To Fuss is Human, To Rant, Divine!!

Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Yeah, I don't update my blog when I'm at home. Oops.

So now I'm back at school, though only to go back to NY on Friday for a job interview, the Red Sox and Yankees are playing on TV, the snow is melting, and all is (almost) right with the world.

My only regret about the past week? I didn't microwave any Peeps (those marshmallow chick thingies).

That and the fact that I'm going to miss a fantasy draft on Friday. That really sucks.

Friday, March 25, 2005


1) "God does not play dice" -- Albert Einstein
2) "I think we're beyond euphemisms at this point. God is a skee-ball fanatic" -- Rufus the Thirteenth Apostle, "Dogma"

Now, I know Kevin Smith thought it would be amusing to build a plot around an absentee deity who got him/herself assaulted while on a skee-ball binge in New Jersey, but I got to thinking about the analogy.

Smith never took it this far, and good thing, because this theological argument gets too weighty, but what would God's favorite arcade game be and why? (I'm not talking about video games here - strictly the classic arcade or carnival games - popping balloons, pinball, skee-ball, basketball, target shooting, that game where you flip a rubber chicken or a frog into a cup, etc). I think an individual's answer says a lot about his or her theology.

For instance, my immediate answer to the question is that God's favorite carnival or arcade game is probably whack-a-mole. Now, this says whole lot about my cynical stance on religion. If you take the implications to the extreme, God is merely an uncaring being who reacts instinctually to "whack" those who stand out. The more he/she/ it whacks, the better for him or herself. All the moles are the same, and they all get whacked (some more than once) in the end. Poor moles we are.

What if you thought God's favorite game was skee-ball like in Dogma? Skee-ball is kind of a game of skill, but at the center of it, it is a game of high-risk, high-reward. You can go for the 200 point circle on the periphery, but miss, and you end up with 10. Play up the middle, and you'll probably score better, although you won't end up with a high score. Again, the answer to this question has theological implications.

How about the ring toss, where you have three chances to toss a ring onto a bottle? Now, all the bottles are the same, and often, the ring you throw will ricochet and bounce before falling onto a bottle. I'd say if you thought God liked the ring toss, there's a certain amount of chance involved in your world-view.

Now, if you think God's favorite arcade game would be the "Test of Strength," then we can certainly make conclusions about survival of the fittest.

That race where you fire a water gun at a target to get your pig to move along a racetrack? The more people you play with, the bigger the reward is. Very capitalist.

Did you decide that your favorite game is also God's favorite game? How narcissistic.

There's also the possibility that, like Einstein said (I'm reinterpreting his quote here), that God does not play at all.

In which case, we might conclude that God is the house/casino/arcade, and no matter how well we play the variety of games of chance and skill, he/she/it always wins.

Or we might take the less cynical stance and conclude, like the Puritans, that games are bad and to even suggest that God plays games is blasphemy.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Jiggety Jig

Home again, home again . . .


Actually, I've been home for a couple of days. I drove down to Atlanta with Jen on the 15th and 16th and flew back up the next day.

The 18th was Eastern College Career Days all day, a job fair with several law firms, some publishing companies, and a few other employers thrown into the mix. Basically, it was an opportunity for us "well-rounded liberal arts majors" to test the job market. From what I heard being bantered around by those present, we were a motley crew of English majors and sociology or psychology majors, with a few theatre majors here and there. And they say the liberal arts are dead.

I'm not in fact so jaded about the liberal arts - it's just that everyone else seems to be, which makes for a rather depressed job market, both literally and figuratively. Who doesn't want to hire a well educated individual who supposedly has been taught to see several sides to any situation? Theoretically, those who have been exposed to the liberal arts go on to be leaders and decision makers because of their critical thinking abilities. After all, if everyone was just going to get one job and stick with it, every 18-year-old out there would be going to a trade school next year, simple as that.

There are some who argue 18-year-olds should just go onto trade schools, or focus exclusively on economics or applied sciences.

I used to struggle to answer the question "What are you going to do with an English major?" (Variations on that include "What are you going to do with a double major in English and Biology," "Where does an English major get you these days," and several quizzical glances which convey a thousand words in a second).

My answer used to be "Law, I think, or teaching . . . maybe." I'm rather ashamed of my own narrow-mindedness. Because what I should have said was "Anything I want to."

It sounds pompous (and it is), but I think it's absolutely true. Of course, "anything I want to" comes with several requirements, including:

1) What makes me happy
2) What I'm good at
3) Where I'm comfortable
4) And last, but not least, what pays the bills - that's a big one.

I did in fact interview with a couple of law firms. But if I do work as a legal assistant and go on to law school, it will be on my own terms, and I'll do what interests me (which could possibly include intellectual property - reading Gaiman v. McFarlane was fun - I recommend it for anyone with an interest in comic books. I know that in any profession you have you "pay your dues," I think I could manage to amuse myself adequately as a legal assistant for awhile.

I think a lot of people who receive liberal arts educations become disheartened by the potential of doing something they don't want to do. They're faced with the possibility of not being good enough at writing or drawing or acting or singing, enough to make a living at least, and they must then go onto something else.

For a lot of people, this means resigning themselves to some office job they don't really have any connection to, and I think that there's a general feeling of failure when this happens.

A lot of people at the job fair were drooling at the opportunity to do into advertising, because they thought that advertising was one of the few professions out there in which the end-product can reflect the personality of the individual. I think those people are in for some hard times, but that's just me.

I have a lot of respect for the people that I worked with this past summer for this reason. The non-profit arts isn't the most glorious profession in the world, and it is more than likely that you won't get paid nearly as much as the work and time you put into it is worth, but they're supporting what they love at the Arts and Business Council.

How many of us will be able to say that when we leave college? How many of us are going to go onto middle management or entry level jobs that we take out of necessity, both because we need the financial stability and also because we just don't know what else is available to someone of our unique talents?

This makes me a bit angry. Why should doctors and lawyers be placed on privileged tracks towards their professions? This applies more towards pre-meds than pre-law, since most school have a pre-med track and not all of them have pre-law. But don't some of these people do what they do because that's all the vocabulary they know? If you've been raised to know that the only legitimate professions are lawyer and doctor, of course you're going to end up in med school or law school.

I'm going to harp on stereotypes for a second and rail at Asian American pre-meds. The stereotype is not that Asians or Asian Americans are better at math. No, the stereotype is that they are told from day one that they're going to grow up to be a doctor. Of course they're going to focus on their sciences and be pre-meds in college. What else could they do?

It is a stereotype in that, of course, not all Asian American families operate like this, but there's a lot of support for it. It's not so much the overbearing parent or the filial child, I think, as much as it is the popular conception in Asian American families of an "honorable profession." Of course, to be "honorable," the job should compensate well - preferable in the six figures.

Why isn't there a liberal arts track?

That's a rhetorical question of course - liberal arts track is an oxymoron.

And it leaves us liberal arts majors in an uncomfortable position. On one hand, I can scoff at the people who have "always know they want to be a ____." On the other hand, they know what they're going to be doing in five years, and I don't. So can I really complain, since the liberal arts derives a sense of pride from a broadness of educational experience which prevents the intensely specialized education of say, a pre-med student?

I just sometimes wish that there were liberal arts advisors. Of course, these would just be people that got to know you and then incessantly told you to do what you liked. Although I think the world would be a better place if there were more of these people. The arts would certain be a better place if more Creative Writing majors or Arts majors went on to work in arts service organizations.

When did that stop happening? I seem to remember back in elementary school, there was always the "you can be what you want" mentality. Either that, or it's in a Cat Stevens song - oh yeah, it's "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out."

I think at some point, educators are encouraged to stop encouraging the dreams of the kids they are teaching, and to push them more towards waking up and preparing for the harsh world of a 9 to 5 job. Sometime in middle school, maybe, it started being embarrasing for people to say "I want to be an astronaut" or "I want to be an artist." But I think there's an artificial exclusivity there that doesn't have to be present.

This is actually, why I think the remarks made by the President of Harvard are so damaging. Instead of saying "The existing gender stereotypes encourage boys towards the hard sciences while discouraging girls towards similar professions, thereby creating a perceived gap in potential to learn sciences and math," he said "Girls don't learn science as good as boys. Duh. Life is like a box of chocolates." [Note, I am merely paraphrasing his statement]

Real intelligent that one, the President of a liberal arts institution and all.

Part II


I'm listening to the new Fiona Apple album (which might not be publically released yet. shh . . . . )

For those of you who know me or who have been following this blog for a while, I have a special place in my heart for both Sarah McLachlan and Fiona Apple.

I enjoyed Fiona Apple's second album very much, and her first remains one of the best rookie efforts of any singer/songwriter in recent memory (and I do hate the term singer/songwriter, but it applies in this case).

I feel that she's a much better singer than Norah Jones, and manages to write significantly deeper songs, both lyrically and from a melodic standpoint. Her voice is also much more unique and doesn't sound quite as lounge singer-esque.

There are those who argue that her second album was too pretentious, as she leaned towards an in-your face jazzy feel while maintaining the lyrical impetuousness of her first album. (That and the fact that the title was 98 words long). But I thought the songs sounded great and even the songs that lacked lyrically ("Paper Bag" being one) were well mixed and had great melodic lines.

My initial feeling for this new album, entitled "Extraordinary Machine," is that it really plays with the jazz sound in her music, utilizing some very intriguing orchestration (she uses strings and brass in several songs) and quite a bit of synthisizer, but it doesn't succeed quite as well as her first two efforts.

The reason, I think, is that as I listen to the bells and whistles (literally), I'm not focusing on her voice nearly much as I should be. One of the unique aspects of her first two albums was the way her voice blended seamlessly with her instrumentals, and it sometimes feels like she struggles to be heard on this album.

Fiona Apple has a remarkable voice, possessing an excellent range and a sultry tone, but with a tremulous quality which calls up a youth and fragility. Her voice really sold her first two albums, and I really wish it was brought to the forefront in more of the songs on this album. At one point in the song "Oh Well," her voice really erupts at the climax of the song, and it sounds wonderful. I only wish it happened more in the rest of the CD. Whoever mixed this CD (I think it was a big name producer too - Jon Brion?) really did her a disservice by not establishing enough contrast and emphasizing the vocals more.

Some of the songs are very strong. "Get Him Back" is a very basic song in terms of bass line and piano line, but that's why it works - Fiona's voice comes to the forefront of the song, and the song is very typical of her style. "Better Version of Me" is a good example of a song that expands on what she did in her second album, "When the Pawn . . ." There's a lot of synthesizer and percussion, and the lyrics fall a little flat, but the sound is vintage Fiona Apple, if one can call anything by her vintage.

At other times, though, the CD is almost Broadway-esque. A few of the songs sound like show tunes, and they're over-orchestrated (not overproduced, since her voice is seldom layered) to the point that they are stylistically questionable.

The piano comes through too strongly in several of the songs, and the usage of instruments like oboe and french horn are surprising to the point of distraction. I actually really like the song "Extraordinary Machine", but the flute and oboe really sound out of place sometimes.

"Not About Love" sounds like it was written for a theatrical production, as it opens with a low piano line followed by a cello intro, and by Fiona's entrace she feels like an accompaniment, and I'm not sure I like that. It almost sounds like she's going for a neo-Big Band feel at times and is striving too much for that "vintage" sound I mentioned earlier.

The persistent presence of brass and loud piano makes the contrasts of songs like "Oh Well" less than they should be. In her second album, a song like "Get Gone" had a contrast between the slow, soft start and the pounding piano later in the song which really illustrated the building of both the piano and her vocals as the song progressed.

I think this album is kind of similar to Radiohead's "Kid A" effort, which initially made me cringe, but really won me over after a few listens. I don't think any of the songs are strong as the ones on "When the Pawn" though, in terms of how they progress musically, and I doubt I'll end of liking this album as much as either of the first two.

There also isn't enough variation on the CD for my tastes. Fiona has shown she can write excellent ballads ("Never is a Promise"), even though she is known more for the angry pounding sound in songs like "Limp" and "Fast as You Can," but none of the songs on this new CD really commit to either.

The experimental nature of several of the songs including the melodic turns and what she does with discordance, especially with bells of all things, is anathema to anything we're really trained to listen to these days, and this album probably won't sell too well.

Her record label at Sony knows this, which is why they delayed the CD for a long time and tried to get her to re-record some of it, but it sounds as if she kept most of the experimentation that she wanted to. There really is not a very marketable single on the CD, so from that standpoint, there's little to no chance you'll be hearing much of it on the radio.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Vote Early, Vote OFten

Now, in a standard major league baseball season, there are 162 games. The increase from the old standard of 154 has caused many to question the validity of single season records, like Maris' 61 homers and Ichiro's 262 hits. That's not really the point of this blog though. What I would like to point out is the following:

The following description comes from an article at about players that qualify at several positions (that second link is for punning and humorous purposes only - it is decidedly not safe for work). No, that's not dirty, it's just fantasy. Fantasy baseball of course.

Brad Wilkerson, Nationals
2004 games played: 86 games at 1B, 80 games in OF
Recommendation: Wilkerson has power and speed, but won't do anything to help your team's batting average. Thus, if you draft a high-average first baseman (e.g. Todd Helton) or outfielder (e.g. Ichiro), Wilkerson makes a great complementary player.

The astute reader will realize that the amazing Mr. Wilkerson managed to play an astounding 166 games last season. How, I'm not quite sure. Perhaps in 2 games, at some point, he switched from 1B to OF, or from OF to 1B, as part of a double switch, and thus was recorded as having played 2 positions in 1 game, thus giving him the 4 extra games.

But it is apparently not just Wilkerson. Adam Dunn also seems to have played 166 games. And Chone "Flash" Figgins apparently didn't get the memo and played 182 games last year. Maybe this steroid problem runs deeper than we thought . . .

Or perhaps these guys defected at some point during a couple of the games and took some at bats for the opposing team. Kind of how those kids at recess in third grade would reveal themselves as secret agents during soccer and defect to the other (more popular and/or winning team). Bastards . . . .Considering the crowds the Expos played in front of, no one would have noticed Wilkerson's defection anyway.

Alternatively, Wilkerson and the others have perfected the art of astral projection (not the Israeli trance band). I don't think that's accurate, actually. I don't think your astral projection could cover the first base line. Maybe Bill Buckner could shine some light on that. But then again, maybe he couldn't. I suppose he's forgiven after the Sox won this past year, but the fact still remains that the '86 Mets were the best group of coke addicts to ever play the game.

Or perhaps is just plain wrong.

I know for fantasy baseball purposes, these guys can play at several positions in one game and it counts as more than one game, but c'mon, that just looks silly when Chone Figgins has "played" in 182 games.

And yes, in writing this blog entry, I had way too much fun with Google searches (is anyone curious as to what exactly Israeli trance sounds like?).

Oh yeah. Happy Birthday Richard. I hope you got the new Tekken game so I can come home and kick your ass.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

What is Best in Life?

I wonder if any of the other "actors" in the movie Predator went on to lucrative careers in politics, because Arnold Schwarzenneger (sp?) and Jesse Ventura sure did.

Imagine that. If you had told someone in 1987 that a quarter of the main characters in Predator would go on to lucrative political careers, you would probably have been laughed at and committed to the loony bin.

Seriously now, who would have thought that one man who can barely speak English and another who was known as "The Body" would become governors?

I can honestly say now that if I ever got the chance to travel back in time, I would go back to 1990 and lay down several bets that one of the main characters from Predator would go on to be a political figure. I'd hop around at bars and make several thousand bets worth a few million. Then in 1991 when Ventura became a mayor somewhere in Minnesota, I would offer everyone who I bet money with a double or nothing bet that within 15 years, another one of the main characters from Predator would go on to become a politician.

I'd putz around for a decade doing something, I don't know what, maybe predicting Super Bowl results and similar things. I'd definitely get in on the dot-coms and then out just before things went bad. But then Arnold would become governor and I'd go around and collect on even more money.

Ok I won't do that. I'm just merely illustrating the point, ad nauseum, that Predator has two future politicians in it.

And it occurred to me. The Predator in the movie acts a lot like Jeff playing Halo. Yeah that's right. And if you can't figure out if that's a compliment or an insult, watch the movie again. Damn sniper.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

This Just In

Paraphrase from John Stewart of "The Daily Show"

The new SAT's debuts this Saturday. This test, taken by high school students nation-wide, determines if you'll be a success . . . or a Dartmouth graduate.

I love being famous. Oook Oook.

Bond 21

So the twenty-first Bond film is in the works, without Pierce Brosnan, and I was thinking about it.

The details right now are pretty sparse at, but the only thing we know so far is that it will be loosely based on Ian Fleming's Casino Royale, and that Bond will deliver one-liners with astonishing alacrity, especially after or before sleeping with several beautiful women.

Now, a Bond film based on an original Fleming would be great news to me, if Die Another Day hadn't been based (apparently) on Moonraker. Of course, this actually puts Die Another Day in wonderful context, it makes total sense that the foundation for Die Another Day was the worst Bond film made before it. Although I don't really see the connection at all, but that's what the sources say . . .

In any case, people are weighing in on their choice for Bond. I've heard Clive Owen, Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, and a bunch of other names being thrown around. It should probably be a lesser known actor, but that's not what I'm thinking about right now.

Because I've decided that if this next Bond will be any good, the opening song has to be done by Coldplay.

Must be. No one else. Coldplay satisfies all the requirements and then some. Big name, popular, but slightly edgy and British. One of the problems with Die Another Day was that it had the worst opening song ever, because Madonna's brassiere is the only thing that's edgy about her, and she only thinks she's British. Garbage was decent, and Sheryl Crow wasn't bad (but not British). Moby actually made the soundtrack to Tomorrow Never Dies worthwhile.

But Coldplay . . . now, their songs already sound like they could be Bond theme songs. Listen to "Politik" and tell me that doesn't sound like a Bond theme. It's got the themes, the slow start, languid and smooth, operatically rising to a fairly hard hitting climax.

Anyone that has seen a Bond intro knows that the song has to go with the intro, which means two things. Naked women and guns. If you listen to a song, and you can't envision a naked women diving into some kind of liquid or sitting on a bed, a gun firing, or a naked woman being fired out of a gun, or a gun being fired by a naked woman, then the song can't possibly be used as a Bond theme. (By the way, I'm copyrighting that last sentence).

To put it simply, the song has to have the "bang-bang" or the "oooh,sexy." Of course, the best Bond songs have the "ooooh, sexy bang bang." I'm copyrighting that one too. I guess that could apply for the movie itself too.

But Coldplay's "Politik", and several of their other songs, sound pretty good as Bond themes.

They could go with a harder sound that's been the trend recently, or their could go with an older sound, using the piano lines that were used in earlier Bond songs, like Wings' "Live and Let Die". Listen to Coldplay's "Scientist", which is too soft for a Bond theme, but you hear the requisite movement, very driven. Speed it up and add John Barry's electric bass, some distortion guitar, and I think we have a nice Bond theme.

Chris Martin would be an excellent choice, since it's about time they go back to a lead male vocal. The last one was a-ha's "The Living Daylights", if I'm not mistaken, and a-ha is fairly vocally andrygynous, like most other Euro pop of the time. While Chris Martin doesn't have the lounge singer voice of Tom Jones (Thunderball), Matt Monro (From Russia With Love), or even Louis Armstrong (We Have All The Time in the World - for On Her Majesty's Secret Service), he's got a great voice nonetheless.

Radiohead would work too, but Thom York is too much of an "artist" and Radiohead would never do it.

We could even compromise. Chris Martin could slip in a reference to his daughter Apple, thereby doing a Bond song and making the requisite "just-had-a-baby" song.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Better than Ezra

One of the worst parts of middle school and high school was summer reading.

Don't get me wrong - I loved reading (still do). I would probably read two books before the first week of summer break was over. But I hated answering those damn questions that came with summer reading, the worst one by far being:

"What is good literature? Does this book constitute good literature? If not, why not?"

It's the worst question ever, and I've only come to hate it more after 4 years as an English major. How do you give a book the blanket term "good literature"? How can you even ask a 16 year old to define literature as good or bad when the majority of 16 year olds have read at the most some Mark Twain, some Shakespeare, Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Michael Crichton and some crap by John Irving?

But now, I've finally come up with a wonderfully sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek answer. After four years of college, and very little thought, I can finally (not really) answer "what is good literature" in a concise fashion. Actually, this is more of an anti-answer. You high schoolers, do not borrow this definition, as it will get you a failing grade.

Here's my answer:

What is Good Literature?

Good literature must be criminally-inspired. So in order to define good literature, I must first define criminally-inspired.

I like my term "criminally-inspired" because it is multi-faceted.

It can refer to a work inspired by or building around a criminal act (for example, Shakespeare builds the plot of Hamlet upon a fratricide, a very old story - Cain and Abel - but one that works very well as a plot device).

It can refer to a criminal that is the centerpiece of the work - for instance, The Silence of the Lambs wouldn't be anything interesting without the Hannibal Lecter character.

It can refer to the author's own criminal acts. For instance, Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is fuelled by an acid trip (or several of them). John Milton's Paradise Lost has been explained by many as an anti-monarchical tract with Milton in the place of the rebel Satan. I don't buy it completely, but it's one interpretation.

If the author was inspired by the Fiona Apple song "Criminal", then it would also be "criminally-inspired" (although I have not yet read anything inspired by Criminal that I might call good literature).

That being said, while all good literature is "criminally-inspired", not all "criminally-inspired" literature is good. If that were true, Dick Wolf, creator of "Law and Order", would be a God among men. The Harry Potter series, inspired by an act of plagirism, is not automatically good literature just because J.K. Rowling plagirized everything.

So I'd like to run through some criminally-inspired fiction and demonstrate my point.

Books/Poems build around acts of crime:

The Iliad by Homer - based on the kidnap of Helen - good literature? Yes

Anything by Shakespeare -
Hamlet - fratricide - Good literature? Yes
King Lear - patricide by driving the father insane, murder - Good lit? Yes
Romeo and Juliet - love wasn't illegal, but certainly a love against the desires of the two familial patriarchs - Good lit? Hell no
The Rape of Lucrece - Nuff said
Twelfth Night - comedy built around impersonation and suggestion of incest - Good lit? Yes

The Inferno by Dante - lots of criminals in here - Good lit? Yes

Anything by Dickens -
Great Expectations - Magwitch and Compeyson are central criminals to the story (no spoilers) - Good lit? Kind of
Oliver Twist - Fagin the Crime Lord? - Good lit? Not really
(It was also a crime that he was paid by the word, but we won't get into that)

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - incest, and I'm pretty sure there's rape in there too - Good lit? Yeah, I think so

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - The good Dr. is trying to be God, for Heaven's sake - Good lit? Yes

The Strange Tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson - Dr. Jekyll doesn't kill people. Mr Hyde does. Mwa ha ha or something. - Good lit? Kind of

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde - Lots and lots of beautiful lust, and a suicide. oh, and he was gay, which he got in legal trouble for - Good lit? Yes

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Does this really need explaining? - Good lit? Yes

The Trial by Franz Kafka - not sure what the crime is, but there's definitely a trial - Good lit? Yes

The Crucible by Arthur Miller - alleged witchcraft - Good lit? I guess

Any modern Broadway musical? - There's always a gunshot at the end, isn't there? - Good lit? Probably not

So you see, there's plenty of literature out there based on criminal acts - some of it good, some not. But all the good stuff is criminally-inspired

Books/Poems in which the author is the criminal:

Paradise Lost by John Milton - Regicide - Good lit? Yes

"Kubla Khan" by Coleridge - Opium - Good lit? Oh yeah

Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll - Little Girls - Good lit? Yes

Peter Pan by J.M Barrie - Little Boys - Good lit? Yes

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Booze (Illegal) - Good lit? HELL NO

The Gulag Archipelago
by Alexander Solzhenitzyn - Crimes against Russia - Good lit? Yes (in this group is a whole lot of other Russian literature)

See? More works of literature, all criminally inspired.

I think I've proven my point well enough.

Oh, I haven't?

Did this exercise just show that no matter what we do, there's no way to classify literature as good or bad, and to attempt to give reasons for literature being good or bad is ultimately futile? Probably not, but it was damn fun. I mean, look what I managed to do. Generalize about literature, accuse authors of pedophilia, compare books across genres, etc. etc. All to call something good literature.

I mean, I can give several examples of non-criminally inspired work. William Thackeray's Vanity Fair, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, pretty much anything by Ernie Hemingway (alcohol was only illegal for part of his life, after all).

So kids, when asked to define good literature, just say no.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


This isn't anything serious, but it's something that has been bugging me for a while now.

Who the heck rates stories and comics on Yahoo?

If you don't know what I'm talking about, scroll down on any Yahoo news article or comic strip, and there is a rating system with which you can enter a rating of 1-5 of how much you would recommend the story/comic/whatever.

This has always confused me, because I don't know why anyone needs to rate articles. Does it impact the prominence of the article on Yahoo's frontpage? I don't think it does.

Are ratings supposed to be given from the perspective of how well the article is written or how important the content is? I guess if this designation of a number 1-5 is determined by how "recommendable" an article is, doesn't it depend on who you are inclined to recommend web articles to? I mean, if all your friends are Mets fans, would you rank an article about how the Yankees stink a 5.00? If you only recommend articles to people you hate, do you rank the most depressing stories the highest?

And who in their right mind logs in to Yahoo and tells them that privatization of social security accounts is worth a 2?

If an article about a GOP survey of people regarding the privatization of social security gets a 2.94 (~700 votes), an article about Bill Clinton's scar tissue removal gets a 2.26 (280 votes), does it mean that the privatization of social security is more interesting than Bill Clinton's scar tissue? If so, then Michael Jackson's trial, 3.66 (2.75 votes) beats them both. Of course, three people voted that the Dow closing down 24 points is worth a perfect 5.00, so apparently a day's worth of stock market changes is worth more than anything.

I've never understood the need for this kind of thing. I could condone it if it was for data collection, but it can't possibly be for data collection. Because you have to log in, and only a small percentage of people reading an article will log in to Yahoo to rate it. And there's no measure of accuracy with a rating system of 1-5 which compares articles not even remotely similar. I mean, today's news about Bill Clinton isn't even in the same ballpark as tomorrow's news about Bill Cosby. Heck, it aint even the same sport, to paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson.

I just figure that it's pointless, and fairly harmless, even though a cynic like me might find some perverse satisfaction in way lurid celebrity stories rank higher than everyday political affairs (although nothing tops lurid political affairs).

Where it really gets me though, are the comic ratings.

I like my funnies. Dartmouth's newspaper features a couple of crappy comics by undergraduates, Doonesbury and Garfield (or is it Dilbert?), which is not nearly enough. Besides, picking up the Dartmouth is like picking up a tabloid at the supermarket.

"Trustees Vote to Increase Tuition by 4.9%!!"

"Two-Headed Elvis Clone Weds Neptunian Goddess!!"

All the same to me. At least it is now, when the trustees won't be getting any more of my money.

So I assuage my need for comics with Yahoo's comics page, which carries pretty much every widely syndicated comic strip, and a bunch of independant webcomics (see sidebar)

But it pisses me off when I read today's Boondocks, one of my staples, and I see that under the day's comic, there is a little graphic that says "Avg Rating: 3.37".

I don't really care what other people think about Boondocks so I don't pay too much attention to the rating.

But when another comic, say, Cathy (CATHY!!), rates higher, part of me is distracted by it. (And I only checked Cathy because I wanted to see what people rated it)

The point is that I don't need to be told that some 200 odd people think the day's Cathy is funnier than the day's Boondocks. I just don't care. And before you say that I can just ignore it, I'll tell you. I can't.

I'm one of those people that remembers numbers. So if I browse Get Fuzzy, see that it has gotten a 4.32, and then go to Dilbert (a comic I now despise) and see the number 4.51, I remember it. The numbers stay in my mind somewhere, and it pisses me off. In my mind, I might have found Get Fuzzy funnier. And I wouldn't even have rated it on a scale of 1-5. I might not have rated it at all. But I know that sitting under those two comics are two numbers that seem to be telling me how good the comics are.

And I wonder if someone goes to say, Aaron McGruder, and tells "Hey, today's strip got a 3.32 on Yahoo." What if this actually happened, and some comic artist felt the need to rise to some unknown demographic of Yahoo's (pun intended)? I would hate that.

And I can't help but wonder what comic averages the highest (See? The stat head in me wants to know, even though I know the numbers are arbitrary). It's probably Marmaduke or something like that.

Spin Me Right Round

I've had enough of accessing my blog and seeing a suggestive picture of Phil Mickelson. Something has to take its place.

No more baseball for now, not until something significant happens, like Randy Johnson's knee falls off or Sammy Sosa gets injured making himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

No complaints about ESPN or stagnation of the movie or music industries. Even though "Million Dollar Baby," a movie with an ending that makes no sense whatsoever, won 4 Oscars.

No, I think I'll write about me. Me me me. I wrote at the very beginning when I started this blog that I wanted to get down experiences and whatnot about college, and I kind of stopped doing after about . . . oh . . . two entries.

I went to a bunch of concerts freshman year. In addition to Ben Folds and Counting Crows coming to Dartmouth (not together), and putting on decent shows, I also decided to fly down to Atlanta the weekend before a large chemistry midterm for Music Midtown, which I believe is the 2nd largest outdoor music festival in the U.S. Good stuff. Lots of great bands, including Garbage, Bush, STP, Better than Ezra, Bela Fleck, Pete Yorn, and last but certainly not least, Journey.

Good times, and I managed to pass my chemistry test too.

I also went to a concert sometime around Thanksgiving, I think (I might be horribly mistaken about that one), featuring Linkin Park and Stone Temple Pilots and two other bands. I say two other bands because I spent the majority of the concert outside wondering where the friends I was supposed to meet were.

See, in these, my pre-cell phone days, I had no way of knowing that there were TWO entrances to the venue, and I was waiting at the one reserved for ticketholders with floor tickets (which included other people I went to high school with who randomly passed me). So I got in pretty early and spent a good four hours waiting around, wondering what the heck I was supposed to do if no one showed up.

At one point, a random man approached me and asked me for change. It was quite strange, not because, like anyone else who has lived in a large urban area, I've been approached by people asking for money, but because of the way he asked me for change.

It wasn't the usual "Got a dollar" or "Spare a buck?"

He said as he approached me, "Hey, got a second?"

I was walking down the street pretty aimlessly, as I had no clue where the heck I was going to find my friends, so I stopped. It wasn't dumb of me or anything, as it was broad daylight and there were other people around. Urban setting or not, I didn't think I was about to get mugged. I looked at him said "What's up?" I figured he was going to ask me for directions or something like that.

Instead he said "Do you happen to have a buck or two? I need to scrounge up enough to get a hotel room, 'cuz my girlfriend kicked me out. I know this is weird, and I don't mean to be intimidating or anything . . . I don't seem intimidating, do I?"

I shook my head and told him that he wasn't intimidating and I didn't have any change either, which was a pity because I could have used some to place a phone call to some people I was supposed to meet.

Our conversation took a very strange turn after that, if it wasn't already strange enough.

He said "Man, sorry you can't find your friends. I'm glad you don't find me intimidating though. You have no idea how many people get intimidated by an African American male approaching them on the street."

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that he was African American. Did that matter to my story up until now? Did you assume he was African American? I'd like to tell myself that it didn't matter at all, and that it shouldn't matter to whoever is reading this, but I'm not sure that would be a realistic statement.

Because if I can construct a picture of a man's skin color and appearance from the question "got a buck?" and his characterization of himself as potentially intimidating . . . . well, then I understand why the writers of SNL are motivated to write a skit stereotyping African Americans - not because it's funny, but because it's easy.

We didn't talk a whole lot after that, just expressed condolences for each other's respective plights (mine being nowhere near as serious as his), wished each other luck, shook hands, and then we went our separate ways.

I eventually figured out where the main entrance was, but not until I had missed half the concert, which was okay because I just wanted to see STP anyway.

But after the concert, and in the days that followed, it wasn't the memories of Scott Wylan's gyrating torso that remained in my head. And no, that was not a homoerotic statement, because Scott Wylan's gyrating torso, often naked, is inevitably at the center of any STP performance. Instead, I thought about my random encounter on the street.

At first I wondered if he was telling the truth. Whether his girlfriend had really kicked him out and if he really was looking for a few bucks to get a room at the YMCA or something to similar effect. Is that a story people use to get a buck? Do they stick around and shoot the breeze after they get rejected if the story isn't true? I decided ultimately that it didn't matter. After all, I could have been lying through my teeth when I told him that I didn't have any change. Why did I stick around and talk to him?

Later, I focused more on what he said about being intimidating. I wondered if he said it because he was African American and I was Asian. Would he have approached another African American in the same way? Did he say what he said because he thought African Americans might seem intimidating, or because he thought Asians were intimidated by African Americans? And of course, I don't think I was looking intimidated. If anything, I was probably looking kind of steamed because I wanted to stop walking and figure out where my friends were. Did he approach everyone that day with the same question?

In the end, I guess the truth didn't matter. Whether he was lying or not, it didn't matter. I'm not going to find out either way, and the fact is that after he asked me for a buck and I said no, we had a fairly civilized exchange, shook hands, and went our separate ways.

We SHOOK hands. Is that weird? How many strangers do you shake hands with? I kind of look back and wonder what possessed the two of us to actually talk and then shake hands. I mean, I actually could have asked him for change. I needed it as much as he did (ok, maybe a little less). What made us shake hands? I don't think either of us thought we were breaking some racial divide, because that would have been silly. I think we were just both glad to talk to someone, even if neither of us received any direct help from it.

I like to look back now and think that the fact that we both needed help or money took precendent over race and skin color, even though the situation might have been approached with stereotypes in mind. I might be being too idealistic. But what forms a stronger bond of solidarity between people than a shared need?

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Umm . . . Lefty?

Now, I hate to cover up my idea of a reality TV show (see below), but this is just too good.

This image, exactly this one, unedited, same size, originally came from Yahoo's frontpage for Golf with the caption

"Mickelson and a fan react to a shot to tie Woods that just missed on the eighteenth hole"

But I think most people would agree with me when I say that it looks like the aforementioned fan just hit a shot, and not one that tied Tiger Woods.

Seriously, what the hell kind of photographer takes this shot? And gets it through editors? Does no editor say to himself "Gee, this looks like Phil Mickelson reacting to a guy with a hat busting a load up his ass"???

If you click on the picture (on Yahoo's website, not my blog), it actually doesn't look a whole lot better. When it's not a headshot, it STILL looks like Lefty is doing the anal.

And you gotta love the fan's "O" face.

Addendum: If seeing the picture on Yahoo isn't enough, ESPN Page 2's Skip Bayless has used a smaller version of it on his article today. Don't these guys learn?

Hit or Miss

Ok, this thought came to me after I took my thesis to be bound (sounds kinkier than it was, I guarantee).

Xzibit hosts the MTV show "Pimp My Ride." And I know there are plenty of other reality shows now that are devoted to similar pursuits - remodeling houses, remodeling cars, remodeling people, remodeling models, etc. etc.

This is my idea for a reality TV show along those lines.

Instead of "Pimp My Ride," it would be called "Dress My Wound."

Xzibit, and a team of trained medical technicians would be responsible for taking care of someone's serious injury. They would have to clean the wound, dress it, and stop the bleeding, doing any required amputations in the process. Instead of dolling up a '67 Impala, they would creatively deal with a guy who accidentally impaled himself on some large piece of metal.

I think it has possibilities. Work with me now.

Like people videotape themselves pleading for Xzibit to pimp their rides, they would do the same for their injuries.

"Xzibit, please Dress My Wound. It's been a couple of days and it's starting to smell funky. My fever is rising and I'm starting to see things."

They would do things creatively, like giving someone a pair of gold crutches or something like that.

"Xzibit, these gold crutches studded with bling is the SHIT. Thanks for dressing my wound man!"

Or they could do other things.

"Now, normally we would have just filled the cavity, but I've also implanted a radio transmitter so Mr. ___ can pick up his favorite hip-hop stations."

"We had to amputate the gangrenous limb, but that's ok. I've replaced his leg below the knee with a prosthetic which will make him move much faster, won't break down, AND dispenses Cristal."

"Now, your hand was pretty messed up after you pulled it out of the meat grinder, but thanks to us, we've improved on your old hand. See, these sensors on your hand can also be used as a universal remote control to turn on your TV."

And of course there's always:

"No need to worry about your legs, kid. Because your wheelchair comes complete with 14 inch spinning chrome rims. Pretty slick, huh?"

Scott Wylan, Eat Your Heart Out

Why is it, that I haven't updated my blog since handing in my thesis? I'm not sure I have a good answer for that, although there might be some truth to be found in this conversation I had on the street with a former professor.

Prof: So are you getting ready to graduate?
Me: Yeah, I'm finishing stuff up. Just finished my thesis. Handed it in today.
Prof: Cool! Are you glad to be done?
Me: Yeah, but not that it's done, I'm not quite sure what to do with my free time.
Prof: It's called post-partum depression, I think. It'll pass eventually.
Me: Heh, something like that.
Prof: Well, good talking to you. I'll see you around
Me: Yup, sounds good. Bye.

Likening a thesis or any work of writing or art to giving birth isn't the most original thing in the world, but damn it, I really don't know what to do now. I mean, I have physiology, but I don't really care about bio classes at this point. I just want my degree, damn it. So this thesis was really the last thing I had to do. And now it's over.

I returned my books, all fifty or so, and now the only physical trace of the thesis is the bound copy that I got to keep. And I'm almost afraid to touch it.

I stress about the potential that there were grammatical errors, and that I didn't footnote enough, and that I might have forgotten to include a source in the bibliography that I parenthetically document in the text, but for all intents and purposes, it's over. I'm moderately concerned about that last part, and also that I might not get the requisite grade I need in order to actually get the honors credit, but there isn't really work involved with that. Just mindless paranoia.

I really am detached from this thing now, and I don't know what to think about it. I was working on this for over six months, really. My proposal went in a year ago, and I was doing (some) research over the summer. This fall and winter, I was literally living and breathing John Milton Studies. Sure, that sounds boring to most people, but I was immersed. I'd wake up wondering if my chapter on the Son of God's formation of subjectivity made any sense. I'd go to sleep trying to remember the name of a critic that wrote some article in Milton Studies. But no more.

Unless I go to grad school for Early Modern Studies, there's basically no reason for me to read Milton Studies or Milton Quarterly or anything like that again. I might go back to Paradise Lost or some of Milton's other stuff, but I don't need to concern myself with the criticism anymore. But the funny thing is, I liked concerning myself with the criticism.

The scariest thing of all? I don't know if baseball and Spring Training is necessarily going to make up for it. I mean, watching a Sox game on NESN or a Mets game isn't going to have the same immediacy and significance of writing a part of my senior thesis. I can live vicariously through Pedro Martinez's arm all I want, but in the end, I don't get anything besides emotional satisfaction out of baseball - that is to say, no money, nothing tangible.

The only thing I can think of to get over it is to keep writing. Short stories perhaps, or just random thoughts in this blog. I need to get over the end of the thesis and just move on to something else. It's hard. So here goes.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

It is Finished

So, after 6 months of planning and 6 months of writing, the thesis is bound and handed in.

Final length - 106 pages

I just took a 5 hour nap.

Spring Training games started today, and all is right with the world.

Oh yeah, and a picture of me walking through the snow going to print out my thesis after an all nighter is up on the website. They have impeccable timing . ..