Monday, October 25, 2004

Behind The Music 

A problematic evening in the studio, then, what with the back still broken, the mosquitoes come in from the cold, and the tape output not outputting -- that last meaning no mix tape made from tonight's show for car listening throughout the week, a sore disappointment now that I've gotten used to taking these shows home with me.

The phone rang only once, while I was on-air; I got off quick and not so smooth, but not fast enough to hear anyone but a dial tone. My scarf -- the long yarn scarf in fall brownorange given Darcie two Christmases ago from the grab bag at her parent's house, promptly stolen for its colors and worn all winter as it stretched down to my knees on both sides, or was it last Christmas -- got caught in the wheels of the rolling chair and almost didn't make it out. I was so flustered I played the wrong Asleep At The Wheel song -- and here I was so looking forward to "My Baby Thinks She's A Train."

Plus, I had to pee really bad for most of the set.

The music was great, though. No skips or scratches, a couple of great sequences and grooves, and some amazingly smooth and serendipitous transitions. Sure hope someone was out there listening. For what it's worth, here's tonight's playlist, with the usual separators representing bedtime stories read over the airwaves -- poems tonight, Philip Levine and other dark moody men, fluid and full of silences, befitting a night of disasters nobody heard.


Tributary 10/25/04

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
De La Soul -- The Magic Number
Elvis Costello -- Red Shoes
Galactic -- Tiger Roll
Bob Marley -- Jammin'
Phish -- Back On The Train

Joan Osborne -- St. Theresa
Lyle Lovett w/ The Chieftans -- Don't Let Your Deal Go Down
Asleep At The Wheel -- Take Me Back To Tulsa
Del McCoury Band w/ The Chieftans -- Rain And Snow
Rhonda Vincent -- You're In My Heart
The Persuasions -- Dry Bones
The Posies -- I'm Looking Through You
Jeff White -- Tennessee Stud

Yo La Tengo -- Magnet
Patty Griffin -- Making Pies
Deb Talan -- Two Points
Great Big Sea -- Ordinary Day
Glen Phillips -- Have A Little Fun With Me
Jazz Is Dead -- Scarlet Begonias

String Cheese Incident -- Search
The Be Good Tanyas -- Oh Susanna
Nickel Creek -- Out Of The Woods
David Wilcox -- Leave It Like It Is
Patty Larkin -- Tango
Patty Griffin -- Take It Down

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 fm. Tune in next week for another two hours of lullabyes and longing, lightness and laughter, and love, radio-style.

Outside, the leaves fall, a thousand footsteps under a bright moon.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:20 PM | 0 comments


On Defining Racism 

Ordinarily, I wouldn't touch his sort of thing with a ten foot totem. But as those who follow the blog know by now, when both sides of a good and important discussion get bogged down by their own poor definitions of the issues at hand (like what counts as racism), and can't get past it to get down to the real important stuff (like what to DO about it), I can't help myself.

So here, verbatim, is an email I posted into this evening's student-side school bulletin board discussion after three dozen emails arguing about the definition of racism. Sorry about the length; as Twain would say, I would have written it shorter, but I didn't have the time.


Student 1 writes:
Racism implies that you consider another race inferior

Student 2 writes:
No, it does not, techincally and practically speaking. Racism is any act or situation, based in prejudice, ignorance, misunderstanding, or even hatred, in which the majority group benifits from the oppresion of a minority group or groups. Racism is not an act, it is an atmosphere. It's not about superiority, it's about the existance that we esperience.


Here's my response:

I'd be interested in the source for this definition, Student 2. I see it as problematic for three reasons:

1. It clearly states that "racism" does not cover acts or situations "based in prejudice, ignorance, misunderstanding, or even hatred" in which a minority group benefits from the oppression of the majority. Historically, however, there have been a number of instances where a minority with power from means other than sheer population numbers (say, technological power, or monetary power) has oppressed other racial groups, even sought to eradicate them, with explicitly race-grounded reasons. Are we to understand that this was not racism? What was it, then?

2. A related but separate idea: I believe this definition is also too limited in that, in using the term "oppression," it can suggest to the average user of the english language that oppression is always about negative stereotypes. But racism as I understand it can also sometimes be about one group benefitting by DEFINING another group in a specific way, one which (on the surface) is seen by outsiders as positive, not negative -- i.e. not in a way we might ordinarily see as "oppressive." Defining someone else for them is inherently oppressive, of course, but that doesn't seem to be what the definition means by "oppressing." For example, if I say all members of some race are especially good at math, it's not clear who benefits from this, but this is still racism by most people's definition, even the South Park "Museum of Tolerance" definition.

3. The definition given says nothing about race at all -- it says "majority" and "minority" as the only means of distinguishing one group from another. Is class conflict in a culture which is racially unified -- say, in Denmark or something -- thus "racist?" Is gender oppression "racism?" Are all homophobic acts racist? Was the Spanish Inqisition really about race? My concern would be that treating ANY power imbalance under the umbrella of race can actually blind us to the other real and valid differences between us and, in doing so, make it that much more difficult for those who are disempowered for reasons having little to do with race to have their concerns percieved as valid and actionable by governments, groups, and activists like ourselves.

Problematically, Student 2 then wrote to me suggesting that the definition SHE used is the definition currently being taught students in our student awareness trainings. Anyone else see a major problem with this?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:46 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, October 24, 2004

One Hundred Demons 

A writing exercise adapted -- badly -- from a Zen painting exercise as described in Lynda Barry's comic strip collection One! Hundred! Demons!, a "work of autobifictionography" which actually doesn't contain 100 of anything, and neither does this list, though I did get just over halfway there. Anyway, here are the things that plague me, or at least all I was able to think of during a self-imposed 30 minute time limit. It may be far from the original exercise, but if listing them will help me let them go, then at least the exercise is consistent with Zen as I understand it, which is probably wrong.


• mosquitoes
• drowning
• the thought that one day I might need to run really fast and my legs won’t work or I’ll be running in molasses or something
• not being able to wake up from a dream
• that dreams might be real
• going to bed and never waking up
• putting my hand in something warm and squishy in the dark
• accidentally rolling over on the dog or baby in my sleep
• saying something stupid in a social or professional situation
• having to explain myself to people smarter or more powerful than me, especially authority figures
• having a booger on my face all day and no one says anything
• people laughing at me behind my back
• the unseen
• the unknown
• the unsaid
• the inescapable
• war
• environmental disaster
• not leaving things better than I found them
• not noticing creeping cumulative dangers until it’s too late to do anything about their effect
• giving up on things because they're too hard
• losing track of myself in the midst of the chaos
• procrastinating
• not dealing with things I'm supposed to
• my aching back
• being broken
• mysterious aches and pains
• I could have cancer or something and not know until it was too late
• dismissing mysterious aches and pains as natural and then finding out later that I could have done something to fix myself by now it's too late
• Willow falling out of a tree or something
• letting Willow fall out of a tree or something
• Willow losing her trust of me forever because I let her fall out of a tree or something
• something might happen to Darcie and then I'd have to deal with it all on my own
• seeing some old girlfriend and realizing I made the wrong choice
• being unable to recognize a crush for the real thing, which I've already got
• getting lost in the moment and making some irrevocable decision
• remembering times when I should have done the right thing but didn't because I was too cowardly
• kids who grow up unloved
• being the only one who could have made a difference in some kids life and never realizing it
• never finding the time or moment to make the difference
• spreading myself too thin
• losing everyone
• being alone
• being in charge
• forgetting to say "I love you" that one last time and then the person I love getting run over by a truck or something
• not being able to fix everything
• that my worst critics are right
• that I might be inherently less worthy of love and respect than other people
• knowing that I'll never have time to learn everything about everything
• worrying that I'm spending my time on the wrong things without knowing it
• everything turning out just fine, and all this worrying was for nothing


Of course, lest one think I am constantly consumed with my demons, let me point out that I'm on weekend library duty today, which is crushingly boring, that we all have demons in our closet...and that the relationship we have with our demons is often murky and unresolvable. The very existence of Barry's own musing on the nature of our abhorrences speaks to this, I think, so a relevant panel from her abovementioned collection would be an appropriate place to end up:

posted by boyhowdy | 1:46 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, October 23, 2004

MetaBlogging 

Though Blogger's profiles aren't updated enough to be accurate, according to my own count, I've got only 18 more posts until I blog my 1000th entry...and just three weeks until my second bloggiversary!

Any and all suggestions of-and-for and appropriate celebratory gesture or two would be especially welcome. I think Shaw's suggestion to redesign may turn out to be the winner...but let's see what else ya got, world!

Incidentally, other dubiously notable profile info includes the fact that I've written over 277,960 words in the blog since I started blogging way back in November 2002. One can't help but wonder how many novels that would have been. Sigh.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:28 PM | 36 comments


Boyhowdy, With A Keyboard, In The Library 

Lying down and standing up hurt too much, and for some reason, the ergonomically-sound desk chairs at work are the only chairs that take the pressure off my sciatic nerve. So most nights in the past few weeks I've found myself in an otherwise closed and darkened library, my only company thousands of books, dozens of computers, and the knocks of the radiators behind the ancient portraits of ancient founders and donors, settling into myself as the campus outside "my" windows grows quiet and cold.

It's quite peaceful, actually. Except when the security guys come through on their nightly lock-check, which tends to scare the hell out of me no matter how predictable their timing, because who watches the clock in a timeless and unpopulated universe?

Anyway, staring at a screen only takes up so much of my time, and it's too creepy to read, so I've taken to letting the ol' mind wander, gathering thoughts thunk in the dark. Here's today's "what I've been thinking about" trifecta, an especially disconnected set of randomalia -- must be the vicodin, or maybe all those surrounding walls of words or something?
  • If I could have any pet in the world, I'd have a screech owl, and handle her barehanded (those claws can pinch, but not so much they puncture, and they tend to weigh less than a pound -- they're mostly feathers). Since it's not legal to own birds of prey, though, second choice would absolutely be a hedgehog. The two used to me my favorite animals to demonstrate way back when I worked the stages at the Boston Museum of Science. Pity I'm better with the kinds of livethings that can prompt you to take care of them, which is why I tend to kill plants. Pity, too, that the cat and dog would destroy either one if we ever actualkly had the chance to get one or the other.


  • Darcie told me she and Willow saw Norah Jones on Sesame Street singing Elmo a version of her hit song while waiting for a visit from her friend the letter Y. You know: Waited by the house of fun...don't know why Y doesn't come... Stuff like that. Those guest shots used to be my favorite bits on Sesame Street, and the Paul Simon episode of the Muppets is still my favorite to watch with Willow -- we saw it today while Darcie napped, in fact, before thermos hot chocolate on a cold blanket-wrapped afternoon at the big Varsity Football game against Andover. How odd is it to wish I had time to get to Sesame Street more often?

    [Update 9:19 p.m. Wish you'd seen Norah on Sesame Street? NetMusic Countdown reports the episode will repeat Nov. 5.]


  • Gee, this new Info Commons rocks. I especially love the 42 inch screen and long umbillical cord keyboard at the half-ovoid table, which shows how powerful a change in workstation environment can be; where group projects used to end up overwhelmingly driven by the kid who sat in front of the screen and keyboard, calling into question the actual albeit desired collaboration occuring, I find that the distance from screen-to-users, and the chnaged relationship between users and screen that results, makes for an actual and perceptual even distribution of ownership in normal group use. Of course, the really smart kids have learned that holding the keyboard and sitting next to the screen makes them the presenter and the rest of the group the audience, but that kind of positioning is so counterintuitive I've only seen one kid "get it" (and she was supposed to be presenting to the group, and she's also one of my bestandbrightest workjob kids in that space, so it's all good).

posted by boyhowdy | 8:28 PM | 1 comments

Friday, October 22, 2004

I'm In Love With A Technology 

I've just spent the past five hours scripting my own damn TiddlyWiki, despite zero knowledge of any of the scripts involved, and made a royal mess of the damn thing. You'd think I'd know better by know, but this brand new...thing makes me grateful for the time spent. It must be love -- I actually wish I knew the scripts involved, just so I could show it to you all...and I've never, EVER yearned to be a scripter, period.

TiddlyWiki is a beautiful, blow-you-away tool on a scale my tech-jaded eyes haven't seen in a decade or more. The potential for technical documentation alone is endless. Even more scary: how about TiddlyWiki as a platform for self-directed, just-in-time, just-as-much, user-individualized instruction? Heck, TiddlyWiki solves every clunky interface-slash-steep learning curve problem that kept non-linear writing from being the next big thing way back in 1990. Somewhere, a hundred post-Bolter-era English PhDs are drooling.

Click here to get sucked into the TiddlyWiki votex...but don't say I didn't warn you.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:48 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, October 21, 2004

PC...Or Not PC? 



"movie magic for the hearing impaired"


There's no question that "talkies" leave the deaf out in the cold...a fact which, in turn, has for decades left our own enjoyment of cinema ever open to some politically correct idiot ready to corrupt our moviewatching experience in the name of that illusory mistress "fairness."

But rather than settle for the obvious overly PC, easy-to-ridicule requirement that would block some of the picture of every movie with open, visible-to-everybody captioning, courts are taking a sensible approach to accomodating the deaf. Coming soon to a theater near you: legally mandated rear-window captioning, a nifty "closed" technology which in no way interferes with the traditional moviegoer's experience (and which is far too complex to explain here, so click on the link already and prepare to be amazed by Rufus Butler Seder's verycool invention).

To be fair, this will add the cost of the technology to everyone's ticket price. But though this make the recent rulings tenuously legitimate by our usual PC-watch rules -- because the accommodation does impact our overall movie experience (cost-wise, even if not the watching of the movie itself), and because the slippery slope here would necessarily need to eventually include adding the cost of tapes describing the scene for all blind movie-goers as well, right -- I, for one, applaud the compromise, and hereby declare a willingness to pay the extra ten cents so that my hearing-impaired friends and students can avoid that long-time segregation-not-accommodation stopgap, the "special showing for the deaf."

Meanwhile, those looking for more traditional idiocy in the PC realm need go no farther than Puyallup, the Seattle-area school district which has cancelled all Halloween activities and observances, from posters to costuming, on the grounds that "Halloween celebrations and children dressed in Halloween costumes might be offensive to real witches" -- thus taking the fun out of Halloween for the rest of us in order to protect not Wiccans, but stupid people who don't know the difference between witches and Wiccans.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:27 PM | 3 comments


MRI Report 

Spent 20 minutes today inside a giant electromagnet, and it wasn't that bad.

I'm an anti-claustrophobe -- have always liked womblike spaces -- so the ceiling vent three inches away didn't make me nervous. Neither did the fact that my arms were pinned to my sides.

The emergency squeeze bulb they asked me to clutch (squeeze if you need us to stop) was less lifeline to reality than a quickly forgotten spacer between palm and fingers.

The loud rhythms and knocking of each two-to-four minute "series" were not only tolerable with earplugs -- they were downright soothing after a while, like techno beats from a downstairs apartment. The resultant buzzthrob was almost massage-like, in fact. I sung along in my head -- mostly "Would You Like To Swing On A Star" (6:00, for all you Hudson Hawk fans!)

In fact, the hardest part for this ADHD boy was not moving for so long. Especially since they had positioned me right on the most sore and sensitive part of my back. After 20 minutes with my body weight unshifting on my spinal swell, and another 20 upright to get here to work again, I can't move, not from this chair in the library, anyway. I've never been in so much discomfort, but the Vicodin helps me pretend the pain belongs to someone else.

But the MRI itself? No problem.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:31 PM | 2 comments


Highbrow Joke of the Week (repost) 

(Not sure where this went the first time, but here it is again. We'll just pretend it was worth the trouble.)

Julius Caesar walks into a bar and says "I'll have a martinis." The bartender says, "Don't you mean 'martini'?" Caesar replies, "If I want more than one, I'll tell you."

posted by boyhowdy | 1:14 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Not News, Take 212 


"Sendup of a high school textbook"
No. 1 for the second week in a row!



From a USA Today article reporting on the removal of Jon Stewart's new book from Wal-Mart shelves "after learning there were naked Supreme Court Justices lurking inside" comes the following:
Wal-Mart can account for as much as 20% of sales of popular books. But [Warner Books publisher Jamie] Raab says that's truer for commercial fiction by well-known novelists such as Nicholas Sparks than for political titles.

Sad that Wal-Mart can account for 20% of the total sale of anything, other than Hanes briefs and White Rain Shampoo.

Also sad that USA Today seems to genuinely believe that "bad things" lurk inside books, as if to prey on the unsuspecting, a terrible conception of literature if ever I heard one.

Sadder, though, that Rabb seems to be in earnest, as if it weren't intuitively obvious that most people don't buy their Howard Zinn at Wal-Mart...and saddest that, for the average USA Today reader, the idea that there are bookstores outside Wal-Mart may in fact be news.

Incidentally, I'm so getting that Stewart book. Anyone read it yet?

posted by boyhowdy | 7:59 PM | 2 comments


Wednesday is (still) Memeday 

Because otherwise I never get any work done. Memes found via Pariah's now-updated Memelist.


1. Though last week's question was better (my answer: Girlyman's Mt. Holyoke College show last September, which started with an incredible half-a-capella cover of Paul Simon's "Born at the Right Time"), Midweek Music Meme asks a past tense question this week:
What TV show theme song did you like best, even if you didn’t care for the show itself?

Though it's an "even if," I'll go for the theme song to Malcolm in the Middle, They Might Be Giant's award-winning "You're Not The Boss Of Me." Other possible contenders include the theme to the Daily Show (another TMBG favorite) and, oddly enough, Shawn Colvin's theme song to the Little Bear show my daughter watches, though the rendition, not the song, is the real guilty pleasure here.

Other guilty albeit half-remembered pleasures: Themes to the "New Zoo Revue" and PBS staple "The Bloodhound Gang," both from, oh, 1980 or so. And the theme song to the old "Candyland" commercial from the late seventies. Do commericals count?

2. An electrifying Wednesday Mind Hump this week from Blogdrive Insanity amidst an overly tricked-up Halloween design:
01. If you had an off/on switch, what would you want it to switch off/on instantly?

I'm torn between sleep and sobriety. But I can say with some authority that if I had a volume knob, I'd use it for my daughter -- cute as a button, but a shriek like a banshee.

02. Your favorite celebrity will be knocking on your door in exactly one minute. Considering you only have one minute, what would you do before you answer the door and how would you greet them?

What I wish I'd be doing is uncorking the wine. What I'd probably be doing is fidgeting with my hair and clothes for the hundredth time. "Welcome, Mr. McLuhan, you look so well preserved -- can I get you a nice hot cup of newspaper?"

03. If you could save time in a bottle, what time(s) would you save?

This one time? In band camp?

And my daughter's every wonderful moment, of course.

04. Look around you. First, tell us what room you're in. Now, name the first red thing you see ... likewise blue, and yellow.

Not much immediate visual diversity in the Dolben Information Commons. I see a shelf of red New York Times indices, a blue Historical Atlas of the United States, and a bunch of students typing away at computer terminals, each with one of those yellow plastic lifebracelets.

05. If you had a peephole in your head, what might people see when they peep in?

Darkness. Unless I had a skylight, too...then they'd see...um...brains?

I guess if I had a peephole that showed what was happening in my mind this question would have been a lot more interesting, huh.

3. Our old memefavorite Lori asks What's On 'your party's to attend this month' Right Now? but I haven't got any on the books except maybe a haunted house-type thing for Willow at the school Chaplain's home Halloween eve. Does a De La Soul show with my advisees on the 29th count as a party?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:11 AM | 1 comments

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Back And Back Again 

Lower back getting worse, or at least not better; though the symptoms have drifted to somewhere deep inside my hip and thigh, after a battery of stretchtests this afternoon my primary care physician assures me that what I'm feeling is a pinched nerve somewhere near the base of my spine. Proof is I can make my leg hurt by pressing in on just the right vertebra. MRI to follow Thursday, and why is it that they ask you if you've got metal in your eye before you get one? Wouldn't you have had someone take it out when it happened?

Good to see Molly back from college, up from new parental homestead to hang with her favorite faculty, which caused much happiness. After I picked her up at the CompSci Guy's house where she had been baking mediocre cookies, we had supper and a beer, and then sat on the living room floor and chatted while we threw the ball for the dog and Willow dumped the contents of every toyshelf onto the floor in a fit of territorial marking.

The students are back, too, but duty was otherwise boring. Oh well. Guess they can't all be decent trifectas. Work tomorrow morning, though it's my short day -- nice to have less than three hours ahead of you after a long weekend.

(Hmm. Back would seem to be one of those words which stops looking like a real word when you type it too many times. Back back back back back. Ack.)

posted by boyhowdy | 11:30 PM | 2 comments


If A DJ Spins In The Forest... 

The campus is dark and silent, the only disturbance the rustle and streetlight glint of autumn leaves settling on mowlined lawns.

But somewhere out there locals listen, some calling to request their guilty pleasures, most staying silent, ghostlike in their potential existence. People driving nightblind on the highway spin the dial, staying for a song or two. Faculty otherwise holed up in their dorm apartments set their clock radios and then leave them on softly, letting the sweet sounds of the Adult Alternative format lull them to sleep.

The students are still gone. But the radio plays on.

Tributary 10/18/04

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
B-52s -- Rock Lobster
Willie Nelson w/ Los Lonely Boys -- Cisco Kid
Bob Dylan -- Don't Think Twice It's Alright
Girlyman -- Even If
Dead Or Alive -- You Spin Me Round
Eliza Gilkyson -- Love Minus Zero/ No Limit

Jim White w/ Aimee Mann -- Static On The Radio
David Byrne -- Like Humans Do
Richard Shindell -- So Says The Whipporwill
The Beatles -- I Will
Peter Case -- Let Me Fall
Beolach -- Memories of Father Charlie MacDonald
Crooked Still -- Orphan Girl

B.B. King -- The Thrill Is Gone
Gillian Welch -- Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor
The Seldom Scene -- Sweet Baby James
Lucy Kaplansky -- Cowboy Singer
James Taylor -- Never Die Young

Mindy Smith -- Come To Jesus
Tarbox Ramblers -- Oh Death
Guster -- Rocket Ship(?)
Patty Griffin -- Goodbye
Nick Drake -- Pink Moon
Sarah McLachlan -- Blackbird

And so we come to the end of another edition of Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show. Sleep well, kiddies. School on Wednesday, bright and early.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:01 AM | 2 comments

Monday, October 18, 2004

You'll Never Know, Dear 

Happy surprises by the trifecta today, or what's a blog for?


1. A warm grinnable moment at the Box Car restaurant in Erving tonight, just over halfway home:
I love you, Willow.

I love you too, Daddy.

You make me happy, kid.

When skies are gray?

2. Molly is coming tomorrow! Molly is coming tomorrow! Good thing Willow fell asleep early, or we'd never have answered the phone.


3. Email today from the invisible supervisor in which he called me "the mac-daddy of blogging" and called me "the ideal person to tinker with" his latest project (which is supposed to remain secret, so no blogmention yet...but ooooh, just you wait). Nice to feel valued at work these days.

Mention of invisibility, incidentally, should in no way be taken as criticism; in the past two months the guy has accomplished creation of a brand new Info Commons and a total renovation of our scheduling and grading software via Apple's PowerSchool. And now this secret project, which promises to transform the way we think of writing and technology, not to mention fundamentally shift our currently ivy-walled relationship between the school itself and the world outside. A pretty damn good year for IT and Ed Tech so far, Jon -- can't wait to see, and be a part of, whatever's next.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:20 PM | 1 comments

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Break 

The students are gone and we're in Newton, Massachusetts, my childhood home. It's colder here, though it's probably colder everywhere now. Yellow leaves bigger than my spread hand miss me when I step out onto the back stoop, but only by an inch or two. In the corner of my eye they look like shirts flapping in the wind on a laundry line -- a funny association, since in Newton people don't hang their laundry outside.

The house was full yesterday, but my brother Jesse and Jasmine, his long-time girlfriend, had to leave early this morning; up-and-coming New York artists with wage-slave weekday jobs stretching canvas and constructing artifacts for the more-famous but still obscure, they needed a day of studio time. Now the household is still bigger than before, with great-uncle-and-aunt Elmer and Doris sharing bathroom and kitchen table with mom and dad, Willow and Darcie and me for the rest of the weekend, but it seems much emptier somehow. Also, with Jesse and Jasmine on the road for the Big Apple, the computer room isn't anyone's bedroom anymore, so I can blog.

But there's too much to say to do it properly today. The way my world is -- how and who we Farbers are, and why -- has been illuminated so much in the past few days that I'm still squinting into the light, the psychadelic swirl of objects and incidences haloed and unresolved. My head swims with yesterday's Essex estuary adventure, last night's pub crawl, two nights of slow and suprisingly intellectual discussion with four generations on topics from politics to our own ancestral histories, the half-familiar pace of this half-alien homestead, the mysterious remembered dreams unique to a childhood bed. It would be too much even if I had the time, or was sure I had the time, since duration, time taken and given, is an unknown here more than anywhere, and always has been.

And though the way time gets portioned out here at "home" is never certain, I know that this day is too soonish interrupted for a real session trying to make sense of newly learned and experienced past and present. In a few minutes or hours we're off to the local fall festival, a hopeful jaunt mostly for Willow, an outdoor adventure with pony rides and pumpkin carving contests among the bright reds, oranges, and yellows of this once-home community. To stay home and log the days behind and ahead would be to miss the rest of it, put a premature end to the gathering of history, like stopping the world in a photographic lens and, in doing so, sacrifice the experience itself.

If I've learned anything on my own about this universe, it is that the camera must be kept away for as long as one can, experiences allowed to simply be. This blog-as-camera is too precious to cheat with halfthoughts; this life too scarcely lived to needy to cheat by blogging it premature. For a while, at least, the full history will have to wait.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:34 PM | 3 comments

Friday, October 15, 2004

I Once Was Lost 


Most depressing shopping list ever found.

But then I found Found, a collection of found notes, objects, photos "and anything that gives a glimpse into someone else's life." Greatstuff includes found object of the week, complete with caption commentary. Safe and surreal keyhole voyerism for the popculturist -- you gotta love it.

Found via Farkmention of an article touting the Found 50 state book-promotion tour.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:39 AM | 22 comments

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Good To Remember 

Technology is only technology if you didn't grow up with it:

"Another problem with the net is that it's still 'technology', and 'technology', as the computer scientist Bran Ferren memorably defined it, is 'stuff that doesn't work yet.' We no longer think of chairs as technology, we just think of them as chairs. But there was a time when we hadn't worked out how many legs chairs should have, how tall they should be, and they would often 'crash' when we tried to use them. Before long, computers will be as trivial and plentiful as chairs (and a couple of decades or so after that, as sheets of paper or grains of sand) and we will cease to be aware of the things. In fact I'm sure we will look back on this last decade and wonder how we could ever have mistaken what we were doing with them for 'productivity.' " - Douglas Adams, 1999

Cut shamelessly from The Shifted Librarian's very interesting discussion about how students tend to underreport their internet use because they don't think of email and IM as Internet use. And also because this quote should always live on my desktop, right next to that Arthur C. Clarke quote ("any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic").

posted by boyhowdy | 9:53 PM | 0 comments


Baby Nostalgia 

Met up with "the girls" today at the dining hall amidst the chaos; since they were late and I had already eaten I got to hold chubbybaby Zinnia (whom Darcie watches two mornings a week) while Darcie was off getting food for two.

Zinnia, it seems, had already eaten.

It was nice to have Willow scream "Daddy's here!" and run into my arms when they finally arrived. But in some ways, it was even nicer to recognize the faint smell of spit-up on my shoulder throughout the rest of the workday.

I'm so ready for another kid. We're thinking April 21st or so, but we're trying not to jinx it, so don't tell anyone, okay?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:39 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Wednesday is Memeday 

It's been a while since I memed. Here's a countdown meme from Elkit via mutualfan Anne.

Ten movies you'd watch over and over: Princess Bride, L.A. Story, Big, Office Space, The Producers, O Brother Where Art Thou, Hudson Hawk, Pleasantville, Truman Show, Clue
(Meta-memenote: this was a tough list. Would have been much easier if asked about ten books I'd read over and over)

Nine people you enjoy the company of: Mom, Dad, Darcie, Willow, Molly, college friend Hayley, our folk festival buddy Dave, workfriend Michelle (and her baby Zinnia), myself

Eight things you're wearing: shortsleeved faded denim buttondown, new extra-soft beige tee from Van Husen, green jeans, brown leather belt, khaki socks, New Balance sneakers, wedding ring, three-bluestone-earrings-on-the-left-ear-and-one-silver-stud-on-the-right (now with hyphens to make it count as one list item in a comprehensive list!)

Seven things on your mind: it's a beautiful day outside and I'm at a computer again, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy, my back hurts, I forgot to eat lunch again, I'm supposed to be home already, I need to call Dad about not being able to see Chris Smither with him on October 29th, I need to get tickets for De La Soul with my advisees on October 29th

Six objects you touch every day: steering wheel, computer keyboard, lighter, my beard, coffee cup, car radio volume knob

Five things you do every day: eat, complain, laugh, stumble, hug Willow

Four bands (etc) that you couldn't live without: Patty Griffin, Phish, Lucy Kaplansky, anyone with the last name Williams

Three of your favorite songs at this moment: "It's Amazing" by Mindy Smith, "Static on the Radio" by Jim White w/ Aimee Mann, "Son of a Preacher Man" by Dusty Springfield (although the version I hear in my head is performed by Girlyman live at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival)

Two people who have influenced your life the most: Darcie & Willow

One person who you love more than anyone in the world: Willow

posted by boyhowdy | 1:11 PM | 2 comments


Help Us Get Through Flu 

A flu vaccine shortage looms in this season of vaccination contamination: nationwide, CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding is asking for healthy folks to forego shots this year, and "describe[s] as "heroes" those people who have agreed to step aside so that others can get the vaccine."

The lack of flushots is gonna hit us hard here at NMH. Our usual flushot supplier is Chiron, the company that last week withdrew its contaminated vaccines from the market; today our Director of Health services announced that, although they're looking for an alternative supplier, so is everyone else on the planet.

I'm all for community-scale heroism, even if it's imposed from above. But it's going to take more than voluntary heroes to make the coming flu season manageable. Today's Boston Globe reports that "only about 55 million doses will be available this year, far short of what is needed for the estimated 95 million Americans considered to have the highest risk of death from influenza." After yesterday's mad dash for flu shots across the state, Massachusetts has only 40,000 doses of the vaccine left. Unless you fall into the highest risk categories, getting a shot this year has become morally akin to stealing life from the sick and high risk.

Population density at prep schools puts us collectively at high risk for an epidemic, and the same CNN article that describes the looming crisis lists "all women who will be pregnant during flu season" as among those who will be of the highest risk. So be a hero. Don't get that shot unless you really need it. And if you've got an extra vial of this year's flu vaccine for my 12-weeks-in-and-counting spouse, please pass it along.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:09 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

R.I.P. Superman 


Christopher Reeve dead at 52


Someday I'll have to write a book about the media-slash-iconographic psychocultural ramifications of the way Superman -- I mean, Christopher Reeve -- lived and died.

I could write a whole chapter on the ironic image-potential of the Lex Luthoresque bald head. More legitimately, the interesting timing of his accident, and how it matched a shift in cultural definition of hero (cf, for example, 9/11 and the popular image of the firefighter), gave us a convenient and surprisingly well-spoken advocate where others might merely allow themselves to remain a mere outlet to bridge that transformation.

But I'm a lazy bastard, unlike Reeve himself. If the book ever gets written, it will surely be a last gasp analysis from a dying mediamind. That, and the fact that it's far too soon, too culturally callous, to write the darn thing.

Until then, it will be more than enough to just miss the guy terribly, and offer respects.

We made Reeve an icon, tying his identity tight to the red cape and tights as is our cultural wont when confronted with costumed avengers. But where the Shatners and Adam Wests of the world never managed to climb above their masks and two-dimensional portrayals, Chris Reeve's ability to transcend all that even in the last chairbound years of his life made him a better hero than ever. And that despite a handsomer face than Kirk or Batman ever managed.

Those who are interested in seeing more Reeve in homage might do well to pick up the movie version of the popular stage-play Noises Off.

By the way, isn't that a nice picture? Say what you will about Associated Press reporting; they sure do great photoshop work.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:25 PM | 0 comments

Monday, October 11, 2004

Wireless Music Box 

Pie race today, the longest consecutively run road race in the nation. Willow placed 80th in the tart race, one behind last year and penultimate in the tiny crowd, but we didn't stay to watch the start-and-finish.

Instead, Darcie, her parents, Willow and I picked raspberries all afternoon down at the farm -- 4 quarts in all, so Darcie's mother can make pie.

Mmmm. Pie.

My back hurts like hell this evening, and my hands on the sound board are stained red, but it's sure to be worth it.

Playlist follows, as always, with gaps where bedtime storties were read -- tonight's selections were from a collection called "Folktales of India" I forgot to return to the library last year. Kind of an old school set tonight, but note the new theme song -- it was cowritten by my brother!


Tributary 10/11/04

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Wilco -- The Late Greats
Ben Folds Five -- Kate
Keller Williams -- Vacate
Keb' Mo - Love Train
Elvis Costello -- My Funny Valentine
Sarah Harmer -- Almost

Ray Charles -- I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now
Michael Franti & Spearhead -- Everyone Deserves Music
Stevie Ray Vaughn -- Chitlins Con Carne
Stevie Wonder -- Superstitious
Eels -- Novacaine For The Soul
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu
English Beat -- Mirror In The Bathroom
Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks -- The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)

Bruce Cockburn -- Down To The Delta
Jeffret Foucault -- Mayfly
Cry, Cry, Cry -- Fall On Me
Nirvana -- Heart Shaped Box
Phish w/ Alison Krauss -- If I Could

Barenaked Ladies -- Light Up My Room
Jim White -- Borrowed Wings
Charlie Hunter Quartet -- No Woman, No Cry
Gillian Welch -- I Want To Sing That Rock And Roll
Mindy Smith -- It's Amazing
Rufus Wainright -- I Don't Kow What It Is
The Band -- Rag Mama Rag

Yoiu've been listening to Tributary, your ten-to-midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 fm, serving Northfield, Gill, Leyden and Brattleboro. Congrats to Brian, who called from Brattleboro to correctly identify tonight's contest cover song, Fall On Me, as originally written and performed by the good folks at R.E.M. Pity you don't live a bit closer, eh?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 0 comments


On Teen Suffrage 


Does raising the youth vote justify trivializing civic engagement?


Philly Inquirer collumnist Jane Eisner spoke at our all-school assembly last night as part of our quad-annual civics exercise Votes 2004.

Eisner's big idea: First time voters don't take advantage of their voting rights, and she thinks she knows why. Her three-point case:
  1. Politics has changed. The rising generation experiences the political process as "money-oriented and televised," she says, and thus sees most of it as "nasty." This disgusts people, and ultimately supresses voting.

  2. The rise of volunteerism and community service creates a misperception that service is the only effective way to make change. Concentration on the importance of direct community action ironically sets up naturally dichotomous-thinking students to conclude that civic responsibility is meaningless -- i.e. the service curriculum minimizes the sense of relevance of politics. The result: a service gap.

  3. Schools nationwide have experienced a significant decline in civics education. High Schoolers used to average three civics classes in four years; now they average one. Eisner didn't say so, but I'd attribute this to, among other things, the rise of the globalist and multiethnic curricula, which have supplanted local issues in education. We saw the same issue when the global movement changed the focus of Sesame Street, causing it to jump the shark.

I agree with Eisner -- this is a serious issue, worthy of our time and energy. But I don't think she takes that first point seriously enough.

It's easy to suggest that modern politics is nasty, but I think the problem is more that the political arena is necessarily going to be seen as trivial when it is primarily perceived through the entertainment medium of television.

Maybe I'm biased, being a media teacher. But if McLuhan and Postman are right, then the message of politics in a television age is the same message as television itself: passive, idealistic, distant, and unreachable. Television is the antithesis of politics -- we might even say that television denigrates politics, over time.

We end up deserving the politics we get if we allow this to continue. Kids -- our kids -- know that Sean Coombs wears a "Vote or Die" t-shirt, and maybe they'll even vote because of it, but famous people are one-dimensional to them: voting because someone famous says you should vote makes voting a kind of entertainment, too, which ultimately perpetuates the trivial and the disempowering non-engagment that so characterizes modern youth involvement. I have severe doubts that long-term civic engagement as a thoughtful and politicized mechanism for cultural participation can really spring from such Rock The Vote tactics.

No wonder our kids aren't engaged. They're being screwed in real life, but they can't see the connection when they are presented with politics-as-fairytale, right alongside of Survivor and Extreme Makeover, instead of being presented with a real politic.

Which really leaves schools with the heavy burden for creating a sense of civic engagement, doesn't it?

Problematically, however, Eisner suggested that most schools could "fix" this engagement gap easily. But she also seemed to feel that NMH was an exception to this rule, and you could see teachers in the crowd nodding their heads. I disagree. Though a few kids get to choose to take Government and Civil Liberties instead of US History each year, for the vast majority of our students, the way we teach civics is so vague and distributed it might as well be nothin'. Our kids see even their own student government as predominantly useless, and few kids not in it know how it works. Having a school government is not necessarily part of a civics curriculum; in many schools, it is little more than another competitive closed-ranks clique which helps one get into college.

Here, mock voting could help -- something which we do do well, at least if Votes 2004 is promoted internally as well or better than it was in 2000. But this only happens for two months every four years, so it misses a vast majority of our student body, many of whom don't come here until their Junior year. Eisner said a Yale study proved that schools which prought voting booths into classrooms had much higher incidence of adolescent voting, and I believe it, so why was her answer to the student who bravely asked "how DO you vote" so unsatisfying? (Eisner's answer: it's different for every state, so I can't explain it...but taking the mystery out of voting is good. Duh.)

Additionally, then, I'd propose tying community service into politics -- allowing partisan service, encouraging service at polling places -- but also supplanting much of those boring and increasingly distant U. S. History classes with something a bit more modern and real which has direct relevance to the civic lives of students themselves, because, heck, most of our kids don't even understand the reasoning behind the electoral college.

Heck, most of my so-called liberal friends don't understand the dangers of the popular vote, either.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:50 PM | 30 comments


Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are 



Ever the anti-PC equal opportunist, in honor of National Coming Out Day I'd like to take this opportunity to announce my heterosexuality.

Whew. I feel so much better. Thanks for caring!

Seriously -- I'm all for the concept, but the name of this event makes it sound like the focus is on celebrating the individual, when that just plain misses the point. Unless you have a crush on me, in which case your own sexuality is totally not the issue, why the hell should I care what your gender preference is? Why single out one day a year for something which is either part of everyone's daily life or should be?

N. C. O. D. is supposed to be about raising social awareness of homo/bi/trans/poly/alt on a "we're here, we're queer, get used to it" level. Calling it "coming out" anything causes people to decide to come out today, which puts the focus squarely on THEM, instead of reminding us that -- live civil and gender rights before this -- queer equality is an issue of, for, and about all of us.

So let's either change the name here, so it reflects the veryhealthy total premise of a day celebrating every single type of sexual possibility, pushing for equal opportunity for social and legal standings, and offering special time for pondering one's attractions and sexual identities ... or let's drop the whole damn thing in the name of not making one's personal sexuality a public issue, which it damn well shouldn't be, no matter who you love, or how.

I mean, really. What you do in your bedroom, playroom, closet, or even the bathroom stall is your own damn business.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:30 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Further Proof 

Some people have far too much time on their hands. Like the developer who made this purple thong-ed hippo, for example. Or me, on Saturday night dorm duty.

Thanks to regular visitor and reciprocal linker Lilly for the entertaining oddity. Visit her, but Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Blog.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:50 PM | 17 comments


Simple Pleasures 

North today for a day of stereotypical New England authenticity, just me and a billion leafpeepers going slow on the highway past the blazing hills and the gold-frosted trees on the median. But where the tourists gawked and gamboled, buying their way into a slice of rural life for a pound of flesh and a long drive home, I had a purpose, a place to belong: two exits into Vermont, past the farmer's market, left at the convenience store and up the dirt road to my wife's childhood home, where Willow and Darcie had come earlier while I still slept, and Darcie's brother Josh and his long-time partner Clay had just arrived.

For the next few hours I buried my daughter up to her neck in crisp fallen leaves while my mother-in-law raked and puttered, and Josh, Clay, Darcie and father-in-law Neil leaned on ladders and knees at house and garage, repainting the grungy trim white to match the impending winter. We ate freshbaked cookies when we tired, and, when youngest-child Virginia arrived, a late lunch together around the dining room table.

After lunch and a quick trip into town for an oil change, Virginia and I drove down the hill to the Fire Station, where a Pop Warner car wash and pie fundraiser had left the dirt parking lot flooded with white suds, and stood in the truck bay under the long ladders while the fire chief wrote up a brush fire permit. "Get marshmallows if you get the permit," they had said before we left, so we did.

Back at the house father-in-law Neil, once a local fire fighter, prepped the pile with his younger progeny while three generations of strongwilled and earth-loving women and I walked through the pick-your-own pumpkins to the self-service farmstand next door. I got a baguette made Friday from four ingredients and a pair of the season's last tomatoes and ate them leaning on the mailbox, watching cars pass in dustclouds on the dirt road while "the girls" checked out the cowmilking in the nearby barn, and the calf born yesterday.

We followed the rising smoke home, threw dry corn stalks on the fire to hear the corn pop whole we waited for the grass and steam to burn off, and roasted marshmallows together, a family in the yard on the last days of a long and fruitful year.

And finally, as the largest logs began to fall into ash, I left Darcie and Willow there staring into the coals, and drove home into the dusk, the sky behind as red as the autumn leaves, Garrison Keillor on the radio, my heart filled with love for this world, this place, a New England no leafpeeper could ever truly know.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:00 PM | 0 comments

Friday, October 08, 2004

I M Fine 

Another double-duty title today.

First, yes I am doing reasonably well and goodspirited, at least for someone who wakes each morning stiffandsore and who winces at getting out of bed or the car and who is starting, I fear, to enjoy the odd mix of meds a bit too too, though don't they make the linguish fun? Anyhoo. Thanks for the concern, folks. Second day of physical therapy this afternoon wasn't as stretchy as the previous diagnostic session, and the ultrasound massage was kind of neat, all tingly-like.

And second, though I'm a bit late to the table, IM and other cybershortspeaks are in the air again, both on our school discussion boards, where a student use of shortspeak led to a student-prompted discussion about the appropriateness of cyberspeech, which in turn caused me to post the following (and pardon the length; as busy as Mark Twain these days, so I didn't have time to shorten it):
My own concern, actually, is not so much that modern society will reply with something that many English speakers are unable to comprehend. It is that the way people think (when they are trying to think at their best) will actually begin to take on the quality of their common speech. If so, a shorter, simpler speech will result in shorter thought.

I must admit -- reading chatspeak takes longer that reading proper english for ME, which may just be an issue of unfamiliarity. You DO lose some readers when using shortform speech; if that's okay with you, then that's okay with you.

But objectively speaking, the simplistic shortform of chatspeak is less suited to clear and complex thought.

And this from a man who considers holding class in AIM to be a seriously worthy endeavor.

Yes, chatspeak -- like telephonic speech, like casual speech, etcetera ad infinitum -- has its place, indeed. Just not in the kind of deeper discussion one hopes that NMH students would have in such a public forum, and especially not when those selfsame students claim to be handling such weighty matters as those which so often read their proverbial heads here in GSD.

In a nutshell: I say, if you're going to speak of weighty issues, do it with language which carries weight well. If subtlety of argument is key to making your case (c.f. our recent politics discusion, eh?), a language with less subtlety, like chatspeak, will be less productive. If you're announcing a dorm event, though...

It would have been so much easier to just say If McLuhan were alive today, would he merely text "medium=msg?" But the McLuhan nutshell isn't intuitively obvious to the average adolescent. It takes so many words to say it if the shortform isn't there to rebound against.

Mediaheads too wrapped up in electoral issues to notice their usual universe may have missed a timely cultural-scale discussion of the same topic in the Fresno Bee. Though I've said it before, once again I agree with Alex. Also with Stef's nifty comments along Alex's sideline.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:43 PM | 3 comments


Metablog 

Though we're long past the "gee, this blog thing is interesting" development stage here at NAWWAL -- a stage over-and-donewith within the first bloggermonths for all but the most navelgazing blogger -- a few pending and momentous events bear mention. Coming soon, at home and in the bloggiverse:
  • my 1000th entry (if the stats are accurate, it looks like this will land sometime between the end of October and the first days of November)

  • my two year bloggiversary (blog begun November 21, 2002)

  • Bloggercon III, which sounds fascinating but which I will not attend because a trip to California in the middle of the term is just too potentially disastrous

  • the nation's first seriously blogged (and sure to be overblogged) election

  • more better-late-than-never articles about how blogging is changing the face of politics/society/communication/journalism than you can shake a virtual stick at

posted by boyhowdy | 8:31 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Bad Back! No Hike For You 

One crisp autumnal day a hundred years ago our evangelical Taft-esque founder D. L. Moody strode into the dining hall in the middle of breakfast and announced "It's a beautiful day, too nice for classes. Let's take a hike!" And, so the story goes, they did. In their school clothes. And it was good, I suppose. Even if the hiking boot still hadn't been invented.

Over the years, Mountain day has become an institution, one of many within our beloved macrocosm. Sure, things have changed -- the sheer volume of students now demands a separate hike for each class where once the entirety of the student body followed that single and boldly bearded man whereev'r he did goest, for example, and the night-before dance would only have appeared in a school which could not in good conscience make plans with less than a day's full notice.

But the spirit of the hike remains, as much as it can in these days of girth and grading. Though faculty are given a set of possibles, the actual hike date is always kept a secret until the afternoon previous. Classes are cancelled, and the climb is a team effort, with absences given and frowns served upon those who choose not to join the trail gathering as the fog rolls off the hills, exposing the climb-to-be.

I used to love Mountain Day. I've proudly climbed with the 9th graders, manning checkpoints and guarding against the everpresent wild bee, for years. My first year I got lost with a few other faculty; my third I played sweeper, keepiong pace with a bad-ankled student, coming out of the wilderness to find that the traditional chili lunch had already been put away. The year Willow was first born and Darcie was a full-time employee, required to serve the hike with the rest of us, we handed out apples and granola provisons at the trail's entrance; that year I missed the walk itself terribly, though I enjoyed the time with my newly enlarged family more.

But this year, back still out, side reeking with pain from yesterday's thearapy diagnostic session (another round of does it hurt when you bend like this? how about like this?), I had to trade the hike away for another role, one highly coveted by the faculty: a night of student center chaperonage while the dance raged in the gym down the hill, and my service was over before the day itself had even begun.

Today I slept through Mountain Day, and spent the late morning instead with the girls at home.

To my immense disappointment, I hardly missed it.

Maybe it's the Vicodin speaking, but I think my lack of sadness at having missed the glorious hike and all that it entails is less a signifier of a lost love of hiking, or of crisp fall mornings, and more a single indicator of the larger truth: that I am losing my sense of place here at NMH, preparing for a long overdue move-along; protecting the communal need from the future perfect, the undiscovered job-to-be, the place where we need to go, and soon. Time for those rec letters to begin pouring in, the contacts to be made, the soul-searching to begin anew. I've said it often and recently, but if you're looking for a jack-of-all-social-sciences, ane ducator with an eye for media and pop culture, a lover of live and of learning in all its forms, give me a buzz, won't you? Because I'm ready to go, and getting moreso every day.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:36 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Speechless 



For over a hundred years our school teams have been the Hoggers -- named, nominally, for the pigfarmers who first founded the place as an evangelical haven where hard work was seen as a path out of poverty for a rising generation of the best and brightest. School archivist Peter likes to say that we were once a farm with a school, and now we're a school with a farm. And how far have we come from our pastoral past?

Introducing Normon, Northfield Mount Hermon School's newly unveiled mascot and the sixth sign of the apocalypse.

I must admit, I'm prety proud of our students, who seemed to catch the tension between our recently restated goal to be competitive among the world of prep schools -- none of whom have a mascot of this type, I might add -- and the pink fuzzy harbinger of doom that appeared before them at this past Monday's all school meeting. Normon -- named for the school, as in NORthfield Mount HerMON -- tried his damndest to get the crowd pumped up, but the vast majority of us were so horrified all we could do was drool, our jaws dropped and our eyes bugged, while the good name of our prep school went down in pink flames.

Prepare to be laughingstocks, folks. Good luck with that new one-campus thing.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:24 PM | 4 comments

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Cloudy With A Chance Of Music 

Back aching still, and now I've got this vicious cold that's been climbing up the charts courtesy of Darcie, who got it from Willow, who got it from Zinnia, the infant we watch twice a week -- who got it from being 5 months old and innocent, and surely as well from being passed hand to hand to sickly hand like all cute babies are, or should be.

Anyway. The moral of the story is the chemical combination causing causistry and chaos: Sudafed, Flexoril, some sort of anti-inflammatory -- all three of which say "may cause drowsiness, do not drive" right on the side of their respective boxes and bottles -- not to mention a 20 oz cup of French Roast energy and all the nicotine I can handle without falling over. Transitions are odd (that funk-to-polka drift going from G.Love to TMBG was especially oddsounding), and note the shortset of "inappropriate songs about girlfriends" from about 10:45 to 11, but at least we're here, queer, and...well, here, anyway. Playlist follows.


Tributary 10/4/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Guster -- Fa Fa
Robert Cray -- Smoking Gun
Girlyman -- Postcards From Mexico
G. Love and Special Sauce -- Rodeo Clowns
They Might Be Giants -- We Want A Rock
Jim White w/ Aimee Mann -- Static on the Radio

Toots and the Maytals -- Pressure Drop
Tori Amos -- Crucify
Ron Sexsmith -- My Girlfriend's Pretty
Maurice Chevalier -- Thank Heaven For Little Girls
Barenaked Ladies -- Alternative Girlfriend
Squeeze -- Slaughtered, Gutted and Heartbroken

Alana Davis -- 32 Flavors
Mindy Smith -- It's Amazing
Alison Krauss -- I Will
Nellie McKay -- The Dog Song
Rusted Root -- Send Me On My Way
Elizabeth Mitchell & Daniel Littleton -- You Are My Sunshine

Salamander Crossing -- Shotgun Down The Avalanche
Mindy Smith -- Come To Jesus
Sarah Harmer -- Uniform Grey
Eddie From Ohio -- Number Six Driver
Jerry Garcia -- Man Of Constant Sorrow
Slaid Cleaves -- This Morning I Am Born Again



Sheesh. Will our hero ever make it to the studio in good health? Tune in next week, when boyhowdy says:

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten-to-midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5, serving Northfield, Gill, Keene and Brattleboro. G'night, folks.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:01 AM | 3 comments

Monday, October 04, 2004

Now Reading 

Solo trip down to the Ingleside Mall Sunday, because Darcie needed a few shades of orange fabric paint for Willow, who wants to be a pumpkin for Halloween, and I needed pants.

It should go without saying that trying on pants with a back out of whack is a terrible, horrible, no good very bad idea. Picture pinched nerves pitching one forward into dressing room mirrors and you're getting close. Worse, the pair I liked most, a one-of-a-size grey-olive weave, fit fine but had to be returned unfinished to the Filene's menswear guy (excuse me? You might not want to reshelve this one, it's got no buttonhole.).

Thank god for the Gap. No thanks for my irrational fear of missing "just the right pants," though, which took me to every damn store in the mall before returning to the Gap at the end of it all.

Three hours, four pairs of decent pants, and a bottle of butternut later, and figuring I was bound to end up stoned and bored on Flexoril for the rest of the evening, I postponed aching-backrest for a treatstop at Borders. In order of reading, then:

Former LAPD Homicide cop fired for drinking on the job Jesse Stone serves as a Spenseresque chief of police in the tiny shoreline town of Paradise, Massachusetts. Though Parker's stilted style and silent conflicted intellectual-jock hero isn't as distinct from previous bestseller Spenser as it should be, Death In Paradise, the third installment in the Jesse Stone saga, shows all the booze-on-the-edge and womanizing we've become used to, and tells a half-decent story good for a couple of engrossing hours in an airport or, in my case, on the couch with some leftover Peking Dumplings. Oh, this one's about some dead and unwanted teenager -- not a teribly novel plot for Parker.

One of those mostly-decent collections of subject-specific short stories which make you feel like you're reading the total output of some Breadloaf-for-Fantasy-writers writer's group what-if exercise. There's hundreds of them, from Cat Fantastic 1-V to alternate histories, alien whodunnits to holiday-specific collections, and basically any other thematic assignment you could imagine. I love them all, find them worthy of bathroom reading and sick-day snoozes, often discover new authors through them. Given that, about the best -- and worst -- one can say about this particular collection, number 4582 in an infinite series, is that it is one of them, the theme worked pretty well, and it lasted a couple of decent hours.

And now for the nobrow -- I've just started Prime Times: Writers on Their Favorite TV Shows, which caught my eye off the "new paperback" table on the way to the checkout (just like it's supposed to), but the first few essays have been wonderful -- brit Nick Hornsby on The West Wing, Phyllis Rose on the editing-as-writing in Survivor, and Elizabeth McCracken defending the validity and humor of America's Funniest Home Videos -- and I'm really, really looking forward to Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Amos and Andy, Susan Cheever on Father Knows Best, Nora Ephron on Mary Tyler Moore, and Sven Birkerts on the world in black and white, the subsequent world in color, and the medium-as-message differences between the two. So nice to find something fun to read in my own teaching subject once in a while. Now if only I was actually teaching this stuff anymore...anyone out there got a job for a young(ish) media and popculture teacher?

posted by boyhowdy | 7:58 PM | 0 comments

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Real Question 

Surely no one who has actually heard Bush and Kerry handle the press corps believed that Bush would "win" the debate. Given that, the issue isn't who won, it's "Did Bush beat the spread?"

Though the pundits are primarily too politicized to tell us much, it's my sense that Kerry seems to have surpassed expectations, brought clarity and focus to a lopsided match without getting nasty.

Bush was a caricature of himself. Unfortunately, it's exactly that kind of iconographic and oversimplified personality which comes across well in the mass mind. Fortunately, however, it made for a great game of debate Bingo.

In general, though, the debates will have little to no effect. CNN reports that the "zingers" and sound byte quotient last night was relatively light, with both candidates dwelling more on previously stated opponent sound bytes in an attempt to ridicule. A shame for both candidates, that -- it's the zingers that tend to "stick" in the public mind, and thus affect electability.

But don't pity the politicians. If little good (for either party) comes out of the debates, the candidates have no one to blame but themselves: everyone knows they stacked their own deck against significance. The debate format was so prescriptive that many news outlets web-published (and then withdrew) apparently psychic-authored debate reviews, couched in past tense and everything, as much as four hours before the debate even began. Too, life imitates satire in our nobrow culture: rumor has it Jon Stewart was able to do the same "psychic debate result breakdown." (Anyone got a link for this?)

posted by boyhowdy | 8:51 AM | 33 comments

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Child As Medium 


Ignorance is bliss.


Fight dirty! Take advantage of the pre-literate! Use your kids as political billboards! Impose your values on them wholesale! Breed zombies! Buy this shirt!

If this is a representative viewpoint, it would seem the liberal claim for the high ground, as a party of critical thinking and education, is merely hypocrisy. But I think Democrats tend to be more blind than Republicans to the party parity of propaganda which steamrolls over the rights of children and other voiceless ones in order to move the political process. It is, I think, my distaste for machiavellian tactics like this which keeps me from participating in political activism.

Note, incidentally, the blog-like nature of the site -- a sneaky way of obscuring the commercial and propagandist approach under a veneer of casual and community-oriented design.

Here's hoping the idiots at Lowercase Tee don't sell a single shirt.

(Link and image via Boing Boing.)

posted by boyhowdy | 9:24 AM | 20 comments


Nobrow 

Last night's bedtime snack: rich truffle Paté Campagne on a toasted sesame supermarket bagel. With a sharp imported Irish cheese.

And whole milk in a tall glass. And two Peanut M&Ms for dessert.

That just about says it all, doesn't it?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:54 AM | 1 comments


May Cause Drowsiness, Pain, Bad Poetry 



Doctor's appointment yesterday. Nurse Practioner was a great help, but the mild diagnostic stretching exercises she talked me through -- does it hurt when you do this? How about this? -- seem to have driven a stiff relapse this morning.

Last night in the dark I fell asleep listening to my legs tingle, grow heavy, melt into the bed as the Flexeril kicked in. At the time, it seemed like a nice change from lying awake until three, listening to pain. Maybe, I remember thinking, I'll finally be able to catch up on some sleep.

But this morning I'm so tired I'm actually trailing. I had to remake the coffee because I forgot to replace yesterday's coffee grounds, a mistake I haven't made since my drug-addled latenight college days. I don't remember driving here, but I seem to be at work, my back a precarious tightrope, tense over deep water.

And to think last night I was so pleased not to need the Vicodin.

I'll be starting a twice-a-week physical therapy series next Wednesday. Hope I can hold on 'till then.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:27 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Draftpoem 

Something about
these white doves salt
among the pepper pigeons

makes the tiny heartbeat
spindly arms waving
ultrasound monitor
printout real


(how colorful the wheatfields driving home
after that first miscarriage

how bright the skies
how loud the crows)

posted by boyhowdy | 7:47 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Dark Matters 


The decade's Great American Novel?


I have trouble articulating what I like about literature. Place, character, narrative flow, clarity, the nudge nudge wink wink of the intelligent author speaking to the intelligent reader, a consistency of universe: all matter, but muddily so. I've read books that have 'em all that just can't keep my attention -- and this coming from a voracious reader, a book-a-night guy who spent much of the latenights of his childhood huddled in his afterhours bedroom doorway, hallway light spilling onto the page, illuminating bookworlds. I'm great in the dark, but I'd be a total failure in a book club.

Yeah, I read a book a night, even now. But mostly these days that means the Heinlein-esque paperback, the odd Spenser mystery. I hardly know how to find the stuff I like, so I stick to the familiar. It's rare for me to find something so engrossing I'm willing to let it stretch on for two and a half days, a world so simultaneously familiar and fantastically alluring that I can stay on track with both narrative and setting, place and pace, reading three pages here, on the toilet before supper, another half-chapter there, between on-duty study hall walkabouts.

But I know what I like, and this, the first "new" novel I've read in ages, has it all in spades. Lethem rocks. And stylistically, his work fits inside the other books I've read and liked since my daughter's birth. I seem to be discovering a more-mature genre -- Augusten Burroughs, David Eggers, Michael Chabon, Bret Easton Ellis before them, and the rest of the McSweeney's crowd now and forevermore -- as if my dark fit/flitful dreamworlds had finally matured, grown higherbrow.

Thanks to Dad, who is a bookclub type, for the recommendation and the hardcover...and for all those before, and those to come as well. A man of taste in all media is my father; I've never had a bad recommendation from him yet.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:44 AM | 0 comments


Sonic You 

You know it's going to be a good show when the funky falsetto beat of "Stayin' Alive" is coming through the autofeed as you arrive in the basement broadcast studio. Then you find out that only one CD deck is working. Need more be said?

Here's tonight's funky stuff, awkwardly played & with plenty of stupidrandom chatter in between each song to fill the sound of me changing the damn CD over. How embarassing -- good thing I forgot to tape the show.

Tributary 9/27/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Barenaked Ladies -- Alternative Girlfriend
De La Soul -- The Magic Number
Willie Nelson w/ Los Lonely Boys -- Cisco Kid
The Bats -- Daddy's Highway
Kasey Chambers -- Not Pretty Enough

Jazz Is Dead -- Scarlet Begonias
Alison Brown -- Mambo Banjo
Jack Johnson w/ DJ Logic -- Rodeo Clowns
Galactic -- Tiger Roll
Lizzie West -- Sometime

Oysterband w/ Chumbawumba -- This Is The Voice
The Waifs -- London Still
Nenes -- No Woman, No Cry
Richard Thompson -- Kiss
Medeski Martin & Wood -- Reflector

Lonnie Mack -- From Me To You
NMH Chorus -- Jerusalem
Lucy Kaplansky -- I Had Something
some random pianist -- 'S Wonderful
Patty Griffin -- Long Ride Home
Dixie Chicks -- Truth No. 2
Eva Cassidy -- American Tune


You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight show here on WNMH 91.5 FM. Damn it.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:01 AM | 7 comments

Monday, September 27, 2004

Court (up)Date 

50 bucks!

And all criminal charges dismissed. Thanks for all the prayers, folks.

(backstory here, if you're just arriving.)

posted by boyhowdy | 7:11 PM | 1 comments


File Under Library Geek Popcult 

If you live near Burlington, VT, the Brautigan Library, an autonomous collection of unpublished manuscripts which resides atop the public Fletcher Free Library, seems worth checking out. [Link goes to top library blogger Jessamyn's personal account of a visit to the Barutigan -- ed.]

But go soon if you're going. According to today's Boston Globe article, the Fletcher needs the space for their ESL collection (who sets these priorities?), and Brautigan founder Todd Lockwood is planning a move to the actual San Francisco address that library namesake-and-author Richard Brautigan uses as setting for the novel "The Abortion," which takes places largely in a library that (sound familliar?) collects only unpublished works.

Why bother? How could any library geek not love a collection which by its very premise calls into question the canonical authority of both publishing and library collectionship? Which includes an original poetic manuscript vending machine? In which, in keeping with the library's bylaws, none of the chairs match? Jessamyn writes:
There is a set of meta-books here -- books about the library they are in. They consist of a few birthday books where people wrote in with stories, poetry, or reminiscences on the ocasion of Brautigan's birthday. The assemblages of papers were then made into their own books. There are also two Librarian Books in which the Brautigan Librarians [who are they?] record what happens during their days at work at the Brautigan Library. Often nothing much happens at all, sometimes the librarians just muse on other topics. Sometimes they report statistics: two visitors, one person used the poetry dispenser.

Myself, I love that the collection used to use mayo jars as bookends, at least until some illiterate punk dropped an eight year old jar over the balcony a couple years back and practically destroyed the place. The Globe dignifies this with a picture of a jar of Hellmann's Mayonnaise in a display case -- a photo, sadly, available only in the print edition.

And lovers of Brautigan himself should find the pilgrimage worth it: in addition to several hundred books, the collection displays include authorial memorabilia from typewriters to first editions to the author's own glasses.

Those who've not yet heard of this 60s icon are encouraged to begin their exploration with either the abovementioned meditation on material infocult or the excellently memoir-esque Trout Fishing In America. Or you could always check out fanweb the brautigan pages, or The Brautigan Bibliography plus+, a "definitive and comprehensive compilation of information about the life and works of Richard Brautigan" subjective-surprisingly hosted by newmedia guru John F. Barber, who was reviews editor at Kairos back when I published my review of The Future Does Not Compute" way back in my undergrad days.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:45 AM | 0 comments


Before The Court 

Court date this afternoon dating back to my unfortunate triple-threat pullover, and I'm sweating already. Though I think we have some kind of case, it's a complicated one, and my admittedly anecdotal and television-fed sense of our lovely justice system is that too-tangled webs are drawbacks in smalltown civil court.

The skinny, for those who never heard the whole story: pulled over as I passed the cop station on a last-minute Friday eve Volunteer's Weekend run between campuses, I was found guilty of:
  1. Driving with an out of date registration (with accompanying out-of-date platesticker, the visible impetus for the carstop in the first place)

  2. Driving with a 6-month-gone expired license

  3. Driving without an inspection sticker

In context, it's all (sorta kinda) explicable, if not necessarily ideal. We'd lost the keys to the car months and months before, and just got it back on the road on a "for emergency use only" status; in that time neither Darcie nor Dad (who handled the car ownership transfer a year or two ago) nor I recall seeing anything in the mail about renewal, and who notices expired registrations without an RMV reminder? The license reminder turns out to have come last sumer when I was in Bangladesh, and, as it prompted both Darcie and I to renew simultaneously, she had renewed and lost track of both event and paperwork by the time I returned, so I never saw it (and who looks at the date on their own license?). And the missing inspection sticker dates back to a post-accident windshield-replacement last winter: they tried to tape the sticker back on the new 'shield, but it never took, and without that big ol' number on the sticker, who notices that it's time to re-inspect?

Whether the judge has time for context seems to be the crux of the matter of leniency; that 'graph seems a bit long for a synopsis, and as such does nothing to quell my fears. That, and whether he cares about it in the first place, I suppose. It feels like a relatively solid sympathy plea to me, but I'm a wee biased, eh?

At the time, it looked like this could have been much simpler. I could have sworn the mobility-arresting officer said that if I showed due dilligence -- renew everything in the four business days before I had to send in the citation to request a hearing, and send in proof of that renewal set with the citation -- I could avoid a hearing, and get off the hook (minus fines, I'm assuming). But when we showed at the courthouse that Wednesday, paperwork in hand, the clerk told me to save it for the hearing. So much for trying to do it right by doing it in person; next time I'm using the US Postal Service.

There's a real possibility that I'll get my license revoked outright, or get those last three driver's "points" I need to put me over the top. I figure even the best case, a serious bankbreaker -- cop doesn't show, fines and court costs levied -- is a longshot. Pray for me, willya?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:16 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, September 26, 2004

New Balance 


Size 8.5, and discounted to $39.95

Not sure if a week's worth of muscle-and-bone readjustment in the face of waxing/waning back-trouble is the origin or merely the motivation to notice what has always been there, but one leg has started seeming longer than the other, and I've just noticed this week how my right foot splays out towards one o'clock while my left points straight ahead when I walk. Which is cause, and which effect? All I know is I'm walking funnier than I used to, and though it looks like a pimp limp, it's mostly a pain.

But man, I sure felt better the moment I stepped into these babies at The Barn today. So I bought 'em. Here's hoping no one minds if I wear clear white sneaks to work, or notices how far off I've come from my usual brown suede Rockport style. And why is it the shoes I like are, inevitably and always, already discontinued?

posted by boyhowdy | 7:25 PM | 4 comments
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