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April 8th, 2013


10:19 pm - How to Draw an Allergen

Jigga jigga jug jigga jigga jug jigga jigga jug jug jug jug jugga
TROGDORRRRRRRRRR!
Jigga jigga jug jigga jigga jug jigga jigga jug jug jug jug jugga
TROGDORRRRRRRRRR!

POLLINATING THE COUNTRYSIDE!
POLLINATING THE PEOPLE!
POLLINATING ALL THE INSIDES
Of my NASAL PASSAGES!

NASAL PASSAGES!

And the Trogdor comes in the NIIIIIII-IIIIII-IIIIIIGHT!


Current Mood: sicksick
Current Music: "TROGDOR!" by Strong Bad

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April 6th, 2013


10:02 am - OH HAI LJ

Dear LJ,

So I haven't written anything for you in a few months now, and you're entirely justified if you're angry or sad. You might be thinking, "Oh, NOW you come crawling back," or maybe, "You're not welcome anymore!" or even "Who the hell are you?" and you'd be justified in doing that. But I have a reason, honest. Maybe not a good one, maybe not one you'll accept, but one that I can at least offer in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding:

I sold a book.

It took a while to finish, what with conducting a few last-minute interviews, incorporating them into the text, and then giving the whole shebang a polish (not to mention a copy-edit by the ever-gracious spuffyduds), but I finally got the thing to my publisher, signed all the contracts, deposited the first half of my advance, and sat back ready to hear from my editor about what I need to do next. And because of all that, I didn't have a lot of time to hang out here. I apologize.

The good news: now that it's done, I'll have some time to spend with you. If you'll have me.

Look, I brought you flowers. Well, one flower. But it's a special one.

bob the angry flower


Current Mood: anxiousanxious
Current Music: "Tom Cruise Crazy" by Jonathan Coulton

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December 20th, 2012


05:06 pm - So
Hiya, Flist. Long time no see.

Good news: spuffyduds has finished her thesis, I'm on Xmas break for a bit, and there's at least a decent chance my book has found a home at last.

peanutsdancegif

What have y'all been up to?

(Leave a comment)

November 24th, 2012


03:11 pm - What I Do When I'm Not on LJ
If you're wondering why I haven't been posting much lately, it's because I've been working with students. What kind of students? Consider:

Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.


If the above sounds familiar, it's probably because you've read Robert Frost's famous poem "Birches," which we studied a few Mondays ago.

On the following Saturday, the above excerpt appeared on our exam. One of our students said of it:

The last line describes heaven as a dome, because in Whitman's time, it was believed that the earth was surrounded by a solid dome.

I mean, I'd love to post here more often, but it should be clear that these poor kids need my help.
Current Mood: frustratedfrustrated
Current Music: "Girl" by the Beatles
Tags: , ,

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October 6th, 2012


03:48 pm - Holding Pattern
So: I finished a book manuscript.

Yep. Suuuuuure did.

In August.

And the queries went out, and replies have come back. Negative so far. But there's still one out there, and I'm patiently waiting for the response, and the temptation to send a follow-up note reading DIDJAREADITYET? AREYAGONNATAKEIT HUH HUH HUH? has so far been successfully resisted.

The problem: I don't seem able to get a damn thing else written while I'm waiting. Or much of anything read, even.

This is probably why I have a day job.
Current Mood: restlessrestless
Current Music: "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" by Steely Dan

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September 23rd, 2012


11:27 pm - Holy Crap, It's WHEN?
Yup. September. Ba-di-ya, say do you remember time. How the hell did that happen? Only yesterday it was July, and I was wrapping up a couple of drafts and going to the gym every day and frying whole chickens. Now it's suddenly cold at night and I'm waiting to hear back from a publisher and oh yeah, WORK.

The busy-ness has been a little overwhelming, though I must admit that it's not as bad as the fall term usually is, thanks to my rearranged schedule. For the first time in (number large enough to drive, but not to drink) years, I do not have a fall coaching or directing commitment. I'm still helping with the outdoor program, so I've gotten to do a little hiking in the not-yet-crisp fall weather when one of its directors had a conflicting commitment, but I'm not REQUIRED to go on such trips, and I don't have to do them every single day, which makes all the difference. (As Tom Sawyer noted, "Work consists of what a body is obliged to do.")

Anyway: I'm still doing a lot, but more of it is stuff I want to do (e.g., doing the varsity football team's internet broadcasts, which are fun, if a little exhausting). And yay, good cheer. I'm still too frazzled by the recent manuscript to start anything new at the moment, so I'm mostly checking my email waaaay too often in order to look for possible responses from kindly publishers who want to Buy My Book. Oh, and losing at fantasy football. Badly. And finishing up my new copy of David Abrams' long-awaited black comedy about the Iraq War, Fobbit (which you can check out for a mere 99 cents through that link, if you have a Kindle.)

I also got a new computer, which is great, as it's lighter and faster, but my music files inevitably fail to transfer perfectly from one computer to another, so I am, as usual, loading CDs into my new machine. And considering how many CDs I own, this is not a quick project. For example, this evening I've loaded all the Y and Z discs; X may take all of tomorrow night (I own a LOT of albums by XTC), and W is going to take for freaking ever.

Meanwhile, Thing Two is cranking up for his first role of the season, with the premiere Friday, and Thing One is turning 21 on that same day, and has warned us that he does NOT want to meet us for dinner. We'll feed him on Saturday, by which time we're hoping his innards will be back in their usual configuration, rather than dragging around behind him like the chains of an escaped convict. And of course spuffyduds is pounding out thesis-related stuff at a prodigious rate, which is encouraging in a variety of ways, not least because next semester will be the first time in four years that we haven't been paying at least two people's tuition simultaneously.

And, yeah, that's kinda it at the moment. Updates as warranted, I suppose.
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Current Music: "Mama Couldn't Be Persuaded" by Warren Zevon

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August 13th, 2012


06:41 pm - Paradox
I'm starting to think that writing a book proposal is even more of a pain in the ass than writing a book.
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
Current Music: "It's Not Safe" by Aimee Mann

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July 16th, 2012


10:51 am - Memeness No More!
And yes, this too was gacked from likeadeuce:

Comment to this post and I will pick five things I would like you to talk about. They might make sense or be totally random.

Then post that list, with your commentary, to your journal. Other people can get lists from you, and the meme merrily perpetuates itself, hopefully for the rest of eternity!


She provided me with five items; my comments are included with each:

5. Van Morrison

Van the Man is one of those performers I should probably like more than I do. His voice is entirely satisfying, and he can pen a soulful tune as well as anyone, and when he involves a horn section in his songs (say, "Wild Night" or "Jackie Wilson Said"), great stuff often results.

That said, I own relatively little of his music. On CD, I've got his "Best of" collection and his album with the Chieftains, "Irish Heartbeat." I've also got "Astral Weeks" and "Tupelo Honey" on my hard drive. I've given the latter two less overall listening time than the former two, but I have tried to get into them, partly because a number of my friends and acquaintances over the years have been huge Van fans. The guitarist in my first serious band was a big one, and it influenced his songwriting to a large degree, giving most of his tunes a shuffling rhythm that I'll admit didn't thrill me. One of the players in my current half-assed band is also firmly in Van's camp, though I haven't yet seen much influence there, and it might be nice if I could see some.

But with all this said, Van has never quite grabbed me by the throat. It's not that I dislike his stuff--far from it. But I don't see anything in it that makes me fall into the worshipful haze in which I've seen others wandering about. "Astral Weeks," for example, is a lovely record in many ways, soulful and pastoral and full of interesting instrumentation, but its dreamlike qualities are to some degree what keep me from fully engaging with it; it's like hearing someone else describe his dream, and I think it's a truism that the only thing less interesting than hearing about someone else's dream is hearing about someone else's diet. The songs aren't really structured as songs so much as they're sets of chords over which Van sends his voice sailing, a lone white ship on a wide green sea. Nothing really develops or changes. It's not at all unpleasant, but for a guy like me who values structure (Why, yes, I am an Alan Moore fan!) and rhythm (Why yes, I do listen to Philip Glass!) and harmony (How did you know? I love the Roches!), it's tasty without being filling--a perfectly good soup, but not enough to work as a whole meal.

There's also the issue of lyrics. In terms of vocal style, Van is not a guy who's going to let mere enunciation stand in the way of emotion. As a result, many of the songs of his that I like best fall into that weird category so well staked out by Michael Stipe: Songs I Love to Sing Along With Despite Having No Idea What the Words Are.  (Example: "Oh-oh, Domino... tho me oh ba Romeo... Lord have mercy... oh-oh, Domino... yo be over Obie oh... I said oh-oh Domino...") Sometimes, I'll grant you, Van is singing something like "dang a lang a lang, dang a lang a lang a lang" entirely on purpose, but at other times he seems to be singing it by accident. Occasionally I hear what were probably intended to be English words, but which seem to have lost everything but their vowels. It's not that I dislike this style--I own every single R.E.M. record, after all--but when there's no melodic development, or when there are no other voices at work, it can be a little much. When I can hear and understand them, they're often pleasant enough, but they often seem a bit too abstract to work like Billy Bragg's beautifully observed songs, or come off as lacking in the playful quality that a good Dylan lyric has.

But there are times when Van just nails it--the title song of "Tupelo Honey," or "Queen of the Slipstream," or "And It Stoned Me"--and I find myself tempted to once again put on one of his albums and just lose myself in it. At this point he's unlikely to join my personal pantheon of pop musicians, but I'm glad he's out there, fusing elements that no other musician is fusing, and giving me some places to explore when I eventually head over to the bright side of the road.

In the meantime, if I never hear "Brown Eyed Girl" again, I will be satisfied.

Thanks for the inspiration, deuce! I worry that you may have gotten a bit more information than you really wanted...
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: "Bright Side of the Road" by Van Morrison

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July 15th, 2012


12:37 pm - Memeness: The Quickening
Gacked from likeadeuce:

Comment to this post and I will pick five things I would like you to talk about. They might make sense or be totally random.

Then post that list, with your commentary, to your journal. Other people can get lists from you, and the meme merrily perpetuates itself, hopefully for the rest of eternity!


She provided me with five items; my comments are included with each:

4. Coffee

If there is a meaningful line between habit and addiction, I am probably well beyond it now. I started drinking coffee many years ago, but not until I reached college did it become a regular part of my diet, and not until I was doing crappy temp work did it become a necessity to the point where I would drink even the bad stuff.

I finished my last course (read: took care of an Incomplete) in December of 1985 and started my first real job (other than dishwashing, which had supported me while I was trying to get a band going) in that same month. Basically, I worked in a liberal-arts sweatshop. Deep in the basement underneath a shopping mall, I and several hundred other people with degrees in English, classics, philosophy and comparative literature would gather every morning and read essay tests. Typically, these were tests required by various states or municipalities, and our job was to a) learn the standards by which the test-makers wanted their test-takers judged, and b) apply those standards to the thousands of papers piled in the basement. Most of the tests had been completed by students in elementary or middle school, which meant that the writing was usually pretty primitive and formulaic. Worse, you'd see several HUNDRED essays, all on the same topic, in the course of a typical workday.

As you can imagine, staying awake to read the next packet of twenty papers became something of a challenge, and many of us felt the need for a significant jolt of caffeine after a relatively short time. I soon started partaking of the proffered coffee, and I picked up the pace as I got increasingly bored by each day's new stack of essays saying the same thing about the same subject in the same half-assed way. After a while, I got fed up with the way the company's higher-ups treated us--for example, keeping us at 37.5 hours per week in order to avoid giving any of us benefits--and began drinking more of their coffee just to make them suffer. That showed 'em.

Eventually I got fed up enough to enter grad school, where I discovered that my undergraduate ability to start work at eleven p.m. and work through the night had been significantly altered by my no-longer-adolescent metabolism. I couldn't keep my eyes open past two anymore: now, if I wanted to get stuff done, I had to get up at the crack of dawn--four a.m., say--and pound it out as the sun rose. Getting out of bed at that hour without chemical stimulation, however, was beyond me, and I started making a pot of coffee on mornings where I needed the boost. And soon that became an every-morning thing. In fact, except for the weeks when I had to break myself of the habit pending an Outward Bound course in the North Carolina mountains back in 2005, I've probably drunk at least one cup of coffee every morning for nearly a quarter-century.

As to HOW I've drunk it, I'm not a snob. Other than occasionally grinding my own beans, I do nothing to sink any more money or intellectual effort into my coffee habit than is absolutely necessary. My coffee of choice is utterly mundane: Eight O'Clock brand, usually hazelnut but often regular,  except for an occasional foray into the exotic (as when a friend bought us some Jamaica Blue Mountain) or the high-end stuff (Raven's Brew Dead Man's Reach is a favorite when I get this urge). I'm not fond of the overly-burnt flavor of Starbucks, but I've occasionally tried one of their coffees to see if they've improved their roasting techniques; I like their "blonde" roast better than the others, but it's still not my cuppa. I mix it strong enough to work, but not so strong that my eyeballs bleed, and I do it these days at a clip of roughly three cups a day.

Oh, and my preferred treatment? I spent many years using artificial sweeteners in an attempt to keep my weight down, but eventually I got more scared of their effects than I was of the weight. I now sweeten lightly with sugar or honey. And I want it white. For years I used milk, but our friend K. convinced us that the reason coffee was always so good at a good restaurant was the fact that it contained half-and-half. Given the relatively small amount of creamer we were talking about, spuffyduds and I judged it sensible to go ahead and make our coffee addiction as pleasurable as possible; we now keep a supply of half-and-half in the fridge regularly.

Basically, I drink coffee--and enjoy it--the way Neil the Horse likes it: "Yum! Now it tastes like hot ice cream!"

TO BE CONCLUDED!
Current Mood: awake
Current Music: "Backwater" by Brian Eno

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July 14th, 2012


10:01 am - The Memeness Gathers!
Still gacked from likeadeuce:

Comment to this post and I will pick five things I would like you to talk about. They might make sense or be totally random.

Then post that list, with your commentary, to your journal. Other people can get lists from you, and the meme merrily perpetuates itself, hopefully for the rest of eternity!


She provided me with five items; my comments are included with each:

3. Eric Montross

A topic near and dear to my heart, but one which may be a little obscure to those of y'all who didn't grow up wearing Carolina blue. (That's what it's called, by the way; names such as "powder blue" or "sky blue" are obvious inventions of those who don't want to give the University of North Carolina credit for devising the name.) And it's a perfect day for a comment about one of my alma mater's heroes, given that yesterday was the 92nd birthday of William C. Friday, who was president of the university for thirty years (including my own undergraduate days) and who helped turn it into one of the nation's "Public Ivies." Lux Liberta, y'all!

But back to the subject at hand: Eric Montross was the center for UNC's basketball team from the fall of 1990 until his graduation in 1994. He was known for a variety of things, including his enormous size (seven feet even, 270 pounds), distinctive number (00, or sometimes 0 after he went to the NBA), and flat-top buzz cut, but he cemented his reputation at UNC in two major ways.

First and most important, he was the leading scorer for the Tar Heels' 1993 NCAA championship team, the second of Dean Smith's squads to win a national title. As a junior, Montross was an All-American, averaging 15.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocked shots per game. In the NCAA tournament that March, he was a model of consistency, scoring 17, 15, 15, and 15 points in the first four rounds, then going for 23 in the semifinals against Roy Williams' Kansas Jayhawks. In the championship game against Michigan, Montross was a major force, scoring 16 points and snagging five boards while holding Wolverines center Juwan Howard to only 7 points. Given that Michigan was his father's alma mater, and he had declined to attend either that or his home-state school, Indiana, his efforts on behalf of Carolina basketball were even more appreciated.

But second, there is the Bloody Montross Game. In February of 1992, a feisty young UNC faced down their arch-rivals, the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils, in the Dean Smith Center, emerging with a two-point upset win after sophomore point guard Derrick Phelps sank two late free throws to ice the game. The free throws everyone remembers, though, were taken by Montross with blood streaming from both his cheek and the back of his head. The Blue Devils' physical play was not limited to such behavior as stomping on the chest of a fallen opponent (which forward Christian Laettner would execute a month later in the waning moments of Duke's tournament game with Kentucky); in this game a swipe at the ball by point guard Bobby Hurley opened a cut under Montross's eye, while a scrum for a rebound somehow resulted in his scalp being lacerated by a tooth, either Laettner's or Thomas Hill's. Watching the blood run down Montross's pale skin was almost horrific, but the big man calmly continued his game, sank his free throws, and got stitched up. That, I think, is when we knew the kid was headed for a championship.

NEXT ISH: The Memeness RAGES ON!
Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic
Current Music: "Hark the Sound" by Major John Yesulaitis and the Tar Heel Marching Band

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