At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Joseph Cunneen, reviewing Paul Elie's The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage in the May 31 Christian Century: "Elie believes that it was only with The Thanatos Syndrome that Percy discovered the centrality of plot, which enabled him to write a succesful medico-philosophical thriller." True, which is why it is one of my favorite Percy novels, even if heavily didactic. (Fr. Smith is too obviously a mouthpiece for the author.)

Thursday, June 05, 2003

On the Job

I've made a number of mistakes the past six months. I ordered books we already had copies of, paid a couple of invoices twice, lost my copy of the key to the building, forgot to consider the vendor discount in calculating our budget, and so on. Which of the following explanations is most likely? (1) Teaching philosophy for a number of years has made me stereotypically absent-minded, so the attention to detail necessary for acquisitions work will take me a long time to develop; (2) premature senility; (3) the menial aspects of librarianship are so boring that I do a slapdash job just to get them out of the way.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

vapid adj.

  1. Lacking liveliness, animation, or interest; dull: vapid conversation.
  2. Lacking taste, zest, or flavor; flat: vapid beer. (

Jefferson Airplane Surrealistic Pillow [RCA Victor, 1967]

I dismissed this as "amplified Peter, Paul & Mary" in the first piece of rock criticism I ever wrote; later, under the influence of "Somebody to Love," a few powerful Jorma Kaukonen riffs, my ex-folkie girlfriend, and the prevalent cultural vibes, I recanted--in print, yet. Now I think I was closer the first time. There's good stuff here, but Spencer Dryden plays the drums as if trying out for the Riders of the Purple Sage, the sarcasm is as vapid as the optimism, and the folk-pretty melodies simply do not carry lyrics like "When I see a girl like that/It brightens up my day." B+ (

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Since I have a pretty wide range of interests which no one reading this would completely share, I'm going to make the effort to add topical headings to my posts, so that, say, Dr. C. can bypass my theological musings and Pablo the descriptions of CD purchases. That said...

On the Job

M.D. got another job and so is leaving us in mid-July. I won't miss him. Aside from the fact that we have nothing in common, I got annoyed by his entangling me in painfully long, one-sided conversations, his frequent requests to switch night and weekend shifts with him to fit his personal schedule, and his using my computer when his was too slow for some particular task. On the other hand, I can imagine much worse behavior, so whether or not his departure is a blessing depends on who replaces him.

I'm still sifting through the reference collection, a tedious task somewhat relieved by the nuggets of weird or interesting information that turn up. I found a glossary of criminal slang from the 1960s that reads like dialogue in a pulp detective magazine. I particularly liked "bale of hay" as a term for "blonde woman" and "cold meat party" for "funeral." Learning that "alley apple" was slang for a brick used as a missile in street fighting may be my long sought after key to interpreting the phrase "Shine up the battle apple" in Steely Dan's gangland paean "Josie." Now if I could only figure out what "prays like a Roman with her eyes on fire" is supposed to mean.


Speaking of the Dan, Becker and Fagen announced dates for the second leg of their tour, and it turns out that they're playing Albuquerque in September. That's about a four or five hour drive from here. I'm considering taking vacation time to go, even if it means sitting through a lot of their crummy recent stuff.

Weather Report

Thunderstorms every day this week so far, but all of them too late in the evening for me to get good snapshots. Still, impressive.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

effete adj.

  1. Depleted of vitality, force, or effectiveness; exhausted: the final, effete period of the baroque style.
  2. Marked by self-indulgence, triviality, or decadence: an effete group of self-professed intellectuals.
  3. Overrefined; effeminate.
  4. No longer productive; infertile. (

Lou Reed Transformer [RCA Victor, 1972]

All that's left of this great singer and songwriter is his sly intelligence, and sometimes I'm not so sure about that. Whether this is scenemaking music or anti-scenemaking music doesn't matter--it's effete, ingrown, stripped to inessentials. First line of strongest song: "Vicious, you hit me with a flower." B- (

Monday, June 02, 2003

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

trans·mog·ri·fy tr.v. To change into a different shape or form, especially one that is fantastic or bizarre. (

Led ZeppelinHouses of the Holy [Atlantic, 1973]

I could do without "No Quarter," a death march for a select troop of messenger-warriors, perhaps the band's road crew, that you can tell is serious because of the snow (when they're working up to big statements it only rains) and scary sound effects. But side two begins with two amazing, well, dance tracks--the transmogrified shuffle is actually called "Dancing Days," while "D'Yer Mak'er" is a reggae, or "reggae"--that go nicely with the James Brown tribute/parody/ripoff at the close of side one. Which is solid led, lurching in sprung rhythm through four tracks that might have been on II, III, or IV, or might not have been, as the case may be. A- (

My brother visited this weekend. On Friday evening in Lubbock we ate steak at Cagle's, a former cattle ranch converted into a restaurant; bought some New Belgium ale on the Strip; and sampled the wares at the Hub City Brewery while a guitar-harmonic duo played annoying blues tunes.

We spent Saturday in the Amarillo area. We drove north via a route deemed "scenic" by the road atlas, but which, except for a couple of brief dips into and out of the canyon, looked out on the same flat grassland one sees on I-27. In Canyon we browsed through the Panhandle-Plains historical museum. I was glad to see that the painting by former West Texas A&M instructor Georgia O'Keefe was back after having been on loan. My brother, more interested in mechanics than art, liked the display of vintage cars and motorcycles.

We drove west to Palo Duro Canyon State Park but cut short our hike because of the intense heat (hear that, Pablo?), which was just as well because it gave us plenty of time to check out three weird and tacky Amarillo landmarks. The giant legs are an oddity standing just south of town and easily spotted from the interstate. There is a historical marker claiming these stone gams inspired Shelley's "Ozymandias," but that is obviously baloney. I can more easily believe the sculpture is the deformed brainchild of local eccentric helium millionaire Stanley Marsh, who is the culprit behind the next attraction on our list, Cadillac Ranch. Finally, we got back on I-40 and headed east for some kitschy fun at The Big Texan Steak Ranch. A husky young fellow was up on the platform attempting the 72-ounce steak dinner challenge, but as the entire room chanted down the final seconds in time with the digital clock behind him, he shook his head in defeat.

Sunday I took my brother to lunch at Delhi Palace in Lubbock. He liked it, which was a relief because he's had Indian food all over the country and has high standards. The owner, though, commented sadly that business was especially slow over the summer, with most of the Tech students out of town. We took a brief look at the Ranching Heritage Center before taking him back to the airport.

On the way back home, driving up I-27 N, I got my first look at a thunderstorm in toto. It was a dark monster with a ghastly green maw in the center which seemed to be sucking air up into the stratosphere. I gunned the engine and got indoors just as it hit town with, I'm guessing, 50 mph gusts and heavy rain. Makes me think twice about storm chasing!

Oh, and we went CD shopping, of course. I picked up the aforementioned Houses of the Holy, Moody Blues Days of Future Passed, Lou Reed's Transformer (with its cool front cover of Reed quaFrankenstein's Monster and disgusting back cover which need not be described here), and the double-CD anthology of Jefferson Airplane songs, 2400 Fulton Street.