No, it's not about Paul Deignan. Berube has a fun post up about his experience with his son's retainers, and the pictures of those nasty devices brings me back to the orthodontist days. Such is the misery of braces: after they're off, having a gross piece of plastic in your mouth and a big ugly wire in front of your teeth feels like amazing progress.
On the other hand, not all big ideas are good ideas. In fact, most big ideas are probably terrible ideas. What do you think is the single worst idea in history?
Without question, ethical monotheism. The idea of one true god. The idea that our life and ethical conduct on earth determines how we will go in the next world. This has been responsible for most of the wars and bigotry in history.*
But religion has also been responsible for investing countless lives with meaning and inner richness.
I lead a perfectly healthy, satisfactory life without being religious. And I think more people should try it.
In college, I remember hearing Anatole France's remark about having two enemies, Christ and chastity. Even then it sounded like the kind of quip that might have been extraordinarily clever and outrageous at the time but is now simply tedious. Whatevs, dude.
So what is the worst idea evar?
*I think this is two, maybe three.
Does anyone have any creative ideas about exam-writing? I'm stuck between a desire to be (or demand) more creativity and a desire to be fair (this might not be exactly the right term, but it's something along the lines of fairness). The problem, as I see it, is that any exam that asks for some spontaneous and original thinking runs the risk of catching people at a bad moment.* You freeze up, don't quite see the big issue, or whatever-- or you don't see what your self-indulgent professor thinks is the "real point" of the inscrutable question-- and your performance suffers out of proportion to your overall mastery of material. And that's teh suxx.
(A friend recounts an undergraduate exam for a course on [I think] the making of modern Europe. The sole question was something like: "Discuss the impact and signficance of trains on European development." The lectures had never been on this particular topic, and in a way it's a stroke of genius, since answering it requires synthesizing a lot of important information in a new way. On the other hand, when my friend took a bathroom break he found another student literally banging his head against a stall out of frustration.)
For reasons like this I've taken to writing exams that are painfully straightforward, not to mention boring. (I'm writing this post, itself rather boring, in lieu of grading the things.)
*Tu quoque!, you say, since every exam is like this. True, but some more than others.
Ogged: I had expected him to be much geekier, actually.
Mr B: wearing suspenders. In the movie, he'll be played by Harvey Keitel, which won't quite do him justice.
Michael: After he offered to sodomize me with a beer bottle we got along just fine. After he went through with it we got along even better.
The bald lurker: a life-changing conversation. It's funny to have a conversation about something for which one's interlocutor's description could be a euphemism.
And after that I went to Brooklyn and slept (intermittently) next to the noisiest radiator in the city. Fun!
Great, a transit strike; I'll never get out of this place. And yes, this is really all the thread you get--this Starbucks business isn't doing a thing for me.
In attendance: Fontana Labs, the Invisible Adjunct, John Emerson, Jeremy Osner, Mr. B, Sister of Mr. B, Becks, Jackmormon, Lizardbreath, the Idealist, Joe Drymala, Washerdreyer, Michael, the Ex, Tia, Chris (of Explananda).
Mr. B was the first one I met, when he said, "I'm looking for someone I've never met." Reservoir Dogs is the perfect setting for him: he was wearing a dark suit, and a black tie, with his hair slicked back. But more than that, it's the open but inscrutable and handsome (though a bit past the prime of youth handsome) face, with lots of white teeth. He also had an air of practiced calm, and a steady smile, which said, clearly, post-traumatic stress disorder. Whether this is owing to his time in the military, or to other, unknown factors, we could not say.
Then I was led back to a booth with Jeremy Osner, and John Emerson. Osner has the look and manner of Merlin's younger, non-wizarding brother--with his pointy unkempt graying beard, little round glasses, and slightly hunched posture. Emerson was about as I expected, but less bookish, and more Grizzly Adamsish, with his full white beard, and shock of full white hair. I didn't get to talk to him so much, but it seemed that his natural impishness was somewhat constrained by his solid Midwestern breeding and manners. Until he told me that the next gathering needs to be someplace cheaper, like Fargo. He did ask me a rather good question, however: "Why did you set up a website where people abuse you?" "It's more fun that, way" being the answer.
I didn't get to talk much to the next two people who came in: the lovely and pink-bedecked Becks, and the whimsically charming Tia (sorry, Weiner). They wound up at different places in the table as we all moved around, so other people will have to dish about them.
It should be noted that the "how will we find each other" problem was "solved" by the "look for confused people" method, which worked pretty well, excepting those cases where there were confused people not looking for Unfoggedites.
Next in were Lizardbreath and the Idealist. Well, Lizardbreath and someone who claimed to be the Idealist, but who I'm betting was actually Lizardbreath's government minder, with his quiet, imperturbable bearing. LB is, of course, smart and charming, just as you'd expect. She set Mr. B straight on the "does water go down the drain in the opposite direction in the Southern Hemisphere?" question in classic Lizardbreathian manner, with information that Becks did sensibly wonder why, in this internetical age, no two people had thought to videotape flushes in the hemispheres, and post the results.
Last to arrive before we were finally allowed to our table upstairs was the very fucking tall Fontana Labs. (The solidly-built VFT Fontana Labs. Be afraid, Timbot, be very afraid.) Shocker: Labs makes lots of inappropriate sex jokes in real-life too! And he has stories of his colleagues trying to pee on him. (Am I allowed to say that?) As Mr. B's sister said to me, "I have no idea what he's talking about, and he's still hilarious." So the answer to "what's Labs like?" is "just like he is on the blog." Most of the high comedy of the evening was provided by Labs bantering with the mysterious bald lurker Chris, who not only grew up within blocks of IA, but knew a lot of the people Labs knew. More than this, I should not say.
Before the event, Labs asked me who I thought would be surprising. I took a baseline geekiness to be the default state and guessed that Drymala would be kinda suave, and that Jackmormon would be kinda hot. Right on both counts. That Joe, with his boyish sandy-blonde hair falling into his face, and Jackmormon with her lithe dancer's body (her very very hyper lithe dancer's body). Now, of course, we all feel horribly guilty that those two were the ones to take a (rather long) smoking break, and that jokes were made about the sexual congress between them, and that those jokes didn't quite stop when they returned. But they're cooler than we are, so it's ok.
Washerdreyer somehow survived his exam and even got a few hours sleep before joining us. He was more quiet than expected, but likely the prospect of Michael sleeping in his home had him in some kind of shock. Michael is, despite himself, a charming young man. Well, until he gets a few drinks in him, when he becomes a charming young man that begs to be punched in the face. Which is all to say, just like he is on the blog.
The Invisible Adjunct is, as we all expected, charming and lovely and smart. I didn't get to talk to her very much, as Emerson tried to work his magic, but it was great to meet her.
Then there were special guest appearances, by ac's friend, and Mr. B's sister. ac (whose absence was noted with regret by several people) sent a friend to bring us a gift: a package of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies, wrapped in paper decorated with a picture of a stately standpipe. We couldn't resolve the issue of whether the cookies should remain unopened, opened and distributed, or opened and distributed and consumed in the manner of crackers at Mass. They remain in my coat pocket.
Mr. B's sister was a lovely real-life actress, and surely earned some angel wings by putting up with us for a few hours. At one point she let slip, "This isn't as bad as I expected." Then she felt bad for saying it, but my honest response was, "No no, it's not as bad as I expected either." Not bad at all. In fact, I had a great time, and it was good to meet y'all. Until next time then, in Fargo...
This is where we'll say nasty things about each other in a few hours.
I'd like to make a late, grand entrance, but I'll try to be there by 6, and I expect at least some of us will hang out there for several hours, so show up if you're around. Old Town Bar & Grill, 45 E. 18th. Street. (We'll be upstairs.)
Bit late with this since, there's no internet to be had unless I schlep to a Starbucks...
Impressions: It's pretty hard to be around Tom and Kriston and not think, "these are just good guys." It's going to make stealing away their girlfriends that much more satisfying, even if Tom is a lot better built than you'd guess from pictures. Michael and Matt F. were the young ones, I believe, and thanks to them for coming and being the normal. And Michael said nice things to me so I'm making him come to the NY meetup too. Ezra was there just long enough to tell us that he was going to "make poverty funny again," and then he had cooler things to do. Saiselgy was a bit of a surprise, because I wasn't expecting all the manic energy. Definite frenetic coffee and nicotine, three-blogs-aren't-nearly-enough, there's no fucking time to spell vibe from the rapidly again Wehhtam. Also, he thinks that he and Freud are the great Jewish geniuses of the last hundred or so years. You should ask him about that. The apostropher was another surprise, just because he seemed so damn normal. I guess I was expecting him to show up in a t-shirt with a gruesome scene pictured on the front, and the entire internet in his back pocket, but, in fact, he seems like the kind of guy you'd let babysit your kids. Seriously. And yes, there were no women at all. Good work, DC boys. But, like they say, you get perverted with the crowd you have, not the crowd you wish you had, so a special thank you from everyone there to Kriston.
Thinking about Cory Maye prompted me to realize that there's another serious drawback to TimesSelect: it makes Bob Herbert much less effective at what he does well. If the facts are as we believe them to be, the Maye case might be a good cause for Herbert to take up, and his taking it up would generate a lot more publicity if his outrage weren't hidden behind a subscription wall. So much for the bully pulpit.
It was a good idea to leave the task of finding a place to sleep in NY until the day before, wasn't it?
Sorry to leave you without content. I had a series of concerts this weekend (went well, thanks) and now I'm back to reading job application files.
In other exciting news: my failure to be excited by either John Lennon or Marilyn Monroe is matched only by my failure to be excited by the Tookie Williams issue. If he's granted clemency, it should be for being really frikkin' huge. (The thing I can't get over: it's Arnold Schwarzenegger who makes the final call. God, that's weird.)