Monday, November 21, 2011

Dangerous Conversation Enders

Now is a dangerous time to have conversations with me if you're easily offended. I'm not sure why, but for some reason, there are a few lines that I've been hankering to use for a while, and I'm waiting for the opportune time to put some of these conversation killing zingers to good use. For better or worse (probably for better), situations in which I would be confident bringing out these  gems don't come along too often, but I want to be ready when they do. So, I've been daydreaming scenarios in which I would get say these things:

1) Put this in your pipe and smoke it!

When I say it: You have handed me a request for an unusually large amount of paperwork, all of which is unnecessary. I complete the paperwork by hand, pass it through a paper shredder, and give it to you in a bag. I tell you, "Put this in your pipe and smoke it!," and walk away.

When you should not be offended: I have inadvertently stumbled across fine, pipe-quality tobacco. Not being a pipe smoker, I offer some to you (of course you smoke a pipe!).

Why: Something about saying this is satisfying. It doesn't necessarily make sense, but I enjoy the imagery it conveys. I also like how the emphasis on "this" gives me a good chance to vent my anger, channelling it through a word. I'd probably make some sort of emphatic gesture at that point, too.

2) Go milk a duck.

When I say it: You ask me to do some futile, difficult task while you sit down, and perhaps sip a mojito. I tell you, "Aaaah, go milk a duck." I walk away.

When you should not be offended: I have become an eccentric goat farmer. All of my goats are named after other animals. You ask if there is anything you can do to help, so I tell you, "Go milk A. Duck." While you are milking "A. Duck," (the A. is short for Arnold), I am milking "D. Tortoise" (Dylan), "T. Shark" (Theodore) and "J. Badger" (Jean-Paul). Being the head goat farmer, I milk many more than you can in the same amount of time. Don't worry, you'll learn soon enough.

Why: This one is all about the imagery. I like how it almost makes sense. Why a duck? It must be hard to catch one. Where would you start trying to milk it? It leaves the target puzzled and hurt while I walk off, smug and self-satisfied with my delivery.

3) Put a sock in it, buddy!

When I say it: Honestly, this one is pretty generic. Perhaps I'm fed up with the conversation because I don't like hearing why your sports team is better than mine. Or maybe I don't want to hear about how talented your cat is. Perhaps you offended me by insulting my Jerry Garcia tie. I don't know, I don't particularly care. Put a sock in it, buddy.

When you should not be offended: You have a hole in your pocket, but also have a surplus of change. You ask me for some advice about how to line your pocket so that you can carry your change. "Put a sock in it, buddy!," I offer, helpfully. Maybe I even provide an unmatched sock I have lying around my room.

Why: This one sounds nice to me. Every word is short and sharp, except for that last one. "Buddy." It's so sarcastic and patronising. It's got the right sound to be a strong order, and the proper, authoritative delivery will leave a target speechless. How can you reply when you're busy stuffing your mouth with a sock?

4) How 'bout them apples!

When I say it: We have been arguing for the past hour. You are clearly wrong, but refuse to see things my way (the proper way). My aide drops off a folder of papers that definitively prove you are wrong. I look them over for 30 seconds, ignoring you and the noises coming out of your mouth. I laugh to myself, and throw the folder in front of you. Some of the papers tumble out, but in a neat, orderly fashion so that you can see the evidence. "How 'bout them apples," I scoff.

When not to be offended: We are picking apples in an orchard. It is a beautiful autumn day. Although we have had much success up to this point, we reach lane of trees we have not seen yet. We both gasp. In unison, we turn to each other and exclaim, "How 'bout them apples!" Awestruck by the beauty of the apples, we have clearly forgotten the difference between the nominative and accusative demonstrative adjectives.

Why: This one is so simple - it begs the target to look at how obviously right I am. It starts off hesitantly, almost like a question, but by the time it's over, you know I've got the winning hand and that I've been taking the high road the whole time. I think the delivery is best done casually, not too rushed, not too slow. Then, I revel in watching the target's response play out as he (or she!) realises who has the power in the situation.

5) Blow it out yer cornhole!

When I say it: I have no interest in ever talking to you, seeing you, or hearing of you ever again. I interrupt you mid-sentence to tell you to "Blow it out yer cornhole." We never speak again.

When not to be offended: No. I mean this one. This is always offensive.

Why: Everything about this phrase is perfect. It's got the right combination of sounds and imagery to be versatile in multiple situations and offensive. "Blow it out yer cornhole." Try saying it and not feeling good about yourself. The crisp "bl" at the start followed by three words in the middle that roll together, leading into the hard "C" at the end just make this one satisfying to say at any volume. I also love how versatile it is. Cornhole is just ambiguous enough to defy abstraction - what would a cornhole look like, if it's not what you know I'm referring to? Probably a lot like what I'm referring to. The "it" can refer to anything. I'll use this one anytime. So, yeah. Blow it out yer cornhole.

As a sidenote, a lot of these go really well with some sort of audience participation. In my mind, immediately after I let one of these phrases loose, a crowd of onlookers circles in, and throw in a rising "Ooooooooooooo" before repeating what I said. So just saying, if you see me deliver one of these, feel free to taunt my target. It would really add to the effect, and I'd be sure to remember it in the future if you ever need something.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Proper Word Order

It's funny how drastically changing the order of words can effect the meaning of a sentence (not to be  too specific; it can also change clauses, exclamations, you know, whatever).

 I was thinking* of this because the silly song "If I Only had a Brain" from the Wizard of Oz was stuck in my head.  The scarecrow sings that "if [he] only had a brain, [he'd] dance and be a-merry."
*It hurt.

Then I thought, if I had only a brain, I'd like to live in a jar.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I Mess Up While Dreaming vol. III

So I woke up in a bit of a panic this morning. I had a dream where I was about to get married. I'm a bit hazy about some crucial details (i.e. who the bride was, what she looked like, how she felt about sandals and socks, etc.), but I know that I was pretty excited to tie the knot. More excited than my awake self has been about anything I can remember in recent times, so that was a kind of funny feeling.

Still, I woke up nervous for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the whole dream seemed uncharacteristic of me; I'm afraid of commitment to the point where I wouldn't like to keep a may-fly as a pet for fear that it would tie me down to one place (this fear of commitment also manifests itself in not talking to girls just in case I ended up liking one). Furthermore, the fact that I was as excited as I was to get married to someone I may or may not have known is something I find troublesome. I leave this one open to interpretation.

What really concerned me most were the ramifications of my dream self getting married; I became concerned with all sorts of hypothetical questions that had me really worried about the well-being of my dream self. Would my wife become a recurring character in my dreams?  Would I have to remember anniversaries? Do chores? All of this had me worried.

Of all things, the most irrational was the guilt I felt. Like I said, in my dream, I was about to get married to a girl I felt strongly about (for whatever reasons). Before the actual event took place, I woke up, jilting my betrothed. Not to mention all the wedding guests who would have been angry that the reception wasn't actually going to take place. Poor breeding on my part, to say the least.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Applicable Adjectives with Pertinent Prefixes!

I am:

Outspoken (occasionally)
Introverted (inconsequentially)
Retrospective (irreproachably)
Progressive (appropriately)
Indifferent (impossibly)
Demeaned (dourly)
Incomprehensible (inexplicably)
Supercilious (slightly)
Incorrigible (entirely)
Subservient (tastefully)
Subversive (suprisingly)
Recalcitrant (reluctantly)
Unproductive (blamelessly)
Unassuming (modestly)
Over-achieving (pleasantly)
Under-utilized (sadly)
Over-worked (tragically)

Overcaffeinated (to-the-point-where-I-wrote-this-post-ly)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Light vs Dark, or, Why Mankind Should Not be Allowed to Make Decisions

As a race, we are fundamentally incapable of making up our minds. You've probably noticed this about yourself at some time. I know I feel this way every time I stand in front of a vending machine, which is why I always try to push every button at once and hope that the first button I press is something I like (this rarely happens. Normally it's something gross, like Milk Duds).

I was struck by the indecision characteristic to our entire species when my little brother pulled the shades down the other night.

See, I live in a city. At some point, people decided it was a problem that night was dark. Obviously, it would be better if everyone could see things at night, so they put a whole bunch of streetlights in, and then everything could be bright all the time! Problem solved!

But then, people (probably the very same people) realised that it was harder to sleep when it was bright out all the time, so they put shades in their room, meant to keep the bright light that they made outside stay there, and not sneak its way inside where it isn't always wanted. Second problem solved!

At this point, it didn't seem too ridiculous to me. Then I realised that this continues. Some people, inside their shade-darkened rooms, walk around at night, and don't like stepping on things. So, the nightlight gets invented! But heaven forbid that the nightlight be too bright! They put covers on the nightlight to stop it from shining too much! Of course they did! An uncovered nightlight would be too bright, thus making the shades useless, which were put up to keep the light from outside (which were put there because the general consensus was that it was too dark outside) from making things inside bright! DAH!

Which brings me to my point, namely that as a species, we should constrain our decision making to trivial matters (e.g. Do I want Vienna Fingers or a Snickers bar?), and leave the important decisions (anything that could possibly affect anyone/thing else, ever) to a species better suited for decision making. Maybe dolphins. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Confusion: NASCAR Edition

I saw a commercial with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in which he said that he knew it was important to take care of the NASCAR fans, because without them, there wouldn't be any NASCAR. I understand the logic, but the conclusion he reached is confusing to me. Given the implications, I would opt not to take care of the NASCAR fans.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A New Direction for Diary of a Brendan

It's been over a month since I last wrote a blog post. Actually, that's too limiting. It's been over a month since I've engaged in any marginally creative or self-expressive activity. This doesn't end now. My current job is more time consuming than I could have expected, and I am no longer surrounded by a group of my peers, many of whom are more creative and talented than I could hope to be. The ultimate result is I do not have the time or the inspiration to write posts like the ones I wrote when I was less gainfully (this adverb is subject for debate) employed.

But I rebel!
A man (similarly) in revolt
I may not have the time to compose my thoughts as thoroughly as I did before, but I refuse to let that stop me from having interesting thoughts. When I do, I will attempt to share them.  They may be shorter than I would want, but hopefully they will exist. Just like leprechauns!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Special Edition: Shark Week!

Today, one of my friends asked me why I'm afraid of sharks.* In honor of Shark Week, and to prevent anyone from ever asking me this question again**, I've compiled a list of the most compelling reasons I am  afraid of sharks.
*I know, I know. Seriously?
**It makes me think of sharks, which frightens me. 

1 - ~3,000: Each tooth in a shark's mouth, any of which is, at any given moment, probably sharper than what I shave with.

3,001: Sharks always win at pool. Always. And most of the time, they win because you pocket the 8-ball before you should have.

3,002:  If you gaze into a shark's ink-black, demon eyes, your soul will freeze instantly.

3,003: In addition to being able to smell a drop of blood from 3 miles away, sharks can smell a half-second spray of Axe or any amount of Old Spice from any ocean in the world. They consider these scents to be fine marinades.

3,004: If you ever kill a shark (directly or indirectly by using a product that includes shark-anything), their ghost will follow you forever, alerting other sharks to your whereabouts with an annoying whistle they do through their ghostly teeth.

3,005: Having been around for over 400 million years, sharks are masters of trivia, and will always defeat you at trivia night. They are also graceless winners, and will mock you for your poor performance in the 80s  pop-music category long after the contest is over. True story.

3,006: Shark skin is so tough that it walks through West Philadelphia at night without a weapon.

3,007: In late-night feeding frenzies, Sharks can consume over 6,000 twinkies, which is the equivalent of approximately 4 people.

3,008: Sharks have been known to eat their young, even without condiments and often without utensils.

3,009: When driving, sharks tailgate at high speeds and pass on the right unexpectedly.

3,010:  Sharks kill approximately one person in the United States per year in unprovoked attacks. IT COULD BE YOU!

So many reasons...
Image taken from Something Awful's Photoshop Phriday series.
There are more, but these are the top reasons. I would love to know why you're frightened of sharks; I know you have your reasons.

 Remember, live every week as if it were shark week. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kansas, My As! Or, KISS MY kansAS)

Those of you who have spoken to me recently may have heard that I just got back from a cross (most of the) country trip. It was a great time; I got to spend quality time with a bunch of friends, met some great people and all in all got to pretend that I was an adventurer (which is easier for me when I'm travelling than when the greatest danger I face is that I might go hungry because my natural indecisiveness makes it impossible for me to decide where I want to get food). At the end of the trip, I had a new respect for America, a few new friends, several favors owed and peace of mind. That's not to say the whole trip was wonderful; there were about seven hours of misery that coincided with when my friend and I drove through Kansas.

I don't want to sound like a hater. Honestly, I came into the trip with high expectations for Kansas. The first presentiment I had that it could be less than I had hoped came in Missouri. We were camping in a National Forest and met two Missourians (more on them later, perhaps). As we explained our plans for the next day, one of them interrupted, "Oh, man, you're going through Kansas? That sucks, I only drive through Kansas during night because I don't have to look at it. I feel sorry for whoever's driving that stretch." The next fifteen minutes of the conversation consisted of them explaining the many reasons they hated going through Kansas.

Still, the next day we drove off and after an intimidating storm that forced us to pull over (conveniently near a Waffle House*, I might add), left Missouri. Then we entered Kansas. The first 30 miles were actually beautiful: rolling green hills, pastures, horsies, you know, the usual. Then we passed one turn, at which point almost everything green dropped behind us and slowly disappeared through the rear window as I clawed at the seat and asked desperately to turn around, to no avail. We continued into Kansas, and for the next seven hours, almost everything was the same grey, dusty scenery.
*Actually, a disappointment. Turns out they used aluminum and wood, like most other diners I've seen.

The most exciting portion of Kansas (see? There's a train!)
The strange thing was that it changed as soon as we crossed the border into Colorado. It wasn't a mental thing; it was actually prettier. It was as if whoever made the border decided to bound in a lot of ugly into one state and just get it over with (no offense to any beautiful Kansas folks out there!*)

That being said, I came out of the trip with a new understanding of two things. First, I realized that when Dorothy turns to Toto and says, "Something tells me we're not in Kansas anymore," she's issuing a sigh of relief. I wonder what it was that told her; probably a tree, a lake, a river, or anything remotely beautiful. Secondly, I understood the joke one of the Missourians told us at the campsite, which I will recount for you.

The night before Little Bighorn, General Custer sent out a scout to assess the situation. When the scout returned, he told Custer that he had good news and bad news, and asked the general which he'd like to here first.
"I'll take the bad news first," the General said.
"Sir, I've looked around, and we're not going to make out of here alive," the scout told him dismally.
"Ok," the stoic General replied. "Now what's the good news?"
"Well, Sir," the scout said, brightening up, "we're not going to have to march back across Kansas again!"

I made it out alive, but only thanks to a cheap one-way flight. Thank God.

So, I'm back now, and everything's going well. There are more stories that may get posted as time goes on, but I've also started working, so who knows what quality or length will follow from here on out. Hope that everything is going well with you!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Appropriate Warnings

So first off, I'd like to thank everyone who has congratulated me on graduating. It certainly wasn't always a given that I was going to escape Columbia in the good graces of the administration or with a diploma; the fact that I accomplished both of those is as pleasantly surprising to me as it may be to you.

That being said, a lot of the comments that follow "Congratulations on graduating!" have made me uncomfortable. For example, I've been told things like, "Congratulations on graduating! Now you get to work until you die!" and "Congratulations on graduating! It'll never get any better!" I appreciate that you're taking the time to wish me well, but please keep in mind that graduation is traumatic enough as is; the last thing I need is to be reminded how much more unpleasant everything that follows could be. For your benefit, I've compiled a list of acceptable corrections to oft-heard advice that will still convey the appropriate, intended warning.

Instead of: Congratulations! You'll never have so much freedom to do whatever you want ever again!
Try: Congratulations! You're going to have such an easy time coming up with schedules in the future!

Instead of: Congratulations! Soon you'll realize how good and easy you had it!
Try: Congratulations! You're nostalgic feelings are going to be so much better!

Instead of: Congratulations! Now you get to work until you die!
Try: Congratulations! If you work long enough, you'll get a super long vacation and be able to relax all you want!

Instead of: Congratulations! Welcome to the real world where you need to work for everything you want!
Try: Congratulations! You chose the red pill!

So, let me get this straight. Before taking the blue pill, I need to intentionally fail at least two classes? That doesn't sound too difficult...

In other news, my good friend Neil (another recent, but more productive, graduate) is well on his way to becoming a professional musician. One of his current projects is a fusion band that draws from Scottish, jazz and Latin influences. You can read about them and listen to a track here; check them out, I've seen them live a couple of times and the music is fantastic.

But in all honesty, thanks for all the well wishes; I really appreciate them. I'll be sure to keep you posted on life post-graduation.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An Accounting of Time

I know many of you have been wondering where I've been for the past few months. I don't blame you; I've been wondering that myself. It's been a while since I've let anyone know what I've been up to. I'm not a mysterious person, I just haven't had the time. So, I'd like to take this opportunity to let you know how I've been keeping busy these past few months.

First off, you should know that I'll be graduating soon, so I've been busy preparing for the professional world.

You can never practice office skills too much.

 I've also been working on one of my long term goals, learning how to cook. This has been going fairly well, judging by the fact that I have not set fire to everything in my room.

Frijol √† la Jorg√© is my most successful recipe to date.

Most surprising is the family of bears that's moved in with me. I have no idea where they came from, but they are sweet, so I've tended for them as well as I can.

Victor and Margaret, my most recent companions.

 Really though, I've had a lot of things come up this year. I've been pulled a lot of different ways, and it really taxed my time management skills and problem solving abilities. I think it was really beneficial for me in the long term, though. I learned a lot about how much I can handle and how I cope with such a full schedule.

How I face the challenges of everyday life.

I hope that explains why you haven't heard from me recently. As you can see, my days have been packed. Expect more updates from me soon, because I'm about to have more free time than I'll know what to do with. And oh, if you have any jobs lying around, please let me know.

Hope all is well!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dealing with Celebrities: The Sasha Baron Cohen Edition

So I was hanging out in my local dive this past Saturday night trying to hit on my favorite bartender for what was probably the millionth time. She dismissed my usual advances, then leaned in a bit closer.

"Brendan, do you know Sasha Baron Cohen?" she asked me.
"You mean, Borat?" I replied.
"Yeah. Look to your right."

So I peeked furtively to my good side, and there, 20 feet away, was Sasha Baron Cohen himself. All 6'4'' of him (or some stupid number of meters, as he would probably say). He was dressed in a tweed jacket with a vest and a paperboy cap, as inconspicuous as a tall, goofy looking guy who looks exactly like SBC can look. From the looks of it, there was some sort of small party going on. He and his friends had brought a few boxes of pizza with them, and they were all casually standing around eating some slices, drinking some beers and chatting normally with each other. I'm not great at picking up subtle clues, but that's an invitation to be interrupted if I've ever seen one... right?

But really, I thought about it. Every time someone would put on a goofy accent and say "Hi-five!" I would have a story. "I saw Sasha Baron Cohen! He was in the same bar as I was!" I mean, that's cool, but it's not much of a story. What is this, catch-and-release fishing? "Yeah, Sasha Baron Cohen was there! He was like, this big *stretches arms out*" If it was going to be a good story, I knew I was going to have to talk to him. Or mount him on my wall, but one seemed more feasible and less likely to get me in arrested.

So no shit, there we were. Me and SBC. He was talking to his friend, I was creepily looking over his shoulder. I tugged his sleeve discreetly, and he turned towards me, pulling off a mask that covered his face to reveal that he was actually an alien.* I looked at him, and bashfully started to speak.
*this last bit about him being an alien is not true. Just making sure you're actually paying attention.

"Excuse me, I don't want to make a big deal of this," I started.
He interrupted me to say, "No, don't make a big deal of it, it's fine" (in writing, that makes him sound like a jerk, but he really said it in a nice, encouraging way).
"But, do people ever tell you you look like..." I paused a second. "You look like a dick in that cap?"

He looked at me with a straight face for a second.

"Actually, my father tells me that all the time. That's actually why I'm growing out my beard; I want to make my chin look like hairy balls," he continued, scratching at the scraggly growth on his face.
"It's working," I replied. "If you really want to make it better, I can give you the name of a plastic surgeon, and he can give you a great cleft chin."

Neither of us seemed to be a novice at bullshitting.

So we shot the shit for a a bit more, just talking about how he could look like a dick. My friend joined us, and we got into a two minute conversation about who we were. I really didn't want to overstay my welcome, so we left a few minutes later.

Now, I had just insulted a complete stranger. He took it well, but he didn't know me, so thought an apology was in order. On my way out, I decided I really should tell him I was sorry. Fortunately, some more people had come into the bar. A group of them was wearing dumb hats. Like, really dumb hats. Straw farmer's hats and pirates hats and whatnot. I pushed my way to the back of the bar again, found him and tapped him on the shoulder again.

"Listen, you know, I'm really sorry. I said you look like a dick earlier, and I was wrong. You don't look like a dick. Those guys look like dicks," I said, gesturing towards the pirate fAARRRRRmers (heh heh) in the front of the bar. He thanked me for apologizing and told me not to worry about it.
"I never caught your name, by the way. I'm Brendan."
"Sorry, I'm Mohammed."

Damnit, and I thought I had a story about talking to Sasha Baron Cohen!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

About the Nude

A month ago, I hosted an event in my capacity as an RA. People who live on my floor had complained about the lack of decoration in the hallways (apparently, cinder block is not an appealing pattern. You learn something every day!), so I told them I would buy some art supplies and we could all decorate the hallways together (awww). The resulting event was wildly successful; everyone had fun, someone painted a portrait of me, and the halls looked pretty darn cool. I congratulated myself heartily, submitted an evaluation telling my bosses how wonderful I am, and assumed I had heard the last of the event.

Time passed. My portrait was ripped down :( . Life continued. Weeks later, I received an email from my boss.

Hey, Brendan -

Can you tell me a little about the nude that's in one of your murals? I'm not quite sure what to make of it. When you get a chance, can you fill me in?

(your boss)*
*This is not the actual signature.

In case you were wondering, this is the offending mural:
Carman 12, by Auntie Lay Zee*
*This is an anagram of the artists name for privacy's sake
Here, unedited, is my response.

Hey (Boss)*
*not actual name
Your prompt was a little vague, but I answered to the best of my ability.
Carman 12 is a relatively new work from upcoming artist Auntie Lay Zee (*see above). The painting is done in acrylic paint on butcher paper, a medium that showcases Zee's versatility and skill. The materials are of poor quality, indicating that Zee probably received them from an RA working on a limited budget with no knowledge of good artistry supplies. The work was begun and finished in her studio, Carman 12, during a floor arts and crafts event.
Carman 12 creates a frantic, nightmarish feeling using a few, relatively simple elements. The painting has two separate spaces. Zee uses the boundaries of the paper to frame the foreground upon which the woman runs across the space; the background is determined by the dark red stripe of ground upon which the snail crawls, and out of which the horrifying plant/monster grows. The painting is united by the warm palate of colors and the smooth, flowing lines that characterize much of Zee's work.
The painting speaks to the themes of sexuality and drug use that so occupy the minds of freshmen. The nude is both sexual and abhorrent. She has over-exaggerated womanly curves and soft-toned skin; the only clothing she is wearing are the high heels, footwear commonly associated with the sexual nature of women. At the same time, she has features often derided in popular discourse on sexuality of women; her flaming “ginger” hair, unshaven armpits and her bold unibrow make her not only unappealing, but terrifying.
At the same time, her genitalia are covered with what appears to be a marijuana leaf. The marijuana leaf is not the only appearance of mind altering substances; in the background, one sees a snail munching happily away on a magical mushroom. The swirl of colors surrounding him are evocative of a halucination. The effects of the trip are most clearly seen on the flower to the right of the painting; these drugs have the ability to turn mundane, perhaps beautiful things into frightening monsters. The continuum of possible effects is showcased in the background. On the left, there are abstract, non representational forms that seem to emit happiness like a ray gun emits lasers; it is only as one’s eyes move to the right does one comprehend the abject dread of a trip gone bad.
In this light, one possible interpretation of the marijuana leaf covering her genitalia becomes clear: what should be sexual is replaced with drugs. Zee brilliantly relates the darker undertones of sexual awakening so many first-years go through with the dangers of drug use that many are exposed to for the first time. The painting juxtaposes sex with drugs, but glorifies neither. Alternatively, it is possible that Zu'is RA was uncomfortable with a depiction of female genitalia in a public space and asked Zee to cover it up. X-Ray analysis would be a good way to determine the history of this portion of the painting.
According to Zee herself, the painting deals with several issues, ranging from the ‘dehumanization of gingers’ to “the extreme dearth of palatable males at Columbia and excess of ugly and pretty girls alike desperate to ‘get some.’ ” For Zee, this is what makes women a frightening subject: the uninhibited desire of the female libido. Zee writes, “She's savage and a reason to be afraid because girls are vicious and savage in pursuing their desire.”
As far as the value of the work, it has been lessened by contributions from Zee's understudies. As you can see, some of the brushstrokes, particularly in the area around the snail, are less masterly, and seem to have been painted by her apprentices in her studio. A reasonable estimate of the actual value of the painting would be someplace around $50-100.

Hope that helps!

So I know it's been a while since I've posted anything. I'd like to say it's because I've got bigger fish to fry, but that's not true. The real issue is bigger fish are trying to fry me. Yeah... But, I hope you're all doing well!

Also, (boss), if you're reading this, I meant this in good humor!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Small Consolation in the Research World

I've been hitting the books hard recently (it hurts me more than it hurts them, but at least it vents my anger) for research purposes. I decided to read the introduction to a massive textbook dedicated to the Appalachians for kicks, and I came across this great anecdote.

"Every geologist who has conducted field work for any length of time in this region has had at least one unique experience to be remembered for a lifetime. Perhaps the late Hugh Miser said it best, "I'll tell you; it humbles a man." That conclusion followed a succession of events, beginning when he made many friends among the farm families while doing field work in the DeQueen and Caddo Gap quadrangles in Arkansas. After the report was published, he gave a copy to one of the families who had shown more than passing interest in his work. On a subsequent visit, Miser discovered in the outhouse that his report had been partly used up. As he explained, 'they had finished the section on stratigraphy and had started on the structural geology.' With equal humility, we hope the present volume will prove at least as useful to future generations of geologists."

It's good to know mine is not the only research paper destined for such a fate.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mentioning the Unmentionable

"Players gonna play, haters gonna hate, complainers gonna complain," as Benjamin Franklin was famously quoted as saying. I've been complaining and hating a lot, recently.

Complaining: Mostly, I've been complaining about my thesis. As it turns out, my thesis is similar to a Hydra; every time I chop off one head, two more grow in its place. I don't know how to complete the metaphor, because I don't think I've even come close to chopping off one of my thesis' heads, but you get the idea; it's a never-ending string of work*. And, despite a streak of optimism in my spirit that urges me to accept candy hidden in the trunks of stranger's cars, I've been feeling pretty down about my thesis recently. As you can expect, I've also been complaining about it. That's where the complaining has been coming from.
*Also, like a hydra, the only way to kill it is to burn down the entire department.

Hating: What I hate is that when I complain about my thesis, I always get the wrong response. It's never, "Oh, man. That sucks. I can help, though. Here's a forty page, previously unpublished bunch of research I've compiled." It's always "Yeah? What's your thesis about?"
Really? Didn't I just mention the fact that I hate my thesis? Since when did me mentioning the fact that I hate something become a good segway into talking about that thing in any detail? Imagine telling someone that your ex is a total bitch who would sell herself but she can't because some STI made all her teeth fall out so no one wants to look at her, and hearing the response, "Yeah? What's she like? Did you two have the same taste in music?" That's how I feel when people ask me what my thesis is about. So yeah, I've been hating on those conversations a lot.

Anyway. Hope everything is peachy with all three of the people who read these posts!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Settling for Superpowers

I won't lie; I've wished for superpowers for a really long time. That's not unusual, I don't think. Everyone wants superpowers. Up to now, none of my prayers have been answered though. I am not faster than a speeding train, I cannot shoot X-ray beams out of my eyes (Cancr-man!), and I can't fly. Lord knows I've wished hard enough.
This all changes now. I've realized that it's my fault I don't have superpowers. It's because, for the past 18 or so years of my life, Ive been asking too much. The person in charge of distributing super powers looks at my requests and laughs. "Ha! Like I'll give this loser the power fly! I'm just gonna make him extra resistant to paper cuts..." he decides. From now on, I'm going to start asking for less extraordinary super powers. Superpowers that the person in charge of distributing super powers will be more likely to bestow upon me. Such as...

Power: Levitation (up to 3 inches off solid ground).
Superhero Name: The Human Hovercraft.
Pros: I wouldn't need to walk around puddles, and it would be a pretty cool trick to whip out at a party.
Cons: It's mostly useless for everything else, and I'd be the go-to person to clean up broken glass at parties.
Arch Rival: Gravity.

Power: The ability to cure hiccups by touching someone.
Superhero Name: Dr. Quack-cup
Pros: People will love me for 30 seconds approximately once a month.
Cons: Doubters will claim my power is mere coincidence, and dismiss me as a folk remedy.
Arch Rival: Spicy food (it gives me the hiccups. Really.).

Power: The ability to juice fruit with my bare hands.
Superhero Name: The Juicester.
Pros: I would have fresh juice all the time, and I would probably give the best handshakes ever.
Cons: Any idiot with an electric juicer rivals my powers.
Arch Rival: Carrot-top.

So if you have any reasonable super-power requests, I'd love to hear them. Then, I'm going to ask for them. Anyway, my life is devolving into a blur of business, so I apologize if the writing has been choppy recently. Chances are good that won't change anytime soon. But, as always, I hope all is well with you!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Awards? Sign Me Up!

So, for some reason, I was nominated for an award. I'm not normally the sort of person who's eligible for awards. Normally, people who report information that leads to my arrest are eligible for rewards. It's a bit different. But yes, as a graduating senior, I was asked to submit a personal statement as to why I should be given cash (!) and recognized as awesome. Writing something along those lines was harder for me to write than you might imagine (mostly because I wrote it while watching the super bowl and had Dorito dust on all of my fingers but my pinkys, so I was only typing with those). Still, I thought I'd share it with you, because it's just serious enough not to be thrown out, but just shitty enough not to be taken seriously (I'm not even going to mention the joke of a resume I submitted.) So here you go: my analysis of my four years at Columbia and what they've meant to me.

I didn’t want to go to Columbia. I grew up in this city. Why should I stay here for college? Then, I started to consider the other colleges I was admitted to. This one is too small. This college exists in a bubble. What would I do there for four years? One by one, I eliminated every other school from the list of colleges I wanted to attend until only Columbia was left. Then, I signed above the line, dropped an envelope into a mailbox, and I was committed to going to Columbia. At the time, the decision seemed anti-climactic. With the hindsight granted by four years, I see how fitting it is that I began my adventure at Columbia in that manner.
“Adventure is, by its nature, a thing that comes to us. It is a thing that chooses us, not a thing that we choose,” G.K. Chesterton wrote; my experience at Columbia only shows how right he was. I arrived on campus with a jaded attitude, a spoiled child given a gift he does not appreciate, though only because he doesn’t know how to appreciate it (sort of like how I cried when my grandmother gave me blocks when I was little). The four years I have spent at Columbia were a gradual process through which I learned how to appreciate the adventures of friends and learning that Columbia offers (I also ended up really loving the blocks).
I initially searched for people with the same values as mine at Columbia, and at the end of my freshman year, I had a circle of friends not much different than my high school friends. This changed sophomore year, when I became an resident adviser. I naively thought that I would be giving back to Columbia by being an RA; in reality, I took much more from the job than I ever could have given. Through residential programs, I met some of my closest friends, many of whom I had little in common with other than being an RA. I was arrested with one of those friends. If that doesn’t mean I met one of my best friends through Residential Programs, I don’t know what does.
Unlike most of the people I spoke with when I was a first year, I had no idea what I wanted to study. It seemed that everyone else had their goals set, and I was the only student wandering around lost. I took classes, I learned, and I got decent grades, but I didn’t take pleasure from my coursework. After having considered a majoring in German, French, physical education and math, I abruptly declared my intention to major in Earth Sciences. Then began the adventure. Unfortunately, I can’t explain how drastically my attitude about learning changed once I started studying something I was passionate about, especially within the confines of one page. I will only say that, as a sophomore, I felt ready to graduate; as a senior, I wish I had three more years.
Ultimately, I came to Columbia to learn (this is where I tie this all back to the core curriculum; get ready). As a senior, I’ve learned how little I know compared to how much knowledge is out there. Had I paid more attention reading Plato’s Apology (an addition to our lit-hum syllabus) or to the Zhuangzi taught in Professor de Bary’s colloquium on major Asian texts, I would have learned my lesson much earlier. Socrates was proclaimed the wisest of men because he knew he knew nothing; Zhuangzi wrote “Your life has a limit but knowledge has none. If you use what is limited to pursue what is infinite, you are in danger.” Columbia has given me the humility to understand how hard I need to work if I wish to accomplish anything great (like graduate, for example). Well, good. I have the friends I made here. I have what knowledge comes from four years of applied studies. To the world that awaits me after I graduate, I say, “Bring it.”

On an unrelated note, someone arrived at my blog by googling "Brendan is uncool." Thanks a lot. Dick. But hey. I hope all is well with you guys.*
*except whoever searched "Brendan is uncool."

Monday, January 31, 2011

Unconventional Timelines

I'm a pretty big conformist; nothing that I do is really too cool or innovative. Still, I try to pretend to be cool, so I need to pretend to be a trendsetter. My favorite way to keep up appearances is to come up with absurd claims concerning when I started doing something. The key here is to really get creative; anything plausible just doesn't work, and makes you look like a hipster. And whatever you do, never admit to doing something after it became well known. Don't try anything like this.

"Yeah, I've been listening to them for a while. I think I first
heard about them on the cover of the Rolling Stone."

The key is to go all out. Make sure that you stay away from anything with a easily fixed timeline, and if possible, figure out how to destroy evidence, too.
Here are a few examples:

1) Yeah, I've been blogging for a while. I'm really glad the internet caught up with me though. When I first started I had to write on parchment with quill pens and distribute my posts by hand in the market. I lost all my original copies when the Library of Alexandria burned down, though.

2) I mean, I've been wearing suits to interviews since before suits were fashionable.

3) Seems like hating hipsters is really in right now. I mean, I was hating on hipsters before it was a popular thing to do. I've been more concerned with stopping genocide recently, so their numbers have grown , but what can you do*.
*this is related in two ways. Bonus points if you figure them both out.

Sorry for the short post, guys! I've been keeping busy. Turned out my cover letter wasn't quite finished, and even worse, you're not supposed to reuse them for different jobs. That was an awkward interview. Hope all is well! And if you guys have any other advice for how to be cool, please leave it as a comment. I could use it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

How (not) to Start a Cover Letter

For the past few weeks, I've been trying to write a cover letter for a position I really, really want. That's right: the past few weeks. Longer than it would have taken for my parents to be concerned about me going missing when I was little, but not long enough for them to call the police. It's not that I'm writing a cover novel or that I'm agonizing over structure or anything like that. The issue is that I can't write a cover sentence for my cover letter if my life depended on it. I went through several variations over the past weeks on this first sentence, which I'd like to share.

Of course, the greeting was pretty standard.
Dear _______

Then I realized I had to say something. So I started out,
I'm writing to express my interest in the position you advertised.

Bah. Boring. He probably gets millions of those. I deleted it and started over. More confidence this time.
I saw your position, and was impressed by how well qualified I am to fill it.

Great. I impress myself. That's one person I can impress. Deleted that. Ok, sound less like a total asshole.
I feel that I have the qualities you are looking for in the position you advertised.

Well, that one just looks like Charlie Brown wrote a cover letter applying to be a dog-walker. Wishy washy. Delete. Maybe I'll just try to tell the truth?
I'm writing to let you know how absolutely desperate I am to get the position; is there anyone you need killed? I could make that happen, if you were to hire me.

Whoops. Too true. And would probably be used as evidence against me at some point in the future. Delete. Tone it down, a little.
I am in love with the position you have advertised; please end my heartache by uniting us.

Sounds whiny. This position is looking for someone a little tougher.
Often, when I am hungry, I eat positions like the one you advertised for breakfast, then I crap out resumes; I'm hungry now, and I want your position.

This would totally work if he's looking for psychopaths. As is, delete, try again.
Please let me have your position babies.

If this were an application for a role in an adult movie (it's not, I swear), that would probably work. Delete. Despair. I did like the brevity, though.
Your advertised position is awesome; I'm awesome. Let's get together.

So that's where it stands currently. And by, "that's where it stands," I mean to say that that is my entire cover letter (minus my signature, of course). If you have any edits to suggest, please let me know.

Hope all is well!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Uncool Near Death Experiences

So I was watching a football game with some friends earlier. There happened to be nachos (!), and we were all munching on the them, as is appropriate. At some point, I noticed that one of the girls in the group was reaching for a glass of water just beyond her reach. Fortunately, I was within arm's reach of both the glass of water and her hand, so I grabbed the glass and passed it to her. "Man, I'm so perceptive," I thought to myself. "Her boyfriend didn't even notice that she was thirsty, and I did. I'm pretty darn awesome."

While I was congratulating myself on being one of the best friends ever, the girl tried to gulp a little bit of water. I turned my attention back to the TV, but was distracted when the girl started waving her hands around and making all sorts of spastic "I can't breathe" gestures. Everyone present quickly conferred and decided that she was trying to tell us she was choking. In fairness to us, she didn't use the universal "I happen to be choking" sign*, so it wasn't a given that all of her gesturing to her throat meant that she couldn't breathe.
*I think you can buy one at most pharmacies. They're wallet sized. Right?

Fortunately, I've sat through my fair share of CPR/First Aid classes, and the only thing I ever really payed attention to was the Heimlich Maneuver*, so I actually knew what to do. I was able to dislodge the offending nacho, so I felt briefly useful, which was a really cool, novel feeling that I don't expect to experience any time again for a while. Also, the football play that happened at the time she was choking was a really important play, so there was a lot of adrenaline going on right then.
*Accusations that I felt up my beautiful partner were completely unfounded. I swear.

Still, there isn't really a hero's acclaim that goes along with saving someone who is choking, and I understand that. At first, I was disappointed that no one patted me on the back and told me "That was awesome, man! Holy shit!" But then I thought back to when I was younger and choked on pizza in a restaurant. My dad performed the heimlich on me, which I am thankful for, but I remember immediately afterwards feeling really embarrassed. It was sort of a big deal in the restaurant at the moment, and truth be told, it was pretty awkward. I just sort of sat around at the table afterwards and tried to slip under the table where no one would notice me. That's because even though choking is dangerous, it's not a "cool" near-death experience, and I group it with a few other uncool near-death (or moderate injury) experiences that I've been in.

1) Choking: Everyone is hanging out, having a nice time, snacking away. All of a sudden, you're the idiot who doesn't know how to even eat, a function most animals with brains way smaller than yours can manage. Now someone needs to get up, stand in a pretty weird looking position, and make it look to every onlooker like your rescuer is being abusive. In actuality, you just can't swallow food right, and now, everyone around knows exactly how big of an idiot you are.

2) Nearly getting hit by a car: You're crossing a street, paying attention to something really important to you. Maybe you're wondering about something really important, like why crayons don't taste as good as they look, or maybe you're just doing your best Ray Charles impression, but you totally don't see a car coming right at you. An instant before you hitch a ride on the hood of a taxi (one of the dangers of New York), a stranger grabs you by the arm and pulls you out of harm's way. He probably has a questioning look normally reserved for people who suggest that Elvis staged the moon landing from the Hindenburg.

3) Tripping while walking: Maybe it's not near death, but it can be dangerous. You all know the feeling; you're walking smoothly, then all of a sudden, you're not. Maybe you sprain your wrist on the way down, or maybe someone grabs you to keep you from falling. Either way, it would be the equivalent of watching a bird just fall to its demise*.
*But nowhere near as touching as this video, and without the good soundtrack:

In short, for all of these events, there exists this tacit understanding that, despite something really serious having just happened, maybe it's best not to talk about it for a bit. It's not like, say, being in a plane that plummets ten thousand feet before its engines come back to life, or being in a motorcycle accident. It's just not a good story, and it reflects poorly on you.So don't worry. If I see you involved in one of these situations, I'll have the decency not to say anything about it. I expect the same from you.

Anyway, I hope all is well and that you avoid all uncool near-death experiences. If you have any others that you'd care to share, I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Reservations

Now is that weird time of year when everyone comes up with New Year's Resolutions. Supposedly, these are promises you make to yourself to help you become a better person. Several friends have asked me what my resolutions are. My answer is almost always the same: none. I happen to be perfect*. But really, I find it silly how people resolve to be better once a year. Of course, it's the same as being good for Christmas; it only works within a few weeks (at best) of the day. Telling me not to give children noogies in July is because Santa is watching is no more likely to stop me from giving a child a noogie in July because I resolved on January 1st that my noogie-giving days would be over (as if I would ever resolve something so foolish).

There are a few resolutions that I've heard a few times though, and I'd like to explain why I refuse to make any resolutions along these lines.

1) I resolve to go to the gym more often.
Gyms are not pleasant places. The Jews left Israel because Pharaoh was making them lift heavy things (really). Why would I return to servitude willingly? Resolving to go to the gym more often would be equivalent to me resolving to be unhappy more. I'm just going to resolve to think about why I dislike the gym so much, so that I feel better about not going to the gym.

2) I'm going to drink less alcohol.
Jesus drank wine. Heck, Catholics believe Jesus is wine. I don't want less of Jesus in my life. If you're really insistent, I will resolve to drink on an empty stomach more. That way, I can drink less, and still have all of the positive effects. Everyone will be happy!

3) I'm going to get my life organized.
Sure, a little order in my life is nice. I have separate drawers for various articles of clothing, and most of the time, the right clothes make it into the right drawer, but that's about as far as I'm willing to compromise here. An organized life is a boring life. I relish the adrenaline rush that comes from never knowing where anything I value is. I resolve to spread this pleasure into other people's organized life.

Honestly though, I'm opposed to New Year's resolutions because they're rarely New Year's resolutions; they're mostly New Year's Day's resoltuions, or, if you're ambitious, New Year's Week's resolutions. There's no reason to only try to be better once a year. I'm going to keep getting better at mandolin, get faster at running (again), and enjoy my last semester at school as much as I can before venturing out into the real world and getting a job. Nothing new about those resolutions.

If there are any resolutions you hear that you laugh at, let me know. I do love me a bit of mockery. On the flip side, if you can convince me that you have a meaningful resolution, let me know!

Hope all is well, and happy New Year!

ps. I also resolve not to nearly burn down the house and ruin tea pots while writing blog posts.