Andrew Lindemann Malone's Internet Playpen
Movie Reviews

Sunday, September 25, 2011: Figures, of Speech

The Nats got a nice Curly W for their final home game today, beating the Braves 3-0. (Later the Cardinals pulled one out over the Cubs, cutting the Braves' lead in the National League wild-card race to 1. Sour grapes! Sour grapes!) After I transferred to the Red Line at Fort Totten on my way home, a large man began addressing me with no preamble about the slim chances that, at the beginning of the season, we could say that the Nats could finish the year above .500. (We'd have to sweep the Marlins at their place, but it's possible.)

Then he said, "My sister'll be riding me because of this. She'll say, 'At least they know how to use a broom!' 'At least they're moving out of the basement!'"
I smiled as a holding maneuver.

He continued: "'At least they're going places!'"

There was a small pause in which I continued to will something to come into my mind so I could say it. Then I had something: "It's not fair when they use metaphors against you."

We went on to discuss the "MASN Cup," a trophy that does not exist but, in this gentleman's mind, should go to the season-series winner between the O's and Nats — I actually agree with him on that one — and the order of the flags above the Red Porch, which I do not pay any attention to at all. But that was the memorable moment from my perspective.

 

Saturday, July 23, 2011: If You Can't Take the Heat, Get Yo Ass in the Fitness Center

Despite the headline, it wasn't the heat I couldn't handle today. Though we set a new record high-low of 85 overnight, and though it was 91 at 8 am, the fact that the humidity had receded somewhat from yesterday's Amazonian levels made it feel positively balmy when, at 5:30 am, I set out on my journey. Leaving at first light also meant that the first four miles or so of the run were conducted without Mean Mr. Sun having risen to his throne in the sky so that he could glower down on humanity, which definitely helped. But from my first lungful of today's air, which has been determined to be Code Red and which I dubbed during my run "Code Ass," I knew that it would be tough to get enough oxygen to my lungs to run the cardiovascular system at levels that would prevent overheating. Seriously, it was like a boy's locker room out there.

The time outside was fun until it wasn't. Silver Spring was almost completely asleep as I headed to Sligo Creek Park, except for a couple men intently smoking cigarettes and an odd-looking gathering in a public housing parking lot. I didn't see many people during the run either, and I think the actual numerical majority of runners I saw were shirtless men. I've never been tempted to bare my non-sun-kissed torso to humanity, and even if I had doffed my top it would not have made the air any better.

So when I got to the 8-mile mark and started to feel a little of the tightness in my temples that sometimes portends mild head exhaustion, I decided to turn off. Then for some reason I reversed that decision and ran another quarter mile, during which time my body had a heated (ha-ha) discussion with itself about the wisdom of this course. I did finally turn back, and the lack of problems I had running the 2 miles back to my apartment only gave more voice to the little voice saying "You could run the whole thing outside, dude! Don't wimp out!"

But I am 32 years old, and at some point one should start playing it safe in marginal cases like this. Certainly the AC in my building's fitness center had a welcome moderating effect, and I was even able to follow the guidance of my marathon training plan and do the last quarter of the run at intended marathon pace, which would have been extremely unwise outside. And 14 miles is 14 miles even if 10.5 are on the trail and 3.5 are on the treadmill. If it's the same temp but the air is even marginally better next Saturday, I'll be able to do 15 outside. I look forward to the opportunity to shut that little voice up.

 

Friday, July 22, 2011: Braving It

Tomorrow I will wade out into D.C.'s present record-breaking heat and see whether I can run 14 miles. I am getting up at 4:50 in the morning to take advantage of the first light of day, I've chosen a shady route with lots of water fountains, and I will clench the reins on my own desire to push the pace with an iron fist. But it still might not work. That's why the route also has multiple bailout points, specifically at 7 and 8.5 miles, where I can simply head back to my apartment building, go up and grab a water bottle, and then hit the treadmill to finish the job.

I am nervous about the run, which means I probably won't injure myself. If I was filled with bravado, I'd be more at risk: more likely to ignore the warning signs of heat exhaustion, more likely to push past fatigue into injury. I'm going to play it safe. Or at least that is my sincere intent. The one thing that gives me some confidence is that this is not my first time at this specific rodeo: I've been running in D.C. summers for the entire time I've been running, and I've worked outside in similar temps before, much later in the afternoon. Maybe that'll help?

Next weekend, unfortunately, some forecasts call for similar heat, and I need to run 15 miles then. At least I'll have some practice in.

 

Thursday, July 14, 2011: Hey, Foxy

I am training for the 2011 Chicago Marathon. This will be my third try at running 26.2. In 2008, when I ran the Marine Corps Marathon, I blogged about my training and did a full postrace writeup; last year, when I ran the National Marathon, I only did the postrace writeup. I found it to be more fun when I blogged about my running than when I didn't, so here we are.

I'm actually more than a few weeks into Hal Higdon's Novice 2 training program, my choice for preparing this year. I was hesitant to begin publicly announcing my training because of a couple injuries I suffered. In April, towards the end of my training for the Parkway Classic 10-Miler, I got a bad tweak in my knee; it seems to be going away now. More seriously, coming back from a fun trip to Kansas City, I sprained my ankle, and that made me skip the first week and get on a modified running diet to catch up. Now, though, my ankle is pain-free and my knee nearly so, meaning here we go.

Today called for 3 miles, and I did a route that skirts the edge of Rock Creek Park. The normal wildlife I see on such a run include deer, chipmunks, and even the occasional raccoon. So I was not prepared for what I befell as I ascended the big hill near the end of this route. It looked from the distance like a cat, except its gait was all wrong, and its ears were awfully big for a cat. It scurried onto the grass leading to the park when it saw me, but it was staring at me the whole time. I stared at it.

As I grew closer, running at a decent clip for a steep hill, I saw that yes, it was unmistakably a fox. I think that was the first time I've ever seen a fox in broad daylight from that short a distance; we can't have been more than 15 feet apart. I used "was" in the previous sentence advisedly, because it turned out one of the reasons this fox was staring at me so intensely was that there was another fox hiding in a bush about a yard from where I was running.

Of course, it decided to jump out and expose itself to my eyes at the exact moment I crossed its path to the other side, which sent it immediately back to the bush and sent me scurrying uphill with a quickness. Did you know that foxes are important vectors of rabies? I did, which was the reason for the scurrying. I have a GPS watch that tracks my location against time, so I can see my pace and elevation and whatnot; on the graph from this run, you can see where I saw the second fox, a spike in pace and elevation at the same time.

Coming back down the hill and towards DTSS, I saw the even rarer sight of a completely felled beast: a Range Rover whose two right tires were completely flat, with a middle-aged white man circling the vehicle, a shocked look on his face. That's a tow, I thought.

I will continue to provide interesting anecdotes from runs, as well as thoughts on training and life in general, as we get closer and closer to Oct. 9. Yeah boy!

 

Thursday, March 31, 2011: I Know You Seen Me on the Video (True)

Today I spent five and a half hours outside in 42-degree weather, enduring winds and light rain, and I was pretty happy about it. The occasion, of course, was Opening Day. Though the Nats wasted Livan Hernandez's strong start in losing to the Braves, the recommencement of baseball activities was a balm to my winter-scarred heart. As you can see in this video, where I ran my fool mouth to a videographer/interviewer from the Washington Post. (In case you have not met me, the video provides a pretty good representation of how I talk: medium-quality bon mots mixed with meandering compound-complex sentences.)

Per the video, I do definitely think baseball is the most aesthetically pleasing of the four major sports. It's the only one that takes place in a place called a park, and seeing the brilliant green in the waning light of a balmy summer evening, the home team streaking across it in white uniforms, chasing an equally brilliantly white ball around or battering it with a sharp, breath-drawing crack, never fails to lift my spirits, except when Jason Marquis starts the game by facing seven batters without retiring one of them (including hitting two of them) and the first inning ends with us trailing 10-0. Yes, I saw that happen. But those ancillary aesthetic pleasures can draw you through a game like that to see the Nats' near-comeback, whereas when the Wizards go down 41-20 in the second quarter you're stuck in that dark closet for the rest of the game.

 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011: The Stomach of the Matter

Like all Americans interested in fitness, I spend a lot of time thinking about my core. How strong is it? How can I strongthen it? (I have decided to use the word "strongthen" to refer to making a body part stronger because the word "strengthen" is used too promiscuously in metaphor to really connote what I'm trying to do here, which is become strong.) Are there tiny but vital muscles in my core that I'm neglecting? Am I strongthening in a way that will make me a more effective runner, weightlifter, and general fit citizen of these United States?

The history of core exercises, as far as I can tell, begins with the situp, which taxed one set of muscles (your abs) in one way (forward). Now we have a bewildering array of core exercises to choose from, all of which have been documented on the Internet by websites eager for the page views to be gained by plying people with similar strongthening thoughts, as expressed through Google. (23 million results can't be wrong!)

Lately I have discovered, on my own, a form of core exercise that was new to me. You get on a playground swing and get going. When you've reached a moderate height, take your hands off the chains. As you go up and down along your arc, shift forward and back, making minute adjustments, not moving your butt, to stay in the swing. Keep your hands close to the chains in case you are unsuccessful and need to arrest some awkward motion. If things are going well, start extending your legs, first on the upward portion of the arc in the classic manner, then at random intervals.

I was hoping it was new to the Internet, and I could premiere it on the Spam-O-Matic, but it turns out there is a website devoted almost exclusively to the exhaustive ramifications of my discovery that swingsets can be used for fitness. However, one must note that my one little exercise allows one to partake of the joy of swinging and does not require you to do one-legged pushups and the other stuff that website features, which, while undoubtedly effective, are not super-fun like my exercise. So maybe I discovered that part! (Probably not.)

 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011: Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Timely Commute

Today the DMV encounters its first major snowfall of the winter. OPM was kind enough to let us off two hours early, and just in time too — when I got home today, the freezing rain had just begun in quantity, and now a good three inches (with more slated to come) has accumulated on East-West Highway outside my window. Of course, not everyone has paymasters so enlightened, and it has been distressing to watch the regular rush hour congestion pile up at the same time the snow has. The congestion typically proceeds from northwest to southeast on this slightly misleadingly named highway, and I measure it by whether I can see it from my window; currently, the cars are piled up well past my dwelling, and in lines that only vaguely approximate the lanes painted beneath the carpet of snow.

So things are not going well for the drivers, who I hope get home safely and as soon as possible. What still strikes me as sad, though, is the recurring uproar of horns that comes from the line. The hooting had started even when I was getting home, and since no one was moving, I assume the horn-playing is due to sheer frustration at their circumstances. Do they really think leaning on their horns is going to get them home any quicker? I assume it's just a cri de coeur, but it's one that wrecks the pretty stillness the snow is creating. (Well, that and the big line of cars.)

Since I just saw the flash of lightning and heard the roar of thunder — that's right, THUNDERSNOW!!!!!! —I'm pretty sure conditions aren't getting any better out there. Drive slow, homies, and don't let your impatience get the best of you...

 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010: I'm Back

Why does errything gotta be a DMV Classical update? Here's my site, let's play.

 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010: The 2010 National Marathon

Well, that was a long time between updates. I seem to be making many of my witty remarks on Facebook now. Other writing energies have been directed towards DMV Classical. But I had to get back on the Spam to write up my report of the 2010 National Marathon. It was a lot of fun, for me anyway, and a great way to start spring after the oppressive winter we just endured sans updates and under three feet of snow.

I would like to post here more often. There are more competitors than ever before for my time. But I need to make time to write.

 

Sunday, August 30, 2009: Savings

Today I made the stupid decision to go to the Giant in my apartment building's complex at 7 pm. The Giant is your typical municipal utility-style supermarket, with nothing to distinguish it apart from its convenience, but they had also made available a bunch of "$1 Doubler" coupons in their latest ad, and I had some $1 coupons I wanted to double. The only catch was that you had to spend at least $15 to use the coupons, but I was sure I could do that.

Well, maybe. Turns out spending $6.99 for two Puffs 3-packs, even with $2 total subtracted from the price, is beyond my ken, as is spending $4.49 for 15 José Olé taquitos when I swear I got 25 Delimex taquitos at Safeway for $3.99 last time I bought taquitos. And the Delimex taste better. So I struggled a bit to get up to $15, although late in the process I remembered a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for Reese's peanut butter cups, the deployment of which in concert with purchasing two of the beloved Reese's I was sure would put me over the top.

Got in the 15-and-under line in an attempt to bypass the Sunday-evening chaos as much as possible. Given the deployment of coupons that I was contemplating, I felt I needed a line staffed by an actual human rather than a self-checkout; one of the two staffed 15-and-under lines appeared way shorter than the other, so I stationed myself there. It turned out, however, that it was shorter because two people had taken a full cart of groceries in there. I mentally counted the items as they came out, and stopped at 22; I missed five or six. Making a mockery of the 15-and-under concept! I railed at them in my internal monologue.

Eventually, of course, I got to the front, and it turned out that not only did I not actually have $15 in purchases (I had $14.21), but one of the coupons didn't scan. The checkout person, a woman whose competence I have noted before, did not bat an eye, cheerfully (for her) overriding the cash register to make it take all my coupons. Then she gave me credit for bringing three reusable bags when I only brought two — another five cents in my pocket.

"I guess it feels pretty awesome when someone makes an exception to the rules for you," I thought as I walked out past the self-checkout lines. Then I had a much vaguer thought about whether the entire trip had been worthwhile, given how annoying it had been, although now I am happy to have inexpensive Florida Natural orange juice and an adequate supply of all-purpose flour, and I saved a total of $9.59 on what ended up being a $14.54 order with tax. Echoing in my ears as I thought this was the computerized voice of the self-checkouts, stiltedly reading off to Giant BonusCard holders the discounts on sale items: "Savings: Two. dollars…Savings: 39. cents…Savings: 63. cents…"

 

Sunday, July 12, 2009: The New New Thing

I've started a new blog that will exclusively present my thoughts on classical music in the DC metro area. It's called DMV Classical. I plan on it being awesome.

This site will continue to present all my non-classical-music-related thoughts.

 

Tuesday, June 30, 2009: Let's Have a Barbeque

I had thought this review of go-go acts at the National Capital Barbeque Battle would be a short blog entry. How wrong I was. Here it is for your amusement.

 

Monday, June 29, 2009: Current Events

23-second MP3 re: Mark Sanford.

 

Thursday, June 25, 2009: The King of Pop Is Dead; Long Live the King

I can't believe Michael Jackson is dead. Not just because he was so young, but also because I always thought he had one more amazing record in him, something that would let his fans and his admirers put aside both the allegations of pedophilia and the general cloud of weirdness that he seemed to emanate in every conceivable way and say "That's Michael Jackson. That's the guy we're talking about." I had hoped to get a record that, for a brief little while, would make us all think that we were living in a new prime for Michael. But instead he beat the pedophilia rap (however fairly or unfairly), ran up debt, existed weirdly and remotely, and died.

He made an amazing number of wonderful songs. When both Michael and R. Kelly were in trouble for various species of cavorting with underage folks, I noted that R. Kelly seemed to enjoy a continued, slightly embarrassed acceptance from the music-loving populace. I attributed this to the fact that he was still making hot records, and entreated Michael to do the same. Looking at their respective catalogues, though, the Pied Piper of R&B is about as far from the King of Pop as I am from Kells.

My favorite Michael Jackson songs off the top of my head (including Jackson 5 songs in which he sings lead, which is most of them):

  1. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
  2. Billie Jean
  3. ABC
  4. Never Can Say Goodbye
  5. Maybe Tomorrow
  6. Human Nature
  7. Rock With You
  8. I Want You Back
  9. The Lady in My Life
  10. I Wanna Be Where You Are

Re: #4, 8, 10: Indeed.

 

Tuesday, June 23, 2009: Let's Go Play in the Train Tracks

I left work at 4:40 yesterday and left the College Park-UMD Metro station a little before 5. Thus I was on the Green Line when two trains collided on the Red Line, going south towards Shady Grove just north of Fort Totten.

Emerging at the Totts in what I was soon to discover would be a futile attempt at taking the Red Line north to Silver Spring, I scaled two escalators to the Red Line platform. There was a crowd milling about, dense and impatient, but no indication of when trains would come. A lot of folks were on their cell phones, relaying info about their ETA. The PA kept announcing that a train outside of Fort Totten had "mechanical difficulties," which normally means that Metro will single-track to get around the disturbance. No single-tracking trains were coming, though, and it's possible I should have been tipped off by the appendix to these announcements: "Shuttle bus service has been requested." That, conversely, normally means the station is closed.

Finally, a Metro employee came onto the platform and told us that there weren't going to be any trains, instructing us to avail ourselves of the shuttle buses. When I emerged at ground level, exiting through turnstiles deactivated to handle the inconvenienced crowds, no shuttle buses were present, and masses were swarming anything that looked like a shuttle bus, meaning the poor R1 operator had to tell a bunch of fuming commuters that he was not going anywhere near Silver Spring.

Eventually, I decided to take the Green Line down an additional stop to Georgia Ave-Petworth and get one of the Georgia Avenue buses to haul me to Silver Spring. In a coup, I got to try the limited-stop 79 rather than putter along on the 70 or 71. Getting to skip all those intermediate stops was pretty freaking sweet, and Georgia Avenue was looking as good as it's ever going to look in the sunny late afternoon, so I was only mildly perturbed when I got a text message asking whether I was OK. I typed out something with a bunch of misspellings that included the info that I had no idea what had happened.

A little texting later, and I knew it was a train crash. I got more texts when I got back to the apartment and was able to supplement my knowledge with the World Wide Web. Now I got why people were texting me repeatedly and asking whether I was OK. I eventually made my OKness my Facebook status to reassure the public craving for news on this issue, but got a couple additional calls. It was nice to know that people think of me and wish me well.

Upon learning of the disaster, the first thing I thought after the shock subsided was, "Well, rail's still safer than driving." Over 30 years with 12 fatalities is a pretty enviable record compared to other modes of transportation, even if there should be fewer than 12 right now. (This is how my brain now works; after 20 years of living with a panic disorder, I have trained myself to avoid irrational fears, even to the point of a kind of inhuman stoniness.) Currently, I am waiting for Metro to announce whether it will have the Red Line open for business tomorrow, and if they do I'll be on it. It's how I roll.

 

Monday, June 1, 2009: Tidy

On Saturday, the morning dawned gorgeous: clear, sunny, slight breeze, temps just warm enough to merit shorts yet still cool enough that absolutely nothing about the weather seemed like an imposition. Though I had been stunningly unsuccessful in sleeping the previous evening, waking up at 6:30 with only 5 hours of sleep under my belt, I nevertheless decided to honor this morning by running 13 miles in Sligo Creek Park, which looks extra gorgeous at this time of spring, as the trees have finally extended themselves enough to create the vast overhead expanses of shimmering green I mentally refer to as "cathedrals."

For this run, I truck it down to East-West Highway in Prince George's County for the first 3.5 miles and the first of two turnarounds. As usual, I ran up to the STOP sign at East-West, tapped it with my middle and index fingers, and took a quick walk break, gnawing on an energy bar. Not as usual, a voice - "Hey!" - stopped me.

I stopped and turned around to see a man of about 50 in a stained white T and jeans, in the yard of the house that fronts East-West (which is a real four-lane highway, MD Route 410) next to the trail. "Does this yard look messy to you?" he asked.

The yard was crowded, sure: a pile of bricks in the back, a gravel driveway with two cars barely fitting on it closer to the house. But nothing looked a hair out of place, not in the stacking of the bricks or the sedulous-seeming maintenance of the cars, and certainly not in the well-tended grass surrounding it all, right up to the trail. "Nah, it looks neatly kept," I said.

"The county wrote me up," he said, for whatever crime having a messy backyard is. (He said the actual word; I forget it.) At this point, he had walked out onto the path while rolling a pack of cigarettes into his left sleeve with his right hand. Also, he looked a little drunk. "So I'm asking people walking by if they think the yard is messy."

"Naw, man, it looks good," I reassured him.

"The only thing is the bricks, but that's just there because I found out I had to get a variance to build a wall. But they're not just all over the place."

"No, it's tidy."

"Did you see the wisteria out front?"

"I didn't get out there," I said.

"They're deep as shit," he said. "They look like this," and he got on his toes and used his arm to do a credible imitation of a drooping wisteria limb. "You get tired, come sit on the porch in the shade."

"Nice," I said, smiling, and getting a little hop in my step, ready to pop back into running mode.

"Take it easy," he said, waving goodbye.

"Good luck," I replied, and I sincerely hope he has it. PG County would seem to have a lot more important things to worry about than a guy who can get his wisteria to droop like that.

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009: Nice Things

This week I have been, off and on, staying at my sister and brother-in-law's house in order to keep tabs on their dog, Honey. Here is what Honey and I looked like a couple years ago:

We both still basically look the same, although I have less facial hair. As the photo indicates, Honey is not only adorable but also the world's sweetest dog. So obviously looking after Honey is a good thing to be doing in and of itself.

Yet there is another bonus to being in my sister and brother-in-law's house: I get to see what it's like to live much more luxuriously than I can/allow myself to.

For one thing, their house has a lot of rooms. This is cool in that there is a lot of stuff in all these rooms, but bad in that some of the rooms are on different floors than the other rooms. When I forget something in my bedroom at my apartment, it's a simple matter to walk 10 feet and get it (not that I don't complain). The whole equation shifts when the bedroom is two flights of stairs away. I find myself looking around before I leave any room, trying to make sure I have everything I need. Not sure I really prefer the "home" setup, but it's kind of majestic in its way, plus they could totally have table tennis downstairs if they would get with the program. (My favorite room in a house I owned would be the basement, where all the fun stuff would live.)

My lovely and talented relations also have home furnishings that reflect more than my zero interest in having an attractive home: matching silverware, lovely window treatments, pieces of furniture that have been selected on a basis other than "someone's getting rid of this," etc. In fact, the majority of my furniture has been donated by either my parents or my sis and bro-in-law, and some of it is getting on in years, but I cannot be bothered to either fix it or buy new furniture. I just don't care. Same with matching silverware: The silverware I have does a fine job of shoveling food into my mouth, plus I can use my four different sizes of tablespoons for slightly different purposes. And I paid approximately $3 for all the silverware I own! For me, this is a win-win-win. But when I go to their house, it strikes me (for I am not entirely immune to aesthetics) that there is a reason people like to have matching silverware, and certainly their rooms appeal much more to the eye than mine do. They just don't appeal enough to my eyes to make me want to go do something equivalent.

The ideal resolution here is probably to get married to someone who actually likes home furnishings, but having that as a goal seems both over- and under-specific. So I will carry on as is.

 

Monday, April 13, 2009: Two Lines from a Life I Do Not Lead

Overheard at the entrance to the Union Station Metro at around 8 pm this evening:

Woman: You didn't buy me nothin'.

Man: The fuck you mean?!

Thursday, April 2, 2009: No Regrets

A little late, but wanted to report. This was the headline I read last Tuesday when I picked up the paper:

Daily Red Meat Raises Chances Of Dying Early

My first thought: "At least when I die, I'll have had all the bacon I wanted."

 

Saturday, March 28, 2009: Water, Water Everywhere

Today I ran a little under 12 miles in Montgomery County's part of Rock Creek Park, the morning after an evening in which some rain fell. The day was still gray and stiflingly humid, so the running was a bit of a slog, but it was worth it to see Rock Creek's banks full of water, brown and glassy, eddying and massing and snaking slowly down to the Potomac River, its eventual destination. The banks of the creek looked raw from the stress of allowing the passage of all the water, and little depressions whose purpose isn't obvious in dry times suddenly were full of water and pumping it into the creek, swelling it further. Under the old trestle for the Capital Crescent railway, the trail goes within just a foot or so of the bank, and it actually looked precipitous today, with the water looming just an errant footfall away.

It was also interesting to note how many of the puddles that developed from this past rain were in slightly different shapes or places than they were the last time a big rain fell and I ran in MCRCP. For a while, I was trying to remember where the Big Problem Puddles had been, because no one likes running in wet socks, but eventually I gave up — it wasn't helping.

One thing I love about doing the long runs on the weekends is that it makes me feel more attuned to shifts in the weather, the changing seasons, the level of rainfall we're getting, and other such things that are hard to assess from a desk (or a treadmill). I get snapshots of the outdoors in which I can see trees flowering, flourishing, dying, and falling; grasses sprouting, covering the ground, and receding; the way the sun glints and sparkles on water at different times and through different levels of cloud cover; and when the deer are at their most crazed during mating season, and thus most willing to hang around staring dumbly when a human, huffing and puffing and covered in non-camoflauge blue, crests a hill and looks onto a gathering of said cervids. (Today I saw two! And it's not even crazy mating season time!)

 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009: Rung Up

Today I went to Morris Miller Liquors and spent close to $50 on alcohol ("It's good for the economy," I told myself) and then to Trader Joe's, both to load up for a lil' shindig at my place. Trader Joe's was the usual "Man, that looks good - I'm going to buy it even though I don't precisely need it." When I got to the checkout line, I had a choice of a cute girl clerk who was in the middle of ringing up a customer and a boy clerk (they were both young) who was almost finished ringing up a customer. I chose the boy clerk.

He immediately encountered a problem in which he had closed the cash drawer too quickly, and the cute girl clerk zoomed ahead to her next customer, who now was not me. "Damn," I thought.

Nevertheless, he was a good clerk, greeting me with a kind "What's up, man?" that presumed my relative coolness and doing his thing with relative dispatch. When he was finished ringing me up, he said, "Your total is..." and then he paused. "Sixty-nine sixty-nine," he completed.

I smiled, and paused. Searching for something palatable for the responsible folks around me, I finally said, "What an odd total!"

"Yeah," he said, and smiled back.

Then I was glad I had forsaken the cute girl clerk, so that I could share this joke. However (I realize now), if she would have thought it was funny too, that would have made her even cuter. Maybe my decision-making just wasn't up to par tonight.

 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009: The Object of My Affection

I just ate five pieces of candy out of one of those Russell Stover heart-shaped assortments, which I purchased for myself in an effort to convince myself that I do, indeed, have some deep and abiding love for me. It has been determined that the fact that I purchased this candy just now, for half off in the post-Valentine's retail candy hangover, does not lessen the sincerity of this gesture. The general crappiness of the Russell Stover chocolates, however, attenuates its effectiveness somewhat.

I have entered into evidence the fact that on Actual Valentine's Day I made myself chili, watched Maryland beat Virginia Tech, and listened to well-loved Bach recordings rather than making myself keep up with my correspondence or paying my bills or somesuch. This has been accepted as additional evidence towards a proof that I may indeed love myself, but an overall decision has yet to be rendered.

 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009: Me on Other Websites

I have a head cold, so I thought I'd do something simple: Link to myself! Here's the inauguration pie on Yes We Cake, a website devoted to Obama-related baked goods. (A pie is not a cake, of course, but proprietor Melissa Torres of Cake Hero accepted the photo in the diversity-loving spirit of the new administration.) And here's a definition I wrote (the second one) for Urban Dictionary, which someone else actually came up with but I bothered to write up and submit to the site. The phenomenon described in the definition definitely really happens.

 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009: Inauguration Notes

  • Getting in and out was uneventful. Everyone was happy, which helped things go smoothly. My friends and I set up near the Washington Monument without incident. (Well, my camera went dead, but that was the only incident, and one that was obviously my fault for not having adequate batteries.)
  • It was sunny, which was touch-and-go up to the day itself, but cold. A good way to keep warm(er) was to march in place while the Marine Band played marches.
  • We sang the Imperial March from Star Wars when Cheney was on the screen .
  • The whole crowd (not just the guys I was with) sang "Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye" when Bush was on the screen . This was apparently controversial for some reason.
  • Much of the ceremony had the feeling of an incredibly tedious college graduation ceremony. You expected them to say "Please hold your applause until all the names have been announced."
  • A lot of residual enthusiasm for Jimmy Carter in the crowd.
  • A tremendous amount of residual enthusiasm for Big Bill C.
  • An unbelievable amount of enthusiasm for Michelle, Malia, and Sasha. What an incredibly attractive family. From all the available evidence, they're your all-American family of accomplishment, class, and a touch of fun.
  • Everyone laughed at Rick Warren's ponderous overenunciation of the names "Malia and Sasha."
  • John Roberts' Flub-O-Rama was the subject of much impatient eye-rolling. Way to not know what you're doing, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court!
  • The John Williams thing was mediocre, brought off by the sparkling performances. It would have had more impact had the Marine Band not earlier played the Copland arrangement of "Simple Gifts" from Appalachian Spring.
  • The closed captioner for the inaugural address apparently had a text that Obama had provided, and Obama departed from it occasionally. At one point, the captions had Obama moving beyond questions of whether markets act "for good or evil"; he changed it to "from good or ill," which is more the correct tone, in my opinion. He's a smart guy.
  • Embarrassingly, when Barack was talking about how our desire for security had led us to compromise our ideals, they cut away to a Bush reaction shot .
  • That poem was awful, and Elizabeth Alexander read it incredibly poorly. At first, I thought she had just made the poem sound bad, but reading the text, it's genuinely awful.
  • I was disappointed that so few people stood with their hands over their hearts and actually sang the National Anthem that closed the ceremony. That could have been a really powerful moment. Instead, most folks fled the Mall trying to beat the lines to get to the Metro or wherever they were going. But everything that came after the inaugural address was pretty much ignored.
  • Yeah, baby! A happy day for me and 2 million others.

 

 

Sunday, January 18, 2009: Inauguration Pie

Granny Smith apples, 10 oz. of caramels, a streusel topping, and some strategically carved leftover pie crust.

God bless the USA.

 

Sunday, January 11, 2009: East-West Battles

In this review of Pallavi Mahidhara's performance at the Mansion at Strathmore, I eventually admit that she is good despite the fact that she is from Bethesda. I'm mostly no more bigoted than the next guy, but I do harbor an irrational and unslakable distaste for Bethesda and Potomac, despite the fact that those two areas have a lot more in common with Silver Spring than they do with most other places in this great nation. Ah well. We'll all learn to like each other under Obama, I'm sure.

 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009: Goodbye, Lil' Car

The 1995 Chevrolet Cavailier I drove for six and a half years was pronounced functionally dead on Monday, in that it would cost a thousand dollars to repair it and its value is approximately $1200. Known more or less affectionately as Lil' Car, Lil' Spanky, Lil' Stinker, and various combinations of expletives, its ability to ferry me to various neato places around town and in Baltimore will be missed, although its inability to do so in confidence-inspiring fashion will not. Even when I had everything repaired on that thing, it still had a little shimmy on the highway that wouldn't go away, and it seems to have been rare in recent years that I had everything repaired on it. Ultimately, its habit of stalling did it in, as repairing the part that was causing that problem (the "crank sensor") would have cost the grand referred to above.

The remains of Lil' Car will be toted away by some deserving charity. The survivor (me) will get some other vehicle, as various factors lead me to conclude that my dream of returning to the carless state of nature I dwelt in for the four years after I moved out of my parents' house is not feasible at this time. Sigh.

 

Monday, December 29, 2008: So Your Clock Goes Tick, Tock — Now It's Midnight

Here's what took up my whole December, apart from the Holiday Season: A parody of "Midnight Train to Georgia" that describes what's been going on at the executive branch agencies. I was banned from singing this at work! But now anyone on the Internet can hear me sing it (at least until I'm banned from having the MP3 up on this site). You can totally hear my dulcet voice pretending to be both Gladys Knight and the Pips. A classic for a lighthearted period that only comes once every four or eight years.

 

Monday, December 1, 2008: Update

Today I am less sick than I was yesterday. Just the way to start the work week. I am still pouty, like a little boy, that I missed the Q-Tip show. At least I've seen him live three or four other times. (But, of course, not doing material from the new album, which is lovely. Would really have liked to hear that. Aaaagh.)

The sentiment above was expressed in condensed form in my status line on Facebook, the current king of Internet timesucks. I have developed some thoughts on Facebook, which you will be able to read soon — I have written them up but need to make them better before posting for the wide world. (The Internet: Where self-enforced standards are still standards.)

 

Sunday, November 30, 2008: In Which I Am Old and Lame (Probably A Continuing Series)

A week ago today, I eagerly jumped on the Internet to buy a ticket to the Q-Tip show tonight at the 9:30 Club. Today it has been rainy and cold, and the last two days I have felt vaguely ill, and I find myself sitting here unable to conceive of being awake past 9:30, which unfortunately is the time when shows at the 9:30 Club typically heat up, rather than winding down. So although I paid over $40 for the ticket, I'm not going to even head down to the club, unless in the next 30 minutes or so some sort of vast change in the present conditions occurs. I attribute this to oldness and lameness. Q-Tip is one of the few artists for whom I would go to a pop show (and thus have a late night) on a work night, and I can't even do that, it appears. Maybe there's a reason the older audience prefers classical.

In other news, I have analyzed the content of this blog page here, and the tool indicates that the author of this blog is Myers-Briggs type:

ESFP: The Performers

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

The analysis also has a picture of a woman holding a fizzy bubbly drink in her left hand and using her right to support some kind of wrap; she is wearing a blouse, a skirt, and knee-high black boots. While I support being associated with this kind of imagery, I would note that a skilled writer (such as I immodestly consider myself) is capable of projecting a persona through writing that is at odds with the "true" persona of said writer. In my case, I am an introvert who has learned, through dedicated application of work and (eventually) skill, to act like an extrovert when necessary, and I am so, so so far into the J(udging) area on the MBTI (rather than the P(erceiving) area, which this thing assigned to me) that it is not even funny. Normally I come out INTJ with a very weak T(thinking, as opposed to Feeling). So this is wrong on all four letters! I hope this means I'm a good writer...

 

Sunday, November 23, 2008: A Night at the Pathetique Symphony

Here's a review of the Warsaw Philharmonic and conductor Antoni Wit showing how Tchaikovsky should be played: Extremely well, in a venue that I can drive home from in approximately 12 minutes. That's what's up! In this review, I have tried to put almost all of what would normally be marginalia into the actual review, with the result that the review is really, really long. We're all about trying stuff out here.

 

Monday, October 27, 2008: The Fuller Narrative Promised Immediately Below

Is here. I realize I have not fully expounded on "the iPod in my mind" yet, but I have about half of that article written in my mind, and the rest is just waiting for me to read far enough in Musicophilia for Oliver Sacks to explain it all. It's coming.

 

Sunday, October 26, 2008: I Finished the Marathon

26.2 miles, four hours, fifty-six minutes, fifty-seven seconds. Not a great result in the Grand Scheme of Things, but a fine one for me personally, and I had a ton of fun doing it. I'll write more narrative tomorrow.

 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008: Return to the 36 Chambers

Here's a review of two of my favorite Baroque-music performers, J. Reilly Lewis and Jennifer Ellis Kampani, playing selections from the Anna Magdalena Bach notebook in a space intimate enough to really feel the domestic love. It was a fun evening.

 

Sunday, October 5, 2008: Just Try to Walk On By

I wasn't paid for this or anything, but I do have a letter to Dr. Gridlock in the Post today. (You kind of have to read the first letter to have any idea what I'm talking about.)

Every time there's construction, they keep all the traffic lanes open and close the sidewalks. The message is that cars are more important than pedestrians, which, in this age of emissions limits and carbon concerns, seems a bit backward. When the destination the pedestrians are trying to reach is a Metro station, the irony and pity of the situation are doubled. If I ever become a community activist person, it's going to be in favor of me and my fellow pedestrians against the automobile menace. (That or I'll become the Robin to Silver Spring Trails' Batman.)

 

Saturday, October 4, 2008: And the Pain Wasn't Unbearable

On the last long run I attempted, I encounted several problems:

  • "Bonking" due to lack of food
  • Heel pain that screwed up my gait and made my entire lower body sore
  • Too many miles, not enough ability to fight through the first two problems

So this time I took several steps to address them:

  • Ate a piece of toast with peanut butter and jelly before the run, rather than my usual banana, for the additional carbs I hoped it would provide.
  • Brought extra food, in the form of a GU product. For those of you who don't know what this is, be thankful. The GU is a goo that has carbohydrates in it and tastes like the slime you see on a mossy rock plus a vividly artificial flavoring of some sort. It is a product that you would only eat if you were engaged in strenuous activity and absolutely had to have some carbs right away dammit. It did the job, in addition to my usual nutrition bar.
  • Did most of the run on trails. Trails (which can be found in spades in the D.C. portion of Rock Creek Park) are markedly less irritating to my plantar fasciitis, for the same reason that it is more comfortable to sleep on a bed than on a big slab of concrete.
  • Dialed it back to 20 miles. Fewer miles means less pounding on the heel and less time to deplete my body's glycogen stores, meaning the bar and the GU would have a better shot at filling the void.

And what do you know? It worked. I got through the 20 (it actually ended up being a little less than 21 with various diversions) without at any point hating life or my decision to run a marathon. I bonked a bit at the end, but it was close enough to the end (just about a mile and a half away) that I was able to talk myself into completing the run, with some serious clutch hitting from the iPod in my mind. This all took 3 hours and 56 minutes, more or less (specifically, 11 seconds less, but I do not consider this to be statistically significant).

The long runs have been an interesting experience. I can run pretty fast for a guy as big as I am; in May, I ran 2.2 miles in 15:45, finishing fifth in a race held at work. (One reason why I will very reluctantly leave my job, if I ever do: Once a year, they pay me, and everyone else who's so inclined, to run.) For my big-boned self, that's pretty badass—a little over 7-minute miles. On what used to be my long runs, which were 13-14 miles, I was getting 10-minute miles. On these new, longer long runs, I'm doing 11:30 miles, give or take. Plus I have injured myself, which I can assure you I did not do a whole lot earlier (at least the chronic kind). There appears to be a marginal efficiency curve with a very steep slope involved in toting my 210-pound mass hither and yon on the trails near where I live.

26.2 miles at 11:30 a mile is about a five-hour marathon. There exist tables that attempt to predict, based on how fast you can do a short run, what your marathon finishing time will be. Adding an 8:30 mile to my 2.2-mile time to make a 5K, I got a result from one of these tables of 4 hours and 5 minutes—right on the heels of the best time of the current Republican vice-presidential nominee. ("Heels," get it? And I would have watched that all the way in, you betcha.) When I began training, I had hoped I could hit a 4:30 or 4:20. Even if you posit that I'll be running harder for the marathon (which I will) and that I won't take quite as many walk breaks during the race (which I won't), it looks like that ain't happening.

So I will fall back on what is both the stated goal for most marathon newbies and what seems to me to be a giant "everyone gets a trophy" copout: To finish! To cross the finish line at…some point! Woo-[expletive]-hoo. But you can't expect anything the data don't support.

Of course, it could be worse: I could be staring at a three-week taper with a heel that was bothering the living daylights out of me and no indication that it would get better for the race. I could have been bonking at 18 miles rather than at 22. And it's true that just finishing a marathon is an feat in itself.  Certainly I felt a deep sense of accomplishment at running a mere 20 miles today, and I'll run 6.2 more miles on October 26. I'll take that.

 

Thursday, October 2, 2008: The Latest Stop on My Supervisory Journey

Editor's note: Andrew was Acting Chief of his staff for four days recently. Let's see if he's ready for this awesome responsibility using actual dialogue from Friday, September 26. We join Andrew and a co-worker as they discuss how to incorporate feedback from the Office of Management and Budget on a very politically sensitive issue in a high-profile docket.

Co-worker: Andrew, where do you think I should put the mention of [politically sensitive issue] in the economic analysis?

Andrew [Barry White voice]: In the back.

Fortunately, Andrew settled down eventually and was then able to give constructive advice to his co-worker, but still.

 

Saturday, September 27, 2008: Competition

Today I ran ten miles when I was supposed to run twelve, through the gray morning with its miserable oppressive humidity and heat. I quit because my heel started to hurt.

I am not certain how to balance training, which requires that I continue going out and running most days, with healing my evident plantar fasciitis, which requires rest, along with extra stretching and other such things that are compatible with continued training. I have shaved miles from my normal runs. Last week I substituted a workout on the exercise bike when I normally would have gone out running. I am doing all the stretching the world can ask for. But the dilemma remains, and it's a diabolical one:

  • In order to build up strength for the marathon, I need to put in them miles.
  • In order to put in them miles, my heel needs to stop hurting. When my left heel (the key troublemaker) begins hurting when I run, it alters my gait, leading to addtional hurting by every other part of my lower body, starting with my right knee and right hip and kind of circling around.
  • In order to get my heel to stop hurting, ultimately, I need to quit putting in them miles.

Certainly I am not the first human being to encounter this dilemma, and yet it speaks to why I have avoided races in general up to this point. I run for the following reasons:

1a. To have fun

1b. To regulate my mood

2. To get fit

3. To enjoy scenery in a way that would otherwise be difficult to access

You'll notice that in none of those is anything about testing my limits as a goal unto itself. I find it to be part of the fun to see how quickly I can do an interval or rip off 12 miles or things like that. If that wasn't fun, and didn't help to regulate my mood, I'd probably do something else. Because it's fun, the act of getting out of bed to run has never been a struggle for me.

As my friends can attest, I've looked forward to all the long runs I've had during the marathon program — with the exception of the last one, when I was worried about my heel pain screwing it up. And it did! Without the heel pain, I would have been able to do 24 easily last week, I am one hundred percent convinced; instead, I ground to a halt two miles from the goal, my feet and knees hurting in a way they normally don't even when I'm trying to push my mileage higher.

(BTW, what caused the heel pain was probably a combination of increasing mileage, sometimes lackluster warmups on my part, and a pair of old shoes that needed to be replaced. All of these conditions have been corrected, even the increasing mileage, since I am dropping workouts in my recovery attempt.)

The obvious thing is to simply rest and treat the freaking injury for the next few days, in the knowledge that treating it is likely to be the only way to ensure that I can actually run in the marathon, and the act of writing this may finally have convinced me to do so. But I can't help but think that if I was still running for fun, the choice would be incredibly easy and obvious, and the tension and regimentation of having to actually Run a Race is the sole factor complicating my thought process.

Right now, I don't think I'll probably ever run a marathon again after the one coming up. (I might change my mind.) But I will still do 20-mile runs occasionally; running for four-plus hours stokes in me a furnace of coruscating, transforming emotions unlike anything I have encountered in my life before. It's deep and trippy, and I wouldn't have tried it were it not for the marathon. So I guess the training has served a purpose. I just hope I can take a few days off and still do my last scheduled 20-miler next Saturday.

 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008: Two 22s

I took the day off Friday before the wedding referred to in the last post, with the intention of running 24 miles. I was somewhat dubious about my ability to run half that, since I had been experiencing somewhat severe heel pain earlier in the week, but with a program of careful stretching and a good warmup I hoped I could go the distance.

The cool, crisp air, and the incredible quiet of the Montgomery County Rock Creek Park trail on a weekday morning, helped me settle into a rhythm early, as I played Isaac Hayes' "Hung Up on My Baby" (from the "Tough Guys" soundtrack, later memorably sampled for Geto Boys' "My Mind's Playin' Tricks on Me") for about an hour, putting down the miles calm and steady. The trail had been cleared of debris for the Marathon in the Parks on September 13, and on the trail that runs under Connecticut Avenue heavy machinery had obviously been brought in to do the job. I said a silent thanks to whoever removed the shoe-sucking mud, and smiled broadly when I saw that the giant puddle that had soaked my shoes two weeks earlier had vanished into thin air.

But the problem with these long runs is that they keep going. I felt good up through mile 12, getting up to the turnaround off Aspen Hill Road near the Frost School, the special-ed school where I spent a year and a half learning how to be in the world just enough to go back to regular high school. Waves of nostalgia propelled me back. And then with around seven miles to go, my heel hurt a bit, but more pointedly, so did the rest of my feet. I took it another five miles, and ultimately bonked really hard just before East-West Highway, I think because it was a plausible escape route and I hadn't brought enough food to eat. (The first thing I did when I staggered back to my apartment was eat the first food I could shovel into my mouth. I had to promise myself before going into the shower that the first thing I would do upon exiting the shower would be to eat as much food as I could find.)

What a weird adventure it was, to see absolutely no one on the trail for 20-minute stretches at a time on a day as well-suited to running as any we'll experience in D.C.; wondering if my heel pain was going to flare up and then wondering if my general foot soreness was going to subside; watching as the sun shone brightly through the trees and illuminated the leaves, then yielded to a cloud that created almost a tender grayness in the forests and on the paths. And keeping going, until I stopped.

There's one more long run in the program. I chose the program I'm on because I wanted to make sure to run 26 miles before the actual marathon. But everyone I know who has actually run a marathon says doing so is unnecessary, and now I have noticed that it is a little harder to run when no one is providing you with food and water. Plus the encouragement of the crowd should help in the event. So I might just do another 22 and call myself ready to taper. We'll see.

Four hours, 11 minutes, 54 seconds, by the way.

 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008: U-S-A! U-S-A!

I have a number of things about which I should write, but I wanted to note briefly that my mind has been swimming lately in Antonin Dvorák's "American" String Quartet, the twelfth, in F. Little particles of melody burble up from my unconsciousness throughout the day, often taking the direct route to my tongue and lips, which collude in making me whistle them. Everywhere I go, the music pushes its way to the forefront of my mind.

It began this weekend as I was walking to the hotel at which the wedding of two of my dearest friends was about to take place; the afternoon was sunny and cool and thoroughly pleasant, and the quartet's opening bars began flowing forth in whistle as I contemplated what I was sure would be the manifold delights of participating in the blessed event to come (i.e., the reception would have a DJ who would let me sing the karaoke version of "Brick House") and the simple uncomplicated joy of two people I really like celebrating their love for each other. So much did I want to marinate in the quartet that I played my recording of it in my room as I donned the tux in which I would participate in the events to come, and while Antonin receded when actual music in the world was played during the wedding and reception, he was back with a vengeance the next day. And he hasn't left since.

Lately, when I am anxious, frazzled or otherwise emotionally imperiled, I turn to the music of Dvorák and the earlier Austro-Hungarian Empire master, Franz Joseph Haydn. Their music isn't simple, but a sense of joy and contentment in their music comes across clear as a bell. It centers me and leaves me feeling cleansed and somehow feeling better equipped to see the world as it is.

I'm just writing this because I'm happy about it. (Next thing to do — buy this CD!)

 

Saturday, September 13, 2008: More Bounce to the Ounce

Estimable esquire Andy just pointed out that, in addition to its meat-and potatoes factorableness, the number "30" is kinda sexy — "all curvy and round." You may be better able to appreciate this if I render the numeral this way:

30

I had never thought before about how much the numeral "3" looks like a shapely derriere, or the "0" a mouth with lips barely parted. But now that I have thought about it, I can't stop thinking about it. You've got my number, 30. Ohhh baby.

 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008: Muddy, Watery

The Maryland suburbs got four inches of rain on Saturday (NoVa got more), so I did not try to do the 22-mile long run slated for last weekend on that day. It was good that I didn't, because every local park flooded. By Sunday, blue skies and a brisk breeze prevailed, but the water was still on the ground, sometimes mixed with all the dirt it had dragged from other places. And I had to run through it, because where wasn't dirty? I'm not going to run on the side of some smog-choked suburban roads. And the deer I saw as I descended into Rock Creek Park seemed to be an indication that I had chosen wisely.

When I arrived back at the corner of 16th and North Portal, 22.2 miles and 4 hours 25 minutes later, socks soaked, shoes encased in a layer of mud only somewhat responsive to my frequent attempts to knock it off during the run, I realized that my choice to go out and do it wasn't wise as such. It was something I had chosen, and that was what I was supposed to do: choose to do it.

Over 4 hours 25 minutes, you have plenty of time for mood shifts. I felt claustrophobic running on the road in the portion of Rock Creek Park that had been closed to cars due to the flooding, the asphalt still covered with a skein of mud and navigated by bicyclists as well as us runners; uncertain navigating the shoe-sucking layers of mud that had taken over some parts of the trail; and flummoxed at the gigantic puddle just south of Knowles Avenue that I eventually just waded through.

After that, though, the trail substantially cleared up and I got a nice hour-and-a-half high, running up near to where I went to high school for a year and a half, reflecting on what I would have said if someone had told me that I would one day be able to run up there. To get there, I went through quiet woods in which my solitude was only disrupted by an awesome-seeming party pulsing with salsa music and exuberant with young people's yells and screams and older folks' laughter. (In tribute, I slowed my stride to be on beat with the salsa for a bit.)

Going back, the trails repopulated, with the usual complement of hot young women refusing to return my cheery "Good morning"s and the usual complement of older but still hot women more than happy to be addressed (I don't know why this happens). We also had one woman who laughed at me for wading through the big puddle again, when she was able to pick out a secluded passage that ran about 20 feet wide of the puddle through woods. Hey, baby, show me the path, don't mock me!

Towards the end, I began reflecting on the fact that I would turn 30 the next day, playing the birthday song Michael Jackson wrote for Lisa Simpson with modified, Andrew-centric lyrics as well as the intro stanza of "In Da Club," emphasizing that it was awesome that I was doing 22 miles and that I should have a happy birthday. And I did too get through that last mud gauntlet before the D.C. line and put my water-logged, muddy feet one in front of the other, back to start. How else could I get to be 30?

(Other music I played in my head: Rare Essence's version of "Iko Iko," Jay-Z's "Roc Boys" and "I Know," Wale's freestyles over the beats of those Jay-Z songs, DJ Kool's "Ride Out," and the undisputed masterpiece of all songs I play in my head while I run, Stinky Dink's "One Track Mind.")

 

Monday, September 8, 2008: For Three-Tenths of a Century—A Tradition of Quality and Excellence, Plus General Silliness

A few quick thoughts on turning 30:

  • I ran 22 miles yesterday (more about which tomorrow), so I do not feel "old."
  • 29 was not as happy a year as I had hoped, but I did a lot of hard stuff (like quitting the Post) and a lot of good work. I think I am in good position to enjoy 30.
  • The idea that one should use ages ending in 5 or 0 as benchmarks is nonsense. If we didn't have these useless ring fingers, we'd be in a base-8 rather than a base-10 system, and people would be known to freak out when their age approached 32 (as expressed in the base-10 system; I don't know how to notate things in base-8. I am not yet that much of a nerd). Plus, if you are as relentlessly self-critical as I am, every moment of downtime you have is a time for assessing your failures and successes — it doesn't have to be just once a year!
  • 30 is kind of a cool number because it's sandwiched between two primes, but it has solid go-to factors such as 5 and 6. While I think of the primes as exotic concoctions that bewilder and dazzle, 30 is like a steak-and-mashed potatoes dinner at a local diner. And those can be really good.
  • As ever, I am thankful to whoever reads the Spam-O-Matic. Whether you're a friend, an Internet buddy, or someone just passing through who actually hates my guts, it's nice to know that there are eyeballs on these words I type. Any true existential dilemmas I have as a writer are short-lived thanks to you.

Wednesday, September 4, 2008: Belated, Half-Assed Political Coverage

Blender ran an article a bit ago in which the two current candidates for the presidency of the United States detailed their top iPod selections. John McCain's selections included two ABBA songs and that Neil Diamond song about a 13-year-old, but were otherwise unremarkable. Barack Obama, however, chose the Fugees' "Ready or Not" as his most favoritest. When I read this, my eyeballs just about popped out of my head. Let us examine the reasons why this selection is both significant and awesome:

  • It's hip-hop. One interesting subtext of this election for hip-hop fans is whether America is ready to elect a president who makes Jay-Z references in campaign speeches (hope so hope-so hopeso, says me). Lauryn Hill drops a pretty vicious n-word at one point during this song, and Wyclef has one of his typically elliptical tales of larceny and tragic hood death. And yet we're prepared to elect this guy! I feel like we might get away with something awesome that no one would let us do if anyone had any idea we were doing it.
  • The sample. This song is basically illegal, having jacked a sample from Enya's "Boadicea" after the courts had made it clear that sample-jacking was now outlawed. (They settled out of court.) Does this augur a presidency with a more open attitude towards the artistic reuse of intellectual property? We can only hope.
  • The chorus, which is Lauryn re-singing the chorus of the Delfonics' "Ready or Not, Here I Come (Can't Hide From Love)." Rendered not in the Delfonics' feathery falsettos but Hill's imposing alto, though, it takes on an air of determination, almost swagger. And here's what she's saying:
    Ready or not, here I come, you can't hide
    I'm gonna find you, and take it slowly
    Ready or not, here I come, you can't hide
    I'm gonna find you, and make you want me

    Screw a hidden meaning, it's right there! And the fact that I Wanna Barack With You chose the Fugee version rather than the original not only supports point #2 but also indicates that he's comfortable with updating the old styles, bringing the music of the past into the argot of today (Note: Today here equals 1996). An cncouraging sign.
  • Lauryn's verse, one of her best on the album and (I'm sure) what Obama listens to in order to get himself pumped up before debates or press conferences or whatever else presidential candidates do all day. (Does it have anything to do with kissing babies anymore? 'Cause that's gross.) Observe, for example, the first line:
    I play my enemies like a game of chess
    Perhaps this is aspirational at this point, but still. And the closing couplet is devastating:
    So while you imitating Al Capone
    I be Nina Simone, and defecating on your microphone
    Easy to imagine Barack rolling that line over in his head during the upcoming McCain tête-a-têtes.
  • Pras' closing couplet:
    I, refugee from Guantanamo Bay
    Dance around the border like I'm Cassius Clay

    This also sounds like a policy position in verse. Obviously Obama plans to close Guantanamo and secure our borders. Or perhaps just let Pras dance around them.

Obama has yet, however, to take a principled stand on the issue of Fugee reunification, and specifically he has not called upon Lauryn Hill to fulfill her duty to the American people to be an awesome MC and quit living in obscurity, making odd remarks about the Pope and raising her children. America needs the For Unification of Groups of Entertaining Emcees Act of 2009. Still, the selection of "Ready or Not" is a powerful symbolic statement that Lauryn needs to get back on the mic with her less-talented colleagues. ("Take It Easy" doesn't count.)

Plus, Obama has "Touch the Sky" on his list. I don't know what's wrong with half of the voting public, but I desperately want to have a beer with this guy.

 

Saturday, August 23, 2008: Fiasco

Time and distance: 20 miles, 3 hours 45 minutes

Whereat: Montgomery County Rock Creek Park trail, two neighborhood connectors

Weather: Another astonishing day for D.C. in August: cool and occasionally breezy

Wildlife: One cardinal, plus a deer when I was walking back

Music I listened to in my head: The first-movement exposition from Schubert's Fifth Symphony on repeat for a mile, Sly and the Family Stone's "You Can Make it if You Try" with both the chorus and the instrumental breakdown on periodic repeat, Charlie Parker's "A Night in Tunisia" (again with sectional repeats), Schubert's Ninth Symphony, the first few songs from Chuck Brown's Your Game: Live at the 9:30 Club, more of "You Can Make it if You Try," Stinky Dink's "One Track Mind," Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick's "La Di Da Di," Doug E. Fresh's "Ain't No Half-Steppin." Schubert's Ninth is an hour long, which normally feels like a long time, but it was a relatively small percentage of this run. Interesting perspective on time when you're running for close to four hours.

Why this post is titled "Fiasco": The first eight miles of Monkey County's Rock Creek Park trail from the D.C. line to Dewey Park are pretty user-friendly. Past there, a welter of paved neighborhood connectors grows from the trail and the trail itself narrows, making it increasingly difficult to tell which is the trail and which is the connector. In addition, while there are quarter-mile lines spray-painted between the mile markers for the first eight miles, there are no spray-painted lines at least between mile 8 and mile 9. These two things I discovered today.

The latter of these got me nervous after I passed the mile-8 marker, looking for the mile-9 so I could turn around and go home and not finding any indication of how I was progressing towards it. Nervousness, in a run, should be dealt with by keeping it out of one's body, by containing it in the mind and letting the natural flow of endorphins dissipate it. Instead, I let it get to my feet, with the result that I ran mile 10 of the run (from the mile-8 marker to the mile-9 marker; I have to run a mile to the beginning of the trail) much, much harder than I should have.

I remained agitated as I passed Randolph Road (although I allowed myself a suitable few seconds to say "How the hell did I get up here?") and ran through a little park, still looking for the mile-9 marker, and my impatience and the complete lack of signage meant that I ran down a neighborhood connector, looking for the most legitimate-looking trail but incorrectly identifying it. When I found the correct trail, the mile-9 marker was about 20 feet from where I had stopped, looking around sans comprehension.

Coming back, there was another weird nest of neighborhood connectors, which I hadn't seen before because the trail looked straight coming up. Again, I chose wrong and ran the wrong way. (I saw some bicyclists on the connector and asked, "Is this the real trail?" One of them answered "Yes." Five hundred feet later, they'd all turned around to go back and look for the real trail. I decided not to yell at the bicyclist for lying to me in stating that she knew where she was.) These two lostnesses wasted probably about four-tenths of a mile. (I made it up by skipping some mileage at the end of the run; I don't get bonus training points for running more than 20 miles.) Plus, the fact that I had gotten lost made me even more agitated, so I continued to run harder than I should have.

I should have been in much better shape than I was after the run, and I wasn't because I did not master my emotions. The mind lives in the body, and the body takes direction from the mind; they need to support each other. My mind let my body down today, and both have been paying the price, in terms of my one-and-a-half-hour convalescence after the run and my general out-of-it-ness since.

Still, 20 miles! A new Andrew record! And I can't say I'm unhappy with the time, exactly.

 

Friday, August 22, 2008: Where I'm At, #2

As I made my way from work to the Metro on Tuesday, the sun was hidden behind a big slab of cloud that looked as if it had been torn halfway up from the bottom. The cloud itself thus gleamed, and visible rays of light streamed from around and inside it.

I looked it and thought how lovely it was, this incomprehensibly vast gray thing above me being garlanded with golden streamers from an even more incomprehensibly vast thing 93 million miles away. Then I thought of how I used to think that being able to see visible sun rays was an omen of better times ahead, and given that I had had a stressful day and was to have a stressful week, this should cheer me up.

I'd like to see things like that and simply celebrate their beauty, not ponder their implications for my personal future.

 

Monday, August 18, 2008: Ten in the Park

The run: Friday, August 15, beginning at 6:05 am

Why that was: Going out of town for the weekend, wanted to get on a 12 noon flight. In the end, I had probably an extra half-hour built in there, but whatever.

Time and distance: 1 hour 51 minutes, 10.5 miles.

Whereat: D.C.'s Rock Creek Park, down to Pierce Mill and back.

Weather: As cool as it was going to get that day, fairly humid.

Wildlife: Two deer just before Military Road on the Valley Trail, a chipmunk on the Valley Trail coming back.

Music I listened to in my head: Nothing particularly ennobling, but you do what you have to in order to get through the run. There was about two miles' worth of the theme from World 1-1 of the original Super Mario Bros. (and what would be better to keep a spring in one's step?), and a bunch of "Lovin' You Tonight" by the Notorious B.I.G. featuring R. Kelly. "Baby Got Back" was in there. But a very fragmented day, music-wise.

Anything else: Had intended to push myself a bit more pace-wise than I ended up doing, although I did scale five fairly impressive hills (or rather, two hills twice and one hill once). A surprising number of people were out on the Western Ridge Trail at that hour — I say surprising because it's about a twenty-minute run between places at which you can exit the park, so some folks were serious — although all the women were in pairs, for safety-first reasons, doubtless.

Sometimes I get worried about being out there alone, especially after the knee debacle last summer, but mostly I am too high from running to care. This is probably basically a bad situation, although I have skated by thus far.

This is the last time I'm going out of town until three weeks before the marathon, so I should be able to train how the hell I feel like training from now on. Good for me!

 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008: It's the Remix to Emission

The state of Maryland has a Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program that is designed to ensure that the Free State's skies remain free of smog. Today I went to get my car's biannual emissions test.

In order to get accurate test results, the instructions accompanying the VEIP notice recommend that you drive your car "at highway speeds for at least 20 minutes before the test to warm it up." Before today, the last time I drove the lil' Chevy at highway speeds for 20 minutes was in early April. The closest testing station is about a 15-minute drive from my apartment, meaning that I ended up making a big loop on local highways to get my 20 minutes in. In total, I clocked 35 minutes of driving to the emissions testing station. Then I had a 20-minute drive to work and a 30-minute drive home. None of this driving would have occurred were it not for the need to have my emissions tested.

Because the lil' Chevy is a 1995 model, they actually put the car on a treadmill and hook up a hose to the tailpipe to measure the emissions. Where do the emissions go after the tailpipe catches them for measurement? This is not included in the "Everything You Need To Know Before, During & After Your Emissions Test" booklet.

Maryland provides a waiver from emissions testing for cars that are driven less than 5000 miles a year, but only if the owner of the car is over 70 years old or disabled. I drive my car about 2500 miles a year; I am unaware of any features I have enabled, as a young, able-bodied person, to make it emit greater amounts of pollutants. The test specifically counts three types of emissions: hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and oxides of nitrogen. The closest I came to not passing was on the oxides of nitrogen, where my car expelled 0.4714 grams per mile, against a limit of 2.1 grams per mile. I paid $14 to learn this.

In conclusion, I'm pretty sure that the emissions my car spewed in the course of taking the emissions test harmed society more than the increased certainty associated with testing my car on the biannual basis. Sometimes I get sick of living in Maryland.

(We also apparently have laws outlawing animal massage. What's stupider: Being an animal massage practitioner, or having laws on the books prohibiting people from practicing animal massage?)

 

Sunday, August 10, 2008: A New Path

I've decided to begin discussing minute details of my running on this blog, for the following reasons:

  • I spend an inordinate amount of time running
  • Every time I talk about it with my friends, I suspect I am being boring

But unlike when I'm with friends, excessively long and personal tales of repeated footfalls on the Interent can be easily ignored by the reader. (Yes, I know the groups of people who are my friends and who read this blog overlap somewhat.)

I'm training for the Marine Corps Marathon (October 26, and I definitely didn't have to look that up). I chose an old Jeff Galloway training program mainly because it didn't call for very long runs during the week and it did call for very long runs on the weekend. In this program, you actually run 26 miles as a training run, four weeks before the marathon. In the run-up (ha), you do two more miles every two weeks, with a rest week (half the distance of the current long run) in between.

The long run, to me, is the main reason to run — you see a whole lot of landscape in a whole new way, a pleasant amount of exertion giving a new cast to the scenery. This assumes that the scenery is worth seeing, and fortunately for me, Silver Spring probably has more and lovelier running trails than anyplace else in the Washington metro area. Both D.C.'s and Maryland's portions of Rock Creek Park brush against downtown, the Capital Crescent Trail's eastern trailhead lies just a confusing and unpleasant mile run through suburban neighborhoods away (Finish the Trail!), and Sligo Creek Park sits a mile in the other direction (nearer my parents' house). I used to do most of my running in Sligo, but as my long-run horizons expanded, I gravitated towards the much longer Rock Creek Park trails. I anticipate doing most of the rest of my marathon training there.

I've occasionally thought of giving a summary of my long runs on the blog, which we'll start doing with today's excursion. If it's fun (for me), I'll keep doing it. I also plan to write a bunch of pointless ruminations on how various aspects of the running experience "feel" to me in an attempt to stop these thoughts from relentlessly buzzing around in my fevered brain.

Time and distance: 3 hours, 20 minutes; 18.3 miles.

Whereat: Montgomery County's Rock Creek Park, up to Newel (sp?) Park and back. (That's 8 miles on the mileage posts; I have to run a mile and change to get to the beginning of the MoCo RCP trail.)

Weather: Cool, not humid, sunny. Brilliant summer sun without the wilting effect that has so often in these past couple months kept me from turning in anything close to 10-minute miles on the long run, which I came significantly closer to actually doing.

Wildlife: I saw a deer in the little park section between North Portal and South Portal Drives, just as I was beginning my run. That was a good omen borne out by the actual run. (Good wildlife omens will be discussed later.)

Music I listened to in my head: Among snatches 'n' fragments, the first half of Kanye's "Graduation," Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony, the various remixes of DJ Kool's "Let Me Clear My Throat," a bunch of Tribe's "The Low End Theory." (The phenomenon of listening to music in my head also will be discussed further.)

Anything else: Went out very easy, trying not to burn up all my energy getting to the turnaround. It worked; I basically flew through miles 10 through 15 or so, with the last three being their usual pain in the ass. The penultimate mile of Montgomery County's Rock Creek Park section as you are returning to Silver Spring is particularly unpleasant due to numerous exposed, unshady areas and an excessive number of curves around two athletic fields and a horse stable, all of which places always seem to be filled with people who have not been running for three hours and who thus look to be having more fun than you at this particular moment. I rationalize it by saying that I'm just preparing for what I'm told are the killer last five miles of the marathon.

More cute women than there sometimes are in the Montgomery County RCP section. (The D.C. RCP and the Takoma Park end of Sligo are normally the best places to espy lovely running ladies. A catalogue of the various demographics of the trails will also follow.)

From all those to-comes, you can see I have been genuinely devoting too much thought to this.

 

Saturday, August 9, 2008: And So I'll Have to Serve You Like Hal Incandenza

If you're as big a David Foster Wallace fan as I am, and you probably aren't, you'll fall off your seat laughing at the DFW motivational posters over at the Howling Fantods. My faves are the pot of boiling water and the microwave. If you do think these jokes are funny, please, e-mail me and we can make some more jokes like them together. (Life is about having fun, right? Like making jokes based on a contemporary novelist's oeuvre, that's fun.)

 

Thursday, July 24, 2008: "Home of the Terrapins/Beware of the Gilchrist"

Today I had an article published about my favorite rapper, Wale Folarin. Here are some of the extra-musical reasons I like Wale:

  • Both of us went to high school in mid-Montgomery County and felt somewhat out of place the whole time
  • Wale graduated from Rockville's Mark Twain, a Level 5 (non-residential) special-ed school for bad-behaving kids; I spent a year and a half at the Frost School, which had the same designation
  • We both represent MD, and yet still feel that we also represent DC in a metaphorical sense

Not that any of that would make a difference if he wasn't such an amazing rapper. The best way to hear some of his songs for free is of course to check his MySpace and to download the mixtapes ("100 Miles and Running" here; "The Mixtape About Nothing" here). But in the course of trying to find the perfect few words to quote in this article, I transcribed a bunch of stuff, which I am now pasting here so that the effort feels more worthwhile. Enjoy.

 

"DC Gorillaz":

I plead with 'em/The system ain't right

Like the first Nintendo, the blinking red light

So my thought process is over the cartridge

When I'm blown I can work proper/Yup

 

"The Freestyle (Roc Boys)" (additional quotes):

First day of school, teacher couldn't say my name

Now I got the whole nation screaming "Wale!"

 

And I thank my connect

Not to link to it, I'm thinking the Internet

MySpace, Facebook, don't forget MapQuest

The MacBook pro every time I chat

I mack like pro — they forgot I rap

While you just wrap em up like clothes on my rack

To a girl I mack, straight G I'm that

And ain't never gonna leave, like the troops in Iraq[!]

...

Y'all dudes rap like you readin' the Source

Wale rap like he read at the source

I'm the reason atheists can scream for the Lord

The second blessing, no second-guessing

You niggas in the closet like priests at confession

Words touch youth like priests, I'm confessin'

Niggas out their league like Priest when I'm rushin'

Chiefin' on something, Larry I'm stunnin'

Then receive and run it like I'm reverse runnin'

 

"Big Spender":

My name is Wale Folarin—Freeway and Mr. Carter

You are no longer Giants, you are so Tiki Barber

...

Not in my repertoire, negative is my statement

Last trip to the bank, negatives in my statement

Overdraft, like drafting a quarterback in the first round

When last season your third-stringer was Michael Vickin'

Senaca Wallace, my wallet is on E

Like young teens at raves that pacify the teeth

Pacify and breathe, I pray for a better hand

The first millionaire to need a franchise in Maryland

 

"Back in the Go-Go":

Wale! Still high two-stepping it

Do it for the capital, Wale Ovechkin

SB hundreds, yes, dear, I'm on that venison

More or less Lindros, flyer than the rest of them

 

"Chicago Falcon":

I get Sein-filled with these rhyme skills

I'm Larry David, gimme my paper

It's a Cosmo like Jerry Sein neighbor

My Co-stanzas stand like Phantoms

And Maybachs, you won't get Elaine if you came wack

 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008: Where I'm At

I'd like to be less interested in being interesting.

 

Thursday, July 17, 2008: S-N-Double-O-P D-O-Double-G

Here's an article in Express about Snoop Dogg. Originally, we though I was going to get to interview him, but his people declined, which then set up the opportunity for me to just write about him for 400 words. I went through the following stages on this article:

  • Liked it
  • Didn't like it
  • The stage where I was trying to fit in some form of the phrase "Snoop's 2000 porno 'Doggystyle,' which attracted more than hardcore fans of the genre" (spent way too much time in this stage)
  • Sort of liked it (when I turned it in)
  • Hated it (after)
  • Like it again (now)

This is the hazard of have a deadline the week before the publication: It's long enough to lose confidence in what you've written and not long enough to forget it entirely.

 

Saturday, June 28, 2008: Public Service Announcement

This blog post goes out to the person who yelled at me for, while walking on a sidewalk, crossing a driveway into which he wished to turn this morning. I feel he may need this blog entry because after I informed him that I had the right of way, he whined, "No you don't!" Really, though, it addresses a topic on which many people seem to be ignorant: Who has the right of way in such a situation.

Let us examine the Maryland rules of the road on the subject, as enshrined in the Maryland state code. Within Title 21, Subtitle 6, § 21-604, paragraph (b) states:

A person may not turn a vehicle to enter a private road or driveway or otherwise turn a vehicle from a direct course or move it right or left on a roadway or from a shoulder or bikeway onto a roadway, unless the movement can be made with reasonable safety.

Now, it's a pretty clear presumption that "reasonable safety" includes "not hitting people." But just in case this is unclear, the Maryland State Highway Administration has helpfully provided its own plain-English interpretation of the law, from which the following extract is drawn:

Be considerate of all pedestrians and cyclists; yield to pedestrians crossing streets and driveways.

Having established the actual controlling legal authority that gives me the right of way when I stroll down a sidewalk and must cross a driveway, let us examine the circumstances pertaining to the actual incident. I had not disregarded the prohibition, under Subtitle 5, § 21-502, paragraph (b), that I may not "suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the drive to yield." Rather, I was at the far end of the driveway and had thus been clearly visible as I walked for about ten feet, with no parallel-parked cars next to me. It is worth noting also that there was absolutely no oncoming traffic, meaning that the driver was not attempting to duck in before a long line of cars came, a situation for which I have sympathy. No, this guy just couldn't stand to wait five seconds for me to clear the driveway, pointed his crappy Toyota at my knees, and when I kept walking, decided to yell at me.

So this is perhaps not a person whose behavior will be changed by the law. In case there was any ambiguity on the subject, though, I hereby post this information.

 

Thursday, June 5, 2008: I Hear a Symphony

Here's a little Express featurette on the National Orchestral Institute. I really like the NOI concerts and plan to go to at least one this year. They're everything I say they are!

Best quote from James Ross that I couldn't quite fit into the article:

In a professional situation, where you're paid for it, people actually have a harder time figuring out how to do that on a daily basis. It starts to be like, 'Oh, that's the status quo, I forget about that, I don't invest in that emotionally.' And then I build my life around the orchestra, whose primary job becomes to pay me and let me to exist as a musician so I can go and do other things. Well, what happened to music being the center, the goal of your life? That's the problem.

Best quote from violinist and NOI alumna Emily Barkakati, who didn't get into the article at all even though I interviewed her and everything:

One of the concerts, I was in the second violins, and it was probably the most excited group of second violins I've ever been in. It was very proud to be in that section. A lot of times you go to places and people are very unhappy to be there — they feel like they're inferior...I was upset at first [at being in the second violins] because I wanted the chance to prove myself. But once we were there, it was like, whatever, it doesn't even matter.

Enthusiastic, talented people learning to harness their talents and continue to be enthusiastic. Sounds good to me!

 

Thursday, May 15, 2008: Back in Print

Here's a little feature thingie on the Bach Sinfonia's awesome-looking upcoming concert. It features a modern premiere (Biber's "Stabat Mater") and an oratorio with my favorite early-music soprano, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, on whom I have an artistic crush.

The article used to be longer. Today as I walked from work to the Metro, I wondered: Is it more honest to think you're expressing your real inner voice for a publication that you know reserves the right to hack your stuff up if necessary — and I would never ever deny that they have every right to do so, and that there are circumstances in which it's wholly necessary — or to work for the government, where what you write isn't perceived to be "yours" in any way except that you actually typed it into the computer, but no one can ever do anything to it unless you agree? I guess it depends on what you mean by "honest."

Then when I got home, I discovered that "Dr. Gridlock" (aka Bob Thomson, the Post's traffic reporter) printed my letter about the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road in beautiful downtown Silver Spring. Let this be said: I did not use a hyphen in the phrase "single most dangerous intersection." It ain't my fault! Maybe whoever copy-edited that took the buyout and was distracted.

 

Tuesday, May 13, 2008: Inaccurate Racial Profiling

Stuff White People Like (which could more accurately be called "Stuff Liberal, Urban, Unbearably Precious White People Like") has made its first major misfire. They have listed a handful of questionable Casucasoid love objects (architecture? Living by the water?), but they have always at least had a glimmer of truth. Now, however, they have listed "Grammar" as thing no. 99 on the honkyphilia countdown, and to quote James Brown, "That ain't right!"

Liberal, urban, unbearably precious white people think they like grammar and then crap all over its many rules just like everyone else. (You'll notice the hamfisted use of commas throughout the blog...) And this points to a larger truth about liberal, urban, unbearably precious white people: They like rules right up to the point where the rules pose any sort of inconvenience to them, at which point they rail against them with all the detatched ironic hipster ferocity they can muster. This is because liberal, urban, unbearably precious white people are all for societal change as long as it does not imperil their own relatively elite societal position. SWPL occasionally hints at an understanding of this truth (see: #62: Knowing What's Best For Poor People), but then retreats into the consumer-choice paradigm of identity pretty quickly (#63: Expensive Sandwiches).

Some folks have taken SWPL to task for not emphasizing this more, but I have never minded their limited-focus cracker crackin', because it has been extremely amusing. With the Grammar entry, though, we are once again reminded that even the gentlest satire requires the ring of truth at its core. It seems the blog's author has forgotten that most basic of authorial maxims: Write what you know. That, or the author thinks he actually knows grammar, which, based on this randomly selected passage:

If you are in the position where you need to take a white person to lunch for business or pleasure, saying “I know a great sandwich shop,” will always bring out a smile.

is really sad.

 

Tuesday, May 6, 2008: Tidbit

I was reading Desson Thomson's summer movie preview in the Post a bit ago, and it made me think of this little extract from my summer movie preview back in 2001, when writing was fun and I wasn't as good as it as I am now. But this foreshadowing of "Planet of the Apes" is one of my favorite things I ever wrote:

A planet where "Planet of the Apes" evolved from "Planet of the Apes"? Yup. This one's not a remake, not a sequel, but an "inspired by" in the hands of Tim Burton. "Marky" Mark Wahlberg leads a small resistance band of humans against the evil ruling force of apes on some unknown planet. The screenplay was written by William Broyles Jr., who did "Cast Away," and Lawrence Konner, who did "Mighty Joe Young," so they can collectively boast an unmatched expertise in marooned humans and gigantic intelligent apes.

Obviously, the first sentence, and then there's something that just tickles me to no end about the "collectively boast an unmatched expertise" thing.

I don't like to write as much as I used to. Something about the pressure to flense all my baggy, dilatory sentences to fit in newspapers that (unlike the Diamondback, my home at U-Md) wouldn't just make room for them somehow. My prose is cleaner and more precise and probably more vivid for it. But I rarely if ever have that feeling I used to have all the time, where I would sit down at the keyboard and let it rip and feel a visceral excitement in making the argument, capturing the experience, tossing out the idea. I miss it a lot.

The Web is supposed to provide room for such shenanigans, and occasionally I have taken advantage of its capaciousness. But unlike when I was in college, I now spend my days doing work that's actually challenging, and I have less energy when I come home to lay down the verbiage. For some reason, unlike when I was in school, a bunch of people seem to want to hang out with me, which further decreases the hours and power I can bring to bear on writing for fun. And, trying to keep the needle on the scale from moving up on the dial (not to mention trying to keep a smile on my face), I spend a lot more time exercising than I used to. And I need more sleep than I used to.

I don't see a solution other than winning the lottery and thus not having to go to work. If you have any ideas, e-mail me.

 

Monday, April 21, 2008: Not Proud to Fly On American

Last weekend I was eagerly looking forward to flying on an American Airlines MD-80 aircraft from National Airport to O'Hare for a weekend in the Windy City. How disappointed I was. But I did eventually get out, 11 hours later than I was originally scheduled to depart, and landed only 12 and a half hours late. Here's a few paragraphs I wrote while waiting in Terminal C for my flight to depart. I have no idea why I wrote them in past tense. I think I might have thought that eventually I would write some more.

Circling idly among the various food purveyors, I overheard coming from "Jet Rock," the bar, a snatch of Chicago's "I've Been Searching (So Long)," which made me smile from its coincidental appropriateness. I viewed some more menus, trying to get a sense of what might be a likely candidate for a meal were I to be stuck in the airport for an even longer term tan that to which I had already willingly condemned myself [by arriving at National at 7 pm for a flight that would ultimately not take off until 9:30]. I drifted by Jet Rock again, and the song had progressed to full power-ballad mode: "GOOD THINGS…IN LIFE…TAKE A LONG TII-IIIME!" This was so funny I had to sit down to fully contemplate it.

I took a seat at a window facing east over the runways, with a view of the Potomac. Many-windowed tour boats streamed steadily, yet with no hurry, up the river. Beyond, the Capitol, that stately pleasure dome for the fat and slothful. Cars making their way home down 295 made a constellation of headlights that slowly dissolved and reformed as traffic rambled round the bend. Those little stupid toothpick-with-wings regional jets operated by American Eagle got in and out of the damn gates fine. I speculated on when the FAA would ground them for unperformed inspections, my thoughts running slow like a maple syrup tap (if hardly as sweet).

I was screwed, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it, except wait for the situation to unscrew itself somewhat. So I waited. I can be good at waiting if it is my only option.

Then I had one of those Auntie Anne's pretzels and listed to my new iPod a lot. Then the flight was really late. But it was an excellent weekend, in the end.

 

Sunday, April 20, 2008: How Europe Regulates

Due to new occupational noise regulations, European musicians now can't play Mahler without special safety equipment! This is what happens in Europe, where a bunch of experts get together and promulgate regulations with very little public involvement. Then the Europeans complain about the amount of time it takes to promulgate regulations in the United States. You can do this right or fast, but not both. (Of course, taking a long time is no guarantee of an optimal regulatory decision!)

I personally will not mind if this results in less Mahler in concert halls, but I realize this is a minority view.

 

Thursday, April 9, 2008: Me in the Post (Sort Of)

Here's an article in the Food section that, at the end, mentions a rule I wrote. The paragraph there misses a lot of amazing subtleties that went into the rule — just like reviews of classical music concerts! Anyway, this is the second rule I've written that was mentioned in the Post, and both involved irradiation. They just can't get enough of the modern phytosanitary treatments, I guess.

 

Sunday, March 23, 2008: Telemann in Silver Springg

Last night the Bach Sinfonia played a bunch of Telemann, and when I got home, I decided that writing up my impressions of the concert was way more important than watching the NCAA tournament, so here's my review. You'll notice it's about three times longer than a typical Post review and also makes jokes. This is how I write for fun.

 

Saturday, March 22, 2008: This Week in Baseball History at Work

A.k.a. "Andrew's enjoying his scanner." Here's me with Babe Ruth when the Sultan of Swat visited our office last December. I expect the fact that he's been dead for a number of years explains his pallor, but he was really polite about his desire to eat my brains.

 

 

Also, did you know that "Vinegar Bend" Mizell became Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Governmental and Public Affairs after his illustrious pitching career? (Hey, he won one more World Series than A-Rod has.)

 

Friday, March 21, 2008: Doodlerama

Yesterday I was giving training at work, or rather I was helping to give training, which meant that there were some times when people were standing up at the front of a room and discussing stuff I already knew (engagingly, but still). As my attention drifted but my desire to appear professional remained unflagging, I came to the obvious conclusion: It's doodle time! First I did this one (sorry for the cutoff — I can't get it to scan properly):

 

 

I took some unaccountable joy in this setup, which meant I immediately had to duplicate it:

 

 

Because I don't see why cyclops pyramids shouldn't be able to find love, if stars can. (Although you'll notice the ominous crack at the left edge of the happy star romance's heart. Perhaps those stars are going to cross after all.) I need to find more time at work to doodle, so I can bring other happy things together in multiple-exclamation-point romance.

 

Monday, March 3, 2008: I've Quit Posting

Here's the last review I'm going to write for the Washington Post. (Perhaps appropriately, my cutline is on the next page, after the second review.) I realize this fine piece of journalism dates from two weeks ago — I had originally thought I was going to have something in the paper last week, but I didn't, and then I wanted to get the Peter Pertis thing up, and then I was preparing for a party and had no time. The concert itself was both high-quality and fun, which makes it a fitting way to go out — I basically enjoyed most of the concerts I covered for the Post.

Two reasons drove the decision to quit.  The first was that I wasn't enjoying the reviewing process as much as I had — the challenge of getting everything worth saying about a concert into that little hole, scrounging your internal thesaurus for better words and untying the knots in problematic sentences as the deadline approaches, remembering to check the spelling of people's names and confirm whatever factual statements you make to avoid embarrassment and confusion.

And don't forget the rather basic challenge of making sure I knew what I was attending when, which brings me to the other reason for quitting: I want to do other stuff with my free time. While the people I worked with at the various venues and concert series around town ranged from helpful and pleasant to really helpful and pleasant, it still took a good while to get everything straight with them, as it did to get everything straight with the Post with regard to assignments and necessary edits. This labor was necessary to do the job, and I want to explore doing other things with the time it took.

I'll still write about classical music occasionally, because I love it and I love writing. I'll let my words expand over the infinite space that the Internet provides, giving me room for as many digressions, hedges, cavils and superlatives as I damn well feel like. And I'll write things that don't have anything to do with classical music, which is something I haven't done in a long time. And I'll rest, and enjoy that too.

We'll see what else there is out there.

 

Tuesday, February 26, 2008: The Big Comeback

Here's an interview/review of Peter Pertis' concert at Strathmore on Sunday. Maybe it's a holdover from In the Shadows of History, but I always enjoy a good Escaping the Iron Curtain yarn, and Pertis has one of those. He also took ten years off from playing publicly before his return to the stage on Sunday.

The Post's Patrick Rucker had a different view on the concert than I did, so you may find it edifying to read that also.

 

Monday, February 10, 2008: When the East is In the House

Here's a review of Japanese pianist Aki Takahashi, whose concert was not only really good but also made me get out of the house so I could hear the conversations described directly below. So everybody wins!

 

Thursday, February 7, 2008: Other People's Talking

Wednesday I heard two interesting conversations. The first was conducted by a young man and three (good-looking) young women who were walking north on 22nd St. NW between I St. and Pennsylvania — in other words, the heart of GW country:

Female 1: What's on your forehead?

Female 2: Oh, Ash Wednesday!

Male: Yeah, I went to church today — it felt really good.

Female 2: Where'd you go?

Male: Just this place downtown.

Female 2: Are you giving up anything for Lent?

Male: No—

Female 2: How 'bout alcohol?

Male: No. No!

Females 1/2/3: [laughter]

The second took place on the Metro going from Gallery Place all the way until I got off at Silver Spring (and it was still going as I disembarked), between a man and woman, both white, well-appointed yet casually dressed, and 50-something. The man hailed from North Dakota; the woman tolerated his frequent mentions of this fact. The funny thing for me (even as I tried to soothe a splitting headache and write a review of the concert I'd heard earlier) was that the man (at least) was deeply interested in the USDA, damning our regulations and praising any administrator who attempted to counter what he generally characterized as the career employees' muddle-headed decision-making.

For the reasons earlier delineated in the parentheses, I didn't transcribe anything while I was riding, but here's one paraphrase from the man:

Everyone at USDA has this story where they were wandering the halls and then someone took them aside and showed them to their office. Which is nice, but it doesn't have anything to do with farms. And if they can't find their own offices —?

I always think it's funny how much crap farmers talk about the USDA when the main thing farmers ask the USDA for is more money with fewer restrictions. Some county wisdom about the hand that feeds you should be applying, except we're profesionally obligated to be nice to all our regulated parties, which everyone knows. Also, if you can find your way around the South Building the first time you go in there, you should be exploring deep space or charting the ocean floor or something that really capitalizes on your evident talents.

 

Saturday, January 26, 2008: Homer Simpson on My Feet Makes My Cipher Complete

I am so much more awesome than I used to be, because I own these slippers. Thanks to Becca and Vince!

Probably I should link to the last review I wrote for the paper, which covered the "Let Freedom Ring" concert. Except it's not online, apparently. So I'll just post it here:

         It is inevitable that, at a concert held to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, people will give speeches to emphasize and elaborate on the tribute the music provides. But devoting over a third of Monday's one-and-a-half hour "Let Freedom Ring Celebration" to such speeches seemed excessive, especially when the only memorable remarks came from Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), upon her receipt of the Coach John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award. Co-hosts Georgetown University and the Kennedy Center had brought a bunch of fine performers to a full Concert Hall, plus some folks watching a simulcast on the Millennium Stage — why not let 'em make music?

         The hip-hop violin duo Nuttin' but Stringz, with an unenviable spot on the program between two long stretches of talking, nevertheless got the crowd amped with exhortations to celebrate the day and hard-driving, sometimes acrobatic fiddling. Denyce Graves, D.C.'s own star mezzo-soprano, gave operatic inflections and well-judged shape to a few choice gospel songs and spirituals. Even with a microphone, she sometimes had trouble projecting over the orchestra, but her emotional directness ultimately shone through, especially in "Give Me Jesus."

         Rev. Nolan William Jr. led the "Let Freedom Ring" Celebration Choir in a bracing reading of "Done Made My Vow to the Lord." Later, he told the audience to join hands (the compliance rate was high) before leading them and the choir in an overwhelming, fervent "We Shall Overcome," with a solo verse from Graves. Another local, Dennis Sawyers, made the first verse of the finale, "Battle Hymn of the Republic," into an electrifying gospel solo, after which all the performers joined in the hymn with an exuberance and strength befitting the occasion.

 

And heeeeeere's the marginalia:

  • I have no idea why the copy editors added that "(D)" after Norton's name. Seems unnecessary given the context. But I suppose style manuals are there so one can unswervingly follow their dictates. 
  • I will forever wonder what was signified by the expression on NSO associate concertmaster (and "Let Freedom Ring Orchestra" concertmaster) Elizabeth Adkins' face when Nuttin' but Stringz was playing. I'm guessing 50 percent bemusement and 50 percent amusement, but I'm willing to be wrong here.
  • The "compliance rate" thing was a coded shout-out to my peeps in the regulatin' game. 'Cause people been regulatin' a long time, and people'll be regulatin' when we're all gone from this cold planet. One love.
  • It was, in fact, nice to hold hands with my neighbor as we sang "We Shall Overcome," in the way anonymous kindnesses are nice.

Monday, January 21, 2008: The Sweetest Thing

Here's a review of Sweet Honey in the Rock's annual children's concert. Lacking a child of my own, I brought my mom and allowed myself to assume my natural mental age. This worked remarkably well, or at least I thought so. The only problem was sitting next to a real kid who couldn't decide whether he wanted to be in the aisle watching the group or retreat to his parents' arms. Actually, that wasn't the problem; the problem was that sometimes he would make up his mind while leaning on my leg, wondering whether to fully reenter the pew or stay in the aisle. That was genuinely annoying. But he was a young'un, so I forgave him immediately.

If you have a child or childen of your own and you are Christian, you need to pick up Sweet Honey in the Rock's new CD. The first track is pretty awful, but the rest is good-to-great and shines with the kind of positivity that today's kids need to deal with their socially rapacious peers on the Internets. Or so I hear.

 

Friday, January 18, 2008: Because Rhmying on the Mic is the Number-One Trade

Informed today that the Lindemann the MC page is actually receiving public attention, I have undertaken to spruce it up and add some more content. You'll now see a whole other produced song, the MP3 version of the Biggie parody, and a heartfelt plea regarding the Benazir Bhutto song. Ch-ch-check it out.

 

Sunday, January 5, 2008: Prime Causes

This afternoon I decided to take advantage of the unseasonable warmth by walking over to Beautiful Downtown Silver Spring to purchase some things at steep discounts. First up was Borders, where I had a 30-percent-off coupon that I was just itching to use on Junot Diaz's newish novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." I hit the "Literature" shelves first but found under Diaz's name only "Drown," his much earlier collection of short stories, which I devoured at age 20 and then tried to send in a birthday package to a young woman on whom I had a crush and who was studying in Paris for the semester. The package never actually made it to her, and for some months afterward I thought of it as being lost at the bottom of the sea somewhere, although my incompetence at filling out the international shipping forms was probably what prevented it from entering Gaul.

Back in Borders in America, I investigated further and found that they had a copy of the novel on the "New Fiction" shelf at the front of the store. I shaved $8 off "Oscar Wao"'s price with the coupon, a good use of it since I would have ended up buying the novel anyway. After failing to find the running socks I wanted at Pacers, and feeling in a bookish mood and still enjoying the strange balminess, I sat down on one of the benches on Ellsworth Drive (the heart of Silver Spring's redeveloped area) to read.

One of the books I've been reading lately is "The Best American Essays 2007," and paging through it I came upon an essay called "Fathead's Hard Times," by W.S. Di Piero. It begins with a wonderful sentence: "When I'm standing at the opera — at ten dollars a ticket, it's the best cheap show in San Francisco — I look along the balustrade and think on the kinds and degrees of backache people will tolerate in exchange for a certain order of beauty." So I kept reading, and Mr. Di Piero took me on a journey of meeting pain through music. The essay's transitions came off so effortlessly that they must have given him inordinate trouble in the writing, and its subjects gradually grew darker and darker until he closed by extolling whistling in the face of death. (Since I'm a big whistler, this earned him major bonus points with me.) But throughout the tone was as gentle and wry as his ideas were piercing, and the evocations of music always hit the mark — at one point he remembers feeling "as if I was listening to [Bartok's] Concerto for Orchestra with my stomach."

While I was reading, a curious thing happened: I felt myself breathing musically, in rhythm, in and out on a steady 2/2. My breathing, implacable and unhurried, served as accompaniment for Di Piero's words as they semi-sounded in my head; at times, my attention would lift to snatches of conversation that emerged from the fog of chatter around me on Ellsworth. I felt palpably present in the moment, undistracted by what had come before or would come after, as I read (and vaguely dreaded the eventual end of) Di Piero's essay.

But of course it did end, and I wanted to go to Safeway to get four boxes of Nature Valley Granola Oats & Honey cereal for $6 ($5 with coupon). So I rose and walked to the end of the block, then up Fenton Street. As I approached the golf store, a large (not fat, large) black man with close-cropped hair and a cool leather jacket came out with a shopping bag. He glanced at me, grinned, and exclaimed, "My man! Why you look so sad?"

Not realizing at first that he was addressing me, I had kept walking. But right then, for a split second, I thought about turning around and telling him that the blank, distant look on my face didn't mean that I was sad at all, that I was beautifully present and full of contemplation and deeply satisfied with everything around me. Then, before I could even make a decision on whether to turn around, he finished his thought: "Cause you ain't get no pussy?"

I went on and bought the cereal. (Five bucks — can't beat it!)

 

 

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