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Monday, January 28, 2008

Woe unto the television

Despite The Onion's recent headline and the general, shall we say, over-attention to the last season of The Wire on sites that I read frequently (Salon, Slate, etc.), I am going to write about it anyway. Don't read if'n you don't want to.

There is a trope in television that send me into little fits of apoplexy. An episode is devoted to a character. I spend that hour thinking about how much I love that character, how television can be really good, how it transforms itself from banality into, well, something a little more. Then the character dies and I feel really sad. I'm a sucker for it every time.

I first noticed it when they shot Tara on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. There's plenty written on that death as well, so I'll leave it there.

The Wire really likes to play me this way. The nexus of the problem is twofold. First, I find the "bad guy" characters on The Wire deeply appealing because they are complete characters, nuanced and complex. I could not shut up about how great Idris Elba was as Stringer Bell and when he died his clearly inevitable death, I was really sad and mad. Idris Elba didn't die. The show ends in six episodes. Still, writing about it even now makes me cranky. The second part of the problem lies in their very identity. They're bad guys. Bad guys die because they're criminals and shoot each other. I really like Snoop for example, who's long term health as a character I have no real confidence in. Ditto Omar. Killing people as a profession is not high on the actuarial tables.

Last night, they did it to me again. Honey and I watch this fabulous episode and I keep talking about how much I've come to like Prop Joe. Could I have seen his death at the end of the episode coming? Sure. Did I? Nope.

"Woe to them that call evil good and good evil." So said Prop Joe last night (on a flower card for a dead man). I've always thought of Bunk Moreland as the character most likely to tell the truth about the totality of what happens in the Baltimore of The Wire. Joe's quote from Isaiah comes as close to the worldview as anything. Marlo's unwillingness to see anything as evil does not bode well for the happiness quotient as the series comes to a close.

I can be suckered in by television on several levels. On Saturday, I watched the Miss America pageant. Yes, indeed, you read that right? Why? Well, I had watched a couple of episodes of Miss America Reality Check and was rooting for Miss Washington, Elyse Umemoto, she of the gay dads and the liberal politics. She came in third to a woman who sang one of the cheesiest rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" I've heard. That's saying something, too because that song will cheese up without much help. Two hours of my life I don't get back, that pageant.

So, David Simon, et. al. didn't need to do much to lure me in. I guess I should also feel grateful that they didn't kill Kima Greggs when they could have in season 1.

Speaking of Sunday night television...if someone wants to kill Jenny Schecter, feel free.

In the meantime, just a little sporks shout-out to Robert Chew as Proposition Joe Stewart.

Sometimes you see it coming. Usually I don't. The good news is that it's just tv and if the writers don't come back soon, I can just watch sports. But then, that doesn't always go like I want it to, either. Ok, never mind, I'll just stop watching.

Or not.

Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are (warble) blue...


Monday, January 21, 2008

Hole punched me

I cried more than usual last week. I'm not a big crier, but sometimes things get to a stress level that my usual calm exterior breaks down.

Stress? Me stressed?

My tenure file was due on Friday. This event can cause stress for even the most sanguine academics. My effort was made more complicated by a number of factors.

To wit:

+This was my first file of this type. Normally people submit what's called a "retention file" first. I didn't have to because I just got my job permanently summer before last and because you don't have to submit a file your first year.

+My file qualifies as weird. Most faculty teach. I do too, but my day-to-day effort focuses more on administration.

+If I don't get tenure, I lose my job.

No pressure. None at all.

The mofo required a 5 inch notebook. Priced one of those lately? They're not cheap. $30 not cheap.

Also, Avery needs to try a lot harder. Don't sell 12-tab dividers when the template doesn't work with Word for Mac. I managed to find some 5-tab dividers in the office. Someone had left a sheet in the box that had all the labels pulled off. I formatted carefully, printed and discovered that I had printed on a used, no-label sheet. Um-Hmm. Would you put a used-up sheet back into the label box? Neither would I. Did we have any more 5-tab labels? Nope. Did I need to reformat for 8-tab labels? Yep. Total time making, printing and applying the labels? Well over two hours.

If Avery lodged itself firmly on my office product shit list, Swingline became my office product hero. How? Well, they make this wondrous thing:


Behold the bit of magnificence, friends and neighbors, that is Swingline's electric three hole punch. A friend secreted it away from a neighboring department. After using it to punch for a while (and having several co-workers come by to try it), I asked our office folks to order us one. I heart Swingline. Honey asked, when I was raving about it, "who punches holes any more?" I do and think my office deserves the brilliance and efficiency of the Swingline 525.

Here's the completed product:


Thick, huh?


Look at those labels. They look nice, despite Avery's stupidity, inanity.

My normal bag didn't seem even close to capable of holding the five inches of hole-punched me for delivery to the dean's office. Fortunately, I had gotten a bag for travel that was up to the task.


My green bean machine was ready to carry me for the delivery.


I won't know anything until the end of the semester.

The thing is called a PIF. That's sort of how I feel now that it lives in the dean's office. Like all the air's been released.


The crying, thankfully, has subsided somewhat.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Biscuit accounting

Biscuit built a track in the back yard.

She built it to chase off planes. You may find yourself asking, "Sporks, how is it that a 35 pound cocker mix can chase off airplanes?" Good question, good question.

We live on the flight path of the Burbank airport. Planes pass over our yard. Biscuit has discovered that if she obsessively runs in circles, the planes will leave. See how that works in the spanhead mind?

"Um, I run in circles and the planes leave. Therefore, I have chased off the planes."

Now, you and I might know that "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" (after this, therefore because of this) is a classical logical fallacy. If anyone has an idea HOW I can explain this to Biscuit, share out.

My tenure file is due this Friday and to say I have been a little bit, well, tense, is an understatement. Last Friday I returned home.

I heard Scout, but Biscuit seemed less present than she usually is. When I opened the door to let them in, Scout came in first. In alpha-bitch Biscuit land this is normally not allowed. She came in a few seconds later and retreated to the front entryway. I noticed her licking her leg and went over to discover that she had cut it open.

How did she do this? Probably by chasing off the planes.

I decided the cut looked bad enough to take her to the vet. Scout hearts Biscuit. Scout can't live without her. Scout is pathologically attached to Biscuit. So, as I left with her, he began to howl in total panic.

Honey and I had noticed that Biscuit's eye was red a day or so before the leg cut.

When the vet examined Biscuit, he said she had something lodged in her cornea. He also wouldn't remove it because, and this disturbed me, if it had punctured the cornea and he removed it...ALL THE FLUID WOULD DRAIN OUT OF HER EYE. Um, ok, yuck. Anyway, he referred us to a dog ophthalmologist. Um Hmm. A dog eye doctor.

How did she get a pebble stuck in her eye? Probably by chasing off planes.

He stitched up her leg and sent me home with her. He suggested she wear a cone to keep her from chewing the bandage.

Here's the Biscuit accounting:

Cost of leg cut: $350

Potential cost of eye exam: $150

Number of pages I filled out at dog eye doctor: 8

Number of things still stuck in Biscuit's eye when I looked at it after filling out the 8 pages: 0

Time of departure from potential $150 visit: Immediately thereafter

Cost of visit: 25 cents (for meter)

Number of times we put the cone on Biscuit: 3

Number of times this resulted in near paralysis of dog from stress: 3

Amount of movement she was capable of when we were not home while coned: normal

Amount of movement she was capable of when we were home while she was coned: negligible

Number of bandages she chewed off her foot: all

My relief when told she didn't need a bandage today on the "wound check" visit: high

Number of times she set off my car's seatbelt alarm: 8

How: By stepping on center console and then back on the seat, making the car think I had a small adult moving on and off the seat

Time elapse after returning home she chased a plane: 5 minutes

Time lost to Biscuit maladies this week when I could otherwise be obsessing about the future of my career: 7 hours (including this post)

Regrets about giving that time to my sweet Biscuit dog: none

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Endorse this

I got an e-mail from John Kerry this morning. I've subscribed to his e-mails since his ill-fated run for president in 2004. He endorsed Barack Obama via this morning's e-mail.

I immediately unsubscribed from his listserv.

Honey and I discussed what Democrat we'd less like be influenced by than John Kerry right now. Paul Tsongas, maybe. And he's dead. The fact that Kerry could not defeat worst-president-ever as he was descending into a weaker and weaker position makes me put little stock in what he says. Plus which, he's the second person this week who told me why I should support Obama. Jep. Thanks for your thoughts. I'll make up my own mind, thanks.

As soon as I unsubscribed, I donated $50 to Hillary Clinton. I won't tell you why you should vote for her. Make up your own mind. Here's my endorsement. Seems about as influential as John Kerry's.