Wednesday, December 31

Universal Mind Control

I dislike the New Year’s Resolution thing. It seems like an arbitrary time to decide to start something. But then January seems like an arbitrary month to start a year. Resolutions do help to focus one’s intent. And intent is something that could use some focusing in my life at the moment. So here are my resolutions for 2009.

1.) My first resolution is also the most pressing: find a fucking job! Not only do I need an income but I also need something to occupy my time. I tend to bug the crap out of my friends and spend too much time watching music videos otherwise.

2.) Decide what to do next, at least for the foreseeable future, once I graduate. Law School? Grad degree in history? Soulless corporate gig that pays well? The last one isn’t likely considering the state of market capitalism but a guy can dream. I should probably replace it with “work at Starbuck?” but that would be too depressing a start point.

3.) Read more books for fun. Or at the very least finish the books that I’ve started and never gotten through. It happens a lot.

4.) Stop being jealous of everyone’s new Mac. Mine works just fine, I don’t need a new one. I’m hoping that if I keep telling myself that it will work at any rate.

5.) Save more money once I find a job. I have like $13 to my name. I too have delusions of homeownership. Maybe a condo…

So those are my aspirations for the coming year. Stay tuned to Morning of Forced Lesure to see if any of them work out. I’m handicapping 3 : 1 odds against for the last four. I would assume I’ll be able to find some sort of work at some point next year. Fingers crossed.

Song by Common from “Announcement EP.” Listening to “Kids (Pet Shop Boys Synth-Pop Remix)” by MGMT. Sorry there was no Meursault review, I want more time with it since it deserves a well written and thought-out post.

Saturday, December 27


So I’m out of my funk. It got worse before it got better but as of today I’m feeling good. I’m feeling fine. I have no idea why I was feeling so down about everything all at once. But whatever, right?

I finished Downtown Owl last night. It was one of my Christmas books. I read about five pages on Thursday but devoured the rest of it yesterday. Klosterman can write. Like… for real. I can see how he wouldn’t appeal to everyone (he tells very small stories that usually leave me feeling solipsistic and melancholic) but I love everything I’ve read by him. Downtown Owl is no exception. It’s about a small town in North Dakota in the winter of 1983-4. There’s a massive blizzard and lots of quiet sad little moments. Maybe I just like his style, or tone or whatever you’re supposed to call it too much but the book had a lot to do with the bottoming out of my funk and its end. Anyway, you should probably check it out.

In music news I have been listening to the new Kings of Leon album, “Only By Night.” I had bought their previous effort (“Because of the Times”) and would give it mixed reviews. A lot of the songs were solid but not great after a couple of weeks, but the great tracks (i.e. “Knocked Up,” “On Call,” “True Love Way”) stayed great. That usually doesn’t happen. If the album grows stale then by and large it’s the whole album. Only By Night has a higher ratio of great songs to average songs and seems to be headed towards the same conclusion as its older brother. “Sex On Fire,” “Manhattan,” “Use Somebody,” “Closer,” and “Be Somebody” are some of the best guitar driven songs I’ve heard in a long while. They somehow become more than what they are on the surface—southern rock tinged anthems sung by a bluesy voice that sings about love and loss. If you’ve never heard of the band you have heard songs just like it. And yet the sadness seems more genuine, older, more studied. The love is more desperate as his voice cracks and recedes in the mix. I’m still unsure how to pronounce Leon though. Elizabeth seems to think it should be like the American name but I always thought it was like the region of Spain. My evidence? The Spanish region known as Leon had kings… not that band names are logical like that. Just look at… well at lot of bands that became popular in 2008. I’d say MGMT might be the most inscrutable but Burning Sensations always makes me smile. STDs…

Next post watch out for my Meursault review, possibly my thoughts on some of the Christmas movie releases and a book or two. On the list for movies: Valkyrie, Slumdog Millionaire, The Spirit. Still to read: The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon and High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.

Post title is a song by Marnie Stern. I’m listening to Salt, Pt. 2 by Meursault.

Thursday, December 25

Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24

Merry Christmas!

I got books that I wanted which was sweet. My Gran gave me a White House Christmas ornament, a tradition that has been around since before I was born for my cousins. It'll be interesting to see if the old arch-conservative still purchases them when Mr. Obama moves into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

So that was about it. A little cash from my other grandfather and from my British-mom. But Christmas isn't really about the stuff. Its about the people and the spirit and the bite in the air that makes you curl up by the fire and remember things like "Christmas isn't about stuff."

The people seem older and more tired, the spirit more muted, like washed out technicolor red and green decorations on some half forgotten Christmas movie. The bite in the air was absent today in DC and the fire (which wasn't) made the air seem leaden. Last year was a little like this too. Every year since I graduated high school it's been moving in this direction, our yule-tide festivities growing more shrill in their insistence.

Maybe it's because there aren't any kids. But even at my aunt's house last night (with contains a six year old) it wasn't quite the same. Maybe it's the economy. Maybe it's me. The song "No More Blue Christmases" is playing right now from downstairs, where there isn't a single person. They all went to bed or to read in bed.

I think its a Natalie Cole song. To Ms. Cole: they don't seem to be "going out of style," any advice?

It wasn't even all that blue, really. Not really. Just quiet. Or maybe reserved is a better word. Anyway, time to read my new Chuck Klosterman novel and wait for people to call me about going out. Maybe that will brighten me up... for real though-- merry Christmas. Happy New Year.

The post title is a day late to be appropriate but it's my favorite christmas song. Anything that can involve both air guitar and the baby Jesus is fine by me.

Thursday, December 18


School is done with (as of about 2 hours ago), Christmas is around the corner and it is time for my Best of the Year in Review themed post. I apologize in advance if this seems trite or ill-conceived or both. It probably will be…

Culled from the “New Stuff” playlists from my iTunes this is my mix of the best music that I downloaded in 2008. I say downloaded because not everything was in fact recorded in 2008. But you know the old adage: it’s new to me!

1.) Campus by Vampire Weekend
2.) Come on Feet by Pete & the Pirates
3.) Alice Practice by Crystal Castles
4.) Northwestern Girls by Say Hi
5.) Bad Girl (Part 1 & 2) by Lee Moses
6.) The Inbetweens by the Magistrates
7.) Bumble Bee by Adam & the Amythists
8.) Keep Yourself Warm by Frightened Rabbit
9.) Until We Bleed (feat. Lykke Li) by Kleerup
10.) Sleepy Head by Passion Pit
11.) With Handclaps by Y’all Are Fantasy Island
12.) Curs in the Weeds by Horse Feathers
13.) Monster by The Soiree
14.) A Thousand Eyes by Crystal Antlers
15.) Sweet Disposition by Temper Trap
16.) The Furnace by Meursault
17.) Salt, Peppa & Spindarella by Johnny Foreigner

I don’t watch a lot of TV on my own. Its usually with Elizabeth but I feel like I can confidently say a could of things about the ’08 boob tube landscape.

Most surprisingly good show: 30 Rock
Now that it isn’t competing with Studio 60 I have made peace and actually like it. Baldwin is very good.

Most disappointing show: True Blood
Southern gothic, vampires, Anna Paquine getting naked: why didn’t I like it? No… I’m asking. There is no reason I should have gotten bored half way through the first episode.

Guilty Pleasure: Gossip Girl
Who among us can say no to witty NYC elites stumbling through adolescence? Oh, almost everyone. Okay. I’ll just be over here waiting for the next txt msg from GG, ttyl.

Comedy that makes me want to get HBO: Flight of the Conchords
The Bowie song they do is too funny for words…

Best Reality TV show that Elizabeth makes me watch, that I complain about but secretly like: Clean House
The woman from Reno 911 is on it. She’s funny. Don’t judge me!

The go-to Channel of ‘08: MTV U
A channel of music videos? Imagine that! They should have done this ages ago.

Best in Show: Tie – House & Chuck.
Both are so good, House is well written, compelling and hilarious, something that almost never happens on network TV. Chuck has an idiotic premise and fairly ridiculous characters that you shouldn’t care about, and yet you can’t help but root for the geek from Nerd Herd willing him to finally make a move with Sara, hoping that he and Casey actually become friends… and Capt. Awesome is freaking great.


Dark Knight, Burn After Reading, Milk, WALLE, Rachel Getting Married, Smart People, Speed Racer, Juno (came out in 2007 but I saw it in theaters in January..)

That is in no particular order. Also it is based on memory and only what I actually saw in 2008. So if I saw a movie with you but forgot it or think its was longer than a year ago, even though it was not… please do let me know. These are just the ones that made a great impression.

Anyway that is everything. I think. Are there categories that I missed? Whatever. I just finished my semester. Time to go get drunk!!! Or have a quiet evening in. Depends on who answers their phone.

Listening to Until We Bleed (feat. Lykke Li) by Kleerup. Post title by Matt & Kim from their new album that I want really badly!

Monday, December 8

Quick & Painful

To do:

Tonight – finish 15 page paper on Raymond Aron and Albert Camus for History of European Ideas II

Tuesday – Hand in paper for History of Ideas II, write paper on Isak Denisen, finish rewrite of paper on “Dulce et decorum est” by Wilfred Owen for Writing About Literature, take clothes to drycleaner.

Wednesday – Write textual analysis for History of European Ideas II class on Lukac’s “History of Class Consciousness,” meet with some dude in my French History class to give him notes, start powerpoint presentation for Advanced Composition, turn in Writing About Literature papers, get clothes from drycleaners.

Thursday – Meet Advanced Composition group at the library to work on presentation, study for exams (part 1).

Friday – Give advanced composition presentation, study for exams (part 2), see family for pre-wedding festivities, go to rehearsal dinner after-party and get wasted.

Saturday – Go to pottery thing for Elizabeth, go to wedding, get wasted, exam study (part 3)?

Sunday – Sleep, Study for exams.

Monday – Exam in History of European Ideas II. Study more

Tuesday – Study for exams all day.

Wednesday – Study for exams… part 6 or something, cry a lot.

Thursday – Exams in French History, and Writing About Literature. Say goodbye to Fall 2008 Term.

Friday – Drive to Iowa.

Monday – Fly home.

December 23 though January 26 – Get wasted, look for a new job, read only stupid pop-culture books, or nothing at all.

Listening to my brain explode. Blog title: "Quick & Painful" by Free Blood, from The Singles.

The Dirt and the Roots

The end of my summer, briefly:

I drove to Billings, Montana at the end of August. Coach / Skippy / Mike needed to drive to college and wanted a companion to split the drive and generally keep him from going insane on the 1,800 mile journey from D.C. to Billings. I volunteered. This is a brief account of how it happened, sort of.

Original Plan: 6 days from DC to Billings. Day 1 from DC to Pittsburgh. Stay with friends. Day 2 from Pittsburgh to Bong State Park, IL. Stay in park for hilarious name and possible “rocketry” according to website. Day 3 from Bong State Park to Sioux Falls, SD. Stay in cheap motel because South Dakota is pretty but has dangerous wildlife. Day 4 from Sioux Falls to Deadwood. No plan of where to stay but thought it would be cool to live like a cowboy. Day 5 from Deadwood, SD to Billings, MT, stay in dorm room. On Day 6 I would fly back.

The schedule lasted all of about an hour…

In Pittsburgh we: 1) got lost 2) got a flat tire 3) had triple A fix it 4) found a statue I though my great grand father had made but didn’t 5) kept driving.

A decision was made, I’m not sure how anymore, to keep driving to Chicago. Through night and states I didn’t care to see we entered a new world. A world where sleep is for the weak, rest stops were only there to provide more Red Bull and music, blared loud into the cold Midwestern night was all that fed us.

We drove through Ohio then Indiana in the pitch dark. We drove through the twang of Johnny Cash’s guitar, old blues and Dylan. And it changed us. All the east coast baggage checked for pick up at National Airport six days later. New state, new start, next page.

We drove through night and into the New City at dawn. 2 hours of picture taking and many cups of coffee later we thought that city hotels were for suckers and set off to see what lay on the other side of the Mississippi.

We passed through IL in gray rain, through southern Wisconsin in hot summer sun, though La Crosse wishing for sleep, past Madison hoping for beds again. Someday.

We saw a jolly green giant five stories tall, in a town called Blue Earth. I looked but all I saw was a DQ. We spoke to amphetamine truck drives in rest stops. We ate Chinese food in Wisconsin that was surprisingly good.

We saw state slip by after state and into South Dakota around 5 in the afternoon.
Sioux Falls was: a Motel 6, twelve hours of sleep, a pretty park that had a name but I can’t remember, a bar with lectures on loyalty and Coors light in cans, eight hours of sleep, day 3.

South Dakota stretched out in front of us. We saw Wall, Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Badlands, god.

And kept driving. From a boarded up Deadwood we saw the last ray of sun in Wyoming.

We came though South Dakota baptized and came down through mountains to hills to sky that goes forever. Stars like a million pinpricks of light through black blankets. Cold wind and open windows kept us going into sky that goes on forever

See “Big Sky,” just once, before you die.

Billings was: Super 8 at 3am, pillars from history, shopping malls and co-eds, Obama in the same town as us. It all felt settled and nice. Until you looked up and saw jets take off from 800ft above your head. Rimrock leaves an impression.

I flew home after that. Nothing seems as big. Nothing feels as possible. “Go west young man.” I did. I want more. The greatest adventure of my life, so far.

Listening to the cold and trying to remember warm windswept rocks.