Thursday, February 23, 2006

Year of the Elevator

I'm making a mix for my friends' birthday party. Yes, plural friends...singular party. Half my department is turning 30, just turned 30, or will be turning 30 tomorrow. My friend "Sharon" told me last year I was required to plan a "big fucking party" for her. I think at the time my response was "Um...yeah." But I had been planning stuff for my ex's 30th and rather than see that energy go bad and rot me from the inside out, I decided to put it into Sharon's birthday. Sharon and our lab mate, to be precise. So it's a rainbows and unicorns themed party for the two of them. Meaning we bought unicorn crap and crepe and you can't walk down the hall of my department without catching little glitter winks off the carpet, evidence of the glitter explosions my invitations caused. Oops.

And so I've been slowly working on a mix. Slowly because so much of the music from 1976 is like toxic waste. I can only be exposed to it a little at a time before I have to go listen to stuff like this to scour it from my ears. We're talking serious bad.

Here's a small sample, in the color palette that it deserves:
After the Lovin' - Engelbert Humperdinck
All By Myself - Eric Carmen
I Write the Songs - Barry Manilow
If You Know What I Mean - Neil Diamond
She's Gone - Daryl Hall & John Oates
That'll Be the Day - Linda Ronstadt
John Denver, Olivia Newton John, The Osmonds (together and separately) - the list goes on like a who's who of shit music. Fuck. No magical 70s unicorns and rainbows for that type of music. CheeeRIST, that was the shit that made me pull the holly hobby bedspread over my head and wish I could sleep until I was 30.

I tried very hard to find music that makes me think of that decade without leaving the bad taste of olive leisure suits and baloney colored lee press on nails in my mind. So what's in my mix? I guess it's mostly disco and funk. It's what was playing in the background of my 6 year old barbie doll based fantasies of me as a "grown up". It's songs that remind me of the delight of seeing discoing rollerskaters on the beach, that make me think of promises hinted in city lights hovering over the south east expressway. KC and the Sunshine Band, Commodores, Chic, The Temptations, Prince, Parliament, Rose Royce.... There's a wee bit of "Freedom rock" and pop-shit thrown in because what 70s rainbow and unicorn birthday party would be complete without Starlight Express, Bay City Rollers, and Foghat?

I will of course be burning a copy for cjblue, as she is my mix muse and requires homage.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Good Bye Larry!

Summers to Step Down As Harvard President
By Andrew Ryan
Associated Press Writer
February 21, 2006

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Lawrence H. Summers is resigning as president of Harvard University at the end of the academic year, the school announced on its Web site Tuesday. Summers' resignation ends the briefest tenure of any Harvard president since 1862, when Cornelius Felton died after two years in office. The announcement comes a week before an expected no-confidence vote by the Harvard faculty, who have criticized Summers leadership style and comments about women in science.

If you are wondering why, here's some background on Summers.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Harsh band

"That's harsh" was a phrase that was popular among my siblings a few years back. There was a lot that fell under this one handy word, so we all used it quite a bit. At some point, my siblings informed me of an expansion of this term. I suspect marajuana was involved. They had discovered The Harsh Band. According to them, The Harsh Band plays the theme music for all those truly harsh moments in your life. The Harsh Band composes, arranges, and performs the incidental music to every scene from your life that makes you squirm whenever it comes to mind.

"What scenes?" the more faint or denial riddled of heart might be asking, cursor hovering over the tab closing X. Hey, don't be a wimp. Think of this as theraputic. Identifying the soundtrack to your misery is one way of laughing at it. We all need to be able to do that sometimes at least. None of us has lived so charmed a life that we are free of crushing and possibly public disappointments, humiliations, blunders, mistakes, and the like. We all have those moments. They're in there influencing us whether we consciously think of them or not. Of course when they threaten to become fully manifest in our conscious mind, we want to skip over them. Maybe we hum a compulsive little song whenever the memory threatens. Maybe we speak too loudly and brightly, trying to chase away the mental ick with verbal frippery. If you want to enjoy The Harsh Band, you'll have to think even just for a minute of one of those moments. When you cringe and think "That's harsh..." hang on for just a second before you jump away from the aftermath. There. You can almost hear it, the low discord of The Harsh Band.

What exactly The Harsh Band plays doesn't matter so much. It is unmusical from most traditional perspectives, it would be hard to hum along to, in fact humming along to it would probably make you very upset. It is what all the utility companies and university bursar's offices would play for hold music if only they could jack straight into the band's sound board embedded in the deepest parts of your psyche. What matters (in catalogable terms at least) say my siblings, are the instruments in the band. While the pieces and their combinations in the ensemble are unique to the person, some individual elements may well be universal.
Years ago, my siblings would occasionally announce that a new instrument had been added to one or the other of our bands.
"We've added a block."
"A block?"
"Yeah, you know like in kindergarten when they'd hand out the instruments for music time and there would always be the block?"
"I think it was supposed to have a stick that went with it - "
"Right. But no one ever knew where the stick was. So it was just the block. The block should definitely be in The Harsh Band."

From what I can remember, to date, the instruments in The Harsh Band include: triangle, saw, jug, washboard, two rocks being banged together, our mother repeatedly playing the first few measures of Fur Elise, block (sans stick), various pots and pans, and although she may not have consciously acknowledged the addition, I'm pretty sure that a around 10:30 PM on December 31, 2004, my sister added my former neighbor's ukulele playing 8 year old as a soloist.

So, what's in YOUR Harsh Band?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Message sent - look at my ass

I'm supposedto be working but I was sending e-mail. Whew. That feels better. I feel like I just went to confession. To the point - I have a yahoo account. In the various mail screens, there tend to be ads with graphics in the margins. I suppose because I am registered as a woman, I get a lot of ads for zapping wrinkles, removing crow's feet, lightening circles under my eyes, busting cellulite, melting inches off my waist and hips, adding them to my chest, and plumping my lips. There is a nearly constant barrage of tits and ass in the sidelines of my e-mail.

Normally I gloss over it. Sometimes the ads flash and piss me off. Then I take the time to shut them down. But occasionally I see an image quickly as I am clicking to another screen and I don't register it entirely consciously immediately, leaving me with an intrusive image of unknown origin. Such was the case tonight when I was taken to the "message sent" screen. I briefly registered that my message had been sent to blah, blah, and blah as I clicked on "back to inbox". At my inbox screen, I thought "Why am I thinking of a perfect tanned artfully lit ass barely covered by a white bikini?"

Oh that's right. It was part of the montage of "simulated images"* from a BodyShape by Hydroderm ad. It promises to improve the appearance of my skin tone. It alludes to being able to give me a white bikini clad tanned tight ass, a flat belly, taut cut thighs and calves, and an absolutely stunning collar bone.

I wish there was a way to opt out of the ads. At least the picture ones. It's not that I am terribly bothered by seeing ass. That's fine. But I'm not expecting it in the short trip from sending a message to returning to my inbox. I guess it could be worse. The ass could emit a seizure inducing strobe and then present a line of flashing text telling me how to fix my bad credit.

* I went back and examined the ad. It actually says "simulated images" in tiny text at the bottom corner.

What's my age again?

Ah another blogthing.
It says I act like I'm 27. Not bad I guess. My life was on the wrong track when I really was 27. I was married to the ER doctor and living in a boring yuppie apartment complex in Ann know, the kind with muted beige carpet, a gas fire place, and vertical blinds. I had one of those "This just isn't me" moments around christmas that year and although it took me a few years, I got it sorted out. Life's not perfect now, far from it, but at least it feels like MY life. that I think about it, I think 27 was the year I saw the Tea Room exhibit this blog is named after.

You Are 27 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Sloppy grammar implicates Cheney in second shooting

Man Shot by Cheney Leaving Hospital

Oh the fun that can be had with sloppy modifiers. Maybe it's just that my head is in a strange place from looking at piles of datasets for too long, but honestly, my eyes skimmed over this headline and I thought "He shot ANOTHER one?"

This parse stayed in my head for just for a moment before pragmatics kicked in to help out. I realized I must have garden pathed the sentence or something because there's no way we'd hear about another shooting by the VP this fast.

Had the story been headlined with the verb in the active voice, as in "Man Cheney shot leaving hospital", there would have been no ambiguity. My guess is that there's avoidance of the active voice in the Cheney shooting stories since it sounds so much more, well, active. I adore that by trying to avoid placing grammatical cause on Cheney for the shooting, someone made it sound as if Cheney shot another person.

OMG, A___ just sent me another one. Cheney's out of control. Shooting people coming out of hospitals, hitting lawyers. Yeah, I'd call it an accident too if he kept attacking me.
Lawyer hit by Cheney calls shooting an accident

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ain't misbehavin'

Just being a cat. He was jumping around on my desk, printer, shelves, filing cabinet, etc. while I was working last night.

At first, Max seemed to enjoyed sitting on the scanner, purring about his new perch while I set it up and opened adobe. However, Max's fascination with the scanner ended soon after when noise and light started to come out of it. I didn't want to hold him there because that's mean. What remains is an interesting perspective of Max's rapid departure from the scanner while it was running.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Vice president showers man with itty bitty harmless pellets

According to today's follow up in the AP, the poor bastard Cheney shot is back in the ICU after having a heart attack from bird shot near or in his heart. Specifically, The shot was either touching or embedded in the heart muscle near the top chambers, called the atria, officials said.

Earlier in the story, it was noted that Hospital officials said they were not concerned about the six to 200 other pieces of birdshot that might still be lodged in Whittington's body. Cheney was using 7 1/2 shot from a 28-gauge shotgun. Shotgun pellets are typically made of steel or lead; the pellets in 7 1/2 shot are just under a tenth of an inch in diameter.
See, there's nothing at all to worry about. The doctors aren't worried. And why should they be? The vice president merely spritzed this fellow with a light dusting of quite small bits, well, specks really. Barely more than motes in fact.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Guns don't shoot people....

Vice presidents do.
I'm glad the guy Vice president Cheney shot is not critically injured. Because now I can make jokes about this and not feel too bad. Favorite quote from the early AP report on this:
"This is something that happens from time to time. You [k]now, I've been peppered pretty well myself," said Armstrong.

This was said by the woman who owns the ranch where Dick Cheney shot a fellow hunter while aiming at quail. According to the story, Armstrong, whose medical qualifications are not mentioned, stated that the man who the vice president shot (that's such a fun phrase) was "alert and doing fine". The shot gun blast "peppered" the victim in the face, neck, and chest. But he's fine, according to Armstrong, because "It didn't get in his eyes or anything like that." Is she a kindergarten teacher? Providing no one shot his eye out, it's ok. Is it just me or does her choice of reassurance seem a bit incommensurate with the nature of the injury? It's not like Cheney threw paste or playdough at the guy. He shot him, with a shot gun, in the neck.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Rich idiots just love a storm

I am truly thankful I had time to get my grocery shopping done during the day Friday. The woman at checkout said it had been a nightmare already and was dreading her shift on Saturday. I did venture out today and although I was not at the grocery store, what rushing people I did see elsewhere suggest she was probably correct. I live in a working class area that has a lot of low income families. The state had massive power outages in the last storm, which was not even remotely as bad as the one that is moving in right now. I'm sure working in a supermarket on a day like today is an entirely thankless job.

I read this and wanted to share.
...The storm was great news for northern New Jersey's Hidden Valley Resort and its 12 ski slopes, said Roni Mattiello, director of snow sports...."Everyone is psyched and pumped up for skiing," she said.

I could go on about class distinctions and the assumptions of rich idiots ("everyone" has the luxury of enjoying snow!), about how much I have always hated rich people sports like golf, tennis, and downhill resort skiing, or just how much raw contempt I feel when I consider the sorts of people I imagine would be "psyched and pumped up" upon hearing news of an approaching blizzard. I won't. I will say that if this storm turns out to be as bad as is predicted, when I am shivering in my unlit apartment after hours of back breaking shovelling, there is a certain director of snow sports in NJ who I will spend at least one guiltless moment imagining smacking the shit out of.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Before there was photoshop...

...There were highlighters, soft lead pencils, and ballpoint pens. Another find from my box o'crap. This was tucked in the pages of a journal, although which year is hard to determine because in my youthful shortsightedness, I didn't put years on the dates of the entries. And while reading them for context clues is sometimes amusing, it is also often disturbing and I'm not really in the mood for that right now.

As a teen, I read the paper more to find pictures to redraw than to learn about the news. But some of it did sink in, I think. Possibly news photo vandalism is an untapped educational material, a way for adolescents to familiarize themselves with current events.

Original tea room

I was looking for some old journals today. As I was going through my closet, I found a suitcase full of old pictures. And in the suitcase of old pictures, I found the picture I took of the description of the tea room exhibit in Ann Arbor, MI.
So here it is.

Monday, February 06, 2006

What do you DO?

I realized when I started grad school in linguistics, this was a really hard question to answer. Linguist is not a job or title that a large number of people have preconceptions about. Occasionally someone would assume it was synonymous with "polyglot". Sometimes I corrected them, sometimes not. Such preconceptions could get in they way, but they could also at least give someone a sort of sketch, a few lines I could build on. Zero preconceptions, as is the case often with "linguist" or even"psycholinguist", means that you frequently find yourself "pinned and wriggling on the wall" at a party, your dip drying on your decorative paper plate and the bubbles fizzing out of your drink, trying to answer the question without sounding like a total tit, while your conversation partner is regarding you with increasing levels of confusion or annoyance. And that's if you're lucky. If not, they will just walk. This is why linguists (psycho and otherwise) are mostly tits. Typically, linguists only know other linguists, the occasional "cognitive scientist", and approximately .7 philosophers. If this were your entire social circle, you'd suck too.

But now, ah, now I will have something to say that doesn't entail the risk I'll end up talking about "P-ness" and "A-ness" with my lovers' grandmothers. Now, when someone asks me "So what do you DO?" I can say "I study psycholinguistics". And when they look like they are going to run or pass out from anticipated boredom, I can quickly add "Do you remember that news story about the Tickle Me Elmo book that was heard to be issuing death threats? The one that people reported hearing say "Who wants to DIE?" I and other psycholinguists study why and how that sort of thing happens."

I am so happy. Well, I am sad that children may have been terrorized by the unexpected and menancing question asked in a piping caricature of a child's voice, but I am happy that I now have something I can use to establish common ground which might allow me to get over that conversational hump.