What we read while reconnecting with our Buddhist roots…
- Tim swears he wrote his ode to curling long before Dan Wetzel and Rick Reilly did their own. And that he hasn’t spent his entire weekend honing his strategy and touch curling online. (By the way, Reilly’s piece is notable for his characteristically condescending portrait of the typical American sports fan via an italicized interlocutor. Nobody disrespects the device of interlocutor as frequently and as frustratingly as Richard Reilly.)
“O ye powers! (for powers ye are, and great ones, too)—which enable mortal man to tell a story worth the hearing—that kindly shew him, where he is to begin it—and where he is to end it—what he is to put into it—and what he is to leave out—how much of it he is to cast into a shade—and whereabouts he is to throw his light!-—-Ye, who preside over this vast empire of biographical freebooters, and see how many scrapes and plunges your subjects hourly fall into;—will you do one thing?
“I beg and beseech you (in case you will do nothing better for us) that wherever in any part of your dominoes it so falls out, that three several roads meet in one point, as they have done just here—that at least you set up a guide-post in the centre of them, in ere charity, to direct an uncertain devil which of the three he is to take.”
There is a trend in academia to take perfectly good nouns and adjectives, add on –ize, and make them horrible verbs. Take one women’s studies class, and you’ll talk of fetishizing and corporealizing, phallicizing and derealizing, racializing and effeminizing.
There is one term that emerges from this type of bastardized vocabulary that we hear more than anything else: to narrativize.
To narrativize is, as you may suspect, to make something a narrative. Implicit in this definition is the idea that anything can be melded into a narrative, and we as humans tend to narrativize quite a bit. We apply narratives to our own lives (I do this because that happened to me in the past), to history (the first lines of Barack Obama’s keynote address in 2004 established his own personal narrative, and he explicitly said that his “story is part of the larger American story”), to news (while appearing on The O’Reilly Factor, Jon Stewart constantly referred to Fox News’ “narrative”), and to all the aspects of our culture (whether it’s as simple as expecting a certain “arc” out of television shows or an “evolution” from bands). A lot of religion can be explained by the human compulsion to narrativize.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with narratives, with stories that fit and perhaps elucidate events. After all, stories with clear cause-and-effect relationships (the grasshopper was starving because he didn’t work hard) teach us the clearest lessons and are the easiest to remember.
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A specter is haunting America—the specter of the Tea Party. If you’ve read a newspaper, opened a magazine, or watched the news in the last few months or so, then you’ve likely heard already about how the Tea Party is the next great popular force in American politics. The Tea Party helped Massachusetts elect a Republican senator to replace Ted Kennedy; the Tea Party has helped thwart President Obama’s plan for health care reform; the Tea Party helped fan the rage at Obama’s counterterrorism policy that ultimately blocked Eric Holder’s plans to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City. In short, the Tea Party has become the vessel for outrage and disillusionment with the government.
The fact that there is so much outrage and disillusionment, though, shouldn’t be surprising, given the current state of the economy and the look of the political landscape. Populism and indignity traditionally swell when the economy is bad and when people perceive broad change to be afoot. Well, America’s economic woes are no secret, and the current President is a black guy who got to office by promising sweeping change.
This formula has resulted in a situation in which seemingly every decision, action, or event garners some significant backlash or reaction. The populace is currently upset about virtually everything: a sagging economy, a cartoonishly ballooning deficit, two drawn-out wars, national security missteps, health care reform, the failure of health care reform, the bank bailouts, the auto bailouts, Bernie Madoff, and an apocalyptic amount of snow. Continue reading »
“Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” is the third-highest ranked song from Bob Dylan’s eponymous debut. Of all the 11 folk standards recorded on the album, this song may be the most indicative of Dylan’s later self-penned songs. For one, the song is much more relaxed than a lot of the other tracks on this album. He doesn’t rush through any parts with his guitar, or strain his voice to make it sound unnatural, or force anything into the melody. Instead, the song features a subdued confidence, something that would become a trademark of Dylan’s later folk recordings.
The song also features evidence of Dylan’s strengths as a songwriter. Of course, Dylan didn’t write “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”: As he announces at the opening of the song, Eric Von Schmidt, another popular staple of the East Coast folk music scene, had made it a key part of his act. The song actually goes even further back than Von Schmidt, though, dating at least as far as 1936 when it was recorded by Walter Coleman and called, “Mama Let Me Lay On You”—as usual with folk songs, tracing the origins of this one is like trying to map your family’s genealogy. On the album, Dylan would credit Von Schmidt with the writing of this particular incarnation of the song. So while the song wasn’t written by Dylan, it had a clear impact on his later writing, particularly the lyrics. Continue reading »
“She’s obviously the problem here. There’s no other source of kryptonite…. Something just ain’t right, and it’s got to be her.”
—James on Stephenie
I mentioned last week that it would be interesting to see how much stock the players put into each other’s past appearances on the show. After the second episode, the answer is clearly a lot. Not only have alliances been forged on the basis of prior relationships (Tom and Steph; James, Amanda, and Cirie), but James specifically brought up Steph’s ignominious membership in the Ulong tribe—the only one to never win an immunity challenge.
The episode started with the focus on the Villains and specifically Boston Rob, who was growing frustrated with the inactivity of his tribe. It’s hard to blame him: Coach, Russell, and Randy are particularly useless men, and none of the female Villains seem prepared for the long-haul (we could already see Courtney’s rib cage on Day 4; that does not bode well). Contrast that with the Heroes, who have Colby, JT, James, and Tom as ready and eager workers and Steph as one of the most physically gifted women the show has ever seen. Irritated by problems with the tribe’s shelter, Rob went out for a walk in the woods, where he proceeded to collapse and lose consciousness. Continue reading »
Before the Winter Olympics started, I considered writing a satirical post about how excited I was for curling. I didn’t consider it for long, though, because faux-excitement for the Winter Olympics and for curling in particular was sort of played out. The Winter Olympics are pretty much a joke in America; women pay attention to the figure skating, and sports journalists try to make a big deal out of skiing and speed skating (so long as they’re both headed by good-looking marketable stars). Curling was the biggest joke of all, a ludicrous extension of the term “sport” into the realm of bocce and shuffleboard played out on ice, complete with brooms.
Now that I have watched curling, I have come to a conclusion that I guess shouldn’t surprise me too much: Curling is awesome. Curling is awesome because, while not a sport, it is the closest thing the Winter Olympics has to a sport outside of hockey. This is because it is played in teams with objective scoring. There are curling matches, whereas everything else in the Winter Olympics is either judged or a race—or in some ridiculous cases, such as Moguls, a hybrid of the two. Simple comparisons to bocce or shuffleboard are misguided because they underestimate the dramatic and propulsive influence of the ice. In bocce, you’re just trying to get your ball closest to the Pauline; on both sand and grass, it’s very difficult to really deflect the opposition’s balls further from the target. In shuffleboard, you can’t put spin on the puck; everything is in straight lines. Continue reading »
With two of the four teams generally considered “elite” losing to unranked teams at home this week (Syracuse to Louisville, Villanova to UConn), Kansas and Kentucky are presumably more solidly entrenched as the two best teams, both in the rankings and in peoples’ minds. They are the only two teams left with just one loss and they are both loaded with talent projected to go in the first round of the NBA Draft (Kansas has Xavier Henry, Cole Aldrich, and Sherron Collins; Kentucky has John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Patrick Patterson). Kentucky, though, has already faced two close calls this week, needing overtime to win at Mississippi State, and facing Tennessee in a game that went back and forth until the Wildcats pulled away during the last eight minutes.
During that game, however, I started wondering an odd thing: Is Bruce Pearl an underrated coach? This seems like an odd thing to say about a guy whose team is coming off back-to-back double-digit losses, who has never made it past the Sweet 16 of an NCAA Tournament, and isn’t even the biggest basketball coach at his own school. He is more known for things like taking his shirt off at a Lady Vols game and his feud with John Calipari than for anything to do with coaching.
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It’s time for another installment of “Getting Lost,” where John S takes you through all the salient questions from last night’s episode of Lost:
Hey! A Locke episode! Yeah, after an episode that left him out completely, we get an episode totally centered on John Locke, who I’ve already called the show’s most important character.
And were you super thrilled with this episode? It was a pretty good, wasn’t it?
Well, it still had those dumb alternate timeline storylines… Well, here’s the thing with those. People have complained that the 2004 stories are pointless, or a distraction from the on-Island stories that people care about. There is definitely some validity to that when we have to watch a whole episode of Kate trying to run away from US Marshal Edward Mars again. But this episode worked the John Locke storyline in pretty seamlessly, in a way that actually added to the on-Island story. Continue reading »
As the northeast continues to get pummeled by snow, it’s hard not to think about the infamous snow plow wars waged between Homer and Barney Gumble in “Mr. Plow,” a fourth-season episode of The Simpsons.
The episode starts with a common premise: Homer does something really stupid. In fact, it’s a series of stupid things: He stays out late at Moe’s during a snowstorm, wrecks both the family’s cars in a driveway crash, and then buys a snow plow to compensate—largely because the salesman questioned his manhood. We’ve even seen this last sales tactic hook Homer on an impractical auto purchase before in “The Call of the Simpsons.” To be fair, Homer is smart enough not to admit that Moe’s is a bar to the insurance agent: Continue reading »