Friday, December 26, 2003

And A Happy New Year

Having a wonderful time storming the castle -- wish you were here!

We're off for a week in the Palm Beach sun! Darcie's found us a lovely townhouse with two porches, and though we're all of us melanin-challenged we do hope to spend some serious and slathered hours with wet squinchy sand between our toes.

Officially, of course, we're there to see Mom's Aunt Lil, and my Father's parents. We'll probably have dinner with each a few times. Also pencilled in: drivethrough animal preserve Lion Country Safari, a few other local zoos and aquariums, and the Playmobil-themed Fun Park for toddlers (pictured above). And plenty of afternoons on the beach, of course. Should be a fairly decent vacation, once we make it past the three-hour layover in North Carolina.

Back January 3rd in time for a Monday Mosh. Enjoy the fireworks!

posted by boyhowdy | 11:16 PM | 0 comments

Based On The Book By Howard Rheingold

Metablog Smart Mobs, nominally a continuation/reflection/reaction of/to Rheingold's Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, is a stellar model of that spare and linguistically sparse manner unique to blogging. Dense with links and fat with well-grounded thoughtful idealism, the site is divided into especially interesting categories [e.g. Technologies of Cooperation; How to Recognize the Future When It Lands On You; The Era Of Sentient Things; Always-On Panopticon...or Cooperation Amplifier]. Some posts (and some categories) are a bit techie, but others are quite insightful, cyberculture-speaking-wise.

Found in a midafternoon webwander, via an offhand reference at Alex's, and subsequently via two of my favorites: first, online metablog and directory of wonderful things boingboing, and then Utne, who recently awarded Smart Mobs an Utne Independent Press Award for best online cultural coverage. Added to bookmark list immediately. Good reading for a New Year's break.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:22 PM | 0 comments

Christmas, Passed

As usual, at Darcie's parent's house, the big wooden interior, stone-stove heated family estate up in Brattleboro. We arrived just before ten to find Ginny and Ryan already there, making coffee while Patty peeled eggs for deviling. Neil played with Willow on the wooden boat he'd built his own chidren long ago. Soon Josh and Clay arrived, adding their gifts to the pile under the tree. With Alicia and Matt visiting his family in Florida for the holidays, we'd hit quorum right on time.

Darcie's grandmother up the hill had asked that we be finished with gift-giving by the time we went outandback to get her at eleven; this added a bit of pressure to the exchange this year, so instead of watching each other open presents, one by one, as in past years, this year we doubled up. Maybe that's why it seems like we had less than in the past. No matter: the getting was good, and the giving much appreciated; Ryan's two-canvas painting of Virginia even brought tears to Patty's eyes, and the hand-painteds Darcie'd been slaving over for days went over smashingly.

Gots? Much handmade food -- biscotti and fudge, chocolate-covereds and macaroons. Stocking-stuffers, from post-its and pens and shopping list pads with magnets to attach them to the fridge to a battery-operated crazy straw that lights up when you suck through it. Fourteen avi-format episodes of Fraggle Rock on three CDs. Calendars, as always, from Darcie's grandmother. And intangibles: commitments for babysitting, cash for hot tubbing.

Willow made out like a bandit. A stacking set of paper blocks colorfully decorated with pictures from the book Mama Do You Love Me. Mobiles and juice boxes; ornaments and books. Sticker sheets of all sorts of animals, enough for a month of wall-plastering. She's been riding her small wheeled horse up and down the hallway all morning. The huge scooter-wheeled wagon didn't fit in the car; Neil and Patty will bring it down in their hatchback next week after we return from our own trip down south.

Food afterwards, with a picked-up-late grandmother and Darcie's Aunt Vivian: Chocolate yule log, deviled eggs, fruit of all exotic types, and more coffee and lattes than anyone should have on a warm sunny christmas morning, relaxing with family. I pulled a gleeful Willow up and down the gravelly mud of the driveway in her new cart while the neighborhood dogs jumped around us. We were gone by two, and, the Christmas spirit still in me somehow, I cleaned the house and made dinner, an unusual frenzy of domesticity, so that Darcie could have some stress-free time with her daughter, for a change.

And now we're off in a few for that hottubbing experience down in Northampton, while Ginny watches the baby at her house -- a real date, perhaps one of the best kinds of Christmas present, no matter when it comes. And after that, sleep -- and after that, packing, for the flight tomorrow.

Hope your Christmas was fine, too.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:57 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas!

Not All Who Wander Are Lost will return tomorrow for a last-minute catchup session on all things Christmas before jetting down to Florida for a week with my father's parents. It's raining here, but may all your Christmasses be bright.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:25 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

10 technologies to watch in 2004

Not sure how I feel about this list from CNN's tech business watchers. Gecko tape seems pretty cool, but wireless broadband seems too much like Tesla's model for free broadcast power -- a great idea, but why would a company offer their entire service free? LED lightbulbs seem fine in theory, but halogen and long-lasting "green bulbs" never caught on, either. And anti-spam software that works? I'll believe it when I see it.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:20 PM | 0 comments

Last- Minute Shopping?

Blogger's got the perfect gift. For the technophobic diarist on your list.

Alternately, there's always all this stuff. Late gifts cheerfully accepted.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:18 PM | 0 comments

Think Globally; Shop Locally

Warmer days: Downtown Greenfield, Massachusetts

Darcie’s willingness to hand-paint raw-wood boxes, mirrors, pegboards and picture frames for family presents this year hasn’t necessitated a major shopping expedition such as last year’s trip to Northampton, but there was still three nights worth of Hanuukah presents for Willow to fill, and a few smaller supplements to Darcie’s new and already-in-use glider rocking chair seemed appropriate despite rapidly waning funds.

Monday, then, while Darcie napped with the baby, I hit the highway aiming for the next exit down. And here the quantum goofmind of the universe kicks in, for halfway there I glanced over at a passing driver and recognized her as a now-graduated Alex, once one of my favorite students and now one of those beloved friends who could become a crush easily but shouldn’t, the ones whose phone numbers you keep until one day you think about them and want to call and the number is long gone.

Heart racing, I pulled alongside her in the other lane once she had passed, and waved and waved and waved until, giving up hope and fading back, she glanced over and put her hand to her mouth with glee. The serendipitous glee that went between us at 70 miles an hour was almost tangible, and, in my case, it was only partially because of who I had found in this way, because, God, finding a long-lost friend in a passing car? Damn, I always wanted to do that. Seriously. I daydream about it all the time when driving.

Alex followed me, blinker on, for a mile. Finally pulled her over in a Texaco lot on the edge of the lower Greenfield mall; hugs in the parking lot led to an offer of company much appreciated on my intended journey through town. We left her SUV in the lot at Staples, and, after a quick trip to purchase a not-yet-installed-properly wireless router and card for the laptop (damn, I forgot to call Comcast again for host- and domainname), drove around the rotary and into the bottom half of downtown Greenfield.

Ah, Greenfield. Halfway to Northampton; nearer by a whisker than Keene (NH) or Brattleboro (VT), our three vastly different closest-to-home possibles for commercial excess. Home to the anti-WalMart movement, and to a brand-new urban energy park devoted to nature and alternate energy sources. Bracketed by safe small-busness zones that separate the downtown area from a distant McDonalds on one end of the long L-shaped main strip and Applebees down by the interstate exit on the other. And, at heart, the middle ground, Main Street: still small businesses once grounded commercially by local department store Wilson’s, now far more attractive as a collection, an almost-quaint main street strip, forming an intimate community center for this otherwise rural region.

Alex and I had a grand old time in town, sharing future dreams reminiscing and relocating old friends in our mind as we wandered the three blocks from the toy store to fave local record shop About Music. The stores, all local in their outlook and as warm and cozy in merchandise and atmosphere as only smalltown main street stores can be, buzzed with the sort of funky stranger and half-known local that frequent this small town on the edge of two other states. And my teaching peers at school were out in droves, waving to us from windows, nodding on the sidewalk in passing, offering holiday greetings in shelf-aisles and at check-out counters. It was good to be out in the sun, and to be out with a friend a bonus blessing.

Shopping itself was a comprehensive success. Bought Willow a set of plastic dishes complete with drying rack, a set of bath crayons, and a neon orange plastic slinky at our first stop, in fact; also a few trinkety things – Chinese yoyos, bendy tubes, well-painted dreidels, and thick straw fingertraps – for stocking stuffers. Browsed the World Eye bookstore for a while before settling on a curious no-spill reading light that, instead of emanating light into the air, lights a piece of flat plastic; you set it against the page and it illuminates it. Tried soft silk-laced and velvet clothing on Darcie in my mind’s eye at Zema’s, but, remembering that the Yoga class she had wanted to attend conflicts with my evening meeting schedule, bought her a beginner’s kit complete with instructional CD and flash cards showing popular positions.

For lunch we stopped at Café Koko, and, snagging the couch, shared lattes, spinach knishes and an egg sandwich made with thick local maple bacon. And conversation, of course, mostly about the impending changes here at school, what with the financial crisis.

But time grew short. A final stop at the CD store, where I chatted a bit with a woman I know from Northfield, an alum and parent of two current students, about the same financial crisis, and what the last few years of trying to manage it’s symptoms had brought to hiring policies and shifts in and of policy implementation methodology. I purchased the new live Patty Griffin CD for myself; Alex bought something I didn’t see, and we drove back to her car to split up and head, respectively, home.

Then yesterday to Greenfield twice again. First in the morning with Darcie and Willow to pick up birdseed at Agway and a chocolate-cake yule log, sprouting merangue mushrooms, at Merlings, where the baby got a cookie wrapped in wax paper. Later, back home, my mother came up for her weekly visit; after a short trip to the yearbook office for Darcie to approve and send back this year’s proofs, we did the strip entire, from the top of the hill downwards this time, looking for boxes of Christmas cards, finally finding them at World Eye.

And back home again, and more of the same around-the-house with baby that I long for eternally; otherwise my days from Monday to now have been a blur of time spent home, in cardboard boxes and on the floor with the baby and her new toys, while Darcie exercises her talents, painting flowers and spotted grids of faux-indigenous art on raw wood. It feels like family life, and knowing it will not last long makes me yearn for summer.

And now it rains: the attic roof pops like the limbs of an old chair as we settle in to the grey afternoon. Willow lies in bed awake with her half-napping mommy, chattering softly about nursing and the sky and who-knows-what-else until she shushes herself, whispers mommy, and falls asleep. Tonight will be Christmas Eve, and tomorrow Christmas. And though the laptop’s got a virus and I lost my keys to the laundry, though my ears are once-again stopped up and my fever’s not gone below 99.8 in three days now, the center of the universe is still and calm as it should be, and it’s all – all of it – good.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:05 PM | 0 comments

Monday, December 22, 2003

I Look Like Jesus, So They Say...

Those who know me in person will be terrified, amused, and maybe even aroused to disover how much The Onion's conception of Jesus looks like me.

Everyone else will just have to trust me on this. Even scarier, this is what I dressed like for Halloween this year.

Also in the A. V. Club this week: annual feature The Least Essential Albums of 2003. Hilarity ensues.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:18 PM | 0 comments

No, The Other Kind Of Pet, Hef

MTV's Cribs shows Playboy boss Hef's pet monkey Pinky sleeping in a crib and wearing a diaper; PETA spokesman, disgusted, says pet monkeys can 'grow up neurotic and lonely.' "

Members of PETA, on the other hand, are already neurotic and lonely, and should make excellent pets.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:07 PM | 0 comments

Hey, Rube!

Monday's almost over -- don't forget to Mosh!

posted by boyhowdy | 7:53 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Hoist By Their Own Petition

Now that the numbers are going against them, you gotta feel sorry for the American Family Association, that religious right-leaning organization behind the infamous homosexual marriage poll.

I mean, it's clear they thought all along that they were proudly standing up for a silent majority. They way they present their poll, well, it's as if they were going to march into Congress, new anti-marriage amendment draft in hand, armed with the will of the people writ large.

Imagine how terrifyingly alone you'd feel at the growing realization that most people in the entire country don't like you, or agree with your ideas.

And to find out on your own dime -- kinda rubbing your face in it, eh?

Plus, now that the poll's so public, it's not like the AFA can walk away from their threat without seeming even stupider. The poll's out of their hands, now, bound for congress one way or another no matter what it says about what we think we want. It'll show congress a nation divided, but primarily in favor of no-wishy-washy-unions homosexual marriage.

And this seems like a no-brainer. The dam's burst; the AFA slowly loses ground. This is news anymore? Heck, we were just invited to a gay wedding today.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:50 PM | 0 comments

Monday Mosh: The Holiday Edition

Because anything else would be uncivilized -- 'tis the season, after all. This week's moshtheme:

Mosh to a Holiday Song.

Bonus points this week for off-genre covers of classic seasonal tunes (for example, a surf punk version of Little Drummer Boy, maybe a klezmer cover of Jingle Bells, something like that).

How To Monday Mosh:

Dance around just 'cause it's Monday, and answer three questions in your blog or in the comments below, leaving us a link so we know you were here:
  • What song did you mosh to?

  • What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)

  • Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:33 PM | 0 comments

Gots Is What You Got

Ah, the holiday season, upon us.

Friday night at my parents with siblings and old family friends of my parent's generation and Darcie's parents down from Vermont for the afternoon: latkes and camembert, dredels and dates. My mother's friends all brought presents for Willow (a cow puppet, a soft colorful birdhouse filled with stuffed rattling birds, a bendy dreidelman figurine); the men mostly brough wine, or both. When Jesse and Jasmine finally arrived late from Brooklyn we stood around the kitchen island, about twenty of us, and lit a dozen menorahs, sang Rock Of Ages from photocopied Hannukah hymnbooks borrowed from my parent's temple.

Afterwards, the Friends gone, the Family -- two siblings and their significant others, Darcie's parents and mine, us and the happily overwhelmed baby -- sprawled around the living room and exchanged gifts:
Got: Music, of course: Hannukah stuff and the Roots sampler I wanted and no small pile of bluegrass handmedowns from Dad. Also ties, button-down sweater vests, and a welcome mat made of recycled flip flops from the always-chic Jesse and Jasmine. Darcie got a nice shirt from my parents. Willow got pretty much everything you can imagine, including wooden blocks on a wheeled tray, complete with pull-string.

Gave: soaps and painted photoholder ornaments for Jasmine and Amy; a colorful birdfeeder for Sarah; personal letters to each member of my generation praising their adulthood and friendship, a painted wooden keepsakes box for Jesse filled with half the medals and pins our grandfather accumulated in his decades as an Army electronics whiz. Toys for my parents to enjoy with Willow -- a set of Great Psychologists Finger Puppets for Mom, a tin toy Rocket Ride for Dad -- and a set of candlesticks painted to look like them. Patty and Neil gave everyone fifty year old copies of Life magazine.

Breakfast this morning at Bob and Tom's house out in Revere; Willow played in the geranium pot with the two Lhaso Apsos while mutual old roommate Bob announced his engagment to a smiling-in-the-background Tom. Then a long drive home to a clean house and our own small candlelighting ceremony. Note to self: keep July 10th open.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:31 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Departure Impending

Still slightly feverish after days hovering on the edge of something not quite as comprehensive as the dreaded flu, but the baby's mostly better, and Darcie's cold's starting to clear up; all told, it's not enough to stay home, so we're off to Newton for a family Hannukah party within the next half hour, or else, 'cause we're barely going to make it on time as it is.

Sigh. When do I get to sleep late enough to recover from the backlog? Aren't we supposed to be on vacation? I need a nap. Maybe Monday morning I can finally have one.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:27 PM | 0 comments

Friday, December 19, 2003

Road Trip

Full day today kerouacking about in Connecticut with Virginia and her tall drink of water live-in Ryan. First to the DMV in Springfield to clear up a potentially license-threatening list of past offences recently accumulated to a height above the radar, just because it was on the way; then to breakfast in a real diner, hash and eggs and split red potato home fries, in the quaint township nearest Wesleyan College because we were running too early; finally via miles of deep suburban woods and saltbox houses to a garage where we picked up Darcie's Christmas present, a gliding rocker purchased off Ebay, from a pretty young woman holding a long-haired girl not much older than Willow.

Mostly driving, of course. It had been a long time since I spent hours watching the trees blur, faster in foreground than background, out the window in the back seat of someone else's car. There was something cinematic, almost satisfying about the whole drive back, dozing in and out of the raw beats soundtrack Ryan, cofounder of beat-and-production-factory komadose, played on the CD player in an air-hissing silence otherwise unbroken.

I tend to be a driver in life, but not all paths are walked in loneliness, or should be. To truly share the journey, each must ride and row. Thanks, God, for the humble miracles, the meditative joys, the salve of soul, of trust and passengerhood -- of being in someone else's hands quite literally:

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who wrought miracles for our ancestors, and at this season.

And Happy Hannukah, everyone.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:04 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, December 18, 2003

People Unclear On The Concept

Some poor sap sorely in need of some library instruction found his way here today through an egregious misuse of google.

It took me eight seconds to discover that when the horse wouldn't eat latkes, they fed it oats.

No thanks necessary, mystery surfer.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:03 PM | 0 comments

PETA Watch

If PETA thinks Mommies still dress like this, it's no wonder they're so off-base.

Once more into the machiavellian breach! This time PETA's targeting small children at performances of the Nutcracker, handing out flyers -- disguised as comic books called "Your Mommy Kills Animals" -- to kids whose parents are wearing fur:
The fliers include a color drawing of a woman plunging a large bloody knife into the belly of a terrified rabbit. The fliers urge kids to "ask your mommy how many dead animals she killed to make her fur clothes.

"And the sooner she stops wearing fur, the sooner the animals will be safe. Until then, keep your doggie or kitty friends away from mommy - she's an animal killer.''

PETA's always disgusted me for such tactics, but when the organization is clearly willing to sacrifice families for animals, attacking the mother-child bond in their overzealous insanity, I say PETA's lost their moral right to exist. So, now that I've got the high-speed Internet I wanted, all I want for Christmas is for someone to firebomb PETA. Who's with me?

Alternately, I'm thinking a bunch of us could stand outside PETA members' homes, and hand flyers to their children that say "Your Mommy Destroys Families." Or even "Your mommy thinks comic books are educational." Now that would be effective, eh?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:41 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Up To Speed

Today, while I was teaching class, the cable guy came to install a high-speed connection in our apartment.

I can once again surf with impunity, the phone can be free while we're online, and it no longer takes ten minutes to open my overstuffed email mailbox.

This afternoon in celebration we quick-installed Mopy the virtual fish on the laptop so a verysick Willow could sit and burble about the fis.

Thanks to Darcie for the early Christmas present. The time saved can be spent with family, and that's everything I ever wanted.

Pictures of just about everything to follow, now that bandwidth's no longer an issue.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:19 PM | 0 comments

Popcult-in-Education Watch

While my students take an exam [Sample question: From the following list of fifities texts and practices, pick three, define each, and explain their cultural relevance in terms of the Culturalist perspective], fark brings us an article on popular culture classes at college campuses around the country. The Simpsons: An American Family? Rock and Roll as Social Force? How To Watch Television? Disney, Culture and Power? The (Sur)Real World of Reality TV? Yeah, I could teach that.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:10 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Nothin’ But Net

Meet Jaime and Ally. They're BFFs!*

I should be grading, or preparing for class, or I suppose writing Kiernan’s college recommendation, or typing up those notes from that Library/Media staff meeting way back before Thanksgiving, or crunching the data on last term’s instructional work with teachers and classes for a long-overdue end-of-term report. Heck, I get up at 6:15; I should be sleeping.

But a slight fever led to an emergency midafternoon nap instead of work. I’m left rested and getting tired; not out-like-a-light yet, but illness affords a convenient justification for laziness and procrastination.

Too, a sucker’s instinct towards generosity when my students suggested that they didn’t understand the reading on which today’s half-class quiz was supposed to be based prompted a rehash of the difference between Culturalism and the Culture and Civilization tradition instead of the quiz. I’m left prepared for my morning class almost by accident, and with plenty of time to review material on the evolution of Reality TV for my afternoon class while the baby takes a nap in the afternoon of the half-day-off Wednesday I get in trade for an extra evening shift Monday nights.

So, yeah, I should be working. But sitting on the couch snarfing nutmeg and blueberry teacake leftovers from Sunday’s snowstorm is better. Better still: when you’re a media teacher, watching MTV’s Rich Girls counts as professional development. Heck, so does blogging. Now get off my case, man.

*Sub-blog (or perhaps metablog)

1. I have no idea what this means. Big Friendly Fillies? Boy Friend Finders? Bilateral Fig-Friskers? Battlefish Farouk? Anyway, MTV says so.

2. Original caption for this picture was A day of shopping has worn the girls out. Spending money is such hard work.

3. In addition to being BFFs, incidentally, the girls are so vapid they make Paris Hilton look like Nicole Richie. How's that for a reality television in-joke.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:31 PM | 0 comments

A Very Special Holiday Tributary

'twas the last show before Christmas; I read Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas In Wales all the way through as I do every year; it took about thirty minutes.

Afterwards I enlightened the masses.

There is good Christmas music out there if you know where to look. Here's some of it. Tonight's playlist, the last of 2003:

Tributary 12/15/03
The Holiday Edition

Shawn Colvin -- Christmas Time Is Here
Sarah McLachlan -- Song For A Winter Night
John Gorka -- Christmas Bells
Elvis Presley -- Blue Christmas
The Roches -- It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
Dave Carter and Tracy Grammar -- American Noel
Nerissa and Katrina Nields -- Christmas Carol
They Might Be Giants -- Santa's Beard
The Muppets w/ John Denver -- Little Saint Nick
Machel -- Soca Santa
Eartha Kitt -- Santa Baby
Koko Taylor -- Merry, Merry Christmas
Bing Crosby -- White Christmas
Peter Mulvey -- River
Rani Arbo -- I Saw Three Ships
Mark Erelli -- This Ain't No Time Of year To Be Alone
Michael Doucet -- Bonne Annee
The Roches -- Little Drummer Boy
Barenaked Ladies w/ Sarah McLachlan -- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
David Grisman -- What Child Is This
Shawn Colvin -- Little Road To Bethlehem
Erin McKeown -- At The Christmas Ball
Cindy Kallet -- Cherry Tree Carol
Pete Nelson -- You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch
Otis Redding -- Merry Christmas
Erica Wheeler -- Song For A Winter Night

posted by boyhowdy | 12:38 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Monday Mosh: The Snow Din Edition

Too much snow today. Why not stay in and Mosh? Today’s challenge:

Mosh to a snowy day song

How To Monday Mosh:

Dance around just 'cause it's Monday, and answer three questions in your blog or in the comments below, leaving us a link so we know you were here:
  • What song did you mosh to?

  • What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)

  • Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:41 PM | 0 comments

Snowed In

Memorial Chapel, in another winter.

Just before my parents arrived separately the snow began to fall. It was light at first, like dust motes in sunlight. Later, as the afternoon moved forward, it would get thick and the sky prematurely dark; much later, the snow would turn to ice, and fall clicking against the windows. Like the best snowfalls, however, by which I mean the historic ones you talk about years afterwards, while drinking coffee together, watching the skies and the Weather-Channel-casters, for snow and for half-sure and hedged predictions of total accumulation – like those Dylan Thomas-esque moments, it started bright out of a blue sky.

It was the day of Christmas Vespers, an annual tradition here heavy on the choir and chamber orchestra, but light on the scripture. For the third year in a row friends Peter and Hayley cancelled at the last minute, but Darcie’s parents decided to stay after wavering a bit, to marvel at the baby in her red Christmas dress and eat tiny cream horn slices from the wedding china with the rest of us.

Vespers is at four and seven, but I had made plans long ago to take Molly to a Guster concert at the Calvin Theater in Northampton, and we had mosh-pit seats waiting for us at 7. Plans had been made, of course, long before the coming storm brought a concern not that we might not make the show, but that we might not make it back; luckily, visions of explaining myself to a bevy of administrators after being forced to hunker down, however innocently, in the same hotel as a single female student after taking her to a rock concert brought me to my senses, and I called her and cancelled long before a single flake hit the pavement. (Later, conveniently, my guilt over this adult act would be abated when some other younger faculty, who it turned out were also Guster fans still wavering on whether to brave the weather, called the theater as we left the Chapel at service’s end and discovered that the venue had decided to postpone and reschedule in early February.)

Too, Willow would have never made it through a later seating. Nor, it turns out, would my father or my in-laws made it back home; even then it took each party twice as long to travel home as usual. Patty and Neil, more New Englander savvy and be-Saab-ed, drove home post-vespers; Neil told Darcie on the phone later that evening that they hadn’t plowed their rural dirt road yet at all, and driving home was like going “through a snowbank,” but they made it. Dad didn’t even stay: he left at three, and reports cars “everywhere” as having simply, gently, slid into the median. Worried about inadequate seating now that we’ve had to move both services to the smaller of the two school chapels, as it’s the one not yet condemned, I left minutes after, wading through the darkening wind and the slanted stinging snow to save seats.

Spent most of the service shushing the baby with Darcie in the unfortunately cavernous back hall of the chapel, which quite probably screwed up much of this year’s recording (though, to be fair, one of the biggest problems was Willow’s loud demand for moa? moa? at the end of each congregation sing). Still be-suited, through the driving dark for crisp roast and Seafood Newburg in the dining hall afterwards with Mom, now trapped in a full-blown nor’easter for the overnight, and back home, the baby in the new wooden sled with the rusted runners, for a mellow evening.

And now? Mom asleep in my usual latenight laptop spot, I’m plugged in in the kitchen, listening to the ice pebbling up on top of a good eight to ten inches, and glancing up occasionally at my watery reflection before me in these dark windows. Every once in a long while the plows scrape by at hurtling speeds, and I can see the snow, heavy in the air and on the ground, unceasing, beautiful.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:27 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Mullet Man

In a moment of weakness, I promised my students that I'd show them pictures of my eighth grade self when we began to study the eighties. It seem only fair to offer you an exclusive sneak peek.*

*We apologize, but management cannot be held responsible for the exclusivity of said peek. Long time readers may experience deja vu.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:36 AM | 0 comments

Sometimes I Feel Like A Photoless Blog

If I wasn't such a lazy bastard when it came to preserving the pastandpresent, I'd post photos. Instead, I don't even keep the camera charged. But here's what I'd be snap-download-and-posting if I did:
  • Willow chasing a fly on the windowpane.

  • The Christmas tree. In the soflit dark.

  • The stack of nestling boxes piled up like a symmetrical cubist's tree in victorian colors, and the white and red roses beside them on the shelf over by the window.

These next pic sets, on the other hand, already exist. They't seem to be online yet. Of their thousand words, here's a dozen or so each to whet your appetite.
  • Those damn pictures from Bangladesh I should have posted in August.

  • That cool escheresque picture of the teeming salmon runs on the Alaskan coast.

  • That other cool escheresque picture of the blue ice river cutting through the glacier at our feet.

In my defense, I'm on a dial-up. Do you know how long it takes to upload a picture to blogger at 28.8?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:13 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, December 11, 2003

It Takes A Worried Man

To start with, everything’s okay, Willow’s happily chasing the dog down the hallway with her mother, my sleeve is totally soaked and the back of her head doesn’t even look like it’s going to have a bump. But the weird thing is, I feel pretty good about myself as a father right now. And though it’s been increasingly the case that I feel good about Willow, and who she’s becoming, feeling like I’m getting it right wasn’t something I assumed I’d ever have.

Sometimes, when we’re at the beach or on a windowsill or walking around corners or, like tonight, in the bathroom, the baby up to her nipples in bathwater and bubbles while I kneel like a tailor on the folded white towel at tub’s edge, I think about what could happen, and my heart cramps up. It’s just those things that can only happen once, the experiences no one survives to learn from: electrocution from a wall socket, say, or falling or crushing or hitting the back of your head in the bathtub and never coming back up.

I worry; it’s in my nature. It comes, I think, from the Jewish guilt and the special lack of confidence and frustration which can only come from always coming in second, not third or first; it presents like an anxiety disorder, and I’ve always meant to see someone about it, but I’m worried that it might really exist in a clinical sense, or that it won’t and I’ll just turn out to be doomed to be one of those nervous characters that Woody Allen plays in all his movies. From college into early adulthood I had panic attacks on a regular basis, locked in a cycle of concern and powerlessness. The only reason I don’t have them now is I’ve learned not to panic about them when they start, because I’ve always been okay so far.

Add to the total package this: I’ve never been able to trust my reflexes. Something familial, perhaps genetic, runs in the blood. My brother’s friends call him Spilly, a reference to his tendency to spill beer pitchers, reaching across the table just a touch too quickly, but long before drunk. As for myself, I used to go through wristwatch faces every three months, hitting the walls while turning corners; now I wear carbiner watches that clip on the beltloop and hang down snugly along the pocket. I tell people I have low limbic awareness, as if naming it so formally legitimizes what is ultimately just innate clumsiness, as if the allusion of white lab coat will cover a simple tendency to drop and tear.

It’s a poor combination, constant anxiety and innate clumsiness. Fear that you’ll make the right move at a crucial time seeds a constant concern about what could go wrong. It surely contributes to the clumsiness, and the anxiousness.

I worry about lots of things. But some things are worth worrying about, like bumping into things, or knocking them over, or dropping them. When Willow was born it took every ounce of bravery I have to pick her up, so afraid was I that I might drop her and, in trying to catch her, drop her harder.

Now, of course, I pick her up and don’t think about it much anymore – just enough to note how heavy she is, and how long – but there’s always a tiny part of my mind that gnaws on the possibility of dropping her, just enough to keep focused on her while she’s in my arms.

I hardly remember it happening: an off-balanced moment, a flash of panic from her eyes to mine, and then there I was with my arms up to the elbow, crooked around this tiny flesh. So fast I couldn’t have thought of it. So natural I couldn’t have done it.

I think she never noticed the water coming up at her. I know I didn’t see it, like I had behind my eyes so many times. Her face never got wet. Nothing broke; no neurons misfired. I saw only her, and reached, and didn’t think at all.

It’ll fade in a moment, this feeling of trust-in-self. It fades now, as I write about it. But I’ll keep something new from this tiny half a moment in the new and precious life of this girl, this softness, this Willow. I know I love her not just in my head, but in the spinal reflexes, in the whole body. I can trust myself to. And damn if that doesn’t feel great.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:39 PM | 0 comments

Better Than The Paper Tube

Because everything was in black and white before the 1950s. Really.

It's the 100th birthday of the ice-cream cone. Would you believe the guy who invented them tried paper tubes first? I'm glad I didn't grow up learning to eat a sticky paper tube when the ice cream's gone.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:50 PM | 0 comments

I Are A Grammatical Genius

Are You Grammatically Incorrect? I got a 9 out of ten; beat that if you dare, and no cheating!

To everyone's immense surprise, source is the spanking new MSN, owner of the online realm of Encarta.

[UPDATE 2:22 pm: now with improved non-broken link! Thanks to the newly unpseudonymous Anne for helping this member of the html-incorrect.]

posted by boyhowdy | 1:34 PM | 0 comments

Where's Wednesday?

Though I usually try to blog daily, two weeks of twelve-hour days caught up with me last night with a vengance. Brainfog and fever, in the 102 range, hit hard by the end of my 2-4 class on Reality Television, despite a poorly timed nap beforehand. I chose to sleep early, and stand by that choice.

Had I actually been on the ball, I would have done my second favorite meme, which, in the spirit of the holidays, this week asks:

What's on your wish list right now?

  • Books and videos from my wish list, especially the short film collections from the Mystery Science 3000 series.

  • TiVo.

  • Cable modem/broadband (Darn 28.8 modem...argh).

  • Snow Tires for the Boat...I mean, the Grand Marquis.

  • One of those portable USB data storage thingies that hang on a keychain.

  • Brown leather Gloves

  • Happy scarves, the kind that hang down to just below the belt.

  • Ties.

  • dress clothes in general, check with Darcie for sizes.

  • Yet another one of those 250 CD-sized disk carriers.

  • Time with family (yes, you count as family, Shaw).

  • Babysitting commitments so I can have a date with my wife.

  • Fraggle Rock videos (these are hard to find, but I'd love you forever if you can locate some in decent shape).

  • Mp3 player of some sort, if you insist.

  • Music is always welcome, especially new contemporary folk and live jamband stuff, the Roots Music: An American Journey 4 CD set from Rounder Records.

Oh, and world peace. Cash is always nice, too.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:49 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Ow, Quit It*

The terrifying trend towards national oversight of Political Correctness taken to a new low this week with the announcement of a $3.4 million federal campaign to combat bullying in schools, playgrounds, and other spaces once considered under the oversight of local community members such as parents and teachers. CNN sez:
With an expected start next year, the effort will frame bullying as a public health concern, targeting kids and the adults who influence them.

1. Anyone else out there nervous about that last phrase? I've set aside ten dollars of my own hard-earned cash for he first overworked teacher to get "targeted" merely because they failed to stop the low-end taunts they couldn't see or hear in the corners of their overenrolled classrooms, 'cause you better believe they're going to need the bail money.

2. I can hear it now: You better leave me alone, or I'm telling the Federal Goverment on you.

3. Get your government regulations out of my community already, damn it. And people ask why I'm a Republican. Sheesh.

* Obscure Simpson's reference, and bonus points if you already knew that, you pop culturist, you.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:36 PM | 0 comments

The Moon Is Bright And Round And Cold

Tonight, but I am getting old,
And sitting too long in my chair
Makes aches appear where none were there
Before. So I will make this playlist quick
That I may get out under it --
By which I mean the wondrous moon
Is beckoning, and I will soon
Be on the road an hour from dreams,
Seven from class, the moon agleam
On the icy road I travel slow
With just a few more miles to go.

Tonight's bedtime stories -- we read them on the hour and the half hour each week, by which I mean I read them, since I do this solo now that Ginny's living too far away and too broke for gas to come up Monday nights to hang about the radio station -- were a bunch of winter poems by Robert Frost, and the scansion's stuck in my head. Can you tell?

Between the poems, here's what I played.

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Girlyman -- Postcards From mexico
Chris Ardoin -- Your Love Keeps Lifting Me (Higher and Higher)
Ben Harper -- Steal My Kisses
Wild Cherry -- Play That Funky Music
Domestic Problems -- I'm A Line
Sam Phillips -- I Need Love
Eddie From Ohio -- Quick
Rice, Rice, Hillman and Pedersen -- Friend Of The Devil
Alison Krauss -- Every Time You Say Goodbye
Tony Furtado w/ Tim O'Brien -- Man Of Constant Sorrow
Marianne Faithful --I'm Into Something Good
Timbuk 3 -- The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades
String Cheese Incident -- take Five
Robert Randolph and the Family Band -- The March
Los Lobos -- I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song)
Glen Phillips -- Have A Little Fun With Me
Trout Fishing In America -- Something Sweet
Sarah Harmer -- Uniform Grey
Mark Erelli -- Take My Ashes To The River
Johnny Cash -- Hurt
Deb Talan -- Two Points
Maria Sangiolo -- The Cherry Tree Carol
Dave Carter and Tracy Grammar -- Merlin's Lament
Gone Phishin' -- Fast Enough For You

posted by boyhowdy | 12:17 AM | 0 comments

Monday, December 08, 2003

I Can Moo...Can You?

Mr. Brown
Which Dr. Seuss character are you?

brought to you by Quizilla

posted by boyhowdy | 8:39 PM | 0 comments

I Have Nothing To Say Except Hooray For Fark

Dead goose falls on school playground. Really.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:49 PM | 0 comments

Monday Mosh: The Better Late Than Never Edition

I'm really late for a campus meeting because the clocks are all messed up here in the library and I haven't blogged in a day or two because I was really really busy but the mosh must go on so:

Mosh to a hurry-up song.

For rules, see last week's mosh.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:12 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Short Readings For Snowy Days

Nice work from The Onion this week, almost missed in the haste of a new term's beginning. Especially recommended, and of possible interest to my usual and diverse readership: front page fake trendtracker sidebar What We Are Looking Up In The Encyclopedia; College Freshman Cycles Rapidly Through Identities; New Alternate-Reality Series Puts 12 Strangers On Island Where South Won Civil War. And fave weekly features Savage Love and Pathetic Geek Stories, as well as an excellent review of a new Johnny Cash release, from The Onion A.V. Club.

Still chuckling about Rejected Titles for Hymns from the lists list at McSweeneys. Hours of fun here, great for snowed-in reading.

Interested in something a bit more serious but no less engrossing? Try this debate about the role of the artist in society featuring Thom Yorke, bandleader of Radiohead, and people's historian Howard Zinn, recently republished at Utne. (Disclaimer: I went to high school with Leif Utne, current Utne editor and son of the original founders; we used to hang with some of the same crowd, though he was much taller.)

And, for those interested in the progress of my Modern American Culture class (hi, mom!), this weekend's homework includes some web-available reading, too: an overview of the fifties and sixties, and one of several assigned speeches from In Our Own Words: Extraordinary Speeches of the American Century, Nixon's "Checkers" speech (mp3), available online at speech supersite American Rhetoric. The students are expected to write a one to two page typed response to these readings which answers the question If we take these texts as protoypical or paradigmatic of the values of the American era we call "the fifites," what were the values of this era? What were these values defined in opposition to?, but snow makes me magnanimous; feel free to skip the essay if you're not enrolled.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:54 PM | 0 comments

On The Inside Looking Out
Is it snowing where you are?

A flurrying mass of birds congregate at each window, pecking at the feeders, full beneath their tiny drifts. Red breasted and golden, woodbrown and jay blue, fluffed up and narrow against the wind and cold they come; they twitter faintly, sparsely, conserving their strength. A few feet away a band of mottled woodpeckers huddle, waiting for some unforeseen signal; perhaps twice an hour they will take their turn, chasing away their smaller brethren for a family turn at seed and suet.

Through the haze of falling white one can see why they have come to us. Their usual food sources are drifted under, their trees bowed with the weight of new snow and shaking in the stormwind. The air swirls with fat white flakes. In the distance, nearer hills, once clear, loom grey and teary over edge-blurred valleys and trees. More distant mountains, ordinarily less than ten minutes away by car, disappear completely. The world grows smaller.

After a November of light overnight powder, of dustings quickly melted away in the first hours of morning, Winter’s arrival is complete.

Farther afield, beyond the birds and their deserted drift-filled nests, the plows scrape against the patchwork road below our windows, prompting an annual game of musical chairs, in which neighbors move their cars back and forth, hoping for a driveway cleared: though no one has been able to figure out the criteria which plow drivers use to decide when and who, it seems safe to assume that a driveway clear of cars is much more likely to be cleared of snow as well.

Snow keeps falling, as is its wont. Curled up beneath white woolen blankets on the couch we watch the aftermath of this same storm’s path as is passes on the screen: New Jersey, New York, Boston. Total expected accumulation ranges from ten to fifteen inches, tapering off by morning.

The long walk to the dorm for duty tonight, and then back again in unplowed pathways and hardlyroads, will require a flashlight, a hat, and gloves, but if prepared for properly I can tell already: the walk in winter’s night storm will be a blessing, a meditation, and I’m looking forward to it, and to the noseglow midnight return, with that fine powdered joy that only comes with snow and season.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:27 PM | 0 comments

Friday, December 05, 2003

Paper Tree, Paper Tiger

It comes from Walmart or BJ's Warehouse in a box hardly longer than the baby, a concept which fascinates her. Set up in the corner where the closet door would squish it fat against the television cabinet, green narrow arms radiate just so like cardboard cat tails from its wireframe center. Away from the lamp, with lights and strings of wooden cranberries, it fools the eye.

Pulling bells off its dyed limbs, she dances and shakes and sings jindl bezz, making the sound of a sleigh she's never heard. Beneath its paper boughs she crashes dreidels into each other, oh daydle daydle daydle.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and all I want this year is what I have: each other, and a place to be together.

Oh, and a TiVo. And a cable modem, because when you start staying late at work just to take advantage of the LAN, you know it's time for a change. But that's all. I swear.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:09 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, December 03, 2003


She calls them beebles.

1. What's on my 'favorite things to do' list right now?
  • Teach.

  • Sleep.

  • Watch bad television and call it professional development (it's good to be the Media and Communications teacher).

  • Eat well, of any persuasion or ethnicity.

  • Sit in the dark basement radio station sending out music, bedtime stories and Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night program here on WNMH 91.5 fm serving Northfield, Gill, Keene, Brattleboro, and you
  • .
  • Have contests, especially when someone calls in to win.

  • Stay up late in big empty rooms while my family sleeps.

  • Paste ladybug stickers on my forehead to make the baby laugh.

  • Dance with the baby.

  • Hug the baby.

  • Get hugged back.

2. Not technically a meme, listlover This Fish sparks Julia to list things that comfort me and bring me joy (a comfortable sort of joyousness). My internal jury seems to be still out on this one, mostly because I'm sure I'll miss a bunch, but certainly family, clean and cleanly pressed khakis and chambray shirts, and that look a student gets when they get it, are in the top five.

3. Also similar-but-not-the-same listpremise found at This Fish: The Things I Love. (An ongoing project kept by This Fish on various post-it notes, supposedly.) I'm not sure this is something that works if you try it off the cuff, either -- am thinking, in fact, that this might be the next 30 Things-level list -- but I know, somewhere on that list, there will have to be Fraggles. And Silly Putty. And my daughter's word for ladybugs.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:55 PM | 0 comments

Love Hurts

She’s bright, you know, brighter than average and I’m not just saying that because she’s mine. She learns words voraciously, surprising us sometimes, like tonight in the bath when we asked her whether she wanted one washcloth of the other, and she said both, and we looked at each other, Darcie in the bath with her bra on and me on my knees on the tan towel by tubside, and confirmed that, no, neither of us had taught her that word. Or when, afterwards, the dog tore some fuzz off the new tennis ball, and she said no, Zellie; trash and picked up the fuzz and put it in the kitchen trashcan.

She loves people she hardly knows, and remembers their names, and looks for them, and blows them kisses in the dining hall. She bursts into song, grins delight at the moon, cups christmas lights in her fingers in the dark. She asks about bapa and jesse and mattie and josh just to hear about them, as if reminding herself that her bootstrapping memory works, or to distinguish dreams from blossoming reality.

I think I read once that being a little kid is like being on acid, what with the whole world opening like that, doubling in size and depth every day, only you don’t remember because part of what’s opening is that part of you that remembers things, and it’s young and busy.

She puts ladybug stickers on my eyelids and laughs. She tells us when it’s time for nap, and for snack, and for bath. She knows even more than she lets on, and even though I think it scares both of us sometimes, she knows that, too.

She’s heavy, and a pain sometimes. Her too-thin hair stands up in the back all day sometimes, impervious to repeated passes of licked parental hands. But she’s light itself, she’s beautiful, she’s patient and kind; she’s generous, and happy, and loving.

And she still sleeps in our bed at 16 months, and nurses too often, enough that we’re worried she isn’t getting enough of the right foods.

It’s not true, you know, that if you love somebody, you should set them free. It’s not enough. If you really love somebody, eventually, you drive them right to the door of wherever they want to be, and you drive away, and don’t wait by the curb to make sure they’re all right. You give them your number, and you tell them to call, but you do it.

You make their wings for them, and teach them how to use them, and show them how to get home if they need it. Because otherwise, they never learn to be themselves, and trust themselves, which they have to do if they’re going to learn to trust you. And, more importantly, they never become trustworthy, because people who can’t trust and know themselves can’t know trust at all.

Tonight I stood by her crib and watched her cry, or chose to, I’m not quite sure, but it hurt like hell to do it, and I wanted to stop, but I wanted her to learn to use her incredible self, and it’s the only way I know how. I told her that I knew that she wanted her mommy, and that mommy was okay, and Willow was okay, and it was time to stay in the crib now, just for a little while, and it was okay.

And then, after a while, I left. And it wasn’t really okay, not for either of us. It just had to be that way, that’s all, and the only thing you can say to a blotchy-faced sixteen month old screaming in the dark is that it’s okay. Even if it makes everyone uneasy, wary, sad, miserable, and just plain wore out.

And this is nothing new, and it will get harder, I think, and worse sometimes, and scary, too.

Because she’s ready, almost overripe – she’s smart, did I tell you, a good bit farther along than most at her age -- and we know it’s time to start setting some limits, so she can have structure to add to her latitude and skills, so she can learn, and grow, and fly away.

So she can fly away.

So, I got that going for me.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:18 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Short Round

Post-Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 fm, serving Northfield, Gill, Keene and Brattleboro. Tired, and sitting in a classroom upstairs from the radio station, blogging 'cuz the network speed is, like, way faster here on the LAN than at home.

My own sadly undecorated classroom, that is. I have a class to teach here in seven hours or so. Better get some sleep. But first, as always, tonight's playlist, an upbeat selection to welcome in the new term.

Tributary 12/1/03

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Bonnie Raitt -- Love Me Like A Man
Phish -- Back On The Train
They Might Be Giants -- Birdhouse In Your Soul
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu
A Tribe Called Quest -- Can I Kick It
Ani Difranco -- Little Plastic Castle
Donna The Buffalo -- Riddle Of The Universe
The Jayhawks -- Save It For A Rainy Day
Suzanne Vega -- When Heroes Go Down
Richard and Linda Thompson -- Wall Of Death
Barenaked Ladies -- The Old Apartment
Moxy Fruvous -- Green Eggs and Ham
Pete Nelson -- You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch
Jazz Is Dead -- Scarlet Begonias
Phish -- Weigh
Galactic -- Tiger Roll
Daniel Lanois -- Falling At Your Feet
Marianne Faithfull -- Nobody's Fault
Kasey Chambers -- The Captain
Laura Love -- Come As You Are
Sarah McLachlan -- On A Winter's Night
The Wayfaring Strangers -- Man Of Constant Sorrow
James Taylor -- Second Star To The Right

posted by boyhowdy | 12:16 AM | 0 comments

Monday, December 01, 2003

Monday Mosh: The Postprandial Edition

Dancing is the last thing on most minds after a thanksgiving-or-otherwise feast; it's not insticntive to flail so soon after stuffing one's face. Still, if the baby's post-holiday-meal mosh to a zydeco beat is any indication, there's nothing like a mosh to shake off the fullbelly blues. This week's Monday Mosh memetheme:

Mosh after eating.

(But don't forget to wait at least a half an hour before plunging in, or you'll get a cramp.)

How To Monday Mosh: Dance around just 'cause it's Monday, and answer three questions in your blog or in the comments below, leaving us a link so we know you were here:
  • What song did you mosh to?

  • What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)

  • Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:07 AM | 0 comments
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