Sunday, February 08, 2004

Monday Mosh: Remember The 80s Edition

We've finished Marxism and Feminism, and with just weeks left in the trimester we're finally up to the eighties in the Modern American Culture class I teach here at NMH. In preparation for Music Monday, I've been scavenging from the remnants of my post-adolescent vinyl; though I did find some good Dinosaur Jr., and a scrap of The Chills, mostly that's meant a lovely hour getting Duran Duran's Hungry Like The Wolf and height-of-cheesiness Safety Dance back out of my head. God, I'd forgotten how awful drum machines were.

You may not be a child of the eighties, of course. But there's cheese in every decade. This week's memetheme:

Mosh to something cheesy.

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:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:27 PM | 0 comments

One Musketeer

You remember that tight-knit group of misfits you used to hang with? The four or five or three so inseparable, wherever you went people knew the others were soon to follow? Remember that time when you left a flashlight on in the tent and crept out along the train tracks for the bonding experience of your life, just to see dead Ray Brower?

Yeah, me neither.

I’ve been rereading Stephen King’s The Body, the novella that made everybody’s favorite celebrity blogger famous when it got turned into Stand By Me, and finally traced the tug of longing that keeps bringing me back to the story to a social phenomenon we already know: some people have a group, and some don’t. It got me musing on yearning for the camaraderie of inseparable friends, even if just for a moment, which I’ve never experienced. And then it made me depressed, so I stopped. But here’s what I got to before then.

See, I had friends growing up – even had a couple of close friends, maybe even best friends, at various times in my life. I could probably sit and dredge up memories of these guys for hours. But it’s just depressing to do so: they’re gone, and I’m so bad at keeping in touch it’s probably my fault, and who wants to think about that? – and so the cycle goes.

So instead, in my memory I’m the kid who reads so much and so deeply that my strongest memory of elementary school is the time the entire class went off to gym and I didn’t even notice I was alone and missing gym until the lights turned themselves off later. I don’t drink much because I’ve got no drinking buddies; I smoke because it’s company, sometimes. I’m the guy who doesn’t go out much, and isn’t missed. In my worst hours I fear that the real reason I teach is that its easy to have confidence when you’re the one with all the answers – and the power to fail others.

There’s no trick to what went wrong. And the causes are clear, psychologically (a heady concoction of social anxiety and a lack of confidence driven by by astute self- and other-consciousness), environmentally (a slight disfunction at home and a root-tearing-up move to a new school district in second grade, when the teams and the rules of the game had already been established before you) and behaviorally (an earnest goofiness, the kind that attracts bullies.)

My name is boyhowdy, and I’m alone. My life is full of acquaintances, but bereft of blood brothers.

I sit with my teaching peers at high wooden tables in the dining hall and smalltalk my way through a short meal, but no one ever comes by for a beer.

Darcie’s the same way, but less comfortable socially. When we met in college, a party was raging around us, but she was holed up with our only mutual friends playing Pictionary; when I stumbled into their room in what, until that moment, I had intended to be my usual drunken rounds, I stayed until we left together…and now you know the rest of the story. In twelve years I’ve only ever met two or three of Darcie’s friends, and she’s never really had a night or afternoon out with anyone in the six years we’ve lived here; I, at least, do sometimes head out for music or a drink with one of a small number of folks, though but once or twice a year.

But it’s been a long time since college ended, and as much as dropping out so suddenly brought us together, it also insulated us from that world. While our friends stayed on, together, towards graduation, we were off and running, barely paying the phone bills with delivery jobs, becoming old before our time. By the time I went back to college I had too little in common with my peers to know them so deeply: four years older and practically married, with the girlfriend living down the hill – not much of a foundation for an active social life. The frequent trips down the hill pulled me from the deep and abiding relationships my parents have with their college friends.

And now? More than anything it’s the curious distance which develops here in a boarding school environment, where the role modeling never ceases, where all prospective soulmates are also the people you work with, which perpetuates distance. But where others seem to find peers and peergroups from other departments, keeping professional and personal separate, as a teacher of all of them, faculty and students alike, I’m just too close professionally to be a natural choice for friend – and lack the grace and nuance to make it work despite the uphill climb.

So if I’m not working, you’ll find me home – a place where we have each other, and that’s a whole lotta love, let me tell you. But sometimes I wish I had a gentleman’s club, a confidante, a loose band of brothers. Even a place where everybody knows your name would do.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:31 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Sign of the Times

The US State Department has issued an edict banning its longtime standard typeface from all official correspondence and replacing it with a "more modern" font. ...In an internal memorandum distributed on Wednesday, the department declared "Courier New 12
" -- the font and size decreed for US diplomatic documents for years -- to be obsolete and unacceptable after February 1..."In response to many requests and with a view to making our written work easier to read, we are moving to a new standard font: 'Times New Roman 14'," said the memorandum.

1. They were still using Courier New? Dude, that's practically stone age. I handle something like a hundred student papers a term; I've not recieved a paper in Courier since before the millenium. If any of us had any confidence in the military complex left, the behind-the-times, out-of-touch implications here should about kill it.

2. Is comprehensive font standardization really necessary? I'm sure it improves efficiency, but a narrow lens of presentation implies a narrow lens of interpretation and technique. If the medium is the message, the State Department might do with some loosening up and diversity training -- we might have found a place still in need of that old "thinking outside the box" lecture chestnut.

3. And if the medium is the culture, too, than a close read of the semiotics of each font might be illuminating. For example, the squared boxiness and widely spaced characters of Courier might connotate a culture of CIA-esque narrow military precision and exclusion, while tall proud and densely arrayed Times New Roman, while a big too big for its britches at 14 point, seems more like the debonair high culture, formal jet-set diplomancy we'd wish of our State and its Department.

Some of this isn't news to the folks at State: according to the font-change memorandum, the new font "takes up almost exactly the same area on the page as Courier New 12, while offering a crisper, cleaner, more modern look." But I'd point out that their language is pretty empty, semantically speaking -- since crisp and clean are only metaphoric, rather than literal, it's not clear how we're supposed to interpret them; similarly, modern by definition only refers to current social mores, themselves complex, overlayed, and ever in flux.

Also, there's something about the word edict that doesn't really lend itself to trusting relationships.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:50 PM | 0 comments

Friday, February 06, 2004


I see the moon
The moon see me
Goddamn the moon
and goddamn me

It's too hard not to laugh, though it positively reinforces. Especially noteworthy: the corruption of language has to be coincidental, no matter how clear -- goddamn just isn't part of our vocabulary.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:09 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, February 05, 2004


Still no car keys. Darcie called a locksmith, who said we'd be able to get the key code from the original dealer. But when we finally tracked them down we discovered that they throw that kind of information out after seven years because by then most people have changed the lock on their car, so the information is irrelevant and confusing. What? Who does that? Incidentally, the locksmith around here will change a hundred bucks to remove and borrow the door lock from the car and use it to make a new set of keys. Not bad, when you consider that the 'smith will have to make a house call to get the lock core because, after all, if we could drive it there, we wouldn't need his help in the first place.

As my school-provided laptop has ground to a halt over the past few weeks I've learned an important lesson: if you move offLAN, don't forget that your virus scan auto-update is intranet-based. Mickey the IT tech reports that my laptop set a new record for viruses (over 60) and popups (over 800), and may need to stay in her shop for a few more days. So now I'm carless and computerless, albeit thankful for redundancy within the family in both cases -- conveniently, the IT folks lost their assets manager in the recent budget cuts, and forgot to ask for Darcie's laptop back when the school didn't rehire her last year.

Even my body isn't working right. I hit a record five nosebleeds in one day yesterday; highlights here include sneezing during a class lecture, feeling that unmistakable trickling feeling, and actually asking the class if they minded if I kept teaching. (They didn't, so I did, with a tissue on my nose until it stopped.) Then today I fell asleep on the couch after returning from our dining hall supper, crushing one of my favorite ties, and you know they're never the same after you squish 'em. Woke up for a brief systems check an hour later, and despite oodles of papers to grade and other sundry backwork on the brain, crashed alongside my wife and child, nearing the end of their extended shared bedtime ritual, in our communal bed for an additional hour, waking only when my vivid dream of hospitals somehow led to a chase scene on a glass staircase above a flooded restaurant, and my shoes began to slip.

Lucky I awoke: despite impending snow 'n' ice, I've got a presentation on "Blogs as library resources: implications and reservations" for the library staff tomorrow afternoon. And I must give my Modern American Culture class a quiz on Marxist and Feminist critical theories tomorrow if we're to stay on track, and to give it, I need to write it. I'm thinking a little What are the differences and similarities between hegemony and patriarchy?, maybe some In what way is the act of criticism political? or Why do many Feminists reject the validity of Men's studies? Yeah, and something about the relationship between Marx and Marxism. That'll hold 'em for a while.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:48 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

And This Time, I Mean It

What's On your "I'll never do that again" list Right Now?

I will never again... get within six inches of a surge protector in a third world country, especially a Bangladesh school library.

I will never again... roll over and go back to sleep because "it's only a little nosebleed."

I will never again... order the "volcano" wings.

I will never again... push down on the scale to see if it will break.

I will never again... raise my hand to speak in a room full of my teaching peers. Even if what I thought I had to say was going to make sense before I said it. If you know what I mean.

I will never again... refer to the "the stink of IT," especially when talking to my boss, the head of IT.

I will never again... get so carried away in a lecture that I tell an entire class of students that the guy who wrote Lord of the Flies is the same guy who wrote The Princess Bride.

I will never again... take the car key off the key ring, because, man, was that stupid -- now I'll have to send the VIN number to the company or something -- hey, does anyone know what you do if you've lost the only key to your car? And we'll have to share the other car, which means lots of confusion and fights and waiting for rides in cold lobbies.

I will never again... make love to anyone but my wife. I've been thinking about that for some reason lately. Not in a bad or creepy way, mind you. Just...thinking about it.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:48 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Now That's What I Call Media Exposure

Frankly, Janet, I don't give a...Oops!

It's been a good week to be a media studies teacher.

1. Janet and Justin: Did they or didn't they? I've been seeing this peripherally for a day and a half already; the game was boring and the ads mediocre at best, so in an otherwise light news cycle we're left with a cultural conundrum and an airspace thick with rumor, including Janet taking all the heat, the possibility of a "full FCC investigation" and/or a million dollar fine, and -- no surprise here -- a rash commitment from CBS that they will never contract with MTV for a halftime show again. But in my mind, what's interesting about this whole flapdoodle is that it doesn't matter whether or not it was planned, or by whom. Neither the presence or absence of intent nor the ultimate assignation of blame will make one whit of difference to what the ultimate effect of it will be on the medium of television, and our cultural discourse that follows: football has been recreated as a sport of boors (including those TiVOheads who made this bare-boob moment the most repeated event in TiVO history) and, as such, anathema to family values. The breast moves, and having scarred, moves on. So much for feminism.

2. CBS refuses to change their policy on "issue ads," doesn't air contest winner. The real news here, though, is that the liberal media is addressing the issue as one of Free Speech and responsibility to the public, when anyone who's read even a little bit of Neil Postman would realize that it's a cultural DISservice to allow TV to be used for "advertising" complex ideas. CBS' responsibility to the public should lie in recognizing the iconographic tendencies of their medium, and refusing to allow public discourse to be dumbed down. As if one could sell more than raw emotion in a 30 second ad. Even the New York Times, while acknowledging that the Right is probably hurt worse and more often by this policy than the liberal Left, misses the point on this one, suggesting that exposure alone is reason enough to air such ads during the Super Bowl and, in doing so, mistaking power for positive change. Champion-of-the-literati Postman would have been so disappointed.

3. Mary-Ellis Bunim, 57, creator of Real World, Simple Life, called back home by Satan. 'nuff said. And while we're on the subject, does the new Survivor, which features past winners and also-rans from previous episodes of Survivor, still count as reality television, even though these folks have already done this once before? Have we traded in the real for the surreal, when we know that Richard Hatch is going to strip down, and then he does strip down, and we watch it anyway? Surely we are merely witnessing an old form of metanarrative, like Road Rules vs. Real World, or when the Flintstones met the Jetsons -- that rapid commodification of the genre itself, towards self-parody and recycling, when you know they've all long since jumped the shark. But I'll wait until they stop fuzzing out Hatch's nether parts for prime time to make the final call on whether its reality, or just reality television, that's on its last breath. The cynic in me says I won't be waiting long.

4. Also in today's obituaries: some guy who revolutionized and standardized the use of film trailers before the main feature. Just imagine a world where you can sit in a well-and-warmlylit theater and talk to the person next to you until the movie starts. Now thank Andrew Kuehn for taking that pleasurable experience and replacing it with fast flashy adverts that startle you out of your seat, waste as much as ten minutes of your time, and in no way set the tone for the movie that follows. Can't tell whose impact on culture was worse, Kuehn's or Bunim's, but they both ought to be glad I'm not the one who has to decide on their pennance for all eternity -- the possibilities for just desserts are tempting indeed.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:06 PM | 0 comments

Are You Out There?

Though boarding students had to return from their long weekend by nine tonight, the campuses were deserted and the libraries and classroom buildings dark as I drove over to the other campus just before ten for tonight's radio show. That and the clear bright mostlyfullmoon night to set the stage and the show flowed like a dream. How different, how disorienting to emerge into the past-bedtime midnight to an isolated fogworld, rime on the car, and a dark drive home with the high beams fading conically before me into nothingness.

Perhaps it was, after all, a dream. After all, as a wise professor once said, you can't stop sound to look at it more closely, it disappears. Still, when the show's over, the playlist remains. Here's tonight's set.

Tributary 2/2/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Oysterhead -- Oz Is Ever Floating
Ben Harper -- Mama's Got A Girlfriend Now
Beau Jocque -- The Back Door
Sam Philips -- I Need Love
The Gourds -- El Paso
Parliament -- Tear The Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk)
Michael Franti and Spearhead -- We Don't Stop
A Tribe Called Quest -- Left My Wallet In El Segundo
The Rembrants -- Plans For Nigel
The Wallflowers -- I'm Looking Through You
Acoustic Syndicate -- Pumpkin and Daisy
Jack Johnson w/ DJ Logic -- Rodeo Clowns
Moxy Fruvous -- Present Tense Tureen
String Cheese Incident -- Take Five
Bruce Cockburn -- Mango
Dar Williams -- Are You Out There
Erin Mckeown -- La Petite Mort
Dave Matthews Band -- Satellite
Daniel Lanois w/ Bono -- Falling At Your Feet
Indigo Girls -- Least Complicated
Slaid Cleaves -- One Good Year
Susan Werner -- Time Between Trains
The Bobs -- Something In My Ear
Negativland -- Escape From Noise
Barenaked Ladies -- Light Up My Room

posted by boyhowdy | 12:49 AM | 0 comments

Monday, February 02, 2004

Oh My God, It's The Monday Mosh!

Too tired this afternoon after a six hour stint Willow-watching while Darcie went off to mallshop for an event she's designing for the school, and a bit shaky after the napless baby tripped on a roller toy by the big fire escape window and thonked audibly and headfirst into the low sill, but the long weekend provides a day of extra recovery, at least, and the football was just what I needed. Though I was born on a Superbowl Sunday, this one snuck up on us; if we hadn't gone to the dining hall and seen all the portable game-food, we'd probably have missed what turned out to be a fairly consistent game. And da Pats was wicked, mush!

This week's memetheme:

Mosh to your winning-est anthem.

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:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:30 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Time Flies, Butterflies

Last time we took Willow to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens she was, mostly, terrified; this time, she loved it all. For fortyfive minutes until closing time, she ran around the tightly networked greenhouse garden, peered through the wooden bridge slats at the giant koi, squatted along the pavement in the unwitting middle of other people's photographs, laughing as she reminded herself to look wi' eyes. No touch!. What a difference a year makes.

Shared happiness, of course. It was seventy degrees in the middle of winter there under the glass, and hardly busy: a nice place to be in the setting sun. Great brown-speckled moths and zebra-striped butterflies flew by us in swoops and swarms, while their smaller lacewinged cousings sipped nectar from bright sponges just out of reach; in the corners. A tiny greenbacked hummingbird fed itself on hothouse flowers inches from our faces, its body seemingly weightless, its wings mere disturbances in the air beside.

Taking a last lingering look around the fluttering air on our way out to the truckstop diner for steak, grits, and overeasy eggs we spotted a veryyoung couple clutching each other and crying in the back, by the bower and benches -- two kids, probably up from UMass, she with an Army surplus store handbag, he in a Beck/Beatles harcut, carefully mussed, and a velvet ring box on the bench behind them; two kids, I thought at first, surely far too young to make it to where we are now, and what kind of life together starts at the butterfly gardens, and costs $7.50 per person?

And then I looked down at my family, buttoning up against the cold beside me, and how lucky I am to have them here with me in the butterfly gardens on a spare Saturday in January, and how young my wife and I were when we dropped out of college together ourselves. And thought about our own engagment, in the only restaurant we could find open on Christmas Eve: no more auspicious, and far less well planned.

So in pennance for my cynicism, here's to the happy couple. May their life together be filled with bright colors, light hearts, and warmth in the worst of winters, as it started. If we can have it, then why not, after all, anyone else?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:24 PM | 0 comments

Friday, January 30, 2004

The Peoples' Evening: Why I Love It Here

Payday today, and a long weekend ahead; flush-feeling and free (and hungry) brought us to a meet-up with younger sis-in-law and boyfriend Ryan at the most child-friendly microbrew bar and local/organic grill in town.

Greenfield, MA haunt The People's Pint specializes in a cozy hardwood atmosphere and a mean Pale Ale, but we go as much for the food itself. Tonight: the usual homemade local sausage quesadila with salsa sour cream, warm chips, and the cajun catfish special, a spicy slab with cucumber dressing and sides of rough-hewn local cornbread, coarse-chopped slaw, and candied sweet potatoes.

Afterwards a homebrew champagne hard cider back at the house, uncorked clear and crisp from its unlabeled well-kept bottle in the back of the fridge. Distilled two doors down by the head of the History Department from the unpasterized raw-press cider served in the school dining halls, made on the school farm, pressed from the Macs and Spys and Cortlands and other sundries grown on the school orchard, it's the best cider I've had. Period.

Have I mentioned it's been three years since I've eaten any maple syrup more than 15 miles from where it was made? Mmmm...pancakes.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:12 PM | 0 comments

Stranger Than Fiction

Fire breaks out on teacher's desktop. Heat causes fish bowl on desk to explode, water puts out the fire. Fish OK. Students get to write narrative from perspective of the fish: He saw the fire, and then he got real hot and then his vase broke and he fell on the floor and the fireman came in and saved him. Ah, the circle of life.

Still not clear how teacher's desk caught on fire at 1:00 a.m. on a Saturday, though. Perhaps the goldfish was smoking?

In other news, I made a student cry today. Now if only I could get the parents to stop sharing while I'm trying to teach their kids, all would be groovy with Parent's Visiting Days.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:54 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Shared Expanses

My second favorite meme today asks what's on your front yard right now -- a question I submitted, which makes it all the more humiliating to find that it doesn't apply. For what it's worth, here's what I can offer:

Technically, we have no yard. Yards belong to first floor residents; when you live on the third floor, among the eaves and slantroof spaces of a splitlevel, you take what you can get, and ask permission first. For us, sitting outside means sitting outside someone else's window, and isn't privacy part of what yard is all about?

Too, even if we did, nothing here is really ours. We live in school housing, an old once-infirmary farmhouse on the edge of the largest coed boarding school in New England; our house and its plot, our neighbor's houses and the roads connecting them are all part of an expanse of over three thousand acres of land owned for the last hundred years by the school itself. It's everyone's yard, and no one's; what ownership we due feel is due to politeness and propriety, not mortgages and liens as is usually the case. Sometimes, when I can't sleep in the wee hours of the morning, it's because I'm thinking about the hard truth of this: if I were to be fired tomorrow, we'd be homeless, too.

I suppose if we had seniority among residents we might have a stronger case for a patch of land to call our own in name, if not legality, but we're freshly out of dorm this year. Faculty Dean Pam (1st floor) and English Teacher Chuck (2nd floor) are older, have taught here longer, and lived here first. When we wanted to set up a swingset and bench for the baby over the summer, they were gracious enough to grant us a few square feet on the edge of the back meadow, and we were grateful for it. Even now, if you open the picture window and crane your head past the fire escape birdfeeders, you can see the corner of it, half-buried from yesterday's storm.

But only barely, and dimly at that. Because it's dark, and the whole world's covered in a fluffy nine inches, snow late in coming and driven through all day long as the storm doubled back and the fat white flakes fell and fell and fell: on the yard, yes, the tiny strip in front which hugs the road and holds nothing and the wide expanse in back; on the cultivated sides, the trees, and the swingset too; on the squirrel nests and the family of five doves huddling on the low branches of the biggest tree. Even now, like a blanket in the night where I cannot see, snow covers the catprints and the fallen seeds below the picture window that isn't ours, crusting against Pam's flat Volvo roof in the parking lot, and burying Chuck's snowmobile on its track behind the house.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:02 PM | 0 comments

Willow's Bellows

Tonight for the last fifteen minutes of supper in the school dining hall, while she waited for us to stop making small talk with friends and co-residents Sarah and Alex and their own shy little one Jack, our darling wee one, now a big girl at eighteen months, sung a corrupted version of "This Old Man". For fifteen minutes. At the top of her lungs. Without ever making it to the second verse. And, if you listened carefully, you could tell that this particular man wasn't old, but naked, and quite possibly a pedophile. As in:

Naked man, he played one, knick knack knick knack on my tum...

Puts give the dog a bone into a whole new context, doesn't it?

Preemptively, in the car on the way back from the student dining hall, I tried getting her through the old man's shoe, knee, and other sundries. She seemed to be getting it right, or so I thought. Then, just as the old man began playing five, I realized the voice from the back seat had begun singing something else entirely:

Tree my mice,
Tee my mice,
Tee my mites,
Tea nigh my,
Me my mice,
See my mice,
Me my my,
Me me my,
My my my,
Tee my my,

Language play and the observation thereof has been so much fun, especially when there's so much gusto involved. But we always knew at some point it'd stop being so cute. It's times like this I can see that horizon.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:08 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Sounds Like...

(a sad pun that reflects a sadder mess)

Still running as hard as I can just to catch up. Thanks to all well-wishers and afficianados; true blogging in all its pithy wit will return shortly. (Or is that witty pith?)

Did manage to squeeze out the weekly radio show on WNMH 91.5 FM, the most powerful high school radio station in the Western Hemisphere last night, though the studio phone's still broken, and the cranky old radiators have begun to knock loud enough to be heard on-air. As always, this week's playlist follows:

Tributary 1/26/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Phish -- Back On The Train
Beck -- Devil's Haircut
Suzanne Vega -- 99.9 F
Stevie Ray Vaughn -- Empty Arms
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu
Eddie From Ohio -- Monotony
The Waifs -- London Still
Barry White -- Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe
Jorma Kaukonen -- Red River Blues
They Might Be Giants -- Fibber Island
Sarah Harmer -- Basement Apartment
Glen Phillips -- Have A Little Fun With Me
Barenaked Ladies -- Blame It On Me
Cassandra Wilson -- The Weight
Norah Jones -- Cold Cold Heart
The Story -- love is more thicker than forget
Gillian Welch -- Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor
Shawn Colvin -- Every Little Thing (he) Does Is Magic
John Gorka -- Like My Watch
Paul Simon -- She Moves On
Cesaria Evora -- Carnival De Sao Vincente
Fatal Mambo -- Magot Tcheri (In The Summertime)
Marc Cohn -- She's Becoming Gold
Girlyman -- My Sweet Lord

posted by boyhowdy | 10:44 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Monday Mosh: The No Excuses Edition

I've been feeling kind of sick. My grandfather's sick again. We had company. I disconnected the cable modem at home for a party last weekend and am just too lazy to get it hooked back up again. I had far too many papers to grade. My family comes first, and they hadn't been.

Okay, so I haven't blogged in five days. Mostly, I'm just so far behind on work I'm worried about keeping my job. You, on the other hand, haven't been moshing! What's your excuse?

Mosh to a song which explains everything.

And make it a good one, eh?

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:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:36 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Now I Rock

Why? Because I managed to find the extra carriage return in my own darn comments and fixed 'em!

Feel free to comment on this. Later, I might actually write something worth commenting on.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:51 PM | 0 comments

Tech Assistance Needed... help me figure out why my comments aren't working when they worked fine just last week. Brownie points, fresh from the virtual oven, to anyone who can help.

Other than that, I'm still too swamped to blog much. Grades were due yesterday, but I ended up with a backlog of other "stuff" as a result. Committee work, grading, class prep, and media projects -- including an infrastructure design of the media/edtech web page for work, and a proposal for student supplemental staffing of information commons spaces -- should ebb enough by tomorrow for a full entry. I hope.

[UPDATE 2:12 p.m.: Obviously, you can't leave comments to assist me (duh), so here's an email link. ]

posted by boyhowdy | 1:34 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

My Brother Rocks

Jesse Farber, Rock, styrofoam and acryllic, 2003

From One Inch Show, a recent group exhibition in a NJ/NYC area gallery. No work could be larger than one inch cubed.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:01 AM | 0 comments

Comments Temporarily Dead, But...

Thanks to bravenet, you can still sign the guestmap!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:26 AM | 0 comments

Out Of Time

Yes, I know the comments are acting up. But midterm progress reports are due tomorrow at noon noon noon, as they like to say around here. I'm far, far behind. Meanwhile, I've got class until ten, a series of instructional sessions for a ninth grade Humanities class on how to organize and develop excellent PowerPoint presentation, two of those 9th grade Health class lectures on media literacy and tobacco in the afternoon, and agreed to cover in-dorm study hall duty for a coworker who will have to put her ailing dog to sleep today. Looks like an all-nighter coming up; expect no blogging or blogfixing for a day or so.

To tide you over, here's last night's banjo-heavy radio show playlist. Feel free to recreate it on your own stereo.

Tributary 1/19/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Spacehog -- Senses Working Overtime
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Blood Red Sky
Phish -- Sample In A Jar
Barenaked Ladies -- The Old Apartment
Rusted Root -- I Would Like To Hold Your Little Hand
Ani Difranco -- Angry Anymore
Nirvana -- Polly
St. Germain -- Latin Note
Nickel Creek -- Spit On A Stranger
Biscuit Boys -- You Ain't Going Nowhere
Patty Larkin -- All That Innocence
The Jayhawks -- Save It For A Rainy Day
Girlyman -- Hey Rose
String Cheese Incident -- Joyful Sound
Ladysmith Black Mambazo w/ Des'ree -- Ain't No Sunshine
Tony Furtado -- Waiting For Guiteau / President Garfield's Hornpipe
Alison Brown -- The Dalai Camel
Bela Fleck -- Almost 12
Bela Fleck -- Bach: Three Part Invention No. 15
Medeski Martin & Wood -- Bemsha Swing / Lively Up Yourself
Patty Griffin -- Forgiveness
Dolly Parton -- Shine
Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem -- Big Black Bird

posted by boyhowdy | 8:22 AM | 0 comments

The Day In Work

First, steal a dozen traffic cones (high-water signs optional). This way, no one will be able to get close enough to see you slacking off at work.

Next, spend the day taking revenge on evil customers.

Finally, after working far more than 40 hours, come home and complain about your sucky customers.

All links accessed from work -- courtesy of Fark, of course.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:12 AM | 0 comments

Monday, January 19, 2004

Monday Mosh: The Half-a-Loaf Edition

They're cutting my school in half by September of 2005. I only managed to grade half the papers I needed to today. I had half an Aleve before media center proctoring duty tonight, but it wasn't half enough to kill the backpain. I've got half a mind to throw in the memtowel, since I get so many hits but so few moshparticipants these days; if only half of you actually participated, it'd be worth it. Todays memetheme:

Mosh to half a song.

Any half will do.

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:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:01 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, January 18, 2004


It occurs to me that vote-based link heirarchies are self-perpetuating. For example, if you go to -- where I am currently at the top of blorgy's Most Highly Rated list -- and gave my recent blogentry Teaching As A Subversive Activity a 4 or 5 score, my position at the top of said list would last until the post is two weeks old, and thus no longer eligible. If I wasn't there on the list to point to, you'd have a harder time doing that.

Also contributing to this phenomenon: more people are likely to visit that post if it's featured so prominently. As long as it's decent, then its status gets reinforced. Inversely, if it can't be found, it gets missed by strangers.

Much cooler: it seems I not only have succeeded in hovering, albeit temporarily, at the top of the list overnight, thus rating Blog of the Moment status for the site, but in doing so for long enough (or perhaps enough times?) I've actually rated a site-specific icon of my own:

Thanks to the good folks at blorgy for doing the dirty work here; readers of all types are invited to beg, borrow, or steal said icon, as long as they attribute it properly.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:00 PM | 0 comments

Grading Supplies

Needed to grade huge pile of papers and, subseqently, write midterm progress reports:
  • Restful sleep (couch acceptable, though not ideal)
  • Dark roasted organic Guatemalan coffee (also milk)
  • Hair of the dog (damned hangover)
  • Aleve (damned bad back)
  • Huge pile of papers (see car)
  • Printer to print hard copies of papers submitted at last possible moment
  • Pilot Precise Extra Fine Rolling Ball pen (red, of course)
  • Manilla folder on which I've been recording grades
  • Calculator
  • Grading rubric (may be internalized, however a reference sheet may help ensure near-objectivity)
  • MS Access progress report application
  • Time (about 10 hours)
  • To stop procrastinating and get to work

posted by boyhowdy | 4:01 PM | 0 comments

Change Is The Only Constant

The trustees of Northfield Mount Hermon, a large coed prep school celebrating its 125th birthday this year, called the community in for a major announcement yesterday after months of uncertainty in the face of financial stress and a sense that mediocrity had become the status quo. The announcement, in barebones:

The Board of Trustees strongly believes that to best serve coming generations of students, to carry forward the enduring aspects of Dwight L. Moody’s legacy, and
to continue to strengthen our unique educational program, Northfield Mount Hermon School:
  • will be located on its Mount Hermon campus in Gill, Massachusetts,
  • will be a coeducational boarding and day school of approximately 600–750 students,
  • will operate on one campus at Mount Hermon in September 2005.

The emergency nature of the meeting -- the out-of-the-blue call came out via the phone chain, just after two, for a 3:30 meeting in the school chapel -- speaks to the urgency the trustees feel is needed to get things moving quickly and decisively, rather than get bogged down in what-ifs. The deed is done, as it were.

Though a semi-surprise birthday party in my honor left me unable to attend the last-minute meeting, and a full-court grading press today and tomorrow will keep my mind too busy to stress about it, the ramifications are enormous. Deserting one campus, and electing to shrink the student body down to just over half its current population, inevitably means half of us will lose our jobs (and our homes, as boarding school requires residency). Deserting the Northfield campus specifically means a sudden and urgent need to build those facilities that the Mount hermon campus lacks: Art facilities, library facilities, enough classroom space, an admissions building. And the timetable means a year of high-stakes turmoil. Alums and current students are already up in arms (also here, with surely more to follow).

At least we'll have something to talk about.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:38 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Teaching As A Subversive Activity

Besides the obvious ego-serving high of being the one in the room with all the answers, not to mention the chalk and the gradebook and the stage persona to carry it off with aplomb, you know what I like about teaching? Assigning papers. It turns out to be deeply satisfying to create the perfect catalyst for epiphany-laden learning, coming up with just the right essay question, the one which makes the students really struggle to put complex relationship and theories into their own words (and, in doing so, broaden the brain a little). And I've even begun to enjoy reading the work that comes back. It's so fascinating how other people see the world, and moreso to watch them squinting at it.

And squint they do. Despite long hair and a young subject -- you don't find that many close-to-retirement media and pop culture faculty these days -- I have a rep for being one of those esoterically-minded teachers that assigns too much work, lectures too much, makes you work for your B-, and is more interested in what you'll learn from the class than what you learn in the class. Not by accident, either. Heck, it worked for me.

I think it's working for them, too. You can see it in their eyes, in the questions they ask. Some of them have taken to staying after class to tell me their brain hurts, and they're pissed off at themselves for not yet "getting it." Mostly they're really asking for an exchange, for a few minutes of clarification, of focus. I tell them that what they're feeling is academic growing pains, that its a sign that they're doing something very, very right. And it is.

So if students are coming to me eager to get complex ideas right, it also means I'm doing something right. Whether they realize it or not, such questions present as compliments. What else is it but a mark of teaching success when a student wants to wriggle on the hook a little bit more after the bell has rung? When they've seen your fire, and want it for themselves?

You know what I really love about teaching? Making thirst. And helping the thirsty dowse, drill wells, and prepare to drink deeply. Mostly, I love finding the perfect essay question because it can accomplish all that.

Today I collected ten essays, all addressing the ways in which changes in social consciousness become institutional change via analysis of the growing pains of our own institution in the late sixties, as experienced through two alumni speakers who visited the class last week; I still have to grade the abstracts for their class presentations this week, each exploring the sociohistorical significance of a paradigmatic event, text or practice in the same era. Midterm grades are due Wednesday at noon noon noon; I've got a pile of papers to grade, and I'm looking forward to it.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:26 AM | 0 comments

Friday, January 16, 2004

The Flip Side Of Multi(media)tasking

It's logical and intuitively obvious that the more tasks you try to take on at once, the less total brain you'll be able to spare for a given task; it's this truth which underscores the importance of organization, compartmentalization, interconnection, and the ability to locate and search in the modern noetic, where once a print-dominant culture mandated linearity and logic (and, before that, orality demanded memory and the ability to store memory iconographically).

Symptomatically, we've know this all along: remember being on the phone, strange faint noises filling the background, finally realizing that the reason your conversation isn't going anywhere is that the idiot on the other line is watching TV while supposedly talking to you? Keyboard clicking is just as easy to overhear, but this time, according to "the brainy people who study these things" -- don't you just love modern journalism? -- the resulting speech pattern which belies inattention apparently deserves a formal popsociology phrase: "surfer's voice." This is news?

posted by boyhowdy | 2:26 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Deep Freeze

It's been hovering around and below zero for days. Deep breaths hurt the lungs and sting the sinuses. The dog pees on the doorstep and begs to come back inside. The baby's not been outdoors since Tuesday morning. Driving to work in the mornings, the defroster fights a losing battle with the whip of wind against the windshield glass: in streaks and swirls, my breath ices up the window's interior.

Now the overnight low is supposed to be -17 F, and the still air has given way to a wind chill of negative fifty degrees; only in New England's worst winters do the words "winds of 25 to 30 miles per hour" strike such fear into the hearts of mice, men, and prep school students. The kids clamor for a day off, noting that every public school in the entire region has already cancelled classes for the rest of the week; in response, our Dean of Students notes via our bulletin board system that budget cuts have forced state schools to cut bussing for kids who live less than two miles from their school, while we have nice warm student centers for pre-bus congregation, and no walk across campus should take more than four minutes -- notably, just about half the time it should take for frostbite to kick in. That, and tomorrow's midterm. It would take an act of God to close this place.

Tonight on dorm duty the house director called a meeting for the sole purpose of explaining how to layer up. We've already covered the signs of frostbite: tiny white triangles, blue extremities. Half our multiculti, international student body has, quite literally, never been so cold.

The adolescent mind needs a cause, of course, and winter has many. Last week the local sledding death of a ten year old girl on her last run of the day, out of control, in her father's sight, had them clamoring to decry our ban of sledding down the steepest, rock-lined hills on campus, despite the impossibility of any policy but that in our newly litigious society. Before that it was snow days -- how dare we let the busses run with three inches, six inches, twelve or more, despite plows that run all night and a local alcohol-and-sugar mix that keeps the roads sticky and solvent-heavy, the crisp cold air sweet.

I've never liked the cold myself. Like my father before me, true winter weather has always brought actual nerve-ending pain, as deep as bone, as white as light. But in true mind-over-matterhood, I find myself this year more prepared, less bruised by cold than in the past. I wonder if the empathy of fatherhood may have something to do with it. I cried at the death of the ten year old girl, and split my mind again, wanting both the joys of sledding for my as-yet unready duaghter, and simultaneously the eternal bubble-wrap safety of her fragile red-eared body, but I forge out each morning in the now-negative double digits unafraid.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:35 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Celebratory Randomalia

It's my 31st birthday today. As a gift to myself, I'm not going to worry about creating a single cogerent entry; what follows is instead a cyclical, intertwined laundry list of current brainfodder, i.e. a trifecta of trite tight colon-heavy post-modernistic tidbits, titles included, which otherwise might have made great blog entries -- or so that little homunculus that lives in the back of my brain claims. Well, (s)he's always been right before.

Jewish By Association?

I'm a happy participant in a mixed-religion marriage: in rhyme, a Reconstructionist Jew married to a Unitarian U. Niceties result: not having to choose between one set of relatives and another for major religious holidays, since the Jew-lunar spiritual calendar hardly ever coincides with the Christ/Gregorian holy timetable. Yes, there was the initial concern about Judaism-as-race from the parent, but my ace-in-the-hole -- a faux-innocent suggestion that surely my God wouldn't have found me love in someone he didn't want me to love seriously, because what am I, Job? -- put that behind us quickly. Nary a negative in sight, so far (knock wood). But perhaps I spoke too soon: In the mail today, the Simon Weisenthal Center mailing asks for a signature to support "The Growing Threat to World Jewry," but the nine by twelve is addressed to her. What, I'm not Jewish enough for you, Simon Weisenthal Center?

Taste Buds: Nurture or Nature?

Shouldn't be surprised, I guess, having started out in such a mecca of Jewry. 31 years ago today I was born just outside Atlanta, Georgia, in the midst of my father's two-year first-draft try for a corporate lawfirm partnership; we returned to the Northeast within my first year and never looked back. Notably, my nine month old was barely eating solid food by nine months. So why is it that every year what I really crave for my birthday is southern barbecue? Tonight, for example, catfingers and crawdad poppers, pulled pork and Memphis ribs at Easthamptonian Smokin' Lil's, courtesy of Darcie, with a little help from her babysitting parents; luckily, there's a mess o' great rib joints this end of Massachusetts. Redbones when we can in Somerville, home visiting my parents. Even had my first legal drink over a plate of cornbread, beans, slaw and rubs at East Side Grill in Inman Square back in Cambridge. If there's a homunculus in my head, there's a good ol' boy in my gullet.

Think Globally, Travel Internationally

It's not like I've been to the American South much -- and Florida doesn't count after three decades of Disneyworld and old folks retirement. Louisiana a couple of times in high school and soon after, mostly for the Jazz and Heritage Festival (now sadly off-limits for me, as it's too close to the end of the term). But heck, I've only been in less than 20 of "our" fifty states. Been in more overseas countries than that, some which don't even exist anymore (yes, the USSR was too a country, dude). Is this like living in New York and never climbing the Statue of Liberty? And yet I teach American Culture now. Ah, irony. If I had my druthers, I'd be spending my birthday touring the Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam. Now that was living -- a quick tour of copper vats and Percheron stalls, and then all you can drink in fortyfive minutes, all for a buck. And speaking of beer, did you know the only place to get Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in Bangladesh is the American Club? You gotta know somebody to get in, though.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:01 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, January 13, 2004


Headachy and bored at work in the library information commons, trying too hard to make yesterday's draft/notes about my trip up to the top of the chapel belltower with Leon the custodian imbued with some serious metaphoric meaning about history and our place in it. Trying so hard, in fact, that the entry I'm trying to write is falling apart, and my head's begun pounding so hard it hurts.

So I wrote this one instead.

I know why I'm trying so hard: it's that damn rating system, which has, I now realize, crept under my skin, raising the subjective stakes for blogging, as if I shouldn't try to write something serious and good and essay-esque unless I'm willing to sweat blood to get it there. As if the word essai didn't mean to try.

You know you're writing for the wrong reasons when you've got blogwriter's block. Maybe it's time to let this one go for a while.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:09 PM | 0 comments


Back on the air tonight after almost a month of holidays, with no opportunity to pick up my weekly cup on the way over. The phone kept ringing while I was on-air running down the playlist, but when I picked it up there was just a strange beeping sound, and then silence. At least the music felt right. And I love that the universe grants me an opportunity to share my soundtrack once a week.

As always, here's tonight's playlist; I'm too tired to say much else, so we'll let the music speak for itself, as it should. Starred music is newly acquired -- it was a good vacation, after all. And tomorrow, I promise, I'll tell you all about my visit to the chapel clocktower.

Tributary 1/12/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
*Beau Jocque -- The Back Door
*Robert Earl Keene -- Furnace Fan
Trey Anastasio -- Alive Again
*Michael Franti and Spearhead -- Everyone Deserves Music
*Otis Rush -- Homework
Joss Stone -- Fell In Love With A Boy
*Ralph Stanley -- Are You Tired Of Me My Darling
Erin McKeown -- Slung-lo
Dan Zanes -- Wonderwheel
Dan Hicks -- My Cello
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Boyo
Kasey Chambers -- You Got The Car
Marianne Faithful -- Nobody's Fault
*Patty Griffin -- Christina
Girlyman -- Amaze Me
*Eva Cassidy -- American Tune
Daniel lanois -- Falling At Your Feet
Keller Williams -- Anyhow, Anyway
Chris Smither -- Happier Blue
Eddie From Ohio -- Good At That
David Wilcox -- Leave It Like It Is
Not Earthshaking -- Judy Blue
John Cale -- Hallelujah
Dixie Chicks -- Let Him Fly

posted by boyhowdy | 12:40 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Monday Mosh: The NOW Edition

Look, so few people Mosh, but so many of you visit. So let's make it easy this week. You're reading this now, right? Okay,while you're here, have a Mosh. Todays memetheme:

Mosh to that song, yeah that one, the one that's playing right now.

If you don't have any music playing, just mosh to whatever noise you can hear. What, like it's totally silent where you are?

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:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:54 PM | 0 comments

Why We I Blog

Over a year ago, Eric had some interesting thoughts about the stages a blogger goes through when settling into the form; in his experience and, later, mine, navel-gazing -- that time when we spend much of our thought thinking about thinking, and what it means that we're doing this thing we call blog -- necessarily marked its own stage, if only because, so far, the raison d'etre of the blog is still in the jury room. (You'll note that most of the "blogging as media" links over there ------> on the sidebar date from a relatively finite time frame, for example.)

This makes sense. Finding ones own way into blogging, and making ones own meaning of self and symbology, medium and mind, would necessarily be an essential stage in growing towards a user-of-blog, if only because blogging is

But the questions are worth coming back to; if we accept that we change, and that our knowledge needs might change accordingly, performance review of the self and soul seem imperative to health. Thanks to Anne, and to those who follow her threads, for asking about why we started blogging, which prompted a more general think-back and refinement. I'm still thinking a bit about why I'm here -- and maybe when I'm done I'll have time to ask about all of us -- but, for what it's worth, here's what I left in her comments.

I started blogging, actually, for two reasons:

1. I had a student in my Media Literacy class get me all excited about blogs when she did a project exploring their relevance to the digital age.
2. I wanted my new daughter to have a history of me to browse someday.

Notice: not typical reasons, if there is such a thing. I've BEEN a published writer, both journalistically and in my academic field; I enjoyed it, but it's a heck of a lot of work, and I prefer to publish for real only once or twice a year (still do, actaully). Peripherally, I also always wanted to have a diary that actually demanded that I keep up with it. Having a public diary-form did this for me -- once I had just one regular reader, I had enough reason to keep it up. Better to externalize such a push -- make the world your enabler! Much better than those start-em-and-kill-em-a-week-later high school and collegial "journals" that litter my attic.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:46 PM | 0 comments

Tales From The Trip

Before it gets too late, and since we finally unpacked the journal, a couple of short pieces from our trip to Florida last week. Warning: the following, while true, is rated PG-13. This means you, Mom.

1. The Barnes and Noble Blowjob
Warning: the following, while true, is rated PG-13. This means you, Mom.

It's the day before we fly back home. I'm browsing the combined LitCrit/Essay section -- actually a single narrow shelf of fauxwood wedged between a 270 degree corner on the left, and a forest green trimmed window on the right -- at the Cityplace Barnes and Noble, checking the font size of Sarah Vowell's new collection, trying to decide which This American Life author will make for the best reading for the most amount of flight time, and as my eye wanders to the end of the shelf a flash of flesh and a spidery tattoo, something swarming and Celtic, flashes outside the window.

I begin to lean, surreptitiously. The girl, upon further furtive examination, displays a thin adolescent's knobby spine, interrupted by a half-shirt of seaweed, or at least something shimmery and dark in the almost complete darkness, the glow of the incandescent yellow old-Florida streetlights. Her cornrows are like her shirt continued: thin, wiry, and scatter-reflective. I lean out a little more, and realize the reason I can see all this is she's leaning way over forward, so I lean way over around the fauxwood shelf, and I see this guy's hands massaging her hair like some porn star, her underage head in his lap, facedown

oh dear god

She's giving him a blowjob. A Blowjob, on the full balcony of the Cityplace Barnes and Noble. They must figure no one can see them, the way his back is turned carefully to block the view to the other tables. It's clearly a space crefully chosen; here in the corner, the balcony walls come up so high like turrets, you'd never be noticed unless there was some guy staring at you from the window into the store. Heck, maybe they like the thrill of possible discovery.

Or maybe they're just too young to care.

The boy could see me, I think, pulling back self-consciously. My forehead begins to burn, and then my cheeks. I feel old, like a peeping tom. I pay for the Raskoff book and go back to my sleeping wife and daughter.

More later.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:09 PM | 0 comments
coming soon
now listening