Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More Navel-Gazing

For the self-obsessed blogger: evaluate your readability or lack thereof!

I am fairly unreadable, but not as much so as I had hoped. Back to the thesaurus it is, then.

UPDATE: Hmmm. The addition of this post reduced my "Fog Index" by a full 0.08.

I See You're Using An Old Style; I Wondered Where You Had Learned It

SuomiChris, late of the Stupid Bank, offers up an encomium to Krav Maga, whatever that is. The "practical techniques" and "realistic training scenarios" of which they speak sound absolutely nightmarish. Trust me: just shout things in Korean for a while and you'll feel much better.

It was developed under fear of car bombings and border-crossing raids.
Not to cavil, but what the fuck sort of use is any martial arts technique going to be against a good old-fashioned car bombing? Even the noble art of wire-fu would only really work as an escape tactic, and if not - well, you'll be flying through the air one way or the other regardless.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Devenomed Snake Versus Physically Incapacitated Crane Style

Spent most of this morning going through the testing procedure necessary to move up a rank in Tae Kwon Do, a discipline I began studying a few months ago in a moment of inexplicability. Inexplicable because, it must be confessed, I am hardly a natural martial artist. However, the Tae Kwon Do school is located immediately below my apartment, and I have to walk past its door every morning to get coffee. It is unpleasant to be confronted, when hungover, with a large number of seven-year-olds equipped with the physical skills to kick your ass while shouting things in Korean. Eventually I realized that I had to do something to keep up with the neighborhood's seven-year-olds.

Progress has been slow. My coordination is lacking in several areas: hand-eye, hand-foot, and hand-other-hand, to name but a few. During spin moves, I occasionally become disoriented and attack imaginary foes to one side or another of the sparring area. My knife-hand strike would leave an imprint on most cakes, but probably not cleave them entirely in twain. (This in contrast to a friend of mine, who ably dissected a cake of many layers last July using this technique, but was for months thereafter unable to shake hands without agonizing pain, on account of the unexpectedly solid material that lay beneath.) In short, if I am ever picked to represent my country in the Olympics, you can be confident that someone is trying to throw the event.

All the same, there's something very soothing about working through the forms while shouting things in Korean. My reflexes are honed, my spirit is revived, and I consider myself more than up to this afternoon's challenge: drink beer, listen to Solomon Burke, and gamble next month's rent on the NBA playoffs. Should I be faced with physical violence in my passage through the city's gambling dens and seedy clip joints, I will no longer merely turn tail and flee; now I will be able to distract my assailant first by shouting something at them in Korean. If this buys me an extra couple of steps, it will all have been worthwhile.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"A Mixture Between Slot Machine And Pinball"

Vague demonstrates once again that it is both big and clever to post after you get home from the bar.

As matters stand, she ranks shamefully low on a Google search for "pachinko", but I am going to do my best to alter that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Killer Quote!

I am clearly not accomplishing anything today. Might as well go and take advantage of Tuesday's drink special of splendor: two-dollar 7&7s. But first, here is Voltaire as filtered through someone named "Lord Mackey of the Benshie":
I would not defend to the death his right to have these views, because I am annoyed that a man of such obvious ability and intelligence should hold them.
From the archives of the great Simon Hoggart.

Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down

In the wake of the inexplicable fight-or-flight reflex I succumbed to last week, I am staring unemployment in the maw. Time to start making half-hearted attempts to sell my soul! Multinational corporations, quasi-non-governmental organizations of various stripes, and people I meet in bars - the bazaar is open. Alas, given the nineteen years (or so) I have spent amassing degrees of questionable applicability or practical worth, there are few takers. The "lack of applicability" bit is a deal-breaker for those in the first two categories, and nineteen (or so) years' worth of tics and pallor do for the rest.

And yet my mood could be worse. Whether I end up loitering in universities for a bit longer or not, I am finally beginning to see the benefits of the real world. For instance, when I receive an email that announces the following...
This presentation will discuss the plight of humankind: briefly how we reached this point and how religion is used by power, and more fully the new strategy of the Pentagon to secure and maintain the "creative destruction" of global (American) capitalism for the next several decades.

The presentation will feature an in-depth analysis of the Pentagon's strategy for total domination, focusing on its Future Combat Systems program, and how this strategy negates traditional progressive responses. The presentation will then discuss the role of progressives and possible solutions, highlighting the potential for a paradigm shift based on quantum physics [oh dear sweet Jesus, no - ed] (and progressive strategies toward that end).
...I will no longer feel mortifying shame that this person is in some sense a colleague of mine. (The presenter is apparently a scholar of Peace Studies, the existence of which department reduced me to inarticulate gurgling sounds upon initial reading.)

Meanwhile, the sun is shining and I am contemplating my own "paradigm shift based on quantum physics": the more precisely I comprehend exactly where I am, the less I have any idea of where the hell I'm going. Perhaps the bar.

White Smoke Means They're Down To The Vestments

Apparently there's a new Pope, whose name is... no, sorry, it's gone. Can we go back to not caring about Catholicism now, please? To the extent that it has an impact on policy in the world - contraception, etc - it is pretty unambiguously a force for evil, and its trappings and frippery are, not to put too fine a point on it, ridiculous. It's been a little unnerving to witness the twenty-four-seven Pope coverage that we have been subjected to from the very moment the last one became ex-Pope.

Even the mechanism by which the cardinals, or whoever, announce their decision to the world is very silly indeed:
Black smoke means an unsuccessful round of balloting; white smoke — accompanied by the ringing of bells — means there is a new pontiff.
I must admit, when I first heard about the white smoke/black smoke thing signifying a changing of the Pope-guard, I thought it had something to do with cremating the old one. I am a bad person.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Won't Even Work For Food

So, early on the morning after a reasonably successful Thursday night during which I apparently pioneered several new styles of modern dance, I was lying in an innocent stupor halfway between my couch and my bed when the people from the very pleasant liberal-arts college in the middle of nowhere called to offer me a job. (I don't think I acquitted myself very well during the phone call.) I've been beating myself up about the decision this presents ever since. On the one hand: nice folks, an easy life of teaching and roaming the countryside in a tweed jacket, and the kind of job security you only see in academia. On the other hand: not much money, the middle of nowhere, I may be confusing the terms "easy life" and "stupefying rut", there's a reasonable chance I'd be on suicide watch by the middle of the first winter because of the aforementioned middle-of-nowhere factor, the scale of which I cannot overemphasize.

I have until the end of the week to tell them what I'm going to do, and I'm leaning towards a no. This is hard, though, because every pragmatic bone in my body is urging me to take the damn job and make the best of it, rather than launch myself into the harsh, damp, strange world of Not University. (Because, you see, the chair of my current department will be perfectly within his rights to tell me to piss off and stop costing him money once I inform him that I'm being all picky about academic positions.)

(Upon rereading: Jesus. Back when I was a youthful idealist, in January, I briefly supposed that this blog might aspire to something greater than navel-gazing - but now, after this post and its predecessor, I think that idea has gone decisively tits-up. I was not astute enough to come up with a decent structural device - be it reviewing things, writing letters, or swearing - and now I am left with what the world actually needed the very least of all: an online fucking diary. Alas, the sedan chair of my dreams recedes ever further into the distance.)

Friday, April 08, 2005

Another Faltering Step Towards The Grave

Today is my birthday. Tomorrow, it will have been my birthday yesterday, and so I will be able to sing along with that one Paul Simon song that begins "Yesterday it was my birthday..." in a spirit of utter righteousness.

Before then, though, I have arranged to be propped up in a sedan chair on the porch of my favorite watering hole, there to peer through my newly-acquired old-man spectacles at indistinct objects in the middle distance and mutter obscenities to myself about the "good old days". Nubile rain-drenched co-eds, all but overcome with trepidation, will draw close to hear my oracular pronouncements, and will withdraw in disgust shortly thereafter as I leer, cackle, and fling half-empty glasses of liquor into the surrounding trees. This is going to be splendid.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I've Seen A Lot Of Spinals

Today's headline of splendor: Ms. Wheelchair Stands, Loses Title.

Needless to say, this raises many interesting questions about representation of disabled people in society and so on. Equally needless to say, I disregard all such questions and instead am trying very hard not to picture John Goodman hauling Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin out of her conveyance while yelling "This [guy] fucking walks. I've never been more certain of anything in my life."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Curse Of The Secret Ballot

Oh dear. Another one of these things looms.

I have even less of import to say about the British election than I did about the US election, but seeing this news got me to thinking. I hail from the one country and have been confined to quarters in the other for a few years, and it occurs to me that I have no idea how I've actually been voting the last few times voting was called for. I was going to vote by mail but - once again, the eternal question - really, who gives a fuck? So I took the lazy man's way out and signed my vote over to a random family member, who will presumably get to vote twice next month as a consequence, as I routinely forget to specify a preference. I may have mumbled something about voting for Blair at one point, but as to whether that happened I am clueless.

The question is, if I told my father to vote for Michael Howard (or regional equivalent) on my behalf next month, would he actually go through with it? After the shouting, the recriminations, the writing me out of the will - all of which would be unavoidable in such circumstances - would he actually pull the lever, or punch the ticket, or whatever? If there were some way of checking how I voted after the fact, I might consider doing this as a test of familial loyalty.

Monday, April 04, 2005

"White People Linking To Other White People"

The endearingly nebbishy Steven Levy indulges in a little Newsweekian hand-wringing over the blogosphere's apparent diversity problem. I'd never heard of the outraged blogger he quotes, but I must regretfully conclude that she does not come within ten miles of passing the Boring [Man] In A Bar Test. It is, if anything, worse than Instapundit.

The really distressing bit, though, is the allusion to Susan Estrich's recent pie-fight with LA Times opinion editor Michael Kinsley over the number of female op-ed writers in that august journal. Apparently she
has had her female law students at USC logging daily ratios of female- to male-penned op-eds in the Los Angeles Times for the last three years...
...I beg your pardon? This resonates disturbingly with some feelings I've been having lately about the practice of academia, and why I might have to run away from it screaming. You see, if a sinister profit-making employer were to ask me to do something this egregiously pointless for three years, I could at least expect to make a few bucks. I certainly hope I'm doing something with a bit more content to it, but I have little enough distance from the question that it's hard to be sure.

Meanwhile, also sprach Levy:
...extra care is required to make sure public discussion reflects the actual population... The top-down mainstream media have to some degree found the will and the means to administer such care.
Run away! Run away!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Of Mice And Mennonites

As mentioned below, I am recently returned from a part of the country which was, amongst other things, a veritable hotbed of Mennonism. Set against a pastoral backdrop of gnarled oaks, splayed and frozen woodland creatures, and suicidal yokels jousting on snowmobiles, many Mennonite men and women were to be seen, in their Mennonite hats and bonnets, driving little horse-and-buggy arrangements around the countryside. It's adorable. But who knows what evil lurks in the heart of Mennonites?

I had to have it explained to me that Mennonites are distinct from the Amish, and the subtleties of the distinction may have eluded me. (I was going to actually research this, but really, who gives a fuck?) However, it seems that unlike the more strictly ascetic Amish, the Mennonites will permit the use of things like motor vehicles and modern farming technology provided that they themselves do not operate the fell appliances. So they hire people to ride power mowers and drive them to market, etc. It seems to me that this is blatant cheating. I shouldn't take them to task for it, because it's exactly what I'd do - but it raises the question: why continue to ponce around in the black robes and the buggies? The village I stayed in was full of dark rumblings to the effect that even the Mennonites' vaunted furniture-manufacturing industry was a sham, and that the painstakingly-crafted chairs and whatnot that they sold were actually shipped in by some gigantic out-of-state Mennonite wholesaler. Some qualms of conscience may be afflicting them, as well: I heard of one family who would consent to be driven around in a motor vehicle, but only once its rubber tires had been replaced with steel wheels - presumably to replicate the buggy experience, and also to jounce everybody's teeth out of their heads, as a bonus.

Any Amish people reading this blog are invited to furnish their perspectives on this matter, as soon as they are finished ritually scourging themselves with brambles. I imagine the resentment must be almost too much to bear. Although since the Amish just have pitchforks, and the Mennonites can hire mercenaries with automatic weapons, I don't see that going anywhere good.