Thursday, November 29, 2007

Instructions for the Technically Cautious V

The Amazon Wish List

Have you discovered this yet? It's like shopping without shopping. Once you have an Amazon account, then whenever you are looking at something and think, "Hey, I'd like to remember how much I like this," or "Maybe I'll buy this when I have money someday," you can just click the "Add to Wish List" button on the right side of the page and *poof* it shows up on your Wish List. You can even create different lists for different desires, like one for DVDs and another for books, or one for kids books and another for your romance novels, you saucy thing you.

But it gets better! You can share your list with other people in a most charming way. Go to your Wish List by clicking the Wish List in the "Your Lists" menu on the top right. Once there, you can add, delete, rate, and comment on any of your selections. Also, if you look down the left margin, you'll see a button that says "Tell people about this list." Click it, and it gives you the option of emailing it, adding a button to your web page, or adding a widget to your web page. If you choose the button option, Amazon will generate the necessary html code to place in your web page code to display something like this:

My Wish List

It's as easy as that! Now your friends know what you want for Christmas, and Amazon will be happy to provide the goods.

I'd like to also congratulate my sister Jen on creating a family google group for sharing our Christmas lists. I'm so proud (a note, though: if you want to put this button on a google group page, you need to first click the "Edit HTML" button at the bottom right of the page when working on it. The paste the code from Amazon wherever you want it to appear).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Three Degrees of Glory

My entire life has been shaped—subconsciously, until this moment—by this:


(don't quite get it? look here or here)

I'm Back

And, BABY, you better believe me.

I just wanted to let you know that I'm back to the blog. Sorry for the dry spell but I was enjoying my hometown and the time off it provides. New posts coming soon on such subjects as:

  • my blanket
  • Black Friday
  • Donnie Osmond
  • and instant breakfasting messaging.

Friday, November 16, 2007

All Coming Together

Tonight I hung out with my married friends (Joe's wife, Melissa's husband, Emily's man, and Joey's old bag), and we all watched Oceans 13. Or is it Thirteen? Ocean's? Hang on, quick check: It's Ocean's Thirteen.

I really quite like this poster.

Anyway, this story really starts last night after Dave and I watched The Office, and then because nothing was on we resorted to re-viewing one of our taped infomercials featuring agéd soft rockers (I repeat: I am so glad we taped that). Well, then Dave ran off to Massachusetts and I was left alone with some books, so I did what anyone would have done—I turned the TV back on. The guide (the Guide?) said that Ocean's Eleven1 had thirty more minutes in it so I flipped to TNT or TBS or T-whatever in the hopes that I would catch my favorite scene. You know what scene this is; it's right near the end when they've pulled the job and they watch the dancing fountain and contemplate what a great job they did as the sweet strains of Debussy's "Clair de Lune" plays (an orchestral arrangement—it was written for piano). Since this is my favorite of all possible songs, this is my favorite scene from the movie. And I caught it just in time.

Okay, flash-forward. No wait, flash back even farther (further?). When I was in high school my brother and I ran a pretty successful racket getting lots of cheap CDs from those BMG and Columbia House mail-order things.2 Once we had satiated our desire for pop and rock standards we turned to other genres, and one of the albums I picked up for next to nothing was called Extraterrestrial Classics, reportedly featuring classical music from popular sci-fi films. Purchasing unknown CDs because they have an intriguing name isn't always considered good business, but I was willing to take a chance on a possibly kitschy compilation. It turned out to have some decent stuff—a couple of Star Wars tracks, Captain Picard's favorite Mozart tunes, that sweet theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a beautiful rendition of Erik Satie's Gymnopédie no. 1 (an orchestral arrangement—it was originally written for piano, but Debussy of all people arranged it for orchestra to help out his struggling friend). The Satie piece was nearly enough to validate me, but the jewel of the CD, the one song that made the purchase completely valid beyond question, was a version of Debussy's "Clair de Lune" performed on synthesizer by Isao Tomita, from the film The Right Stuff. It was awesome. I mean, the song itself was incredible, and the use of strange sounds and effects (particularly the tremolo) was just magic.

Okay, now flash-forward. So we're watching Ocean's Thirteen, and right in the middle of the movie we hear a familiar sound—it's "Clair de Lune," making a reprise (re-prize or repreeze?) from the first film (second film, technically?). But it isn't the same version used in the first film; it's the Isao Tomita version that first made me love the song, the one from the odd and obscure compilation CD I pretty much pilfered from BMG.3 Seeing that this is a movie whose sole purpose is to keep the audience out of the loop, I felt pretty dang good being in the know on this one.

Plus: "Clair de Lune" was used in Wes Anderson's recent film The Darjeeling Limited, and it was the only thing I knew in a film full of artifacts, songs, and places no one could possibly know. Gymnopédie no. 1 was used in his film The Royal Tenenbaums. Isao Tomita composed the score for the film The Twilight Samurai, which both Joey and I unsuccessfully tried to get our classes to watch for our final-day pizza party and movie classes. Joey's class opted for Apollo 13 (Thirteen?), and mine unanimously chose Gladiator (Hans Zimmer composed the music for Gladiator and also for The Last Samurai, which, unfortunately, is not the same thing as The Twilight Samurai).

And for those in the know, Eddie Izzard was in Ocean's Thirteen; Julia Roberts was not.

So what's the bottom line? Uh, something about the endless interconnectivity of information and human experience, etc. etc. Oh, and you should give a listen to:

     "Clair de Lune," arranged and performed by Isao Tomita
     "Clair de Lune," the orchestral arrangement from Ocean's Eleven
     "Clair de Lune," the original piano arrangement
     Gymnopédie no. 1 (ignore the number—it's the right one)
     "From My First Moment," an adaptation of Satie by Charlotte Church

1Quick check: yes, it's Ocean's Eleven. The original, however—the one starring Sinatra, Martin, Davis Jr., and Lawford—is Ocean's 11. And although they were Matchbox 20 for their first album, since then they have been Matchbox Twenty. And though my computer swears otherwise, it's "Counting Crows", not "The Counting Crows."
2No we didn't make up fake relatives. We just referred each other to each in turn and cleaned up.
3Or were they still pilfering from me? Who wins in those scams? It's like going to Mexico and bargaining some dude down from $10 for a butterfly knife to $5 for the knife and a couple packs of Chicklets—Chiclets?—los Chiclatos. You think you cheated him and got the deal cuz, hey, you got an illegal knife for five bucks, and he thinks he cheated you cause the knife only cost him two. Looks like everyone wins (except the Mexican economy).


Despite the feelings my brother and I have and often express about the crumminess of many comics,1 I gotta admit that I love Archie.

But let me be clear: Archie is not a good comic. It's lame. It often relies on puns—bad, reused puns. It reinforces gender stereotypes. It reinforces all sorts of other stereotypes. But here's the deal: Betty and Veronica are total babes. Archie is idiotic. Jughead is almost serenely idiotic. I can't really explain it beyond that; I just start reading one of those double digests and I can't stop. And today I discovered that you can read hundreds of Archies online.

1Drew, I invite you to write up your feelings on BYU's comics and I will post them here for the world.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Two New Books

The only thing I know that can make the joy of starting a new book greater is having to wait to do it. Every semester I acquire a long list of books I wish I were reading but don't have time to. Instead I read books I should read and make frequent trips to the bookstore or to Amazon to fawn over the titles I promise myself I will get to as soon as school is out. The excitement builds; the tension mounts, and then, lo and behold, school ends and I rejoice.

Today I went to Follett's book store on Court Street and purchased The Best American Essays 2007, edited by David Foster Wallace this year, and Siddartha, by Hermann Hesse. For each I have chosen a new bookmark: for Best
I have selected a Supercuts 9th-haircut-free card that is two cuts shy of redemption,1 and for Hesse I have chosen to use a Bajio Grill buy-ten-meals-get-one-free card that is completely filled out. The holidays2 are upon us, my friends.

1This is the second such card I had after living in Provo for 4 years. I kept going because I liked showing up on weekdays at around 10 or 11 and never having to wait. Almost always it was the same girl working then, and we would have the same conversation, month after month. She had great hair, masses of half-curly locks that fell across her shoulders, trendily divided into a layer of dirty blond on top and one of deep brown underneath. While she had her hands in my hair, I thought about how fulfilling it would feel to have a handful of hers (am I a hair guy after all?). But that's not why I went. Sometimes instead of this woman it would be a sassy blond girl with a slight lisp who I imagine was from Alaska because she reminded me of a girl I knew from Alaska. Not only were her haircuts not that great, but she once said something (flirtatious? cutesy?) to me and simultaneously touched one finger to my nose as if I were a teddy bear or Miss Muffet's tuffet or something, and I could do nothing but flinch a bit as my arms were trapped beneath that cape thingy. I was mildly terrified of her from then on, and honestly I don't know why I kept going because it was always a pretty good chance I would get the one and not the other and you can't just walk into a shop or even just press your face against the glass, look at whose doing the cutting, and leave. Once you're there, you're committed to getting it cut. Another thing: no matter which one was cutting my hair, I couldn't but sit there and think about asking her out. Was it the false sense of intimacy, something about the success or failure of small talk, or something else?
    I did win a contest there once by putting my name into a drawing to win an Easter basket full of hair care products—I think it was that first girl who called me up to tell me I won. It was the summer of Paul Mitchell for me, and ever since then I haven't been able to settle for Suave. I'm a Fructis man now.

2Because Ohio University is on the quarter system, school is now out for seven weeks. Seven. Full. Weeks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Time of My Life

Tonight David and I watched some television together. We started with an episode of Who's the Boss, starring the lovable Tony Danza. We tried to remember what the deal was between Tony and his employer, Angela, but we couldn't remember whether all the playful flirting and loaded banter ever came to anything (Wikipedia confirms they did hook up in the 6th season and apparently got married after the last episode1).

Then we watched that dude who does the sketch about Hot Pockets.

And then, just when we thought there would be nothing else worth watching, TimeLife came to our rescue by devoting an entire half-hour to selling us on their Soft Rock anthology. It was an infomercial hosted by none other than Air Supply! We watched clip after clip of hits like Hall and Oates's "Sara Smile," Gary Wright's "Dreamweaver," and Toto's "Rosanna." David had to grab his laptop to look up other songs that these songs were reminding him of, and I of course was singing along with every song.

If they were trying to create nostalgia, they were absolutely successful.2

If they were trying to get us to open our wallets to buy that nostalgia, they were sorely mistaken. David had the brains to hit record on our DVR, so now we can relive the soft rock hits of the 70s, 80s, and early 90s anytime we want—not for 5 easy payments of $29.95, but for free. Yesss!3

Steve Perry of Journey dressed as Robocop.

As if that wasn't enough, the infomercial was followed by another one, this time for Ulitmate Rock Ballads, starring Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon.

1After the last episode? Does that even count? Do worlds of fiction exist beyond their last episode? Have we wandered into the Neverending Story?4
2But, as David pointed out, is it nostalgia if it isn't for anything you were really around for? Or does that make it camp?
3They kept assuring us that you "could never assemble this collection on your own" and that "these songs are getting harder and harder to find." Have they never heard of the internet? Is this not the very thing for which it was invented, so that hopeless nerds and obsessive weirdos could document and tribute every last thing that ever occured? I submit Evidence A, and rest my case.
4And that said, what's the deal with J. K. Rowling backdating Dumbledore? Isn't there some kind of ex post ficto law against that kind of thing?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Tonight at Walmart Joey and I saw donuts, glazed donuts, glazed-and-then-iced donuts, glazed-iced-and-then-sprinkled donuts, and glazed-iced-covered-in-nuts-and-then-swirled-with-more-icing donuts. And they weren't even marked as anything special: apparently, to Walmart, this is not only okay but it is preferable. Seven-layer donuts must be what America is craving.

That reminds me, have you played Digby's Donuts?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Overdue Evidence

I just got these in from the friend who took them. I submit them to the jury as evidence that a.) I did indeed go camping and 2.) I did indeed need a haircut.

I rest my case.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Me, enjoying a free meal on Iowa. Those people in the background are probably famous.

Notre Dame campus and the infamous "Touchdown Jesus." Oh—and Joey.

My idea of church. Click for added glory.

This is me, trying to keep my cool as we make for the Ohio border. We were smuggling several pounds of contraband candy corn... you can imagine our worry at this sight.

We were completely boxed in! (Joey managed to swallow most of the goods before the man got to us.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Does it bug anyone else that the spell checker on Word fails to recognize words like "blog," "iPod," and "google"? Does anyone else see the irony in a dictionary that, unlike the OED or the Merriam-Webster, exists not as paper but as electricity, a dictionary that is not only connected to the internet but is maintained by the most powerful computing company in world, one that practically invented the internet, one that vaunts its power to reach you instantaneously, in your home, at your desk, one that claims the privilege of connecting you to the outside world via that same Information Superhighway, one that glibly releases updates to its software on a weekly basis but has somehow failed to update the vocabulary of its dictionary?

I like the way the spines all face forward. Nice touch.

The OED has the word "blog" in it, as both a noun and a verb. It also has "blogger" and "blogging". And you should check out the definition of "google" (little g) if you have access.

Interestingly, the Word dictionary recognizes the name "Wozniak." Go figure.

In other news, I did a perfect google search today, meaning I searched and got exactly one result. My search terms? "voynavich school athens." It comes up with a strange site indeed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Only in Dreams

Well, my imagination must've been broken.

I ordered a Crispy Melt Pizza from Domino's this evening, with pepperoni and hamburger wedged in between the two crispy layers of thin crust. It showed up about 8:30, just as I was stomping the Princess on original MarioKart (I hate that Princess!). Dave and I quickly opened it up, wondering if real life might taste as good as dreams, and honestly, the first bite was good. Intriguing. New.

But then I finished the Mushroom Cup (in first, with 42 coins to Princess's 34—HA!) and went upstairs with the pizza to doodle about on the internet. As I ate the second and third slices it became clear to me that this is not a great pizza. It may be a great idea, and there may be great bites here and there, but overall this idea demands the loving attention of someone who is being paid more than seven bucks an hour to make fifty pizzas in the same span of time.

So much for having dreams.

Collective Unconscious (emphasis on the "unconscious")

I swear I'm not lying.

When I woke up this morning I had the image of the night's last dream stuck in my mind. It was an image of a new kind of pizza, one with two crusts and all the pizza goodness oozing between them, a sort of crispy gooey Italian tostada/quesadilla thing. Like a double-decker thin crust, one just on top of the other, so when you bite into the thing it simultaeously crunches and mushes—cheese and bread and sauce exploding in your mouth—like a tickertape parade in the snow, like a dragon-scarred knight sizzling in his armor, like an underwater volcano. Such a combination would draw upon glorious precedent: the chicken caesar salad, the ice cream in a waffle cone, the Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme1.

For a moment, that single moment when dreams are confused with memories, I was overjoyed by this new invention. Then I realized it was merely a night-wonder. I put the thought out of my mind and went about my day.

And then this evening I was watching last week's episode of The Office, recorded by the watchful computer eye of our DVR, and I saw a commercial that, honestly, freaked me out. It was an ad for Domino's Pizza's newest creation, the Crispy Melt Pizza. I kid you not: it was the exact pizza from my dream. Does this disturb anyone else? Am I picking up TV signals in my sleep? Is Domino's somehow travelling through time and stealing my dreams? All these questions have yet to be answered, but first things first—I gotta get me one of those pizzas.

(I tried to find the commercial online but it wasn't posted anywhere. I did find this, however.)

1Have you seen Taco Bell's website? Aside from playing some pretty classy music, there's a neat bell sound when you roll over the slogan and logo in the top corner.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A Multitude of Unused Ink Cartiridges

Well, since I introduced K in the blog finally, I guess I ought to introduce her blog. Special K writes a nice blog about her adventures as a grad student at Notre Dame called "A Multitude of Unused Ink Cartridges." The title is some kind of self-effacing remark on how the blog is a repository for poetry that isn't good enough to waste printer ink on, but you can be the judge of that (no, seriously—I wouldn't know good poetry if it folded itself up into a capital P and clocked me in the head1).

What can I tell you about K? I don't know that much. I know she taught English in Japan for a time. And that she is great at coming up with code names for all the people mentioned on her blog. From meeting her this weekend I know that she has a nice sense of style and a healthy nervousness about properly hosting guests that translates into a cordialness I'd like to emulate. And we seem to trade off having the longer hair.

Oh, what am I doing? The point is that she is a nice person and smart—smart enough to keep a blog interesting for sure, if you care to read. She could be part of your blog family if you like (you maybe should ask first; I did). You can find it here.

1K and Joey and I decided that it might be a good idea to carry around a big capital P for clocking people who are being too poetic—you know, those who put on that affected tone of voice to read, haltingly, while savoring the cadence of each word, as they present, their latest work, to you, the culturally, impoverished, people, of, the world. That's one small P for "pretentious," one giant P for "Put a sock in it."

Ride Earth

Ride Earth is the collective name for three British guys who have decided to ride their bikes around the world for the next few years. It has something to do with raising awareness and finding oneself—I'm not really sure of the specifics—mostly I've been paying attention because these guys are younger than me and probably no more clever. They just want to do something big and are doing it. They found some sponsers and used their web design skills to get the word out; currently they keep a blog and publish video podcasts with which you can keep track of their progress. I think they're currently in Turkey, having set out from England in the summer.

I bring this up, one, because I told you I would explain the links I placed in the sidebar, and two, because I really think you should read their recent post concerning the difficulties they've had. If nothing else it is a chilling account of how wicked identity theft can be. Check it out here.

You can get the RSS feed by clicking here (find out what RSS is by clicking here), and you can subscribe to their podcasts by searching "Ride Earth" in your iTunes store or by clicking here.


A brief apology for misspelling some names in the last post. It has been rectified.

The Road Home

Quiz: You are in Iowa City, Iowa, a city in the Central Time Zone. Tomorrow you need to be at church in South Bend, Indiana, 301 miles away, at 12:30 local time—scratch that; you need to be there by 11 for lunch with an old friend. (Note: South Bend may or may not be in the Eastern Time Zone.) Assuming the speed limit is an average of 70 miles per hour the whole way and that it will take you 25 minutes to get up, dress, pack up your friend's station wagon, and say goodbye to the generous fellows who let you inhabit their living room free of charge for three days, for what time should you set your alarm? Oh yeah, and Daylight Savings Time ends tonight at 2 am. And you generally snooze once or twice.

Somehow Joey and I figured this one out before falling asleep Saturday night, and we got on the road a little after 5 local time in order to meet our friend K at her home on Notre Dame campus. Check that: we were going to see Joey's friend. As of yet she was only my blog-friend, which I'm not sure fully qualifies, or at least this guy I met at the conference didn't seem to think so. But now, I'm happy to say, K and I are full-fledged friends, after having spent an hour eating frozen pizza, talking about Asia, and kicking Koopa butt on Mario 3, perhaps the best game ever invented.

K, thanks for a lovely afternoon.

After leaving South Bend, we headed back to Athens by way of Toledo and Findlay (thank you Tom and Elisa for making these more than mere names to me) and Columbus. I drove and surfed the local radio stations in hope of hearing some Journey—no luck, but we did hear some good ones—Joey dozed. For the last hour or so of the trip Joey read aloud from his copy of Best American Travel Writing 2001, a great piece about Icelandic culture and the effect of the global ban on whaling on their national sensibilities. We rolled into my driveway at a little after 8, another road trip successfuly concluded.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Day 3

On day 3 we were treated to a panel featuring Pat Madden and the former OU crew, and another panel featuring both Dinty Moore and Pat Madden, among others.

In the first panel Pat and friends talk about quotidiana—the commonplace, everyday things from which many essays are and should be constructed. It was a breath of fresh air, a concrete and entertaining presentation that left me with something nearly tangible (I don't mean the cool bookmarks Pat made either) where other panels and forums left me with only tentative musings. Pat's powerpoint presentation was awesome as usual, a testament to Microsoft's ability to get some things right despite the end-users' general inability to comprehend and excel.1 I also enjoyed hearing a beautiful elegy-for/rally-to-remember A. A. Milne's forgotten essay endeavors.

Dinty's panel consisted of six essayists writing imitations of Montaigne's "Of Thumbs." The way it worked was that Dinty had constructed a series of constraints each writer had to follow in constructing their homage essays, things like, "Write in the second person," and, "Use the same number of paragraphs and the same first letters of each as Montaigne did in writing your piece," and, "Write an essay on a topic that rhymes with 'thumbs' (drums, hums, chysanthemums)." Each writer had rolled two dice to see which constraints would guide their work and now presented their attempts to our applause and laughter. A good time was had by all.

I noticed today that the most-used word throughout the conference was probably "ostensible." This word means "stated or appearing to be true, but not necessarily so."

I also noticed that L was wielding a blue Papermate Write Bros. medium point pen, my favorite pen in the whole wide world.

I left early from a reading in the ballroom to sit in the hall softly dozing while pretending to read the Agatha Christie book I've toted around all week. Sometime while I was sleeping, L got up and left the reading too, ostensibly to return to her hotel and watch some TV. As this was the last day of the conference and she wouldn't be returning for dinner, it was the last we ever saw of L.

At dinner Joey and I were sitting with Brad, a student from Bowling Green we'd befriended. All of a sudden a nicelooking guy came up and asked if he could sit with us; we assented. His nametag read "Daniel Jones, New York Times." We asked him what he did, and would you believe it—he edits the "Modern Love" column featured every Sunday in the Style section of the paper. I love that column, and I told him so. He knew of Joey from his publication in 20something Essays. It was fun to chat and promise to send something to him for the column as soon as I manage to fall in love and thus have something to write about.

1Pun intended. Word.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Day 2

Things that happened on day two:

  • I chewed the end of my pen into a delicate, fluted curve.
  • I smugly recalled why I love chalkboards so much more than whiteboards as markers once again proved their inferiority to chalk.1
  • I sat in very crowded rooms in which there weren't enough chairs. All the people sitting on the floor eventually wished they were standing against the back wall, while all the people standing in back wished they had a bit of floor for themselves.
  • I heard Richard Rodriguez give a great keynote address over lunch.
  • Walking into the large ballroom for that same lunch, I noticed a marked difference between the sound of the hundred or more people talking and, say, any high school lunchroom. A school cafeteria's roar is sharp, full of peaks and sudden flares, the sound of individuals furiously claiming their individuality. It is a battle of wills and decibels; it is oppresively loud. The sound of this room was still a roar, but it was a soft one, a muted congregation of voices taking turns, taking interest, taking time. It was no adolescent standoff of one-upmanship or perish but a calmer, cooler quiet-loudness, not the waterfall or the rapids but the deeper swell of the river on the plain. That, or it might have just been the carpet eating up the reverberations a tile floor might have aplified.
  • I met a girl from BYU who had come apparently on a whim and an opportunity, a girl whom I'll codename "L." One of Pat's students, L hung out with Joey and I for most of the rest of the day. The three of us went to Subway for dinner where we had one of those vast conversations of great breadth and depth that make you remember how much you've missed having vast conversations. L was delightfully lucent and lucid in her opinions—especially once she became comfortable with us—and she showed in her eyes and smile that great confidence of a thinker.
  • Also in Subway, I recognized and reminded myself to write down how much I love getting a fountain drink and, instead of filling it up all the way with ice and soda and then capping it with a plastic lid and straw, merely filing it up a third or so with something and then sipping it straight from the cup. Love it love it.
  • Also in Subway I noticed an Iron Maiden song playing in the background and thought of Steve.
  • Sitting in the car outside of a gas station while Joey called our hosts on the pay phone, I looked over and noticed the trip odemeter had reached 611 miles.

1This reminds me of one of the great pranks: the "Magic, Unerasable Chalk" (otherwise known as a white crayon, carefully dusted and left in a chalk tray).

Friday, November 2, 2007

Day 1

Here's the rest of what happened yesterday:

Joey and I were sitting in the opening session of the conference talking to our professor Dinty W. Moore and recounting our overnight trip when Pat Madden, our old professor we'd had at BYU and from whom we'd carefully hidden our planned attendance at this conference, walked in and sat down several rows behind and on the far right side from us. As the opening speaker got rolling we kept looking back to see if he'd notice us. After a while we gave up and concentrated on not dozing too deeply during the speech (a losing battle—we seemed to trade off nodding off), but then, just at a certain lull in the oration, we both simultaneously looked around at Pat just at the moment when his eyes strayed out over the crowd. We watched his line of sight slowly converge with ours, and our faces cracked into big smiles when we saw that he saw us.

After the talk we finally got a chance to say hi and reveal that we had brought him some Wild Wing Sauce from Athens, a commodity he had sorely missed since moving away (to which he noted that there was a Wild Wings in town, so it wouldn't have mattered if we had not come nor brought the gift, but he apologized for that comment today; no offense intended, none taken). He invited us to go to lunch with him and some old friends of his, a jolly group of editors and professors and writers of all ages, so we all went walking around Iowa City to find a place to eat.

Now I could tell you about the fun conversations that we had, about awards and publishing and the secret inner politics of certain lit mags in this country, but I'd rather tell you about the hostess at the small bar/restaurant we decided on. She was tall and had shortish blondish hair—that's really where the description ends, mostly because I'm a poor hand at describing pretty girls and also because I am crummy at noticing the details. I'm not even sure she was blond. The important part is that I said thank you to her and smiled as she showed us to the hastily mashed-together tables by the window, and she smiled back. And she continued to smile at me whenever she came around with an extra menu or anything.

Was she smiling at me, or did she smile at everyone as part of the job (or her personality)? Does it change anything that she made eye contact with me? Did my quiet thank you have anything to do with it?

I don't know the answers to these questions, and I don't really care. I only record this because it is the kind of kindness that makes one's day and I told Joey that I intended to keep a record of all my psuedo-flirtations of whatever kind. This is one of them. It's an oddly gratifying experience to be smiled at, to be made eye contact with, to find evidence that at least one person in the world finds you somehow attractive. And these kindnesses need not go anywhere at all; it is enough that they exist.

The rest of the day was spent in a daze of dozing off in panel discussions and readings. Eventually I bailed out to a chair in the lobby and propped my feet up in front of three plasma screens (playing Fox News, MSNBC, and ESPN simultaneously: two with captions, one with sound) and went to sleep. Joey floated in and out of my semiconsciousness as he seemed to keep leaving to call his wife and arrive again only to tell me that he had to leave to call his wife. And then Dinty Moore showed up and told us that because of a malplanned website the conference bosses had ordered twice as much food as necessary for the optional classy dinner and he thought we should just sneak in and eat the trash-can-bound leftovers. We thought that was a great idea, but being of sensitive conscience, Joey thought it best to ask Robin Hemley in person if that was alright. So we did. And he assented readily (out of guilt for not admitting Joey to his program?). So we ate way too much and then some.

Then we left to find the home of a nice finance PhD student who had offered us his couches by way of There we slept the sleep of the dead tired.

[This is the end of day 1. Please turn the tape over for day 2.]

Thanks to Garrett

You can watch this important news report.

This one right here.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Road Trip

So last night, Halloween Night, Joey and I said goodbye to his wife and kids and to my roommates, and at 10:15 we set off on a road trip. Destination: Iowa City, Iowa, the NonfictioNow Conference.

Our first stop was to put air in the tires and get some cash. Our second stop was buy some pound-its from Burger King. While placing my order I fell into a quick rapport wth the sultry telex voice; we psuedo-flirted as I asked for a 5-piece nuggets and a couple rodeo burgers. I said, "Hey, that's it," to which she responded, "Second window, dear." Does this ever happen to anyone else?

When we pulled up to the second window we saw two possible owners of the voice—an 18ish-year-old girl dressed up as an electrical outlet and an 18ish-year-old girl dressed up as a Burger King drive-thru worker. She turned out to be the latter, and our just-because-were-a-customer-and-a-worker tone continuedas she handed out the goods. We even sweettalked her into giving us some Halloween candy (we chose Dots, of course).

From there it was pretty much a straight shot west across Ohio and Indiana and Illinois, me driving, Joey pretending to sleep. I listened to the first chapter of David Copperfield, Tusk by Fleetwood Mac, Love by the Beatles, Continuum by John Mayer, and one story from Carry On, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse. Joey took over at around 5 in the morning, somewhere outside of Peoria, and we chatted the rest of the way into town.

At some point in the night Joey was distracting me with words and I almost took an off-ramp too rapidly. Joey nearly ran down a coyote that couldn't decide whether it wanted to cross the street or not.

At 7 am (central time) we walked into the conference and became the first people to register. Then we sat around trying not to fall asleep and waiting to see our friends Dinty and Pat. All in all it has been a good trip so far, but you will of course excuse me if I do not finish listing the full events of the day at this time. It is nearly midnight, and I haven't slept for something like 40 hours (except for some dozing during the conference). More to follow; in the meantime I remain affectionately yours, and co., etc.,

S. David Grover