Sunday, October 12, 2003

Out Of Focus

I've always been suspicious of opinion polls and the like. As a media and communication teacher, I never tire of pointing out to students and peers alike that the way a question is phrased has more to do with what answer you get when you ask it than what people really think of or on a given issue. But I never realized that the continued trusted proliferation of the format -- and the untrustworthy cultural flotsam that results -- was our own damn fault, because I never put the problem into focus as well as Lies, Damn Lies, and Focus Groups: Why don't consumers tell the truth about what they want?, a veryclear, interesting and well-documented article in yesterday's Slate.

The premise -- that telemarketers desperate to make moot their impending death knell, aka the Do Not Call law, have thrown their industry to the wolves by pointing out that people cannot be trusted to know what products they would actually prefer to their current consumer habit -- reveals the inevitable flaws which make focus groups a useless tool for actually predicting mass product appeal (notably, the sole function of the focus group itself). In offering a point-by-point demonstration of why even though few in the industry question their value, a huge gap yawns between customer intentions expressed in focus groups and behavior in the marketplace, however, commentator Daniel Gross slickly broadens the question, calling into question a much larger societal premise -- that asking people to tell you what they think is in any way an accurate indicator of what people actually think.

Consider for a moment how many questionnaires you've filled out, and how many answers you've offered up for your own behavior, in the past six months -- from quizilla personality tests to job interviews -- and for what purpose. Dwell on why -- for in most cases, those answers determine both our fate in the hands of others and the way we think and act. Now realize that it's a standard tenet in, say, sociology (one of my many undergrad majors, a necessity for a degree in cybercultural studies) that people generally have no idea why they do things, and that those ideas they do use to explain their own quirks and social mores tend to be, when examined empirically, entirely and totally wrong.

And, interestingly, here we have a fact that is its own proof. We've known all along that empirical data and observation are trustworthy, and self-examination too biased. Yet millions of dollars are spent feeding and compensating focus group participants in Hollywood alone each year. Mere observation of the effect of focus groups would have told us all long ago to try something else. Instead, we keep filling out the forms, and living with the lives that follow -- all because someone along the line said it would work, and, god help us, we believed him.

Happily, Gross gives us a few sources to follow which have already chosen the empirical path over the anecdotal. If I ever decide to leave academia, I'm sending a letter of introduction to Robbie Blinkoff, principal anthropologist and managing partner of the Context-Based Research Group, an organization which conducts market research through fieldwork observing people using products in their natural habitats.

Guess Heinlein was right: mass psychology is a real, hard science after all. Now if we could only start acting like it, we'd have a shot at empirical application of it. Imagine being able to pre-determine exactly how much bias you wanted your ad copy to carry, and which buttons exactly to push. Or, if that's too scary, imagine using the same benchmarks to determine what consitutes propaganda, thus making an analytical challenge of what is now a legal, human enterprise, shifting standard and all.

As an addendum, I've just realized that this issue is exactly why I don't trust my own school's impending move towards smallness, including perhaps a move to a single campus. Major changes are afoot here; my job may be gone this time next year, or the next. But if any good comes of it it's sure to be accidental: the whole decision's based on summer focus groups asking "what do we want this community to be, and what's the best size to make that community happen?" Garbage in, guys.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:23 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Modern Myth, Fabled Future

J. Robert Lennon's Opening:
The company's CEO had taken a particular interest in this store, and now spoke in the parking lot to a crowd of reporters and eager consumers about the company's virtues. Then, with a wave of his arm, he ordered the butterflies released.
Amazing how little the fairy tale form -- from syntax to size, and from narrative pace to story infrastructure -- has changed since Aesop, Grimm, and Anderson, how well it's weathered the c-change of time. From the first sentences Lennon's new-this-week piece, consistent and tight at six small paragraphs, hovers just on the right side of saccarine cliche, reveals the languages of fable and journalistic endeavor to be one and the same. Opening shows us how thin the line between fiction and journalism has become, if there is such a line at all, if there ever was. This unknown no-link-provided author-from-nowhere makes it all seem easy. Best, it could easily all be true.

Discovered at McSweeney's Internet Tendency, where love is full-color and loud.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:16 PM | 0 comments

Friday, October 10, 2003


I always fancied myself an absent-minded professorial type, but have recently been rethinking. Is there such thing as a mad social scientist?

Also, don't tape your students to the chalkboard. And does it matter what kind of tape was used? Stupid CNN.

I've come to realize that cyberspeak is perhaps the first language to evolve on a global scale. I've got kids who know how to cc without knowing what it stands for, and a walk down the dorm during study hall shows the same acronymic, emoticonic shortform of cybserspeak creeping into both asian character and western language IM sessions. I sure hope someone out there is making "so what does it all mean" their life's work for that one, because I sure as heck don't have time.

Tomorrow, my parents will be in the audience at a live taping of A Prairie Home Companion. If you listen real close to your local NPR station, you might hear applause that sounds like mine, except a generation older. If you live in St. Paul, keep an eye out for a guy that looks like me, except with shorter hair and a little bit more grey in the beard.

Now that shorts are becoming shorter from top AND bottom, at what point does it become sexual harrassment to actually see my students wearing them?

Libraries are nice. Shifted Librarian blogs are moreso.

*Brevity is one of my favorite words, partially because of the inherent semiotic connection in most minds with levity. I actually shot myself in the foot years ago by putting this word, and only this word, in a space on the Vassar College application when asked to "please list some of your best qualities and attributes."

posted by boyhowdy | 1:09 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, October 09, 2003


Neil Postman, modern inheritor of McLuhan's legacy, dead at 72

...these are my five ideas about technological change. First, that we always pay a price for technology; the greater the technology, the greater the price. Second, that there are always winners and losers, and that the winners always try to persuade the losers that they are really winners. Third, that there is embedded in every great technology an epistemological, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not. The printing press annihilated the oral tradition; telegraphy annihilated space; television has humiliated the word; the computer, perhaps, will degrade community life. And so on. Fourth, technological change is not additive; it is ecological, which means, it changes everything and is, therefore, too important to be left entirely in the hands of Bill Gates. And fifth, technology tends to become mythic; that is, perceived as part of the natural order of things, and therefore tends to control more of our lives than is good for us.

The third idea, then, is that every technology has a philosophy which is given expression in how the technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, in how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards. This idea is the sum and substance of what the great Catholic prophet, Marshall McLuhan meant when he coined the famous sentence, "The medium is the message."

He was my hero, and I never met him.

But for the past four years, I read his masterwork Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, a book "about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right," twice a year, teaching it dilligently for five weeks a time. I poured through his essays, agreeing in turn with him and with Camile Paglie in their '91 Harper's co-interview She wants Her TV! He Wants His Book!. I scoured used bookstores for out-of-print earlyworks on teaching as, in turn, a subversive and conserving activity. And, as he grew to recognize the place of digital media in his theoretical standpoint, I relished the more recent emergence of Technopoly, and his triumphant return to redefining education, in his final works.

His term for our mutual field, Media Ecology, gave a focus and a metaphor for what we wanted to say; his legitimacy of the field through his professorship at NYU churned out hundreds of us, and sparked thousands more to rethink our society, unwilling to accept what is.

"The medium," he said, "is the metaphor" -- meaning that the way our technologies inherently streamline sense and prioritize meaning inevitably become templates for the way we see ourselves, our world, and our place in it. Building on the works of Innis and McLuhan before him, he clarified our discontent and gave us purpose; he made the modern study of media what it is, and what it could be.

Untypically, the New York Times obit says everything he would have wanted to say about the modern world of media, in that it misrepresents him terribly, saying
Dr. Postman's core message was that an immersion in a media environment shaped children's lives to their detriment, and society's.

In fact, however, Postman had no beef against media as a general category. It was the particular media environment which arose post-literacy, beginning with the telegraphic mindset of Hemmingway and the train schedule's relentless commodification of time in the last century, and as epitomized by the rise of television, which he saw as detrimental, on a societal level, and at that, only to public discourse -- that important stuff we talk about that makes us human, connected, aware and alive. To him, the downfall of our culture came with the gradual loss of our association with twice-abstracted symbol system that is the written word in all it's longform glory; the iconographic, fast-paces mediaspace that TV and later the web created was, he showed us in detail, antithetical to the high-order thinking which only extensive, objective, and literal thought could enable.

The Times makes him look like the king of all luddites. Rather, he was a metaintellectual, making his life's work to identify the gap between the ways of the tube and the way we, as a society, were able to bring our world to life, to sense, in the first place.

Neil would hate blogs -- he'd see their screen-fed shortform as prototypical of the modern delineralized media mindset which he made it his life's work to rail against -- so, while it's tempting to spend real time denying the blogform and making a real stab at a serious essay here, let's leave it at this:

Sorry, Neil, if most of us still struggle to understand. If it helps, there's a small handful of us who owe you our vocations, our critical minds, and our souls. We will remember you when we teach our children to turn on their minds -- and to turn off the TV.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:29 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Ladybug, Ladybug away home.

First there were no ladybugs, then the weather turned glorious and warm. Now there's a dozen of them by the air conditioner, and perhaps twice as many more by the unsealable half-circle window in the dining room; singlets zoom through the air like drunken wasps, and still they come.

We've battened down the hatches as much as we can but it doesn't matter -- the cat's once-propped door may be closed at the bottom of the stairs, but they can find crevices where we thought there were none. Darcie says they're looking for snug harbors to curl up in for the winter. Did it have to be here? I guess there's such a thing as too much luck.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:55 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, October 07, 2003


Am finally reading Roald Dahl's R.A.F. memoir-slash-short fiction collection Over To You, which I bought in Vancouver to read in Alaska but never got to until this weekend. Like his childhood memoir Boy, it's a bit fragmented, a bumpy ride, inconsistent. But its got a gemlike quality when it works, a sense of tone and ear like Hemmingway, and a hint of Catch 22's sly humor, and when Dahl turns a phrase, he really nails it:
It was not easy having only one child. The emptiness when he was not there andf the knowing all the time that something might happen: the deep conscious knowing that there was nothing else to live for but this; that if something did happen, then you too would be dead. There would be no use in sweeping the floor or washing the dishes or cleaning the house; there would be no use in gathering wood for the fire or in feeding the hens; there would be no use in living.

Tonight Willow called me in to her bedroom as she sat there in the dark on her mothers lap. I came to her, and knelt down by the rocker, she gave me a benediction: outstretched arms, a hug and kiss, and a unification, a closing of the circle around us, a recitation of our names together -- Daddy, Mamai, baby -- before yawning bye bye. Knowing not to question a miracle, I left on cue. It was, after all, worth waiting for.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:48 PM | 0 comments

More CNN fun

Bestseller List Dominated By Liberals is news, yet the media has a liberal bias. Yeah, right. Does no one else see the contradiction here?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:20 PM | 0 comments

Teacher Defenstrates Students For Excessive Noise

The kids were nine and ten, and sustained pretty serious injuries. The teacher warned them, but "They did not listen. They should have listened," some high-level school administrator told Reuters by telephone.

Though CNN considers this "World News" and names the nationality of the teacher in the headline itself, I have decided it is not really relevant to the story to point out that it took place in Morocco, and rewritten the headline accordingly.

Link courtesy of my father. Nice one, Dad.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:47 PM | 0 comments

Spinning Into The Wind: Tributary 10/06/03

Though the students don't begin to return until midafternoon tomorrow, it didn't feel like a Monday without Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on 91.5 WNMH serving Northfield, Gill, Keene, and Brattleboro. So I went. Other than one random guy who called and asked for some Warren Zevon, the lines were silent, but I had my groove on: I knew you were out there, and thanks for the vibes. Let's let the tunes speak for themselves tonight, eh?

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Warren Zevon -- Don't Let Us Be Sick
*Warren Zevon -- Casey Jones
Disco Biscuits -- M.E.M.P.H.I.S
Phish -- Poor Heart
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Sam Phillips -- I Need Love
Keller Williams -- Best Feeling
*Leslie King -- Money
Girlyman -- Even If
Kasey Chambers -- On A Bad Day
The Waifs -- London Still
John Gorka -- Like My Watch
Patty Griffin -- Time Will Do The Talking
*Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem -- Big Black Bird
Chris Smither -- The Devil's Real
Soggy Bottom Boys -- I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow
Dar Williams -- Are You Out There
*Dixie Chicks -- Top Of The World
Peter Gabriel -- Love To Be Loved
*Angelique Kidjo -- Voodoo Child
Suzanne Vega -- Blood Makes Noise
*Be Good Tanyas -- Rain And Snow
*Brooks Williams -- May You Never

* As always, the first reader to correctly identify the original artists of all starred entries wins a small but real gift certificate to the paypal or account of their choice. Seriously.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:33 AM | 0 comments

Monday, October 06, 2003

Monday Mosh

What song did you mosh to?
Taj Mahal's version of The Banana Boat Song -- a repeat from a few weeks back, I believe. Willow sang Day-O and wiggled her hips, face all lit up like a kerosene fire; it was all I could do to keep up.

What did you bump into or step on? (bonus for breakage)
Nuthin'. Gotta set a good example for the wee one, don't I?

Why did you stop?
Back to cleaning out the unfinished cavern at the end of the house we call the "attic." I'm spending the days off trying to arrange the storage into active and long-term shelving, while clearing the front of the room to make Darcie a workspace for crafts projects, with finger-crossed hope that she'll go back to maskmaking, because there's really nothing like coming home in the afternoon to an hour or two of meditative paper-bag-shredding and elmer's glue.

I was going to put a poem here, one I wrote about a summer six years ago, when, childless but rich in resident friends, Darcie and I spent the summer making them. But the E: drive isn't working on this laptop. Just one more thing that doesn't spin in our house (we burned the motor out on the new washer yesterday, too).

posted by boyhowdy | 5:05 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Remaindered Ideas

Finally came to terms with the fact that I'm a lazy bastard, far too unmotivated to make use of these get-rich-quick ideas that've been keeping me up nights, so I'm letting 'em go cheap. Each is a kind of pop culture killer app, a gem and a genius, if I do say so myself; if you manage to make anything of one or more of them, all I ask is the credit. And, oh, lets say 5% of the gross. And yes, I know some of them actually exist, but I swear I thought of them first.

Idea #1: My Other Shirt Is A ______. We're all familiar with these self-referent bumper stickers. Making it a shirt-related conceit calls to this lightly humorous pop-culture-istic laugh-at-the-consumerism phenom, but adds a new layer in that the very idea of having only two shirts (implied by "other") is itself farcical. Like with the bumper stickers, possible "fill in the blanks" might include socioeconomic affiliation (my other shirt says Subway), the masquerade of status (my other shirt is a pinstripe oxford), even sentiments of socio-religious freedom (my other shirt has a cowl). Also, my other shirt is also dirty.

Idea #2: Ancient Egyptian Wheel Of Fortune (or Wheel of Bast). I envision this as a single cartoon panel: humor is found through Vanna White's typically King-Tut, right-angled manner of gesturing to the turned-over symbols, as well as the graphic dynamics of the ecologically-grounded iconographic symbols themselves. But the coup de grace is a caption clearly indicated to represent a peasant-type contestant's voice, via punchline, of course: what else but Pat, I'd like to buy an owl.

Idea #3: "Digital Browsing" Refrigerators. The original theory here was to simply produce a fridge with a clear door, thus allowing for adolescent and midnight-snack browsing without the traditional loss of energy and freon. It took me a while to realize that, unless you dropped the usual door-rack and butter-and-egg cases from the model to compensate, condiments would block the view. However a digital solution, in which one can have several cameras, and view one's still-cool food via a split screen showing images from each section of the fridge, has much better potential.

Idea #4: Transformation and Rejuvenation of the Pure Form of Hip Hop. Two words: Iambic pentameter. Man, I'm such a genius.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:19 PM | 0 comments

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

From the vague creamy center of a long weekend, some recent subjective choice consumerism from a variety of media. What can I say; I teach this stuff.

1. It Was A Dark And Silly Night, the third installment of the Little Lit highbow comic collections, just came out; like its predecessors Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies and Strange Stories For Strange Kids, it is gorgeous, well-written, broad, deep, and singularly unique. Edited by Art Spiegelman (yes, he's the guy who did Maus) and his wife Francoise Mouly (a comic artist in her own right), these nominally-for-kids coffee table art books feature short pieces by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Jules Feiffer, Daniel Clowes, Maurice Sendak, and David Sedaris, and read so beautifully, it will be years before I can bring mysef to let Willow play with "Daddy's books," even if they have such funny and wonderful pictures and stories in them.

2. The gods smile on me and they always have. Having signed up to teach the Mass Media Messages course this winter term on the subject of Reality TV, I find Bravo airing a five-part series on The Reality of Reality TV. Recording three repeat episodes back-to-back this afternoon; from what I've seen in the background, the universe has once again found me the perfect secondary texts for the class. Now all I need is some recordings of Survivor, Trading Spaces, and Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, and I can rest on my fat butt until the course begins, secure in my preparedness.

3. Thank God Monk was a repeat this week, or we wouldn't have discovered The Handler, a new show (CBS, Fridays at 10 pm) which is everything reviewers said it was and more. See, this guy works for the FBI planting undercover sting agents in difficult situations; the show attends equally to both the stories of each sting and to Joe Pantoliano's title character, the node holding it all together. The show promises vastly different storylines, ample guest star characters, and a smooth ride for all.

4. I have a tiny silver pencil after a post-brunch meander through Northampton with Darcie and Willow this morning. Also, a roughpaper cartoon lamp that looks like a television, and a red pen with a tiny working etch-a-sketch on it. All are for my new desk at work. Got Darcie a tape measure and a kiss token (no, not a KISS token, ew); got Willow a bathtub puffer fish that squirts when squeezed. Had juice with unexpected Ginny before leaving for home again.

5. I want The House Carpenter's Daughter , the new Natalie Merchant album badly. She produces with banjo, sings very oldschool American folk tunes, from what I heard on The River yesterday, to say she has mellowed it down is quite the understatement. Saw her two summers ago at Clearwater the year I went by myself by mutual agreement, Darcie being 8 and a half months pregnant at the time, and she was already leaning into this style; I'm glad to see it, as it suits her warbly voice so well. The new release is number 48 on; they say that customers who bought this CD also bought -- and tell me this isn't cross-genre appeal in a nutshell -- the following list of new music:

Soul Journey ~ Gillian Welch
North [LIMITED EDITION] ~ Elvis Costello
Identity Crisis ~ Shelby Lynne
Some Devil ~ Dave Matthews
Sacred Love ~ Sting
Life for Rent ~ Dido
Chinatown ~ The Be Good Tanyas
Dark Chords on a Big Guitar ~ Joan Baez

[Why no link to amazon? Call it a stab at the consumer in me and in all of us. When I remember, I always buy local, and recommend either the same or, of course, buying direct from the artist's home page. makes consumerism so easy, you can get there on your own if you really feel a need to save a buck in return for pepetuating the mad accelleration of information ownership. Silly rabbit -- don't you know information wants to be free?]

posted by boyhowdy | 3:39 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, October 04, 2003

You're Soaking In It

Rain. The dog comes back from walks wet, leaving pawprints as we ascend the stairs towards home. Water drums against our steep-angled attic ceilings and walls; the wind it brings bends the trees sideways and back again. My long thick hair gathers moisture and weighs upon my neck, giving me a headache.

Family Days came early this term, a full week before midterms. Hundreds of adults descended on the campus to attend classes, watch their kids play sports in the drizzle, and meet with Deans, teachers, and advisees. As always, seeing the parents with their offspring was the best spectator sport on campus, with each family set a spotlight of understanding, a lifting of the veil, bringing context to nuances and habits, behaviors and trends, illuminating each student: suddenly these kids make sense.

By this morning, the parents had all come and left with their children. Now they're gone for days and days; I had a pre-college-recommendation breakfast interview with a day student advisee this morning, but that's hardly work and took place of campus; in reality, work ended yesterday at 4:00 with the end of my last advisee parent meetings (yes, managing a sport is a good idea for colleges; sure, we can figure out how to prepare better for tests in Religion in the second half of the term; try this apple, it was grown on our own school farm and harvested by your very own kid); now we're off until Wednesday.

But Family Days hit home, too -- time for us is time for the ones we love after a long drought of work and busy-ness. Dinner last night in Greenfield and a nice autumn walkabout in town with Darcie, our first real date in far too long, while Virginia babysat; a casual stopover this morning at Darcie's parent's house, where Connecticut-ites Alicia (Darcie's other sister) and her fiancee Matt were visiting for the day and Virginia stopped by to say hello on her way to Mocha Joes for a closing shift; more Matt and Alicia tonight on their way home again. And time for the three of us -- brunch tomorrow morning, maybe a movie early next week, and a plethora of hours just being together, home and playful. Time I shouldn't be spending blogging, so enjoy the rain while it lasts, folks.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:40 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Why Is This Website Interesting?*

No, seriously.

*pic removed because, while it was interesting enough to post initially, it wasn't interesting enough to fuss with.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:27 PM | 0 comments

Things (After Reading McSweeney's)

1. It's Cold

Now everybody wears sweaters, except I only put one on when I get home. When I go to work I wear a t-shirt under my white Oxford and tie instead. The dog ran into the woods with her sweater on and came out without her sweater, and we can't find it. Also, there are a whole lot of bugs flying around the bare lightbulb in the middle of the attic. I think they came in to get warm; the window doesn't really close too well.

2. In The Dark, I Step On Toys

Sometimes, when you kick one of the blocks that's supposed to go in the round hole, it goes in a spiral. Other times it just rolls under the couch: it all depends on what kind of english you give it when you kick it. You have to kick the triangular blocks really hard to make them go anywhere. Because the baby opossum puppet has that little patch of velcro on its belly which lets you stick it to the mother opossum's back, it doesn't go anywhere when you kick it.

3. I Had a Conversation All Through Dinner With One Of The Science Teachers About Her Son, Evan, Who Is A Sophomore This Year And A Bit Of A Handful Right Now

It was pretty boring, actually.

4. Darcie And I Have A Date Tomorrow Night

Virginia is coming to babysit. She didn't get the job at Haymarket after all because the guy kept calling her when she wasn't home, and then she'd call him back when he wasn't there. Sometimes he didn't even leave a message. Today they gave someone else the job, which probably means he finally called and got to talk to her, but it was too late. Luckily, Virginia has a plan to start her own coffeeshop and put Haymarket out of business, even though there are already five coffeeshops and two cafes in downtown Northampton, including the cybercafe and the Starbucks where all the bikers hang out.

5. Librarians Love The New Archie McFee Librarian Action Figure

It has a kung-fu grip so it can hold tiny rubber books. Also, it looks kind of like a nun. The librarians are going to put it on their new Library Lounge webpage -- the one that they were calling the Living Room until several of us suggested that students think of living rooms as boring, stale places with plastic on the seat cushions, ones where you have to get all dressed up and entertain your mother's friends and their snotty children. When I used to work at the Museum of Science in Boston, we used to get stuff from that catalog all the time, like huge barrels of tiny plastic trinkets you could give away to kids or just play with at your desk.

6. I'm Really Tired

Otherwise, this would be a longer list. It isn't, though. This is about it.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:09 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, October 01, 2003


Long day and a half and not much to show for it that's not been said before. That, and exhaustion began to set in about an hour into dorm duty this evening; despite pepsi after pepsi, by the time study hall ended at 10:00 my brain had begin to melt. A few boring quickbits from my manic humdrumness over the past 48:

...they're finally drilling a hole in the marble wall base behind the Information Commons desk; the network and power drops should be in by my weekly stop-by on Friday. Amidst the grinding drillnoise held a meeting with teachers of new and required 9th grade History course, sold them on using me and my presentation on how media stereotypes and iconography reform and refocus in times of national crisis in their unit on Terrorism. Technology and media curriculum I designed and worked into the curriculum now a major component of five required 9th grade courses plus multidisciplinary electronic portfolio; I win.

...the food's been good. Cold homemade meatballs in front of the tube late last night, sausage-and-swiss omelette breakfast out at the new place in town this morning while errand-running, Chinese for supper -- a suprise from the family -- and then Darcie made homemade applesauce, and why is homemade applesauce always red? moment tonight listening to two kids explain acceptability of their mutual (and already tense) attraction to and subsequent smooching of same girl: Oh, it's okay, she has a serious boyfriend at home. I miss so many things about adolescence, but the way the half-formed brain does the relationship thing isn't one of them.

...Things with Willow getting a little bit better. Things with laundry [see below] getting a little bit stupid. Empty apartment below us promised to some random guy we just hired to adjunct some winter term sport who needs a place to crash a couple nights a week -- a disappointment, as we had hoped to take over the downstairs two-roomer ourselves if no one needed it this year.

...Molly flipping out completely, almost as if about to go manic, about college and the weight of the world it seems to come with (but actually doesn't, even if it feels like that). Oh, and musn't forget to start meeting kids to talk about writing their college rec letters. Hint for teachers: If you take 'em out for breakfast on Saturdays and take notes, all you have to do is type it all up afterwards and your letters come out great!

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I've Got To Be Clean

Next to two steep-and-narrow stairflights, the worst thing about our new apartment has been the total lack of laundry services. There's no hook-up here, in what was surely an attic of some sort when first designed; we had the kind folks at Plant and Property come take a look at it in our first few weeks, but they would have had to tear up the walls to get us a hook-up,

Originally, this wasn't going to be a problem at all. The school laundry is close by; for the past few years we've been sending them a full carload of clothes every three months or when we had literally nothing left to wear, whichever came first. I did my own dress shirts in the dorm faculty-only washer and dryer, as the school had an odd tendency to iron down the collars all the way to the first button, making tie-wearing awkward, but we sent out the rest of it, from socks to sweaters, at 35 cents a pound, and considered ourselves lucky.

Then, two weeks after the move, they raised the price to 85 cents a pound, and suddenly we couldn't afford clean clothes.

Pam on the first floor offered us use of her washer-dryer in the basement, and for a while it seemed awkward but slightly acceptable. Twice since we moved in July I've gone down the stairs, out the door, around the building, down into the basement, and into the dust-bunny infested storage room where Pam apparently hasn't done laundry in over a year.

But this solution was nowhere near ideal, what with the dust and the tight squeeze into the basement, and the clothes were piling up again, so when Darcie saw an ad on our school network for a small used sink-and-tub washer and dryer set, we decided to spring for it.

Tonight we finally got it all hooked up -- washer snug between tub and second bathroom sink, where it can live permanently; dryer in the attic space behind the next-door-over -- and tried it out. After a few false starts where we thought the thing was broken, we realized it was just overfull.

With four towels.

And nothing else.

The new washer takes two pairs of jeans but won't spin three; three pairs of khaki slacks but not the button-down shirt; five tee shirts and socks but not the boxer shorts that were worn with 'em. It's not just that it's tiny; the thing really only swirls the water around using jets of water, not that plastic rotating-thingie you get in full-size washers, so if it's too heavy to swish around with the jets, the clothing just sits there.

Too, the guy we bought it from wasn't kidding when he recommended an extra rinse cycle "if you like your clothes really clean." The thing fills, then runs the same soapy water through a couple of times for the wash cycle; drains and fills for a rinse, but only does so twice before spinning. On the last drain under regular circumstances, suds still form in the tub as the water comes through the yellow hose out the washer's back; the clothes color -- blue for blue, red-brown for colors, grey for whites -- still reflects the water color.

Gonna have to run the entire cycle twice, I figure. Almost an hour, then, to wash one day's worth of clothes.

And it's still gonna be so much better than all those stairs, all that dust, and the outside run in winter through snow carrying the contents of a full floor.

* * *

Oh yeah. Tonight's radio show playlist, solo again, follows.

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Barenaked Ladies -- Alternative Girlfriend
Ani Difranco -- Little Plastic Castle
De La Soul -- The Magic Number
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu
Trout Fishing In America -- Happy That You're Here
Eddie From Ohio -- Let's Get Mesolithic
John Hiatt -- Crossing Muddy Waters
Willie Nelson -- The Most Unoriginal Sin
Erin McKeown -- Slung-lo
Lizzie West -- Sometime
Dixie Chicks -- Ready To Run
Phish -- My Sweet One
Bela Fleck -- Sunset Road
Timbuk 3 -- The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades
Girlyman -- Fall Stories
Paul Simon -- Born At The Right Time
Stevie Ray Vaughn -- Chitlins Con Carne
String Cheese Incident -- Joyful Sound
Patty Larkin -- Different World
Johnny Cash -- Hurt
Norah Jones -- Nightingale
Keller Williams -- Best Feeling
Not Earthshaking -- One False Move

posted by boyhowdy | 12:55 AM | 0 comments

Monday, September 29, 2003

Monday Mosh
It's a meme, folks. That means YOU do it too, and then let us all know about it in the comments, okay?

What song did you mosh to?
Taj Mahal's version of The Banana Boat Song, off one of my daughter's CDs. She just learned to sing "Day-o" over the weekend, and it's been stuck in my head for days.

What did you step on or bump into (bonus points for breakage)?
Stepped on some dirty socks, since I have a typically-male tendency to peel 'em off at the computer and leave 'em rolled up underneath. Luckily, Darcie's going to clean up a bit this morning so I can have advising meetings at the house for once this afternoon -- they boys don't know it yet, but we're gonna get a whole mess of take-out Chinese food.

Why did you stop?
Take your pick: it was time for work; I needed coffee more; moshing quietly while your family is still asleep in the next room doesn't have the same zip to it.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:12 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, September 28, 2003

A Life In Lost Records

AC/DC, Back In Black. Purchased new-or-practically-so all the way back in the early eighties for "You Shook Me All Night Long" but beloved for "Hells Bells" and title track "Back in Black," this was the fourth album I ever bought (after Thriller, Survivor's Eye Of The Tiger, and a used soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever) and the only one I'd still listen to from my late elementary school years if I still had it. I was too young to understand most of the subject matter or the angst it supposedly spoke to in a slightly older generation, and the early hard rock movement hadn't yet hit the suburbs, but I remember the beat was incredible, the volume exquisite. This one's been lost to the ages; I must have left it behind in one of my early moves, if it lasted that long.

Dream Warriors, And Now, The Legacy Begins. Picked this one up on cassette from my younger brother in my senior year in high school, back when our musical tastes converged just for a moment. Not sure where it went to, but haven't seen it years, which is a cryin' shame; lost a vinyl copy of De La Soul hiphop classic 3 Feet High...And Rising somewhere along the way, too, but managed to pick up a fine rerelease at a mall discount rack a few years ago. Dream Warriors are harder to find, though "Wash Your Face In My Sink" remains one of the funkiest/silliest tracks in early hip-hop, A Tribe Called Quest's "Bonita Applebum" and just about all of 3 Feet... notwithstanding.

Robert Palmer, Don't Explain. This eclectic all-coversong extra-long CD features songs running the gamut from Marvin Gaye to Mel Torme to Little Feat, all in a variety of styles from smooth jazz to latin to typically Palmeresque pop. I'm pretty sure we sold this disk for much-needed cash in the early nineties, back when we were living in squalor in the Allston-Brighton twentysomething slums near Boston University and Boston College; parting with it surely wasn't worth the half an order of pork chops and fries it probably got us from the Greek greasy-spoon on the corner.

U2, Achtung Baby. The first CD I experienced in a cardboard fold-out case instead of a plastic jewel case, I actually got this one in trade from Darcie in the early stages of our Bard College courtship; in return, I presented her with my double-warm, double-thick Calvin Klein terrycloth bathrobe, ownership of which somehow has reverted to me in the intervening years. Quite possibly my favorite U2 album and the only one I ever owned on CD, though I still own a few older and rarely-played disks of theirs (Unforgettable Fire, Joshua Tree) on vinyl. I think we sold this for cash around the same time as Don't Explain. It probably brought in more money.

Hole, Live Through This; Sublime, Sublime; Matchbox 20, Matchbox 20. This trio of harder stuff was stolen from the NMH Media Center near the end of my first year here, back when I was running the entire department myself out of one space while a paraprofessional and a part-timer ran the other, larger space on the other campus. It's too bad, too -- Matchbox 20's subsequent album was better, but there are certainly days when I could really use a dose of Hole's raucous "Doll Parts" or Sublime's funky almost-reggae "Santeria."

Dave Matthews Band, Remember Two Things. Purchased used back when DMB was neither frat rallying call nor post-Dead summer-band-to-follow -- the trouble with selling CDs is that you get so much better value trading 'em in for more, and there you are surrounded by music while making the decision -- Dave's first album, recorded mostly-live, had one of those 3D images on the front where you have to cross your eyes just right to see the image. Not sure where this one went.

Feel free to buy me any or all of these. Also, if anyone has ever heard of a Bugs Bunny record from the mid-seventies about Bugs taking a rocket to the moon, let me know. I fell asleep to that record every night when I was but a wee tyke.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:38 PM | 0 comments

Friday, September 26, 2003

Road Trip!

Dude, I just found out the USA is hosting this year's World Beard and Moustache Championships!
...notable contestants include Ted Sedman, President of London’s Handlebar Club, who was once mentioned in the Guinness Book as having Britain’s longest moustache, and Bruce Roe, the first and only American ever to win a trophy at the World Beard and Moustache Championships...Organizers hope for a large turnout of bearded and moustached Americans to compete against the dominant German team.

Wanna go? We could stop in Reno on the way, too.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:04 PM | 0 comments

Getting Better All The Time

Hmm. Does the dark collar call too much attention to my missing head?

Yes, folks, the rumor's true: in the last 48 a few development have brough a more general cheer. The solipsistic universe is on the upswing; the "interesting times" of the ancient chinese curse wanes. Even the loss of Plympton and Palmer in one day couldn't shake my mobility today. Life, in a nutshell:

Figuring it was better to be tired and working at it than bumming around the couch, snuck out to surprisingly isolated Mt. Holyoke College for a cheap Girlyman student-center crowd on a Thursday at a student-center concert last night. Left late and got lost on the way; stopped to ask directions at a 24/7 gas plaza that turned out to be less than two miles away from college, but they didn't know where it was.

Arrived finally at a dark and almost deserted campus; parked, found student center with about 60 women in it all staring at me. Forgot that Mt. H is a girl's college; I was literally the only male in the whole place. Man, talk about a clean men's room.

The show was awesome and not-so-badly attended given the scenario: Thursday evening, small college, nearing quarterfinals, girls at UMass events. Much of their single album and many covers, which you know I love: an old Jefferson Airplane tune, Paul Simon, Billy Bragg, a "Free Falling" singalong with mine the only basso, solo in the third row, comfortable in my age and sexuality.

Today even better. Darcie made bacon and eggs, potatoes and coffee, and Willow helped, and sent me on my way with smiles. Noodling and class prep all morning in the otherwise-silent library with but one substitute coworker and her two small and happy children and no one else, all librarians being on a retreat for the day. Darcie and Willow joined me at noon for a few hours of shared work in a light sprinkle of kids: no one goes to the library on Friday afternoon at a boarding school, not when there's on-campus games against rival Deerfield.

Taught comic books as medium this afternoon in Media Literacy class by passing out previously purchased comix and asking kids to read them and then define the medium, genre, and technology. Using American Splendor collection and Speigelman's Maus, discussed difference between graphic novel and comic book (serialization and hard/softcover, mostly) and major point of similarity (technique of cartoon-esque narrative graphics-with-text, text presented in same four modes of thought balloon, voice balloon, narrative box and sound effect).

Ginny at the house with tiny black kitten when I arrived; after an hour of watching the baby chase the cat stalking the dog, the four of us went out to Bella Notte, the probably-mafioso spot on the hill overlooking just about everything around here. The fried mozzerella was excellent as always, and the veal francese divine. Even polished off the side ziti -- the marinara sauce there just the sweetest, best tasting thing in just the right context. More expensive than we could afford, any of us, but worth it at twice the price for the cheerfulness factor alone. And it was so good to see Ginny, even if she had to rush off afterwards with the cat.

Now home, post-bath and baby-nursing, with babbling in the near distant dark, thinking, blogging, basking in even a small return to sanity. In the corners of the eyes and brain I'm hearing about more affection-starved, blocked-out dads, including some guys I know respect. Back hurts less in that funny way it has of feeling better after you didn't realize it was hurting at all.

Not bad at all, really.

[UPDATE 10:42 p.m. Brother-in-law, his long-time girlfriend, and their friend Rachel stopped by this evening for an hour or so. Josh and Clay are always wonderful company, and Rachel and I have that jovial same-spirit, deep-and-light thought, friends-instantly spark between us, but the baby really stole the show. Willow was amazing, bright and interesting and hilarious, just generally adorable: spinning around until she had to carefully lie down and flail, feeding me straight lines, crowing at the butt-half of the blocks that make animal noises when you put them against each other with the right picture showing. I love her so much. Heck, I'm practially happy. ]

posted by boyhowdy | 7:50 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Living The No-Win Existence

Still pretty depressed. Not much solution or even movement on the things that were going wrong in the last few days. I'll try to keep the kvetching short so the malady stays contained:

In the professional arena, though from the outside and in terms of what I hate to but am supposed to call "service" the new Information Commons program and its companion service MICA (Multimedia Info Commons Assistance) seem to be a great success, the rut is deep and I cannot rise above it. With no budget for this new program, I can't even get IT to spand a moment talking to me, let alone put the spaces I work in on the LAN; had to actually leave my post for an hour on Tuesday to help a student with work on her laptop. Supervisors seem to feel I am demanding and inappropriate when I ask them for assistance or try to run a precedence-setting moment by them on-the-spot in order to cover my back, when I know if I hadn't checked in, they'd call me on it later.

Also, I still have no office due to tension between myself and my now-mostly-invisible supervisors about why I need one. Seems to me the need for storage and a place to make and recieve phone calls which cannot be overheard is intuitively obvious, now that I've missed several important messages and their corresponding moments of possibility. Am I doomed to wander the earth, hold meeting not-for-public-overhearing in public spaces surrepititiously, work out of my car? It's not a status thing, I swear. I have six desks and no walls or drawers; after six years and finally an adminisrative position and mandate you'd think someone would recognize the need to give me a space in which I can do administrative work without having to stand cautiously, awkwardly between visitors and my computer screen.

I take to counting the office spaces of others covetously. The instructional librarians work at the reference desk, have a classroom for each pair of them to use, and have huge and walled offices. A woman who only works in my department half time shares my job title, has three computer labs with new computers, two large offices and a classroom for her language teaching, and every time I stop by a staff technician is tweaking her space. I asked him once if he might be stopping by to help me get network connectivity for the IC and MICA spaces; not only did he not directly answer the question, he also didn't realize that we had a program at all. The head of the IT technical services staff stopped by the library yesterday, told me I was third of four things on his list for that space and that day, helped with three library issues, and then diappeared and never returned.

I don't blame any of them. That doesn't make it hurt less.

On the personal front the baby chases the cat around the house trying to kiss it, looks for the dog to snuggle with first thing in the morning, calls for mame every three seconds when we try to play together, won't sit for stories or playtime, walks away without acknowledgement. I get to deal with poop in the tub and get neither physical affection or attention. She'd rather cry alone than with me. The global glut-source we call 'net says this is typical, but casual water-testing shows that, at least within the forest-walls of this multigenerational boarding school, I am alone in my experience, so Darcie's suggestion that I form a fatherhood support group becomes moot when no one else has issues to share. It makes it worse to find affection from other people's children in dining halls and in-house staff meetings. I love my daughter; it isn't fair to either of us for me to covet her in-community peers instead.

Tired, too, after hours upon hours of working too hard and sleeping too little, too many 8-4 days and late nights of duty and house staff meetings and radio shows, with time for blogging now only in the morning when I'm covering a media center which, dead silent when all students and teachers are in class, needs no coverage. Meanwhile, we close during lunch and turn people away.

I don't blame her, or Darcie. It doesn't make it hurt less.

Last night I walked the dog, half asleep in untucked shirt, and passed the house in the darkness before I realized I was going home. The skies were clear; the moon had set, and the Pleides; though the baby kicks me in the night between us in our too-small bed and I am dreamless, I sleep alone.

I'm starting to blame myself.

Maybe it's time for therapy after all.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:50 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Blog

It started pouring, sheets upon sheets and hail-hard, the moment I pulled up to the Northfield Library this morning. I was late -- the kid had woken with my alarm, which slowed things down a bit -- and now I was damp as well.

I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.

The milk in my morning coffee was sour. I HATE sour milk.

We couldn't print to the printer in the media center because it wasn't configured properly by IT, but we had been locked out of the settings, and I HATE being locked out of the settings on my own equipment.

My hair is all wet and heavy, and it makes my neck hurt and my brain fog up.

The newpapers came late, I accidentally sat on a half-eaten apple when I went to lunch, and I can't get anyone to take my requests to PLEASE hook up my desks for network and power seriously. And it's only one o'clock; I've still got Info Commons duty all afternoon, a meeting at 4, and a dorm staff meeting tonight. It's going to be another fourteen hour day, with another to follow tomorrow, and I only got five hours of sleep last night.

And outside it rains and rains.

The squeak of my hardrubber shoes like a homophonic flock of ducks echo in the freshly waxed, typically scholastic linoleum when I walk through the empty hallways during class blocks. It's about the only thing that's gone right today. Maybe no one will come to the Info Commons desk, and in a couple of minutes I can go outside and get my shoes wet again.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:11 PM | 0 comments

A River Runs Through It

For a long time, perhaps as much as five years now, I've been the late-night Monday night on the most powerful high school radio station in the country. I'm not the only teacher who's ever had a show on this primarily student-run station, but mostly the other nights the preprogrammed auto-feed fills the air after ten o'clock and the end of study hall; although the students can't do the ten-to-midnight run -- they're due in dorms no later than 10:30, and to bed by twelve themselves -- most adults are too tired, too diurnal by nature to stay up so late when they've got an 8:00 class the next morning, papers to grade, spouses and children with which to renew aquaintance.

I, on the other hand, have a child that sleeps by eight, and a wife who goes in at ten. I love the excuse to mix the music, letting jams bump up against jazz, blugrass mingle amongst the blues, folk flow into funk so smoothly, like aural butter -- a mix not unlike that of my own favorite local commerical radio station The River. That, and I love to talk to the ether, the imagined ear, the night.

Darcie's much-younger sister used to join me for my weekly shout-out -- used to, but then this summer she finally moved out of her parent's house; now, though she does come up this far or almost so a few times a week for school herself, she can't afford the gas mileage from Northampton. Virginia was a mostly silent partner, content to do homework and just sit and chat while the music played, but I miss her. Without her, there's moments of boredom sprinkled in the mix.

But the boredom is sparse yet. I remain excited by my vast CD collection, and the chance to serve it up to myself with others eavesdropping. I revel in the on-campus-event PSA. I continue to trust that the community is not so childhood-lost to be well-served by the odd bedtime story on the hour and the half-hour -- tonight, selections from the Maurice Sendak Nutshell Library, straight from my daughter's top book shelf.

As always, tonight's Tributary, like all a little eclectic, a little electric, a bit funky and full of a subjective finest, follows; as always, the first to correctly identify the original artists of all starred cover songs merits a $5 gift certificate.

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Little Feat -- Dixie Chicken
Bonnie Raitt -- Under The Falling Sky
*Stevie Ray Vaughn -- Wham
Ben Harper -- Mama's Got A Girlfriend Now
Dan Hicks -- Meet Me On The Corner
*Los Lobos -- That Train Don't Stop Here Anymore
Robert Randolph -- Ted's Jam
Acoustic Syndicate -- Pumpkin and Daisy
The Gourds -- El Paso
Slaid Cleaves -- Key Chain
*Reeltime Travelers -- Swing Low
*Alison Krauss -- Don't Know Why
*Merl Saunders -- Sugaree
**Medeski, Martin and Wood -- Bemsha Swing/Lively Up Yourself
(two covers in one!)
James Taylor -- Jelly Man Kelly
Girlyman -- The Shape I Found You In
David Gray -- The Other Side
Susan Werner -- Courting The Muse
*Be Good Tanyas -- Waiting Around To Die
*Laura Love -- Come As You Are
Moxy Fruvous -- Horseshoes
*Gillian Welch -- Make Me Down A Pallet On Your Floor

posted by boyhowdy | 1:24 AM | 0 comments

Monday, September 22, 2003

"Nearly" Developments In Education

The noose of political correctness that clutches at the neck of global education got a little tighter today when Brit examiners were told they may no longer mark answers incorrect or give fail grades.

See, the guidelines for marking key national-level exams sent out by the Government Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to this year's exam-markers included the instruction that exam answers should be marked as either 'creditworthy' or 'not creditworthy', rather than correct or incorrect. Similarly, the GQCA -- which sounds more like a California-only issue of Gentlemen's Quarterly, doesn't it? -- recommend that the current F grade, for 'fail', should be replaced with an N grade, for 'nearly'.

Happily, the article pre-empts my concern with a quote from my-kind-of-guy Nick Seaton, the chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, [who] described the changes as "political correctness gone stark raving bonkers". Couldn't have said it better myself, Nick-o.

Thanks to Fark for passing the link along , of course.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:24 PM | 0 comments

Monday Mosh

As always, newbies are invited to check out memerules and raison d'meme before playing.

What song did you mosh to?
DJ Harry remix of Wake Up, originally by String Cheese Incident. Full of jammy trance goodness!

What did you step on/bump into? (bonus points for breakage)
Stepped on gas pedal, as today's mosh was in the car on the way to work. Bumped into nothing, thankfully. Disappointment at loss of potential bonus points cancelled out by preservation of insurance points status quo.

Why did you stop?
Arrived at work; turned off car; music, strangely, went away. But it lingers in my head even now...doo...doo do dooo do doooo...

posted by boyhowdy | 12:10 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, September 20, 2003


Has it really been since Thursday? My apologies, please.

In my defense, I've been on duty all weekend, and then there was that graffiti incident here at school which has turned the contained universe that is NMH into a diversity-fest.

In fact, I'm on duty now, and just had a discussion with the Dean of Student Life about said incident.

Of course, the school's official policy is that such incidents don't go public until the institution makes it so, for obvious and mostly-agreed-with reasons...but in order to relay the subjective, the objective needs out, I suppose. So here's the summary:

Thursday morning kids found the phrase "all niggers must die" written on the school bus stop. It was painted over quickly -- many students didn't even hear about it until after announcements about our school response had begun to flood the bulletin board system here. But by later that evening, after a day of Dean-level meetings, an entire response structure was in place. It included:

- a vent-session and support meeting for Black students hosted by the top administrators

- a letter to the community about values from the Associate Head of School

- a Friday afternoon meeting for all and any students who wanted to hear more about the school's response to this event, and who wanted to get more involved in the process of healing, which I required my Media Literacy students to go to instead of class and take notes (what is graffiti as a medium and how does it affect communities? what is a meeting, and how is it like/unlike a class? how can you be a medium for the school in its quest to support students after a racist threat?), and

- a Monday afternoon all-school meeting, for which I just saw the outline today -- a real shame, as they want to do the impossible with technology and I needed to call the Deans to let them know their plan was a bust (in short, they wanted to do a LONG powerpoint-supported thing in daylight, using old and faded pictures which wouldn't project well anyway, in a space which was build for bright light before electricity came to the school, and which thus has no window coverings and would be too bright to show even decent images with a projector during daylight hours). Not sure what's going to happen here, but whatever it is, it's not my problem and I'm determined to make sure it doesn't look like my fault.

There's a part of me that knows this whole response "package" is overkill -- that too strong a reaction to this only serves to put the community into panic mode; that it can cause a deeper rift than might otherwise have appeared; that it rewards the kid who wrote the damned phrase and lets other subversives know that graffiti is a great way to stop the entire institution in its tracks. But more of me knows that, to be true to ourselves and our student life curriculum, we can't not seize the teachable moment; can't not give real support and face-time to students both black and otherwise who might genuinely feel fearful at such a time; can't not spend real time after such an incident strengthening our resolve that "it shouldn't happen here."

Still, I wish we could just do what we do, and get on with it. We're busy enough here as it is without having to try to fold in a whole new layer of it all.

In the midst of the madness we did manage to sneak out as a family for a few hours this morning: saw Ginny at Mocha Joes, bought sale shirts and grey slacks and a yellow tie at the Van Heusen outlet sale, and it was cool to randomly bump into Shaw (of blogcomments fame) at the Farmer's Market in Brattleboro. Tomorrow we're up early to go to the Big E, so stay tuned for all the madness and mayhem the world's only five-state state fair can bring.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:51 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Missing Links

Finally put two and two together in my head late last night in the kind of epiphany that startles you awake at two in the morning: now that my-and-Shaw's alma mater Marlboro College, in its infinite wisdom and universally true budget stress, has taken all my old collegiate work-and-play off-line, many of my links (see sidebar to right) no longer go anywhere. Inaccessible work, for the moment, includes my undergrad thesis, an ancient "about me" homepage (the second "me"), and my life's poetic works.

If I could only get Blogger's ftp access to work, the links would be up and running, but what do you expect for a measly five bucks a month. At least we're still ad-free. Plus, now that Blogger's about to fold most of their previously pay-only extras into the standard free service, they've got a special right now: free blogger hoodies for Pro-payers who never cancelled their account. I can't wear hoodies, what with the long hair lumping up int he hood and all, but it's the thought that counts, so thanks, blogger.

Also missing, though promised: pix of Bangladesh, Vancouver, and Alaska. Dial-up makes it so hard to justify the time spent on such thing; next week I should have some down time on the LAN with the laptop in front of me, though, so I'll get 'em up, I swear.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:34 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Other People's Memes

I. What's On your bedroom wall Right Now?

Slightly pink paint. A finally-framed print of Klimt's The Kiss. Our wedding contract. A couple of squashed-in-flight insects, mostly mosquitoes. To be fair, half of our bedroom "wall" is actually a slanted ceiling, so there's not much room on that side for wallstuff...but even so, there's far more negative space than positive stuff. Guess I'm a minimalist, eh?

II. Wednesday Whatevers

1. If you had your way, when would you sleep until?

2. What's your dream job?
You're looking at it -- I am, after all, at work right now!

3. Where was your favorite hiding spot as a kid?
The bottom shelf of the linen closet. I'm an anti-claustrauphobic (in addition to beeing spellling-chaleleenged), and could have stayed happily curled up in a ball in the dark for hours, back and sides pressed up against towels, wall, and slatted door.

III. Weigh-in Wednesdays

Serving sizes vary so much from label to label. What food has a serving size that really surprises you, or what food really challenges you to stick with it's serving size?

a. Kraft Mac and Cheese. Did you know there's supposedly more than one serving in each one of those boxes? Yeah, me too.

b. Big Gulps. Who could possibly want to consider a 64 oz. soda a "single serving?"

posted by boyhowdy | 1:26 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, September 16, 2003


Awoke, surely, though one tends to remember only being awake suddenly, as if poofed into existence.

Plugged in iron while brushing teeth. Filled and turned on coffee perculator while rejecting shirts, ties. Ironed shirt while coffee perked. Drank coffee while finding keys. Kissed girls while leaving.

Did stuff: called Deb Holman to cancel a room reservation, unsuccessfully researched a Bravo Channel series on The Reality Of Reality TV (since I'm teaching a course on reality TV next term), had coffee, wrote and sent a schoolwide announcement for MICA (Multimedia Information Commons Assistance).

Lunch with Darcie and Willow by surprise.

More stuff, mostly MICA: Two small groups of stduents came for advice on how to turn their research into a good PowerPoint presentation or, rather, a live presentation with PowerPoint. No students looking for instruction on how to put comments in blogs, which means there'll be twenty kids coming to see me on Thursday afternoon.

Came home. Traded day-stories with Darcie.

Left again; shopping for things in huge quantities at BJ's Warehouse. Friendly's for supper -- Willow can say ice cream; does so 100 times.

Home again. The first three pages of several books with Willow the ADHD-in-training mini-me. Sleep, slowly, for Willow, then for Darcie. Dog walk in quiet neighborhood under the stars and the faint milk-stain of the Milky Way, inside the sound of a thousand crickets.

In and around it all: the death of an advisee's grandmother; the phone call requesting help with "the four blinking lights on the front of my computer;" regaining my daughter's trust and kisses.

An ordinary day.

I wish they all came like this.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:48 PM | 0 comments

Trust The Onion

God Grants John Ritter's Wish To Meet Johnny Cash.

'nuff said.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:29 PM | 0 comments



It wasn't the majestic bird itself but the idea of it which followed me all morning. The seed, planted by the peripheral eye on the announcement of its escape on the school electronic bulletin board system. Anecdotes of an awakening (early) and morning chase (unsuccessful) from the Associate Dean of Academics, proud rooster's owner and caretaker, as we settled into our meeting. The evidential crow from the trees behind said Dean's house while my advising group sat under open library windows and filled out time management forms.

A spectrum of belief -- untrustworthy online source; second-hand recitation; sensual evidence -- produced from nary a sight: the rooster never showed himself to me. He may be in those woods still. Reassuring, that.

Not sure if the deadleaf toads in the roads on the way back from tonight's no-caller radio show were a more sinister sign, but the combination of amphib and fowl bodes no good; the basilisk lurks in my future, perhaps.

As always, tonight's playlist follows, with bedtime story breaks in parens; as always, I will give an gift certificate to the first to correctly identify the original performing artists of the starred songs below, all covers. Really. Why doesn't anyone ever believe me?

Tributary Playlist: 9/15/03

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Trey Anastasio -- Cayman Review
Oysterhead -- Oz Is Ever Floating
Ween -- Bananas and Blow
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Blood Red Sky
They Might Be Giants -- The World's Address
* Spacehog -- Senses Working Overtime
* Guster -- I've Got To Be Clean

(Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day)

* Girlyman -- My Sweet Lord
Lisa Loeb -- I Do
Erin McKeown -- Born To Hum
* Johnny Cash -- In My Life
* The Wallflowers -- I'm Looking Through You
Barenaked Ladies -- The Kind Of Bedside Manor

(The Giving Tree)

Salamander Crossing -- You Trip Me Up
Bruce Cockburn -- Mango
Girlyman -- Hey Rose
Indigo Girls -- Galileo
Brooks Williams -- Yellow Hummingbird
Habib Koite -- Batoumambe

(Goodnight Moon)

* Be Good Tanyas -- House of New Orleans
Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss -- I'll Fly Away
Patty Griffin -- Fly
St Germaine -- whatever the last song on their better album is
* Gone Phishin' -- Fast Enough For You
* Suzanne Vega -- Stay Awake

posted by boyhowdy | 12:42 AM | 0 comments

Monday, September 15, 2003

Monday Mosh

Good morning, and welcome to my meme!

What song did you mosh to?
You Never Get What You Want, by Patty Griffin. Just woke up with it in my head, I guess.

What did you step on/bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)
Nothin' but net today. Almost spilled my coffee all over my too-thin white button down, but managed to lean forward and get it on my shoes instead.

Why did you stop?
Had to go to work! Got Media Center coverage from 8-10 this morning, a meeting with the Dean of Curriculum at 11 to discuss what seems to be a comprehensive, integrated 9th grade media and technology curriculum, at full saturation now that we've added two more components -- a single day on stereotype reformation in times of terrorist crisis for the 9th grade History program and a two-per-term electronic portfolio requirement. Also coming up today: some PowerPoint planning with some 9th graders at noon in the library, advising at 1:00, and a Student Life Curriculum in the dormitory from 2-4.

Oh, and radio show tonight, too -- stay tuned for Tributary!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:42 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Best Guess News

Having a dial-up isn't fun, but the wait while pages load does spark the ol' creative juices. In my quest to maximize the power of my 28.8, I've taken to reading CNN for the headlines only, taking as truth nothing but my best guess at the unread story behind each headline. Making it all up is certainly less time consuming, and it seems to be working fine -- or, at any rate, I don't feel any dumber or less informed than I used to.

For posterity's sake, I herein share the fruit of such practice, all gleaned from today's As a caveat, though it should go without saying, what follows is probably not true; the author cannot be held responsible for lucky guesses, accidental half-truths, or psychic powers as-yet-discovered.

Real CNN Headline: Sister of Venus and Serena Williams killed

My Best Guess: Williams, 35, never made the splash her sisters did, though certainly not for lack of trying. "She just didn't have it in her to be a tennis star, what with that club foot" sobbed father "Moon Unit" Williams to reporters yesterday. "It's just a shame we didn't figure it out before we destroyed her mind with experimental steroids trying to psyche her up." Ms. Williams is survived by her sisters, her parents, two Nike campaigns and and several gazillion dollars.

Headline: Swedes reject euro as murder hunt goes on

Best Guess: Coins proclaim innocence, and polls show 90% of Swedes believe euro is innocent, but police remain open to the possibility that euro may be bribing officials, noting suspicion raised by "too many alibis from too many countries."

Headline: Madonna launches children's book

Best Guess: In an interview with the divine Miss Madonna herself, we learn that a) Madonna's still got it, b) Madonna has stopped shaving her pits, making us wonder where we put that old issue of Playboy with the black and white photos of Madonna before she was famous, and c) Madonna says she has found a balance between motherhood and her chameleonlike performance style but is clearly deluding herself. Book is believed to be the first children's book with a centerfold.

Headline Are shuttle flights worth the human risk?

Best Guess: No.

Headline: Nintendo game works as videophone

Best Guess: Nintendo systems selling like hotcakes in Japan. Aunt Sharon looks suspiciously like Princess Toadstool.

Headline: Clinton comes out against recall

Best Guess: "Alzheimers is the best refuge of the ex-president," argues Clinton in a speech before the United Money Launderers 428 in upstate New York yesterday. "Just look at Reagan -- since 1994, not one reporter or historian has asked him to account for the gaps in his presidential record. It's as if Iran-Contra never happened."

Got more? Don't be shy -- you don't need a slow modem speed to play! Get some headlines, make up your own Best Guess News, and post on your own blog or in the comments below -- just a couple of players and we've got a meme!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:06 PM | 0 comments

This Is News?

BenLo in (slightly) happier times

Not that we should actually care, but Hollywood celebrity couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez have split up, at least temporarily, after postponing their wedding over a media frenzy, People magazine reported on Sunday.

What I find interesting here, actually, is's phrasing. Read literally, it's not the split that's being reported; it's the People magazine article. Since when did publication of an article become news? I know this sort of syntax is increasingly common, but that doesn't make it journalism.

Meanwhile, as long as we're talking about J Lo and Affleck, so is Newsweek. This week's Periscope section includes both a blip on J Lo's overexposure, and a neat little sidebar about a new play based on the early careers of Bostonian Ben and his best friend Matt in which both roles are played by women and the Good Will Hunting script literally falls from the sky. Matt & Ben is "the hottest play in New York." Both articles contain hardly-veiled digs at J Lo/Affleck. Can you say "bandwagon?"

posted by boyhowdy | 3:23 PM | 0 comments

Rainy Day Blog

Rain this morning. Last night the scent of cheap incense hung heavy in the impending air, something sweet and slightly musky; today in the too-late mad-dash downstairs to close the car windows the air was water and steel, and if you were a storm this is how you would feel, echoes Girlyman.

Back upstairs again it was my turn to wake with the baby; we played and watched an old Muppet Show episode on tape, starring Vincent Price and featuring several Beatles songs sung by Muppet monsters and ghosts until mamai, mamai and we went to wake Darcie for a family shower and a few minutes on the dining room floor, the baby between us, looking through a photo book Darcie's mother made us one Christmas out of pictures of the dog.

By eleven the windshield wipers were hardly needed on our way to the dining hall for burnt-sausage patty community brunch, and now the rain moves on, leaving its stillness behind for a moment, the earth waking beneath it: the fog lies still and heavy across the land; the crows and chirrups call to each other across the thick air. Darcie and Willow nap in the big bed. I've finally finished the report on my trip to Bangladesh, a move which leaves me unburdened of looming projects for the moment. In celebration and beneath it all crickets sing , rubbing dew off their wings, stirring the air clean from the bottom up. For a single moment, the world sighs.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:39 PM | 0 comments
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