- 2 cups of coffee (with cream and sugar)
- 1 Snickers bar
- 9 Wintergeen Altoids
- 2 Spearmint Altoids
It is now almost four in the afternoon and the walls are starting to look furry.
is the best site in the world. They give you the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root of a word at the bottom of the page. Then, they tell you what entry that root is in the dictionary of PIE by Julius Pokorny. It's really hard to find roots in that book. My friend Matt spent hours thumbing through Pokorny in college. I think he had to special order it from another college's library. He coveted that book.
The view from the back porch of my apartment. I should really wake up before 8:30 more often. I've cunningly left out the ugly apartment building directly to the left of the tree. (A mostly unrelated note: the Latin word for apartment building is "insula," same as the Latin word for island, whence we get "insular," etc. If I knew, I'd tell you why this is, but I don't know, so I'll just let it sit there.)
A basketball coach gets creepy
"I knew we were going to have to ride Paul down the stretch," Celtics coach Jim O'Brien said. "Antoine came to me in the third quarter and said, 'Let's just ride him.' I was going to ride him anyway."
I've made a belated New Year's resolution. (Don't get too excited, I'm not really that big on New Year's resolutions. I'm that guy at the party on December 31st who goes around saying, "I was going to have my New Year's resolution be to become more decisive, but now I'm not so sure." I've been telling that joke for ten years. Sure, the joke got old a while ago, but it won't die. It's the Methuselah of lame New Year's jokes.) Here's my New Year's resolution: start watching soap operas. I realized that my TiVo would tape them and then I can settle in at the end of the day and find out which twin had committed a triple homicide disguised as her father. I'm going to be the only straight 25 year old male in the world who talks about his "stories."
I know I'm starting to sound like an NPR-dork ("starting," you say, "no, no, no"), but last weekend's "This American Life"
was really good. The intro was a conversation with Chris Ware (author of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth
) about what it's like growing up as a weak kid who thinks constantly about having superpowers. The first act was a John (Ask A Former Professional Literary Agent
) Hodgman piece about whether, if you were given the choice, you would choose to be invisible or to fly. It's really pretty funny. If you go to the TAL site to listen to the show, think first about which you would choose.
This leads me (tangentially) to the horrifying story of how I was humiliated in front of a large audience by John Hodgman and Dave Eggers:
When Neal Pollack (author of the first McSweeney's imprint, "The Neal Pollack Anthology of Modern Literature") went on tour to promote his new book, the first stop on the tour was in Boston -- the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, to be specific. On the McSweeney's website, they announced that John Hodgman would answer all questions posed to him by e-mail. So, after deciding that having 300 people stare at me while I turned beet-red, which I am wont to do, I e-mailed him the following question: "Would you briefly explain why the Red Sox are a spiritually superior team to the Yankees?"
I didn't think much about this. I thought it would be sort-of amusing -- I was playing along with the joke, after all -- they asked for questions, I asked a question. A friend and I went to the show and about halfway through, John Hodgman and Dave Eggers got up out of the audience and said that they were now going to answer the e-mails posed to them. I was a little nervous. The first e-mail was read. They asked the sender to stand up. Then, they proceeded to talk, at some length, about what he was wearing. I was now sure that I had made a huge mistake.
They did a couple of these e-mails, including one where they insulted the sender's punctuation. Then they got to me. They called my name. I stood up. Dave Eggers read the question. They commented that I was wearing a pink shirt -- I was not wearing a pink shirt, it was orange. They read my question. It received a round of applause (please keep in mind that we were in Boston and Bostonians hate the Yankees). Then John Hodgman launched into a long discussion about how my question was inappropriate as it was not related to writing or to literary agency -- although there was only an implicit request on the website for these sorts of questions, never an outright request. He went on and on. Finally, he answered the question by suggesting that the Red Sox were merely a bunch of losers.
It was horrifying.
I've been reading Michael Patrick Welch's on-line journal Commonplace
for a while now, and it never fails at being interesting. His idea is to try and be as truthful as possible about his life and his ideas. This means that some of the stories he posts are mean, some are embarrassing, some are sort-of scary. He recently moved to Costa Rica for a couple months (from Florida) after producing a book of stories from his on-line journal. His parents then read the book and "disowned" him:
Well, hereís the deal: before I left for Costa Rica I mailed a box of 70 books to the SMF mailing house in D.C. I sent them book rate, which means they travel slow. But they shouldnít travel this slow and Iím worried. I guess Iím just saying that the shipment is delayed and itís giving me a lot of anxiety.
But worse than that (and I made need your help here), I left my truck with my parents. They said they would sell it for me, put the money in my account, and thatís how I would live here in Costa Rica. I also left the other two boxes of books with them.
My parents read one of the books and have now disowned me. They refuse to sell my truck for me. I have $120 and my plane doesnít leave until April 1. I am going to die here. Which wouldnít be too bad as this place is just the most inspiring and crazy shit EVER. But still, deep down, I donít want to die.
Let me back up and say though, that I feel like I deserve all this. I am a horrible shit for writing about them the way I have. Usually the only people I offend are people I KNOW donít care about me. If anyone reading this has ever felt violated by what Iíve written, thatís why. But my parents are different.
Anyway, they said that being here would teach me things and itís already taught me a lot. The first thing being: donít write about people anymore. It was something I wanted to do and I knew it would be a complicated tightrope, and I pulled it off most of the time by asking permission or, as I said, only writing about people with whom I shared only a feeble bond, but now itís ALL coming back to me. So I guess Iím going to have to learn to write so that my words are as interesting as the guts Iíve spilled this year; mine and others. I hope youíre still interested.
I think this is heartbreaking.
"Christian" and "cretin" are, apparently, etymologically linked
English borrowed cretin from the French word crťtin in 1779. It comes from an earlier word, cretin, which meant "Christian" in the (French) dialects of Valais and Savoie (compare the standard French word, chrťtien). Its ultimate source is the Latin christianus, "Christian".
While the original meaning of cretin was, literally, "Christian", the word "Christian" was not being used as we would use it today. In our pluralistic, multi-cultural society, we recognize Christianity to be just one of many competing belief systems. Thus, to say that someone is a Christian is to state that s/he is not a Buddhist, a Marxist, a Hindu or a Jew. This seems rather obvious to us, doesn't it? Yet this wasn't quite how the word was understood by the medieval inhabitants of remote Alpine valleys. From their limited and parochial perspective it seemed that everyone in the world was Christian. Thus, the word became synonymous with "human being".
Due to the lack of iodine in the medieval Alpine diet, certain regions of Switzerland were prone to severe thyroid problems, such as goiter and congenital idiocy. The local priests, moved by compassion for these poor imbeciles, encouraged the populace to treat them kindly. They deserved pity, it was said, because they were, at least, Christians (i.e. "human beings").
We must admit that we were quite surprised to find that the word Christian itself was not used in English until 1526. How did English-speaking Christians refer to themselves before that date? Did they not need such a word before they came into contact with non-Christians?
WBUR, the Boston NPR affiliate suspended the host, Christopher Lydon, and producer, Mary McGrath, of the successful radio talk show The Connection
last week during a contentious contract dispute. If you haven't heard this show before (it's not in every city), listen to some of the archived recordings. It's really great -- mostly because Christopher Lydon is a great host -- knowledgeable, witty, quick on his feet, not treacly. He's just great.
There is considerable concern that this may be it for Lydon at the station. The show, I suspect, will die with him. Or it should.
My favorite Connection episode was after Ray Flynn (disgraced Boston mayor who made an unsuccessful mid-90s gubernatorial bid) had been outed as a heavy drinker -- I hesitate to say alcoholic, although that may be closer to the truth. Flynn came on the show (assuming, I think, that he would get an easy ride from Lydon) and Lydon really went after him when it sounded like he was having his way with the truth. It was unforgettable. It was great theater. I really don't want The Connection to die.
I know I'm not supposed to admit liking poetry (especially popular poetry, that's terrible form), but I really like Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology
. Two poems in particular. Fiddler Jones (an excerpt):
How could I till my forty acres
Not to speak of getting more,
With a medley of horns, bassoons and piccolos
Stirred in my brain by crows and robins
And the creak of a wind-mill--only these?
Petit the Poet (an excerpt):
Seeds in a dry pod, tick, tick, tick,
Tick, tick, tick, like mites in a quarrel--
Faint iambics that the full breeze wakens--
But the pine tree makes a symphony thereof.
Triolets, villanelles, rondels, rondeaus,
Ballades by the score with the same old thought:
The snows and the roses of yesterday are vanished;
And what is love but a rose that fades?
I feel your pain: I had a friend in college who was always trying to get me to listen to music that he liked. He would lead me into his room saying, "You have to listen to this. It has changed my life." So, I'd listen to some Philip Glass-sounding thing for five minutes until my ears started to bleed and the room was spinning and my thoughts turned (for some inexplicable reason) to industrial machinery and teeth breaking off gears and I'd think to myself: "Does he think I'm going to rise from my seat crying, drop to my knees and thank him for setting me straight?" I never really appreciated his effort to show me the way. Aesthetic tastes are far from universal. I guess I'm apologizing for the poetry. I like it, but I probably just like it because my father likes it (and his parents like it). I don't expect your reaction to equal mine, and maybe there's nothing approaching profound in Spoon River Anthology.
Some thoughts after attending a cousin's wedding in Florida:
1. I know it's hackneyed to talk about how annoying it is when people talk during movies in movie theatres, but it's goddamn annoying when people talk during movies in movie theatres. I went to see Snatch in a theatre in Fort Lauderdale with maybe ten couples in the audience. I swear they were all having conversations throughout the movie. What they ALL seemed to be talking about was the plot of the movie and what was going to come next. "I bet he gets shot." "I bet the dog dies." Et cetera, et cetera. Now, I know that movies are complicated for a lot of people, and that trying to parse the plot of a movie is the only thrill they get in an otherwise uneventful (life) day, but just SHUT THE HELL UP. Sorry about that. (The only funny part of this dreary experience was that the talkative couple behind me had the nerve (and lack of self-awareness) to shush another couple for talking. I bet they didn't appreciate me laughing, either.)
2. I have a possible explanation for why most of Florida is so ugly (sorry if you live in Florida, but, you know, it's pretty ugly). I live in Massachusetts where there is some non-man-made variation -- we've got hills and rocks, etc. There isn't any real variation in the Florida lanscape, just wet ground and really wet ground. In Florida more of the scenery is man-made -- things that rise up from the ground are bound to be man-made in Florida. We, as humans, are really bad at making nature-altering/overcoming stuff that's not really ugly. (Literally, the most overwhelming features around Fort Lauderdale are the highway overpasses -- that's never a good sign -- think warm-New-Jersey.) Thus, by the transitive property of butt-ugly, Florida is not-so-pleasing on the eyes.
3. My family: they crazy.
I took some linguistics classes in college (for god-knows-what reason). The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that almost everything changes as a result of paradigmatic analogy. It's the old "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" argument.
"Paradigmatic" is really fun to say. It's that hard "g" in the middle.
Here's something I've recently learned that falls into the "things I wish I had never heard" category:
It turns out that the "y" in Old English "ye" (for "the") is just a reduction of the Old English letter Ģ (derived from a Runic character "thorn"). The symbol Ģ is pronounced "th". So, even though "Ye Olde" looks like it should be pronounced "ye old," it really still needs to be pronounced "the old". This takes some of the glamour out of the local restaurant "Ye Olde Beefe 'n Ale." Oh well.
If you ask me, languages should only be changed so they sound more like they are being spoken by pirates, not less. (For an explanation, proceed here.)
From an interview with John Waters from 1998
Question from Audience: If you were to make the movie of your life, what would the ultimate sound bite be?
John Waters: I know what it would be. That first line in Shock Fair where I say that if someone vomits during one of my movies it's like a standing ovation. Even though I really took unfair advantage of vomit in the early days. People puked in my movies because they were very drunk. I took credit for it, culturally.
Question from Audience: What advice would you give young film-makers?
John Waters: To think up a new way to use sex and violence to get on my generation's nerves! In America the best way is to be black if you're a white kid. Listen to rap all the time, dress as a home boy, have no white friends and if your parents were liberal and marched for Martin Luther King, this is still not what they had in mind. If you're a black kid Vanilla Ice will work, middle of the road country, Marilyn Manson, that'll really get on your parents' nerves!
The New Yorker's
Talk of the Town section (a couple of weeks ago, not on website -- although, the fact that The New Yorker has content on their website is amazing) had a piece on the Bush inaugural address, making the point that the speech was really well-written (beautiful even), but that Bush immediately failed to live up to the promise of his words. I've been reading it and I agree that parts of it are beautiful:
"In the quiet of American conscience, we know that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of our nation's promise. And whatever our views of its cause, we can agree that children at risk are not at fault. Abandonment and abuse are not acts of God, they are failures of love. And the proliferation of prisons, however necessary, is no substitute for hope and order in our souls."
I try to picture Martin Sheen reading it, that helps a bit.
I'm taking flu medication today, as I've got (surprise) the flu. Advil Flu and Body Ache pills are the drug of choice, and, I've got to say, they make for an interesting companion. I can't tell if I'm feeling really good or really crappy. It's like being punched in the head by a really pretty hand, or getting dragged behind an expensive car.
I'm no expert, but I think "Advil Flu and Body Ache" pills may the antecedent of "it" in this short Catullus poem:
I hate and love. Why? You may ask but
It beats me. I feel it done to me, and ache.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "C'mon Mark, Catullus was born 2,100 years ago, he clearly wasn't thinking of "Advil Flu and Body Ache" pills when he wrote that poem. He was thinking of NyQuil." And you may be right. We'll never know.
Do Donkeys like Twinkies? Hell yeah!
Two examples of bad business practices (from this weekend):
1. When I was driving home at 3:00 am through Union Square in Somerville, I stopped at the Dunkin' Donuts to pick up a couple of donuts so I would have something to eat in the morning. There was a scant selection of donuts - apparently they stop making new donuts at some point in the night and just let the supply peter out. They had some old-fashioned-style donuts, though, which are my favorite kind. I get to the counter and here, for you good people, is the transcript of the conversation:
Me: I'd like a half-dozen donuts.
Dunkin' Donuts employee: (imagine, if you will, the most suprised possible voice) Really?
2. I went candlepin bowling on Saturday and went up to the counter to get some shoes. Here's a transcript of that conversation:
Me: Can I get some shoes? Size 10 1/2.
Bowling Alley Employee (BAE): Sorry, sir. We don't have any 10 1/2s. For some reason, the half sizes seem to go quicker - we have a 9 1/2 if you'd like those.
Me: Umm, do you have either a 10 or an 11?
BAE: Yeah, we have both of those.
When I was in high school, I spent a lot
of time thinking about what my senior quote for the yearbook was going to be. I had it narrowed down to a couple:
"I don't jog. If I die, I want to be sick." -- Abe Lemons
"Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it." -- J. Russell Lynes
I have no idea why I wanted either of these quotes, other than that I thought they were funny and kind-of indiosyncratic -- I still think they're funny. I obsessed about this decision. I annoyed my friends. I spent hours poring through books of quotations. I acted like an idiot. I cannot stress enough how much I thought about this.
When it came time to passing in the senior pictures/quotes, I just never got around to it. If you check out my yearbook, it will just have this smiley-face emoticon-like picture and a caption that reads, "Mark Anderson did not submit a picture."
I'm a complicated and dangerous character -- like someone out of a Mamet play.
Q: So, Mark, tell me something you're no good at?
A: Thanks for asking. I'd have to say I'm no good at web design.
Q: Anything else you suck at?
A: Oh, one more thing: I'm not very good at faux-interview-style writing.
An AOL-IM conversation with a friend, in which I decide never to become a writer:
me: how about this: "Pick-up lines that would only exist if companies sponsored all pick-up lines"
her: such as?
me: "Those Gap capri pants look great. They'd look great on my floor"
me: that's not very good
her: hmm- has potential
her: McSweeneys potential?
me: Can you believe that just a few hours ago we'd never even been to Sealy Posturepedic bed together?
me: I think that's the end of that project
her: ha ha
me: I've just horrified myself
Buy a celebrity smooch
. Yahoo is auctioning off celebrity lip-prints/autographs for Valentine's Day(?). Sarah McLachlan's entry is leading the pack at $1,100.
People we feel bad for: Ashton Kutcher - $51.50. What's with the fifty cents? Click on the link and you'll get some insight into the low bid total...
After I posted the below electric toothbrush thing, I ran across this (from Mighty Girl
"Watching a kid's infomercial about a spectacular new mechanical toothbrush, the voiceover exclaims, "BUT THAT'S NOT ALL!" My five year old niece turns to me smiling and says, "They always say, 'that's not all.'" Smart kid."
That's sort of a coincidence, no?
Some things to do with your electric toothbrush (other than brushing your teeth, of course -- dental hygiene is no laughing matter):
1. Watch TV while using your toothbrush. If you have not stumbled across this yourself, it is definitely worth a try. Whereas most objects appear sort-of blurry when looking at them while brushing your teeth with an electric toothbrush, the TV screen looks otherworldly. It jumps and hops around. Note: this is definitely not recommended if you have epilepsy.
2. Pretend you are playing the kazoo and make humming/throat noises. My favorite thing to sing is "America" -- the song that starts out with the words "My country, 'tis of thee." You sound a LOT like a robot would if said robot were singing "America" with a toothbrush in its mouth. Tell me: What is not cool about a robot singing a patriotic song?
3. I don't play electric quitar. Heck, I don't play acoustic guitar. (Once, I played electric bass in an ill-fated punk rock experiment, but that's a drunken story for another day). Having said this, apparently you can use an electric toothbrush to make a sort of whammy bar effect.
The Wall Street Journal reports today that Johnny Walker (the scotch whiskey makers) is getting ready to launch a web site to help young people achieve their dreams
. This presumes that your dreams involve starting a company or making a lot of money or something. I don't really get it, but here's what the website says:
"Keepwalking.com and the KEEP WALKING Fund were established by Johnnie Walker Blended Scotch Whisky to help bring your ideas to life. Start with an idea, research it, reshape it and submit it to the KEEP WALKING Fund. The KEEP WALKING Fund Board of Directors will recognize five to twelve ideas that best meet the granting criteria, and will ultimately award grants up to $500,000 in total."
Worth a look.
The NBA top-50 players of all time, spell-checked
. This is only funny if you know who all the people are. If you do, though, it's hi-larious. My favorite: "Shackle Ordeal"
In the February 1, 2001 issue of Rolling Stone, Johnny Knoxville's mother has this to say about what he does:
"I watch the show every time it comes on," continues his mother, "but I can't watch the one where he sets himself on fire, and I can't watch the one where he bastes and roasts himself. I get a terrible feeling. It's very scary. I have no earthly idea why he would do these things."
From an essay by Nicholson Baker
in The American Scholar
(Autumn 2000), excerpted in the Readings section of Harper's
When I come across something I really like in a book, I put a little dot in the margin. Not a check, not a double line Ė these would be pedantic Ė but a single, nearly invisible tap or nudge of the pen-tip that could almost be a dark fleck in the paper. In fact, sometimes as Iíve flipped through a book that Iíve read closely years before, my eye has been caught by an actual paper-blemish that I have taken to be one of my own dots of approval, and Iíve stopped to read slowly through some undistinguished passage, prepared for beauty, and then, suspicious, I bring the page close to my eye and inspect the dot and find that I was misled.
Itís best not to make too many dots Ė no more than, say, ten or fifteen in a single book. Compared with underlining, or highlighting in yellow or pink, the dot method is unobtrusive Ė thatís one of its great advantages. I can reread a book that I have dotted here and there, and yet not be too distracted by the record of my earlier discoveries. And I can feel secure in the knowledge that if others idly open my books, they wonít be able to see at a glance what interested me Ė they wonít say to themselves, He though that was good?
But my method is not only to mark the passages I like. I also write the numbers of the marked pages in the back. Then Ė and this is the most important part Ė at some later date, sometimes years later, I refer to the page numbers, locate the dots, and copy in a spiral bound notebook the passages that have awaited my return. About fifteen years ago I started to fall behind Ė I have dozens, probably hundreds, of books with a column of page numbers written on the endpapers whose appealing sentences or paragraphs I have not yet transcribed. Sometimes many months will go by without my adding anything to my copybook. But it is almost the only handwriting I do now, aside from writing checks, and whenever I take up the studious pen and begin, it makes me a happier person: my own bristling brain-urchins of worry melt in the strong solvent of other peopleís grammar.
Also, an interview with Nicholson Baker from 1994:
Interviewer: You use a computer and e-mail. It seems that The Mezzanine was a precursor to the hypertext, a story where you can choose your own path.
Nicholson Baker: The footnote is the poor man's hypertext. It's not fancy. You don't need any software at all. All it takes is a little number, a little asterisk, and smaller type. It's great. You can choose. Do you want to go into the subroutine of the footnote and follow it out and move back, or do you want to skip it? So you have that branch. It's very interactive. I've heard people read every imaginable way you could do it. Skipping the text. Reading the footnotes first. I wanted it to be optional. Some people are less interested in the flotational aspects of the straw. I was very proud of one of my footnotes that went on for four pages with only three lines at the top. It was about skate blades and the grooves in a record. Oh, those were the days. I was innocent then. I was a nice guy.
Part of an e-mail I sent today:
"When I call my dad at home, and he picks up, I always have to ask if John is there - even though I'm pretty sure no other male will be picking up the phone. I don't know if it, for a second, doesn't sound like him, or if it's something else, but it's very strange. Our typical opening conversation is something like this:
Male Voice sounding something like my father: Hello?
Me: (long, awkward pause) Umm, is John there?
Male voice sounding more and more like my father: This is John.
Me: (long, embarrassingly awkward pause) Hey, this is Mark.
Dad: Oh, Mark. Hi. Why are you such a moron?
(Ok, he doesn't say that last part about being a moron, but he's thinking it)."
I have a friend who works for Razorfish (or, as they would say, r a z o r f i s h). It was reported/leaked on Fucked Company
today that they are going to be laying off 35% of their staff. My friend doesn't know whether she'll be one of the laid-off. Here's how part of the AIM conversation went:
me: what's it like over there?
me: I'll bet
her: so cliche
her: the dot com layoff thing is so passe
It's comforting for me to know that she's most upset about the banality of it all. Just another dot-com implosion.
On the kid who set himself on fire imitating Johny Knoxville:
...a 13 year old boy covered himself with gasoline, and set himself on fire, just like Johnny Knoxville didn't. If we were being forgiving, we would say he was guilty of improvising on a theme. This is fine if you're Miles Davis, and the theme is Disney's, "Someday My Prince Will Come". This is not so good if you are a 13 year old moron, and the theme is, "Fire".
Ultimately, who is to blame? The burned up kid is obviously not terribly bright, (well, he was for a short period of time, until they put him out) and to blame him for anything seems redundant. He's learned his lesson. It would be fun to blame the parents, but as we know, parents are covered by that odd post millenial catch 22 which dictates, 'Because it's so easy to blame parents, parents are obviously not to blame.'
(from Right on, America!)
's XFL rule book:
Coin toss at beginning of game replaced with "Rock, Paper, Scissors" using actual rocks, paper and scissors.
Rock does not tear Paper. Paper covers rock.
To liven up off-the-field action, the XFL will encourage players and cheerleaders to date. Before each date, one (1) of the cheerleaders will be injected with a minor strain of a venereal disease. If the player she is dating contracts the disease, he will be brought out to midfield, ostensibly to be interviewed by an XFL sideline reporter. At that time, the reporter will shout at the player, "You've got venereal disease!" while leading the crowd in chants of "Unclean, Unclean." His team will be assessed a ten-yard penalty.
If a team uses a foreign-born kicker, that player must first sing the national anthem of his homeland, while the crowd derisively chants "U.S.A."
Use of kickers is outlawed; all kicking must be done by real players.
From the too-many-people-in-the-world department:
I was trying today to remember the name of an actress/writer I like, whom I'd seen in a couple of movies/tv shows. I couldn't remember anything about her, though, except for the fact that she'd been in a Seinfeld episode where Jerry and her had called each other "schmoopy."
I went to google and did a search for "schmoopy and Seinfeld" and there were something like 15 sites that told me her name was Alexandra Wentworth. Hell, I don't even know if I spelled "schmoopy" correctly - there could be hundreds more sites out there I don't even know about.