost my sense of the big city as home, but it's surely waning. I love a good city, but i am a small-town sort of guy. I'm ok with that.

15 June 2006

Seeger Session

Tonight i went with my parents & brother Andy to what turned out to be, i think, one of the best five concerts i've ever seen in my life. It was Bruce Springsteen at the Bradley Center, playing mostly from his new Seeger Sessions CD, which is covers of Pete Seeger songs. The show was high-spririted, featuring 17 musicians onstage and one of the least cynical events i've ever seen.

Imagine a show where the closer is "When the Saints Go Marching In" and a group of 4 middle-schoolers in front of me (who entered normal, pissy, stupid middle-schoolers, not some home-schooled variety) unsarcastically singing along with a song whose 1st verse is:
We are climbing, Jacob's Ladder/yeah we are climbing higher and higher./We are climbing, Jacob's Ladder/We are brothers and sisters all.
A 12-year-old, with moppy hair, who when he first came in was only concerned with looking cool & looking bored, was up and down for every other folk song & loudly sang along with "We Shall Overcome". I knew a few of the songs (mostly i know Pete Seeger's Songs for Children), and could sing along with the rest, because like most good folk songs, you can catch on pretty quick. I loved how diverse a crowd could get excited about gospel music, civil right songs, and a lot of damn good instrumentation. The whole crowd continued to sing a chorus over and over when Bruce & Company left the stage before their encore... I half expected everyone to hold hands & sway when "We Shall Overcome" came on. I think if the Boss had suggested it, that's just what would have happened. It was such a great show. One of those brief moments of hopeful elation where you think maybe a mass of people as large as a stadium crowd can 'get it' all at once, can feel together, if only for a short moment.

Then, in the men's room on the way out a guy farts as he's peeing & 4 or 5 other guys, seemingly complete strangers make fart jokes at his expense for the next minute and a half. *sigh* . but at least for a moment...

13 June 2006

Bad Hair Day


In the last couple days, i've remembered the joy of being between books. I clambered through the last of my graduate reading (Jane Jacobs' The Nature of Economies) just to be able to put it up on the 'last five' and then on Sunday i started looking for a new book to read. I love the feeling of being moments away from starting a new book. I scan my shelves, book shops and libraries, trolling through every bit of reading material i can find, knowing that i could choose from anything. Generally, i even take some pauses, reading a magazine article or two, picking up a book and looking at the font. I really like the feeling of 'about to start'. The book i finally selected was Umberto Eco's illustrated novel The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, which thus far is a blast, a sort of allegorical argument of book-knowledge versus personal/emotional knowledge.

On a completely different subject... We saw The Da Vinci Code today, which was pretty good... very Ron-Howard-y & felt a lot like i'd seen it before a couple years ago when i read the book. More than anything, though, it just felt like a cheap knock-off of National Treasure. No, all in all, it was pretty much what i expected, and i wasn't disappointed thereby. No overkill on the zooming/spinning shots that Ron Howard is so fond of, sometimes interesting cinematography, and the same 'damn good story' that Dan Brown told poorly... My only 'complaint', which isn't even a complaint, is the Tom Hanks Apology tacked on to the end, a sort of "can't we all just get along" for zealots and atheists alike... All in all, a pretty ok movie.

And finally, as most of you know, the U.S. was embarrassed in their first World Cup Match on Monday. We looked terrible. Two more games against Italy & Ghana. A difficult task, and we likely need two straight wins to advance... But we shall see. Keep the faith, America.