Wednesday, October 31, 2007

This Is Halloween

You may have noticed yesterday that Fosco wasn't quite in the Halloween spirit. Well, last night he realized why: he had forgotten to get out his Nightmare Before Christmas figurines!

In the background, we have Oogie Boogie's Boys and in front (and sadly out-of-scale), there is Jack Skellington driving a toy car.

Other Halloween news: if you hate the trend among women of dressing sexily and pretending that's a costume, then you should listen to this song by the delightful Jill Sobule (remember when she started the whole lesbian fad when she kissed a girl?). The name of Jill's new song is "Women Whose Halloween Costume Is Just That They're Slutty" and I'm glad someone (besides Fosco) noticed this.

In fact, just last week, Fosco's sister was telling him about one of her classmates. The classmate is a very intelligent and ambitious young woman who knows her literary theory cold (and who is not afraid to make this clear in class). She's a self-assured (maybe even arrogant) and well-educated young woman. And yet, she told my sister that she always dresses up for Halloween as one of two things: a Playboy bunny or Tinkerbell. Now Fosco would never deny that intelligent women cannot be sexy (or should not be sexy), but he is uncomfortable with these women choosing to dress as caricatures of sexual availability. Doesn't this seem like a problem?

Little Earthquakes

It's the morning after Fosco's first earthquake and he still has plenty of ways to use rock music lyrics to refer to last night's quake. Here are some random quake-related notes:

  • The surprisingly tabloid-y San Jose Mercury News exists exactly for this kind of thing. Here's the front page for today:

    Hmmm. That's subtle. Oh, by the way, did anyone hear how big the earthquake was? Anyone?

  • Yes, we all felt it. But how long did it last? Fosco Lives! hosted a good-natured debate. Official estimates this morning placed the duration at 30 seconds. [N.B., that thread marks the inaugural comment from Fosco's boyfriend Oz.]

  • As you may have gathered from the smaller headlines on the Mercury News front page above, this was the strongest quake in the Bay Area since the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta quake. As you can see from the map below, that quake was epicentered near Santa Cruz:

    The Loma Prieta brings back some bad, bad memories for folks around Santa Cruz, as that disaster leveled one out of every three buildings on Pacific Ave (the downtown shopping district).

    Even so, you have to love the attitude of the Santa Cruz Trader Joe's manager last night (as per the Santa Cruz Sentinel):
    At Trader Joe’s on Front Street, manager Steve Keenan hopped on the intercom to announce that “Santa Cruz rocks!”
    I love Trader Joe's.

  • You have to love the personal interviews from the San Francisco Chronicle:
    Guitarist A.J. Flores was at his San Jose home playing with his band when the quake hit. A lamp and guitar fell over amid the shaking.

    "Yeah, man, we thought we were really rocking out," Flores said, adding that the musicians quickly realized it was an earthquake and not their Metallica cover song that caused the ruckus.
    Classic. Personally, I once mistook an F5 tornado for a particularly rousing cover of "Enter Sandman." Too bad it killed my grandma.

    Or is this one my favorite?
    A clerk at Kwik and Convenient in Milpitas, who said his name is Suki Suki, said not much was damaged - except his psyche.
    You have to feel for Suki Suki. I think we're all praying for the health of his delicate psyche.

  • Fosco's sister, Maggie Tulliver, is still making fun of Fosco this morning for being both pedantic and patronizing. It all happened last night when Maggie was expressing her concern over how close a 5.6 quake is to a 6.9 Loma Prieta-grade quake. Fosco offered a brief lesson on earthquake magnitude beginning with the phrase: "Remember that the Richter scale is a logarithmic scale..." Maggie did not "remember" this fact and thought the statement was a bit condescending. Sorry, Maggie--sometimes Fosco just can't NOT be an academic.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Earthquake Brings All the Boys to the Yard

Fosco just felt his first earthquake! A 5.6 one centered to the NNE of San Jose. See?

It was short, but it was a bit upsetting. Don't believe me? Just ask this commenter...

"And I, Fosco, the Pumpkin King!"

It's almost Halloween (although honestly, in Santa Cruz everyday is Halloween). What are Fosco's plans for the big night? Well, he did Pacific Ave. last year and was appropriately appalled. How to top that this year? Too bad the Castro is out...

And what to do for a costume? Fosco has no good idea. It's hard to be brilliantly creative at interpreting literature and understanding theory (like Fosco?) and to have energy left over to think of a great Halloween costume. Could I just staple a bunch of student papers to my clothes and go as "lack of argument"? Just a joke. Sorta.

Speaking of costumes, check out this student I saw today in lecture. He's the Witch-king of Angmar (N.B.: that's why I hate Wikipedia).

He told me that he made the helmet in metal shop. Doesn't it rock? And what a great idea to wear a scary costume to "Gothic Literature" class!

Compare to the real Witch-king:

Not a bad likeness, huh?

So when it comes down to it: Fosco has no plans and no costume. Why does Halloween feel like so much pressure this year? Is Fosco too lazy even to have fun?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Smells Like Teen Idiocy

Fosco doesn't know any teenagers. He does know a few tweens and can already foresee the day ahead those sweet little girls will stop licking the lead paint off their Bratz dolls to become brilliant young adults. And what's in store for these future teenagers?

From an article in the New York Times:

[Halpern] was surprised to uncover studies demonstrating that 31 percent of American teenagers had the honest expectation that they would one day be famous and that 80 percent thought of themselves as truly important. (The figure from the same study conducted in the 1950s was 12 percent.)
From an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle:
But most of all, [an Oakland public school teacher] simply observes his students, year to year, noting all the obvious evidence of teens' decreasing abilities when confronted with even the most basic intellectual tasks, from understanding simple history to working through moderately complex ideas to even (in a couple of recent examples that particularly distressed him) being able to define the words "agriculture," or even "democracy." Not a single student could do it.

Obviously, Paris Hilton is the model here: someone important and famous with less than a fifth-grade education. But can we allow this continue? Are there enough ultra lounges in our country to handle all of these future VIPs? And what of our nation's supply of precious, precious cocaine? I foresee shortages. And what of our teen boys? How will they become famous with no vagina to flash to the paparazzi?

In other news, all teenagers (including the poor and disadvantaged) of (supposedly) Third-World Venezuela are provided with free orchestral instruments and musical training. Where would you rather live?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Foscovian Update: Still Here, Still Queer.

It's been over a week since Fosco last blogged (did anyone win the betting pool?). But that doesn't mean that Fosco hasn't been thinking, Dear Reader. He's been thinking up a mess o' somethin'! And what thoughts have been rattling around in his gigantic gourdic cranium?

  • Just like my third grade teacher always said, California seems to be the likely location of the coming apocalypse (although I think she meant it more eschatologically--and no, that doesn't mean what you think it means). And while all those insatiable wildfires were nowhere near Fosco's beloved Bay Area last week, the local media didn't lose an opportunity to remind us Northern(ish) CA residents that our doom is imminent, whether from a nearly overdue "tectonic time bomb" or our own giant flaming holocaust. The End is near! Whee! Even so, I'd rather die in a flaming crack in the earth than from getting lung cancer in a casino boat while losing my social security check in the slots.

    But seriously, if you want to read about the SoCal fire experience, check out my friend Ted's blog.

  • Hey, did you hear that Dumbledore is gay? Fosco had known this for years, ever since he was fellated by the wizard in a Minneapolis airport mensroom. Even so, Fosco isn't quite sure what to feel about this whole story. To some extent, he'd rather let his friend Ted do the blog work for him (thanks again, Ted. At this rate, Fosco Lives! will eventually just be one big hyperlink to your blog). Fosco would like to raise two questions about the story that seem worth considering:
    1. Does a gay Dumbledore make up for Rowling's repulsively heteronormative epilogue to the seventh book ("Seventeen Years Later..."), in which everyone is happily married (heterosexually) with kids?
    2. What is the status of an extra-textual author's statement about a character? Could Dr. Seuss (from beyond the grave) tell us that the Lorax is gay? Would we have to believe that?
    These are the problems that a gay Dumbledore raises for me.

  • Fosco was planning to spend most of this month in a blissful Jimmy Eat World coma. See, they're one of Fosco's favorite bands and the last three albums have been amazing. The previous release, Futures, obsessed me for several months. Plus, the first single ("Big Casino") from the new disc was the soundtrack to Fosco's September (because it rawks). But here's the thing: the new disc is TERRIBLE. With the exception of "Big Casino," there is no song on the disc that this Jimmy Eat World diehard fan ever wants to hear again. Fosco is sad.

    So what has filled the musical void in Fosco's month? Things have been a bit weird, to tell you the truth:
    • Radiohead's In Rainbows, which upon first listen sounded inaccessible and boring, but really gains by repetition. And I'm not just saying that because I paid £5 for it. Good tracks: "Reckoner," "All I Need," and "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi."
    • a short but excellent Bach chorale: "Heilig, heilig" (BWV 325). Bach is usually too boring for me, but I like the calm this month.
    • a trance track: Agnelli and Nelson's "Wear that Dress." Trance is great for driving and paper-writing. Really!
    • "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want," The Smiths. I could revive a different Smiths song every month and be happy. Well, actually, sad. I wear black because that's how I feel inside.
    • Bruce Springsteen, Magic. I've mentioned this one before.
    • an amazing work by my blogpal John Mackey called "Kingfishers Catch Fire." It is seriously one of the most amazing compositions I've heard this year. The CD comes from Japan, so it might be easier to hear it streaming on his website (under "Works" on the main page). The first movement is gorgeous, but the second movement knocks it out of the park. I've been listening to it a lot in my car.

  • Has anyone else noticed that the New Yorker section "The Critics" has become the Harvard Faculty Lounge? I suspect that it's the influence of longtime New Yorker contributor (and Harvard English prof) Luke Menand. In addition to reviews by Menand, Fosco has recently run across reviews by Professor of History Jill Lepore, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History Niall Ferguson, and the (oddly-titled) Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism James Woods James Wood. Their ambition has lead them beyond traditional academic publishing and I, for one, welcome our new Harvard overlords.