Wednesday, December 31, 2008

new year's resolutions

You know why New Year's resolutions don't work. They don't work because momentous declarations of good intent fueled by nostalgia, and perhaps liquid holiday cheer, are flakier than my mom's pumpkin pie crust.

For instance, many years ago, I made a resolution not to make any more New Year's resolutions. So far, so good. It's been I-don't-know-how-many years since I made that resolution, and haven't made another one since. But I'm breaking it.

I resolve to live more joyfully. That was why the pram* I posted earlier.

* This use of the word pram is an inside joke between me and my pal Bobo, the Wandering Pall-bearer, from college nights spent watching Monty Python's Flying Circus re-broadcast on MTV. In one of the 1974 episodes, Graham Chapman, dressed up as some kind of aristocrat, and playing (perhaps) drunk, in a scene in which a poetry reading is being held in a backroom of a huge department store, refers to poems as "prams."

NOT the year in review, part 4

I'm thinking about joy and music today. So:

Shakespeare, Sonnet #8

Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy;
Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not gladly,
Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy?

If the true concord of well-tunèd sounds
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear:

Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,
Resembling sire, and child, and happy mother,
Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing:

Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee: 'Thou single wilt prove none.'

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

year in review, part 3

This morning I had an email message with the following subject line:

Tired of staying in a shadow because of your plain watch?

It came from one of those phony email addresses, but this one had the domain name

Sums it up, I'd say.

Monday, December 22, 2008

a quick one

And now, a seasonal entry from

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

14. Jazz versions of Christmas tunes. I just love 'em.

By jazz versions, I here mean a fairly wide swath in the territory from blues to swing to big band to crooner to hard bop.

A few of these are well-known, of course. For instance, I think most folks know (and if they don't they should) Louis Armstrong's Zat You, Santa Claus?". Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Eartha Kitt, Etta James, Ramsey Lewis, and dozens of other jazz or jazz-influenced musicians have recorded joyful, swinging, spiffy X-mas numbers.

We own copies of two of the best jazz holiday albums, Jimmy Smith's rollicking, and sometimes overwhelming Christmas Cookin' and Vince Gauraldi's soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas. I've yet to pick up a new Christmas jazz album this year, but I know which one I want: Joe Pass's Six String Santa. Might need to look that up on iTunes.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

year in review, part 2

A momentous, not to say fucking tortuous, 2008 is coming quickly to a close. Having graded all the papers I can for the moment, and seeing as how I'm waiting for the tomato sauce to simmer a bit longer, I thought I'd take this opportunity to look back on the highlights of the past 12 months. Plus, this is the traditional thing to do, and as everyone knows, I'm a stickler for tradition.

With no further ado...

2008: The Best Of The Year

False modesty aside, January was when I received the Cool People Special Award For Being Really Exzeptionally Cool. My loveliest was quite gracious in her introductory speech, especially since she had to compose herself quickly after having been surprised during the same award ceremony with the Cool People Award For Homina-homina-homina-homina.

We celebrated National Poetry Month in April, along with so many others, by burning copies of chapbooks by Billy Corgan and Billy Collins, and smashing copies of cds of the National Poetry Month celebrity poetry readings, held annually. We also ate crullers, but you knew that.

In May we threw a gala to commemorate the 5th anniversary of V-I (Victory in Iraq) Day, but no one came.

Christina and Guerin were also married in May. We were amongst the bridal party, and the bridal party. Before, during, and after the ceremony, the entirety of the party chanted in various ancient languages to give the occasion a sense of weird cinematic foreboding, but no one seemed to notice. In any case, we were somewhat rewarded for our efforts when the married couple suffered a freak Alpine skiing injury in Venice.

The university caught fire in July, and 23 of the 18 buildings burnt to the ground, only to be rebuilt at exorbitant expense by a private donor.

In October, Alexander and Arthur won the Nobel Prize for their General and Special Theories of Looney Tunes Physics. Unfortunately, they lost all the prize money on the stock market. They have no heads for figures.

November: Of course, we all marveled, and some of us marvel still, at the discovery that the number 3 is actually worth only 2. The economic turmoil aside, it's pretty cool to consider the more cosmic ramifications.

Now here it is, December, in the midst of the conversion of the entire US economy from information-based industry to a bailout-based economy, in which unfettered capitalist competition and the fantastic risk-taking behavior it impels leads to rewards for those willing to engage in the most incredibly insane risks. We're very hopeful that as this transition continues, Alex and Arthur will eventually make us incredibly rich. (Note to Henry Paulson: No, they're not available for consultation.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

a good thing to do

Last night we had a little Christmas party with Lauren's boss Lee, and our buds X-ina and Guerin. I made - hold on to yer ass, kids - lamb shanks osso bucco style. This involves braising the poor little critters' shins in stock, tomatoes, garlic, wine, and then tossing in flageolet or cannelini beans. Total braising time: 2 and a half hours. I bunged all into a ginormous square white porcelain bowl we have. You dish up the shank, cover all with beans and braising liquid. The meat melts off the shank.

And I had the best version ever of the rustic Itie white bread I bake.

In the immortal words of my pal Dave "Dave" Koukal, come to poppa!

Anyway, lamb shanks cooked this way is something I think every right-thinking individual who is not a vegetarian should eat at least once in their lives.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

interview meme

I have been actually interviewed twice in my life. I like the idea of being interviewed, so when No Celery Please posted an interview meme, offering to ask questions of anyone who requests it in comments, I had to beg to be interviewed. Here are No Celery's questions and my replies:

Question #1:
Who was the first philospher you read that made you think... "hmmm, this is great! I want to do this for a living!"?

There are two, in two separate events, so I'm gonna pick the one that started me thinking I would enjoy teaching philosophy for a living. That'd be Karl Marx. I was turned on by the section of the 1844 manuscripts on alienated labor, where Marx defines human life in terms of working to produce the world we live in, and the main problem of labor under capitalism being that that work is taken away, divided up, and its worldliness corrupted. I still enjoy that bit of Marx's stuff.

Question #2:
You are having a dinner party at which you are going to present a 12 course meal. Money and FDA food import laws are not a restriction... what are you making?

Okay, this is really very complicated. I spent close to 10 hours figuring out the courses of my last big feed, and that was only 10 courses. The courses have to fit, they have to be at least somewhat seasonal, and they have to allow for a lot of improv. I'm grading finals. So I'll mention some things I'd definitely want to do as thematic elements to build the whole dinner around.

Caviar amuse, for sure, probably in some kind of creme fraiche sort of application, with chives.

Foie gras, which is now basically illegal to possess or consume in California. I had thought a beef Wellington entrée would fit the bill. But foie gras in some other context would also work.

Without doubt, a truffled potato dish, most likely a gratin with potatoes and truffles, seasoned and flavored delicately enough to bring out the truffles in their full glory.

I am fairly certain some kind of vegetable orgy would be one of the dishes. And a croquette of some sort.

Question #3:
If you could suddenly and effortlessly acquire one skill you currently do not have... what would it be?

I'll go with my first thought here: singing.

Question #4:
If you could be offered a position at any university in the world (tenured, of course) - where would you go? Or would you go?

Either San Francisco State University or CSU Long Beach. I want to remain a member of my union, and I want to remain in California.

Question #5:
What one ingredient can you absolutely not live without in your ktichen (OK, not literally - but, ya know).

Aside from mundane things everybody is likely to have? (Salt, pepper, etc.?) Nutmeg. Whole nutmeg, and my little nutmeg grater.

So, the drill, gentle readers, all 3 of you, is to request to be interviewed in the comments. Then I ask you the questions, and the tables will turn! Hah!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

year in review, part 1

There be memes for year-in-review posts. I follow one with this post, which has one gather the first lines of each month's first posts from the past year. Here goes:


Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

44. Primary seasons. I just love 'em.


I collected Lancelot's remains from the vet's office this afternoon.


It's spring here. Neener-neener-neener.

In any case, it's also the time of year when we celebrate a pair of

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things


The kittens now have names. They've also had their first vet visit.


My loveliest is off at some sort of bridal brunch kinda thing, so I'm here with the monster kittens (as of this writing, Arthur is in the middle of a freakout session; Alexander is eating us out of house and home) and a stack of papers to grade.


At some point, this blog will return to usual programming.


One lull later...

Been down to LA and back. We went down to LA for fresh air.


I don't want to tip my hand much about the plans for my birthday bash on Saturday.


The 2008-2009 academic year begins tomorrow, with a day of long meetings of university, college, and department faculty, when we'll all hear about the wonderful plan CSU has for our lives.


Is it just me, or does the constant repetition of "Main Street" in financial bailout nooz irresistibly compel thoughts of the Sinclair Lewis novel?*


So, Barack Obama.

And, so far, almost assuredly Yes on Prop 8 in California, denying the right of marriage to same-sex couples just months after the California Supreme Court ruled that such a ban was unconstitutionally prejudicial.


Dear Mr. Claus,

As you are no doubt aware, our Governor declared a state fiscal emergency today.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

what's good for GM is -
ahh, to hell with it

So, Ford, Chrysler, and GM walk into a bar...

No, that's not it. Or maybe.

Anyway, GM testified to Congress today that (1) if GM is allowed to collapse, there will be widespread damage to the US economy, (2) GM needs $12 billion to keep afloat, including $4 billion right away, (3) GM plans to cut 20,000 to 30,000 jobs, and (4) GM plans to get concessions from UAW. Like Ford, GM plans to pay its execs a buck as salary, and to quit flying corporate jets around. That, apparently, is management's concession.

Prior to 2005, GM employed 181,000 people in the US. Back then, if anybody remembers, GM had a problem because of rising oil costs and their ridiculous insistence on building gas-guzzlers. But they had a plan to correct their bad financial strain - laying off 25,000 workers. So now, the plan is, with $12 billion from all of us, GM will - do the same goddamn thing again.

In corporate America, incredibly bad foresight is always rewarded by somebody helping you out. It looks like good business, apparently, to cut jobs instead of executive compensation (if you pay your top exec 300 times what a line-worker makes, you effectively cut 300 jobs right there).

All this raises serious question whether the major premise of this (so-to-speak) argument is at all plausible. GM now employs far less than half the people it did when it was a significant part of the US economy. Now that so much of auto manufacturing has been outsourced, GM doesn't really contribute much to employment. Let's take the $12 billion GM wants to spend, while throwing an addition 30,000 people out of work, and instead divide the money among all the potentially affected employees, except executives, should GM go belly-up. $12 billion divided among the remaining 156,000 or so. In fact, I'll round that up to 200,000 people. That gives them all a $60,000 severance package, which they can use to go to college or trade school, live off of while they look for work, pay moving expenses, whatever. GM is out of the taxpayers' hair, no more corporate jet flights because there won't be a corporation, and a handful of failed execs in the street with tin cups.

Monday, December 01, 2008

another open letter to Santa

Dear Mr. Claus,

As you are no doubt aware, our Governor declared a state fiscal emergency today. This will prompt a special session of the legislature to find some solution to the current budget crisis. Unfortunately, as you know, the CSU is one of the few areas of the budget where spending discretion permits the state to slash budgets. The CSU budget represents less than 2% of the state budget, and the state's deficit is projected to be over $11 billion this year - or more than three times more than the entire CSU budget.

This urgent situation demands immediate resolution, and so I am writing to repeat and reaffirm my request for $6 bajillion for the CSU. The justification for this request was detailed in my previous letter. I shall only re-state here the most salient point, which is that the CSU does nice things for the state. I am aware of no reasons why the CSU should be regarded as naughty, and hence no reasons why my request, made in due course and within an appropriate timeframe, should be rejected.

I am sure that you are also aware of the recent decision by the CSU Board of Trustees to increase compensation for executives and hire additional executives. Although this is admittedly awkward timing, given the CSU's decision to re-open the salary article of the faculty contract, and given the shortage of funding in general and the threats of cuts, I categorically deny that this is indicative of naughtiness by the CSU. The university continues to educate hundreds of thousands of students for the good of the public, and this momentary lapse of good judgment is merely incidental and not pertinent. (See Moretti v. Templeton, Ca. Su. Ct. #1909-99-7134.)

Therefore, absent any finding or evidence provided to the contrary, I expect my request for $6 bajillion for the CSU to be fulfilled on or around 25 December 2008.

Chris Nagel