Captain Inertia
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
 
TRUE STORY

My friend Duff, from college, is a great guy and a devout Catholic. And once he told me this story, one of my favorites of all time.

Duff had a big sin on his conscience. Well, actually it wasn't that big--it probably felt a lot bigger than it was. But nevertheless, Duff felt pretty terrible about it. And finally, after much wrestling with the matter, he made up his mind to go to confession. He desperately needed to clear his conscience.

Now, as it happens, Duff was living in France in the time. And his French was pretty terrible, which meant he'd have a hard time going to a French priest to confess. So he goes to the cathedral of Notre Dame, which has 'international' confession. There are a ton of tables scattered throughout the cathedral, and each one has a little flag--an American flag, a German flag, a Swedish flag, etc., etc. You find your flag, go over there, and lo! there's a priest who speaks your language. And you confess.

Duff goes into Notre Dame. The cathedral is big and foreboding. He spies a table with an American flag, and he goes over there, filled with apprehension at having to confess, but also anticipating that he'll feel better when he's done.

But the priest at the table with the American flag doesn't speak English. He's French, and through a rather hapless series of words and pantomime gestures indicates that a) the regular, Anglophone priest is out sick, and b) that he, a French-only priest, is more than willing to take Duff's confession, and c) could he (Duff) please take this list of sinful behaviors and indicate, by pointing, which sins he wishes to confess?

(At this point, I frequently stop to wonder. Did the priest hand Duff the official, Vatican-sanctioned list of all sins? In that case, was it 1000 pages long? Or did it omit the rarely committed sins--regicide? bestiality? practicing the occult? coveting your neighbor's ass?--and focus instead on the 100 or 200 most frequently-committed sins? If so, how did they determine the most common sins? Take a poll? The mind boggles.)

Duff was put off by all this, and confessed a few rudimentary sins. He did not confess the big thing, the thing he'd come there to get off his chest. He left and went home, unshriven and unhappy.

Fast-forward a year. Duff has committed the same sin as before, and he's feeling bad about it. Not nearly as bad as he did the last time, mind you. He's kind of over it. But eventually, because of force of habit, he decides to go to confession. He doesn't feel particularly sinful, but heck, he should probably confess anyway.

His French is much better now, and he could, presumably, just go to any Catholic parish for his confession. But because he's not really interested in really confessing, just in discharging his obligation, he decides to go to Notre Dame. Because, he knows, the allegedly English-speaking priests at Notre Dame cathedral rarely speak English anyway. So, he'll go, and presumably the silly French-speaking priest will give him the authoritative list to confess from, and he'll confess a few minor things and go home.

So, Duff goes to Notre Dame. There are tables scattered all over with different flags, and he spies the one with the American flag on it. And he goes over, and sits down, and says (in perfect French), "I apologize, Father, my French is not that good." And the priest says, in a Paulie-from-Brooklyn kind of voice, "Eh, that's alright, my French ain't that good neither."

(There's more, but I'm sworn to secrecy.) That story is one of my favorites.
Monday, May 24, 2004
 
ADVENTURES IN GETTING OUT OF YOUR LEASE

I posted an ad on Craigslist this morning about my modest, too-expensive studio apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. ($880/mo...plus utilities...it's still available if you wants it, people...)

How many emails did I get? A whopping 65. Holy crap.
 
JON STEWART COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS AT WILLIAM AND MARY.

Heh. Heh.


Friday, May 21, 2004
 
CRAIC

Some notes, in no particular order, on my recent trip to Ireland:

1. May we all agree, please, that the toilets on airplanes are terrifying? They are SO FREAKING LOUD. My gosh. Every time I use one on a plane, I have to steel myself for the deafening flush that’s going to come when I complete my business. I forgot about this on Aer Lingus on the way to Dublin and I just about soiled myself with terror.

2. The German name for the Book of Kells? “Das Book of Kells.”

3. I spent my week in Ireland with my old friend Christine, who graciously agreed to host me. I got into Christine’s place—in Rathmines, a little south of the city center—at about 6.45 AM local time. Rather than have me try to track down a payphone or scale her dormitory wall, we’d simply agreed to meet outside her dorm at 7.30. I tried ringing her buzzer; it didn’t work. So I sat outside in the Irish sunshine, listening to this album, tapping my feet and singing to myself. It was actually really fun.

4. Everybody has cell phones in Dublin. But nobody talks on them. If someone is actually speaking on a cell phone in Dublin, you can be sure that they are either a) talking to their wife, who is currently in labor, or b) filthy rich. Everyone uses text messaging to talk to each other. As a result, all Dubliners are phenomenally fast text-message typists. It takes me a minimum of 15 minutes to text anyone anything (even if it’s a simple message, such as “Sebastian, you are ugly,” or “Sebastian, why don’t you shower more?”). Dubliners rapped off things like “You’re right, the Guiness in the Gravity Bar does taste a little different than the Guinness at Grogan’s...more malty, somehow,” in like 20 seconds. Amazing.

5. Dublin bus drivers are notoriously bad, and at least among the Dubliners I circulated with during my short visit, had something of a reputation for hitting tree branches. One girl, who wasn’t a native herself but had spent some considerable time in the city, described Dublin tree-branches as “bus-shaped.”

6. Christine and I spent the first couple days of my trip in Dublin, and then we took a trip out to the west coast of Ireland. We debated for some time where we were going to go—Tralee? Sligo? Mayo?—before settling on the Dingle Peninsula. Despite its moderately silly name (when I got back, I told two separate people I’d “been to Dingle,” and they both immediately responded “Berry”), it was absolutely gorgeous, and I wholeheartedly recommend it if you’re out there.

7. When Christine and I were in the internet café in Dublin, doing research for our trip, one of us finally turned to the other and said, “Look, just google Dingle.” This I found immensely amusing.

8. After seeing the Book of Kells—which was really cool—I strolled out onto the green at Trinity College Dublin, sat down, and took a breather. I was surrounded by beautiful, historic TCD, tourists from a million countries, and students from all over as well. For a solid hour, the sun shone brightly—which, if you know Ireland, is pretty rare. And during this transcendent moment, this beautiful hour in the Irish sun, what was I thinking? I was thinking, “I have ‘the Heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ stuck in my head.” Because I did.

9. The crosslights in Dublin come with little helpful sounds, to let you know when it’s your turn to cross the street. Your light turns green, you get a little beep, and then a series of smaller buzzes as your time counts down. They’re very helpful; however, they sound EXACTLY like video game sound effects. Each time I crossed O’Connell Street, I kept thinking that I was going to leap on top of a Koopa.

10. One day, after Christine had gotten up and already gone into town, my alarm went off. I lay there, listening to it beep, but could not motivate myself to get up. Finally, I roused myself from bed with a mighty (and entirely spontaneous) cry: “UP, LUMMOX!”

11. Does anyone not think that “UP, LUMMOX!” would be a great name for a novel, a blog, or a rock album?

12. Apparently “Ice Ice Baby” is a popular cell-phone ring tone in Ireland.

13. The chemical soap on Ireland’s trains—such as the train Christine and I took from Dublin to Tralee—looks like parmesan cheese.

14. Christine and I took the train from Dublin to Tralee (a too-long journey that involved the train shifting into reverse for part of our journey), and then the bus from Tralee to Dingle. BEST. BUS. RIDE. EVER. Breathtakingly beautiful scenery. Calling it ‘really pretty green rolling hills’ just makes me sound like a seventh-grader. Just go for yourself.

15. The Guinness is really good. It’s true. It’s sort of creamy, if that makes any sense.

16. Dingle Town itself is pretty small—about 1500 people—and there seem to be two main attractions thereabouts: 1. the Blasket Islands. (Scenic beautiful islands; people used to live there until the 50s, and then they all left—has a Irish ghost town kinda feel.) 2. Fungi the Dolphin.

17. Fungi the Dolphin caused a great deal of tension between Christine and I.

18. Here’s the deal: Fungi the Dolphin is a dolphin that has taken up residence in the harbor outside Dingle. He just, y’know, hangs out there. And boats go sail out in the harbor to look at him. You pay, like, ten Euro round-trip, and you get your money back if he doesn’t show up. Apparently every once in a while he’ll get really excited and actually jump over your little motorboat all dramatically. Christine REALLY wanted to see Fungi (“Hey! A cool Irish dolphin!”). I really did not want to see Fungi (“10 Euro for an Irish dolphin? I can go to SeaWorld if I want to see dolphins, buddy.”) I’ll admit, my pride got caught up in it. I did not want to tell all my American friends that the centerpiece of my weeklong trip to Ireland was going out in a motorboat to see the Gaelic version of Free Willy.

19. Our first day in Dingle, Christine and I went out to the Blasket Islands. They ruled. Immense natural beauty. Hiking in mountains. Chasing sheep. (Overall ratio of sheep to people on the Blasket Islands? 150-1.) Eating hot vegetable soup and drinking coffee and feeling warm and fuzzy. And the whole time, immersed in all this natural beauty, what was I thinking? “I have the ‘Rocky’ theme song stuck in my head.” Because I did.

20. I got the Rocky theme song stuck in my head because I beat Christine at thumb wrestling. There is no better thumb wrestler than me. Seriously, I’ll take all comers. I’ll lick you all. With my thumbs.

21. One day in Dublin, I humiliated myself trying to buy Band-Aids. It went like this:

Me: do you have band-aids?
Irish pharmacist: No, we have none of those. (Pointing at enormous display of Band-Aids [which in Ireland are called “Elast-o-Plasts”] in case directly in front of me.)
Me: Ah! May I have some, please?
Irish Pharmacist: Get them yourself!
Me: (sees that case is actually not enclosed in glass, as I had thought, but rather open only in the front, so that only the prospective customer may grab them.) Ah.
Irish Pharmacist: It’s an ingeniously constructed system, sir.
Me: Yes.
Irish Pharmacist: That’ll be two Euro.

21. We never did get to see Fungi the Dolphin. We just couldn’t fit him in. We got back from Blasket too late to go see him, and the next morning we were up early to go on some archeological tour of the peninsula, and if we’d tried to see him we would have missed our bus. We could not fit Fungi into our schedule.

22. This, however, did not stop every single person we met from asking us, “oh! Did you see Fungi the Dolphin!”

(23. When I say ‘every single person,’ I mean, included, but not limited to: Christine’s flatmates in Dublin, taxi driver on the way from the train station back to Christine’s flat, my friend Renee in NYC, Christine’s mom, co-workers, etc., etc. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you. The best example of this was our conversation with this bloke Danny from England we met in a pub our first night in Dingle.

Christine: So, Danny, what sorts of fun things are there to do in Dingle?
Danny: Well. Do you have a car?
Us: No.
Danny: Do you like to hitchhike?
Us: No.
Danny: Well. There’s this dolphin...)

24. And as you might imagine, this did nothing to reduce my feeling of frustration, and did everything to increase Christine’s feelings of disappointment at not having been able to see Fungi. We delicately avoided the subject all the way back to Dublin, when she finally let her frustration out a little bit. “You’ll have a chance to go back,” I promised her. I was, however, secretly relieved.

25. I miss Grogan's.
 
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING

Last night. 3 AM. Jackhammers. Going off. On the street. Outside my bedroom window. For 45 minutes. They were re-paving the street, I think...at least that's what it looked like when I looked out this morning.

The many virtues of living in New York. I had naively assumed they had to stop come 10 or even 11 PM; clearly, I underestimated the iron will of the NYC Department of Loud-Ass Noises. Who's the chair of that Department, Darth Vader? Do people get strangled if they're behind schedule, like Admiral Ozzle? (sigh)

It sucked. And if it happens again tonight--on Friday night/Saturday morning, the holiest moments of sleep of the whole week--there will be trouble in River City.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
 
SOSA INJURES SELF BY SNEEZING.

Our left fielder is peeing on his hands, Sosa is hurting himself by sneezing, the Goat Boy is throwing 14-pitch at-bats to Alex Cora (who last year hit a Bonds-esque 4 home runs), and Mark Prior is pitching for the Lansing Lugnuts. Everything is going just fine.

Serenity now. Serenity now.


 
BEST NAME OF ALL TIME?

This guy, the center fielder for the Anaheim Angels, gets my vote.
 
PROPOSAL, SCHMAPOSAL

Working on a grant proposal at work, to provide 'youth development' for immigrant teenagers. (Grant's being offered by these guys, if you're interested.) The two lynchpins of this grant proposal are: 1. you can't ask for more than $70,000 (I mean, you can, they just won't give it to you), and 2. you cannot have a rate-per-student of more than $425. So, if we ask for, say, $42,500, we would have to serve at least 100 kids. Serve the students at a less economical rate--even if it's a better program--and you don't get the money.

$425 per kid. That's the key. It's not a lot, but at least it's more than the federal government charges us to serve refugees--they only give us $400 per client, thus leading one higher-up at my company to make such wizzer comments as "They don't pay us enough to serve these people" about persons who have had to flee their homes under the threat of murder, torture, and rape.

Back to the proposal. I have the following conversation with my boss:

me: We can't hire enough teachers to make this proposal cost-effective. We can't slip in under $425/student. We shouldn't apply.
boss: well. how many kids would we have to teach to come in at $425/student?
me: Uhh. 160.
boss: OK. And we're not going to teach 160 kids all at one time, are we?...
me: uhh....
boss: so we can just split them up over the course of the year. we'll teach 40 kids a quarter. with 2 teachers, that should be manageable, right?
me: yeah, i guess.
boss: problem solved!

my boss is one of those haplessly busy people that you don't know whether to feel sorry for or explode with frustration at. she's ridiculously overworked, and there are always people competing for her attention. sometimes you'll drop by her office to try to get 5 minutes of face time and you'll feel like you're queueing up to buy bread in russia. but it's frustrating, too, because she's so busy that she rarely has a real grasp of what the problem is, and what needs to happen to fix it. and she's frequently so busy that she'll listen to you, proscribe some half-remedy that doesn't really help (see above), and then chase you out of her office.

when i started working here, i frequently went to her whenever i had a problem. lately, though, i've been starting to try to do the opposite--when i have a problem, stay away. it's just a matter of the cure being worse than the disease.

so, anyway, now i'm in the position of having to write this grant proposal that i'm not really excited about. we will come in at under $425/student, which is good. but the structure of the program is ridiculous: we have 40 students in the program...for three months. and then we chase them out and get 40 entirely new students. then, three months later, we do the same thing. is there a problem here?

i ask you, if you were running a program for immigrant youth--not a lot of english skills, not a lot of academic ability--would you be able to accomplish much in three months? (it's not entirely a rhetorical question, either...maybe i'm just underestimating the amount of work a good teacher can do in three months. althoug with 40 students, i don't think so.) it just seems like a bad idea that's not going to have any kind of a serious impact on these kids; to make real headway, you'd need a full year. (Which, not surprisingly, is the timeline of our other youth development programs.)

Frustrating, indeed. Back to the drawing board for a bit, to see if I can pry a little more flexibility out of my boss. Let's just see how long the line is outside her office tomorrow.
 
DRAT

Sursum Corda has retired. I would be irritated with him for taking away one of my favorite blogs if his reasoning--more time to spend with family and on graduate study--wasn't so strong. Phooey. Still, he's keeping his archives up, and I encourage you to check them all out if you feel like encountering something edifying.


Friday, May 07, 2004
 
ANSWERS TO MEME QUIZ:

Since you're all dying of curiosity:


1. By the rivers of Babylon, where we sat down. We sat and wept, when we remembered Zion. Answer: the Melodians, "By the Rivers of Babylon." From "the Harder They Come" soundtrack. Good stuff.

2. Cutting through the cane break, rattling the sill. Thunder that the rain makes when the shadow tops the hill. Answer: Tom Waits, "Big Black Mariah."

3. Let me ride on the wall of death one more time. Answer: Richard & Linda Thompson, "Wall of Death."

4. Rock-et! hey-ey! Answer: See "greatest album of all time."

5. it's ed-u-CA-tion-alllllll....it's ed-u-CA-tion-alllllll.... Answer: The Pixies, "U-Mass."

6. Dad dad, why did you let that man push you around like that? Answer: Pedro the Lion, "Big Trucks." (sooooo excited for new Pedro album this month!!!)

7. It read "Darling, I'm sorry to hurt you, but I've no courage to speak to your face. For I'm down in Virginia with your cousin Lou. There'll be no wedding today." Answer: "Dear Doctor," the Rolling Stones. I'll go out on a limb and say that not enough Stones songs feature Mick impersonating Southern belles in a falsetto.

8. Do you cry? Do you pray? Do you wish it away? Are you stilll leaving nothing but bones in the way? Answer: Tom Waits, "Who Are You?", from "Bone Machine," which may now be my all-time favorite Waits album, and a close contender for Best Album of All Time.

9. I'm just trying to find a decent melody; a song I can sing in my own company. Answer: "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," U2. Surprised nobody got this one.

10. Living easy, living free. Season ticket on a one-way ride. Asking nothing, leave me be, taking everything in my stride. Answer: "Highway to Hell," AC/DC. The only not-rampantly-offensive AC/DC lyric I could think of.

11. Like a myth, you rode in from the west. From the go, you had my buttons pressed. Answer: "Sibella," Richard Thompson.

12. Oh, I feel it, coming back again. Like a rolling thunder, shaking the wind. (Note extreme embarassment.) Answer: "Lightning Crashes," Live. "Throwing Copper" still occasionally makes it into my CD player; usually I pretend it's the White Stripes.

13. Let it be known: there is a fountain that was not made by the hands of men. Answer: "Ripple," the Grateful Dead.

14. They looked sick, and stoned, and strangely dressed. No one showed from the local press. Answer: "April the 14th," Gillian Welch.

15. Tonight there's gonna be a jailbreak, somewhere in this town. See, me and the boys don't like it, so we're getting up and going down. Answer: "Jailbreak" (duh), Thin Lizzy.

16. When I'm lost in the crowd, I hope that you'll come pick me out. How I long to be found. The grass grew high, I lay down. Answer: "Nothing Gets Crossed Out," Bright Eyes.

17. I slept out on the sofa in the Boom-Boom Room, I woke up very upset. I threw the covers back and peeped out through the draperies: my daughter, my baby, my baby mama all escaping me. Answer: "the Rooster," Outkast.

18. I know you might think your shit don't stink, but lean a little bit closer, see your roses really smell like boo-boo. Answer: "Roses," Outkast. Been listening to a lot of them lately, although I think I've finally cooled on them a little bit...in favor of The Greatest Album Ever.

19. Armageddon it! (e.g.)
1
20. With sorry eyes that cut through bone, making it hard to leave you alone. Leave you here, wearing your wounds, waving your guns at somebody new. Answer: "Lost Cause," Beck. Surprised nobody got this one.

FRIEND RANKINGS ON QUIZ:
My sister: declined to participate in quiz; demanded to know answers instantly.
Rilina: 3/20.
Brian & Lauren: 7/20. (I haven't looked at the answers for yours yet, because I know so many. I'm going to email you with all of them soon.)




 
INSANE SILLINESS IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL.

University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt...worth a look. Funny stuff. Via the Technology, who now rules the roost as the number 1 Google hit under 'Jon Bruner.'

Thursday, May 06, 2004
 
CUBS LEFT FIELDER URINATES ON HANDS TO "TOUGHEN THEM UP"

Urine is "just like water," adds Moises. I don't even have a joke here.

(EDITED TO ADD: Conversation with my sister yesterday:

Her: well, maybe it's just, like, an old wives tale.
Me: what, like, don't walk under a ladder, don't cross paths with a black cat....pee on your hands to toughen them up?

I continue to be stymied.)
Tuesday, May 04, 2004
 
ADDICTIVE INTERNET MEME (VIA RILINA)

Since I don't have an MP3 player, I'll just use 25 tracks randomly selected from all-time favorites, big influences, and what I've been listening to lately:

1. By the rivers of Babylon, where we sat down. We sat and wept, when we remembered Zion.
2. Cutting through the cane break, rattling the sill. Thunder that the rain makes when the shadow tops the hill.
3. Let me ride on the wall of death one more time.
4. Rock-et! hey-ey!
5. it's ed-u-CA-tion-alllllll....it's ed-u-CA-tion-alllllll....
6. Dad dad, why did you let that man push you around like that?
7. It read "Darling, I'm sorry to hurt you, but I've no courage to speak to your face. For I'm down in Virginia with your cousin Lou. There'll be no wedding today."
8. Do you cry? Do you pray? Do you wish it away? Are you stilll leaving nothing but bones in the way?
9. I'm just trying to find a decent melody; a song I can sing in my own company.
10. Living easy, living free. Season ticket on a one-way ride. Asking nothing, leave me be, taking everything in my stride.
11. Like a myth, you rode in from the west. From the go, you had my buttons pressed.
12. Oh, I feel it, coming back again. Like a rolling thunder, shaking the wind. (Note extreme embarassment.)
13. Let it be known: there is a fountain that was not made by the hands of men.
14. They looked sick, and stoned, and strangely dressed. No one showed from the local press.
15. Tonight there's gonna be a jailbreak, somewhere in this town. See, me and the boys don't like it, so we're getting up and going down.
16. When I'm lost in the crowd, I hope that you'll come pick me out. How I long to be found. The grass grew high, I lay down.
17. I slept out on the sofa in the Boom-Boom Room, I woke up very upset. I threw the covers back and peeped out through the draperies: my daughter, my baby, my baby mama all escaping me.
18. I know you might think your shit don't stink, but lean a little bit closer, see your roses really smell like boo-boo.
19. Armageddon it!
20. With sorry eyes that cut through bone, making it hard to leave you alone. Leave you here, wearing your wounds, waving your guns at somebody new.

Gosh, I need to get an IPod.


Powered by Blogger