Exhibit 23.13

Things To Do on a 12-Hour Drive

1) Wake up two hours after starting, look around to make sure this is the right road, it is, shrug

2) Think about the books you might be listening to, decide listening to books is wrong, do this all out loud, at gas station

3) Eat Lemonheads, promise self to eat more Lemonheads in the future, wonder if Evan Dando is now dating Rhett Miller

4) Oklahoma

5) Discover that paying tolls with $50 bills requires extensive security screening, make ill-advised yet topical joke about airport security not being so tough

6) Drink root beer for the first time in several years, wonder why, decide Adam Duritz is probably dating Evan Dando and that your new thing is going to be saying Barq's as a swear word

7) Ponder whether or not Gene Autry, OK was named before the actor, think about stopping to ask, realize the exit was 37 miles ago

8) Pull it together

9) Settle on the weirdest person in your phonebook to call, resist the temptation to call them, Dad

10) Give up on Dallas, no matter where you are driving to/from, just do it, it's time


Exhibit 23.12


Thankfully the mini-blizzard that has kept me in the house has allowed me to grow out my beard without confronting the humiliation of other people. And thank god, otherwise I wouldn't have realized that it's not that I'm incapable of growing proper facial hair, it's that I'm a musketeer.

Seriously, I'm shaving Wednesday.


Exhibit 23.11

Personal Safety Alert

So I mentioned the university here sends out emails whenever the neighborhood it hates so much encroaches on its precious learning environment. Usually these personal safety alerts aren't quite so funny/racially problematic. This one, however:

Suspect Description: Black male approximately 19 years of age. Short statue, thin build, dark complexion, hair style like worn by actor Will Smith. Wearing a black hoody and blue jeans.

So, to sum up, a black guy with hair allegedly robbed someone who was unfamiliar with the work of the more age appropriate Nick Cannon.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.


Exhibit 23.10

A Canonical Poem Adapted into a Control Scheme
for a Neo Geo Game

William Wordsworth
"The World Is Too Much With Us"

A: Getting
B: Spending
C: For this
D: For everything
Up: Up-gathered like sleeping flowers
Right: Given away our hearts
Down: It moves us not
Left: Standing on this pleasant lea
Select: A sordid boon!
Start: Great God!


Exhibit 23.9

Things That Are Good

Things That Are Terrible

Things That Are Things


Exhibit 23.8

The Two Things I Had to Look Up on Wikipedia While Writing Today

1) Toucans
2) Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

Fiction. Catch the fever.

Exhibit 23.7

It's been nearly a week since the last time I shaved, and I think I actually have less facial hair now than I did two days ago. Possibly my body is unconsciously trying to protect its fragile dignity. I'm not sure.


Exhibit 23.6

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Among far greater accomplishments, Shirley Jackson is indirectly responsible for one of my favorite Simpsons' jokes. Being chased by a crazed dog, Bart yells, "Eat my short stories" and throws his copy of America's 2nd Best Short Stories at the animal. The dog destroys the book and a piece of torn paper flutters by which says something like, "All in all, it had been a weird, weird lottery."

That's funny though only funny if you've read "The Lottery" which, you won't be shocked to learn, does not actually end with that sentence. Instead it ends, "'It isn't fair, it isn't right,' Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her."

The shocking violence of it is why it's in every short story anthology ever printed and why, perhaps more than any other American short story, it's become part of our consciousness (The Simpsons have made at least one other joke about it). Honestly, the only story that might even be close is "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" which takes a similar twist at the end but one too mysterious in its implications to have found the same foothold in popular culture ("A Good Man..." was published five years after "The Lottery" and is, despite its obvious debt, better).

"The Lottery's" implications are not so subtle--there's violence beneath the surface of the bucolic town--and so is an impossible story to forget. Whatever cruelty she saw in her smiling neighbors manifests itself in We Have Always Lived in the Castle as well. The story of Constance and Mary Katherine Blackwood, two sisters living with their disabled uncle six years after the rest of their family was murdered, it's a novel that's fascinating for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that it brings the pointless hatred of the town from "The Lottery" to the surface yet still manages to make its release shocking.

The townsfolk--correctly--believe one or both sisters committed the murders yet somehow it is their reaction to this crime rather than the crime itself which seems unpardonable. It's clear they would treat the girls badly whether or not they were guilty. So, in a neat turn, the townsfolk become the inhuman ones (Mary Katherine calls the worst of them "demons" or "ghosts"). It's a profoundly unsettling side the book forces the reader to take by having the funny, strange Mary Katherine do the narrating, and it's deadly effective. Though unbalanced, the sisters' lives are genuine lives. Every other character in the book is either needlessly cruel, grotesquely greedy, or, at best, motivated by something other than genuine kindness.

After the townsfolk release their anger on the Blackwood girls, they at least get the chance to feel regret (as opposed to the sudden ending of "The Lottery"). Still, it says more about their sense of embarrassment than their sense of decency. For Jackson, small towns mean small minds plotting against the vulnerable. It makes the girls' isolation, if not their crimes, perfectly understandable. They are not innocent but they are not the demons.


Exhibit 23.5


* Great, so now I have to move to Manhattan and marry Lynn True. This video in the Times pretty much sums why I find redeeming value in football (and even how I watch it).

* Fellow Houstonite Laura-Eve has a blog you should be reading here. I wanted to post this link with her cover of R. Kelly's "Ignition Remix" but instead you'll just have to watch the karaoke version of the real thing:

Maybe I should link to R. Kelly's blog instead now? I don't know, I assume both blogs are mostly about Judaism and Top Chef.

* Speaking of Houston people, another UH person's blog is here. I don't know if he wants his name connected to it or not. Also, did you know we elected an openly gay mayor yesterday? We did. Your move, Austin.

* Not a link, but I thought I would provide a beard update. It's now day five and I'm pretty sure if I wasn't doing these posts or going out of the way to work my beard into otherwise unrelated conversations no one would know I was growing one.
I decided to add eyebrows for comparison purposes. You might have noticed. It's the same reason I added them in real life.


Exhibit 23.4


I've never been able to grow a beard but mostly that's because I've never really put my mind to it. Or I have some sort of testosterone deficiency. Either way, now that I more or less have a month with nowhere to go, I figured I'd try.

That image is where we currently stand. I think the right side of my face is winning, but mostly I'm disappointed that A) there's a competition and B) I could tabulate a winner to the competition. I had to stand really close to the mirror in order to do that. Mine is not a beard that can be seen at a distance.

I chose red for the image because that's a color that would stand out not because it's the color the beard is growing in. As far as you know.

Unless parts of my beard start connecting themselves, I think I'm going to shave soon.


Exhibit 23.3

Destruction Myth by Mathias Svalina

I don't think there's another writer that I stole as much from when I was deciding what kind of writer I wanted to be. If Mathias weren't so nice, he probably would have punched me in the face by now. There's still time, honestly.

I remember how blown away I was when some of the "Creation Myth" pieces that make up the bulk of Destruction Myth started appearing on his blog (I did not steal his blog's tendency to be interesting though he recently appears to have borrowed my blog's commitment to dog photography). A combination of verse and prose, of birth and death, Destruction Myth is a book I have spent years waiting for and it does not disappoint. It is hilarious and smart and sad, and it is the 3rd amazing book of poetry to have come out this year from someone who was in Lincoln during my tenure there. Naca, Zach, Mathias. I was very, very lucky.

If you haven't ordered the book yet, watch Elisabeth's video interpretation of one of the book's best pieces and become convinced:

Creation Myth from nocoastfilms on Vimeo.

Pick the book up from CSU here or Amazon.com here.

Oh, and if you haven't gotten it--Mathias's Play from The Cupboard is super great. That series is the full-length I want to see next.


Exhibit 23.2

Things That Let Me Know This Is a Seminar Paper

1. A Colon in the Title
Seminar Papers: Things That Let Me Know This Is One

2. Unnecessary Parenthesis in the Title
Seminar Papers: Things That Let Me K(no)w This is (On)e

3. Ironic Quotation Marks in the Title
"Seminar" Papers: Things That Let Me K(no)w This Is (On)e

4. Vaguely Feminist Misspellings in the Title
"SeMENar" Papers: Things That Let Me K(no)w This Is (On)e

5. Unnecessary Word Inversion in the Title
Let (On)e K(no)w This: "SeMENar" Things That Papers Me

Now I just need to hit print and turn it in.


Exhibit 23.1

The Road

I don't have much to say about the book. It's good. Great, even. You've probably read it. It's the one where a guy and his kid wander around apres apocalypse and do things Oprah likes (which is weird because if there's one thing The Road makes clear it's that chicks can't handle the end of the world). The prose isn't as stylized as some of McCarthy's other work but it's still incredible, capable of making a 270 page book where not much happens seem tight and fraught and inexhaustibly sad.

The movie, however, is interesting insomuch as it follows the book perfectly, is beautifully imagined, and adds absolutely nothing to the world. All of that makes it fairly hard to hate or even dislike. If anything, I suppose I might even say I liked the movie in terms of it having done exactly what I would have wanted the movie to do. Unfortunately, what I wanted it to do was something profoundly boring, a kind of failure of my own imagination in wanting only ashy skies and leering marauders. Of course, the book had already given me those images only now I got to see what they would look like with Aragorn in the frame and Cheetos product placements. I got to have the old man turned from something strange and intellectually menacing to Robert Duvall, America's favorite wily grandfather.

There's a lot of complaining about any film adaptation of a novel but rarely is the complaint that it follows the book too closely. And I'm not even sure if that's what happened here. No Country for Old Men seemed to treat its source material with similar reverence yet the end result seemed to please everyone. Perhaps it's because that book was supposedly a screenplay before it was a novel before it was a screenplay. Perhaps it's because the Coen brothers are better filmmakers. Perhaps there was just more to work with than the sparse, empty world of The Road. In any case, the problem here is not that there is a movie of The Road but that I wanted to see it. And I wanted to see it exactly as how I saw it when reading the book. Then I did see it and it was skillful but empty. Worse, I will now always see it that way. That old guy is forever Harry Hogge.

Maybe I've been grading too much, but hours after leaving the theater I wished I had some physical representation of the movie so I could write "Why do you want this to exist?" on it.


Exhibit 22.27

Literary Criticism Done as if I Were a Character's Opinionated Friend and Could Give Them Advice Then Publish Said Advice in an Academic Journal and Become Bigger than Stanley Fish

Jurassic Park

Wait, really? Awesome. Well, sure, when you give me all the details it doesn't sound quite so awesome. Yes, yes, Malcolm, you called it. Chaos Theory blah blah. I'm sure that will make you feel so much better when the pterodactyls are eating your face. I don't know if they're actually carnivores, you're the one on Dinosaur Island. Fine, I'll Wikipedia it. Yes, ate meat. There. No, it doesn't say how to kill them. I don't know, I'm sure it's never come up before. If you were so certain this would happen, you should have packed a shotgun. Yes, I think a shotgun would probably kill them. I don't know where there would be a shotgun. Ask the raptors. Sorry, sorry. That wasn't funny. If the worst happens, I'll tell the world your story. In the movie, I'll make sure they cast Gary Sinise.


Exhibit 22.26

Literary Criticism Done as if I Were a Character's Opinionated Friend and Could Give Them Advice Then Publish Said Advice in an Academic Journal and Become Bigger than Stanley Fish

Jane Eyre

Look, he isn't going to leave her for you. You think he keeps her locked in the attic because he wants to break up with her? And that's not the only thing he keeps locked up. Your dignity that's what, Jiji. Yes, we're all still upset about Helen but that doesn't mean you need to go find yourself another Mr. Brocklehurst. What about that nice fellow, that Mr. Mason who is always creeping around? I bet his place doesn't mysteriously start on fire. Or, yes, go to India. Even better. He doesn't love you. What do you mean he made you prove it? He dressed up as what? O girl. O girl. O girl.


Exhibit 22.25

In order to make up for yesterday's post, here's a picture of Brett upset about having a cone on her head.