Friday, February 29, 2008


I have been out three nights in a row--not late, home either before or just after nine each night, and frankly I feel kind of trashed. I ask you. There was a time in the not so distant past when I was often out on week nights, and it didn't kill me. But I think, actually, that I could lie down now and not get up for, oh, twelve hours. Would that be okay?

And to top it all off, I'm not caught up and I'm not on top of things, and my neck hurts a little. I think I'll spend the weekend contemplating these facts and figuring out what movie to go to tomorrow night.

Also, it's only two weeks to spring break. That's good, and then after that it's not very long until the end of the semester. Stuffed in there will be some work, some grading, some finishing projects, probably some podcasting. But the weeks until spring? hardly any. The weeks till the semester's over? hardly any. Single digits. I can do this thing. I can do it prone, from my bed, with a remote in my hand.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fancy handout.

All this week, the necessity of making a document that would be the end of all documents pressed on me like a weight, a powerful physical force that made me feel that my character, my job performance, my reason for being in this world, all depended upon an excellent, perfect handout that would explain everything there is, and ever will be, to know about how to integrate and document source material in every possible rhetorical situation.

Possibly, I am overstating; and yet what other explanation is there for the amount of time I spent trying to adjust the placement of text and image in Dreamweaver; figuring out how to import little handmade concept maps; in fact, making the little concept maps; developing simple tables and importing those; choosing a font (serif? sans serif? what would be best? what would communicate the importance, the documenting-sources-is-next-to-Godliness of it all?); how to get it all on one page, so that a handy exercise for practicing it all could fit on the back; how to make comments on the little bit of MLA-formatted academic writing I borrowed, so students could see the nifty little machine that MLA-style documentation is; etc., and so forth. And so on.

Well, there you have it, a super fancy handout, what I'm calling a self-teaching artifact: error-proof, teacher-proof, even, except for the handful of typos I found after I'd printed out 20 copies on a color copier.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The lurgy: an essay.

Tis the season, as they say:

1. I got it.
2. The historian got it.
3. College daughter got it (actually, she might have had it first).
4. Scotland daughter got it. (She sent an e-mail to me, saying, "I think I caught the lurgy talking to you yesterday.")
5. Her husband got it (actually, he might have had it first).
6. Now, little Evie in Scotland has it, so much that she's had to go to the hospital.

At a meeting tonight of a board I'm on, a friend commented that he'd had some variety of the flu a couple of weeks back. "I'm about ninety percent," he said, then added, "of course, that assumes that I was one hundred percent before."


The body is reliable, until it's not. I think of myself as a sturdy person ("yes, you're a big healthy girl," as the historian once said, with great affection), rarely sick enough to have an actual sick day, but I've certainly had more than my share of underachieving days in the last few weeks, days where I roused myself to do what was necessary--teach, tutor in the Writing Center--but came home to have pressing naps that lasted for hours. I don't think my body's letting me down, exactly--just that I feel more vulnerable to whatever's out there. And I don't like thinking at all of the vulnerabilities of little ones, their fevers and vomiting and how easily they get so very sick, how carefully we have to watch out for them.

Good days--the ninety percent days--are to be cherished. Maybe even eighty percent days, or seventy-five percent days. The hundred percent days--and maybe what counts as a hundred percent day changes, depending on the part of your life you're in--those are like finding a four-leaf clover or a quarter on the sidewalk, or seeing a hawk circling over a field, or getting a letter from an old friend you've not heard from in forever. Lucky.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Today's Doonesbury:

Friend of Zipper, perennial slacker student at Walden College: I can't believe you got into "The Poetry of Barack Obama," man! I didn't, and I applied last fall . . . I wrote the professor three times. Plus I've got the black thing goin' on!

Zipper: Yeah, who knows why I was selected? But that's the bodacity of hope! So what are you taking instead?

Roommate: "The Prose of Hillary Clinton." I don't want to talk about it.

See it here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The politics of politics: a sentence.

All politicians--the straight-talkers, the hope-mongers, those going negative, the so-called principled ones, the focus-group-watchers, the great orators, the clunky orators, the thrilling ones, the plodding ones, the ones you kind of like even though they support things you truly don't believe in, the ones you wish were a lot more progressive than they are, the ones who kind of sound progressive even though they're really not--are just politicians, at the end of the day: in the deepest part of their souls, they just want to get elected or re-elected.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cate Blanchett played the pitbull in No Country for old Men?

I did not know that.

[note: I will continue blogging the Oscars on twit.]

Discuss amongst yourselves:

Who is too skinny? the woman who just accepted the award for costume design? Keira Knightley? Possibly Jennifer Garner, post-baby?

Blogging the Oscars, part 1.

1. DVR: genius, but there will be a small lag between my posts and real-time Oscar action.
2. At our house, we're already arguing, pretty much par for the course. However, we are well-fed, which I hope will mitigate the arguing.
3. I have heard from college daughter that Tilda Swinton looked like "a scary human being," a point I disputed without having seen her at all.

How did they do the whole animated beginning what with the writer's strike? Did I just see Indiana Jones on horseback followed by a 80s laughing Eddie Murphy? I could rewind, but it's time to get on with it.

Important note: my previous post was my 500th. Woo hoo!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oscar preparation.

Necessary reading: Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue. Lots of pictures, although I am now hating the new concept that seems to govern the photo shoots, which is to place contemporary movie stars in sets from old movies--this year, everyone's placed in classic Hitchcock scenarios. Fine, very clever. Whatever.

However, and more importantly, I found a more interesting item, the "Vanities Dare," which for this month is the Primary Polling-Place Dare. For instance:
  • for one point, you can "complain that something is wrong with your ballot because Oprah's not on it."
  • for three points, you could "construct crude cardboard effigies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Then from inside the voting booth, enact a Punch-and-Judy-style puppet show for those behind you in line, in which the 'candidates' poke through the curtains and beat each other with swizzle sticks." And,
  • for five points, you could "take a closed container of dry ice into the voting booth, open it while inside, vote, and then emerge in a dramatic fog while loudly proclaiming, 'Yeah, I voted for the witch, bitch! Mwah-hah-hah-hah-ha-haah!'" Or, also for five points,
  • you could "greet all gathered ballot holders with the phrase 'God bless you!' and earnestly, insistently ask them if they'll be voting for Mike Huckabee. Should anyone irritatedly ask you if you've ever had a civics lesson, explain that you were home-schooled."
Not that I could, or would, do any of those things. Ever. Also, even if I were so inclined, it's too late for me, since I have already, quietly and without fanfare, cast my primary ballot, saying nothing to anyone. The excess cleverness ship has sailed.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Weekend plans.

1. Appointment with Chad to pick up vegetables and eggs.
2. Possible movie (Savages, I hope I hope).
3. Possible jazz concert (Cannonball Coltrane Project).
4. Possible dinner out.
5. Possible outing with college daughter.
6. Responding to student drafts.
7. Several important e-mails to send.
8. Extra sleep?
9. Dog park.
10. Various procrastination efforts to undercut #6 above.
11. Watch the Oscars whilst blogging the Oscars (a plan I thought of just now).
12. Buy important hair care products.
13. Procrastinate some more.
14. Eat cookies left over from theory book group.
15. Contemplate a crowded next week.
16. Contemplate how, in the words of my immortal former dissertation chair, "a perfect Sunday can be utterly abolished by Monday."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A fuzzball with lips does not enhance my Coke-drinking experience.

Does anyone really like this commercial? Doesn't it seem like the Coke would be warm by the time it gets to the person buying it out of a machine? Wouldn't you worry that the bottle would be fuzzy? Who wants fuzz on their Coke bottle? A bottle of Coke should have either (a) frost, or (b) condensation from the frost melting slightly on it. No fuzz. Too many critters touching the bottle. It has to come too far. The critters look a little sweaty. The only sweat near my Coke bottle should be metaphorical (see "condensation" point above). To this commercial, I say ick. In my memory, I will be pulling my Coke bottle--because in my memory, I am lucky enough to drink Coke from a cold glass bottle--from my granddaddy's soda cooler in his country store in Georgia, a soda cooler which was icy and very cold, as the last place a soda spends time before it reaches my hand, and then my gullet, should be.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pop quiz: answer key.

I didn't see Steve Carell in a Sugar House Smith's Food and Drug, but my daughter did. She has already posted about it on her blog, and it's been a few days, so I feel entitled to appropriate her story as if it had happened to me. Me, her, same diff--I'm her mom.

Dr. Write notes that she would "quietly follow him around, looking for a reason to ask him, casually, in front of the frozen foods, 'So, what kind of ice cream should I get?'" Amelia, from Inverurie (Scotland, the United Kingdom, The World, The Universe), notes that she would most likely "have smiled politely from behind a cereal box..." Whereas various and sundry of my daughter's friends said they would have stalked him with a cellphone to get a picture, or asked him when there would be new episodes of The Office, because "life is so uneventful without that show....Thursdays are meaningless without it!"

Sheonagh from Stonehaven (Scotland, the United Kingdom, The World, The Universe) says that she "would obviously throw myself at him and offer to have his children." Close, Sheonagh! But the correct answer is (wait for it . . . ), "What are you doing in my grocery store?" followed by, "I always tell my husband that I want you to father my next child."

Whereupon, Steve Carell graciously replies, "Meet my wife, Carol."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Here are my nominees for performances, scripts, and films the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences missed:

Performances: Kate Winslet in Romance and Cigarettes; Helena Bonham Carter in Sweeney Todd; Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. in Zodiac; Irfan Khan and Tabu in The Namesake; Leslie Mann in Knocked Up; Michael Cera in Superbad; Russell Crowe in something--he was terrific every time I saw him this year; Josh Brolin in No Country for Old Men

Writing: The Lookout; Rocket Science

Picture: Zodiac

Pretty good year, actually, for movies, in my opinion.

Pop Quiz: If you saw Steve Carell in your grocery store in Sugar House, what, if anything, would you say to him?

Monday, February 18, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, I was having a conversation with the very nice guy, aka genius, who does my hair, wherein I mentioned that I liked Amy Winehouse. He was, shall we say, derisive.

Me: The thing is, since I never listen to the radio, ever, I only barely heard "Rehab," like, three weeks ago. So I never got sick of it.

Genius: [his exact words are lost to memory, but basically, the gist was, "In that case, I'll allow it."]

Me: Shut up.

But this came back to me a couple of weeks ago when I happened to be in the car when This American Life was on. I am hardly ever in my car when that show is on, and generally I never listen to the radio in the house. So that means that I hardly ever listen to This American Life, which means--I never got sick of it.

[All of you who are sick of This American Life: In that case, we'll allow it.]

Well, if you didn't hear the "Tough Room" show a couple of weeks ago, I recommend that you listen to the last segment, Malcolm Gladwell discussing his first real journalism job at the Washington Post. It is so hilarious I probably shouldn't have been driving while I was listening.
You can hear the whole show here--the Gladwell bit is at the end. One other tough room--two Mormon missionaries trying to contact people in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Ouch.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pride and Prejudice.

I am finally watching the famous Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice, which I sort of accidentally happened upon last week as it was more or less starting. I was actually devastated when this week's segment ended, with Elizabeth Bennett's backward look at Mr. Darcy upon leaving Pemberley. Apropos of this, earlier today, I also happened upon this bit in The New Yorker, Jan. 21 edition, in which Nancy Franklin says,
Since "Emma" and "Pride and Prejudice" are old news, I will just say that they should not be missed. "P. & P." is especially well done. It's marked by good taste and exquisite restraint, and the result is very hot stuff--by the end, you'll be ripping your own bodice.

Since the Keira Knightley version (which I loved, and not that it was her fault) got twitted for its excessive romanticism, I would just like to point out that, in this version, Colin Firth's hair is positively Byronic.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Plan B.

If I had won the Amy Lowell Travelling Scholarship, I would have
  • figured out a way to live someplace in France,
  • become fluent in French because I would have been living there,
  • bought vegetables at a market every other day,
  • had the life-transforming experience of living abroad for a whole year,
  • received visitors as they came to see me living in France,
  • written poetry as gorgeous and ornate as that of the Provencal troubadours.

But I did not win the Amy Lowell Travelling Scholarship. Alas. So instead I will

  • live in West Jordan,
  • continue to speak English (albeit fluently) and perhaps listen to some French music,
  • buy vegetables at the farmer's market and from Chad,
  • have the life-transforming experience of writing and making small films every day,
  • receive visitors as they venture into the wilds of West Jordan,
  • write poetry as gorgeous and plainspoken as that of the . . . what? cowboy poets?

It was a beautiful dream while it lasted.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday is for sneezing.

Due to the recent "security" concerns at my work, I have reset my password to everything work-related, but am still "locked out" of my work e-mail. I will contemplate whether that is a bad or a good thing, as I have been laid low by a new cold. This cannot be fair. I ask you.

When we got home from our whirlwind trip to Idaho, which, by the way, is a dang cold place, and where a restaurant called Smitty's ("Pancake and Steak House") closed at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night which happened to be Valentine's Day, I fell into bed after greeting a very excited Bruiser and slept the sleep of the infected for several hours. I got up, cautiously, thinking that perhaps I was feeling better--but it was an illusion, the kind of "maybe I'm not feeling so bad" delusion that comes after a three hour nap, after which you get up, rustle up a little snack, look at the paper, etc., and then you have a big attack of whatever it is that's ailing you, like it wants to teach you a lesson of who's boss.

This evening has been (a) DayQuil, (b) hot-and-sour soup that the historian fetched for me, (c) television with a side of dognap. Wow. The historian and I are supposed to celebrate our anniversary (which was Monday) tomorrow, nine years' worth of happy marriage, and I'm hoping for (1) a miraculous recovery, or (b) a successful self-dosage of OTC medications, either of which might approximate enough good health to allow for a little downtown action, a little revelry.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Things I'm thinking about, even though I've got other stuff on my mind.

1. finishing my teaching portfolio
2. a potentially not-safe drive up to Idaho tomorrow
3. I appear to be relapsing, or else getting a new and improved burst of MiracleWinterCold (the sequel)
4. I still haven't made a podcast
5. Other blah blah blah
6. turning my inchoate mess of thoughts into an actual tribute to my grandmother tomorrow
7. it's snowing
8. there's plenty of work to do in the online classroom
9. more blah blah blah, like laundry and what will we have for dinner, will we get the kitchen, at least, cleaned up before we leave at the butt crack of dawn tomorrow, etc.
10. etc. Etc. etc. etc.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Looking for a poem, I'm not sure what one.

I found this, Marie Ponsot, in Springing:


Child like a candelabra at the head
of my bed, wake in me & watch me as
I sleep; maintain your childlife undistracted
where, at the borders of its light, it has
such dulcet limits it becomes the dark.
Maintain against my hungry selfishness
your simple gaze where fear has left no mark.

Today my dead mother to my distress
said on the dreamphone, "Marie, I'll come read
to you," hung up, & and in her usual dress
came & stood here. Cold--though I know I need
her true message--I faced her with tenderness
& said, "This isn't right," & she agreed.

Child, watched by your deeper sleep, I may yet say yes.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Post-Grammys commentary:

Me (via e): Just wondered if you saw Amy Winehouse (performing in the UK, I think)--did not look good, I didn't think.

Scotland daughter (via e): I think she is kind of a mess most of the time... she went blond for awhile, but looks like she's gone back to black (I could NOT help myself).

The Grammys suck, by the way. Worst awards show ever.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

My grandmother.

When I was a girl, we went every summer, at least, to my grandparents' house in Idaho Falls. Idaho Falls was basically heaven, in my book. The house had a basement, which no house I remembered living in had had. It was cool and dark. There was a fruit cellar. There were an assortment of toys that included a jack-in-the-box, a jumping jack, a cash register, and a doll that came in its own trunk with its own clothes, shoes, and a tiny little hairbrush. My grandmother had, on her dressing table, a mirrored tray with perfumes, jewelry, and a bowl full of quarters. She had cookies and ice cream. She had particular ways of doing things, like lining the sink with rubber mats when we did the dishes. The dishwater was scalding hot. She played endless games of cards with us. I was the oldest grandchild, and there were uncountable stories about me that she told as part of the family lore.

Lately, when I've gone to visit her, when she was having a good day, she'd say something sweet about my beautiful hair or what a pretty sweater. Her beauty was pared down to its essence. When she was young, her hair was dark, curled beautifully in the style of the day. She was a dish. I love the bones of her face, her gorgeous Roman nose, her white hair in a flurry on her pillow. The last time I saw her was last Wednesday. She wasn't feeling well. Her eyes were closed--it was late. She was talking anxiously, feverishly. I'm so glad I got to sit with her, stroke her hair, touch her. I sang to her, a little. Then I had to go, I was exhausted; this morning, I woke to a call, telling me she was gone. All day I've been remembering her, thinking back to before these last few years, when she was younger, full-bodied, full of life. Quiet day. I spoke several times with my father, my aunt, my children. Remembering what a great pleasure it was to drive up to the house on First Street, with its poppies, its great pine trees, its roses, and a bower of geraniums; to go in, to tear downstairs with my brother, to revel in the wonderful playhouse she and my grandfather had made for us.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Keeping score.

Stuff I left in, or on the way home from, NYC: one elbow-length leather glove, small notebook with 75% of my notes from the conference

Days I've felt sick: 7

Collateral sickness: historian, college daughter

Movies seen since coming home: 0

Christmas tree: down

Cute new clothes at Old Navy: a ton

Clothes purchased at Old Navy: none

Fabulous dinners in SLC since coming home: 1

Dinners made from boxes and/or cans since coming home: a lot (Campbell's Vegetarian Vegetable soup is a godsend. Also couscous from a box, pineapple and cottage cheese, and frozen pizza. I am not kidding.)

Poems I still need to write for poetry group tomorrow: 1

Days in a row I've taken an urgent nap in the afternoon: 5

Getting better starts tomorrow. Tomorrow, I say!

Friday, February 08, 2008

A little Spooky.

For anyone thinking about how art, technology, Marcel Duchamp, and the remix all add up, here is the answer, courtesy of DJ Spooky at the Dallas Art Museum. It's worth watching all the way to the end--he sums everything up in a wonderful way. (thanks to Stephen R. for passing this along.)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

St. Megastore Infirmary.

It's all Advil and DayQuil around here, as the historian is feeling under the weather, my whatever-it-is-I've-got has malingered, and now college daughter came home from work with a migraine.

We are all prone. We are laid out flat by a late winter miasma, or some malevolent creeping malady-monger. Around here, we are are all sicked up.

Pray for us, or send us some soup. There's no one who feels well enough to cook dinner!*

*okay, I did rouse myself from my bed of affliction long enough to go to the store and score some random food. We ate. I just needed to whine a minute.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

New York, recollected in DayQuillity.

What the hell? You take a trip to New York City--a trip you're taking for the benefit of your place of employment, or else why would they be paying for it?--you overpack, you learn a bunch of new stuff, you go to sessions, you buy judicious amounts of useful books at the bookfair, you schlep your sorry self from JFK to midtown and back again, hauling your judicious amount of books plus the extra new shoes you bought in Soho or wherever, you eat yourself into bliss/a stupor several times, you improve yourself by seeing (a) art and (b) a play, and when you get home, you feel tired and sick. For crying out loud. I'm kind of bitter about it, if you want to know.

But actually, even this illness comes with a little Manhattan aura. The day we left, I got to see these paintings. I saw them first at the Tate Modern, and since I thought I'd never see them again, I sat there in that gallery and looked at them for as long as I could. But then, when Dr. Write and I walked down the stairs in the MoMa, there they were, big as life or even bigger.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


The historian and I agreed, for one moment, in the parking lot outside the elementary school where each of us had just cast a vote in the Super Tuesday primary, to acknowledge the remarkable fact that there was a qualified, capable female and a qualified, capable African-American candidate in the Democratic primary, aside from whatever other issues we might have with either of them.

Okay, moment over.

Monday, February 04, 2008

For starters, learn how to cook.

This is Poet Laureate Charles Simic's advice to people who want to learn to be happy, at the conclusion of his little interview with Deborah Solomon in this Sunday's New York Time Sunday Magazine:

Solomon: Have you noticed all these new nonfiction books on “happiness”? It’s an industry.

Simic: It’s really frightening. People need to read a book on how to be happy? It’s completely an American thing. Can you imagine people in Naples sitting on a bus or in a trattoria reading a book about happiness?

Solomon: What advice would you give to people who are looking to be happy?

Simic: For starters, learn how to cook.

Some simple things I think might improve the likelihood that you'll be happy: find something you like to do that there aren't too many barriers to doing--like taking a walk, going to the library, watching sports on television. Develop some kind of hobby or art, and give yourself over to it. Enjoy the people closest to you. Get enough sleep. And yeah, learn to cook.

I do think a certain modesty in what you want is conducive to happiness. I read somewhere in The Nation awhile ago an argument that aiming for happiness is unreasonable, given the state of the world. I certainly have felt that way. I have often thought that the steady state of the human condition is actually grief, and that happiness is lucky, infrequent, a blessing when you find it, but you shouldn't expect to feel happy all the time. On the other hand, how unreasonable is it to tell people that? Like, somehow advising people that coming to terms with misery, sorrow, and grief as your lot in life would be persuasive. I think I'll keep working on that cooking thing. And getting enough sleep.


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