Friday, March 31, 2006

A post from in front of the UC

Today and yesterday are superlative! I want to stand on top of Warner Hall (or better yet, on top of a 100 foot pole at a 70 degree angle) and shout to the world:

Our campus isn't worthless!

There are Good Days, and They Are Here Again!

And even, whether I believe it or not:

There is a good god in heaven, and everything is all right!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Man, nobody blogs anymore

I decided, after writing a post, to check everyone else's. Shoot. I used to get so much stupid pleasure out of reading a little jot of everyone's personal lives.

In other news... my grandpa does have more cancer. I guess he'll be in chemo. See, this is ironic, because I listed this second instead of first, even though this is clearly more important. Hey, I'm serious about those of you with superpowers sending him a big psychic goodness energy wave.

The good thing is, though, he's a hero, and he's probably just annoyed by all this. "What, cancer? Again? Geez, just get this out of the way so I can go on with my normal life." Sort of the way I hope to be when I get cancer. (I mean, everyone does nowadays, right?)

My dreams have been going nuts recently

Something like 8 over the last 4 days. Of my dreams in the past week:
6 involved old people
3 involved an airplane or helicopter
2 involved my dad and me discussing music
1 involved U2 (sigh... my NPP pr is wearing off on me)
... 4 involved my grandparents or Cincinnati (where they used to live). And then I heard that my grandpa (who had lung cancer a year ago, and is probably cured) is going in for another checkup, and he's worried because he's been having trouble recently... so send him rays of positive psychic energy, if you have a moment and incredible powers.

Umm. Things I have been reading recently:

Michael Chabon, "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh"
(courtesy of Julie)- This is tricky. I am useless as a book critic, because the things I can say about this book are:
I liked it.
It reminded me of the Great Gatsby (why? because they're in a city, there are symbols, and life is tough, I guess... ?)
It was cool reading about parts of Pittsburgh- I mean, exact spots in Pittsburgh where I've been.
It used the word "phosphenes." Twice.
I couldn't relate to it. Why not? I mean, is it "because I'm not gay"? Or, because I'm not "straight but confused"? Or maybe because I've never had to make a choice between two people I loved romantically, one of whom happens to be male? And maybe because I can't see why that choice would be so tough. Oh yeah, that, and my dad isn't a mob boss, and I'm not wasting away working at a crappy bookstore, and my life doesn't get wrecked.

Ray Bradbury, "A Sound of Thunder" (courtesy of Joe)- man, Ray Bradbury is a hero. He used to be one of my favorites, then I didn't read any of his books for a while, and now I found one again. He makes great stories. I've only read the first half dozen or so. No particular favorites yet, although "The April Witch" is strangely horrifying, and "The Murderer" reaffirms my desire* to give up a lot of my possessions. I'll write a more complete review when I finish.

*said desire is, of course, a very lame middle-class desire, which means it'll never happen. speaking of middle-class:

Douglas Coupland, "Generation X" and "Life After God"
(again, courtesy of Joe)- Somehow, I can relate to these more, and they're also about wasting away at dead-end jobs and your life getting wrecked. Man, they're depressing, though. It's the whole rant that I've had at certain times, where life seems to be going nowhere, and I'm just a middle-class cog in the system. And how I will live a comfortable life but ultimately end up miserable, and 50 years after I'm gone, nobody will ever know that I've lived.

"You see, when you're middle class, you have to live with the fact that history will ignore you. You have to live with the fact that history can never champion your causes and that history will never feel sorry for you. It is the price that is paid for day-to-day comfort and silence. And because of this price, all happinesses are sterile; all sadnesses go unpitied."

I'll alert you now: Joe read that to us during WASP. I can see why Joe likes Coupland so much- the same themes, in a way, as WASP. So if you don't want to hear any more about WASP or Douglas Coupland, you can quit reading now.

Generation X is nominally a novel, but really it's just Coupland's excuse to tell stories. Among them:

An astronaut, Buck, crash-lands on a distant planet, gets a disease where he sleeps all day except for 1/2 hour. A local family cares for him. He falls in love with each of the 3 daughters (Arleen, Darleen, and Serena) in turn, telling her "The love between a man and a woman can restart my rocket. If you come with me, I can start the rocket and get back home. The catch is that there's not enough air, and you'd have to die so that I can breathe to pilot the rocket. But when we got back to my home planet, I could revive you, and we'd live happily ever after." The first 2 daughters refuse. Finally, the last daughter accepts, and they blast off.
"'You realize,' said Arleen, 'that that whole business of Buck being able to bring us back to life was total horseshit.'
"'Oh, I knew that,' said Darleen. 'But it doesn't change the fact that I feel jealous.'
"'No, it doesn't, does it?'

I don't really have much to say about that one, besides the fact that I'd probably stay on the ground, and I'd probably feel jealous.
Also, there's this:

"After you're dead and buried and floating around whatever place we go to, what's going to be your best memory of earth? What one moment for you defines what it's like to be alive on this planet? What's your takeaway? ... Fake yuppie experiences that you had to spend money on, like white water rafting or elephant rides in Thailand don't count. I want to hear some small moment from your life that proves you're really alive."

Mine? I dunno. Can't count skiing stories, I guess, although if I could, there's one that sticks in my mind. It was Thursday of the week I was skiing with my friend from high school and his family, in December 2004, and that day we were in Copper Mountain, Colorado. First run down, or maybe second, we got to a lift called Rendezvous, and there were 7 inches of fresh snow on these trails. I could go on, but basically, I was skiing, one of my best friends and his brother were skiing with me, it was fantastic. But really, that's not the one moment where I'm alive, I mean, alive with italics. It's my thing-- people always ask "what's your favorite thing to do?" and you should have an answer I guess. I dunno if that's it though. Another story from Coupland:

The world's exploding. The Bomb has finally been dropped. You hear the sirens, see all the flashing lights. You and your best friend are in a store. (There's a lot of really good exposition, and I'd love to just copy the whole story in here, but it'd be too long. Check it out on page 62-64, if you ever read the book.)
Then comes The Flash. "Get down," you shout, "There's no time!"
and so then, just before the front windows become a crinkled, liquefied imploding sheet--
and just before you're pelleted by a hail of gum and magazines-
and just before the fat man in front of you is lifted off his feet, hung in suspended animation and bursts into flames while the liquefied ceiling lifts and drips upward-
Just before all of this, your best friend cranes his neck, lurches over to where you lie, and kisses you on the mouth, after which he says to you, "There. I've always wanted to do that."
And that's that. In the silent rush of hot wind, like the opening of a trillion oven doors that you've been imagining since you were six, it's all over: kind of scary, kind of sexy, and tainted by regret. A lot like life, wouldn't you say?

And then there's Life After God which is just, straight up, a bunch of short stories. The theme is this: our parents were the first generation to be raised without the strict religious upbringing that dominated a lot of previous generations. And so a lot of them lost religion entirely. And now we are sort of the first entirely non-religious generation. Some of the stories are kind of lame- there's another bit of Bomb anxiety which is a little heavyhanded, there's a good quick story about a few fairy tale characters, and then the real world. But there's one in the middle called "Gettysburg", which just blew me away. It's about a guy whose wife and kid just left him- not because of anything bad that happened, but just because she's not in love with him anymore. Not that she doesn't love him, but she's not in love with him. Naturally, he's confused, and depressed, and at one point his mom comes over to talk to him. At one point she says that what they're going through is something common to a lot of couples, and it's one of the sad points in life. She says: (last quote, I promise!)

"First there is love, then there is disenchantment, and then there is the rest of your life."
"But what about the rest of your life? What about all the time that remains?"
"Oh- there's friendship. Or at least familiarity. And there's safety. And after that there's sleep."
I think to myself, how do any of us know that it's going to end up like this? That this is all there is maybe going to be? I say, "Oh, God."
And my mother says to me, "Honey, God is what keeps us together after the love is gone."

Geez! That's terrifying! I'm still ultimately looking for meaning in life (if you've found any, let me know!) but I thought that love, this perfect ideal of Love might eventually bring some of it. And Coupland says: Nope. It's all kind of a cruel joke- there IS nothing more than this. Even Love isn't anything special.

But contrast that with Peggy Knapp, who taught Shakespeare last semester. At one point in the class, we were doing Othello, and I think Desdemona said something about her love for Othello always growing. Othello scholars, I apologize if I got it wrong. Anyway, Prof. Knapp said, as class was ending and people were putting their books away noisily, "it IS possible to love someone more every day. I know from experience."

What does Prof. Knapp know that Coupland doesn't? What, is it just religion? (she's older, she may be very religious, I don't know) But if I think most organized religion is, to a varying degree based on the religion, hooey, how can I believe in that and find meaning in it? Or does she just have the perspective of old age that Coupland may not have yet? Or did Coupland just hit some bad luck in the world of love, and is he just bitter?

Aargh! I can't keep writing, I have work to do, so that I can become a Computer Guy and waste away into a 4-bedroom suburban castle. If you have any answers, please, let me know!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Ich bin krank

I'm sick. What a great word for "sick". German continues to amuse. Hope I can actually go there somewhere. Maybe I should be looking into that instead of frittering away my free time posting here.

Whatever. I'm going to sleep for a long time now. I haven't been sick for more than a day in a long time, and I'm not about to start now! Tomorrow, I will feel great.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I will post as often as I damn well please.

Next year: Margaret Morrison 127. Come visit! We're on campus, there's an exercise room downstairs, food trucks across the street, a covered bike rack next door. Sweet. ("we" being Gerrit, Will, Grubb, and I) Sadly, we didn't get the Roselawn house with the random dude in it. So it goes. But yeah, I'm psyched.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Three Thoughts:

1. Towards the end of high school, I compiled a list of "things never to forget about these four years of my life." It exists on one fragile sheet of notebook paper tucked into one of my old yearbooks. I should start doing the same for college.

2. To be fair, my music collection does a lot of that for me. If I've doubted the merit of being a DJ and keeping up with the latest music, if I've degraded my musical knowledge because, hell, it's just pop music, I shouldn't. Maybe it is just pop music (I'm using "pop" here in the sense of "indie/indie pop" I guess) but I like it, and it brings back memories more intensely than a photo album.

3. I actually flicked someone off today on my bike. I was biking along, obeying all traffic laws, minding my own business (and remember, the biker has the right of way!), and he honked at me, so I held out my middle finger, loud and clear, for him to see in his rearview mirror. I'm a little disappointed in myself. Any dumbass can road rage.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Natalie Dee

I'm not a web-comic-reading guy. I read Toothpaste For Dinner sometimes. And he linked to his wife, Natalie Dee's, comic, so I read some of it. And I'm not a big fan of her comic overall; it's usually pretty dumb.
But read these two:
this and this

Thank you, Natalie Dee! Someone on the internet understands!

A Bag of Rocks and a Basket of Rolls

That's what my radio show was supposed to be called this semester. Instead, they entered it into the database as "I will tell you the names of the songs that I play," just like last semester. Whatever, that's a fine name too.

Speaking of which, give it a listen, Mondays 10AM-noon. WRCT 88.3fm, or here.

But the point is: recent musical preferences!

First on the list must be Portishead. They're something else. I guess they're considered charter members of the "trip-hop" genre, whatever that means- anyway, it's moody and dark but at the same time sweet. (I actually mean "sweet", not "sweet" as in "cool") Check out their debut CD, Dummy.

Second: Architecture in Helsinki again. I may actually go ahead and buy their first CD, Fingers Crossed, because In Case We Die is still moving up the ranks of my Top N CD's ever. I dunno, it might even be #2. Anyway, speaking of sweet, this music has the perfect degree of sweetness. Just enough to be "aww..." without being cloying (which is tough, because it's a fine line).

Next is Jimi Hendrix, who is clearly a hero.

Oh! Bitter Tea by the Fiery Furnaces. Nope, it's not the next Blueberry Boat, but it's pretty good. My only complaint is that a few tracks are just kind of boring. Some I really like though- "Bitter Tea" is nice Blueberry Boat-style madness, "Oh Sweet Woods" is groovy, and "Police Sweater Blood Vow" is, to overuse a term, sweet.

And if you want a blast from your ska past, check out Keasby Nights by Catch 22. I recently found a CD from another band, basically covering this CD, but not giving any credit to Catch 22. What bags. Go download/buy the original, it's my favorite ska CD. (out of all 5 that I know)

Quick blips: Sung Tongs by Animal Collective is cool, but then there are a couple of really long songs that I just end up getting bored by. I do like Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not by the Arctic Monkeys, despite it being the most popular CD in the world and really not that extraordinary, because it sort of rocks. And have I plugged Oh You're So Silent Jens by Jens Lekman yet? Because if I haven't, I should. It's great.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

About Cleveland

Sorry, no rants about the suburbs this time. At this point, I'm trying to be more grateful that my parents could afford to live somewhere safe, in a big house, and send me to nice schools as I grew up. I don't see myself living there, certainly not in the near future, but they have their good points.

And fresh air. They have that. But really, I don't feel like I need the open air that much. A crisp city street breeze and parks in the vicinity (like Schenley, or even the Cathedral lawn) are good enough for me.

I wrote this earlier today. Man, remember when I used to write creative things sometimes? Now it's all just updates. Where did that little creative burst go? I hope it returns. Anyway, here's this:

I'm currently trying to get back to Pittsburgh a day earlier, because the opportunity came up and I figure, might as well. I feel a little bad because I had originally said Friday, now it's Thursday, and my parents are sad. I guess it doesn't really matter that much, because shoot, I didn't see them much when I was home. I'd wake up ridiculously late, they'd be at work until 6 or 7, we'd eat dinner, or not, then they'd go to bed. So practically, it doesn't really matter. But still... as I left, my dad tried to take an account of everything we did, as if making it into a list would make it more permanent. "Well, Dan, it was nice having you home, thanks for cooking*, thanks for going to Wai-su-wa-shi-sa-shi**, thanks for trying to fix the computer... um... and playing ping-pong***..."

* I made chicken curry with cashews. Maybe my favorite dish that I've made so far. It's really good. I also made a "moroccan-style" meatloaf and left it with them. Hooray for trendy online recipes.

** or Daishin japanese restaurant (see previous post about sushi). My dad has this thing about calling things by their real names, in that he can't. It's easier to make up a goofy fake name than to say the real name. Sometimes saying the real name sounds too cutesy. Maybe this is because, if you take the time to get the real name of a place correct, you are showing that it was worth the effort to do so, and in a sense giving tacit approval to it. And if you call one place correctly, and not another, well, you must favor that one over the other.

*** Well. Ping-pong with Dad. We've played since I can remember. When we were young, of course, he could always wallop me if he wanted, but hey, time goes by, I get better, he stays about the same. Now I can take him usually 3 out of 4. It happens with everything, right? The kid gets older, defeats the dad. And hey, it'll happen with me someday. But the weird thing is, our attitudes have both changed.

Let me just say, my dad has a real competitive streak, and I inherited it in a big way. I was the worst loser as a kid- which was tough, because I'd usually lose sports. Games I was better at, so I was usually okay. (except when I'd, say, move my ships in Battleship. Good lord, I was a competitive kid.) But when I was winning, I was a pretty good winner. But anyway, I'd usually lose ping-pong, obviously, so sometimes I'd complain, or whine, or have a little fit. Which is clearly ridiculous, but this isn't about my little peccadilloes, it's about my dad. Maybe I'll analyze myself later.

So now I win most of the time, and so my dad has the competitiveness most of the time. He never says anything about it, but I can definitely tell- he gets a certain way that he never does at any other time. Real serious-like, not smiling, and the only words he says, usually, are the score. He starts fighting for points- his paddle hits the wall or something, and he calls for a redo; or I'll try some dumb trick shot, jokingly, and he'll count it as a real point. I give him a look like "you're kidding, right?" and say "okay, 4-2", and he'll say pedantically, "no, it's 4-3". I try to keep things lighthearted. But then I start losing, and I feel the exact same way he does.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Nothing, I think, will quite compare to

hopping in "my" car on an unseasonably warm spring day and driving from Westlake in the general direction of downtown Cleveland. There are nostalgic bits about high school, but that's a rather big one.

Before I go on, understand that "nothing compares to" doesn't mean "nothing is better than." They're just different. You don't have to rank all of your experiences in a numerical order (this is something I have yet to fully appreciate, but I'm working on it).

Point is, driving around in high school. I mean, of course, you've got the basic "OMG I have my driver's license!" sort of nonsense, and everyone gets that a little bit, and for good reason. There's some grand sort of independence there, even moreso for those of us who were lucky enough to have a car available (geez! a family of 4 with 3 cars! I've always thought that was a little excessive. But ultimately, I think it was worth it, because if you live in the suburbs, you can't get anywhere without driving.) Anyway, whenever I get in a car (granted, now it's a 2000 green Toyota Corolla, not a 1994 silver Pontiac Grand Am) and drive around, with the radio on 88.3 WBWC (which kind of sucks a lot now) I'm back in junior year, driving to my friends' houses (usually about 30-45 minutes away...), Circus Company shows, or filming my Spanish video.

Speaking of which, I have such great memories of making that Spanish video- along with Ed, Jose, and marginally Jeff- mostly Ed and Jose. We drove all over Cleveland, filming "Don Quixote en Cleveland", featuring a scene where I was "jousting" with some 20-foot high stone statues on a highway, as well as a scene where Ed walks into a McDonald's wearing a mask that looks like our Spanish teacher- it was priceless. Of course we won first prize- the $50 prize just paid for all the dumb crap we bought for it. That, and I incurred the disapproval of one of my best friends' parents by assuming we could borrow their video camera without really asking. Whatever. Of all the things I did in high school, that's one of the ones I'm most proud of.

I really expected a "nostalgia blast" entry. Course, I was waiting until I could go back and visit my high school, which I didn't get a chance to do this week (no car, etc). Oh well, enjoy this little slice of my nostalgia pie, this little peek into what's in the "good memories" section of my mind.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Things that I like, part n:

Sushi. What a great food type. I've had it I think four times in my life, and two of those were California rolls from the UC, so really it's more like twice. Once in Washington, DC, with a couple of my more cultured friends, and once last night with the family. They wanted to go out to eat, I wanted something new, they didn't, so bingo! the Japanese hibachi/sushi place it is! They get an unintimidating dinner, complete with onion volcano, and I get to explore the world of sushi a little more.

What did I order? The "sushi dinner," which is about as much a "sushi for dummies" as it sounds. 6 tuna rolls, and 8 nigiri (pieces of fish), distributed as follows: 2 tuna, 2 salmon, 1 white fish, 1 eel, 1 shrimp, 1 octopus. My thoughts? Well, I guess, obviously it's all a little basic. But that was excellent, because now I have a basis for sushi. You know how, when you get a new CD that you know nothing about, you listen to it, and it all sounds the same? Then you find two or three songs you can pick out that you like, and you know those, and they sound different from the others. Then you start to recognize the songs before and after them, and you realize that this one is the upbeat tune that kicks off the album, and this is the quiet, introspective one that is pretty unremarkable until the great bridge, and this one is just not a very good track, and etc. Creating your world by naming, categorizing, applying value judgments to things. Anyway, that's what I am starting to be able to do with sushi.

Salmon is a solid all-around player. Very tender, that nice salmony flavor (although, really, sushi salmon doesn't taste much like regular salmon). White fish is white fish, kind of bland as usual, but still a nice texture. Tuna is a little drier and firmer, I like it a little less than salmon but still a lot. Eel is the first-round draft pick all-star quarterback- clearly the standout. Shrimp, well, you know what shrimp tastes like. Octopus: is pretty tough. Kind of lame.

As for the rolls, I like them all! The best I've had was a Rainbow Roll in DC- other than that, I like them all about the same. Eel, again, is nice. (unagi, I think it's called- see, I learn the Japanese for that, and then I'll start learning a few others, and pretty soon, I'll be a sushi champ.) Also, I think we had a crunchy shrimp roll, which was nice.

And then there's the idealistic reason that I like sushi: it's the anti-white bread. Sushi is an experience, both for the chef and the eater. You don't get a whole lot of food (at least compared to the typical huge american dinner) but each bite is artfully crafted. Each bite is intense and really tasty (not just "pretty good"). Plus, it looks beautiful. I appreciate any food that has effort put into making it look good, because I am entirely superficial and probably subconsciously judge a food's taste by its appearance. And hey, it's so different from everything else that you eat, and that's cool too.

I will link to more information for the second post in a row: Sushi HOWTO
Educate yourself!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Some days I have big profound thoughts

Probably most days, really. Some days they are more memorable than others. Today:

1. Geez, the Homestead Strikers were some kind of heroes. Imagine, your job at the steel plant is beating you down, and then Andrew Carnegie cuts your pay too. You just can't take any more. You strike, get locked out, and protest a lot. And then, you're sitting there at the plant, and you see a barge come down a river, and you know it's full of Pinkerton guards with guns who are there to beat you up. And you fight anyway, and you win a huge victory for organized labor. (course, then you also shoot down a white flag and beat the junk out of the Pinkertons, I guess, so I don't know how great heroes these guys are...)
Wikipedia Article

2. I am clearly going to be a professor. That's my path, it's all planned out, I'm excited. I saw a talk by Greg Kesden today, a CS professor (whom a lot of people hate because he's pretty tough I guess), and there wasn't anything spectacular about the content of his speech, except that he talked a bit about some of his greatest professors, and I realized, someday, one of my students could be saying that about me.

That said, my plans will clearly change in the next 2 years. Probably even a year from now, when I'm in Switzerland, and my view of the world gets demolished. If not, though, look for me teaching math or CS somewhere!

3. The annoyance of carrying skis to and from campus is alleviated by the knowledge that few things are more badass than someone carrying skis on his shoulder.

4. I just realized, next time it snows big enough to cover the streets (and there are no cars out), I am going up to the top of Squirrel Hill and skiing down. That will be really sweet. Probably next year.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Why I like taking out the trash

I mean, I don't really, but it's better than most chores, because you get this amazing sense of satisfaction: once it goes down the trash chute, you never have to worry about it anymore! It's also why I like answering emails sometimes: you can just obliterate them when you're done! The problem is entirely over.

That's how I used to work in grade school, too: I get homework, I get it done, then I don't worry about it ever again. Course, now I'm a slacker like everyone else. Do you know what I mean, though- how satisfying it is to get something absolutely taken care of? It's great!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Fiery Furnaces!

Concert tonight was pretty cool. I mean, they redo every one of their songs so that they can perform them on tour- they were generally not as good as the originals, but more energy in a lot of cases.

And I got their new CD, Bitter Tea, which is not released yet.

And I met both the Friedbergers! (the 2 main members of the Fiery Furnaces) I was a little awestruck, but managed to stammer out something about how they're my favorite band in the world. I got Eleanor's autograph on the new CD. They are pretty great!