Thursday, October 23, 2008

safely across

obviously i'm in a phase where i'm writing on here more than i had been for a few months. i guess that's just the way this operates. maybe at some point, this blog will be a big enough priority in my life that i will update it often. but as it stands now, with a few casual readers, some friends (that i hopefully talk to anyway), and a few random people stopping by for song lyrics, i just don't have enough of a reason to write here for other people. it's still just for me. if you want me to take it more seriously, you're going to have to do part of the work of promoting it. tell all of our mutual friends to read what i have to write.

but that really is an aside. i am happy enough with recording my thoughts here and letting you eavesdrop. anything to keep me from thinking about baseball or the election (or job letters and my dissertation) is good. that sounds awful--that i'm trying not to think about the important things in my life (with the exception of the election, but i think that's something very important, even if it isn't directly a part of me).

in addition to thinking about student writing (since i'm giving feedback on papers right now), i've been thinking about how college students encounter, filter, and process information in a time when hypertext has turned into hyper-overload: information, entertainment, and spin. my friend and colleague greg brought up this point with respect to his students, and it has gotten me thinking (though i haven't made it far). i have a hard enough time sorting through information and news, and simplifying my life as much possible by cutting out tv entertainment (i am currently paying for heroes and how i met your mother on amazon since apple dropped heroes). i tried to listen to the twins on the radio (and watch gameday some) rather than watching them on tv, and i'm trying not to think about or care about nfl or college football (even though it still comes up in conversation) because i need my time and energy for other pursuits.

when it comes to news and analysis, i have my igoogle and rss feeds. i check the nyt website daily, and far too often, other baseball blogs (aarongleeman and the other twins people), read grist on the site or in my email, and get a variety of news stories from various listservs and friends. it's a far cry from reading the local or national newspaper, readers' digest, and u.s. news like i did when i was younger, and which my parents still do (though they read the emailed news stories i send them and go out and get others themselves).

but greg's worry, and my fear, is that students are all too often just encountering news and entertainment in random, incoherent bits, the "related" function in youtube, meaning having just watched a funny snl sketch the next thing to come up might be a clip from the colbert report or some other internet celebrity clip. the structure and connections, the deliberate reading of the news, and the chance to filter something out just aren't there. whether it's good or bad, it certainly is frustrating to be 28 years old and feel like an "old-timer" just because i don't let youtube pick what information i encounter next, just because i have particular news sites i read and process regularly, just because i have some kind of structure.

but it also brings up the questions of whether and how to develop students' capacities to think critically and analytically, how to help them structure papers and comments in class so that conversations aren't just a complex mess of tangential bullshit where one thing reminds them of another, and soon enough, no one has any idea why we're talking about animal planet by way of chinese birth control laws and norms when we really wanted to have a conversation about human augmentation and genetic engineering (this is an example from my class last week, and it was frustrating enough that i had to request students relate their comments back to the topic at hand multiple times).

so in the end, i'm still not sure what any of this means, and whether or what i and other instructors can do to help college students think better, read better, write better, and structure the world a little more than through tangential interest: if you liked watching midgets race against a giraffe, then you might also like a john mccain speech parody. if you have thoughts, let me know. but if you're more interested in music at times like these, then here's a draft playlist i'm working on for this month. below that, there's a note about a great singer and good friend, laura jean binkley.

october 2008 playlist (first one in a while without the decemberists)

midnight rider by the allman brothers
tables and chairs by andrew bird
forget about dre by eminem and dr. dre
omaha by counting crows
draggin' the line by tommy james and the shondells
mary jane's last dance by tom petty and the heartbreakers
subterranean homesick alien by radiohead
start a war by the national
adia by sarah mclachlan
the gardner by the tallest man on earth
sunshine by jonathan edwards
little one by beck
drivin' me wild by common
let her cry by hootie and the blowfish
don't be scared by andrew bird
whispering pines by dar williams
live and let die by guns 'n' roses
new by travis welk
shame by the avett brothers

check out laura jean's website for more information (and listen to her music). i was just listening to "walking dream" and "about you" and love them. but this song was played live on my friend james' phoning it in radio show at brown last year. i'm not sure about the title or even some of the lyrics, but you probably won't find them elsewhere unless laura has published them somewhere. if you want to hear the song, you'll have to find james' radio show archive at phoning it in.

ships and bridges by laura jean binkley

don't tell me not to hold my breath
don't tell me not to wait for death to impart
'cause you captured my heart

like the moon in the universe trapped by the earth
it travels round in a circle
every day since the birth of gravity
it's what you're doing to me

and i long to be your ship out at sea
and i long to be the bridge to carry your body safely across

lay a nickel on the railroad track
wait a little bit
that nickel's flattened by a train
that's my kind of pain

like a black bird sitting on a white fence post
i complement you
i say you're the most of anything
for you like me

and i long to be your ship out at sea
and i long to be the bridge to carry your body safely across
to hold you safely across

nothing is made
nothing disappears
everything we've saved has been around
for thousands upon thousands upon thousands of years

so if i send you kisses on the waves of the wind
you may not feel them but i'm certain you'll receive
those kisses from me

and i long to be your ship out at sea
and i long to be the bridge to carry your body safely across
to hold you safely across

Monday, October 20, 2008

snow and rain and bright sunshine

though i could write about the graduate work i've done in the last week (and believe me, i did a lot in the last week or so), i think the most important thing i've done lately is attend and participate in ludfest 007, a celebration of all things lud (music, friends, food, and wiffleball). it really just doesn't get any better than spending time with old and new friends, playing a few games of relaxing yet competitive wiffleball, hearing the awesome guys from consolation champ play a few sets, singing some karaoke, having a few drinks, watching a couple movies, and most importantly, hitting a few bombs in batting practice and the homerun derby. anyone who follows the link to ludfest and looks at the homerun derby results will immediately notice how poorly i performed for the second straight year, but what they won't see is the fact that i pitched four batters into the semi-finals and beyond. it was an impressive year of wiffleball performance, shattering records in fact, but my pitching arm definitely had its biggest workout of the last few years over the course of friday and saturday.

eight days ago on a sunday morning when i needed a break from writing my dissertation (and didn't have ludfest to distract me), i sat down and wrote all day, this time not about environmental literature, but about the twins baseball offseason. what emerged was a lengthy document (~19 single spaced pages in word), which i then handed off to my good friend john for him to post to his blog. if you love baseball analysis, or if you love the twins, or even if you like me okay, then you might get something out of these posts on john's blog, though i do recommend breaking it up as you go. if nothing else, you should make a habit of checking out his twins blog anyway, and i promise not all of the posts are as long or boring as mine (i don't think it's boring, but i could see how/why someone would). so here are the posts in order. i'll keep writing there, and will try to remember to let everyone know to head over there as necessary. look for my world series prediction there sometime soon.

Part 1: 2008 Recap
Part 2: Evaluating Trades and Acquisitions using my CRAP method
Part 3: Twins Offseason Riches (what we could trade)
Part 4: Offseason Acquisition Scenarios
Part 5: Probability, Desirability, and Rankings: a Summary

having given you a bunch of wiffleball and baseball reading material, it's only fitting that i mention a song or two that you should check out. the featured song today is draggin the line by tommy james and the shondells. if you're interested in histories of bands, i highly recommend looking them up, even if it's just on their wikipedia page. as a former kid who played music with other kids (back when my band's name was one of: dry ice, under 18, limehouse chappie, i-29, the trinity project), i found it crazy that tommy james had to wait seven years before his music started to get a chance on the national scene. it was for reasons along those lines that i'm not still playing regularly: i just didn't want to wait when i could be doing graduate school full time (and boy, has that decision paid off: i'm rich, successful, and hardly have to do any work). well, the real point is, i like a bunch of songs by tommy james and have since the days when i would sing them in the back seat of the family suburban on the way home from my grandparents' house, listening to mike harvey's supergold on sunday nights. i even liked when other people covered his songs, though it caused a lot of confusion when i thought "i think we're alone now" was by tommy james and my friends said the artist was tiffany. i guess i didn't quite get the idea of cover songs in my nine-year-old roller skating days, but i knew i liked "walk like an egyptian" and "the final countdown"... still do.

draggin' the line by tommy james and the shondells

makin' a livin the old hard way
takin' and givin by day by day
i dig snow and rain and bright sunshine
draggin' the line

my dog sam eats purple flowers
ain't got much but what we got's ours
we dig snow and rain and the bright sunshine
draggin' the line

i feel fine i'm talkin' about peace of mind
i'm gonna take my time i'm gettin' the good sign
draggin' the line

loving the free and feelin' spirit
of huggin' a tree when you get near it
diggin' the snow and rain and bright sunshine
draggin' the line

i feel fine
i'm talkin' bout peace of mind
i'm gonna take my time
i'm gettin' the good sign
draggin' the line

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

if you like baseball, iron&wine, and me

i'm now writing about baseball full time on another blog (which is to say, part time, but all of my baseball writing time). my friend john just published the first installment in a twins offseason report at the following site:

i highly recommend checking out the blog generally, especially if you want to see me doing baseball analysis.

if you're interested in finding out more about me (and mostly about the courses i've taught and the research i do), then check out the newly published

in other life news, i have now submitted two chapters (of six) of my dissertation to my adviser. i'm busy trying to get a third to him. i'm also trying to get all the documents together to submit for job applications (mostly interdisciplinary environmental studies jobs). beyond that, i'm enjoying a good group of first year writing students at umn, the chance to walk or bike most everywhere i need to go, and my new apartment (especially the pool/sauna availability).

the two albums i've been listening to most when i'm trying to write my dissertation are sigur ros' agaetis byrjun and beck's sea change. interestingly, i think these were two of the albums i listened to most my senior year of college five years ago.

if you have new music suggestions for me, please post them in the comments--i'd enjoy something new right about now. until then, here's a song i've liked for a while...

pagan angel and a borrowed car by iron and wine

love was a promise made of smoke in a frozen copse of trees
a bone cold and older than our bodies slowly floating in the sea
every morning there were planes
the shiny blades of pagan angels in our father's skies
every evening i would watch her hold the pillow tight against her hollows, her unholy child
i was still a beggar shaking out my stolen coat among the angry cemetery leaves
when they caught the king beneath the borrowed car
righteous, drunk, and fumbling for the royal keys

love was a father's flag and sung like a shank in a cake on our leather boots
a beautiful feather floating down to where the birds had shit on empty chapel pews
every morning we found one more machine to mock our ever waning patience at the well
every evening she'd descend the mountain stealing socks and singing something good where all the horses fell
like a snake within the wilted garden wall i’d hint to her every possibility
while with his gun the pagan angel rose to say "my love is one made to break every bended knee"