June 29, 2005

The only way to win is not to play

Filed under: Blogs Themselves — tomemos @ 2:00 am

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

I also could have chosen the one that says “Free Cameron.” Who the hell is Cameron? Google provides no help here.


June 18, 2005

America can’t say no

Filed under: Funny Stuff, The Old Dirty War — tomemos @ 6:47 pm

Which is more amazing: that Rush Limbaugh’s website is selling shirts that say, “What Happens in Gitmo, Stays in Gitmo”

…or that they’re available in XXXL and XXXXL?

Did you even know that they made quadruple-XL? That’s insane. Do they just make that so that Limbaugh himself can wear them?

June 17, 2005

I say that calling things childish is stupid

Filed under: Blogs Themselves — tomemos @ 1:13 pm

There is something that I should have said long ago, but I was afraid. But now, now I can be silent no more.

Everyone go read my friend Bret’s blog! It is called “Incredibret’s Journal,” and it’s the best, particularly if you’re interested in baseball and languages. But also if you’re not!

June 15, 2005

You keep stabbing yourself in the neck

Filed under: Literati and Cognoscenti — tomemos @ 2:14 pm

Finals time again… The English class I taught this quarter ended on Monday. I haven’t really been discussing it much here–I’m getting cagier about mentioning classes as they happen–but it went really well, I think. Students took part in class discussions, papers were rich and interesting. It was really a lot of fun to teach, and I had the twin pleasureable experiences of learning a lot about the texts we studied, and showing off my vast and total knowledge of literature. I think the students enjoyed it, too, but I’ll have to wait to see what evaluations look like.

(By the way, in the interests of fairness: remember all that crowing I did about my great teacher evaluations from fall quarter? Yeah, well, I got my evals from winter, and leave us say there was some regression: I scored below average in nine out of the fifteen categories. Usually not far below average, but still. I remember noticing that my class seemed sort of brooding last quarter, but it didn’t occur to me that I would reap the results of that.)

Speaking of teaching, I overheard a discouraging conversation the other night. I was at Starbucks the other night, getting some coffee to keep me going on a paper. It being finals week, the place was packed with undergrads. Two women in front of me, one with a sorority shirt, were talking about their studies.

“Are you studying for finals?” the first one asked.

“Oh my god–I’ve been studying all day, and I’m going to be studying all night,” her friend (the one with the Greek shirt) said.

“Me too–working on the essays, you know.” I’m pretty sure she said essays. I thought, Hey–maybe they’re studying for a composition class. I started listening more carefully.

“Who’s your T.A.?” asked the woman with the sorority shirt. My ears perked up; maybe it was one of my friends?

The first woman hesitated. “The weird one who’s really smart,” she said, gesturing vaguely.

Her friend nodded. “I have the other one.”

The weird one who’s really smart? The other one? Keep in mind this is the end of the quarter. Do they not even know their teachers’ names? Plus, “the weird one who’s really smart”? That is not descriptive. That is, like, every grad student I’ve met.

So yeah, it turns out students don’t always learn their T.A.’s names. Okay. I guess this means that the student who e-mailed me at the end of my first quarter teaching and called me “Mr. Hitcher” might have actually been in a higher percentile than I thought.

The other horrifying thing I heard those girls say was in regards to the coffee she was ordering. You have to understand, I’m a purist in regards to coffee orders. I always order a “caffe latte,” never simply a “latte.” (What it is, I once ordered a “latte” in an Italian cafĂ© and was served a mug of steamed milk.) So it was bad enough that everyone in that Starbucks had caved totally in regards to sizes (people! Order a large! Do not order a “venti!” Tall is not small!), but I also learned that some people actually abbreviate “frappucino” as “frap.” The girl in front of me ordered a “Tall Frap.” It was the most Southern California moment of my time here so far.

Also, did you know that there’s a Starbucks Visa card now? It’s called the “Duetto.”

June 7, 2005

Too many parties and too many pals

Filed under: Music — tomemos @ 3:20 pm

I’ve had a music entry in mind for a while. I was going to do an entry about the resemblances I see between the Arcade Fire and the Talking Heads, and how some people I know are resistant to the idea. However, I’m going to put that one off (again), because I’ll have a chance to put my theory to the test…when I see the Arcade Fire playing with David Byrne at the Hollywood Bowl in a couple weeks! I don’t want anyone to ever complain about Los Angeles again.

As the song-doohickey at the top of the page probably reflects (and as Bret noted in a comment earlier today), I’ve been listening to Hank Williams a lot. I went from nothing to a three-disc greatest hits collection in about eight dollars, thanks to the magic of public domain. For those of you who don’t know Mr. Williams (I don’t like calling musicians by their first names), he’s the guy who wrote “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and was one of the earliest big country music stars, in the fifties. (Some of you may hold that against him.) I like it a lot–it’s slide guitar-heavy bluesy crooning, covering the eternal country themes cleverly and creatively.

Today, I want to talk about something that might be ridiculously trivial: an awful lot of Hank Williams song titles are complete sentences.

This is a phenomenon that first came to my attention with the Smiths. Run down all the songs by the Smiths, and you’ll find a surprising number are complete, sometimes elaborate, sentences: “I Know It’s Over,” “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” “The Queen Is Dead,” “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore,” “How Soon Is Now?”, “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” “William, It Was Really Nothing,” and, of course, my favorite: “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.” This is only a partial list. (Morrissey’s solo work displays this even more heavily, judging from “You Are the Quarry”: “America Is Not the World,” “I Have Forgiven Jesus,” “The World is Full of Crashing Bores,” “How Can Anyone Possibly Know How I Feel?” and more–nine out of the twelve songs, all in all.) Normally, I’d never blog about this–as I say, it’s pretty trivial–but it’s something that I occasionally wonder about.

But I’m bringing it up now, because Hank Williams has the same thing. There are 60 songs on this set I got, and almost half of the titles (26) are complete sentences. Furthermore, as with the Smiths, a lot of the titles are depressing: “Why Don’t You Love Me,” “You Win Again,” “I’ve Just Told Mama Goodbye,” “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive,” “I Just Don’t Like This Kind of Living,” “My Love for You Has Turned to Hate.” I know you’re not supposed to confuse the art with the artist and everything, but reading those titles it’s not surprising that he drank himself to death at age 29.

Now, the Smiths are not much like Hank Williams, musically or personally–Morrissey is still alive and shilling for PETA. However, something they do have in common is that they are both very frequently concerned with sadness, despair, futility, etc. Their approaches to the subject are different–the Smiths sound petulant or wounded (“I’m feeling very sick and ill today”), Williams sounds rueful (“What can I do? You win again”)–but they both wear their hearts on their sleeves. There’s something plaintive about calling a song “What Difference Does It Make?” that doesn’t permit much ambiguity; it’s clearly bitter on its face. At the same time, both Morrissey and Williams have a certain sense of dry humor that I think is well served by elaborate titles. The Hank Williams song “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy” is sad, but with a certain amount of self-conscious irony, and I think that part of that effect is the way the title lays all the song’s cards on the table. Anyway, I should stop talking about this before I get even less plausible, but I’ll close by saying that I’m a big fan of the starkness of these kinds of song titles, particularly when it’s reflected in the song itself. There’s not much room for optimism in a song like “I’ll Be a Bachelor ‘Til I Die.”


Marginally related to music: for the second time in a month, I’ve been shafted in Apple class-action suit settlements. First, it was the iBook settlement, when I would have been eligible for money had my iBook adapter failed like all the others did. Instead, it worked flawlessly for all four years I used it. (The battery failed, yes, but never the adapter.) Now, I find that if my iPod battery had failed, I’d be eligible for a new one (battery or iPod). I’m still within the period covered by this one, actually, and I’d really love one of the click wheel iPods, so if anyone could arrange for the battery to have some kind of…accident…I’d be very grateful.

June 3, 2005

You kiss your mother with that mouth?

Filed under: Funny Stuff — tomemos @ 11:52 pm

Further proof, if proof be needed, that you can find anything on Craig’s List:

“Au Pair, With Benifits” [sic]

Read it. The end is amazing.

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