January 2008 Archives
*I've got two cardinals, two blue jays, a house sparrow, a handful of white-crowned sparrows, a horde of juncos, and a calm, almost Buddha-like gray squirrel all hanging out under my feeder at the moment. The feeder's empty and I'm out of seed for the moment, but the spill zone beneath it has been building up for so long that there may be fossilized birds in the strata.
*With the end of the Black Box, I've managed to get back into an old habit: reading. Over the last week, I've torn through both Crooked Little Vein, the hilarious, lewd, endlessly inventive rapid-fire debut novel from gonzo comics writer Warren Ellis, and Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Journey, Alfred Lansing's gripping classic of Antarctic exploration (which I only just discovered was published in 1959.) I figure the next logical step is to combine the two by reading The Terror, Dan Simmons' novel about Arctic explorers and the thing that preys on them. TIme to hit the library...
*Holy shit! The feeder tree has suddenly been visited by an enormous male pileated woodpecker, his red crest positively glowing in the morning light. He's now pounding on an upper branch so hard that I can hear it through the window and over the hum of the computer's fan AND the construction noise next door. Cooooool!
*I get a weekend! Yes, tomorrow at 9:30 is the beginning of Woodberry's Long Winter Weekend, our annual three-day break, which comes at a good time for me. I plan to sleep late, go to the gym a few times, eat out a few times, catch a movie, and grudgingly do a bit of grading. I suppose I'll have to find somewhere to watch the Super Bowl since my usual game-watching host is out of town.
*And there's the white-breasted nuthatch and the house finch. If the day's first chickadee turns up soon, the usual suspects for Janurary will have all turned up.
*Speaking of my usual game-watching host, next-door neighbor, physics teacher, writer, WFS baseball broadcast partner and sports junkie Greg Jacobs, he's doing something a little unusual these days: going to umpire school. Yes, Greg is enough of a baseball maniac that he's decided to spend part of his Woodberry sabbatical in Florida learning the techniques of the professional umpire. Along with a hundred-odd people, most of them former players who don't want to give up the game entirely, Greg's memorizing the rule book (what little he didn't already have memorized), practicing his strike and ball calls, and happily absorbing himself in the minutiae of the game from a new angle. Better still, he's keeping a blog about his experiences right here: Nachoman's Baseball. If you want to know more about the rare three-base award, the intricacies of removing one's mask, or the unsettling image of Bobby Cox among umpires, this is the blog for you. And if you just want to read some funny stuff about umpiring, this is the blog for you, too.
*Downy woodpecker. Male. On the tree, and now on the feeder, where I don't expect him to stay long... and he's back on the tree. Sorry, dude.
*We've Netflixed the second season of The Venture Brothers, which has rapidly become my favorite cartoon, if only for the hilarious way the writers unexpectedly mix references to pop culture into the most improbably situations. Admittedly, nothing yet has topped Season One's experimental plane launch, which was an extended riff on David Bowie's "Space Oddity," but I've sure loved watching young Hank unconsciously re-enacting everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer ("I have a sister you never told me about?... Named Dawn?... How long were you going to keep this from me?") to the Doors' "The End" ("Father... I want to kill you!"). Then again, his non-referential comments ("My pants are haunted!") have been pretty hilarious as well.
*Hot damn! The year's first purple finch--and he's up there with a house finch for maximum contrast! Oh, yes, the raspberry-covered underside is clearly visible, and the brownish house finch belly just doesn't measure up.
*Today I have to get back on the duty rotation, but it's my next-to-the-last day of classes before the break, and that's a good thing to know. Nirvana isn't here yet, but it can be seen from here.
*And the squirrel still sits atop the seed, round and satisfied, surrounded by frantically scratching juncos. Where are the chickadees? Perhaps they have at last escaped the wheel of samsara. Ommmmmmm. 6:27 AM
My school year is officially at the halfway point. This past Monday, I turned in my grades for the third of our six marking periods, and last night, we closed our winter Black Box production, leaving me facing only three more trimesters and a much-reduced set of afternoon commitments.
Woodberry faculty members typically coach, direct, or otherwise supervise afternoon activities during two of the three trimesters. You might coach football in the fall and wrestling in the winter, or coach soccer in the fall and supervise the cycling program in the spring, or supervise the outdoor program and direct a play in the winter, as I do. The fall is a somewhat more relaxed season for me because I'm one of three coaches for the Rapidan Outdoor Program, which allows me to rely on my colleagues when necessary, while during the winter I am The Director, alone on the pinnacle of responsibility.
The Black Box takes place in the Bomb Shelter Experimental Theater, which occupies the room directly under our main stage and seats only about 100 people (depending on the seating configuration). Typically the production is a smaller one than the mainstage play, often only a one-act show or several short plays strung together, but not always. In my seasons, I've directed a fairly diverse group of shows: a quartet of David Ives one-acts, All in the Timing; two Christopher Durang one-acts, Mrs. Sorkin and The Actor's Nightmare; a musician's theater show, Bland Simpson & Jim Wann's King Mackerel & the Blues Are Running; and last year's full-length production of Larry Shue's The Nerd. This year, largely because of our fall mainstage production of Hamlet, it seemed the perfect time for me to break out another full-length Black Box production: Paul Rudnick's I Hate Hamlet,
Having decided that, however, I had to deal with a wee little scheduling issue. The Black Box is typically produced two weeks before our mainstage play. This allows our remarkably talented and insanely overworked technical director, Denis Houyoux, to finish the run of one show, have another week of building the other show, and then run the second show. They simply can't run back to back.
This year, however, the calendar produced a rather unpleasant quirk. The mainstage was scheduled for February 14th-16th. Ordinarily that would put the Black Box run on January 31st, February 1st, and February 2nd, but that quirk I mentioned is the combination of our annual Long Winter Weekend and the SAT. The SAT was offered on Saturday the 24th, so if our students were going to take it, we couldn't take a break from school that weekend. That necessitated having the midwinter break on Feb. 1st, and THAT necessitated a Black Box production that opened on Feb. 24th--a week earlier than usual.
I have only just now done the actual calculations. We were able to have exactly five weeks and three days of rehearsal from the end of auditions to the first show.
No WONDER I'm tired.11:48 AM
If you're the sort of person who reads EVERYTHING in a book, including the information on the typeface, then you've doubtless noticed it. If you're not that sort of person, but are the sort who feels compelled to read everything when the author is a friend or relative, you may have noticed it. And if you're the sort of person who takes a book on a long trip and happened to have The Verb 'To Bird' with you when you got stacked up over O'Hare that time, you may have been driven by sheer boredom to notice it. It's in the acknowledgments section:
For the greatest online support system a writer could ever want, I offer big digital thank-yous to the citizens of Readerville.com (with a nod to Kristjan Wager, who pointed me there in the first place) and its multi-talented proprietor, Karen Templer, who has offered encouragement, assistance, and generosity aplenty. I do not exaggerate in the slightest when I say that without them, you wouldn't be holding this book.
That was my paltry attempt at a thank-you to Karen and the Rville community, where I've been a proud citizen since August of 2000. I was also a regular contributor to the magazine that Karen launched in 2002, The Readerville Journal, writing the literary humor column "Loose Canons" with Paul Clark. The magazine, alas, came out when a number of similar publications about books were appearing on the nation's newsstands, and after six issues it went on what seemed to be a permanent hiatus.
Since then, Readerville.com has been primarily a forum for book discussion, and Paul and I have remained fixtures there, still making lowbrow jokes at the expense of writers too famous or dead to know they're being mocked. Karen, however, has been busy. She published her own Design Idea Book, (which you should check out if you enjoy petercashwell.com's design at all, since Karen was one of its designers.) She's made time in her schedule for meetings with Readervilleans all over the country (including yrs. truly and the missus). And best of all, she's relaunched The Readerville Journal online!
Though the Readerville Forum remains in place as a social gathering for bookish types (and the people that enjoy them), The Readerville Journal is now providing original content right here. In this week alone, it's offered David Masello's thoughts about wandering the same streets where E.B. White lived, bookstore buyer Peggy Hailey's list of her favorite "bad girl" titles (including Cheap Thrills and Sin-A-Rama), and the inimitable D.G. Strong opining on the dust jacket of Maritta M. Wolff's Whistle Stop. Add to that Douglas Cruickshank's articles on everything from the book as objet d'art and the remarkable men-with-hyenas photographs of Pieter Hugo and you've got a mix that's well worth examining for yourself.
So go ahead, click on over there and enjoy Karen's hospitality. Find something fun to read. Come back here when you're done. Maybe I'll have written something interesting by then.10:48 AM
New meme floating around; I bring it to you courtesy of John Scalzi at his blog, Whatever: Ten Things I've Done That You Probably Haven't.
1 I teamed up with Bryon "Elmo" Settle to open for Black Francis at the Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill.
2 I have had fan letters published in both Dave Sim's Cerebus and William Messner-Loebs' Journey.
3 I have every Doonesbury collection ever published.
4 I ate a very tasty meal of ostrich at La Pergola, the finest restaurant in Orvieto, and capped it with a hazelnut gelato that left a stain on my windbreaker.
5 I have seen, in the same venue (UNC's Memorial Hall), these performers: the North Carolina Symphony, R.E.M., Missing Persons, Garrett Morris, the Pressure Boys, the English Beat, and Peter Schickele.
6 I have heard a bobwhite quail in Johnson County, Iowa.
7 I have drunk homemade plum wine in a cabin on the shores of Lac Perchaude, Quebec.
8 My main Dungeons and Dragons characters, a 21st-level paladin, has gone through not one, not two, but THREE separate Holy Avenger longswords during his career. One shattered in combat, one was stolen by a red dragon and lost for good, and one wound up being thrown into the River Styx during a melee.
9 I have been quoted by both Stephen Bissette in The Comics Journal and a nameless reviewer in Entertainment Weekly.
10 I put rabbit ears (constructed from tube socks and coat hangers) on my head in order to hop around the field at a CHHS football game back in the fall of 1980. David "Delroy" Nelson was the instigator of this bit of performance art, which featured a number of our classmates, many of them David's fellow cross-country runners. When a correspondent from WCHL radio came by to ask after us, David wrangled an interview and told her we were members of the Chapel Hill High School Family Planning Club.
"What do you do in real life?" she asked.
"We run cross-country," David replied.
"So this is to get publicity for the team?"
"Well, that and family planning," David insisted. "We feel that the two go hand in hand." 1:01 PM
The Oxford English Dictionary, granddaddy of them all, notes in its online version that the word "think" has appeared in print as a noun as early as 1834. It also makes specific note of this idiom:
b. to have another think coming: to be greatly mistaken.
1937 Amer. Speech
XII. 317/1 Several different statements used for the same ideathat
of some one's making a mistake
...[e.g.] you have another think coming. 1942
T. BAILEY Pink Camellia
xxvii. 199 If you think you can get me out of Gaywood, you have another think coming. 1979 Jrnl. R. Soc. Arts
CXXVII. 221/2 Any design consultant who thinks he is going to get British Leyland right by himself on his own has got another think coming.
I mention this because our entire household has been ripped apart by this seemingly simple phrase. How? Because somewhere online I happened to stumble across an argument over whether the idiom was "another think coming" or "another thing coming."
The former is the phrase I've always used, and I'd never considered that it might be incorrect because it's entirely straightforward: if you think x (rather than y), you've got another think coming (so that you can think y). The fact that it uses think as a noun, rather than using the more mundane noun thought, is what makes the phrase memorable and amusing.
"Another thing coming," however, doesn't even make sense to me. Why would one say "another thing" when no thing has been mentioned before? "If you think I'm happy, you've got another thing coming" doesn't have a single noun to which "thing" could refer, unless it somehow is intended to refer to the pronouns "you" or "I," either of which would make the sentence totally nonsensical: "If you think I'm happy, you've got you coming." Gibberish.
Now I'll admit that I've heard "another thing coming" before, but I assumed it had to be one of these:
A) a mis-heard linking of the "ng" sound in "think" with the hard c at the start of "coming"
B) a deliberate malapropism intended for humorous effect
C) a reference to the 1982 single "You've Got Another Thing Coming" by Judas Priest, which I always assumed was making a suggestive reference to the same "thing" that's mentioned in pretty much every metal band's catalogue somewhere. (Spinal Tap, for example, refers to it as the "pink torpedo.")
This online argument, however, led me to believe that the "thing" form of the phrase was more widespread than I'd believed; a fair number of people some of them educated and reasonable, had been using "thing" seemingly all their lives. The majority seemed to go for "think," but the minority was much larger than I'd have expected, and the mere fact of the dispute--the lack of unanimity--began to make me doubt myself.
The doubts weren't settled when I went to the Authority--the OED--because the above citation for "another think coming" was not as definitive as I'd hoped. The 1937 date was, uh, a bit more recent than I'd hoped. Actually a good bit more recent. Because as it turns out, the OED has a citation for "another thing coming" as well:
to have another thing coming [arising from misapprehension of to have another think coming at THINK n. 2b] = to have another think coming at THINK n. 2b.
12 Aug. 8/3 If you think the life of a movie star is all sunshine and flowers you've got another thing coming.
Whathefuh? It's a misapprehension of think, but the citation of the misapprehension comes from 26 years before the earliest citation of the original version? Isn't that like claiming that a plagiarist had his version done 26 years before the original writer? Can this be accomplished without the use of a time machine?
I still believe I'm right, and I believe the OED is right that "another thing coming" is a goofed up version of the existing idiom, but you'd think that they'd have an earlier citation of the existing idiom, wouldn't you?
Well, apparently that one think isn't going to be enough.
You young whippersnappers with your hard-top motorcars and suchlike contraptions are probably familiar with the whole idea of the "mash-up," but your elders might need an introduction; basically, it's a layering of several pieces of music over one another. In the old days, you pretty much had to wait for Peter Schickele to compose one of his pieces like the "Unbegun" Symphony in order to hear how Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony could fit neatly together with "Anchors Aweigh," or get out your guitar and strum along to discover that the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back" is basically the same song as the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil," but digital technology being what it is, now this sort of meeting of the musicians can be done with existing recordings.
DJ Earworm is probably my favorite producer of such mash-ups. For example, there's his "Stairway to Bootleg Heaven," in which strands of music by Laurie Anderson, Dolly Parton, Eurythmics, Pat Benatar, the Beatles, the Beastie Boys, and the Art of Noise are twisted into a gloriously bizarre whole. His combination of tunes by the Beatles, the Scissor Sisters, George Michael, and Aretha Franklin, "No One Takes Your Freedom," remains probably the coolest mash-up I've ever heard.
I've been online for about nine years now, so I suppose it was inevitable that I'd start forgetting things I posted long ago. Some of them have vanished into the ether, but a few have hung on to life like coelacanths, and occasionally I'll turn one up during a search for something else. One such recently did--and darned if it isn't a mash-up.
It's actually a mash-up of ideas that were thrown out by my old "Loose Canons" partner Paul Clark, who was complaining about having seen the movie "RV," and particularly this scene:
An extended (I'd say at least 15 minutes) scene revolving around cleaning out the clogged toilet of an RV is probably incapable of being funny. You could give a million dollars each to Shakespeare to write it, Preston Sturges to direct it, and the Marx Brothers to act it out, and their combined talents would fall flat. Robin Williams didn't have a chance.
That's the kind of challenge I simply can't ignore, as Paul knows, having in the past unwittingly inspired me to do such things as rewrite Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" as a critique of "Blondie" and other living fossils on the comics page. But anyway, given the themes of Shakespeare, Sturges, Marx, and an RV toilet, here's what I came up with:
Dad (Groucho): But soft! What broke wind through yonder light?
Uncle Leonard (Chico): At's a no wind. At's a what you call a driving storm.
Dad: Well if it's driving, when does it get to the DMV? I've got a moving violation to report.
Leonard: When I got a moving violation, I always drink a big glassa salty water.
Dad: Fie on't! (Driving in plunger, which sticks in place.) Very well. I'll break my wand and drown my books, and THEN we'll see whether all's well that ends well.
Leonard: When my end swell, I always drink a big glassa salty water.
Dad: Is there an echo in here?
Leonard: Is there an echo in where?
Dad: That's the first time I've ever picked up an extra W when I wasn't pitching.
Leonard: If you been pitching, who's on first?
Dad: Oh, no. I'm not getting involved in THAT lawsuit!
(Mom bursts in)
Mom (Margaret Dumont): Julius, we've been waiting out here since breakfast.
Dad: You've been waiting? I didn't notice a waiter at breakfast. Did you bring that extra half-and-half I asked for?
Mom: We've been waiting for YOU.
Dad: Well, there's your mistake in a nutshell. I'm going to be stuck in this tiny room for some time. In fact, you should probably go find me a nutshell. I hear they're plenty roomy, and later on I'd like to stretch out.
Leonard: Atsa no place for stretch out. Is all fulla nuts.
Dad: What do you think this place is full of?
Leonard: Ey, don't get mad.
Dad: I'm not mad. I'm just pretending. But in your case, I'll make an exception.
I guess the question now is whether this sort of thing is a sign of my web savvy or just of the knots in which my brain is tied. But the mash-up is now over, and the rest is silence. 4:59 PM