Sunday, September 21, 2014

Never mind, I found it.

Tonight, right before we went out to take Bruiser for a walk, I received two nearly identical pairs of messages from students. The first went a little something like this:
"Dear Professor Megastore, I cannot find my assigned peer reviews! Where did you hide them from me, at the eleventh hour and three quarters? Why are you the kind of teacher that would hide something at the eleventh hour and fifty minutes from her students? Why are you so terrible? Also, can you help me?" 
And the second went like this:
"Uh, never mind, I found it."
It's actually kind of amusing--it's like the kind of teacher-story that the Universal Ministry of Educational Flack (UMEF) hands out every so often, so that teachers can regale one another (not to say one-up one another) over sandwiches or tea:
Professor one: (sipping tea and nibbling a biscuit) I had a student the other day who called me a wanker! In the class! Where everyone could hear! And I was being observed! For tenure!
Professor two: (taking a savage bite of his cookie) LUXURY! I had a student who threw sandwiches at me while insulting my teaching because he couldn't find his peer reviews, and then followed by a sheepish never mind!
--rinse, repeat, etcetera &c &c then there was no more tea and we all cried.

This pedagogical episode puts me in mind of every other different-yet-similar episode, wherein one person puts another person into a panic because the first person (are you with me? there are only two characters in the story, but neither of them has a name, because it's a generic story etc. &c you will simply have to pay closer attention!): one person (my son, say) puts another person (me, myself, moi) into a panic because the first person (son) can't find his, say, immunization records. And he's in China! and he wants to register for school! or something. So I turn up the entire house in its chaos, trying to remember where it was and then it always ends up with a never mind from person two, and that is, somehow, deeply amusing to me.

Here are some things, however, that I have not yet turned up, that I am really not amused about, and thus the universe stands, holding its breath, waiting for the sigh of a never mind to release us all from our panic:

1. this one poem draft that I remember as somehow having something brilliant in it but who really knows, because: poof. It is no more, and this was before the advent of the personal computer and files, etcetera &c the poem she is lost. (this happened a really really really long time ago. I think I better just get over it already.)
2. plenty of books, oh yeah. I just remembered a couple and I'm still kind of mad about them.
3. plenty of DVDs that people borrowed, I think, and then never returned, I'm pretty sure, although who can say, really. Maybe they're here in the "shelving system" that is really nothing but the Screwy Chaosimal System (say it aloud, you'll hear it) with no rhyme nor reason nor Findability Index that will work for a person with a working, data-organizing, normal-functioning brain. (also, I'm suddenly, and with exquisite embarrassment, remembering that I have in my possession certain DVDs that belong to other people that I had better return, pronto!)
4. two beautiful and inky pens that were (a) expensive and (b) given to me as cherished gifts from cherished people. Alas I believe I left them in a motel room in West Yellowstone, Montana, and lo they are no longer to be found.

But! it's 11:32 on a Sunday night and I have graded like a champ, done some subtle yet somehow critical reordering of my new manuscript, and it is almost bedtime, there is a lunch packed already, waiting for me in the refrigerator. Earlier, I helped my son make two casseroles that he intends to eat in limited installments until they are gone, and also I made corn salad! So all is well, order reigns, etcetera &c except for the fact that the DVR stopped recording before the last two minutes of tonight's The Good Wife episode--so we know only part of what happened to Cary Agos and we do not know which of the lawyers duking it out in the bond hearing prevailed in those last two minutes.

As my son says, tomorrow the episode will be on the internet ("I think if it's on the internet, it's legal"), and then we'll say (wait for it)...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Things that are the worst: a short list.

Idiosyncratic, of course. Don't even bother arguing with me.

1. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court. And while we're at it,
2. the Citizen's United decision. And also,
3. the Hobby Lobby decision.

That's probably enough for the Supreme Court section of the The Worst list. Although I totally could go on. But I shall not. Instead, I shall move to the restaurant section.

4. the fact that my favorite Mexican food restaurant for several years running made a shrimp enchilada that was soggy, and now I must give that restaurant a rest while it gets its act together, I hope.
5. the fact that the good restaurants in my neck of the woods are thin on the ground, which means that sometimes we eat at chains, and mostly we just eat a lot of whatever's there. Also,
6. the fact that we ate so much Thai food for awhile that I've kind of had it with Thai food. Alas.
7. Applebee's.

Movie critic section:

8. the way certain movie critics just cannot stop being grouchy about Seth Rogen and Jason Segel and Judd Apatow. I mean, I get it, but for crying out loud, David Denby and A.O. Scott and David Edelstein: maybe just watch a massive personal film festival of your favorite heyday films and shut up about it?

Personal lifestyle:

9. the condition of my study.
10. the disorganization of my books.
11. there is tooooooo much food in my refrigerator, and, incongruously, it is hard to figure out something to make for dinner.

That is all for now. For now, that is all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I'm back, and I have movie regrets.

Are you sitting in a big fat meeting? Where there are, I'm sure, massively important things being discussed, but still it kind of sounds like big fat meeting drone (BFMD, which is a catchy acronym for what is happening, which is, sorry to say, not catchy, not even a little.).


Well, not that anyone's counting, but it has been a long time since I wrote anything whatsoever in this space. Reasons? Oh, I've got reasons:

  • big fat family visit (BFFV)
  • attendant whirl of activities
  • attendant whirl of melancholy
  • etc.
Paradoxically, now that the visiting/summer are over, and the droning has commenced, I kind of feel optimistic. I have lots of reasons that this is so, but let's leave that for now. For now, what I want to talk about is this:

I have not seen as many movies as I think I should have. Not in order, and as near as I can figure out, here are the movies I've seen in 2014 thus far:

  • Wish I Was Here
  • The Lego Movie
  • The Monuments Men
  • Cesar Chavez
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Chef
  • Noah
  • Veronica Mars
  • Rio 2
  • Draft Day
  • Million Dollar Arm
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • How To Train Your Dragon 2
  • The Fault in Our Stars
  • The Rover
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Maleficent
  • Ida
  • Locke
  • Obvious Child
  • Snowpiercer
  • A Most Wanted Man
  • Calvary
  • Belle
  • Gloria
  • The Lunchbox
  • What If
I have missed a bunch, and a bunch of good ones (The Immigrant, Night Moves, Only Lovers Left Alive, and also Step Up All In, which I can totally catch, and maybe later today, after the droning either ceases or I quit the droning, whichever happens first.). Also Boyhood, which I am determined not to miss.

Maybe I've seen more, and I just haven't kept track? Let me just say that I never intend not to catch the movies--I am a movie completist. But this year--this year kind of kicked my ass. Reasons? Oh, there are reasons. But I am going to do better. I am going to catch the movies this weekend hardcore. Boyhood at least and probably more. And Step Up All In. Because I am definitely all in for the dance movies, or I don't know what.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Perspectival magic.

Today, I read this in the New York Times and it resonated hardcore:
Failure is big right now — a subject of commencement speeches and business conferences like FailCon, at which triumphant entrepreneurs detail all their ideas that went bust. But businessmen are only amateurs at failure, just getting used to the notion. Writers are the real professionals.
Just last night over an enchilada I was telling the historian how tired reading my manuscript makes me.

"But the poems aren't worse than they were. They haven't changed," I said. (Insert adverb, like plaintively.)

No, I'm just sick of them. Or right now I am. So that must mean that it's the downhill slope of summer.

I have had time to become sick afresh of my poems because my Scottish visitors are away--indeed, none of my children are here at the moment. They have been attending a family reunion in Logan and having a good time. Meanwhile, I have been recovering from a sinus cold and feeling a tad bereft. That's how I roll. Good times, sinus colds, limeade, bereftitude. It's a big fat aria of doldrums.

Did you start blogging again just to whine? I hear the people saying. Yes! yes I did, thanks for asking.

Let me start again. 

Here's what's been happening for the past few weeks:
Chalk art and breakfast and cookouts on the patio. Swimming with the cousins. Planting little pot-gardens. Bead necklaces. Stories at bedtime. Malcolm in the Middle watch parties. Doughnut tastings. A visit to the Museum of Natural Curiosity. Gardening in the evening. Laughing, quarreling, tears, and more laughter. Snacks galore. A full glory of summer childhood. 
Their brief absence over the last few days has meant I could take a nap. We went to the farmer's market and bought cherries and peaches and tomatoes. Of course, in the time they've been gone, I've also found the time to become weary of my poems, and to let melancholy bloom into view (as opposed to playing its usual gloomy bass note in the background). It's not like letting melancholy bloom is a great idea, I get that. But I have never been particularly decisive at marshaling my inner resources. My strategy is more to let the clouds cloud the sky--no one controls the weather--and know that they'll pass.

Soon they'll be back. I plan to bake this with them, and, I hope, see more movies, have more cool mornings on the patio, water the plants and discuss the habitat with the girls, make more Lego creations. We may need to eat more doughnuts. We have a handful to people still to see, and we need to finish one storybook and start and finish another. (I also need to unweary myself enough to make decisions about my manuscript...fresh courage take! Fail better!) An ending looms, but we'll all be trying to do that perspectival magic that keeps it at a distant hover until it is actually at the doorstep, with a bouquet of melancholy, a bevy of plane tickets, and an echo.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Written upon stone.

From the Lonely Planet Guidebook for Shaanxi:

To see a library made of stone: yes.

We wandered through the galleries. Some of the tablets were under shelter but otherwise open to the air and elements. It was warm but not sweltering.

There was a time when people had touched the tablets so much that they were black. There was a time when there was a big earthquake, in the 1500s, and many of the largest and most important stones were broken into pieces. A scholar made smaller stones to fill in where the text was broken. In those galleries, it is as if the tablets are pages of a book. There were times when the center of power shifted, and the texts were lost to the "wild suburbs"; there were times when they were gathered together. The Nestorian stele was buried for centuries before it was found again.

It is a miracle, is it not, that any library survives, no matter what its texts are made of?

I suppose that a scholar would be able to look at the tablets and know things like the era, and the calligrapher, and the carver, and the nature of the text. The interpretive material was intermittent, so we could discern some of this. Not all. We could see, by the sweep of a cursive calligraphy for instance, that here we had entered a different period; by the minuscule, exacting characters, that perhaps this was a legal text. Each of the galleries presented its interests and its longeurs. We moved quickly sometimes, and lingered at others.

At the end, my son and I talked about faith on the steps of a gallery while we waited for the historian to finish his more deliberate examination. There were birds, and their song. A thicket of pillars with carved finials stood in orderly rows to our left. Stone is not eternal--it is susceptible to human touch and the earth shifting and burial and weather--but it feels eternal. Its breath is cool and unhurried. It speaks and it keeps its counsel.



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