Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bay 2, Room 10

My sister and I went with our dad in the elevator this morning, and he and the nurse got off on the fifth floor at around 11:15 am for his surgery.

Around 4:15 pm, the surgeon summoned us to one of the rooms of the "day of surgery lounge" to inform us that the surgery went well. They did a triple, not a double, bypass but didn't deal with the valve issue since doing so would have put him in for another hour of surgery. With his kidney issues and being 83, they didn't want to push it. The surgeon related that he's probably had this valve issue for "fifteen to twenty years" and is doing fine with it. He also said that other than the "major blockages," Virg's "tissues looked good" for his age. I don't what that means, but it's sounds positive for his health in the future.

I was nervous going back there since they told us that the surgery would take close to six hours, and if the surgery started around Noon, then four hours didn't bode well. I'm glad to be wrong.

He'll be in the ICU for a couple of days and will then move to the heart care section of the U of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

We haven't got to see him yet, but we're going back over at around 9:00pm when visitor hours open back up for an hour and a half window.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Deja Vu All Over Again

Close to four years ago when I traveled to the U of Iowa Hospital to visit my mom after her heart surgery after Quinn was born of June 9, I didn't turn left when I needed to because of the shoddy signage here in the Iowa City/Coralville area.

I traveled to the same area today, and to my chagrin, I didn't take the left turn yet again, driving too far south, cursing the urban planners in this part of Iowa, and eventually turning around to the get to the confusing U of Iowa Hospital.

Virg has his surgery tomorrow. He'll have a double bypass and get a sketchy valve replaced if they can do so.

I'll try to write a message tomorrow to tell interested folks how it went.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Music Friday: "Usual Suspects" & Shooting Stuff

Death of a Decade, the third album by Ha Ha Tonka, came out in early April, and it's a good one.

In comparison the band's first two albums, Buckle in the Bible Belt (2007) and Novel Sounds in the Nouveau South (2009), it's yet another solid effort by these guys who hail from West Plains, Missouri. But the third album incorporates the mandolin like no album I've heard in a while besides bluegrass outfits I listen to.

Death of a Decade begins with the song "Usual Suspects," and the official video of the song below should give you a taste of their tunes that feature the mandolin.

Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations program on the Travel Channel also had a program on the Ozarks not long ago, and the band had a short cameo in that episode. They drink beer, grill meat, and let Bourdain shoot stuff with a shotgun.

If you watch the second video and start thinking these guys are, shall we say, unrefined, I'll just mention that the band ends its second album with the song "Thoreau in the Woods." And one of my favorite songs on the new album is "The Humorist," which is, as far as I can tell, about Mark Twain.

I wanted to find a video of them playing "The Humorist," but I couldn't find anything.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Baseball Art

When I working on the last Music Friday, I checked out Centro-matic's website, and there's a portal on the site that leads you to the artwork of Will Johnson, the head man of Centro-matic/South San Gabriel.

It's great stuff.

He paints pictures about baseball players as you can see by trolling http://www.willjohnsonart.com/.

With his permission, I've provided some images of them below, but you can get the best look at them by going on the website.

Vida Blue was one hell of a pitcher.

For the Cardinal fans out there, I thought you'd appreciate the painting of Al Hrabosky.

For me, of course, I'm drawn to Banks.

A lot of the paintings are sold, but after looking at the list of them, I'm fantasizing about having a man cave with one or more of these paintings in it.

I'm considering who I would want even though I doubt Johnson paints them on demand. Nor do I have the disposable income at this moment to buy one. Those damn kids keep needing clothes and shoes.

Though I've always liked Sandberg, my favorite Cub is Andre Dawson, which is clear if you read "The Hawk Has Landed."

One of my favorite baseball cards, which I rediscovered after helping clean out my parents' house, is the 1980 George Brett card, the year he flirted with hitting .400.

And even though I don't like the Cardinals, I think Bob Gibson was one of the best pitchers ever. That man was intimidating.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Maps and Atlases

I first got to thinking about maps and atlases after reading a post on February 18, "Friday Draft: Fairy Tale with Maps," on Sandy Longhorn's blog, Myself the Only Kangaroo among the Beauty. In her post, she's working through a poem that, as she says, "has bits of autobiography" in it.

As I related in part of my comment to her post, "I'm also nostalgic about maps and atlases. You splay out the folds or pages, and you see potential on paper. A GPS just squawks at you."

Another cheer for the old technology, people.

And ice cream socials.

We went to Hannah's ice scream social a few weeks back. While they had all kinds of games to play and "bouncy houses," as Mrs. Nasty describes them, they were also selling books at 50% off.

One of the two books we picked up for Hannah is the Beginner's United States Atlas from National Geographic Kids. The photo below is a similar structure for what you find for every state, but the state featured in the photo is Iowa.

On the pages for each state, you get to learn about "Land & Water," "Statehood," "People & Places," a "Fun Fact," along with pictures and info about the state flag, flower, and bird. Assorted factoids dot the pages with appropriate visuals, such as the one associated  with the hog above: "Hogs outnumber people five to one in Iowa, which produces 25 percent of all hogs raised in the U.S."

So maybe that's why I like porcine goodness? I know I ate a heck of a lot of pork when I was growing up, even the dreadfully chewy pork cutlets that my dad loves.

But back to maps and atlases here.

Americans are known for not being very knowledgeable about geography.

Could GPS squawk boxes and phones be making us even worse?

Some Max Headroom-like voice is perhaps making it easier to find places you need to get to, but we could be losing, as a culture, our ability to get, as a farmer might say it, the "lay of the land," a knowledgeable background about geography. Could we be going from geographically dumb to dumber because of passive reliance on gadgetry?

I don't know, but my initial answer is "Yes."

But the question of whether technology is really helping us develop our intelligence/knowledge is something not enough people consider, and that question is part of the driving thesis within Nicholas Carr's book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, a book I believe lots of people should read.

As veteran writing teachers know, various pundits--educational or otherwise--heralded the personal computer and then the Internet as a boon since they felt the technology would help students become stronger writers. One could argue, and some have, that students are writing more than they ever have before because of computers and texting.

But think about the quality and depth of that communication.

The medium, as Marshall McLuhan opined decades ago, frames the message. If you're considering online fora, at least with a blog you can write as much as you like. With Twitter and Facebook and whatever's next, you're limited by character count. 

The whole warm embrace of the new reminds of the guy who sold us our mattress years ago. During small talk, he asked me what I was going to school for, and I told him my standard line that I plan to "teach writing and teach people how to teach writing," and his response was something along the lines of "Well, why would you study to do that? The computer will just do it for you." It was one of those moments in my life where I almost told someone, "You're a moron."

That's obviously an extreme example. But the anecdote, for me at least, displays how some people might think the newest technology is always better. It's improvement, right? It's new. The machine will do it for you. It makes our lives "easier," more "convenient."

Another anecdote that comes up for me is a conversation I witnessed where one person asked where she could get some fabric for something she was making. She related that she looked all over the Web and couldn't find any stores in the area for that merchandise. The fellow who was talking to her handed her a phone book, and she found what she wanted pretty quickly.

But part of the impetus for this post though is my nostalgia for the old technology of maps and atlases.

For a short time I had a job as an "Regional Admission Coordinator," which is a fancy phrase for an college admissions dude who traveled to high schools to give presentations. The pay stunk, but I had a job and health insurance while I finally figured out that I wanted to go back to grad school. Based in Kansas City, I traveled the western part of Missouri--west of Columbia and Jeff City--along with Kansas and Nebraska--Johnson County, Lawrence, Topeka, Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, and some towns in between.

Driving around the Midwest in a state vehicle with only an AM/FM radio (in certain parts of my territory, it was country music or nothing), I relied on those maps and atlases. And when you hit a small town that you've never been to before and you need to find the high school, scout for flag poles, my friends.

Throughout my travels, maps oriented me and helped me see the state I was traveling in. For me, the squawk boxes of now are cold and indifferent and possibly invite passivity. The map, in contrast, is tactile and comforting. And if you're planning a trip, you depend on your brain to figure out your route while learning the towns you'll pass along the way.

Even earlier in my life, the U.S. atlas we had at our home evoked possibility.

Sure, I lived in the medium-sized blue collar town of Waterloo, Iowa, but as a kid I dreamed of living in northern Minnesota (good fishing) or in cities like Milwaukee or the Twin Cities while visiting places like New Orleans, Portland, Louisville, Seattle, and Philadelphia. By scoping out the state maps, I learned about places in all kinds of states through the process of looking around rather than being only focused on the destination.

The process is important.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

That Distant Land

In the process of helping clean out the books from my parents' house a while back, my dad, who is pictured above when he was much younger and living in northeast Missouri, gave me some books of fiction I gave to him for father's days and birthdays.

It all started, I think, when I gave him That Distant Land: The Collected Stories by Wendell Berry since I thought he'd like them. Berry focuses on his fictional setting of Port William and its inhabitants throughout the years. I don't know if the stories originally had dates attached to them, but That Distant Land provides the date of when the story happens. The book starts with "The Hurt Man (1888)" and ends with "The Inheritors (1986)."

There obviously was a heck of a lot of change from the late 19th century to the 80s, and the stories reflect that some though Berry is more interested in telling a strong narrative that focuses on everyday people, farmers mostly, in a small town in Kentucky.

Many of the stories are odes to the old fashioned way of farming even before people started using tractors like the one pictured above. Port William is a community of farmers--not a rural factory.

I've read more of Wendell Berry's non-fiction than any of his stuff. He's one of my favorite writers because of his social commentary that critiques our "progress." And it was impossible not to see sociopolitical implications of how he depicts the characters and their predicaments.

In a commonplace book-like move here, I thought I'd just present some passages from  stories that I underlined or scribed marginalia beside because I like the ideas or I simply enjoyed the craft of his prose. You can read them and do what you want to do with them in your minds:

  • "I had learned what I knew, the bare outline of the event, without asking questions, both fearing the pain that I knew surrounded the story and honoring the silence that surrounded the pain." From "Pray Without Ceasing (1912)"
  • "And in some of the people of the town and the community surrounding it, one of the characteristic diseases of the twentieth century was making its way: the suspicion that they would be greatly improved if they were someplace else." From "Pray Without Ceasing (1912)"
  • "'Elected's ass! Auctioned! A governor gets elected by auctioning hisself off. Governors don't govern Kentucky--companies govern Kentucky. We'll see the day when some damn company will tear the capitol down and sell it off for doorstops.'" From "The Discovery of Kentucky (sometime in the 50s)"
  • "'But when you quit living in the price and starting living in the place, you're in a different line of succession.'" From "It Wasn't Me (1953)"
  • "'Everything about a place that's different from its price is a gift.'" From "It Wasn't Me (1953)"
  • "If a man eighty-two years old has not seen enough, then nobody will ever see enough. Such a little piece of the world as he has before him now would be worth a man's long life, watching and listening. And then he could go two hundred feet and live again another life, listening and watching, and his eyes would never be satisfied with seeing, or his ears filled with hearing." From "The Boundary (1965)"
  • "For a long time, in Port William, what had gone had not been replaced. Its own attention had turned away from itself toward what it could not be." From "That Distant Land (1965)"
  • "The important thing, Art said, was for a man to feel good and be satisfied with what he had." From "A Friend of Mine (1967)"
  • "Elton turned the melon and drew the cut the rest of the way around. The knife had not penetrated all the way through, and he had to strike the melon lightly against the ground to open it. And then he took one of the halves and sliced it twice. The flesh was dark red, juicy, and sweet. He ate it in huge bites, not bothering to spit out the seeds. He sat, eagerly eating the melon, looking out and down where the Sand Ripple valley opened into the wider valley of the river. The second half of the melon he ate more slowly, working the seeds free of the pulp and spitting them out. He had a gift for such moments and he was having a good time. When he had eaten the melon he took a drink from his jug, and then he lit a cigarette and got up." From "A Friend of Mine (1967)"
  • "They needed the feeling that they would have when at last they would be done, the feeling of having done it and of being done. They needed their being together and all the talk that passed between them. They needed even what they dreaded, the difficulty of their work and their hard pride in being equal to it." From "A Friend of Mine (1967)"
  • "What he was struggling to make clear is the process by which unbridled economic forces draw life, wealth, and intelligence off the farms and out of the country towns and set them into conflict with their sources. Farm produce leaves the farm to nourish an economy that has thrived by the ruin of the land. In this way, in the terms of Wheeler's speech, price wars against value." From "The Wild Birds (1967)"
  • "From them he learned the ways that people lived by the soil and their care of it, by the bounty of crops and animals, and by the power of horses and mules." From "Fidelity (1977)"
  • "The emergency rooms and corridors were filled with the bloodied and the bewildered, for it was now the tail end of another Friday night of the Great American Spare-Time Civil War." From "Fidelity (1977)"
  • "Timber cutters, in recent years, had had their eye on these trees and had approached Burley about 'harvesting' them. 'I reckon you had better talk to Danny here.' Burley said. And Danny smiled that completely friendly, totally impenetrable smile of his, and merely shook his head." From "Fidelity (1977)"
  • "The Port William neighborhood had as many people, probably, as it had ever had, but it did not have them where it needed them. It had a good many of them now on little city lots carved out of farms, from which they commuted to city jobs." From "Fidelity (1977)"
  • "Danny Branch was one of Wheeler Catlett's last comforts, for Danny embodied much of the old integrity of country life that Wheeler had loved and stood for. In a time when farmers had been told and had believed that they could not prosper if they did not 'expand,' as if the world were endless, Danny and Lyda had never dreamed beyond the boundaries of their own place; so far as Wheeler knew, they had never coveted anything that was their neighbor's." From "The Inheritors (1986)"
  • "Off beyond the highway they could see a farm that was becoming a housing development. The old farmhouse and a barn were still standing in the midst of several large new expensive houses without trees." From "The Inheritors (1986)"

Monday, May 23, 2011

Music, Pabst Blue Ribbon, & Leaky Analogies

Over on Twang Nation yesterday, there was an interesting post titled "Americana Music and Craft Beer" that sidles up to making a few analogies that compare musicians to types of beer, which is a natural follow-up to concert review of Hayes Carll in which the writer quotes Carll's description of his fine tune, "KMAG YOYO."

Although I'm not all that familiar with his work but it's hard not to notice the guy because of his commercials, I found the author's description of Kenny Chesney pretty apt.

If there's a beer that exemplifies crap, it's Corona, my friends. The only way to make the stuff palatable is to put a lime in it to mask the stench.

I've also noticed, as the author relates, the popularity of PBR tall boys or 2x4s at local clubs that I've gone to.

But I drank PBR before it was cool. The hipsters have co-opted my beer of choice when I used to frequent the Flamingo in Kirksville. I mean, PBR is one part of my holy trinity of cheap, quality macrobrews.

But the author loses me a bit when he compares Carll and the wonderful Amanda Shires to brews I don't know. Even though the Chesney comparison seems appropriate, after a while, comparing musicians to beer ventures toward mental masturbation on a low order anyway. It seems like something my fraternity brothers and I might do (or did) if we were at a party that was a sausage fest.

If you look at the analogies with critical acumen, they leak just like how "leak" is a sketchy way to describe how they don't work.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Music Friday: "True Colors" & "All Night Long"

Today at PlannedOb, I'm getting a little nostalgic.

I remember when there was this cable television station that was called Mtv. And it played these things called "music videos" that were set up by folks called VJs, pictured below.

Those fabled times were the 80s.

Two musicians who had their careers established because of their videos were Cyndi Lauper, famous for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "True Colors" and Lionel Ritchie, who I remember most for "All Night Long."

I don't care for the work of either musician much at all. Well, maybe there is a shiny piece of my heart that enjoys the goofiness that is "She-Bop," but I'll not detail that here.

While I'm not a fan of Lauper or Ritchie, I am a fan of both Caroline Herring and Centro-matic. And they both do fine covers of the work of Lauper and Ritchie and make them their own.

First up is Herring's rendition of "True Colors." She has a powerful voice.

"All Night Long" by Ritchie is an up-tempo pop song that's happy.

Will Johnson and his mates in Centro-matic will have none of that. No sir.

As you can experience below, it becomes an opus of sorrow in their hands.

After checking out both of these folks' websites, apparently they both have new albums out this summer:

  • Caroline Herring's The Little House Songs, which looks available now
  • Centro-matic's Candidate Waltz, out June 21

And Centro-matic offers a free 24-song sampler for your perusal. The download is prefaced by this prose: "People often ask what Centro-matic or South San Gabriel album to start with. There's no easy answer to this, so we are giving away a couple of songs from each album spanning the 15 years the band has been making music together. Please share this with your friends."

For your weekend plans, I offer these lyrics:
Well, my friends, the time has come
[To] raise the roof and have some fun,
Throw away the work to be done.
Let the music play on... (Play on, play on, play on...).
Everbody sing. Everybody dance.
Lose yourself in wild romance.
We're going to party, karamu, fiesta forever.
Come on and sing along.
We're going to party, karamu, fiesta forever.
Come on and sing along.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

SI Article

When I was younger, I had a subscription to Sports Illustrated. And for a long time, SI had some pretty darn good sports writing in it.

I don't know about the quality of the writing in SI now, but I do know there's a good article that is the feature for the May 23rd edition.

"Terror, Tragedy and Hope in Tuscaloosa" by Lars Anderson takes a look at the tornado and its effects from a sports-related point of view, and it's a good read.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Save Bunnies

When I got back from bringing Hannah back from gymnastics practice tonight, I was in the kitchen and noticed that Darby, our dog, was fooling around with a little patch of grass in the backyard.

She wasn't digging in a manic state. Rather, she was sniffing around the grass a lot and moving dead grass from the area with her nose.

I was concerned.

So I went to where she was fooling around and uncovered a bit more of the dead grass over the area to discover a rabbit hole full of bunnies. After I got Darby back in the house before she had a second supper, I went back to the hole and inspected it further.

Yep, bunnies. And they're right in the damn middle of my back yard.

Location, location, location.

And this location stinks. I headed to the shed to get formulate a plan as Mrs. Nasty, the kids, and a panting dog watched from the dining room window.

My solution: a wire cage I used last summer for bell peppers. I fashioned the cages from some basic metal fencing that has substantial gaps in them, enough of a gap on one side for Ma Rabbit to get back to the hole. Or maybe bunnies get abandoned? I don't know.

Whatever happens in bunny world, I'm not real confident that my bell pepper cage will withstand Darby's aggressive curiosity. She wants her some rabbit.

I've put one of those ground leashes in the side yard, but how long am I going to have to tie up Darby? Can these bunnies get self-sufficient and get the hell out of my yard? Like soon...

And from another perspective, I'm a vegetable gardener. Rabbits are the enemy. You could say that I'm getting "soft," but I have fencing around my garden and the aforementioned dog. But I didn't want my seven-year old and almost four-year old witnessing their dog destroying rabbit babies in the back.

I've been known, on occasion, to be cold-hearted, but I'm not that cold-hearted.

But they better stay away from my garden, or I release the hound.

Embrace This

A column by Joe Cowley in the Chicago Sun-Times throws some reasonable thinking on all the "hoopla" that has surrounded the man-hug between Pujols and Hendry last Tuesday that has created subject matter for the sports talk radio circuit. The article is "Believe Albert Pujols will be a Cub? You're Embracing Fantasy."

To mimic Freud, sometimes a hug is just a hug. 

As Cowley relates, "Finally, it’s public knowledge what comes off the books for the Cubs after this season. Kosuke Fukudome ($14.5 million in 2011), Carlos Pena ($10 million), John Grabow ($4.8 million), and of course the dead money that is Carlos Silva ($11.5 million) are all free agents."

Combine those salaries together, and it comes to just about 41 million dollars off the books. 

The Cardinals can keep Pujols if he is really gonna get a ten-year deal. He'd be worth it for about five or six years up until he's allegedly 36/37. Then there will be four to five years of diminishing returns. 

The Chicago National League Ball Club, a team that once was called the Orphans, should use a large hunk of that money to acquire a left-handed power bat and pitching. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Good Hoe

A tool I picked up from my dad when I was home is the garden hoe pictured above.

I've praised another tool on this blog before when I talked about the glory of the HoeDag last year.

But this hoe is different. It was free. My dad used it. And it's old. Perhaps it's even an antique?

It wasn't originally Virg's though. He told me he picked it up at a garage sale years ago.

As you can notice from the picture above, it's bowed a little bit in the middle and very long. When I stand it upright, the top of it goes to the tip of my nose. Now I'm not a tall guy, but still, you don't have to stoop over at all when using this fine tool. And it's longer than the hoe I bought a couple of years ago.

But the marks of my dad on this tool. Using his bench grinder, which is also in my garage, he sharpened the blade for efficiency. Unwanted sprouts in my garden, meet your destroyer.

I don't know if this feature of the hoe was standard in the factory, but there's a hollowed out piece of wood on the top of the hoe for your back hand as you work, an add-on that has character.

This old tool reminds me of the famous essay by Wendell Berry, a guy who should win the Nobel Prize in Literature by the way. It's called "A Good Scythe." 

In the essay, Berry recounts how at one time he bought a power scythe for working on his land, and then he went back to using an old-fashioned one for a number of reasons. Toward the end of the essay after he has provided a bulleted list of ten reasons why the old technology is better than the new, he provides two additional reasons: 
  1. "I always work with the pleasure that one invariably gets from using a good tool. And because it is not motor-driven and is quiet and odorless, the hand scythe allows you to appreciate your surroundings as you work."
  2. "The other difference is between kinds of weariness. Using the hand scythe causes the simple bodily weariness that comes with exertion. This is a kind of weariness that, when not extreme, can be one pleasure of work. The power scythe, on the other hand, adds to that weariness of exertion the unpleasant weariness of strain."
He calls his experience and reflection on using both types of scythes as a "parable" because "[t]he power scythe--and it is far from being an isolated or unusual example--is not a labor-saver or a short cut. It is a labor-maker (you have to work to pay for it as well as to use it) and a 'longcut.' Apologists for such expensive technological solutions love to say that 'you can't turn back the clock.' But when it makes perfect sense to do so, as the case of a good old-fashioned scythe, of course you can!"

So there's pleasure in a good tool just as there's pleasure in eating well from produce you've grown.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Seafood, the Environment, and You

For those of you who might not know or for those of you who might need to be reminded, my title mimics the title of one of my fraternity brother's lectures during a "senior lecture series" where seniors had to give presentations related to their majors or whatever they wanted to talk about all while standing on a keg of beer.

This lecture series was done before I joined the fraternity. In fact, I think it was only done one year, so it never took hold as a tradition. Apparently though, it was a good time. But the lecture whose title I'm imitating was "Beer [or was it Booze?], Chemistry, and You."A fellow who went on to get his Ph.D. in Chemistry ("Goof") did it.

Anyway, an article in Audubon Magazine a while back relates science and decisions you make in a more serious manner than Goof's lecture at the Stove, so I thought I'd pass it along since probably many of you eat seafood.

Ted Williams in "Gone Fish" provides some helpful information for readers who are concerned about the fish they eat.

A few quotations stood out to me that relate to "the environment" on a large scale. You can ponder the connections on your own:
  • "'Seafood guides educate people, but a minority. Personal conversation choices done mean much if public policy isn't changed.'" (related by John McMurray)
  • "But for offshore species, commercial and recreational overkill is the result of a federal law predicated on the mistaken belief that 'stakeholders' will do what's best for the resource and the public good even when it means resisting their immediate appetites." 
  • "Basically their argument comes down to this: 'Our current economic ill-health requires us to keep destroying the resources on which our economic health depends.'"

Early in the article, the author provides five fish guides "you should probably pay most attention to," and they are the following, some with hyperlinks:

Just because I was curious, I thought I'd see how past culinary decisions stack up. Using the guide from the Blue Ocean Institute, I punched in seafood choices that members of the Nasty family have eaten in the past. I'm going choice-by-choice.

Like many Americans, I first got introduced to seafood by eating fish sticks, and we have a package in the freezer. The sticks are made of Pollock, which is a good choice. American or Walleye Pollock both garner a green fish rating, and the Walleye variety earns the sustainable fishery rating by the Marine Stewardship Council.

Though I rarely get to eat them, I love Crawfish. Whenever I get back to the South, I gorge on those critters, which seems to be an excellent choice according to the Blue Ocean Institute.

Mrs. Nasty likes crabs, especially Dungeness Crab, a choice that earns a green fish rating. But Dungeness aren't always available, so she'll often select King Crab from time to time, which gets a not-bad rating with the lighter green fish. 

When we've been to Florida, I've gotten a Grouper from time to time, but it's not a selection I'm enamored with since it's kind of bland. That choice isn't so good with the Black species earning the lighter green fish, and the other two species--Gag and Red--earning yellow fish ratings. In addition, all three get red flags for this reason: "These fish contain levels of mercury or PCBs that may pose a health risk to adults and children." Yikes.

I also really like Oysters. And when I was in Baltimore for a conference this fall, I had a platter of  raw oysters from different areas--Canada, the Chesapeake, and another place I can't recall, maybe Rhode Island. I liked the Chesapeake ones the best, and I'm also fond of Gulf oysters. Green Fish for the Eastern Oyster, baby!

I've had Red Snapper before, but it's not something I order regularly when I have a chance. I won't be ordering it again since it gets an orange fish rating coupled with a red flag. 

Salmon, that choice is on all kinds of restaurants' menus. I don't really care for it much. Mrs. Nasty is more likely to order it than me. Whether you made a good choice on Salmon depends on what species you get and how it was raised, as you can see. Farmed-raised Atlantic Salmon are a bad choice. 

Another species that's all over the place--on menus and supermarkets--is Tilapia, a fish with little flavor. It looks like American raised ones are a better choice than ones from Asia, Central America, and South America. 

And finally, I'll end this post with a fish that is really fun to catch, Walleye. You're not going to get hand-caught Walleye in a restaurant, but even thought they're mass cultivated, the species gets the lighter green fish rating, so I'm happy about that. 

A Button

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Belated Music Friday: "Unsophisticated Heart," "Speak Plainly, Diana," and "Not So Sure"

Sorry for the lateness of this week's Music Friday. Yesterday morning Blogger was down for repairs, and we went on a road trip before Noon for Hannah's dance performance today. Blogger no functional--me no post.

But we're back now. And I'm ready to present some songs that are not likely to have dance routines choreographed to them.

So to make up for my tardiness, I offer a trifecta of songs by Joe Pug, a singer-songwriter who has quite a narrative going on if you want to read his bio on the website. While I think people can read a lot into what's left out of that narrative (Why was he "profoundly unhappy"? & Why Chicago?, for starters), it's impressive that he sent over 15K CDs to all over the place. The man's passionate.

The first song, for your viewing/listening pleasure, is "Unsophisticated Heart" recorded at the studios of KDHX in St. Louis.

The second song of the trifecta is one that I delight in since it's a work titled just for Mrs. Nasty: "Speak Plainly, Diana." Well done, sir.

The final song of the trio is "Not So Sure."

All three of these songs come from his album Messenger from Lightning Rod Records, the label of two other artists I really like: 1) Jason Isbell & 400 Unit & 2) James McMurtry.

If you're interested in his stuff, you can get a four-song sampler for free from his website. I enjoy how he markets the CD samplers. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kitchen Bling

In the May issue of The Atlantic, Megan McCardle has an article that takes a look at how kitchens have become more of showplaces than areas where people actually do some cooking.

She recounts how the kitchen has changed over the decades, with the newer ones being blingtastic with fancy knives, expensive countertops, and high-end housewares even though the numbers of people cooking at home have been going down for years. The research she cites provides this contrast: "even in the 1980s, 72 percent of meals eaten in the home involved an entree cooked from scratch; now just 59 percent of them do, and the average number of food items used per meal has decreased from 4.4 to 3.5. That's when we're home at all: by 1995, we consumed more than a quarter of all meals and snacks outside the home, up from 16 percent two decades earlier."

If you're interested in how American kitchens have changed, check out "The Joy of Not Cooking."

I used the verb "changed" instead of "progressed" or "evolved" because I think some of the buying habits related in the article are silly or just flat out dumb.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Defensive Indifference

One of my favorite phrases used by baseball announcers is "defensive indifference."

According to the official rule book of Major League Baseball, the term comes from Rule 10.07(g). Here's the formal definition:

The official scorer shall not score a stolen base when a runner advances solely because of the defensive team's indifference to the runner'’s advance. The official scorer shall score such a play as a fielder's choice.  

Rule 10.07(g) Comment: The scorer shall consider, in judging whether the defensive team has been indifferent to a runner’'s advance, the totality of the circumstances, including the inning and score of the game, whether the defensive team had held the runner on base, whether the pitcher had made any pickoff attempts on that runner before the runner'’s advance, whether the fielder ordinarily expected to cover the base to which the runner advanced made a move to cover such base, whether the defensive team had a legitimate strategic motive to not contest the runner'’s advance or whether the defensive team might be trying impermissibly to deny the runner credit for a stolen base. For example, with runners on first and third bases, the official scorer should ordinarily credit a stolen base when the runner on first advances to second, if, in the scorer’'s judgment, the defensive team had a legitimate strategic motive —namely, preventing the runner on third base from scoring on the throw to second base —not to contest the runner’'s advance to second base. The official scorer may conclude that the defensive team is impermissibly trying to deny a runner credit for a stolen base if, for example, the defensive team fails to defend the advance of a runner approaching a league or career record or a league statistical title.

Whew, huh?

But it might be kind of fun to mine this baseball definition for phrases that could be applied in other venues such as argument and persuasion, namely the phrases "defensive indifference," "legitimate strategic move," "trying impermissibly to deny ... credit," and "fails to defend the advance." 

I was reminded of this definition by Carlos Pena's move to second base in the bottom of the ninth of tonight's game. And with how the Cubs played defense last year and parts of this season, you could make the case they're playing with a different type of defensive indifference. 

An Acknowledgement of Our Unsophisticated Desires

Back when I was in Iowa, my two brothers, my sister, and I went out to dinner on a Saturday night with all of their significant others. I was solo since Mrs. Nasty and kids weren't along for the trip to Iowa City that morphed into visiting my parents in Waterloo.

I can't remember a time when all of us had eaten dinner together without my parents since I usually only see all of them on holidays and such.

But as we ate dinner at Lone Star, we got on the subject of being healthy. Fittingly enough, I think we were talking about this subject before we ordered our steaks since, you know, large hunks of beef are healthy. And then we made some small talk about how exercise is important.

There was a moment in the conversation about exercise when it seemed that all of us had similar thoughts about what was the best kind of exercise. As my one brother mentioned the healthy benefits of sex and my sister started laughing because, apparently, she was thinking the same thing, I'm pretty sure my oldest brother and I had similar thoughts. At least we all had sparkles in our eyes.

My sister-in-law said something to this effect: "That's what all you guys think about, you [Nasty]s."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Iyer on Silence

In the latest issue of Utne Reader, there are a number of fine articles culled from the alternative press, such as "Talking Trash to Power" by Jake Page (Notre Dame Magazine), "Services Pending" by Susan McCarty (The Iowa Review), "Enough About You" by Christopher Lasch, "Self-Love for Sale" by David Sirota, "We the People" by Garrett Epps (The Nation), and "Hope at Low Tide" by Carl Safina.

One that I'm drawn to and the one I'm writing about tonight is Pico Iyer's "Where Silence Is Sacred" from Portland magazine.

I don't step foot into chapels or churches that often, but I've always been drawn to their silence, how you aren't barraged by chatter, human or electronic.

It's not that I'm a misanthrope. It's just that there are certain parts of my day where I want to be left the hell alone in silence.

Even as I write this now, the "silence" isn't an absence of noise. It's certainly more quiet than usual. The TV in our bedroom is on as Mrs. Nasty does work. The wind whips itself up now and then. The ceiling fans drone on. A car rumbles down 4th Street. And I listen with a strong focus to the words of Iyer as I scan and reread parts of his article to provide the bulleted quotations below.

Here are some passages from the article that stand out for me:

  • "But like people they [chapels] have a stillness at the core of them that makes all discussion of high and low, East and West, you and me dissolve. Bells toll and toll and I lose all sense of whether they are chiming within me or without."
  • "You learn more by listening than talking, they know; you create a wider circle by thinking not about yourself, but about the people around you, and how you can find common ground with them." 
  • "Chapels are emergency rooms for the soul. They are the one place we can reliably go to find who we are and what we should be doing with our own lives..."
  • "Chapel was silence and spaciousness and whatever put the human round, my human, all too human thoughts, in some kind of vaster context."

Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I usually don't do well when I write with music playing. Well, let me qualify. If it's a difficult or really important writing task, I need--I have to have--silence. If there's any kind of music on if I'm writing something important and I know where I think I'm going, I can maybe listen to instrumental jazz. In fact, the Soul Gestures in Southern Blue trilogy of albums by Wynton Marsalis, particularly Uptown Ruler (hell, I'm listening to it now out of nostalgia), are works that conjure up memories of writing my dissertation in our spare bedroom at 311 C Cedar Crest in Tuscaloosa. 

Iyer's article also reminds me of a great episode of Northern Exposure where Chris, the DJ of KBHR, goes to monastery for his own spiritual gains, which is difficult for him since he's a character who loves to talk. Then again, that character in the show is also a good listener, but he certainly likes the sound of his own voice. Perhaps he wasn't distracted by gadgetry. 

And this issue of silence is something I've thought about since since I've gotten an iPod. Yes, I'm late to the party. I've had an iPod for maybe a year or so. I finally got sold on the thing because music is cheaper via that medium: thrift trumps Luddite leanings. 

Anyway, I now use my iPod when I walk the dog at night. And it's harder to think with music on since walking the dog can work as a meditative-like routine. I get too wrapped up in the lyrics to let my mind wander. 

To a degree, we might need to take our own vows of silence not only to connect to ourselves but also to enjoy what we're missing. 

Friday, May 6, 2011


Tuscaloosa is

wood smoke
                   billowing                                        direction;
                             out                       northeasterly
                                of                    in a
                                  barbeque joint
houndstooth applied indiscriminately;


our upstairs law student neighbor moaning and whining in pleasure
                                                            as her and her boyfriend with
                                                            the “Yes, yes, right there!”
                                                            the “ooohs”
                                                            it stops,
                                                            the quick footsteps to the bathroom;


the brick envelope of stale beer,
                                          the graffiti that reads, “The Paranoids are after me”;


sweat, metal bleachers, shakers,
                                                and fascination;

four seasons—not the regular variety: a spring, a concise Minnesota summer, a summer of oppression, and autumn;

a drive, a stadium, a dorm, a high school, a conference center—all Bryant;

a Baptist hangover;

magnolia lotus-like;

white pillars;

race and religion;

bourbon-coated eyes;

a professor explaining that if you’re going to study Aristotle, then you have to read Nichomachean Ethics—all stated in an accent New Orleanian;

two Shaggies in a 4 Runner sharing a Bob Marley joint at a stoplight and listening to 

Roll Tide as a general affirmation;

the safety of bathtubs and closets;

pine straw;

fun as sex on Sunday morning;

vowels that extend for a good while;


Music Friday: "Strasbourg/St. Denis" & "Mr. Clean"

I was listening to Roy Hargrove the other day, and I wondered if I had ever featured this very talented jazz musician and his quintet on this here blog.

I haven't in a while.

That's a shame because the guy is a serious talent. And you can witness his quintet's artistry by watching the video below of "Strasbourg/St. Denis." This song is one of my favorites on the album Earfood. Like other earworms out there, the song's melody will stick with you, but in contrast, it makes me happy when I have it in my head.

In the performance, the piano player does some fabulous work on the keys. That drummer kicks it. And the saxophone solo acts as a productive tempo/theme change to the work.

Another song from the same album is "Mr. Clean," which I believe is a Freddie Hubbard cover. This video is two years later than the first, and it's clear that two of the players in the Roy Hargrove Quintet have changed for some reason.

The initial solo and later solo by the bass player is worth the time you have to put in to watching the performance of the whole song.

One of my favorite classes I had as an undergraduate was an elective out of my major, a course called "Jazz History and Appreciation." The class consisted of a Professor of Music, two other students, and me sitting around in the professor's office to learn about and listen to jazz. It was great.

!Viva Liberal Arts!

!Viva Humanities!

After taking that class, a year later I had to take a Senior Seminar course in my major, and instead of writing a paper about some novel, short stories, or collection of poems, I wrote a large research paper about Charlie Parker.

When I look back on that project now, it sounds a bit sketchy, but it was a good experience, and I sort of related to the discipline of English Studies. Sort of.  Then again, the professor of the course agreed to me doing the project, so he should have known what he was getting into.

Hope you all have a weekend that has some swing in it, folks.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Circuitous Route to a Tuscaloosa Issue

After reading Roxane Gay's blog and ordering two books from her Tiny Hardcore Press, I ventured to the blog of Bian Oliu. Oliu is a creative writer who currently lives in T-Town, and his book, So You Know It's Me, is forthcoming this June.

After reading a few of his blog posts, I then ventured to the auspices of The Offending Adam, another website I was not aware of.

At Offending Adam this week, they're having a Tuscaloosa issue.

As Nik De Dominic, the editor The Offending Adam, relates, "You will see from this collection of writing from people connected to Tuscaloosa that Tuscaloosa is boozy, ghostly, quiet, funny, sad; it is the seasons, a mythic place, the trunk of a car, red clay, a hammer, a bird, bratty sometimes, a train spike, a blurry view, bridges, an escape, a purgatory; that is it graceful, and it is lordly. That it is not gone. I know that Tuscaloosa may be broken and that Tuscaloosa may be bruised but that Tuscaloosa will recover."

Roll Tide to that.

And check out the writing, folks.

Bamastuff.com is selling the t-shirt above that goes toward relief efforts. Every member of the Nasty family is getting one.

Koan Attempt

Does one have to know the inner lives of rocks in order to stack them right?

Or rather, does the person who stacks rocks have an emotional demeanor like a rock?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

This All Has Been Related Before

Sometimes hospitals are like airplanes for me, at least in regard to reading.

Because my mom was usually sleeping when I sat with her in her hospital room, I caught up on some reading of academic journals. Although it's possible that someone else has read "Decorous Spectacle: Mirrors, Manners, and Ars Dictaminis in Late Medieval Civic Engagement," "Rogerian Principles and the Writing Classroom: A History of Intention and (Mis)Interpretation," "'Breaking the Age of Flower Vases': Lu Yin's Feminist Rhetoric," and "Acts of Institution: Embodying Feminist Rhetorical Methodologies in Space and Time" within the walls of Allen Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa, it ain't probable.  So while she snoozed, I ventured into catching up on past issues of Rhetoric Review along with reading some magazines.

One article I found both interesting and aggravating is "We Can't Handle the Truth: The Science of Why People Don't Believe Science" by Chris Mooney in the latest issue of Mother Jones, a decidedly liberal public affairs magazine.

If you got a chance, give it a read. But my reader response brain kept thinking about how much of the ideas and evidence presented in the article was related millennia ago by the ancient Greek and Roman rhetoricians, namely Isocrates, Aristotle, and Cicero, along with the modern Rhetorical Dude, Kenneth Burke. 

Here are some quotation nuggets from the article for enticement:
  • "We're not driven only by emotions, of course--we also reason, deliberate. But reasoning comes later, works slower--and even then, it doesn't take place in an emotional vacuum. Rather, our quick-fire emotions can set us on a course of thinking that's highly biased, especially on topics we care a great deal about." 
  • "In other words, when we think we're reasoning, we may instead be rationalizing."
  • "In other words, people rejected the validity of a scientific source because its conclusion contradicted their deeply held views--and thus the relative risks inherent in each scenario."
  • "And that undercuts the standard notion that the way to persuade people is via evidence and argument. In fact, head-on attempts to persuade can sometimes trigger a backfire effect, where people not only fail to change their minds when confronted with the facts--they may hold their wrong views more tenaciously than ever."
  • "Given the power of our prior beliefs to skew how we respond to new information, one thing is becoming clear: If you want someone to accept new evidence, make sure to present it to them in a context that doesn't trigger a defensive, emotional reaction."
When I read the last statement in the article, which is near the end, my internal response was, "Well, no shit, Sherlock." But emotional and defensive reactions will happen. Some "contexts" are going to create them no matter how hard you try.  

But the reason I related the classical rhetoricians above is that their treatises lay out similar injunctions and ideas about how effectively working with pathos--appeals to emotions--is crucial to persuading an audience to your cause, your ideas, and your evidence.

What the old Greek and Roman guys also point out in their tomes is that pathos just isn't about emotions. On a more complex and realistic level, pathos represents an audience's values, assumptions, and beliefs. And as Aristotle relates, the consummate rhetorician--or "persuader" in Dubyian terms--creates trust and belief in what's he or she is saying. From the Greek, pistis can be translated as trust, belief, or reliability. And a persuader must create pistis to be successful.

But back to pathos relating to beliefs and assumptions. As the Mother Jones article intimates and as we have seen via examples in politics and elsewhere, you can give folks the exact same evidence, facts, studies, and data, but they'll come to very different conclusions as to what should or should not be done based on their core beliefs, assumptions, and values that pertain to how governments should work, what constitutes "life," how men should act, what "feminism" means, et al.

For me, the reality that some people--whether they are right-wingers, Marxists, pro-life Democrats, Birthers, etc.-- cannot and will not be persuaded by strong evidence calls up the concept of Burke's terministic screens and how people have interpreted what he has to say about them. 

I've always thought of Burke's terministic screens as a set of beliefs, values, and assumptions about the world--mediated by language--that act as almost a protective field around one's mind that lets in ideas and evidence that the "symbol-using animal" (Burke's definition of humans) will let persuade him or her. The "bad" ideas and evidence, well, they just bounce off our screens because we don't like what they're selling. We can't rationalize the way we want to. 

However, I don't think the points brought up in the article or the rhetoricians' ideas about pathos and terministic screens mean that we can't persuade people. 

We can. 

We can do so if we use language and actions that cohere with and connect to shared beliefs and assumptions about whatever we're talking about. Or, to put things more succinctly, good arguments begin in agreement. 

The Rhetorical Dude abides. He wants identification to precede persuasion.