Monthly Archives: December 2007

lulu lumens

12/20/07

Welcome, dear readers, to a very special place: the shortest day, the longest night of the year. Before the Julian calendar was fixed during the Roman Empire, the solstice used to be December 13, and guess whose day it was?

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That’s right… St. Lucy! Worshipping the shortest day of the year (which really means worshipping the days getting longer) has been celebrated by human culture since we noticed the yaw of the heavens. Lucy, which means “light,” is supposed to bring back daylight from the impenetrable darkness, a vaguely Promethean myth that is still celebrated in Scandinavian countries today.

Although she was an early Christian saint (read here for her bizarre martyrdom), the conquering Germanic tribes brought her story up north, where she fit in perfectly with the winter solstice parties they were already having. Every village would elect a Saint Lucy, a girl who would wear a crown of candles and roust neighboring families at 4am with saffron bread and coffee on December 21.

St. Lucy is the patron saint of eyesight and the blind, and thus my mom – who suffers from both kinds of macular degeneration – wears her Lucy pendant every day. For her birthday last week (coincidentally 24 hours before St. Lucy’s Night), we took her to see “The Farnsworth Invention,” Aaron Sorkin’s new drama on Broadway. The opening statement? Hank Azaria walks out and says “the only reason you see me right now is because photons are hitting me and bouncing back to your eyeballs.”

The play is about the true inventor of television, and the guileless corporation that stole his idea – flawed but funny, and has great details I’d never known. Apparently the problem that kept Farnsworth from beating the corporations was infuriatingly simple: light. His television worked, but he had to light his subjects so brightly that they’d fry from the heat.

During intermission, I asked my mom when she first saw television, and she said “the first time I saw a TV, I was on it.” She was in a studio singing with her two sisters – a close-harmony outfit like the Andrews Sisters – and watched herself performing in real time. Apparently they had to be lit so harshly they used black lipstick.

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My Aunt Marilyn, Joanie, and my mom, circa 1952

While my mom’s macular degeneration is kept under control by cutting-edge drugs and vitamins, she still has to use an external monitor for her laptop that blows up all text and images to huge sizes. Obviously, as a musician it’s way better to have impaired vision than go the Beethoven deaf route, but it certainly doesn’t do you any favors.

So on St. Lucy day, we got our own Lucy in the dreamy, surreal hours before bed, and lit a candle. Like all toddlers, she was mesmerized to be so close to fire, even one so tiny, but still said “I hope Grandma’s eyes get better.”

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My mom wrote a great Christmas song many years ago called “Child of Light” about the biblical Christmas story, and while my relationship with Christianity is fraught with peril, I absolutely love the Jesus birth narrative, and always will. Christmas itself is another co-opting of the pagan winter solstice celebration, with Jesus as light-bearer and several other themes: the star, the wheel of rebirth, the claiming of light from darkness.

These things are never very tidy. Saint Lucy’s day is 12/13, the solstice is 12/21, Christmas is 12/25, and the New Year is a week later. The actual weather doesn’t get warmer until the end of January, and the days won’t seem impressively longer until Daylight Saving Time kicks in on March 9 (thanks, Congress!)

But it must have been such a good feeling, back in ancient times, to arrive at the longest day of the year with your family intact, knowing stores will hold, guessing you can make it until the thaw. These days will start their expansion after tonight, the path to those long, languid, lovely afternoons in July that seem like they’ll last forever. With that in mind, I’m taking most of next week off, and like me, I hope you have a great time watching the photons reflecting off your loved ones.

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speaking of our Scandinavian ancestors, Lucy (helped) make aebleskivers for Grandma’s birthday

will you light my candle

12/19/07

I have this odd relationship with the Broadway musical “Rent” – I was one of the first people camping out to see it the first week it went up in 1996, but only because my brother and his first wife were doing it as well. We got seats in the very front row, and when Collins (Jesse L. Martin) drops the keys from the “window,” they landed in my lap. I’ve always found the play ridiculously self-involved, and though the production was meant to bring Broadway to Generation X, there are crusty jokes that would have been better suited to Bob Hope and Doris Day:

Roger: I’ve seen you somwhere else.

Mimi: Do you go to the Cat Scratch Club? That’s where I work. I dance.

Roger: Yes! They used to tie you up.

Mimi: It’s a living.

In fact, for such supposedly vibrant characters, not one genuinely funny thing happens in the whole show. Even Maureen (Idina Menzel, who you saw on NY taxicabs for years) ought to be funny as a performance artist, but she comes off as loud and annoying. I suppose a commenter from IMDB said it best many years ago by writing “the whole thing smacks of ’90s wussyisms.”

So if that’s the case, why am I standing in my living room last night, by myself, watching the movie version of “Rent” and bawling my fucking eyes out? The movie came out about ten years too late – not just because the entire cast had aged, but because the New York City in “Rent” doesn’t exist anymore, nor does anyone’s penchant (or tolerance) for the sort of artistic tomfoolery we hectored in the Daisy Age Micro-Era of the early 1990s. And yet, the sentiments of the play are totally prescient.

“Rent” ends up being a historical document, partly about the pre-cocktail days when AIDS was held tenuously at bay with AZT (and thus scared us all shitless) but also when mass corporatization of all our art and desire wasn’t a foregone conclusion. In one of the play/film’s best sequences, the song “La Vie Boheme” famously lists all the Greatest Hits of Counterculture; in 1996, it seemed tedious and obvious, but in late 2007, it reads like a roll call of deceased friends.

By the time the movie starts on “Seasons of Love” and the “Will I?” song about losing one’s dignity to disease, I was pretty much a goner. Part of it, I’m sure, is having the Lulubeans in my life. Something about having a kid amplifies all culture, makes you feel things with odd intensity, able to cry sure as kiss my hand, with local news stories about babies escaping apartment fires reducing you to rubble.

But the other part is the creeping realization that the bullies have won. “Rent” may “smack of ’90s wussyisms” but I’d take it 100 times out of 100 compared to the “go fuck yourself” mercilessness of this decade. It all makes me proud to be on strike, because if you haven’t noticed, we’re basically the last union standing between You and Five Companies Who Are Going To Own Absolutely Everything. One by one, the Man has bent them all to his will, but a bunch of people who dare string words together for a living has brought his empire to a slow halt.

“We’ll pack up all our junk and fly away,” Collins sang from that subway ten years ago, “And devote ourselves to projects that sell.” I wonder how much of “Rent” we’re still allowed to believe in.

skydiving naked from an aeroplane

12/17/07

Have any of you heard “November Rain” by Guns’N’Roses lately? Because New York City has the shittiest radio stations on earth (at least when WFUV ain’t coming in), I was stuck on K-Rock 92.3 and “November Rain” came on, and I was mesmerized. Not in a good way, mind you, but the kind of “I can’t believe this song ever existed” sort of way. What a bloated, pretentious, dum-dum piece of shit, and if I recall, the video was just as bad. Something about Stephanie Seymour getting married to Axl Rose, and then Slash leaving the chapel to play a guitar solo during a storm, and then Stephanie Seymour dies, I guess – it all positively reeked of white motherscratchin’ trash.

Yes, I realize I’m of the micro-generation that was about five years too old to take Guns’N’Roses seriously. By the time the “Use Your Illusion” albums came out in 1991, I had already made my left turn onto the Fruity Art Pop Turnpike and found the whole G’n’R aesthetic to be depressingly dirty. Twenty years of listening to guitarists do the riff from “Sweet Child O’ Mine” has only hardened my resolve.

I will admit, however, that the cascading metal of “Welcome to the Jungle” is motherfucking HOT and always will be. It has the undeniable kickassingness of Motley Crue’s “Dr. Feelgood” or “Kickstart My Heart”, even if Axl has one of the worst lines in rock history: “Welcome to the jungle, baby. You’re gonna die!”

“November Rain,” to me, was the logical conclusion of the 1980s. The song gives you a hangover before you even get to the chorus. The strings add a treacly overbearingness to something that wasn’t very fun to begin with – I know they were trying to be Queen a la “Bohemian Rhapsody”, but couldn’t even get close to Paul McCartney’s “Back Seat of My Car” in terms of rock opera. While it was the most requested video of that era, I think time has borne out the truth: you never hear “November Rain” anymore, not even ironically.

So I put it to you: forget about the bloat – what’s your favorite classic balls-out fuckin’ ROCK SONG that makes you want to put your head through some drywall?

i have no illusions, i lost them in my travels

12/16/07

Follow-up to Friday’s blog

The funny thing about life is how much you get away with when you no longer have a dog in the fight. The ONLY reason I’m able to spew forth on these topics of gender-related oafishness is because I’m a member of the subset of perpetrators, and I haven’t had to deal with the goddamn dating pool for about seven years. Which, in several ways, would seem to make my advice useless, but to paraphrase Wordsworth, I do get the benefit of “emotion recollected in tranquility.”

Many folks have written to me about their own situations, and I would beg of them to write in the comments section, where their stories can find the right oxygen for conflagration. Besides, I can’t claim I’m particularly right about any of this. I’m speaking of a certain kind of guy milling about the womensphere of various college towns and hip cities, and I’m more than happy to hear about the wondrous exceptions you have met (and occasionally married!)

I also realize that commitment-phobia and emotional retardation is an equal-opportunity employer, but I think it afflicts women in vastly lower numbers than men. Two factors ensure this: the plummeting fertility rates over the age of 41; and the disgusting way aging women are undervalued in a society that grotesquely fetishizes its young.

Besides, guys possess a unique ability to morph the boundaries of their morality to the terrain of any given situation – give them an inch, and they will take the inch. If you give them 27 women to date, they will not stop at 26. They are patently unable to dictate the end of the lengths to which they will go; when someone says “at long last, do you have no shame?” they will be confused by the wording of the question.

I don’t say this as some self-loathing weirdo, nor do I think guys are inherently malevolent. In fact, most of them are downright well-intentioned, and as I said, have convinced themselves they are still looking for true love. But they come to the game so poorly-equipped for any real communication – between themselves and women, at least – that they surrender to the cheap joke, the guffaw between two guys at the urinal, the “boys will be boys” loopholes, and the fact that “lothario” sounds so much more fun than “slut”.

For their part, women routinely mistake their charisma for depth, their bursts of honesty for true commiseration, “childlike” for “childish”. They might date a complete zork believing that the zork will never leave them, not realizing the zork pines for the fjords of every other woman on earth.

The good news is most guys can be rehabilitated, but it does involve the trickery and steadfastness mentioned in Friday’s blog. It requires the full-scale abandonment of two tenets they hold dear: that they will live forever, and that there is always someone hotter/smarter/cooler than the person they’re dating now. Once they let go of this double-headed chimera of bullshit, you might consider taking them seriously.

xxx! love, xy

12/13/07

It’s been a long time since I was in the dating pool, and perhaps the unique Doppler shift of memories allows for some pretty massive generalizations, but… why do modern, single guys suck so bad? Before you write emails bursting with righteous inignation, I speak as someone who, prior to the year 2000, was an egregious offender of everything I’m about to describe. Simply put, men in today’s subset of “single, heterosexual, available, educated, and socially viable guys” are, by and large, emotionally retarded, lazy, non-committal, morally fungible, irredeemably flaky BUFFOONS.

I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said plenty of times before, especially by girls trying to comfort their friends in a locked bathroom, but the perpetual adolescence of our culture (while super fun – guilty as charged) seems to be raising a cohort of guys aged 22-44 who desperately need their ass kicked.

All the ironic T-shirts and skater shoes in the world can’t arrest the flow of time, but these guys are managing to have the romantic attention span of a 12-year-old while inhabiting a 33-year-old’s body. They start off each relationship firing on all pistons, and may actually believe they’re in love, before the cold silences creep in, the weekends without a call, ending with the mea culpa that either begins or ends with “I think I’m emotionally damaged” (with the unspoken rejoinder “…and thus can date you no further.”)

Or it ends even weirder, for no apparent reason and no audible explanation, leading women to look back on the calendar and wonder when the fuck it happened. Either way, he’s on to new hunting grounds, plying his would-be mistresses with the same indie bands or vaguely-rehashed dialogue that has worked so well for the last decade. Any confrontation with these men fill them with self-loathing and guilt, for sure – in many ways, they are emotionally damaged – but hell, they never promised you anything. It’s a big, bad world out there, and you’re supposed to grow some skin.

The worst offenders are those who used to be dorks – and I mean actual dorks, not the vaguely popular kids who felt the occasional pangs of “nobody understands me” when they were 13. True dorks are the ones who lived lives of silent futility, keeping to themselves and their passions until they got to college, where they blossomed like a tropical fern. Not having had the usual clandestine smooch at summer camp, they discover dating only after high school and start emotional puberty at 21 (and continue thusly for fifteen years).

Here’s the thing, men: if you don’t want to have kids, that’s cool. Having kids is hard and occasionally you have to get up really early. But for the rest of you, having a child (or several) is easiest within the construct of a good relationship with another person, presumably the mother, and that takes time. And here’s the other secret: scientists are curing baldness and developing bionic knees, but when it comes to women’s fertility, there is a definite “last call” that isn’t getting substantially later.

You know that 36-year-old chick you were dating for 18 months because she was quite pretty, but then you started thinking someone else was really hot, and then you got really bogged down at work, and then there was that trip you took, and then you kinda sorta broke up? You just wasted a year and a half of her eggs, dude.

Yes, I know. We all have to experiment with all kinds of people in order to know who will truly make us happy. And we all need to get our ya-yas out and go nutzo for a while. And nobody likes to feel hemmed in, or stuck, and being with the wrong person – and marrying them – is a lifelong jail for two. But at some point, guys, we have become ridiculous.

And you women? Stop fucking egging them on! They’re able to get away with this behavior because you were so goddamn easy to seduce, first emotionally, then physically. You are so attracted to people who are attracted to you, but in doing so you abdicate your entire personality. Oh, and if the guy gives you a disclaimer, something along the lines of “I’m not really capable of a relationship”, I would go ahead and believe him. Just because a man is being refreshingly honest, doesn’t mean he’s willing to change. He’ll use that line against you a year later.

Not to be all The Rules™, but if I were a woman, this is what I’d do:

1) CURATE. Spurn all advances from guys, even if you hadn’t dated in months and months. SELECTIVELY choose one or two. Or boldly go after someone who seems interesting and funny, even if they haven’t made the first move. If they refuse, that’s their loss.

2) CALM. When you first start dating the guy, no sex. Seriously. Don’t even talk about it, just send him packing. Continue to do the things that make you awesome – don’t cancel trips, don’t arrange special time for him. Make him understand that you have your own life and can certainly be happy without him, which is true. Make yourself the train – he’s just a passenger. This is essential! Guys are so fucking stupid that they need to be fooled into perceiving the value you possess anyway. Plus, these dudes have had so many women crying on the phone to them – for the love of god, don’t EVER play into that dynamic.

3) COOL. If it’s the right guy, you will find yourself longing for him, and you will feel this subtle game of avoidance has become largely intellectual and stupid. Too bad. The point is to have enough shared history – a few months at least – to lift this guy over most of his early-relationship potholes, and guess what? He may actually be developing a genuine respect for you. After getting what he wants from women for so long, he needs to be cured; neurological pathways have to be changed, habits discarded.

4) COITUS. The first act of sex should be random and unannounced, like the best pop quiz in history.

5) COUNTER. At some point in the first six months, the creeping domesticity of your relationship will cause a full-scale freakout in your man. He will talk about wanting an “open relationship” or how he still feels damaged, or how he should really be spending more time at his place, or how he wants to be with his guy friends, or worse, he’ll do some stupid thing one night with another woman just to prove to himself he can still pull. Yes, he is made of such weak-ass Jello that he actually feels these things and isn’t kidding. Let him talk, let him spew forth.

At the end of his episode, counter with “Wow, you are really boring” and go see a movie. Don’t think about him for a few hours. A few days later, when he starts to talk about more caveman longings that you don’t understand, I would suggest actually yawning, followed with “wait, I missed that last part, I was drifting off.”

If he continues on this tack, it might be time for a weekend trip with some of your girlfriends. Either way, keep being the awesome person you were before you met. He will come around, and in doing so, actually mature before your eyes.

6) COLLUDE. Keep it organic. Ask for what you want, no apologies. Be who you were, and who you wanted to be. You are both the ride the other wants to take.

You might read all this and think “that was never me” or “my relationship happened totally different than that” or “what a stupid parlor trick.” Sure, sure. You were lucky. It was all so much easier, perhaps. But here’s the thing: guys must learn adult love, they do not come by it naturally. Everything in modern culture is engineered to delay that lesson as long as possible. They are made of flimsy material, and often, need to be tricked, coaxed or prodded into being a real person.

Man, we could sure spear a running bison from two hundred yards, though.

perpetual motion machine

12/12/07

Guys and gals, I’m totally exhausted. Can the first commenters ask today’s CODE WORD and make it super-insightful, effervescently fun, and so revealing of human nature that it gets forwarded around the web 4.7 million times, and so I start to get email from foreign heads of state?

hello hand truck, hello dolly

12/11/07

I actually like backbreaking labor if it’s in service to something I’m building, or towards an appreciable end, with the emphasis on “end”. I have no goddamn patience for backbreaking labor that has to be done again within four weeks, but I will use every last strand of adenosine triphosphate my mitochondria can muster if it is part of a lasting, grand gesture.

Tonight, I performed such an act, but I can’t write about it because I’m up here at the farm with Lucy and my mom, and the backbreaking labor is my surprise Christmas present to Tessa. Suffice to say I had to warp the laws of physics in order to get certain things to work, and I didn’t have help because my mom turned 76 a few minutes ago (happy birthday, Mom!) and Lucy gets really distracted when she’s carrying around a glue gun and a bucketful of iron filings.

No, honey, she wasn’t carrying around a glue gun and a bucketful of iron filings.

Anyway, I must collapse and provide today’s CODE WORD: What was your most recent backbreaking labor? And yes, that can include “labor” too, ladies!

no sweater, no train service

12/9/07

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click for bigger

Hi there my sweet little Lulubeans! Yes, I know this is unconscionably late – I’m apologizing to your future self, because right now you scarcely care what month it is, but some weeks ago you turned two and a half, and I promised not to go a day longer without my quarterly treatise. You will get to know these peccadilloes, and perhaps be amazed I did this every three months at all – or maybe I’ll have some huge attention deficit revolution and be Johnny On-The-Spot by then. Anything can happen, my sweet. One mustn’t define oneself, or else one becomes calcified and inflexible.

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Let me be succinct: you are loud. You have always been loud, but I thought it might wane with the onset of toddlerhood and the fade of that newborn’s guitar-distortion cry. It seems our neighbors aren’t so lucky, because when you have an extreme emotion (either joy or Russian-novel-anguish) you are capable of lungpower that would have been the envy of ship captains during the Napoleonic Wars.

It’s a fitting metaphor, because you experience things very deeply. Sometimes I watch your expression after I make you a spirulina-powder smoothie with raspberries, and it is the sated ecstasy of the satyrs. A few weeks ago, you had some soap in your eye and your mom soothed it with cold, wet fingers against your closed eyelids… and now I occasionally catch you doing the same, just for the languid sensation.

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with Polly

The other thing you feel deeply? Your relationships. Man, if you could get the sophomore vote, you would totally be the social chairman of your sorority. Every evening you say goodnight to everyone you know, and sometimes we’re in there for 45 minutes. The absolute apple of your eyelids? Your cousin Barnaby, of course:

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When we were up at the farm earlier, you coaxed him to say his first word again – “dog” – then let go of his hand when he wanted to take his first steps. One thing I managed to get on camera was your first conversation together, and I think it’s fair to say that Barno’s monosyllables certainly qualified:

Every morning, you come into my room to wake me up. Mommy has long since already begun her day, but you know I’m still ripe for the bothering. Sometimes you come in with a Found Object and bang it on my head, saying “WHAT’S THIS, DADDO???” Other tidbits from our mornings:

Me: “Um, so, hey Lucy, it’s early – can you come back in a half-hour?”

Lucy: “Daddo, I want to stay here with you, so don’t fight with me.”

Me: “Why are you stepping on my head?”

Lucy: “Because I want your opinion.”

Lucy: “Daddo, what are you doing?”

Me: “I’m sleeping.”

Lucy: “Daddo, what’s happening?”

Me: “Whaddya mean? I’m sleeping!”

Lucy: “DADDO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?”

Me: “I’m sleeping.”

Lucy: “Okay, I’ll be your blanket.”

dramatic straining noises as she hoists herself onto my bed and flops on my skull

Me: “Wow. My blanket sure smells like fish.”

Lucy: “I had salmon!”

You get the idea. There was a time when I felt so horrible about mornings that I purposely slept through all of them. Something about the dull ache of the early day made me actually sick to my stomach. Now, every morning, I can’t wait to see you. I look forward to mornings like I used to look forward to Nestle Crunch Bars from the ice cream truck. To say you part the clouds and strengthen the sun is an understatement: you are both the sun and clouds, thunderstorms and endlessly warm afternoons, thick snow and cut grass. How did we do it before you? I can’t remember.

Every night either your mom or I tell you a “Barnaby & Lucy” story, featuring some adventure you have taken in an alternate world (the one where Barnaby is already talking, and you can both drive, even though you’re both under 3 years old). Thinking up new stories has been a fascinating thought experiment, because repeats don’t play well in your demographic.

While we were in Texas last month, I was taking a nap, and you came in to “put me to sleep” the way I’ve done for you. I turned on the camera and asked for a Barnaby & Lucy story, and as far as I know, this is your first stab at fiction. Enjoy!

would you like to save 10% and hit me in the face

12/6/07

There are few things in capitalism as depressing as a dying mall. No doubt many of you’ve found yourself inside one of these husks – the movie theater is still going, the bulk candy place still gats forth sour gummi coke bottles, and the Mervyn’s has a couple of old farts rummaging through the shoehorns, but entire wings of the mall have died – frostbitten, gangrenous appendages with the ghosts of Spencer’s Gifts and Auntie Annie’s Pretzels barely stirring the dust.

One such place about to be a giant ghost parking lot is CompUSA, due for extinction by January. You say the name “CompUSA” and then you crinkle your nose, try to remember, and then say “oh yeah, THAT place” and in a millisecond it makes sense. While there were no doubt exceptions, CompUSAs seemed dirty, poorly-put-together, oddly expensive and depressing.

Of course, in the mid-90s, you didn’t have a ton of choices – it was either that or Computer City, which was about as awesome as cough syrup. Sean and I drove from Chapel Hill to Greensboro in 1994 to buy our new Macs at the CompUSA there, and kept having to drive back because they sold us the wrong stuff.

Which, of course, raises the question of how the competition succeeded. Best Buy does itself favors by using dark colors (mostly blue) set off against yellow, which hides dirt and gives the place a vibe. They also have a shitload of stuff, and while the prices are high compared to online, you simply can’t walk out of there without buying something. Circuit City is learning the same lesson through massive re-branding and reversing its earlier problem: being a place that was as black and oppressive as a dungeon. Don’t get me wrong – both places are shitholes where customer service occasionally goes to die, but I confess buying shite at both.

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Another place that manages to keep saving itself is Radio Shack, which by all theories of social anthropology should have died out with Mr. Mister, but here’s the thing: people keep needing extension cords and mini-jacks that convert to RCA adapters. I wouldn’t be surprised if Warren Buffet had stock in Radio Shack for the same reason he owned Gillette – people gotta shave, and people gotta have $3 speaker wire.

This is despite (as The Onion famously observed) Radio Shack’s disturbingly awkward yet annoyingly glommy sales clerks, and the fact that you can’t walk into a store without setting off a light-beam buzzer and feeling as though you’ve just stumbled into the chess team’s basement during a whipit bender.

But the place I’m most frazzled by, of course, is the worst shopping experience in America. Beset by a sales staff that would rather skin themselves alive with the talons of a dead rat than help you, it’s the one store where you could have a stroke in aisle 45 and not be found for weeks. Yes, you guessed right, it’s Home Despot.

And yet, for all of its massive, incalculable shortcomings, capitalism still rewards you for being the best, even if you’re awful. Yes, you could go to the mom-n-pop hardware store (if you can find one) and get 65% of what you need. You can even go to Lowe’s and have a slightly less-inspiring selection. But if you have massive project aspirations and are desperate for only one trip in the car, you’ve only got one choice, and it’s massive and orange.

So I open it up to you: what stores (besides Blockbuster) seem like they’re dying? Which stores should die, but keep limping along? And which make you the most angry?

my office hours: 3pm to 3:04pm

12/5/07

Last week, I had the pleasure of guest-lecturing with my buddy Josh Shenk, now a teacher at Washington College (and director of the Rose O’Neil Literary House) for a class he’s doing this semester on blogs and the act of blogging. While I would have loved to venture down to Maryland to show up in person, I did it via iChat, thus dispensing my charming bon mots while weathering a snowstorm in upstate NY:

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The class seems awesome, passionate, in sharp contrast to… well, what I would have been. I should stop being amazed at 19 and 20-year-olds who actually care about things, since it’s really just a reflection of my own past, riddled with entitlement, ADD, girl-obsession, and a deep-seated belief that neither me nor my friends were able to change anything about the world. Thank god that passed, eh? HEE HEE!

Ahem. Anyway, we all had a good discussion about why people write these things, what inspires them, and how much any of us depend on feedback to keep going. My advice usually skirts a few major areas. You keep a blog because:

1) No matter what, it’s writing. Even if you’re in a cover band, you’re still playing the guitar.

2) They say that the cure for writer’s block is research. I say the effortlessness of the internet (and Wikipedia) has made research a distraction – now the only REAL cure is forcing yourself to have a blog.

3) There is a sense in accomplishment. If you keep your blog going longer than three months, you’re doing better than 93% of all others who tried.

4) You may accidentally write something that gets forwarded 3.7 million times around the world and wind up with a book deal. Hell, that’s almost happened twice right here, my compatriots!

Smartly, Josh had his own students keep blogs for the semester, and they offer daily breadth; some are personal, some are topical, and they’re all wonderfully different. Here are seven you should check out:

– Alexander Sobotka writes Sydlexia, the journal of a dyslexic student who gave up his medication – also features one of the saddest cartoons I’ve ever seen.

Stalking With the Stars is AJ Star’s daily heart-racing jaunt through television and movies – think Thighs Wide Shut without, you know, the boobs and corn.

– Meghan’s Not Even Past is one to get lost in. I especially like the list of players at right, allowing access into the dreamscapes and languid descriptions of her childhood.

– I dig Emma’s tagline: “Remember when publishing was complicated?” From there, we get to do one of my favorite things: dork out over something very specific. For her, it’s archaic typeface and bookbinding, which, of course, leads to all kinds of other thoughts in The Composing Stick.

– I told Olivia there was a book to be written for her blog idea: recipes that could be made in the dorm. Taking food down to its simplest level and making it yumbly, that’s the word in Anything But Spaghetti.

– Fitting the same space in our brain as Found Art and Overheard in New York, spend a few moments with Aubrey at Hartford 3C and you might even learn what a zeugma is.

– And if you want to right some wrongs, check out Rory’s PowerTrip blog, where Hugo Chavez gets it in the kneecaps.

In all, it was great to meet the class, and I hope I didn’t come off as too bizarre – after all, I was talking to a pair of drapes and imagining being in Chestertown, MD. Ain’t that what technology’s for?