Ken Eckert's Moldy Rutabaga Blogette
and Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomena

December 2008

Okay, another cat picture. But it looked cute.

I don't like Las Vegas very much, but UNLV itself is a decently pretty campus. Click on the picture to go the gallery of photos I took December 17 when it snowed like crazy in Las Vegas. It came down so hard that they closed the airport. I was even surprised to see Las Vegas drivers, who usually drive like sugar-crazed chimpanzees, going really cautiously through the stuff. In Edmonton, the flights wouldn't even be late and people would say, Don't be a baby— this isn't snow. Let me tell you about the winter of '83....

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November 2008

We now have a cat, Sushi, for my daughter. Sushi seems to think that she is human, as she's pretty intelligent; she's figured out that doorknobs open doors somehow but can't quite jump that high, and she meows in short little bursts that suggest she thinks she's talking. I won't give away all the exciting details about our cat, but for those who like them here she is at about five months old.

I've had to do some emergency surgery on the website, as Flash 10 has been released and my website couldn't support it when playing video files. Thus all of the pages with videos on them will look a little different, and hopefully cleaner looking; there are a few new features.

Yes, I know I can't vote here because I'm Canadian— I'm surprised by how many people I meet who don't understand that— but I did go to an Obama rally on Saturday in Henderson (suburban Las Vegas). It was quite a spectacle, with personal searches, police helicopters and roof snipers, and security everywhere. Obama made his usual speech to an enthusiastic and well-behaved crowd by Vegas standards, which doesn't say very much, but it's true.

Ken's Rant

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin was pranked last weekend by a Montreal comedy team which impersonated French president Nicolas Sarkozy. In response to a question about Canadian prime minister "Stef Carse," a local Quebecois entertainer, Palin replied that "he's doing fine." I was not surprised but a little saddened to realize that the nominee for the vice president of the USA does not know the name of the prime minister of Canada, the country's border state and largest trading partner, two weeks after his re-election. Go back and re-read that last sentence and realize this is a candidate for Vice-President of the United States. I know we're a small country. But you're the possible replacement for the American president, for God's sake. The Republicans used to be a party of intellectual conservatism. Now it is presently run by people who might accept a telephone call from Mexican president Speedy Gonzalez.

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October 2008

This is my last semester of coursework for my PhD, and then I will continue to teach while I prepare for exams called comprehensives, which I write in the spring. This is three stressful days of four-hour long exams, all of which will determine whether I end up without a degree, making french fries for a living, or with a degree in English literature, making french fries but being called 'doctor' by the shift supervisor. Because of all these things flying around, I haven't written much in this blogette, disappointing my millions of loyal readers.

I suppose the excitement in my life lately has been the car accident which half-destroyed the townhouse we moved into this summer. On a Saturday night in late July, a neighbor who'd evidently drank too much iced tea at the church social lost control of his car, drove up our driveway, and smashed apart the dividing wall and our car inside. It has taken two months of insurance company paper-shuffling and buck-passing to get everything fixed. The police were professional but quite unsurprised— "it happens all the time." It happens all the time in Vegas. There's a city movement here to put concrete barriers around bus stop shelters because of the fatalities caused by drunk drivers hitting them. As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.

Ken's Rant

Presidents Who Are 'Just Like Me'

So what do I think about the upcoming American election? Well, perhaps no one cares. It's also not a good idea to talk about politics too much. Third, anything I say about this might go stale as fast as garlic bread by election night. Having all these caveats in mind, I will try to talk about what I see as interesting long-term features of the election. Don't I already sound 'elitist' and too 'professorial'? Somewhere along the line in this campaign, having a passport and using a lot of big words became a bad thing.

Yes, I'll admit I'm an Obama fan. People have asked me why a Canadian is so interested in American politics, and I guess I have to say that the Canadian prime minister doesn't have his finger on atomic weapons or the fate of the world economy so much as the next American president will. It's a globalized world, and we all have to live with the consequences of your election. Right now Iceland is teetering on bankruptcy because of your country's Wall Street (non)regulations. Maybe we should all get to vote!

I don't agree with McCain's platform or his tactics, but I'll grant that he's a legitimate and presidential candidate. I also concede that some people support Obama for the wrong reasons— "because he's good looking." I do think that Sarah Palin represents the absolute worst sentiments in American politics: the Oprah-ization of north American culture. We no longer support candidates based on competence, but by how much I can identify with them, and by how much they relate to me, me, me.

I want to ask people at these rallies: do you choose your doctor this way? Do you want a surgeon who is plain-speaking and outside the medical estalishment— someone you can have a beer with, as opposed to one of those big-shot Harvard-educated elitist specialists who's been a Mayo Clinic insider for their entire career? I think I know which doctor I want treating my leukemia. But yet many voters support someone who can declare war based on this principle. I don't want a president or vice-president I can have a beer with. I'd rather he or she be sober at 3 AM. I don't want a president who's like me. I would wreck the world!

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July 2008

Website

No, I haven't joined the marines. I've just been busy all summer with vacations, teaching, and my summer course. I am working on some new photograph pages and other modifications and they'll be uploaded soon.

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April 2008

I haven't been accepted to any universities. I don't know why, expect that maybe it's a combination of factors— a bad economy, the fact that I'm already part-way through my program at UNLV, the drunken death threats breathed into the telephone to the admissions departments. Notre Dame waited until late April to notify me and Purdue only e-mailed me a frosty and grudging 'no' after I repeatedly asked them to acknowledge my application after I gave you a hundred dollars and a stack of forms, Goddammit. Am I wrong for thinking that after I spent all this money and time putting together application forms and obtaining transcripts, exam reports, paper samples, and references, asking for a simple response is too much?

Ken's Rant

Expendable Applicants

It's always surprised me that nobody in a company's management ever notices that how you treat applicants has an impact on your sales. I understand record companies or publishers with piles of submissions. But there are lots of store chains I've really never bought anything at since the 80s (I have a looong memory) because they treated me so thoughtlessly when I asked for a job. I've been told "yeah, go through those doors and find somebody." I've been in interviews where clearly people were going through the motions and made little attempt to hide it. I've applied endlessly to businesses which evidently posted help wanted signs only to pad their applicant banks (I'm thinking of an electronics chain which rhymes with 'Radio Snack'). And often with these businesses I was previously a solid customer. I think the analogy works for universities. If / when I become a professor someday, would I be likely to recommend a university to a student asking for help or a reference after being treated like an unwanted pest as an applicant myself years earlier?

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March 2008

Happy Easter. We just came back from a few days in Mesa, next to Phoenix, Arizona. I have some new photos on my west USA page. My parents winter, as do many snowbirds, in a seniors trailer park. Compared to Vegas, Arizona seemed eerily quiet and polite...

So far, four universities have not accepted me! It's just like old times in Canada when I was trying to find a job.

Ken's Rant

Thunderous Applause!

My daughter was in a school award and music performance this week. Half the night was clapping. What is it with Americans lately and standing ovations? You go to a social event and if the janitor can fart in pitch he gets one. It's starting to cheapen the currency to give everyone thunderous applause. How are we going to express extra recognition if the dalai lama steps into the room?

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January 2008

This January I was able to organize a round-table discussion of community issues in our apartment complex. Click here to see a transcript of the evening's speeches.

Thinking of moving here? Take the Are you a Good Match for Vegas quiz!

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December 2007

The teenage seller at my door fundraising asks for my name and signature while trying to avoid telling me that I'm signing up for a magazine subscription. When I refuse he sulks off mocking me. These are the manners taught in Las Vegas. On the bright side, the woman with the dogs has moved out after I called apartment security twice, once at 2 AM, because of the barking. Heaven knows what upstanding citizens will move in to take her place. I am really starting to sound like an old crank. Where is my cane, so I can hobble to the donut shop and complain about the government.

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November 2007

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Don't take any crap from your computer. If it's acting up, or your keyboard decides half the letters aren't going to work today, remind the other parts of the costs of failure.

Salon.com on the new Beowulf movie, which I saw tonight:

You see, the "real" Beowulf is not a particularly sexy story, and [director Robert] Zemeckis knows it. "Frankly, nothing about the original poem appealed to me," he's quoted as saying in the movie's press notes, recalling that he'd been made to read the damn thing in junior high school. "But when I read the screenplay that Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary did, I was immediately captivated." He asked Gaiman and Avary why their script was so exciting when the poem was so boring. They explained that the poem was written somewhere between the seventh and the 12th centuries... Since the only people who knew how to write in those days were monks, Avary and Gaiman figured these reputable men of the cloth would have edited out all the juicy bits, so they added some back in. If you see "Beowulf," you'll have plenty of opportunities to stare down computer-generated cleavage...

Enough. I'm getting nauseated.

Ken's Rant

The Beowulf Movie

Angelina Jolie rising naked out of the sea isn't so bad, admittedly. But after spending years working on Beowulf for my MA and studying other medieval works, it's nauseating to hear a Hollywood director proudly telling us, "I don't have a grain of respect for this classical work of literature, but I want to make a pile of money off of it, so I changed the story entirely so that there's lots of Angelina Jolie booty." Shame on you. Not only does it display a colossal ignorance of history to trot out the old cliche of humorless monks in cells tut-tutting any naughty bits— could they spare ten minutes to look at the fableaux, or the Miller's Tale?— but Zemeckis' cynical determination to tailor a great work to fourteen year old boys to make some fast loot is just saddening. The epic speeches and lifelong friendships are out; leering shots of a serving wench leaning over a table with her boobs hanging out, or women joking about Beowulf's penis, are in. Character development is out; showing off your CGI monsters is in. Naturally, Beowulf can't be a Christian anymore because it might offend someone. So why did you stop there, Zemeckis? Instead of the stodgy harp music, why not some techno? Why doesn't Beowulf wear dark sunglasses and have some cool Kung-fu chops? That's in this year, you know. And what's with the boring robes the women wear— why not some bikinis and cowboy boots to zang things up, say with Beyonce as the queen, with a Hagar-the-Horrible Viking helmet so that the other Danes can ask if she's "horny"?

The cheesy, overdone 3-D effects, where swords and bodies and whatall constantly fly at the camera for no reason all indicate a film at creative rock bottom. It reminded me of the SCTV shows where Dr. Tongue would wave everything in his hand at the camera to show off the effect. There's plenty of blood and monsters in the movie, but what's truly frightening is that Hollywood men with power have the ability to keep throwing money at Beowulf remakes when they're consistently awful. Please. stop. now.

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Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Pancakes (John Candy) from SCTV.
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October 2007

I'm looking into transferring to a different university, likely in the Chicago area. I don't make such a decision lightly because it involves 8,000 forms, hundreds of dollars in application fees and to those pirates at GRE, and moving a whole lot of stuff across country. It's not UNLV, which is fine. it's Las Vegas. It's not even the climate. I think that Vegas people are making me meaner by the day...

Ken's Rant

  • I sat today thinking for quite a while how I plan to kill those damned dogs owned by the woman in the next apartment. If they bark through another night I think I'll let that boozy tramp know what some older Koreans traditionally do with dogs; it involves a stewpot...
  • Why does it take piles of paperwork, two tests, and a letter from the Vatican for a foreign student to get a driver's license in Vegas, when apparently anyone brighter than a brain-damaged hamster, and with equivalent ethics, can drive a car here? My wife nearly got hit today by someone driving into her lane without looking. I've never seen so many traffic accidents since I saw The Matrix.
  • Bad service in restaurants. I don't mind tipping when service is good. I'll put up with mediocre service in countries with no tipping. But apathetic and careless service at Applebee's where tips are expected is irritating. We walked out of a restaurant at Mount Charleston after being ignored.
  • Your car horn is not a doorbell. If you believe it is, do you normally ring a doorbell sixteen times until someone comes out? Do you believe that leaning on the horn to make people hurry up makes them happier to see you?
  • Collection agencies are demonic enough. Being called daily with automated responses by collection agencies for the deadbeats who lived in my apartment before me is grounds for tactical weapon strikes. This is Vegas; so far I've had no mistaken calls thanking me for my volunteer work.
  • Yes, I know if it's too loud, I'm too old. Okay, I'm too old. But I'm entitled to my opinion that your 'music' is garbage and that when you're in your car, across the parking lot, and your subwoofers vibrate so loudly that it makes my chair rattle inside, you're not really listening. Has anyone noticed that hardly anyone ever plays Brahms at 108 decibels on a car stereo?

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August 2007

We just came back from a two-week holiday. We passed through Santa Barbara, Solvang, and San Francisco, California, and then Eugene, Oregon, and Vancouver, B.C. before staying in Edmonton for a week. Lowlights: I had my camera stolen in an Oregon gas station by California hippies and Ariel got a speeding ticket from a zealous trooper in Utah. Maybe one of his wives was angry with him that morning!

California was crowded but colorful. I liked Montana much more than I expected (great scenery, kind people) and Seattle and Utah much less (grubby downtown, high prices). Oregon was pleasant.. lots of trees.. old houses.. very restful.. peace and... I think I feel like a nap now.. <yawn>...

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July 2007

Last week it went up to 47o Celsius— 117o Fahrenheit. When I walk across campus from the writing center to my class, about five minutes, one feels a little dizzy from the sun. Staying outside is not safe. And still people sit and sun tan next to the pool. Are their brains already too baked to feel it? Don't answer that question...

  1. Yes, I knew Las Vegas would be hot. I'm not expecting sympathy.
  2. As my pastor said, the next time someone says, "Yeah, but it's a dry heat", tell them to turn on the burner on their stove and to put their hand on it because it's a dry heat.
  3. Ratatouille, despite having an unpronounceable name and being about a rat and all, is a surprisingly excellent movie. I'm almost willing to have faith again in the movie industry after 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith'.

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June 2007

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March 2007

The main pool in my apartment complex. It's very nice—when it's not being repaired or full of screaming children. I think that day was a Tuesday..
Me & family next to the Mirage falls during my parents' visit. Maybe it's a waste of water.. of course, no one on the strip is drinking water..

Website

During spring break I've been reading The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, who came to UNLV a few weeks ago to deliver a talk. Fascinating stuff about how the globalization of trade and information is changing everything. Click on the picture.

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February 2007

We are now living in an apartment on the edge of Henderson - Las Vegas, and I've begun studies and am tutoring in the campus writing center. I'm taking two courses this semester.

Our new upstairs apartment in Henderson (actually, ours has trees in the way, but the one across the road is a mirror image).

Big reverse culture shock after living in Korea for four years. My main sensation is the excess of everything. Portions (and waistlines) are big. Cars are big. Buildings and supermarkets are big. In Korea, you just buy the toothpaste; here there are 93 brands and variations of toothpaste and everything requires a decision. Where Koreans are reserved, Americans are comparatively in-your-face (and Las Vegans, I have to say, can be pretty rude). On the other hand, no one beats America for instant gratification. It's midnight; I want triangular taco chips with cheddar cheese, and with green salsa, and I want it right now!— cash or charge?..

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About Ken


I call this a blogette because of its size, although it seems to be growing. Here you can read about my vitally important news and opinions on everything. I am a Canadian. I am an English professor at Hanyang University in Korea. I am a Christian. I am a Lessetarian. My band is Kill the Wabbit. My website is here; sometimes it has mistakes.

Archive

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Things I've Written

Funny Things
Great Scott! The Future
But That Nice Paul Pot is Nothing Like His Dad
Burn, Witch, Burn
That's What They Want
We Can Work It Out
100% Professional-Free
Psy's 'Gentleman' Disaster
Am I That Useless?
North Korea's Kooky Showmen
Satire is Alive and Well (Maybe Too Well)
Address to the Class of '69
Gypsies, Thieves, and Filesharers
The End of Countries
What is a Gen X'er?
No More Friends