Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Upcoming from Florentine Films

"The Dust Bowl," the newest release from Florentine Films written by Dayton Duncan and directed by Ken Burns premieres on PBS November 18th and 19th from 8:00-10:00 PM ET. Like all good documentaries about the past, this one shines a poignant light on our present day and our future. For those unfamiliar, the Dust Bowl refers to a series of devastating dust storms in the 1930s that ravaged hundreds of thousands of acres in American West, centering in the Pan-handle of Texas and Oklahoma. A ten-year drought combined with unsustainable agriculture practices to turn the soil to rootless dust. After it dried it up it flew away and drove hundreds of thousands of people with it. John Steinbeck memorialized these families in classics such as The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Of Mice and Men (1937).  Of course, the film is not overtly political but parallels to current debates over things like "fracking" should be obvious. Expect a masterfully written and penetrating look into the surrounding events and a visceral evocation of the experience of ecological disaster, forced migration, and the journey west.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

If I Work Effectively This is How I Do It

This work/study formula is definitely not original. But I came up with it on my own out of necessity. When I was in college I spent hours daily on the "social" floor of our hulking, brutalist library overlooking the Potomac. I suffered from the conflicting desire to be around other laboring souls while at the same time needing to have my vision blocked by wood panels on three sides. If you spent enough time on the second floor of Lauinger library in the study carrels you would begin to recognize the individuals who required the same work atmosphere. For me this included a bizarre comfort in knowing people were around me interacting (not insisting on the silence of the tomb to complete a statistics problem) while at the same time attempting to enter my own world. While I have stopped short of installing a study carrel in either the house or the workplace, the other two elements of my environment remain. They are the following:

Espresso Coffee:  On the social floor I could nab an americano at my convenience. Now, I believe, what I am making in my espresso machine is actually a caffè lungo,  which stretches the espresso with water rather than adding hot water to it. Or I could be bullshitting you. Either way if I drink too much I have a panic attack.

Instrumental Hip Hop/ Trip Hop/ Jazz: I quickly realized that I could not delve into the writing of Geertz, Wolf, Abu- Lughod, and Appadurai while listening to the lyrics of some crooner. So I developed an instrumental only work playlist. My playlists include a lot of jazz and the work of hip hop and trip hop producers who owe so much (often almost everything) to jazz.  Here are a few selections:

Robert Glasper- Of Dreams to Come

J Dilla- Won't Do

Pete Rock- A Little Soul

And Finally, Grado Headphones: Sorry Dre,  I'm sure your headphones are great. But I wouldn't trade these for anything.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Book Behind the Title


Lest my imaginary readers assume by the title of the this blog that it will be all about my unique worth and eccentricity, I wish to explain that the name comes from a wonderful novel. A novel I didn't write. A Singular Man (1963) by J.P. Donleavy follows the story of mysterious, aloof, and arrogant millionaire George Smith. It is full of humor that manages to be both intelligent and absurdly childish. Donleavy's writing is both cynical and romantic and your mother would faint if she knew you were reading it. Among Donleavy's classics is the more famous The Ginger Man (1955) about an American war veteran studying, boozing, and chasing skirt at Trinity College in Dublin. It was banned in both the Republic of Ireland and the United States for obscenity and remains a classic for all self-professed rakish intellectuals. Just because those people like it doesn't mean it's a bad book. It's great and still manages to shock. However, I lied. This blog is going to be all about me and my singularity.