Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Near the end of 17-mile drive on the Monterey Peninsula, they ran across the road.

Field Trip

Took the feature writing class down to Salon (the online magazine) today. Brother Kevin Berger, the power editor, hosted, and Katharine Mieszkowski, the elegant feature stylist, sat in. I don't particularly remember anything that was said -- since I agreed with all of it, right down to Kevin's unwillingness to let anything slip off the record and Katharine's getting into the business by taking an unpaid internship at a trade magazine that covered the restaurant business.

What I liked was how interested the students looked from where I sat near Berger at the head of the long conference table. Sometimes you take a class somewhere and the boredom is palpable. And you are vaguely ashamed, though perhaps you have done a good job of teaching, without which good job the boredom of your students would be sodden, overwhelming, coming down like the damp.

Perhaps, today it was just good manners. But one needs to buck oneself up.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Who is That Who Rises from the Shadows?

Today I was elected chair of the Media Studies department by secret ballot, my exact margin of victory not revealed. I could not help but think of the words of Winston Churchill on assuming the prime minister's office in 1940.

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy?

I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory; victory at all costs; victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be. For without victory, there is no survival.


But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, "Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength."

This is perhaps not directly applicable in our current discussion of what the entree should be for the senior banquet, but it shows a fine vigorous spirit on my part, and a willingness to stand in profile against the rising (never a setting) sun.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

An Outing

Went to see a loose "poetic" reimagining of Eurypides "Trojan Women" at the Aurora Theater last night, along with Pat, Gayle, Jon, Pat and Danny.

Liked it. All about the immediate aftermath of the fall of Troy. Liked the part where Hector's widow Andromache was going to make the best of it all -- abduction as sex toy cum trophy for the Greeks -- until the Greeks decided to throw her baby, Hector's son, off the battlements, as I think they called them.

That put an end to the making-the-best-of. The Trojan women were somewhere between irritation and surprise at the disinclination or the inability of the gods who liked them so very much to forestall their end.

It made my wife think of Iraq. Guess what it made me think of? I tend to take these things personally.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Another Favorite Restaurant Gets Invaded and Robbed

It's the clever Furenzu just across the line in Emeryville.

It's a favorite where we have sat many a time. Maybe the cops should just follow us around. No joke, though. I wonder when, in spite of all our good intentions, we will forgo a late-evening visit to a fine Oakland restaurant because of some sudden tingle up the back of the neck, one of those premonitions that are not psychic insight but simple fear.

How do you stop such robberies? I'm guessing they are damaging enough to the tax base that you put up a reward big enough to bring out a snitch.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Drain the Wound and Move On

Better to just get it out there.

We had our annual fantasy baseball draft on Saturday. I have been doing this for 25 years in the same league, the Patrick Finley Memorial Fantasy Baseball League, an eponymous league named for its founder who drank himself to death (actually a little more complicated than that; but this is a blog entry and comes quickly and goes fast) more than ten years ago.

Not, I think, because of baseball.

No one else has been in the league that long, though we have a 23-year player and a 23-year-with-occasional-interruptions player and a 24-year-with-occasional-interruptions player. Everyone should run away from home at least once, so I am not unduly proud of being the league's senior member.

I am, of course, duly proud. We've lasted a long time. As it turns out, the internet may kill newspapers before the NFL and the NBA kill baseball, and who would have thought that?

So far this is what you might call a write-around. I have in the past done triumphal blog entries describing how I have for so many years stood astride the league like a colossus (there's a John McCain incontinence joke in there somewhere), but the last two years the colossus has crumbled. I dropped to 7th in an 11-man league last year, and this year's draft was quite strange. I selected a number of fellows on what they describe with pinpoint accuracy as the disabled list, or DL. That means you are hurt pretty badly because minor ills are diagnosed as day-to-day, a phrase filled with hope.

Even worse, I picked pitchers with arm problems. Pitching is a complicated act with many body parts moving in concert, but it is fair to say that the arm is the barrel of the gun. I picked a pitcher with a bad elbow, a pitcher with a bad arm muscle, a pitcher with a bad rotator cuff and -- to be fair -- a pitcher with a rib problem and one with a bad butt muscle, the latter going on the DL after I drafted him.

That's pushing the laws of probability. That's anarchy. Why?

I made mistakes last year and intensified them this year because I am no longer pursuing this activity as a sportsman who cares not what fellow wins and what fellow loses. There's a friend who in the last couple years has come to town from elsewhere and spent the night before the draft at our house. We sit outside and share ideas. It's not that he necessarily picks my brain and gives nothing in return. It's not that he hides his strategy while he tries slyly to draw me out. Indeed, he celebrates his strategy, as if I were not there, and decries my strategy and explains how impudent it is that so weak a thing as my strategy dare exist at all.

He describes its weakness in detail. He is very helpful, exactly like a Good Samaritan, by which I mean he proceeds without even being asked to help. Naturally, I want to beat his brains out. At recent drafts I find I pay too much attention to what he is doing, and thus he entangles me.

Actually, I entangle myself. So that's why I did a bad draft. Unless it's not.

The deeper fear is that my new draft failings are a symptom of mental failure, the flicker at the corner of one's peripheral vision that heralds the arrival of being old, slow and stupid.

Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither; ripeness is all.

Damn it, I'm not ripe yet. But I am at that stage of life when one begins to worry that -- even if the body lasts -- the brain may go first. One looks for harbingers.

Thus, the name of my team: The Boys of Senility.

Peter Moore's draft memories.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We Go There a Lot

Patrons robbed in takeover heists at Oakland eateries

From Staff

Reports Article Created: 04/14/2008 11:08:19 AM PDT

OAKLAND _ Four robbers invaded Milano Restaurant on Grand Avenue
Sunday night, taking cash and valuables at gunpoint from a dozen
patrons and employees.

Investigators said two of the four robbers had guns. There was no
violence, but police said when one patron in his 50s stood up, one of
the robbers walked over and put a pistol to his head, forced him to
sit down and empty his pockets.

The robbers were last seen running east on nearby Elwood Street.

The takeover robbery at Milano, a popular Italian restaurant at
3424 Grand Ave., was the second takeover robbery in Oakland during the weekend and the third in two weeks.

The Happy Garden Restaurant, 4112 MacArthur Blvd. was robbed Saturday
night at 9:35 p.m. Three men robbed a dozen customers there.

On March 31, Red Boy Pizza, 1500 Leimert Blvd, was robbed.

Police said it's unknown if the same robbers were involved.
Detailed descriptions of the robbers is not available.

Three men robbed a dozen customers there.

When the Truth Hurts, What's a 'Journalist' to Do?

The quote is from Jay Rosen. The link to the context in which it appears is here.

Journalists, the pro kind, aren't allowed to be loyalists. But loyalists ... may find that loyalty to what really happened trumps all. And that's when they start to commit journalism.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Edith at Work

Discovery Channel -- and thus Disney -- is midwifing the donation of a park surface to Oakland so that the installation of the surface can be filmed for a TV special on (I think) "green" things. (I *think* some aspect of the product is made of recycled material.) But the prep work has to be paid for by Oakland, and the prep work, including field design, had to be done oh maybe 24 times faster than usual to fit the production schedule.

A certain Edith played a key role -- I would, of course, naturally claim *the* key role. We dropped by the site last week as the contractor was finishing up installing the aggregate base for the artificial turf. I couldn't resist.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Was Not the Featured Speaker .... Oh *Now* I Am.

Prof. Goodwin's remarks in precis: Oh the freedom of a tenured full professor.

By the way, all experienced public speakers have little tricks, little ways of thinking about the audience to put themselves at ease. Here is mine.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Blogging and Tenure

A post from Daniel Drezner several years ago:

So Friday was a pretty bad day....

This Friday was a less-than-great day for two reasons.

First, the Red Sox got swept in the playoffs.


The political science department voted to deny me tenure. Next year at this time, I will no longer be residing in Hyde Park or teaching at the University of Chicago.

[Wait a minute, you can’t leave it at that. What happened? What the hell happened? Why didn’t you get tenure? Was it your failure to anchor yourself within a clearly established theoretical paradigm? A lack of respect from peers in your IPE subfield? Too much output? A declining respect of your subfield by your tenured colleagues? The departmental turn away from mainstream political science scholarship? Your political orientation? Jealousy of your public intellectual status? WAS IT THE FRIGGIN’ BLOG??!!--ed.] My answers in order: I dunno, perhaps, probably not, maybe, I guess so, a little, could be, I seriously doubt it, and who the hell knows? Any decent social scientist must allow for multiple causes, so it’s not necessarily an either/or question. At the moment, I simply lack the data to confirm or deny any explanation. I may garner more information in the days and weeks that follow, but the fact that I was genuinely surprised at the outcome suggests that my ex ante intelligence gathering was piss-poor.

[So what will you do now?--ed.] Look for gainful employment to start in June 2006 – a fact that will no doubt amuse readers who have disagreed with my take on the effect of offshore outsourcing on job creation. At least I have some lead time.

[How are you feeling? Are you bitter at the U of C?--ed.] I’ve felt better. And -- duh -- yeah. That said, I will miss the students. The undergrads have been wonderful, and the grad students have been razor-sharp. At the moment, my biggest regret about all this is the knowledge that I’ve taught my last class at the university.

[Speaking of regrets, let’s go back to the blog.... er… any regrets?--ed.] The very first words I wrote on this blog were: "I shouldn't be doing this. I'll be going up for tenure soon." This is a theme that I’ve touched on several times since then. The point is, I can’t say I didn’t go into this with my eyes open.

That said, if one assumes that the opportunity cost of blogging (e.g., better or more scholarship) was the difference between tenure and no tenure – an unclear assertion at best – then it’s a tough call. From a strict cost-benefit analysis, one could argue that the doors that blogging opened could have been deferred for a few years in return for the annuity of a tenured position at Chicago. That said, if I did things only for the money, I never would have entered the academy in the first place. And I’ve enjoyed the psychic rewards of blogging way too much to regret my choice.

[Just this week you said, "The academic job market, as I've witnessed it, is a globally rational but locally capricious system." Still believe that?--ed.] Well, I’d posit that the second half of the hypothesis has received another data point of empirical support. We’ll see how the first half holds up as the job market proceeds.

Blogging may be slower than usual for the next couple of days.

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, more by him on the question of whether or not blogging can derail your career.

Another essay, this one asserting that some blogging academics have been tenured, though others, fearful, have chosen to be anonymous.

It's a GoogleFest. More thoughts from someone who is not Daniel Drezner on tenure and blogging.

Something I Hadn't Thought About. It's Like a Joke Unless It Isn't.

Al's Morning Meeting

Should Hybrid Cars Make Noise to Protect the Blind?
Two congressmen say they will introduce legislation today to require hybrid cars to emit some kind of noise that blind pedestrians could hear.

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Student Dies

A couple former students let me know that Dee-Jade Chock just died from the cancer she had been fighting for 12 years. She was 29. It would be better to say she lived with cancer. I didn't know her well enough to praise her with the thoroughness I would like, but everything I know about her is good stuff, solid stuff, the stuff of everlasting grief for those who were close to her in her life and will now be close to her in absence. That is the way it works.

I met her when she was a student in my News Media class, which disappeared (I think) because of the ramshackle way in which I taught it. I liked teaching it because then I knew everyone going through the department on the media side.

Dee missed the midterm, and she came to office to explain why. I had cancer surgery, she said. That's why I missed the test.

She said it matter-of-factly. I had surgery would have worked just as well. I had no sense she was angling for sympathy or extra consideration or anything. Cancer was what she had. No stigma in that. Cancer was war, and this was school, and she drew the line.

I thought to myself: This child may be exceptional. If that was me, I'd play my disease one way or the other, probably for a little sympathy or a little drama, making a joke to underline my bravery, asking for praise by not seeming to.

She just said: I had cancer surgery. When can I make up the test?

I watched her out of the corner of my eye from then on. It turned out in the copy editing class that she already knew Quark Xpress -- I didn't but faked it anyway -- and was a good tutor, so I brought her back after graduation occasionally to do weekend workshops when I taught editing because she was so gracious and efficient.

Sometimes she talked about chemo, commentary minus complaint. Sometimes I got one of those "big" emails to her friends and acquaintances explaining how something that had shown some promise hadn't kept working, but now she was trying something else.

I will not give up, she wrote. There's always something new. On one of those tutoring trips to USF her boyfriend drove her up from the Peninsula and then came back to pick her up. He was wearing his pajamas when he dropped her off. That seemed to me just the right note, the substance of the kind of ease and companionship that outlives anything, including ....

Well, it does, doesn't it? After that I referred to him as Pajama Boy, which seemed to make her smile. They got married last year.

That was the only advice I ever gave her, gave it without solicitation after the last terrifying email I got from her: Get married. I mean, marry Pajama Boy. Leave as much as you can behind you. Leave your touch on as many people as possible.

Of course, I didn't need to tell her that. I was telling myself. That's what some people do. They remind you of what you already know. Why do we forget?

So Now This Piece Matters?

Nothing seems to live for more than a day without commentary; the contemporary version of “if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound” is “if an article gets written and no one blogs it, does anyone care?”

Here's the piece. Just the usual despair about print, this from the magazine side.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


We saw the A's today, oh boy, the second this week. They lost both games 2-1.

I'm looking for a comparison:

The A's couldn't hit their _______ with their _______. So far all my analogies are needlessly vulgar, and I don't see how that will help the A's. We want to sting, not to wound.

Later: I put the feature writing class on the job.

The baseball team couldn't hit a beach ball with a boat oar. (Nick Peterson)

The baseball team couldn't hit their taste-buds with their tongue. (Cameron McKee)

The baseball team couldn't hit the water even if they fell out of a canoe. (Lester Jeff Banatao, who says it's a cliche. Which will do when it comes to baseball.)

The A's couldn't hit a deer with a van. (Maria Dinzeo)

Friday, April 04, 2008


Went to the Zuni Cafe tonight for E.'s birthday. I like the Zuni Cafe. Nice choice of beast flesh, those beasts respected in the loving preparation of their flesh. I had the pork chop. E. had the bunny.

After the meal, lined up for the toilet. Guy behind me was a very pleasant fellow, a tourist from Ireland. He said that some of his party had the chicken for two, which -- according to the menu -- you need to allow an hour for the slow cooking in the wood-fired oven.

I said that's a long time. He said not so if you are having the champagne and the cocktails, not long at all.

He also said he was impressed with how cheap the meal was -- if you are an Irish tourist with a charge card full of Euros. The wheel turns Americanos, the wheel turns.

The Book Party