Sunday, November 26, 2006

Flying stories

One place it is nice not to "wear" your iPod is the airport because you just miss out on too many little stories. On the way out of town on Wednesday, I'm waiting in the tiny cafe of our tiny airport and watching the cafe employees hold silent, lip reading conversations with the bar employees through the window that separated them (the bar is on the other side of the security checkpoint). They are obviously pretty good at communicating this way because after one mute, excited exchange a cafe worker turned to her colleagues and said out loud "Sinbad is coming! He's on the next plane!"

Over the next five minutes, I sat at a wobbly table sipping bitter coffee, half watching for Sinbad, half watching the airport employees gather at the arrival gate to watch for Sinbad. The next plane was small and only a few people trickled through and a few minutes after the trickle stopped a bar worker came back to the window and mouthed a message to us all that even I could read: "He's not on the plane. He missed the flight." The cafe workers went back to their counter; I returned to my old Whatzup! newspaper, and I think we were all wondering if he had really missed the plane or if he just decided he did not want to come to our town. To heck with you, Sinbad.

Even more riveting was the tragic tale I heard on the flight home. I'm crammed into the back seat of a tiny regional jet and this dude in front of me is returning from Iraq. Up until they made everyone turn off their phones, I got to listen to him grill someone about some kind of infidelity: "Just tell me . . . what did you know and when did you know it? [pause] No, F*** that, just tell me. I need to know." I could tell he was a talker and I wanted to read, so I was just praying he'd find someone else to talk to, and he did, but the story was so awful that I had to put my book down for awhile. Long story short is that he was in Iraq, his wife got killed when a semi drove through her car, and then he found out that she had been cheating on him with some other soldier for quite awhile. I couldn't tell how recent all this was, but the emotion of it all was still pretty much on his mind, so it probably didn't happen that long ago. "If you could kill her twice, I'd be driving the truck," he said. Turns out that the other soldier is going to be spending 1 1/2 years in "the brig" because they prosecute adultery in the Marine Corps.

So, anyway, flying can be interesting.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Best of Best of

It's almost December, which means that it is time to look back and evaluate your year in consumption of pop culture. It will be a couple of weeks before I'm ready to venture my own, but it's never too early to start looking at the lists of others to get ideas. Here is a great page where some guy organizes all of the "best of" lists he can find. Games, music, books, cars--if it's on a list, he compiles it.

It gets silly, but stilly, it's hard to look away. Like I said, it's early days yet, so there is not much there yet, but he had over 700 lists on their last year, he says, so it will fill up quickly.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Please nobody tell me that this player is full of spyware or some other kind of nefarious-ware. I just grabbed it tonight and it's pretty slick (for someone who doesn't have cable). Right now, it's enabling me to see just how mediocre, or maybe even bad, IU is going to be in basketball this year. How convenient.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thank you, Wikipedia

As someone doing their best to eke out a life without the benefit of (a) cable, or (b) a game system, I am at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to keeping up with the zeitgeist. I've been catching up lately, though, with the benefit of Wikipedia and also these other funny sites that I won't link to. But anyway one of the funnier pop culture references I've learned about recently is this meme: "I'm in UR base killing ur d00dz." Apparently, the phrase was originally coined in some online game where one guy was pwning some other guy who asks where are you? And he responds "I am in ur base, killing ur d00dz." That cracked me up, reading that. Dunno why. It's just . . funny. What's also somewhat funny is how I don't game but avidly read all the articles about gaming technology on Slate or in the NYT and laugh at gamer jokes. Poseur gamer.

And I just can't stop listening to this new Liars record. It's completely killing my d00dz right now. It's got some Velvet Underground & Nico going on in there and almost some Animal Collective too. I always avoided them because their name made me think they were just another Strokes-like something, but they're not.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Half Nelson is so good.

For a movie about a crack-addicted teacher falling apart while trying to keep a favorite student from falling under the influence of a suave crack dealer, Half Nelson is remarkably cheery and satisfying all the way through. Having taught in some similar classrooms, I don't think the portrayal of the school scenes is entirely true to life--I mean, he has what, like 12 students in his class? C'mon. Plus, they sit there and listen to him as he rambles on abstractly about history non stop. But still, all the kids act pretty naturally and, well, I don't know how to put it into words yet; it's just a great film.

At points, I wonder if it isn't almost romanticizing the bottomed-out life the teacher is living. He's a crack head, but he's a tortured artist, sleeping on a bare mattress with his little drawings scattered about and it almost comes across as a viable, hip, lifestyle. He wears cool sunglasses. You almost think that if his cat didn't die (not really a spoiler), he might have been able to keep things together. But again, despite this reservation, one of the best movies of the year for me.
The soundtrack is spiffy, too. I'd always wondered about Broken Social Scene, and now I know they're worth looking into.