Thursday, September 17, 2009


Setting: Staff Lounge

Co-Worker 1 one stares at a small black electronic device on her lap.

Me: Whatcha got there?

Co-Worker 1: My new BlackBerry Storm. It's the touch kind.

Co-Worker 2: Yeah, we both just got BlackBerries. There was a sale, so they were only like, what, $25 a piece?

Me: Uh-oh.

Co-Worker 1: What?

Me: Now you're going to be on your phone all the time, texting and whatnot.

Co-Worker 1: No, I don't even know... do I have text messages?

Co-Worker 2: Yeah, I think the plan you got had to include everything --- like text messages, internet browsing... I don't know. We haven't... we don't really know which particular application to use, you know, to do text messages.

The End.

Monday, September 14, 2009

BeKancye (bee-kohntz-yay) Swift.

Lately, more than ever, it seems, we Americans are getting caught up in the small things. In the face of a crippled economy (the poor get poorer), an increasingly polarized government (the conservatives get... conservativer), and a handful of foreign conflicts ("war" is such a harsh term), we're busying ourselves with junk mail instead paying the bills. If you know what I mean.

When I first read online about the Henry Louis Gates incident, I knew from the story that it would be big news. But I didn't anticipate it being White House, Beer Summit-level news. The long and short of it is that this is one of the more "important" trivial matters that we've gotten bent out of shape over recently. In the end, whoever was right or wrong (I don't even have a very strong opinion of the matter), it shows without a doubt that we are not a post racial America. That just because we have a black president now, it doesn't mean that we're starting fresh, that we're past all that Jim Crow stuff. Far from it. Well, I think anyway. Would it have gotten so much exposure and been the talk of the news for about a week if we were actually a "post racial" society (whatever that means)?

So now, onward and downward to Representative Joe Wilson.

Okay, so he got a little hotheaded and he was privy to some shit about votes being cast for something or other. The president demands respect, yes, and there's a right time for this and that, yes, but why does everyone have to get all up in arms about this? Does it have to do with race again? That wasn't what anyone was talking about in reference to this (as far as I remember), but people have inappropriate outbursts all the time. Isn't it good at least that Wilson's passionate about something in government? Would it be better to have apathetic leaders? And aren't we glad that our government hasn't gotten to the point where they have fistfights like some foreign governments' sessions?

(I've skipped over the televised Obama speech debacle, sorry. If it's not clear, I consider all of these things to be non-issues.)

And now, we have Kanye. Kanye, Kanye, Kanye. He's evidently got some problems. But that's why some people love him. Before going into this, I wanted to verify through independent research which music video was better.

Single Ladies

(Sorry, the second video is un-embeddable.)

Now, in terms of the originality and creativity of the video concept and the execution, I hope it's clear to many that Taylor Swift's video lacks much. Irrespective of the songs involved (the VMAs are about the videos only, right? And music videos don't have to relate to their songs at all.), Beyonce's video certainly trumps Swift's. Swift's video is about a "misfit" young girl who pines for a handsome boy who is somehow infatuated with a "prettier" girl. There is an emotional appeal, yes, but it is older than the ages. It's not just a standard music video, it's a standard movie, a standard fantasy tale. It's so ingrained in our culture at this point, but some people still go for it.

Which is fine. But if you're judging a piece of art on some sort of criteria (admittedly, there is not much to be expected from MTV in this respect), it might as well be "originality" and "creativity" and maybe "impact." Sure, Swift has emotional impact, but what about Beyonce? She could have just as easily put together a music video of herself walking down a street in NYC, meeting up with some scrub boyfriends and telling them off because they haven't put a ring on her finger yet. But she didn't.

What is this video? It's got a retro feel to it, but that's not it entirely. Basically, it's three voluptuous women dancing intensely, artfully, and erotically. It's in black and white, it pans around, but it's just them in a studio, dancing. I heard that Beyonce said in an interview that it was all done in the first video shoot. Impressive. (That reminds me of the extended shots in Before Sunset, minutes upon minutes of dialog without a single cut.)

After viewing both videos (I just saw the Swift one for the first time), it seems that both reinforce stereotypical portrayals of women. Swift is the geeky girl who has to shed the glasses and the band uniform and slip into a Cinderella dress before she gets the attention of the star football player. (The song is about the other girl wearing skirts and the geeky girl wearing shirts... but the geeky girl realizes she has to give in...?) Beyonce's video is doing the usual subjection of women as sex objects. But there's also a perverse power there. The song's about not getting a ring, and Beyonce looks pissed off, and all of the flaunting of bodies seems to say, "Look at what you're missing out on, buddy. Just because you couldn't commit." It's "Independent Woman" ... Part III.

But, I mean, just look at that choreography. Who dances like that? When I saw Beyonce move at the VMAs, I was stunned. Who moves like that? It's alien. (I'm sure this is what a lot of people thought of Michael Jackson, but I was just a wee bit young for that phenomenon.) So Beyonce's video wins, without a doubt. Which is why she won Best Video, but not Best Female Video. Whatever, it's just a popularity contest anyway, right? (Which is reinforced by the fact that the VMAs took text votes to determine the winner of Best New Artist.)

So was Kanye right when he implied that Beyonce deserved to win? Yes. Was he right in rushing the stage? No. It was a Joe Wilson moment.

We shouldn't sit around and bicker over this. Everyone in their right mind (everyone who learned to share toys in preschool) knows that Joe Wilson was wrong and that Kanye was wrong. But do you really want to give all the attention to the bad kids in class --- the ones that steal all the toys and eat all the cookies? Why not instead celebrate the intense humility that Beyonce displayed when she ceded her reception speech to Taylor Swift?

I think you have to give more attention to the people doing right here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Job posting.

The following is a passage from a job posting for an "Academic Program Specialist" in FSU's Department of Athletics...



Knowledge of Disability Determination Documentation, particularly for Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Hands-on experience working with students. Knowledge of Federal laws as they pertain to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Computer knowledge necessary.


Now, this position could be one that only deals with the "Disability" stuff for the whole department, but I get the feeling that it's just a regular-type program specialist.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

An excerpt from Nabokov's "Pale Fire."

For we die every day; oblivion thrives
Not on dry thighbones but on blood-ripe lives,
And our best yesterdays are now foul piles
Of crumpled names, phone numbers and foxed files.
I'm ready to become a floweret
Or a fat fly, but never, to forget.
And I'll turn down eternity unless
The melancholy and the tenderness
Of mortal life; the passion and the pain;
The claret taillight of that dwindling plane
Off Hesperus; your gesture of dismay
On running out of cigarettes; the way
You smile at dogs; the trail of silver slime
Snails leave or flagstones; this good ink, this rhyme,
This index card, this slender rubber band
Which always forms, when dropped, an ampersand,
Are found in Heaven by the newlydead
Stored in its strongholds through the years.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Bad Mood.

Lacking sleep (from going to the ill-fated FSU/Miami game last night), this morning my mind jumped to Calvin and Hobbes (as it often does).

That about sums it up. I'm still waiting on my comic book and crackers.

And, to a lesser extent:

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Five Guys Tallahassee.

I heard about Five Guys Burgers and Fries opening a location in Tallahassee and I decided I had to check it out. For Tallahasseeans: It is in the plaza with The Red Elephant, across from Miracle Five.

I didn't know anything about this establishment other than the name. I had gotten a recommendation from my brother, who lives in Nashville. I walked in and saw a huge open floor with many wooden tables. Large open boxes of salted peanuts (still in the shells) where placed around the dining area for anyone to come grab a handful. (Surprisingly, there was only one table with enough gumption to chuck their peanut shells on the ground. Everyone else there was pretty clean about it.)

It's a very simple layout. Before you get to the ordering counter, you can see bags of potatoes, boxes of frying oil --- the essentials needed to keep their business running. The front counter is a long, flat affair that runs the width of the restaurant. Behind the counter were a dozen workers in red shirts and hats putting together food at various stations: flat stovetops (similar to those at Steak N Shake); work tables with rows of buns and condiments; fry station. The menu is simple: burger, cheeseburger, bacon burger, bacon cheeseburger. "Little" versions of all those. Fries. I wasn't going for a gorge fest, so I ordered a "Little Bacon Cheeseburger." When she asked if I wanted fries I had to think about it --- I wasn't very hungry, but I wanted the full experience. Well, it turns out that the full experience of fries is about three potatoes worth (no joke).

There were a lot of orders placed, but they worked pretty quickly and got my order out (correctly) after about 10 minutes (which I spent munching on peanuts and reading Ellison's Invisible Man for a class I'm in). Over the 40 minutes I sat there, the restaurant went from about 15% capacity to about 85%. The place is open 7 days a week from 11 am to 10 pm, which is both surprising and very cool.

My burger arrived wrapped in a small sheet of foil, a dense little cube. I had ordered lettuce, onion, tomato and mayo, ketchup, mustard, but they have a ton of toppings that are all free. The "little" burger had maybe a 5-inch diameter. The crunchy bacon was at the very bottom, then burger, cheese, toppings. The bread was a soft white bun (I don't remember if it had sesame seeds, but I don't think it did). It was a very pleasant burger. It reminded me a little bit of a steakburger. The toppings were fresh. Everything was juicy and crispy and crunchy and delicious. The fries were too much. They were very good, but I had about 2 potatoes worth of them left, and I began to wonder if it would be kosher to offer them to other diners. I thought that if some inconspicuous looking guy like me came up to me with a bag of fries, I would probably take them. But then I remembered the whole "swine flu" scare and just decided to trash them. (I didn't think they would last very well.)

So Five Guys is a neat throwback burger joint sort of experience. If you like burgers and fries, you will definitely like this place. (Prices were good, not great. Little over $9 for my little burger, a ton of fries, and a drink.) The only thing I regretted was the amount of waste I produced (in uneaten fries and peanuts I took, but also in all the packaging they used). Here was the aftermath:

No, it was not raining in the restaurant. Those are good-old-fashioned grease stains on the paper bag.