Expatriot Act

The university of these days is a collection of books.

31 July 2006

Lit Fit

This article in the Inquirer Magazine really riled me up today (and that was no easy task today, let me tell you). This mom is all upset because she bought the follow-up book to Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and it's a little too spicy for her daughter, so she read it to her aloud and edited it along the way. Then she proceeds to eviscerate the whole "chick-lit" genre in general. Talk about easy targets. But I think she's entirely off-base. Observe:

Cecily von Ziegesar, the improbably named author of the Gossip Girl oeuvre, once told me, in all seriousness, "I think my books are very similar to Jane Austen." Then again, Plum Sykes said she wrote Bergdorf Blondes because she couldn't find a successor to Truman Capote and Edith Wharton.

In an ideal world, the words Manolo Blahnik would be forever banned from all novels. Comparisons to Jane Austen and Edith Wharton would also be prohibited for all novelists, especially authors prone to shopping references. What von Ziegesar has done is not ape Austen, whose work is terrific for teens (Wharton's is, too), but produce Judith Krantz for the Clearasil set.

Well unlike Little Ms. Goody Two Chiu's here, I absolutely agree with CvZ. The whole chick lit genre appeals to the same audience for the same reasons that Austen and Wharton appealed to in their times, the only difference is the time period. Their works were very popular and considered trashy and tawdry then, but over time their virtues have been cemented and they've become escapes into a bygone era. Who is she to say the same won't be said of these chick lit books 100 years from now?

I don't even remotely like chick lit. You'll never find me wondering what designer the Devil wears or the intimate details of the sex lives of impossibly thin, rich, and neurotic women. I have too many unread classics and non-fiction works on my shelf that command my attention, I don't need to supplement them with most of what's out there right now. But that's just a matter of taste, I don't think there's anything wrong with these books being published by and for adult women, especially if it gets people to read who might otherwise just not read at all. The fervor with which the women at my work pass these books around makes me smile, even though I don't have any interest in reading them myself. If this woman doesn't want her 10-year-old learning about the big O, maybe she should do a little more investigation before picking up these kind of books for her. Or maybe she should just let her daughter find books that interest her, maybe she'd rather be reading about dinosaurs or something. It'd be nice if sometimes parents talked to their children instead of talking to everyone else about their children, and by proxy, about what should be done for everyone else's children.

Also: what the hell kind of phrase is "salty argot"? Is that like escargot? ;)

No Strings Attached

Saw an interesting blog post today that Apple has applied for various patents that give the impression that iPods will soon have touch screens, and also be wireless. That sounds pretty awesome, but how will we know who is cool enough to have an iPod if there aren't big white wires coming out of your ears? My suggestion: lazers.

30 July 2006

Assassination Vacation

I made what I think is the best thematic mix I've ever made for Stefanie, Justin, and any other interested parties. I wrote up a little companion text for it which you can find below. - M.

I’m calling this mix Assassination Vacation, borrowing the title of the Sarah Vowell essay collection in which she visits various historic sites across America, specifically ones important to the various presidential assassinations both successful and merely attempted. This mix includes a.) songs about various periods of U.S. History b.) elegies to dead famous people of all stripes and c.) songs that vaguely fit in with the assassination theme.

1. Nancy Sinatra – Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)
Not necessarily about a famous dead American, although this uncharacteristically haunting, beautiful song was written by Sonny Bono, who is both famous and now dead. This song was featured recently on the Kill Bill soundtrack.

2. Leonard Cohen – Chelsea Hotel #2
Leonard Cohen has a reputation of being a ladies’ man; one that he vehemently denies in the documentary about him that’s out in the theaters right now, I’m Your Man. Of his album title Death of a Ladies’ Man he says, “My reputation as a ladies’ man is a big joke that has caused me to laugh bitterly through the 10,000 nights I spent alone.” Cohen is one of the cultural luminaries who lived at New York’s infamous Chelsea hotel in the 60s, and in an unusual stroke of indiscretion he admitted this song is about Janis Joplin. “Giving me head on the unmade bed”… I personally can’t imagine the Armani-clad Canuck and the bourbon-soaked hippie queen getting down, but apparently they did. “You told me again you preferred handsome men, but for me you would make an exception,” classic Leonard Cohen – funny, self-effacing, and beautifully stated.

3. The Byrds – He was a Friend of Mine
One of the lesser-known tributes to JFK. “Though I never met him, I knew him just the same.” This sweet, simple song really evokes the sentiments of a nation who actually had respect and admiration for their president. One can only imagine what that feels like.

4. The Beatles – Rocky Raccoon
There is some debate over the origin of this song, but the conventional wisdom (with which I’d like to agree) is that the Beatles wrote this song about 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson. What does Roky have to say about it? “They might of been hinted at somethin’ like that, but I say all those drunk, they take all those words and they walk into a record company and take out piles of it and give you a little map how to get there and have fun. If it was actually communism, then they could get it. In other words with communism, you know like with that song you know you want a revolution, you know we all want to change the world, and if a communist, if you put in the communist version of that song, the communists would rather chose the Rolling Stones and Beatles for their songs because they want to shoot the Rolling Stones.” Did I mention that Roky Erickson did way too much LSD and ended up batshit crazy, writing awesome songs about vampires and zombies? Just in case you couldn’t tell from the quote. It should be noted, though, that any rumors about Roky Erickson’s death are greatly exaggerated.

5. Neutral Milk Hotel – Holland 1945
Probably the most upbeat song you’ll ever hear about children dying in the Holocaust. The album on which this song appears, In an Aeroplane Over the Sea, is purportedly about Anne Frank. This is my favorite song on one of my most-listened-to albums. The juxtaposition of the lines as they change just plow me over. “The only girl I ever loved was born with roses in her eyes/ but then they buried her alive one evening 1945 with just her sister at her side/ and only days before the guns all came and rained on everyone.” Whew.

6. The Dead Milkmen – Beach Party Vietnam
Ahh the Dead Milkmen. Philly punk natives, they are funny and offensive and fantastic. Nothing says summer assassination vacation like cooking hot dogs with napalm.

7. They Might Be Giants – James K. Polk
I could not name this mix after Sarah Vowell’s book, Assassination Vacation, without putting this song on there. The two Johns tell us more about this lesser-known president than we ever learned in high school with their usual sharp turn-of-phrase and remarkable rhyming schemes. There are some amazing videos for this song on You Tube that kids made for their high school History classes. They Might Be Giants – educational as they are fun!

8. Rancid – Black Lung
This is a latter-day Rancid song off of the underrated album Life Won’t Wait. It’s a short punchy little number about the industrial revolution.

9. The Explosion – Points West
If there’s a punker song about Manifest Destiny I don’t know it. It also eludes to problems about how we’re taught history in schools. Also it makes you want to pogo around the room and kick over your furniture.

10. Q and Not U – Wet Work
We’re friends with this band, who after releasing their absolutely incredible album on which this song appears, Power, sadly broke up. They’re a DC-band on Dischord Records. Anyway this song, besides being the perfect mix of punk and dance music, speaks generally but eloquently to current social and legal struggle. “Something beautiful will always surround us but it’s just to easy to erase/ Something beautiful is shot down in every place.”

11. Le Tigre – Hot Topic
Who isn’t mentioned in this song? This feminist electro-trio gives shoutouts to everyone who’s ever influenced them ever. I have not heard of most of them, and I think this makes me a bad feminist. I’d like to think perhaps they padded this song out with the names of their third-grade teachers or something but I think there’s just a lot of feminist scholarship out there I just don’t know about.

12. Devo – Are You Experienced?
A totally transcendent cover of Jimi Hendrix’s song, Devo takes it to places no one could have imagined. They probably describe it best, “Not necessarily beautiful, but mutated.” There was a big legal battle over this song, the estate of Jimi Hendrix did not want them to be able to release the song as a single. What ever happened to free love?

13. Radiohead – Electioneering
One of the more overtly-political Radiohead songs, the sneer in Thom Yorke’s voice while trying to win your vote is classic. And ooh that Johnny Greenwood sure can play that gee-tar.

14. Nirvana – Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle
Seattle-native Frances Farmer was a rebellious actress who was accused of being an Atheist and Communist in the 1930s. Apparently her failing to pay a fine resulted in her arrest and her belligerence caused them to give her insulin shock therapy and eventually electroshock therapy which was, oh, just a bit overkill just for being tempestuous. “She’ll come back as fire and burn all the liars, leave a blanket of ash on the ground.” It is clear that Kurt felt a kinship with Frances (although the rumors that he named his baby after her are apparently untrue).

15. The Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop
Who knew a song about being rained on by mortars in the middle of the night in World War II would eventually be the soundtrack for a moshing can of Diet Pepsi? Like the Neutral Milk Hotel song, the brilliance of this song lies in the how upbeat it is despite the fact that it’s about the saddest thing in all of history. I would also like to register the fact that I fucking hate Pepsi.

16. The Clash – The Right Profile
Montgomery Clift was a matinee idol who had girls swooning in the aisles, but he got into a terrible car wreck (in which Elizabeth Taylor had to stop him from choking on his own teeth! Yikes.) and was disfigured from then on. He died in 1966 from complications of alcohol and drug addiction. Marilyn Monroe once said of Clift that he’s “the only person I know who is in worse shape than I am.” That’s gotta hurt.

17. Serge Gainsbourg – Bonnie and Clyde
Good thing we all know the story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, because you’re not going to get it from this song. Even if you speak some French, Serge Gainsbourg’s songs are practically impenetrable because of his liberal use of double entendre and various kinds of wordplay. Even though you can’t understand the words, the playfulness of Gainsbourg’s songs come through (and isn’t it cute the way Brigitte Bardot says “Bunny and Clyde”?)

18. Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding
John Wesley Hardin was a 19th century outlaw, a real denizen of the Wild West. He killed more than 40 men in his life, one apparently because he was snoring. Johnny Cash also wrote a song about him called “Hardin Didn’t Run.”

19. Jack Kerouac – Ain’t We Got Fun
Although saucy Jack does send this song out to a “lovely, beautiful, skinny, shapely” Sue Evans, this song is on here because it’s a rarely heard bit of Americana; Kerouac, king of the American beats, crooning and scatting out an American standard. Swoon.

20. Johnny Cash – In My Life
The Man in Black gave us this fantastic cover of what is widely recognized as one of the greatest pop songs of all time, written of course by the Beatles, specifically John Lennon. This song achieves a particular poignancy when delivered by an aging Mr. Cash, who had seen many a famous friend take a permanent assassination vacation.

21. R.E.M. – E-bow the Letter
I have long loved this mysterious song by R.E.M. but I didn’t know until I was making this mix that it’s written about River Phoenix. “This fame thing, I don’t get it/ I wrap my hand in plastic to try to look through it.”

22. The Fiery Furnaces – We Got Back the Plague
I thought it was only appropriate to finish this Assassination Vacation mix with some song about George W. Bush. But I’m never one for being beat over the head with a message, I like it when the message is more subtle, and this brother-sister duo have it down with this song. “And I don’t care if he bombs Babylon to hell/ Except for he’s building Babylon here as well.” And any song that is somehow subtle while referring to W. as “The Plague” is pretty awesome in my book.

For all the songs I included on this mix there were a lot I left out, either for flow or because I didn’t particularly like the song even though it was thematic. Although this is the most commercial mix I've ever made it's also the most complete thematically. I would send it out today but I wanted to put this little "reader" with the CD so I need to print it out and find a way to lay it out in a CD book. Enjoy!

Also I'm thinking of somehow incorporating this Simpsons reference to the assassination of the Lincoln squirrel into the cover booklet somehow.

The Lincoln Squirrel has been assassinated! We'll stay with this story all night if we have to!"

28 July 2006

Shine Your Light on Me

If you look at it just right, the universal radiation warning symbol looks a bit like an angel.

I've been thinking a lot about the nature of preservation/conservation, and what a really difficult undertaking it is to decide what is worth saving for posterity in its original form and what is not. Pulp novels are one thing that were universally considered garbage that people are having a renewed interest in, certainly not so much because of the content, but the gorgeous, lurid artwork, the cracked yellow pages, the smell of stale cigarettes and countless cups of coffee imbued in the paper. Somewhat tangentially I'm always interested in symbols and how they change meaning over time. My friend pointed me to this really interesting post about how to make symbols telling people ten thousand years from now, hey, there's some radioactive shit buried in this mountain, you might not want to come near it, ever.

Here's what a government panel decided are the meanings they need to convey through a symbol:
*This place is a message… and part of a system of messages… pay attention to it!
*Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.

*This place is not a place of honor…no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here… nothing valued is here.
*What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us.
*This message is a warning about danger. The danger is in a particular location… it increases toward a center… the center of danger is here… of a particular size and shape, and below us.
*The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours.
*The danger is to the body, and it can kill.
*The form of the danger is an emanation of energy.
*The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically.
*This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.

Wow, that's heavy, Ogre. Here's my submission:

I think nothing says, "Stay the hell away from here" like this giant sign riveted to a mountain.

What symbol would you come up with? Feel free to be funny and/or offensive. (also read the comments on that post, some are funny and some are actually thought-provoking)

26 July 2006

Steamin Up the Stacks

Alright kiddies this entry might be a little blue so if you're sensitive please go read something else.

I just watched a great documentary on HBO about the history of American burlesque called Pretty Things. It was a great doc with interviews with the old burlesque gals and they teach the young female documentarian some tricks of the trade. Their custom-made costumes (which they thankfully kept!) are stunning. So I start searching around and I found a pretty weird little site I thought you might get a kick out of. There's a site that looks at pulp novels, particularly dealing with the idea of the "naughty librarian." Some of these 49 titles are really disturbing (Degraded Raped Librarian?? YIKES.) But some of them are just plain hilarious. My two favorites: Bang the Librarian Hard and Helpful Head Librarian. (what a wonderful pun!) Sadly there is no cover art available for these titles (believe me, I looked). There are a few interesting facts on the site as well:

In all of these novels 90 percent or more of the text is explicit description of all types of sexual activities. The remaining passages that describe a setting and characters are the subject of the
annotations. Unless otherwise noted, all of the novels contain passages describing vaginal, oral, and anal sex in a multitude of positions, and lesbian sex. The characters, most frequently female, portrayed as librarians are always library employees, but may actually be paraprofessional, clerical, or student assistants. The libraries described include public, academic, high school, and special libraries of a variety of types and sizes. Some library descriptions seem to have been written by librarians or by regular library users, as they're
quite realistic; other authors have apparently never even been in a library.

Which begs the question: whom among us is writing librarian pulp sex novels? Come on, I bet at least one of you has. You dirty buggers.

If You're Feelin' All In, Take some Aspirin

What are the odds?!

I had so much work to do today at work, and I should also be spending the day preparing my final discussion posts for class (which is the last thing I had to do this term). I go to work all dolled up in a cute outfit (had a date with the bf planned tonight) and what happens? I'm on the phone with a coworker and I'm trying to read something off of the computer screen and I mention, "Geez I can barely see for some reason! The lights are all flashy." Then I go about my business and went to tell my old boss about the funny email asking me whether I preferred egg salad or tuna salad as my vegan option for a business lunch (one guess!) and I noticed, geez, those lights still are a-flashin'. He thrusts a handful of ibruprofen in my hand and tells me to go put my sunglasses on because I'm in for it now. In for what?

My first ever migraine! Am I a grad student now or what?!

I sorta felt like Jeanne Moreau in Elevator to the Gallows, disoriented, wandering the streets of Paris  Philadelphia, accidentally running into a dude who called me "baby," until I finally found a cab and made it home. It was the first ever time I slept with sunglasses on. I slept for a long time but I still doesn't feel quite right to be looking at the computer screen, so I'm going to rely on Justin to let me know when the full discussion board assignments are up and what I'm supposed to do about them. I wish I had the presence of mind to hit the ATM before I came home (although I should just be thankful that I didn't get hit by a truck) because now I'm famished and only have $10. I'll call Scott and we'll get chinese food and hopefully I'll feel a little less disoriented. Speaking of, there's that thud again...I should get off of this thing.

At least Elevator to the Gallows is on. Nothing like French film noir to gleefully darken a day when you wish you could extinguish the sun.

25 July 2006

I Love Lamp -or- all work and no play makes Megan something something...

Hey all...

Thanks for your comments on the blog about your equal inability to muster the energy to write the last paper (and seemingly how you're remedying this by posting on people's blogs, and I remedy it by reading the comments on mine. Bad Grad students! Bad!) But after many hours of surgery, my paperectomy was a success and I submitted it to the dropbox at 1am.

So, you might be asking yourself, what's with the lamp?

My mom got me this crazy awesome Tiffany "style" lamp as an early birthday gift (my birthday is in December, but woman just wanted to buy it for me, I can tell.) I love Tiffany glass but I swear I've never seen anything like this lamp before. It's kinda 70s grandma, but in a good way (if you can imagine, this actually fits in with the decor of my apartment somehow!) Anyway the thing has 15 glass lillies on it and glows with the fire of 1,000 suns. Seriously I jumped when I turned it on because it was so bright. And you know what? I LOVE IT. Best lamp ever. Thanks mom.

24 July 2006

L-A-Z-Y, I ain't got no alibi

A hilariously old picture of me during the creation of my first website, for historical accuracy. Please note how incredibly old my computer is, my fuzzy leopard computer monitor, my awesome Sony headphones, and my boy Michael Moore egging me on.

Well I did manage to finish my website, and I'm pretty darn happy with the way it came out. I actually did learn some things through this assignment, especially regarding Javascript, RSS feeds, and CSS.

But what of that pesky book review that's due today? Um, yeah. That. I will get to that. I will sit in my wartorn apartment among the mass of clothing, cat fur, and salt water taffy wrappers and I will interrobang that fucker out. (Interrobang as a verb, sure, why not?!)

Thing is, I could have at least started it last night, but I didn't. I was just being profoundly lazy. Instead of looking back through Linked, I sprawled out on the couch and read the Fall Fashion Preview issue of Vogue. (By the way Vogue, I'm still waiting for my free handbag. Je ne l'ai pas oublié, bitches.) Then I actually did do my website, but the review hung in the air like when one inserts a French phrase randomly into an English blog. L-A-Z-Y: it hits me right when I need it to go away the most.

So instead of doing some prepwork at lunch right now, I'm going to sit in the park with my friend, eating Thai food and looking at dogs. I think tonight is going to be a long, long night.

21 July 2006


Some co-workers came to the resident grammar nerd (me) to ask how many spaces should be around an ellipses (actually they didn't know that's what "..." is called, I enlightened them to that fact). Then I introduced them to the wonderful world of the coolest, most under-utilized punctuation mark in the English language: the Interrobang.

The interrobang is a rarely used, nonstandard English-language punctuation mark intended to combine the functions of a question mark and an exclamation point. The typographical character resembles those marks superimposed one over the other. In informal writing, the same effect is achieved by placing the exclamation point after or before the question mark, e.g. "What?!".

There is also an interesting French derivation known as the Irony Mark.

If I had a New Wave band (which I probably would if I weren't so lamentably tone-deaf) I would call it Interrobang and we'd all wear all black outfits with big white Interrobangs on the front and I would probably play the synth. But alas, that is not meant to be. Or is it?! (It isn't.)

Strike Dear Mistress and Cure His Heart

Pittsburgh was so much more fun than I had anticipated, but before going the only thing I was looking forward to was The Andy Warhol Museum. He definitely ranks up there among my favorite artists, and the annoying things about seeing his work in other museums is that they only ever have one or two marginal Warhol works, and I think his stuff is best when seen in bulk. Well with 8 floors of the Warhol Museum, I got my wish! Katie and Mark accompanied me, and we had a great time. I was surprised at all the cool music related stuff they had, including New York public access TV shows featuring Debbie Harry. They also had lots of Richard Hell, Patti Smith, and of course The Velvet Underground. I only took a few pics, so here they are.

My personal style icon, Ms. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I have seen other works of his featuring Jackie but I've never seen these. They were sad and lovely in person.

I believe Mark described Mao as the cutest evil dictator in history. I'm inclined to agree.

That Jesus, so hot right now.

I nearly screamed when I saw this, half covered over behind glass, the original hand-written sheet music for The Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs"! (I adjusted this on iPhoto and it looked great on my computer and looks like absolute garbage on my work computer. Dammit.)

I didn't know about the cool installation room they had at the Warhol, but I sure had fun standing in there while the pillows whirled around my head. Katie and I agree it was majicks.

The Warhol was everything I had hoped and more. Also all the stuff I wanted in the giftshop was 50% off, so I bought twice as much stuff. Horray!

20 July 2006

Oh Nerdly

OK I am the biggest nerd ever, but as soon as I'm done with my classes at the end of the month, I'm going to catalogue my entire home library using LibraryThing. Check it out it's really cool, you can even add del.icio.us style tags to find your books. I'm totally going to do this because, with the frequency that I lend things and the way they're increasingly taking over every room in my apartment, it would be great to know exactly what I have at all times! (Now if only I could convince Scott to do his. I think if I had to do his it would have to qualify as field placement, the boy is a library onto himself.)

And because Firefox is the absolute bomb, there's even a Firefox extension for LibraryThing. Thanks to Courtney for creating a monster.

PS I posted last night's picture entry with Performancing on Firefox, and I have to say it didn't Performancing up to my expectations. I'm a bit of a hack artist, I blog/design web pages in combinations of html and the WYSIWYG formatting options, and when I did that it didn't format properly either in Blogger or my LJ (which I post in pretty much everyday, but it's friends only, sorry Tennessee). Guess I'll just have to try again using only the formatting options and see how it plays out.

Pittsburgh Pics pt 1

I have access to my server again (although my email is still pretty wonky, FYI) but I managed to get my pictures from Pittsburgh up. I was there for about 5 days for my first on-campus session of my FastTrack MLIS program at University of Pittsburgh, and although I'm a little too tired now to write in great detail, I had a fantastic time and met some really inspiring, smart, funny, steel-livered people. I wish I took more pictures (particularly at the Adam Arcuragi show at this awesome venue called The Brillo Box, and some more candids) but we do have some worth sharing.

These pictures are from our tour of the Nationality Rooms at The Cathedral of Learning. They were all really cool, and it makes me a little jealous that I can't have classes in these amazingly beautiful rooms like the Pitt kids can. Each room has a hidden blackboard and all sorts of neat little historical tidbits built into each room. I took pics of my favorite rooms, of which there were many.

Some of my favorite fellow Cohort members in the German Room:Katie, Mark,Courtney,and Justin. Don't they look incredibly interested in the tour?? Haha... But seriously, in my utopia all classrooms would look like this.

The English Room, modelled after the British House of Commons.

Love the Hungarian Room! Here's more:

There's my boy Franz Liszt. I'm pretty sure that's Vlad the Impaler on the left, or at least Vlad the Impersonator.

The Norweigan Room

The front of the Norweigan Room. Our tour guide was very animated, hence the blur.

Ukranian Room represent.

Sadly the Syria/Lebanon Room is the only room we weren't allowed into. Ironic?

The Early American Room was incredible, it was modelled on The House of Seven Gables. The downstairs portion was a colonial house with a walk-in fireplace, then there was a secret passageway to an upstairs bedroom, pictured above. Also there are stories that it's haunted! It's like An American Haunting without the suck.

This is the Austrian room. They had a really cool crystal necklace that I unsuccessfully attempted to heist. Pictured on the right there is my professor Dr. Sue Alman and our tireless, soon-to-be-graduate assistant Maria.

Israeli's room was really cool and one of the newer rooms, most were built around WWII.

That concludes this part of the tour. Next time, the Warhol Museum!

19 July 2006

The Designer's Dilemma

In a spurt of energy I thought to myself, "I'll go home and work on my webpage for 2600!" Then I walked into my absolute oven of a third-floor apartment, shuddered a moment, but still resolved, "After dinner, I'm going to work on that webpage!" Then I turned on the TV and saw the new season of Project Runway was starting, so that means they have the choosing episodes and the first challenges one after the other, so yeah...I'm screwed. I will try to focus on HTML and not Chanel -- to choose one designing over another. Gimme strength.

18 July 2006

Patent Pending

After my 12 hours of post-Cohort recovery sleep I woke up with a bit of a scratchy throat. So when I was implementing a bit of preventive medicine I had an idea for a new cocktail for the bidness traveler/girl-on-the go:
* Airborne
* splash of OJ
* Peach Stoli

I call it: The Fizzy Lifting Drink: Keeping you drunk and germ free since 2006

Also I was looking for the Performancing Firefox Add-On when I found this little beauty: Pimpzilla. Complete with Bling Back feature!

And yes, I did download it. Better computing through pimposity.

16 July 2006

Big Love

I wanted to post a few times since I've been here on campus, but I've been too busy having fun. My last post was all fire and brimstone and worry about the amount of work we'd have to do, and although the days are long and the sleeping hours few, I've actually made some really cool friends here in the Pitts. I am deeply impressed with how smart, fun, and interesting some of the people I've met here are. I even felt comfortable enough to invite some of them out to see my friends' band and we all had a blast. The band ended up crashing in my hotel room which was fun. I know, I know, how do I afford my rock-n-roll lifestyle? (Answer: student loans!)

All of the things I said I wanted to do in my last entry but wouldn't have time for, I've done. I've gotten many beers with some seriously rad people, I've had some great conversations, I've swam in the hotel pool multiple times, and I had a blast at the Warhol Museum. Besides all the nice social aspects of the Cohort on-campus session, I also feel 1,000 times better about the program in general. Please disregard previous bitching. I've got nothin' but love for Space College.

11 July 2006

Dead Girl on Campus

Confession time: I'm a bit nervous about this on-campus session (that I'm leaving for tomorrow). Previously I was really looking forward to it, a chance to meet my fellow students and my professors, which will inevitably make communicating online in the future better (faces to names). But now all I can really think about is the INSANE amount of work they expect us to do while we're there, and I can't envision how I'm going to have enough time or energy to get to know anyone. I would love to grab a beer with some likeminded library types, take a dip in the hotel pool, whittle away hours in the Warhol Museum, and dalliances such as these when our classes are not in session. But no! I have to read some thousands of pages, do group projects (not my idea of "getting to know someone") and pull a book review for 3 works out of my ass.

This state of affairs coupled with the unfortunate realization that this time when I'm traveling, I actually have to pay for EVERYTHING, fills me with dread. I'm so used to traveling in a work compacity that I've gotten used to extravagant hotel life - eating and drinking whatever I want, taxicabs, room service - now I will have to be thrifty which, judging by the new outfit I'm wearing and the mani&pedi I'm getting at lunch, is un-bloody-likely. Sigh.

10 July 2006

How Art Made the World

This is probably the best series on TV right now:

PBS's How Art Made the World

The first episode is all about the earliest known art made by humans, and how originally these cave paintings were believed to be depictions of daily life (hunting and such). But there were always incongruities in that theory, and it took the study of a tribal group living in South Africa who made remarkably similar images to uncover the latest prevailing theory: THEY WAS TRIPPIN. Seriously, the earliest art is said to be the exclusive providence of shaman who were on "vision quests" aided by copious amounts of tobacco, and the cave paintings were ways of capturing their hallucinations for posterity.

One of the interesting things about this painting is that it's not really all that representational. There are some other paintings out there that are just geometric shapes. These images, according to the theory, are a combination of a view of respect for animals (the concept of the "spirit animal" heavily at play here)and the extreme solitude and darkness of the cave. Early people didn't live in caves, but that's where all the paintings are. What happens when your eyes are deprived of light for some time (or you're tripping on some sort of drug)? You see things with your eyes shut, like dots or lines. Look at the dots above. Interesting.

This is one of the many examples given of the shamanistic paintings of a wounded bison. See there is a man in the painting, and he also appears wounded. That shows the shaman's communing and sympathizing with the animal.

Apparently after a few hundred years of this, normal members of society started doing the same. Pubescent girls would dig a hole together, take a shitload of tobacco, and commune with their spirit animals to find strength for the trials that would face them, like childbirth. Then they would all paint together on a rock surface, and this was their coming-of-age ritual. That's how art became something that we all could do. I don't know about you guys but I think that's astoundingly fascinating.

Well I should stop writing about this or I'll miss the rest of this amazing episode which chronicles how political imagery was created (by the Persian leader Darius) and how the principles that guide it have pretty much stayed the same ever since, with some additions, of course. The next episode is about film, and how the storytelling techniques of film were laid out in ancient times. You KNOW I'm not going to miss that one for the world.

01 July 2006


I’m writing this entry on a plane returning from the Academy Health conference in Seattle. I was manning my company’s booth at the conference attended mostly by researchers and those interested in public health policy. Normally the meetings where we exhibit are attended by clinicians, where they are bombarded with shiny bright set-ups and promotional tchotkes from pharma companies. This time there were far more interesting exhibitors, including representatives from the NIH’s National Library of Medicine, an open access database of federally-funded medical research. The lady at the booth and I had a nice conversation about open access. I’m glad there are groups out there doing this sort of work on behalf of us all.

Also there was something else I noticed.

This is what I was looking at most of the conference, the poster sessions. This is how the researchers put their work for their colleagues to view and judge. On a poster. Like the things you made in elementary school with glitter glue. One can envision in the future, these giant backboards being flat screen digital displays and their presentations being multimedia. But for now, I think it’s amusing in its simplicity that, while scholars are using cutting edge technology to aid in their research, the great scholarly research reporting medium is the poster.