Posted on October 31, 2003
Believe it or not, from CNN.com:
Rumsfeld unsure of missing ‘mojo’
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said he does not know whether or not he has lost his mojo, as a leading news magazine suggested, largely because he doesn’t really know what mojo is… (more)
If nothing else, I guess it’s reassuring to know that we’ve apparently resolved all the other pressing social, economic, and political issues facing the United States today and can now get around to dealing with matters like this.
current music: CKY, “96 Quite Bitter Beings”
current song stuck in my head: Hilary Duff, “So Yesterday”
Posted on October 30, 2003
Not to steal teedz’s thunder, but UPS is beginning to drive me nuts. Sure, I’ve had the typical delivery problems that most customers face: i.e. the UPS guy tries to deliver a package on Monday at 2:30 and I’m not there to sign for it, so he takes it back to the warehouse. On Tuesday, he tries to deliver it again at 2:30, but to no avail. Now, even given the empirical reality that I wasn’t at home at 2:30 on either of the previous days, the UPS guy fails to discern the pattern and deduce that I might have some kind of mid-afternoon obligation during the week (gasp!) and, as such, attempts to drop it off again on Wednesday at 2:30. Since it’s the third attempt and I’m not there to sign for it, the package goes back to the nearest UPS warehouse, leaving me with no option but to pick it up on my own time–during business hours, of course.
Now, I could live with that kind of frustration. My more recent UPS problems, however, run much deeper than that. My wife has lived in our current house for the past year and a half. I moved in after we got married about six months ago. During that eighteen-month span, I would estimate that we’ve had roughly fifteen packages fail to reach us, including one just yesterday. In many cases, my wife and I have paid shipping twice when our packages were returned to their respective senders. The problem? Apparently, the UPS person has been delivering our packages to the apartment complex next door to our house for lo these many months. On each occasion, the person working the front desk at the neighboring apartment complex would point out to the UPS delivery person that the package didn’t specify an apartment number in the address (not surprising since it wasn’t being sent to an apartment), and UPS would thus declare that the package had an “insufficient address” for delivery and return it to its sender.
After the first couple of failed deliveries, my wife and I began to notice the emerging pattern. So, we called the local UPS office and explained the whole situation. Their defense? Apparently, since we live at 2025 Evergreen Terrace and the apartment complex next door is at 2035 Evergreen Terrace, it’s easy for the delivery person to get confused and deliver our packages to the wrong place. Call me crazy, but isn’t that how all streets work? Also, isn’t being able to discern between addresses–no matter how similar they may appear–the very essence of a UPS delivery person’s job? Somehow, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service seem to be able to figure it out. Would it be easier if the streets were numbered non-consecutively? On a few occasions, we’ve even asked the sender to specify on the mailing label “2025 Evergreen Terrace (the brick house, not the apartment complex),” but that wasn’t enough to counteract the simple reality that the numbers 2025 and 2035 are apparently utterly indistinguishable from one another–even to the trained eye.
Anyway, after that first call, the manager of the local UPS office promised to talk to his drivers and fix the situation. That was about a year ago, and our problems persist to this day with every single package that’s sent to us via UPS–including the cell phone battery that we were expecting earlier this week. Each time it happens, we call UPS and they assure us that it won’t happen again.
What can brown do for me? They can cram it with walnuts. (Ugly.)*
*TM and ©: Homer J. Simpson
Posted on October 29, 2003
As detailed in this CNN.com article, Rod Stewart recently tore into his musical rivals–including Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Sting–during an interview with the British Magazine Radio Times. Stewart claims that it’s unfair that the media has criticized him for dating a woman who is 26 years younger than him, but has said little or nothing about Sir Paul recently marrying a woman half his age. He goes on in the interview to call Sting “Mr. Serious who helps the Indians” and nicknames Elton John “Sharon.” Speaking of Elton, Rod notes, “My hair is nice and real and looks it, and hers [Elton's] doesn’t. No, I take that back. He looks good at the moment, but he could lose a bit of timber.”
What’s the matter, Rod? Wasn’t there enough time during the interview to make fun of Phil Collins for being bald?
Posted on October 29, 2003
I’ve dabbled in web design for the past eight years or so and, during that time, I’ve thrown together countless graphics for my various web projects. Now, as Andy can tell you, I am–and always have been–completely devoid of any artistic ability. Heck, I spent the better part of my first three years online thinking that the “page curl” effect in Paint Shop Pro was the height of design sophistication. Nevertheless, while shuffling through some of my older work, I couldn’t help but get a chuckle out of these two images from 1997:
While I think these images are pretty hilarious even when taken completely out of context, they were originally part of this article by the inimitable “Evil” Doug Smith. Ah…there’s just something about the serene look on Princess Diana’s face as she’s about to be devoured by the fierce tyrannosaurus rex. Speaking of which, aren’t those vestigial arms cute? The dinosaur’s, that is–not Di’s. Also, be sure to note the “angry eyebrow” on that sheep.
Posted on October 28, 2003
According to SelectSmart’s 2004 American Presidential Candidate Selector, the Reverend Al Sharpton is the candidate whose political views most closely match my own. Noooooo!
Posted on October 27, 2003
The good news: My department has finally set me up with an office–a swanky little third-floor affair with a decent enough view. I’m sharing it with two or three other graduate students, but it’s still a definite step up from operating out of our crowded graduate lounge.
The bad news: It looks like I’ll be working as a teaching assistant again next semester, leading discussion sections instead of operating as an independent instructor. I really had my heart set on teaching my own classes in the spring, but I was informed earlier today that some inscrutable graduate school policy would apparently cut my pay in half if I taught next semester–even though working as an independent instructor would require significantly more work than leading discussions. Oh, well…there’s always next fall.
Posted on October 26, 2003
On a lark, I decided to submit this site to The Truth Laid Bear’s weekly New Blog Showcase. To provide some background for those not familiar with the Showcase, it exists primarily as a way to get newer weblogs a little exposure, with the “winner” each week being determined by the number of inbound links to his or her blog. While this site has virtually no chance of winning, it seemed like a fun idea at the time. So, if you happen to be visiting from the Showcase, welcome–and feel free to blogroll me!
With that bit of exposition out of the way, TTLB encourages entrants to link to entries from a few other entrants’ blogs as part of the cross-promotional fun. One of the entries that leapt out at me immediately from this week’s submissions was “I miss Lewis Grizzard” from Anastasia’s Southern Musings. As I commented over in her blog, I’d like to think that much of what I know about humorous writing (which may or may not be that much) I learned from reading Lewis Grizzard’s syndicated columns in my local newspaper as a child. Then again, I also claim that much of what I know about performing on-stage I learned from The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, so what do I know?
With an exception or two, however, most of the entries in the Showcase this week are political weblogs. Obviously, this isn’t going to win me too many votes in the contest, but political blogs have never appealed to me at all. Maybe it’s because political science is both what I study and what I do for a living and, as a result, when I’m playing around on the Web, I’m looking for diversion as opposed to futher immersion. Then again, maybe it’s my training as a political scientist that has given me a relatively dim view of political editorializing–something that we’re usually encouraged not to do in our own professional work. Or, it could just be that I’m too much of a moderate to identify with what tend to be the more extreme positions, either right or left, of most political blogs.
Bah! Political commentary–who needs it? Go buy a copy of Chili Dogs Always Bark at Night instead.
Posted on October 24, 2003
While administering mid-terms earlier today, I came up with the perfect idea for a Marmaduke comic. Just imagine Marmaduke and his owner outside of a drive-through car wash with the owner trying his best to shove Marmaduke into the car wash. In turn, the caption reads, “There has to be a better way to give you your Sunday bath!” You see, it’s funny because Marmaduke is larger and more stubborn than the average dog and that creates a unique set of frustrations for his surprisingly even-tempered owners.
Come to think of it, I have a pretty good idea for a Family Circus strip, too. Here’s the scene: Jeffy and his mom are sitting on the sofa smiling and flipping through an old family photo album together. Jeffy turns to his mom and says, “Sometimes I think they should call the ‘good old days’ the ‘best old days.’” Oh, and the ghost of Jeffy’s grandfather–also smiling–is floating around in the background.
Being a cartoonist would be so easy if it wasn’t for the drawing.
Posted on October 23, 2003
I’ll never understand Google. It’s only been a few days ago that the search engine started indexing my weblog under its current name and, in turn, finding its archives at their present location. Now, for some unfathomable reason, it’s back to indexing the site under its old name (”The Least Interesting Destination on the Web”)–complete with a cached version that’s several weeks older than the version they had a day or two ago.
Meanwhile, Google Toolbar’s PageRank continues to insist that, on a scale of one to ten, this site is a “five” in terms of its overall importance. Maybe they’re seeing something here that I’m not, but I have a feeling that Google needs a fresh flock of pigeons.
Posted on October 22, 2003
Just as I predicted a few weeks ago, I was at Circuit City bright and early Tuesday morning to purchase a copy of the new Barenaked Ladies album, Everything to Everyone. Now that I’ve had a chance to listen to E2E a few times, I can say that it’s certainly better than I initially expected given my unmitigated disappointment with the asinine first single, “Another Postcard.” Still, the album as a whole–much like Stunt and Maroon before it–strikes me as the handiwork of a band more interested in being clever than actually saying anything. For instance, in the self-referential chorus of “Testing 1, 2, 3,” vocalist/guitarist Ed Robertson asks, “If I shed the irony, would everybody cheer me?” I don’t know about everybody, but it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.
The problem with releasing an album that features a song about the torment of receiving anonymous postcards graced by photographs of chimpanzees (”Another Postcard”) and another with a chorus that includes the lines “It’s always lalalalala/Shopping with our friends” (”Shopping”) is that when you eventually get around to the plaintive song about suicide (”War on Drugs”), the listener is too busy waiting for the next ironic twist or zany pun to actually appreciate it. While songs like “Aluminum” and “Next Time” make the most of the traditional BNL formula of two parts introspection and one part wry commentary, E2E is at its best when it’s at its least expected. For instance, the country/bluegrass-tinged “For You” and “Have You Seen My Love?” are among the highlights of the album, as is the bombastic accordian-driven tango of “Upside Down.” Still, E2E remains an uneven effort. The highs are high, the lows are low, and most of the material in between is forgettable at best.
Maybe the Barenaked Ladies haven’t lost a step; maybe I’ve just outgrown their particular brand of wacky Canadian pop. I will say this much, though: there’s no such thing as a part-time novelty act. I was under the impression that BNL spent much of the ’90s trying to shake that derisive label after they gained early notoriety through songs like “Be My Yoko Ono” and “Grade 9.” Now, despite the fact that Everything to Everyone wasn’t quite the disaster I expected, I’m still not sure what the Barenaked Ladies are trying to say–what image they’re trying to project–with their music these days. Do they want us to take them seriously as musical artists or chuckle along with their hyper-ironic observations on life and love? Sure, nobody ever got ahead by attempting to be everything to everyone, but I can’t help but wonder after hearing this album if BNL is anything to anyone at this point in their career other than a series of forced jokes wrapped up in quality musicianship and held-over goodwill from their devoted fanbase.
Posted on October 21, 2003
My friend Josh and I were chatting on AIM this morning and found ourselves (however improbably) discussing the rather odd fact that I’ve interacted with comedian Rodney Dangerfield on multiple occasions in the eight years or so that I’ve been online–first when he endorsed my website and later when we interviewed him for Verbosity. That’s where this chat transcript picks up:
Josh: [Rodney Dangerfield] likes to keep in touch with the common man.
Jess: All great artists do. He’s probably sitting in a cafe in Paris right now, observing the human condition and prepping material for his next Indian casino tour.
Josh: There’s a comedy routine in there somewhere.
Jess: In Rodney Dangerfield or in observations about Rodney Dangerfield?
Josh: A routine about Rodney Dangerfield in a Paris cafe, observing people and writing new material.
Josh: Discarding all the truly witty, deep, philosophical insights and keeping only the tired one-liners.
Jess: Je n’obtiens aucun respect.
Josh: I like it.
Maybe he’s right; this could be the biggest thing since Kathy Griffin’s “Jerry Seinfeld is the Devil” routine. I’m taking this show on the road, baby!
current music: Barenaked Ladies, “Aluminum”
Posted on October 20, 2003
Maybe society will eventually realize that certain people are born media whores; it’s just not as simple as a “choice of lifestyle.” Until then, we’ll have to put up with this kind of intolerance and discrimination:
Atlanta just says no to ĎThe Kissí
Oct. 20 — Sometimes, a kiss is not just a kiss, and there was one pucker that some Atlanta area residents didnít want to see: the infamous one between Britney Spears and Madonna.
An Atlanta radio station erected a billboard featuring the Sapphic smooch–and took it down in less than a week because people bombarded the station, 96-Rock, with complaints. Of course, the text on the billboard may have been part of the problem: “Their music stinks,” read the sign, “but we’d do ‘em.”
Me, I feel sorry for poor Christina Aguilera. It’s like nobody even remembers that she kissed Madonna, too.
Thanks to KK for alerting me to this interesting bit of local news.
Posted on October 20, 2003
According to a news item at Adventure Gamers, there’s a new installment in Sierra’s classic Leisure Suit Larry series in the works. Series creator Al Lowe isn’t involved, and rumor has it that Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude (groan) will incorporate gameplay elements reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto, only with more sex and less violence. Oookay.
Also, just to address some of the confusion that’s already popping up online with regards to this announcement, Josh Mandel–co-designer of such games as Space Quest 6 and Freddy Pharkas Frontier Pharmacist–is not involved in Magna Cum Laude; as noted over at the Subspace Channel, he merely wrote an upcoming preview of the game for Computer Games Magazine.
Posted on October 18, 2003
The first official promotional image for Kevin Smith’s upcoming Jersey Girl hit the Web yesterday, and I have to say that it sets me a bit ill-at-ease. When Kevin first started talking up Jersey Girl a year or so back, he hyped it not as a wacky follow-up to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but rather as a return to the somewhat more serious filmmaking of Chasing Amy–by far my favorite of his films. This promotional image, however, gives me a bad vibe. I’m not sure if it’s the girl’s missing teeth or the highlights in Ben Affleck’s hair, but something about the image screams “feel-good movie of the late winter/early spring” to me. That being said, I don’t know if I want to see the writer/director who brought me a film featuring a poop monster tell a story about a young girl, wise beyond her years, who teaches her father how to love again.
It isn’t just the “aww, how cute!” factor that makes me a bit apprehensive about Jersey Girl, though. As noted above, Kevin has touted the film as more serious in tone than light-hearted farces like Jay and Silent Bob and Mallrats. If he wants audiences to take his work seriously, however, why does he insist on giving his character completely ridiculous names? Let’s run through the leads in Jersey Girl, shall we? Ben Affleck stars as publicist Ollie Trinke, presumably borrowing his first name from Kevin’s beloved Green Arrow. Meanwhile, J.Lo plays his love interest, Gertrude Steiney. I guess her parents were big fans of “the lost generation” of twentieth-century American expatriates or something. The titular Jersey Girl? She’s named Gertie, after her her mom and Drew Barrymore in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Now, I realize that Kevin has a history of borrowing his characters’ names from both other films (Mallrats‘ Brody Bruce and T.S. Quint adapted from Jaws), as well as literary works (Chasing Amy’s Holden McNeill and Banky Edwards lifted from The Catcher in the Rye), but these names are just absurd! How can we take this film seriously, when most of the main characters are sporting the geek equivalent of pornstar names? Not only are the odds pretty darn slim that someone would be named either Ollie Trinke or Gertrude Steiney in the first place, but it’s downright preposterous to think that two people with such unlikely names would actually know each another, fall in love, and produce an effervescent little offspring. And, assuming they did, do you really think they would name her after her mother?
Posted on October 17, 2003
After one of my students employed a rather crude sexual euphemism during our discussion of presidential popularity earlier today (guess which president we were talking about!), it seems somewhat apropos to reflect on just how commonplace profanity has become in the classroom these days.
I should begin by saying that, unlike some professors, I never use profanity when I’m teaching. On the one hand, I think it sets the wrong tone for mature, scholarly discussion, and on the other, it’s just not my style. Nevertheless, my students are oftentimes more than willing to pick up the slack. For instance, it’s typical to hear students compare a political stance–say, opposition to keeping the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance–to bovine (or, if they’re feeling particularly bold, equine) excrement. I’ve even had a few students drop the dreaded f-bomb in the middle of a discussion–some by accident and others completely unapologetically. Sure, it’s completely inappropriate for students to use profanity in the classroom, but I’m at least willing to give them the benefit of the doubt as long as they don’t make a habit of it. After all, we frequently discuss controversial issues in class–abortion, First Amendment rights, affirmative action, and so forth–and tempers tend to run high about such topics, causing students to blurt out an opinion without quite thinking through what they’re about to say prior to saying it.
What seems a little less justifiable, however, is the fact that profanity also has a way of creeping its way into their written assignments. For instance, I can recall reading about America “kicking Iraq’s ass” in the first Gulf War on several occasions. As I said, I’m willing to give students the benefit of the doubt when they accidentally let a curse word slip in the middle of a heated political debate, but when they’re sitting at home in front of their computers and working on a formal essay, I would like to think they could rein in their passions a bit more effectively. Apparently, it’s just not that simple.
For now, I think I’ll just continue telling myself that my students feel so strongly about the study of political science that they can’t keep their overpowering emotions bottled up inside. Yeah, that’s the ticket…
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