Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Happy, go figure.

It's probably bad luck to talk about it this way, but I have been rolling from one good thing to another lately, it seems like, and I can't help it, I just feel happy. A list, in no particular order:

1. Saw two good movies last weekend, Rocket Science and No End in Sight. (not that the latter is a day at the park, of course)
2. Had an excellent writing group at my house, wherein I baked my first madeleines in my new madeleine pan, and also made a lovely roasted eggplant spread to go on crostini and the killer iced tea I've been making all summer. And I finished a draft of a new sestina. And the group mostly liked it.
3. We cleaned up the house, and I did a rather large-scale cleaning up of the kitchen, including throwing away ancient bottles of sesame oil and so forth from the refrigerator.
4. My online and face-to-face classes seem to be going just swell.
5. I love my children and they are all awesome and amazing people.
6. My husband the historian is a prince among men (the "prince" appellation must be taken as a metaphor, since, as a committed leftist, he probably wouldn't select this term for himself. Although he is discursively flexible, one of his many, many fine traits. Also, he's cute.).
7. My dogs are gorgeous and of excellent character.
8. The weather isn't so infernally hot. It's cool-ish at night and in the morning.
9. It's my birthday week, as my friend Jen reminds me, and even if I am turning fifty, it feels okay. Good, even.

Happy to be alive. Hope you're having a good week, too.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Meadow update.

This has been a year of practically no gardening on my part. I don't know what that was about, really, except I couldn't get it together, or get motivated, or whatever, to plant almost anything. That means that we were able to see what there was, to let the things already there show their stuff. For instance, some teeny little phlox plants I'd put in the front flower bed a couple of seasons ago bloomed modestly this year. Next year, they should be even better. So there were some pluses to my utter lack of ambition.

The front lawn, aka the meadow, is making progress, but within the bounds of the law. We have kept the grasses (some dare call them weeds) at an unflagrant height (under 12") by weed whacking, for instance. But the creeping thyme keeps on creeping--one might describe the process as the thymification of the lawn. Flowers like columbine, flax, and true geranium have bloomed and are flourishing amongst the grass. My plan is to create a path of stepping stones through the middle of it, and let the plants keep on doing their work.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I've had enough of this nonsense, already.

. . . which is merely to report that there are problems--some problems--with my online courses. I am not, however, freaking out. It's a part of my new personal non-freakout policy. At this late date, and at this advanced age, it has finally occurred to me that my freaking out upsets people who care about me, and, moreover, people that I care about. So I'm quitting. Cold turkey.

I have not freaked out upon the following occasions, when:

1. I realized that the wrong section of my composition course was associated with WebCT, which meant that the e-mail I had just sent to all my students would make no sense to them.
2. one of the speakers in our living room stopped emitting sound.
3. probably some other stressful occasions I can't exactly remember right now.

Part of the problem is, apparently, I've been a big enough freaker-outer in the past that I can no longer utter even the tiniest little shriek without my offspring swarming all over it, telling me to calm down. "I'm calm," I say, in a calm voice. "No, you're starting to stress," they rejoin, which of course makes me want to Freak. Out.

No more, I say. Life's too short. I am going to practice the breathing and the counting to ten and the "life's too short" speech. Then I am going to lie down, possibly cry a little, or shriek into my pillow. Then breathe and count some more.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tell me which way you liked that.

It is time to break the Summer of 2007 all the way down with the Best and Worst list:

Best new recordings: Rickie Lee Jones, The Sermon on Exposition Blvd., Feist, The Reminder, Rufus Wainwright, Release the Stars

Best family stuff: the Scots came to town, baby Deacon was born, family gatherings of all sorts when my brother came to town, my sister came to breakfast at my house. Running out with college daughter and running son for sodas late at night. Late night movies with college daughter.

Best household developments: I cleaned out my closet and gave away so many clothes, so many that I can now see that I still have a bunch to give (I told the historian last week that I bet I could reduce my sweaters by a third--and I did). I bought a vacuum cleaner. I got the downstairs carpets cleaned.

Best television: so many middle-aged actresses have shows now--Lili Taylor, Holly Hunter, Glenn Close, Kyra Sedgwick. I now have a weekly regimen of State of Mind, Saving Grace, Damages, and The Closer. I'm also watching The Office, 30 Rock, and the pretty horrible most recent season of Scrubs. Also, a brilliant series on AMC called Mad Men. Also random episodes of Top Chef. Aside from that one, I could never get into the reality tv scene, so summer has kind of been a wasteland--but now, there's actual new television: some shows that are only barely passable as shows but with terrific acting (State of Mind and Saving Grace), but also terrific shows with excellent acting (The Closer, Damages, The Office, 30 Rock, and Mad Men).

Best movies (aka, movies at which I had a good time): Superbad, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Hairspray, Once, Hot Fuzz, Knocked Up, Disturbia, Away From Her, Broken English, and The Simpsons Movie.

I'm also adding the amazing vacation we took to the "Best" list.

Sundry other bests: I got to write new poems, including trying my hand at a canzone (still working on it), read new books, and relax a lot. I wrote a paper with counterintuitive. I've got some poems coming out this fall. I feel invigorated about my writing and submitting life. I can carry a lot of music around on my iPod.

Worst: Well, after a summer like that, it would be a little churlish to linger on "worst." Worst is, maybe, having to contemplate checking all the links on your readings pages for the online class you're about to teach. Or having to spend Tuesday in meetings. Or having to get your parking hang tag. Or thinking about how very, very whiny you have all of a sudden, after a pretty much blissful summer, become.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Literary adaptations.

Last night at the movies, I saw a big old stand-up display thingie for a new movie called Beowulf that will be out at Christmas. Beowulf? Can they mean the Old English heroic poem? Will it be in Anglo-Saxon and dubbed into modern English, or with modern English subtitles? Or in modern English, with Old English subtitles, a more scintillating choice? Who will play Grendel? And more importantly, who will play Grendel's mom? And will Beowulf use the f-word?

These are important questions to be sure, but they were distracting me from my daughter's and my out-the-theater-door rendition of "Spider-Pig," which we were singing as we left a 9:30 p.m. screening of The Simpson's Movie. Which was plenty of fun. Zippy and visual-joke-y and an equal opportunity offender, if you were inclined to be offended. Interesting to me how the two movies I've seen most recently with college daughter, TSM and The Bourne Supremacy (there cannot be another Bourne movie, can there? But if there were, what would be the new word: we went from Identity to Ultimatum to Supremacy, so what--Utter Annihilation? Hegemony?), both have as a subtext the "global war on terrorism" (and I quote). Not that I need to deconstruct that for you.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Quit it.

The summer equivalent of the part of winter--like, mid-February or so--when you think if you see any more snow you'll puke, when the snow's dirty and disgusting, and you're sick of sweaters--that part?--well the summer equivalent of it is when you've brought home more and more vegetables and fruit from the market, and your swamp cooler's chugging away (for the furry dog! for her, it's for her sake!), and you still have to prop the door open for the dogs to go in and out, and that means that there are FLIES. And also fruit flies. So making and eating dinner is a project involving, a. heat and b. winged pests and c. a rapidly declining good mood.

On the plus side, I obtained a used copy of Ram, the second solo album Paul McCartney made after the Beatles broke up. I was prompted to do this because my daughter's (Scotland) husband is a rabid Beatles fan, and especially loves Paul McCartney, and so it came to pass that Ram came into heavy rotation in their household, in part because my granddaughter loves it. Especially the "Admiral Halsey" medley. ("Do we get to hear 'hands across the water' now? Have we missed 'little gypsy get around'?")
Now, no one will extol the virtues of John Lennon more than I--that mordant wit, that inimitable sad sack voice, the primal scream inherent in his singing even before he did that whole scream therapy thing. And if you'd like to argue, with fervor, that neither Lennon nor McCartney were as good without one another as they were when they wrote and recorded together, I will not disagree. But I must say that Ram is an expression of pure pop joy, it is splendid, and I urge you all to take a listen to it if you haven't, and to have a new listen if you haven't listened recently. Go on, have a listen. (you can hear clips here.)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Your 19th nervous breakdown.

I have a little summer cold. You know, the perfect accessory to end-of-summer dread.

On the one hand, there's something sort of luxurious (sort of!) in collapsing on your bed in the p.m. just because if you don't, you might melt away what with the sneezing, the drippy nose, the watery eyes. On the other hand, it's also awful.

I am reading--perfect, perfect trash--a vampire novel, written by a Utah girl, called Twilight. It has been a smash hit. Score for the Utah girls! The subsequent novels in the series have also been hits. Score again, Utah girl!

What will everyone around here eat for dinner? I guess they'll have to forage. I guess they'll forage, or they'll starve. Or they'll buy fast food. Yeah, fast food. That's the ticket. It's what makes America great, just ask running son.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

August is the cruelest month.

I counted: fifteen days till I have to show up at work. This means that I'm already nostalgic for summer and it's not over yet, a state which I believe philosophers have written about, which nonetheless does not mitigate how much it sucks. However: at least it's a summer worth being wistful about.

1. the Scotland contingent came over for an extended visit, which resulted in this and this and this.
2. my daughter, the make-up artist, had a baby, and during her maternity leave I got to visit frequently and hold the baby in her quiet sleeping house.
3. we went to the Idaho cabin where we observed the beautiful river and the mercurial skies.
4. the historian and I took an excellent vacation that restored and refreshed us.
5. I got to hang out with the dogs many days.
6. I bought a new vacuum cleaner, which is the bomb.
7. I have had lunch, tea, and shopping with many of my friends.
8. I made new literary contacts.
9. I have some poems coming out in the fall, and more poems and mss. in the mail (burst of optimism).
10. Two sons graduated, one from college and one from high school. College daughter is home, working, and available for late-night movie dates.
11. I took a wonderful trip to see my best friend since forever in Santa Barbara.

Yesterday, in a burst of industry, I pulled many, many items from my wardrobe to give away. I threw away and recycled stuff and vacuumed some ferocious dust bunnies from under the bed. The room is unbelievably tidy, which always feels like a small miracle. I need to do the same in my study and in the kitchen. Optimism is like a drug and I am still on it.

12. I have done quite a bit of new writing, especially when you factor in all of the above.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


We got up at least a little earlier than we've been getting up for the market today. It was still crowded, but here's what we got:

yellow cherries

huckleberry potatoes

red haven peaches

broccoli romanesco, chard, tomatoes

Other stuff too--thin little green beans, sweet white onions, a fat purple Italian eggplant. Garlic, an herb baguette, blackberries. I will be cooking up a storm this week.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

What is "Joshua Clover"?

I bought The Totality for Kids at that great poetry bookstore in Seattle, and just yesterday, settled in to read it. I'm enjoying it quite a bit--it's witty, sharp, interesting, possibly a little narcissistic in its avant-gardeiosity, but still. Here are some lines that I especially liked from "The Other Atelier":

History and capital had been Astaire and Rogers but are now Clark Kent and Superman

Taking advantage of the exchange rate I have acquired a certain afternoon in 1953

Though it meant selling the rights to the word peignoir

And the neighborhood where you first heard it

* * *
Also, I heard him speak on a panel at AWP about the American vernacular, where he talked entertainingly if a teensy bit bafflingly about Paris Hilton and, if I'm remembering correctly, Donald Rumsfeld? Where he said, "Apparently, the members of this panel are employing the classic strategy for setting people at their ease by citing Heidegger. Well, I'm not taking that lying down--I'm starting with Heidegger." And where he ended by saying, "Should not the poets who want to write in the language of the unacknowledged legislators of the world first become the acknowledged legislators of the wolrd? then all poetry would be truly hot."

So, I went on the World Wide Web--you know, the Internet--to find out some more about this guy. Here's what I found:

1. He was born in Berkeley in 1962.

2. He has two books of poetry, the above cited Totality and Madonna anno domini, which in 1997 won the Walt Whitman Award (chosen by Jorie Graham, who at that time was teaching at the Iowa Workshop, where Clover got his MFA. Hmm. Not that there's anything wrong with that.).

3. He teaches at U.C. Davis. He has a blog called "jane dark's sugarhigh!" that's pretty cool.

4. He writes as a critic for the Village Voice and The New York Times.

5. He wrote a book about The Matrix (the movie) for the Modern Classics series, published by the British Film Institute.

6. He hasn't been interested in the self since 1989. I guess I wonder what that means. I guess.

Here's an essay on LANGUAGE poetry. Here's an article about the iPod Shuffle, which is hilarious. Here's a reading, so you can see him in action.


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