Category Archives: Worth noting

Tom McNeal nails the feeling of football fandom (sports in general, maybe): it matters

Especially if you’re in a small town that already has an inferiority complex:

Along the fence line, near the pep club concession stand, the men from Goodnight had been mesmerized by Tausen’s pass. They knew what it meant. They could already sense the unfair diminishment in self-respect that was on its way. In their farmers’ bones, in their shopkeeper’s bones, they had expected it. It was what living on small farms and in a small town taught them to expect. They would lose. They would walk away, muttering or maybe working up a joke, beginning to pretend it didn’t matter. But it did. Not in any way they could adequately define or defend, but still, it did. It mattered.

– Tom McNeal (Goodnight, Nebraska)

Gangster Paul Jaworski (among his other accomplishments: the first ever armored car robbery, in 1927) was a hard man. Though raised Catholic, when offered a chaplain before his execution, he said:

“I preached atheism since the day I quit singing the choir. A man is yellow if he spends his life believing in nothing and then comes crawling to the church because he is afraid his death is near.”

Week 2 of social media hiatus

Report from Week 2 of the social media hiatus (for those dwindling few who care – SM’s sorta like karma that way, you gotta give to get back): I am no longer processing my thought in terms of status updates, which I think is good. Writing progress has not necessarily picked up, though. There were definitely times when broiling in a stew of tweets and status updates got me going on writing, and I was doing all of them at once. And I miss knowing what’s going on with lots and lots of you. Pretty much everyone I haven’t either unfollowed or hidden from my FB feed, you rock.

However, I do feel that I am reclaiming some sovereignty over over my own brainspace. That’s the thing about SM. It’s so passive. You log on and 5 minutes later you’re all outraged, or jealous, or saddened, or euphoric, or whatever. Point is, you cede control over your own state of mind and hand it over to randomness. You could argue that the whole internet works that way (or even that life works that way), but the effect sure is heightened on SM.

I am instituting a new rule, though: whenever I want to click away from work to browsing SM, I have to stand up (like I am doing now). I think that will help limit it.

I got on Facebook back in fall 2008. At the time I saw it as the end of an era and I think I was right. To quote myself:

Got on Facebook a week ago. Been pondering and palpitating upon people whose names haven’t pattered across my brainpan in years. Very exciting to reconnect, as it were, and in some cases outright wonderful. In one week my sample size of folks Living An American Life has increased something like 1500%. Considering that I’m soon to be Living An American Life myself, this is great fodder for the possibilities.

But I confess to a sense of loss. One of the pleasures of expatriate life has been its great remoteness. To hear only vague rumors of life back home. To know as little or much as I wanted, when I wanted, via a few mouseclicks or in prehistoric times, a newspaper. To be free of Mother Culture incessantly twanging my synapses. I’ve come to relish my isolation, where I could focus exclusively on the contents of my own mind or, more recently, the workings of my own family.

When I first lived in Japan I lacked car, phone, internet, and a single English-speaking neighbor. I was ecstatic at the immense freedom of such solitude. Ranks as one of the finest periods of my life. Seems like I’ve been trying to recapture it ever since. For a while I wasn’t sure I would ever stop trying.Living back home for a year didn’t do it. I hid out in a college town with a supply of books and cheap vodka before retreating across the pond. Getting married didn’t do it. There were 600 guests at my wedding but 587 of them were villagers, the other 13 blood relations or very close friends. Working for a multinational corporation didn’t do it. I turned down a promotion and quit. But having a kid sure did.

The scioness deserves her chance to join the world. Being a recluse father hiding out in a village hermitage hunched over manuscripts isn’t the best I can do. So. We’re going home. (My home. Not the wife’s.)

This week on Facebook only confirms what I first tacitly admitted with this blog and going home will complete: I’m a part of the world again, if you will. No longer padding my own cocoon. It’s good to be back. But I expect to be looking over my shoulder for a long while yet.

I feel like I got my mind back

Among other things, after a week with no Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit, I’m having really vivid dreams. I read books for hours straight (well, as many straight hours as is possible with a 2 and a 6-year old in the house.) I got a lot of writing done, and I experienced virtually no jealousy or outrage. In short, I sort of feel like I got my mind back. I highly recommend it.

Obey, obey, obey

While I take Karl Taro Greenfeld’s point about all that homework, lost in all the details is the primary assumption that he shares with his daughter’s teacher, and (presumably) his daughter: the justification for the very homework treadmill upon which is daughter is running, breathless, itself. Why do all that homework? Because she’s in an elite middle school, that’s what elite middle schools do. Why send your daughter to an elite middle school? So she can get into an elite high school. But why do that? So she can get into an elite college, duh. Why? So she can get an elite job and live in New York City and stick her own kids on the homework treadmill so they can …. etc. Within the scope of this article, Mr. Greenfield seems unable to conceptualize of any other mode of existence.

I know this isn’t true of Mr. Greenfield himself, since he wrote, among other books, SPEED TRIBES, a book about various Tokyo lowlifes. Indeed, as he says, he himself was busy getting high in 8th grade, not doing 3 hrs of nightly homework. He turned out alright. I guess I’m just wondering, why not move out to Wyoming and take his daughter camping on the weekends and deer hunting on the weeknights and go to state college instead, where she can drink beer in the stands on football Saturdays and come home to run the local Natural Resources District? Or some other – any other – less conformist path? Because based on this article, it would seem what the system he is describing really teaches is Obey, Obey Obey – if you want the Golden Carrot of Eliteness. Otherwise you’re going to be stuck down with the hoi-polloi eating pork & beans, bowling, and going to NASCAR. Is the “elite” path so elite that we are not to question it at all? LINK:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/my-daughters-homework-is-killing-me/309514/

OLD COWBOY SONG

“Lord, please help me, lend me Thine ear,
The prayer of a troubled cowman to hear.
No doubt my prayer to you may seem strange,
But I want you to bless my cattle range.
As you O Lord my fine herds behold,
They represent a sack of pure gold.
I think that at least five cents on the pound
Would be a good price for beef the year round.”

courtmerrigan

August 1, 2013

Last night, unable to sleep, I started thinking of all the teachers I’ve ever had, starting with kindergarten. This was oddly hypnotic, and I was out by 7th grade.