30 December 2008

Whine Country

Yesterday afternoon, we drove out of San Francisco and into "wine country". That's in California.

Anyway, brooke shot a pretty cool (slightly nauseating) video of the Golden Gate Bridge that i thought i'd share... For more, check out my faceBook photos.

11 December 2008

Exploring Masculinity

This morning i went to Menards to purchase a snow blower (the one i got is in fact called a 'snow thrower'). I'd been there yesterday as well (i'm becoming a regular regular) without much luck, but the associate assured me a shipment would be coming today. I hadn't fully decided whether to get the slightly less expensive wimpy looking blower or the really tough-ass gigantic blower that was only somewhat more expensive.

After 'talking shop' a bit with the sales associate, he assured me that i would be a complete fool to buy the little one. So, complete fool that i am, i bought the giant one, and attempted to put it in my car (which of course completely failed - i'm convinced that most of the R&D done for the Ford Taurus goes toward creating the appearance of as much space as possible, while absolutely minimizing the room through which to access said space).

So, i went back in and rented a pickup. Another associate & i loaded up the fairly heavy implement into the pickup bed, and i was driving around town in a truck, with a snowblower sliding around the back. On the ride home i realized i would be unloading the snowblower myself and i pictured myself alternately pulling it down and being crushed by it (in this scenario, i always imagined it somehow turning on by itself and slicing & dicing as it fell on top of me), or i saw myself standing in the truck bed, lowering the machine down with a great feat of strength (do i need to make a roll for that?), while throwing out my back.

I backed into the drive, still with no working plan and opened the garage. There was the answer, the extra door that i wasn't quite sure why i hadn't thrown away yet. I constructed a crude ramp (that's right, man use simple machine) and got the snowblower down & into the garage. I drove home, exceedingly happy with myself, but couldn't tell the story to anyone. I present it here as a chapter in my exploration of masculinity...

10 December 2008

Question of the Day* (Category: Marxism)

Which came first, the chicken or the Egg McMuffin?

Sub-question #1 - Why is it that so often the first to bemoan the redistribution of wealth are so often the best at the redistribution of snow?

*Note: 'Question of the Day' is an occasional, tri-annual event here at Roman Numeral J, and may be canceled in future, without notice.

04 December 2008

a direct transcription

of Comedy Central on 4 December 2008 (at least all that i could catch, there may be some holes) - 10:10pm CST-10:12pm CST

"the remarkable clean coal technology changes everything, take a look, this is america's clean coal technology.
I am green today, i chirp today, get verizon wireless america's most reliable 3G network. Yours is here.
Agent... hey... Got it. The ridiculously long lasting gum, stride sweet barry.
Douggy... Dougy i just bought you for a buck 99. Now i'm gonna do your wife, now i'm gonna do your mother now.
Why have you come to our planet...from us, it has begun, he is the only one who can save us. you can stop this. the day the earth stood still, rated PG-13. We live in troubling times, not just on the financial"

So, that's what going on these days... Does anyone else think we've had quite enough Punisher movies?

20 November 2008

17 November 2008


**what follows is an extensive definition of the word game, written by me for my 'Theories of Media' class (taught by Professor Tom Mitchell & Professor Mark Hansen), which was not accepted into their elite definition collection (we should come up for a name for that), but was, i think, worth looking at...

“. . . Games are popular art, collective, social reactions to the main drive or action of any culture. Games, like institutions, are extensions of social man and of the body politic, as technologies are extensions of the animal organism. Both games and technologies are counter-irritants or ways of adjusting to the stress of the specialized actions that occur in any social group. As extensions of the popular response to the workaday stress, games become faithful models of a culture. They incorporate both the action and the reaction of whole populations in a single dynamic image.”(McLuhan, 235)
classic german board game

The modern English word ‘game’ comes from the Old English (and Middle High German) word gamen meaning ‘joy, glee’ and from the Old Norse word gaman which means ‘game, sport, merriment.’ The word may also derive from the Gothic term gaman which means ‘participation, communion.’ The common prefix for all these sources is ga- which means ‘together.’

The Oxford English Dictionary has as its definition of the word game, “1.Amusement, delight, fun, mirth, sport” and “3.a.an Amusement, diversion, pastime” (OED). While these definitions account for the enjoyment and pleasure generally associated with games, it fails to recognize the fundamental connection that games have with rules. Marshall McLuhan says games are “contrived and controlled situations, extensions of group awareness that permit a respite from customary patters” (McLuhan, 243). This definition encompasses both the diverting nature of games and the imposition of the structure of rules on the players. McLuhan also calls games ‘contrived,’ emphasizing the artificiality of the structure of rules. When the OED does address the subject of rules in the fourth definition it describes a game as “4. a. A diversion of the nature of a contest, played according to rules, and displaying in the result the superiority either in skill, strength, or good fortune of the winner or winners” (OED), connecting the rules of the game with competition. Of course, competition is as much a part of games as their diverting, amusing nature, though non-competitive games (cooperative or solitary games, for instance) exist just as surely as games that aren’t enjoyable do. What is essential to a game is an agreement by the players to abide by the artificially imposed rules and structure of the game, to play by the rules.

The verb ‘to play’ is fundamentally entwined with games. This connection serves both to keep the game in the realm of the amusement and to associate the playing of games with the act of a child’s play. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Sigmund Freud describes a very young child’s invention of a game. The child would throw his toys out of sight and say ‘gone’ which Freud “eventually realized…was a game and that the only use he made of any of his toys was to play ‘gone’ with them” (Freud, 599). The difference between the child simply engaged in the act of playing with his toys and playing a game with them is the imposition of a set of rules for playing. Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ‘language-games’ provide another useful example of a non-traditional way to think about what a game is. Wittgenstein imagines the naming of objects, without providing a context for the use of that object (for example, telling a non-chess player that the king is called ‘king,’ but not what that piece does on the board) as a kind of language game. He then extends the idea of this primitive language as a game to “also call the whole, consisting of language and the actions into which it is woven, a ‘language-game’” (Wittgenstein, 4). Language itself is a collection of arbitrary rules, a code, that speakers of common languages must agree to abide by for communication to be possible.

A player must follow all of the rules of that particular instance of the game (‘house rules’ may apply, but these, too, must be determined before the game) or they are not, strictly speaking, playing that game. “There is, then, a sort of passion that binds the players to the rule that ties them together—without which the game would not be possible” (Baudrillard, 131). Baudrillard argues that it is a passion for the rules themselves that draw people to play games. He goes on to draw a distinction between the rules of the game and the law of the land. While laws are based on a supposed moral consensus, rules are arbitrary and have no meaning outside the confines of the game. “Because the Law establishes a line, it can and must be transgressed. By contrast, it makes no sense to “transgress” a game’s rules; within a cycle’s recurrence, there is no line one can jump (instead, one simply leaves the game)” (Baudrillard, 131-2). Laws can be broken or bent and they change through the course of history. While the rules of games may evolve over time, they do not change for the players during any one occurrence of a game.

In pointing out that in transgressing the rules a player ‘simply leaves the game,’ Baudrillard also reveals another limitation of games. “All board-games are limited as to time and space” (Murray, 5). In fact all games are temporally and spatially limited. Another fundamental feature of games is an object or goal at the end of them. A game ends upon completion (or failure to complete) the pre-determined goal. A game also takes place within a certain area, on a board or field or within certain boundaries. A single game cannot take place everywhere at once, but must be confined. In discussing why war is not a game, even though it shares many of the features of games, Marshall McLuhan says that “what disqualifies war from being a true game is probably what also disqualifies the stock market and business—the rules are not fully known or accepted by all the players. Furthermore, the audience is too fully [a] participant” (McLuhan, 240). The audience is in danger of becoming part of war, because unlike a game, it has no respect for its boundaries. Gilles Deleuze calls chess a “game of state…each [piece] is like a subject…of enunciation, that is, the chess player or the game’s form of interiority” (Deleuze, 352). Chess is a game-form of war, though Deleuze argues that the game Go may be a better game of war, because the board (just as the field of battle) grows as the game goes along.

There are virtually endless varieties of games, including: board games, card games, sports, video games, role-playing games, word games (puzzles), online games and gambling. Each of these groups also has its own sub-sets and variations. Archeologists have discovered Sumerian board games dating back to as early as 2600 B.C. and images of ancient Greeks and Egyptians playing earlier versions of games still played today (Avedon, 21). Marshall McLuhan, in his chapter on games in Understanding Media, discusses the differences in the perception of gambling in tribal and individualist cultures. What is deemed a vice by many Western cultures is seen as “mocking the individualist social structure” (McLuhan, 234) because the competition is brought to the extreme. “This further motive is the desire of the anticipated winner, or the partisan of the anticipated winning side, to heighten his side’s ascendancy at the cost of the loser” (Veblen, 277). Whether money is at stake or not, competitiveness is often at the center of games.

McLuhan claims that games are extensions of social man and as such, the competitive nature in games is a logical extension of individualist social structures. But there are also cooperative games, such as role-playing games and their digital offspring multi-player worlds online. Role-playing games are essentially storytelling games, where one player creates a world for the other players to explore, narrating as the game progresses. Multi-player online worlds are similar, where each player plays the part of some character in a larger narrative, but the world is made up entirely of computer code. While there is some competing and fighting within these games, because players can simply narrate their actions and do what they want, the games are generally structured in such a way as to make it necessary to form a group of players to complete the assigned tasks.

One way that games have extended beyond their basic existence is in the creation of game theory. Perhaps most famously exemplified by the Prisoner’s Dilemma, “game theory is concerned with the actions of decision makers who are conscious that their actions affect each other” (Rasmusen, 9). Game theory is a branch of economics that studies the affects that competitors who are aware of each other have on each other. Game theory takes as its ‘rules,’ players, actions, payoffs and information. These four elements go in to determining possible outcomes for real-world economic situations.

Works Cited

Avendon, Elliot M & Brian Sutton-Smith. The Study of Games. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1971.

Baudrillard, Jean. Seduction. Basingstoke: Macmillan Education, 1990.

Deleuze, Gilles. A Thousand Plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Freud, Sigmund. The Freud Reader. Ed. Peter Gay. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1964.

Murray, H.J.R. A History of Board Games Other Than Chess. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951.

The Oxford English Dictionary. (http://www.oed.com/)

Rasmusen, Eric. Games and Information: An Introduction To Game Theory. Blackwell, 2001.

Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory of the Leisure Class: an economic study of institutions. New York: Macmillan, 1899.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations: The German Text, with a revised English translation. Trans. G.E.M. Anscombe. Malden: Blackwell, 2001.

29 October 2008

The Milwaukee Admirals

or, the least indie indie site in the room.

Last Saturday (October 25) i attended a Milwaukee Admirals hockey game in response to an assignment for my Indie Culture Seminar which asked me to write about a ‘site of indie culture’. I selected an Admiral’s game primarily because it was the least ‘indie’ indie site I could come up with. That is, the Admirals (and independent sports teams or leagues in general) perform many of the same tasks & fulfill the same roles as we might assign to indie culture: resisting (or at least defining yeah, this isn't my picture... It's from the Milwaukee 'sportsbubbler' blogitself against) 'mainstream' culture, providing a more 'authentic' experience than the overly commercialized mainstream product, and locating itself (often geographically or spatially, but not always) somewhere outside the 'mainstream'. I want, in some sense, to frustrate this working definition of indie culture by looking at an area of culture that we likely can mostly agree is decidedly not ‘indie’. I see independent sports leagues in as in some way defining themselves against the mainstream (major league sports) by paying players substantially lower salaries and often arguing (at least implicitly) for a more ‘authentic’ competition because of the lower, more equitable payrolls. The Admirals also operate with little to no media coverage (they get minimal coverage on local sports talk radio and newspaper coverage, but nationally get absolutely no attention). On the other hand, hockey games (and sports events in general) seem to be exactly contrary to what we might define as ‘indie’ in that the way they are marketed (corporate sponsorships abound both on the website and at the game), the commodification of all aspects of the game (souvenir shops at the Bradley Center are almost entirely filled with Admirals goods), and even the sport itself (which we might call a ‘mainstream’ sport as opposed to more ‘indie’ sports like Roller Derby or Frisbee golf).

* * *

Walking toward the ticket booth of the Bradley Center it becomes fairly obvious fairly quickly that this ‘site’ and the people walking into the site are anything but ‘indie’. Groups of 30-40something adults and families seem most prevalent. At the ticket booth, 20 minutes before game time the best cheapest tickets available were 3 rows off the ice. Walking around the stadium on our way to our section, a group of high school kids played “Brown Eyed Girl” on a stage set up on the lower level. We bought a couple beers (Pilsner Urquells, a beer of ‘distinction’), some popcorn, and found are seats as the zambonis were finishing up their circuits. (At Admirals games you can, evidently, buy a ride on the zamboni before the game and between periods. On one zamboni a young boy of maybe 7 or 8 was having the time of his life, while on the other one, a middle-aged man in a Packers sweatshirt waved awkwardly and I wondered who he was and why he might have decided to ride the zamboni, which seemed like such a kid-centered novelty).

The game got under way and I was immediately struck by the way fans seemed to be watching the game. Not being an expert on hockey (or really even much of a hockey fan) I can’t say for sure, but compared to the way I’ve seen professional sports fans watch games in the past, these fans seemed to attend to the game much more constantly than I had expected. I’ve been to one NHL game and a UND hockey game before, but both times my seats were much farther away from the ice, so the attention being paid to the game might have had something to do with the proximity (and given the low attendance and closed off upper deck everyone was close to the ice, relatively speaking). The crowd was generally quiet and when they yelled anything, it was generally specific instructions or critiques (“put a body on them!” “Play it in”) rather than the more general yells I am accustomed to (“C’mon!”s or “Boo”s). While on the subject of specific quotes, I noted that throughout the game, whenever a player would come out of the penalty box the announcer would say “And the teams are at equal strength” to which the crowd would reply “That’s Debatable!” This surprised me the first time it happened, but was a comforting ritual that instantly made you feel like a part of the crowd. The game itself was fairly exciting, a number of lead changes and ultimately the Admirals lost. A full account can be found yeah, this one's mineon the Admiral’s website if you’re interested.

The Admirals play in the AHL (American Hockey League), which currently serves as a feeder system for NHL teams, with teams generally having exclusive or joint contracts with NHL teams, but operating as an independent league. I was surprised by the number of people wearing Admirals gear as well as how many people had come up from Chicago and were wearing Chicago Wolves jerseys (particularly because Chicago has the NHL Blackhawks in their home market). In fact this segment of the crowd might be the most useful when talking about indie vs. mainstream sports. Why, when AHL hockey is an inferior sport at least from the perspective of the individual athlete’s ability, would someone choose to be a Wolves fan? Is there some extra cultural capital from enjoying this ‘more authentic’ experience, a less commercialized, less ‘sell out’ game? Or, perhaps they see their viewership ironically, some sort of ‘lo-fi’ hockey. Or, it might just be that there seems to be a lot more fighting and checking into the wall at this level. My clearest memory from the game is of the aftermath of an Admirals forward getting smashed into the glass just in front of us. The crowd around me was laughing and cheering and saying things like “Dude, did you see his face just before his face hit.”

28 October 2008

Then & Now, Voyager

So, i've now watched what might have been my first 'woman's film', or at least the first one i tried to 'take seriously'. Last fall when David Halperin came to talk about melodrama i was skeptical, at best. "Really" i thought, "melodrama is something we're considering now", but now that i've seen one (Now, Voyager), i'm totally an expert.

We might, in some sense, think of melodrama as a sort of an ├╝ber-Genre for Hollywood (this is a stolen idea, though i'm not entirely sure from whom). Everything that Hollywood makes aspires to melodrama in some sense... I'm starting to become truly convinced by Patrice Petro's (via Linda Williams {or vice versa}) idea of 'Body Genres', which are films that hit us viscerally, that force us to react bodily.

So, Tuesday we watched Now, Voyager in class and i was surprised not only by how much i enjoyed it, but by how much it paralleled the very real horrors of the American family i got to dig into in September*. Charlotte (Bette Davis) begins the film as a repressed daughter, an unwanted late child whose charge is to take care of her widowed, really quite scary, mother (mostly because she clearly won't ever find a man for herself, so she may as well be useful to someone). At one point Mother even points to this idea, finding comfort in a 'late child' by knowing that that child will care for you in your later years (the 'pre-late years', that is). This system only works, of course, if said child doesn't go off on their own path, make their own life (which in the world of melodrama {but perhaps more generally in contemporary American culture, too} means pairing off and starting a family of your own). So Mother stalls the child's development employing guilt, classist proclamations of 'proper' behavior, and constant reminders of the child's weaknesses (& sickliness) in order to assure her remaining at home.

What interests me in particular, is not necessarily the plot of Now, Voyager, or family melodramas like it. Rather, i find the underlying notion of the family structure itself an interesting (and often frightening) object of inquiry. My brother Tim has reflected on how 'the Family' operates for him, and i don't mean to present some personal sob story about my own family (i'm hugely fortunate in this regard), but i'm interested in the institution (notice the word, an odd word) of the family structure itself...

There's a model of the family (originally presented by Antonio Gramsci, i think), which operates as a sort of Social Taylorism, in which the worker's life is organized and managed to such an extent that not only is their work-day set up in assembly-line fashion, but through familial obligations and constructed consumerist needs, the worker's life outside of work (their leisure in other words) is similarly orchestrated (even to the extent of their 'entertainments' are constructed both through television & bar life {maybe even bowling}. Though bars and pubs might formerly have been been a place for radical organization {three cheers for the real Sam Adams}, but now they operate as places to lose yourself, to obliterate yourself. The music, the setup, and the way we no longer speak to strangers discourage any kind of organization in the modern bar).

Ok, this is just a start to this thinking, but it's where i'm going...

*This September a local matriarch passed away and it fell to brooke's family to do much of the sifting through the house. Along with a life-time's worth of stuff, we uncovered box-fulls of old letters, photos, and journals that painted a less-than-idyllic picture of this upstanding family.

19 October 2008

the Global Village

I remember when i was younger, i drove, with my brother & dad (can't remember if andy was there or not), to the middle of illinois, grabbded hands with piles of strangers...

I have no recollection what this blog post initially may have been intended for, but man... Hands Across America... what an idea. Line up hundreds of thousands of people... then hold hands with them. and eventually make a big line of people. for Africa?

Now, i'm all for Africa. But lining up piles of white people does not seem a solution for anyone... How did this thing make money? Was it a sort of pledging thing? ("betcha can't get 1,000, i'll give you 10 dollars...")...

Anyway, it must have been quite a success...

17 October 2008

06 October 2008

watch out...

Source: The Prelinger Archive, a great archive of Historical, public-domain footage. - "When You are a Pedestrian", Progressive Pictures

30 September 2008

oh there's always time for mail on this show...

So this is a bit of my thinking on letters and mail and Briefwechsel generally. I know i have previously made a motion toward this thinking previously, but i want to lay out a bit more in depth what i'm thinking and would appreciate any feedback.

First off, there's something in the physicality of the letter that i'm interested in.

Letters are both boring and interesting... They are ephemeral, but when looking at them from a distance in time, they lose immediacy and meaning. Reading an old letter can still hold an emotional bite, but there is no narrative in it (the 'what next?' is gone).

Which makes a story like Frankenstein incredibly interesting (or Dracula)... and modern variations on them might become even more interesting... Nothing much to say here, though...



18 September 2008

is good will hunting the prequel to Mad Max?

I was watching Good Will Hunting tonight on TNT, and considering a conversation i'd had earlier in the week with friendINthePROGRAM, Ron, about how we both seemed fairly sure that we hoped for (or at least weren't against) fundamental, global economic collapse... At least then things wouldn't be boring (which, at least according to Effi Briest, is the worst thing you can encounter).

I think i've come to a point in my life where i'm comfortable admitting, Good Will Hunting is my favorite movie... without all the hemming & hawwing of depending on situations or crowds... It is, quite simply, my favorite movie...

But mostly, i'm wondering... are we ok with complete economic (& therefore social) breakdown? We're taught (if we are taught) that we should set up delayed gratifications, in the form of "retirement", a program where we are taught to NOT live the live we want to or are able to live, and instead, give away a portion of that money to (theoretically) inherit later.

Having no research or information in this area, but being interested in it from afar, i will now claim that large portions of the folks who put their money away for this 'systematic delayed gratification' never get to experience it, or, if they do, they're old... so it's not as fun enjoying it, as it might have been when they were younger...

Ok, that's the basic argument... discuss... (soon, you'll have an opportunity to talk about letters...)

10 September 2008

some thoughts on genre...

In the opening chapter of Film/Genre (a fundamental texts on genre films), Rick Altman tracks the history of genre theory from Aristotle through to contemporary accounts. Fundamental to this history for Altman is the distinction between historical genres (genre established by tradition) and genre theory (development of genres through criticism). In large part, this distinction turns on who defines genre, the producer, the viewer, or the critic.

Deciding how to define genre (or a genre) hinges upon what genre is for, what its purpose is, or what function it serves. If defined by (or for) the viewer, we might thing of genre as a sorting system, a way to categorize films in terms of content. For critics, genres might be thought of as a way to organize meaning and providing a system for talking about film. What Altman (as well as Linda Williams & Thomas Schatz) seem to ignore (at least early in their books) is the idea of defining genre in terms of the production of the films.

Looking at genre from this perspective makes the idea of genre primarily about profit, about money. Generic conventions provide a basic structure for filmmakers to construct a film off of. For filmmakers, genre provides market predictability, an established audience to consume the films. Of course, discriminating fans want variation and reinvention in their genres of choice, but genres make for a quick, easy formula for profitable movies.

Another aspect of genre theory that goes mostly unremarked in Williams and Altman is the assumption that determining or defining genre relies mostly on content. When Williams proposes pornography as a genre her early attempts to define all focus on the content of the films in searching for a definition.

I’m not entirely sure what these slight oversights amount to as of yet and am interested in seeing Williams and Altman hopefully explore them, these strike me as possibly underexplored lines of inquiry in genre theory.

07 September 2008

I've decided to begin a new project on Roman Numeral J, in which, i try to get my site as the top google search (or at least on the top page) for various phrases/ideas/words/questions that come to my mind.

Just moments ago, i searched the terms 'is money real' (not in quotes) and was directed to a site called the street, the American Patriot Friends (or fax) Network, and the Liberty Dollar...

So, here's the deal... what if we just decide money doesn't exist? Some doof asked Michael Moore (via Larry King on Friday) why young voters aren't more moved by the fact that their generation is being sold out by the current political generation... Moore answered it in the only way he could, serving as a political activist, that of course the youth should be pissed at how their 'future money' is being spent, and how they'll have to pay for it, but that, like most youngins, they don't think it'll really matter...

But more importantly, what if we just decide we no longer recognize money as a realistic trade mechanism... Sure our nation owes $9.6 trillion to... somebody.

But, the reason a young generation & my moderately middle-aged generation shouldn't care is that we could decide to just stop keeping score... I'm not the first to suggest that modern bank accounts & finances are just new ways of keeping score...

*** Update 1/15/2011 ***

Unfortunately I have no idea what my plan was.  But some of this sounds marginally interesting, so I'll publish this in the interest of the start of some good thinking.

05 September 2008

Is Money Real?

I've decided to begin a new project on Roman Numeral J, in which, i try to get my site as the top google search (or at least on the top page) for various phrases/ideas/words/questions that come to my mind.

Just moments ago, i searched the terms 'is money real' (not in quotes) and was directed to a site called the street, the American Patriot Friends (or fax) Network, and the Liberty Dollar...

So, here's the deal... what if we just decide money doesn't exist? Some doof asked Michael Moore (via Larry King on Friday) why young voters aren't more moved by the fact that their generation is being sold out by the current political generation... Moore answered it in the only way he could, serving as a political activist, that of course the youth should be pissed at how their 'future money' is being spent, and how they'll have to pay for it, but that, like most youngins, they don't think it'll really matter...

But more importantly, what if we just decide we no longer recognize money as a realistic trade mechanism... Sure our nation owes $9.6 trillion to... somebody.

But, the reason a young generation & my moderately middle-aged generation shouldn't care is that we could decide just not...
Just not to play, i guess...

27 August 2008

moderate 3rd quarter growth...

this is a picture of your doom...According to Reuters, today, scientists will soon begin an experiment to re-create a mini Big Bang in a large underground facility.
Does anybody else think this might be a bad idea? Even if it's a "miniature Big Bang" (let's clean that up a bit, shall we?), a "Moderate Bang", we'll have an entirely new universe in some basement in Geneva, Switzerland. What these so-called scientists seem to have forgotten is the primary lesson we learned from the big bang, that universes created in such a way EXPAND.

So, when the world is being squeezed out of existence (or at least life as we know it is being shoved off the surface of the earth {hey, my wish comes true}) don't say i didn't warn you...

on this date in history...

i was feeling crowded, yet empty.

25 August 2008

Happy Happy, Joy Joy

My most recent favorite blogger, jd, wrote today about the Psychology of Happiness and asks some interesting questions about the relationship between money and happiness (as well as suggesting, in the blog's self-help-ian way, 13 Steps to being happier).

His excellent post gets me thinking about my own, academic take on happiness, and in particular about whether happiness is necessarily a good thing, or a desired outcome. The answer to this seems obvious at first glance...yes. Justin Wolfers wrote recently on the Freakonomics blog about how Happiness Inequality is on the decline, while 'overall happiness' remains unchanged since the 70s & 80s, despite rampant economic growth. While i am loathe to buy into much of what such social science studies give us, the "hm, that's interesting value" is worth the read.

I also don't entirely believe the conclusions that jd, like so many others, reach that money can't buy happiness & meaningful relationships is the end-all be-all of getting happy (this is not to say that i DON'T believe those things, just that i don't take them for granted simply because it's what we've been told). I'm curious where the 'common knowledge' of money can't buy happiness comes from (and how much the person who first said it had in the bank at the time).

I certainly don't intend in this post to suggest how to get happy. Others have given plenty of advice on how to be more fulfilled or get less depressed after a huge disappointment (i highly recommend Rebecca Traister's article from just after the 2004 presidential election on the subject).

Instead, i'm most interested in whether getting happy should be a goal. Wikipedia says (for now, at least) that Happiness is "an emotion associated with feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense joy", which is well and good, but it seems to me that 'contentment' and 'satisfaction' imply inactive states. Being content or satisfied with the state of things means you likely don't want them to change, which to me seems to be the opposite of how we should hope to feel. Of course, working to enact change begs the question, "which way should we head?" or "what is the right direction for progress?", but let's set that aside for the time being.

What really interests me is the assumption, not that happiness is a good thing, it probably is, but that it should be a main goal. There's even a test you can take to find out how happy you are (followed by a course in happiness building), but it seems to me that to score happy on that particular test doesn't demonstrate happiness, rather stupidity (which are often lumped together).

"Ignorance is bliss" is the conventional wisdom that we all want to push back against... Nay, say we, we'd be happier knowing what we have or what we're striving for... Countless examples construct this argument that we don't need to be simple and innocent to be happy (most recently, in my re-watching the original Star Trek series i came to the episode where they encounter Apollo, "Who Mourns for Adonais?", a classic episode where the crew is captured by a powerful being who'd been to earth 5000 years ago and had waited for them to begin exploring space so they could live in Olympus with him, worshipping him and herding goats. Needless to say, Kirk is against the idea, fights back, and eventually wins their continued freedom.)

The real question, for me, is how do we define happiness?

Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a phenomenal and accessible book about it called Dancing in the Streets, but instead of individual happiness, her book explores collective joy. Happiness as defined as a collective feeling is something rarely, if ever, explored in modern definitions. 'How can I be happier' is what we want to know. At most, the question of 'how can we be happier' is answered in terms of a very small unit, a couple or a family, thus isolating us from our community/society/civilization by defining happiness as an individual endeavor.

So much of our current efforts focus on improving your own, personal happiness (take a stroll through any bookstore's self-help or personal finance section, or take a read through jd's site, which really is quite good), thoughts of communal or societal happiness is almost alien to us. Sure, we have collective feel-good times (look at last nights speeches by Teddy Kennedy & Michelle Obama) where we imagine ourselves to be working toward a 'common good', but politics hasn't been about a true common good for a long time, maybe it never was. Instead, talking heads on CNN & PBS talk about how the candidate (and those speaking on his behalf) needs to demonstrate to voters how electing them will improve their lives (meaning individual lives).

If everybody's happy & content with what they have, as jd (and others) suggest is a real goal, then we have no motivation for change or impetus for collective action. And so i would suggest, dear reader, that Bobby McFerrin had it half right...

Don't Worry, and Don't Be Happy...

23 August 2008

... you think that was something

Okay, so nobody was terribly excited by my HUGE scoop last week...

Well, Roman Numeral J has another one... Something big is brewing this week, for Obama's campaign. My source was unwilling to spill too much, but i have a feeling it's going to be HUGE. Somewhere out west, a big little city, my hunch tells me Denver... Stay tuned.


in other news, i spent Saturday playing tourist in my own town yesterday. Seeing the Milwaukee River Walk, including Milwaukee's newest tourist attraction... the Fonz!

It's really short. I think it's actually life-sized (Henry Winkler was evidently a little guy). The whole cast of Happy Days was on hand last Tuesday to unveil the statue.

It's a bit overly smily & the teal pants are, well teal. But now, finally, milwaukee will be a major tourist draw... As much as i hate the term "Stay-cation" (i throw up a little in my mouth each time i hear it), i think exploring your own environs as an outsider (buy a map, tool around the streets, look up at the buildings, drink in the early afternoon, and hit up those museums you always drive by the signs for... wear shorts & tennis shoes!)

19 August 2008

Post-Poli Poli-post

Roman Numeral J has learned some MAJOR BREAKING NEWS regarding the presidential campaign...

But first, i'd like to voice my own response to the 'Rick Warren' charade. At first i was taken aback late Sunday night as i watched the forum re-air on CNN. I understood why the candidates felt the need to appear with Rick Warren (though i shouldn't be able to understand it), and Rick Warren's interview was, for the most part, laughable (as pointed out succinctly by David Waters). And so i watched in a stupor of disbelief as Obama continued to treat Warren's questions seriously and McCain provided applause-fodder. But the substance of the interviews isn't necessarily what interests me...

It occurs to me that, despite whatever personal distaste i have for the fact that candidates need to (or believe they need to) pander to people who literally believe that an omnipotent being genuinely cares and interacts with them on a daily basis, i think i am actually in support of what Rick Warren has done here.

Think about it, before the CPD hijacked the debate procedure and allowed campaigns to eliminate any debate from debates we had a somewhat fairer presidential debate system. While i am entirely in support of Open Debates' project, i think something even more democratic is called for, something not entirely like what McCain proposed early on in the campaign, a series of small, collective events where the candidates discuss issues together in a variety of formats (not just the townhall meeting).

If both Obama & McCain truly want to re-invent the political climate, they need to start by re-inventing the Election Game. This isn't a new idea to me, in fact David Brooks points to McCain's realization that he can't play the game the way he had wanted to, but i think he can, if he can convince Obama to agree to the same thing... which is why i'd like to announce:

The First Quadrennial Roman Numeral J Presidential Debate

Friday, October 3rd at 6pm
in my back yard.

All presidential candidates polling at 3% in or higher in mid-September are welcome to participate. Press passes will be distributed when schedules are confirmed. This forum will represent an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate a desire to be post-politicians and refuse to be forced into running the exact same campaign that's been run by every other major party candidate for the last 30 years.

And, finally, the news you've all been waiting for... Finally, i can stand up to Big Blog with the scoopiest of scoops. I have it on good authority who Barak Obama will name as his vice presidential running mate. His VP pick, to be announced Saturday (we'll see if he sticks to that timetable) is Joe Biden. You heard it here first. My source, understandably, wants to remain anonymous, but s/he's trustworthy. So, go print it...

14 August 2008

Tell you What... TellUride

South Milwaukee has a "new" bar... Finally a bar, for south milwaukee.

But seriously, Telluride, at 2155 S. Kinnickinnic is a great new find on the south side... For a neighborhood where you can find a small-time, local watering hole at every... well everywhere... Telluride provides an (evidently) eco-friendly, inviting experience. Modeled after a Coloradian resort bar (though any theme-i-ness is very understated) the bar has been in operation a couple of months according to co-owner Luke Grant, who was tending bar.

I am hugely in awe of anyone who starts a business, particularly one so close to my heart, and my liver. At first sight, the bar was clean & somewhat spartan in its decorating... and sparse in its patronage, though it was a Thursday afternoon... it was also southSide Milwaukee.

But they had good beers on tap (including Pilsner Urquell & some Colorado beers like Flying Dog Pale Ale) & poured some decent cocktails (no Rehorst on hand, despite the fact they're moving into the neighborhood). But the real highlight of this place was the outdoor seating/gaming area. They've got a great patio, some attractive landscaping & fencing & LADDERBALL!

In fact, you can choose from two types of ladder-ball, traditional (though with golf-balls) or 'football themed, with yellow goal-post style targets & overly bouncy football Bolas. They've also got two different types of Bags targets... Maybe I should introduce them to hippie horseshoes as well...

The other two great features of Telluride are that it's smoke-free (without needing a city ordinance to tell them to) & you can bring your dog & hang out in the patio... Finally Rex Grossman won't have to sneak drinks while we're at work...

Located at the north tip of Bayview on Kinnickinnic, Telluride also has the added bonus of getting a lot of drive by traffic each day. In fact, that's the only reason we ended up checking it out, was because we'd seen the outside seating area when i drove by for work each day.

On a side-note, this looks to be the first in a series of Milwaukee Southside entries coming up soon, as another new joint is opening right near us TONIGHT! (The Sahara Cafe) & i've heard a recent rumor that Rehorst is going to start selling Bourbon (as soon as sits long enough in the barrels)

12 August 2008


Last Wednesday afternoon i attended my first ever Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Having recently developed a keen hatred for the Cubs & Cubs fans (where before there was a deep, abulic indifference), i thought the event might be uncomfortable, awkward, or even dangerous (though, less so once i decided not to wear my shiny new Prince Fielder t-shirt).

They were playing the Houston Astros, in a rubber game on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon. We got to the stadium just before first pitch & grabbed snacks & beers on the way to our seats. I'd heard the food at Wrigley was simply abysmal and the "brat" i was served definitely backed that up. On the upside, they had Old Style available at about half of the concession stands.

We got to our seats, which were the cheapest we'd found on stubHub & were impressed to find we were very close to the field along the left field line (near the foul pole). Alfonso Soriano (literally "big jerk") was close by when the Cubs were in the field and he joked back & forth with the Bleacher Bums (at one point after Fonzo had misplayed a fly ball, they pointed to Right Fielder Fukudome's snazzy catch as an example of something he might try).

Our seat-neighbors were cordial for the most part, decidedly un-Chicagoan. Then the 3rd inning started. The Astros took a 4-1 lead, scoring the last 3 on a home run by Carlos Lee (el Caballo, literally "Carlos Lee"). Actually you can find the entire game, obsessively blogged by some guy listening to the radio broadcast. Down 4-1 the fans starting turning. They became the cynical, slightly jerky (but still harmless) Cub fans i've come to know...

At that point, Nathan & i decided to get out of the sun, stretch our legs, and see the stadium sites. We wandered back around the stadium and walked through some better infield sections. It's amazing how close to the action you feel at any of the lower deck sections at Wrigley. It's also astounding to think how long people have been walking these same sections - Wrigley is a really old (at least relatively) feeling place to see a sporting event (i suppose the Colosseum in Rome might put this into perspective, but still).

As we were headed back we were accosted by a guy trying to get us to sign up for credit cards (or checking accounts) in order to get a free t-shirt. Nathan quizzed the guy about damaging his credit score by running a credit check, but the guy assured us that as long as you don't do it all the time you had nothing to worry about... We (surprisingly) declined the offer, but as we were finishing up a conversation with him the Cubs hit a grand slam.

We continued back toward our seats, but it suddenly came to us that the reason our food might have sucked was due to the wrong type of food... In Milwaukee, you order a brat at the game, in Chicago, a Chicago style dog. We grabbed dogs & more beer (loading up with hot peppers & a frighteningly green relish) and headed back to our seats. While we were in our respective lines, the Cubs scored 4 more runs for an 8-run bottom of the 3rd. We got back in time to watch Theriot ground out to end the inning.

The fans in our section were in high spirits by the time we came back.

"Did we miss anything?" we asked.

"Nooo. Nothing, you didn't miss anything. Though, if the Astros start scoring again, you're going to have to leave again," They replied.

In fact, somehow, the fans, not just the game, were extremely enjoyable. At the end of the game, winning soundly, fans were in good spirits. DoucheBag Cubs fans & Drunk Bleacher Girls were cultivating meaningful relationships in the last couple of innings... Singing "Take Me Out To the Ballgame" at Wrigley was something special, even if it was Ron Santo singing... Then they sing some "go cubs go" song when they win...

Overall, i was actually somewhat disappointed by how accommodating & not-overly-douchey the Cubs fans were... And while everyone was laughinghavingagoodtime and singing their songs, i actually saw what might drive someone to being a Cubs fan. There's a good-timie-ness to it that is almost unavoidable. By the end of the game, i was even cheering for the Cubs and i'm a fucking Brewers fan.

I mean, i still hate the Cubs & hate Cubs fans when they come to Milwaukee, for sure, but Wrigley... actually kinda cool.
thanks, gilk, for getting me to wrigley, finally.

08 August 2008

The hottest, newest, internetiest sites

Welcome to the internet¹, or my most recent exploration of it (and by exploration, i mean when people email me to tell me to go to specific websites & provide links & i'm terribly bored so i click on them).

Over the past few weeks, Roman Numeral J has added some 'features' to the right side links, which you should explore & i thought i'd draw some specific attention to a few of them:

First off, the exquisite Jackie Willey has fanangled her way to Japan, the country. She is teaching through the JET program and is chronicling the entire experience at Jackie Hits the Road.

My brother, tim, also recently came onto the blogging scene with his occasional blog A Dad's Reflections.

In addition to the new blogger friends i've added a few "Frequented Sites":

First off, miron's friend 'jd' is a real blogger, who, like, writes blog entries at Get Rich Slowly about getting rich over a slightly long period of time... JD's a good writer & a fine blogger (you may remember jd from such fame as giving me an earlier start at his erstwhile comics blog, which i should have written harder at...)

JD pointed me to (via his wildly successful blog) a site called fuelly (which isn't permanently linked on my site), with which you can track your mpg & see similar (or other) cars' mpg real ratings. The catalog of cars is still small, but growing, and it's an easy way to have someone else do the figuring for you...

Fuelly is similar to my summer favorite, golflink.com, with which you can enter all of your rounds of golf and eventually figure out your handicap automatically.

Perhaps the most exciting new addition to Roman Numeral J, (not necessarily due to content, but more because of the source) is famouslocations.com, which is a website cataloging where movies were filmed... I'm not entirely convinced, but it marks Roman Numeral J's first official "reciprocal link"... not that i don't have previous reciprocal links (w/ Toads in the Hole, rssl, & Sara & Josh), but here is the first instance of a complete stranger requesting a reciprocal link with me...
Though, actually, i haven't found my site linked to from their website yet, so maybe i'll tell you not to go there tomorrow...

I've also added the 'got a brilliant idea' link, which has been here for a while... The idea is the sharing of brilliant ideas that you don't/can't implement yourself. All proceeds (see note) will be funneled into the franchise commune.
And finally, the ArFives, which is also a link that's been on the side for a while, but i'd like to draw some attention to... as it's a trace of, sadly literally, what i've been up to lately.

1. Lundeberg, Shane. Facebook. (comment on wall of Brooke Sahlstrom). 2008.

03 August 2008

A Comparative Review of The Midnight Meat Train and Charlotte's Web

I'm guessing this will be the only one.

Yesterday i had one of those rare days where i watch two movies in one day. While i love these days, i don't often get the opportunity to have them as it blocks off a significant portion of waking hours. I also find that the two movies become, in some way, permanently conjoined in my mind and as a recovering English major, i find myself trying to find connections, comparing themes, finding a mutual story in two separate films.

So it was, when i found myself watching the newer take on Charlotte's Web, i was looking back at Ryuhei Kitamura's latest offering, The Midnight Meat Train. I've never seen any of Kitamura's work (though my office mate Allan has suggested him to me on numerous occasions) and had very few expectations going in. Similarly, i somehow missed a fundamental portion of my childhood and have never, to my memory, read or seen Charlotte's Web. I knew it had to do with a spider & a pig (just as i knew Kitamura's film would have to do with a train and a butt-ton of blood)

At first glance these two films probably don't seem to have a lot to do with one another, but that's probably just because not a lot of people see both in close proximity (or see them both, period) to one another. Both films are clearly pro-vegetarian, and present the case thoughtfully and, more interestingly, visually. Shots of sizzling meat are presented as subtle reminders and foreshadowing in both films, but both films resist using the images simplistically. In Charlotte's Web, the family eats a hearty farm breakfast of bacon & eggs each morning, all the while marvelling at the "terrific & radiant" pig across the street. Decreasingly vegetarian photographer Leon Kauffmann (Alias' Bradley Cooper) assumes the 'non-judgemental vegetarian' role, bringing his own tofu to his local diner in Meat Train and having it cooked for him on the same grill as the steaks & burgers being cooked for other patrons. The films present a two-pronged attack on
cannibalismcarnivorism, with Meat Train making a case based on sanitation in the meat-production industry, while Charlotte gives us the cute-fuzzy (& intelligent)-pig argument.

In both films the place of meat production is a horrific focal point for characters to discover/avoid. The smoke house is for Wilbur & Charlotte, a constant reminder of what's at stake, though we never see the inside of it, we know we don't want to. Kitamura brings us into the butcher house where visual echoes of the hanging corpses of Kauffmann's imagination/memory hang in the form of cow carcasses. The place is clearly one of danger, but also profit. Kauffmann photographs his surroundings and lands himself a high-profile art show thanks to one shot in particular, which captures serial killer Mahogany (Vinnie Jones) at work, but turning to catch Kauffmann in the act of snapping the photo.

What is most interesting in The Midnight Meat Train, i think, is the way the film explores the photograph and the camera while following the trail of a fairly familiar (until the last 6 minutes, that is) psycho-thriller. Kitamura is clearly interested in framing (see movie poster) and we often get murder scenes reminiscent of almost anime-styled violence. Roland Barthes' notion of 'posing' for a photograph also gets complicated when characters realize they share a frame with the murderous Mahogany. They pause/pose in front of the murderer, who pauses in kind (presumably to heighten suspense), but both are also 'posing' for the film's camera, as if for a single frame of a comic.

Barthes' idea of 'posing' complicates the documentary or evidentiary idea of the photograph. The poser's awareness of being in a photograph creates a doubling of meaning in the photograph, the actuality of the 'what-has-been' alongside the altering of the moment with the presence of the camera. What has changed because of the presence of the camera? Kauffmann seems to save model Erika Sakaki (Nora) by photographing and pointing out the surveillance camera to would-be assailants, but when she catches her train because of his intervention, we are no longer so sure. Mahogany is clearly an evil psychopath. That's at least clear until we experience the Lovecraftian (or Clive Barkian, if you prefer) final 6 minutes of the film. A shift in perspective makes us question not just who's good & who's evil, but who are we to judge.

Similarly, Charlotte's Web is also a film all about perspective. One the surface, of course, it's about rethinking preconceptions. Charlotte is a spider, and therefore ugly & evil...but she makes such beautiful, prescient webs. Wilbur is a pig, and therefore lesser & tasty, but his ability to bring the barn's occupants together truly makes him "some pig". On closer examination, though, the story is also about the perspective of what is sad (what is tragedy) and what is not. Charlotte dies, at least in part, because she saves Wilbur. But her offspring live. While Wilbur lives a long life, surely it's not as long a life as Dakota Fanning will live, but this, too, can't be read as a tragedy at the end of the story, both because we don't see it in the narrative arc and because Wilbur lives a long life from the perspective of a pig (just as Charlotte likely has from the perspective of a spider).

But this perspective can again be turned on its head by thinking about the one-at-a-timin' principle of heroes. We are led to believe that Wilbur is special, and that Charlotte is special, and that even Templeton is special, but do we extend this to all of their kind? Is the long-life-d-ness of these creatures only a 'good thing' for them, or does the fact that all this effort is expended to rescue 'just one pig' a waste, because, while we don't see it, there's still surely bacon on the family's table across the street. And as to Charlotte, ask a geriatric fly how he feels about the continued existence of every spider. The questions that both Charlotte's Web and The Midnight Meat Train are asking are ones about whether surviving, on an individual basis, is really the ultimate goal. Some pigs have to die, in order to have enough food for all the humans, right? Or, if not, wouldn't all the surviving pigs constitute an undue strain on human food supplies... And what makes us assume that we are the ultimate end of the decision-making. Clive Barker has a possible answer, but i'm not sure you're going to like it...

31 July 2008

oh-oh-oh Laughing By Myse-elf

Reading David Sedaris in a public place is never a very good idea...

This i discovered today, first as i was eating lunch in the cafeteria and later, more conclusively, when i was in the CyberCafe/Lobby area. I'm reading Sedaris' newest book of essays, When you are Engulfed in Flames, and it's good, though not as laughOUTloud funny as his previous offerings. I've been alternating back and forth between it & The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman the last few weeks at lunch. I generally eat alone here at Northwestern Mutual and, having learned my lesson from miron, i place a napkin on my lap before eating & reading...

Today i was eating a salmon cake

*** 6 December 2009 ***

Unfortunately, I don't recall what happened with the salmon cake. I'm sure it was really important and rife with significance, but alas, it's lost to obscurity...

29 July 2008

Happy 50th NASA!

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of Dwight D. (Dwight) Eisenhower's signing NASA into existence, and it's a good thing, too.

I've been a big fan of space since i've had the cognitive ability to be a fan of much of anything... which perhaps hasn't actually been that long. Nonetheless, i love it. Space, the final frontier & all...
Of course Kelly has already commented & blogged & explained the day, but i really think this is something special.

Space and the possibility of space exploration has always been a sort of guilty fascination of mine. I like the fiction of space (Star Trek & Firefly and all the rest), but i also really like the reality of space exploration/travel. I was truly giddy when i heard the report of Richard Branson's new Virgin Galactic space tourism, which won't even possibly be ready till next year, and probably later than that, and it will cost $200,000 so i will never be able to go.

But there i sat, watching an awkward television interview with some fool reporter and the "rebel billionaire" and i was excited, truly excited in that kidd-ish way you don't often experience.

Which is kind of my point here. I really like space in an unsophisticated way. I like to stare up at the stars and learn about what makes them tick & all, (Astronomy was one of my favorite classes in all my time at Luther, and not just because the professor was cute...) but mostly i like space in the sense that i'd like to ride around checking out a host of new planets & solar systems... I want to cruise around boldly going where no one has gone before... i want to be a space explorer.

In fact, the potential of future space exploration (i mean the walking around on artifically grav-plated decks, not the squeezing tang into the air and catching the droplets while floating upside down variety) is one of the main reasons i'm exploring ways to become immortal. Whether it be downloading my consciousness into an android, cryogenically freezing myself for 2500 years, or going the undead route & coming back as a vampire (it's always dark in space, right?) i want to live forever... or at least a really long time... or at least later than now. And the primary reason for this is because i want to cruise around in space.
The Pareto Principle states: “Most businesses know that 80 percent of their revenue comes
from 20 percent of their clientele.”

"Learn and capitalize on people's issues -- whether it be their children, health or career desires." (Wall Street ** Update 14 November 2009 **, I honestly don't know {and am too lazy to look up} whether this is from Wall Street the movie, or if I just hadn't typed "Wall Street Journal" yet, or what...

I have no clue what I wanted to write about here... but i'll leave these two quotes from "business types" to speak for themselves. And see what we might do with them.

28 July 2008

Assume a Position

As part of my “academic review” at the end of last semester, Andrew Kincaid suggested to me that I write up a series of “position papers” that might function as 30 second – 10 minute summations of my areas of interest. The idea being that I needed to be able to define myself and an area of study, particularly with regards to the job market, but more generally as an academic, and so I present the first, perhaps most general of my position papers for your review. This is a sort of never-ending work in progress, so (as always) comments and questions are more than welcome, they’re absolutely fundamental…

*** *** ***

Why study death?

Death is an essential and fundamental part of all of our lives (one Walter Benjamin calls “exemplary”), but it is an aspect of modern life that we avoid talking about or even thinking about if possible. The modern need to overfill one’s life with events & stuff & people (the modern hyper-busy) is the need to distract one’s attention from death. Entire industries, such as life insurance and legacy investment planning create institutional denial of death by recreating a new, modern afterlife, namely the bank account – the trust fund.

The simultaneous wane of absolute religious authority and development of the ‘self’ in the modern era have created a situation where the game of life (& death) has become unwinnable. Previously, an individual who was dying was secure in the comfort of some version of an afterlife, or continuance, either a religious heaven, the promise of reincarnation or a more ecological dispersal of the body. Additionally, before the advent of the modern ‘self’ a dying person could trust in the continuation of the line through children and the tribe, or even the civilization. This isn’t to say that pre-modern man didn’t see any distinction of the self, but that modernity’s (and especially late modernity’s) emphasis on individual destiny and its insistence on splintering society, separating people from one another makes a collective immortality (or at least survival) less appealing.

There was an earlier time when death wasn’t seen this way. It wasn’t a horror in and of itself. It was scary, perhaps, but it was joked with, laughed at, and most importantly considered. I am interested in tracking these changes, both temporally and geographically and understanding first, whether some fundamental change has taken place and if so, what the implications might be.

24 July 2008

Evidently not everyone has brewer fever...

Last night as I was listening to the end of CC Sabathia’s dominant 3-hit shutout in my backyard, a strange voice kept cutting into the broadcast. Bob Uecker was announcing just the 3rd (& final) hit given up by CC when this nameless trucker (I would come to know it was one side of a CB conversation) says “you gotta be really screwed up to have your dad take off […] then yer’ mom to take off you gotta be screwed up.”

This was actually the second or third thing I’d heard the guy say & I’m not sure if he was breaking into just my broadcast or that of the entire AM620 listening audience, but I ran into the house to grab a pad of paper & a pencil. It’s times like those that I wish I’d taken a secretarial shorthand course back in the 60s (or had a Truman Capote-type memory), because I couldn’t keep up with the conversation & missed a lot of it, but what I did catch, I present here, for your…amusement(?).

***Note: Breaks between lines vary from a matter of seconds to as much as a minute. Any lines that are incomplete contain […] to indicate missed dialogue, again ranging from a few words to several sentences.

Trucker: “One day […] we’ll see a shrink”

T: “How many times we can see a shrink, Tom, eh?”

T: “[…] Sorry if I messed up your Christmas […]Heh-heh-heh heh”.
Something unintelligible about “whitewash”

T: “…almost 40 years old and you’re paying for his doctor and all that […] probably hold the door open for her and touch her […] but we’re all paying for it.”

T: “Well, you guys shouldn’t come up here then, you should stay in the south. Nobody gives a crap.”
An MGD commercial runs in what has now become the background.

Bob Uecker: “…Hard fought series here in St. Louis…”
Ryan Braun hits a solo homerun (25) in the top of the 9th.

BU: “Ryan Braun adds a Badger Mutual Insurance Run […] Prince Fielder with a walk, Hit By a Pitch and 2 Strikeouts […] 0-2 pitch…”

T: “Can’t know what any of these _______ are sayin’ right now.”

T: “What he got—let me guess. […] You got who’s hitting your […]”

T: “This guy is taking your money and you’re pissing and moaning about who’s taking your money […] you should be busting his door down if not, put in for new work.”

T: “More ambition than Tommy had in his entire life.”

T: “Yeah, he’s a fudge packer.”
Corey Hart hits into a fielder’s choice and Billy Hall comes up.

BU: “There’s a runner out there for Billy Hall […] 41,415 at St. Louis tonight […] 2-2, had a good cut […] Corey Hart almost got picked off. Corey’s got a couple of hits tonight and a run scored.”
Bill Hall strikes out.

T: “That SOB, it does not work. […] Hey, I’ll give you a perfect example. My son was 16, he’s ________ to work on the farm, worked the extra summer […] Tommy Sehry out there _________ a donkey or a goat. […] kid worked like a bugger today […] work ethic, ________ and health insurance that we are not paying for today.”
Pujols bats.

T: “Tommy got up there, Caballo’s up there. […] Yeah, I’m sorry for ______ you. You are in cahoots with Tommy. Well not cahoots, but whatever you two are in.”

So, that’s the whole of what I jotted down. It provided an interesting counterpart to Uecker & Jim Powell. All in all, it was a good game and a surreal broadcast.

23 July 2008

a theory...

In 1988 Gore Vidal was supporting Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign.

At some point during the election year Vidal made a comment that amounted to something like this (apologies, i don't recall where i heard this and i'm too lazy to look it up... it might be a national press club event, maybe the 16th of March, 1988):

After 8 years of horrific governmental mismanagement, overstepping countless international laws and accepted practices, and borderline insane economic irresponsibility the NEXT 4 years might be quite ugly indeed.

as such... the BEST thing Republicans, who might be reticent to elect an African American as President, might do is to elect an undesirable

** Updated 14 November 2009 **

That is, of course, undesirable to the hypothetical evil conservative... I still sort of stand by this post, more than a year later, but perhaps it's not the case... My sense is that anyone who the corporate hates, things look bad for, anyone who the corporate loves gets a pass (eh?)...

22 July 2008


Last night i went golfing by myself, which is as rewarding an experience as going to movies by myself or sitting in coffee shops by myself. I played Grant Park Golf Course, which is close to (but out of eyeshot of) Lake Michigan on Milwaukee's southSide - after 7pm, they have "sunset" rates, which is $7 for as many of the 18 holes as you can get in. I got through the front nine, just barely (because of a couple larger groups that wouldn't let me play through).

I stepped up to the 9th tee, it was getting darker faster than it should have been due to the cloud cover and there was a light rain (better than the last 2 holes' middling rain) falling. I hit my tee shot once the foursome turned the left dogleg and it felt good. No idea where it went, didn't see it at all, but it felt like a nice shot.

I decided to play a 2nd ball, an orange ball, a "Noodle 2" in fact in case i didn't stumble upon my first ball. It was a line-drive right, into some trees, i saw it bounce, then saw somebody move toward my ball, "Shit!", i thought, "i almost hit that dude", but i quickly realized there wasn't anybody in the woods, rather two deer. I almost hit one of them with my orange ball, though they didn't seem to mind.

I walked in their direction, slowly, pulled my cell phone out of my bag and tried to shoot a few quick photos (nothing doing, it was too dark to get much of a shot). I didn't end up finding that orange ball, but the two deer ran to the middle of the fairway & i followed, figuring i might just skip the 9th, but their path took me over my original ball, the Nike Swoosh looking up at me.
I hit possibly the best 5-iron shot of my life then, just short of the green and looked once more at the deer, who were headed back toward the 9th tee now. I watched them go, then got to my ball, realized all the lights in the clubhouse were out and mine was the only car in the lot & proceeded to chip poorly & three-putt to end my round. Naja, it was worth it, though, and i played an ok round... Not great, but ok.

21 July 2008

2 shots!

I, along with ferry boatloads of other people, saw The Dark Knight over the weekend and was surprised to find my expectations (which were high going in) exceeded by Christopher Nolan's latest film. The film is dark and smart and scary (not in the 'boo' slasher sense, rather in the afraid of yourself because you're laughing at that sense) and funny. The film also rounds out (though likely doesn't finish) one of the oddest series of films ever to be scored by the joel & joel shot system of movie ratings with this latest installment scoring 2 shots & an earlier rendition (Batman & Robin) scoring a record 17 shots.*

By way of warning, this post may contain some minor spoilers...

Because there are clearly better & earlier reviews of The Dark Knight out there, i won't go into too much detail about the film and its high & low points, instead i want to think about its themes & implications. By far, Heath Ledger is the best part of this movie. He's scary & hilarious and while the makeup surely helps (Oscar nod & win is already in the bag for that make-up job, methinks), the Oscar talk for Ledger himself is actually not that far off. But the character of the Joker is much more than he's ever been in earlier film versions, because he wants nothing but chaos. The writing somewhat clumsily equates anarchy & chaos (and terrorism), but what seems to be missing (or contradicted) in a lot of conversations about this theme in the film is that The Dark Knight ultimately comes to a very conservative & statist conclusion. The film sets up an unfair binary (the only variety there is) of the Joker's variety of disordered violence & the institutional order of the police (& the corporation - Wayne Enterprises) as the only two alternatives. Clearly, no sane person would prefer the mob warlords world where everyone's life is constantly threatened by those who are stronger (or have the most guns).

The ferryboat scene offers a possible 'third way', and delivers (afterwards, i couldn't quite decide how i wanted that scene to turn out, i think it would have spoken volumes had any of the possible outcomes happened), but ultimately they are all rescued by the established institutional forces. While you can point out that Batman is a vigilante, on the run from the law (at least officially) during and at the end of the movie, this serves as a fine critique of corporate power & its abuses as well as an illustration of any government's willingness to look the other way when corporations break laws if it helps maintain the established power structure. All in all, The Dark Knight is a strong critique, a good movie, a fun ride, and a useful jumping off point... Go enjoy it.

*To purists who will immediately object, yes, of course i understand there is no connection between earlier Batman movies and these latest two, but just as i will consider J.J. Abram's upcoming Star Trek (which, OMG, i am SO excited for) a part of the franchise, i see these films as perpetually linked

07 July 2008

See, see!

So, with CC Sabathia added to the Brewer's roster and starting tomorrow night (i'll be there, likely getting booted out of the slightly more expensive seats...again), i think it's time to take a look at the sporting world of sportJoel.

** Updated 14 November 2009 **

I'm not sure what I was going to write about, but there is a vast text base from which to work... Email me for a copy* of "Sport Joel" & "Probe-Film", both of which offer up fantastic insight into the early sport-i-ness days of joel.

*Please specify format you'd like the footage delivered in. Pricing will start at the basic "VHS tape - $15.00, DVD - $30.00". These prices are subject to change (after I've figured out how to make the first copy, future copies may get much cheaper...

25 June 2008

some things i'm thinking...

First of all, i've decided today that google is scary. Perhaps not scary in the dark, evil Giant way that Microsoft is scary, but when i logged into gmail today google asked me:

Would you like to...
Add to calendar
dinner""Betsy" and "Je...
Thu Jun 26, 2008

Now this may night seem frightening in and of itself, but all they had to go on was an email i'd written to 'the boys' about playing some golf. A sampling of that email reveals that there doesn't seem to be enough info for a computer to realize i've got something scheduled:

"We will likely be in town Thursday early-ish (i'm thinking around 4-5), but i think we're having "dinner" with "Betsy" and "Jeff", which likely takes thursday off the table (unless somewhere has glowBall golfing or i can sneak out of the commitment)..."

That's all there was, but it was enough for google to ask me if i'd like to pencil betsy and jeff in. What does this mean, you may be asking yourself. Well, it means google is now a sentient being and will soon be taking all of us over... hopefully for the better.


In other news, Turkey just lost the first Euro 2008 semi-final and they played a hell of a match. Outplaying Germany early on, taking an early lead, appearing to come back AGAIN. They had an amazing tournament, man what a fun final that would have been, but UEFA & the German national team had other storylines in mind. Surely there's better coverage elsewhere, but let me be the 3rd to say, bravo Turkey... i'll wear my soccerJacket with pride... when it's not so hot out.


And then some kudos to ABC... for their lineup last night. Wipeout was everything i dreamed it could be. Brooke rightly pointed out that the final round wasn't funny anymore, but adding in a small amount of skill to this 'MonkeyBall but for Real' game was a fair price to pay. Then I Survived a Japanese Gameshow was a bit to drama-y and 'you're-fired-y' for my taste, but still a fairly enjoyable experience. Well done with the cheap summer fill ins. I think they were mostly leftover from when the network was afraid of a neverending Writer's strike, but still... ABC gets a dribbling single that probably should have been an error.