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Cud For You

Whenever I'm feeling short on interesting, intellectual material, I know that a visit to Arts & Letters Daily will clear it right up. The fruits of my last visit:

Why don't Americans vote their own self-interest? They vote their aspirations instead:

"The most telling polling result from the 2000 election was from a Time magazine survey that asked people if they are in the top 1 percent of earners. Nineteen percent of Americans say they are in the richest 1 percent and a further 20 percent expect to be someday. So right away you have 39 percent of Americans who thought that when Mr. Gore savaged a plan that favored the top 1 percent, he was taking a direct shot at them.

It's not hard to see why they think this way. Americans live in a culture of abundance. They have always had a sense that great opportunities lie just over the horizon, in the next valley, with the next job or the next big thing. None of us is really poor; we're just pre-rich."
If you're going to be an enthusiastic defender of capitalism, at least maintain your sense of humor. Hernando de Soto has:
"Marx and Engels, Mr de Soto's pet dogs, were so named because 'they are German, hairy and have no respect for property.'"
Everyone knows David Mamet is a genius of a playwright but his essays are not to be overlooked. Take for example this one, a very personal reflection on his recent visit to Israel:
"To me, a Diaspora Jew, the question is constant, insistent and poignant while in Israel. At this meal it is more than poignant, it is painful. How, I wonder, can I not be here; and how is it possible that I did not come here in my youth, and 'grow up with the country,' instead of wasting my time in show business? I am full of grief, as at a middle-aged meeting with the girl I did not marry.

Now, this blunt trauma of nostalgia is a dead giveaway, signaling not an inability to relive the past, but to face the present. The present, to me, consists in this: that I am an aging Diaspora Jew on a junket, and that my cheap feelings of personal loss could better be expressed as respect and homage.
[...]
Jerusalem has been notorious, since antiquity, for inculcating in the visitor a sense not only of the immediacy but of the solubility of the large questions. I recommend it."
Finally, intellectual life is missing in action on campus:
"One suspect is a prevalent 'work hard, play hard' mentality that leads to 'a strict dichotomy between structured, résumé-building extracurricular activities and activities that provide a mindless release.'

'America is not a deeply intellectual culture,' says Anthony Grafton, a history professor at Princeton. '[Intellectualism] is a countercultural value, not one that most people embrace. It's not what life in the suburbs is about, and most of our wonderfully bright students come from a well-off suburb.'"

February 28, 2003

Serious Burns

I'm about four hours into Jazz, the nineteen-hour Ken Burns documentary attempting to comprehensively cover the origin and history of jazz. I approached it with mixed feelings but I don't think I will be disappointed. To attempt something of this magnitude is brave, difficult and certainly important, but I hope that it will also do the subject justice, as far as it is possible in this constrained form.

My only complaint thus far is that at times it seems more like "Wynton Marsalis Informs Us About Jazz" than anything else. I'm not sure exactly what it is that bothers me about him. Don't get me wrong, he is a terrific technical player, an eloquent speaker and a great advocate and educator, but the way he always speaks so authoritatively on every topic within jazz exudes a certain arrogance. It's almost as if he feels that he has mastered jazz and therefore can define it for the world however he likes. I admit that this feeling is the sum of rumors, secondhand stories and vague impressions but still, I am finding more evidence to prove than disprove.

February 26, 2003

Cleanin' out my inbox

I am bad at responding to email. Ask any one of my friends or member of my family. Anything that requires any amount of thought or emotion (more than a sentence) is destined to be pushed back or tucked away until it accumulates such a shameful amount of dust and decay that I am forced to either deem a response unnecessary and delete it or sit down for a marathon email session to "catch up." Like any good habit, It also encourages the same bad behavior over and over. When you haven't talked to someone in a long time, you need to say a lot in order to meet the quota for news, humor and questions for the time that has passed. Not to be outdone, the receiver of this massive work has no choice but to respond with an equally substantial (or perhaps greater) email, and so on, until electronic documents equivalent to The History of Western Philosophy are being exchanged and/or one party is driven to pursue a life free of the burdens of technology in Montana.

Yesterday was one of those endurance email sessions for me and I can honestly say that at the time of this post and for the first time in years, my inbox is at zero messages. I could make some empty promises about trying to break the habit and improve my response time but I know that the busyness of life will get to me again and the emails will start piling up. Even by morning I might have a few big responses that will sit for an unnecessary amount of time while I find the time and words to respond but that will take nothing from the memory of this moment.

To all recipients of my email: I am sorry to coldly objectify our correspondance like this. I really do love you all and your words are important to me. Just be patient.

February 24, 2003 | Comments (1)

Who Cares?

When did the Grammys lose all their significance? It's difficult to pin down the exact moment but I think it was when Nelly received his first nomination. By now, they are an absolute joke, a horrible misrepresentation of the music industry, especially for us hip hop fans. Don't be mistaken: good "R&B" and hip hop does exist, it's just rarely recognized. The nominations read like the Billboard charts with only a few token exceptions, artists chosen to represent the "underground" with no hope of winning. The worst part is that it seems to be getting better and not worse. A couple of years ago the Roots brought home a couple of awards for "You Got Me." This year Ashanti and Nelly each receive five nominations.

And as for the other genres, what happened to working hard to establish yourself in the industry before getting a nod? Hey, I like Norah Jones's album too but it's just a good first effort. She has to grow and develop a bit more before she goes home with an armful of awards. It's glaringly obvious that they're trying to involve fresh faces to boost their popularity/ratings but they're probably harming more than helping. If your first album, greatly shaped by the record label in all likelihood, receives four Grammys then guess what your next album is going to sound like? Either a) exactly like the last, and/or b) whatever the record execs say it will.

This whole thing wouldn't be worth getting upset over except that this isn't the AMAs or the People's Choice Awards, it's the Grammys, supposedly the most respected award in music. Do these people feel no sense of responsibility to the art? Is it just a group of (white) network and label executives negotiating a way to make the most money?

Come on Grammys, throw me a bone. Give an award to Com and Erykah, just to keep me interested. If not, I'm not sure this thing between us is going to work out.

February 23, 2003 | Comments (1)

Maybe, maybe not

After days of drawn out anticipation, Dinka and I went to the doctor's office for the baby's first ultrasound only to find out that....it might be a girl. If the technician had to talk percentages, she would probably have put the chances somewhere around 60 or 65 percent. This isn't a remarkable bit more than the 50 percent chance of a coin toss being correct but hey, we'll take it. If I were to be so bold as to venture a guess based on my intuition, I would guess that it is a girl, although I have no history of success in such matters and I'm not sure that I've ever consulted said intuition for any predictions before. In any case, our next ultrasound isn't for another four weeks (a long stretch for anxious parents-to-be) so until then, we'll work under the assumption that we're dealing with a girl here.

Other vital statistics updated this afternoon: foot: 2 cm; weight: .25 kg; due date: July 25. And most importantly, the baby is healthy, growing and kicking away in there.

I wish I didn't have to say it but I do. You feel that kickin'? She's gonna be a soccer player. She is. SHE IS.

February 21, 2003

Mantan?

Ok, we all know Spike was on point with Bamboozled but who would've thought that he was such a scary soothsayer? I can't believe my eyes.

[via All About George]

February 18, 2003

Opto arcade

Doctor's offices can be the best and worst places in the world but aren't often in between, at least not on the good side. The exception to this rule for me is the optometrist, who consistently comes through with an enjoyable appointment. Perhaps my view is tainted because I've always received pretty good news from him, but you have to admit, there's something fun about the whole process. Every test is performance-based, making it kind of an arcade for your eyes. If you see a blip in your periphery, push this button. Read this line. What's better, 1 or 2? 3 or 4? And to top it all off, I always feel like I'm passing these tests with flying colors because after everything I do, they say, "Good" or "That's excellent." Even if they are lying to me, I feel like a success when I leave that office and that's what I want out of my doctor. Well, that and competent analysis and treatment.

February 17, 2003

Good Stuff A-Comin'

A few more good things for Friday:

February 14, 2003 | Comments (2)

The first step is acceptance

Earlier this week, I came to the conclusion that I have a problem and its name is Playstation 2 (Madden 2003, to be specific). The football season had long past and I was still obsessed with the game, to the point where it was dominating my nights and weekends. I realized that I would like to diversify my portfolio of free time with activities like reading Habermas, listening to Bud Powell, watching every movie Marlon Brando ever made and crafting things from wood with my hands. Like any good junkie worth his salt, I decided that the best way to do this was to quit cold turkey. And so on Tuesday night, I won the Super Bowl with my second fantasy franchise and hung up the controller for good (well, at least for a bit).

My hope is that this will restore in me a certain amount of vitality and vigor. I picture it like this memorable scene from The Cable Guy, when Steven (Matthew Broderick) is watching a Tony Robbins infomercial for the Personal Power Success System and considering picking up the phone:

Success Story Guy: I'm more patient, I'm more loving...
Tony Robbins: (interrupting) They tell me this.
Both: (laughter)
So we'll see how it goes. I think the change should be immediate and obvious.

February 14, 2003

Fight Club

From The Onion AV Club's Who Could You Take in a Fight? [via The Morning News]:

Stand-up comedian Dave Chappelle can currently be seen on Comedy Central's The Chappelle Show.

The Onion: Who could you take in a fight?
Dave Chappelle: I could beat the [crap] out of pretty much anybody under the age of 11.

Actor Warwick Davis starred in Willow and currently runs a booking agency for short actors.

The Onion: Who could you take in a fight?
Warwick Davis: Mini-Me.
O: The character or the actor? Or both?
WD: I'll say the character, because Verne [Troyer]'s a good bloke. I wouldn't want to fight him. He'll get the wrong impression. So I'll just say the character.
And you thought you'd never hear the name Warwick Davis again (the official Warwick Davis website: "Designed and maintained by the actor himself"). Go 'head Warwick.

February 13, 2003 | Comments (1)

It's Not that I don't like the guy...

Just in case you're in need of some more anti-Bush, anti-war sentiment, I'm here to provide it:

I own a print of Guernica that hasn't been put up in the new place and since I read that article, I am eagerly trying to find some wallspace for it. Dinka thinks it's better to have mobiles and Winnie the Pooh in the baby's room than to expose it to the cruel reality of war by making it stare at Guernica from the crib. She may be right, what do you think?

February 11, 2003

The Oatmeal Experiment

This morning, for the first time in probably fifteen years, I had oatmeal for breakfast. Although I grew up in a northern climate and as a result can appreciate a nice, heavy comfort food, oatmeal and I just didn't hit it off: too mushy and plain. I decided to have another go at it after reading Dean's inspired instructions [via Brilliant Corners].

While the recipe was good and I was pleasantly surprised with both the taste and texture, I think it is a heartier dish than I can bear in the morning. I ate merely half of what the recipe called for and I was stuffed, which does not foster the activity necessary for mornings. Perhaps I will have to confine my oatmeal consumption to lazy weekend mornings and breakfasts before ice fishing.

February 08, 2003

Finally

Well folks, he's finally here. Or, more appropriately, I finally sat down and churned out the first photo album. Clearly, I could have exercised more discretion in selecting the photos but I'm a proud parent so just be happy I got it down to 34.

I hope you all enjoy it.

February 04, 2003

2 Outta 3 Ain't Bad

I was completely prepared to post about how "we" had now entered the second trimester without much ceremony but with an increasing number of hours per day without nausea and its compadres. But just as I was about to uncork the champagne, that ugly beast has reared its head for what we hope will be its last stand. Before this latest relapse, things had been good. Dinka has had more energy for raising the puppy, which we can only hope will foster positive child-rearing technique.

Speaking of that lovable rascal, I have issued a freeze on pictures to be added to this album so it should be coming your way any day now. If only this "real world" nonsense didn't require a full-time job...

February 04, 2003