January 31, 2009

Where we were when Obama took the Oath

I was in my office. It was lunch time, so almost everyone was gone. Some of my coworkers had gone to Burger King. At first I thought that they probably hadn't thought about watching it, but later I realized that they have TVs at Burger King, so they watched it after all. I hadn't really planned to go anywhere special, so I decided to watch it where I was. Nobody really talked about it when everybody got back, though. That surprised me, because usually the managers here talk about politics during lunch, but I think they'd probably already covered all the Obama topics a while ago. Around 3 p.m., someone made a comment about the verbal gaffe between Roberts and Obama, but that was it.

Shortly before noon, I started flipping through the list of websites and networks broadcasting the inauguration online. The first six I tried just said "Buffering..." and never loaded. Finally, I found one that worked, although the image quality was pretty bad, and it skipped sometimes. I watched the swearing-in, and when that was over, I read some other stuff while I listened to the rest of the main inauguration program. As soon as all the essentials were over, I closed the tab and got back to work.

Tony Gonzalez
I may be a proud member of the He-Man Woman Haters Club, but I spent the Inauguration hour 1) At an all-girl's college with more than 100 women and five men and 2) feeling floaty and tingling and emotional, but stubborn: like during a mediocre movie that nevertheless raises goosebumps in a heroic concluding scene.

Snapping photographs was technically challenging in the dimly lit auditorium, but as everyone watched the big screen, it made for candid subjects (and one girl wearing an Obama yard sign across her chest). I didn't know what to look for or what to write, so I just jotted notes about everything. When, exactly, the women reacted to events playing out on screen; which ones snapped photos of the screen; the TV news guy trying to ready his shots. It was a prime time to observe and have an excuse to write grafs and grafs of description. But I knew it would be hard to describe the feeling inside. Later, I would write:
For some people, it was the idea of a “patchwork heritage” that made a tingling sensation rise inside them — a literally uplifting feeling — Tuesday during President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech. For others it was ...
I don't know if it was the moment or the women, but I kept swallowing what seemed to be rising tears. The first person I saw crying was a white woman, a senior from Pennsylvania, who was sitting alone with one leg crossed over the other and her chin in her hand. A tear streak ran down her right cheek. She was wide-eyed and looked ... saintly. Like she'd just learned something or had come to some resolution that she was sure she could follow that would just make things better.

I talked to her later, then listened to some professors discuss the speeches. Then I walked from the campus, checked my watch, and thought about deadline. I knew that all other news was irrelevant for the pending edition. So I made awkward inquiries about wifi and pizza slices at a pizza place before spreading wide the day's Washington Post in a booth. And I ate most of an entire General Tsao's pizza, although it could have fed two. Then I did something for the first time ever: despite eating alone, I ordered two beers.

Then I walked past the courthouse, thinking the feeling of brotherly love in the air might actually change how people treat one another. I drove home, wrote some more:
Besides the anticipated moments to cheer and rise, perhaps the biggest laugh of the day came when Obama was caught on camera delivering a signature wink; or when he stumbled over the oath. “I guess his heart was racing,” said Kenisha Commander, a Baltimore freshman. “It made you want to cry."
K. Jan Harvey
I was sitting in the dimly lit lobby of my apartment complex with my laptop plugged in among the phycus plants. Behind me, the TV was very loud. The faces on the TV seemed happy when I walked in. Then someone said inauguration. My newly wedded wife made pretense of some foreknowledge of the event. Everyone knows Obama's being inaugurated today. Everyone knows the molecular structure of your cuticles. We were sitting side by side. Her seventeen-inch laptop screen dwarfed my ten-inch Acer. I turned around once to face the TV when Aretha Franklin sang. I look forward to the election of the first American one-armed president.

I was in a morphology seminar during the inauguration.

Chase Purdy
Watching the inauguration at Hillsdale College boiled down to just about what you'd expect, if you're at all aware of the school's reputation.

The man is a democrat and the nation's first black president. His middle name is different.

So when Barack Obama stood up to be sworn in, the students watching at Hillsdale College wretched on the inside, just a bit. You could see it in some of their mean, plaster-on smiling faces. They laughed at his different middle name. A professor chuckled in the knick of time; right after the president and chief justice stumbled over their lines, but right before the crowd burst.

"OOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!," they yelled. You could hear it from the other side of the building. You could even hear it bouncing in the stairwell.

Let any question about the matter be answered now: No, many people at Hillsdale College did not respect the tradition of the moment. And no, nobody seemed to find the stumble humanizing. Instead they hissed.

The speech began. Everyone listened closely.

"Oh that's just not true," one girl said to her friend. "You see how the socialists just bend the truth?"

I turned around and gave a frosty stare.

One Mississippi.

Two Mississippi.

Three Mississippi.

I turned back around, but even in the corner of my eye I could tell she gave her friend a nasty look that said, "Look at that asshole." Still, she didn't pipe up again.

It'd be a fib to pretend I didn't play my part. Politics don't interest me much, but I still nodded my head during the speech. Forged an adoring smile. I'd like to think one political science professor caught my watering left eye, perfectly timed to an exhalation of the speech. But I'd also be lying if I didn't admit to being swept up in the moment. One line actually did get to me, whether it was the content of what was said, or how he said it: "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

When the speech ended, almost everyone dispersed. Funny though, nobody really talked, and I remember a lot of people looking at the floor as they walked to their next class.

I missed almost all of what is probably the most important political event of my generation.

I woke up late that Thursday Tuesday and, as I was getting ready for work, remembered that it was happening. So I turned it on the MSNBC (the first channel I could find).

They were showing our president leaving the podium. I didn't hear any of the speech. I kicked myself. I did, however, hear Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann blabbering on about something. I hit the mute button to watch the pictures. I felt angry that I had missed the beef of it, but I knew I could find it online.

At work, our news editor (obviously) wanted to put inauguration coverage on page 1. The problem? A year or two ago, our previous publisher decided not to pay for the full AP coverage. When the regime changed, we forgot to upgrade. Thus, we only get regional stuff from the lower Midwest. This means no political stories from Washington unless they concern Missouri politicians.

She was able to compile a story on her own, but she, too, missed the speech. I think she was covering county commission or something.

I regret not hearing the thing as it was spoken. I don't agree with a lot of Obama's policies, but I feel cheated. Like the Kennedy assassination for our parents, this is our generation's defining moment. All that change and hope rhetoric, I tend to think most of it is bull. But a black man became our president. Could anyone have fathomed this even 10 years ago?

I regret missing the meat of it, because now the only answer I have to "Where were you when Obama was sworn in?" my only answer will be, "I didn't see it. But I saw Rachel Maddow analyzing it."

And who wouldn't be embarrassed by that?

I didn't watch the inauguration. I was busy listening to Animal Collective. . . who are fucking amazing. And when I use the word "fuck" to describe the degree to which they are amazing, I don't mean it flippantly or lightly. It's not like someone saying "Chimpanzees? Yeah they are pretty fucking cool, with all the body strength, agility, and natural monkey coolness." It's more than that. It's like a friend dares you to bend a spoon with your mind. You think it's probably impossible if not totally pointless to do, but you attempt it anyway because it's a Saturday and you don't have any immediate responsibilities that demand your attention. So you glare at the spoon for maybe a solid minute, beginning to focus with what becomes a furious sort of intent. Your friend stands there unimpressed because he's probably an asshole who just threw out the whole spoon bending thing so you can be distracted and he could steal a pop-tart from you. (Your family prides itself on its storage and maintenance of all different flavors of pop tarts in equal amounts, so the pilfering of any form of a microwaveable pastry is nothing less than an atrocity to them.) In any case, as he sneaks pop tarts into his lame scenester hoodie and you stand drenched in sweat attempting to mangle a utensil with brain waves, Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes comes in riding on a giraffe from the back patio (see Coquelicot's "Butterscotching Mr. Lynn"). Your scenester friend, of course knowing who this strange figure is, momentarily recovers from being awestruck and begins to let out a breathy and hushed "Hissing Fauna was beautiful. . ." Unfortunately, the domesticated but opinionated giraffe has strong beliefs about both plaid and pastry theft, and swiftly kicks him in the penis halfway through his compliment to the songwriter. Messiuer Barnes informs you that he was in the neighborhood, and while creating synth-pop with obvious hooks, but less obvious hints at darker emotional undercurrents of his personal life, sensed your attempt at bending a spoon with your mental abilities. He regretted to inform you that such a thing can't be done, noting that philosophically, a dualist perception of reality would render the physical and mental components of reality as related but totally separate, and that even the most intense and potent mental exertion would not be able to manifest a physical result as you wished it to. He then belts out an alto-range "Let us exit, my beast chaffeur!" and they remove themselves from your premises. Emotionally beaten, you place the spoon back in the drawer, realizing that you have a hankering for lasagna and a spoon simply isn't the appropriate piece of silverware for that purpose. However, as you reach for a fork and knife, you let out an uncontrollable "Oh my holy fuck."

The row of forks in the drawer is mangled to shit.

. . .Oh, and I just hope Obama doesn't mess up the country too much.

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January 29, 2009

Econ and Me at the Beat

Naomi found this picture of Econ and me on her computer.

Lost things

Wallets and keys and toys, coins, tools, and most recently a camera; faith is the sum of lost things. At least for me. At least right now.

This started when I turned ten, because when I was nine my dad gave me a token for a free ice-cream sundae. Then a year passed, the token did too, through all areas of my house. Under books and blankets and papers; on shelves, night-tables, desks. It was a Saturday afternoon that did it. My grandmother was babysitting, and my dad was leaving for work.

"You need to find that token," he said. "You had better find it before I get home."

So I looked. And I was frantic for more than two hours. Then my grandmother mentioned Saint Anthony, and how he helps you find things if you just tick a little rhyme to him.

She said, "Here's how it goes: 'Dear St. Anthony come around, something's lost and can't be found.'"

And I stared at her, just for a minute, still a little empty inside. Then recited the lines anyway. I recited those lines in the kitchen.

"Dear St. Anthony come around, something's lost and can't be found."

I stood up, leaned on the refrigerator. I clasped the top to keep a grip, but when my hand felt the edge of the machine, it also felt the token.

Ever since then I've found lots of stuff, presumably because I resort to recitation. Sometimes I hold out for as long as I can...but when the situation gets intense, I always fold.

I'm not a religious person. I'm still pretty apathetic when it comes to it. Even today when I resort to those grandmother-given lines, I recite them with increased sacrilege.

"Anthony. I need this fucking camera. I know this isn't how I'm supposed to ask, but I really don't give a shit about niceties right now."

Eight hours later: Case closed.

I don't think I ever got that ice-cream sundae.

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January 28, 2009

"on your ntelOs wireless phOne"

It has become a weekend ritual to tune in to one local radio station just to grimace and howl and change the station when a particular DJ makes his appearance. He's especially easy to find because the "commercial free" station is so full of DJ-read commercials.

Listen in for his signature Surfer-Slick Epic Pregnant Pause delivery style, like at 2:18: "... ... ... and good luck."

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January 27, 2009


John Updike, the author of such classics as the Rabbit series, died today at age 76.

I'll admit, I never read much of him, but I always enjoyed his short fiction (although, truth be told, whenever I want to read stories about the sexual frustrations of New England WASPs, I reach for John Cheever and not Updike). But this piece, on Teddy Ballgame's final game at Fenway Park, makes me think I need to read more of him.

May he rest in peace.

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January 24, 2009

The Miraculous Alley

From where we live, we can see where we work.

I park at home, almost always, at least for fear of finding myself at the end of a work day with my car the work lot, needing to be moved less than 400 feet.

I could go on about the alley, the co-worker smoke breaks, and our back deck; or how I feel the need to explain to the students walking to the high school that when I do occasionally drive to work, it's only because I'm going to pause there just a moment then continue on to the courts or to an interview.

The movement and scope of our daily lives has its limits.

But one day, walking the alley I walk everyday, I found a paintbrush holder with "Purdy" on it (see above).

One month later, same alley, I found a broken piece of a van. Not Purdy, but:

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January 20, 2009

Springfield Sucks

Fascinating Riverfront Times piece about the hardcore punk scene in Springfield. There's a page of MP3 samples, too. Lastly, a blog about Ozark punk rock.

Finding out about this historical scene is somewhat shocking, considering Springfield is the headquarters of both The Assembly of God and the Baptist Bible Fellowship International. But then I think about it and remember that punk rock is supposed to be all about disenfranchised youths from the suburbs. What's more dienfranshising than belonging to an AoG church?

Well played, Springfield, well played.

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January 19, 2009

The Crazy Horse Saloon

Some of you have heard stories about the Crazy Horse Saloon. Reist said it was something to see; something much more ruckus than Deja Vu. So what were the girls doing when you walked through the doorway?

"Hey whoa! Bounce bounce, bingy-wingy chong cha!"

"How 'bout them pumpkins?"

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The Terra Server

It's probably been ten years since I last checked out the aerial photography on Microsoft's Terra Server. “Terra” is a play on words–terra as in “earth”, and tera- as in “terabyte,” a unit of measurement which was a really big deal in 1998.

The Terra Server fares better than Google Earth for most rural areas. The images are eery like Area 51 and seem more distant and magical when rendered in satellite charcoal.

Indiana, Michigan, Ohio:


Public domain photos courtesy of the United States Geological Survey.

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January 18, 2009

days in the making

Not so sure about tabbed browsing these days: too easy to pull 'em all up and then wait and delay reading everything. And news gets old fast, right?

Maybe not. While reading a hero story about US Airways pilot Sullenberger, the NYTimes had enough good sense to link to another hero story, that of Wesley Autrey. Reported simply, the details speak for themselves. Old news, but still spurred vocal utterings of amazement out of me...

+ The Times also linked to the final baseball column by Todd Drew, a Yankees fan. Baseballer or not, read it.

+ Make your own bike lane. BBC Radio on the use of bicycles today.

+ Pedro Aguilar, inventive mambo dancer.

+ Apparently YouTube is #2 in searching now, ahead of Yahoo. One little kid has something to say about that, and the platypus.

+ Trash collectors are extra eyes for police. A relatively simple story with limited sources, by Times standards, but nice.

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January 17, 2009

Words on the brain

A two-person game of Scrabble feels and plays completely different than a four-person game. It's like you have to train yourself to play both types. And tonight I played my first non-Wordbiz bingo. Maybe everyone gets to this point, but once you play your first bingo, you start noticing them more often.

The highest scoring 7-letter bingo in Scrabble is MUZJIKS.

The highest scoring 8-letter bingo in Scrabble is QUIZZIFY (with a blank Z). Without the blank: BEZIQUES and CAZIQUES.

But tonight I played STRONGER. The other night I built BALLOONINGS from LOON.

When you play 8-10 games a day, you start seeing potential Scrabble boards in your head. Even at lunch, even when you take a bite of a baked potato, you won't stop those Scrabble tiles from popping up in your mind. P-O-T-A-T-O (that's almost a bingo...s....). You even start talking about similar Scrabble stories like the family games.


In a great independent study on New Journalism, I'm reading:

+ The Gang That Wouldn't Write Straight
+ The New Kings of Nonfiction (second read)
+ Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (second read)
+ The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved (second read)
+ The New New Journalism: Conversations with America's Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft

Over Christmas break I read my first bit of Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Her ability to keep me actively reading her boring stories just through her descriptive prowess made the read worth it. But, I was only super-impressed with one of her essays.

I read a decent Poynter piece on narrative journalism during my visit to Katie and Tony in Waynesboro, Virginia. I read it again tonight while I worked some more on the massive bag of puppy chow they gave me during my visit. Erin ate some too.

Also, check out the spray-on-condom.

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January 15, 2009

Trapped time

Sometimes there is nothing to do but sit in the car for 15 minutes listening to Beta Band and Deerhoof while watching the stoplight cycle.

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January 13, 2009

All the common tags we use

+ Listen to the entire album: All Songs Considered gives us Animal Collective's "Merriweather Post Pavilion" on Jan. 19.
+ The Washington Post had some stuff to say about it too:
"Sampled beats sound like galoshes stomping through puddles, and percussive sizzles evoke maracas filled with syrup-coated seeds. It's a dense, humid listen. At times, you can almost imagine beads of dew seeping from the pinholes of your ear buds."
+ Katie and I were wondering about the Interstate Highway System, so I read up on it and found this awesome route-numbering explanation map.

+ Blind technology can become technology for everyone. NYT feature.

+ The mad web scientists of NYTimes.com.

+ I've been reading a collection of Reason Magazine stories and now have to wonder what to do after reading something so foundation-questioning as Gulf Lore Syndrome. This sort of reporting, and, I guess, myth busting, also pops up in a NYTimes story about how online predators really aren't a problem on social networking sites.

+ Might go see Accordion Death Squad as our first Virginia show. Reminds me, a little, of Dreamland Faces in Minneapolis.

+ Kansas City Star old printing press photos.

+ About one minute's worth of enjoyment: Google Nukes.

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January 8, 2009

Wayne vs. Wayne

The Center of the Venn (a diagram of similarities)

Before reading a word, please LISTEN.

What were the chances that two equally dapper and similarly attired Hillsdale freshman would meet through a common love of The Hives and four years later find themselves living in towns named after the same fiery Revolutionary War hero while competing against Gannett newspapers, also of the same name?

Suffice it to say, it happened. The details below will paint the picture, and clarify the Center of the Venn diagram too.

Rookie reporter Jack Tony
Population 3,507 (˜ 20,000 when grouped with St. Robert and Ft. Leonard Wood "metro" area) 21,454
Namesake "Mad" Anthony Wayne "Mad" Anthony Wayne
Competing newspaper The News Leader, Springfield The News Leader, Staunton
Historical fame prostitution capitol birthplace of spandex
Nearby nat'l landmarks Mark Twain National Forest Shenandoah National Park, Monticello
Downtown is: classic in disrepair classic with vacancies
City motto Preserving the Past, Planning for the Future Hospitality in the Valley
Incredible discovery KDHX in St. Louis, best station ever. And WJR in Detroit comes in too. lost-freight company
Area employers Ft. Leonard Wood Invista, Hershey, Little Debbie, Target
Nearby nature the Ozarks mountains, bears, contaminated fish
Historic Highway Route 66 Blue Ridge Parkway
Cheesy attraction Stubby Stonehenge (Rolla) giant watering can (Staunton)
Prob. of getting lost on mountain highways high moderate
Weekend pastimes High school sports making local liquor store most lucrative in the state
Gang presence? none...unless counting soldiers vs. strip club security personnel Bloods, Crips, MS13, Burples, VA Stickups, etc.
Town reputation: conservative; military groan-inducing
Big news lately Serviceman court martial School murder plot; 41-year-old case closed
Recommend town for living? no. no.

More about the namesake: Anthony Wayne (January 1, 1745–December 15, 1796) was a United States Army general and statesman. His military exploits and fiery personality quickly earned him a promotion and the sobriquet of "Mad Anthony".

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January 6, 2009

Mythic Detroit

Fun fact: The Justice League of America once went through such a rough patch that they had to move to Detroit. I guess Aquaman knew a guy who knew a guy, or something.

This, and other Detroit myths and legends, found on Mythic Detroit (via StrangeMaps).

Also, James Brown extended mixes are awesome:

When I was driving to Michigan on New Years Eve there was a radio show on KDHX (called "Hip City") that played two straight hours of nothing but JB. It made me want to shake my ass all the way through Missouri and Central Illinois (except the station died as soon as I got to Effingham, which, coincidentally might be the least ass-shakable place in the Midwest).

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January 4, 2009

Sadbear Kitchen: Va. Division

With renter's insurance in mind, we have started taking photos of everything we own. We'll soon log our pizza cutter, waffle iron, crock pot, and more; cheese grater, bowls, griddle, and flipper; colander, juicer, and red microwave.

In the meantime, we're putting these new kitchen items to work. We made some puppy chow, for example:

And for Christmas dinner we did pork tenderloin, potatoes (my way) and green beans cooked in onions and soy sauce:

Also recently: Thai steak salad

Pan-roasted steak w/ oven-roasted bell peps and saffron rice

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January 3, 2009

Go play now.

Google Image Labeler is a "game" where you rush to describe photographs while an anonymous partner somewhere in cyberspace does the same thing with the same photos. You get points for hitting on the same description tag. Go play it.

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Blops blops blops, blops on a line

Photos and anecdotes by Katie, Tony, & Chase.

Birds at the bike shop
Across the street, someone was being rolled into an ambulance. In the bike shop Katie was trying a tricycle, and outside the little birds were making space on the line and making space on the line and making space on the line. The next one came from below, the next one came flapping from the side; the birds were making space on the line.

Bird math
Three dots. Space. Two more on one telephone wire.

Straight below, two yellow lines and four buzzing tires. Back up, next wire down, two more dots. Next wire down, two again.

They're out of sight, all nine behind me. They sat in odds.

Bird pursuit series: driving by Tony, photos by Katie

The real art
After walking away from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis we stopped for a few minutes in a little park by a pond. We heard squawking above us. So we settled in on a bench to stay and watch awhile.

We admired the little birds flying in and out of one big tree. We had company. The old man on the bench beside us also seemed to be enjoying the show. But no.

He was sleeping.

Looking at birds and chasing birds also encouraged these renditions: blops on a line (by Chase) and hairbrain telephone pole (by Tony).

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