Obama’s Race Speech

If you haven’t watched Obama’s Race Speech yet, you should. I had my Introduction to College Writing students watch it for class today and then we talked about it. Now that’s a speech. Here’s my favorite bit:

“For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

“We can do that.

“But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

“That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

“This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

“This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

“This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

“I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.”

Hell yeah.

Edit: The Daily Show’s response:

Wanna try Netflix?

Because I’m such an awesome member of their services, or more likely because they have my email address, Netflix has sent me an email code to let friends or family try Netflix free for a month.  This is twice as long as the usual trial period.  If you’re interested, post here or email me and I’ll forward the code to you.


Panic by Jeff Abbottby Jeff Abbott, read by Adam Sim

A solid thriller.  Abbott’s prose is terse and speedy, fitting for a book that leaps from murder to action scene and back.  Evan, a regular guy caught up in the chaos of spies and his mother’s murder, has to figure out how to be a spy quickly or he’s toast.

Abbott does a pretty good job giving Evan common sense and a frame of mind that fits the horrible situation he finds himself in.   The villain is believable and interesting, though the villain’s son seems a bit narrow.  He didn’t get enough page-time to develop much beyond that, though the scenes with Carrie when they talked about what was going on work pretty well.

As with many spy stories, there were plenty of reversals and surprises, but these become predictable as they happen over and over.


Still enjoying the Wii. A few thoughts, now that I’ve settled into gameplay a bit more:

  • No More Heroes continues to be excellent. I like the mini-games quite a bit, and the mini assassination missions are enjoyable too. I’m now waiting for the third boss battle.
  • I don’t really get the idea of the clothing stuff, though. You can buy a variety of clothing pieces for your avatar, but they’re all pretty much the same. You don’t get to pick the style you want, you just get to pick from the style he already likes. I would like this feature better if you really could change the way he looked: hairstyle, kind of clothes, etc. Nonetheless, I’ve started buying clothes.
  • You can also spend money to work out at the gym. To get your character stronger, you do a number of exercises with the wiimotes which are actually a bit of work.
  • As my ranking gets better at Tennis, I’m getting more and more irritated with the poor control the wiimote has over the racket. I would like to be able to have a much more refined swing–too often my stupid avatar hits the ball in the wrong direction or with too much oomph, something that could have been corrected if the wii noticed direction, speed, AND torque. What really bugs me is that it CAN notice those things, but it doesn’t.
  • The baseball game is also less fun than I woud hope, since you have no control over fielding or base-running.
  • A buddy came over last week and we played all the levels of WiiPlay — the pool game and the tank game are both pretty awesome.
  • Two player Smash Brothers is pretty awesome too.
  • I registered my Wii on the Nintendo website, but am still unsure how to connect with the Nintendo network. Maybe I’ll try that next week.

Rockin’ the weekend

  • 1: Chuck Berry – I didn’t realize how many of his songs were well-known.  Oddly, this week happened to feature an Onion article about CB as well:

    In a shocking revelation that turns a half century of rock-and-roll history on its head, legendary musician Chuck Berry recalled Monday how he got the idea for his iconic song “Johnny B. Goode”—believed for decades to have been written by Berry himself—after listening to a white teenager playing it over the telephone.

  • Chuck Prophet (1 song) – I have no idea where this song, “What Makes the Monkey Dance?,” came from.
  • 2: The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem: Delightful Celtic folk songs.  Alas, many of them are about death.
  • 1: Colin James – Another nexus between my music history and my dad’s.  I first heard this CD, and liked it a lot, at my undergrad campus radio station.  Then, several years later, it turned out my dad had that CD.
  • 2: The Commitments – It’s easy to torment a buddy of mine: all I need to do is suggest that the Committments’ “Let me Light Your Candle” is better than the Black Crowes’ version.  A Black Crowes anecdote, from a different buddy who ended up at one of their concerts:

    My buddy was sitting in the stands at the concert, seated next to a burly man with a big beard and a biker jacket on.  A few minutes into the concert, the man took out a cigarette.  He offered one to my friend, who politely declined.  Throughout the concert, the man offered to my friend a variety of intoxicants, from beer to whiskey to marijuana.  After my buddy turned down the toke, the biker looked at him suspiciously and said, “Do you like women?”
    “Um, yes,” my buddy said, nervously.
    “Okay,” said beardy biker, turning back toward the concert, joint between his lips, “least we got that in common.”

    Also, I first saw The Commitments with, you guessed it, my dad.

  • 1: The Corrs – a celtic band whose CD Jenny purchased.  I like them quite a bit.  The lead singer’s voice is melodious without trite or arrogant.
  • 6: Counting Crows – A staple of my music collection.  Adam Duritz’ voice is both whiny and wonderful.  Alas, no big reflections here, except that the name Maria comes up in an awful lot of their songs.

I can’t believe I’m saying this…

But I will probably see, at some point, Zombie Strippers.

I just watched the trailer and it had two lines that seemed amusing enough to put it on my radar, and it clearly has a sense of humor about itself that high-grade B movies must have.  Plus, Robert Englund.  The two lines:

“What’s the problem?”
“Believe it or not, zombies.”


“What about the girls?  The strippers?”
“They’re zombies.
“They’re zombie strippers.”


Oedipus, zombies, and love

Return of the Living Dead 3

Return of the Living Dead 3 is thus far the most thoughtful of the ROTLD series–admission: I haven’t seen 4 or 5. In this one, the “hapless doofuses chased by zombies” plot is replaced by a character struggle, a young man, desperate to save the woman he loves from death, reanimates her with the zombie gas and unleashes all kinds of trouble. A few readings:

  • The film engages a little oedipus. Curt, a young man chafing under his father’s iron thumb, defies dad in favor of his lusty girlfriend. The dad, exasperated, shouts “You never acted this way when your mother was alive.” After the girl dies in a motorcycle accident, Curt goes through all manner of trouble to keep her alive.  He clings to her with abandon, keeping her “alive” at all costs so she won’t “abandon” him.    His wishy-washy behavior with her in the early scenes clearly suggests that she has taken a mothering role for him, pushing him this way and that.
  • The film also blends pain, sex, and hunger together, as clearly visible in the image above.  Julie has discovered that pain helps quench her hunger for human flesh, so she keeps piercing and cutting herself in order to stave off eating her boyfriend.  The piercing continues the trend she started in life, as she already had piercings galore, and the chains draped around her body already recalled bondage imagery that gets augmented when she dies.  When she runs into a creepy ne’er-do-well (the mustachioed white guy from Desperado), he describes her as “kinky” and thinks her come-on is sexual, rather than cannibalistic.
  • The film also mixes a healthy dose of military stupidity: why do the military guys always muck around with this stuff?   And why do they do so with such glaring incompetence?  I was particularly angry that Curt was allowed to walk around unescorted at the base.  Apparently, he faces no punishment at all for what he did. And then he releases Julie and starts another zombie holocaust.  Sigh.
  • One of the more interesting perspectives of the film is its focus on the narcissism of young lovers.  Curt shows NO remorse at the vast swath of death he has caused by bringing Julie back to life.  A quick tally:
    • 1 The guard in the installation is killed by the zombie Curt lets out.
    • 2 The shop keeper is killed by the video-game toughs after a fight escalates from Julie’s hungry behavior.
    • 3 The shop keeper then kills a policeman after Julie feasts on his corpse.
    • 7 When the toughs come back, looking for trouble, Julie kills all of them
    • 8 Then she kills “Riverman,” the homeless man who helps them out

    This in itself is terrible, but not entirely Curt’s fault, since he didn’t know how the Trioxin worked.  But then, when he discovers that the military is planning to turn zombie-Julie into a fighting machine, he lets her out and ten more people die, give or take.  Even Curt gets bitten and has to suicide himself.  The only time he shows remorse is when Julie tries to eat him, and then it’s more like he regrets turning Julie into a zombie, not all the death that has followed in their wake.

  • Finally, the film reminded me a bit of Zombie Honeymoon, as the basic premise is the same after Curt and Julie have escaped: a couple, one of whom is descending into zombie-hood, are trying to cope with it.  In this regard, though, Zombie Honeymoon is much better.  The non-zombie partner is much more horrified and reticent about the whole situation, and the film isn’t cluttered with military goofiness.

On Attendance

Bling My Grade by DavidDMuhr

The Columbia Chronicle had a commentary about the attendance policy on campus.  In part, they say:

Missing class is detrimental to a student’s understanding of course material, his grades on any quizzes or due assignments and their overall course performance. In effect, missing class is its own punishment and shouldn’t be augmented by the threat of automatic grade reduction and failure.

Undergraduates (especially paying undergraduates) deserve to be responsible for their own education. Missing class is unwise, but it’s not a choice for teachers and administrators to make.

My response, posted here in case it doesn’t get published:

I am writing in response to the April 21st editorial, “Bueller? Bueller?” The article suggests that attendance policies at Columbia are often confusing for students, and goes on to argue that there should not be attendance policies at all. I agree with the first premise and strongly disagree with the second.

Confusing attendance policies are a significant problem. The Faculty Handbook requires that instructors communicate their policies with students: “Attendance and punctuality standards must be made clear and included in every course syllabus that is distributed to your students at the beginning of each term.” Any student unclear about their course’s attendance policy should take up the issue with their instructor as soon as possible.

However, the article also erroneously suggested that attendance policies are unusual in college. A search of other college websites for class syllabi will show that attendance is almost always required. Like Columbia, most schools don’t have universal policies because attendance plays a different role in each course, and thus a college-wide rule would be counter-productive.

But teachers don’t require attendance out of habit. Most of us design our courses so that students do intellectual work during class meetings. We hold conversations, orchestrate group work, give lectures, and focus on collaborative production. Students who miss these meetings are not participating nor performing at the same level as those who attend. Attendance policies reflect that difference, and thus vary by course just as teaching styles do.

Grades serve to explain how well students meet learning objectives. When in-class work is essential to the course, a clear attendance policy is not only appropriate, it’s essential. Like requirements that students do homework or projects, attendance policies explain how students can meet these objectives. And like all coursework, students retain the right (and responsibility) to participate or not.

Bimbos of the Death Sun

An amusing mystery novel from the late 1980s that takes place at a con, with all the nutty characters one might expect.  It’s a fish-out-of-water detective story, with the engineer-turned-hard-sf writer who gets dragged to a con by his English prof girlfriend.  And a murder happens at the con, in full Murder, She Wrote style, with a single character gathering enemies scene by scene, thus leaving plenty of meaty suspects for the mystery to explore.

What struck me most about this book is its love/hate relationship with cons.  The author and tone of the book oscillates between affectionate description of the “fen” and their weird ways, and mocking them for their weirdness.  Unlike The Codex, where the nerds are another culture, in this book the author seems immersed and aloof simultaneously.

In that way it reminds me of my days as a nerd bowl enthusiast.  As someone with moderate social skills and lucky enough to be in a fairly large clique in high school, I went to nerd bowl tournaments but held many of my colleagues there in disdain.  I distinctly remember feeling superior to a group of people from another team because they were playing, and singing along with, They Might Be Giants’ Flood.  Of course, I could have matched any of them lyric-for-lyric, but I had the good taste not to make public my knowledge of the New York nerd-music duo.   But I still went to the tournaments, and palled around with my opponents there.  I’m sure my classmates scoffed just as much at me from their keggers and bongs.  Ahh, youth.

I am also amused by this book’s tech savvy descriptions of hardware and software.  What was cool and l33t then is hilariously passe now.  Like in Hackers when “Zero Cool” exclaimed “Nice! A 28.8 baud modem!”

Knocked Up

I heard a lot of good things about this movie and have to admit I’m a bit disappointed. Here are my theories:

  • We saw the unrated version. As with The 40-Year Old Virgin, the extra swearing and grossouts were not funnier, and actually detracted from the movie. Thus, it was less funny than the theater version.
  • Not enough Harold Ramis.
  • Not enough of that guy with the beard.
  • I don’t think drug jokes are funny.

I did like the tender hearted stuff, and the complex love/hate relationship between Audrey(?)’s sister and her husband was pretty interesting, as a crafted object. Seth Rogan’s character was a lot less likable than I thought he would be. I expected Mitch from old school, and got the Tank instead.

Weekend media roundup

I finished and/or read a number of books in the last few days. Here’s a roundup:

The Interpretation of Murder
Interpretation of Murderby Jed Rubenfeld; narrated by Kirby Heyborne

I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. Rubenfeld mixes a significant amount of historical writing (almost like Erik Laarsen would write) in with his description of the murder and the psychologists involved. He also oscillates the narration quite a bit, shifting from third-person to first and back, without much clear distinction or reason for doing so.

I particularly liked his description of the Cason used to create the foundations at the base of the Manhatten bridge. I’d seen about that on the Discovery channel, but it was cool to hear about again.

The book tells the fictional story of Freud’s involvement with the murder of a wealthy young woman in one of New York’s most elite apartment buildings. A second woman, attacked but not killed, loses her voice and is unable to remember the attack. In come the psychoanalysts to help her overcome her amnesias.

Heyborne did a good job too. His voices, particularly those for the coroner and the millionaire, were solid.

Foundation and Empire
Second Foundationby Isaac Asimov

I read the Foundation Trilogy a long time ago, but recently re-read Foundation. I just had a hankerin’ to read the next section this week.

It isn’t as good as Foundation. I liked the first book’s insistence on using several parts to tell the story of the foundation over a long time. By contrast, Foundation and Empire focuses mostly on one period, the fall of the first foundation at the hands of The Mule.

Foundation‘s most interesting bit is its exploration of the various means for cultures to interact and react to one another. The small colony wins through detente, then through religious manipulation, and finally through free trade. In the second book, the colony faces a man–The Mule– who seemingly conquers with no effort at all, his enemies falling to his forces with virtually no fight. The more limited scope reduces the number of cultural templates Asimov can explore.

The bureaucracy of the Foundation has become complacent and magisterial, so confident in its own divine right (via Harry Selden) that it is unable to recognize the threat to its security until it’s too late. After all, Harry helps those who help themselves.

Chronicles, Volume 1
Chronicles, Vol 1by Bob Dylan; narrated by Sean Penn

Fascinating. Dylan has a poetic writing style, with an acute eye for detail (often describing passing moments from 20 years ago with striking intricacy). He uses lots of metaphors, describing how songs attacked him, shaped him, spoke to him. His discussion of other musicians makes similar moves.

The structure of the book is a bit strange, and for a while I thought I’d gotten one of the discs out of order. The disc marked “5” on my iPod would have fit much more appropriately as disc 2. At least, that was my impression at the beginning of disc 5. As it concluded, though, it was clearly wrapping up the book, ending at the beginning so to speak.

Two observations that came out of this book for me:

  1. I already knew my dad was a folky. His preferred playing style with finger-picking, but he played a wide range of celtic and standard folk songs. He liked “Wabash Cannonball” enough to write his own verses to make it longer. But the extent of his interest (and expertise?) in the genre didn’t become clear to me until I listened to this book. At several points, Dylan mentions people who influenced him, people he was listening to or playing with. I found that I had a lot of those people on CD, all of them in the collection I had inherited from Pop. A couple I can remember right now: Jack Elliot, John Koerner, Leadbelly. Judging by the amount I like those artists, it makes me want to get hold of two others that Dylan talks about in glowing ways (no laughing that I don’t have these already): Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson.
  2. Dylan’s concern for his family that drove some of his strange musical choices in his middle career was surprising and endearing. It’s heartwarming to think of him as a family man.
  3. Dylan expresses a love for Denzel Washington at one point, commenting that the actor had played both the Mighty Quinn and Hurricane Carter, both of whom Dylan had written songs about. Dylan suggests that he didn’t know whether Washington had any interest in playing Woody Guthrie, but that Dylan would welcome the actor to do so.

Penn does a great job with the narration, bringing a growly character to the reading that fits Dylan’s style well, if not his voice precisely.

Band of Brothers, disc 5

Band of BrothersI finally finished the Spielberg/Hanks war epic Band of Brothers. My absolute favorite aspect of this story is that it could build such a relationship with the characters that the narrative was able to sustain a war movie in which the final two episodes did not have a single battle scene.

Episode 9: Why We Fight
I suppose I should have seen this episode coming, but I didn’t. The soldiers come upon a concentration camp. Such scenes are always going to be moving, but this sequence, coming as a surprise to the soldiers as well as to the viewer, stunned me to the core. The title for the episode come from a pamphlet one of the soldiers is reading, which explains that the Germans are “very bad.” The soldiers make light early on but the idea returns later.

One of the more effective bits of this episode is the way it shows how unexpected this was for the everyday soldier. I understand that stories of these camps had been circulating for a while, but the soldiers on the ground didn’t always know what was coming.

I am also intrigued by the ambiguity of character in the two sequences between Captain Nixon (Ron Livingston) and the haughty lady whose husband is an officer in the army. In the first, she finds Nixon rummaging through her living room, looking for alcohol. He has thrown a framed portrait of her officer-husband on the floor and shattered the glass. She watches him with disdain and he walks out without comment. In the second, Nixon sees her (seeks her out?) among the townspeople who have been forced to help bury the bodies at the camp. Their eyes meet again and she has lost her haughtiness, but it’s unclear what’s going on in Nixon’s eyes. I’d be interesting to see what folks think about this scene, if you’ve seen it.

City of Glass
City of Glassby Paul Auster

I re-read this book this weekend to prepare for my Mystery book club (which meets at the incomparable Centuries and Sleuths bookstore), which was discussing it at my recommendation. I was a bit worried, because the group tends to read mostly procedurals or other more straightforward mysteries, and this book was far different from those. My first question to the group was “Is this a mystery? Or, is this appropriate for this group to have read?”

The group really enjoyed it, for the most part. A few folks said they didn’t like it, though. One woman said she only read about 20 pages and then stopped:

It starts out and the main character is fractured! He’s lost his family, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s hollow. It can only go downhill from there.

Some people didn’t like the book’s story, but they appreciated Auster’s writing or the depth of ideas at work in the book. We didn’t talk about the commentary on the mystery genre that interests me so much about the book, but that’s okay. Anyhow, my first recommendation to the group was a success. It also re-motivated me to dig back into Don Quixote.

Keeping Mum

A delightful little black comedy starring Maggie Smith, Kristen Scott Thomas, and Rowan Atkinson.  I love RA.  Any movie with him in it is better.  A few comments:

  • The movie was light-heartedly dark in a way I didn’t expect.
  • Pat Swayze plays a total jerko in this one.  Much like his character from Donnie Darko.
  • Those little British hamlets are seething hotbeds of violence and corruption.  c.f. Midsommer Murders or Hot Fuzz.
  • Maggie Smith has been one of my favorites since she played Rose’s withered and withering mother in Titanic.  And of course, McGonnegal in HP.

Worth a look if you like dark comedies, British mysteries, old-lady murderers, and Rowan Atkinson.

The Codex

The Codex by Lev GrossmanBy Lev Grossman

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It’s got a bit of nerd, a bit of mystery, a bit of bibliophilia. The plot has to do with a man searching for an ancient book that may or may not have existed, and a computer game that may or may not be involved. There are a few key amusing moments that I record here for the edification of you, my loyal readers, and myself. Mostly the latter.

The book will be interesting to keep around anyhow, but the English major turned investment broker is particularly amusing as he considers the stacks of dusty books he’s sorting through:

In a way it was idiotic.  He was treating these books like they were holy relics.  I twasn’t like he would ever actually read them.  But there was something magnetic about them, something that compelled respect, even the silly ones, like the Enlightenment treatise about how lightning was caused by bees.  They were information, data, but not in the form he was used to dealing with it.  They were non-digital, nonelectrical chunks of memory, not stamped out of silicon bu laboriously crafted out of wood pulp and ink, leather and glue.  Somebody had cared enough to write these things; somebody else had cared enough to buy them, possibly even read them, at the very least keep them safe for 150 years, sometimes longer, when they could have vanished at the touch of a spark. That made them worth something, didn’t it, just by itself?  Though most of them would have bored him rigid the second he cracked them open, which there wasn’t much chance of.  Maybe that was what he found so appealing: the sight of so many books that he’d never have to read, so much work he’d never have to do.  When was the last time he’d actually finished a book.  A real, non-detective book? (57-8)

I like this passage for its discussion of information retention, its pondering of the effervescence of knowledge, and its implication that detective books aren’t real books.

One of the subplots of the book is an Open Source game called MOMUS whose content is created and distributed via the OS model, so the game is pretty darn big.  Edward, the protagonist of the novel, starts playing the game despite his reluctance, and at one point is brought to a LAN party by his friend who walks the line between normal geeks and hardcore geeks.  A few passages from that sequence:

“What beer did you bring?”
Edward lifted a sweating six-pack of Negra Modelo out of a brown paper bag on the floor.  Zeph shrugged.
“It’ll have to do.”  He folded his massive forearms and looked out the window.  “These guys are real snobs about beer.  They microbrew.” (125)

“I should warn you about something,” Zeph said.  “You have to watch yourself around these guys. They’ve got a very strict social code, and they don’t like outsiders.  And you’re an outsider.  You think they’re losers, but what you don’t understand is, they think we’re the losers.  They tolerate me because I speak their language, and I understand math and computers–actually, they don’t think I’m a loser.  Just you.” (126)

“Dude, I feel like you’re leading me right into the heart of dorkness.” (128)

As they walked past one of the cubicles, a skinny young man with a straggly red beard handed them each a bottle of beer, already opened, a can of Mountain Dew: Code Red, also open, and a bottle of water.
“These beverages will provide your body with all the caffeine, sugar, and alcohol it needs to stay healthy and alert,” he intoned.

Aside from the sparks of recognition I feel when I read this chapter, I am also interesting in the anthropological aspect of it.  The main character needs an epiphany, and it would be the height of cheese for him to do peyote in the desert, so he gets sucked into a mesmerizing game instead.

I also like this book because it parallels, in less artsy form, City of Glass, with its non-detective who, during one of life’s caesurae, takes up a detective case and finds it mucking around with his worldview.  The narrative style doesn’t get as wonky in The Codex as in City of Glass, but there are parallels.

Enjoying the appalling

  • 1: Carbon Leaf – I like Carbon Leaf a lot, at least this album. They have a song called “The Boxer” about two people who’re always fighting with one another. They’re married, and they “know just when to strike.” It’s sad but a lovely song.
  • 1: Carlos Santana – Meh. Another bit of my dad’s old collection, but one I’m not particularly fond of. Good guitar playin’ though, I guess.
  • 2: Catch 22 – A ska band that I found through Pandora. I like them quite a bit, though their more recent album moves away from the horn-based rock that I enjoy. I’ve noticed Less Than Jake is doing this too. Are horns passe? Also, I wonder how bad this band would have to be before I disliked them, since Catch-22 is one of my favorite novels. Note to self: read Catch-22 again.
  • Chad Kroeger (1 song) – Jenny worked at a radio station for a while when we lived in Florida, and she would regularly bring home prize loot. This CD was the single for “Hero,” a popular single from the first Spider-man. Through this connection I also got, in order of least interest to most: Afroman’s “Until I Got High,” Dave Matthews’ Busted Stuff, U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind, David Gray’s White Ladder, Better Than Ezra’s Closer, and Five for Fighting’s Americatown.
  • “Cher” (1 song) – see below
  • 1: Cherry Poppin’ Daddies – I’m always a bit scandalized by this band’s name. It doesn’t fit, for me, with the suave cool usually cultivated by the hep cats in the swing music crowd. It’s almost like these fellas wanted to be badass rappers, but they only knew how to play trombone so they started a swing band instead. The music’s good, though.
  • 4: The Chieftans – I love the chieftans. I know this comes from the same part of my personality that leads me to enjoy Murder, She Wrote and to see far more commercials for adult diapers than most 30 year olds are likely to enocounter in their own television demographics.
  • 1: Chris Cornell – I’ve always enjoyed CC, particularly his voice. That’s what I like about Audioslave and Sound Garde, and this album is just him! I really like his slow, pained cover of “Billie Jean.” Check out a bit of it:

    Clip of “Billie Jean” by Chris Cornell

  • 1: Christopher Hogwood – This is a classical music CD. A concerto or something. I use this kind of music when I’m writing. Word music gets in the way.

The most interesting bit of my music listening this time around emerges because of my crow-like nature (I pick up anything that’s shiny). This time, I picked up a discarded CD. Unlike MOST discarded CDs I find on the street, this one was legible to the computer and contained one track, Cher’s “The Star Spangled Banner.” Game for anything and always fond of free music, I loaded it up and played it this week. What I found was a heavy metal song that didn’t sound much like the androgynous crooner from “I Got You Babe.” A quick lyrics-Google later and I find that I actually have a copy of Nickelback’s “Flat on the Floor,” which I like quite a bit. But I am fascinated by this in a couple ways:

  1. Why would someone burn a CD with just one track on it and use the wrong ID3 labels on the song? My mind churns with possibilities ranging from odd pranks — “Hey, you like Cher, right?” Then, when the Cher fan grimaces at Nickelback’s churning guitars, “Haw! Haw! Nickelbacked!” — to music panspermia, in which one burns songs with the wrong ID3 labels and leaves them laying around to get unsuspecting folks to listen to new music.
  2. Research. What does it mean to mislabel? I’m inclined to think about Flat on the Floor as a Cher song. How might Cher cover it? What does Nickelback have to do with Cher. Like the namesakes series, juxtaposition becomes a rhetorical move. Perhaps the CD author imagined Cher and Nickelback to be polar opposites, but I bet there are folks who have both in their collections — particularly if they’re top 40 buffs, as both Cher and Nickelback have had hits in the last decade. At conferences, could I sucker folks into my talk with a title suggesting the Daily Show and then dispense with that topic in the first minute? Could I write a book nitpicking Deleuze’s Fold but wrapped up in a dust jacket with Homer Simpson on it? Would it sell?

The Civil War

I haven’t seen any Ken Burns documentaries, but I always hear about how great they are. I decided to check out The Civil War and am enjoying it quite a bit. So far, the most interesting bit is the guy who lived on a farm near Manasas. When the war neared his house, he moved his family away from the battle into, get this, the Appomattox Courthouse where a couple years later the surrender documents were signed. He’s supposed to have said:

The war started in my backyard and ended in my parlour.

I also enjoyed the voices throughout the show. I spent the whole time trying to figure out who the main narrator was, especially since the voice seemed familiar. Turns out it was David McCullough, who wrote 1776. I listened to his audiobook of it! I also recognized Morgan Freeman, Sam Waterston, Jeffrey Irons, Garrison Keillor, and Jason Robards.