Saturday, March 01, 2003


Poem Of The Week

For a while, this was the poem I sent out for publication. Of course, it never got accepted, but I still think of it as my so-far magnum opus.

The baby in the poem is Fen, the child of hippies also featured in this canzone. We had gone to the mall with his mother; I don't think they had a car.



In Image, Imagine

On the checkered countertop under the attached telephone
Darcie is copying down her Rock and Roll course syllabus.
Around the cylindrical fishbowl the tiger striped cat
wraps his long paws, reaching for the goldfish's tail.
At the kitchen table with the broken leg, I am writing
anagrams: in image, imagine. The red snowplow
scrapes against the marble steps on the patio.

There is more to this photograph than meets the eye.
While I fix the table leg Darcie is going to Wal-Mart
where the baby will eat through a package of bobbins.
Rudy the fish is on loan from the college library.
The driver of the red snowplow is having an affair
with our landlady, the owner of the hotel.
Fortunately, Rock and Roll is here to stay.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:53 PM | 0 comments


The Kids In The Hall



Actual kids in our actual hall during a blackout


Dorm parenting isn't as bad as most people think it is. Being one of a small group of people in power over a large population 24/7 serves the ego sinister; the kids themselves respect and look us to us, and only bother us once or twice a day -- it is more the fact of our presence than the exercise of our authority that serves the purpose of in loco parentis for most kids most of the time. We get free housing, free utilities, free maintenance, free snowplowing. And we get to live year-round in a beautifully maintained landscape like a small wealthy middle arts college, sharing it only eight months a year with our workplace and 1100 high school students.

In other words, there are perks, mostly psychological, small victories related to the job and its contained status.

Like: it's break, and so Willow and I went out into the long dormitory hall late this morning to throw the ball for the dog while Darcie took a nap.

When break rolls around the kids don't have to go home -- but they can't stay here. Many go to New York or Boston to hang out with friends; some rent ski condos and illegally cram 15 of their friends on the floor each night; undecided seniors and midprocess Juniors visit colleges. But most go home, many even if home is Korea or Japan.

They're gone for two weeks, between trimesters after the longest consecutive run of class weeks in the whole school year (seven, and worse because of the snow and cold). It gets quiet, and the dog knows that the kids are gone. Once again the dorm is her playground. Once again it's ours.

Which explains the dog wagging her tail by the kitchen door, the one that leads in to the student residence hall, when I woke up at 11.

Which explains why Willow and I were in the hall, her sitting on her own safely between my outstretched legs on the carpeted floor, no kids in sight, breaking the rules playing ball in the hallway, by 11:30.

Which explains everything, somehow, about the joys of dorm life.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:00 PM | 0 comments

Friday, February 28, 2003

Loose End

Darcie hung a painted chainlink chinese fish on the baby mirror in the back window. The metal tinkles when turning corners. It sounds like icicles are falling off the car.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:10 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, February 27, 2003

There Must Be 50 Ways To Use Your Duct Tape



I've got duct tape on the brain.


Despite a general sentiment on-campus that CNN is too biased to be trusted, CNN's Offbeat News comes through again with Judge duct tapes defendant's mouth: Man 'was being very disruptive'. Seems the defendant in question was trying to fire his court-appointed attorney, and when the Judge tried to explain that firing court-appointed attorneys is the exclusive privilege of the court, the guy kept interrupting him. Happened in Texas, of course (sorry, Laurence).

Saw a cartoon in this week's Newsweek with a newspaper-reading woman telling her book-reading husband that there's good news...the terror alert has been downgraded from duct tape to masking tape.

Today's Student Life Curriculum activity for the kids in my dorm was to watch the video footage of last week's build-and-ride-a-duct-tape-and-cardboard-toboggan race. As a practical joke on the House Director, I "accidentally" showed footage of our dorm's prizewinning crossdressing lyp sync performance two years ago, featuring said House Director in a plaid-skirt-white-shirt Catholic Schoolgirl outfit and me with my hair up in a stunning green dress that really brought out my eyes. Good times...

And Shaw, in an email on the American Feed mailing list, points out that if there's one person who's sure to benefit from the duct tape craze sweeping the nation, it's Red Green. He's not just the grand poobah of Possum Lodge; he's also the official spokesman for Scotch Duct Tape, which also comes in a convenient pocket size. It's like Uncle Red says: if the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:42 PM | 0 comments


Fred, Interrupted: A Death In The Neighborhood





Fred Rogers, better known as television's "Mister Rogers," a cultural icon and kindly neighbor to generations of American children, died Thursday at the age of 74. Rogers died at his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after a brief battle with stomach cancer, according to a spokeswoman for his production company.

The last original "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" aired in 2001, making it PBS's longest-running program ever. >>more from CNN

John Donovan, whose interview of Rogers aired on ABC's Nightline in 2001 and will be rebroadcast tonight with additional commentary mourning Rogers' passing, had this to say:

He was a man on television who spoke gently and honestly, putting the priorities of his audience - the most vulnerable, impressionable TV viewers there are--children - in front of everything else. He didn’t do it for fame. He certainly didn’t do it for money (there are no Mister Rogers talking dolls and action figures out there in the merchandising channels). He did what he did because he believed in it. And in a world where there were certainly flashier shows on TV, and sexier, more aggressive characters vying for kids’ attention, Fred was always softspoken, forever gentle, maybe even a little shy, and yet he had an enormous impact.
[taken from an email dated 2/27/02, sent to the mailing list for Nightline viewers]

For those parents looking for answers or strategies to help process Mr. Rogers' passing with their children, PBS kids offers some helpful hints for parents in this sad time.

There's also a place on the PBS Kids website where you or your children can share your thoughts about Fred Rogers. I highly recommend it.

If there's a heaven up there, surely the good reverend's got a place in the choir all his own. Thus, in memoriam, for this loss and for the loss of our childhood it represents, my favorite Mr. Rogers song:

There Are Many Ways

There are many ways to say I love you.
There are many ways to say I care about you.
Many ways, many ways,
Many ways to say I love you.

There's the singing ways to say I love you.
There's the singing something someone really likes to hear.
The singing way, the singing way,
The singing way to say I love you.

Cleaning up a room can say I love you.
Hanging up a coat before you're asked to.
Drawing special pictures for the holidays
And making plays.

You'll find many ways to say I love you.
You'll find many ways to understand what love is.
Many ways, many ways,
Many ways to say I love you.

Singing, cleaning, drawing, being understanding,
Love you.






We love you too, Mr. Rogers.

The neighborhood just won't be the same without you.


[UPDATE 2/27/02 at 8:14 pm: From an interesting interview found at Newsweek, aka MSNBC; originally published October 6, 2000:

Newsweek: What advice would you give parents about the Internet?

Fred Rogers: The Internet, television, whatever happens to come into the home, the greatest thing parents can do is to offer their children a tradition that they’re comfortable with themselves. Ultimately, kids want to know that they belong. If they sense that their parents really feel strongly about something-I’m talking about young children-they will often embrace it because they want to belong. When the time comes for them to thumb their nose at everything, then they’ll have a brick wall that is their family’s tradition that they can knock up against during adolescence.]

posted by boyhowdy | 3:46 PM | 0 comments


Peeling The Onion



This Week In History, Feb 26, 1913


Here at NMH we chatter among ourselves almost predominantly through SWIS, a First-Class-driven all-in-one, email, chat, bulletin boards and conferences, private and public folders, web publishing space. SWIS technically stands for School-Wide Information System, but after a dozen years of use the term is by now both active verb and noun, both swis me that paper on Hawthorne as an attachment and Did you get that swis I sent you? I have had all my Media Literacy students write an analysis of swis as a medium in the context of its user community since I first began teaching the course in 1998; it's been interesting to watch swis evolve through their eyes.

And swis has changed over that time. For one thing, it's gotten more conservative, or at least, the combination of technological development and administrative expectations for appropriate use have driven a move towards more structure and oversight in student folders over time. Students lost the use of the the resume function, which allows one to create a small web page-like thing in content much like the AIM buddy info, but in design more like a hybrid between a basic web page and a jazzed-up MSWord document, a few years ago due to inappropriate language, and the aforementioned AIM is by far the preferred choice when chat is desired. One might say that as the cultural situation of swis matures, the culture of NMH and the culture of swis continue on parallel but tonally distinct tracks, each serving as a fundamental layer of discourse, part of the process of constant self recreation that is inherent in, nay, vital to the healthy growth of any community. But I digress.

Among the conferences provided for faculty and staff but invisible to students, a Community Circle folder contains several subfolders, like For Sale and Kids Corner; among them, a Humor folder, generally filled with a sprinkling of smart satire and a small flood of Irish/Blonde/Priest/Southerner jokes (Race and sexuality are off the table in the modern post-PC universe, but ethnicity, regionality, vocation and intelligence continue to be fair game). It's a good dump for that mildly funny office joke making the e-rounds, better than the old email account, subtle and surreptitious, easily taken or left as the user prefers. It's a good read when you're bored, too.

Today I posted the following in the Humor folder, from this week's issue of The Onion™:

God Quietly Phasing Holy Ghost Out Of Trinity

HEAVEN—Calling the Holy Trinity "overstaffed and over budget," God announced plans Monday to downsize the group by slowly phasing out the Holy Ghost. "Given the poor economic climate and the unclear nature of the Holy Ghost's duties, I felt this was a sensible and necessary decision," God said. "The Holy Ghost will be given fewer and fewer responsibilities until His formal resignation from Trinity duty following Easter services on April 20. Thereafter, the Father and the Son shall be referred to as the Holy Duo."


It was up for an hour, and then an English teacher, not coincidentally the advisor to the Catholic Student Organization, suggested that the post oversteps the line into bad taste. Not because of the recent loss of 30 jobs here at the school. Because it mocks God.

My opinion: The satirical target in the above example is businesses, not the Holy Trinity. Jokes which target nuns and Priests as stereotypes are more damaging, and more frequent to boot. But action in an institution is (and should be) motivated by a complex web of reasons political, communal, social; moreso should the role models of that institution (the teachers) practice moral appropriateness as a norm in society where it does not compromise their own values as individuals (an invaluable caveat, I note). And action in a PC culture is best erred on the side of caution and politeness -- this is an age where misunderstandings of words and meanings spoken are the fault of he-who-speaks, not the misunderstood.

He asked me to delete the post. I deleted the post. And I'm okay with that...I think.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:14 AM | 0 comments


Finally, Almost

It's finals week here at good ol' NMH, and we're all cranky and exhausted. The students spend half their time wandering in search of printer paper or study buddies and the other half slamming doors, waking the baby. Teachers are up to their eyeballs in grading and begin sitting alone at lunch with stacks of papers. The media center was busy busy busy today with kids scanning and teachers taking out videos and powerpoint and my movie won't play on this computer and I need it for class tomorrow and gah. I just did way too much laundry and got off duty late as the basketball team didn't get back from their game until midnight.

Sorry for the mundanity and relative incoherence, but there you are. Break begins on Friday and surely I'll have more time and more patience then. So c'mon back now, y'hear?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:29 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

On The Other Hand...

To my immense chagrin, it turns out the games I posted are but one small part of a plot to convert kiddies to the way of the Lord. I've never seen the videos, but I feel that the 3-2-1 Penguins! website speaks for itself:

Get ready to meet four of the wackiest space cowboys ever to leave our solar system! Blast off with 3-2-1 Penguins!, from the creators of VeggieTales!

3-2-1 Penguins! is a video series that tells the story of two young kids (Jason and Michelle) and four out-of-this-world penguins, as they explore the galaxy -- and learn important, Bible-based lessons and values along the way.


The Jesus stuff isn't anywhere in the games -- unless maybe the duct tape has something to do with him being a carpenter?

But I still feel...used.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:02 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Also, Doom Funnel Chasers!

Still in space, but with duct tape balls instead of penguins.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:23 PM | 0 comments


Spaced Penguins!

Penguins. Slingshots. Space. What more could you want?

Found at Addicting Games, and they're not kidding.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:13 PM | 0 comments


Family Days, Radio Nights

My first year here I realized that the librarians I worked with worked one night a week, and took a morning off in return. Seemed like a good idea. I, too, work one night a week, albeit in the dorm, a requirement inherent in being the only dorm-resident faculty in the instructional bunch. I also fill other responsibilities unparalleled by my peers, some part of my official "job" and some just stuff that seemed like it needed/wanted doing and fitted me well: grading papers, chairing the faculty professional development committee, answering the door at 2 a.m. to key a kid back into his room, helping to advise the Jewish Student's Alliance, doing the radio show. I checked with Patty, the woman I work with in the media center, to make sure she'd be willing to cover the center, and discovered that my predecessor had done the same.

With a morning off I'm free to take care of Willow on Mondays until my 2:00 class. She's such a different, more relaxed-and-focused baby in the morning; it's wonderful to be able to rediscover her morning side once a week. We sat splayed on the hall carpet and threw the dog's ball down the long cinderblock strip while the boys were in class, and danced a little to the Dixie Chicks on the stereo. The baby sits up now, on the couch and between my legs in the hall, and a third tooth has poked through her upper gum; it looks like she's sticking her little pink fat tongue out at the dog, but she's really just running her tooth along the back of it (tongue, not dog).

Patty and Neil, Darcie's parents, arrived at 1:00 to babysit; both teachers, they're on school break for the week. Their phone was out, so Neil was glad of the opportunity to check email on the LAN while I went to teach the last installment of my course on mass media messages, Satire and the Animated Sitcom. The theme for the final day was the recycling of other media and popular narrative in the nobrow cartoons; The kids ate chips and cookies and deconstructed that Simpson's episode about the Monorail, Beavis and Butthead's take on Beverly Hillbillies (spoiler: the oil they think they've struck in their backyard turns out to be a sewage), and perhaps the funniest South Park episode, Chinpoko Man.

Willow was getting cranky with the 'rents when I returned, but I managed to keep her occupied for another hour or so until Virginia arrived in her father's car (the engine's dead on her's). Picked up Darcie at the yearbook office and went to dinner at the dining hall, some sort of odd asian-style steakum shreds with carrots and peppers on that squiggly pasta that should be rotini but isn't. Forgot babyfood but managed to semisuccessfully mash brown rice with the remnants of some homemade turkey soup which didn't seem too salty or spicy.

Tributary, the radio show Ginny and I DJ every Monday night from 10 to midnight, was quiet. Someone left their CDs in the studio and I played a couple of them, most notably Randy Newman and Hank Williams. Talked a lot about the Grammys, which I hadn't seen. I read two-minute mysteries and promised free coffee for a week to the first caller who could solve one, but no one called. Tonight's featured album: Home, by the Dixie Chicks. As always, tonight's setlist follows.

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Dixie Chicks -- Truth No. 2
Eddie From Ohio -- Quick
Dave Matthews Band -- Satellite
Keller Williams -- Breathe
Stevie Ray Vaughn -- Chile Con Carne
String Cheese Incident -- Up The Canyon
Dixie Chicks -- Landslide
Norah Jones -- Don't Know Why
Hank Williams -- Cold, Cold Heart
John Gorka -- Hank Senior Moment
Dan Hicks -- My Cello
Barenaked Ladies -- Grade 9
Phish -- Esther
Indigo Girls -- Love Will Come To You
Dixie Chicks -- Travelling Soldier
Kris McKay -- Wish You Were Here
Rani Arbo -- Comes Love
The Story -- Dog Dreams
Lucy Kaplansky -- It Ain't Me Babe
Randy Newman -- Sail Away
Dar Williams -- Iowa
Cindy Kallet -- Sarah's Song
David Wilcox -- Wildberry Pie
David Massengil -- Rider On An Orphan Train

posted by boyhowdy | 12:57 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 23, 2003

He's Got The Whole Car In His Hands

Today's theme is cars.

The baby has a soft stuffed rattle that looks like the front end of a taxi and is banging it against the side of her crib while Darcie is off frantically doing layout for yearbook parent ads to make deadline.

The driveway is melting clean in the rain outside the window. The snow level's going down all over campus; the driveway snowwalls are down to a respectable three feet high, and I think we'll be able to see behind us the nexty time we pull out onto the road.

Thanks to snowcat for passing along Parking Spots, wherein people take photos of toy cars interacting with real cars and car-environments.

Zellie the wonderdog sits in her windowsill perch waiting to bark at the UPS truck. Don't have the heart to tell her it doesn't come on Sundays.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:16 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Spoon!

Found while browsing weblogs.com after a quick ping this evening: FoodDork, a site which wins kudos for its design and focus, but makes me feel sheepish about eating peanut butter crackers and apple juice as I blog. A few cooking tips and recipies, mostly musings on freshness and storage, the two best ways to cook salmon, tricks for Onion storage, anecdotes about pie. The two guys who run the site -- Mike, a journalist from Pensacola Florida, and Rick a pastor in Alaska -- are true amateurs (technically, "lovers of subject") who are, in their own words, "keenly aware of the need for better food in the world." Their icon is also a very cool spoon.

Today Mike asks: When you create a dish from someone's recipe, and it turns out great and you get all kinds of kudos and kind words, who should really get the acclaim, the cook or the composer of the recipe? His answer seems sensible.


Feed!

Speaking of food, I'm glad to report that after a short hiatus American Feed is publishing again. Okay, this predominantly liberal online 'zine run mostly by some of my old Marlboro College cohorts has nothing to do with food, but my recent rant re: Howard Zinn's visit to our lovely institution is supposed to be published in a few weeks. I'll keep ya posted.

Mmm...pie.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:26 AM | 0 comments


A Different Duty

It's the last weekend before finals, and for a while, it seemed like the students were all just going to stay in their rooms. When we went up for supper (fried breaded fish and buttered egg noodles, because it's Friday, and its always fish and noodles on Friday) the campus was deserted and quiet as if they had all gone home. Some were at practice or still in class, or off skiing or snowboarding for Phys Ed, but many quite likely had gone: there are usually several "closed" weekends in the term but I don't think this is one of them. It was just getting dark at 6:00 when we bundled up the baby and headed over the student center to begin the evening's wandering.

Darcie works for Student Programs; instead of doing dorm duty like other NMH faculty, she works from Friday night to Sunday two weekends a month delivering food and supplies to club meetings and dances and lectures, checking in with student workers setting up stages and lights, and generally overseeing the diversity of activies we offer to keep kids from smoking dope in the woods, necking in empty classrooms, and just generally going insane here at boarding school. Depending on how the baby's sleeping, I usually stay home with the baby or go along with the two of them on the rounds; most nights the baby doesn't sleep, and cries without Mama, and tonight was no exception. Darcie's programs duty has become a family affair, involving such adventure as driving a halfsleeping infant and wife back and forth across the river, letting Darcie out of the running car, driving slowly around the campus so as to keep the baby from waking while Darcie checks in with the teachers chaperoning the evening's events and coordinating the crafts projects.

Tonight we held the dancing baby up to a flashing-light Jukebox playing Alana Davis, saw a mediocre Improv comedy troupe from a local college, ate cheese sticks in the snack bar, passed the baby in her yellow ducky feetie pajamas around the room, pulled down some inappropriate and vague advertising signs (swastikas with tiny letters underneath that said what does this make you think about?; I have nothing against performance art and guerilla advertising per se but c'mon, now), and left instructions for the students setting up sound and video projection for the Freshman after-hours party later that night (imagine a sleep-over that ends at midnight).

Tomorrow night the same.

One week 'till spring break.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:37 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Nerds and GEECS



Remember these dorks? Yeah, me neither.


As an adolescent in the late eighties, the era most definitively immortalized by John Hughes movies and John Cusack's early film career, I was neither smart enough nor disinterested enough in the pursuit of popularity as a full-time occupation to be truly considered a nerd. But I identify with nerds, an inevitability when one teaches media and web design, and when one, due to a pedagogical belief that students will rise to the occasion most successfully when treated like adults, most prefers those students who are more intellectual than not, more adult than not in their thinking.

Now, along comes Paul Graham with Why Nerds Are Unpopular, a long but eminently readable treatise on adolescent nerd-dom currently making the bloggiverse rounds -- if popdex is to be trusted, second only to evhead's musings on google's purchase of Pyra Labs, blogger parent company. Graham's thesis:

Nerds aren't losers. They're just playing a different game, and a game much closer to the one played in the real world. Adults know this. It's hard to find successful adults now who don't claim to have been nerds in high school.

For those who have been living under a rock with cheerleaders for the past few decades, geeks are a specific subset of nerds, distinguished within the larger nerdgroup for their interest in things technical and physic. GEECS, in true nerd form both a recursive acronym and a homonym for the descriptive term, stands for GEECS for Electronics, Engineering and Computer Science, although the long form of the acronym does change over time as technologies change. The group's strength and numbers wax and wane, but it is most famous for first bringing the internet and later email onto campus; these days, the students continue to toy with their own server, and meet not-regularly-at-all to discuss all things geek. Of the several of my students that read this blog regularly, most belong to this small club.

There's no question that W.N.A.U. holds true for much of the predominantly tech-oriented blog community. But I was curious to see if Graham's detailed treatise held water today, so I forwarded the link to the NMH's GEECS club. The essay in question isn't technical; it's social science, much like the cyberstudies I proclaim to practice, so I wasn't sure if they'd be into all that reading. But I am pelased to report that, so far, the response has been very powerful. They like the piece; it resonates. Seems Graham's thesis is as true today as it once was. Seems that nerd-dom hasn't changed much since Graham and I were in high school.

And that kinda makes me happy. It also makes me miss some of my favorite adolescent peer groups, much like the one Graham describes: the token asian student, the kid in the fedora, the girl with the neck brace, the kid who never washed or changed his clothes, me. Like Graham, I moved on to the freaks group -- an overlapping group of equally smart kids who tend to dress much cooler, skip class for McDonalds runs in illicit senior's cars, and furtively smoke behind the gym door between classes -- by mid-high school, and, for a while, toggled between the two groups, but I miss it, and I think of the kids who think I'm cool, not nerd-like at all, I I wonder if they're missing the whole idea of it all, and I've never wished I was still a nerd more.

Incidentally, I'm toying with the idea of an eventual (really long term) blogserver and internal template here at NMH, for classroom use; I snuck the article to them under the radar by pretending I was asking them about this possibility, and the few GEECS kids who responded seemed to like the idea of getting involved if and when we decide such a thing would be useful and desirable. I like it too. I can keep my socialsci status, and not have to learn RSS after all. It's a fulltime vocation just studying the stuff; better let the next generation of nerds and geeks do the dirty work if and when they can: arguably, it's the only way they'll learn.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:49 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

What's In A Name?
or
Not All Who Wander Are Consistent

I've noticed that links to this site are all over the map: In various places Not All Who Wander Are Lost is variously listed as Not All Who Wander Are Lost, Mediakit, and now, in ericj's succinct style, Wander: Not Lost. Similarly, as some who comment and visit know me in real life (hi, dad!) and some don't (hi, hs203-111-66.ftl-nj.datapeer.com!), I've been referred to by visitors as Josh and Joshua, BoyHowdy and boyhowdy. And I just wanted to take a moment to make it clear that I'm okay with that.

Look, I know I'm not following the rules that would help focus the blog. For example, I know there should be a link to some rules back there in that last sentence, but I got distracted looking through my myriad links to find one of the many blogs out there which offer some sort of litany for success; ADHD can do that to a blogger. My name and my site's name and my site's address don't match, and don't interconnect thematically. This blog isn't really about one thing; it's about me, and I am many things (and also not many things -- I am not, for example, every woman, nor would I wish to be).

But life's like that -- multiple and amorphous, lazily interconnected, occasionally starbright but mostly hazy with a 90% chance of confusion. Cyberlife even moreso, now that we can breathe a kind of projected humanity into our avatars, divorcing the body from the self completely. A life like that deserves a representation to match; an accurate complexity demands it, really. Unless we're okay with the two-dimensionality of our avatars. But doesn't that just beg the question of whether there's a here here at all, and if so, whether we're really in it?

I could refer to myself as mediacat and call the site mediapundit, or something similarly derivative which matched URL with title. Not All Who Wander Are Lost could be hosted by The Wanderer, at wanderlost.blogspot.com; we could make puns about wanderlust if we were feeling cheeky. I could sift through the cracked facets of the ego mirrorball, and try to discern the middle; I could find my totem, and use it. But that's just not me me me me me. And no matter what we claim we're doing, blogs are about ourselves.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:23 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Another Snow Day

Notably, no radio show last night, as the blizzard was in its tenth hour. The snow falling fast, thick, and horizontally looked like television static outside under the streetlamps. Reports of total snowfall here range from 7 to 30 inches, depending on who's doing the measuring and how the snow drifted outside their porch or dorm entrance. Did you know that, by definition, a blizzard has to have two inches of snowfall per hour, and winds up to 35 mph? Ah, the things you learn watching the Weather Channel with the baby.

D'oh Millionaire

Instead, Darcie and I curled up by the virtual hearth with popcorn and hot cocoa. Fully intending to channel-surf, we ended up sucked into the utter banality and predictability of the two-hour finale of Joe Millionaire. The soap opera lighting and camera angles only added a veneer of the surreal to what was already clearly the dregs of televisionary "reality," in which beautiful people pretend they're average, and we agree to go along with it for the sake of form. Within the first three minutes I had already guessed, correctly, that the "twist" they kept plugging would be a million-dollar "gift" to the happy couple, and the way in which they tried playing up the ultimate loser as "perfect for Joe" for the first hour and a half was so transparent that I doubt sincerely that anyone really thought he'd pick her.

I knew FOX thought its viewers were stupid, but I didn't know they thought we were that stupid. Worse, what if most people are that stupid? The mind boggles...well, at least mine does; apparently not everyone's mind is capable of it.

A Conspiracy of Snow

With school cancelled, one of us got to sleep late, and it wasn't my turn. After diapering and an hour or so of on-the-floor with the baby and her veritable plethora of stuffed squeakers and shiny gum-soothers, I handed her back to a now-awoken Darcie for breastfeeding and their midmorning nap, made coffee, sat around in my socks and caught up on my reading. Darcie awoke an hour later and offered to shovel out the big blue grandparentmobile if I watched the baby; to keep her occupied while Mama was gone I played the flute and thumbpiano for her along with the excellent new Dixie Chicks album on the stereo, which she thought hilarious.

By a civilized 11 o'clock, the car cleared and the day warmed over, I headed out into the newly-plowed roads on an excursion to solve the car problem. The originally Floridian and therefore antifreezeless wiper fluid was a frozen block in its plastic tenk alongside the engine, but after stopping three times to wipe the windshield with snow melting off the car hood, I finally found the exit to Easthampton only to realize that my directions ended at the exit ramp. Called Darcie from the parking lot of what turned out to be a small warehouse-turned-arts-building, one of those mostly-dead spaces filled with odd crafts stores and web development companies, and at least one ethnically obscure restaurant specializing in Broiled Yak or garlic yoghurt. Got the address and, more importantly, the name of where the heck I was going. Asked directions in a coffeeandgas place; forgot to buy windsheild wiper fluid; went back.

Managed to both find the Deputy Collector's Office and successfully pay the backtaxes on the car. Then went back to right behind the warehouse/mall thingie with it's deeply gouged laquered floor, in an attempt to re-register the car with proof of tax up-to-dateness, to find the RMV darkened and locked. Seems the snow caused arbitrary unannounced closings of some state services. Either that, or something more sinister: lunch break with no sign for the customers, maybe. Your taxes at work.

Bah, humbug. Bring it on, spring.

Living La Vida Virtual

In other news, over the past two days I bought a whole bunch of CDs I couldn't afford at amazon.com for purely self-soothing reasons, and then a whole bunch more off a godsend gift certificate someone special sent me as a belated birthday present. I prefer to buy locally, even if it costs a few bucks more, but one great thing about snow days, 'specially when you live on a T1 LAN, is that you feel perfectly justified sitting home and venturing out virtually: blogging, catching up on e-pals, doing the daily jigsaw puzzle, shopping online. Where are you going to go, a mostly shut-down Easthampton? What else are you going to do, watch crappy, overly predicatable television? Cyberspace is da bomb.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:21 PM | 0 comments

Monday, February 17, 2003

Snow Falls From Sky! School Cancelled Across Northeast! Citizens Panic!

By February, snow is no longer news in New England. But you'd never know it from the lead story on every network news show in the region. Or from the whooping and hollering in the two-feet-so-far outside.

Some are sick of it, but I say bring it on. It's already spring in my head.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:27 PM | 0 comments


Schoolbus Poem Of The Week

It's been dry and windy and, as the radio DJ says, in the single digits all weekend, so we -- Darcie, the baby, and me -- waited for the bus in the car, listening to the radio. Outside the students shivered by the flagpole; next to us another idling car held another faculty couple, our co-chaperones for the school trip to the mall. When the bus came we stepped forward to check the students off on the sign-up sheet and then joined them in the kind of silent repose which only happens on schoolbusses, something about the noise and the waiting making conversation all seem so futile. Some kids slept.

It takes an hour to get to the Ingleside Mall, just outside of Springfield. Upon arrival, we reminded the kids of the rules, and gave them our cell phone number on a little piece of paper in case of emergency, and then watched them move as a group through Sears and then, as they emerged into the midst of it all, they were swallowed by the mall people, and we were on our own. Then after about three hours we all got on the same schoolbus and went home into the greying evening.

I was just on time to attend the first meeting of the Northfield Writing Society, a group which appears to have risen from the long-dead ashes of a similar group I was in a few years ago; it's hard to sustain writer's groups over summer vacation, and they never seem to come back together after such a long hiatus. I had schoolbusses on the brain, and someone had brought an excellent chardonnay and I had too much, and I wrote about schoolbusses.


Schoolbusses

The smell of schoolbusses never changes. It's something about
diesel fumes and the green plastic seats
and the goo they use to plug the holes in the seats with.
And the smell of a woman who sits in her seat
all day with the lives of unbelted children
in rows numbered 1 2 3 in colored construction paper
behind her. And the smell of winter coats
worn unwashed all winter at the end of the winter:
greasy and slightly like pee.

Schoolbusses are loud with children's taunts
and furtive experiments with lunchmeat sandwiches.
They are boistrous with windows opened and closed
because it is too hot and then too windy. They are
germy with pulped white paper spit through straws.
There is, on average, one old piece of gum under every seat.

The best seat in the schoolbus is with your friends in the back row
next to the emergency exit with the red light.
The worst seat in the schoolbus is in the front row where the driver can keep
an eye on you.

If you had to explain schoolbusses to an alien,
or to my grandmother, you'd say "first, they are filled
with children, and the children are filled
with anxiety and hope and cheerios and maybe
George Washington's wooden teeth and an egyptian mummy."

And they are going somewhere.
Sometimes schoolbusses are on their way to school
or back from school. When this happens, children get
off and on the bus, either all at once or one by
one, depending on where they live and which direction
they are going. Sometimes they go to the science museum
or the colonial reenactment village,
and hang their coats up in the coatroom together
before collecting their stickers and handstamps.

The coatrooms smells like schoolbusses, minus the diesel
and the green plastic goo the seats are made of,
because coatrooms don't have seats, or engines.
But they are just as loud, and no one has to shout
"If you don't sit down this instant I will have to tell the principal."
And the children breathe their lunchmeat breath
and run their lunchmeat hands on the pulleys
and butterchurns while the busdriver has a cigarette
out behind the bus in the parking lot:
this is what schoolbusses are and how they work.

And if the bus goes over a bump and you are in the reallygood seats
in the back your butt leaves the seat, and if the bump is really big
and if the bus is going really fast your head can hit the metal roof
of the schoolbus and your butt might miss the seat on the way down
and you might land in the aisle and get yelled at anyway.



[afterthought: How different this poem is from other recent works is, I think, a function of two things: this poem was handwritten where the native medium of most of my work at home is the word processor, and this is essentially a freewrite, fast and furious and limited by the 20 minute block of silent, frantic creation that is the exclusive province of the groupwrite. And, to me at least, it is really, really different. Not bad...just different. Hmm.]

posted by boyhowdy | 12:09 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Never Mind

Going to the mall should suck, but it never does. Especially when you're shopping for little tiny dresses and overalls, thinking about summering with a possibly walking towheaded girl you love more than life itself. Especially when that little girl keeps looking up from the frontpack at her mother's breast and grinning at you.

She may not be daddy's little girl yet, but I'm already hers forever. As with her mother before her, wherever she is is home. Even at the mall on a busy Sunday.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:03 PM | 0 comments


You Know What Sucks?

Last week, when we agreed to chaperone the school mall trip, $50 to wander around the mall seemed like a good idea.

Now that we need the cash for the car, we find ourselves committed to spending four hours at the mall not buying anything.

At least they have an espresso bar in the food court.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:38 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, February 15, 2003

30 Things

1. There are 30 things because I am thirty years old.
2. I have a wife. Her name is Darcie, and I met her at Bard College in 1991. We dropped out together a year later. We've been married for six years.
3. I think it's been six years. I have a really poor sense of time.
4. When I was growing up, my parents were always running late. I didn't know they showed previews in the movie theater before the movie until I started going on my own in sixth grade.
5. Sixth grade was when I had my first date. I picked up Celeste, less popular twin sister of Bianca, at her parents house and we walked down to the movies to see Amadeus. Amadeus is three hours long, which is much too long for a first date. I remember my hand going numb in hers after a while. We had ice cream at Brighams afterwards.
6. This was all in Newton, Massachussets. I grew up in Newton.
7. Before that, I lived in Belmont, Massachussets.
8. I was actually born in Atlanta, Georgia, but we moved to Belmont when I was nine months old so I don't remember any of it.
9. I tell people that I was named after two trees, the Joshua tree and the Linden tree, but I don't think my parents did that on purpose.
10. My daughter Willow is also named after a tree.
11. Willow has my eyes and hair, but otherwise looks like her mother.
12. Willow, her mother and I live in an apartment on the end of a prep school dormitory.
13. We also live with a Jack Russel Terrier named Zellie, and a tiger cat named Jacob.
14. I didn’t like dogs before I met Darcie. Now I do.
15. I was allergic to cats, but it went away.
16. The dog likes living at the prep school because the tennis courts are right next door. The baby loves people, and the tree outside her window rustling in the wind. The cat could care less. Darcie likes the community, and so do I. But mostly, I like working here because I love teaching.
17. I teach media and communications. This term, I'm teaching a course in deconstruction and analysis of popular animated satire. Mostly, we sit around and watch bits of South Park and The Simpsons and then talk about the relationship between methodology and the satirical subject.
18. I also work with other teachers in and out of their classrooms to integrate best-practice technology into their classes and pedagogy.
19. I also run the media center.
20. I use words like methodology and pedagogy as part of my normal vocabulary. Can't help it.
21. I've always been a stickler for language.
22. That's why I'm the proofreader for the school yearbook. That, and the fact that my wife is the advisor to the yearbook.
23. In college, I made extra cash by editing senior thesis papers.
24. Later, I also made money teaching writing and math at the local elementary school.
25. That wasn't my first experience with teaching, though. I was a teacher and public demonstrator at the Boston Museum of Science for three years before we moved to Vermont in 1995 so I could go back to school.
26. The school was Marlboro College. I lived on campus for my first year, in the dormitories, driving ten miles on weekends down the dirtroad mountain to Darcie's parents house. The next year we moved in to the ground floor apartment of an old two-family converted farmhouse on the grounds of a hotel in Brattleboro. There was a pond out the window with two white swans.
27. Darcie and I got married the summer before my senior year. It was August, and she was as beautiful as she is today, at 29.
28. I got my degree in American Studies and Sociology (Cyberstudies) from Marlboro in '97.
29. That summer, I got a job as a media specialist at Northfield Mount Hermon school. I spent the next year working full time all day and attending school all weekend, finally getting a MA in Teaching with Internet Technologies at the end of the following summer. Darcie stopped commuted to Vermont each day to teach elementary school and started working with yearbook and tutoring at the prep school. We summered at folk festivals, traveling where and when we can, wandering for the sake of wandering, having grand adventures on weekends and school holidays. We started trying to have children, and, when that didn't seem to be working yet, got a dog instead. Willow was born this past July, four years later.
30. I've reached all my life goals by thirty. I win.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:05 PM | 0 comments


Cue Soundtrack



A Picture Of Nectar


If I hadn't had a $700 day yesterday, right now I'd be buying CDs, like I'd promised myself: Dixie Chicks, Brooks Williams, Thievery Corporation, Putumayo's new coversong sampler Cover The World, possibly David Gray.

I get my music from The River (hence Tributary, the radio show I host). The River's list of the top 20 CDs of 2002 is a concordance of essentials; if you don't own at least five of the disks on that list support local business and run to your underground record store today.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:51 PM | 0 comments


A Conspiracy Of Cars

Eleven fifteen in the office. You are up to #17 (you have the sexiest phone voice ever) on the Valentine's Day list of 100 things I love about you. Phone rings. Darcie says that Ginny's just come in the door frostbitten, having walked 5 miles in the subzero from her broken down car; her keys are still in her pocket; come home and drive her to the car to wait for the towtruck.

Tow truck called. Leave paraprofessional in charge of office. Driving across the bridge from one campus to the other the white car in front of you pulls suddenly into the breakdown lane and begins frantically waving me past. The car does not slow down. You speed up to pass. A cop passes going the other way. In my rearview mirror you see it turn around as you pull left into the school gates, past the stone pillars and under the trees.

Flashing lights behind you. Pull over against the high snowbanks. No, officer, I was just passing; the car was waving me over. License and registration, yes.

The long wait while in the rearview mirror the cop speaks into the radio and speaks into the radio again. The long walk in the side mirror, the onionskin citation visible between the hard plastic of the license and the wide thick paper of the registration. Bad news: speeding is speeding, you're welcome to your day in court and have a reasonable chance of getting the $176 ticket thrown out, saving insurance and ticket costs. Worse news: the car's registration is expired, and I can't let you drive it, not even on the school's semi-private property, the 500 yards it would take to get it to the driveway.

Cop has called tow service for $75 (are you keeping count?). No need to wait by the car but the cop is obligated to take an inventory of it before it goes to the towlot, take your time getting what you need to bring home.

The cop waits warm in his dark blue front seat. He speaks into the radio. You gather up the backpack of CDs, the baby seat, the materials Darcie needs for her student crafts activity tomorrow. He flags down the passing schoolbus for you. The students applaud as you climb the steps clutching a long tube of silver wrapping paper.

Home. Cancel the tow truck. Call the registry. You'll need to get a form from your insurance agent in Greenfield, bring $360 to the taxmen in Easthampton, return to Greenfield to the DMV with forms and receipts. You will need...the other car.

The other car, which hibernates across the street under snowfall accumulated since November, has been plowed in, and plowed in again, buried by hail and ice and remelted surfaces now deep layers like a shalebed.

While Darcie hitches a ride with a passing campus security officer to successfully convince the towman to a) take a check, and b) tow the car to the driveway, you gather a longhandled hoe and a steeltipped but otherwise plastic snowshovel and poke hopefully at the disappointingly solid tower that is, somewhere deep beneath, huge powderblue couch on wheels with summer tires, your only transportation.

It is hopeless. Salvation arrives early in the body of long-bearded Richard, Director of Farm Programs. He scrapes the backhoe across the outer edge of your ice cube car after lunch to carve it from a lump extended outward into a closecropped sheetice cube. Then it is just a literal pain, made worse for the public passage of a parade of passersby.

Two hours after he leaves, the ice around the tires chiselscraped away. Ginny leans against the car to no avail; your muscles twisted and back howling, you scour the halls to find seven boys in sneakers whose eager machismo makes them topple forward like dominoes as the car moves beneath them despite your warning.

Couchmobile free. Too late for all but the first leg of the trip; Monday a holiday. But Greenfield anyway: bank, insurance agents, money down on a photoprinter to replace the never-finished list of love reasons, and home, back and groin burning through the haze of powerful pain medication, wrist perhaps sprained, to sit very still for a moment on the rocking chair, but only a moment: the dinner reservations are almost upon us; you are not yet dressed.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:43 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Cognitive Dissonance and the American Left

Howard Zinn, noted liberal historian and author of A People's History of the United States, spoke at NMH today; in person from the eleventh row, he looks exactly like Howard Zinn should. A thin tired man in a shabby brown sports coat, olive vee-neck sweater, collar-opened chambray shirt, he approaches the podium in the center of the vast and empty oratory looking old but moving spryly and purposefully; as if he were being swept forward to the podium not by the physical mechanics of heel and toe, but purely by will. He pauses at the podium and runs simultaneously his handsandfingers through his closecropped gray hair. He speaks, in an accent of the New York Boroughs, firmly, almost gently. He speaks. I take notes:

History should disclose resistance. History is found in fugitive moments of compassion, not in lists of wars and winners.

To stand off from the present and the past is to collaborate with it. Instead, be a positive force in history. We can't be neutral on a moving train.

The word class doesn't enter easily into the American vocabulary. There's rich people, and poor people, and a whole lot of nervous people in between.

We disguise, with language, issues of class...We talk about National Security and National Defense as if everyone has the same interest and need for things. I'd argue there is no "national interest."

I agree with all of this. How can one not agree? It is in my nature, we tell ourselves, to be kind, to be generous, to be peaceful, to be fair; I want a world similar, yes, surely.

But then, as if these truths proved it, suddenly, Zinn is advocating for pacificm: one should always advocate against war, even what he calls Good wars, by which he means WWII, since he fought in it, and since it was against fascists determined to take over the world. And the reason we shouldn't fight even when madmen threaten to and are capable of destroying us is that innocent civilians will be killed, the assumption being if an innocent could die, one should never act to save millions of innocents. This isn't liberalism, it's insanity, not because it is absolute, but because it assumes that a) all enemies will negotiate and be willing to compromise, and b) it is better to sacrifice freedom, one must assume, than to kill a few innocents in trying to kill those who will not rest until they get to decide for us what freedom is, and whether we should have any.

He says the power in democracy rests with the people, not with the government, which is something not as partisan or radical as he thinks it is, but something most people believe, liberals and conservatives alike, and thus is either is so obvious as to not be worth saying, or it makes no sense -- in a democracy, the people are the governed and the government -- yet gets a standing ovation, as if it were revolutionary to say "democracy is people" like Charleton Heston yelling about Soylent Green.

He makes the common error of assuming that all conservatives are anti-protest (we're not; both Zinn and I agree that they are major forces in driving policy and raising public opinion and discourse and should thus be preserved), and that the government is inherently anti-protest (which is just silly), and dismisses reasonable doubt. I get frustrated, as people who assume stuff about me that isn't true, especially people who proclaim that they know my motives for action and belief comprehensively, are a pet peeve of mine.

In my mind, I begin to get cocky. I stop taking notes. He says that no wars should ever be fought. Ever. If a madman is at your door and can't be reasoned with? No such thing, apparently -- words and compromise are always the answer. Zinn has been offering criticism so long that you realize he is offering no solutions, only critique.

Suddenly he is finished.

To those who don't understand math and society, standing against someone who stands for peace equals standing for the opposite of peace. This is what Zinn claims, forgetting, as he himself said at the beginning of his talk, that there are many and multiple ways to see things, and we must try to include them all. But we must remember that Zinn stands for not just ideals, but specific methods of reaching those ideals. Zinn, like the rest of his far-left, almost socialist liberal peers Chomsky and company, believes in a particular kind of peace, because of his particular biases towards the universe. He himself acknowledges, in his speech, that history is biased, that the choice of whom and what to represent flavors what we mean by history, that he believes that class is the important lens. But surely, by inference, no single text could possibly be definitive, or even more correct than another, but also, the broader the spectrum of choice, the fairer. And if that is true, he is in no position to suggest, as he did to one querent at the end of the program tonight, that cognitive dissonance is somehow both the reason that anyone might be in favor of a war, ever, and somehow absent, solved, in those who believe that peace is always the answer in the short term, even if it brings ruin and utter devastation in the long term.

I prefer to aim for long-term peace. That is why I am a moderate conservative: I am a realist. Unlike Zinn, it would seem, I recognize that my point of view of history may determine the way I understand the present -- but it doesn't suddenly make the present what I want it to be. I recognize that social science is a lens, not a physics of the behavioral universe. Magritte might say that the painting of a pipe is not a pipe, it is a way of seeing a pipe.

The true fundamental cognitive dissonance in his own argument? How can one man, one political platform, believe both that it is important to oppose the results, including sexism, torture, and worse, of what WE see in our imperialism as "weaker" value systems of others in other cultures, through organizations like Amnesty International -- and also believe that it is always going to be possible to reason with those who lose out in such scenarios when they come for our blood? If you want to change the world in the image of freedom and justice, you must be willing to assume some people might not WANT freedom and justice for all. And sometimes, those people have both the wherewithal to kill you and your wife and your brother and his wife -- and the determination to try.

To put this all another way:

A bunch of kids are mad that the school cancelled a trip to NYC this weekend for the big protest:

Students: Why are you anti-protest?
Me: There's a difference between being anti-protest and being committed to preserving the lives of the protesting community. I, for one, think it would be a great loss if the main body of organized protesters in the US were to fall to a single terrorist act merely because they "forgot" that banding together in one place makes them an easy target, and that there is a real and present danger from terrorism right now even as we commit our energies as protesters to other issues, such as the possibility of war in Iraq. Sure, such a terrorist act would have a strong short-term impact on public opinion, but we'd have lost those who can often best guide that opinion in the long term.

Give me liberty or give me death is a noble idea, but it's hard to exercise your liberty later on when you're dead now, and it doesn't excuse painting a big target on your butts, guys.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:41 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Heaven Is Other People's Stuff

In my attempt to bring a healthy redundancy to my life online and off, tidbits from two people whose faces I could pick out of a crowd:

Kudos to childhood chum PJ, a singer-songwriter extraordinaire currently lawyering for cash in the greater Boston area for bringing this somewhat rambling essay on barbecue to my attention. Disclaimer: Although I actually share songwriting credits on one track off PJ's recent album, I refuse to recuse myself from praise on the grounds that he is really quite good and you should check him out.

NMH student Nora's Personal Question of the Day: Which medium best conveys your true self? It's a tougher question than you think. Are you most yourself in Instant Messenger? A bathroom wall? Face-to-face conversation? Or is bodylanguage your native medium: are your true feelings as plain as the nose on your face? I think maybe I'm most literate, most self, in the mix tape or radio playlist, although hair-as-medium comes in a close second.

[Incidentally, for fans of those annoying online blogquizzes which ask you which Buffy character / 90's sitcom / disease you are, my own media question of the day: Which medium are you? By which I mean, like in those other quizzes, which medium represents you metaphorically? Which medium's qualities best represent you? For me, I think it's the blog itself: ill-defined as a medium, generally long-winded, collaborative and referential to a fault, and most often misunderstood. Also driven primarily by ego. How about you?]

posted by boyhowdy | 10:15 AM | 0 comments


Catdog

The cat stares sphinxlike from the tigerstriped mat on the bookshelf by the window. Displaced littledog seems to have decided that she prefers to curl up on the blanket over the couchback, in the corner dent where the pillows meet the ivory frame. They face each other across the ottoman in their sleep. Ah, family.

Mom came up again from Boston to watch the baby while we worked. She was excited to hear the news; seemed a bit worried about my trip to Bangladesh, but I figure millions of people live there all the time, and they're fine, so why worry? Living means taking risks; it wouldn't be living without it.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:41 AM | 0 comments


In Which I Discover Kartoo



Because my Media Literacy students know that watching technology slowly catch up with the rhetorics and epistemologies of new media is a hobby and a vocation of mine, one of them sent me this link. Time, The Wall Street Journal, and even memepool are calling it the search tool of the year for 2002.

Which begs the easily answered question of why google is so hot right now. More deeply, though: Why is google?

Q. Why do search engines for an ultimately spatial, semiotically-driven medium give their results in linear, textual list format?

A. Because the web started as a textual medium; in order to integrate it into our cultures and psyches, it was useful to ascribe it with the qualities of the line, and the metaphors of the page. But such usefulness is always temporary, a stopgap until we know our new tool like an extension of ourselves. What we've learned from the cultural "settling in" of previous C-changes, such as the move from writing to print, or print to audiovisual, is that it takes several full human generation for us to learn how best to reject our old metaphors and build new ones, to know the ghost in the machine well enough to describe it and, more importantly, work with it.

Man is a habitual animal; the conditioning and assumptions we impose on ourselves take longest to change, as they are deepest rooted. It is natural, then, that although the Internet is increasingly evolving as a multimedia format, it has not yet outgrown the flat, nor transcended the heirarchical. Its three dimensional rhetoric stuggles within its two-dimensional metaphors like a cat in a bag. Cartographic models and other spatial interfaces work, but they’re clearly pre-beta, and way too geeky-looking. It's the right idea, but the ergonomics haven't caught up yet.

Still…the promise is there, a gold mine for a meta-rhetoricist and media ecologist. Consider for a moment what MOOs looked like in the early nineties, then look at the blog community today. Picture the path from telnet to trillian. Now imagine Kartoo seven years from now. It's not much yet, but just you wait.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:00 AM | 0 comments

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


duuuuuuude...


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.

afterthought:

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

Tooth

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
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