OED word of the day is…

Timely and of interest to me…


({sm}z{rfa}mb{shti}) Also zombi and with capital initial. [Of W. Afr. origin; cf. Kongo nzambi god, zumbi fetish.]

1. In the West Indies and southern states of America, a soulless corpse said to have been revived by witchcraft; formerly, the name of a snake-deity in voodoo cults of or deriving from West Africa and Haiti.

1819 R. SOUTHEY Hist. Brazil III. xxxi. 24 Zombi, the title whereby he [chief of Brazilian natives] was called, is the name for the Deity, in the Angolan tongue… NZambi is the word for Deity. 1872 SCHELE DE VERE Americanisms 138 Zombi, a phantom or a ghost, not unfrequently heard in the Southern States in nurseries and among the servants. 1886 Century Mag. Apr. 815/2 This spiritual influence or potentate is the recognized antagonist and opposite of Obi, the great African manitou or deity, or him whom the Congoes vaguely generalize as Zombi. 1929 W. B. SEABROOK Magic Island II. ii. 94 At this very moment, in the moonlight, there are zombies working on this island. 1943 R. OTTLEY New World 46 Adding the zombies, jumbies, and obeah men to the gallery of voodoo characters. 1966 G. GREENE Comedians iv. 104 Luckily no one dared move on the roads at night; it was the hour when only zombies worked or else the Tontons Macoute. 1979 J. RHYS Smile Please 30 Zombies were black shapeless things. They could get through a locked door and you heard them walking up to your bed. You didn’t see them, you felt their hairy hands round your throat. 1984 Times 26 Jan. 12/6 A zombie, as every schoolboy knows, is a person who has been killed and raised from the dead by sinister voodoo priests called bocors.

Continue reading OED word of the day is…

My Life

by William Jefferson Clinton
performed by Michael Beck

I read this audiobook in two parts, as it was packaged.  The first part covers Clinton’s entire life up to his inauguration.  The second part covers the presidential years.

While the political machinations in the book were interesting, it was mostly the human element that I liked to learn about. Here are two anecdotes that stuck with me from the book: one episode that I thought was HILARIOUS, and one that I thought characterized what had to have been a dire and awful experience.

In Chapter 22, when BC is running to be the first Arkansas governor to lose the election and then win it back the next time around.

Dick Morris did a devastating ad taking [incumbent Governor Frank] White to task for letting utilities have big rate increases while cutting back from four to three the number of monthly prescriptions the elderly could get under Medicaid. The tagline was: “Frank White—Soft on utilities. Tough on the elderly.”

Later, during the Monica shitstorm, Clinton writes about the period just after his grand jury testimony.  I found this to be one of the most moving, enlightening, crushing illustrations of the tensions placed on the President at all times.

The next day we left for Martha’s Vineyard on our annual vacation. Usually I counted the days until we could get away for some family time; this year, though I knew we needed it, I wished that I was working around the clock instead. As we walked out to the South Lawn to get on the helicopter, with Chelsea between Hillary and me and Buddy walking beside me, photographers took pictures that revealed the pain I had caused. When there were no cameras around, my wife and daughter were barely speaking to me.

I spent the first couple of days alternating between begging for forgiveness and planning the strikes on al Qaeda. At night Hillary would go up to bed and I slept on the couch.

As an audiobook, the performance was remarkable.  Michael Beck has an accent similar to Bill Clinton’s, and the timbre of his voice is such that one had to struggle not to forget that the narrator wasn’t Clinton.  This became especially important as the narrator stressed certain words or sentences, often heavily influencing the sense of the passage.  I was also amused to find my old favorite, Scott Brick, giving the disc-end messages and speaking for the publisher at the very end of the book.

Strangely enough, it appears that the entire book has been posted online on a site of Asian origin.  Check it out.

Bikers take to the forest

The woods are better when the people in front of you are wearing chaps.

The woods are better when the people in front of you are wearing chaps.

Battlestar Galactica

I just watched the miniseries that started BG.  Awesome.   Among the things I enjoyed:

  • Using the twist from pk dick’s story “The Third Variety”, the cyborgs can disguise themselves as people.  Only there are TWELVE varieties.
  • Clash between civilian and military government works great.
  • The space battles are very entertaining.
  • The evil scientist who inadvertently killed everyone but still values himself shall be an excellent part of the show.

I am so excited to see the rest that I’ve given it 5-slot-gap priority in my queue.  (as opposed to the 10 or 20 slot gap I give most tv series.  Whoo!

Crooked Little Vein

by Warren Ellis

Surreal and disturbing.  I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I’m not sure what to make of it yet.  Given my interest in detectives and the way the digital age is changing them, it seems very important.

The gist of the book is to take a conventional, hard-boiled detective, and plop him in the middle of the digital age, where he flounders around as internet subcultures and sexual perverts bounce off him.  He’s a warm-hearted, if vicious guy, clearly a descendant of Spider Jerusalem and Richard Fell.

Art Night, Part 1

Art Night 01
Click for full size image

The text of my introduction is posted below the fold.

Continue reading Art Night, Part 1


When I was in college, I had a radio show (Darwin and the Evolution–remind me to tell you that story sometime).  As part of the station’s stable of deejays, I had to play “playlist” songs for 50% of my show each week.  Our playlist was a set of 100 discs that were chosen by the directors of the station, and usually comprised the popular elements of the college radio scene.  One of the bands I played occasionally but never really got into was Fountains of Wayne.

I recently picked up Welcome Interstate Managers and listened to it today on my train ride in to work.  I am amply impressed.  Here are my thoughts, in convenient bullet form:

  • The sugary, pop tone and feel of the songs is disarming and charming to someone who generally likes popular rock.
  • The upbeat feel of the songs draws on nostalgia for pop songs of the fifties
  • The tone of the songs, lyrically, is really dark.  “Bright Future in Sales” brutalizes you, once you ignore its upbeat hilarity.
  • I can’t help but wonder how much of the irony in these songs is lost on their audience.
  • I wonder if Fountains of Wayne would license “Bright Future in Sales” to a business promoting sales training.
  • “I heard you talkin/ to Christopher Walkin/ on your TV screen”
  • I may need to go back and get other FofW albums.

I’m also reminded of Bobby McFerrin’s regular protests that “Don’t Worry Be Happy” is a sad song about Reaganomics.  Bright Future in Sales might be its doppelganger in modern middle-class, post-college America.

Another credit

Aside from my renoun as an internet scholar, compositionist, comics scholar, gameology pedagogue, scouse wit and raconteur, and reporter for the Las Vegas Sun*, I will now be a credited published photographer. My colleague, David Lazar, needed a photo for his book jacket, and I was johnny-on-the-spot with my digital camera. Despite battery problems, we still got this pic, which I altered in the following ways:

  • removed the flash reflection from one of the lenses of his glasses
  • made black-and-white
  • adjusted contrast and brightness
  • gaussian blurred the background for that shallow-focus look

David Lazar

David says I’ll be credited in the book jacket. Ha!

*Note to the literal, these last two are other Brendan Rileys, not me.

A comic in the works

Last thursday, I introduced Art Spiegelman when he spoke as part of Creative Nonfiction Week 2007. I had an excellent time and have several amusing/entertaining/edifying anecdotes to share.

It seems most reasonable to share these as comics, but since that takes a long time, it will be days or weeks before I’ve produced such works. This is just a note to tell you that I will be doing so. Aside from my illustrious Columbia College colleagues, also making appearances in my comics will be Scott McCloud and Chris Ware.
There, your appetite should be appropriately whetted.

The “jack” al

Did you know Jack Black plays the overly-talkative tech wizkid in the Bruce Willis vehicle, The Jackal?

A little Ani for your day


She says “Do I know you?”
I say “Well, no, not biblically.”

He was god’s gift to hypocrasy
with weak knees and a big fat head

“It isn’t her” from Imperfectly


So I finally saw A Streetcar Named Desire.


I hadn’t read the play, and I didn’t have a lot of investment in it one way or the other.  This may sound trite but I was bored.  I generally don’t like films without empathetic characters, and this film had few — the sad, lonely people trapped in their cycles of violence and despair weren’t particularly uplifting for me.  The film also didn’t do much to take ownership of the story from the play.  It was a play with a few more angles.

On the upside, the moments that I’d heard about (“STELLA!” and “I’ve always had to depend on the kindness of strangers”) were both satisfying.  Karl Malden was great.  And I loved the scene where Stanley opens his beer, sitting on the kitchen table, and sprays himself with the beer.

An anecdotal (rather than scholarly) report on MPCA in Kansas City


1. At a panel on video games, having nothing to do with sexual identity issues, the second panelist arrived at his turn to speak.  As he was opting to stand, rather than sit to deliver his presentation, he endeavored to explain.  His explanation, however, was perhaps the strangest I’ve ever heard:

I’ve got so much raging homosexuality that the table can’t contain me.  So I’m going to stand to read my paper.

2. We ate at an awesome diner, the “Town-talk” Hamburger diner.  We tried to decide if their burgers really were the talk of the town, or if that neon sign was the Kansas City equivalent of the “World’s Best Cup of Coffee” in Elf.

3. While not every panel was stellar, I attended no infuriating panels.  This means there were no:

  • outrageously long papers, condoned by wishy-washy moderators
  • obviously unprepared, off-the-cuff presentations
  • time-wastingly obvious presentations
  • teeth nashingly dull presentations

Huzzah.  It’s a rarity to attend a meeting and avoid these common problems.

Pedagogy 2.0?

This idea first came into my head in a conversation at Computers and Writing 2007.  I talked about it a bit in my “Tech/Ped Corner” piece for our department newsletter this semester.

Most of us can easily recognize the analogy between Web 2.0 and classroom practice.  Since Paulo Freire wrote about the banking model in the 1970s, we’ve been moving away from static presentation of information (Web 1.0) and toward a more interactive, student-centered pedagogy (Web 2.0).  I’d like to suggest, though, that we consider how we might expand beyond our current practices toward a Pedagogy 2.0 model.

I offer a couple ideas how this analogy might work, but I’d be interested to see what others have to say about this idea (or have already said?).