Tuesday, September 25, 2007

of things


Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

66. Academic Senate meetings. I just love 'em. Academic Senate is the forum in which faculty authority is most basically exercised, and in which faculty voices on any issue on campus are most publicly heard. Some folks serve in academic senate because they've been drafted by their departments, and some of them loathe it. Some of them bring homework to grade. Some of them fall asleep.

I was first drafted by my department some years ago, in order for me to find a more integral role in the university. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and the rationale, at the time, made sense. In any case, I took to it immediately (which is unsurprising given my past history of speaking on behalf of the graduate students in the philosophy program at Duquesne - and eventually convincing the faculty to have two grad student reps at department meetings -, and my general level of political involvement, smart-assery, etc.).

I like debate. I like airing issues. I like political theater. I thrive on being informed. I thrive on taking an active role in big decisions.

What's kinda weird to me is the basic divide between faculty who are committed academic senators and those who aren't. It seems like some folks just "get it," and some just don't. Why would that be?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

and then, there were things

In fact, there were

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

68. Portabella mushrooms. I just love 'em. For the totally uninitiated, portabellas are the honking big mushrooms with the flat to slightly concave caps. I don't actually remember what made me decide to start eating them (I've never been mushroom-averse, so it wasn't a leap of some kind, unlike a few friends), but hot damn, do I love these suckers.

I tend to prefer them stuffed, with their stems, chopped and sautéed, with various herbs and spices, some grated parmigiano reggiano, bread crumbs, and so forth, and then roasted in this state. Holy jumpin'! But then again, they are tremendous marinated and grilled or broiled, and here my tendency is to soak them down in some kinda booze, garlic, pepper, herbs-a-go-go, and olive oil, and let nature take its inevitable course toward pleasing my palate. (A little-known and still-less-appreciated fact is that nature exists primarily and for the most part to please my palate. Basically, the universe is here so I can eat. It.)

I'd offer a recipe at this point, but I don't really have one. Almost anything a practiced cook would marinate meat in will do wonderful things for portabellas. Stuffing I regard as more complex, but on the whole, not at all unlike stuffing meat fillets.

... Which raises the question: Why not just do the same thing with a steak? For one thing, some of us don't want to eat animal flesh every day. For another, although portabellas are sold as steak substitutes (because, for the life of me, they are awfully steaky in this context), sometimes nonmeat entrées are preferable. So there.

Portabellas cooked this way are the way to convert non-mushroom-eaters. There is nothing quite like a well-cooked shroom, and enough people haven't had this experience that just one is all it takes.

67. Home-brewed beers. I just love 'em. I am at this moment fomenting (not to say fermenting) a home-brewed porter. Porter is a dark, usually somewhat sweet, medium-to-heavy-bodied beer, with sweet accents despite a good bitterness. The beer I'm making should be interesting, because I've added molasses to the brew, and tried to reach my usual porter balance of body, sweetness, bitterness, and color. We'll see, in about 8 weeks.

One may notice a distinct culinary bent in this list of top 100 things. This is certainly not an accident, but some may wonder whether the list is particularly targeted towards the pleasures of the maw. This is not my intent. I suggest that the aesthetic sensibility represented by the numbers of entries related to food correctly represent the importance of taste in my daily life. It figures. I am the philosopher-chef, after all, and I am saucier than thou.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tom Jones is not allowed in the house

It's official.

Tom Jones is not allowed in the house. On the way home from our local Borders this evening, Mr. Jones came on the oldies station, singing his hit "Delilah." That did it.

This may have gone without saying for the rest of time, but while I'm at it I may as well announce that Alan Greenspan is not allowed in the house, unless gagged and locked in an iron cage while being beaten continuously with an invisible hand. And let that be a lesson to the rest of you: I'm prepared, in defense of home and hearth, to pun mercilessly, and at times in extremely questionable taste.

Carry on.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

and another thing

A further entry in

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

69. Silly holidays. I just love 'em. Today, for instance, is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, me hearties. As holidays go, this must rank among the silliest. My birthday, August 15th, in addition to being the Catholic holiday of the Assumption of Mary, is also the birthday of Julia Child, and of course Relaxation Day, shiver me timbers. My loveliest's birthday, September 22nd, is Elephant Appreciation Day, Hobbit Day, and Fish Amnesty Day (we'll have shrimp for dinner). There's a handy online list of holidays and observances to consult.


I also like making them up. Tomorrow, for instance, is hereby declared Unofficial Turlock Handkerchief Day. Please enjoy your handkerchief in accordance with your own chosen creed, scurvy dogs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

hah! new song!

This started as a demo, the guitar and vocal track recorded on live mics late at night. I'd written the song during the evening, and Lauren was away, I forget where. A couple nights ago I picked it to play lead against, and decided this was a damned cool track.

The song is about having rotten memories about exes. And it's called I Found A Letter.

hah! things!

A brace more of

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

71. Freshly-vacuumed carpets. I just love 'em. There's nothing like the well-groomed, fluffed, brushed look of a carpet just after vacuuming. It gives the whole place a clean look, even if it's otherwise not exactly neat and tidy (the room I'm in isn't).

I enjoy most household chores to some extent. Taking out the trash has never been a favorite, and of course cleaning the deep-fryer is admittedly rather disgusting, but other than that, most are satisfying to perform and to have completed. But none of them tops vacuuming. I even like to refer to it as Hoovering, when I'm feeling jaunty and anglophile.

70. Running gags. I just love 'em. In fact, running gags should be much higher on this list, if it's meant to be in some kind of order, which it only sort of is. I don't know if "running gag" is official terminology in the comedy biz, but it's the term my friends and I have used at least since college. I define a running gag as a joke or bit of business whose comic impact is based at least as much on its being repeated as on its intrinsic humorousness.

The grand champion of running gags in our college days was definitely my friend-I-never-hear-from and erstwhile roommate Doug Dyer. Doug would repeat a gag so long, so consistently, and with such tenacity, grit, and endurance, that the gag would be crippled, killed, beaten, buried, dug up and burnt to ashes, and then resurrected, exponentially funnier than it had been in its first life. Then he would begin the long slow torture of crippling it all over again. One of the best and weirdest running gags we had was knocking on the inside of our dorm room door before exiting. Usually, this was reserved for times when someone else was in the room, to respond saying, "Go out." But I suspect Doug would perform this ritual even when he was alone. I know I did.

At present my loveliest and my pal Jim ("The Most Optimistic Man In America, And That's Saying Something") Williams have a running gag going, and I have to confess I'm slightly jealous. When he calls, and she answers the phone, they spend at least 2 minutes swapping long "halllllloooooo!"s. I only ever hear half of this schtick, so from my side it sounds like this:

Lauren: Hello?


Lauren [singsong]: Oh, helloo!


Lauren [still more singsong]: Oh, halllooo!


Lauren [reaching a higher pitch, louder, more singsong yet]: Haaalllloooooo!


Lauren [still louder]: Haaahhll-looooooooh!


Classic running gag. It's not actually particularly funny to say "hello" like Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire (at least, I don't think so), but two people swapping this greeting for several minutes over long-distance becomes funny.

Lauren and I have also picked up a running gag that Jim and I started during one of his many visits. I had picked him up at SFO, and driving back took a turn to avoid Tracy ("Tracy: We Think You Can Get That Stain Out With White Vinegar Or Something, Or At Least Make It Light Enough That Nobody Can Really See It Unless They're, Like, Standing Way Too Close") down I-580. The sign indicates that this is the route to Fresno. So, Jim, sounding a little frightened and surprised at the prospect: "Fresno?!" And me, sounding slightly diabolical and sinister, but also sneaky and furtive, in a low tone: "Heh heh heh heh." We ran that sucker probably 6 times that visit, several more the next, and now, because Lauren and I drive up and down to LA so often, we get to run it many times every month. It may be worth noting that making this joke while actually driving through Fresno seems to make the drive through Fresno more pleasant.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

a thing


Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

73. Quick, uneventful drives to LA. I just love 'em. They don't happen often. The last couple of times down we hit intensely ugly, rotten, evil traffic.

Of course, LA is renowned for bad traffic, but this is actually a bit erroneous. Yes, the traffic is bad, but the key is that traffic in LA is different than in other places. It reaches a critical mass and begins a fusion reaction that not only causes temperature spikes (once you come to a dead stop in, say, the San Fernando Valley, right where I-210 splits off for Pasadena, it's suddenly 10 degrees hotter than it was a moment ago), but also melts roads, so that optional routes actually disappear!

Today, however, we left at 8 am, and arrived at Lauren's family's place at a quarter to 1. 326 miles, 4 3/4 hours. We only came to a dead halt once, because a CHP car was zigzagging across the lanes to halt traffic in order to pick up debris. Thanks! And the motorcyclist and his teeny tiny itty bitty girlfriend clinging to his back, weaving around cars in and out of the carpool lane, didn't get run over by lumbering SUVs.

72. Bagels with cream cheese. I just love 'em. We had bagels for breakfast before hitting the road.

My favorite bagel ever came from a closet-sized coffee shop in Dupont Circle in Washington. I was there for the American Philosophical Association meeting at the Washington Hilton (outside of which Reagan was shot), but I was staying with my friend Doug in Alexandria. They left for work earlier than God, so I was dumped at the metro station and took what must have been the first train of the day into the city. I was exhausted from the long journey to DC the previous day, in a diesel VW Rabbit (top speed: 52.2 mph), and I was hungry, cold, and in pain (cheap wingtips). I stepped in, and bought a 12 ounce coffee and a bagel with cream cheese from the possibly Syrian proprietor. The bagel came lightly toasted, the two halves pressed together sandwich-like around 3/4 inch of cream cheese, and cut in two, wrapped in waxed paper. Fantabulous. Perfect. Exactly what the situation called for.

Monday, September 10, 2007

a brief report from the paranoia-incompetence frontier

I don't often mention religious affairs in this space, for a variety of reasons. This morning the feed from the New York Times included a story about federal prisons purging religious books, that says a lot about the Bush Administration's approach to just about everything, and of these days.

It seems that since September, 2001 (which in the Bush Administration's timeline is yesterday, always), the Bureau of Prisons has been eliminating select religious tracts, allegedly on the basis of their being inflammatory of the kind of religious fervor that would lead someone to become a terrorist. How do you decide something like that?

[Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci (with an i)] Billingsley said, “We really wanted consistently available information for all religious groups to assure reliable teachings as determined by reliable subject experts.”

. . . which turns out to mean throwing out anything published by 9 publishing companies. (There's no word in the story about whether these companies somehow failed to donate to Bush's election campaign.)

How do you become a "reliable subject expert" on religion? And what counts as "reliable teachings"? And, as one interviewee in the story puts it, since when does the government have a role in determining this?

I'd love to say this is some kind of faith-based initiative, but I don't have the heart.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Look out! Things!

A quick dip into

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

74. Names for inanimate objects. I just love 'em. I have named most of my guitars, cars, and computers. I give ceremonial names to things, which I often don't remember, but that's okay because the names are meant for the ceremony anyway.

We spend Sunday morning from 11 until noon listening to Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me on NPR, but before that comes on, we sometimes hear the end of Car Talk. Last week the Car Talk guys were making fun of people naming their cars. Although I don't believe naming a car is the performance of some kind of voodoo (or Christian Science), I do like to name cars. They seem to call for it, perhaps as vessels, but frankly because mass manufactured products often have more distinct personalities than we give them credit for (largely because of unique defects - cf. Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects).

In any case, my first car, a 1978 Honda Accord hatchback with all the paint sandblasted off when it was driven for a year in Egypt by a colleague of my dad's, I immediately christened the William F. Buckley Jr. I had been obsessed with Buckley, the conservative columnist known best for his fantastic facility with specious argument and deliberately obscure vocabulary, since I started reading his column when I was 9. (Why I was reading Buckley at age 9, and why I enjoyed it, and why I understood it, are all probably best left unexamined.) So that was that.

The next car I owned was a crappy 1985 Dodge Daytona that I initially gave the name of an NPR classical music presented, Karl Hass, who started every broadcast by saying, "Hello everyone." The first thing that came on the radio of the Daytona, the first time I turned on the radio, was Karl Hass saying "Hello everyone." But before long the incredible rottenness of this alleged vehicle began to sink in, and I started to refer to it as the Detonate.

At present I drive a 2006 VW Jetta that we call Eddie Jetta, after a Weird Al Yankovic song called "My Baby's In Love With Eddie Vedder."

I've owned computers I've called Pornomatic and Crapola, and I've just named my nasty old Dell laptop, which we keep strictly to play PC games on, Deathtrap.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

things upon things

Yet more of

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

76. Macs. I just love 'em. For years I was a Mac user, but I was more or less forced to convert to Windows about 10 years ago when nothing Windows could work on Macs. If I'm not mistaken, both sides of this stupid divide were for a time specifically making it impossible to move from PC to Mac and back. Because of the dominance of Windows and other Microsoft products [*cough!* racketeering *cough!*], especially of Microsoft Word, in the academic business, I was stuck with Windows. It was painful.

Since then, of course, Microsoft Word has become available for Macs (usually months after the updated versions are available for Windows), and in general Microsoft products work better in their Mac versions anyway, so I finally switched back not quite two years ago.

I have two favorite snarks about Microsoft. One is "It's not a bug, it's a feature." The other is that they're built broken.

75. Satires. I just love 'em. Tired from the last two days' campus-event-and-class-attending, I've spent some time this afternoon paging idly through some old Paul Krassner stuff, including reportage of his trip to a humor conference and his explanation of unintended effects of sending surplus TVs to remote islands of preliterate societies (namely, that monkeys will get ahold of them and proceed to plot against Jimmy Hoffa).

In the past I've written some satirical stuff about politics, pop culture, and academia. It's been a while.

Monday, September 03, 2007

lesson learned

One night, if you can't sleep, and you get out of bed to shuffle off to the next room to read a bit and try to get sleepy again, don't pick up Theodor Adorno. Most especially, don't pick up Minima Moralia, not unless you really like having nightmares. Goddamn Adorno.

Of course #1: That's why I call him Theodor "Don't Call Me Sweetie" Adorno.

Of course #2: Obviously, I should have known better. But I was annoyed by not being able to get to sleep, and Adorno seemed to fit the mood.

Note to self: Always have copy of Harpo Speaks! nearby.