Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lost dog saga.

Okay, so yesterday, after feeling yet again wrung out by stuff at work, all the stuff I have to do, blah blah blah, the historian and I talked about our respective days and we came up with a Friday night date plan--go to Rubio's for fish tacos (something more truly vegetarian for t.h.) and see Glory Road, which I had seen but he hadn't and which I knew he'd find interesting and I'd enjoy again. Off we went.

As we neared a very busy intersection--Redwood Rd. and 70th South, for anyone familiar with West Jordan--we saw a golden retriever-ish looking dog. She appeared to be interested in crossing the street, although there were two women standing near her. I hope I hope I hope, I hoped to myself, that the dog belongs to them. That's because t.h. is a dog rescuer, and we were going out after a soul-wringing day at work, and if we rescued the dog, we would have a very different project on our hands. (This, by the way, is how I know that I am not as good a person as t.h.--if I had been travelling alone, I would have felt a pang at seeing the dog across a lane or two of traffic, and I would have hoped that the two ladies belonged to the dog, and I would have felt bad, but I probably wouldn't have stopped. The historian would have, and that, dear readers, is how we came to have Bruiser.)

So we hollered at one of the women to see if the dog belonged to them (hope denied), asked them to hold on to her while we drove across the intersection, in back of the strip mall, around to the road, into the other strip mall, and got the dog, who seemed nervous and disoriented, and maybe a little old. We drove to the neighborhood we thought it was most likely the dog had come from, and stopped four or five places to see if anyone recognized the dog. "I've seen a dog like that wandering around here before," said a nice woman who had a Jack Russell terrier inside. Another guy, chattier, a cat owner, said the same thing. Others had never seen her before--kids on skates, moms with strollers. A nice young man who had three dogs of his own said, "Looks like you got yourself a new dog."

We brought the dog home and saw that she and the Bruise-hound would be fine in the back yard, went to our movie, ate the fish tacos afterward, then went home. The Teen Boy Squad was there, seemingly completely nonplussed that there was a new dog in the yard. They named her Betty, which seems pretty good. Bruiser's curious about her. It's clear that the ecology of his world has just shifted. He keeps on giving her a good sniff-over.

Betty slept on the sunporch last night on a blanket. She settled right in. This morning we took her to the vet to see if she had a chip implanted (no dice), and made a flyer to post near where we found her. We've been talking over what to do if we don't find her owners. She has a very sweet face and good manners, and she's in very good health. The story hasn't got an ending yet. I'll let you know.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Speech and cupcakes.

Today is the last day of class. I found that I really had kind of a great group of students this semester, so I also found that there were cupcakes to be made. It's a cheap thrill, but if you want to feel love, walk into a room of students on the last day of class with cupcakes. They'll listen to anything you have to say. Which is why I had a speech prepared, if by "prepared" we mean "thought up while frosting cupcakes at 7 a.m." Which is, in fact, what we do mean.

My speech had to do with the kind of education I feel these students deserve, with writing as a means to participate in community life, and with knowledge as something that you make for yourself. It's a little sentimental, but I do often feel kind of sentimental at the end of a semester, after having read the students' writing in various iterations and had so many conversations with them. I will miss the baseball cap boys and the just-about-missionaries, the back-to-school moms and the girls who work at fight clubs who are about to become nurses.

However, I will not miss them enough to pine over them when this summer I:
  • cook inspired meals from fresh produce
  • take naps
  • read books, actual books
  • write poems
  • write an article about poetry reading and the counter-productive teaching practices of English departments
  • write an article about extreme rhetoric
  • paint pictures
  • make books, and
  • make King Bruiser, the first film of what I am sure will be a whole new movie career.
I intend to keep outrage at a minimum, but there may be some more letter-to-the-editor writing. Also trips to Idaho. I may pay off my library fines and go to the library. I intend to ride my bike.

And of course, I will blog.

Monday, April 24, 2006

This is me, having my say.

I wrote two letters to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune last week, and both of them got published! So what, you say? Okay, you have a point, but still.

It's an occupational hazard for all sorts of academics to want to have their say, I feel. (Praise to those of my colleagues who are not discourse-space hogs. I used to be worse, that's all I can say about that.) Today I was in a last-of-the-year committee meeting, where members of two different committees and the academic vice president were all in attendance. Everyone--including me, of course--was waving his/her hand around, and then just completely blowing off the etiquette and speaking over one another. Everyone having his/her say, till we all wanted to die and hopefully take someone else in the room with us.

Anyway, as of Sunday, I have spoken my piece to the sports editor, and through him, to the columnist I can't stand, as well as called out some official at the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Hear me roar, y'all.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sports Night.

At the beginning of the season, Middlebrow went on record predicting that the Jazz wouldn't make the playoffs. Predictably, I protested, but I am publicly acknowledging that I was wrong.

Even so, it was kind of great to watch the Jazz win against the Warriors who, to their credit, kept playing right till the end. C.J. Miles was a pleasure to watch, and in his post-game interview was just so darn cute. I got a little tear in my eye--go figure!--at the end watching Ostertag hug everyone. Also, I think Boozer is living up to the hype and more these days. I'm looking forward to next season. I will make a significant sacrifice to the gods of basketball that the Jazz have an injury-free season.

Soccer Update: Up till now, the West Jordan Jaguars have been undefeated, but lost to the Riverton Silverwolves because of a crappy call when a Silverwolf flopped in the box. One penalty kick in the 75th minute or something, and we were screwed. My son, however, played beautifully out on the left wing. You'll have to trust me on this one.

Letter-Writing Fiend: On Sunday, I vented my spleen by sending the following letter to the Trib Sports editor. It remains to be seen whether they'll publish it, but I had fun writing it:

To the Sports Editor:

After having read one more obnoxious column from Monson, in which he characterizes the Jazz’s rebuilding efforts as “sagging,” I feel obliged to make this prediction: when the Jazz have a great season next year, barring injury, Monson will still be manufacturing reasons to be pessimistic about the Jazz—how they lack toughness, Boozer’s character flaws. Enough! The Jazz have been thrilling lately—you can see the design in the moves the Jazz front office has made, and the design looks like a winner. I admit I worried about Boozer as the injury dragged on, but as of the last couple of dozen games, I’m a believer.

Monson should figure out what’s making him feel so dyspeptic and pursue a remedy—the Trib is, last time I checked, one of two Jazz hometown newspapers. I can listen to the color commentary on nationally televised games if I want to hear Monson’s brand of bile.

Wireless Watch: Still wired. But who's counting?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Not wireless, not yet.

This weekend, the Teenage Boy Posse made several attempts at making the megastore a wireless internet environment. My son and I bought some equipment at an office megastore that was going out of business, getting advice from some possibly shady guy in the software/hardware aisle. Don't ask me what it was--I don't know. However, the geniuses of the TBP opened my computer (why does this phrase fill me with dread?) and inserted stuff and loaded drivers and there's now a little gizmo with sparkling green lights on it hooked up to the DSL modem. We've got a signal, we just ain't got no internet connection. Not yet.

This explains my blogging silence.

Otherwise, it's the last two weeks of classes, and I have about a month and half's worth of stuff to do/finish. I feel a little edgy. Just before I woke up this morning, I was dreaming that my first husband called my house from a mortgage company to tell me that Charles Bazerman was coming to my house, and I needed to get a little dinner together. I woke up, and it was snowing again.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Kill me if I bring another thing into the house,

unless it happens to be on the short list of stuff I still want to buy. Make that need to buy.

Last night, my daughter helped me sort through a huge number of lipsticks I have purchased over the years. (In case anyone wants to know, there were a disturbing number of lipsticks in a very Goth color of purplish red, only one of which I have retained as a memorial, and also because sometime or another I will be tempted to wear it [its name is "Diva"--I'm half-convinced that's why I buy these crazy colors, because something about the silly name tickles me], and will wear it, and will then remember why I have now recycled all of them! Kill me if I buy another Goth-girl purple-red lipstick!)

I am in a constant state of sorting and giving away stuff. Currently, there's a bag stuffed full of some clothes I haven't worn for quite awhile. Hopefully, some worthy organization or another will prosper in a small way from these items plus the several more items I will manage to cull from my closet before the day comes when I put the bag with its stuffed-full sisters on the curb for the Friends of the Big Brothers and Sisters or whomever.

Tax time always reminds me of the crazy way money gets spent around here (notice how the money just "gets spent," like there's not a profligate lipstick-buying out-of-control consumer buying cosmetics and clothes and Meyer lemons). In my mind, I'm sorting through all the available ways to save more, spend less. But that makes me feel panicky. The kind of panic that makes a girl go out and buy stuff.

Meanwhile, I haven't found a way to regret the chrome yellow Adidas cross-trainers I found for a bargain in Chicago. Did I know that I needed a pair of brilliant yellow shoes when I crossed the threshold of the Nordstrom Rack? I did not, but the shoes called my name. The guy who hailed a cab for me and Lis as we left our hotel admired them, and that constitutes evidence, in my book, of their utter necessity. (I will spare you the details of the other yellow shoes I'm still thinking about, the ones that are in fact still on the short list.)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I am a shopping genius.

. . . if by genius we mean someone who shops a lot and buys cool stuff, and I think that's what we do mean.

Today I purchased a flatbed scanner, which is the culmination of a long desire. By which I mean, I've wanted a scanner for a really, really long time. Why? you may ask? So I could scan stuff, of course. Here are some examples:

Carter, the historian's daughter's son, and therefore his grandson and mine, is three years old and has a big ol' crazy love affair with all marine creatures. We had lunch with him, his mom, and his brother Alex last week (pb&j, if you must know), and he regaled us with ocean creature talk. One thing we all agreed is that the historian and I must watch Shark Tales soon. "Then we can all talk about it," I said. "Or draw about it!" said Carter.

When I was in Scotland last--when Miriam, Princess of the British Empire, was born--my daughter and her husband were living in the countryside. It was beautiful out there, but it was pretty lonely.

See? The possibilities are endless, and I am ecstatic about this purchase. If you want to know, I will be scanning myself senseless this summer. (Well, not my self precisely--but you know what I mean.)

Teen boy squad update: a couple of weeks ago, my son had a Friday off from school, which meant that we started the weekend early, which meant that it was time to open the shed for the summer. This was what he said to me when I came out at 11:00 p.m. to tell him and the lads that they needed to be quiet--the neighbors must be trying to sleep, people had work in the morning, I had work in the morning. "It's just the first time of the summer," he said. But it's March! I said. Here's what summer looks like when it's April in the shed and everyone's watching Shaun of the Dead (note Bruiser impersonating a teenage boy):

Thursday, April 06, 2006

And, in a strange coincidence . . .

Call it synchronicity, call it what you will, but two of the great rivers of my interest, the Utah Jazz and the music of Prince Rogers Nelson, aka Prince, aka Glyph guy, aka the Purple Kid, came together in a weird confluence recently when Prince rented Carlos Boozer's house in L.A., and basically painted the mother purple.

Here's what a Cleveland paper had to say. And, for contrast, here's what a Prince denizen has to say.

Thought you oughta know.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Speaking of timing.

. . . why is it that recently I have heard several anecdotes about caves? one young woman in one of my classes said that the founders of the city of South Jordan lived in a cave at first; another young woman said that soldiers during WWII held dances in a cave near Wendover; tonight, I heard Lyle Lovett's cover of the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil" (beautiful cover, btw), in which the speaker/singer says he "spent the night in Utah in a cave up in the hills"; and, as it happens, the first time I heard this cover was years ago, at the same time when I knew someone who had once lived for awhile in a cave near Santa Fe.

Okay, neither here nor there, but it seems like the spring weather, which is always unsettled, ignites upheavals in other atmospheres--like a memory equinox. Yesterday, I watched my son play soccer in wild weather way out on the west side (i.e., even further west than I live)--someone kicking the ball from midfield could watch the wind take it on a brilliant curve into the net, if the goalie wasn't mindful. (Though he was, and we won. 1-0 in region play--boo ya!) Meanwhile, the clouds over the Oquirrhs tumbled and tangled and spit a little rain. Reminded me of decades of Aprils spent watching soccer games in the same kind of fickle weather--of each kid at the lanky stage--of the same bits of sideline chatter--of me in my work clothes, rushing out of class or meetings to get to the second half of the game. Of who I was in those successive iterations of soccer mom. Of how that identity is just about over.

Today, when I left the house, with my prudent umbrella and bare legs, it was cloudy but not raining at that precise moment. Before I got to school, it was raining and gusting. When I left for home, sprinkling; when the historian arrived a half hour later, raining; as we drove to the dog park, sleeting; at the dog park, raining, gusting, sprinkling. The the sun broke through. My life no longer seems to me as volatile as it once did--storms passing through, leaving branches torn off the trees and the streets littered with leaves--but a memory of such storms blows through in the spring.

Jazz note: Monday night, we heard Flutology at the Jazz at the Sheraton series. Okay: everyone who loves jazz flute, raise your hand. No one? That's what I thought--well, too bad you weren't there, because it might have changed your mind, at least for the duration of the concert. Featuring Frank Wess, who played in Basie's Big Band, as well as two women, Ali Ryerson and Holly Hoffman, it's a three flute front line, backed up by a killer rhythm section of piano (Mike Wofford), drums (Victor Lewis, who was straight ahead and awesome, especially on a piece called "Rainesville"), and bass (local young guy, last name of Luty). It was way cooler than you'd imagine and even than I'd hoped. Judging from the review I linked to above, they play a kind of standard couple of sets--Thelonious Monk's "Straight No Chaser," Dizzy Gillespie's "Be-Bop" (written by Charlie Parker, I believe), and a bunch of other terrific pieces, several arranged by pianist Wofford. Holly Hoffman has serious jazz chops, especially in a stunningly soulful solo on "No Mercy." I thought we might end up leaving after the first set, but it was easily enjoyable enough to stay. A highlight of the series, even. Here is a picture of the stage minus the musicians (I was just not bold enough to try taking a picture of the band, even without flash as I did here, because what if the flash went off anyway, and the peoples were annoyed with me? Perhaps this blurry picture of an empty stage will give you nonetheless a "let's hear jazz on Monday night" feeling. I hope so.).

Sunday, April 02, 2006


In his Block Party, Dave Chappelle comments on the connection between musicians and comedians: musicians can teach comedians a thing or two about timing (his personal timing hero is Thelonious Monk), and comedy is all about timing, he says. I've thought a lot about comedy in various aspects of my own life--comic films, cartoons, comic strips, the funniest people I know, comedic writing. Comedy isn't pretty, Steve Martin says, and I also remember someone saying that comedy is hard. But it can't look hard, or it's not funny anymore, unless it's the kind of comedy that's about how funny it is when someone's trying so hard to be funny, but they're not. Comedy also causes a headache.

I am moved to think about this in part because Dave Chappelle is very funny, and it seems like his comedy is nearly effortless. In the movie, there's a recurring bit, with Mos Def playing the drums, lounge band style, behind Chappelle's joke-straight man-punchline comic stylings. The jokes he's telling are not in the least bit funny, but the bit is funny, because they've got the timing right, and the imitation of bad comedy is exact, and it's Mos Def and Dave Chappelle doing this thing they don't do. "Hey, Mos," Dave says. "How's it goin, Dave?" says Mos. Insert silly set-up line here [Dave C.--"did you hear the one about the industrious prostitute?"), automatic straight man line here (Mos D.0--"No, I didn't, Dave"), and horrible punch line here (Dave C. again--sorry, can't repeat it, I have standards). There didn't even have to be a joke--I found myself laughing just because of the way he lifted an eyebrow. No jokes, just timing.

I envy comic writing. My friend Ann has a great column in the DNews that I have cherished and envied for years. I also treasure great comedies of all kinds. Given half a chance, I will tax my friends' patience by reciting my favorite lines from sitcoms past. There are certain movies whole tracts of which I (and those I love) have memorized. (Luckily for my readers, I just repressed a powerful urge to review an excellent passage from Tommy Boy, a movie that is way funnier than it has a right to be.)

What are your most valuable comedies? Decidedly lowbrow entries get extra points. For instance, I horrified my compatriots recently by revealing that Encino Man is, in my view, a very, very funny movie. (Extra points squared if a funny movie you love features Pauly Shore.)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Catching up, or Catch and Release

Okay, so after a week of responding madness, I'm almost caught up. That means, for your reference, that I have commented on and returned 75-ish portfolios to students, and have also met with said students to confer about their work and projected revisions. There's a certain gruesomeness to it all, especially at the beginning of it, when you're looking at all that's left to do. Now, I feel a sublime release. (This is leaving out the catching up still left to do in the online course, which is only about halfway completed. One foot still in hell.)

What this means is that today seems like the most beautiful day that God ever made. It's gray and rainy--but it's spring rain. It's snowing--but it's spring snow. More, it's post-portfolio, post-conferences rain and snow. I am sprung from an intricate bondage made of equal parts digital files, actual paper, and self-loathing. Free!

Last night, the historian and I caught the new Spike Lee, which was immensely entertaining. We're heading off to Brewvies to catch Dave Chapelle's Block Party with no hope but to laugh and be buoyed by great music. This seems like a noble aim to me. After tonight and tomorrow, I will be 100% caught up on responding to students, including the online students, and from the great height to which I will be lifted by this feat, I can survey the gentle downward slope toward the end of the semester, to the month of May, and to summer. Yes: I said summer.


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