Retrieving the retriever: Misadventures in dog-sitting

May 21, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 21, 2016

On Sunday, May 15, I called my Parental Unit to discuss my impending trip to the greater New York metropolitan area. At some time during the conversation, my parent told me, “You almost lost your sister the other day.”

“Oh dear,” I replied.

My parent launched into a story about how the P.U. had set down some food to microwave for dinner and got momentarily distracted. It was then that my beloved canine sister, Lucky the yellow Labrador retriever, got hold (got mouth?) of the meal and began scarfing it down, as her breed is wont to do.

So Lucky hadn’t really gotten herself into mortal danger, as I’d initially thought upon my parent’s dire pronouncement; instead, she had annoyed her person. Midway through the anecdote, I recalled that my parent frequently used that phrase — “you nearly lost your sister” — when Lucky engaged in some irritating escapade.

I’m P.U.’s regular dog-sitter when a trip is in the offing. That was one reason why I traveled up from Durham this week.

My parent does not really enjoy flying to faraway places but does like seeing people who live there. During an anxious moment the night before my parent’s departure, P.U. turned to me and used the verb to lose in a very different context. “Matthew,” my parent told me, “when I’m gone, whatever you do, don’t lose this dog!”

I reassured my antecedent that I would not.

And yet somehow I did, despite being enclosed in a relatively small house with her.

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Cheeps and Chirps for May 15, 2016

May 15, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 15, 2016

Here are some more recent odds and ends from my Twitter feed.

• Comedy!

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James Hynes delivers tart comedy-inflected horror with a trio of novellas in ‘Publish and Perish’

May 12, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 12, 2016

In the fiction of James Hynes, academic politics is the conduct of warfare by other means. Characters regularly pursue vendettas against rivals by inviting (or not inviting) certain people to meetings or by giving their comments scant consideration. Bureaucracy is used to crush the spirit of those who fail to distinguish themselves or to suck up to the people in power, and few accomplishments are more prized than securing tenure.

I stumbled upon Next, Hynes’s fourth novel, in a secondhand bookstore last year. Ever since, I’ve been working my way through Hynes’s oeuvre: Soon after I encountered Next, which was published in 2010, I read his third novel, The Lecturer’s Tale, published in 1997. Just this week, I read Publish and Perish, a trio of horror novellas involving American academics.

The first entry in Publish and Perish, “Queen of the Jungle,” is the volume’s weakest entry. This is not because of any flaw with the plot or the writing but because the main character, a career-minded English professor named Paul, is such a despicable heel.

Although he may once have genuinely loved his wife, Elizabeth, his ardor seems to have been entirely subsumed by his jealousy over the divergent paths their careers have taken. Paul’s once-promising dissertation, which he had hoped to parlay into a book, lies in tatters after having been shredded by a critic; he’s a departmental nonentity at the Iowa state university where he’s drearily finishing up a postdoctoral fellowship, and he has no clear notion of where he might go next. By contrast, Elizabeth has become a rising star at a prestigious university in Chicago after her own dissertation was published and unexpectedly won a major prize.

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A very dubious argument about the use of a certain racial slur

May 10, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 10, 2016

Author’s note: This post involves a racial slur and as such may not be appropriate for all readers, especially young ones. MEM

Larry Wilmore, host of Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show,” wrapped up the April 30 White House Correspondents’ Dinner in controversial fashion. He spoke for about 20 minutes, cracking jokes at the expense of many of the politicians and broadcasters in attendance as well as a few, for instance Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who weren’t. TV networks such as Fox and MSNBC got some flack, as did all of print journalism and C-SPAN’s audience.

Some of the wisecracks landed, like when Wilmore referred to Trump’s having said that if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were a man, she’d fare poorly with voters and quipped, “[I]f Hillary Clinton were suddenly a man, her biggest problem would be finding a bathroom she’d be allowed to use in North Carolina.” But most of the jokes went over poorly with the audience, such as when Wilmore joked that Obama and pro basketball player Steph Curry both “like raining down bombs on people from long distances.”

Wilmore worked up to a pretty heartfelt climax. Near the end, he said, in all sincerity, “When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. Now think about that. A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team — and now, to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world.”

This earnest sentiment earned Wilmore one of his biggest ovations of the night.

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Exit Ted Cruz… for now

May 6, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 6, 2016

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas ended his presidential campaign Tuesday night after losing the Indiana primary by 16 points to businessman Donald Trump. The outcome in the Hoosier State all but assured Trump of obtaining the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer. Ohio Gov. John Kasich — who still had fewer delegates than U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, despite the fact that the Floridian dropped out of the race in March — ended his campaign on Wednesday, only a few hours after GOP national chairman Reince Priebus acknowledged that Trump was the party’s presumptive nominee.

So here we are: The man whom many predicted would never win the nomination, and whom I predicted wouldn’t even win a single primary or caucus, has vanquished all comers from the party of elephants.

In truth, I’m sorry to see Cruz go. Tracking his campaign was like watching a suspense thriller. Would the obvious creep — and Cruz’s off-putting personality and looks were matched only by his heartless radical-right policies — be able to charm, fool, injure or kill all the characters who stood any chance of detecting and foiling his evil scheme?

Cruz, after all, isn’t just someone who was famously loathed by his freshman-year college roommate and widely reviled by his Senate colleagues and fellow Republicans. Recall that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) tepidly endorsed Cruz about three weeks after saying, in a speech at the Washington Press Club Foundation’s 72nd Congressional Dinner, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you.”

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Sunday Scrabble and eavesdropping: Some notes

May 4, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 4, 2016

At least two Sundays a month, you can find me at Saladelia Cafe at 4201 University Drive in Durham sometime around 2 p.m. for a weekly Scrabble get-together. I played two games last Sunday against a pair of new opponents — C— and her husband S—, I’ll call them. They’re college instructors (of what subject or subjects I do not know) who frequently visit the Triangle.

When I arrived, S— was playing one of the other Saladelia regulars, so C— and I took their board and began a game in the next room. I was able to set up a play early on that let me put down Z, a 10-point tile, on a triple-letter-score spot to make ZEE/ZA/ER for 65 points — the equivalent of a bingo — which put me ahead, 117-26, in turn 4. C— got her points in the next turn, however, when she GELATIN/THEN for 67 points of her own, which cut her deficit to a manageable 132-93.

Unfortunately for C—, my tiles went pretty well. After she played NOG for only four points with her 10th move, I had a rack of AEIRSST. I converted that to ARTSIES/NOGS using a triple-word-score spot on the right-most column, giving me 79 points and a very healthy 279-131 lead.

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Postscript to ‘Notes on the end of one man’s life’

April 30, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 30, 2016

Although I’ve blogged extensively about my play in Scrabble tournaments over the past few years, and sporadically about “unofficial” Scrabble games, I don’t believe I’ve chronicled a game against F— on this blog. He was a far better player than I, so we never met in tournament competition. (I’ve always participated in the lowest-ranked division.)

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Notes on the end of one man’s life

April 30, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 30, 2016

Author’s note: The following post relates to mental illness and self-harm and may not be appropriate for readers who are younger or especially sensitive. Potentially upsetting material appears immediately “after the jump.” MEM

~~~

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Arguing about American rights: The U.S. Constitution and its first two amendments

April 29, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 29, 2016

Perhaps the worst day in American history since Sept. 11, 2001, was Dec. 14, 2012. That Friday morning, a 20-year-old fatally shot his mother in their Newtown, Conn., home before driving to nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he killed six adults and 20 children before turning a weapon on himself. The gunman used weapons that had been legally purchased by his mother.

Over the course of more than a year following that massacre, I spent a great deal of time on Twitter attempting to persuade people who held what I thought to be excessive enthusiasm for gun rights that their ideas were somewhat misguided.

“I no longer want to live in a country that shrugs and says the Second Amendment justifies every gun death,” I told one such fanatic several hours after the killings had taken place.

After right-wing conspiracy peddler Alex Jones told Piers Morgan in a January 2013 interview, “My point is that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct,” I quoted Jones and added a sarcastic parenthetical (“Kids’ lives? Whatever”) in attempt to highlight his skewed priorities.

When a conservative mixed-martial-arts fan told me on Twitter that “guns as written in the constitution are to protect countrymen from a tyrannical government,” I dryly observed that “[t]hat worked perfectly in Waco and at Ruby Ridge, right?” Shortly afterward, I asked the same individual, “So 31,000 gun deaths annually is the price of the Second Amendment?”

Reader, I’m 99 percent sure that I persuaded approximately zero percent of the people I engaged to alter or adjust their views in any way.

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Some notes on 2016 primary voting trends (or the lack thereof)

April 27, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 27, 2016

Out of idle curiosity, I began looking at popular vote numbers in Tuesday night’s primaries. Interestingly, the data show that in three states, the Democratic runner-up — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Clintaln in Rhode Island — received more votes than the Republican winnerbusinessman Donald Trump in all five of that states.

Trump outdid Sanders in Delaware, 42,472 to 36,659, and in Pennsylvania, 892,702 to 719,955.

However, in none of these states did Trump get more votes than the Democratic winner. Maryland, in fact, wasn’t even close — Clinton’s 533,247 votes were more than twice as many as the number Trump got in the Old Line State, 236,623.

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