Tag Archives: me myself & I

In search of a second opinion.

I am sorry to have been gone so long.  I was on a Roman Holiday (“n. a time of debauchery or sadistic enjoyment” – so okay, just literally, not figuratively) and it was quite amazingly wonderful.

But sadly, all really is better in Italy.  No sooner did I arrive in the breadbasket of Patriotism and Dr. Pepper but I got the news that my modest “studio” (read: regular apartment put in a procrustean bed to make room for the laundry facility) was about to be auctioned off to the hoi polloi.  Dutifully, I sent my panicked email requesting world enough and time, made my way to the management office, and was handed an innocuous lease form that bore a tiny, almost imperceptible number that just happened to be $90 more than the tiny number on the last form.

Damn.

Not being the sort to take things lying down, I exited abruptly and announced my intention to “think things over.”  I did so, and formulated some demands that I thought would surely be amenable (sure, raise my rent by a hundred bucks, but at least give me internets).  The lady at the front desk gave me a look right out of the Pieta and said she had begged and plead with the mysterious Mandarin of the Jamestown Complex, but he was intractable.

I don’t know if she’s just playing good cop with me, but she seemed genuinely torn up over my plight.  So she gave me the Miraculous Mandarin’s number (his name is the cheerfully consonant-cluttered Russell Trippett) and told me to try my luck alone before the Great White Throne.

Here’s my question for you: do I masochistically accept the terms as offered, or do I use my brain, which tells me that property values are going down, not up, and look for something else (thereby exposing myself to the horrific inconvenience of moving the whole place in nothing but a tiny sedan)?  Limiting factor: I will probably only be living in Waco for one more year.

Any advice is much appreciated …

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“Deliciae Baylorensis” …?

I want to register a complaint.  No, this isn’t going to be a complaining post.  This is no great moral umbrage on my part, just a failure to understand.  There is not, to my knowledge, a single building open 24 hours on Baylor’s extensive, Palladian, be-columned campus.  I know because the maintenance worker who closes up the SUB every night and I are almost on a first-name basis.  Or at least, he calls me “Chief.”  “Closing time, Chief,” he’ll say in a jubilant voice, and while I want to remonstrate that he is denying me Wireless Internet, which has got to be on the Bill of Rights somewhere, he’s just so nice that I have to smile and wave goodnight, like it or not.  So the question is: how come my venerable undergraduate institution, with an endowment approximately the size of a good tip at P.F. Chang’s, was able to keep its student center open 24 hours, even in the bitterest, most lonely lacunae between terms?  And monstrous Baylor, with a budget that includes entries like “Bear Habitats,” “Artificial Bodies of Water,” and “Columns & Pediments,” can’t do it?  Seriously?

In other news, teaching college freshmen is both incredibly rewarding and tremendously exhausting.  I’d thought that I would be a nicely hard grader – not the sort who keeps you down in the mud with one be-tasseled foot while reciting a litany of your shortcomings, but just the kind who doesn’t flinch at issuing a couple D-minuses to shock everybody into “business time.”  Actually, though, just the concept of placing an objective value judgment on someone else’s thoughts (even the “thoughts” that one manages to gather at 4am the night before class, whilst still hung over from two nights ago) is proving terrifying.  Don’t let’s even mention the negative judgments.  But I’ll manage it somehow.  And I really, really like my students in general.  Sure, some of them are a pain.  But in a promising way.  I hope they all succeed; I really do.

The result of all the time I’m allocating to grading and such is that I’m currently trying to write a paper that proves that Hemingway uses France and Spain as analogues to the spirits of Lent and Carnival, respectively, and that he simultaneously does not do so.  Ample attention is being given to the Confessional Mode in Literature, to Moral Cartography, and to Tipping Waiters.  Yeah … this one is definitely going to the ALL NEW WRITING CENTER GOONS.  Just wait until you have to edit my rough draft, newbies! 🙂

Okay, time to go to bed and wake up all too early for last-minute lesson-planning/Common Grounds therapy.  Au revoir!

A meme I bogarted from the bro.

SEVEN THINGS IN YOUR ROOM:

1. Books

2. A ratty mattress

3. A sound system

4. A screwdriver (the tool, more’s the pity)

5. A microwave

6. A kitchen (my apartment is just one room)

7. A many-headed hydra lamp

 

SEVEN THINGS YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT:

1. Water

2. Coffee

3. Beer

4. Poetry

5. Classical music

6. Friends

7. Family

 

SEVEN THINGS YOU WANT TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE:

1. Go to India

2. Live in a monastery and contemplate for a couple months

3. Move to a new city on pure impulse

4. Publish a book of poems

5. Publish a novel

6. Eat haggis

7. Sleep in a wilderness without a tent

 

SEVEN OTHER THINGS:

Do You:

1. Believe in God? Yes.

2. Had a dream come true?  Not so much; mine are horrendously surreal.  But if you see a disembodied hand walking itself down a handrail, you’ll know one did.

3. Read the newspaper?  I read Slate and the BBC online and I pick up a WSJ at school sometimes for token conservative bias. :p

4. Pray? Yes.

5. Have a job? Teacher of Record, Baylor U.

6. Go to church? Yes.

7. Wish on shooting stars? Sometimes I wish that the given asteroid will not land on me …

 

SEVEN THINGS IN THE LAST 24 HOURS:Have you…

1. Cried? No.

2. Had fun? Depends on how you define “fun.” :p

3. Been kissed? Negative, more’s the pity.

4. Felt stupid? I felt other people were stupid, if that counts …

5. Talked to an ex? Two.

6. Missed someone? Sure. 

7. Hugged someone? Yes.

 

 

TEN random things about me:

10. I can, and do, blink my eyes independently of one another.

09. I think the world “culvert” is the English langauge’s ugliest.

08. I frequently tap tunes with various body parts.

07.  Despite what you’re thinking, I actually don’t have Tourette’s.

06. I despise, with frenzied passion, any form of melted cheese.

05. I find skeletons endlessly amusing (thanks, Con-man)

04. I am the best driver on Baylor’s campus. 

03. I prefer slow movies to fast ones.

02. I am less interesting than you’d think upon first meeting me. 

01. I once won a 5k only because I was the only person in my age group to show up.

 

NINE ways to win my heart:

09. Be endlessly deep.

08. Listen to and/or play music with me.

07. Don’t force me to spend hours in awkward social situations.

06. Read my poetry and show me yours.

05. Read other people’s poetry and discuss it with me.

04. Love to travel.

03. Share your doubts.

02. Be capricious in anything except interpersonal relationships.

01. Share your faith with me and respect mine …

 

SEVEN ways to annoy me:

07. Talk through my class.

06. Block me from merging on the highway.

05. Pretend to know things that you don’t.

04. Pose as a critical cynic just because you think liking things is “unfashionable”

03. Criticize modern art/poetry/prose without understanding it

02. Use a platitude (especially about politics or religion)

01. Walk around in dressy locales whilst wearing sweaty athletic gear.

 

SIX things I believe in:

06. The idiocy of most people.

05. The dignity of most people.

04. The unmitigated brilliance of J.L. Borges

03. God.

02. The conviction that virtue is (and must be) its own reward.

01. The transience of pleasure.

 

FIVE things I’m afraid of:

05. Anyone driving a car (besides me)

04. Rejection.

03. Four more years of Republican rule

02. The dreadful allure of fascism

01. Disease

 

FOUR of my favorite items in my room:

04. Collected Poetry of Czeslaw Milosz

03. The Art of Fugue (arranged for saxophone quartet)

02. My MacBook

01. My rad old-school speakers

 

THREE things I do everyday

03. Stress out about teaching

02. Go to the coffee shop

01. Cogitate

 

TWO things I want to do right now:

02. Be done grading

01. Have more money

 

ONE person I want to see right now:

01. Anyone who will have a deep conversation with me.

Resurfacing …

I know I’ve been bad, but it’s because of the harsh realities of moving, a class that meets every single day (and I present on poems just about every other day), and a severe case of climate blues (if whales had sweaty armpits that you could live in, and swam around in hot tubs, this is how it would feel to live there).  Sorry.

So, I saw two of the endless streams of comic-book films that have been vomited onto America by the Hollywood cartels, and actually neither one was very bad.  Not cinematic classics or anything, certainly not. But not pitiful or depressing, either.  

I meant to go see Batman: The Dark Knight on the day of its release, but Waco being Waco, and therefore not offering any other weekend diversion but seeing a movie, it was sold out.  So, since my student discount tickets are only five bucks, I took a gamble and watched Hellboy II: The Golden Army instead.  Now, most dudes my age would probably say that Pan’s Labyrinth is no Hellboy — but in reality, it’s the other way around.  The former was really designated an “art film” just because it was in Spanish, and was in fact a brilliantly imaginative fantasy.  Hellboy II is reassuringly filmed in English (with snatches of a made up language) and therefore not an art film.  It’s certainly a version of director Guillermo del Toro’s vision re-packaged to fit the uber-populist mold of the comic book, but mutatis mutandis, the films aren’t as far apart as you’d think.  In fact, the visuals are clearly derived from the same oddly precise imagination, and for once I felt a studio had not been wasting its money on digital technology.  These computers make some art, dammit, not just stupid trolls (though, obligatorily, those are certainly in evidence here).  It’s worth watching if only for the brilliantly realized tree-god, the scene where two characters get drunk together on cans of Tecate, and the rather Derridian implications for the marginalized life of the non-humans.

The Dark Knight, which I did manage to see last night, is a different story.  It’s a true post-9/11 “superhero” movie that barely deserves the title.  It is utterly jammed with moral dilemmas, over everything from warrantless wiretapping to the old game-theory question of whether it is better to collaborate or compete (or blow 500 people to smithereens).  While most superheroes end up vomiting American flags all over their simplistically cackling enemies whilst feasting on apple pie and repeating folk adages in cool voices, this “superhero” is depressed, convinced that he is actually a (sort of necessary) menace, and doesn’t really get that much screen time.  It’s amazing to remember how the first movie of this franchise was considered “dark” when it came out — it has nothing on this baby.  The problem of a convincing villain is brilliantly solved by the late Heath Ledger (and what a shame it is that this is his last role), who marries the spirit of the anarchists of Dostoevsky to that of al-Qaeda with the sort of sheer bravado rarely seen in big-budget films.  Astoundingly, his fate is really not sealed at the end — and considering how easily he breaks from prison in the middle of the film, we cannot imagine he stays incarcerated long.  And here I thought only Cormac McCarthy got away with that sort of thing.  In summation, this film left me rather depressed, but not at the state of American cinema (for once): instead, it vividly illustrates the extreme difficulty of fighting evil and chaos and terror while remaining pure, or even kind of dubiously decent.  Sobering thoughts for this time of war …

Other than that, I’ve mostly been eating and studying, which is what one does in Waco.  And I will try to post more often, especially when I get internet in my apartment.  To absolutely no one’s surprise, the promised AirBear connection does NOT reach to Jamestown #15.  So I’m left again, hefting my silly black bag all over creation looking for some wireless.  I hate it.

Excellent article on Iran (and some incidentals).

I cannot recommend this article highly enough.  Just the thought of our soldiers having to go into Iran the way they went into Iraq (except Iran is larger and more powerful) has been making me feel sick for a long time, and this article (written by a real Persian who has served as translator to several Iranian presidents) strikes me as a solid, thorough survey of the issue that is completely opposed to war.  Also a nice, oblique “thumbs up” to Obama’s willingness to engage in talks with these regimes, which I had a hunch was a good idea but this guy really gives some geo-political reasons and precedents for why it would be a good idea.  And perhaps best of all, a full deflation of the idea that anything besides the current Republican battle frenzy is “appeasement” (again, I knew this was ridiculous but Majd puts it well and concisely).

In other news, I was back to the Deli again after a bizarre four-day weekend.  I was actually impressed with the new manager, and being impressed with the Deli is not a common occurrence for me, I assure you.  I mean, my first manager was fairly effective but barely literate, writing down anguished commands like “FLUFF CHESE’S,” “ONLY PS MEATS GOSE IN HERE,” or “DOT CHUBS DAILY DOT DOT DOT.”  She had a photograph of Duane “The Rock” Johnson thumbtacked to the bulletin board in the back room with a note reading THIS PICTURE WAS GIVING TO ME.  DO NOT TAKE DOWN.  I’ve wondered, from time to time, exactly what it had been giving to her, and when and why it stopped.  The second manager, a sweet and personable lady, was probably a humanities major at some time, judging by her utter lack of administrative skills.  I feel her pain.  She’s managing a Starbucks somewhere now, which is good, because she used to spend a lot of time drawing the Starbucks chalk advertisement signs (quite aesthetically, I must say) when she was supposed to be, I guess, ordering chicken (we were always out).

But now, under the current regime, we seem to be enjoying a Pax Meyera the likes of which I’ve never known before.  Things are stocked up.  Broken things are sometimes replaced.  Our manager wants us to work out our duties among ourselves at night instead of relying on the confusing, often hidden, often illiterate, “tour sheet” (no more “YOU!  Why didn’t YOU chisel the blood off this drain flume?  It was ON the TOUR SHEET!” business).

And and and.  Salman Rushdie’s new novel, The Enchantress of Florence, is magnificent so far.  I bet the luminous Padma Lakshmi would have stayed with him if she had read this book (probably a lie: no doubt the man is a total pain to live with, and probably the research he did on this book made it even more so  And she’s like six inches taller than him.  Poor guy).  Anyway, let’s just say that my tendency toward hero-worship is welling up once again, and the absence I’ve felt from him since Senior Novel days has only, as the adage says, made the literary heart grow fonder.  Go buy it.  Now.

Deli tales: — in which I give a man the gift of pants.

Why do I do it?  Why do I go back?  Am I that devoted to the luchre of this world?

Only a few things have changed: pizza is no longer sold all day, but is a lunch-exclusive.  The rotisserie is no longer self-cleaning.  (For those of you who don’t know: this is the fifth summer I’ve come back to work at the Deli of the local Fred Meyer [Kroger]).  But otherwise, all is well with the world of the deli, if “well” is the right adjective for a sort of combination of an oil derrick and a crematorium.

Needless to say, I’m not quite “on the ball,” because obviously I try not to think about work any more than I have to when otherwise occupied, say by graduate school.  It took me a while to remember the old routines, especially since the old role known as “pre-closer” has been replaced by something different, something that involves cleaning a row of four stainless-steel machines, each of which smells like flesh-smoke, simmering blubber, and dry-rub spices.  One of my co-workers helpfully showed me a super-cleanser today that will just “melt off that gunk,” provided I was not “afraid of getting a few chemical burns now and again.”  No, silly – who would be afraid of that?

So, played any good video games lately?  This is the usual salutation of one “Abraham” (not his real name) who works at the U-Scan cash register.  I’ve never claimed to be a gamer, because I’m not.  It would just be bad form.  But he keeps asking.  “Um, no,” I replied, trying to think of how to keep the conversation afloat.  “Too busy with school?” Abraham inquires, since apparently that is the only excuse for not plugging in to WoW for seventeen hours a day.  “Just trying to stay out of trouble,” I respond, apropos of nothing, and swipe my timecard.  

Yesterday I lost control of a big vat of Apricot Barbecue sauce.  I almost had it in its little cubbyhole when the unconquerable greasiness of the place took command and the thing flipped out of my hand, laid down a flat trail of sticky sauce, and then leapt into the air just in time to slime the entire pants-leg of my colleague, “Andreas.”  It was epic, tragic. comic.  They were so thoroughly ensconced in the viscid gunk that I had no choice but to buy the man a new pair of pants.  At least I got the employee discount.

I have a theory.  There is one thing that people want.  Yes, people have started wars over women and given their lives for money; but there is one thing that trumps all the rest.  What is it?  Ranch.  People freak out even before I have time to ask if they want ranch — “OH SWEET LORD DO YOU HAVE RANCH PLEASE TELL ME YOU HAVE RANCH AND NOT JUST ONE AT LEAST TWO OR THREE CUPS PLEASE GOD SAY YES –”  I’d like to conduct an experiment, one in which a person has to, say, administer an electrical shock to a puppy to get a cup of ranch for his or her extremely dry jo-jo potato wedges.  How far would they go?  How many would they kill?  My guess is that, considering the enthusiasm shown, all the furry creatures of the world would have to pay before the wife-beater crowd could be satisfied.

More to come as it appears, plus some more anecdotes of gaming from co-workers …

Earth to Interweb …

Let’s be honest: the Blog and I have a difficult history.  Having been both a dangerous Luddite and a technocrat-wannabe in my day, and everything in between, I find it hard to blame it.  My latest “blog” took a hint from my youthful passion and decided to be utterly, exclusively political, not to mention a little angry.  I got frustrated with it, but kept serving its rapacious desire for screed and soapbox.  I shall continue to do so; however, the desire for a slightly more humane outlet has seized me lately, so here you go: a site of vanities, a tribute to my favorite book of the Bible, the future locus amoenus for those of you who love to read agonizing tales of wage-slavery in delicatessens, and yes, maybe even some politicking if I feel like it.

You might also end up party to some petty philosophizing, so enter with caution.