Tuesday, August 17, 2004

you got to know when to hold 'em,
know when to fold 'em

-kenny rogers

for the past few weeks, i wanted to pull the rusty gates closed on this weblog. lock things up and amble away. my consigliere apparently did not have the stomach to endorse so bold a move. he advised that i take one month off, then make my final decision with a clear head.

today, i will commence my sabbatical.
if you wish, please check back on the 15th of september.

sincerely,
the management

Thursday, August 12, 2004

the college board plans to change the SAT this spring. take out analogies, add a student essay section. the training class i attended today explained how i might set up test prep sessions for students who use my library. a guidance counselor and a librarian team-taught the class.

the counselor spoke as though all of her Rs had been pounded down with shovels. she sounded exactly like my relatives on my dad's side who are scattered throughout massachusetts and rhode island. at my sister's wedding a couple of years ago, it was fun to sneak up on tables and hear family from narragansett talking to family from raleigh. i felt like an anthropologist trying to discover whether english was spoken anywhere in the banquet hall.

the SAT prep training was pretty straightforward. it took a little mental adjusting to get reacquainted with the calendar though. when does the student take the test? when do they apply to school? when do they submit financial aid paperwork?

my parents had a system, so i was lucky. they told me to apply to six schools ranging from longshot to shoo-in and they let me know when paperwork was due. i don't think i could have been trusted to make any important decisions at that time, mesmerized, as i was, by the glossy college catalogs that were crammed daily into our mailbox. ...but check out how cool these dorms are!

looking back, it is actually kind of a joke to me that we expect 16-year-olds to make life decisions. i changed my major when i got to school anyway, just like a lot of people. i also didn't think seriously about a career until almost ten years after that.

we should pay higher taxes, so that every kid gets to attend a liberal arts school for four years, after which they will be required by law to spend another four years stumbling through a succession of shit jobs working mainly for tips-- waiting tables, softshoe/busking, massage parlor, whatever. only after you've floundered for a bit and tried some things and made some mistakes should you even begin thinking about what job you want to spend the rest of your life doing.

i mean, honestly, think about what you wanted to be when you were 16. are you doing that for a job now? probably not, because there could only be two guys in nelson and they were brothers.

last heard: the gazetteers 'bedroom community'
last read: In the wake of this preservationist backlash, McGregor opted to save the historic complex and incorporate it into the project.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

[warning: sadness ahoy.]

a weird kind of homesickness descended on me recently. i never realized it before, but having my aunt in the same town really pacified me. the countless sunday nights spent sitting at her tiny kitchen table, talking about nothing important, this is what i miss the most. i am not the type to take mundane things for granted-- not the routine, not the ritual, not the chocolate cake-- i'm lucky that way, but somehow, i value those things even more than i once did.

i find myself thinking about my immediate family often, like i'm settling into a homesickness thirteen years after i moved out. they only live six hours away, close enough to drive, but still far enough to require planning. it wouldn't be the kind of drive like the one to my aunt's place. i can't just stop at their house because i'm in the neighborhood. i can't just grab something out of their refrigerator and leave them a note.

last seen: speaking in strings
last heard: george jones 'white lightning'
last read: The subfield of "stylistics" emerged in the 1950s, attracting prolific adherents who borrowed terminology and techniques from linguistics, including complicated computer-aided means of quantifying style.
bonus: Skinner and Mills both have the confidence not to talk about dominant themes in American chart hip-hop: pliant women, amphibious vehicles, bottomless pride.

Monday, August 09, 2004

i knew that i would spend part of monday morning briefly addressing an auditorium of over 100 teachers. i also knew that i would likely be introduced over a very loud public address system as manager, a title that still makes me feel like a little boy on easter sunday with an itchy and over-starched shirt collar.

i figured i may as well look the part though, so i spent some time this weekend searching for a new sport coat, one that actually fit.

[sidebar]
42short is sort of catchy, but it's been well over two years since the moniker denoted my actual jacket size. truth be told, my chest has become even more barrel-y. 46short just doesn't have quite the same ring; does it, my friends? therefore, this weblog will keep its original name, until it, like all things, passes into dust. but i digress.
[end sidebar]

saturday, i braved the mall in search of my aforementioned sport coat. i braved it on back-to-school/tax-amnesty shopping weekend. i braved the den of commerce. i braved its depravity and its strollers aplenty. i braved its traffic and i braved its crowds. i braved the sight of two young girls whose parents thought it perfectly appropriate that the fruit of their loins should venture out-of-doors in matching Hooters t-shirts...and we wonder why yankees make fun of us?

still, my trip to the mall was well worth it. i found a smart, brown-checked, jacket, one that required no alterations, and i smiled as i walked back to the car with it slung over my right shoulder.

last seen: collateral, along came polly, the philadelphia story, reservoir dogs
last heard: little wings 'i saw reflections'
last read: When the walkout (with its echoes of the CIA-backed Chilean lorry owners' strike against Salvador Allende's government in the early 1970s) failed, Chávez was able to sack the most pampered sections of a privileged workforce.
bonus: for the love of puppies

Friday, August 06, 2004

random notes for the future jobseeker: by a young man who just spent three days sifting through forty applications, interviewing eighteen people, for six positions

-ok, you know how on the application, in the employment history section, there is a small box provided for you to list reason for leaving after each job entry? well, writing i was let go because i did not meet performance objectives is very honest, but, unfortunately, it is also very dumb. might i suggest something simpler like paroled which does not sound as bad.

-many interviewers fall back on classic and cliched questions. for example, i might ask you to describe your strengths and weaknesses. the answer you provide for the latter is, in the opinion of many, infinitely more telling. bad answers include: disorganized and too emotional.

-during the interview proper, there is a good chance that i will preface a question by explaining that more than half of our patrons are young adults. this is because of our library's close proximity to a high school. in fact, you'll notice that i reiterate this point many times throughout the interview as a way to gauge how comfortable you might be interacting with teens. so, when i finally get around to asking you a direct question about it, you might reconsider before saying i have two of my own and, frankly, i don't really like children.

last heard: orchestra baobab 'soldadi'
last read: If five major cities each in India and Pakistan were to be hit first, they expected about 1.7 million people in India and about 1.2 million in Pakistan to die or evaporate instantly.
bonus: i'm dead, bitch.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

grocery shopping at night can be depressing.

for one thing, there are two sets of sliding glass doors and you always pick the pair that's been secured for the evening. which set of doors they lock never follows a pattern. all you wanted was a couple of granny smith apples and some cereal.

soon you are walking up and down the aisles with armfuls of groceries because you didn't think you'd need this much, so you didn't grab a basket.

you stop at the end of each aisle, squinting to read the words on the signs hanging above each row. these signs always seem to list things that you aren't looking for, like cornstarch or the exotic and vague-sounding spices. you don't need spices though, you need a box of shredded mini-wheats tout de suite, so you keep walking.

lonely office workers shop late at night, still clad in their now-rumpled business attire even though it is well after ten PM. if they are male office workers, the top button on their collar will be undone with their tie pulled down and to the right just a few inches. if they are female office workers, they still look mostly pretty good, but they will walk like they've had a few drinks.

couples in stagnant relationships also shop late at night. they need milk. things have been over for a long, long time. they won't talk about it since their parents are still paying off the reception. the same thing happens to some TV couples.

he never speeds down the aisles like he used to, riding on the back of the shopping cart in flashes of reflected florescent light, just to make her smile.

she never sneaks up behind him like she used to, putting her arms around his waist, burying her face between his shoulder blades and exhaling, while he stands there trying to find the exact right kind of crackers she likes.

at first, you envy their memories, then you realize that that's really kind of sick. you make yourself feel better by acknowledging their daily pain, then you realize that that's really, REALLY sick, but at least you feel better again. nothing brightens your day like the misery of others. by now you've located the cereal aisle; so, you grab one box, then turn and leave.

last seen: the getaway
last heard: camera obscura 'i don't do crowds'
last read: You also gotta love how he tosses the word liberal around like a redneck says homo.
bonus: the shy, intense Frenchman, regarded as the founding father of photo-journalism, died on Monday

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

the whole idea of the WPA has fascinated me for a long time. it seems unfathomable that we, even briefly, had a government that used tax money to put great numbers of folks to work building monuments, that sent writers out to collect oral histories and create state guidebooks, that employed artists to paint murals in office buildings.

when i'm a grown-up and buy a house, i hope to hang some old WPA posters. i like the art and, hopefully, the missus, when i meet her, will like the art, too. it would be swell if i could collect originals, but i can foresee that becoming too expensive a hobby. fortunately, there are companies that sell prints and i can be happy with those. i like the travel and reading posters best.

just as an aside, i noticed that there are quite a few posters dealing with syphilis. i will not be hanging any of those in my kitchen.

last seen: bubba ho-tep
last heard: nina simone 'feeling good'
last read: Can progressives unite behind ideas of similar clarity and appeal?

Monday, August 02, 2004

as a rule, my friends and i are extremely punctual. we often arrive at theatres well before the movie begins. this allows plenty of time to sit around and be obnoxious and make fun of other people under our breath as they walk up the stairs.

one of the theatres we frequent occasionally runs a featurette called the twenty. it might play at your theatre as well; if not, the twenty is a series of celebrity interviews, music videos, and commercials that begins twenty mintues before the feature. it is a nice way to kill time before the movie begins, but, unfortunately, i've only seen it at one theatre in my town.

most of the other movie houses rely on slides. you can tell a lot about the patronage of the theatre by the ads they run. at phillips place, a theatre located in one of charlotte's more well-to-do neighborhoods, ads for mercedes SUVs, plastic surgery clinics, and chain eateries usually flash on the screen. they even supplement the static ads with real commercials before the previews start. sometimes this bothers me, but lately they've been running an ad for american express blue that i like. it isn't the ad so much as the voice of the woman singing in the ad. each time it plays, i am smitten anew.

after leaving the manchurian candidate yesterday, i made it my mission to find out more about who the singer was. the internet is the perfect place for indulging one's neuroses and obsessions, as you well know, and it didn't take long to discover not only an entire website devoted to music from commercials but also a thread devoted to the ad in question.

the song is entitled 'beautiful things' and was originally performed by bobby darin, but angela mccluskey is the name of the woman who sings it in the ad. the song is wonderfully playful and a bit croon-y. i am sad to report that it was an apparent departure for ms. mccluskey. the songs on her website are nothing like it. at least you get to hear the shades of billie holiday in her voice though. i hope it gives you that warm feeling in your stomach like it did to me.

last seen: the perfect score, the manchurian candidate
last heard: ray charles 'eleanor rigby'
last read: When science is noticed at all by the executive branch, the discipline is usually treated as a combination of black magic and dangerous radicalism. [more info on the case and the collective]