27 February 2006

This is getting silly....

They say that such things come in threes.... No, I don't buy that, but I just read that Dennis Weaver died Friday! I grew up watching reruns of Gunsmoke and current episodes of McCloud. Still, the role that will, for me, be his signature performance, is that of the Night Manager in Orson Welles' 1958 masterpiece Touch of Evil. Film critics often opine that his oddball portrayal is clearly the basis for Anthony Perkins portrayal of Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). In the Great Beyond, I hope that Dennis gets a better room than Janet Leigh did in either film!

Requiescat In Pace

You know, I realize that this blog has been about death for the last few days. I am usually a very happy person! It just seems that legitimate cultural icons have been dropping like flies of late! I'll be on the lookout for happier topics....

Not a sunny day...

Everything's NOT A-okay.

Bruce Hart, best known for his "Sesame Street" lyrics, died Tuesday at his Manhattan home of lung cancer. He was 68. Here's hoping that he's on his "way to where the air is sweet."

Many blame Sesame Street for the increasingly short attention spans of American youth, but I was raised on Sesame Street. I learned my ABCs on Sesame Street. I learned good lessons about sharing and stuff on Sesame Street. I. . . Um. . . What was I talking about?

26 February 2006

It's a Major Award!

Darren McGavin, a fixture of television and film since the late 1940s, also died yesterday. I know that he's mostly known for portraying Mike Hammer in the 1950s and Carl Kolchak in the original incarnation of the t.v. series The Night Stalker, but for me he will always be "The Old Man" in the film A Christmas Story. His fishnet-clad lamp makes me laugh every time that I see it.

Nipped in the bud....

I've got nothing profound to say here, but I was truly saddened to read that Don Knotts had died. Barney Fife is a true cultural icon. It's a sad day. Who can forget the one bullet in the shirt pocket? Getting arrested by Gomer Pyle ("Citizen's Arrest!")? "Nip it in the bud"? His character was an indictment of useless and stupid "by the book" bureaucracy everywhere. Goodbye, Barney. We'll miss you. Sniff....

25 February 2006

A further comment about single malts....

I noticed there was another visitor to this site from someone searching for scotch tasting notes. I do have some brief comments about ten single-malts from earlier in the month, but I want to add a few comments. If anyone is looking to me for advice about scotch, then I want to mention my favorites.

My normal scotch of choice is Laphroaig 10 Year. I bought may first bottle after seeing a billboard in the London Tube that said something along the lines of "We make one guarantee-- you will either love our product or hate it." That seemed to me to be a gutsy slogan, so I bought a bottle. It's an odd choice for one's first single-malt, since Islay malts are the strongest flavored of all the single malts-- very peaty and almost medicinal. Still, I loved it. For a celebration gift to myself last month (when I was offered the job in Wisconsin), I treated myself to a bottle of the Laphroaig 15 Year. Magic.

The other scotch that I really like is The Macallan. Because of price, I usually get the 12 year. Macallan is so smooth and silky. If Laphroaig is like a really strong Cuban maduro cigar, then Macallan is like a Macanudo. Both are wonderful, but they are very different.

The best scotch that I have ever tasted was courtesy of my best friend, The Major. The Major took me and Brigheon to dinner at Bern's. He ordered a small glass for Brigheon of The Macallan Royal Marriage, a vatting of the 1948 and 1961 vintages, bottled to commemorate the marriage of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, 1981. (1948 was the birth year of Charles, and 1961 was the birth year of Diana.) A bottle then cost about $100; today, it would fetch about $500. The Major is a good friend.

22 February 2006

More musings on visits to this blog....

I have been paying attention to the visits to this blog. Some are random visitors who have just stumbled across it. Some are friends. The ones that interest me the most are those who have found this blog by a google search. One person in the U.K. was looking for the phrase "dancing tomatoes" (which appears in my posting about the Super Bowl advertisements). Another was looking for advice for academic job interviews. Another was looking for tasting notes for Edradour 10 year. It's very cool that I have been blogging about things that interest others (though I wonder about people interested in dancing produce). I just wish that more people would leave comments....

20 February 2006

Espana, look out!

We are going to an academic conference in Spain this summer. Today, we went to the AAA office to plan our post-conference travels. The conference is in Malaga and Ronda (mostly Ronda). We had planned to run over to Italy for a week, since Brigheon has never been to Italy. (Actually, she's never been to Europe, but Italy was of special interest.) We assumed that a shuttle flight to Rome would be cheap. We were wrong.

We decided to travel around southern Spain (Andalucia) and fly out of Lisbon, Portugal. We will literally save thousands of dollars and will save Italy for another trip. Anyway, we will spend a day in Madrid, a day in Malaga, four days in Ronda, a few days each in Cordoba, Seville, Granada, and Lisbon. It'll be a heck of a trip. We are pretty psyched!

19 February 2006

The arrogance of academia....

Today, Brigheon and I visited a church that we had only gone to one other time (three weeks ago). We have felt more welcome and at home there than any other church that we have attended in Tampa. It's a shame that we found this church only five months before we are leaving.

Anyway, the musical director wanted to introduce me to a professor whom I did not know. He ran over during the exchange of the peace (where people greet one another), and said to the other professor, "I want you to meet the man sitting right behind you. He is at your university also!" She must have assumed that I was a student (which is funny, since I am in my late thirties). She said, "Hello. My name is Dr. Ellgood. But you can call me Jean." I replied, "It's nice to meet you. My name is Dr. Generalist. But you can call me Flex." (Obviously, these are not our real names.) She seemed a bit embarrassed to have taken such a condescending tone. I told my wife afterwards that if I EVER introduced myself to a non-student as "Dr. Generalist" that she should whack me!

18 February 2006

A picture to prove miracles.

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Miracles DO happen!

My lovely wife, Brigheon, is cooking me dinner! This is a miracle because I do the cooking. She never learned, though she has decided that she wants to learn. She asked my parents for a subscription to Cook's Illustrated for Christmas. Tonight, we are having a home-made marinara sauce with angel hair pasta. It smells really good. Oops. I just heard a distressed "Oh, man!" from the kitchen. I'd better run and make sure that there are no fires (literal or figurative) to be put out....

17 February 2006

"I grow old..."

This week, I covered several poems of T. S. Eliot in my classes. I really like Eliot, but it's tough to teach his poetry to undergrads. If a poet is (in part) trying to capture the impossibility of stable meaning in modern society, then his or her poetry must also lack stable meaning. Convincing students that confusion can be thematic (that is, part of the point) is tough; most readers (understandably) find confusion frustrating.

The title of this blog entry is a quote from Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." That poem is gaining meaning for me, now that I am (presumably) Prufrock's age. I don't think that I am as pathetically indecisive as he is, nor do I have a "a bald spot in the middle of my hair." Still, the poem speaks to my situation more than it ever did before. Sigh.

14 February 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!

It is a fascinating thing to observe the attitudes of college students on Valentine's Day. They either love the day and despise it. This mostly seems to do with the status of their love life. I tell them (and particularly the males) that Valentine's Day is very much a "Hallmark holiday," but that they are fools if they do not embrace it fully; even if they think it a capitalist ploy (and even if their sweeties say that they concur), it's safest to play along.

I teach tonight until 9:00 p.m. Thus, I thought ahead. Yesterday, my wonderful wife got home to find a note on the door which read "Since I teach tomorrow evening, I have bribed the day manager down at the Office of Temporal Ordinance; open the door and step 24 hours into the future." I was inside (wearing a nice suit and tie) with flowers and a pair of earrings for Brigheon, romantic music playing, a nice dinner that I was preparing, champagne chilling, fresh strawberries just rinsed, and chocolate melting. Anyway, we had a lovely romantic evening.

I hope that you have a lovely Valentine's Day, regardless of whether you buy into the whole thing or not.

13 February 2006

Mystery reader....

As I observed the other day, I realize that most hits that I get to the blog are within a few minutes for posting a new entry. I suppose that most of them are (misunderstanding my blog's title) looking for some bendy nubile. My wife reads it and a few friends read it. I've not been around long enough to have picked up many readers. There is, however, someone in Winter Haven who has registered several hits. This is very cool, but I DO wish that he or she would leave a comment on some post; I am curious what there is here that compels this person to return.

12 February 2006

Not the best hunting buddy....

Dick Cheney accidentally shot one of his hunting companions today, according to CNN. Jon Stewart, Jay Leno, Stephen Colbert, etc., are going to have a field day with this one, though such jokes are surely examples of gilding the lilly-- some stories don't need a punch line....

Make a little birdhouse in your soul....

Another nice shot from our recent trip to Old Salem, North Carolina.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

(Bonus points to whomever can identify the pop culture reference in the title of this blog entry. Brigheon is disqualified, since I told her already.)

Where's the love?

I read a New York Times article in today's paper that told of the lack of corporate sponsors for this year's Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Click here the article. Only Glad Products has stepped up in any meaningful way! I'm a big fan of generic and store brands (namely 'cause I'm cheap), but I will make a point of buying Glad trash bags from now on.

Still, I just don't get it. In sports, it seems that everything is sponsored. The Sugar Bowl patch on my FSU jersey has the Nokia logo in a font larger than the name of the bowl game. Where is Nokia? Or Tostitos? Or FedEx? New Orleans was even offering naming rights! No beer or liquor company saw the gold mine of publicity in this? Come on, "Captain Morgan's Mardi Gras" would be a slam dunk. We Americans have such a short attention span.

On a lighter note, I can't believe that I blogged about a NOLA issue prior to Doctor Daisy....

11 February 2006

Are the Village People in the Olympic Village?

Is it just me, or did anyone else find it surreal and bizarre that the nations of the world marched into the Olympic stadium the the sounds of mostly American disco and pop from the '70s and '80s? Somehow, a small contingent of athletes from a far-Eastern Muslim nation making its entrance to the sounds of "I Will Survive," by Gloria Gaynor, just doesn't quite work... or maybe it is a perfect "moment of Zen."

On the other hand, perhaps I am the only person in America that stayed up to watch the opening ceremonies. Did anyone else?

10 February 2006

Viva La Frida es muerto!

Okay, so perhaps Viva La Frida is crying out, "I'm not dead yet!" Regardless, I am in mourning. I read in this morning's newspaper that Viva La Frida (the artsy cafe of which I blogged last week) is closing sometime this summer. You can read the article here, at least for a few days. True, we are leaving for the frozen fields of Wisconsin this summer, but I hate to see a unique place close. Doctor Daisy, we need to make a few last sangria runs.... Sniff.

09 February 2006

An epiphany and a clarification:

I have solved the mystery about which I wrote yesterday. Within minutes of posting yesterday, I had seven hits to this blog. I suppose that there are those watching the list of "recently updated blogs" at blogger.com. Some of those must have been intrigued by the name of this blog and clicked to investigate. What frightens me is that these people might have been twisted souls who wanted to see just how flexible I am and in what way. Thus, a vocabulary lesson--
A generalist is defined as either:
a) a modern scholar who is in a position to acquire more than superficial knowledge about many different interest; or
b) a species that is able to exploit a variety of resources such as diverse prey items or habitats.
I leave it to you to judge which I am. I hope that I am the former. In academia, a "flexible generalist" is a scholar who can teach a wide variety of subject within his or her general area.

08 February 2006


No, this post is not a musing on "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" (brilliant song though it is); rather, I'm wondering about blog traffic. I installed a counter on the blog three days ago. During the first two days, I got 22 hits, well on my way to blogging stardom! Today has been different. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nil. Doughnuts. Bagels. Nada y pues nada. I wonder what made people stumble across my random musings the first two days. Perhaps I should use salacious phrases.... No, that would attract the wrong crowd. Sigh.

07 February 2006

What I've learned....

Okay. This post will be a work in progress.... I'm going to try to record what I have learned about conducting a successful academic job search in English. What I have to say will be of interest primarily to the poor suckers (like me) who chose, against all advice, to get a PhD in literature. I suppose that much will apply to anyone in the humanities.

First of all, it would have been wise to have learned what the field of rhetoric and composition really is. It is far more than just writing. If you've not started your PhD yet, read this first. The job market in rhet/comp really is better.

Understand that unless you went to a TOP-level university, your best job market is going to be small universities and two-year colleges. No one really cares where you got your M.A.

Peruse the MLA and Chronicle job ads NOW to figure out what the best fields are.

Make sure that your application letter and vita are good; have an experienced professor look at them. I made a big mistake by having a cocky young prof look at mine last year. He told me that I needed to sell myself more forcefully. I revised, and he said it still was not forceful enough. "If you won't sell yourself," he asked, "who will?" I went through several levels of revision and went on the market. After getting very few nibbles (despite an almost perfect GPA, great references, and solid publications), I took the letter to an older professor. He said, "This letter does not sound like you! You are coming off as an arrogant ass!" He kindly helped me with a new letter, and this year has been much better. As I say in my "About Me" section, I've accepted a position at a small liberal-arts college.

Publish, publish, publish.

Since the job market for most lit majors is best at smaller institutions, focusing on a narrowly defined field is foolish. In other words, position yourself as a flexible literary generalist (hence the name of this blog). No small college is looking for a specialist in medieval incunabula or even an American Modernist.

Don't count on interviews at the MLA convention. The schools that interview there are unlikely to be interested in a graduate of Average Midwestern University (or Average Southern University). The market after the market will be much more active.

Finally, realize what a humiliating and dehumanizing experience the academic job search is. Rejection gets really old really fast. Grow thick skin.

And good luck.

06 February 2006

Look Homeward, Angel....

A photo I took in December in a cemetery in Old Salem, North Carolina. Click on the image to see a larger view. This shot captures a certain wistful nostalgia that I like very much....

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

Of dancing tomatoes and squashed cavemen....

As I mentioned last night, I thought that the ads shown during Super Bowl XL were pretty good. My favorites included the Burger King Whopperettes, the FedEx caveman, and the Michelob Light Amber "late tackle." I hated that the "Li'l Monster" ad turned out to be an ad for the new Hummer H3. If I were teaching Composition this semester, it'd be fun to have the class write essays analyzing the rhetoric of these ads.

AOL (of which I am not a fan) has posted the ads here.

05 February 2006

Can't stop the Bus!

Tonight we went to a local sports pub to watch the Super Bowl. We joined Doctor Daisy, her sweetie A.C., and Debbie. All of us were rooting for the Steelers-- not because we are Steelers fans, but because we love Jerome Bettis. Brigheon was his classmate in college! It was a great game. The food was good, the game was good, the company was great, and the pub has 300 beers and Woodchuck cider on tap. I even think that the ads were above par. Good times.

Slainte go sael agat!

Translated: Health for life to you!

Last night's single malt scotch tasting went very well. Held at a very cool second-hand bookshop and organized by our ethnomusicologist friend Bryan, the event was a grand success! There were a half dozen men in full kilts. The food was pretty good. There were some mighty fine cigars; Bryan gave me a Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur No. 1. My scotch rankings/ratings (and brief notes) are as follows:

10. Ardbeg 10 year-- Just awful. Heavy iodone, salt, and peat. Like a bad imitation of Laphroaig. The only one that I did not like.
9. Edradour 10 year-- Not bad. Minty, sherry undertones. Reminds me of Drambuie.
8. Auchentoshan 10 year-- Good, but not great. Minty, oily.
7. Glenkinchie 10 year
6. Aberlour 10 year
5. Oban 14 year-- Spicy. Hot on the tip of the tongue. Nice.
4. Highland Park 12 year-- Light, warm, malty, smooth.
3. Macallan 15 year fine oak-- Smooth, but a bit one dimensional. Delicious, but not as good as the normal Macallan.
2. Bowmore 17 year-- Like a good imitation of Laphroaig.
1. Deanston 17 year-- Smooth, honey flavors. Nutty.

(Click on the image for an enlarged view.)

04 February 2006

The doctor is in!

Thanks, Doctor Daisy, for the tip. Blogger really does work better using Firefox! You're the best!

rain, rain, go away...

Well, the rain let up last night enough for us to join the lovely Doctor Daisy, her sweetie, and her friend at the aforementioned artsy Spanish cafe. The tapas were fabulous and the sangria flowed freely. Good times.

Last night, it rained more. We've had over eight and a half inches in the last twenty-four hours. That makes yesterday the fourth rainiest day on record for this hamlet. Oy.

Tonight, we are going to a private single-malt scotch tasting that a friend has organized. He felt that the local highlands festival's scotch tasting was an embarrassment, so he set one up. All the participants throw in thirty bucks and sample a plethora of single malts. He's even had commemorative shot glasses made for the event (that we get to keep as a souvenir). I'll let y'all know how the event goes.

03 February 2006

But down these wet streets....

... a man must go who is not himself wet. Okay, a sad paraphrase of Raymond Chandler. Forgive me.

Today is a dreary, rainy day. We've gotten about twelve inches of rain! The streets are flooded. I am afraid that we may have to cancel our evening plans-- we are set to meet a few friends at a very cool little Spanish cafe.

I've tried this blogging thing once before and did not stick with it. The main reason for that was that I could not remember the URL for my own blog! I'll try to do better.