Monday, May 05, 2003

Monday Mosh

There's a quizlet for almost every day of the week, near as I can tell: the Thursday Three, the Friday Five, the Saturday Six, and more. They're useful for some, I suppose, as a generative exercise, and I read a few each week, although I've never really taken to them enough to try my own.

Note, though, that these tend to cluster around the end of the week, as things wind down. Mondays being Mondays, there's no equivalent quizlet to start the week off. And maybe there shouldn't be. But Mondays still being Mondays, we need something, I think, to drag the dredge up, to overspill the brain. So I propose we start a meme, just you and I and all our friends and all their friends. We'll call it...

Monday Mosh

All you have to do is, every Monday, put on some music -- nice, loud, dancing music -- on near the computer, and then, in the privacy of your own home, with a partner or alone, thrash around the room to it. Then, post the following three things in your blog under the title Monday Mosh:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on or bump into? (bonus points will be awarded for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?

That's it. No website or cool graphics necessary, just a nice low-stakes way to start the week with a bang. Here's mine for today:

1. Pocket Full of Kryptonite, Spin Doctors.
2. The ottoman, the baby's play enclosure. No breakage today.
3. Hurt knee on baby play enclosure (it's made of metal), woke up baby.

When you've done your Monday Mosh, post your blog address in the comments below, so we can at least offer sympathy for any broken bones or horrible music choices.

Ready? Go.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:44 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, May 04, 2003

But Can It Play Guitar, Too?

Twice in the last two days, someone has found their way here via a Yahoo search for the keywords computerize traffic sings.

Surely a typo -- it's easy to imagine someone searching for computerized traffic signs, after all, although the word "computerize" is a bit unusual -- but heck, if I could harness the world's search engines to make poetry from this sort of stuff...well, according to a recent opinion piece in Newsweek proclaiming poetry dead I'd still be broke, but I might be even happier than I am right now, remembering the soft sigh of traffic singing in the distance through the open apartment window on a hot Somerville summer night.

I love rural life, and maybe everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance, but every once in a while, I miss the traffic singing.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:29 PM | 0 comments

No More Munchies

Anti-drug protesters pelted pro-marijuana protesters with eggs and tomatoes at Budapest's first pro-drug rally and rock concert earlier today; although the food-throwing caused the rally to end early, low-blood-pressure stoners thankful for the Western omelets.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:55 PM | 0 comments

Old Man Down

NH landmark Old Man of the Mountain before and after the fall.

Living less than ten miles from the NH border, one sees the familiar outline everywhere. On road signs and license plates, postcards and flags since as long as anyone can remember, his rocky visage has been a useful symbol for the fierce, craggy independent spirit which gave rise to a state willing to actually use "Live Free or Die" as their motto.

And then yesterday, Franconia Notch park rangers looked up after several days of fog to see a crumbled rockface where once the proud lines and beaked nose of the Old Man of the Mountain once stood.

The Old Man will surely live on for a while through its ubiquitous iconography. ''The Great Stone Face'' immortalized by Nathaniel Hawthorne was surely not an unknown quanitity. But unlike the images on other state quarters -- like the Massachusetts Minuteman, or Helen Keller on the back of the Alabama Quarter -- the Old Man was not taught in history books, and an icon with no referent cannot last forever. New Hampshire will probably keep his image around for a while out of loyalty and rememberance, but one day something new will arise, and people will be ready to move on. Road signs will wear out and get replaced; license plates, too. Imagine if Old Faithful stopped spouting one day: how long until it faded from the cultural memory -- ten, twenty years? One day, the NH quarter will go out of circulation, and the Old Man of the Mountain will become but a historical footnote, a once-proud national landmark.

We'll miss you, old man. Somehow, The Old Pile of Rocks of the Mountain doesn't have the same ring to it.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:41 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, May 03, 2003

To Grandmother's House We Go

Once Darcie, Willow and I finish, respectively, cleaning the car, napping, and printing pictures and emptying the hard drive of the digital camera, we're off to break into my parents house in Newton, ten miles outside Boston and 100 miles away from here. My parents have been in New Orleans, at the Jazz and Heritage festival and then another music festival deeper in the heart of Louisiana; tonight, after we figure out how to get into the house, I'll pick them up at the airport, and then tomorrow we'll all have lunch together at Henrietta's Table at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. My brother's coming up from Rutgers, possibly with as-yet-unseen girlfriend. My sister lives two towns over, and will probably show up as well.

Cleaning out the camera has been well worth it. Here's a rather late Easter shot with Willow and her aunt Virginia, Darcie's sister and my weekly radio show cohost. A full sized pic is also available. Aren't they cute?

posted by boyhowdy | 1:43 PM | 0 comments

It Takes A Train To Cry

Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole's haunting version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow showed up twice in my life this week, once on some TV show I cannot now remember, once again at the end of Finding Forrester on cable tonight. If you're an ER-head like Darcie and me, it's also the song they played in the episode where Mark Greene finally succumbs to his brain tumor.

A giant of a man both musically and literally -- at his top weight, the 6' 2" Kamakawiwo'ole weighed in at 757 pounds -- Iz would have been just 44 this year, but he died in 1997 of complications brought on by his severe weight problem.

This song makes me cry. And sometimes you need just the right song to cry to. So download this song, and save it for a day when you need it. Trust me. You won't be sorry.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:01 AM | 0 comments

Friday, May 02, 2003

Eagle Eye Channel

Its about a fifteen minute drive through the middle of nowhere, past farms and old stone commune buildings, through the one-church, one-library, one-store-and-nothing-else town of Gill, MA to Turners Falls from here. At the end of the long winding road one comes to a crossroads, Route 2: a Mobil station, a motorcycle outlet, a hot dog stand. Ahead, the long bridge over the falls themselves stretches across the surprisingly close water, rising slightly over its span.

The unharnessed water roils under and around this once-flourishing milltown, now run down and bereft of industry. Further in there's a Salvation Army and a slightly run down supermarket, a diner and a couple of secondhand stores; by the water's edge a strip park with no slides or goalposts waits for civic projects to renew it. But here before the town begins it is separated from the passthrough of a thousand thousand tourists by a long cliffside bridgespan over this once-mighty industry driver, the river itself. Below the bridge, a small island, really a rock with a few verytall narrow trees holding a few dozen yards of dirt together. And in the tallest, center-most tree of that island, at the very, very top, a pair of bald eagles have made their nest for as long as we've lived here and probably much longer.

And you can see it all on channel 17.

Bald eagles are a big deal, an endangered symbol of a beleagured nation more often seen on old quarters than aflight, and the environment and education, funded at a state level or by competitive grant, have room to grow in dead milltowns still a-bulge with blue collar families. Too, where no money exists for maintenance of a real community access station, the town, by state law, has a cable channel all their own. So from the time the last ice melts on the edges of the river, the local environmental group turns on the camera above their rooftop by the river's edge.

The grant-funded telephoto lens is an unblinking eye that never wavers, even in the worst of windstorms, even from such a distance. The tight directional microphone picks up the brazen screech of the nesting pair and, if it's a good year, the baby. This year there's a single unhatched egg, dead white and unnoticed in the center of the screen, the 800 pound nest dwarfing its unhatching speckles; a second unhatched egg disappeared from the nest a couple of weeks ago. But this is, nonetheless, a good year, as over the egg, tiny in the two-eagle nest, rocks the fluffandstuff of another eagle baby, born grey and more grey on April 17th of this year, like most newborn chicks hardly different from a baby any-kind-of-bird in looks and demeanor.

Here's the mother now, beak to beak with her fuzzy new chick. It's drizzling here, it's drizzling there: the chick shakes off the mist a tiny half-extended miniature of its mothers broad white-tipped span. The mother pulls something small and stringy from in amongst the side of the nest, as if there were a nest in the nest, cultivated like a skytop garden, and carefully, delicate with the razor sharpest of curved protuberances, offers her open maw to the grey ball that is this year's single offspring. Look how the sun goes down outside the window, and the screen dims to the verysame purple twilight; how the father returns to pace the periphery; how the mother nudges the tattered nest floor up and around the now-softly-singing eaglet.

Forget the angry countercultural, the late-night tax law specialist, the city council meeting on your usual local news. Turners Falls, for all its faults and poverty, puts them all to shame: TV never got more local, nor more real, than the sun going down here and there together, the baby singing herself to sleep as the mother covers her in turf and her own warm breast, just like my own daughter sings herself to sleep every night, similarly singsong, equally full of promise.

Want to see for yourself? The Turners Falls eagle's nest is online courtesy of Northeastern Utilities, with facts about eagles and a detailed history of this particlar nest. A captured image from the TV feed is posted on the site every five to fifteen minutes during daylight hours.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:35 PM | 0 comments

The Eye Tree

A birch by the Northfield Music Building. Background shows the Admissions Building, the entrance to the Northfield campus of this two-campus school. Upon close inspection the eye appears to be naturally occurring (cf. eyetree2.jpg). Photos taken by and from NMH student Elizabeth Wyman with no permission whatsoever.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:02 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Happy Law Day!

Yes, May 1st is Law Day here in the U.S.A., and Dubya, who is not only pushing forward extraordinarily conservative judges for court appointment, but who will also surely go down in history as the wartime president who spearheaded both the Patriot Act and a sacrifice of civil liberties otherwise unheard of in modern times, has declared this year's Law Day theme "Independent Courts Protect Our Liberties:"

[The theme] focuses on one of the foundations of our constitutional system: judicial independence, provided in the Federal system by life tenure and an assured level of compensation. In order to ensure equality for all citizens and fairness in the judicial process, our judges must serve as impartial arbiters who do not have a stake in their decisions or seek to achieve a biased outcome or particular result in the cases they oversee. (Bush)

I guess the whole point of a blog is not to be speechless, but this one's just too easy, isn't it? Especially given that, as I write this, Bush is on TV declaring Operation Iraqi Freedom over, and the Iraqi people officially free...from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln...

No, way too easy. Let the punditry begin elsewhere; I'm too busy celebrating. Happy Law Day, everybloggy.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:03 PM | 0 comments

To Do

  1. Grade last week's Media Literacy midterm exams.

  2. Grade this week's rough drafts for paper due Monday exploring tensions between community standards and the epistemology/ecology of cyberspace at NMH.

  3. Get graded rough drafts back to students so they can use them to write the paper for Monday.

  4. Meet with school webmaster to discuss publication of, consistency issues in Ed Tech Group webpage

  5. Begin content-gathering, design for Ed Tech Group webpage.

  6. Contact Andover International Programs office, co-teachers re: curriculum modules for Bangladesh trip this summer.

  7. Develop curriculum modules on PowerPoint, blogging, and digital writing for Bangladesh trip this summer.

  8. Send three-week media literacy-driven health curriculum to Director of Health Education for inclusion in next year's required 9th grade Health class.

  9. Write three week media literacy / health curriculum.

  10. Attend Faculty Meeting next week to vote for inclusion of new Health course in 9th grade required curriculum.

  11. Prepare discussion on Flash for Advanced Web Design class tomorrow at 2:00.

  12. Call dentist, cancel 2:00 appointment to have cap made to replace current temporary filling.

  13. Make new appointment with dentist. This time, check calendar first.

  14. Set up meeting with Director of Curriculum to discuss my new leadership role guiding the schoolwide curricular integration of media ecology, epistemology, and media literacy studies next year .

  15. Meet with Dir. of Academic Resources and Dir. of Ed Tech to discuss my job for next year.

  16. Update Blog design, navigation, sidebar content.

  17. Sleep

  18. Blog

Welcome to the wonderful world of procrastination. ER comes on at 10 o'clock.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:26 PM | 0 comments


Bidding now closed for I Will Link You on My Blog. Final bid: $36.

Heck, I'll link to you for free. Just ask nicely.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:07 AM | 0 comments

If I was nuts, I'd be $369.80

Macadamia nuts, that is.

With a tip o' the hat to some random supermarket wageslave poster at Customers Suck who was appropriately flippant-but-light when asked about her weight.

To calculate your own weight in macadamias, I recommend Bono Macs of Hawaii -- sack size goes up to 70 pounds. For the sake of consistency, buy in bulk to save money, and don't bother with shipping and handling.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:02 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Shallow Thoughts

Still pretty sick. The wrists are better but the headache is worse. I've also developed a new symptom: every time I sneeze, I get a nosebleed. Now, instead of worrying about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, I can worry about losing too much blood. Is there a word for a hypochondriac who only gets symptomatic when actually ill?

One of the benefits of living where you work is that you can, when under the weather, sleep in among the unavoidable responsibilities, and in your own bed, too, with your mother-in-law in the next room watching the baby. I managed to teach class today (What habits of mind does the computer engender? How do these habits affect and recreate the epistemology of computer-mediated communication?) and attend a quick-and-dirty Ed Tech Department meeting, but otherwise slept much and accomplished little. Duty was a blurry mess. Only five more weeks until summer vacation.

I've decided that sick sucks. In my delirium, this seems like a new and scintillating thought, so that'll be all for now, thanks.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:26 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Hi, My Name Is...Scott

As of today, Scott has been wearing one of those "Hello, My Name is ____" nametags for 909 days. Scott, also known as "that guy who wears the nametag," has even written a book on the subject: buy it or just browse his philosophy at the Hello, my name is Scott website.

What a great idea. Dude, I suck with names.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:30 PM | 0 comments

Hurts Like Burning

Sick. Fuzzy brain, achy nose, stuffy head, cranky demeanor. Worse, my wrist hurts, a low-grade burn. All day, paranoid thoughts about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome swim through the fog. I'd post a pic to illuminate the horror film melting in my head, but I'm trying to keep the typing light.

Felt a little bit better spending an hour with Willow in the summery sun this afternoon while Darcie was in a staff meeting. I spread out a blanket; we lay on the grass on the hill outside the dorm in the midst of a busy school day with a new pinwheel and some bubbles, pointing at the trees. Willow chewed on my watch and said "tree," which makes about two dozen words so far. Students waved and smiled. The world buzzed by. If only life was always thus, lying in the shade on a warm day in spring, blond angel singing to you in a language all her own.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:36 PM | 0 comments

Are You Out There? Can You Hear This?

For the uninitiated, my sister-in-law Ginny and I have a radio show here at the lovely Northfield Mount Hermon school, where I teach and live as a dorm parent. It's called Tributary, partially in homage to local commercial fave The River; Monday nights from ten to midnight for the past few years, we've sat around in the basement of Stone Hall, a hundred-year-old grey building of classical granite, playing music from funk to folk, bluegrass to blues, and jazz to jambands, reading bedtime stories on the hour and the half-hour while the fluorescent lights flicker on and off at odd intervals.

Students call and make requests, far too often for something I just don't have. We try to ask a musically-relevant trivia question each week, and give away a weeks worth of free coffee at an NMH snackbar to the correct caller, if there is one. Some nights no one calls. When we come back from the show past midnight -- Tuesday according to the way blogger reckons time -- I post the playlists and mention the contest we had. That's how it works. Now you know.

Tonight's contest question: identify the original source of the name Steely Dan. (Basically a test to see if anyone not only knew, but also had the guts to call and talk to a teacher about an embarassing subject, as Steely Dan gets their name from a vibrator in William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch. Interestingly, the term heavy metal comes from the same book, not from Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild as I had previously thought.)

Tonight's playlist:

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee man
The Poets of Rhythm -- ?
(something off one of Ginny's burned CDs)
Rusted Root -- Rising Sun
Stevie Ray Vaughn -- Close To You
Jane's Addiction -- Jane Says
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Blood Red Sky
Trey Anastasio -- Alive Again
Dave Matthews Band -- Jimi Thing
Guster -- Fall In Two
Alana Davis -- 32 Flavors
Moxy Fruvous -- Green Eggs and Ham
Steely Dan -- Peg
Yusef Lateef -- Chang, Chang, Chang
Velvet Underground -- All Tomorrow's Parties
Eddie From Ohio -- #6 Driver
Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks -- The Piano Has Been Drinking
Kasey Chambers -- Little Bit Lonesome
Sting -- Spread A Little Happiness
The Bobs -- Helter Skelter
Grateful Dead -- Franklin's Tower
Jourma Kaukonen -- Tom Cat Blues
Dar Williams -- Are You Out There
Sarah Harmer -- Coffee Stains
Keller Williams -- Overdub
Phish -- The Inlaw Josie Wales
Paul Simon -- Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War
Miles David -- Summertime

posted by boyhowdy | 12:59 AM | 0 comments

Monday, April 28, 2003

A Steak By Any Other Name

Just when you thought PETA couldn't stoop any lower, the rabidly anti-meat organization has offered the German port city of Hamburg 10,000 euros worth of veggie burgers to change its name to "Veggieburg." Seriously.

Tell you what, PETA. If you'll change your name to "stupid people who are willing to destroy everything sacred and good about culture to get people to stop eating meat," I'll change MY name to Carrot McTofu. Whaddya say?

Note, of course, that people from Hamburg are actually called Hamburgers. If PETA had their way, they'd be Veggieburgers...which in turn would make them cannibals for eating the veggieburgers PETA is offering them if they'll change their name. Nice work, PETA!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:18 PM | 0 comments

Friar Cappucchino, I Presume

The Pope this week beatified Marco d'Aviano, a 17th-century friar credited with halting a Muslim invasion of Europe and in the process discovering the frothy coffee drink cappuccino. d'Aviano, now only one papal decree away from becoming the patron saint of coffee, had no comment.

No word yet from the Vatican on the possibility of sainthood for the Fish Friar, or his compatriot the Chip Monk.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:28 AM | 0 comments

Quote Vote Redux

So far, the top three contenders for a new Not All Who Wander Are Lost quote or catchphrase* are:

29% "If I'm not back in five minutes, wait longer."
21% "Without deviation, progress is not possible."
21% "When it gets dark enough you can see the stars."

I've thought about using two quotes as if they were one catchphrase, just one right into the other, or maybe all three as one, but...hmm. What if I told you the above quotes are from, in order, Ace Ventura, Frank Zappa, and Lee Salk? Would that make a difference?

Please vote if you have not yet done so. Hilatron's looking for one, too.

*The catchphrase, known as subtitle to the uninitiated, is the thingie that lives under the title above; the Voltaire quote currently in use is unsatisfying and not-exactly-right.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:11 AM | 0 comments

The Death Of English: More Narrow-Mindedness in Education

Writing teachers everywhere are extolling the merits of this New York Times article about how writing is under-taught and under-valued in US education; my own colleagues are no exception. But I submit that the state of writing instruction is no surprise and, in and of itself, no reason for concern. Instead, I propose that the motives behind English teachers' use and dissemination of this article are suspect and narrow, and, further, may in fact be the reason writing instruction writhes painfully as it slowly leeches out of the education system. Consider this:

“If students are to make knowledge their own, they must struggle with the details, wrestle with the facts and rework raw information and dimly understood concepts into language they can communicate to someone else,” the report said. “In short, if students are to learn, they must write.”

The problem of defending one's discipline is evident: the above quote makes plenty of sense until the last word. Why WRITING? Do not the other myriad forms of knowledge-sharing and knowledge-creation which our students are expected to develop for an increasingly digital age fit this model equally well? Maybe it's my bias as a media literacy pedagogue, but to me, the report does not show why writing itself must be the best and primary way to reach the stated goals. It merely assumes it -- and that assumption is going to be the death of writing, a horror story for public discourse, if we're not careful.

Although the field of Computers and Communication was one of the first to address the rhetorical and epistemological ramifications of our new media tools, its members remain a misunderstood subset of the vast curricular behemoth that is English. Instead, what most writing teachers cannot see beyond their pencils is this: writing is but one technology, and the technology which one uses to make knowledge one's own is moot. So why are we teaching one technology when we claim to be teaching communication? We should instead begin focusing more on rhetorics and literacies, which are symptomatically different for all modes of communication, but which, taken together, are fundamentally a single and most powerful field of study. Where writing teaches a student to write about fishing, the epistemological approach allows a student to comment upon, instruct about, or merely share ideas on fishing anywhere, at any time, in any medium. Where writing instruction does indeed reach the stated goals, albeit in a limited way, the study of knowledge-sharing and knowledge-creation skills writ much larger creates a medium-independent study of and explicit development in exactly those goals stated above.

In other words, for most teachers most of the time, writing instruction fails because, to turn a phrase on its ear, it puts the art before the course: it seems to imply, with no proof that I can see, that WRITING IS COMMUNICATION. This is close to true (and, to their credit, a few McLuhanesque writing teachers do actually and consciously teach communication, rather than just writing, although such an approach is sadly rare at the secondary school level). But, significantly, it is not true enough. Moreso, it is dangerous to be this close to the truth and still be in error, as the writing lobby can happily defend their position from a position of curricular power with an almost-truth much easier than with an obviously flawed And the stakes are high: to pretend it is true may well continue to alienate real adolescent communication, and thus real adolescents, from a study increasingly esoteric to their real life needs.

The report fails no more and no less than English is beginning to fail, and for the same reasons. It's a shame someone put it in the New York Times, though -- its high-culture vantagepoint is seen as vanguard, which fools so many of us into seeing its underlying assumptions as valid that the truth becomes that much harder to explain and defend.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:28 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Good Thing They Weren't Reading Romeo and Juliet

In today's Stupidity in Education story, CNN reports on a Florida teacher suspended for showing the first 20 minutes of Dracula. Although the high school teacher in question didn't show any nudity or parts of the movie which prompted the R rating, Stupid Superintendent Bill Vogel says:

Teachers are required to protect student's physical and mental health and "the content of this video is inappropriate and unacceptable for the classroom."

This is, of course, stupid for two reasons:

1. Although there must still be one or two high school students who have never seen an R-rated movie, the culture is full of equivalent-or-worse publically accessible content. Students see edited movies like this on TV all the time; their video games preach cop-killing and prostitution; heck, even NYPD Blue shows nudity. To pretend that not showing Dracula in class "protect[s] students' physical and mental health" is to pretend that the average high schooler lives in a Skinner box outside of school.

2. Although the reason the movie is rated R is that it is true to the book, no word on whether the book is similarly inappropriate. Ten bucks says the Superintendent never read Dracula in the first place.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:34 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Quote Vote

Please help -- I'm desperate for something definitive and fitting. If you prefer the Voltaire quote in current use, or if you have a better suggestion, please leave a comment or email me. All serious contributions will be considered; the winner will be properly and prominently acknowledged.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:48 PM | 1 comments

Your Blog Is Better Than Ice Cream
31 Flavors And Then Some

Get thee to a Baskin Robbins!

Over at webraw, Eric is surprised to find that his now-completed project showcasing 31 Flavors of blog is the number one google search result for the phrase "31 Flavors," which reminds me that this Wednesday, April 30th, is the day Baskin Robbins holds it yearly ice cream give-away. All stores participate, so if you live anywhere near a Baskin Robbins, run over sometime on Wednesday and pick up your absolutely free small cone. (Ever the imitators, Ben and Jerry's have their free cone day on the 29th, but I'm not speaking or linking to them since they stopped making Pecan Pie Ice Cream, which had actual cubes of actual pecan pie in it and was the best stuff on earth, so you'll have to find your way there without my help.)

Of course, the real surprise is that the search term "31 Flavors" doesn't get you the lyrics to the Ani Difranco song 32 Flavors, or to the funky Alana Davis cover of that same song, since lots of people misremember the song title due to the Baskin Robbins connection. Kudos to webraw for being more popular than misquoted pop music and better than ice cream.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:57 AM | 0 comments

Weekend Update: Blog Now Ad Free!

With a few evenings off for a change, I've decided, finally, to clean house a little bit -- the dustbunnies were getting thick, and serious blogcontent deserves serious blogspace. It's long past time to do some blogtweaking.

The first step was paying for the damn blogger upgrade already; as a result, in addition to dropping the google-driven text ad once above, I'll be able to post-and-host more pix and add sideblog pages, assuming I can stay off my butt for that long. Astute frequent-flyers will recognize, as well, that the ever-fitting but somewhat recursive, almost arbitrary T.S. Eliot quote (And should I then presume? / And how should I begin?), which has hovered subtitularly above since THIS BLOG's hasty late summer inception, has been replaced. The new quote -- if we don't find something pleasant, we shall find something new -- comes from Voltaire by way of Tadpole, and seems much more fitting for a Dirk-Gently-esque Zen navigator such as yours truly.

Soon, in coming hours/days/weeks/months, I hope to rethink the tree, perhaps with a more comprehensive, Photoshopped look, something more depth, more life, more ways and places to wander. And I promise to even update the content on the right over there -- I have high hopes for remaking both sections and contents to better match the overall metaphor and icnography, and better allow authorial browsing, that you might better clothe my words. If not now, then in just five weeks, when the students go home, the paychecks keep coming, and the days go slowly once again.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:11 AM | 0 comments

Friday, April 25, 2003

Smaller Screens And Less Of Them

Tadpole: tight, intimate, more mature than The Graduate

When you have a child you trade some of your public life for family. It's wonderful and fulfilling; I ache for the-circle-that-we-are every minute of my workday. But there are, of course, trade-offs.

For one thing, the televison's been a cooler box since Willow's July birth. We don't want our little one watching television, mostly because, as I teach my students through close analysis of Teletubbies, television plants the seeds of its own passivity in even the most rudimentary of growing minds. The fast paced technical elements, the bright blinking box, the color-and-soundwash of the selected, maximized reality that makes it onto the screen: it's no surprise that the American Pediactric Association recommends that children not be exposed to TV.

And then there's the big screen. In the nine months since Willow was born we've been to the movies twice: once with (My Big Fat Greek Wedding; Willow kept talking to the people on the screen; I had to keep leaving with her so as not to annoy the grey haired matinee ladies) and once without (the second Harry Potter movie; Darcie's parent's watched the baby; she cried for the entire three hours we were gone). We've seen plenty of video -- Sundance favorite Tadpole tonight, which you must see if you haven't, and more recently Kissing Jessica Stein, which you must see again. I seem to be turning into a serious purveyor of film, and it's about time.

I'm a media teacher: to be missing out on media for a while can't hurt, and the distance might add focus and objectivity to my study, I suppose. I don't really miss prime time TV -- am more than satisfied with the tension of the ten o'clock network drama and, later, the satire of Daily Show, South Park, and the rest of Comedy Central's nobrow mindcandy. But I do miss the darkness of the movie theatre, the smell of hot corn oil, the sticky-shoe floor and the sneak out for a smoke. I miss the previews and the glowing exit signs. I miss the proximity, the smell of my wife's hair in the darkness with the senses elevated, the hand in the popcorn bucket, buttery and warm.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:37 PM | 0 comments

Today's Wish I'd Thought Of That Award Goes To...

Johann, bloghost of Coherence Theory Of Truth, for a pretty slick mechanism to bring in blogtraffic from the überbored.

See, when you type "I'm feeling lucky" into google's search field and press the "I'm feeling lucky" button, you get his blog. Works for "I'm not feeling lucky" too, if you're feeling especially ornery.

Although this isn't a metatag issue -- in fact, there's nothing in Johann's code which would explain why this happens -- I used this phenomenon as an example of how to use metatags and other search engine ranking cues in advanced web design class today. Students incredulous: Why would anyone actually do that?

Think about it. How do you think I discovered this blog in the first place?

posted by boyhowdy | 5:03 PM | 0 comments

Kiss Me, Son Of God

Like Hello Kitty, except omnipotent!

We are proud to present to you HELLO JESUS! This product, you will agree, is a way of doing good and also well! In many nations these items already sell multiple units to children who say to us: "Hello Jesus is the friendly little savior who brings joy to the young in heart. Hello Jesus is living in a kingdom of fun and play. I never wish to displease Him!"

Okay, so it's from 1984, when Conan O'Brien was at the helm of Harvard's National Lampoon. But it ages so well.

(Thanks to Fannio of I Want to Hug Kafka for the link. A gift of ten Not All Who Wander Are Lost blogshares, now otherwise selling for $0.42 each, for the first caller to correctly identify the song quote in today's blogtitle.)

posted by boyhowdy | 1:39 AM | 0 comments

Cat And Mouse

Now that The Agonist has posted specs on fugitive on-the-lam-from-her-family Isabella V., she's blogging about running especially scared. How odd to be inside the heads of both journalistic subject and journalistic source -- both high-road criminal and professional tracker -- as we watch the distance shrink between them. When everyone blogs, will blogging ultimately add a voiceover veneer to communication, changing public discourse forever in transcending the possibilities of face-to-face?

(thanks to Sun, both for this and for roastin' peeps for smores.)

posted by boyhowdy | 1:19 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Going Topless For Art's Sake

Broke and not body-shy, my future wife and I both modeled nude at Bard College in the early nineties (no, we didn't pose together). I thought Darcie had it relatively easy, if terribly boring, posing mostly in sitting positions for hour-long sculpture classes; as my attention span and ADHD preclude such long immobility, I ended up posing mostly for short open sketch sessions in the evenings, cold in a bare room filled with brown paper and scratchy charcoal, five minutes a pose, maybe ten a night. I remember being surprised at how hard it was to hold a stable pose for even that short a time; looking back, I continue to be impressed at my wife's ability to stay immobile for so long when she wants or needs to.

I was thinking about being naked in public, of course, because Fark was, too. The headline they link to, Communications College may prohibit nude student modeling, sounds severe -- after all, not only is nude student modelling one of the best-paying jobs on most campuses, it's also one of the best ways to ensure that students learning to draw the human form have a full and diverse set of models to draw from (pun intended, but apologies anyway). But as we read on, we find that the modeling session which prompted a ban was in no way typical or even safe by normal, common-sense standards.

Senior Becky Humes, a VisCom major, based her complaint on a September photo shoot in which she posed topless for Nighswander [director of OU's School of Visual Communication]. The two were alone during the shoot.

First, the photo shoot was private; second, the photographer was the head of the school said student was attending. A comprehensive ban on nude modelling would be silly, given these two atypical aspects. But sure enough, it turns out the headline is misleadingly broad. According to the college Dean's published statement, the real ban being considered is both narrow and logical; it would prohibit only the use of students as models in nude or semi-nude photo shoots by [the] college's faculty.

Personally, though, I think there's no need for such a narrow ban. Any student who volunteers to pose for their own professor, in private, should recognize that teachers will naturally see such occasions as a clumsy attempt by said student to trade sexual experience for grades or other academic success, and act accordingly; certainly, had Darcie been offered an "opportunity" to model nude in private sessions for her own professors, I would have insisted on chaperoning. Although Nighswander may have acted inappropriately, as an experienced nude model myself, I don't think it's blaming the victim to say that Becky Humes clearly needed to learn that you just don't go into unchaperoned nude photo shoots with your professors unless you plan on sleeping with them. Given that, as a teaching institution, it would be irresponsible for Ohio University to ban such behavior, as the proposed ban would keep students like Becky Humes from getting the good lesson in common sense such harassment necessarily teaches.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:21 PM | 0 comments

The Blog Is Back

I was practically delirious for dorm duty tonight. I'm pretty sure Molly stopped by and we were too loud for study hall; the last thing I remember was eating too many bunless-for-passover hot dogs and losing my dorm store root beer. I thought the delirium was due to the four hours of coffee-nightmare sleep I got last night in my frantic need to grade papers and midterm exams and get progress reports in for a noon deadline, but it turns out I was so tired I just forgot to switch out my nicotene gum. Now I feel better, albeit exhausted.

Luckily, little of bloginterest happened of during my grading hiatus. But stay tuned...blogging will return after a good long seven hours of dead-to-the-world, one 105 minute class, two meals and a faculty meeting.

Until then, feel free to visit the now-updated-weekly American Feed, recent publisher of my rant about Howard Zinn's visit to the school where I teach, this week featuring an interview with webraw's Eric J, temporarily infamous for blogging the mockup CNN obits over nine months before Fark "found" them and always worth a visit.

[UPDATE 4/24/03, 9:29 am: American Feed link fixed above. D'oh!]

posted by boyhowdy | 12:03 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

I Touch Myself

Besiktas striker Pascal Nouma has apologized for sticking his hand down his shorts after scoring in his side's 2-0 Turkish super league win over Fenerbahce.

The French striker told a news conference on Monday he had been overcome with excitement after a long period without scoring a goal.

Although French lawyers are exploring the possibility of prosecution under obscenity laws, I predict Nouma will be suspended and then forgotten. After all, his only crime is forgetting one of the fundamental rules of the game: keep your hands off the ball.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:57 AM | 0 comments

To TV Or Not To TV

Blog More, Watch Less?

It's Adbusters TV Turnoff Week this week, until the 27th. I'm a bit ambivalent about this sort of consciousness awareness raising strategy, mostly because I believe it has no impact on the cultural consciousness whatsoever.

Look, not watching TV is interesting if you're a couch potato; maybe you'll learn something. But couch potatoes don't care about Adbusters. It's people who don't watch much TV to begin with, and who watch TV well and with a critical eye when they do, who end up participating in this annual hoopla, and they -- we -- aren't the ones who need it. Watching TV or not watching TV is invisible; it happens in your home, and unless you're one of the Nielsen families, no one will ever know.

It's kind of like helping the poor by leaving dollar bills around your house. Your kids will love you, and maybe you'll feel good about yourself, but that homeless guy down the street isn't going to be any less hungry.

I also feel that way about protest marching. So you get a five-second blip of the nightly news, one of a million shooting by the synapses of mass consciousness in a given day -- so what? No one saw you march but the marchers, and the subsequent mass media message surely got lost in the glutted infosphere. If you want to see effective protest, go for the staged iconographic approach -- make 'em think. Don't preach to the choir from your living room; you're only fooling yourself.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:30 AM | 0 comments

Wax Tracks

After three years of entropy, three cheers for Tim and the rest of this year's board of directors for WNMH, the most powerful high school radio station in the country and home of Tributary, our Mondays-ten-to-midnight shot at airwaves fame and invisible fortune. Not only does WNMH, serving Northfield, Gill, Keene and Brattleboro and the farms and villages where Massachusetts, New Hamshire, and Vermont intersect, finally have working turntables, they finally have amps for said turntables.

I was so overjoyed to dig out the seldom-played vinyl of my late adolescence that I decided to wax nostalgic and tell some stories of my high school years to our predominantly student audience. Improvisationally and on the spur of the moment, I staggered down memory lane to evoke three stories more antiheroic in their morality play than anything I would have chosen to write or read:
  • The time I threw up in the Boston Public Library, brought on by a first taste of clove cigarettes, which I cannot smoke to this day.

  • The time I managed to cut a 2 hour surrealist play down to 45 minutes, when, as the lead in Ionesco's allegorical anti-Nazi Rhinocerous, I managed to forget/never learn a fair chunk of my lines, including the entire second half of the play, without dicovery by director or castmembers, all of whom were utterly shocked during the performance and didn't speak to me for weeks afterwards.

  • The time a little kid ran out into the street chasing a ball during my first try at a driving test, at which I panicked and drove up onto the curb.
Ah...good times.

As always, tonight's playlist follows. Vinyl tracks are starred; God Street Wine and Letters to Cleo were from cassettes I found cleaning out the van today.

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Santana -- Oye Como Va
*John S. Hall -- Help Me
God Street Wine -- Borderline
*Elvis Costello -- Watching The Detectives
Los Lobos -- That Train Don't Stop Here Anymore
Barenaked Ladies -- Life, In A Nutshell
(not the live version)
*Dinosaur, Jr -- Just Like Heaven
(yes, the Cure song, on a rare 12" single etched on the entirely unplayable B-side with body parts and a box or Rice Krisps )
Patty Griffin -- Poor Man's House
*Robert Palmer -- Woke Up Laughing
Leslie King -- Money
(yes, the Pink Floyd song)
Moe -- Captain America
*The Bobs -- Food To Rent
The Biscuit Boys -- You Don't Have To Do That
Letters To Cleo -- Here and Now
*The Police -- I Burn For You
(from the Brimstone and Treacle soundtrack)
Emmylou Harris -- My Antonia
*Timbuk 3 -- Rev. Jack And His Roamin' Cadillac Church
Slaid Cleaves -- This Morning I Was Born Again
*Pierce Pettis -- Legacy
*Emo Philips -- Downtown Downers Grove
*Paul Simon -- Song About The Moon
*Blue Rubies -- When You Were Mine
(yes, the Prince song)
*John S. Hall -- The Sandbox
Brooks Williams -- She Loves Me (When I Try)
*Bruce Cockburn -- All The Diamonds In This World
Norah Jones -- Lodestar

posted by boyhowdy | 12:38 AM | 0 comments

Monday, April 21, 2003

'nuff Said

Man Bites Dog

A police dog, natch. If this one swamps the bloggiverse, have we all jumped the shark?

posted by boyhowdy | 6:50 PM | 0 comments

Warning: Grades Ahead

I have ten 5 page papers -- each entitled "My Theory Of Media Studies" -- to read and evaluate; ten 7 page essay exams to decipher and correct (What does Neil Postman mean when he says that any medium has a technological bias, that it has "within its physical form a predisposition towards being used in certain ways and not others"?); ten sets of grades to weigh; ten progress reports to write. By Wednesday noon. And I have to work in the media center all day tomorrow, and on Wednesday morning, too. I seem to have taken procrastination to a new level, and now I'm totally, um, farked.

Which is by way of warning regular readers and new visitors that the next forty-eight will be atypically light, and I'll be back to my usual verbose blogself by about Thursday. Apologies in advance; if you need something to do, browse the bloglinks on the right -- each comes highly recommended -- or check out some random archives.

That said, I will, as usual, post a playlist after the radio show tonight. Can't give up all my vices, after all.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:46 PM | 0 comments

I Would have Posted This Yesterday, But I Got High Instead

Steve Hager, foggy as always

Fark calls the obligatory 420 interview with High Times editor-in-chief cool, suggesting that farkers are a bit behind the Times; don't most of us already know that 420 is not a police code for marijuana smoking in progress? I thought the interview wasn't terribly interesting or focused, but then again, look at the source. Steve says:

I believe 420 is a ritualization of cannabis use that holds deep meaning for our subculture. It also points us in a direction for the responsible use of cannabis.

Um...a code for toking up points us in a direction for responsible use? Time to lighten up on the stuff a bit, Steve.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:20 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, April 20, 2003

The King Is Dead; Long Live The King

R&B legend Earl King died today of diabetes-related complications. Nominated for a Grammy for his 1986 collaboration with Roomful of Blues, King, a prolific composer and performer best known for such heavily-covered New Orleans R&B favorites as Trick Bag and Come On (Let The Good Times Roll), was 69.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:26 AM | 0 comments

From A to Z

Thanks to Steve, who brings us Townie's idea for an A to Z. How about an alphabetized week-in-the-life of boyhowdy?

A is an alphabet, written like most.
B is boyhowdy, your aliased host.

C is a crisis that turned out alright.
D is on duty 'til midnight tonight.

E is for eating a dozen great meals.
F is for fish and a whale and some seals.

G is for grading -- I procrastinate --
H will be having to stay up real late.

I write in first person almost every day
Just sitting here blogging 'bout what people say.

K is the kitchen I cleaned, mostly dishes.
L, Willow's Laughter at seeing the fishes.

M is the moon, big full and round.
N is no, my daughter's new favorite sound.

O was the broken laptop screen -- I fixed it.
P is the parents who came up to kidsit.

Q is a quandry of immense proportions.
R is the rack causing tortured contortions.

S is for sleeping in until eleven;
T is for taking a picture or seven.

U is uvula, the hanging throat thing.
V my teaching vocation: it's not just for the bling.

W is for weblog, at which I'm a whiz.
X is for Xylophone, 'cause it always is.

Y is for You reading this on the screen.
Z is for zipper. Now I've come clean.

Hmm. Think you can do better? Ready to take the a to z challenge? Leave your link in the comments below if you dare.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:48 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Those Who Can't, Eat

Web browser set into cutting board:
for downloading recipies while you cook

Regular visitors may have noticed that I love food. In less than six months of blogging I've blogged barbecue and four star, kitch and kitchen, high culture and lowbrow alike. I can't help but enumerate courses when we've been to a decent restaurant, and my love of pop culture lends itself heavily towards tracking the cultural evolution of popular cuisine, from the disgusting to the peep.

I can't cook, though, so I have deep appreciation for those who can, like Matt and PJ, and Rick and Mike at FoodDork -- without fine culinary artists like them, the world of the amateur gourmet would be sad indeed. For them, this link, originally from BBC News via Mike, mostly for the cutting board with enabled web browser shown above, part of an exhibit on cutting edge designs at the recent Ideal Home Show in London. The internet toilet roll browser also mentioned in the same article is merely an added bonus, even if it does print directly onto the toilet paper.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:04 PM | 0 comments

I've Been Cited Again

PowerPointless?, a thorough, balanced, and regularly updated list of articles discussing the impact of a reliance on PowerPoint® and bullet-point based communication, lists my blogentry critiquing Julia Keller's Is PowerPoint The Devil. Got two hits from there from today. Thanks for the site cite, Sooper.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:49 PM | 0 comments

Even More Weirdness

From a day-old short news radar-screen blip in which a restaurant manager eats a worm found in a customer's food, thus demonstrating that it was edible and implying that it was not problematic, the following quote:

The customer filed a complaint with the municipal council, which agreed there was no such thing as an edible worm, the newspaper said.

Edibility by fiat. What a concept.

I'm thinking of starting a blog just for tracking stupid/weird last sentences in major news agency releases. If I built it, would you come? How about if I promise not to serve worms?

posted by boyhowdy | 1:06 AM | 0 comments

File Under: People Who Get Offended Too Easily

From today's Herald Tribune via Fark comes the following, under the banner Vegetarian Jesus billboard causes stir in Panhandle:

Christian and Jewish clergy say a billboard promoting vegetarianism by claiming "Jesus was the prince of peas" is historically inaccurate and sacrilegious...The billboard, which includes a picture of Jesus with an orange slice in place of a halo, was erected here by PETA to coincide with Passover and Easter.

The thing about icons, even religious ones, is that they only make sense in context. A bumper sticker that says the best things in life aren't things has an entirely different meaning on the back of a brand new Harley Davidson oversized as it does on the bumper of an ancient VW bus, and the same's ultimately true about a long-haired dude nailed to a cross. Jesus may the son of God -- I don't believe so, but I believe you believe, validly so, for you -- but he's also a meme like any other larger-than life. I guess what I really mean to suggest is that nothing's sacred, at least nothing that can be so oversimplified. It that as extreme as it sounds?

As a bonus, the Herald Tribune article includes the following quote from apparently drunk and/or innately stupid Pensacola resident Carolyn Stallworth, 45: You don't play with Jesus. This is going against the religion of people to actually believe in something.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:55 AM | 0 comments

Separation, Anxiety

It's been a whirlwind of a day or two. Passover has come and gone; we've been to Boston and back. Darcie and I accidentally doubled up on our duty nights, which meant dorm duty with Willow most of the evening; I'm totally drained. But let's catch up anyway -- I've missed you.

Wednesday night, for all you goyim out there, was the first night of passover. As sometime co-sponsor and possible future advisor to the NMH Jewish Student's Alliance, we have for several years spent the first seder night here at school, joining about twenty students and a handful of adults in the guesthouse dining room for gefilte fish and matzoh ball soup, baked chicken and carrots, and the ubiquitous macaroon. Because it's a school, the talmudically mandated retelling of the Jew's escape from slavery starts out with the begrudging affect of a classroom lesson; because the seder requires much drinking of ritual wine, the students eventually lose their reticence and begin getting into it. Serving real wine to high schoolers surely makes Dean David Schochet's presence all the more titilating; last year a kid actually stopped for a nap on the grass on her way home for a while, and was missing at check-in. It was all very exciting.

There are two seder nights at the beginning of passover -- I'm fuzzy about why, but I think it has something to do with ensuring that your holiday's duration is inclusive of the time at which is it Passover in Jerusalem. We traditionally spend the second in Newton, at my parent's house, and here, too, this year was typical: although my brother was too busy with his Rutgers MFA program to come, my sister brought girlfriend Amy and friend Rachel, my parents invited close family friends Merle and Gary (she's a Psychologist, he teaches at the Kennedy School at Harvard), and cousin Jessica, a Junior in fine arts at nearby Boston University, came in on the trolley. Even Grandpa Jerry, mom's father and Willow's great grandfather, was disconnected from his feeding tube at the nursing home and parked byu the end of the table; he perked up when he saw Willow, and when we sang. The turkey was a bit dry and the wine had a plastic cork and it was all room temperature by the time we finished the pre-meal seder table service, but it felt comfortable like home, like religion should be.

Drove home early today for a typical day at work, meeting with teachers about videotaping their classes for a professional development best-practice archive project I'm spearheading and teaching Dreamweaver basics in Advanced Web Design. We discovered our accidental double-booking late in the game, at our dining hall supper of baked cod and steamed broccoli; I spent most of the evening downstairs in the dorm lounge, my ear pressed nervously to the crackling baby monitor, while Darcie flitted around campus making sure tonight's Juke Joint Jam talent show went swimmingly smooth. Tomorrow night, both of us still on duty but for an even later dorm close, mom and dad have been belatedly convinced to come up and babysit as late as they can, and thank God; somehow, just knowing that it might take as much as 45 seconds to run up the stairs, down the dorm hall, and to our apartment at the merest squeak on the baby monitor drans the energy right out of you.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:32 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Whatever Happened To...

I'm a great lover, I bet.

The other day a woman came up to me and said, "Didn't I see you on television?" I said, "I don't know. You can't see out the other way."

Not sure why I was thinking about him, but glad to hear that Emo Phillips is still performing, albeit with a new haircut. Less glad to see the exact same list of Emo jokes mass-posted across both blogiverse and net-in-general; immortality is nice, but the redundancy suggests that even if the gangly one is producing new material, it's the old stuff that counts.

Saw Emo at a Boston comedy club about 15 years ago -- he read jokes off the back of a Rice Crispies box, and got his finger stuck in the bumper-car wire club ceiling. Maybe you had to be there; Emo's the kind of guy whose affect is more than half the fun.

Funny thing about all this information glut: where out-of-nowhere memories used to go back to the deep brain recesses, now they become instant search terms. Welcome to my brain, folks.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:22 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I Keep Forgetting To Post This

John Perry's epistemological theory of Structured Procrastination:

The procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important. Structured procrastination means shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact.

Via The Annals Of Improbable Research, the real epitome of geek humor.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:56 PM | 0 comments

Me Neither

Man finds ants in Creme Egg, says:

It was horrible. I felt sick. I had taken a bite off the top of the egg and cream went in my mouth. The egg tasted a bit odd. I looked at it and that's when I saw the ants.

There were also lots of little black pellets which looked like eggs. I spat the mouthful out. I was trying not to vomit. I used to love Creme Eggs but I won't be buying one again.

In other candy news, it's the 50th anniversary of peeps, and they're not stale yet.

[UPDATE 4/17/03: More on Peeps History from today's ever-timely Boston Globe, via Fark. Did you know it used to take 27 hours to make a single peep?

No news on whether peeps are Kosher for passover, however. Anyone know?]

posted by boyhowdy | 2:02 AM | 0 comments

More Sartre Than Rand, More Spinoza Than Cynic

My top thirteen from selectsmart's ethical philosophy selector (thanks, jay).

1. Epicureans (100%)
2. John Stuart Mill (93%)
3. Aristotle (93%)
4. Aquinas (92%)
5. Jeremy Bentham (91%)
6. Spinoza (79%)
7. St. Augustine (60%)
8. Jean-Paul Sartre (59%)
9. Ayn Rand (57%)
10. Kant (57%)
11. Nietzsche (52%)
12. Cynics (52%)
13. Stoics (50%)

What it all means.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:32 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Help Molly Get A Summer Job

Molly is a cool girl who wants a cool job. But Maine chain Bull Moose Music doesn't accept applications; instead, they ask prospective grungegirls to do something creative. Molly speaks:

They want to know that I have a diverse and intense knowledge of music, and that I've had a bit of customer experience. They said they'd had all sorts of stuff: cupcakes, cake, t-shirts, etc. -- I think there's supposed to be a little element of bribery to it.

Won't someone help Molly out by making a suggestion?. I'll even throw in a free gift to anyone who submits the winning (i.e. job-getting) idea.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:56 PM | 0 comments

Blog Naked Ladies

Maybe You Should Blog

First Andre the Giant has a Posse; now Barenaked Ladies joins the ranks of those other famous people with blogs. Clean and uncluttered with entries viewable by band-member, mostly tells of studio work and guitar-lust, but those hardened enough to think bands are hiring out their blogging these days need not fear -- this band-banter definitely sounds like the canadians we know and love. Today, for example, Steve's entire entry is Shut up, Ed. How cool is that?

Thanks to the recently re/geo/located Michelle for the pass-along.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:45 PM | 0 comments

On Boats, Beaches, And The Air

Spent the last two days in transit, mostly -- about eight hours behind the wheel. Not much to say about driving except it's gotten lonelier since Darcie started riding alongside the baby; on the bright side, I can listen to my music louder, as long as I turn the speakers off in the back. We drove south and east and west and north again in the blue Camry, Darcie spotting cars from the back seat when passing -- the passenger side mirror's still missing from when I cracked it off on my parent's driveway fence over March break. Once a cranky rider, Willow's getting better at entertaining herself, and spent much of our motion laughing at her toes.

As usual, it was the geographically static hours which were noteworthy.

First stop was Mystic Seaport, an an active living history museum with 17 acres of exhibits. We hoisted the baby into her hiking backpack, met up with Darcie's parents and her brother Josh and his long-time girlfriend Clay, and the seven of us spent a frankly lovely morning treading the planks and holds of old whaling boats and trawlers, singing the shanties of the old-time fisherman. Admission was free for Educator's Day, a sly ploy to spark interest in field trips during an otherwise dead start of season at the mostly outdoor boatyards and reconstructed village; with four teachers among us (Patty, Neil, Darcie and I) , it made for a nice family excursion in the unseasonable spring sun.

The town of Mystic (the real, modern town) looked nice, but it was too crowded and narrow for parking; we skipped it, and went another four miles to Stonington, which my mother had recommended as a "nice walking town." Stonington was mostly closed-or-closing antique stores, but a bit off the town and along an ocean pier behind the main buildings was an excellent find, a brunch-serving seafood place with a real live dixieland band. I got woozy off the sun and a pint of Longtrail on the deck while we waited for a table, but managed to enjoy my creamy lobster bisque and an excellent Oscar Benedict (crabmeat, asparagus, poached eggs and hollandaise on an english muffin) nonetheless.

Back to switch cars again -- we had condensed from three to two for our lunch excursion. Patty and Neil headed back to Vermont for a Monday at work, but we were off an extra day for midterm break, and after three years or more of Clay-in-the-family despite no other official status than "Josh's girlfriend" were eager to see Clay's house by the sea across the border in Rhode Island. We were surprised to find that the house, three-season residence that rents as a vacation home for $600 a week in the summer tourist boom, had exactly the same layout and dimensions of our own apartment: two bedrooms sidebyside across from a single common room and open kitchenette. Clay, a senior in Oceanographic Geology at University of Rhode Island, had homework to do, so after an excellent late supper at a funky juice bar in nearby Naraganset where they actually put their gorgonzola and sauteed onions in the middle of their burgers, the almost-sunburned baby went to bed with Darcie, and Clay and I sipped some Bailey's Irish Cream on ice (tastes kind of like chocolate-flavored egg nog, for the uninitiated) and hit the hay.

We left early, all of us at once, the next morning. A few chilly minutes on the not-yet-sunwarmed beach down the road and a diner breakfast, the best kind: homemade corned beef hash and eggs over easy, a banana for the baby, in Naraganset again. And then back to Connecticut and Mystic for round two at the Mystic Aquarium. Mystic's Aquarium deserves its excellent reputation, and the website speaks for itself; I will note only here that the soapwhite beluga whales are stunning, the concave sealife viewing portals inspired and immersive, and the baby thrilled to be able to take a few tottering steps at the end of my arms to flat tanks of crabs and lobsters at her own eye level.

Back home, via Northampton and a peasant sandwich lunch, before five; Ginny arrived an hour later with the dog on her lap, its head eager out the window. The sounds of students in the dormitory hall outside our kitchen door back to its usual roar, we left a bit before nine for a tutoring session with a student that never showed and then, as always, our Monday night radio program Tributary. As always, playlist follows; I was, it seems, feeling pretty funky.

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Kool and the Gang -- Funky Stuff
Beck -- Where It's At
Oysterhead -- Shadow of a Man
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Nut Monkey
Biscuit Boys -- Ramblin' Fever
Manu Chao -- Bongo Bong
Negativeland -- Yellow Black and Rectangular
Suzanne Vega -- Small Blue Thing
Cesaria Evora -- Sodade
Many Mann and Michael Penn -- Two Of Us
Robbie Fulks -- He Needs Her Now
Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks -- He Don't Care
Missa Luba -- Kyrie
Barenaked Ladies -- Jane
Billy Bragg and Wilco -- My Flying Saucer
Herbie Hancock -- Pygmy Flute and Soul Jazz
Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Des'ree -- Ain't No Sunshine
Phish -- If I Could
Alison Krauss -- Every Time You Say Goodbye
Jorma Kaukonen -- Waiting for a Train
Lyle Lovett -- Fly Swatter, Ice Water Blues
Shawn Colvin -- Tenderness on the Block
Salamander Crossing -- Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow
String Cheese Incident -- Up The Canyon
Ani Difranco -- As Is
Take 6 -- Mary
John Gorka -- Love Is Our Cross To Bear

posted by boyhowdy | 1:04 AM | 0 comments

Monday, April 14, 2003

Long Time Gone

On the road for the past two days, down south past Springfield and Hartford and then back and forth across the Connecticut/Rhode Island shoreline border. Much to report, but sunburned and exhausted.

Please hold...this message will be replaced by a full version of events sometime in the next 12 hours. Also, radio show tonight. Stay tuned.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:51 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, April 13, 2003


posted by boyhowdy | 1:09 AM | 0 comments

Me, In South Park

Try it yourself.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:44 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Down On The Farm

Horse, student, and Farm director Richard Odman

It's finally Spring in more than just name. The indigo crocuses bloom in dense patches by the front door to the tennis courts, a mild breeze brushes the greengauze curtains over now-open windows. It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a sunny latesleeping day, one of those days where you carry a coat but end up in shirtsleeves. Wisps of clouds float gently across a mostlyblue sky.

After a somewhat blurry lunch of sloppy joes in the mostly-empty dining hall next to students grumpy from a three hour ACT exam, Darcie and I headed down the campus hill to the NMH farm, ostensibly to pick up the gallon of new syrup we earned making supper for sap-collecting students over March break. The dog strained at her retractable leash and Willow chewed her sweatshirt in the stroller as we followed the smell of dissipating sugarhouse smoke, burnt sugar and greenwood and spring-in-the-air, until the black plume became visible over the new red barn.

Once upon a time, over a hundred years ago, the NMH farm was a vital part of school life. Students got up early to milk the cows and feed the pigs and chickens, trudging up to the dining hall afterwards for bacon and eggs and fresh creamy milk before class. In the fall, raspberry collecting, the orchard harvest and cidering; in the spring, the sap and the hot boiling tables. Horses drew winter sleighs across the frozen river between the girls school and the boys school for dances and hot cocoa socials. The students ran the place part-time and spent the rest of their day in the classroom; it's hard to say which was the better learning, or whether the question even makes sense.

Although the pigs are long gone, since the old barn burned down and the new barn raised a few years ago, the program has been brought to new life under the expert oversight of the bearded Rev. Richard Odman and his handy assistant director Alex. More and more students come of their own volition to add their hands and backs to those assigned for workjob service to the labor force; I came down myself two Octobers ago to crank the cider press to keep my mind off cigarettes then-recently quit. Fields of lavender and hot peppers, for drying and for vinegar and soaps, attract the tony alumni market; bees bought new last year will both pollenate the growing fields and make nectar for new products yet to come.

Today the farm was bustling with new life -- two half-sized calves still hiding behind a full grown Jersey, five horses where last year there were three, and a chicken-wired pen of brand new chickens, a new addition to the farm program. Students in the distance hefted heavy white buckets full of sap into the small-tank truckbeds. Willow got to touch a cow; laughed at the horses and called them dogs; flashed her teeth in the warm sun; got a light sunburn, her first, on the tip of her nose. Of course, on the farm death is part of life; while we were there, Carrie, the farm Border Collie, managed to slip under the wire and kill a yearling chicken lickety-split by the neck, although in her defense she was surely trying only to herd the stray back towards the raised coop, and seemed to understand the severity of her crime immediately. But overall, an afternoon well spent, New England Spring at its finest. I praise whatever God or gods brought us to this place of sunlight and warmth and friendship, to raise a family together in a community full of love and grounded in the cycle of the land.

As always, bonus points to anyone who can correctly identify the source of today's blogtitle.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:29 PM | 0 comments

My Life In Cereal

Part of this balanced breakfast!

Cheerios: Os and an apple juice sippy cup on the floor in front of the television, before Elmo came along and ruined everything. Thought of as healthy, though not really, as it turns out. Nursery school garland fodder around Christmas time.

Oatmeal: Add raisins and milk; stir. For cold days, especially before school or sledding.

Grape Nuts: Mostly for yogurt. Otherwise like eating a bowl of gravel-and-milk.

Sugar Pops: Mellow bear on tv and box hawks sweet glazed puffs of corn. Eaten only in Florida, at Grandparent's house.

Sugar Smacks: See Sugar Pops, except puffed wheat and frog in a striped hat instead of bear and corn. Now called Honey Smacks, as if it mattered..

Muselix: Like granola, but not all stuck together. A fine powder -- what was that stuff? -- makes the milk tan.

Rice Krispies: Loud. Sometimes the pieces pop in your throat like swallowed pop rocks. Decent prizes in box.

Honeycombs: Only sugar cereal allowed in house. Abrasive, like Apple Jacks and Cap'n Crunch; makes the roof of my mouth raw.

Crispix: Bulging two-faced grids, one rice, one corn. The surface tension keeps the milk from filling the airspace between the two sides, so the cereal stays crunchy in milk.

Product 19: Mutant oversized flakes strangely addictive. Hard to find in smaller grocery stores.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:46 AM | 0 comments

Friday, April 11, 2003

How To Feel Old

Little Eva died today. A moment of silence, please.

She had an interesting life, one surely unplanned. Got her start as a babysitter for Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and leaves a total of fifteen grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren at the ripe old age of 59. But if you want to feel really old, consider that most of my students think that The Loco-motion was originally recorded by Kylie Minogue in the eighties, and most of your friends probably though the song was originally recorded by Grand Funk Railroad in 1974, even though you recognized Little Eva's name and significance immediately, didn't you, Mr. Audiophile?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:12 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Church, State, Classroom

Remember William Bennett, Reagan's Secretary of Education? Here's what he has to say about recent comments by Rod Paige, current holder of the cabinet post and subject of this CNN feature:

"He'd prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community. Who's opposed to that?" Bennett said.

Um...I dunno. Maybe people who aren't Christians?

I suspect there's an argument waiting to happen here, one which suggests that "Christian values" are actually human values. But the label is still inappropriate; if they're really human values, then why isn't that what's being said, and, more importantly, why does Paige's political record favor schools which are actually explicitly Christian? For Education Secretaries who happen to be Christian to claim these values as Christian diminishes the universality of the values themselves. It is smug at best, ominous at worst.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:16 PM | 0 comments

My Day As Five American Sijo

Because I'm sick and think in shortform poetry soundbytes,
today I write my blog as five American Sijo,
originally a Korean court poem of the sixteenth century.

It was a good day to teach about the epistemology of the telegraph,
by which we mean the way it disconnects immediacy from the present,
which shortens language: Iconographic packets travel more easily.

After lunch we went to look at pop-up campers;
I'd never been in one before, and thoroughly enjoyed thinking summer
sitting in a parked portable eight foot battery powered house.

Then sleep deficiency hit -- bang -- pulling into the supermarket parking lot.
I've only been sleeping about four hours a night for some reason;
I napped uncomfortably for twenty minutes in the driver's seat.

Past Gill, where yesterday a hill of deer stood watching me
a chorus of spring peepers sang like a thousand toy fire engines
and then just as suddenly stopped. I drove on home.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:12 PM | 0 comments

Fun With CNN


Who says Al-Jazeera is the media king of Gulf War II? In just a few short paragraphs, This CNN article about euthanizing a baby wild cow clone taught me so much:
  • A banteng is a kind of wild endangered Asian cow.

  • Being born twice normal size is a common cause of death in cloned animals.

  • The San Diego Zoo keeps deceased animal tissues on ice. They call it their "frozen zoo."

  • CNN can't do math. According to the story, a 40 pound animal weighs 20 kg, but an 80 pound animal only weighs 36 kg. Huh?

posted by boyhowdy | 2:05 AM | 0 comments

Tought But Fair As Ideal State

I love my students, but I don't need them to love me.

I used to be in it for the glory; then I was in it for the more immediate gratification of the students. But I've discovered that in the classrooms and dorms and public forums of NMH, how they feel about me as a person isn't what counts. The goal of education isn't student happiness, it's student learning. I still work hard to make class fun, but now I do it because I know it aids retention, not just because I'm having fun myself. I'm learning, this year, that if you want to be the best kind of teacher, friendship isn't going to work for every student's learning needs.

Don't get me wrong. It's nice to be loved, and I think I am, by enough of them to matter, though I know as well that some dislike me and my politics. Every year, there are a few students who I consider friends, and I won't pretend I don't appreciate friendship in any form. It's probably those kids who are tipping my rating scales on

Still, if how these few voting students see me as a teacher now is a reflection of a solid sense of what students in general learn with and from me -- and I'd like to think it is -- I seem to be getting it right these days. I'm averaging a 2.6 out of five for easiness and a 4.4 out of five for clarity and helpfulness. Hard, relevant, and worth it. All signs, as the eight ball says, point to yes. Students speak of me as tough but fair. More and more often, I hear that students respect me for being honest with them about my motives, open about my pedagogy; for being a role model comfortable with my moral core and not afraid to push a little at both of us.

The real mark of student success isn't whether she looks you up ten and twenty years down the line to say thanks -- you changed my life. It's whether their life changes at all. Like a fine wine, I want my students learn to age well and mature over time, so that they are still learning from me years after they've left my classroom. I love being one of those teachers who students think about coming back to visit, years later, to say your class was difficult, but you made all the difference, but as long as they can think clearly about their world and their place in it, my vocation is fulfilling; I am fulfilled. I don't want proteges; I want thinkers. And sometimes the best way for a student under my tutelage to learn to think for themselves is to push them harder than they think they want to be pushed -- at least, that's what I tell myself when I see that one student wrote that I was a bit of a dick.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:12 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

And Counting

Selling a used pop-up camper? Now that the van is all but sold, we're looking for a pull-along to make this year's Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, the first with the baby, a fun and relaxing experience. After three years of festivaling we've got good volunteer spots waiting for us -- making signs for Darcie, performer check-in for me -- and a good sense of how to make this work with baby (we think). And after a one-year hiatus for babymaking, we're eager to return. Can you blame us? look who's on the bill so far. Looks like a Cry, Cry Cry reunion's in the works; confirmed performers not to miss include:

Greg Brown, DaVinci's Notebook, Eddie From Ohio, John Gorka, Tracy Grammer, Arlo Guthrie, Lucy Kaplansky, The Kennedys, Patty Larkin, The McKrells, George Marshall with Wild Asparagus, Nerissa and Katryna Nields, Tom Paxton, Richard Shindell, Richard Thompson, and Dar Williams.

And I get to check all these fine folks in. Last year just to be memorable I asked a few of them about the strangest thing they've ever been asked to autograph. Kaplansky said "a banana." Greg Brown said "a breast," and I asked him about that, and he said what was weird was having to hold it down with his other hand.

The plan is to get there on Monday (the festival doesn't even start until Thursday afternoon), set up camp, show Willow the horses and donkeys, maybe Bash Bish Falls and a diner breakfast on Tuesday morning, then play with baby in the signpainting tent shade until the festivities begin. Feel free to join us. It's at the end of July on a big ol' farm in Hillsdale, NY, just over the Mass border from the Berkshires. Can't wait for summer.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:10 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Poemlets and Fragmentaries

Hadn't written anything in weeks. Not even a fragment. Then this:

Deer tonight
in the almost dark, three watching a fourth
run down the hill over the unexpected
April snow:

you’d be finished with the letter, I turned
at the stop sign past the planted pine field rows
toward home.

It's sort of a sijo, I think -- not formaically, but in its tone and approach.

I was successful, once, at rebuilding my poetry after a long blocked whirlwind time of incoherence. Maybe it's time to begin again.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:25 PM | 0 comments

Radio, Radio

The big news tonight isn't the weekly radio show -- after all, it's hard to imagine how a weekly event could be big news. It's the damn snow. Two inches of it so far, wet and slushy but unquestionably the same old white stuff that's been falling on and off and on again since November. What the heck happened to Spring? Ginny and I barely made it home.

That's not to suggest that the show wasn't good, of course. We talked about the weather, and plugged the upcoming Soulfest dance like good little doobees. More call-ins than usual; I think the prospect of a long weekend at home is overexciting the students, as most were laughing too hard for us to understand their requests, but we managed to find "something with harmonica in it" for one kid, and a Be Good Tanyas song for Molly. I played a short set of NMH-related artists -- a recent alum, a faculty spouse, and an old song which I keep meaning to empeethree and post but never end up getting to, from my days in Boston-based long-defunct band, Not Earthshaking (the only one of us still making music these days is PJ). Otherwise, an eclectic and generally mellow mix. Tonight's Tributary playlist follows; stop me if you've hear this one before. As always, cover songs are starred; free coffee for a week -- really! -- to anyone who can correctly identify the original performers of all starred songs.

Donna the Buffalo -- Riddle of the Universe
De La Soul -- The Magic Number (remix)
Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man (the
Tributary theme song)
*Chris Ardoin and Double Clutchin' -- Your Love Keeps Lifting me (Higher and Higher)
Suzanne Vega -- Fat Man and Dancing Girl
Trey Anastasio -- Money, Love and Change
The Biscuit Boys -- Boograss
Ani DiFranco -- Angry Anymore
*Alana Davis -- 32 Flavors
*Laura Love -- Come As You Are
Eddie From Ohio -- Irish Dream
*Dolly Parton -- Shine
Be Good Tanyas -- Reuben
Mark Erelli -- I Thought I Heard You Knocking
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers -- Billy The Kid
Grateful Dead -- Dire Wolf
Keller Williams -- Anyhow, Anyway
Bruce Cockburn -- Down to the Delta
Peter Siegel -- Rainy Night in Montague
Not Earthshaking -- One False Move
Pippi Kessler -- Sound Like Me
Acoustic Syndicate -- Crazy Town
Raffi -- Baby Beluga (by request, natch!)
Alison Krauss -- Forget About It
Brooks Williams -- Unexpected Rose
*Gillian Welch -- Summer Evening
*Dixie Chicks -- Let Him Fly

posted by boyhowdy | 12:59 AM | 0 comments

Monday, April 07, 2003

War Profiteering For The Lord

Saturday's Miami Herald brings us yet another tragedy in God's name: in the middle of a severe water shortage in a desert, for Christ's sake, Army chaplain Josh Llano of Houston has managed to hoard 500 gallons of "pristine, cool water" and is offering baths to any military soul who comes along. The catch? Let's let chaplain Llano speak for himself:

It's simple. They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized.

Dear God.

Bonus: Different Strings shows more focused and coherent outrage on this one than anyone I've seen so far, first with a compare-and-contrast between Llano's behavior and the requirements for being an Army Chaplain (clause 1. c. Sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.), and then with an Open Letter To The Chief Of Army Chaplains.

Added bonus: the Army camp where this horror story takes place is called "Camp Bushmaster." Kudos to the General with a sense of humor who managed to combine the presidential and the kinky into a single innocuous-when-taken-literally phrase.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:19 PM | 0 comments

The Muppets Go Global: How PC is Too PC?

Brought to you by the letters P and C

Welcome to the new mass media millenium. Mr. Rogers has passed on to the great neighborhood in the sky. South Park will air its one 100th show this Wednesday night; Kenny's back; it promises to be a doozy. Al-Jazeera gets more hits than CNN, despite its anti-american slant. And, on the eve of its 34th season, Sesame Street goes global village. Salon explains:

The 34th season of "Sesame Street" premieres Monday on PBS, offering more chances to peer into the souls of a whole new bevy of guests, from Sheryl Crow to first lady Laura Bush. The show has also added new features, aimed at increasing children's awareness of other cultures. In "Global Grover," the shoulderless blue one appears in costumes from around the world and narrates short documentaries about children from different countries.

Documentaries? For children? What I used to love about Sesame Street -- what worked -- was the locality of it all. Sesame Street may be imaginary, but in its original form, it was less of a world than a street itself, multicultural but seemingly right down the road apiece. We grew up, dear reader, in an era where the community was small and tight-knit, where Bob and Maria might stop in at any moment, where Oscar's can never did get picked up and tossed. The diversity was in those who had found the street, and those who stopped by; the street was small and finite, but it connected to the universe of ideas and cultures just fine, thanks.

What Sesame Street means by this new move, though, isn't to bring the world into the street, as was once the approach. It's to broaden the street until it becomes the world, by sending Grover in silly costume out to see the universe on a daily basis: kites in Malaysia, goat milking in Egypt, Russian dancers, Freedom Fries.

I posit that such a street is entirely unimaginable, uncontainable by the developing mind, too vast to "get."

The global village is a concept we take for granted, but it's not true, you know: there's no such thing as a global village. Kay James has been saying so for years; here's a quote from a speech of hers (sadly, not online at this time, but originally published in an old issue of Vital Speeches I cited in my 1996 thesis work) debunking the myth of the global village:

First, children do not belong to the village or to the community or to the government. They belong to the parents, and the village exists as a resource for those families. Second, even if we did believe this to be true, the village no longer exists (James, 1996).

The village, like the Street, exists as a resource for families. But, as Kay suggests, the village was a closed street, inclusive but localized. Sesame Street was never intended to be the global village. It's supposed to be that village which, in Kay's time and in ours, was already dissipated: that village which is solely a resource for and therefore an extension of the family itself, with friends and loved ones always nearby, teaching us to love. A move to bring the global village into the family will surely fail. The family cannot fit a village; it certainly has no room for the globe.

So I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that this is a dire sign for the good old Street. Yes, you heard it first: Sesame Street has jumped the shark. At best, this may mark the end of childhood, a cultural construct already in severe decay. At worst, it is a signal that the family itself, like the street in all its finitude, was never there to begin with.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:01 AM | 0 comments
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