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Part of Skylar's dream of making the Olympic team for Rio in 2016 involves meeting some of her heroes from the 2012 London Games, particularly swimmers. Since Michael Phelps has declared that he won't be going as a participant, she has turned her attention to people like Missy Franklin. And being on Team Phelps, she has also expressed a desire to not fall in with the Ryan Lochte fan club.

She is having fun when she talks about these plans, serious about her competitive goals, but also clear on the fact that achieving them, at least that early, is at best a remote possibility. But the Olympics were clearly a huge positive influence on her during a summer when she could easily have gone down a less healthy path, so indulging in fantasies surrounding Rio is a way for her to ground herself in something good for her.

Not to mention that she's at an age when fantasy is both fraught and immensely important. Her interest in Michael Phelps is pretty much the first fannish interest of a teenage sort that she has had in anyone, male or female. I think she recognizes, though, that he may not be the best role model, much less boyfriend, given his partying ways. To paraphrase her comment from today, "It's like he was saying, 'I can smoke marijuana and still beat you all most of the time.'" That's why, as she was looking at photos of the Copa Cabana tonight, I decided to draw her attention to another potential interest, someone who is likely to make the American Olympic team in 2016: Nathan Adrian.

Once Skylar remembered what he looked like, it didn't take long for her to endorse this alternative. The fact that he was a Cal Bear was a plus, too. Then we watched his Olympic performances. It was his manner after winning his gold, both in the pool and being interviewed afterwards, that really sold her (along with thousands and thousands of other people):

Nathan Adrian getting interviewed after unexpectedly winning the gold medal in the 100 meter freestyle at the 2012 London Olympic Games

Given the fact that extensive internet searching reveals nothing at all about Adrian's past girlfriends, though, he may not be available. When asked directly, as in this interview from four months prior to London, he says he has "no time." But Lochte and Phelps haven't had any time either, have they?

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Relief can come from above or close to the ground

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The Texas Department of Transportation provides wireless internet service at rest areas because, as the sign says, doing so encourages drivers to make regular stops and therefore will return them to the road rested and more alert, which is more or less how I will feel after posting this entry and getting back on the road a little before 3am CST

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Somehow, I don't think that this particular Facebook app is doing a good job of narrowing the field:

My Hebrew names

Or maybe it's just that "Charles" is such a majestic appellation that it can't be captured by any one equivalent.

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I decided to try the "I Write Like" meme that's circulating right now, both in apparently sincere and obviously détourned form. First I submitted my partially autobiographical piece on the passing of Big Star's Alex Chilton, which includes the following paragraph:
That realization has prompted me to reflect on the social uses of popular culture. If the mind is capable of defending against loss in the same way whether it be proximate or far removed from our personal lives, maybe our reaction to the misfortune of celebrities is more complicated than it initially appears. Could it be that we cultivate attachments in the public sphere, not only as a means of escaping reality, but of preparing ourselves to confront the blows it inflicts on our psyche?
Here's the response the meme engine returned:


I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


Then I submitted this poem I recently posted to my Live Journal:
Florid
You’re right: you made me feel
so good about myself that I wanted
to punish you. When you held me,
I was scared. I struggled to do enough
to please, self-destructively. We came
to fear causing displeasure, centered
on the wrong things. Root out the
blame! Our mutual commission to
descry symptoms was not sharing,

just scheming for power. Did you
understand why I was trying to express
that I wasn't good enough as I was?
I never wanted the attention. Pressure
to connect was enormous. And tedious.
You were frustrated by my seeming
inability to assert a worldview. But
I saw myself reflected in your hurt.
And here's what the meme engine responded:


I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


Finally I submitted the piece I wrote on Tortoise and post-rock last summer, one which I think of as "stealth autobiography," because it was written in the wake of a horrible experience that had me up all night. Here's a sample paragraph:
Fear is an inevitable byproduct of uncertain times. Just as the penetration of modern thinking throughout the world has inspired panicked attempts to return to a solid foundation – fundamentalism, in other words – the massive changes that have come to the domain of popular music make many people long for sounds with which they are already familiar. To be sure the consequences of reactionary musical taste are not as significant as those derviving from reactionary political or religious taste. Nevertheless, it is worth taking the time to consider Jacques Attali’s thesis from the other side. If new sounds can presage a new socio-economic order, what might the retreat to old sounds foretell?
And this is what the meme engine offered up:


I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


While I was intrigued at the journal-keeping software that is apparently being promoted by this "I write like. . ." business, the stupidity of the results make me thing twice about giving it a try.

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Le petit chat noir n'est pas exclusivement noir

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Years ago I was berated for making "fusion" red sauces for pasta. Ironically, though I improvised a wide range of recipes, featuring everything from mangos to sardines, the one that brought down the ire of my traditionalist critic -- an experience that led to this essay, the only piece of mine ever translated into Italian -- was one I copied verbatim from the San Francisco Chronicle that featured ginger. I almost never muster the discipline to follow a recipe exactly. But that time I did and learned my lesson: don't be gregious.

I recalled those happier days this afternoon when I decided to make a pot of tea. Whenever I get a cold I crave tea. But I've been pretty herd-animalish about preparing it. Not today, though. I came up with a recipe for a blend that is proving delicious as the base for one of the jury-rigged lattés that I've been making with the microwave and a cheap milk frother in the wake of the espresso machine's depressing demise. Here it is:
• Put about half the amount of roiboos tea and half the amount of black tea you'd normally use for a full pot together
• Steep for a a few minutes while the milk is heated
• Stir in about two teaspoons of Trader Joe's organic, vanilla-flavored hemp protein powder
• Steep for a few more minutes, stirring periodically
• Froth the milk
• Pour in enough tea to fill your cup
I've been wanting to find a use for the hemp powder since I impulsively purchased it a few weeks back. It changes the texture of smoothies in an unpleasant way and doesn't taste great on its own. But, since it looked a little like Japanese macha, I figured it would benefit from mixing with hot water. The resulting hybrid tea is surprisingly delicious. And, for those of you still sunning yourselves in the afterglow of Thomas Pynchon's Infinite Vice, I'm sure other variations on hemp powder would be similarly tasty, should you find yourselves in a café in the Netherlands with many loose leaf options to choose from.

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From my perspective, the greatness of Thomas Pynchon inheres more in his treatment of superficially minor details than in the grandiosity of his ambition, which is, I suspect, more the reflection of what his devoted readers project onto them than something that rises from the depths of his will. In that respect he bears a strong resemblance to the best writers of "hard-boiled" genre fiction. Although some of Pynchon's longtime fans have expressed disappointment in the modesty of scope -- and difficulty -- of his new novel Inherent Vice, I see the book as an attempt to acknowledge the debt he owes that mass-cultural tradition. That's why the specificity of the geographic details he invokes resonate so powerfully. Attentiveness to regional microclimates, both literal and figurative, was a hallmark of Raymond Chandler, Ross McDonald and others who followed in their wake. Their protagonists survived by minding the finest nuances of weather, knowing when to pack a sweater or a piece.

Pynchon's Doc Sportello displays the same skill, putting on the right disguises to pass for someone not worth killing. He also notices things which, even if they prove extraneous to the story arc, show that he is tuned in even when he appears distracted or mired in a drug-induced stupor. Here are two of the many sentences in the novel, particular favorites of mine, that amply demonstrate, through a third-person narration bound to Doc's experiences, the attention to detail that distinguishes both him and the author who created him from lesser lights: "East of Sepulveda the moon was out, and Doc made pretty good time. He peeled off the freeway at La Cienega, took the Stocker shortcut over to La Brea (155)." If you know the L.A. area, these sentences do a great deal, with remarkable economy, to ground you in a believable reality. And that achievement, to my mind, is worth just as much as arcane humor about bending the laws of physics. Not that I have anything against the latter, I hasten to add. It's just that the magic works best for me if it's like a sprinkle of salt in the lentil and spinach dal of realism. As my friend Joel Schalit can attest, the products of Morton Thiokol must be used sparingly if the final product is to be palatable.

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It may not be much in the grand scheme of things. In fact, it isn't much, a statement I can make, for once, with complete assurance that it represents an objective assessment. Where was I? Right: the not-muchness of the it, languorously deferred. In other words, "Meet Dave!" Who is that you ask? A what, I tell you. An under-$20 what selected and purchased this afternoon at IKEA despite the fact that I felt so dizzy I feared I would soon be looking up at stranger's faces saying, "What happened?" The purpose of Dave, you ask? He or, if you prefer, it is a smart red laptop table, composed of the same material as the cutting boards we have been using for years.

It's a little slippery and shakes at the application of pressure, to be sure, but in a way that pays homage to the most famous intellectual from its country of manufacture, Slovenia. What I like about it, aside from the fact that assembling it gave me a mild sense of accomplishment -- again, not much in the grand scheme of things -- on a day when the most insignificant tasks seemed beyond my reach, is that it permits me to write while sitting in a reclining position and elevating my legs, an outcome that I have ardently sought since last year's shin-melting bicycle accident, whose effects continue to plague me in the form of swelling of the ankle region. Oh, and because the small tabletop tilts, I can also use it for reading large hardcover books, like The Bible, that are too cumbersome to hold easily in my hands.

All in all, Dave promises to be a fine addition to my collection of devices that serve to make me forget the circumstances under which I am presently living. And that, good friends, is reason for a mild celebration, perhaps culminating in the consumption of the cornflake-studded Ritter square I found yesterday to my considerable surprise at Wal-Mart, as I roamed its vast and terrible aisles with the old woman who lives next door, whom I had consented to ferry there and back, since she is presently unable to drive. Aside from better options in the chocolate department than you might think, as well as an excellent assortment of romance novels set in Amish country, the pride -- or shame, depending on your point of view -- of Bentonville, Arkansas has the virtue of making other large emporia, such as IKEA, seem far more inviting than they otherwise might.

But I digress. Did I mention that I also picked up a stovetop espresso maker, to stand in temporarily for our dear, departed Starbucks-branded Saeco, and tried it out earlier, which led to the consumption of approximately five shots worth of bitter, black bliss? It took longer than I was hoping, but the results were potent and flavorful. That's why I was able to meet Dave tonight, despite the exhaustion that comes at the end of a day of feeling drear.

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For some reason, the San Francisco Giants usually seem to go into a decline immediately after the All-Star Game, often after having been playing well right before it. There's no rational explanation for this tendency. The sample isn't big enough for it to be statistically meaningful, I suspect. Yet I have come to dread the period all the same. Even so, the promise of something good happening before the trade deadline -- Roberto Hernandez --or perhaps even something so bad that it's good to talk about -- Joe Carter and José Mesa, anyone? -- makes this frustrating half-month more than simply a time to mourn. Despair looms, yet hope flashes brightly in reflections of what's going on just around the corner. I've complained regularly, over the years of keeping this blog, that people want to read my entries about sports allegorically are making a grave mistake, since they are almost always simple-mindedly literal. This entry, however, is an exception.

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My latest piece for Zeek, on the Canadian ensemble Beyond the Pale's new album Postcards, is up. At first glance, the advertisement that was attached to it automatically by Google might seem like an odd fit:

But the more I think about it, since I spend a lot of time discussing hybridization and imagine the Country Bear Jamboree transposed to a Galician shtetl, I couldn't have asked for a better example of the frisson that comes with the prospect of transgressive mixing. Here's hoping that an ad for JDate doesn't suddenly take its place. . .

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Social networking sites like Facebook may suck up tons of time that could be more productively spent in other pursuits. But they at least have the potential virtue of revealing some of the taken-for-granted stupidities of modern life. Take the idea that IQ tests are useful, for example:
Image of a sample Facebook banner ad for an IQ Quiz
Anyone who has the slightest amount of free will should be able to see through the inanity of such exercises after being prompted like this a few times. Then again, I just took a Facebook "quiz" that purported to tell me what "badass animal" I'm most like. But I suppose the existence of such delightfully, deliberately lame surveys could itself serve as a corrective for the statistically proper sort.

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This clip from Downfalls has been repurposed many times. But this particular exercise in creative subtitling is one of the best. The best part is when the sound ever so briefly matches the words on quiz when Bruno Ganz spits out "Stalin!":


I also enjoyed it when University of Arizona Athletic Director Jim Livengood was spoofed a while back, during the height of the men's basketball program's coaching controversy. But that détournement didn't find a way to refer to Stalin in the titles.

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I don't normally share the comedy clips that everyone likes to share, as much as I enjoy watching them. But I'm making an exception, thanks to a morning of yard work in a neighborhood full of devout Christians who think recycling is the devil's work and complain bitterly about how the "Mexicans" who trim their trees lack the necessary attention to detail that is a byproduct of the Protestant ethic:


That quote from the Book of Matthew is the perfect touch. And the evidence that Fox News labeled not only Mark Sanford a Democrat, but also Hurricane Katrina, is hilarious.

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Felicia is proud to announce the return of tortoise season, a threshold marked not only by her brother Max's decision to join her in above-ground pursuits, but the release of a new single by the eponymous post-rock outfit identified with Chicago's Thrill Jockey label. It's a great song, which works oddly well when you play it in two or three overlapping browser windows. In the words of Felicia, "It's tasty!"

In the spirit of full disclosure, though, I have to confess that Felicia has been cruising since February -- it was an unusually mild winter in Tucson -- thereby prompting me to revise a line from a poem I composed in the callowness of youth: "Even this tortoise here knows no time. . ."

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Muse: Prepare Your Coffin - Tortoise - Beacons Of Ancestorship

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This has to be the best food-and-lodging commercial ever. The tune is so catchy that I was all, "It's like the second coming of ABBA!" And then I realized that it actually is the second coming of ABBA, since Benny and Björn wrote it. But it's not just the music that captivates. The whole we-would-love-to-be-screwing-but-we-have-to-service-our-customers subtext in the video is both disturbing and a pulse-quickener. "Your arm around my waist/Reminds a fool like me of what Im not allowed to taste." Who knew that polishing glassware could be so sexy?


BTW, those are actual employees of Rival Hotel singing, which makes this the Swedish equivalent of an American Apparel ad, I suppose, only cooler. I mean hotter. Whatever. That curly blond hair looks better in HQ mode, incidentally. Have I mentioned my dream of spending the Summer Solstice in Stockholm, where the sun manufactures "natural meth" and delicious forms of herring are everywhere?

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The mishandling of the most important decision in the history of the University of Arizona -- at least according to a good number of this town's residents -- is becoming a bigger story by the minute. It's one thing to turn down Lute's former job for the wealth of USC and the talent of the Southland. But to stay at a program that has historically had to play second fiddle in its own city? Maybe Livengood should give Todd Bozeman a call. He's a Pac-10 caliber coach who would jump at the opportunity to coach the Wildcats.

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I continue to be fascinated and at times repulsed by the uses to which Twitter is put. I know I'm probably making a specious distinction when I complain about the degree to which Twitter and Facebook updates short-circuit reflection while mourning the decline in personal blogging of a wordy sort at sites like Live Journal, but I can't help myself. Take this Tweet from this morning, for example:
I just burned my tongue! Making some soup, and burned it while tasting. What a day.
My first thought was that it was an April Fool's provocation. But given the frequency with which this particular person posts -- and often about the need to post more frequently -- I am pretty sure that it was sincerely intended. Perhaps "intended" is too strong a word, though, or insufficiently intended. To repurpose one of my favorite analogies, most Twitter content is analogous to the category of manslaughter, an action undertaken on the spur of the moment without deliberation, rather than first degree murder. "I just burned my tongue!" is only slightly more pre-meditated than the exclamation one spits out upon burning it. I think I'll make an update playing off that convergence: "I just posted to Twitter!"

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PROFILE
Charlie Bertsch
User: cbertsch
Name: Charlie Bertsch
CALENDAR
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ABOUT DE FILE
You're looking at content from my Live Journal, which I have been keeping since 2003. I consider it a personal blog, though it lacks stream-of-consciousness revelations that typify that genre.

That said, if you manage to discern the confessional mode within entries that are superficially tight-lipped, I will reward you handsomely. Or at least pretend to do so.

In addition to reflections, however mediated, on my daily activities, De File features periodic excavations of material from my "files," a revelation sure to disturb anyone who has seen my garage. It's an experiment in integrating past and present, perhaps with a little redemption along the way.

Politics is always on my mind, but rarely explicit here. I’m working on a theory about what personal writing like this does to literary identification and why some people resist its pull so powerfully. But my goal is to make that theory dissolve in my practice, a density in liquid.

You'll note that I have links to blogs not on LiveJournal directly above, as well as assorted websites of note. The blogs I read regularly on LiveJournal itself fall under "FRIENDS" at the top, for those of you unfamiliar with LJ’s workings.

You can write me. I'm "cbertsch" before the circle-a and "comcast.net" after it.
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