Thursday, 29 September 2005

Pierre Foods™ Fast Choice® Double Beef Stacker with Cheese

Since I have apparently created some expectations among you farthurdlers regarding my gustatory fetishes, I went down to the dungeon for round n with the vendy. I picked up Pierre Foods™ Fast Choice® Double Beef Stacker with Cheese, one of the original items in the vendy that has recently made a comeback. I’m quite sure I’ve angered the burger deities by buying a $1.65 double decker hamburger out of a vending machine. I’m probably banned from Stevenson’s. In any case, I did it. Before I get to the burger though, I should tell you this:

I met the woman who stocks the vendy. She had just filled it up with concoctions from her cauldron. She was short and squat and pigeon-toed with frizzy grey hair and slightly myopic owl eyes. When I told her that I was going to get something out of the machine, she watched me make my decision. It was obvious that she took great pride in the quality of product she stocks that thing with. This week she added pudding. You can buy a 3 ounce container of pudding for a dollar! Big AZ Bubba Twins have returned as well. She said that she has, unfortunately, had to throw lots out, because, get this, no one has been buying anything. Crikey lady, I wonder why. On the plus side, she did add a dollar coin dispenser to the machine, so next time I pay with a fiver, I won’t get $2.95 in change in nickels.

The burger, of course, what shit as burgers go. As an item from the machine, however, I would definitely buy another one. I am trying to figure out how something that is mostly TVP could supply me with 47% of my RDA in saturated fat. It must have been the cheese, which, post-burger, is now being cut quite often. I’m quite sure that nothing in this sandwich actually came from real plants or animals. It required virtually no mastication, which was good since the “cheese” disintegrated my teeth upon contact. So, basically, other than the fact that it tasted like shit and is currently mounting a simultaneous breach attack on my stomach and colon, it wasn’t that bad.

Link of the day: Joe’s Worthless Baseball Card Collection

Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Damn Indefinite Article

Quick, explain any difference you see between being “drunk” and being “a drunk”. Not much, is there? Just one letter. Perhaps I am exceptional but I would be willing to wager that many people do not consider how indefinite articles can drastically change reading comprehension. What, exactly, does “a” do? In my drunk example, “a” turns adjective into noun; my descriptor codifies into tangibility by adding one letter. This is dangerous, I think. I have been, on record, resistant to labels from nearly weblogogenesis; I believe I have finally discovered that this resistance resides in “a”.

It makes things too strong for me. Perhaps I have little faith or much arrogance in thinking that reality or nounhood cannot withstand this weight of being, but words don’t describe reality; so it should be no surprise if the vestment of “a”, when worn by adjectives, takes people further from fact. I have been through most of this before. Something new: Using “a” in reference to specific persons, including oneself, is nothing more than subtle violence. It pigeonholes and singles out for more pigeonholing. I’d much rather be described as “something” than defined as “one of something” Using “a” in this manner; “I’m a Catholic”, “She’s a feminist”, “He’s a black”, has distinct “Oh, one of those people…” overtones. Saying “I’m Catholic”, “She’s feminist”, “He’s black” gives equivalent factual information but avoids any sort of pigeonholing.

Or not.

I believe I used no articles [except as examples] while writing this post.

Links of the Day: Gallery of Regrettable Food and The Company Cookbook.

Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Boom Bip and Interpol at the Agora Ballroom

Let me shoot straight with you. Boom Bip sucks. After hearing them play, I wasn’t surprised that I’d never heard of them and I fully expect to never hear from them again. In fact, that’d better happen. Boom Bip [stupid name] is one dude, apparently, and if you took all the band members and squashed them together, you might have one dude who could play one instrument. The drummer beat the same damn rhythm on the high-hat and snare for their set, the bassist played the same two notes on the top two strings on his bass, the lead guitarist played the same chord on the bottom two strings of his guitar the whole time and, by far the worst, was the keyboardist, who had a mobile command center of gadgetry and laptoppery, but seemed to only play a middle C in every song. Beat-intensive instrumental noise-rock is boring. Unless you are Ratatat, lyrics are good, motherfuckers. I’ve had more fun with cafeteria food than watching Boom Bip. I do not recommend them.

Interpol could have had the worst show of their careers last night, and no one would have noticed, not after Boom Bip [I mean, seriously, you can’t come up with a better name than that?]. Full disclosure: I didn’t like Antics at all, and still love Turn on the Bright Lights. Interpol in concert was what I had expected Interpol in concert to be like. My friend Phil said that he’d heard they are great live, and if you like your live bands to sound just like they do on their albums, Interpol is great live. They set down solid layers in their rhythm section and the vocals are fraught enough to overcome any redundancy in the sound [Boom Bip, take note!]. So, Interpol plays like a well-oiled machine. And therein might be my problem with them. When I hear a band live I like crowd interaction and a little bit of improv, the lyrics sung a little bit differently, a guitar solo now and then; with Interpol it is almost mechanical, they are just coming out and doing their job, they keep themselves too tightly reined in for me.

I had a pretty decent time, they played my favorite song of theirs, Specialist, and my third favorite song, Roland, during their encore, but didn’t play my second favorite, Obstacle 2. They, expectedly, played a bunch of songs from Antics, but I like their earlier stuff, which doesn’t bode well for a band with only two albums under its belt. The Agora is pretty sweet though. This paragraph has three sentences and too many commas.

Here ends this elitist music review, but I had no need to say it twice.

Monday, 26 September 2005

Weathervane Glory

some people some day
will get together and
weld a great white egret
out of what ever ideas
are still left over
and they will seat it some
where and other
people will fight over
it or rather fight over
what they think it
may or may not
represent

          [the egret being
          too itself to see
          its own evil]

and
at some point it
will be cast down by
some one full of

weathervane glory or
an excess of relativity

there is some thing to
be said for equivocacy
          some other time
          by some one else.

Continue Reading

Sunday, 25 September 2005

I’m Cheap!

I’ve got a bunch of stuff for sale on craigslist. Check it and buy something if it strikes your fancy. I sure as shit don’t know what I’m going to do with it otherwise.

Friday, 23 September 2005

Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora is right up there with Dangerous Visions in terms of quality and perspicacity in science fiction anthologies. I could go spouting off on how wonderful it is to see black writers growing in a field normally dominated by white guys, but all the is addressed in the book, especially in Samuel R. Delany’s essay “Racism and Science Fiction” at the end, which is one of the most cogent and thoughtful essays on racism that I’ve ever read. [excerpts at the bottom]

Instead I’m going to briefly delve into the quality of the stories themselves, as works of craft, and then give some thoughts on my own reactions to some of them. Briefly, the quality of the stories is very high. The first half dozen or so required me to put some time aside after reading them for mastication and digestion. They are potent tales. W.E.B. du Bois, Octavia Butler, Amiri Baraka, Samuel R. Delany are just a few of the slew of folks who have tales in this book. I now have a bunch of new authors to check out as well, especially Nalo Hopkinson. For me, the quality slowly tapered off after the first few headchewers, again much like DV. Not to say that any of the stories were bad [none of them are], but amidst the masterpieces the others don’t shine as brightly.

Since I’m a cracker from downcountry Indiana and attended a private Catholic college whose percentage of black students suspiciously matches up with the percentage of non-Catholics on campus and the percentage of non-white athletes, I don’t have a whole lot of experience when it comes to diversity. Hell, I don’t think I even met a Jew until I was in my twenties. The closest thing I knew to a minority growing up was the old country Italian grandmother down the street. Basically, I’m saying that what I’m about to say is most likely going to be somewhat ignorant.

It seemed like many of the stories could be easily interpreted as fulfilling black stereotypes. For instance, probably a good half of the stories have music and rhythm as central themes and tropes. Thankfully they are often used to highlight other concerns, avoiding a truly shallow and unproductive interpretation that black folks can dance and sing while white folks have rhythm like a fat man’s heartbeat [although Evie Shockley’s “separation anxiety” doesn’t do so well at that]. Similarly, there are constant references throughout of slavery and the slave trade, often with anger still seething under the surface. This is something I can’t understand at all, and I’ve tried. My initial reaction to the resentful mentions of slavery was “Man, that was over 150 years ago, you should be over it by now.” Unfair to say the least, since I can have no idea how long it takes to heal the ethnic trauma of hundreds of years of slavery. I also don’t have any personal experience with contemporary race relations from the black side of the equation. What I’m deploring here is my ignorance and also my inability to effectively find sources to alleviate that ignorance. I learn best through empathy, but how can a privileged white boy empathize with blackness?

I guess I had the expectation that black science fiction writers would be more likely to avoid what I perceive as a heavy-handed use of America’s less than savory past. I think I expected to engage in examples of blackness that wasn’t defined by disenfranchisement and ostracization. Instead I felt that these writers don’t have much hope that things will get better for them and theirs. For us. But then, maybe I was expecting black writers to write like white writers. I don’t really know. Dark Matter is the perfect name for this anthology on a whole bunch of levels [darkness of content, darkness of outlook, darkness of the authors, not to mention the main metaphor of the anthology; that black influence is the dark matter of our society] and it is definitely something I want to add to my sci-fi book collection.

These are some of my immediate reactions, tempered a bit by subsequent thought. Obviously I’ve not been able to untangle the skein of my societal preconceptions. I’ve known I’m never really going to do that on any topic, which is why I try to ignore the subconscious murmurings of sexism and racism that bubble up from time to time and deal with each person as a person and not some specific thing in a pigeonhole. Everybody seems to live much happier that way.

Excerpt from Racism and Science Fiction by Samuel R. Delany [via]

Racism for me has always appeared to be first and foremost a system, largely supported by material and economic conditions at work in a field of social traditions. Thus, though racism is always made manifest through individuals’ decisions, actions, words, and feeings, when we have the luxury of looking at it with the longer view (and we don’t, always), usually I don’t see much point in blaming people personally, black or white, for their feelings or even for their specific actions — as long as they remain this side of the criminal. These are not what stabilize the system. These are not what promote and reproduce the system. These are not the points where the most lasting changes can be introduced to alter the system.

[…]I don’t think you can have racism as a positive sytem until you have that socioeconomic support suggested by that (rather arbitrary [placement of walls]) twenty percent/eighty percent proportion. But what racism as a system does is isolate and segregate the people of one race, or group, or ethnos from another. As a system it can be fueled by chance as much as by hostility or by the best of intentions. (“I thought they would be more comfortable together, I thought they would want to be with each other. . .”) And certainly one of its strongest manifestations is as a socio-visual system in which people become used to always seeing blacks with other blacks and so—because people are used to it—being uncomfortable whenever they see blacks mixed in, at whatever proportion, with whites.

[…] As such, [the system] is fueled as much by chance as by hostile intentions and equally by the best intentions as well. It is whatever systematically acclimates people, of all colors, to become comfortable with the isolation and segregation of the races, on a visual, social, or economic level—which in turn supports and is supported socioeconomic discrimination. Because it is a system, however, I believe personal guilt will never replace a bit of well founded systems analysis.

Links to other stuff on DM:ACoSFftAD:

SciFi.com- Makes the DV comparison right off the bat too!
The AALBC has an excerpt of W.E.B. du Bois’s “The Comet” and a Table of Contents.