1.29.2005

Beer, urine save man's life

A clear case of beer saving a man's life (from Ananova):

Man pees way out of avalanche

A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it.

Rescue teams found Richard Kral drunk and staggering along a mountain path four days after his Audi car was buried in the Slovak Tatra mountains.

He told them that after the avalanche, he had opened his car window and tried to dig his way out.

But as he dug with his hands, he realised the snow would fill his car before he managed to break through.

He had 60 half-litre bottles of beer in his car as he was going on holiday, and after cracking one open to think about the problem he realised he could urinate on the snow to melt it, local media reported.

He said: "I was scooping the snow from above me and packing it down below the window, and then I peed on it to melt it. It was hard and now my kidneys and liver hurt. But I'm glad the beer I took on holiday turned out to be useful and I managed to get out of there."

Parts of Europe have this week been hit by the heaviest snowfalls since 1941, with some places registering more than ten feet of snow in 24 hours.

1.28.2005

Nominations for New National Motto Announced

(AP) Washington D.C. -- Tired of our old, tongue-tying, spell check defying, national motto, "E. Pluribus Unum"? It seems everybody is. And so is our government.

This month, the United State Government LLC has begun accepting nominations for a new motto. The final decision will be made by a secret judicial court somewhere deep below the mountains of western Virginia. The winner will be announced next month by an all-star panel, including Paris Hilton, Donald Trump, and Kevin Federline. Ashlee Simpson is slated to sing at the celebratory gala.

"I'm voting for Conan -- I've always loved that little scamp," declared Vice President Dick Cheney. "And, for a barbarian to have risen so far in United States politics is really a tribute to the American people."

"I like Dick," responded President George W. Bush. He then declined to elaborate, having noticed a shiny spot on the ceiling.

"I think it's really time for a change. Latin is a dead language, and when I go around the world picking brown people to kill, I can't really get the folks behind the old, tired motto -- I'm really hoping for an English winner. And, with the choices stacked in our favor, I think I'll get it," said Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. "Now that we're invading Iran, we need something with a lot more zip!"

The nominations are:

"Crush your enemies, drive them before you, and hear the lamentations of their women." Conan the Barbarian.

"Go ahead, make our day." Dirty Harry.

"I'm not going to pay a lot for this oil!" Mufflerworld.

"Devora feces et morimini!" Julius Caeser.

"America! Fuck Yeah!" Gary the puppet.

"We Poop on You!" Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

Nominations will be accepted until the final decision is announced.


My Barber, My Conscience

I see from the card in my wallet that it's almost time for my next haircut. Since I like my hair short, I visit Missy, my, er, stylist, once every five weeks or so. Now, Missy is aware—and has been aware since I first visited her shortly after Brooke and I moved to St. Louis—that I'm writing a novel, or as I like to say, "writing" a "novel." At any rate, each appointment, without fail, she asks me how the book is doing. Or, rather, since roughly August of last year, why the book isn't finished yet. Now, she's not the only person to inquire about this—just ask Brooke—but she's the only one that a) asks on a predictable basis and b)I can't pacify with some pretentious writerly comment like "You can't rush art" (or "art") or "It will be done when it tells me it's done" or "Mommmm...Leave me alooooone." So, for the past few months I've been forced to invent a new reason each month why the book isn't done. To wit, a few of the recent excuses:

- head cold
- received Xbox for Christmas
- visited my family in Baltimore for Christmas
- visited Brooke's family in St. Louis for Thanksgiving
- general post-election malaise
- too much whiskey (see above)
- general post-World Series malaise. (St. Louis only, I know)
- cats did something cute.

Frankly, friends, I'm tired. I hereby solicit suggestions for new excuses.

How would we feel?

From the New York Times (sort of)

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 27 - Insurgents unleashed a string of fierce attacks across eastern and northern America on Thursday that left nearly a dozen Americans and an Iraqi marine dead, while the militant group led by the U.S.'s most wanted guerrilla posted a video on the Internet showing the fatal shooting of a candidate from the presidential slate in Tuesday's elections.

The killing of the candidate, Condoleeza Rice, was one of the most direct strikes yet against President Bush's Republican party. Ms. Rice was slated to be in the government led by Mr. Bush, should he win, according to a Web site aimed at informing overseas American voters. Bush's slate is expected to perform well on Tuesday, when millions of Americans are to vote in the country's first true multiparty elections in decades.

The video of her killing, with at least three shots to the chest, was posted by the group led by John Michael Smith, the Tennessee militant who vowed earlier this week to wage all-out war on the process of democracy.

The murder of Ms. Rice and a spate of attacks on Thursday, which included suicide car bombings in the besieged cities of Cincinnati and Denver, appeared intended to sow fear among Americans as they decide whether to vote on Tuesday.

The marine was killed and four other Iraqis were wounded in combat in Baltimore, which lies immediately north of the capital, the Iraqi military said. Iraqi forces have carried out several offensive sweeps through the area in recent months, but to no avail.

In that region, on the main highway running from New York south to Miami, which is often controlled by insurgents, members of the American National Guard had set up checkpoints about every three miles on Thursday. Traffic was sparse, and it was clear that American security forces were trying to clamp down on movement as the elections drew closer. But insurgents managed to set off a roadside bomb near an Iraqi convoy in the market town of Virginia Beach, killing at least three Americans and injuring seven others, the Associated Press reported, citing a local hospital director.

The military said an Iraqi soldier in Chicago died Thursday of accidental gunshot injuries.

The videotape of the killing of Ms. Rice began with several minutes showing her identification cards, including one from the Iraq Systems Corporation, a company that provides interpreters to the Iraqi military. Another card showed her membership in the Grand Old Party, Bush's party.

Ms. Rice then spoke to the camera. "I advise all young men not to back the enemy Iraqi occupiers and ask them to serve the people of their American homeland," she said. "I was captured by the Tennessee Militia. They treated me very well."

The video then showed Ms. Rice lying face-up on a floor as an insurgent fired three bullets into her chest.

In the other violence on Thursday, a suicide car bomb in Minneapolis exploded near an American Army patrol, killing an American soldier and two civilians, Reuters reported, citing an Iraqi officer. Doctors at a local hospital said four American soldiers and two civilians were wounded.

Minneapolis has been the site of some of the toughest fighting in the north, a Lutheran-dominated area that served as a strong base of support for Bill Clinton. The First Infantry Division swept through the city last fall, only to have insurgents regroup weeks later and resume their attacks. Of all the cities in the embattled province, Minneapolis is expected to be one of the biggest trouble spots heading into the elections.

In Boston, 100 miles northeast of Washington and also under the watch of the First Infantry Division, a suicide car bomb exploded near the governor's office in the city center, killing a captain in the American National Guard and wounding four others, said Col. Abdul-Rahman , a spokesman for the State Department.

Insurgents also killed a police officer from the Mormon tribe in a drive-by shooting west of the western City of the Salty Lake, in the Utah area, police officials said. In Los Angeles, a city of up to ten million, insurgents have frightened many of the newly trained American policemen into abandoning their jobs.

A bomb went off in the Chapel Hill area on Thursday, Colonel Abdul-Rahman said. The Associated Press reported that the explosion killed one American bystander and narrowly missed an Iraqi military convoy.

The A.P. also reported that an American national guardsman was killed in Phoenix when insurgents attacked American and Iraqi forces guarding a school to be used as a polling center. Iraqi marines in Phoenix have suffered some of the highest casualty rates of the war, with guerrillas regularly setting off roadside bombs in the town center and ambushing Iraqi convoys on the highway.

1.27.2005

G.B.V.R.S.V.P.R.I.P., Part II

Besides the aforementioned saving of my sanity and spirit, this is why I love Guided by Voices:

From Pitchfork:

"Having disbanded the legendary Guided by Voices with a massive sendoff at Chicago's Metro venue on New Year's Eve, the self-proclaimed "king of indie rock," Robert Pollard, has announced plans to enter a whole new arena. Who out there likes to laugh!
Yes, to tide fans over before the pending release of his first proper post-GBV solo album, From a Compound Eye, Pollard has issued a vinyl-only comedy album in the vein of Elvis Presley's novelty classic Having Fun With Elvis on Stage. Poorly titled Relaxation of the Asshole, the LP consists of "Bob's best routines and bits" (read: stage banter) recorded live between songs during his tenure with Guided by Voices, and features such golden memories as "Funk Zeus", "What a Mother Does for Her Son", and "Is There a Grandfather Clause for People Who Need a Cigarette Really Bad?". The funny stuff is available now via Bob's freshly launched official website."

1.26.2005

Let's Get Some Chicks on The Paris Review!!!!

So ... since my Baby Mama is going to be out of town, I was cruising Prairie Lights for some suitable "lonely weekend" reading material -- and as I pondered my choices of soft-core porn (Maxim, Stuff, American Photography, Redbook), I discovered the new Dark Horse Lover of my lonely nights --

I bring you the cover of Biblical Archaeology!

http://www.bib-arch.org/bswb_BAR/bswbba3101aboutcover.html


The 3 A.M. Creative Writing Exercise

Reviewing what I happened to write very late last night, where I expected to find the sentence, "They loaded our belongings into a rented van," I instead found "They loaded our belongings into a rented can." What's frustrating is, if I kept the typo, it would probably take my novel in a much more interesting direction. Has this ever happened to anyone else?

Come on, it's just a little piece of plastic

I sent my friend Ted this link, and he wrote back, "That is, without any question whatsoever, the most fulfillingly blasphemous thing I have EVER seen." I don't see the big deal! I mean, I think they sell these over at the Mustard Seed Cathoilc store over on Dodge and Church.

Once you get past six digits, they're just zeros

Here is the reason that the Democrats were unable to make the enormous federal budget deficits into a campaign issue last year: to the average American, the numbers are wholly incomprehensible. Who can really get their hands around exactly what a billion dollars is or what it can do? Who can readily fathom the difference between $1 billion and $500 billion or $1 trillion? Can the average person be expected to know how many additional free school lunches could be offered to low-income children with $1.3 billion instead of $1.2 billion? Or how many more loans could be made to cities for wastewater pollution reduction with $5.7 billion instead of $5.4 billion? I mean, hell, I spent a decade doing public finance for a living, and I can't really fathom the magnitude of those numbers.

So how do you make the deficit number easier to understand? Simple. Put it into context: beside total revenues. The $427 billion deficit projected by the White House for this year? A difficult concept on its own. But put that next to the $1.8 trillion in projected receipts (taxes, etc.) and it starts to get easier. That's a deficit equal to 24% of revenues.

Now boil it down to a more personal level. That's the same as if a person or family making $35,000 a year were borrowing another $8,000+ on their credit cards every year. Or a family making $100,000 were borrowing $24,000 every year. Every year. How long do you think your family would stay solvent? How long before you're eating beanie weenie and white bread every night and your phone's ringing off the hook with creditors on the line and you're losing your house and you can't afford to take your kid to the doctor and you realize you're never going to dig yourself out of this hole? But, of course, the President and the Congress don't have to eat beanie weenie . . . we do.

Despite what we might like to believe, Washington is loaded with brilliant minds. Can't somebody there find a way to explain to America what a problem this is?

1.25.2005

Here’s What!

“What the world needs now” is Admiral Stockdale... If it’s too loud, you’ve got too much tinitus... My gramma fell asleep under a sunlamp and has a flight tomorrow morning: Hey Homeland Security, give ’er a break!... If you wanna know where the bits of gold come from in the bottom of Goldschlager, check out Academy Award-winner "Shindler's List"... What’s your favorite mixed nut? Mine’s gotta be Lenny Kravitz’ right one... I kinda wish chivalry *were* dead: I recently put my coat over a mud puddle for a distressed lady – turns out there was a pothole under it and she broke her ankle in two places. Bitch sued me... Hey folks, Starbucks calling small a ‘venti’ is like me calling a Hummer a hummer... Neon lights – is it the color of the glass or the color of the gas?... I drank a Chardonnay last week with lipstick on the rim – sorry, but I guess I’m no longer single... I’d like to see a fight between Congresswoman Barbara Boxer and Native American City Councilwoman Wanda Hits Below The Belt... Sure, the Bahamas is third-world, but when’s the last time you enjoyed a refreshing Tunisian Mama?... Note to Phil Collins post-Live Aid: Your drumming is 8th grade at best... Things that make you go WHOOP: sitting in a meeting and inadvertently smelling your palm and wondering where the fuck you’ve been lately...

Help, please

Hidy-ho, all. I'm teaching a lit class in the summer, and I'm organizing it around works that look at "Americanness" in some way or another. If anyone has any suggestions (especially poetry, essays, stories, plays, or anything by women -- it's a very short class, and I think my long works are solid), I'd love to hear from you.

Current Ideas:

Howl
Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre (it won the Booker a year or two ago; it's supposed to be AWFUL, but I imagine it'd be fun to read a British novel mocking Americans).
Nowhere Man, Alex Hemon (has everyone read this yet?)
maybe some Alexie stories, DFWallace essays, & REllison essays?
Joan Didion essays?

(Trying to get ideas has been interesting: do many American female authors write about "American-ness" in, say, the way that someone like DeLillo or Wallace or Fitzgerald, etc., do?)

(I'm trying very very hard to avoid Cisneros)

Generic books?

So I needed a book to research my book and I found it on ALibris. It's an obscure volume from the year 1900, and the listing said this was a reprint from 2002 or so. $10. Fine. A few days later, this arrived:

Generic book cover

It's a generic book! Just the title, author, and bar code on the cover. The copyright page offered precious few other clues about this particular edition:

Generic title page

Just the title, ISBN, and the information: "Published in the United States by IndyPublish.com, McLean, Virgina." I went to that Web site. It's a vanity press. You provide the text, they print and bind however many copies you want. This text is old enough to be public domain, so somebody, somewhere, either typed out the text (exactly?) from an old edition or otherwise got hold of the text, printed off copies at IndyPubish.com, and began selling them on ALibris.

I feel swindled, but I'm not sure exactly why. Do I really care about the marketing material on a book cover? The art? I mean, those are nice, but I don't really need them. The publication history, Library of Congress number? I don't really care. My only complaint about the interior is that they type is rather small, and instead of indented paragraphs there are text blocks separated by white space leading, as you see on Web sites -- like this one. And there are a few typos, missing periods especially. Also, how do I know the text is genuine? Without an original edition to compare it to, how do I know this person (who are they?) didn't embellish, edit, insert stuff, whatever? I just think it's weird. I don't think it should have cost $10 either.

Has this ever happened to anyone else?

1.24.2005

German cops seek poo protesters

This comes courtesy of Thisbe Nissen:

Police in Germany are hunting pranksters who have been sticking
miniature US flags into piles of dog poo in public parks.

Josef Oettl, parks administrator for Bayreuth, said: "This has been
going on for about a year now, and there must be 2,000 to 3,000 piles
of excrement that have been claimed during that time."

The series of incidents was originally thought to be some sort of
protest against the US-led invasion of Iraq.

And then when it continued it was thought to be a protest against
President George W. Bush's campaign for re-election.

But it is still going on and the police say they are completely baffled
as to who is to blame.

"We have sent out extra patrols to try to catch whoever is doing this
in the act," said police spokesman Reiner Kuechler.

"But frankly, we don't know what we would do if we caught them red
handed."

Legal experts say there is no law against using faeces as a flag stand
and the federal constitution is vague on the issue.

It Takes a Nation of Weasels to Hold Poop Back

I read somewhere that "you never knew how lonely you were" until you have a son -- which is wonderfully true. Yesterday, while my Baby Momma was out cruising for boys with her sister, I cranked up my guitar amp and put The Pooper on his belly in his crib -- Then I stood in his doorway and ripped through "Academy Fight Song," "Pop Song '89," "In the Meantime," "Seven Nation Army," "Begin the Begin," "Blitzkrieg Bop," and "See No Evil." Every minute or so, Poop's head would pop up like a groundhog, grinning and laughing at me until his arms gave out. The house shook, the dogs barked, Poops made "sppppllltt" noises, and I have never felt so unreasonably joyful without a drug that made me actually enjoy Paul Oakenfold or having run 20 miles.

I started wondering whether he would remember this kind of stuff when he was older, and whether I was damaging his hearing or he would rebel by listening to soft jazz (I have a dream of us being in a punk band together when he's old enough -- The Stinks).

So I was curious whether any of y'all had memories of your folks and music (mine is driving around in my dad's pickup listening to "Desperado" with him singing along -- he sings about as well as me, sort of a Yogi-Bear-with-his-nuts-caught-in-a-bear-trap kind of vibe)?

1.23.2005

The book you read

What'cha read lately? Anything you'd recommend to others? Not me, I'm too wrapped up in "novel research" books. Though I did sneak in Don Quixote, which I'd never read before. I was stunned, frankly, to discover that 400-year-old prose could still be funny. I actually laughed out loud a few times and hardly ever wanted to put it down -- and finished it.

1.21.2005

What is the deal with the semicolon?

I don't use it. Never, in years and years of writing. OK: in a series of long phrases where a comma would just be more confusing. But in 99% of cases I use a period. If I'm in a scrape, I'll add a conjunction to a comma. I'm not above the ellipsis ... at all. I overuse it in fact. I'll whip out the em dash -- which I also overuse and love. Why? It's so out there, so visible and dramatic, and maybe I was programmed because of James Joyce hating quotation marks. And I love the colon. Here's why: because Kurt Vonnegut used it so much, and I wanted to write like him. He wore off, but the colon remained in triumph.

But the semicolon? Come on! What is it, even? It's half-assed, tentative, blase, worthless garbage, if you ask me. Shit or get off the pot, semicolon! If you divide two independent clauses, you just can't compete with the period, I'm sorry. Sure, you show those clauses are related, but duh, who really has trouble getting that from the context? You don't supply the pause between dependent phrases, don't introduce a series, indicate time's passage, or refer back stylishly to a point just made. What the hell do you do?

And yet I fear I'm wrong about everything I just said. I fear that the semicolon is indeed a unique and valuable citizen of conjunctionland. That it is I who is at fault. That I just don't know how to use it. That it's my blind spot, my Achilles heel, my embarassing gaffe. That my novel won't have one semicolon in it, and reviewers will be all over me. Hell, I may as well admit it: I'm freaking scared of the semicolon. I mock what I fear, and I fear what I do not understand.

Dishwasher blues

I was sitting at one of my regular watering holes last night, where my friend Mike bartends. He and I were having a good conversation about basement plumbing and whatnot, and this guy from the kitchen got off shift and came and sat down beside me, chain-smoked and ordered a margarita. I had been in and around his conversations before, and he's one of those guys who's super-serious and overly haughty about the tiniest details of restaurant worker-life -- the existential hippie/dishwasher. Anyway, he was particularly grim last night, and he finally took a big drag on his cigarette and said to Mike, "Well, it's finnally happened. Did you hear? In fact I just got word this afternoon -- and it came all the way down from the top. The very top, mind you." Another long drag, then silence. Mike and I looked at him. "Something I've been pushing for three fucking years, man." He angrily stubbed out his cigarette. "We got the go-ahead to change the marinara."

1.20.2005

I'm in favor of expanding access to dental care, but I don't want to hear the lecture

One of the things that bothers me about the University of Iowa is the lack of open-to-the-public lectures on topics in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. I mean, we get a great series of literary readings thanks to the Workshop and Prairie Lights, but virtually nothing from other fields I find interesting.

Today's lectures from the UI master calendar are typical fare:

A Patient's Jouney through Hypertension, Kidney Failure, and Transplant

Regulation of TrkA Signaling by PP2A

Access to Dental Care for Iowa's Children

Issues for Incarcerated Females and the Dispairty of Incarceration for African Americans

Now admittedly, that last one could be great if the title stopped after the first four words and if it included a screening of Chained Heat. But I guarantee that ain't the case.

I want some lectures that don't require me to have a Ph.D. in electrical engineering or a box of No-Doz before I walk in the door. Here's a sampling. These are all taken from the current UCLA website:

The Village that Wouldn't Confess: Ossaia, 1468

Agrarian Sovereignty vs. Coastal Economy: The Puzzle of the Wenzhou Model

UCLA Architecture and Urban Design presents Quarterly Lecture Series

What Is the Future for Democrats and Liberals?

Now those are somewhat more interesting topics. (OK, maybe I'm just a different kind of geek.) But whom do I talk to to get some interesting lectures going?

Bush's Inauguration Speech: the corrected version

My fellow Americans, I'll be brief, because I know at least half of you are sick and tired of looking at my ridiculous, simian smirk. You should be glad you don't see it in the bathroom mirror every morning, let me tell you (pause for laughs). I've been doing a lot of thinking the past few weeks. That's why I've chosen this extraordinary day to reveal that I have been born again -- again. In short, I see now that I have behaved like a God-damned asshole, that I have been probably the worst president, the most inept and senseless commander-in-chief, and the most hypocritical moral leader of recent times, and that I got reelected only because Karl Rove is the reincarnation of Rasputin and has access to the Lower Powers that they told me about in Skull and Bones but that I never really believed in.

I am renouncing my membership in the Republican Party and stepping down from this office. In my place, I want to call up here the man who really won the election, had all the votes been counted, Senator John Kerry (is he here? there he is -- come on up here, John). I am relieving the cabinet of its duties and I trust President Kerry will speedily appoint a new one that doesn't sell out democracy to powerful business interests, one that is more reflective of the American people and their beliefs, hopes, faith in justice and fairness, and history of good sense, the recent two elections notwithstanding.

The more I ponder what this country was built on and consider the intentions of our wise founding fathers, the more I am disgusted and dismayed with all I have gotten away with over the past four years. I intend to retreat humbly into private life to study up on everything I have been so wrong about. Perhaps I'll go back to grad school. I don't know yet. What I do know is this: Y'all deserve a leader who doesn't duck out of his own military service and then start a war for oil based on lies and carefully managed deception; who doesn't recklessly run up the biggest deficit in history without even acknowledging the staggering, irresponsible arrogance of doing so; who doesn't let the basest, most simplistic, and most ignorant among our population establish command over public rhetoric; who doesn't misuse religion to convince common, rural folk to cut taxes on billionaires; who doesn't propose consititutional amendments that would restrict the rights of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters; and who won't threaten the balance of democracy by appointing yet another right-wing hang-em-high curmugeon to the higest court in the land. That man is John Forbes Kerry.

To my former supporters, I have only this to say: Wake up -- wake up to the march of history, wake up to common sense, wake up to your blind adherence to horrendous policies that even end up hurting y'all, except for the billionaires. Wake up. Wake the fuck up, for fuck's fucking fuck sake, before it's too late, before the oldest continual democracy on earth goes down this blind alley too far and can't get out. God bless all of you, God bless President Kerry, and God bless the United States of America.

Welcome Back, Danza

While not working on MLK Day, I had the opportunity to turn on the tv around a time I’m usually not in front of it. At first I thought it was just another infomercial, but then I realized that, yeah, Tony Danza has his own show, called “The Ton...” oh why finish that?

At this point in history, Tony Danza getting his own show almost feels like some obscure government pork. Or like it was in Reagan’s will: “Well, as my last act of charity, let it be known that my favorite young entertainer of all time, Tony Danza, should get his own talk show.”

But perhaps the best indicator of this show’s longevity is how one of the “Tony Danza Show”’s website descriptions reads: “...Tony will also highlight incredible kids, and get into the kitchen to cook some of his own favorite family recipes.”

In 2001, there were roughly 58,000 people majoring in Communications at four-year universities around the country. And Tony Danza has his own show. (National Center for Education Statistics)

Then I found that The Tony Danza Show broadcasts from New York. I was shocked, shocked! -- that Tony Danza can afford to live in New York!

Here are some strategies to get Danza:
1. Poison canneloni
2. Exploding feathered-hair creme
3. Curled up viper snake camouflaged as gold pendant

(Since I live in Indianapolis, I did some checking for Iowans: It airs on Des Moines, Ames, Channel 13 at 11:00am.)

1.19.2005

Guided By Voices, RSVP

As the dorkmeisters among us are sadly aware, the late, great GBV has called it quits. I thought this horrible fact deserved a posting, considering I spent several happy hours rubbing against the sweaty, beer-covered bodies of Brando, Grendel, Ben Doyle, Iceberger/BomberCrasher, the Two Joshs, Marlowe, Lump, etc., etc. enjoying the lo fi-hits and phazed cookies of America's premier band of the cursed, the lost, and the drunk.

And, in all seriousness, when I wasn't sure if the Poops and Lump were going to make it out of the hospital, these guys (and five pitchers of beer) literally saved my life.

GBV, R.I.P.

http://pitchforkmedia.com/features/weekly/05-01-17-guidedbyvoices.shtml

The scariest snowman

This upsetting fellow is melting away on Davenport between Reno and Center:

Scary snowman

Here is his malformed body as seen from the side, poised to challenge all sidewalk users:

Snowman from side

Man hurls curses at top of voice in IC

Last weekend, while pumping gas at the QuickStop at Market and Dubuque, I witnessed a rare thing in Iowa: Public Rage. Two cars were at the light on Market, both wanting to turn right onto Dubuque. The light turned green, but pedestrians were still crossing in front of the first car. Car behind didn't see this, apparently, and honked (also rare here) when the first car didn't go on green.

A middle-aged man got out of the first car and bellowed into the crisp and quiet 10-degree air the following to the students (I think) in the car behind him who had honked: "Do you see these people crossing? I'm gonna take that horn and shove it up your fucking ass!"

At that very second, a man passed by on the sidewalk, leading his little girl, whose ears could have been full of nothing else but this loud and remarkable utterance in the street next to her.

I was too busy being fascinated by the girl's unlikely appearance to see, but the kids in the car must have done something else to provoke the guy, because he took a few more steps toward them and screamed, "I'll fucking beat all three of your asses!"

When they didn't respond, he got back into his car and drove off. Never seen anything like that here before. Oddly, I felt great for about an hour.

1.18.2005

If you have to scroll down to see Contributors

It might be because you're using Internet Explorer as your browser. In Mozilla Firefox, a much better and free browser, everything on Earth Goat appears at the top, as God intended. Firefox is more secure, too, so you should switch for a few reasons. Plus you get to leak market share away from Micro$oft and hand it over to the cooler people at Mozilla. I changed the look of Earth Goat to see if it helped bR see the Contributors up top, but it seems they still appear at the bottom of the blog in Internet Explorer, and now I like the new look and don't want to change it again.

You can download Firefox here.

I'm curious -- is anyone using a Mac? Are the Contributors and Recent Posts at the top or bottom of the blog?

Administrative Memorandum No. 1

After hiring a consultant to do a series of time/motion studies over the past week, we have determined that it would be beneficial to move the "Contributors" section of Earth Goat to the top of the blog. I like to check this section once or twice each day to see who has joined our ranks. The locational adjustment should result in the daily recapture of approximately four (4) seconds of productive time per workday for me. This will allow me to finish Mojave Moses (my novel) on March 9, 2006 at 4:08 p.m. instead of 4:11 p.m. Or I can masturbate longer next Friday.

Kerouac's famous "On the Road" draft on display at UI Museum of Art through March

The Press-Citizen has the scoop on the Scroll's visit to Iowa City. Notice Frank says the work has been "canonized" but offers no thoughts on the book itself. I read it in one long, feverish session and loved it. I was 18, so it was talking directly to me. Dunno how I'd like it now. I would like to see this Scroll, though. Actually, I'd like to smell it.

1.16.2005

Thoughts on Becoming Older than Jesus V, Crying in the Comments

 

Confused by decency standards

Yesterday on random Iowa radio stations, in the middle of the day, within five minutes of each other, I heard Tom Petty sing, "Let's get to the point / Let's roooll another joint..." and Snoop Dogg sing, "I got the rolly on my arm / And I'm pourin' Chandon / And I roll the best ____ / Cuz I got it goin' on."

Now, isn't "joint" just as bad for our precious, innocent youth as "weed" is? Is it more dangerous for a black man to sing about the herb on the radio than a good old white boy? Or do different stations have different fears and standards (but what creates those)?

Despite that, hip-hop music appears to me to be the most subversive popular art form around. Kids all over the country -- the world, perhaps -- are going around singing about being pimps and ho's and gangstas and killing cops and selling drugs. That's fine, apparently, but Janet Jackson's nipple provokes national outrage, congressional hearings, and FCC fines. As Chris Rock said in his HBO special, shaking his head, "A titty on a Sunday afternoon! A TITTY on a SUNDAY afternoon! And a forty-year-old titty at that."

This confuses me. TV is clearly held to a different standard. Seems to me it goes like this, in order from most restrictive to least in terms of censorship and decency "protection":

Network TV
Radio
Cable TV
Magazines
Movies
CDs and MP3s
Books
The Internet

But if the idea of decency is to protect "the children," why is the children's favorite art form (music) allowed to be the most wildly subversive? Tracy suggested to me that it's the advertisers. That in the preceding list, advertisers have less influence and less to worry about as you go down the different art forms. Maybe that's it. We don't REALLY care about protecting children, we care about protecting the money that supports the particular media, and we couch that in moralistic public blather.

But also, is the visual image more sensitive than the audio image? It must be. You have to be 17 to buy a ticket to an R-rated movie, but you can hear what would be X-rated music (see "Work It") without any form of ID (and the "explicit lyrics" sticker is a great way to find it). Was it Plato who distrusted music and worried about its stirring the passions of the masses? Yet by and large music gets a pass in our culture. Is it because parents don't have any idea what hip-hop songs are about?

And yet -- why censor Snoop and not Petty?

1.14.2005

Earth Goat Journal: Best Stories

Here's a fun game: what are the coolest stories? I don't mean best-written or anything like that . . . just the best 'story.' "Tale." Whatever. That doesn't rule out real books or anything, but if anyone puts down The Corrections, there will be a disappointed dunkey roaming the web (or is it stuck in the web?).

Anyway, let the list begin with: Peter Pan.

Actual Class News

The story so far...

Robert Rosenberg's novel This Is Not Civilization is out.

Frances De Pontes Peeble's story "The Drowned Woman" is in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2005.

Kevin Clouther sold a novel and a story collection, as reported here.

Kerry Egan's book Fumbling is out, and she was on CNN (anyone got a video link?).

What else? Who else has something out? Links to poems or stories maybe? I must be missing lots of news.

Thoughts on Becoming Older than Jesus III, or Ozzymandias

I have never
Swapped Wives,
Engaged in Group Sex,
Done Something I Knew Was Wrong (Sober),
Jumped from an Aeroplane,
Got a Tattoo,
Appeared in a Pornographic Cinematic,
Shot Anyone, or
Smoked Crack.

I have Measured My Life in Jewel Cases --

Back in Black, The Wagon brought me here.
I was Born Slippy, and I passed through the Cemetery Gates
Like The Spirit of the Radio.
Seriously, William, It Was Really Nothing.
I See No Evil --
Queen Bitch, She Sells Sanctuary here,
and sings The Ballad of El Goodo with a Wildflower.
But Under Pressure, I had to Leave.
I ran over the Dead Leaves and Dirty Ground
From the Rhinocerous of Magical Colours,
And the Caterpillar from the Closets of Henry.
I lost my Camera in the Ball of Confusion,
But still reached Paridise City.
The Teenage F.B.I. -- a Teenage Riot -- was Unsatisfied.
But I Can't Hardly Wait.
Unchained, Outshined,
My Starsign will Rise,
And Sing my Lust for Life.



1.13.2005

Thoughts on Becoming Older Than Jesus II, Part VII of Fear

There was a Time when the Six-pack I was carrying was actually attached to Me,
When I entered the Room,
The Daughters of Aphrodite would Scream,
"Break Out the Knee-pads, and Bring me My Chapstick!"
Now they Turn Away,
Uninterested in this Loathsome Lothario,
Who Lives Through Iron,
Not Fire.
Down, down like Blistering Phaeton I Fall,
Like the last Hair on my Head,
Like the Last Crap from my Dog.

Indebted to best-selling poet Billy Corgan.
And your mama.

Hello all

Hello compatriots, the Deutschehund, the King of the Franks, and everyone's most feared Chicagoan bids you good day. I'm happy to be a part of the Earth Goat. Let the cannonballs fly. Let the earth eating begin.

Mongolian BBQ horde arrives in Coralville

Has anyone been? I don't even know what the place is called, or exactly where it is, but Tracy overheard some people saying it was "awesome, awesome dude" and it's all you can eat. I can't wait to hear the "SSSHHHHHHHHHHIIIISHHHH" of the meat's contact with Coralville's equivalent of Genghis Khan's fire-heated shield.

1.12.2005

How to create a new post


The quickest way is to click the BlogThis! link at the top of the page, type over the sample text, then click Publish. Or -- you can get a bit more elaborate editor by clicking the Blogger link at the top left of the screen, clicking Earth Goat Journal, and then Create a New Post.

Is It Me, or Is Wes Anderson Boring?

Just saw Life Aquatic. Loved Rushmore, Royal Tannenbaums left me lukewarm, and this new one didn't make me laugh once. The characters speak past each other, everyone wears a stiff , dour expression, and every shot is like a tableau. The straight-faced goofiness wore thin, again, after about five minutes. It was creative, but it just bounced right off me. Didn't care about the characters at all. The dog Cody was my favorite -- the only one who seemed real and warm.

Thoughts on Becoming Older Than Jesus, or Makes me Wanna Holla When the Man Rubs Me With the Falafa in the Showa

As I hurtle Down the Road to Being Older than J.C.
I realize Elvis is an Anagram.
And Neither of Us Button Our Pants Anymore.
I don't Give a Tinker's Damn, a Tinker Toy, or a Tin Tinkle, over the
Tin, Tin, Tinnnabulation of the of the Timid, Timorous, Timocracy,
of Death's Timucua Timpani of Time.
The King was Never Bald,
the Tinctorial Tinfish.

This is a repeat of an attempted earlier post.
Inspired by the Work of Jewel.
And Your Mama.
Discuss.

Remarks at graduation

There's not much content here yet, so here's a blast from the past (delivered in shaky voice May ?, 2003):

It’s kind of ironic that Ethan is the master of ceremonies today, because this is so an either/or ending. But endings imply beginnings, and that’s what I want to focus on, back when the workshop was just this dream of possibility and excitement. I want to tell some stories about that, and what Iowa has meant to me.

Tracy and I had left our corporate editing jobs in San Francisco and moved to Galway, Ireland. What a great place to write, we thought: the broken, poetic coastline, the warm and cozy pubs with fireplaces and fiddlers — a whole nation of hilarious storytellers all around us sipping Guinness. We were there a year and it was so warm and cozy I only got around to writing one story the whole time.

Then Tracy got into a masters’ program in European Studies at the U. of Amsterdam. What a great place to write, we thought: the cheerful busyness of a cosmopolitan city that hasn’t changed much since the 17th century, the warm, cozy hashish cafes — a whole nation of tall, industrious liberals around us sipping their absinthe. I wrote one story there, too. At that rate I might have a ten-story collection ready by 2009.

So Tracy suggested that I apply to creative writing programs. We picked out eight of them that sounded like places we’d like to live in next — and we threw in Iowa, because you have to. We figured I had the best chance at U. of Alaska, Fairbanks, so that’s where our hope lay, and we’d go online, looking for parkas and snowshoes. Then the rejections started trickling in. Goodbye New York, Montana, Washington, Syracuse, Austin. We figured we hadn’t heard from Alaska yet because I was on the short list that they were still vetting, and we hadn’t heard from Iowa because they had ruined my application by using it to mop up their tears of laughter and so didn’t know how to get ahold of me.

Then one night we got hammered and rented all the Rocky movies, which are much better with Dutch subtitles. In the middle of this male, macho marathon, the phone rang. We’d left the phone upstairs and normally I wouldn’t even bother with it, but for some reason I jumped up and stumbled up there, and by the time I found it the message light was blinking. It was someone named Connie Brothers saying that Iowa had accepted me, but they wanted to offer some kind of financial aid and I hadn’t filled out the forms for that. And it was true, I hadn’t even bothered with those forms. I went back down and as Tracy listened, she started laughing and smacking me on the head.

I flew to Iowa to find housing and visited the Dey House and Connie suggested I sit in on Chris Offutt’s seminar. The people in there were silent and tense — I found out later that was the day after the TWF announcement — but Chris came in wearing jeans and an old ballcap. I thought he was there to clean the chalkboards until he called on me to discuss the story for that day. He asked me lots of questions, and when I said we wanted to get a dog, he said, “That’s a big responsibility.” I said I needed one. Because as you’ve just heard my structureless life had produced two stories in two years — I needed responsibilities fast. I found a little band-aid colored house for rent, with a landlord who wanted to tell me all about his divorce and said things like, “Sometimes I wish the Lord would just take me” and he hoped I’d be going to church with him. I said I’ll take it because it was the only place I could find.

I flew back to Holland and that night dreamed that it was my first day at the workshop. I walked into the Dey House and went to my mailbox and there was a package for me. Inside it were a bunch of CDs and a note: “Corbin, welcome to the workshop. Here’s a bunch of old stories I can’t find any use for. Use them if you want. Chris Offutt.” Many of you can judge for yourselves how well I did with that material while I was here.

In May Tracy graduated in Amsterdam, and I was finally going to meet her thesis advisor and teacher, Joep Leersen. All I knew about him was that to my great annoyance Tracy seemed to have developed a crush on him, this Joep Leersen. We had this thing where she’d say, “I love you...p.” I laughed but I didn’t think it was that funny. Tracy had told me the graduation would be formal, but as it turned out I was the only one there in a tie — looking every bit the uptight American. So the moment came when she brought Joep over and introduced us. He asked where we were going after Amsterdam, and as Tracy beamed up at him I mumbled something about the University of Iowa. “Oh?” he said, looking at my boring conservative tie, “And what will you study there, business?” I drew myself up and said, “The Writers’ Workshop.” “Oh!” he said, “That’s very famous, I once had a student write a dissertation about that program.” “Yes,” I said, “Yes, that’s the one.” I think that was the moment when I truly became a man.

We got married August 4 in Holland and moved to Iowa a week later. And I kept getting calls from my mother wanting to talk about the workshop. She was impressed when I told her it was run by Frank Conroy — because she thought I said Pat Conroy — and when I had convinced her that Frank Conroy had not written The Prince of Tides, she seemed disappointed. She looked up information about the program and the more she found out, the more she wasn’t sure I was in it. She called me to ask, “Now are you at Iowa or Iowa State?” My parents kept asking if I’d read Pat Conroy’s My Losing Season. My told me, “Now he wanted to go to Iowa, but he wasn’t accepted” — which made it more unlikely that I had been. I mentioned to my eighty-six year-old grandfather that James Michener gives a scholarship here and a week later a large box of original hard-cover James Michener books arrived in the mail with a note: “Corb, I don’t think I have time to re-read all these, I thought you’d enjoy them.” So, if anyone wants to borrow one of those…

So, the reason I came here was for the discipline, but I ended up learning a staggering amount of stuff — such as don’t turn in a story about magical baby Godzillas in Ethan’s workshop. In the end, this thing that started out with impossible phone messages received while wasted, workshop teachers slipping me material in my dreams, and my own family not entirely sure I’m not at Iowa State — it doesn’t feel totally real. The workshop feels like a dream, and from now on I expect it to feel more and more like that. You know, “Honey, were we really living in Iowa, or is that a story we told ouselves?”

I’ve met a lot of amazing people here, some of whom I may not see again after today, as we become the workshop diaspora, and I can’t guarantee that some of you won’t wind up as characters in my fiction — again begging the questions of what’s real, what’s dream, what are stories? I don’t know that the workshop helped me with those questions — quite the opposite, it seems to me. But I do know that unlike Galway and Amsterdam, for me anyway, Iowa is a great place to write and it did give me the discipline I craved — whether or not it’s real.

I love my class of second-years. I think we brought the tension down a few notches from those who went before us — we’re a very earthy, unpresuming, happy class. And the first-years this year are so good it’s truly frightening, so it’s probably just as well we’re leaving. It’s a time of great change at the workshop — the end of an era in more than a few ways. I think we’ll look back and eventually convince ourselves that we were among those who held our workshops in those WWII quonset huts. I’m glad Tracy and I are staying in Iowa City for another year. Just to bring things back to Rocky, it’s like in Rocky II, when Rocky is so washed up he’s emptying spit buckets, and Mickey tells him to go home, that Rocky’s presence makes him sick. And Rocky says, “I just gotta be around it, Mick.” I owe a debt of gratitude to my teachers Ethan, Frank, Chris, Sam Chang and Elizabeth McCracken, and to my fellow students, who taught me just as much. For everyone heading out to bigger and better things, good luck, Godspeed, keep in touch—it’s been, I hope, real.

Welcome to Earth Goat

Hello and thanks for stopping by. I created this blog for 2003 Workshop grads and their significant others and pals and others in Iowa City who still hang with them to keep in touch, and exchange ideas, news, thoughts, grudges, peeves, philosophy, memories, plans, and complete and utter bullshit. What inspired me is Babies Are Fireproof, a blog by and largely for 2004 grads. If you haven't seen it, by all means have a look. It's a terrific, lively read. I often peruse it and sometimes post replies, but really it's focused on that class. I figure if they have one, so should we.

Besides, a lot of us fanned out and lost touch right after graduation, and this is a great way to keep a sense of cohesion and community -- as well as find out what people are up to, who's published what and who's writing what. I thought we had a great class and it saddens me that those days feel like they are fading away. Let's bring them back and get reacquainted. Let's have a kind of salon here.

Please start posting whatever you like. And spread the word to anyone who graduated in 2003.

workshop in snow

Why is it called Earth Goat Journal?

Frank gave us our "diplomas" in May 2003, meaning our degrees were born under the sign of Earth, according to Chinese astrology. 2003 was the Year of the Goat. Here is a picture of an Earth Goat deciding whether or not to vomit up some Shiner Bock.

Alex at rest

Looking for others


Please email if you have email addresses of people from our class and don't see them listed as members.