Friday, April 30, 2010
And, almost forgot, the new fiscal responsibility: no extended unemployment benefits for lazy unproductive people.
May Day. May Day.
This time ABF does not stand for “Arbitrary But Fun.”
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Sometimes I wonder why I feel so world-weary, and then I remember: it’s because of stuff like the past few days.
Saturday afternoon, after revisiting my old school, I headed to Penn Station to catch my train back to Harrisburg. I had about 45 minutes to make a half-hour trip by subway, but decided to take a cab so as to give myself a little extra time, maybe buy a sandwich for dinner on the train, etc. That was a bad idea. The cab ride was like one of my anxiety dreams in which ... well, in which I’m stuck in a cab in bizarre, inexplicable traffic that forces us onto narrower and narrower streets. In these dreams, I inevitably have to get out of the cab and run through a series of houses with narrower and narrower hallways until I reach the back stairs and the closet that goes into ... never mind, the point is that the cab snaked and lurched toward Penn Station in such a way as to lead me to believe, even at 5:12, that I just might make my 5:17 train. Then we hit the last and fatal snag on 8th Avenue, and I knew it was hopeless.
So I got back at 12:30 am instead of 10:30 pm, which mattered, because on Sunday I had to get up at 6:30 for ...
Special Olympics Sectionals!
Yes, that’s right, it’s that time of year again. Surely you remember last year’s post, in which this humble blog ventured into the world of posting-videos-of-Jamie-swimming for the very first time. Here we are a year later: Jamie is a year older, and I am a year tireder. And so I admit that it made me a bit weary when I realized that we’d gotten up at 6:30 Sunday morning to drive down to St. Francis University in time for the opening ceremonies at 9 ... and then we sat in a hallway until Jamie’s first heat, at ten minutes to noon. Sigh.
Last year, he won gold in the 25m freestyle with a time of 34 seconds, after posting a qualifying time of 38 seconds; this year, his qualifying time was 30.6, putting him in a more competitive heat. In which he proceeded to be more competitive:
Before the race, I told him to be careful not to start before the horn, and I asked him if he thought he could break the 30-second mark. Well, his new personal best is a smokin’ 28.17, as you’ve just witnessed. But if you did indeed witness it, you saw that he actually started a bit tentatively. Perhaps if I hadn’t cautioned him about a false start, he’d have broken the 28-second barrier. Because he’s really extending his arms nicely in places.
And here’s the post-race interview:
That, folks, is the Voice of Enthusiasm.
And this is the 50m freestyle. Last year’s qualifying time, 1:32; last year’s gold-medal-winning time, 1:16. How did Jamie do this year? Here’s how:
The race was even closer than I thought. Jamie finished two seconds behind the winner, who somehow caught the young woman who’d led for the first 49.9m:
The lesson here was obvious: though Jamie did not win, he was brave in the attempt. More specifically, I told him it didn’t matter whether he got gold or bronze; what matters is that he swam fifty meters in 1:16 last year, and he swam fifty meters in 1:06 this year. Totally awesome.
And now for the backstroke, and a truly crazy finish for second:
The young man in the lane closest to me won by two seconds, but the people in lanes 2-4 were separated by less than .7 of a second. Jamie kept looking over to see if he was gaining on them, and although that surely motivated him to keep churning, I think it distracted him a little too. No worries, though—he swam three great races, turning in personal bests in the first two. And getting tuned up for the statewide Olympics in June!
I’m a little extra-extra weary today. The 6:30 am - 4 pm drill on Sunday left me unable to play more than one hockey game on Sunday night (I did a lot of standing around and passing in a B game, skipped my A game), and then yesterday, Jamie’s session of Special Olympics golf, 5:30-7 pm, left me bone-chilled and sleepy from standing in the wind in 45-degree temps for 90 minutes, huddling and shivering even though I was wearing my dang Penn State fleece. So I decided not to play pickup last night, either. That leaves me with only one remaining A game, tomorrow night, before the rink shuts down for six weeks. Tonight, Jamie and I will be going to this show. His idea. Well, why not? I just taught my last class of the semester, and I’m ... uh ... ready for a nap.
But congratulations to Jamie! Citius, altius, fortius, year after year!
In other sports news, the guard did not change. If you wanna get through the years, then, I guess it’s not high time you played your card after all.
Friday, April 23, 2010
My old school
The good news is that I did not die last weekend, despite having to play four games in about 36 hours. The bad news is that I returned to computer purgatory: the laptop is back but it had to be “wiped,” and as a result, it has no recollection of killing John G. or having gone to Mars. So now I have one laptop that has email but no word processing program, and another laptop that has word processing but cannot access the Internets. The former can’t print, the latter can. It’s a mess, basically. I think I need one more laptop.
So I’ve managed to put 25 years of work onto a jump drive, work off the Internetless but printer-connected laptop, and come up with the material for my contribution to “The Classroom Revisited.” I’ll be teaching a class on disability studies in the humanities. Oscar Pistorius, Professor Xavier, and Dumbo will all be mentioned, and of course I’ll work in a reference to Memento and Total Recall, the first of which makes one of my points about cognitive disability and narrative, and the latter of which, of course, is about employment-related disability. No, really. Why do you think those mutants are mutants?
The last time I visited Regis High School, your car radios were playing “I Will Survive” and “The Logical Song.” This will be interesting—and, I hope, less physically taxing than last week’s adventure.
While I’m gone, I should make good on that promise to post stuff about things and people I’ve seen lately. So here’s Bill Shannon, inventor of the “Shannon Technique,” a dance technique named after himself, Bill Shannon. He’s been a visiting artist this semester (he’s based in Pittsburgh, so he’s been traveling back and forth to teach a class), and back on March 26, Janet, Jamie and I had the privilege of seeing him perform. (I chipped in a bit from my Personal Research Account to help bring him to campus. I thought my Personal Research Account was for travel and material, like laptops, but I learned a few years ago I can invite people to campus with it, too.) In the course of his performance, he did a few deft disability-studies types moves, drawing attention to the fact that he can walk short distances without crutches and is sometimes suspected of “cheating”: likewise, he noted, he sometimes sees people take off their eyeglasses and demonstrate that they can still see, so he outs them as frauds. Conversely, he will exaggerate his dependence on crutches in certain contexts—say, airports—and then, pretending that he thinks no one is looking (though he knows they are, which is the whole entire point), he will scurry along for a few yards without the assistance of crutches, confusing matters still further. I think of this as a wry commentary on Erving Goffman’s line in Stigma: “in making a profession of their stigma, native leaders are obliged to have dealings with representatives of other categories, and so find themselves breaking out of the closed circle of their own kind. Instead of leaning on their crutch, they get to play golf with it, ceasing, in terms of social participation, to be representative of the people they represent” (27).
In other words, this:
Back next week, I hope.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Well, I’m off for the weekend. Really: later this morning I fly to Boston and then drive to someplace in southern New Hampshire for a hockey tournament. That’s right, a hockey tournament. With a bunch of twentysomethings. The last time I went to one of these, your car radios were playing “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” and “The Night Chicago Died.” Apparently, the guy who put together the team (composed mostly of people from the Nittany Hockey League) decided that he needed someone to drive up the team’s mean age and drive down the team’s mean talent level. I can do that!
I know, it’s crazy. It’s insane. And crazy. It’s like an insane clown posse—with magnets. But at least it’ll give me a chance to clear my head in the wake of Megan McArdle’s stinging rebuke to my post at Crooked Timber. That one will leave a mark, surely, a mark that will take a long time to heal. (And then Instapundit piled on! I am well and truly pwned.)
Anyway, wish me luck. My laptop is still in intensive care (day 12!), so I will be without internets for the duration. Which is all well and good, since I should be concentrating on forechecking instead. In the meantime, go Coyotes! And gratuitous Steely Dan allusions!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Sigh. I realize that the puck has already been dropped in two playoff games, and that I am therefore late with this year’s hogging (that’s hockey blogging for you noobs). What can I say? Yesterday I was otherwise occupied, and today, being a member of the Cultural Elite in good standing, I had to teach my graduate seminar (this week, the moment of Black British Cultural Studies—strangely relevant to my response to Ms. McArdle in ways I may or may not have a chance to explain in the near future!). Furthermore, I am keenly aware that Scott of the West has all the truly juicy matchups with real contenders and plucky pretenders, like Phoenix-Detroit. Phoenix-Detroit! The mind boggles. The Coyotes, a franchise left for dead last I looked, compiled a 50-25-7 record this season, 107 points, by far their best season since leaving the wilds of Winnipeg for the deserts of Arizona. We’re talking about a franchise that has not won a playoff series since 1917, when they were known as the Vancouver Millionaires.* And their reward for all their hard work? They get to play the hottest team in the league, a Western Conference dynasty and perennial Cup contender that apparently decided to win every single goddamn game after the Olympic break. Go Coyotes! If you live in this world, you’re feeling the change of the guard. Unless the Red Wings sweep, in which case, never mind.
The Eastern matchups are not so interesting. Here are my perfunctory picks, about which I am not sure I could care less:
Washington (1) v. Montreal (8)
I saw only one regular-season game this year: in November, I watched the Habs beat the Caps 3-2 in D.C. It was a curious experience: as you may know, much of the metro population of Washington, D.C. did not know they had a professional hockey team in the area until this time last year, and more than one wag suggested that the Verizon Center was urging fans to “rock the red” in last year’s playoffs because so few “fans” knew what color the home team would be wearing. So I was surrounded by 15,000 people in Ovechkin jerseys, is what I’m saying. OK, one woman had a Backstrom jersey and some young man was wearing Semin’s shirt. But that’s about it.
What in the world am I talking about? The Habs were quick and deft that night, and took a 3-1 lead into the final five minutes, whereupon the Caps realized that they were a world-class team, scored a goal, and hit a crossbar. That’s not gonna happen again. Caps in 5.
New Jersey (2) v. Philadelphia (7)
Yes, the Flyers have matched up well against the Devils all year. But (a) they don’t deserve to be here, and (b) Brian Boucher, their third-string goalie, will make point (a) for me emphatically. The Devils will wrestle with their special devil-demons—Spirits of Postseason Collapses Past—but will nonetheless move on in six. Also, you heard it here first: this may be Martin Brodeur’s last hurrah. Devils in 6.
Buffalo (3) v. Boston (6)
Sabres in 5. Please, get these weak-sauce excuses for Bruins off my radar. Bruins, Flyers, Canadiens—your early-May tee times await. Let’s move on to the second round with the real teams ... which brings me to....
Pittsburgh (4) v. Ottawa (5)
Oh mighty Moloch, please please please let the Pens beat the Sens, just this once. OK, I know they’ve met twice before in the first round, three years ago when the Penguins were just baby birds who were thrashed in five, and two years ago when the Penguins swept in four. But just this once, please please. Because there’s no way I’ll get to see Crosby, Malkin & Co. in Ye Olde About-To-Be-Demolished Igloo unless they manage to squeak by in round one. I can’t get down to Pittsburgh for a game until May, and since the Pens are 0-10 against the Devils and Capitals there’s no way they’re getting out of the second round, so my only chance to see playoff hockey in the ‘burgh this year rests on this series.
All the Penguins fans I’ve spoken to say the same thing: last year, an 11th-place team canned its coach, caught a fire, and stormed into the playoffs. They were almost stymied by the incendiary young Capitals, but outlasted them in a scintillating 7-game series; they then walked blithely through the overmatched Hurricanes in the conference finals, then were almost stymied by the wily old Red Wings, but outlasted them in a scintillating 7-game series. This year, the defending Stanley Cup champs are good sometimes, very good sometimes, and not very good at other times. And they’ve been that way all year. They speak of “finding their game,” as if they left it someplace and can just pick it up whenever they want. They’re ripe for the plucking, these flightless birds, is what I’m saying. But still, I hope they keep playing long enough for me to see them in person. And I will not be surprised if they don’t. Pens in an agonizing 7. After that, the flightless birds will very likely be roadkill.
* This is not true. The true history of the Winnipeg Jets is available in a Wikipedia near you. The last time they won a playoff series was 1987, a mere 23 years ago.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Monday I’ve got Sunday on my mind
A nasty but relatively harmless virus hit my laptop last Tuesday—it tells me that my computer is infected and that I need to buy antivirus software, which is false, except of course for the fact that it is now true. But I’m told that it will not eat my brain or discover all my passwords and strew them across the Interwebs. I’m going to have it scrubbed but good later today, though I did spend some quality time with Janet at Best Buy looking at new laptops on Saturday. Because, mirabile dictu, she has the very same virus. Also, I want a laptop that can play these new “DVD” things all the kids are talking about.
So I haven’t been paying much attention to bloggy matters lately, even though I need to follow up (more than once!) on that post for Dissent and have been mentally writing things for Crooked Timber for a few weeks now. (First I have to finish reading this here book manuscript—almost finished, Exceptionally Patient University Press! I’ll have my report this week.) I am given to understand that Obama is going to hand over all our hard-earned nuclear weapons to his Muslim friends, and that his refusal to entertain Sarah Palin’s objections to this plan is antifeminist. I’ve also decided that I should be divulging some of the interesting things I’ve been doing and seeing lately—after all, I am a member of the Cultural Elite in good standing, and it’s not all Battlestar Galactica: Return of the Cylionese Liberation Army around here. Sometimes we go see dancers and meet novelists and “take in” “plays” and of course “screen” “films.” Details to come, along with maybe a YouTube or two.
But for now, as I work on Jamie’s computer (with his permission), I just have two things to say about yesterday’s sporting events.
The first is that Tiger Woods let us all down by bogeying three of the first five holes at Augusta yesterday. It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here. It is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids. Won’t anybody think of the grandchildren? Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children. And our grandchildren! Is there a way forward? I hope yes. I think yes. But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but measured by my personal sense of the sincerity of his efforts to stop duck-hooking the ball.
The second is that you can get into the NHL playoffs by winning a shootout? Really? A shootout? What, the captains can’t meet at center ice, take off their gloves, and do “rock, paper, scissors”? Because that would make more sense.
Not that the Rangers deserved to win, having been outshot eleven billion to twenty-five. I’m just saying.
Back soon with either a new or a squeaky-clean laptop, and a couple of stories to tell.