Monthly Archives: October 2007

An Amusing Aspect of Windows Vista

I gathered my laptop to take with me to work this morning. I noticed that it wouldn’t shut down right away, but I didn’t have time to wait on it.

When I got here, it was frozen. I had to power it off. The attempted booting process took about twenty five minutes, ending first with “dwm.exe failed to initialize” and then with other, even more baroque errors.

I’ve had to restart the computer in “panic mode.” As far as I can tell from the logs, it was autoinstalling an update, wouldn’t shut down, and just completely blitzed everything when it lost the internet connection. Very robust behavior on the part of the Microsoft software professionals, I find.

I don’t even think I’m going to dual-boot now. I’ve officially learned my lesson. Perhaps I should have waited the eons it was taking Dell to assemble the Ubuntu laptop I originally ordered, or just paid another $1500 for a Mac. Or simply have wiped the Windows installation from it first thing, rather than attempt to “use” it for “work.”


I’ve been reading the back issues of the New York Review intermittently over the last few days. I’m still in the glorious era when they would print things like this [subscriber, though, given the author, I suspect it's online elsewhere].

It’s fascinating reading (with the increasingly strong feeling that it’ll be anagnostian throughout for me with this venue) through this admittedly narrow aperture of intellectual history. There are more bird-books reviewed than you might think, and only Foucault and McLuhan (and Ong) have, as of early 1968, made any appearance from the theory-pantheon. Chomsky’s published “Responsibility of the Intellectuals” and an account of a Pentagon protest, but there’s been nothing about his linguistics. (I should add that I’ve been scanning the table of contents and reading things which catch my interest, not doing anything systematic, so it’s quite possible that I’ve missed something; and I also know, if you’re curious, that this is well-covered ground, even owning a book about the early years of the NYR, which might be thought to be one of the more superfluous volumes in my collection.)

Erudite Teas

(I want to mention for those googling that I am in fact the son of a mechanic, though not at present one myself.)

Stevens requested erudite teas from China. I wonder what he would have made of the Houston International Airport on an ordinary cloudstirring evening, waiting to board a flight to Dubai. You can take toll roads the whole way there and see only other armigers and exultants, which would have been familiar, perhaps.

On The Impossibility of Teaching “Anecdote of The Jar”

My course blog for an American Lit survey at ECU last year gets about ten-to-twenty hits each day for “anecdote of the jar analysis” or similar. I told the students in that class that this would be likely to happen and that they were writing for future generations (and even developed a poster presentation based on this alarming pedagogical thesis).

Other than habit and general inertia, one of the reasons this happens is that it’s a deeply mysterious poem, one that probably deserves no place in freshman and sophomore anthologies. (I can and have done much better with “Sunday Morning,” “Emperor of Ice Cream,” and even—(men lie about it)—”The Comedian As The Letter C.”) Here’s a partial list of topics I’ve tried:

  • Procopius, demonology of
  • anecdote, etymology of
  • America, secret actuarial history of
  • phenomenology, fuzziness of
  • Grecian urn
  • Tennessee, geography of
  • trains, influence on poetry of
  • New South, development of
  • artifice, artifact, artificiality
  • Sewanee
  • dominion, reference in Genesis to
  • Fugitives and Agrarians
  • George Steiner, command of American regional idiom of
  • Stevens’s accent, Anglicized quality of
  • Mason jars, mass-production of

Two Reasons to Love Steve Earle

1. Walon on The Wire. I didn’t even realize until I read the New Yorker piece today that it was him.

2. On the Shut Up And Die Like An Aviator album, he introduces “Dead Flowers” by advising the crowd that this is one to “put it between the ditches by.” Where I grew up, there are long, narrow roads dug out of marshes with treacherous canals on either side, so this bit of oft-heard folk wisdom was especially practical.

Zhmurki (2005)

I watched this sparkler last night, perhaps on some half-remembered reference from a David Remnick column, I don’t know. Gussie Fink-Nottle, and Karloff, two aspiring goons, misadventure, and eventually stake some heroin legit to Moscow Centre for currency speculation.

Two Cheery, Cerebral Characters from Zhmurki (2005), Aleksei Balabanov dir.

I believe a nationalist line might be inferred from the kino, with the casual brutality and racism the object lesson of the classroom in the beginning, etc.

Nad propastyu vo rzhi

I was involved in a deck collapse at Wrightsville Beach, NC some years ago. Clustered cups, herded tightly on the deck by some barrier force. I pushed my way almost to the living beachside room, almost crossed the threshold, when a sudden crack—a sound more blinding than overhead lightning—cast arms, legs, and cups down to the parking garage. I somehow righted myself out of the blight with only small, distrusting welts, to later cross an alley across the road and to face a gun pointed at me by a propertied man on his own intact deck, who had had enough. I heard later that limbs were broken in this incident, even a complication resulting in a fatality. One thing that’s always troubled me about my memory is that I reported to friends very soon after that the citizen and taxpayer did so brandish, but that even then I didn’t know if he did or if I had only seen, momentarily, into the heart of things. You don’t have to recall Double Indemnity or Memento to imagine the fact-finding missions that might have extended even to that observer, or even to imagine that a smooth fulgurite leaned in a corner of his own beachside room, supporting many structures.

A Brownie Perpacates

These worshipers lose no opportunity of asserting what their adopted author meant. And they lose no chance of slipping into print on the false pretense of clearing up a mistake or of possessing a hitherto unpublished scrap by the “master.” They attribute the meanest motives to all who cross their paths, and lose no chance of denigrating anyone whose attitude seems derogatory to their idol. Decency, integrity are cast to the winds: they have about as much honor as the hosts of old who used a banquet as a means to lure their enemies to their death.

Without using any beastly internet searches, can you guess who wrote this and what he was talking about, exactly?


I spent the last week in Liverpool, working in the Olaf Stapledon archive. I found, as you do, many serendipitously interesting things (letters from the young Frank Kermode to Stapledon, for instance) and have nearly gone blind trying to read his micrographic journals and notebooks, made even more amusing by Greek-letter substitution at odd intervals and syllable-reduction. But, a worthwhile experience, all in all. I encountered Marseilles soccer enthusiasts chanting in the streets and ate several varieties of the heavily spiced local cuisine. (I was met with a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun when I asked for tzatziki at a kebab joint, which I had judged to be of Greco-Turkish extraction, for example.)

The LFC seems to have a large Scandinavian following, judging from the goings-on in my hotel. I also listened to an installment of the BBC adaptation of Dirk Gently. Less amusing were the increasingly baroque fictions told by Delta to explain why various flights to and from the Atlanta airport were being delayed. There’s probably a blog devoted to these, which I should look for and contribute to. I do have to commend the choice of Howling Wolf as one of the in-flight cds, however, and I also got a chance to watch an episode of House and the American The Office for the first time. The latter was much better than I was expecting, and I look forward to inhaling the rest of them.

House, however, suffers mightily, at least for me, from unsuspendable disbelief. The episode I watched had D’Angelo Barksdale having his MEMORY ERASED by carefully calibrated electroshock. (He was also self-inducing heart attacks, but I’ll leave that one be for the time being.) I also noticed in a short piece in The Guardian by Steven Poole describing the professionalization of anti-Chomskyanism. (Poole, however, is not immune from an iron law of journalism: you must not praise or even agree with any of Chomsky’s political writings without noting that he’s wrong, usually in some obvious way, about something [the Balkans, for Poole]. The growth of that trope would be interesting to chart.)