Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The New Yorker Respects My Writing! (And Then Rejects It)

So I'm in a grad class right now related to magazine writing, and on a whim late one night I decided to submit my most recent piece to the New Yorker. Well, today I got this in my inbox:
Dear Brian South,
We're sorry to say that your piece wasn't right for us, despite
its evident merit. Thank you for allowing us to consider your work.

Best regards,
The Talk Dept.
"Evident merit?" The New Yorker thinks my writing has "evident merit?!" Well, turns out that the New Yorker sends this response out to pieces that are a cut above the rest, but not good enough for the final dance.

If you're not a writer or artist of some sort, you probably don't get what all the fuss is about. I got rejected. That may seem to be a weird thing to get excited about. Hell, it is weird thing to get excited about. But I and most other writers receive SO many rejection letters that one that actually compliments your work does seem special. And the fact that it's coming from the New Yorker, about a dream rejection. (Actually, I've never heard the phrase "dream rejection," but it seemed to fit there so I'm going with it.)

I don't mean for this post to brag at all, I'm just trying to highlight that there is so much failure associated with this line of work that a momentary bright spot can light the whole room. In all its pathetic glory.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Chief Justice's Flub

Doesn't that title sound dirty?

Watching the swearing in and inaugural speech was amazing. Watching it with 1,000 freshmen was less so. While the speech itself was inspired and moving, perhaps the most surprising bit of the afternoon was Obama's excited jumping ahead in the oath of office, followed by Chief Justice John Roberts' reordering of words in the oath, followed by confusion on the part of Obama, followed by confusion on the part of Roberts. Hilarity ensues.

Most media outlets, of course, are focusing on the grandeur of the day, as well they should, but I did track down this article from

Chief Justice Fumbles

January 20, 2009 12:45 PM

Chief Justice John Roberts is a man who has made very few public missteps in his life -- but he appears to have made one when swearing in Barack Obama. After Obama stepped on the first line of the oath, Roberts then slightly flubbed the next bit--which then tripped up Obama.

You'd think two brilliant Harvard Law grads who are both serious students of the Constitution (and obviously know the words of the oath by heart) would nail this one, but, then again, who among us has made history standing before two million people on a freezing January day?

The oath is contained in the Constitution:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

But when Obama jumped in sooner than Roberts expected, Roberts flipped some of the words, saying: "I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully."

Here's the transcript:

ROBERTS: Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?
OBAMA: I am.
ROBERTS: I, Barack Hussein Obama...
OBAMA: I, Barack...
ROBERTS: ... do solemnly swear...
OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...
ROBERTS: ... that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully...
OBAMA: ... that I will execute...
ROBERTS: ... faithfully the office of president of the United States...
OBAMA: ... the office of president of the United States faithfully...
ROBERTS: ... and will to the best of my ability...
OBAMA: ... and will to the best of my ability...
ROBERTS: ... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
OBAMA: ... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
ROBERTS: So help you God?
OBAMA: So help me God.
ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

UPDATE: It's worth pointing out that Chief Justice William Howard Taft, who had been President himself, also flubbed the oath when he was swearing in Herbert Hoover in 1929. When Taft administered the oath, he said, "preserve, maintain and defend the Constitution," instead of "preserve, PROTECT, and defend." So where Roberts flipped a couple of words, Taft substituted an entirely new one.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Some Places Still Offer Customer Service

Two companies in particular that really cater to customers in the modern age are and L.L. Bean. I've read multiple stories from each of these companies that restore a shred of my faith in capitalism. I actually follow the Zappos CEO on Twitter.

What brought on this post was a remarkable story posted today on Consumerist, one of my all time favs. Check it out.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

CES and Macworld Comes to an End

Those not inclined to follow tech news might not be aware that CES and Macworld 2009 has come to a close--or have even heard of them. For the uninitiated, these conventions bring together the top electronics producers around the world to show off their cutting-edge wares. What gets tech nerds excited about these events is the fact that the companies usually announce their new product lines--and bring in and show off prototypes.

There are any number of tech blogs that have already provided extensive coverage throughout the week, but I'm partial to Gizmodo, myself. Do a tag search for "ces" and you'll find more coverage than you can handle.

If you're the lazy type, and I'm betting you are, you can just follow this link to a summary of the major announcements, provided by Gizmodo's sister site, Lifehacker.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Seven Things

1. Seven things to do before I die
2. Seven things I cannot do
3. Seven things that attract me to my spouse/best friend
4. Seven things I say most often
5. Seven books (or series) I love
6. Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would watch over and over if I had the time)
7. Seven people I want to join in, too

--Seven things to do before I die:
1. Get a novel published
2. Raise a family
3. Live in Italy for a (significant) while
4. Read all of the books
5. Make a film to be proud of
6. Have the awesomest, sweetest den in North America
7. Finally be content

--Seven things I cannot do:
1. Slow down (at least right now)
2. Be angry with my students for more than a day (don't tell them!)
3. Blow a bubble
4. Grow hair
5. Say the alphabet backwards
6. Tolerate dogs
7. Get less than 7 hours sleep

--Seven things that attract me to me spouse/best friend:
1. Sense of humor
2. Intelligence
3. Cuteness quotient
4. Eyes
5. Ability to open up
6. Commitment readiness
7. Smokin' hot bod

--Seven things I say most often:
1. "Sit down and shut up!" (to my students; just kidding)
2. "Sweet Fancy Moses!"
3. "Come on!" (a la GOB Bluth)
4. "Why are PE teachers called 'teachers?'"
5. "Why won't these girls just leave me alone!"
6. "Why the FUCK was Arrested Development being canceled?!?"
7. "Life is too serious to be taken seriously."

--Seven books (or series) I love (this was actually a very challenging and rewarding task):
1. James Joyce's Ulysses
2. J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye
3. Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
4. Michael Cunningham's The Hours
5. J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy
6. The Bond books
7. Star Wars books

--Seven movies I watch over and over (or would watch over and over if I had the time):
1. Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums
2. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie
3. Sophia Coppola's Lost in Translation
4. Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon
5. Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush
6. The Coen Bros.' No Country for Old Men
7. Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window

--Seven people I want to join in, too:
1. Dana (yeah, right, he doesn't even have a computer)
2. Tara
3. Gino
4. Paul
5. Steve
6. Sarah
7. YOU

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Winter Break Stats

Papers graded: 30
Movies watched: 6
Parties attended: 5
States visited: 3
Books read: 3
Xbox games played: 2
Grad classes attended: 1

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Everyone's Making Top 10 Lists. Here's Mine.

10. Salmon
9. When Harry Met Sally...
8. Roger Federer
7. Death Star
6. John Pierpont Morgan
5. Hypochondria
4. Ineluctable
3. All in the Family
2. Smith & Wesson
1. Thermal Underwear.

You decide.