Sunday, April 30, 2006

Stephen Colbert Moment

There's a pretty funny account of Stephen Colbert's speech at the White House Correspondent's dinner this weekend. I don't get to see his teevee show too often, but I wish I did. He gets in a lot of funny "zingers," is what I think they call them. Here is a sample from the article:

Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged the Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, “and reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

And another:

Turning to the war, he declared, "I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."

Regardless of your politics, I think those are pretty funny. The article makes it sound like his remarks weren't taken too well by W and wife. In fairness to Colbert, these things are supposed to be roasts, though, so I don't think he should have been surprised. Here's a short article that recounts some of his jokes, and here is a site with a tiny video of the speech, which is about 15 minutes.

You forget about the rain

Sun is sunny and all, but it refreshes me to wake up to drizzle on a Sunday sometimes. It limits your options, reduces the number of choices you have. You will probably be inside. You can stay close to a cup of tea, even, which you haven't done for a couple weeks.

This cup of tea was brought to me courtesy of Michelle, who packed it back from a tea farm in India. She showed me pictures of the place, and it had the look of a Dr. Seuss landscape. Beautiful. In all of the pictures though, I didn't see a single monkey or leper, which are usually the two things I'm curious about when I hear someone has been to India.

Mr. B is still asleep and J is watching Bob le Builder, so I better make the most of this time and crack a book.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Iraq II

I'm still kind of bewildered by what Seymour Hersh is reporting now in his last New Yorker piece. It sounds like such a redux of the run up to Iraq--so pre-determined, even though the plan sounds so nuts. Air strikes just aren't going to do it, and I think these so called bunker busters have about as much hope of working as Star Wars does of knocking out a missle. And think about what will happen to Iraq if we try to mess with Iran. I mean, what little stability there is over there is the result of Shiite dreams of creating a new Islamic state like their neighbors. They would go nuts if we started messing with the mothership.

At the same time, I have to admit that, between the two, Iran strikes me as a little more crazy, unpredictable, and malevolent. Iraq posed no threat to us; I don't think there can be much disagreement on that point, but Iran seems a little more ominous of a threat.

I dunno, I'm just rambling. It's just not a great situation, and I don't have a lot of faith in this administration's devotion to diplomacy.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

New music for me.

Townes Van Zandt is on my mind lately. It started a few weeks ago when Sarah Jane—I wish she would give me the link to her blog—gave Cath and me a mix with his “If I Needed You” on it. Then, in one of those coincidences that life gives you, friend Joe Rocchio writes an email about a documentary that features him. Netflix sent me the movie and I couldn’t get any further into it than a scene where he sings “Dollar Bill Blues” before I had to turn it off and go google the chords for it. What a great song.

It seems like that’s the main way I play the guitar these days; my calluses will have faded from disuse and then I hear a nice song that sounds just easy enough for me to pick so I figure out about ¾ of it by playing it over and over. Soon I will forget I ever knew it. Right now, though, my fingers hurt again from trying to learn the chords well enough so that I can sing along:

If I had a dollar bill

Yes I believe I surely will

Go to town and drink my fill

Early in the morning.

Townes, though, he’s a sad story. Usually, I’m suspicious of upper middle class fellers who go country—and this guy was rich—because it doesn’t seem authentic enough. They make me think of the Kingston Trio, maybe; poseurs. Townes, though, was messed up enough that you have believe the tragic warble in his voice. He tells a story in this movie, for example, about a time when he fell asleep with three tubes of airplane glue that he’d been huffing in his mouth. It solidified and stuck his mouth shut and to get it open he claims that the doctor took a hammer to his face. “This is going to hurt,” he said. You do shite like that to your body and you earn the right to sing about pain.

There is an interesting segment in the movie where he remembers first realizing that he could “make it” with the guitar. He realized, he said, that if he was willing to give up everything, he could do it. And he means everything: his family, kids, money, and his own “personal happiness”. I had my own realization then that maybe the reason I will never make it big with my, well, anything, is that I’m not willing to sacrifice both my own happiness and well-being as well as that of my loved ones. I guess I just lack ambition; I’ll have to try to get along in this world armed only with some modest measure of personal happiness and a decent family. Wish me luck.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


When you have spring break and then after that a week of only three days, that first five day week of school is tough. Somehow the gods noticed our pain and graced us with a two hour fog delay on Friday morning, though. That was pretty nice. One of my students suggested that it was leftover fog from 4/20 the day before, and I thought that was pretty funny.

I think it's okay for a teacher to laugh at jokes like that. There are probably parents and administrators out there who would rather me respond with a stern, knee jerk "don't do drugs" any time a reference to them is made in class--not that they come up that often--but I don't think that's necessary.

So for my two hour delay, I sat in the living room and read through this fabulous gardening photo book I got from the library the other day and that made me want to go walk outside in mine in the fog. I thought maybe I'd get a photo of the duck that has been sleeping on our lawn for a week now, but she wasn't there. Instead, I took this picture that catches some of our peach, viburnum, and azalea blossoms. It's looking pretty out there now.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Oh, spring.

Nothing like the first trip to the DQ. Except this day, they only had chocolate working, America's second favorite flavor. Blizzards taste funny with chocolate. Don't try it. This one family had a 200lb Rotweiler with them that got to order its own cone, which was funny to watch.

You know you were meant live in Canada when it's 73 degrees out and after an hour of working outdoors you start to complain about the heat.

Friday, April 14, 2006

World's Coolest Indian

I usually don't like Anthony Hopkins movies, and I usually boo to myself any movie that uses non-diegetic music to try to manipulate my emotions, but The World's Fastest Indian, despite these drawbacks, is a pretty great show. I took this photo during the movie's climactic scene.

There is some average acting, and Hopkins's ability to charm everyone who crosses his path using only his hearing loss, a few corny jokes, and a handshake seems a stretch. He could have been a little more darkly portrayed, I think. In the end, though, it's a true story, and seems pretty honest.

In case you haven't heard of it, it's about an old codger who in 1963 took a 192o Indian motorcycle and modified it for speed. He lives in New Zealand and saves up money to sail to L.A. and then drive his bike to Utah for the Bonneville Speed Week to see how fast his bike can go. His reception is chilly at first, but his charm melts most of their hearts and gets him a chance to race even though most people think he's just going to kill himself.

But he doesn't. This movie almost made me want to get a motorcycle, but not really. An Indian t-shirt would satisfy me, probably.

Mole Killer

Yes, I just got my first ever mole, and the experience is making me reevaluate the way I live my life. I'm just not a killer, I don't think. I might even have to stop wearing shoes made out of leather now.

It all started when I realized that he was missing my trap system by burrowing under the old tunnels in new, deeper runs. Copying some of the ideas I've read that we're considering for attacking Iran's nuclear labs, I decided to reformat my traps as "bunker busters" so that they could reach deep enough.

It worked quickly. Little J and I were out puttering for about ten minutes this morning when I noticed two traps had gone off. One was empty, like usual, but the second, an old school "loop" type trap I'd borrowed from a friend who prefers to dig his out of the ground with a keen eye and a shovel, felt heavy as I lifted it. It felt heavy and then it squirmed as I noticed the furry grapefruit sized critter trying to escape the thing. Yes, she was alive, and very cute, actually, front paws like paddles with claws at the end and skinny pink nose. I wasn't prepared for this at all.

It doesn't seem fair, really. It's a lot easier to lead a moral life when you don't have to make so many decisions about things. But here I was, the guy who feels bad for the fish when he sees his father in law clonk it on the head, having to decide how or if I was going to kill this mole that had kept me up nights for the past year or so.

It wasn't much of a decision making process, really. I knew immediately that I would be setting her free in the park across the street. Getting her there was a problem, though. I had a dog outside, a kid with no shoes on, and a sleeping B. up in his room. Further complicating things, I didn't want J to see the mole struggling in the trap because up to now she had been rather encouraging about Mole Hunt 06, and I was afraid I would lose her support if she finally figured out what a mole was or that the project involved killing them.

So, I dropped the trap and mole into a plastic shopping bag and carried her inside so that I could get a leash for the dog. A plastic bag isn't much trouble for a mole to dig through, though, and soon dirt was falling all over my house. I switched to a bucket.

To cut to the chase, I picked up J and with the dog we darted to the park with B still sleeping. This is right next to the Park & Rec offices, so I tried to find a place away from windows to let him go and that little guy dug a hole so quickly that . . . well, I just couldn't believe it. It was like his paws, or hers, were cutting through snow instead of soil.

Anyway, I don't know what to think now. I still hate moles, just not the ones I meet. I could not kill the thing with my bare hands, no question about that, but at the same time there is a part of me that knows if one of my more lethal traps got one and killed it, I would not feel all that bad about it.

I don't know. As Whitman says in Song of Myself:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A post about food.

So, I had Indian buffet for lunch today. Normally, this is about the closest I can get to restaurant heaven: navratan korma, chicken makhani, naan, raita for dessert, some really sweet tea, oh, and saag paneer—can’t forget that. Things started normally for me today, too. I came, ate my weight in cream and butter, and left. Something was different today, though. It was not quite as, I don’t know, blissful as I’m used to feeling. I still shoveled the food in like you are supposed to at an Indian buffet, but at the back of my head I was thinking to myself—or not even that, I wasn’t exactly thinking to myself; it’s more like two thoughts were talking to each other about me, and they were saying “that dude has got to stop putting it away like that.” I overheard them a little, maybe, and I realized they are right.

On the radio or somewhere recently I heard about an interview project they did with people who live to be 100 on the island of Okinawa and it turns out that most of these old people have a saying that you are supposed to eat only until you are “80% full.” I might try that.

That would be hard, though. I used to eat anything I wanted with no problem because I rode my bike 200 miles a week all summer and it didn’t matter. Kids changed that. They like bikes okay, but they don’t like to go on three hour rides. They prefer riding circles in the driveway on their tricycles, which is fun to watch, but I can’t very well get my exercise that way. Instead, while they ride, I garden, and that doesn’t really burn the calories.

So, I think I’ll try to stop killing myself with food. Less of it. Less meat. More legumes, whatever those are. I just bought some chorizo for a recipe, though. I’ll eat that. And I will exclude from the definition of “meat” things like fish and sometimes chicken and definitely proscuitto—no way am I giving that up—and the occasional hamburger won’t count either. Sounds like a plan to me.

To be honest, I had this same plan a week ago, and then Mike and Michelle came over to grill and C and I were going to grill our portobellas and I told them about our plan to eat less red meat, and they were real supportive. They said “why would you want to do that?” And then I ate one of the huge burgers Mike made even though I was already 120% full and it was 10:00. Maybe it will go better this week.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Let the spring sports begin

Basketball has been such a drag for IU fans the past few years-- thank goodness for spring sports. The sad news for today is that George Hincapie crashed out of Paris-Roubaix, the awesomest of the spring classics, but look at that! Phil has a shot on the field at the beginning of the 4th round down in Augusta! Hootie has been taking a lot of heat for how difficult the course is this year, but what an awesome Sunday this is going to be: Vijay, Tiger, Phil (and Couples!?) all within a couple of strokes to start the day. I wish it were raining so I wouldn't feel guilty about holing up in front of the teevee.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Spring Break, mid-term report

Half way into this year's spring break, an interim report:
  • Mole traps sprung: three; deceased moles: zero. But they're close--I can sense it. A friend of mine at work has an uncle who's obsessed with mole hunting and always says "if they knew how much fun this was, they'd make you buy a license." I'm not to that point yet.
  • The second draft of my writing assignment was an improvement, but still could have been savaged more than it was during the workshop last night. That class is so nuts. I appreciate a lot of what the prof is trying to do and how she's doing it, but the workshops can be so painful. She tries to start dialogue for each piece by asking "What is this about?" but we can all tell that she has an answer in mind when she asks it, and sometimes the correct answer is supposed to be "nothing" and other times the answer is supposed to be "it's about the father." We're too kind to answer the former, though, so when we try to suggest other possibilities--when we get it wrong, that is--we can sense her disappointment.
  • I finally read the instructions for the anti-fungal stuff I spray on my peach tree and it turns out I am a few months too late if I wanted to prevent peach leaf curl this year. I sprayed anyway, just in case; it seemed to help last year. I will still get a larger crop of peaches than I know what to do with, so no big deal.
  • Quite a reversal of fortune doing taxes yesterday, going from owing a big chunk to the state, including a penalty for underpayment, to realizing that I had forgotten to report what one of our employers had withheld for state taxes. I'm surprised I even figured that one out before I sent in the payment. That's good tax karma.
  • My Neighbor Totoro is my favorite Miyazaki movie until I see my next one or re-watch Spirited Away again.
  • J and I started seeds for lettuce, tomaters, basil, and, because she wanted to, sunflowers. I've never had much success with propagating things from seed, but they're already sprouting. Having things growing in your house adds a nice level of excitement to your life, I think. They're just these dinky seeds, but I bet I check them five or six times a day. It's better than teevee!
  • Speaking of, Katie Couric to CBS News? I dunno. That might be bad for news. That's not really fair to KC, though. I bet she changes the way we watch cooking demonstrations and Tom Cruise interviews during the nightly news.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Spring Break Reverie

The best day, moment even, of spring break is on Saturday morning when you have slept in past your usual 6:00 am wake up and it is actually 7:05 and you lie awake for a few minutes noticing the sunrise and planning all of the things you will do over the next week. Things like:
  • Reading that copy of Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter that I bought at Myopic books in Chicago a few weeks ago.
  • Putting new strings on the banjo.
  • Spraying the peach tree so that it doesn't get Peach Leaf Curl this summer.
  • Planting some stuff.
  • Killing at least one mole.
  • Re-watching the Miyazaki movie My Neighbor Totoro a couple of times.
  • Riding my bike 200 . . . or maybe just 100 . . no, let's go for 130 miles.
  • Swinging my new driver out in the fresh air.
  • Getting J & B in the bike trailer for a few spins.
  • Writing a good second draft of my current writing assignment in my creative non-fiction class.
  • Doing at least 1/2 of the things listed here so that a week from today I don't wonder what I did with all my time.