30 June 2007

The Mix Up

Wow? Has it really been two weeks since an entry? Time flies. I can't believe it's already July.

We'll kick of the renewed blogging with something short and easy:

As a late father's day present, Sarah bought me The Mix Up -- the new instrumental CD from the Beastie Boys. I have always liked the Beasties playing instruments and this album of all new music delivers. It's jazzy, funky, and groovy in alternating amounts. There are unique keyboard sounds on many tracks and some unique noises (a whistle, for example) thrown in (not sure if there are samples or loops in there as well). Some songs remind me of a simpler Medeski, Martin, and Wood and the whole album has a nice, urban, NYC vibe.

Good stuff! Thanks Sarah and Eleanor.

15 June 2007

Random Friday Ranting

Look out. . .

Is it that hard to throw some shorts and sneakers in the back of your beater truck so that when you go to the gym after working your construction/manufacturing job you DON'T HAVE TO WORK OUT IN MUDDY WORKBOOTS AND JEANS?

Oh, I'm sorry, I guess I didn't sufficiently analyze the "No smoking" rule for my lunch resturant. I guess since it doesn't specifically say "Please smoke outside, and by smoking we mean both inhalation and exhalation" it's okay to take a big long last drag off your cigarette, then EXHALE IT WHEN YOU COME BACK INSIDE. I guess we need to be more specific about these things.

Dear "Real World Reunion Las Vegas Cast": I can give you some latitude for being young, wanting to be on TV, and thus doing dumb stuff in Las Vegas for my amusement and occasional embarassment at being part of the same culture as you. But now that all of you are 30ish and one of you has a child, all of you just look sad. Really, was it a surpise to you that MTV would try to get the former couple (Alton and Irulan) to be together as much as possible and, thus, create drama? Are three more years of quasi-celebrity endorsements and bar tours worth it?

That's all I got for today.

11 June 2007

Richard Rorty, 1931-2007

I just found out, thanks to my friend Lee, that Richard Rorty died on Friday.

This makes me a little sad. Rorty was a philosopher who had a pretty large influence on my intellectual development. My great teacher Jim Edwards assigned Rorty's Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity in the 20th Century Philosophy class I took my senior year. That book had a pretty significant impact, particuarly the idea of contingency: that things (our culture, our history, ourselves) could have been very different. There were no metaphysical guarantees for anything. This results in irony, as we realize our most sacred possessions are merely historical contingencies, yet cling to them anyway. Rorty was no nihilist; he argued that we love and defend our deeply held, important beliefs and practices even though they were contingent. He just wanted us to realize that this stuff -- who we are, who we want to be -- is up to us.

Rorty via Jim Edwards led me to Dewey via John McDermott. And there you have it.

I saw Rorty speak twice. I drove down to Rice University when I was at TAMU to hear him give an ethics lecture. I remember that lecture pretty well; he argued that, in a contingent worldview, ultimate ethical principles didn't make sense from a metaphysical standpoint, but did from a personal one. Ultimate ethical principles were those which one could not imagine oneself giving up and still being the same person. I briefly shook Rorty's hand and babbled on about Dewey for a few minutes afterward.

I also saw Rorty and UVA, where he defended his position against charges of relativism. I thought that talk was a little less interesting, simply because Rorty had gone over that ground before. Still, he was an engaging speaker and took questions and comments from annoyingly pretentious graduate students who clearly hadn't read him very well with equanimity.

I hadn't read his stuff in awhile. I've drifted away from those positions a little. But Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity was certainly a right book at the right time situation.

RIP, Richard Rorty.

10 June 2007

A Beach Weekend

It's about 7:15 AM. Eleanor and I are up at my brother's house in Myrtle Beach. Everyone else is still sleeping, except the five young stray cats that hang out along the ditch at the edge of my brother's back yard. Eleanor is in her chair, looking out the back glass (and one of the cats is looking back at her), taking in the world and occasionally making baby commentary.

We've been here since Thursday. WE came down to visit my family and help my dad do some work at the old homestead. He cut down some trees earlier in the week. On Friday, in 95 degree heat, I helped him saw some of those trees into boards. It was hot and occasionally frustrating work. Who knows what the boards will be used for. But that wasn't really the point. The point was my dad LIKES to do that kind of stuff around the house. It's actually a stress reliever for him. I can't say I fully understand it, but I was happy to help him out on Friday. We worked and we talked and I know, in some weird way, he had a good time. And I did too.

We also took Eleanor on her first trip to the ocean yesterday. We covered her up and put on a hat and walked out on Springmaid Pier. Of course, she fell asleep in the car on the way over, so she was only semi-conscious for her first look at the ocean. Still it was fun to take her. I wonder how many things parents drag their kids to so their kids can do it, when actually it's really so the parents can say they took their kids to do it? Probably a lot.

Well, Eleanor is getting fussy, so that's all for now.

06 June 2007

Classic Albums

Wil Wheaton is rapidly becoming my hero. In his latest blog post, he talks about his love for Pink Floyd. He also mentions the Classic Alubum documentaries, some of which aired on VH1 before VH1 got infected with the reality TV virus. Making of documentaries on Dark Side of the Moon, The Joshua Tree, Songs in the Key of Life, The Band, Transformer, Number of the Beast, etc. These look awesome and I must watch all of them immediately.

Look out, Netflix queue!

04 June 2007

Monday, Monday

I'm having trouble getting motivated this afternoon. I have an orientation session for my on-line class at 6:00, so I stayed home this morning and came to the office about noon. It was a fun morning. Sarah, Eleanor, and I went for a walk. I read all of the paper. We watched a Sopranos episode (Sarah and I just started watchting that show; we're still on disc one!).

But I find it hard to get started when I don't get started until after 12:00. I am not sure what it is, but I'll find any excuse not to get real work done in the afternoon unless I've already built some momentum in the morning.

We had a good weekend, though. Rock Hill got some much needed rain. The family had a little picnic at Glencarin Gardens on Saturday (before the rain). I played D&D on Saturday night. We went to church Sunday morning, then had our friends Jeannie and Jason over for dinner Sunday night. Sure, the Red Sox dropped 2 of 3 to the Yankees, but still have a 10 game lead.

01 June 2007

May reading (magazine reviews)

May is over and I didn't read a book. I didn't even start a book. Not sure why, just wasn't in the reading mode.

I did, however, buy a copy of Men's Health. I thought it would motivate me to get back into the gym. I then bought a copy of Best Life (from the same people as Men's Health) because it was a special fathers day issue and I wanted to see what they had to say about fatherhood. I then bought a copy of GQ, largely for the same reasons.

Havinng read all three, I thought I would do a service to the world and break them all down, just so you'd know which one to check out and which one to avoid. Here's the blow by blow:

Cover Photo
Men's Health: James Marsden
Best Life: Kyle Chandler (from Friday Night Lights)
GQ: Jessica Alba
Winner -- Hmmmm. . . let's go with the hot woman on this one. GQ

Cover Blurbs

Men's Health: promises "Red Hot Sex Safari", which is really an article about reading non-verbal signals from women. Disappontment!
Best Life: "45 New ideas that will change your life forever!" Funny, I don't feel that different.
GQ: None so egregious. We'll go with "Have you tried the new hallucinogen?" Why, no.
Winner -- GQ

Fitness
Men's Health: Lots of tips and a poster. Do they really think people put these posters up somewhere? And the tips are basicly the same four over and over -- run intervals, do squats, use freeweights, set measurable goals
Best Life: Less tips and no poster
GQ: How to make a fit martini
Winner -- Men's Health

Food
Men's Health: A useless recipe for jerk chicken kabobs ( essentially "buy some jerk sauce and pour it on chicken kabobs"), but a really handy feature on some cooking basics (like the three consituent components of any marinade)
Best Life: Gazpacho recipe
GQ: Interesting article on Jim Denevan, a travelling chef. Cool, but doesn't help me cook for my family.
Winner -- Men's Health

Money
Let's face it, I don't have enough cash to benefit from any tips in any of these magazines. Except all mention 529 plans as the best way to save for a kid's college.
Tie.

Music Mentions

Mens Health -- White Stripes
Best Life -- Colin Meloy (of the Decemberists) talks about his music pics
GQ -- One of the CD's they suggest fathers listen to with their kids is "Bob Dylan and the Band -- The Basement Tapes"
I am not remotely musically hip anymore, and if I wanted to get hip by finding out about new music, I wouldn't buy Best Life to do so.
Winner: GQ

Literary Cred
Men's Health: A quick 50 words on the new Rick Moody book.
Best Life: 50 words BY Rick Moody about Thomas Pynchon
GQ: An Ian MacEwan vs. Don Delillo "Tale of the Tape" complete with the author's heads photoshopped onto boxer's bodies. Pretty funny.
Winner: The GQ bit was funnier, but it really didn't make me want to read those guys, so we'll go with Best Life.

Random Celebrity in Fashion Shoot

Mens Health: Adam Levine from Maroon 5 wearing denim
Best Life: John Mellencamp and family in Calvin Klien
GQ: Justin Long (Mac ads, Dodgeball)
I would have gone with Mellancamp, hands down, until he totally sold out to Chevrolet. This may be our country, but you now suck. Winner -- GQ

Add that freaks me out
Well, they all basicly have the same adds. GQ has a few more of the higher end ones, including a Dolce and Gabbana add with some guy in zebra stripped shorts handing upside down and a shirtless guy in jeans standing up, hanging onto a barbell, while a scantily clad woman hangs from the barbell. What the hell is going on here? There's clearly some sort of homoerotic subtext that I just don't get. Maybe Fergie could hel me out, since she clearly is g-l-a-m-o-r-ous and/or flossie, flossie.

Crap I can't afford factor
Men's Health: features a $100 Coach keychain and the standard array of $250 jeans, $150 ties, and $1000 jackets. They do feature some less expensive shoes in their article on white canvas shoes for the summer.
Best Life: $2500 custom made pocket knives, $15,000 motorcycles, and the standard array. They have the shoes, too.
GQ: Come on, it's GQ. They talk about $30 tubes of toothpaste and $150 t-shirts. But it seems like they make an effort to be a bit more inclusive. They feature a $400 cotton suit and have a letter from someone calling them out about their expensive features, along with a response saying why they feature expensive stuff and how they try to include more affordable options.
Winner -- GQ

Number of subscription cards with magazine

Men's Health: 362 (but each one gets you a different extra book. One gets you 'How to score with women" for example, while another gets you "How to get six pack abs so you can score with women".
Best Life: 57
GQ: 4
The forests say GQ is the winner.


Level of Writing
Men's Health: College Freshman. Few articles above 500 words.
Best Life: College Senior. A few longer pieces.
GQ: Grad school. Long pieces on politics, film, and that nomadic chef guy
Winner: GQ

Humor
Men's Health: Aw, shucks.
Best Life: Who has time for humor when you are raising a family and making a move to be an executive?
GQ: Ironic, self referential, and often smarmy.
I don't really like smarmy, but they do have some funny stuff. Winner, GQ.

References to Hemmingway (note, not references to anything really literary about Hemmingway, just aspects of his "manliness")

Men's Health: 1
Best Life: 2
GQ: 0
Winner -- GQ (Look, I love Hemmingway, but I hate to seem him used this way. He cultivated it, sure, but it was also the reason he put a shotgun in his mouth).

So GQ wins unless you are looking for workout tips. And really, you only have to buy two months worth of Men's Health to get all the tips they offer.