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Friday, May 08, 2009

ABF Friday:  Really Catchy Edition!

OK, this is a tough one.  I was thinking the other day about “Groove is in the Heart,” which I believe was recorded by an East Coast liberal elite outfit called “Deee-Jon.” And then I was thinking about “I’ve Been Thinking About You,” which was released by Dijonbeat at almost exactly the same time, the waning months of 1990 to be almost exact.

So here’s the problem. Which one is catchier? Take the groove test at home:

On the one hand, an infectious groove, great club-diva vocals, Q-Tip, Bootsy Collins.  On the other hand, an infectious hook, great Levi-Stubbsian vocals, synchronized crouching on “what can I do.”

Indeed, what can any of us do?  In Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul DeMan—which, coincidentally, was published at the same time these songs hit the charts—David Lehman wrote, “Deconstructionists would obliterate the differences between Roger Rabbit and Henry James.  The function of criticism is reduced to description and analysis; the task of evaluating works of art is left undone.  Abandoned is one of criticism’s foremost responsibilities:  the making and revising of critical discriminations.” Yow!  At the time, I believe I remarked that Lehman had chosen a truly unfortunate pair of examples:  since Roger Rabbit is by any reasonable measure a virtuoso piece of work, one suspects that Lehman was unaware of the truly significant differences between Roger Rabbit and Huckleberry Hound.  ABF Friday Fail! But the larger point remains.  We don’t want to be like those deconstructionists!  We have to make and revise critical discriminations!  And yet when we come up against a world-historical question like which is catchier, “Groove is in the Heart” or “I’ve Been Thinking About You,” we confront the awesome possibility—previously considered unattainable except in the Tevatron—that the two songs, released at almost exactly the same time, are in fact equally catchy, both hitting 99.99999954 out of 100 on the Groovimeter.

What are the odds?  Don’t answer that.

For those of you Grey Pouponians who shrink from the making and revising of critical discriminations when the going gets tough, I have an alternate video just for fun:

That would have to be one of Ringo’s first appearances with the band.  Stuff like this makes me think that it’s just a matter of time before the entire Alexandrian Library turns up in Google Cache.  And I think we all can agree—even you deconstructionists—that that’s gonna rock.

Posted by Michael on 05/08 at 11:06 AM
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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Random Thursday

Two things today.  One, I found this essay most diverting.  I mean, how can you not love an essay that begins,

With all the economic pain and consternation—surging unemployment, enormous corporate bankruptcy, trillions becoming the new billions—it’s easy to overlook the fact that tens of thousands of families have suddenly lost a great deal of the money they socked away to pay for college. They lost it because public officials told them to risk their children’s educational future in a casino run by idiots and thieves.

Read the whole thing, as they say on blogs.

Two, I went back and checked Ye Olde Rules of Hockey, which I haven’t consulted since I wrote this ancient post, and sure enough, there’s a provision in there that accounts for the seemingly inexplicable ruling on this play in game three of the Ducks-Red Wings series*:

78.5 Disallowed Goals—Apparent goals shall be disallowed by the Referee and the appropriate announcement made by the Public Address Announcer for the following reasons:

. . .

(xii) When the Referee deems the play has been stopped, even if he had not physically had the opportunity to stop play by blowing his whistle and even if the puck is in plain sight, in the crease, inches from the goal line, if the crease and goal line shall be those of the team from Disneyland.

There’s also a special rule for calling “interference” on Disneyland opponents even when they check Disneyland players who actually have possession of the puck.  I tell you, they think of everything!

56.1 Interference—A strict standard on acts of interference must be adhered to in all areas of the rink, except in Disneyland, where the Magic Kingdom will take you on an amazing journey into the world of imagination!

Go Wings.

* The commentary on the play is pretty good, except for the claim at 1:18 that “the whistle beats the puck into the net.” This is not true, as the replays show:  the puck crosses the line well before the whistle (see 1:20-1:21 and 1:30-1:31).  So it’s not a case in which the referee lost sight of a clearly-visible puck and blew the play dead before the goal was scored.  It’s a case in which the referee lost sight of a clearly-visible puck and intended to blow the play dead before the goal was scored even though the goal was scored before the whistle was blown.  One of the worst calls I’ve ever seen in my whole entire life.  Too bad it had to decide a playoff game, eh?

And so much for my Wittgensteinian argument in that ancient post.

Posted by Michael on 05/07 at 11:22 AM
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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

From the files

I’ve just learned that thanks to Barack Hussein “Reverse Discrimination” al-Obama, I’m not even eligible for the Supreme Court.  Well, I’ve suffered long enough, I tell you.  Because I was born by the East River, in a high-rise apt, and just like the river I’ve been thwarted by PC government regulations ever since.  It’s been a long, long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.

In the meantime, though, I can console myself with the thought that I’m giving the commencement speech at Marlboro College on May 17, right after delivering the keynote at the Canadian Down Syndrome Society on May 16.  So that’s going to be a busy weekend.  This is my first commencement speech.  I wonder if I should say anything about sunscreen?

Actually, I don’t think of it as a “commencement speech” so much as a warmup to the valediction, which, I’ve recently learned, will be delivered by A. K. M. Adam, Biblical scholar and renowned blogger—whose son just happens to be graduating from that very same Marlboro College.  (Congratulations to Josiah!)

So I have to, you know, start writing the thing soon, as opposed to just composing it in my head the way I’ve been doing the past few weeks.  And yes, I’m sorely tempted to open with, “More than at any other time in its history, mankind stands at a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness.  The other, to total destruction.  Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” But I hear that one has been done to death.

While I’m writing my warmup-to-the-valediction—and since I’ve been reminiscing lately about the vicissitudes of my days as the Director of the Institute for Advanced Consultation with People Who Weren’t Consulted—I thought I would post one of my favorite things from Ye Olde Correspondence Archives.  It’s a blog exclusive!  No one’s ever seen this before; it’s just been sitting on my hard drive for oh, almost ten years now.

Here’s the context.  I used to say to Janet that a good day at the humanities program was a day on which I learned stuff, preferably stuff about other people’s work or about how to be a better administrator (because I had a great deal to learn on that front).  A bad day was a day on which someone planted a “kick me” sign on my back, except that it wasn’t exactly a “kick me” sign; it was a “waste my time” sign, and it was large enough to be seen from blocks away.

So one day, after what seemed like week after week of “waste my time” days, Janet sent me the following sympathy email:

Dear Dr. Bérubé,

I have been perusing your program and your web site and I believe that you and your people can be of some help to me.  First, I have a large kernel of corn lodged in my nose.  Can you get it out?  Second, I need a ride to Jerry’s IGA to buy a lint roller. Will you take me?  Third, my cat is smelly and seems to need a bath.  You will of course see to it. When I arrive at your home I will require several rooms for myself and full use of your printing press.  Other than that only 36 yards of sheer muslin and a pair of stainless steel antlers. 

Many thanks to you for your generosity.

Helena Heleniaphorism
University of Guesswork

When I had finally picked myself off TF after ROTFLMAO, I wrote back in the idiom to which I had lately become accustomed:

Dear Professor Heleniaphorism,

Thank you for your recent letter.  As you may know, the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, located in central Illinois, is deeply concerned about food production and new technologies in the twenty-first century.  As part of Partnership Illinois, we have been working to ensure a more productive corn yield in FY2000, and we understand that on occasion some of our bio-enhanced kernels can lodge in the nasal cavities of the higher-order primates, such as yourself.  Although we cannot at this time reach into your nose, we can direct you to our nasal extraction website at http://www.uiuc.edu/iprh/biotech/corn/nose/out for further information.

I have directed your request for a ride to Jerry’s IGA and a bath for your cat to our staff secretary, who is currently bathing her own cat in one of our unused offices and will be happy to toss yours in the mix for a nominal charge.  Although we have no printing press at this time, you should be aware that our fax and photocopier facilities are available to the general public and can be taken home over the weekend for special events.

Thank you also for asking about our supplies of muslin.  Would those be elk or moose antlers?

We look forward to your continued association with the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities.  Don’t forget to call us at home in the middle of the night if you require any further assistance.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Obvious-Schmuck Bérubé

Good times!  And thanks to the elusive Janet Lyon for summing up my “waste my time” correspondence so brilliantly.

Posted by Michael on 05/06 at 07:39 AM
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Monday, May 04, 2009

Every so often

I find myself witnessing, or sometimes actually taking part in, exchanges that go like this:

First Person: Hey, what do you think of this proposal?

Second Person: Excuse me, but I wasn’t consulted about this.

First Person: Beg pardon?

Second Person: I wasn’t consulted about this.

First Person: Um . . . but that’s why I’m asking what you think.  I’m consulting you.  This is the consultation right now.

Second Person: I can’t believe you went ahead and did this without asking for anybody’s input.  I really think we need to talk.

First Person: ??

And no, I am never the Second Person.  When people ask me what I think about X, I simply say “kewl” or “meh” or “ZOMG” or “do not want” or some other Internets locution. 

I’ve seen this happen in academic committee meetings, in one-on-one interactions, in large organizations, in local school board debates, etc.  When I ran into this kind of thing during my time as a humanities institute director, I never knew quite how to deal with it, so I usually wound up saying, “well, next time I’ll be sure to get in touch with you before there’s a draft proposal so that I can get your feedback” while thinking to myself, “actually, I’m getting the sense that you’re objecting to the fact that there’s a proposal on the table at all, and I don’t really expect that you’re going to be any more helpful next time around no matter when I ask you what you think, so I’m not sure I’m going to subject myself to this ritual again.”

Fortunately, in my directorin’ days those people were outnumbered by other people who would come up to me and say, “how about we invite A to campus” or “how about we do a symposium on B” or “how about we coordinate with C’s schedule and host the lecture and reception in the museum”—and they were always great suggestions.  After a while I would say to such people, “kewl” or “ZOMG” while thinking to myself, “you pretty much have a blank check from me at this point, because everything you’ve ever suggested has worked out really well for everyone concerned.” I do love such people.

Posted by Michael on 05/04 at 11:27 AM
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Friday, May 01, 2009

Round two

Very quickly, because I have no time for leisurely Internet discourse today:  I went six for eight with my Official and Deeply Considered Predictions, and would have gone eight for eight if (a) the Sharks had decided to fold in the second round, as usual, instead of collapsing the moment the playoffs began, and (b) the Devils could have held on for the final two minutes of game seven.  (Great series, though!  Almost as exciting as Celtics-Bulls in that Other Sport.) Let the record show that I said Capitals in seven, despite my lifelong loyalties.

I’ll save the first-round analysis and second-round details for later, because I’ve got to beat that Lemieux fellow (who went four for eight in round one) to the punch, and the dang Chicago-Vancouver series is already under way.  Without further ado or explanation:  Penguins over Capitals in six; Bruins over Hurricanes in seven; Canucks over Black Hawks in seven (and yes, I thought so even before last night’s squeaky Canucks victory); Red Wings over Mighty Merely Ducks in six.

Over to you, Scott!

And oh yes, I’m hoping Presidente Chávez names himself to the Supreme Court.

Posted by Michael on 05/01 at 03:29 PM
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