BRIEFLY: Nog

19 October, 2009 at 2:11 am (dear diary)

Many of my northeasterly friends posted Facebook or Twitter updates this afternoon that were variations on the following: “What? Snow! Interrobang?! Nooooo! Not yet, it’s too early; I’m not prepared! Argh!” Stuff and nonsense along those lines.

I looked out my window this midmorning to see a slow descent of slush mixed in with a moderate amount of rain. It hardly had the fortitude to be called “snow”. It was wet and barely corporeal whilst falling, and when it hit the ground, it quickly was indistinguishable from the liquidity of its more prevalent falling companions. The ground has absorbed it, and unless there’s a truly tumultuous temperature drop tonight, I expect to see no ice nor snow nor even frost upon the morn.

But as people bundle themselves againt the oncoming onslaught of cold, I choose to warm myself with this: for the next eleven weeks, until right after New Year’s Eve, there will be egg nog once again available for purchase in my local supermarket. That will warm the cockles of my heart for a while, the eventual actual accumulation of snowfall be damned.

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Freedom’s Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Choose

18 September, 2008 at 12:01 pm (dear diary)

NPR: Informing sound decisions since 1971At work this year, I have been making a point of rotating through a number of pins worn on my lapel. Most have been those small three-quarter inch badges that hipsters use to adorn the flaps on their messenger bags, and which are just the right size to cover the boutoniere hole of my suit jackets. Because I have a limited number of these, I was pleased to find that due to my habit of dutifully filling out surveys for National Public Radio about my listening habits and my lack of donor generosity, they are kindly sending me three pins in gratitude for my efforts.

The e-mail that thanks me also invites me to e-mail my friends, and encourage them to send their mailing address to NPR to possibly receive three random buttons as well (supplies, naturally, are limited). I don’t have any friends, so I hope that NPR won’t begrudge me posting this out in the wild, instead.

NPR: Carl Kasell is my press secretaryMy suspicion is that this, like Obama’s offer to send a text-message to his supporters in advance of the national announcement, is actually a moderately clever way of gathering more addresses of likely donors, despite the fact that the NPR Listens website says that it will not share your name with the fundraising arm of their organization. So, be advised of my unfounded suspicion that you may be trading a cool Carl Kasell badge for future mailings asking for your financial support. Personally, I think it’s worth it. If you agree, send your name and address to the e-mail link above, and you to can wear your liberal media bias on your sleeve, lapel, or messenger bag.

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BRIEFLY: Age of Solitude

8 July, 2008 at 10:00 pm (dear diary)

I wrote, some while ago, about the mild frisson of joy and surreality that came from being mistaken for a high school student whilst in grad school.

All of which leads me to ask: why is it that I’m carded one out of every five times I buy some gourmet microbrew root beer, but never, ever, not once when I buy pure vanilla extract (35% alcohol)?

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Dedicated to Rahul Kolhatkar

28 April, 2008 at 2:46 am (dear diary, film)

I don’t have a particular thing for George Clooney. I like him, but I would like any person who is cast in the role as this generation’s Cary Grant, because I adore Cary Grant. More people should be trying and vying and jockeying for the position of this generation’s Cary Grant, as far as I’m concerned, but if we’re only going to have one, then, by god, I’m going to have some low level adulation for him.

But I respect any man who is successful and who is able to balance glamour and self-depreciation. It’s a winning strategy, as it leads me to infer humanism and frailty upon a person who has clearly had to, at some point, step over the bodies of others in order to reach the vaunted levels of success that make anyone a household name. And it’s hard not to like anyone who had something to do with Out of Sight, a masterful piece of charm.

But yeah, it’s not as as George is the final part of my Five and Switch. But because he prefigures prominently in other people’s estimation, I was interested in his profile in the New Yorker. And I was glad I read all ten pages of it, because I now feel closer to George Clooney than I have any other celebrity in my life:

“He hit his head on a concrete floor; not long afterward, cerebrospinal fluid began to leak out of his nose.”

Anyone who’s heard me tell “the cranial fluid story” will understand.

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LIVEBLOG: Primary or Primate?

8 January, 2008 at 12:40 pm (dear diary)

10:52pm: with 73% of districts reporting, NPR has called it for Hillary. Over an hour ago, they had called the Republican side for McCain, with something between 50% and 60% reporting (my notes are unclear).

Of course, in 2004, the Associated Press called it for Kerry with only 19% of districts reporting, so I’m slightly more pleased with the press this time out.

I’m off to bed. I’ll listen to the speeches and the pontification about what this all means tomorrow on my way to work. I’ll only say, 1) that the New Hampshire primary is lousy at predicting actual victorious presidents. 2) That said, I did hear an article telling me that in the last twenty or so years — perhaps more, I can’t put my fingers on the article — the person eventually elected president has never finished lower than second in the New Hampshire primary. So, statistically, we’re down to four possible people who could be sworn in on January 20, 2009. Woo.

9:21pm: Dave Barry sums everything up:

The voters of New Hampshire have made their decision, and the big winner is: Change. Here’s the final vote tally:

  • Change — 43 percent
  • Hope — 28 percent
  • Hope For Change — 17 percent
  • Hair — 9 percent
  • Experience — 2 percent
  • Dennis Kucinich — 1 percent:

Now it’s time for the politicians and the press to drop New Hampshire like an ant-covered corn dog and sprint for the airport, leaving the residents of The Granite State to spend the rest of the winter plucking 239 billion candidate signs out of their snowbanks, all the while wondering if there ever really was a candidate named “Mike Gravel,” or if that was just teenagers playing a sign-planting prank.

In actuality, though, the final tally is far from in at this point. National Public Radio has the reporting districts at only 44%, and New Hampshire Public Radio doesn’t yet have the all-important Epping and Newmarket results in their town-by-town results.

Mr. Barry’s other columns on the primary are worth reading, if only for his keen observation on New Hampshire’s state-run liquor stores — “One of them is located — I am not making this up — in a turnpike service plaza, apparently for the benefit of motorists who are, for whatever reason, running low on gin.” — and to familiarize yourself with the name “Dick Harpootlian“.

3:26pm: The recorded voice of Ron Paul’s wife greets me from my answering machine. I don’t know how I get calls from a Republican candidate. If I were registered as an independent, I would have expected barrages of calls from candidates of both parties, but it’s only in the past week that I’ve been getting autocalls from the Paul campaign. Maybe it’s because he’s only pretending to be a Republican, and so he’s either bought both the Democratic and Republican registers. Or maybe he’s cold-calling the whole state.

Or perhaps Anthony and Christine Fay, for whom I still get phone messages, yea these eighteen months after I procured this phone number, gave out their number to the Paul campaign. They give out their number to Realtors, car salesmen… the sort of people who plead for a number and who you’d rather not have actually call you. Instead of giving out a fake number, the Fays have been known to give out their old number… their old number which has been reassigned to me. Oy! Tony! Stop giving out my phone number! Oh, and your grandmother wishes you a happy Christmas.

Nixon Agnew campaign badge3:11pm: My Nixon/Agnew button gets the approval of the guy manning the ballot box, though he informs me that he saw a button fort Adlai Stevenson the previous day at a rally, so I’m not quite wearing the coolest button so far. I could quibble with him that, I’m certainly wearing the coolest button so far on election day, but it doesn’t seem worthwhile. He at least didn’t seem to care that I was far too young to wear a Nixon button, whereas two or three people holding candidate placards outside the City Auditorium were taken back. But even they weren’t as flummoxed as the woman who confirmed my registration. She seemed momentarily at sea due to the fact that I was registered as a Democrat and wearing the badge of a former Republican president.

2:19pm: Rhu, my assistant, brings over the Concord Monitor’s Primary Election Guide for my perusal, specifically because there is a candidate in both the Republican and Democratic columns of whom she’s never heard: on the former side, is the traditional Silly Party candidate Vermin Supreme, but on the other side of the aisle was the putative Democratic candidate O. Savior. In the Monitor’s helpful guide, all the candidates had website addresses to head to in order to find out additional information, except for O. Savior. Perhaps we’ll just have to try the Bible?

10:45am: These are not, I repeat, not the results of the official town polling station located in the gymnasium of Belmont High School. This is an informal poll of voting-age and non-voting-age Belmont and Canterbury students.

Belmont High School Mock Primary:
School Population: 480
Total votes: 305 (63%)
Results compiled by Dane Loomer

Democrat

  • Barack Obama: 145
  • Hillary Clinton: 33
  • John Edwards: 18
  • Bill Richardson: 8
  • Dennis Kucinich: 4

Total votes: 208 (68%)

Republican

  • Mike Huckabee: 34
  • Mitt Romney: 22
  • John McCain: 21
  • Rudy Guliani: 15
  • Ron Paul: 5

Total votes: 97 (31%)

This looks like a standard case of votes equating to a certain media popularity, more than any issues-based alliance on the part of the voters. Of course, if Huckabee and Obama carry their respective nominations, that will be the national story anyway: the new breed of populaism.

Ward 5 Concord, NH Ballot: Democratic Ticket7:03am: The city polls have officially opened, and the race is on. Carl Kasell has just told me that Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location have had their traditional midnight ballot, and successfully polled each of their fewer-than-100 eligible residents. Both towns ended their vote with John McCain and Barack Obama in the majority position.

Despite the midnight cache that each of these towns enjoys, New Hampshire Public Radio informs me that the two towns considered to be bellwethers for the state are Epping and Newmarket.

I’ll be voting in Ward 5, Concord, later today. Belmont High School is hosting polling in the gymnasium right now (the school is doing some self hype/entertainment for people waiting in the lobby by doing a clipshow of BHS News segments, including my promo spot for 24 Hour Comic Day). We did an informal poll of the students yesterday, and for what is generally considered to be a socially conservative town, the results were fairly interesting. More on that when I can sit down with the hard numbers.

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Commercial Identity, part 2

7 September, 2007 at 2:13 am (dear diary)

So I’ve paid a considerable amount of attention to Apple’s most recent slate of announcements about their iPod and iPhone upgrades. I do want an iPhone, but I have never been a first-adopter and I want to watch a few more kinks shake down from the highest branches before I make the plunge (just to mix my metaphors). However, the announcement about the effective “limited edition” 4GB iPhone — because it’s being discontinued and therefore being sold at a considerable discount — has made me want to dash into the fray, only to emerge with the most recent piece of mechanical obsolescence. Knowing something is just off the boil, probably won’t be supported past the next upgrade, etc., always makes an object’s faults and inconveniences that much more psychologically comforting.

Orange iPod ShuffleI was more amused by the changes in the lineups of available iPod Nanos and Shuffles. I love my Shuffle. I like the size and the shape and the belt-clip and the fact that unlike my original 512MB plastic model, the aluminum casing might make it a little more resistant to being shut repeatedly in the car door (although the clip is more helpful in preventing it from slipping there in the first place). And while it is a little annoying to add new music to the library and then not be able to refer to just who is that strange new group anyway, I’m glad to trade a display for the extra miniaturization. But while Apple used to make color choices easy — everything was gloss white, and one had to pay an extra hundred dollars to get a given product in sleek black — the second-gen Nanos and Shuffles came in a small but potent array of varying hues. I dallied with the grey, as I didn’t want my personal music player to be ostentatious, but went with orange because I frequently use orange in my decorating and design and identify with the color somewhat.

But it was also of some small import that nothing else Apple offered came in that color. The Nano had no parallel in its various offerings, and it made the orange Shuffle that much more appealing. It was part of the line, but not part of the overall scheme. So it pleases me unduly that the most recent announcement informs us that the orange Shuffle is no more, replaced with a soft violet. Now I really want my outdated iPhone to go with my other outdated Apple accoutrements.

In other technology upgrade news, one can now search one’s Google Reader feed archives. Thank goodness! This upgrade makes the fact that my preferred Stylish reader scripts are currently incompatible with the various updates. EDIT: Wow, that sentence really doesn’t make sense, does it? Ahem! This upgrade almost makes up for the fact that certain Google Reader mods no longer actually work, due to essential alterations in their code.

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Springfield is here.

22 July, 2007 at 6:25 pm (dear diary, film, new hampshire)

Went to the world premiere of the upcoming Simpsons movie last night, and am overflowing with stuff to say about it, despite the fact that I haven’t written about anything on this blog for, literally, months. And yet this movie — or, more accurately, this event — has me brimming with commentary. So expect three or four (depending on how I organize it) posts about the film and the premiere and the Springfield hometown search. Once I’m done with that, I plan on backfilling the emptiness of my previous silence with some stuff I planned to post and never got ’round to. More on that in a future post! Goodness, I have prolific plans!


As has been fairly widely reported, the definitive location for The Simpsons‘ Springfield has been chosen. Creator Matt Groening had frequently said that the reason he chose the name for the town was that it was so omnipresent — Wikipedia informs us that there are Springfields in 34 of the United States, including one in New Hampshire, which probably shouldn’t surprise me, but does (I’d never heard of it, certainly, but who is intimately familiar with the names of towns of under a thousand people in Suffolk county? Not I, in any case). A joke in the film’s trailer is that from the peak of a local mountain one can see the four states that border Springfield: Ohio, Nevada, Maine, and Kentucky… thus helping to solidify the town’s non-location. However, as one of the many promotions for the film — including turning 7-11s into “Kwik-E-Marts”, Dunkin’ Donuts Simpsons varieties, ancient pagan chalk outlines, et al.a competition was held in USA Today to determine, once and for all, the actual location.

Welcome to Springfield, VTThirteen of the many and varied US Springfields were listed by the paper as possible candidates, and each had submitted a brief video as to why their location deserved the honor. And, against most expectations, Springfield, Vermont was chosen by popular vote. Clear skies, rolling mountains, deep winters, and a local nuclear power station may have all seemed convincing physical aspects, but it seems from the number of votes that it’s likely that people watched the video and found it to be the most amusing of the possible options. Apparently, some people thought that Oregon had a lock on it (I would have assumed Illinois, myself), as Groening is an Oregonian originally, but they only came in third place.

So it’s Vermont. And on 21 July, slightly less than a week before the film opens around the globe, 20th Century Fox shuttled in two SUVs of writers and staff in order to inaugurate the town’s official relationship with the show, and to present a plaque that stated as much. Vermont, in turn, gathered together the members of the Vermont Film Council, the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, and a couple of state senators to preside over the occasion and to pass over the key to the city town to Groening and producer James L. Brooks.

The disparity between the public’s reaction to their local officials and the more Hollywood power set was pretty noticeable. Clapping was polite but brief for the senators, and laughter at their jokes and Simpsons references was almost nonexistent. Applause for the creators and crew was voluble and sustained, even for people like Mike Scully and Al Jean, who can’t have been household names for a group of people who kept on pronouncing Groening like “Groaning”. But their very connection to the show was sufficient to bring the glamour, particularly evident when both Groening and Senator Peter Welch used the exact same line in their prepared remarks (“As Homer would say: ‘Woo-hoo!'”), and the Senator got no love for his attempt to reach out to the people. Some young teenagers who were standing near me in the crowd were complaining about the sheer number of local dignitaries and politicos that needed to thank people and confirm their association with the event. “Who cares?” one muttered to his cronies. “Bring on the Simpsons guys!” And even though none of the vocal talent was in attendance at the event, they were riveted by the presence of these West Coast VIPs.

Reference: the Rolling Stones perform at Bloom County Elementary SchoolHere’s the thing these kids are too young to realize: you’re basically required to namecheck sponsors and include local influence in these things, no matter what kind of event it is (see the Bloom County excerpt for a parallel example). These events don’t happen without the work of focused individuals exerting their personal and professional influence to grease wheels and make calls and get people thinking about, talking about, and acting on whatever needs to happen in order for something to take place. This didn’t “just happen”. And while the event itself was not run with the sort of efficiency or consistency one might have preferred, it didn’t organically fall into shape or spring up like a forest mushroom. The people these kids wanted to see were there because of the efforts of the people they didn’t care about. And the people they didn’t care about were damn well going to make sure that you associated them with this event. Just like political candidates are constantly churning through The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, US Senator Bernie Sanders and VT State Senator Welch (who’d really like to trade up to Congress) would love to be associated with the success of the campaign to bring The Simpsons to Vermont, or just to have some small name recognition at all with the show’s target audience.

In fact, the whole event, before the film actually began screening for the lucky lottery winners, felt like a fascinating combination between a political stump speech and a town fair. With the road shut down and the booths of local wares lining the sidewalks, it felt like a street fair, right down to the rock cover bands and the insipid cheerleading by a local “comedian” and radio/TV personality. On the other hand, the thanks yous had a certain political hucksterism to them. Amidst all the ludicrous claims that “We knew all along that we were the real Springfield”, was the underlying message that Springfield, Vermont and Vermont in general could really use a shot in the arm. Otherwise you wouldn’t have Senator Sanders saying, “This day is about showing the whole darn country that Springfield, Vermont is a strong community!”

Ned Flanders gestures to Maine, which does not share a border with VermontUm, no… no, it’s not, Bernie. That’s a nice spin on why Vermont got the votes over the other twelve candidates, but the day is about Fox and NewsCorp advertizing their new movie, and they’re using you to do it. If you get something out of it, then they’re happy for you, but your claims of strength make you sound a little desperate, a little worried.

One last note: yay, Vermont, and all that. But you certainly cannot see Maine from the top of a peak of a local mountain. You know why? Because Maine does not share a border with Vermont. Vermont borders New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York. Maine borders New Hampshire… and nothing else. It is, in fact, the only state to share a border with only one other state. So if Springfield is in a state that borders Maine, then I don’t give a damn what the readers of USA Today think, it has to be Springfield, New Hampshire. Take that, Vermont! Snookered by your own sponsor!

EDIT: There were fourteen candidates, not thirteen. An article talking about the thirteen other Springfields lodged the incorrect number in my head. Please add one to all references to twelve and thirteen in the above posting. Ta.

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RETRO: Boston Zombie Lurch

13 May, 2007 at 6:07 pm (dear diary)

What do we want? BRAINNNS! When do we want them? RRAAAHHRRN!Found an article in the A&E insert in the Boston Globe about the second annual Boston Zombie March. As part of the coordinated efforts of the fine folks at Halfway to Human, a few hundred people dressed up in rags and tags and white makeup and wandered the streets of Cambridge last year. Warren Ellis might call this a “flashmob”, as it was an internet cooridnated event with no human interaction between the participants until they actuallly arrive at the agreed-upon location. I think he tends to think of flashmobs as more sudden, more spontaneous, originated and enacted on the go with full-on mobile technology. However, these were zombies, and they required a little bit more time to shuffle into position.

The march — and I must protest against the term. Wouldn’t a “lurch” be more a propos? More thematic? — was intended to be a massive bleary shuffle from Davis Square to Harvard Square, but as our blood was up, we ended up tramping at least another mile towards Central Square in order to find a zombie-friendly drinking establishment. Slightly less than three miles is a long ways to maintain an awkward, jerking lumber in one’s gait, and by the last stretch, most people were cheerfully out of character. Still not marching, per se, but not lurching anymore, either. More like ambling along with blood spattered across their painted mouths. The organizers guessed that we had something close to a thousand people shuffling along the three-mile stretch, so — as you can no doubt imagine — we caused quite a few traffic snarls. It’s difficult to get across an intersection in the requisite twenty-eight seconds when one is moving only with the soulless animus of a bleating hunger for human flesh. Not to mention where there are hundreds of us in a row. So we caused the occasional human blockade for Saturday afternoon Boston traffic, which is not overly forgiving to begin with.

But we were also simply a rubbernecking spectacle of considerable proportion. And even when we weren’t obstructing intersections, the mass of us on the sidewalk caused cars to slow and swerve, and generally take a good long gander at the clotted corridor of inhumanity. And people wanted to know… what were we protesting? And while we were being protested by anti-zombie groups decrying our presence and demanding that life remain the purview of the living, in addition to some robots unhappy that zombies were stealing their jobs, we didn’t have an agenda. While zombie movies traditionally have a wider social or political message, we were not marching to highlight man’s inhumanity to man, the inevitability of pandemics, the sleepwalking participation of America’s political process, etc. But those people passing us by called out to us, needing to know what we were doing this for, because if it only had a purpose or a message, then they could drive on by, content in context. They needed it to be a “march”, essentially.

As it was, we gave them no cogent answer, content in our randomness. We merely shuffled over to their SUVs, gurgled and growled, smeared crimson corn syrup on their windows, and headed back to the parade.

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I hate you so much

11 April, 2007 at 9:23 pm (dear diary)

So Pete and I have found many, many duos and pairings with which to compare ourselves over the course of our friendship. I still prefer the pairing of Danny and Casey from Sports Night, even though it’s woefully unrepresentative of how cool, how witty, and how romantically successful we really are. Still it matches our aspirations, and that goes a long way.

But while we often compare ourselves to duos who are well-oiled machines, we also have a long-standing tradition where Pete says something, I verbally cut him down with the speed and efficiency of a Matrix-bred combine harvester, and he sputters and tells me how much he hates me. This is called “fun”. Years ago I vetoed the use of the phrase “I’ll kill you”, which led to the codification of the acronym SUIHY, or “Shut up, I hate you”. Peter, however, has always preferred “I”ll kill you”, which has led to its recent revival, including threats involving an axe, or how he’ll deliberately invite in the inevitable horde of attacking zombies, just so he’ll be zombified first and experience the joy of feasting upon my flesh.

So he was well-chuffed when he discovered this recent Penny Arcade comic where Gabe is able to hasten Tycho’s death merely by wanting it hard enough. And since Pete — in the spirit of good fun — really wants me dead, he showed me the strip and told me to watch out for any future nosebleeds. I informed him that I regularly have nosebleeds, especially in the Spring, and it would therefore be difficult to attribute to him and his malicious will any bloody expulsions from my nasal passages.

Regardless, it was still rather creepy when I sneezed today and the predictable happened.

BenCam

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Shrove, baby, shrove

21 February, 2007 at 3:55 am (dear diary)

IHOP's National Pancake Day promoYou can take your last day of gluttony, your bayou parties, your beads, and the like. I care for only one kind of excess on Shrove Tuesday, and that’s the luxurious feeling of having packed oneself full of sweet, delicious pancakes.

I wasn’t able to take advantage of this fabulous, fabulous holiday last year, but I drove eighty miles (round trip) in order to sit in a booth and have someone bring me pancakes for free. I may have spent $7.84 in petrol on that particular little gesture of excess, but it was well worth it. Oh, so well worth it. I feel shriven. And content and full, but mostly shriven. Sufficiently so that wish to to similarly shrove the laaame service that took a full ten minutes to get us our bill when the waiter was literally not serving any other customers in the IHOP. And starting tomorrow, I’m supposed to fast? Pfft. I think tomorrow I’ll have more pancakes.

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