Exhibit 3.11

Stock Photography Review

Because why not. It's not as if anyone does or should read this.

Anyway, this piece is from here (in case you don't look, it's a bank's page for online banking) and represents one of my favorite stock photography errors: the out-of-date photo. Usually this happens because A) Someone's not paying attention and uses a photo with a man wearing a Where's the beef? t-shirt or B) Someone is paying attention but only to the bottom line and therefore doesn't want to pay for a new photo where the models don't have polio.

In this case, the bank clearly had put all of their resources into short-wave radio banking and so found themselves ill-prepared for rise of computers and the impact the internet would have on their interactions with customers. After auctioning off their frequency, the bank had raised enough funds to purchase exactly one photo with a computer and has stuck with it since 1994.

My favorite part is the daughter's look of utter confusion at what is being presented to her and the mother's (lover's?) look of quiet superiority as her daughter/lover struggles to navigate her way to the Benneton's website.

Best guesses on what these two are Lycosing:
  • Different World Bonet Cosby Cancelled?
  • Baggy denim shirts
  • Dole/Kemp position NAFTA
  • Perm chatroom
  • Mavis Beacon

Okay, I just put that last search in for all of the sweet Mavis Beacon traffic it will draw.

There are some other great photos on that First National Bank website:

This one is just creepy. I know it's supposed to be a sweet scene between a grandfather and his grandson, but if I had to look at this guy's hairy thighs every time I wanted to see if my student loan payment posted, I'd be pretty bummed. Although, since I've been typing this, I've begun to find it strangely hypnotizing. Better move on.

This is what they have on their loans page which is good as it can't go out of date, but bad in the sense that it basically sends the message that you have to weigh your future if you accept their tantalizing pile of singles. Good god, there must be $100 there. And the Dolphins are getting points this week. But my dying kid... It is good that they refrained from showing the pound of flesh on the other side of the scale.
This is the picture on the telephone banking page and again it's charmingly anachronistic. A corded phone? Ha! Who is this lady, Murphy Brown? Seriously, I could keep going on like this forever. This does little to make phone banking seem appealing, of course, since the woman looks like someone just told her David Caruso gets naked in Jade. Okay, I'll stop.

Maybe the bank is relying on us knowing that she really is just calling a friend for the correct Baby Stew recipe.


Exhibit 3.10

Fun with the GRE Literature Subject Test.

I took my first practice test yesterday, and while it mostly 2.5 hours of soul crushing inanity--interrupted by brief glimpses of the romantic sublime and the warming of my feelings for somebody's mistress who, frankly, seemed a little fey--a few questions stood out as particularly mocking the very idea of this test in the first place. The worst example:
  • "Are you not happy in Hertfordshire, Mr. Raskolnikov?" asked Elizabeth. "Would you be happy," he replied, "if you had killed a miserable pawnbroker?" "How easily may a bad habit be formed!" cried Elizabeth, and with this in mind, though she hoped he was not in earnest, she very soon afterwards too leave of him.

  • Which of the following titles would be most appropriate for a work containing this passage?
  • (A) Murder at Thirteen Rue de Toot
  • (B) Elizabeth and Anna Kremlina
  • (C) The Importance of Being Elizabeth
  • (D) Pride and Punishment
  • (E) The Golden Fawn
This was from a real test, by the way. I love the idea that somewhere deep in the heart of ETS, presumably in a room with only one light to illuminate the smoke lingering over a large conference table, a group of adjuncts from local universities meet, exchange the secret handshake, and proceed to throw out title puns for hours. Howards End of the Affair? Accepted. A Room With A View To a Kill? Rejected - reason: Too many Bond questions already.

At times, this test doesn't test how much you know about literature as much as how good you are at Before and After questions on Wheel of Fortune. This may, however, actually be a greater indicator of future success.

  • His hero Septimus Harding, a benign clergyman, plunges into a crisis of soul when the sensational press unjustly assails him as an avaricious wastrel. No sooner has this tiny storm abated than the new bishop, Dr. Proudie, arrives with his despotic wife and slimy, ambitious chaplain, Obadiah Slope.

  • The passage above is from a discussion of novels by:
  • (A) Dickens
  • (B) Trollope
  • (C) Fielding
  • (D) Thackeray
  • (E) James
According to the answer key, only 17% of test takers answered it correctly, tying it for the most difficult question (and making it the most difficult not tied to an excerpt).

Sadly, I didn't know the answer either. You?


Exhibit 3.9

I'm not going to say any more about my sunburn. Except that sometime between eleven and noon I successfully shed my skin. I took the skin and filled it with receipts for things I've purchased recently and leaned this mannequin against the wall. All day, people have been stopping by to hug it.


Exhibit 3.8

D(usty) has a great post which evolves into a discussion of the phenomenon of quirk fueled by this article from The Atlantic. In between sunburn induced wincing and the adjustment to a life where shirts hurt and no one can ever touch me again, I was able to move my eyes enough to read both and suggest you do the same. Anyway, I'm stealing his topic.

I feel a deep ambivalence about all things quirk (including that phrase, which I'm only using because apparently someone at The Atlantic decided its the phrase for this movement. Frankly, I would prefer something that uses the words "Precious" or "Wonderment," but that's just me. Also, I think it's odd Hirschorn, the article's author, doesn't mention the whole 'new sincerity' crowd which seems inherently linked [sigh, by which I mean the McSweeney's-ish set rather than the anti-irony, post-9/11 critical set, although maybe them too]).

If my mom got to label this movement--and who's to say she shouldn't--she'd call it "cutesy."

It's not that I find the work of the filmmakers, writers, etc. that Hirschorn writes about to be uninteresting or ineffective, if anything I find it too effective at pulling my strings by a well-placed song or perfect pop culture reference. So too, those artists that eschew pop culture references in favor of unadulterated (but profoundly nonthreatening) oddity, win me over with their perfect combination of precociousness and absurdity. These artists view the world and its denizens as machines of coincidence oiled by awe. Or, if that rhetoric is too much, at the very least the work often seems to be vaguely existential only instead of leading to absurdist meaninglessness it leads to a shy, vulnerable hope.

The hope often seems to be a promise made good, however. Characters in these "quirk" stories generally turn out okay, often by making an improbable connection with another quirky character or by discovering a deeper problem than their own malaise. The stories work because they're reality crooked enough to turn the mundane into something strange and wonderful.

They are remarkably insincere.

Or at least most are. I'm trying hard not to mention names here, but let me just say that some of the artists who fit these labels I enjoy to the point that I would defend their work against said label. Others, I enjoy but as a bit of an emotional guilty pleasure (sort of like listening to an emo song and getting all angsty). Some I think are shallow and manipulative. For many of the artists mentioned in Hirschorn's article, I feel all of these things.

The insincerity is what I can't shake and what keeps me from committing to the idea of so much of this "quirk." That the movement--and it is a movement unless we're willing to call it a great coincidence--misreads itself as being sincere is what is profoundly frustrating to me. I remember when someone introduced me to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and I flipped through it at a party, getting only so far as the long preface, and stopping completely when I got to the part that said, "This is a picture of a stapler." next to, in fact, a picture of a stapler. That was it for me.

You could argue it's sincere insomuch as it's a picture of a stapler and not, say, a puppy next to the text, but the gesture of identifying something so meaningless and unimportant is insincere, and, to me, it's enough to make me want to spend my limited reading time elsewhere.

(For what it's worth, I've enjoyed some of the other Eggers I've read, especially his short stories, but haven't read much McSweeney's or The Believer for the same concerns about sincerity. I've heard What is the What is amazing, but again there are just enough questions with motive and authenticity [why is it called a novel? why is this even Eggers' story?] that I feel reluctant to pick it up. Every time I think about buying it, I can't help but feel like I'd be better served reading one of the other hundred books about the Sudan. I'm probably wrong).

I guess I just like my absurdity to be a little more dangerous and done with the tools of the art (e.g. the prose or the camera work). This is one of the reasons why I think poetry handles this sensibility better. Free from the obligations of character and setting, the absurd/surreal can be sincere in a really powerful way. For prose, George Saunders and Aimee Bender, for example, take askew glances at the world and make them seem like dark possibilities, a reality we just haven't visited.

In film, David Lynch manipulates with color and haunting (rather than pop) music, and his worlds always seem delicately balanced on top of some deep evil. What those artists do not do, is let their sensibility get in the way of confronting something that isn't precious or adorable. Take Me and You and Everyone We Know. The fact that one person spends the film trying to sleep with pre-teen girls goes completely unjudged because he does it in such a strange, funny way. That when the girls seem to agree to the act he hides apparently excuses him, but it doesn't take the violence out of the previous flirtation.

I liked the movie well enough, but it was tough to ignore this scary inner conflict in favor of July filming her own feet.

It gets to the heart of the problem for me, because no one in the quirk examples mentioned seems to need anything except to be acknowledged and accepted for their own eccentricities. If they can connect with someone with a matching set of eccentricities, all the better. Zach Braff paralyzed his mother, takes a lot of anti-depressants, but all can be redeemed when he meets an epileptic who murders gerbils.

I'm not much of a Marxist, but there also seems to be something highly consumer oriented about these stories, and not just because they're normally about the upper-middle & middle class. Not only do characters seem to be able to obtain happiness wholesale, as if they were buying a lamp at Target, but a lot of the manipulation of the world seems to be done in ways that have more than a little to do with advertising principles (lots of nostalgia, "in" jokes, highly targeted demographics, etc.)

What a lot of this quirk means to do is show and then correct a character's numbness. This is supposed to be sincere since we all sometimes feel lonely and disconnected from the world. What these stories usually do, however, is taunt a gray-tone world with a pastel one. That the world in these stories is highly artificial and manipulative is what makes them insincere, and even the non-fiction is highly edited to remove any problem truly insurmountable. It leads to sadness without desperation which isn't, of course, sadness at all but rather just a melancholy expression of numbness.

It may be cathartic, but it isn't eloquent.


Exhibit 3.7

I am horribly, horribly sunburned. All I have to look forward to now is the brief period of time after the pain stops and before the skin cancer sets in. I don't know how skin cancer works, but based on the garnet color of my skin, I'm going to find out.

A nice woman at the pharmacy walked me through all of the aloe vera options. I chose blue.


Exhibit 3.6

Citizen Of by Christian Hawkey

In this book there are skies, skies with clouds. In this book there are mouths, mouths with lips. For a book of great abstraction, there is a pervasive entanglement with the things of the world, an entanglement which keeps the work from the muddle and lets it engage the contemporary world in ways that I found surprising. From the morality of nation building to the lamentation of a confusing and disappointing election, Hawkey makes his surreal, fragmented imagination surprisingly topical. It's still an abstract book, but it's not ethereal.

That is not to say that this is a political or even particularly culturally engaged work. Many of the poems here read to me as more notable for their language than for their meaning, but Hawkey has enough of the politically engaged poems to force a second look at what can initially seem shallow (which is probably a reading unique to the poems being collected). I can imagine coming across the poems in journals and thinking they were funny. Or interesting. Or fantastic. But as a book, especially one with the word 'citizen' in the title, I kept looking for more of the world in the poems. Sometimes it's there, sometime it isn't.

What is there, is a certain magic. These poems are like Rube Goldberg machines that through some carefully designed and sequenced conflagration of nouns, adjectives, birds, and colors a little happiness is produced. These tenuous machines work more often than not, and I'm entirely willing to admit that when they didn't, it was because I was the one pulling the lever.

Exhibit 3.5

Some of my favorite lines from Christian Hawkey's Citizen Of:

They have invented this machine to extract/glass from the lips of strangers/which is precisely what we are/although the fear of breathing/brings us within inches of each other’s face.

Who utters/the phrase transparent gutter/& stands back as a tube of rain/slides horizontally/across the sky/with nowhere to go but/clouds, one by one

O where/in these kingdoms red with the clay of sunsets/pasted onto our brows/& these wires threaded with copper/listening to our every desire as if it were a need/can I rest with my blue triangle and maybe, if the light is right,/place my heart inside it, a soft cloud.

It is spring. No one’s around./White dandelions/bloom the shape of a woman’s body./With a little wind, she moves—she migrates.

It was a gate./I was hungry for it to transform me,/moving through it, but it didn’t/it just opened, & so I sat down/within it, holding either side of it/&it didn’t seem to mind it.


Exhibit 3.4

Ouch, Jon Bruning.

If you're Bruning, should you just drop out of the race and claim you were running against Hagel but feel Johanns represents your values? I'd certainly be tempted to rather than waste money and what little remaining goodwill I had for what is almost certain to be a losing effort. Bruning's road to the Senate would mean beating Johanns (and Hal Daub) in a primary and possibly facing (and besting) Bob Kerrey. That's just not happening. Bruning gambled that Hagel would run, and Bruning lost. It's probably best that he just waits his turn for the governorship (sigh). Or just moves somewhere else. In fact, I vote for that option.

Johanns vs. Kerrey, anyone?

Welcome to the national stage, Nebraska.

Exhibit 3.3

While I was walking our two dogs, a group of 4 or 5 preschool-aged children from our neighborhood ran towards me, and one asked in Spanish if they could pet the dogs (I assume). The dogs at this point were really freaked out by the children, and I'm very nervous about them biting a child so it didn't seem like a good idea. Unfortunately, I don't actually know any Spanish, but rather than make the obvious assumption that at least one of the children (and probably all) had better English skills than I had Spanish, I decided I'd tough it out with my Spanish gleamed from movie titles, band names, and the Amigos menu.

"No, gracias," I said. "Perro malvado." To complete this inter-cultural exchange, I widened my eyes ominously.

The children seemed confused and ran away.

This was not the correct way to say this for at least two reasons:
1) Malvado apparently means evil, not just bad. So I'm now the hombre in the neighborhood with a blood-thirsty pack of 9-kilo dogs.
2) I used the singular (I think), which means they either thought I was calling the child who asked an evil dog, was talking to a different and unseen evil dog, or I was calling myself an evil dog.

In other words, imagine approaching a man walking two dogs and asking to pet the barking dogs which are straining at their leashes towards you. The man looks confused for a moment before shouting in a heavy accent, "No thanks, Evil Dog!" The man then widens his eyes and walks away.

Would you invite that man to your next neighborhood fiesta?


Exhibit 3.2

I saw the Chiara Quartet last night at the Kimball Recital Hall, and once again they were fantastic. Check their website for concert dates and make it a point to see them if they're ever in your area.

The pieces they played were written specifically for them by Jefferson Friedman--who was in the house last night--and they're phenomenal. I can't say I often listen to "classical" music (modern or otherwise) so seeing them twice now has been a bit of a revelation for me. They are recording the Friedman pieces soon, they say, and consider me in line to pick them up.

The two things Dusty said to me during the intermission:
  • "Which one is your favorite?" (as if we were seven-year-olds talking about the Ninja Turtles)

  • Turning to me excitedly, "An elderly person just opened a hard candy!"

Exhibit 3.1

This whole thing should make you very sad. I'm going to write a football recap.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Basically, everyone was able to pretend it didn't matter that they had an entirely new defensive line and then the USC game started and, like children of divorce, we were no longer able to pretend some things didn't matter.

I'm not going to call for Kevin Cosgrove's head or anything. I don't know what it was, but it seems unlikely it was entirely his fault. Everyone on defense looked bad, but it's important to remember that this team wasn't winning a national championship anyway. The only way they are getting to a BCS bowl is to win the Big XII Championship which is just as possible today as it was Saturday afternoon.

If this seems like a rational assessment, believe me, it is only because I've had time to internalize it after several phone calls from my friend Ryan which began with sentences like, "We're never winning a national championship again." Sigh. It may be true.

Miami Dolphins

Have watched both games in a bar now. The totals:

Victories seen: 0
New friends accidentally made: 1
Trent Green passes where I cringed as it left his hand: 15
Good Ronnie Brown runs: 3
Good Jessie Chatman runs: 4 (um, as the backup that number should either be lower or Ronnie's should be higher. Hell, they both should be higher).
Cam Cameron's names: 1
Realistic predictions of wins this season: 5
Times I have excitedly clapped after a routine play: 4 (this number is usual much higher)
Times Heather has asked "Is he supposed to do that?": 10
Times the player was, in fact, not supposed to do that: 10

If Mandy Patinkin Was a Fantasy Football Team

2-0 and in first place by a fair margin. I never thought I'd say it, but I was legitimately panicking when Eli Manning got hurt. He's like a buddy I drunkenly picked a fight with at night only to need to borrow his car in the morning. I'm sorry, Eli, I'm sorry. We're cool. I'll put some gas in the tank.

Otherwise, this team is powered by the unstoppable juggernaut that is Randy Moss. He's like Superman only if Superman had a lingering hamstring problem and sometimes said things like, "I don't need to save everyone. I just have to save people when it counts." In case it wasn't clear, I'm not quite ready to feel okay about Randy Moss.

Oh, and due to the Eli Manning injury, I had to start Trent Green this week. Rooting for the real Trent Green and fantasy Trent Green at the same time is a little like voting for a Green Party candidate in a local election. You do it. You don't feel good about it. You know how it's going to end.

The Lincoln Hawks

1-1 and somewhere in the middle of the pack. Week one was ugly, but week two went well. This team is a bit of an enigma thanks to Steven Jackson's slow start. If he turns it around, it's easy to see this team begin to roll. If not, they'll probably hang around the middle and need some lucky breaks to make the playoffs.

Speaking of Steven Jackson, I think he needs to start going by "Steve Jackson" to turn this thing around. Let's face it, it just sounds tougher. Steve Jackson sounds like a guy in the Hall of Fame. Steven Jackson sounds like a guy I went to a Weezer concert with. There is precedent here. Thomas Jane changed his name to Tom Jane and became the biggest movie star in the world.

You know, Tom Jane. The guy from The Punisher. No, not the Dolph Lundgren one. Tom Jane, biggest movie star in the world? No?

Actually, Mr. Jackson, Steven will be fine.


Exhibit 2.27

I'm really, really going to miss Ernie Chambers. I don't agree with him on everything--Omaha's racially-segregated public school plan is the most recent example--but it's hard to imagine what will become of this state without him. As one man, he has through sheer force of will made a backward and donothing unicameral devoid of any leadership (or diversity) confront issues of poverty, minority and woman's rights, and an unbalanced criminal justice system.

He's not always right. He doesn't always win. But it's hard to imagine anyone filling his shoes when some dude from Alma who got $500 from the NRA proposes a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to hunt illegal immigrants or whatever. Anyone in Nebraska should start bracing themselves now for South Dakota-esque attempts to ban abortion. Oh, and forget about abolishing the death penalty (Chambers's signature issue). Sigh.

He's out of office after 2008 due to term limits (which, by the way, were passed solely to get him out of office). Here's hoping he follows through on his threat to have a patsy win his seat and then step down so Ernie can run for it again.

Anyway, he's going to be getting a lot of press due to this. Let's see if we can guess some of The Tonight Show's jokes hours before they hit the air! A Nebraska State Senator is suing God....

  • God is challenging the lawsuit on the grounds that he's never been to Nebraska.
  • I guess he really wanted (American Idol contestant) to beat (American Idol contestant).
  • True story, true story. Unfortunately, there aren't any lawyers in heaven. (exaggerated laugh)
  • When reached for comment, God said, Who's Ernie Chambers? (ed note: this one I think is actually funny. Which is why it won't air. I imagine. I can't say I've actually seen The Tonight Show in seven or eight years).
  • Thankfully for God, George Bush has already pardoned him. (ed note: this is my favorite kind of hack comedy joke, one that bends reality or willfully misunderstands it for the sake of the punchline).
  • Seriously, folks, stay tuned for George Lopez.
Watch for it.


Exhibit 2.26

On Revision

I've had a new batch of short stories I've been working on recently, and as the editing process stretches into its second month I've been trying to understand if I've gotten any better at editing since school or if I've simply slid from being forced to toil on my own writing to a state of slothful ambivalence about my own work. These are among the first stories I haven't workshopped at all, and while initially nervous about how I would know when they are ready, I've come to the opinion that that is exactly the wrong question.

After graduate school, where the impetus is to write to please an audience of 10 or so other writers who must say something, I found myself reading my own work through that fractured, schizophrenic paradigm. Each sentence or movement that might need a defense in a workshop would be given one in the text. Each character would have to be guarded against inevitabilities like How does that relationship grow? or I really want more time with _____. That commentary can be (and often is) valid, but it also can (and often does) lead to cluttered, stagnant writing in various forms of self-competition.

This is not to suggest graduate school, the workshop, or the writers in those workshops are not great tools for editing a story. Certainly they are, and I have little interest in attacking creative writing programs, specifically in all of the usual ways about producing boring, homogenized work. (More than anything, creative writing programs [and the journals they've brought with them] have seemingly increased the number of writers, or at the very least have increased our exposure to said writers [which, regardless of quality, is a positive]. But naturally, some of those writers write boring, uninspired stuff. Some don't. Sadly, I'm firmly in the former [as evidenced by these absurd parentheticals]).

And so I'm relieved to feel like I've finally begun to shake off the workshop when it comes to reading my own work. With these new stories, all of the awfulness can be read with a personal rather than a public embarrassment, and the rare moment where something seems to be working--and the moments are rare, about as rare as having two sodas fall from a soda machine with only one dollar--can be read without the unnecessary pull towards consensus. These stories have problems, decisions are made, and the product is pushed out the door in manila envelopes for slush piles across the country. For now, I'm finished with them. And unlike my earliest submissions from graduate school, I feel comfortable saying that.

One of the primary lessons of the workshop is that a story is never "finished" or "perfect." There's always another draft, another opinion, another change, etc. These are all fine things to say, and certainly I would say them to students. What gets lost in making that point, however is that stories are finished. As writers, it's perfectly natural (and probably helpful) to view all work as incomplete. What I've published still itches me when read in a journal (I want to write every single person who's read the story an apology, promising to send them a new copy of the journal with an edited version of my story taped inside). As readers, however, the story is a finished product and thank god. The worst reading I did in my life was done while under the misguided, workshop-inspired notion of the inherently flawed text.

In a workshop, a story is read as a draft, but this is not and should not be how stories are read outside of the workshop. As important as it is for writers to understand they need not stop, it is equally as important to understand that someday they must. I've never been in a workshop that's pronounced a story complete, and I can't imagine it happens very often. It's shallow criticism to say that a story like "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" would probably be critiqued by graduate students for its shocking twist of tone in the end--the very thing that makes it such a fantastic story--but it is worth saying that it's the workshop's imperative to find fault and, if the author is considerate of the workshop's comments, he or she will be pulled toward revision and incompletion. And, if you want to make the argument, mediocrity.

So, like a little boy who just learned to use the potty, I feel an absurd amount of pride in doing what I am supposed to do when I make a choice, edit the text, and send a story out the door. It'll come back, and I'll take another look at it someday, but I no longer feel compelled by the notion of revision as mythical story-maker.

Maybe all of this is a rambling way of saying that the workshop privileges revision over writing, and I think that's at best wrong and at worst harmful. Revision is essential, but it's not the sort of thing that should hamstring a writer or make them consensus dependent. For me, post-graduate school, I'm starting to think revision's a thing best done like a long drive, alone or with one or two others after having made a clear decision about where you're going. (That last sentence may be the worst thing I've ever written, but everyone else has writing metaphors and I want one too).

I am, of course, probably wrong about everything.


Exhibit 2.25

The view from my work desk:

That's fifteen stories up, about as tall as you can get in Lincoln due to archaic height laws passed to maintain the status of our beloved capitol building.

Now, the view from my home desk:

Sit back and watch as this already spectacularly awful blog becomes nothing but pictures of dogs and cute children I see.

Exhibit 2.24

Took the Gallup Strength Finder (2.0!) for work and now have a new set of strengths based on questions like:

I am routinized vs. I am zestful

Sadly, "Routinized is an ugly, hateful word" was not one of the options.

My strengths:

Finding Coke Machines When Thirsty for Coke
Playing as Axel in Streets of Rage 2 and 3 but not 1

That sounds about right

Exhibit 2.23

This is what it's like to be a Royals fan.

From today's Kansas City Star:

“[Last year] the Royals were set to receive outfielder Melky Cabrera in return. The deal was all but done until a strained thigh sidelined Sanders just before the trading deadline.”

Oh, Reggie Sanders. Go ahead and break my heart again.

I mean, I know Melky Cabrera may not be any great shakes yet, but he's only 23 and his season this year is positively David DeJesus-like. As opposed to Sanders, whose season this year was positively David Madden-like. Literally, I think Dave played in more baseball games this summer than Reggie Sanders. And even if Dave played in none, the most Reggie could beat him by is 24.

The thing is, things like this happen to the Royals all of the time. There are always these painful rumors/facts that wait like snakes in the middle of the most innocuous article or early-inning banter. Sometimes Paul Splitorff will just say something like, "Of course, we all know the Royals were set to take Kansas City-native Albert Pujols in the 14th round of that draft. Boy, he's worked out for the Cardinals." Or in the second to last paragraph of a game wrapup in the Star there will be a line like, "Sweeney, who hasn't played in a game since early May, was signed to a 5 year $55 million deal when the Royals decided against trading him to the Angels for John Lackey and using the money to lock up Carlos Beltran long term."

(Ed note: none of those things actually have come out. Yet.)

It's not a curse or anything. It's just the combination of desperation by a small market team that needs perfection to succeed, the frustration that sets in when that inevitably doesn't happen due to tight purse strings and shoddy management, and hope for the future that hinges on the gratitude of a team like the Yankees deciding they can't have anyone on their team who hits less than 15 home runs.

I don't even get sad anymore.


Exhibit 2.22

Problems with pronouns on this lunch's fortune cookie:

"If you promise someone something, keep it."

This fortune does nothing to disprove my theory that fortune cookies are delicious.

Exhibit 2.21

The Real World by season:

1992 - New York
1993 - Los Angeles
1994 - San Francisco
1995 - London
1996 - Miami
1997 - Boston
1998 - Seattle
1999 - Hawaii
2000 - New Orleans
2001 - New York (again)
2002 - Chicago
2002 - Las Vegas

After that I got a girlfriend or a car or went to college or graduated (just like you did), because I'm pretty sure there was never one in Paris despite what Mary-Ellis Bunim keeps telling me.

Exhibit 2.20

Teams That Will Not Lose 100 Games This Season:

*The Company B-Ball Skins

*The A-Team

*The Governor's Green Action Team

*The Tampa Bay Devil Rays

*The Miami Dolphins

*The Super-Team Family

*The Kansas City Royals!


Exhibit 2.19

Some of my favorite moments and lines from Autobiography of Red:

"Black central stalled night. He lay hot and motionless, that is, motion
was a memory he could not recover
(among others) from the bottom of the vast blind kitchen where he was buried."

"He thought about how delicious it was, how he liked slippery foods, how slipperiness can be of different kinds.
I am a philosopher of sandwiches, he decided. Things good on the inside."

caught her other arm, it was like a handful of autumn. He felt huge and wrong."

"He had not realized until he found himself stranded in it high above the Andes
halfway to Lima that the novel he'd bought
in the Buenos Aires airport was pornographic. It made him furious with himself
to be stirred by dull sentences like,
Gladys slid a hand under her nightgown and began to caress her own thighs. Gladys!"

"New Ending.
All over the world the beautiful red breezes went on blowing hand
in hand."

Exhibit 2.18

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

This is the first in what will, ideally, be a continuing series of poetry books and chapbooks that I'll be reading in the coming months. It's either appropriate or a little bit of a cheat that this book is "a novel in verse" according to its cover and while that may just be publishing house shenanigans, it seems appropriate even if it doesn't really mean anything.

There is a narrative here, sure. There are also characters who change, dialogue, length, and probably whatever other surface level concerns people who go about deciding what's a novel and what isn't use to make their distinctions. Even the verse is very near prose, and the experience of reading the book was to this reader a very different thing than reading a book of poetry. There is much beauty, but very little opaqueness. If anything, there is a hyper-specificity to the language which fulfills the promise of Stesichorus' use of adjectives that Carson notes in one of the pre-poem appendices.

Calling it a novel then seems completely natural and completely false. It has a novel's story but a poem's soul, with most of the pleasure coming from the language and the playfulness of the contradictions. It's a novel, but it's not a novel. Geryon is a monster, but Geryon is a boy. There are appendices, but it is as if the poem is appended to them in both order and intention. There are translations of Stesischorus, but they are clearly false and anachronsitic.

Carson's project then seemed to be to make a book out of the muddle that includes: a mythological red monster murdered by Herakles; Volcanoes; a Greek poet who wrote the definitive work on the myth, apparently in a meandering way that did little to glorify Herakles and much to humanize the red monster; translations of the surviving fragments of the myth; an interpretation/reimagining/modernization of the myth as being about love, specifically homosexual love (possibly due to Stesischorus' other writings); Canada; and, finally, Stesischorus' as meaning-breaking author.

What's surprising is how seamlessly these disparate pieces and competing purposes become a book. Put at the end, the appendices would be reference material for a modernization novel and prompt a reading about Geryon as victim. At the beginning, however, they inform the reading as an act of translation, both of the Greek into English and of Geryon into man. The interview with Stesischorus that concludes the book after a somewhat enigmatic ending to the story proper, but in a way it simply does it's part to make the book itself as much a collage of the real and unreal, poetic and prosaic, and mythological and contemporary as the source material.

One can imagine Anne Carson looking at the fragments of Stesischorus' Geryoneis and wanting to translate not just the words but the feeling of being a monster in a world of men, of being scraps in a world of novels.


Exhibit 2.17

Things I did in Chicago this weekend:

  • Attended a wedding reception on the top floor (the 95th, to be exact) of the Hancock Building. I never understood the phenomenon of restaurants on top of tall buildings before, but now I get it. They're tall.

  • Watched the Dolphins lose in overtime.

  • Read Autobiography of Red which I'll write about soon.

  • Met some Polish people.

  • Ate a burrito while listening to the Chicago Philharmonic perform various tunes while accompanied by a tap dancer. Or so they claimed. We were far away and while someone appeared to be tap dancing, it just as easily could have been a cellist trying to squash a cockroach.

  • Counted spiders on tall buildings. Our hotel room had seven outside the window and the Hancock Building had dozens. When I told Heather about the oddity of spiders hanging out at the 95th floor, she immediately replied with a pitch perfect Spider-Man 4 plot. It was as if she'd already had a Spider-Man 4 plot in mind and was just waiting for the right opportunity to spring it on some unsuspecting Fox executive or boyfriend.

Exhibit 2.16

Well, good bye Senator Hagel. I was profoundly upset when he beat Ben Nelson, but all and all things worked out about as well as could be expected considering the party-line Republicans (ed note: Grassley, Brownback, Roberts, etc.) that get elected by our neighbors. To get an independent-minded, anti-war lightening rod who single-handidly started the serious debate on the future of the Iraq war in the Republican Party is a bit of a bonus. Based on our current represenatives to the House, we won't get that lucky again.

In a lot of ways, this is the worst possible outcome for Jon Bruning as he had to be counting on being the only one with enough chutzpah (or the one with the least loyalty) to challenge a potentially vulnerable candidate like Hagel. Now that Hagel's gone, Bruning basically is forced to run as an anti-immigration, pro-war zealot while someone with a much better resume and name recognition like Mike Johanns comes into the race. Basically, Bruning is either going to have to continue to take on a now straw-man argument about the war or find a way to stand out in a field where every candidate shares his positions only in much softer and less-defined ways. It's one thing to have a war vs. no-war argument, but it's quite another to have a lots-of-war vs. some-war argument.

I'll probably write more about Bob Kerrey at some point, but let me just say he's been my favorite politician since I was old enough to read Newsweek. I have a vivid memory of seeing a picture of him and Debra Winger at one point and feeling really proud to be a Nebraskan. We've got football national championships, William Jennings Bryan, and a senator who once dated Debra Winger. What do you have, Iowa?

I probably don't even agree with him on everything--especially on the war, which he really needs to explain--but nothing would make me happier than to see him back in Nebraska. Sounds like it'll happen.


Exhibit 2.15

There is a new The Cupboard availabe. This one features:

1. A non-fiction piece on invented games, swimming pools, and murder.
2. A collection that could have been 401 characters or 399, but instead are all 400 – as they must be.
3. Something about using furniture to make trees.

Oh, and you should submit to the upcoming theme volume on prose adaptated from movies adapted from books. It's not meta, it's awesome. Go.


Exhibit 2.14

I can't make it as I'll be somewhere between crying and drinking while attending a wedding, but don't miss this Saturday's Clean Part. 7pm at the Sheldon Art Gallery. It's free. It's awesome. I won't be there. What's not to love?

Exhibit 2.13

I'm not sure if you've spent enough time studying that Susan Sarandon drawing yet. If you stare at it long enough you'll see your future.


Exhibit 2.12

It's never been the case before--and will likely never be the case again--but I found myself playing a 1991 edition of Celebrity Taboo. The 1991-ness of it all made everything so much better. Could you identify the following person based on words like Louise, Eastwick, Baseball, and Rocky? And keep in mind, those are the words you couldn't say.

Words you could say include: Older than boyfriend; Nun in Dead Man Walking; Tim; Wasn't she in--oh, that was Geena Davis; Robbins; Was in that movie with James Spader; Her brother Chris competes with Eric Roberts to be the actor most emasculated by a little sister's success; etc.

(Ed note: When I went to confirm that Chris Sarandon was actually older, I discovered that he is in fact not Susan Sarandon's brother at all but her ex-husband. As I prefer a world in which they are siblings, I'm choosing not to correct this error. Did everyone know this? They look exactly the same, right?

Chris Sarandon, Brother of Susan Sarandon

Susan Sarandon, Sister of Chris Sarandon)

It was like travelling back in time to that golden era where we spent our days thinking about F. Murray Abraham and our nights watching The Witches of Eastwick.


Exhibit 2.11

Watched Batman Begins during a night of Labor Day weekend relaxing. The first third of the movie is Liam Neeson saying things like "You can't fear the fear of fearing those who are afraid of their fear because they fear your fear more than you fear their fear. Fear." At first I thought maybe Bruce Wayne had demons until I realized he was just in love with Liam Neeson.