Friday May 28, 2004
Don’t make people try to parse the cultural significance of your trucker hat, you doofus. In addition to doing advertising for Ikea and Burger King, Miami ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky has created a hat that leaves no doubt as to where you stand on the blue-collar/faux-blue-collar continuum. Not that there was much doubt — your parents did name you Josh, after all — but hey it couldn’t hurt. If you happen to be a real trucker, please buy this hat and put an end to this cultural death dance.
Wednesday May 26, 2004
“We feel that first and foremost, the commencement is a celebration of our graduates and their accomplishments. We regret that the contents of his speech diminished the day for some of our graduates and their families.”
—Melissa Connolly, assistant vice president for university relations at Hofstra University, where author E.L. Doctorow was booed on Sunday for a commencement address critical of the Iraq War. Because of course it was the speech that “diminshed the day” — not all the booing yahoos. (Link via Yahoo!, coincidentally.)
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a flap created by Michigan consultant William A. Tozier when he tried to auction his services as an academic collaborator on eBay. What’s great here, however — at least for fans of couldn’t-make-them-up subcultural details — is why his offer was so controversial. It turns out Tozier was trying to pimp out his “Erdös number.” Apparently this is not done.
Named for Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdös (pictured), the number represents how far removed one is from Erdös himself. Someone who collaborated on a paper with him, for example, would have an Erdös number of 1, while a collaborator of a collaborator would have an Erdös number of 2, and so on. Tozier, who has collaborated on only one academic paper, says he has an Erdös number of 4. Therefore, anyone who collaborated on a paper with him would suddenly get an Erdös number of 5.
Spanish mathematician Jose Burillo (Erdös number = 3) doesn’t think this is at all funny, and he placed a high bid “to stop the mockery this person is doing of the paper/journal system.” In other words, the world of international mathematics is just like where you work, but with numbers — trivial, irrelevant, socially-stratifying numbers.
Tuesday May 25, 2004
I was just outside looking for people taking pictures of the Chrysler Building — in a vain attempt to satisfy the insatiable demand generated this afternoon by a (much appreciated) mention on Gawker — when who should lumber by but former celebrity Adam Mesh? (REMINDER: He was on that show, but then he turned out to be more likable than expected, and so then he was on another show, and now he will never be heard from ever again. That Adam Mesh.)
Anyway, despite the fact that I stalked him for, like, three blocks, I still only got this crummy picture because he turned to hold a door open for an old lady. Awww. He really was the one.
“Since it is clear that we cannot leave until they stop killing us, and equally clear that they will not stop killing us until we leave,” author George Saunders offers a strategy for getting out of Iraq.
It will be difficult, Saunders concedes, “but our leaders have already shown the way by showing that, if one has a vision, and refuses to betray that vision by modifying it, or becoming distracted by small details, such as, for example, the confusing data emanating from the non-theoretical world, filled with actual people, pets, clothes on clotheslines, nuanced loyalties, etc., mountains can be moved, nations can be changed, great things can be accomplished.”
As an avid egomaniac, I’ve been lucky to have a name that is unusual enough that I have enjoyed what every self-absorbed writer desires most — an uninterrupted Google search. A few weeks ago, if you typed in “Jim Hanas” or “James Hanas” it was all me. All that’s changed.
Apparently, The Westfield Leader & The Times of Scotch Plains-Fanwood in Westfield, N.J., has decided to get in the game and post all of its back issues online, and now there’s this other James Hanas in my Google. And he looks like a real contender. He is a perennial force on Westfield High School’s Distinguished Honor Roll, and — as recently as 1998 — he helped lead the Athletics (pictured) to the International League championship of the Westfield Baseball League. Now tell me, how am I supposed to compete with that?
The clock is ticking, clearly. I’ve only got a few good years left before James Hanas the younger graduates and goes out into the world. My advice: Stay away from the journalism classes, kid. Wouldn’t you rather be a doctor?
Monday May 24, 2004
Okay, I guess I’ll do it. The corner where I work (and take frequent smoke breaks) offers an unobstructed view of the Chrysler Building that tourists are helpless to resist. I’ve started documenting this photographic feeding frenzy with a moblog called Shiny, Pointy & Tall. The pictures people take probably look pretty much like this one — which I include as a point of reference and as a service to summer travelers who want to avoid Midtown. Just download it and sneak it into your vacation slideshow. Who will know?
Friday May 21, 2004
A new short story of mine — a retelling of the ageless story of a man, a woman, a dog who can’t really talk and an astronaut who may or may not exist — appears in Issue 2 of the Land-Grant College Review, a well-wrought journal out of Brooklyn that has received some nice notices since launching last year. Tomorrow night, they’re having a launch party for the issue in DUMBO, featuring country blues savant Langhorne Slim, whose eerie handle on the high lonesome blew my mind at a showcase a few weeks back.
Friday May 14, 2004
A few years ago, my home state of Kentucky adopted what is believed to be the worst, most saccharine license plate design of The Automotive Era. The universally loathed tag features a rising sun with a smiley face that looks like something you might stamp on sheets of Teletubbies-inspired LSD. In any case, the design is so hideous, many Kentuckians are opting to go with so-called “special issue” plates — most of which carry some sort of baggage, conveying an interest in horses, opposition to the victimization of children or a love of nature. The Advertising Federation of Louisville — apparently a voice of common sense in the Bluegrass State — has set out to come up with a license plate that, you know, looks good. They’ve narrowed it down to five and are holding an online poll to determine which one to back as a special issue plate. I think the fifth candidate in the poll — a geometrical rendering of horses hooves and their shadows in four bold colors — is killer.
I was introduced to the idea of Wikis recently, and I have to say I was pretty fascinated by the possibilities. (For those who don’t know — I have no idea if I’m behind the curve on this one, although an informal survey reveals that no one knows what I’m talking about — a Wiki is basically a webpage editable by anyone. Anyone with a browser can change the content and re-upload it to the server.) Wikis are mostly used by development teams, and I’ve seen some literary applications, but since I have to try everything, I’ve setup LitWiki, which at the moment is just an experiment in group editing Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale of puritanical satanism (sound like any POTUS you know?) “Young Goodman Brown.” Right now, it’s called “I Know What You Did Last Sabbath” but you can of course change that if you care to.
Thursday May 13, 2004
I sat next to a nut on the train today on my way home. Actually, there was a woman with a nose ring (and amazing powers of attention) between us, but he was close enough. He was very large and he carried a briefcase, the way the mentally disturbed often do, as a sort of a tether that might (but invariably fails to) connect them to the world of reason. He began by showing the paper to the woman with the nose ring (and amazing powers of attention and hidden stores of tolerance), pointing out a story about UFOs. This led to various stories about run-ins with the government and tales about how someone had had to exert a lot of effort to bring this large man down.
Soon the topic turned to Iraq and the prisoner photos. “They want rights?” he laughed. “They cut that guy’s head off and they want rights? Cut a man’s head off and they want to be treated like lambs.”
The train car ricocheted with intersecting lines of sight, all looking away from this man, who just shook his head.
“We got to get rid of Bush,” he continued. “Got to get rid of him. You know what he wants to do?” The woman with the nose ring did not. “He wants to fight Syria. He wants to fight China. He wants to fight Korea.” This potentially endless litany did in fact end as we arrived at his stop. He thanked the woman with the nose ring, who — after he was gone — looked at me and shrugged.
But he was right, is the thing. Unfettered by ideology, unafraid of contradiction, he’d laid it out. They cut a man’s head off as a publicity stunt and Bush wants to fight Syria and whoever else. It’s a terrible mess, but reason will always try to organize it into something less terrible than it is.