Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NaBloPoMo

Well folks, I've decided to take a run at NaBloPoMo. I know, that probably doesn't sound like a very good idea, given my track record so far on trying to post at least once every week. Posting once a day for the entire month of November is going to be quite the challenge. Oddly enough, it seems to be some strange sense of guilt over not posting weekly that has driven me to try this.

Man, I've got issues.

In principle though, I think it's a great idea. Let's get as many people as we can to write something once a day for a whole month. For all our problems getting kids to read and write, we're still the most literate society that the world has ever seen. Things like this can only serve to help that trend.

And you really can't underestimate the power of the Internet in allowing this to happen. The Internet is very quickly becoming the great leveler. I see kids from all sorts of cultural and societal backgrounds in the library daily using the Internet for all sorts of things with no difficulty at all. A lot of these are kids who will never have Internet access at home, but they're still perfectly comfortable navigating the online world. As long as we continue to provide open access and make strong efforts to eliminate the digital divide, this will continue to grow.

I know a lot of people in my profession take issue with providing Internet access, and somehow see the kids playing Runescape or hanging out on MySpace for three hours as a waste of time and resources. But think about it. The kids have to read and write to use those sites. Maybe grammar and spelling go out the window, but they're communicating. And who are we to say that grammar and spelling have gone out the window? Maybe they're just changing. After all, look at what's already made it into our common parlance from the Net: lol, omg, pwn, w00t... heck, even blog!

So let's all get over ourselves and enjoy the free-for-all. Happy NaBloPoMo everyone!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Live Blogging

I was thinking about live blogging the World Series tonight. Not because I'm a baseball expert-- I know many people who are much more knowledgeable about baseball than I am. I just thought it would be fun.

So I was going to start out critiquing Francona's decision to field Ortiz. Mainly because Youkilis has shown that he can hit well, Papi seems to have been a bit of a slump lately, and I have worries about his ability to field with his numerous aches and pains. I was also worried about Ellsbury leading off.

Well, my worries about Ellsbury were quickly settled. The kid's amazing. I can't believe that he's only just come up. But for the first two innings it looked like I was right about Papi. Plus Fogg was looking unhittable, and we seemed to finally have a game on our hands.

Then the third comes along. Not only was I clearly way off base to worry about Francona's lineup, but what looked like it might be a game got blown wide open. I do feel a little bad for the Rockies, but the Sox are just playing really good ball. It seems like whenever the opposing pitcher starts off ahead of them, after a couple innings they figure out how to hit the guy and it's all over. Back that up with good defensive play, and you've got a Series.

So the lesson here? I'm not a baseball expert (which we already knew), and if I'm going to try live blogging I should probably stick to competitive crochet.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Black Sabbath

I would not describe myself as a Black Sabbath fan. I definitely don't fit the profile of your average Ozzfest attendee. And frankly I have very little patience for that demographic. I just don't think that they appreciate music.

Yes, I am a snob.

But even though I'm not a fan, I do enjoy a lot of the music that Black Sabbath put out in the 70's. You have to admire rock music that can be transcribed for marching band and still sound cool.

But seriously, it's remarkable how many of their songs like "War Pigs" have entered our cultural consciousness, and their staying power is phenomenal. The fact that a several current bands have covered the song is a testament to that. One of my personal favorites is the Dresden Dolls' version, which I think they only do live. You gotta love a "Brechtian punk cabaret" duo covering a song like that on keyboard and drums.

This morning on the drive in I was listening to Cake's cover of "War Pigs" and, mainly because John McRea has better diction than Ozzy, I found myself really listening to the words-- harsh, brutal, and to the point. Unfortunately, the message of the song is just as applicable today as it was when it was written. So I present for you Black Sabbath's "War Pigs." Think about it.
Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
Evil minds that plot destruction
Sorcerers of death's construction
In the fields the bodies burning
As the war machine keeps turning
Death and hatred to mankind
poisoning their brainwashed minds
Oh Lord yeah

Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight
They leave that all to the poor

Time will tell on their power minds
Making war just for fun
Treating people just like pawns in chess
Wait 'till their judgment day comes

Now in darkness world stops turning
As the war machine keeps burning
No more war pigs have the power
Hand of God has struck the hour
Day of judgment God is calling
On their knees, the war pigs crawling
Begging mercy for their sins
Satan laughing spreads his wings
Oh Lord yeah

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hiya Cuz!

Ah, the oh-so delicious irony of it all. This is why I love America.














That's right folks, Barack Obama and Dick Cheney are cousins. Eighth cousins, granted, but still cousins nonetheless. Naturally, this immediately led to all sorts of silliness over the fact that Obama is black and, shockingly, Dick Cheney is white. At least NPR did point out the irony that many black families appear to hide the white roots in their tree in much the same way that white families try to hide the black roots in their trees. For Bog's sake people, grow up! I would've thought that Star Trek had long ago pointed out how silly all this blathering about skin color was.
As long as we're on pop culture references, this brings to mind the constant references to Cheney's apparent resemblance to a particularly famous evil sidekick. Now that we've got the family relationship, all sorts of possibilities come up...

Okay, I'm done now.

But doesn't this point out exactly what is so great about the United States? Two men, so different in both their world view and in their appearance, are actually cousins? How can any unyielding, stereotyping, prejudice-filled, evil soul continue to stand in the face of flat out proof that America is the great leveler? That at the end of the day the one who seemed to be our greatest enemy is, in fact, our cousin?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Seventh Inning Stretch

I am tired of "God Bless America." It was always a pretty stupid song, better suited to being belted by a bunch of 7-year-olds at the school concert than professionals. But ever since 9/11, the song's prevalence has been especially annoying.

I will admit, I got chills when Congress spontaneously sang the song on the steps of the Capitol the day after the attacks. But that was because here were the leaders of our country, brought to this place where the best thing they could think to do was to sing a song of their childhood about how America would survive. That was great.

But why are we still hearing it now? Years have past, and we should have moved on. I mean, we still sing "The Star Spangled Banner" before sporting events, why belabor the issue?

As far as I'm concerned, the worst part is that it's taken the place of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at the seventh inning stretch. First of all, way to kill the mood. We're supposed to be enjoying some lighthearted fun, and then we go all serious about the country. What the hell? I'm at the ballpark to enjoy the game, not get preached to.

Worse than that, now standing up isn't "stretching," it's a sign of respect. And apparently you also now have to remove your hat and put your hand over your heart for the song. I thought that was only for the National Anthem. If you're going to replace the National Anthem, at least replace it with a decent song, like say, "America the Beautiful"?

Please, end the madness. Let us enjoy baseball again. Let's all remember Harry Carey hanging out the press box half-drunk, and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Homesick

I keep forgetting that I get depressed around this time of year. I always remember that I get depressed in February, but for some reason, when I hit the doldrums in September it always takes me a few weeks to remember that it happens this way every year. And, just like my February doldrums it always takes me a while to remember that the reason I'm depressed is that Ohio isn't New Hampshire.

There's really only one time of year that I like in Ohio. That's late evening in August, where, after a hot and humid day, the heat begins to recede and you can sit on your porch watching the sun set in an orange haze while listening to the cicadas. The problem is that in order to get to that evening you have to sit through a sweltering day under a bleached white sky with an atmosphere that you could drink sooner than breathe.

In fairness, New Hampshire has its nasty season too. It's that straggling end of winter that comes around April and usually lasts through May. Locals know it as mud season. It's a mess of slushy snow melting off, temperatures too cold to be comfortable but too warm for snow to stick, and desperate thoughts that only a few hundred miles to the south there's this thing called Spring that we'll never see. I never really knew what Spring was until I went to college in Pennsylvania.

But the rest of the seasons, for my money New Hampshire is perfect. We always go to visit in the Summer, so I get my fix of the clear blue skies, highs in the upper 70s, sunlight slanting through leaves, mountain brooks running over granite boulders... you get the idea.

But Winter and Fall, I'm in Ohio. And Ohio doesn't get either of those seasons. Fall in Ohio means that the trees turn brownish yellow and you get some breaks in the Summer heat before it goes away completely. Winter in Ohio means overcast and cold drizzle. How can anyone enjoy that?

Recently several things have come up to make me feel it even more. A colleague went to New Hampshire for a week and visited the mountains on my advice. A friend wrote about exactly what I miss. Another friend has moved to the Midwest and is discovering what it lacks.

I haven't been back to New Hampshire in the fall since 1995. And fall is the best season. The air goes cool and crisp, the leaves explode into color, and every day feels like a celebration of the Summer that has been.

I miss drives through corridors of fiery gold. I miss smelling woodsmoke on the air in the evenings as the warm day gives way to the cool night. I miss frost on pumpkins. I miss walking in my wool coat through an orchard, picking baskets of apples. I miss "my tree" turning to orange the week of my birthday. I miss climbing the ridge of a mountain under snow-heavy clouds, looking down the brown-grey slope to where where the dark green firs give way to orange, red, and yellow, ending in the slate blue mirror of a lake.