September 30, 2008

Fully-Functioning Pastime

I felt it was probably worth noting that just a few days ago marked five years of blogging for me. Paradoxically, it's always something of a surprise when an idle pastime performs as intended and one suddenly becomes aware that time has, indeed, passed. Sitting at my keyboard on the far side of those years, I find myself at a bit of a loss at the prospect of contemplating any sort of comprehensive retrospective.

I certainly don't need to recap the time that has passed. I suspect that the overwhelming majority of my readers remember them as well as I do. They've been very good years, on the whole. In any case, the use of phrases like "the far side" is a historiographical fallacy which implies that I have reached the end of something, when I'm really just pausing to make a mark *somewhere* on an unfinished timeline on which I am walking backward.

I'm still as addicted as ever to this nebulous, unquantifiable "thing" that blogging is, and I would like to think that I'm better at it now (whatever that means) than I was when I began. More relevant, perhaps, would be a consideration of what sort of effect, if any, the process has had on me. In a very general way, I believe that blogging has improved various qualities of my writing. Perhaps in other ways the nature of the form itself has reinforced or resulted in bad writing habits . . . but I don't think so. In fact, I believe the very nature of the beast has steered me in a generally positive direction.

In one respect, blogging has probably been a negative force; that is, as a creative drain. Blogging is a tempting distraction from other writing endeavors. Every minute spent crafting a line of ruminations about my blogging experience (and surely blogging about blogging is one of the ultimates in self-indulgent hipster navel-gazing) is a minute not spent on more serious fiction or non-fiction projects. That, of course, is part of the appeal, but it can hardly be called beneficial. How many volumes of unpublishable, self-absorbed dreck have I penned and posted in five years?

However, in my attempt at a moment of unpretentious honesty, I have probably overstated the case. Let's talk about the positives for a moment. Several things spring immediately to mind. For instance, to turn that last observation on its head, blogging has shown me that I can, indeed, write book-length quantities of material. Laying considerations of quality aside for a moment, discovering the ability to fill that kind of space is a daunting obstacle to have overcome, particularly for someone as lazy and often unmotivated as myself.

Furthermore, blogging often fosters creativity in that it allows me the opportunity for virtually-infinite experimentation with what works and what doesn't. What sounds good? What do I take the most pride in, looking back, and what was forgotten almost immediately? Where did the latter go wrong, and the former go right? Revision, where necessary, is simple, and input and feedback are easy to come by.

Chief among the benefits, though, is that blogging has given me a definite audience, in some form. Writing for an audience, even an incorporeal one populated in part by various aspects of myself, necessitates certain things: intentionality, a pressing desire to inform and/or entertain, and an effort at quality of composition (stylistically, grammatically, etc.). Above all, one is forced to attempt to express oneself as clearly as possible, or not at all.

The lessons I learned here, I have taken and applied with confidence in virtually every area of my life, be it academic or otherwise, with excellent results. This is perhaps most notable (at least I hope it will prove so) in the launching of my second, more topical, and (dare I say) commercially-minded blogging venture a year and a half ago. Moviegoings continues to grow in readership and exposure, provide me with both a motivation to expand my knowledge and expertise in the subject and an outlet for my interest in it, and open up thrilling new opportunities that I'm excited about pursuing.

Here's to five more years . . .

Posted by Jared at 04:14 AM | TrackBack

September 27, 2008

Les Misbarack

So, the first presidential debate was last night, and I watched it, although I will admit it did not have my full attention throughout. I didn't take notes, so you'll get better, more-detailed commentary from somewhere like However, I would like to note some general impressions.

I would say that McCain fought dirty last night, and I'm not referring to how hard he worked to reinforce the "inexperienced" label Obama has. Although, to rabbit trail into that for just a moment, I think McCain is making a mistake in his approach to that issue. Laying aside the situation with his own running mate in this campaign (which didn't come up), McCain came off looking and sounding incredibly snotty at several points last night: "I'm afraid Senator Obama doesn't know the difference between a strategy and a tactic." *patronizing fake smile*

In any case, what I mean when when I talk about fighting dirty is that McCain is, either cynically or sincerely, engaging primarily in rhetoric that I would not be surprised to hear coming out of the mouth of, say, a Fox News commentator. He is (sometimes very, very subtly) playing to the nationalistic emotions of the public, flexing his own patriotic chops while attempting to make his opponent look decidedly unpatriotic. In doing so, he avoids having to honestly address the real issues, and, in fact, makes that sort of discourse impossible. I think that, more than anything that was explicitly named last night, puts him in the same boat with the current administration. And that's not a boat I've wanted to be sailing in for quite some time.

I think the debate's worst moment last night came during the bracelet exchange. McCain, in a naked play to emotion that could not have been more irrelevant to the topic at hand, said that he had a bracelet given to him by the mother of a deceased soldier. He went on to say that she had asked for his promise that her son would not die in vain, and used that to springboard into a slam on Obama for wanting to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory." Obama's response began, "Well, I have a bracelet, too . . ."

At that point, I just had to laugh at McCain, but I was also somewhat saddened. I doubt the families of the men who used to own those bracelets feel used, but they have been used. Shame on McCain for bringing that up and lowering the level of political discourse so shamelessly. Incidentally, the mother who gave Obama the bracelet asked that he make sure no other mother had to go through what she has. Obama went on to say that no soldier dies in vain because all of them are carrying out the orders of their superiors for the good of the mission. There's certainly some wiggle room for argument on that point (particularly for someone like who has seen how meaningless war can be), but it was an excellent response to McCain's characteristic jibe.

In the end, I honestly think both candidates showed that they could be president, at least with respect to the debate topics last night. Overall, I was more impressed by Obama's responses on economic questions than McCain's. I also thought Obama came off better (barely) on the topic of Iraq, though both of them made excellent points and I would have liked to see the nuances of the discussion teased out a bit more.

Both men spent a little too much time talking about how wrong the other one had been with respect to the war at various times, and not enough time talking about where it should go. When they did address that topic, however, I think Obama demonstrated a pretty clear direction, while McCain remained bogged down in the rhetoric of withdrawal as defeat. If he becomes president, regardless of whatever good he may do, I think he will keep us in Iraq until hell freezes over, no matter what turn the situation takes.

For the record, both candidates had excellent responses on the issue of torture. I applaud them, and they made me feel that they were both trustworthy in their stance on the issue (whether they actually are is another question, I suppose).

I could go on, but if I did, I'd go on for a long time, and I'd rather not right now. I'd be more than happy to discuss it further in the comments, if anyone has anything to say. This is as good a time as any to drop a YouTube clip. I've had a lot of videos up about Palin lately because, let's face it, that's all anyone seemed to care about for awhile . . . but this one isn't (well, she's in it a bit, come to think of it, but anyway). It's kind of bizarre, but it fits right in with the general Obamamania, and I was amused. Oh, and if the title of this post seemed cryptic, I was referring to this. I spent more of the post on the debate than I had originally intended.

Posted by Jared at 07:54 PM | TrackBack

September 25, 2008

Head of Skate

After Matt Damon compared Sarah Palin's spot on the ticket to "a really bad Disney movie" a few weeks ago, it was only a matter of time before someone went and made the trailer for that movie. Here is Head of Skate:

See more funny videos and funny pictures at CollegeHumor.

I have to say, first and foremost this is a hilarious, spot-on dig at the unbearable committee-written crap that Disney churns out for families these days. I'm pretty sure I've seen movies just like this a few times . . . The Pacifier, for instance. "From the producers of The Mighty Ducks and Syriana." Lol.

Posted by Jared at 10:27 PM | TrackBack

September 18, 2008

You and Your Tina Fey Glasses *Update*

Tina Fey on Sexism

Emmy Red Carpet Guy: The McCain campaign...I guess they thought it sexist? They responded...kind of the whole thing was...

TINA FEY: I saw one lady trying to form a thought that it was sexist on the news, but she didn't really get it together. Probably because she was a lady and she was dumb. ... Wait. Is that sexist?

Nailed it.

Posted by Jared at 01:16 PM | TrackBack

September 17, 2008

Research and Bibliographic Methods, Lesson #1

"What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books."

--Thomas Carlyle

"I think it is good that books still exist, but they do make me sleepy."

--Frank Zappa

"Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh."

--Ecclesiastes Chapter 12, verse 12

"The multitude of books is making us ignorant."


"The number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes."

--Denis Diderot

I've never heard of Denis Diderot, but he was a prophet. You have no idea. Seriously, you don't.

Posted by Jared at 12:56 AM | TrackBack

September 15, 2008

The Renewed Mind is the Key

I promise you've never seen anything like this before.

Don't be a big chicken. Sit still for the whole thing (rocking with laughter is permitted). The dance solo that starts at around 1:50 is totally worth it. Apparently the source of this is a non-trinitarian cult called The Way International. There's another video of there's up on YouTube called "Our Promised Seed" but I can't get it to play for some reason. Probably just as well. It couldn't possibly live up to my expectations.

Posted by Jared at 12:09 AM | TrackBack

September 10, 2008


So, approximately three weeks into graduate studies, I've figured something out by way of a vivid image that hit me (literally . . . more on that in a moment) at the end of my Research and Bibliographic Methods class today.

Imagine someone hanging around inside the house who decides to walk down to the corner store and pick up . . . oh, say, a degree. His friends warn him to be sure and "watch out for the snow," so he bundles up for blizzard weather and departs. Stepping off his front porch, he pauses and looks around him. There is no snow on the ground, but a few very fine white flakes are drifting down here and there. Confused, he unwraps his scarf and has his jacket halfway off . . . and that is when he is caught completely off-guard. Up on the roof, a mischievous snow-elf shakes loose a large snowdrift which lands on our hero with a perfunctory ploompf, burying him up to the eyeballs in frozen water molecules.

It seems that graduate school is not like navigating a blizzard, i.e. forging one's way through a constant, blindingly-abrasive barrage of work. It's more like walking under a series of eaves and being trailed by a snow-elf who occasionally glomps you with a snowdrift, then leaves you to frantically dig your way out and try to move forward a few steps before it can find another one to dislodge.

Watch out for the snow.

Posted by Jared at 07:40 PM | TrackBack

September 04, 2008

You Pinheads.

"Really? One of the most outrageous double standards you've ever seen?"

The media-political complex may be about to field the first female vice-president or the first African American president, but some things never change. They're all still lying sacks of . . . well, you know.

Posted by Jared at 12:18 PM | TrackBack

September 03, 2008

List Compulsion Meme

Considering the haphazard, spotty quality of this list, I definitely don't feel saddened by my haphazard, spotty experience with it. Nevertheless, it is a fun list. Of course, coming from me, that means nothing . . . have I mentioned that I love lists?

Via Scholl.

1) Bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you own.
3) Underline the books for which you have seen a movie or TV production.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman (Really?)
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (in-progress, but well over half)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 leak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen (Rather a lot Austen . . . and this one's pretty obscure)
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (Hmmm . . . didn't I pretty much just see this on here?)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (The list fails. The end.)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving (Also known as Simon Birch)
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (Yeah, definitely Austen-heavy.)
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (Gattaca should count as a movie version)
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon (Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.)
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (Ick.)
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (Ad nauseum. Quite a lot of Dickens, as well.)
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom (C'mon, what gives here?)
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (Apocalypse Now TOTALLY counts.)
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (One of those tiresome "children's" books that was really written for adults.)
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams (Bunny book!)
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (This list seems to lack an awareness of metonymy.)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Posted by Jared at 09:55 AM | TrackBack