Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Insert Title Here

Fugazi...and Sneetches

I stopped buying vinyl late in 1992, I think. Although much of my stuff has been shed skinlike in a hundred moves since then, I've still got some prizes: Fugazi, a dozen Dead disks, the soundtrack to Brimstone and Treacle (Sting's first solo effort, I believe), promotional folk and blugrass collections, and an EP with Dinosaur Jr.'s cover version of the Cure's Just Like Heaven one one side and a collage of body parts and Rice Krisps packets pressed into the black shiny b-side, making it unplayable but easily worth hanging on to 'till eternity for the kitsch value alone. Although I've collected over three hundred CDs since then, I continue to buy and maintain needles and turntables, rather than "upgrading" my favorite vinyl albums to the new shiny compact disks now ubiquitous yet always, it seems, on the verge of giving over to the mp3, for who needs plastic when the network follows you everywhere you go?

Last week there were finally needles in the new turntables here at WNMH radio, the tiny station nestled below the history and english classrooms of NMH's Stone Hall. I was excited, and out came the Timbuk 3, the CSNY, the aforementioned compilations. Lugged 'em over carefully only to find that the preamp had been blown trying to hook 'em up. Plus, the fluorescent light in the studio kept blinking on and off, on and off all night at the most inopportune times, like in the middle of The Sneetches, tonight's 11:00 bedtime story.

Nonetheless, a rocking radio show this evening, in the most literal sense. Funny how the tempo and tone of the day seem to drive the path of the music each week; funnier still how a quick browse through the old CD collection each week brings out the old chestnuts most in support of such a theme, although you never know that until you open up the airwave floodgates and the music pours forth by your own hand. Just having the vinyl there, and having planned to play it, drove the music journey, back in time and up in tempo, to the days when I was fresh out of high school.

Playlist follows; as always, the first entry is our regular theme song. See if you can spot the older pieces of the collection -- all late eighties and very early nineties -- in tonight's ten-to-midnight weekly edition of Tributary. Also, look for the short set of dead people; tonight's contest asked which of these artists would have turned 58 last week?

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Spin Doctors -- Jimmy Olson's Blues
Primus -- Welcome To This World
Beck -- Devil's Haircut
Acoustic Syndicate -- Pumpkin & Daisy
The Wallflowers -- I'm Looking Through You
Glen Phillips -- Have A Little Fun With Me
Crowded House -- It's Only Natural
Phish -- My Sweet One
String Cheese Incident -- Search
Mano Chau -- Mr. Bobby
Cesaria Evora -- Sangue de Berona
Be Good Tanyas -- Don't You Fall
Pink Floyd -- Brain Damage
Bobby McFerrin -- Baby
Charlie Parker (w/ Miles Davis) -- Groovin' High
Grateful Dead -- The Race Is On
Bob Marley -- Could You Be Loved
Nirvana -- Jesus Don't Want Me For A Sunbeam
Los Lobos -- That Train Don't Stop Here Anymore
Mary Black -- Babes In The Woods
Alison Krauss -- Dreaming My Dreams With You
Ani DiFranco -- Angry Anymore
Lucy Kaplansky -- One Good Reason
Susan Werner -- Time Between Trains
Eddio From Ohio -- Candido & America

posted by boyhowdy | 1:03 AM | 0 comments

Monday, February 10, 2003

Dell Dude Arrested On Drug Charge


The actor who gained fame and a cult following as the slacker "Steven" in commercials for Dell computers was arrested buying a small bag of marijuana, police said...

What's most disturbing about this whole story is not the minor drug infraction. It's that the kid in question is a) 22 years old, and b) a drama student at NYU. Who'da thought "Steven" could act?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:26 PM | 1 comments

Quote of the Day

If I light the Clean Sheets scented candle, then I don't have to change the sheets.

In Darcie's defense, the candle we bought today really does smell like clean sheets. And the Birthday Cake-scented candle smells like yellow sheet cake and cheap white icing. How the hell do they do that?

[UPDATE 7:48 p.m.: So that's how they do it. Should have known; after all, I re-read that essay less than a month ago. Blame the Darvocet, I guess.]

posted by boyhowdy | 12:35 AM | 1 comments

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Butterflies and Candlelight

Like this, except with ragged wings...

A family adventure today. After brunch in the dining hall and an afternoon nap for the baby, we bundled into the carseat and drove down to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens in Deerfield. The parking lot was full but, once we paid and got our hands stamped with pink smudgy wingedthings, the main lepidary actually quite reasonable, smelling of damp jungle and small purple flowers.

We were there both for us and for Willow. The money spent was well worth the shortsleeved walk through banana tree fronds and trilling generators. Under the fogged greenhouse glass you could almost forget it was winter outside. We sat on a bench for a while under the netted ceiling fans circulating the breeze through the warm greenhouse, watching the koi in the pond and the delicate black and yellow hummingbird-sized moths jittering around us in the air. A small butterfly with ragged orange fallleaf wings alit on the baby's shoulder when she wasn't looking, just for a moment.

The butterflies made Willow quite nervous, and she mostly spent her time with her brow furrowed, craning her neck to frown at the moving air. She laughed only once, when introduced belly-to-belly with a mirror-image baby named Wyatt in a similar bjorn baby carrier. We bought her a jittering pull-string soft caterpillar toy in the gift shop on the way out. It was only 4:15 and still light, the baby cheering up a bit, so we decided to press our luck and head two miles down the road to the Disneyland of candlemaking and Christmas that is the Yankee Candle candlemaking company flagship retail store.

Bigger than a shopping mall, more tourisity than a ski lodge gift shoppe, YK is a complex of over 30 theme rooms and speciality shop-lettes surrounding a cavernous warehouse-like space where one can fill gift packs of scented votives and tea-candles from rows of a hundred bins or more. It's always Christmas at Yankee Candle, which makes it the perfect place to hide from the heat psychologically in the middle of summer; in the winter, it's merely a big place to play.

Our path through the place took us through mountains of toys to Santa's workshop, where Santa himself checked on the availability of an item for us (Let me see if I have the supplies I need upstairs to whip up one of those, ho ho ho); around the Christmas Village, where snow falls on tiny villages all year and the train runs endlessly around its miniature track high up along the faux-granite walls; through the rustic country rooms of cross-stitch patriotism. We bought six kinds of fudge, and two more Folkmanis puppets, a baby skunk and an Eating Bear with a hole in its mouth so you can pretend it's really eating its small stuffed salmon. Everywhere candles, in a thousand thousand scents, filled the air with their sweet waxy breath.

Dinner at Chandlers, the four-star restaurant nestled against the Yankee Candle building like a very rich wart, where the backyard lights threw blue movielight on the snowcovered trees blocking the highway from view. The pea soup was too thick to drip from the spoon, and the tenderloin with Chevre mashed potatoes and carmelized onions on a bed of wilted spinach was excellent, if a bit tough on the newly-root-canal'd teeth; the chocolate lava cake melted like a half-cooked brownie under the weight of its clear vanilla ice cream, and the espresso came with a tiny spike of lemon peel, as it should. If we hadn't needed to continually juggle the baby to distract her from crankiness the entire time, it would have been a fine ending to a fine family day...but all in all, it still was pretty special; I'm thankful I have days like these.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:44 PM | 1 comments

Marlboro College Blogs

Collected by Brandt

posted by boyhowdy | 3:21 AM | 0 comments

If You Look Really Close, You Can See 1500 Nipples

Now, where did I put that magnifying glass...

About 750 women took off their clothes and formed a heart shape around the words "No War" on an Australian hillside Saturday, in an attempt to send an anti-war message to the Australian government, police said. >>more

I'm not sure what nudity has to do with war, but I'm all for it.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:39 AM | 0 comments

Kids Say The Darndest Things

On duty and on Darvocet last night and the night before; consequently, I've now spent a combined total of seven hours in the confines of the dormitory lounge on the verge of hallucination, playing foosball, watching Shawshank Redemption with a couple of kids, mostly staring into space in a mostly-empty room. Was it the combination of drugs and duty which led to the following very strange conversations? Maybe it's just me, but...

scenario one:
Student whose roommate withdrew from the school gets locked out of his room (happens three or four times a day around here) and apologizes for asking me to let him back in.

Me: Well, what would you do if you got locked out of your room at two in the morning?
Student: I don't have a roommate...
Me: Exactly. so you'd have to wake me up. (I live in-dorm, and have a master key)
Student: Wouldn't you be mad?

analysis: This is my job; how I feel about it at two in the morning isn't the point. What are you going to do, just curl up in a fetal position on the floor of your brightly lit hallway?

scenario two:
NMH's star point guard's been nuzzling on the lounge corner couch with some girl for the last hour; she just left.

Me: Hey, next time, you should use your visiting privleges.
Star Point Guard: What's that?
Me: You know, between seven and a quarter of an hour before dorm close on Fridays and Saturdays, you can invite a girl back to your room. You just have to clear it with me first, and leave the lights on and the door open.
SPG: (mad) Why couldn't you tell me about this last week?

analysis: Visiting hours, an opportunity for students in good standing to socialize on a slightly more intimate level without resorting to PDA (back when PDA meant necking in public, not Palm Pilot in geekspeak), started over a month ago. It's not my job to keep track of your opportunities for sexual experimentation, and I really don't think you'd want me to, either.

scenario three:
A girl comes by to pick up a video for a course she's teaching on Horror Film; she'd just come from the school's International Carnival, a well-attended yearly event where students from different countries make and then sell food from their homelands.

Girl: I was talking to David Wivell (the Director of International Education) and he said next year he was thinking of making it twice as educational.
Me: Yeah, like you could show the way food ingredients for each nationality's dish reflected the agriculture in that country, which in turn was a function of both culture and climate, and how the way foods were prepared and served in different countries reflected their values and their social structure.
Girl: Well, I was thinking we could write little bits of information on the bottom of their plates, like Snapple bottles.

analysis: 1. Snapple bottle one-liners are cute, but they're not really educational. Would you want me to teach you a class that was entirely based in volumes of trivial knowledge? 2. Reminds me of game we used to play in college. You'd ask some girl what it said on the bottom of her beer bottle, and then you'd clean up all the beer on the floor.


In general, it's probably not a good idea to say my brain is melting in half to students. I'm liable to end up on some list of Crazy Things My Teachers Said. Prep school kids are generally a little more savvy than the average than public school kids; most of the time, they're sharp as tacks, and they don't miss much. And a whole bunch of 'em got blogs.

But you'd never know it to look at their debates on our school bulletin board system, or to listen in on them as they pass in herds like buffalo in the hallways. I was the same way, I'm sure. Stupidity outbreaks are as endemic among adolescents as acne; they are equally unwanted, and, like acne, it's impossible to see one's own stupidity. Until it's too late.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:57 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, February 08, 2003

Rent Lichtenstein

"The basic idea is that an entire, small country plays host to a conference with all the various possibilities at its disposal," said Roland Buechel, director of the state tourism agency in Liechtenstein, which covers an area of 60 square miles.

Why does a country which covers an area of 60 square miles need a director of state tourism? Isn't this kind of like being the director of state tourism for your local Home Depot?

posted by boyhowdy | 1:42 AM | 0 comments

Friday, February 07, 2003

My Summer Vocation

I've been selected to join two teachers from Andover in leading a nine-day workshop on academic technology integration this August in Dhaka, Bangladesh through Andover's partnership with Aga Kahn Education Services. Mostly what I know right now is that they're paying me $1600 and covering all expenses; my coleaders are a language teacher and a librarian; it takes 23 hours to fly there, and we'll be there during monsoon season. More on this story as things develop.

Also, thanks to Molly, Zack, and Nora for my birthday CDs. Turns out I like Dispatch.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:31 AM | 0 comments

Comfortably Numb

What I Did On My Thursday Vacation

Last night the rumors began to fly. Before study hall, they were confirmed. No School. They cancelled school today because everyone is sick, including the nurses in the health centers. Last night's email announcement to that effect called it Health Day.

Ah, irony.

It would have been nice to have a day off, as intended. What we had instead was an adventure. Northfield to Brattleboro. Brattleboro to Northfield again. Northfield to Greenfield, to Fitchburg, to Greenfield; home. Three hours of driving, three hours of waiting rooms for Darcie and Willow, three hours of pale blue vinyl operating chairs and white textured ceiling tiles for me. A dentist, an oral surgeon and a plethora of assistants. And shopping, for good measure. I love a good adventure. Not all who wander, after all.

And I love a good surgery, too. I have an average pain threshold -- unlike Darcie, who can suffer in silence through almost anything -- but my natural curiosity makes me eager to see inside myself. I'm the guy who asked to watch his own orthoscopic surgery and, later, his wife's Cesarian. So, truthfully, when the dentist said that I'd need to get in the car and drive an hour to the oral surgeon right away for a root canal, I was more excited than anything else. It's like the universe has once again honored me by making my life interesting, despite the old Chinese curse.

In a root canal, the stuff your dentist calls pulp -- really a mass of live nerves which once helped the tooth grow but has no practical function in adults -- is removed. Through the skilled use of long narrow pins and drills and an occasional infusion of chlorine to clean the work area, what was once a living tooth becomes merely a piece of bone in your mouth. The whole operation takes about 45 minutes.

So there we were, in the car, the tooth gradually increasing its ache, as if to justify the trip more each mile. By the time we found the endodontist's office I was ready for anything to stop the pain. But the shots didn't hurt and the pamphlets were clear; the endodontist was friendly under his mask, and his assistant was competent and comforting. The rubber-dam-and-wire superstructure which transformed relaxed mouth into stretched-out operating table was coolly weird, as was the tiny metal stirrup clamp which secured the tooth on the bed therein. A series of seven X-rays tracked our progress; over the course of what turned out to be over an hour, as rotors ground the hollow of molar #18 into acrid smoke and powder, I got to see the ghosts of my nerve bundles first rotting, then empty, and finally cemeted and capped. The entire time, my face was another's face, numb from ear to chin.

Darcie needed paper and stickers for this weekend's Valentine's Card crafts activity, so we stopped by a Michael's Crafts Supplies before hitting the road. The an hour back, trying not to bite my own thick tongue, only letting my teeth meet gingerly, for soft foods at the cool new grungyhealthycool Cafe Koko in Greenfield: spicy peanut stew and warm cornbread and a vanilla latte in a tall sundae glass. The braless waitresses cooed at the baby; I guess even the hippes aren't immune to the charms of the Platinum Haired One. I think I've heard the phrase Is she always this happy? an average of five times a day for the past three months, and the answer is always the same: only in public.

Anyway, home. The Darvocet's got me flying. I've got most of the feeling back in my face, but hardly any pain at all. All in all, a surprisingly fun day. I'm a sick duck, aren't I?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:16 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, February 06, 2003


I knew the switch from American Spirit Lights to Nicorette was going to be a difficult one. The silver filling suddenly crumbling into my gum wasn't exactly what I had expected, but the tooth held, and the hole was fun to rub my tongue against.

What I forgot was that the hole was a cavity, and that cavities are nature's way of telling you that your body is falling apart...and that falling apart hurts like hell. Today at lunch I bit into a footlong with the works (kraut, cheese, relish, and guacamole because it was there in the Mexican Bar) only to feel a quick crack as the last thin layer of tooth over the root nerve, in the core of the molar, broke, followed by the most excuciating pain I have experienced since...nothing comes to mind.

Since then I've been in the kind of pain only possible for those who have stripped raw and exposed to the light an actual nerve. There was some sort of tooth-o-caine in the medicine chest, expiration date 3/00, which did no good whatsoever. Several times today I accidentally bit down on something on the wrong side of my mouth and got to relive that excruciating pain; each time, over the following hour, the pain didn't so much fade as it spread out, distributing itself across the whole jaw. Even eating pudding and jello hurts.

Tomorrow morning I have an emergency appointment with something called a dentist. It's been a decade since I last saw one. Once again, I become an object lesson. Sigh.

If they pull the tooth, as I suspect they do, I'll try to post a photo of it here. I bet you can see right through the cavity to the other side.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:15 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

So THAT'S What's In A Name

"Imagine how Mr. Viagra would feel if there was one. He would be the butt of jokes," said Cialis.

Well, probably not the butt, but I think Cialis has the general idea. That's Richard Cialis the guy, not Cialis the anti-impotence pill.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:27 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Bonus Poem Fragment of the Week

First I thought it was traffic. Then the wind
Like sleeping by the weathered ocean.
The dog growled softly at the windowpane.
Her hackles stood up like a forest.

The cat came in. Night called from the woods.
I stood outside tonight and closed my eyes
Swaying like the birches,
Making the sound of the ocean for you.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:55 PM | 0 comments

Can You Say Plagiarism, Boys And Girls?

Generally, I'm out of the loop. I read the newspaper for the funnies, watch television for the sitcoms, get my news secondhand from The Daily Show. Gossip is another thing entirely -- it is no hyperbole to say that I keep my ear to the ground more and more successfully than anyone I know, and why not? I like to know things, and my hobby is studying people and their institutions -- but when it comes to news, Paul Simon puts it best: I'm the first to admit it and the last one to know.

But sometimes serendipity matches my eccentric orbit with that of the masses. The editorial page of the Boston Globe someone left in the radio station tonight revealed two stories which I will keep with me forever.

1. No-nicotene cigarettes supposed to help people quit smoking.

2. Newspapers across the country unwittingly print Bush-praising Republican National Committee-authored letters resubmitted by individual authors as part of astroturf (fake grass roots) movement.

I have one thing to say.

The Horror.

Other than that, the two news items speak for themselves.

Overall the show went well, if quiet. Nobody called. Ginny brought in her CD collection for once; I was excited by the new material. Especially happy about Bobby McFerrin's sparse early effort Voice, which I had on vinyl in high school but lent it out irretrievably to a college aquaintance my freshman year, and Tori Amos' exquisitely simplified piano solo Smells Like Teen Spirit. Playlist follows:

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man (our Tributary theme song)
John Hiatt -- What Do We Do Now
Oysterhead -- Birthday Boys
Santana -- Se A Cabo
Los Lobos -- Bertha*
Tori Amos -- The Wrong Band
They Might Be Giants -- Nightgown Of The Sullen Moon
Chris Smither -- Memphis In The Meantime*
The Story -- So Much Mine
Thievery Corporation -- ???? (Unlabeled pirated CD. Bad Ginny!)
Lisa Loeb -- Truthfully
Bobby McFerrin -- Blackbird*
Ben Harper -- Strawberry Fields Forever*
Bebel Gilberto -- Sem Contencao
Deb Talan -- Something Burning
St. Germain -- So Flute
Beck -- Lost Cause
Nikki Boyer -- Brain Damage*
Erin McKeown -- The Little Cowboy
Nickel Creek -- Reasons Why
Billy and Eliza -- Ten Miles To Tulsa
Robbie Folks -- Never Could
John Gorka -- Oh Abraham
Alana Davis -- 32 Flavors*
Tori Amos -- Smells Like Teen Sprit*
Tallis Scholars -- Spem In Alium

Many covers tonight. As always, brownie points and a free cup of coffee for the first caller to correctly identify the original artists for five or more of the songs starred above.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:40 AM | 0 comments

Monday, February 03, 2003

Somehow This Explains Everything

Almost as good as the B Sharps...D'oh!

Hadn't Googled myself in a while. Found this terrifying photo from an Estonian stop on a summer tour with intercultural peace ambassadors Sharing A New Song back before the collapse of the Soviet Union. America is so slow to change its borders. How cool to have been in a country that no longer exists.

I'm the Tenor. Second from the left.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:06 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 02, 2003

First Draft

Last few times I posted a first draft of a poem your gracious comments were entirely helpful. Here's another draft, this time a captured moment of today's NMH Founder's Day celebration. No title yet, and the sonnest form may have been too restrictive this evening, but, as always, for what it's worth:

Though glowing onyx, pickled plum,
Waterfall of shining black hair,
India where my freckled wife
Burns at summer sun’s touch, this girl
Rising from the front row of the concert band
Like a skyscraper at the Updike reading
Reminds me of the girl my wife is

In the photograph with the painted-in trees
Behind the baby’s bed, back in high school
When she did not yet exist
But as this stunningly beautiful knee-dangler
Crossing her ankles under the piano bench,
Ungrown into her body, taller than the boys,
Poised only when perfectly still, and alone.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:06 PM | 0 comments

Did You Know...

Offbeat News link at CNN.com has been replaced as of this afternoon by a feature on shuttle debris. What, the shuttle went down and suddenly nothing's funny anymore? What's wrong with the human condition? If you ask me, in times like these, we need humor more than ever.

Also, I heard on NPR today that, among other experiments on the Columbia flight, astronauts had brought along several rose buds in a small greenhouse to see if they would bloom in space. The report did not include data about whether the experiment had been successful, but it feels hopeful and right to imagine that they did bloom after all.

If roses don't bloom in space, I'm not going.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:25 AM | 0 comments

What The Hell Is A Cake Rumble?

The last time I heard a student vacuuming in the hallway after midnight was three years ago. That time, the kid in question was trying to clean up his vomit, drunk enough to think that vacuuming was the way to do it.

This time, the seemingly-sober kid I accosted was only cleaning up a hallway smothered in chocolate cake. When I asked, in my best faculty voice, how chocolate cake got all over the hallway carpet (and all over the walls and doors), he said, and I quote:

Yeah, I guess there was some kind of cake rumble.

Unsurprisingly, chocolate cake doesn't vacuum any better than vomit does. As ever, teenage stupidity is by no means the exclusive province of the drunk.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:14 AM | 0 comments

Robbing Peter To Pay Dwight

Dwight Night, named for our beloved founder and all-around nutty missionary Dwight Lyman Moody, is a scholarship dinner dance, like the prom would be if it were held in the dining hall in the middle of winter and all proceeds went to support future and current students needing aid. A semi-formal event already on the books which this year coincided with the Chinese New Year in a school whose population is 20% Asian naturally led to an afternoon of hanging paper lanterns and student slavelabor paper cranes for Darcie (Project Coordinator for Student Programs), which in turn provided me with the exceptional and exciting opportunity to hide in a corner of the slowly transforming dining hall and entertain an increasingly tiredandcranky baby suffering her first real cold.

Home at 5 to iron clothes; we went back up the hill all dressed up at 7 to take advantage of free handrolled sushi, peelandeat shrimp, and "tuxedoed strawberries" (white chocolate dip under black chocolate tie, buttons, lapels and cumberbund) before the students started to arrive. Got suckered into manning the door for the first hour and turned only one tie-less kid away before we managed to slip into the night. Even now, out the window, I can hear the kids yelling on their way back to the dorms; like the prom, one of the especially special aspects of Dwight Night is that students attending are allowed to stay out an extra half hour past their usual deadline.

I have mixed feelings about Dwight Night. The idea of current students paying for current scholarships bothers me a little, even if it does theoretically "prime the pump" for alumni dollar requests after they've all graduated; some of these kids are on scholarship now, after all, and so they're ultimately paying money they can't really afford out of their own pockets for some portion of their own aid, which is just silly. The idea that some students can't afford the ten bucks makes me equally bothered; knowing that the relatively rich students -- and let me tell ya, at a prep school we do have some rich students -- are up the hill raising money for them smacks a bit of classism.

The displacement of 650 students who choose (or cannot afford) not to go to Dwight Night, or who try to get tickets only to find that they're already sold out, bothers me. Little effort is made to feed these kids, and I question whether this is fair to them. Sure, there is food offered on the other campus, in one dining hall, but how many kids are going to take a 15 minute bus ride both ways for a 20 minute dinner in a dining hall they never go to? Their parents already paid for food that night; I realize a refund is out of the question, but why aren't we making it easier for them to get it? Pizza for dorm-stuck kids would go a long way towards keeping the onus for this voluntary scholarship-raising event off the kids who aren't volunteering; heck, PB&J would be better than nothing.

The finances bother me more. 350 students at $10 a pop attend dinner and dance; another 50 or so join the party for dancing and drinks an hour later for $6. Theoretically, then, the event clears just under 4 grand for the Moody fund. In fact, however, looking above, we see that hundreds of students who have already paid for dinner that night through their tuition are being forced to sacrifice/donate their dinner dollars and don't get a single dumpling for their trouble -- the dining services staff and food that would otherwise feed those kids is instead "donated" to the event. But really, the food still cost money; it just doesn't get eaten by most who already paid for it. And the Dining Services Staff who run the event get paid, too, just like they would have if they were feeding the kids they are supposed to feed. Worse, four Student Programs faculty, including Darcie, spend their entire week working on this; I'd estimate that each makes about $800 for the week's work. Supplies aren't free, and neither are the flowers, the band, the DJ. It costs the school more, exponentially more, to raise this money than the money they make. Who's paying the scholarship when all is said and done?

On the other hand, I just love to see the kids all dressed up, uncomfortable with their own cleavage, comparing notes on accessories, teetering on their heels and tugging at their ties. Love making small talk with them, holding grenadine drinks, as if the clothes make the grownup. And the food is great. Love those tiny egg rolls.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:27 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, February 01, 2003

Where Were You When The Shuttle Went Down?

I was in 7th grade the last time the shuttle went down. I remember the way rumors spread, leaving disbelief and a sense of unreality in their wake. I remember the schoolday scramble to dispatch televisions to the classrooms, to turn them on, to sit in silence watching the Challenger blow up over and over and over again.

To the schoolday it felt, after all, much like 9/11, although by then I was on the teacher side of the fence, the one in charge of the TVs, stepping forward as Media Specialist to help students make sense of the way the television was playing the same footage of fire and brimstone over and over again, and to turn off the TV when there was nothing new under the sun but inane, stunned newscasters' reactions, as if they were for all of us.

And this time it's the Columbia. CNN's report says don't touch the fallen debris; it might be toxic. A moment of silence, please, for the hopes and dreams of a people who really need it and, most especially, for the families and friends of:

Commander Rick D Husband

William C McCool

Michael P Anderson

David M Brown

Kalpana Chawla

Laurel Clark

Ilan Ramon


posted by boyhowdy | 12:42 PM | 0 comments

Dave Chappelle Rocks, but

Customers Suck

So does some of the content on this community LiveJournal. But a lot of it is absolutely hilarious. I've been reading it for, like, three hours or something. Ah, sometimes I miss retail.

Other hilarious things: Chappelle's Show; Peep Research; Dave Barry; Pathetic Geek Stories.

Turns out that Steven Wright interviews are not funny at all.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:44 AM | 0 comments

Friday, January 31, 2003

Yeah, I Use A Template. So What?

I want this blog to be about the blogging: foremost, the writing here counts. The archives, you may have noticed, come first. Although there are surely glimpses into my psyche available to the astute and subtextual reader in everything from the choice of design to the featured archives, the writing itself reveals what it needs to. It is the me I wish to work with. William Carlos Williams says

"The objective in writing is, to reveal. It is not to teach, not to
advertise, not to see, not even to communicate (for that needs two)
but to reveal, which needs no other than the man himself."

I have avoided featuring supplementary information about me me me me. No picture, no iconographic pixie, no descriptive sentence in which each word is a link. But I've noticed a lot of bloggers have, somewhere, a list. Like this, or this. And I like creating lists, like writing sonnets; working within a structure soothes me.

In the effort to provide more background -- to expand the bookjacket authorial description, one might say, if one were so inclined to do so -- I am working on a list.

What should I include? What do you want to know about me or any blogauthor?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:36 PM | 0 comments

Poem of the Week

Back then we were living in an old farmhouse on the hotel grounds. I had just graduated; we were recently married. The summer boys had not yet joined us on the slate patio and peelingpaint porch, our low-rent couches and floors. This really happened.


She is crying when you get there:
you watch her cradle the cardboard box
and do not ask her why the goldfish bowl

is on the patio. Inside the box
the mourning dove or fieldmouse
struggles against flannel and tape;

your wife says its heart is speeding up
when she means to say slowing down.
Her lips move slower than her words,

leaving a backlog of speech. Fractured,
you try to recover your sanity
framed in the doorway like a Picasso

while like a starving cannibal
your wife's empathic heart consumes itself.

May 19, 1998

a collection of original poems

posted by boyhowdy | 10:19 AM | 0 comments

Getting Better All The Time

I was pretty bad off yesterday. Chills and stomach cramping, sudden toilet runs, delirium: the whole nine yards. Restless but couldn't move much. Ate nothing but tea, toast and ginger ale; barely managed to keep it down.

On the bright side, I think I've finally caught up on sleep. Last night I awoke at 2:45, fully conscious, aware of less pain than I had been, and was just...alert for an hour or so in the dark. It was peaceful and very relaxing. This morning I feel groggy but I can tell it's just what remains of the flu. The end is near.

The swelling in my lower back remains. I hobble around the house like an old man, hunched over. I balance on the edge of my chair. I've been at work for a total of five hours this week.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:54 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Goddam, That's Beautiful

The physical union of human and machine, long dreaded and long anticipated, has been an accomplished fact for decades, though we tend not to see it. We tend not to see it because we are it, and because we still employ Newtonian paradigms that tell us that “physical” has only to do with what we can see, or touch. Which of course is not the case.

Why, it's Gibson on the Internet as Cyborg, of course.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:56 PM | 0 comments

Not All Who Wander Are Found, Either

Hmm. I'm really, really sick. My brain feels swollen. I can't make coherent sense. Nothing formal, then.

Ah. A collection of random recent thoughts which never made it to the blog. Kind of like when a singer dies and they release all his left-over studio cuts. Hey, it worked for Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Dark And Cold

The power was out yesterday when I got home. No lights, no stereo, no telephone. Slowly, it got dark. Really dark. Dinner in the dining hall heated by sterno cans and lit dimly by candlelight. No more streetlights on the way home; no more brightly lit dorm entrances. Beautiful.

Then, right before the mustered schoolbus fleet left to take 500 potentially heat-less students to the gym on the other campus, the lights went on. Isn't it ironic? I loved the power outage like I love all chaos, and I the students really seemed to appreciate my attitude. I think it would have been fun to just sit in the dark all night with them, huddled to keep warm. But it's probably for the best: the baby wasn't thrilled about the darkness.

There's Something About Mary

Okay, I admit it. We have a cleaning lady. She comes in once a week for a couple of hours, cleans porcelain and linoleum, vacuums and straightens, wipes and scrubs. Sometimes she brings her miniature toy poodle puppy and I get to hold the little toupee...uh, darling.

Sometimes I feel guilty/foolish about paying someone else to come and sterilize a three-room apartment, but the truth is, it's a lot of work to have a cleaning lady, and its worth it. I mean, if you want someone else to vacuum your floor, you have to clean it first. The night before Mary comes each week is a cleaning frenzy. Cleaning up for the cleaning lady is a lot like washing the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher; you know it's necessary, but it seems redundant.

Pink Slips Sink Ships

Today the axe fell at work. 30 positions (of about 500) were cut, many of them entirely unexpected: Systems Librarians, Asset Managers, Custodians. All were people I know.

For weeks most of the staff and faculty here have been walking around worried about their jobs. A few were publically confident about it, a few withdrawn and worried. Most of us fell somewhere between, watchful but reasonably confident in the odds and in our own institutional relevance. I'm glad it's over.

It's Been Done To Death

There was a time, I think it was around Christmas of this past year, when every blog you read had an entry about being sick. It was as if some weird infection was out there in the bloggiverse, and you could catch it from sharing blog. Now it's my turn, and it seems so empty to describe it all over again when others did the job so well.

But I'm sick nonetheless. Sick, sick, sick.

Talking of Sick...

I've always wanted to do a really detailed blog entry which recounted, exquisitely, everything I have eaten in a 24-hour period. Including the bugs, as described here:

...the Food and Drug Administration allows a certain amount of insects in your food...Pasta is allowed to have 225 insect parts per 225 grams. A jar of peanut butter is allowed to have rodent hairs. In a can of corn, two or more larvae are allowed. And in orange juice, five fly eggs or one maggot per 250 milliliters is OK.

Oh, and Miss Bumptious reminds us that as much as 20% of the weight of the average pillow is made up of dead skin, dust mites, and dust mite droppings. Try not think about it. Sleep tight.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:45 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, January 28, 2003


According to the Bravenet counter stats, yesterday someone was referred here via a web search for Darcie's sex videos.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost is the first result for a search with those terms.

Sure hope that guy (or girl) found what he was looking for.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:11 PM | 0 comments

A Sad Pun That Reflects A Sadder Mess

My take on the State of the Union Address:

My god, he's still talking.

I have a vague memory of learning that, in an age of fast and furious television and Warholian time-frames for fame, public figures who truly want respect and reverence must show the mark of having overcome a visible, fundamental flaw, that they may be mini-martyrs, untouchable, sympathetic, even celebrated for their infirmity. This is especially true of newscasters: think of the botox craze, or Koppel, who appears to have Voice Immodulation Syndrome (c.f. Saturday Night Live), or even Wolf Blitzer's beard.

Ever notice George Bush has no lips? You gotta feel for a guy who can overcome a handicap like that.

As always, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious bonus points if you can correctly identify the song reference in the title. Or, you could just go here.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:48 PM | 0 comments

Worms and Viruses

Tried to blog last night but couldn't: Blogger, like much of the web, was down. Damn worm.

Students also reported not being able to access sites from Korea; naturally, they accused the school of arbitrarily blocking an entire country. As if we had some reason to do so. The adolescent mind sees institutional conspiracy everywhere, but intelligent adults know that carelessness, stupidity, and the virulent maliciousness of a few individuals with some minor skill and very little actual power easily explains most of what's wrong with the world. Still, I'm touched by the naivete on the other side of the adolescent consipracy coin: if we are the cause of all problems, we can fix what's wrong with the world, too, right?

Not much is wrong with my little world, except Darcie and the baby both woke up sick and cranky. I'm hoping it's not the flu, but it probably is; this year's flu came late, but seems to be a pretty powerful strain. Student health services has just issued their yearly warning, and kids are beginning to drop like flies. On the bright side, I get to stay home and look after them; while they sleep, I can catch up with a midmorning blog.

So. Last night's radio show was essentially uneventful, although it was so cold outside (-11 Farenheit, which is, like, a million below zero) that the studio never warmed up completely. Cold enough that the fluids in the Camry have thickened; driving to and from the station with Ginny felt like driving an old bus. This week's eclectic, jazz-and-jamband heavy playlist follows, as always; for previous Tributary playlists, check out other archived Tuesdays.

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man (Tributary theme song)
Lucy Kaplansky -- One Good Reason
Phish -- Back on the Train
Ween -- Bananas and Blow
Ben Harper -- In The Lord's Arms
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Bli-Blip
A Tribe Called Quest -- Can I Kick It
They Might Be Giants -- Shoehorn With Teeth
Laura Love -- Come As You Are
Gene Krupa and his Orchestra -- Drum Boogie
Salamander Crossing -- Five days In May
Sarah McLachlan -- Ice Cream
Iris Dement -- The Train Carrying Jimmy Rogers Home
Greg Brown -- Who'd A Thunk It
Bisuit Boys -- You Don't Have To Do That
Barenaked Ladies -- La La La La Lemon
Dizzy Gillespie -- Salt Peanuts
David Wilcox -- Rusty Old American Dream
Patty Larkin -- Tango
Mark Erelli -- I Thought I Heard You Knocking
Indigo Girls -- Galileo
Amy Mann and Michael Penn -- Two Of Us
Patty Griffin -- Let Him Fly
Billie Holliday -- God Bless the Child
Galactic -- Tiger Roll
Tom Landy and the Paperboys -- All Along The Watchtower
Take 6 -- Gold Mine
Nanci Griffith -- Listen To The Radio
String Cheese Incident -- Up The Canyon

Tonight's contest was "Who sings the original version of Two Of Us?" No one called. How could you not recognize the Beatles? Sheesh.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:54 AM | 1 comments

Monday, January 27, 2003

Missing Molly: On Virtual Absence

Played virtual tag last night with Molly: an unsuccessful chat invite, an email exchange wondering where our cyberselves are, and then, as always, silence.

Virtual absence. It's a phenomenon we're all familiar with. Like phone tag before it, virtual tag is a neverending game of frustration; like the answering machine before it, newer technologies lend themselves to the suspicion of secretive lurking, of call-screening.

Back when the only media game in town was speech, messages were inseparable from their origin. You went to someone's house, dragging your post-neanderthal club on the ground, if you had a bone to pick or one to offer them; if the person you wanted to see wasn't there, why, you waited, or want away. The away message is moot when the concept of message doesn't really exists, when the idea of the self is the same as that of words-of-the-self.

Later, the development of writing technologies allowed the human psyche to develop an awareness of separation between message and medium, between self and self-thought. Notes could be left, leaving responsibility for renewing contact in the hands of the other. But time was different back then, and what we mean by "are you out there?" changes over time and moment-to-moment, equivalently specific to the conventions of self and other, to time and space and the communications potential of technologies modern-at-the-time.

Now, away messages are all the rage with the students down the hall. Cute or literal, they proliferate in the spaces we inhabit until they become nothing but a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. Like the answering machine message before it, the IM away message has become a screening mechanism, by which people not truly away are able to slyly hide their presence online, that they might be empowered to control who and what they talk to.

But if everyone's doing it, then what? Do chat and email become equally synchronous and, oddly, equally asynchronous, making the terms themselves moot? Is this merely the sign of media collapse as previously distinct media become part of a complex and fluid meta-tool called "communication?" When a phone can be a camera, is the way we separate permanent and fleeting technologies no longer a relevant thought?

If two people are both using this method of virtual screening, IM or otherwise, things break down, and the away message becomes a visible ruse -- can't tell you how many times I've IM-ed someone who was supposedly away just to find, sure enough, they were really there all the time. But where, exactly? In the end, the technical details don't matter so much as the questions that are raised about what it means to be here and now, to be human. Is the question not so much who is hiding from whom? as it is what are we hiding from? Is anybody out there? Emails that ask whether an email message was received are a discursive dead end, prompting only apologies, but do they underscore an important shift in the way we see ourselves and each other as temporal and spatial?

For public-view asynchronous technologies the methods are different enough -- the once-or-twice-a-day blog is the norm, not the exception -- and yet not so different, as nothing is truly asynchronous in an age where an email message gone unanswered for a single day is cause for alarm that one has died or worse, concern that one is no longer important to the recipient. The blog demand for the away message is measured in weeks, not days, certainly not hours. Comments and guestmaps and tracking engines let us know who's there to visit and when, but bloggers that go on hiatus, like Sarah Hatter, cause the blogiverse to respond with new tools and calls to arms.

The other day I was showing a student how to disable one's availability to chat invitations on SWIS, the school's First Class-based email/conference/listserv/chat all-in-one engine, and accidentally forgot to re-enable my own ability to be invited into chats. For most faculty this wouldn't be an issue: most teachers are not comfortable with chat technologies, not habituated to the shuffled-card mode of give and take which today's youth find so fluid and natural. But as "The Media Guy" students rightfully assume that I am more invested in having the conversations in ways that are comfortable to them, when they need them, than in requiring that students interested in my ear must have it in my own developed modes. And they're right, which is why it's so frustrating to miss Molly like that.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:22 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, January 26, 2003

If you give this girl money, she'll jump in the lake


Well, it's for a good cause. Don't just visit; donate money and sponsor her polar bear swim.

Better her than me.

[from Gretchen]

UPDATE (1/29/03) I donated two bucks. Hey, I pay my dues.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:06 PM | 0 comments


Enetation is currently offline for a short while - no user accounts or user sites are affected by this. Odly, not having comments sure feels like enetation's server problems have affected my site, but what do I know?

As you can't leave comments for a while, it's the perfect time to plant your flower at the Not All Who Wander Are Lost guestmap if you haven't yet done so.

UPDATE: Comments woking again as of early Monday morning. But please consider signing the guestmap nonetheless.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:35 PM | 0 comments

Baby Days

Darcie's been wearing her Yearbook Advisor hat, working on layout for parent ads all weekend; I've been minding the baby. With Mama home Just In Case I was able to finally relax with the baby, and just play, and watch her playing. A very empowering and rewarding experience. This morning when she woke up I came in the room; she looked at me and I heard her say hi da da clear as day, but I'm sure it's just a coincidence, as she also said boze today when she was eating her toes.

North to Darcie's parents' house this afternoon, where we had dinner with Darcie's father's college roommate, Uncle Fred. Steak from the barbecue in the garage and and hommade turkey soup and a St. Bernard who had decided that this strange new man in her house was the devil. It was a very comfortable, calmly so. Especially once we put the dog in the mudroom. Home just in time to catch the Superbowl, but I'm more into the Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Halftime Show. Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey kick ass.

After setting up the big screen projector for the boys downstairs, just around kickoff time, I took a slow drive in the deepening snow. The night was silent and carless as I drove into the fat white falling flakes, past faculty houses and dormitories, their gathering places aglow with the flickering light of the spectacle, warm with the huddled bodies of those left behind during the long weekend break.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:31 PM | 0 comments

Is PowerPoint The Devil?

In its own cryptic way, this weekend's edition of Arts and Letters Daily ponders, and I quote verbatum:

If reality naturally divided itself up into neat little bullet points, PowerPoint would be the way to present it. But reality... more» ... more». Edward Tufte on PowerPoint. If Lincoln had PowerPoint at Gettysburg...

But despite what Julia Keller claims through cheap false dichotomies and straw man arguments, her interview subjects, who include best-of-the-media-bunch Cybersociologist Sherry Turkle and Media Ecologist Neil Postman, remind us that PowerPoint isn't the problem. Reality no more presents itself in neat little bullets as it does neat little paragraphs. In all media and in all cases, best practice comes from applied recognition that we are working with a representation of reality, and that each medium allows for and best supports that representation in a manner specific to its own rhetorical rules. Thus, writing or speech is no more or less a "better" way to express reality than PowerPoint or interpretive dance. Deciding which is best, and when, and why, and for what kind of information, is the goal -- that is true literacy.

As always, the problem is us, and thus we should look to ourselves for the solution. It's people who don't get it, and use not just PowerPoint but most shiny new tools for too many things outside those tools' best literacy potential; them, and the lack of media literacy programs that help them see that -- that’s the real devil here.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:01 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, January 25, 2003

In Which I Have A Curricular Epiphany

When I first designed the ideal Media Literacy course for my Masters of Arts in Teaching with Internet Technologies graduate thesis five years ago, I decided to build into the course a final project which tested student learning in the course overall through the old standard, the Time Capsule. Objects chosen had to clearly address a single thesis about some aspect of culture today; the final assignment called for a metatext showing how the objects spoke semiotically to that thesis, in the context of how future capsule-finding cultures might have changed (and thus might have changed their own contexts for the way they interpret the objects), and for a five minute live oral presentation laying bare their assumptions, stating thesis and argument and conclusion for the message of their objects and the medium of the Time Capsule itself.

The time capsule is fun and pedagogically sound. It is a deceptively quick-to-accomplish project, but developing a strong response to the project requires serious mental energy and comprehensive understanding of the course material and the fundamental theorems of the study of media. No one ever suggested that people were their "objects" best able to speak to the past about what our modern world knows is really important, which I had hoped for as a kind of ideal response when first envisioning the project; no one ever made or showed a video tape of their friends just talking about their hopes and dreams, for example. But many students got close. The best presentations have been thoughtful, and the absolute best showed students having fun with the topic, too: collections of sex toys chosen to best represent the love/hate relationship our society endures about sex, a clay model of a boy's room, whose clay objects lifted to reveal paragraphs about the subjective importance of clay beds, clay computers, clay chairs and stiff clay roommates, and a slightly-illicit collection of mind-altering prescription drugs such as Ritalin and Wellbutrin, presented by a girl who used such drugs, but collected door-to-door from peers eager to give away their drugs despite school rules about such things.

But I just had a brainstorm:

1. If the stated ideal goal of the cumulative learning of the course -- all the historical, rhetorical, sociological, anthropological, ecological, epistemological; all the semiotic analysis and attitude adjustment, all the developing confidence and skill -- is for students to be able to create and share knowledge confidently, intuitively, creatively and well in any medium, then success should be marked by testing the student's ability to approach any medium with a studied and clear awareness of the complex potential for best practice in that medium.

2. Moreover, if the media literate student is able to be articulate and clear in any medium, they should be able to be articulate and clear about anything they know in a specific medium.

3. Therefore, the most successful Media Literacy students should be able to be especially articulate in any medium about the potential for literacy of that medium.

As mentioned in an earlier rant, this spring will be the last time this course is taught, at least for a few years and probably forever, here at Northfield Mount Hermon. The final assignment for the final week of the final run of the course every school everywhere should require of every student will be a triumph of metateaching, of student empowerment, of grandiose dreams. I'll probably keep the time capsule somewhere, maybe as a post-final done overnight for the last day of the class, but make it much smaller in scale and in importance, no metatext, only informal oral presentation.

The new final project, I imagine, will look something like this:

Describe the literacy of one medium IN that medium. In other words, make a PowerPoint presentation about how to make the best PowerPoint presentation, write a paper about the usually subconscious habits and rhetoric ideals of writing a paper, write a web for the web about the web, make a board game about board games, have and record a series of exquisite phone conversations about the best way to have an exquisite phone conversation, hand in a cassette about how to best respond to this kind of assignment using an oral recorded medium, etc. Media must be currently in use, but can have specialized application (for example, whiteboards or other classroom or learning tools, conference rooms and other business or environmental media). Length, style, tonality, formality, and other parameters should demonstrate understanding of an ideal, thorough, and course-appropriate application of your chosen medium.

There's an added bonus to this new idea, if I can make it fly: if it works, I'll have 12 student primers on twelve different media, each of which practices what it preaches. I'll be able to use the best of them as demonstrations and instruction booklets as I continue my work with teachers to integrate media literacy into the schoolwide curriculum, too. And in this way, even more so than the four years of Media Literacy time capsules now scattered across the school in ravines and musty attics and buried in the flower garden, the final work, the best work of the best students, my borrowed opus -- delivered as all teaching is delivered through the mouths and hands and minds of my students -- will truly live on, if not forever, than for a good long time.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:30 PM | 0 comments

Kissing and Football: Superbowl Memories

Full trailer to debut during Superbowl.

I must have been all of 13, maybe even younger. Never athletic, that winter the youth choir I attended twice a week had brought me some modicum of popularity, albeit in tights on the grounds of Harvard University, where, as part of the annual Christmas Revels pageant, a select few of us sang and sat quietly for a few moments; but mostly we waited in the cavernous church-like hall we used as greenroom for the entire cast, and hosted pretend marriages in the eaves in order to have excuses to kiss lightly our first kisses under the curious eyes of our fidgety matrons and best men.

Incidentally, I was serious about the acting thing as a profession when I didn't know any better. I even had headshots made a few years later; they're too unforgivable to actually post on the site, but here's one that is hilarious, embarrassing, but almost too ridiculous to pass up. I was such an earnest dorky kid. And (the horror! the horror!) it turns out what brushingfelt and mirrorlooked like cool 80s hair turns out to have been a subtle form of mullet. Wish someone had told me sooner.

Although the acting ultimately brought me to museum demonstration and then, through that, to teaching, the theatre bug had me until my junior year of high school, when, as the lead in Ionesco's surrealist anti-Nazi allegory Rhinocerous, I managed to singlehandedly (and to the great suprise of my fellow thespians) pare the play down to about 45 minutes of utter hyper-surreal confusion, filled with portention silences and inter-actor anger, ending in a mangled, inarticluate rant made up on the spot instead of the page-and-a-half long monologue in the original text. Wanna know how to quit acting forever? The secret is to never get around to learning your lines. It helps if you never tell anyone about it until the curtain is about to open, of course.

But we were talking about the superbowl, and a pair of child-style married couples who cuddled under blankets in a basement, watching it and holding hands slick with sweat and pizza grease, not sure how to find excuses to kiss again. We barely knew each other, any of us, but our commitment to couplehood had become bond enough to bring us together with the game as excuse, if not enough to support conversation beyond uncomfortable silence there in front of the TV. A girl whose name I can't remember was my bride and kissmate; not my first choice willowy Thalia of the flowing blondwhite hair, who ended up with the young host of the party, an aquaintance at best, nor the fulfilled not-very-secret desire of the less popular Jill, who I did ultimately date, and got caught in bed with on the night of my bar mitzvah (we did get close, but no, technically I did not become a man for a number of years after that).

I suppose I may indeed have watched more Superbowls earlier than that, and I suppose I must have in the intervening years, but the only other gamewatching experiences I remember are here, in my five years at NMH. Living in a boy's dorm with a deserved reputation for attracting more than its fair share of varsity athletes, the Big Game is a Big Deal: boys do all their studying early in the day to earn a spot on the floor in front of the big screen, the dorm head springs for soda and sometimes trays of wings, and the kid's father who owns a Subways down in Greenfield donates two of those 6' subs, so long they serve 'em on a piece of lumber. Although for the past few years we've had great fun and success in the school's chairless media viewing room with pillows and blankets, tomorrow, as many of the kids are gone for the long weekend with their parents, we plan on doing something slightly smaller in-house with a high-lumen data projector, some borrowed speakers, and an everso hightech sheet-on-the-wall.

As a media teacher, I watch the Superbowl for the spectacle, the mythos, the overscaled grandiose halftime show and the testosterone playing out on the screen and in the boys I live with, but most of all, I watch for the commercials. This year's commercials seem promising; previews are available at superbowl-ads.com, and you can vote for your favorites there during and after the game. In addition to a holy host of movie trailers, look for past heavy-hitters Pepsi and netsavvy Hot Jobs to shine, Chrysler to be boring, Trident to push the funnybone, Reebox and Gatorade to hit up the inner athlete, and, as always, a few suprises. The New York Times also prints a comprehensive scorecard of which advertisers have purchased spots for which quarter, so you can keep track of what's coming and going.

Of course, my first subjectively significant superbowl was on the day of my birth. As my mother tells it, the doctor at my delivery was eager not to miss any of the game; he seemed to appreciate my arrival a half hour before kick-off.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:07 AM | 0 comments

Friday, January 24, 2003

Our Parents, Ourselves

Home early today after a long boring morning fiddling around the media center while for almost a mile around me in every direction students and their parents (or grandparents, or guardians, or siblings) sat in stuffyhot classrooms drowsing off to long-forgotten Chemistry lessons and presentation on Zen Buddhism and discussions of Vietnam.

Here at Northfield Mount Hermon, just past interim at the midpoint of each trimester, as grades are released, the parents arrive in droves to pick their students up for the long weekend. They attend classes politely, remaining afterwards in their uncomfortable fold-out chairs for fifteen minute meetings with teachers and advisees and college counselors; they glow at their choral or swim-team darlings from auditorium seats and bleachers; they ask about restaurants in the area and, with their children out of our hands and into the back seats of their Lexuses and SUVs, disappear into the night.

I love parents weekend, and see it primarily as a sudden and short-term introduction of 600 new students into our orbit. Many, perhaps most teachers see these visiting days as opportunities to showcase the students, pull out the stops, show-and-tell the parents to death, but the best teachers I know, like I have learned to do over the years, see the introduction of parents into the classroom as a chance to add new voices to an already rich mix of sounds and smells and seriousness, making class more like it usually is, not less.

But I love most of all the moment when, upon meeting the parent, suddenly everything about the student's past behavior is revealed as genetic. Here, three times a year, the perennial and seemingly immortal nature/nurture question collapses into this simple inescapable truth like an Airstream camper in a black hole: we are, after all, our parents, even in those stages of our lives when we are most rebellious and distant.

Which makes today's two o'clock homecoming all the more relevant: it's Friday, so Darcie's mother was there until four. She comes three times a week to babysit Willow because she can, and because she works for free and we are, after all, living on but 1.7 times a teacher's salary for the three of us, in a profession not especially known for making millionaires of even its best and brightest.

There's nothing inherently difficult about Patty, I should note; we like each other, and I think respect each other; we share a love of language and of learning, and we've had twelve years now to get to know our quirks and quills, our barbs and bare selves. But coming home early is tricky when she's there. We've given her this time to be with her granddaughter for everyone's sake, and the gift of that time comes unrestricted, so she's naturally and quite comfortably taken on the role in a way which seems right to her, and I want to validate that. But I covet my daughter when I return; came home early, in fact, in the hopes that I would get to see her at her best, rather than the oft-cranky dregs of the day that remain of my beautiful infant's energies on those ever-increasing nights when meetings and other sundries take me out to the cusp of her bedtime rituals, after which time I become more intrusion than inspiration.

With Mama in the house anyone else is always a second choice; I recognize that this is an inevitability of mother-child bonding through the breastfeeding process, and have accepted my lot, and am grateful for whatever space and time I am offered or find to be part of that bond. But with Patty there, and me there too, the baby seems difficult, frustrated, struggling to understand which mode she should be in, which set of arms she should turn to. Patty and I, I think, feed this frustration -- our roles are no more clear to ourselves when we are suddenly teamed caretakers than they seem to be for the baby herself. We reach for her simultaneously, have no rhythm together, and tag-team poorly. And I am torn: is it better to stay at work with no work to do for the baby's sake and for Patty's, and to keep things clean, and sacrifice my time for the baby's sake? Can I find myself in her pictures, locked in my office, staring moodily at the walls, while she could be having my warmth, and I hers?

And I don't know where this is going, or where it goes, but that it is: it is the beginning of the baby's confusion and frustration with the world, and that which will make her mine, and make her me, so that one day we may curse each other for our similarities, and smile when others can connect us in a sea of strangers, like I did with my parents, the eternal struggle that we all must endure, and should embrace.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:12 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Today's Meal

Squash. Butternut Squash.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:38 PM | 0 comments


Life Is Like A Box Of Chocolates, A Packet Of Graham Crackers, And A Handful Of Melted Marshmallows

Although ever since they became a breakfast cereal s'mores have lost some of their charm, there's something wonderful about the idea of taking three sweets, melting them into goo precariously by an open fire, trying not to drip hot marshmallowness on your pants. I want there to be a grand metaphor here, something about how the melted summer stickiness of this traditional campfire treat represents something about my life right now, but honestly, I'm too tired. Plus, when you get right down to it, s'mores are too complicated.

I don't even like s'mores, I just love a woman who makes 'em for herself, in the oven on a cookie sheet, when it's four below zero, then leaves 'em out for me to enjoy when I come home from being on duty.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:17 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Fun With Google

If you type wheeeeeeeeeeeeee into google.com, the first thing it asks you is Did you mean: wheeeeeeeeeeeee?

Don't take my word for it. Try it yourself.

Even with the "incorrect" spelling of the word you get about 700 results. Wheeeeeeeeeeeee! Must be a pretty exciting world out there.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:45 PM | 0 comments

Random And Utterly Cynical Thought Of The Day

Now that it's been out a couple of weeks already, I wonder how William Gibson's book sales are being affected by the recent emergence of his blog?

It's tempting to go whole-hog conspiracy theorist on y'all, and suggest that there's something suspicious about the timing of Gibson's blogbirth. I could even go so far as to point out that this new "marketing ploy" is interestingly, suggestively all in keeping with the premise of his new book.

But I wouldn't do that. The blog seems earnest and interesting even if Gibson is off in Copenhagen for a while and, consequently, behind in the blogging. And the book's getting solid reviews from all the right people; I've heard it's quite good -- Kirkus Review calls it a slick but surprisingly humane piece of work from the father of cyberpunk -- but as long as I'm still working on The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2002, Gibson's Pattern Recognition will have to wait.

And I still wonder about those book sales. Promotion is promotion, after all, no matter how unintentional.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:26 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

The Blog Defined

The nominees for the Third Annual Weblog Awards, a.k.a. the Bloggies, have been announced. In doing so, Nicolai Nolan, the coordinator and benevolent dictator of the bloggies by sheer virtue of having run with the ball when he realized he had it, makes an interesting stipulative definition:
For this contest, a "weblog" is a page with dated entries that has a purpose (in whole or in part) of linking to other sites. For instance, sites that are intended to be just personal journals or site news pages are not eligible.

By these narrow standards, this site clings to its blogginess only tenuously. Much of my links are internal; perhaps what we have here is more hybrid, as are most of the more literate blogs, like brokentype or William Gibson's blog.

I note that Nolan defines two categories, one by its intention (subject matter), the other by its approach or implementation (has a purpose in linking to other sites); it is certainly possible to imagine a personal journal which has a purpose in linking to other sites, I think; the two are not mutually exclusive, but complimentary. But it nonetheless makes sense to me that in order to recognize the best of something, that something has to be defined. How can you decide which is the better blog if you don't have a clear sense of what you mean by blog in the first place?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:37 PM | 0 comments

Rethinking Media Literacy: A Rant

For starters, it's not what you think.

Most people think of media literacy as one of two entirely incorrect and limiting things:

a) a critical viewing study, biased heavily towards an assumption that "the media", by which is most often meant mass media but today vaguely references the more corporate major service providers of the Internet as well, is out to get you, and you need to be able to see how and condemn them for it, or

b) a slightly more complex study that suggests that a combination of critical analyitic skills and applied knowledge and experience leads to empowerment, most often to enable one to "stand up" to the media.

The former is most fatally flawed for that it disempowers students through its reliance on an analytic dialectic that is far too small, and far too contradictory. It begs questions, such as: Why are the authors of written texts inherently celebrated for their use of their medium while the authors of web texts are ignored, the authors of TV and movie texts reviled, and the authors of popular music/musicvideo texts ridiculed? In other words, why show the worst of media and the best of writing? Shouldn't students see the ideal potential in all communication if they are to be steeped in a culture which depends upon facile and deliberate use?

The second option is what is commonly practiced in middle-school "Tech Ed" requirements around the country. Usually positioned in a rotation with arts and home economics, the Tech Ed class at its best allows students to have hands-on lab experience with relatively new technologies, and to construct realities with them. These courses are almost entirely creative, in fact; they are where students build web pages and PowerPoint slide shows and make video documentaries of their shaky talking-head friends leaning against their lockers.

Note that both are oppositional models. We approach these perfectly neutral, powerful, ubiquitous communications tools, all of which our students will be expected to have some mastery of, in a way so far unlike the healthy celebratory approach we give to writing, speech, and other media, and the end result is, I suggest, to preclude students' empowerment as participants in their increasingly mediated culture. Modern media's second-class treatment by the pedagogical institution stunts student's development of the ability to actively create and share knowledge, and that's a darn shame.

Neither model, though, is truly Media Literacy in its ideal form as part of the framework for lifelong process, as consistent with the English curriculum's delivery as a way of teaching thought construction and expression through reading and writing and writing some more. The mature Media Literacy curriculum is one which as wholly prepares the student for the world of multiple and fast-changing digital and mediated communication tools as the English curriculum wholly prepares the student for the world of the language which those tools still rely on, although in different ways in different tools, for, after all, the medium, you know, is the message.

I was teaching this, and they are taking it away from the students, so they are taking it away from me. I've been asked to spearhead an effort to integrate this curriculum more broadly throughout the school, through my work with teachers and departments, and it works in theory, in my head, on my best days.

But I'm not sure it will work. The deep study, like the English class itself in relation to the "writing across the curriculum" movement, is a vital part of this curriculum; its absence will keep those who I teach from seeing the big picture -- they'll learn skills more than understanding, and without understanding, they can't teach themselves new skills later in life, if you know what I mean. And those students that took the class, and the teachers that I talked with about the class as the curriculum progressed, spread those ideas like prophets through the hallways, and the world changed for the better, if just for a moment. I worry that we're sacrificing the very foundation of our mission to create life-long learners, and are willing to settle for life-long HTML coders and PowerPoint users -- not inherently a bad thing but worse if that is all they can do -- without realizing that those are the stakes.

And these are not all my best days. I'll miss the class, and miss more the knowledge that the class could have made masters of the universe, and now cannot.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:47 PM | 0 comments

Give And Take

My Media Literacy course has fallen to the budget-crisis-without-a-rubric; I am teaching it to a full load of kids next term and then, sadly, it will not be taught again. I am too mad to say more about that, and I use the term mad deliberately, as angry would have been the right word until yesterday I began to go insane thinking about it.

Instead, sick of bureaucra-speak and institutional politics, sickened by the pretense of pedagogic soundness which clearly does not after all underlie the attack on my course, frustrated by the lack of honesty which seeps like root/rot/rat poison through this community and its members, I've been thinking about Shel Silverstein's classic The Giving Tree. There's an ongoing debate about the text, nicely represented by, of all things, reader's reviews of the book at amazon.com, but at the risk of alienating my scant readership (yes, you), I hereby present my own take on the text, one which I suspect Silverstein, always the wry cynic, intended as a kind of reverse object lesson:

Give and give and give and give, selflessly and with no return, until you are a stump.

Then, at the end of your lifetime, after about 50 years of loneliness and misery, when you have nothing left to give, you will be appreciated. Maybe.

Of course, you'll still be a stump.

Goddam stumps. At least they're good for sitting on. Smiling and pretending that it's wonderful that you'll still have a job after all might work for some, but what no one here realizes is that I'd be happy to leave if I wasn't going to be happy to be here. Is it so unusual to be willing to be broke rather than do a job you don't want to do? It shouldn't be, and it is, and that makes me sadder and madder than ever.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:52 PM | 0 comments

Frost Heaves, Music Blares

Papa, Please Get The Moon For Me

Chilly out there tonight. Even the moon is shrinking. The clock in the car said 12:19 7 -- more time than temperature -- on the way back from the radio show tonight. Stuck my hand out the window for a second to feel the wind and felt the oils on my hands crystalizing. Almost got frostbit, and watch that windchill, 'cause the weather channel has a severe cold warning out. Supposed to feel like 25 below. It does.

The students must be restless; we got five calls tonight. Darcie and Virginia's other sister Alicia called from Connecticut pretending to be a student requesting a Pink Floyd song. Andy called to correctly identify tonight's mystery song as The Flight Of The Bumblebee; Nora gave us a ring just afterwards to make sure someone got the question right. Zack called to let me know he was going to burn a CD for me so I could play some songs on the radio, which is very cool of him; Molly called and asked us to play The Ocean; I had forgotten what a wonderful song that is, and never realized that John Prine sings backup vocals on the final verse, which makes the song that much cooler. Zack and Molly are, of course, involved, which makes that entire sequence about as cool as it gets. And cute. Student dating is so serious, but they make it look easy.

Talking to Molly reminded me that I hadn't taken care of her prize for winning last week's contest. To win, she correctly identified my age as 30; like everyone who wins our weekly contests on Tributary, I promised her a week's worth of free coffee at the school snack bar of her choice. Note to self: remember to stop by the snack bar on the Northfield campus and set up those free coffee accounts for contest winners Andy and Molly.

Tonight's bedtime stories (on the hour anf the half hour) were old children's favorites: Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are, Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham, and Carle's almost-popup book Papa, Please Get The Moon For Me. Music was alternately wild and mellow with a 25 minute set of what can only be called Geek Music to get things started. As always, tonight's playlist follows.

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man (Tributary theme song)
Moxy Fruvous -- Horseshoes
Sarah Harmer -- Basement Apartment
Guster -- Window (off a copy of their first CD so old the band was still called
Eddie From Ohio -- Monotony
Barenaked Ladies -- If I Had 1,000,000 Dollars ($651,254 American, according to this)
The Bobs -- Mr. Duality (for Nora, a.k.a missduality)
Cake -- Manah Manah
Timbuk 3 -- Cynical
Fred Snyder -- Coconut (why, yes, he
is the guy from the B-52s)
Suzanne Vega -- Blood Makes Noise
Peter Siegel -- Malthus
Ani Difranco -- As Is
Kasey Chambers -- A Little Bit Lonesome
String Cheese Incident -- Take Five (live)
Lyle Lovett -- Friend Of The Devil
Shawn Colvin -- Say A Little Prayer
Marc Cohn -- At The Station
Yo Yo Ma & Bobby McFerrin -- Flight Of The Bumblebee
PJ Shapiro -- Complexity (a song written and recorded for our wedding. Awww...)
Alison Krauss -- Forget About It
Cheryl Wheeler -- Arrow
Deb Talan -- Two Points
John Gorka -- Shape Of The World
Dar Williams -- The Ocean
St. Germain -- Rose Rouge
Susan Werner -- Courting The Muse

posted by boyhowdy | 12:45 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, January 19, 2003

There Must Be A Word For That

Thursday night's blogentry seemed to cue the subconscious: I must have realized that how I chose to envision a phrase, as blog-starter or poem kernel, was a choice to be made at the moment of inception. Or something like that. Anyway, I wrote a poem, the first in almost six months, and I'd like to share it with you.

Impotent, I Control The Moon
Or The Teacher Drives Home Alone After A Late Night Grading Essays

I wish I were a hundred things
But this. Sure, I can spin
The meta, the postmodern gaze;

But that I have sown of myself
A hundred hundred selves
By spending my capital unawares,
Deep in the lump that is belly
I covet their lives like sand dollars.

Impotent, I control the moon
Driving it left behind the trees
With a turn of the wheel,
Dribbling it like a basketball
On the hills above the bridge

Until, burning off the clouds,
Pulling away from the earth,
Fire fading, it purifies the sky.

Please let me know what you think. Or not. And there's always more at Watermelon Pickle Poems.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:40 PM | 0 comments

Monkey See, Monkey Robot Do

More people should read The New Yorker; this week's issue includes the following from Reading Minds, Ian Parker's excellent essay on developments in Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) systems:

A monkey first learned to use a joystick to play a video game, while his keepers similarly build up a key -- a code book -- linking neuronal activitiy with various actions. Then the joystick was disconnected from the computer. The monkey continued to play the game using only his brain.

The technology is being developed and funded primarily to assist the handicapped, most especially to communicatively empower those who are locked in their own bodies, unable even to blink. But more general use is a worthy thought experiment: what can we do with this, really? Imagine the end of the keyboard, the neural net and the Internet collapsed, the mind controlling the body and the cyberbody in tandem with no localized personal/physical mediation. Imagine.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:56 PM | 0 comments


Some bloggers blog about technology; for these folks, a blogentry about recent tweakings of the blog is not only useful, but topically consistent. If Safari is your game, then webraw/blog offers a spitcup for your drool; if geekiness makes you horny, then you already know about slashdot, so even providing a link would be redundant.

However, this blog is not about technology. I'm a media and educational technology teacher, a cybersociologist and theorist, not a technology geek; I have nothing against geeks, I'm just not one by nature. I'm more interested in content, and context only to the extent that it supports that content. And I prefer to leave work at work, and bring literature to the blogging form.

But to talk about the ramifications of technology -- for example, what it means, socially and behaviorally, to design and code in a specific way -- it is sometimes necessary to be specific about that technology, if for no other reason than to help the reader see what you see. Eric J at webraw understands this, and seems to balance what reads like an innate attraction to new tools and toys which I do not have with excellent discourse on how and what these tools mean to the culture of the blog.

Thus: if you, dear reader, find yourself wandering through the blog and come across an entry titled Technote, feel free to skip it, or not; the label is there deliberately, a cue for those who are interested and those who are not, a signpost to assist you in your travels.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:33 PM | 0 comments


For those who care, some blogging notes about this blog. Commentary welcome.

Webrings. I've just joined three of 'em, each specifically for blogs of one sort or another: The New England Webring, Blogging Mommies (also for Daddies!), and edublog, a blog for educators exploring ways of using blogs in the classroom. It seems that blog webrings (blogrings?) are still in their infancy, as all three rings have far less than 100 members. Heck, with the addition of lil' ol' me, edublog has 13. It is nonetheless wonderful to find kindred souls; check 'em out if you want to see the fine folks who share my interests.

Tech notes in general. Frequent visitors to the site will have noticed slight changes to the links and linkstructure on the right of this page; I've taken the liberty of adding subheads to the link categories, mostly to lessen the semiotic noise a bit. I continue to toy with a total redraft of the about section, making it more a short link-heavy sentence or two, bringing it to the top of the list, adding a photo of me, maybe like this one, but I'm not convinced it's for me. Is this something people want, or does it disrupt the "read it to find out" literate premise which I've been working with thus far? I note that I've seen both strategies in use throughout the bloggiverse, but note as well that an "about me" section in conversational tone tends to accompany a blog more about the person than their thoughts.

Readers. Dad reads my blog. My wife reads my blog. Someone from Seattle reads my blog. You read my blog. Plant your flower in the guestmap to leave your mark, if you're a reader, if you're interested in sharing your location and thoughts, if you dream of expressing yourself in forget-me-nots and daisies.

Templates. Live with it. I've toyed with movable type, but until I have many oodles of time to rethink and replot, I like this template, even if it's all over the web. Of course, total redesigns of my site for no pay but plenty of bankable brownie points are welcome, but if you have that much time to devote to someone else's site, you really should get out more.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:58 AM | 0 comments

Birthday Redux

Northampton today with Willow and Darcie to meet up with my parents and brother for a slightly belated family 30th birthday dinner at East Side Grill, not to be confused with East Coast Grill in Cambridge's Inman Square, where I spent my 21st family birthday dinner. Both restaurants serve a variant on basic cajun/southern cooking: the East Coast Grill serves mostly barbecue, so the birthday dinner nine years ago was surely something like pulled pork with beans and coleslaw and vinegar pickles and a slice of watermelon, like it should be, from their open kichen; the East Side Grill runs more towards the gourmet South, specializing in a lobster and corn soup, which I did not order but recommended successfully to my brother, and the popcorn shrimp and artichoke-and-mushroom-smothered tenderloin with fried leeks and garlic mashed potatoes I myself enjoyed. At the East Coast Grill I forgot my ID, and had to have my mom vouch for me in order to purchase my first legal drink, which came with a blue plastic dolphin stirrer I keep in the top drawer of my rolltop bedside table. Today, I had a Tanqueray and tonic, the baby whined through the second half of the meal, and I got a J Crew burgundy mock turtleneck and Ken Burns's Jazz: The Story of American Music 5 CD box set from my parents and three Mystery Science Theatre 3000 videos from my brother. I don't remember what I got for my 21st birthday.

I was born thirty years and four days ago at 11:30 in the morning, a half hour before that year's Superbowl kickoff, in Dekalb County Hospital, outside of Atlanta, Georgia, if my parents and birth certificate are to believed (I'm told I was there, but I don't remember much from that part of my life). Being southerner by technicality allows me mostly to justify a love for good southern cooking, from barbecue ribs to catfish to jumbalaya, and a tendency to use the ever-useful contraction y'all instead of the genderist Yankee convention guys when speaking in second person plural. But I certainly don't remember the place; we moved to Massachusetts when I was nine months old, the same week Nixon left office. I'm more and more each year a native New Englander, even as I drift chameleon-like through the stereotypes as time passes, from northern suburbanite to small liberal arts collegian to rural intellectual. I didn't even mind the cold today in Northampton, even though it's 5 below (in Farenheit!) outside now, cold enough you can feel the ice crystals forming in your nostrils and moustache as you step out the door, even colder in the outdoor hottub darcie and I treated ourselves to at East Heaven Hot Tubs because, well, my parents were eager to babysit and we can't resist the soak.

I've been all around the world: Mexico, Holland, Denmark, Ireland, Russia and Estonia back when they were part of the USSR, Finland, Israel, Egypt. I love coming back here, and knowing that we have here to come back to. I love the winter permasnow and the crisp air and the pine tree forests; I love new coats and the reward of spring after the long dark months and snowbright days. The world is nice to visit; I wouldn't want to live there. But if there's a word for it in Creole, or you can cook it best in a half a metal trash can, bring it on. Y'all come back now, y'hear?

posted by boyhowdy | 1:03 AM | 0 comments
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