While I can't pretend that I care about Canada (though I tried my darndest) I at least harbor some emotion towards our nice neighbors to the north (with the capitol city no one can name) and this emotion is jealousy, as Canada now has the richest middle class in the world, a title the U.S. once held . . . and while our rich our richer than the Canadian rich, our poor are poorer than the Canadian poor, so unless you're one of the 1%, you're better off donning a toque, buying a down vest, and learning to enjoy backbacon and poutine (but I'm NOT learning French, that's where I' put my foot down).
I am often suspicious that I have no idea how the world works, which is one of the reasons I like to read: I feel as though I'm filling an infinitely large hole in my brain, and this feels simultaneously productive and good and also desperate and futile, and so it made me happy to hear Radiolab's Jad Abumrad make the same assertion during their new podcast "60 Words"; the show explores the consequences of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, a resolution passed by the United States Congress on September 14th, 2001 for obvious reasons . . . and a resolution that passed with a nearly unanimous vote-- only Barbara Lee had the foresight to see the possible problems with such a vague, broad, timeless fiat; the sixty words have authorized two wars, Guantanamo Bay detention center, and drone attacks, and the two phantom words, which were not in the original sentence, which authorizes the president to "use all necessary and appropriate force" against "nations, organization, or persons" that were involved in the September 11 attack on the United States, these two words-- which have been inserted by the government to make it easier to fight this war on terror . . . the words "associated forces," and so now it is difficult (even for congress itself) to know exactly who we are at war with, and who we can legitimately attack and kill with a drone (which is where the lawyers come in, when you want to issue a drone strike, you don't check with your commanding officer, first you check with a lawyer to see if it's legal) and while President Obama has attempted to make some inroads at ending the War on Terror, it's very difficult to stop something when the folks you are fighting haven't stopped fighting . . . and so Obama said that he was only going to use drone strikes when there is "an imminent threat" to the American people . . . and so perhaps the AUMF will eventually be repealed, but then there will be some new and powerful words that will insure that most folks have absolutely no idea what is legal and what our government is improvising . . . if you really want to learn more, read this very detailed article by Gregory Johnson called "60 Words and a War Without End: The UNtold Story of the Most Dangerous Sentence in U.S. History."
I had forgotten how much I hate traditional bowling, but a recent trip to Carolier Lanes reminded me: I hate sticking my fingers in the holes, I hate watching my kids struggle to chuck the ball down the lane, I hate how my wrist and forearm feel later in the day, I hate splits, I hate not making strikes, and I hate reminding my children about bowling etiquette (especially when you've got serious bowlers next to you, which we did) and so, once again, I am loudly and vociferously lamenting the lack of candlepin bowling alleys in New Jersey, and-- if someone will back me-- I am willing to quit my plum teaching job and open and run a candlepin bowling alley . . . candlepin (or duckpin) bowling is fun yet impossible, you get three tries-- which is the magic number-- the ball is small, there are no holes to mess with, the motion is smooth and easy, and it's kids love it twenty seven thousand times more than traditional bowling . . . so how much does it cost to build a bowling alley and who is going to spot me?
My friend John's band played Friday night at Teddy's Restaurant in Cranbury, and though they sounded great, I was very concerned for their image when a waitress delivered a big salad to the bassist, as salad and rock and roll do not complement each other (but they did make up for it later in the show when they drank some brown liquor).
I invited my children to join me at work on Thursday, but they weren't interested-- and my lack of children disappointed and mildly offended my high school students, as they wanted to meet them, but I can understand why Alex and Ian wanted to pass, as they would have had to get up at the crack of dawn, only to sit in a classroom and watch high school students learn about business ethics and narrative structure . . . I'm sure if I had a more exciting job, if I made candy or manufactured hand grenades or worked in the tiger cage at the zoo, then they would have made more of an effort, but high school is high school and there's no need to rush, as they will learn what it's like soon enough.
I haven't done any research, but I think it might be better if I eat all the Easter candy in one sitting, rather than parceling it out over several weeks (and I've been starting my day with jelly beans and ending it with chocolate, which can't be good) because I probably won't gain as much weight if I shove it all in my stomach at once, plus I won't be reliant on a sugar rush every two hours to make it through the day.
According to James Surowiecki in this week's New Yorker, the miracle drug Sovaldi will cure hepatitis C, but a single dose costs one thousand dollars, and the full treatment costs eighty grand . . . and your average hepatitis C patient makes 23,000 dollars a year, and 3.2 million Americans have hepatitis C . . . and because the people taking the drugs aren't really paying much of the cost, and insurers are obligated to cover a drug that doctors deem necessary (but insurers have "virtually zero" ability to negotiate price when a drug has no equivalent) a very strange economy has been created (and by very strange, I mean that taxpayers are going to foot the bill for our half-assed hybrid sort-of-subsidized health care situation . . . although, to play devil's advocate, perhaps eighty grand is a bargain, if it means you won't have to treat a person for a lifetime of complications for hepatitis C).
Jennifer Senior's book All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood is entertaining, engaging, and well-researched, but I have to warn you, the book does get down to brass tacks; it asks the biggest and most existential of parental questions: why the hell are we doing this? and reminds us that the modern goal of parenting -- to raise happy, creative, well-adjusted children that can achieve anything they wish-- is rather elusive, compared to "the concrete aims of parenting in the past: creating competent children in certain kinds of work; and creating morally responsible citizens who will fulfill a prescribed set of community obligations," in other words, teaching your kid the family business and the community religion, and hoping it works out for them . . . but those days are long gone, and in the words of Viviana Zelizer, children have become "economically worthless but emotionally priceless."
Terri Frana-- a forty-four year old Florida mom who was mauled by a black bear while getting bikes out of the garage for her kids-- needs to get in touch with Troy Hurtubrise, who has devoted a great deal of his life to building "grizzly-proof" home-made armor . . . I learned about Hurtubrise's exploits in a Stuff to Blow Your mind podcast called "The War on Creativity," an episode that reminds us that most great thinkers are ignored or ridiculed while they are alive, but if Hurtubrise's suit could hold off a grizzly, then it should have no problem with a measly black bear (and I'm going to watch the documentary on the subject-- Project Grizzly-- so I can see just how effective the suit is, but judging from the tests in the above video, it's bear-proof).
Sassy New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan tackles the most difficult story of her young career (even more difficult then when she went undercover as a stripper to procure illegal butt implants) in her memoir Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness . . . as best she can, she reconstructs her battle with anti-NMDA-receptor autoimmune encephalitis, a wild and malevolent disease that runs her through psychosis, delusions, seizures, convulsions, hallucinations -- bedbugs in particular -- obsessions, lethargy, comatose behavior, loss of verbal ability and social graces, and requires much research to diagnose and a fairly long recovery filled with drugs that bloat her body and slow her mind . . . but she is one of the lucky ones who does recover -- some remain afflicted and some die-- and so she wants to tell her story so that others can benefit, because this swelling of the brain is often misdiagnosed as mental illness, though it stems from a physical swelling of the right side of the brain . . . the book is one of those "there by the Grace of God go I" stories, as the disease has no known cause, and for me (and several of my readers) it has an added dose of reality, as Cahalan recovers at her mother's house in Summit, New Jersey, and visits her boyfriend's sister in nearby Chatham, New Jersey, so while the disease seems to be something out of The Exorcist, the fact that Cahalan has to undergo the scrutiny of "Summit moms" while trying to recover her wits lends the story a suburban surrealism.
Jean Hanff Korelitz's new novel You Should Have Known is taut, claustrophobic and gripping: a marriage unravels, a mystery unfolds, and the book within the book -- an advice book about choosing the right husband with the eponymous title "You Should Have Known"-- takes on an epically ironic role, which might seem heavy-handed if it wasn't so much fun . . . the marriage counselor married a psychopath!
Two fish are swimming along in a school of their brethren and a shark appears and opens its toothy jaws, as if to engulf them all, and the one fish says to his buddy, "Hey, do you want out of this?" and the other fish says, "Of course! What should we do?" and the first fish says, "Close your eyes and follow me" and with that he swims right into the shark's mouth, and his buddy-- eyes closed but using his lateral line sense-- blindly follows into the maw of the beast . . . and then opens his eyes, and as he starts to feel the shark's stomach acid melting his scales he says, "I thought you could get us out of this?" and the first fish says, "I did, I did . . . by "this" I meant a frantic and anxious life filled with anxiety and peril."
Luther is a very dark but excellent British police show on Netflix; Idris Elba (who infamously played Stringer Bell in The Wire) is a detective with a checkered past that constantly haunts him, and he inhabits what appears to be a gritty version of modern East London, but is actually a parallel universe where every third person is some kind of sociopathic serial killer (it took me a few episodes to get over this absurdity, but it makes the show run at a rapid clip, unlike the world of The Wire, where it could take an entire episode to get a search warrant).
One month ago, I took a day off to take my kids snowboarding -- and I believed I had earned this day off, as I hadn't taken a sick day all year, and so this was my reward for being so healthy . . . and after I drove home from the snowboarding trip, I felt so vigorous and energetic that I went to my Wednesday night basketball game, thinking to myself: though I'm forty-four, I feel invincible . . . I can snowboard all day, and still play basketball at night, I'm made of iron, I'm unbreakable . . . and then five days later I came down with the flu, which led to severe bronchitis, and now, though I'm a bit better, I'm still mired in mucous and have a lingering cough, and though I know in my brain that there's no connection between my boastful thoughts and the virus that brought me down, my heart thinks differently.
Cinco de Mayo in New Brunswick may look like a bit of a dive, but they make my ultimate dream burrito . . . and it's on the menu, so I don't even have to struggle with Spanish to order; it is called the "El Mexicano," and -- like the elusive Syrian chucker -- it is two great things at once: half of the burrito is smothered in mole sauce, and the other half is smothered in verde sauce . . . and you get to choose what they put inside (I had chorizo) and it is very, very big . . . big enough that when I first saw it, I told Catherine that I would take half home (but, of course, I ate every bite).
Robert Stone's Dog Soldiers is the bleak and sordid account of a heroin deal gone sour, and it is set against the backdrop of two decaying place: South Vietnam and Southern California . . . the Summer of Love is long gone, the optimism of the hippies has faded into junkie fatalism, and Vietnam is headed towards implosion; the style is a mix of Elmore Leonard, George V. Higgins, and Hunter S. Thompson, and the plot moves from philosophical to incendiary . . . you can see whay it's on Time Magazine's Top 100 Novels List . . . Stone admits that some of the fictitious adventures in the book were based on the reality of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, and that the survivalist Hicks is based on the infamous Neal Cassady, but for anyone younger than those folks, reading this is like looking back at an alien culture that once inhabited our land and then flew back into space.
Shane Carruth, writer and director of the nearly indecipherable time travel flick Primer, has now done himself one better and made a completely indecipherable film: Upstream Color . . . I got vibes of Wrath of Khan, Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker, and Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaptation . . . though I can't promise you are going to love it, I will say this, though it's a purposefully obtuse story, it's rather easy on the eyes and ears, and it's not terribly long, so give it a shot (and then you can read this insanely long New yorker analysis of what probably happened, and how it might be inspired by both Thoreau and toxoplasmosis gondii).
If you're sick and your wife is working on a twenty page graduate school research paper, and you just need your two boys to go upstairs, take their showers, brush their teeth, and get into bed without incident, then one boy will probably race into the other boy's room -- naked -- and pee on his floor (which almost struck me as funny, except that I was sick and my wife was hard at work on her paper . . . my children never choose the right time or audience for their humor . . . they have no timing).
During my extended illness (which has transformed from the flu to a wicked cough, laryngitis, and finally -- as diagnosed yesterday-- some severe bronchitis) I plowed through a lot of books: Tim Cahill's ode to Yellowstone National Park (Lost in My Own Backyard . . . apparently, when we visit the park this summer, my family likely to be eaten by a bear . . . or at least bitten by a horsefly) and Duane Swierczynski's psychedelic Philadelphia time travel mystery Expiration Date (as usual, when you go back in time to solve a problem, you're probably going to create a bigger one) and David J. Hand's fairly fun book on statistics and probability, The Improbability Principle and I finally finished Alan S. Blinder's account of the financial crash, After the Music Stopped and followed up the mayhem with Michael Lewis's fast-paced non-fictional financial tech thriller Flash Boys, then I read the later chapters of Jennifer Senior's wise, well-researched, and nonjudgmental All Joy and No Fun :The Paradox of Modern Parenthood . . . I didn't need to read the early chapters because my wife and I have survived those years, but it sounds like the teen years can be quite a strain on marriage, and now I'm in the middle of Robert Stone's novel Dog Soldiers, a bleak and trippy '70's crime novel about a heroin deal gone bad . . . I'd like to thank these books for getting me through some sleepless nights and feverish days, and though I doubt I remember much of them, I'm still going to give them all a big thumbs up (and a big thumbs up to the Kindle, which is a great resource when you're too sick or hopped up on codeine syrup to drive to the library).
If you tell your kids one place NOT to play, and they've been gone for over an hour, and you need them home, then you go directly to that forbidden place, and chances are that they will be there (because there's no better place to pay than the polluted and muddy morass at the edge of the river).
I recently hung a dart board in my basement, and I've gotten into the habit of shooting a few innings whenever boredom strikes . . . and the main lesson here is that it's a lot easier to shoot darts at the pub, after downing a few pints of beer, and I'm not sure if there's any other sport in which a moderate amount of alcohol actually improves performance.
The Spiraling Blue Orb and the Misty Red Fog Will Form an Alliance Soon Enough, Resulting in More Chaos Than Order (From Some Perspectives)
David J. Hand's book The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day is an entertaining tour through the logic of statistics and the laws and behavior of large numbers, and it also gives some great advice if you want to be a prophet:
1) use signs no one else can understand ;
2) make all your predictions ambiguous;
3) make as many predictions as you possible can.
1) use signs no one else can understand ;
2) make all your predictions ambiguous;
3) make as many predictions as you possible can.
Goldman Sachs emerges as both a villain and an unlikely hero in Michael Lewis's new book Flash Boys . . . what Goldman did to computer coder Serge Aleynikov was mean-spirited, unnecessary, and illogical, but in the end, the company helps bolster the use of the new IEX market that Brad Katsuyama and a select group of Wall Street rebels create, in order to protect regular traders and investors from the predatory practices of high-frequency traders and "dark pools" . . . the story is just as exciting as The Blind Side, although a bit more technical, and you'll be astounded at how the modern stock market really works: think Mahwah instead of Manhattan.
I'm sure, due to all my hyperbole and ultimatums, you are well into Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction, but if you haven't finished, don't get discouraged, as the book has a slightly upbeat ending-- though the evidence is nearly incontrovertible that not only are we inadvertently killing off species at a unprecedentedly rapid rate -- with climate change, ocean acidification, and a reshuffling of native and invasive species -- but there was probably no time in the Anthropocene when humanity was "one with nature,"as the "pulse" of colonization of primitive people's across the globe went hand in hand with a devastating loss of super-awesome mega-fauna -- nothing makes more more melancholy than the list of animals early North American natives hunted to to extinction (glyptodonts, cave bears, dire wolves, wooly mammoths and rhinoceros, giants beavers, giant sloths, giant camels and llamas, American lions, American cheetahs, etc. etc.) . . . and not only that but we also wiped out our main humanoid competition, the neanderthals, but due to the "leaky-replacement hypothesis" and some very adventurous swinging souls, the good news is that present day homo sapiens posses 1-4 % neanderthal genes -- so the neanderthals aren't totally extinct, they survive inside of us . . . and while there may be no way to stop this sixth extinction, Kolbert admires the folks that are trying, as these are the kind of people who will "give a Hawaiian crow a hand-job," stick their arm up a Sumatran rhinos anus, and cryogenically freeze and preserve the genes of many species just in case we can resurrect them in the future . . . but it all may be too little, too late, but perhaps next time around, in a few million years when creatures have had a chance to evolve diversely once again -- if we are still in the picture-- we will do a better job of it.
I'm probably not supposed to tell you this but Khan Academy is a really effective, addictive and organized tool to get your kids to learn some extra math -- and it's especially attractive to boys because of the video game type features: points, badges, and unlocking levels . . . but I'm assuming parents are keeping it a secret, in the hopes that their son or daughter will be the only child to reap the benefits, and so here on Sentence of Dave, I'm officially busting the curve (and this is thanks to a fellow soccer parent, who graciously mentioned the site to me . . . if he wouldn't have said something, I still wouldn't know about it).
I love dogs and I love the radio program "This American Life" and I greatly admire Ira Glass for the depth, detail, and creativity of his reporting, but now I also have to consider that he is a very crazy person who is married to an even crazier person -- Ira Glass is a very busy man, but he essentially spends all of his free time taking care of a troubled dog that attacks people, is allergic to nearly every kind of food, and lunges at Ira when his wife is sleeping . . . this is a man at the pinnacle of his radio career and he can't have anyone over to his apartment because Piney will attack them (he's bitten six people) and while the dog is now eight years old, and has calmed down a bit (sometimes a stranger can look him in the eye and he won't bite him) he still has to move from food source to food source when he develops an allergy (tuna, bison, rabbit, kangaroo, etc.) and so if you are at all a fan of "This American Life" then you've got to listen to this table-turning interview; it's compelling and weird and what Ira and his wife have sacrificed for this dog defies all logic and reason, which makes their behavior either saintly and magical, or completely lunatic . . . and don't just judge by this fairly sweet Newsweek piece, listen to the actual interview with Ira Glass, it's in Act Three of the "Animal Sacrifice" episode.
I haven't gotten much response indicating that all the people out there in the human race are obeying my command to read Elizabeth Kolbert's book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, and so I am canceling today's April Fool's sentence due to mass extinction (caused by humanity) and there will be no more April Fooling on this blog until the Anthropocene ends, the human race fades away, and the rats and cockroaches explode into all the available evolutionary niches, ushering in a new age of very gross bio-diversity that we will not be around to name (but you can enjoy previous April Fool's posts, as I'm not so hardhearted as to remove those . . . it's not like we wanted to kill all these creatures, right?)