People who love me today

Grape Nuts cereal.

The new Website promoting Grape Nuts is one of the most fascinating and enjoyable interactive installation pieces I have experienced in my brief existence. The young man who insists that he lives in the Website has a poignant quality about him, and yet there is also something transcendent about his ability to deliver an oral history of the genesis of Grape Nuts. This is more than an ad campaign; it is a philosophy.

Importantly, you will finally get the answer to the age old question: "Why are their neither grapes nor nuts in Grape Nuts cereal?"

Still, those of you trying to figure out how to avoid confusing your Swheat Scoop kitty litter with your cereal (Again!) will find the site wanting.

My Mother.


Bryan Adams, stop the Love Train or someone will get hurt!

For those who really have done everything for you.


Really, you're just not that interesting

"PW daily called it a “memoir,” a word that makes my skin crawl and which apparently makes everyone else’s skin crawl, too. What is a 26 year old who hasn’t overcome an addiction or been a child soldier doing writing a MEMOIR? But it’s hard to figure out what else to call a book of autobiographical stories, I guess. That is a few too many words to fit onto a computer screen, apparently."

Monkey and I used to hold down office jobs.

As you can see, that has left Monkey an angry, brain-addled and rambling wayfarer and, as for me, I am just bitter and cling to elemental hatreds.

It has come to our attention recently, that the French National Assembly voted to effectively gut the 35-hour work week that figured among the crowning achievements of the incomparable Jospin government. Further, French employees have seen their work year take on added days. From where I sit, the prospect of more mandated office hours can only result in an explosion of time-wasting never before witnessed.

This wasted time will undoubtedly come in the perverse form of needless e-mails.

Somewhere along the way, e-mail became a substitute for work. At one point, I was paid to do things that involved, for example, knowing something about what was going on in the world. (Thank G_d that I can do it for free, now.) In fact, one of the offices I occupied -- occasionally zoning out just to make sure my screensaver still worked -- actually had a compilation of news stories with links relevant to our stock-in-trade that were sent out daily and arrived surely and conveniently in all our mailboxes. Often, we would have people with glorified titles like Something Assistant or Intern compile or summarize news stories from regional press sources so that we could have an overview with what was going on in our particular corner of the world. But, of course, being specialists in some sense of the word, we also kept abreast of our regions and sources ourselves -- after all, why work in a gray matter field if one is to remain uninterested and remain at a distance from the subject of one's predilection.

Inevitably, though, there was the brave soul who would work at home starting somewhere around 5:00 AM. This usually consisted in sending links to the office or to a particular division of important or must-read stories. Sometimes, one is tempted to indicate that one subscribes to the Washington Post -- but the spirit of cooperation precludes such earnestness. I believe it dawned on me at some point that it was perfectly acceptable and an oft practiced work habit to arrive at the office not having read the paper -- which naturally explained, I suppose, the usefulness of having someone to point out to you what you should be reading as opposed to what you want to read. What a revelation, though, to learn that it was entirely ethical to use the first couple of hours of the day to drink coffee and read the news online. How different and unscandalously divine. And -- on those days where you wanted to hit the breakfast buffet at Reeves -- why not just e-mail a couple of articles to your colleagues before 7, and then, you can step into the office guilt free at 10 or 10:30 having already finished some work for the day.

I can't say, though, that it didn't induce a cringe on those days when a helpful colleague would shoot me an e-mail linking to a story specifically about my own sub-region or whatever it was that I was doing. As if to say, "See, I could be doing your job and mine all at the same time." Although the message would always innocently query, "Did you see this?" Seriously, I should think that I can keep up on my own little patch of gray. That is, after all, why I am so paid.

But that, thankfully, is all in the past.

No frustrations with office e-mail though could have ever prepared me for the nightmare that now confronts me -- here in the ivory tower -- in the form of Listservs.

It's not like I haven't confronted Listservs before. I believe my first experience of having a stable e-mail address -- sometime shortly before the turn of the century -- was almost immediately followed by the action of subscribing to some kind of Turkistan digest. Before I knew it, I was in the midst of internecine conflicts between Turkmen and Uzbek, an overflow of flaming, retaliatory e-mails in rambling Turkish touching on the American genocide of "Turkish Redskins" in the New World -- and occasionally, the thunder clouds would break, and a glimmer of information about the Azeri opposition or an oil contract in Kazakhstan would shine through with the hypnotic iradescence of an opal. In spite of these rare gems, it did not take long to understand that a Listserv is more burden than blessing... but inertia prevents a prompt unsubscribe. Instead, I eventually dropped that e-mail address and the Turkistan digest surely kept chugging along in its infinite querelousness.

Now, in the world of "Big Grad" one is required not only to enlist in Facebook, but also to participate in various Listservs. Nothing could be more depressing. Not only that, but through some stupid notion that I'd be engaged in some sort of productive dialogue, I actually subscribed to an additional THREE Obama-based Listservs (on a digest-basis, of course; I'm not that dumb.) The result is a useless bombardment everyday reminding me of the superfluousness of Web communications.

Amidst this continuous tintinabullation the screech of my departmental Listserv stands out in terms of odiousness and self-absorption. Perhaps I would be fine if there were just a constant drone of calls-for-papers for which I am woefully un-prepared. Perhaps, the course announcements for seminars which sound tempting but could not possibly fit my schedule would settle comfortably in my knotted innards. But does anything justify the constant ringing of small-minded voices saying, essentially, "I am here."

First, there's a reason I don't subscribe to the Nation. I do not consider it to be a source that informs my particular viewpoint. But let's ignore that for now and focus on the true abuses...


I apologize. That message was intended for the person who has, since April (I inadvertently deleted all evidence dated January to March) who has sent such useless comments to the departmental listerv as:
"Congratulations, Dr. _______ indeed!!"
"thank you for sharing this article"

"great issue, ______ staff!!"

"a tasteful tribute site as well."

"Congratulations, dr. [stupid nickname]! the university of [look at how awful and stupid I am] is lucky to have you."
And he has also found the time to forward FOUR articles from the New York Times.

Seriously, every time I see his name on a Listserv e-mail I become apoplectic. And, the thing is, not ONE (OK, maybe TWO) other grad student actually abuses the Listserv in this inane, narcissistic manner. Nobody cares if you want to congratulate Abner! You know, if I knew Abner, I would probably send him a PERSONAL message or CALL HIM to offer congratulations. But you -- you insist on having the world witness your magnanimity. This serial Listserv piggy-backing ruins the usefulness of such a tool for EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You make me barf.


The American American Americans have been Americanized for so that they can America America America America

I watched Obama's speech in Berlin today. Three things kind of stood out in my mind.

First, I cringed at the knowledge that the McCain campaign and Republican media would use this speech to prey upon the worst demons of our citizenry, among them rampant and unashamed xenophobia. The Corner provides an excellent example of this: In response to the address, "People of Berlin, People of the World," K-Lo, as more savant bloggers apparently call her writes:
"Apparently this is a moment that Obama doesn't really need Americans for."
One has to be alarmed when the United States is transported to a separate planet by right-wing pundits.

But, on a more positive note, I couldn't help but delight in the rhetoric of uplift that appeared to strike a chord with the diverse assembly gathered in Berlin. Acutely sensitive to the political and social arrangements that stereotype, marginalize and physically threaten people of color, immigrants, and Muslims in Europe, Obama was able to connect with the struggles of these communities in his speech while also reminding his US audience of the road we ourselves must travel:
"The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."
For some reason, MSNBC's Chuck Todd commented that the content of the speech would be something with which McCain would be equally comfortable -- and yet, it doesn't seem to me that McCain can look at foreign countries and see them for their populations as opposed to for their targets.

Finally, I couldn't help but thinking, not just upon seeing the 200,000 people assembled for the speech but seeing them waving American flags, that we really can't afford not to elect Obama. To fritter away that goodwill and return to the days when the only time we see American flags burnished overseas is when they are being burned would pretty much signal our decline into irrelevance and the victory of the deepest misanthropy that a nation of free citizens can express.

13 hours, 5 tins of anchovies, 2 pints of Ben and Jerry's, a bottle of red wine and a hunk of cheese

It took a while to sink in...

It had never crossed my mind that quality television programming could exist on networks other than the CW and Lifetime...

Yet, this past Sunday, I had a jarring -- perhaps transformative -- revelation as I lounged before my boob tube to take in the Mad Men marathon on AMC. Okay, so I needed an extra nudge from an occasional reader to discover for myself what all the buzz was about. The important thing is that I swallowed up my willful ignorance and indulged in the television equivalent of a marzipan orchestra.

Thirteen hours later, as I nurtured my bed sores, I was overtaken by a sensation of woozy euphoria tinged with a modicum of rueful anger over the fact that other television programming existed (with the exception, naturally, of Gossip Girl and Lifetime original programming).

Perhaps it was the savory dialogue, perhaps it was beautiful Jewess Rachel Menken, perhaps the way each shot was perfectly, colorfully framed as if it were itself a maquette drawn up by Sterling Cooper's Art Director Salvatore Romano.

What makes the series for me, however, are the strength and complexity of the exquisite anti-hero Don Draper as well as the tension generated by feminine aspirations in this male-dominated world, all set against the individualistic ethos propagated by Ayn Rand and adopted by the movers and shakers of the Mad Men microcosmos. In essence, then, Mad Men achieves for me the transposition of the oeuvre of that greatest American writer of the 20th Century, Mickey Spillane, (Okay, maybe Nathanael West gets points in this category, too) onto the cutthroat world of advertising. Certain scenes appear to uncannily capture in pictures the lights and darks of urban society that Spillane expressed in the bare bones poetry of his descriptions.

But whereas Spillane's Mike Hammer series seems to vaunt the triumph of individual morality over the blurred lines of an evolving society, Mad Men clearly mocks this effort as hubris.

Don Draper, himself, exemplifies this startling reversal. We are led to understand, early on, the Draper has a life scinded in two by wartime service; his pained handling of his purple heart hints at pained memories of brave service brushed under the carpet of his current achievements. This dynamic is reminiscent of Spillane's masterpiece, The Long Wait. There, Johnny McBride, amnesiac seeks to clear his name of smears which he can't recall, his life split between his actions and a forgotten past. However, just as McBride recovers through the novel a continuum of valor that justifies his current identity, we eventually discover the calculated cowardice and flight from identity that enabled Draper's ascension. This delightful ambiguity doesn't so much reveal a weakness in Spillane's narrative as it demonstrates Mad Men's ability to adapt its account of the transitional 60s to our society's self-perception in this 21st century.

Similarly, while strong women abound in the Mike Hammer adventures, their presence generates fear, distrust and anxiety. At first seduced, Hammer must conclude by reestablishing order. Thus the classic closing lines of I, the Jury:
"How c-could you?" she gasped.
I only had a moment before talking to a corpse, but I got it in.
"It was easy," I said.
Navigating the emerging social mobility of women in Mad Men, however, hardly comes easy to the aforementioned mad men. Betty Draper, Peggy Olson and Rachel Menken each expresses her desire for self-realization, and Don Draper's relationship with these women becomes a wrestling match with the status quo, the burden of passion, and marketplace calculations. The resulting consequences of belittlement, enabling and surrender mark the stark contrasts borne of these tensions in the private and public sphere. One would be hard pressed to find another program on television that traces as sophisticated a portrait of the power dynamics between the sexes.

Another one of the shining achievements of Mad Men is that, while so many programs strive for critical acclaim and authenticity through the illustration of brutal violence, the maturity of Mad Men is to portray a world where our demons and our valor express themselves in the muted betrayals and victories of personal ambition -- where the drama is generated not on the criminal margins of society but at its consensual core.

Finally, after countless hours spent watching television over the course of several years, one is once again reminded of the poverty of American fiction and the need to confront the truth that our country's greatest storytelling talents have apparently migrated to film and TV.


With Great Power...

What better way to close the parentheses on our absence, than with the below meditation on what may have happened had Bryan Adams chosen to use his powers not for good -- but for evil...

Peregrinations and Retrouvailles

Well, that was embarrassing...

While it may have appeared to my readers that I was malingering for over three weeks, I had actually completely forgotten about my participation in the Annual Young Werther Symposium on Exacerbated Self-Pity and Drang. Or, as we like to call our little get together -- appropriating the turn of phrase from Gerard de Nerval -- "Werther without pistols."

Naturally, in keeping with the theme of the symposium, we maintain late 18th century unity of time and place by isolating ourselves in remote hamlets without access to modern communication technologies. On principle, then, our annual event shares much with both the Society for Creative Anachronism as well as more conventional Revolutionary War Reenactments.

Of course, the distinction of our special event is the opportunity to engage in intense wallowing for three straight weeks. I was especially honored to attend this year, because, after having submitted my initial billet four years ago, I finally was accorded the role of Lotte in the Ceremonial Concluding Mummery. (Yes, for whatever reason, the event draws only male participants.)

So, without further ado, and with the above offered explanation, I have the great pleasure to announce that I am much refreshed, and look forward to catching up on what appears to be a monumental backlog of events to be scrutinized -- Including the mysterious fate of ASM...



This just in from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution:
Law students taking summer internships at big law firms in attempt to position themselves for future employment!

Next week, an exciting front page expose:
Rising high school seniors complete community service projects to enhance their college applications!