e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


h2o part two

Yesterday after work, a second consecutive swim. My first night I did twenty minutes. Last night, 30. I could really get used to the sensation which perhaps stems from swimming being something different (i.e., I haven't really done it for ten years), but for whatever reason swimming feels rewarding, like an accomplishment--especially increasing my time by ten minutes. I still can't imagine getting to a point of caring much about speed or form but I love the feeling of speeding up my heart rate and then keeping it elevated, going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I like that swimming is hard. That's why it feels satisfying to complete thirty minutes.


free music

So I have hundreds of CDs, vinyl records, and cassettes in my office at home. I bought a lot of music in high school (late 80s, early 90s) when I "followed" particular bands--The Pixies, Smiths, et al--and was likely to use money I earned at Taco Bell to pick up anything they released. I also bought a lot of new music circa 2002-2005 or so, likely for a variety of reasons: I finally had a real job/source of income for the first time in my life after six years of grad school, I heard a lot of great new music on woxy (Oxford, Ohio's now-defunct indie rock station), and my students at Miami U tended to recommend stuff to me. So my CD collection is oddly weighted toward those years: The Gossip, Greenhornes, Libertines, Shins, Soledad Brothers, The Kills, Bloc Party...

Like, well, pretty much everybody, I buy very little new music. I bought i-Tunes versions of the soul singer Kelis' new album "Food," which I love big time; Detroit rapper Danny Brown's irreverent album "Old," which I like; and the new Mashrou'Leila, a Lebanese rock band, and that's pretty much it this year.

Other than that, it's free music. I have spotify on my computer in the Writing Program on campus and I have Nirvana, Morrissey, "dance" (Midnight Star, Morris Day, etc.), and "80s" (Split Enz, The Specials, Kool Moe Dee, Bananarama) playlists that get heavy rotation. I also have a couple entire records downloaded spotify playlists because I only have them on cassette and hence never listen to them (10,000 Maniacs, Porno for Pyros). Also, on the free music front: this great archive where you can find tens of thousands of music videos and concert clips. Amazing.

Fewer kids experience album art, I guess, but for those who get into the whole vinyl subculture. And I guess, personally, music is less communal, which has something to do with 1) not being 15 anymore, and 2) not teaching at Miami of Ohio anymore. And while free is nice for me, it's not so nice for artists. 2014, folks.


I usually work out 3-4 times per week on cardio machines. Thus far--knock on wood, inshallah, spit on the ground, stay away evil eye--I've avoided high blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar problems, the things that allegedly go hand-in-hand with being fat.

Yesterday, though, I swam laps. Ten years ago, when we lived in Ohio, I used to swim almost every morning at the Hamilton YMCA in our neighborhood. I had forgotten how swimming makes your whole body tired and refreshed all at once. Circa 2004 I used to swim for about 45-50 minutes (never kept track of number of laps because I know my speed, form, etc. weren't very good--my goal was always more about elevating my heart rate and maintaining that elevation anyway).

Yesterday I did 20 solid minutes. Going back this afternoon to hopefully do the same. I need a break from the treadmill. Err, literally and figuratively.


Tammy, Concern, Comfort

Nicole and I both enjoyed Tammy, a funny, sometimes uneven Melissa McCarthy vehicle that has largely received negative reviews. And not just the kind of negative reviews that comedies with swear words and physical comedy usually receive. Tammy has gotten sometimes angry reviews about the end of civilization and the lowest common denominator and how dare she? Of course those reviews are silly.

Often they're sexist too, as this sharp analysis points out. Andi Zeisler admits that the film is flawed and even that it has its share of easy fat jokes, but suggests the film has a radical streak too. Zeisler critiques the negative reviews that feign concern for McCarthy's lack of range (because she's been in multiple Hollywood movies playing over-the-top, outrageous, ne'er-do-wells) or, worse yet, suggest her type "functions better as a supporting player." It's one thing to criticize the movie's fat jokes, it's another thing in the age of eating disorders to wish publicly that McCarthy herself wouldn't draw attention to her own body.

Zeisler concludes: "She can be fat, they [these decorous critics] seem to be saying, but just maybe not, you know... act fat." Boom! These critics--the same ones who were appalled when Rex Reed called McCarthy a "hippo" last year--are pissed off because in Tammy McCarthy is the film's protagonist, not the sidekick. She never apologizes for being fat. There's no b-plot where she joins weight watchers (but there is a b-plot where a good-looking dude has a crush on her). She eats desserts on screen and makes jokes about sometimes eating too many of them.

Zeisler rightly calls the tone of these reviews "concern." Once in the campus rec center, I was approached while on a treadmill by a "nice" and "concerned" individual who shook his head and with much decorum said he thought it was great that I was "trying." Gee, thanks. I think I had walked 3.5 miles at that point, mostly at a pretty sharp incline. In a world where I've exercised my way out of a family history of high blood pressure (I've had perfect blood pressure my whole adult life), in what way was I trying and not succeeding? Look at the fat guy giving it a try even though he's, you know, fat. If only he wasn't fat, wow I wish we all looked alike. I'd be a lot more comfortable if we all looked alike.


Paint Valley Jamboree

For all the far-flung corners of the world I've visited--Armenia to Syria, Assisi to Paris--Bainbridge, Ohio, stands out as one of the most unique nooks I know. Bainbridge is home to the Paint Valley Jamboree, a Saturday night hootenanny of sorts. Each weekend, a string of local and regional songbirds, backed by a worldclass houseband, sing bluegrass, gospel, folk, Americana, and country favorites--some originals, mostly covers. The crowd couldn't be friendlier, the popcorn couldn't be cheaper, and the music is consistently outstanding. What stands out is that genre and style are largely beside the point. You might hear a gospel standard followed by a George Jones ballad, a song about drinking too much followed by a song about memories of Ma & Pa.

I paid my third visit to the jamboree this past weekend and had a great time. Tim Koehl, the new owner of the historic Paxton Theatre, has become a friend. Tim has plans to continue preserving the theatre (sadly, the jamboree closed for a short time before Tim acquired the site) and expanding the roster of entertainers too. I have every intention of making the trek down to Paint Valley more often. Haven't been disappointed yet.

Me and Nicole enjoying the show