Monday, March 31, 2008

Here's what four hours of sleep'll get ya.

  • can't follow a logical train of thought for more than two, or possibly two-and-a-half, steps.
  • shoulder hurts.
  • the sun is extra dazzling, possibly blinding.
  • too tired to go to a movie with college daughter, even though she's leaving.
  • can do the New York Times crossword puzzle (to be fair, it's the Monday one).
  • can't cook.
  • the Jazz won (I'm pretty sure that the lack of sleep and the win are connected).
  • the way the teams in the Western Conference are packed in like clowns in a clown car seems like a terrible, terrible injustice.
  • there are things I know I have to do for tomorrow, but I can't figure out what they are.
  • slightly irritable.
  • will totally be in bed by eleven, asleep by eleven fifteen.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Slow dark day.

I felt I was waking up to snow all day long, it was so gray, and the snow kept falling like rain. I woke and then fell asleep again.

Then I got up and made us all breakfast. It's the last Sunday college daughter will be here for quite awhile. We talked over the news. She left for church.

Then singing son came over to do homework ("I just can't make myself do it until right before it's due. I just can't!") on our computer. Then he left. The historian and Bruiser were napping.

I went to the store (milk, Coke, bread, laundry detergent) and came back. The Jazz lost to the Timberwolves. I lay down during the last quarter because I was cold, and fell asleep, waking only as John and Bruiser were leaving for the dog park. I felt I had slept the entire day away.

Bruiser follows us around, settling down only when we do, right next to us. He is the silent partner in this entry. In the dark, I can hear him breathing.

Outside my window is a thicket of ivy, and beyond that, a snarl of tree limbs.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday accomplishments.

  • Read the paper, sports section first.
  • Ordered and ate pastries at Les Madeleines.
  • While eating, considered important improvements in my character that will occur via sabbatical.
  • Hung up random clothes in closet.
  • Washed bedding.
  • Washed darks.
  • Vowed again to go through all clothing as soon as semester is over.
  • Started new Icelandic detective novel.
  • Chilled with Bruiser while reading.
  • Ate lunch.
  • Loaded new Brad Mehldau cds to iTunes.
  • Also loaded Rufus Wainwright Rufus Wainwright, the eponymous first album.
  • Listened to the same.
  • Took short nap.
  • Met college daughter at stores to purchase a couple of important clothing items before she goes off to Boston in one week.
  • Picked up the historian at his office to go to film.
  • Viewed film Married Lives.
  • Went to Rio Grande.
  • Observed that restaurant time ("How long is the wait?" "Ten minutes.") is different than human time ("How long have we been waiting?" "A half hour.").
  • Ate Mexican food.
  • Discussed film.
  • Pondered the total transformation of life that will occur via sabbatical.
  • Drove home.
  • Received text from college daughter to meet her at the theaters.
  • Met college daughter at theaters.
  • Viewed film 21.
  • Discussed film.
  • Moved darks to dryer.
  • Recorded the above for all the Internets to view.

Internet: Now I am going to go read some more of my Icelandic detective novel and possibly fall asleep while doing so, to dream the Dream of the Radiant Sabbatical that I will live in Sabbaticaland.

Friday, March 28, 2008

It doesn't make more sense than this.

I finished a week of reading portfolios, writing comments, and conferring with students. It snowed yesterday, great flying flakes that melted within hours. My son is--I think--in Malaysia. Some of my family are moving house. I have too many shoes. We had Indian food tonight--pakoras and saag and kofta and naan. A couple of nights ago, I woke up out of a dream which featured both George Clooney and some strippers. In my mind the semester is already over. If not actually over, then "over." It might snow tomorrow. I am going to sleep until I wake up tomorrow. The Jazz beat the Clippers without Okur or Brewer, and with Kirilenko injured. We saw Stop-Loss tonight. I have a New York Times waiting for me to read it. My offices, both at school and at home, are barely organized chaos. I am now officially behind in my online class. Two little girls in Scotland are wearing tee shirts I bought them, one with a pink kitty and another with a striped French chicken. We are thinking of going to Ireland in the fall. Starting April 1, Dr. Write and I are going to write a poem a day for National Poetry Month. I have lettuce seeds and pea seeds that I'd better plant if I'm going to. Today is Jerry Sloan's birthday. Happy Birthday.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Notes from a separate universe (2).

Upon arriving in Singapore. Delirious with jet-lag, no doubt, but elated, ecstatic, even:

"mom this is absolutely crazy... it is beautiful and there are trees everywhere. Don't send me a letter yet... i am going to fly to malaysia on friday so i will get you my address soon but i actually guess it would be ok if you wrote me i am sure they would get it to me. I have talked to a few people here in chinese i don't understand everything they say but i am not worried. we ate at carls junior today when i arrived possibly my second least favorite fast food just ahead of mcd...i love being here yes it's humid...very humid...i can't wait to see malaysia on friday and experience more different things. This place is crazy, i have only just gotten off the plane like 4 hours ago but it is way nuts...most people say i will mostly serve in malaysia. [. . .] tell everyone i am ok and loving this place and i will try and send home some pics."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Equation.

Eighteen conferences completed

plus

Twenty-eight more to go

(minus

where did the rest of the students go?)

multiplied by a factor of

sore wrists, elbow, and neck

to the power of not enough sleep

equals four Ibuprofen and my head hits the pillow.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

So very productive.

I have made new Course Curriculum Outlines for four courses and updated another.

I have sent off the article counterintuitive and I wrote.

I finished a textbook review and sent it back to the publishers.

I have consulted with several students already, giving them written feedback on their midterm portfolios.

I have drafted the English 2010 Assessment Report and sent it to the committee for its review.

I cooked dinner.

I uploaded music to my tiny, new iPod Shuffle. A weird mix, it must be said, because I have moved most of my music files to an external drive--what's still on this hard drive is stuff like Richard Thompson's sountrack to Grizzly Man, the 1990s Cookies, Brad Mehldau, The Band, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and Combat Rock. Great, on the one hand, but can you dance to it? on the other.

I wore an exceedingly stylish and fetching outfit today.

I did not lose my temper when I was locked out of my classroom today (when I went to Facilities, even they could not let me in--what is that about?).

I did the New York Times crossword (to be fair, it was the Monday one).

Perhaps I should run for President of the United States, or Queen of the World, or Empress of Music, or something. I'm pretty sure I could really get things done.

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's Bryce and Bruiser!

We are here talking to the missionary (Bryce is one of the missionary's friends). He (the missionary) can't stop talking Chinese. We can't stop crying. Bruiser is crying on the inside.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Numbers will kick your ass every time.

I am the daughter of an engineer, a physicist, a numbers guy. (Just for the record, the engineer-physicist-numbers guy is all one person, my dad. Also for the record, I'm the daughter of a musician, a sparkling conversationalist, a world-class hostess--also all one person, my mom.) But back to Mr. Mathematics: my dad was the man who helped me figure out my algebra (I and II) and sat with me patiently while I worked out my Geometry (he says I actually insisted on learning it, although apparently I learned it to forget it, since I have not been successful at helping any of my kids at math except addition etc., the basic computational moves, although I can still recognize a triangle and can sort of remember what a rhombus is, yada yada yada and then we all died of boredom). i.e., my dad helped me pass the required math for a smart person (which back then did NOT include calculus or pre-calculus which I think is torture and should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention for anyone but future physicists and engineers, i.e., not me or my kids!).

So now, what am I doing on a perfectly lovely Easter evening, after having had a nice dinner with two daughters, a son-in-law, a historian and a baby (walked into a bar . . .)? I am manipulating figures into words. To be more precise, I am writing a report of the English 2010 Assessment, describing in words the breakdown of how many student portfolios demonstrated high proficiency at a targeted set of traits, above average proficiency, average proficiency, below average, etc. And do you know what? Taking those numbers and putting them into words is bringing me down, man.

It's a perfect segue back into work. Yes, after spring break, work translates into these numbers: it's five (5) more class meetings and innumerable () online e-mails, postings and responses. It's two (2) more curriculum committee meetings and three (3) more CCOs. It's sixty (60) minutes, at least, of discussion with the English 2010 committee about these findings and the report I have written of them. It's one (1)more department meeting. It's searching through the last five weeks for one (1) hour when the Five (5)-Year Plan committee can meet to revise its mission. It's cajoling the fifty percent (50%) of my students who have not yet submitted their midterm portfolios to PLEASE do it--so that I can have a better rate of completion.

It's Algebra II all over again. The numbers are not happy. There is no joy in Numberville.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring break: still to do.

During spring break, I managed to
  • finish, or almost finish, the paper that counterintuitive and I are writing.
  • collect the URLs of quite a few (most?) of my composition students' midterm portfolios.
  • finish reading my crazy fantasy novel. Very rewarding.
  • make and deliver little Easter baskets for numerous grandchildren and send presents to the grandchildren who live in foreign lands.
  • see my daughter the makeup artist and her tiny little boy.
  • spend loads of time with college daughter.
  • see movies galore.
  • relish lots of quiet.
  • prune the roses in my back yard.
  • buy lots of new kinds of tea.
  • finish the curriculum work for one course.
  • go to dinner and a movie with the historian, singing son and his wife.
Still must
  • finish the curriculum work for several other courses.
  • draft the report of the 2010 assessment. (This will involve using the previous report as a genre template, changing the details, of course. Also, it will involve thinking about the 2010 assessment. Some thinking.)
  • make dinner tomorrow (my daughter the makeup artist, her husband, the darling baby, and college daughter will be coming over to share this repast).
  • read some portfolios and write comments for student conferences on Monday.
  • write a review of a textbook I said I'd review. (Why? Why?)
Can I do all of this tomorrow? Watch me.

Spring break has left me feeling raahhther relaxed and possibly refreshed. Perhaps even rejuvenated. Like I can finish the semester without breaking a sweat. Or sweating just a little.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Not too bad.

Anybody besides me nurture a secret little affection for the not-too-bad movie? Tonight we saw Bonneville, a movie that should have been wonderful because it had Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, and Joan Allen, not to mention Christine Baranski. Sadly, its plotting was wildly unimaginative and the characters were repurposed Thelma and Louise plus one, and the pace, well, the pace was sedate, to put it kindly. If someone were to ask me, "Was the movie good?" I would have to answer, "No, the movie was not good."

The historian asked me whether the film had touched a nerve--and why not? The main character's husband dies, his daughter from a previous marriage acts all peremptory about his remains, not to mention the house the main character lives in, which she owns because the husband never quite got around to changing his will after the second marriage. Plus the characters are Mormons. It's quite possible that the outlines of all that might parallel to some of my own anxieties. But I had to say, "Well, yes, but honestly, it would have probably moved me more if it had been a better movie."

Still: sometimes, I am not up to watching a great work of art. Sometimes, I am not even up to being entertained too strenuously. Sometimes I am just fine with watching a movie that doesn't tear it up all over the screen, being perfect and unattainable and getting all you couldn't make this movie in a million years on me. Sometimes I am just fine with a movie that delivers small pleasures like seeing Jessica Lange's beautiful face looking just the age she is, and Joan Allen's quite perfect impersonation of a Mormon woman who really, really wants to be good. And the settings, many of them in Utah, are beautiful. And the not-too-searching parallels with my own worries and fears--that was just fine too.

It's like being hungry. Who wouldn't like a thrillingly delicious snack? But if you're hungry and there is no thrillingly delicious snack to be had, then saltines aren't a bad substitute. In fact, when you're hungry, sometimes saltines are just the thing.

Bonus: the movie had a beautiful Pete Droge song on the soundtrack--you can hear it to your right by clicking the play button in the "Pretty Music" feature of this blog.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

And they did not call it.

Things I've heard the historian say from the other room, where he is watching the final fatal minutes of the Jazz/Lakers game (I can't bear it):

"Oh!"

"Williams just hit a three, and they fouled him."

"I can't believe that. Kobe just put a shoulder into Williams twice, and finally knocked him down, and they called it on Williams."

"We just can't-- we've had two chances, we've missed a layup and a little jumper by Boozer."

"Travelling. Travelling!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chad speaks:

"I went to the Supermarket the other day, and I about fainted when I
saw the prices of things!! Yellow Bell Peppers at $2.58 each, Ancho Pablano Peppers at $2.58 each, OUR PRICES are less than half that, any customer that doesn't come to our Farmers' Market is Crazy!!! This week we have some SUPER DEALS on your favorite produce items,
including Jicama!!!"

My winter farmer is not only a treasured resource in terms of purveying excellent, locally grown, unsprayed vegetables, but also a stylist of the first water:

" Item #6 It is hard to believe that for months now I have been harvesting BIG BEETS, and lil beets! The organic material we have added to our soil has made these beets the biggest and best ever!$2.25/ bunch *LIMIT 1 bag*"

Is it any wonder that I make the trek downtown every other Saturday to buy vegetables from this man?

" Item# 19 NEW! Really nice firm LARGE Ancho Pablano Peppers, Roasting or Stuffing,,Super markets almost charge 3 dollars for one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ours are ONLY $1.00 each and firmer! *LIMIT 3*"

I love him. I Chad. !!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Read this. Right now.

Here is the full text of Barack Obama's speech, the one he gave in Philadelphia today. Searching, remarkable, stirring. This is not an ordinary election, dear readers.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Disappointment/frustration/failure update.

Today, the day that was supposed to be the last day my students were to post their preliminary portfolios on their e-portfolio sites, I got a plenty big rash of student e-mails saying, "Uh, I know you said to ask for your help last week, even begged us to ask for your help, but, dude, I totally thought I could figure it out, but I can't, so, uh, what should I do?"--or some variation thereof.

Today, when college daughter and I met up at Brewvies, which would have been her first time there, and where we would have ordered up a tasty lunch to eat whilst viewing Charlie Bartlett, we found out that there were workers doing something noisy and smelly to the carpets in the theaters. The ticket guy said, "They said they would be done by the time we opened, but . . . I'm pretty ticked about it," while handing us vouchers to come back later. Or never.

Today, I got an e-mail from the custom publishing person at a large textbook company, saying that the little plagiarism "thing" they hounded me to include ("it won't cost students a thing!") with the new edition of a textbook we've used for like ten years made the textbook a custom publication, words they never used with me in the midst of all the hounding. The consequence of this is that our bookstore can only return 20% of the copies they have on hand. I am mad and also I feel like a chump, even though it turns out to be of little real significance, probably.

Today, the dog park was filled with big muscular dogs, some rather small-ish children, people holding their teeny dogs up high, and in general a host of dangers for Bruiser. It was like the Slough of Despond for me, since watching an excitable dog in the midst of temptation is kind of enervating and maybe a little depressing.

Today, after I had sent a chatty, voluble, filled with cheery details letter to running son the missionary, one feature of which was a series of questions I needed to have answered (Can you print out the e-mails you get? Will you be limited to 30 min. a week of e-mail time in the field? how is your hip? etc.), the e-mail I got in return was comprised only of answers to my short series of questions.

Today, when I tried to start some curriculum work I would very, very, very much like to get done before school starts again in a week, the curriculum site was down.

The first day of spring break has clarified the following points:
  1. Don't read student e-mails for a few days. Just don't.
  2. Publishers are jackals.
  3. I will bombard running son the missionary with letters for the remainder of this week, come hell or high water.
  4. Screw Brewvies.
  5. Curriculum work is for suckers.
  6. I may be a chump, but I will prevail with a carefully worded, civil-but-savage e-mail to the publishing people, outlining the book reps' perfidy.
  7. I will use the word "perfidy" a lot in said e-mail.
  8. The dog park is a good place, but it will be better starting April 1, when it's open later, and therefore we can spread out the dog-per-hour ratio (that was a mathematical analysis, by the way, hope you enjoyed it).

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Surprise shoes.

I'm taking things a little at a time. For instance, yesterday, it seemed to me that one way to make a little headway in my study would be to organize some stuff. Okay, organize my shoes. And it did help. Approximately fifty percent of my study is sorted, organized, possibly tidy, and I can visualize and then put my hands on any pair of the shoes in that closet.

Today, I started in on the shoes in my regular closet (as opposed to those in my auxiliary closet, see above). Which yielded an unexpected benefit--two pairs of shoes I had totally forgotten I owned.

One pair I wore today down to my sister's house for a big family gathering--a pair of open toed pumps with a stiletto heel and some kind of fake jewel ornamentation. They are probably black, but to me they look a little bit navy, so that's what I call them. They are swell. I bought them at T.J. Maxx for the kind of price that makes you buy stiletto heels with fake jewels on them--cheap. I figured I could easily get $20 of pleasure out of them, and I was right, even before I forgot I had them. Now I'll probably get twice the value out of them. Thrice the value, even.

Finding the other pair made me feel a little chagrined. I bought them in the U.K. the last time I was there. They are very cute, blue, with a reasonably not-too-high heel, a strap and a big button. They are Mary Janes, in effect. With a big button. Just this week, I saw a young woman wearing a pair of shoes like these with jeans, and I thought, Cute! then, I wish I had shoes like that! and then again: I wonder where I could find some?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The stage.

Even this empty stage, blue-lit and breathless, before Rufus Wainwright has come out, is thrilling. More thrilling than many, many things.

Post-concert update: It was beautiful. It was sublime. He played alone--accompanying himself on piano and guitar. He sang "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk," "California," "Grey Gardens," "Going to a Town," "Nobody's Off the Hook," "Sanssouci," "Little Sister," and "Gay Messiah," "Beauty Mark, and "Matinee Idol," with "The Art Teacher" and "Hallelujah" as encores. The venue was perfect and he was perfect. I love his voice, with its edges and resonance, and how wholeheartedly he sings. Not one single disappointment about this concert.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bitter: some thoughts.

Today while avoiding work, I took a tour around my kitchen and swooped down on some leftover salad from the night before. Touring the chaos of my house is one of my prime work-avoidance techniques, and it's basically how I get my laundry done, clothes put away, kitchen straightened, etc. But I digress: the salad was made of some spring mix, two heads of white endive, and blood oranges. I dressed it with olive oil and salt and pepper--the orange was juicy.

Because the endive is sturdy, the salad was really none the worse for wear for having stood around for a few hours. If this horrifies you, I'm very sorry. In fact, the whole thing tasted just wonderful, and part of what made it wonderful was the acid of the orange juice, the unctuousness of the oil, the salt, and the bitterness of the endive. It was perfection.

My oldest friend who has impeccable and discriminating taste once told me that she found herself, as she got older, craving intense flavors, and she loved bitter flavors especially. I am finding this myself--some sharp taste in the mix of things makes everything more vivid. Even a possibly sorry, leftover salad. Even, possibly, the occasional bitter thoughts I try not to nurture in myself.

Not bitter: we saw Honeydripper tonight, John Sayles's latest. Wonderful. College daughter and I continued our pre-spring break schedule with a viewing of Step Up 2: The Streets (I dared her to say the entire title to the ticket girl, who was completely unfazed by this--why does it seem so funny to me, this title with a number and a colon and a pretty funny subtitle? Oh well, another opportunity for comedy missed, but what else is new?). It was fabulous, in the way that a good dance movie is fabulous--lots of dancing, not much pretense of doing anything other than the required plot moves, and then more dancing. The final sequences were rather electrifying. I thought of you, assertively unhip, and agree: this movie just made me want to step up and dance. And the final unbitter thing? The Jazz beat the Celtics tonight. Yeah yeah yeah!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Will the thrills never stop.

I'm going to see Ben Folds at Saltair in April, with the historian, singing son and his wife, and my daughter the makeup artist. Then, Dr. Write managed to wrangle the fact out of the internets that Rufus Wainwright is coming to Park City this weekend! The stupid website of the venue won't work, at least not for buying tickets, but I'm hopeful that first thing tomorrow morning I will have purchased tickets, one for her and one for me. This is all a little bittersweet, it must be said, because Ben Folds and Rufus W. are two of running son's very favorite artists. But I've got to go (I've got to go, I've got to go, cause I'm leaving on a midnight train to . . . Magna? Heber?).

This afternoon, college daughter and I started our spring break early by seeing Vantage Point, which is a risible exercise with a rogue Secret Service Agent and a car chase that made me want to exit this life prematurely. However, the film also boasted Dennis Quaid in a performance that simultaneously channeled Clint Eastwood's, in In the Line of Fire, and Arnold Schwarzenegger's, in The Terminator. I wish I could show you a visual. Seriously, he just wouldn't die no matter how many times they killed him. But luckily? They saved the president, so the world could go on and order was restored. Thank goodness there was root beer to ease the pain.

After that, we bought our first pairs of flipflops for the year. Because spring is almost here, sort of. And then we took Bruiser to the dog park in the rain. And then, after making dinner, I fell asleep for half an hour--apparently, it's just too much excitement to stay awake for.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Humorless.

I'm having a hard time getting over the whole Eliot Spitzer thing. I heard a discussion of it on On Point as I was driving into work, and it pretty much sums up why for me.

There are things that are just no longer funny to me, and this is one of them. I remember reading a piece in The New Yorker a few years ago about a venerable (though amateur, actually) scholar of the dirty joke, Gershon Legman, who wrote a vast tome called The Rationale of the Dirty Joke. Legman died in 1999. (You can read the article here--I recommend it, very interesting and instructive.)

The author of the New Yorker article, Jim Holt, notes that
Reading through Legman’s vast compilation of dirty jokes is a punishing experience, like being trapped in the men’s room of a Greyhound bus station of the nineteen-fifties. And the jokes in “Rationale of the Dirty Joke” are what Legman deemed the “clean” dirty jokes, arranged by such relatively innocent themes as “the nervous bride,” “phallic brag,” and “water wit.” In 1975 he published a second fat volume, “No Laughing Matter,” which contained the “dirty” dirty jokes—nearly a thousand pages of jokes about anal sadism, venereal disease, and worse. Legman’s avowed purpose was not to amuse the reader or furnish him with material for the locker room; he saw his work as a serious psychoanalytic study, one that would disclose the “infinite aggressions” behind jokes, mainly of men against women.

Sick of hearing jokes on this topic, sick of the common imagining of the sexual exploitation of women and children of both genders as a laughing matter. Sick of powerful men like E.S. doing stuff like this. Sickening.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Things I said at dinner tonight that may or may not be true.

"I'm renouncing all of my ambitions, except in poetry."

"I'm giving up giving up stuff."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Break: the schedule (to date).

It's reached that point--the point when, in anticipation of spring break, I realize that I am no longer working within the rules of the Elasticity of Time--there's no way I can do everything I want to do in that short little week. As of right now, I plan to be
  • relaxing
  • doing the curriculum paperwork for about half a dozen courses
  • writing the 2010 assessment report
  • doing a little desultory online course cleanup
  • relaxing
  • going to the movies with college daughter, Dr. Write, and possibly my own personal self
  • doing a tiny bit of recreational shopping
  • reading
  • cleaning up my study
  • possibly getting running son's room sorted (it's about time--)
  • helping college daughter prepare to go to Boston, in which city she has accepted a position as a nanny
  • writing/relaxing
  • other unagenda-ed items.
I will have to make a flow chart and plot all the relaxation, in half-hour increments. However, as my office area-mate notes, "Just three more days and it's spring break. And after spring break, it's only five more weeks, and then it's summer." See, it's not spring yet, officially, but baby, in six weeks and three days, it will be summer.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The cake diaries.

Today at poetry group, we all had the great good fortune of having a piece of our hostess's Sicilian Cassata, a truly divine cake comprised of two layers of genoise, between them a layer of whipped ricotta studded with candied orange peel and chopped dark chocolate, all covered in a layer of green tea marzipan and decorated with elegant cutouts of candied orange peel and Meyer lemon peel. There was no talking about poems during the consumption of this cake, as it was so elegant, so delicious and complex, it deserved one's complete and rapt attention to its attributes and aspects, making their statements and counterstatements in the mouth. Our hostess is famous for her splendid cakes, but this one was my favorite so far.

This led to a lot of speculation on my part: did the hostess estimate that, on a given day in her household, there was a high probability, a fair chance, or a rather limited chance that there would be some cake, somewhere? What was the cake part of the cake, and what was the filling? We had a brief discussion of the qualities of genoise as the cake in fancy cakes. We also established that Rose Berenbaum Levy's book The Cake Bible is, indeed, the canonical work for cakes. The Meyer lemons came from California. The candied peel cutouts were made with truffle cutters. I think we may have discussed nearly every pertinent aspect of the cake by the time we had all finished, lingeringly, the last bite.

"Thank you for the inspirational cake," I said, as we were leaving.

"You've given Lisa another entry for her cake diary," joked another poet.

"You're assuming I don't actually have one," I said. Which I don't, actually, though I do have a diary of menus and recipes, recording who was present at a party, etcetera, which I use to brainstorm parties and future menus. All of this rumination about cake has led me to the following conclusions:

1. It's time to have a dinner party.
2. That party should involve a delicious dessert, probably cake.
3. I need a copy of The Cake Bible, and probably The Pie and Pastry Bible, as well.
4. How does one manipulate marzipan? (not a conclusion)
5. With regard to how this cake was beautiful and also sublimely delicious:

Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.


Also:

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Listen: it was really, really good cake.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Poemless in West Jordan.

Yes, that's right, dear reader, it's Saturday night, tomorrow's my poetry group, and I got nothing.

So, my options are:

1. Try some constrained poetry exercise thing-y, preferably from my notes from AWP, the small portion of my notes that I didn't lose on an airplane.
2. Take an old, hoary poem from the September Poem-a-day project of Dr. Write's and mine and see if I can make it better.
3. Finish the canzone I started last August. (To this, I say, ha.)
4. Be inspired by some new subject matter or bit of language or image. Or something.

To wit, there was a bit of wonderful dialogue in the movie the historian and I saw tonight, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, which was quite a charming little number, but that's not the point. Let me, for a moment, cite: Frances McDormand, dressed in a horrible brown dress and a horrible drab overcoat, and sad, horrible hair, stands with Amy Adams, resplendent in a robin's egg blue ensemble completed with beautiful burgundy shoes, at a shop window. Three mannequins sport scarlet dresses of various styles, but are also wearing gas masks--it's the eve of World War II. As they gaze at the window:

Miss Pettigrew (F. McDormand), who has lived through and remembers WWI: It's so frightening.

Delycia Lafosse (A. Adams): I know. Cap sleeves. What a nightmare.

I wish I could make a poem out of that.

Friday, March 07, 2008

New career plan #119: pattern-maker.

In a profile of designer Rick Owens in the issue of The New Yorker that came to my mailbox today (also arriving: tickets to the Ben Folds concert on April 24!, the Nordstrom catalog, other crap), I read this:

"Owens left Otis-Parsons [art school] after two years, to study pattern-cutting at a trade college. He began creating costumes and sets for local artists and performers, members of what he has called 'the wicked Hollywood hustler-bar world.' For four years, he worked in knockoff houses in Los Angeles, copying in cheap fabrics the work of well-known fashion designers. The experience proved invaluable. Many designers never master the difficult art of pattern-cutting, and the originality and sophistication of Owens's clothes--his ability to plant seams in unexpected places and to hang fabrics on the bias so that the cross grain clings to or drapes dramatically from the body--derive from his years in the knockoff mills. 'Picasso did classic figure drawing in the beginning, and then, after that, he's abstracted,' Owens told me. 'You can't convincingly get abstract until you really know the fundamentals. It's the same thing with pattern-making. You can't start distorting things unless you kind of know what you're doing.' As Cathy Horyn wrote last week in the Times, in an admiring review of Owens's Fall 2008 collection, 'A designer who controls his pattern making can say the most with his clothes. It's just like a writer with language.'"

"Just like a writer with language." Ta-da! Where's a trade college that teaches pattern-cutting?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

"Money, breakfast, and the good things in life."

I saw this headline in the Fraywatch on Slate. For the life of me, I couldn't find the actual item that prompted it, but it did get me thinking about the good things in life, such as
  • yellow sweaters. I was frantically culling my ridiculous sweater pile for ones I knew I wanted to give away this morning--the Friends of MS people were coming to pick up several bags of discarded clothing. It turns out that now I have a tidy little collection of yellow sweaters, how did this happen? Yet each one provides material cheer when I wear it--a slightly different version of yellow sweater cheer.
  • organic greens. I used to think that the sturdier greens, such as kale, were inedible. Not at all! They are gorgeously delicious, especially sauteed with garlic or making a roasted tomato sauce more robust or with grains of sea salt on them or, most heavenly, a little squeeze of Meyer lemon juice.
  • a good mix of songs when your iPod is shuffling. This morning, I heard Rory Block, Gorillaz, Ben Lee, and The Legendary Pink Dots. Maybe that could be improved upon, but not through sheer randomness, I don't think.
  • money. Come on, it is good. (For perspective on this, it's useful to have memories of not having very much, or quite enough.)
  • and, come to think of it, yes--breakfast! I used to have a breakfast routine that involved cycling through oatmeal cooked with dried fruit (cherries are good), with chopped almonds on top; some kind of smoothie and wheat toast (almond butter on top); just plain old toast (ditto the almond butter); cottage cheese and fruit (and chopped almonds), and possibly toast. During the anti-carb mania, I stopped drinking almost any kind of juice, ever, but now I allow myself a chaste little glass of orange juice most mornings, and damn, it's good, that little hit of sweetness in the morning. [Note: Don't think I didn't notice the almond theme in the above. Will consider if it is something to be concerned about. Probably not, right?]
  • watching The Office on dvd, with Bruiser.
  • finishing a crossword puzzle.
  • having fun with an adult child--a conversation, movie, hanging out--anything.
  • anticipating spring break.
  • having lunch with your friend.
  • the way spring brightens up everything--the sky, the day, your mood--everything.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Notes from a separate universe.

Also known as the "Missionary Training Center":

"People were right--learning the tones in Chinese is hard, but not nearly as hard as their crazy grammar rules. You have to change your mind to think like a Chinese person. . . it is out of control, but I get better at it daily."

Also:

"I have gained 13 lbs. since being at the MTC, no big deal. Even with that gain I am still underweight. I just need to evenly spread my weight around magically. Those brownies were incredible! I only wish I didn't have to share, but I did because without charity I am nothing."

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Progress, sort of.

I have:
  • Read a pile of drafts and given feedback to students.
  • Conferenced with almost every one of my online creative writing students, via chat, a phone call, or an in person visit.
  • Co-taught a workshop on writing local history with (guess?) the historian (at the Community Writing Center).
  • Listened to the Clash, The Essential Clash, while responding to student work, because apparently I never uploaded Combat Rock to my iPod.
  • Prepared an excellent and (may I say) a little bit sexy handout for my classes today.
  • Put together a darn near perfect outfit which lifted my spirits all day long.
  • Overcame ennui and pre-spring break laggardliness in my classes with charm, pure charm, baby.
Still to do:
  • Read more student drafts.
  • Conference with remaining creative writing students.
  • Teach the other half of the writing local history workshop next week.
  • Help students troubleshoot their wack eportfolios.
  • Receive and respond to massive amounts of preliminary eportfolios.
  • Keep the good outfit mojo going.
  • Upload Combat Rock.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Adjudicating.

On the one hand, I hear it's supposed to snow again. On the other hand, the wind smells more like earth than ice. On the other hand, it's pretty gusty tonight, like a storm's coming. So, winter.

I can hardly bear to wear a heavy coat anymore, but when I don't wear a heavy coat, it's cold. Pretty cold. I couldn't bring myself to wear tights today, and I have a personal policy that once I stop wearing tights--i.e., once I go bare-legged--I can't go back. So it might be getting closer to spring through the sheer force of my sartorial choices. You can thank me later. On the other hand, is it narcissistic to believe that my own desires might have an effect on the weather?

Yes. So let us turn back to the empirical evidence: more light in the morning, and that light is more golden and less blue, as my friend Ann points out. The world seems more crocus and less poinsettia, more lilac and less bare branch, more like prune the grapes back and less like hole up inside. Soon it will be all asparagus and spinach and peas at the market. When I drove past Okubo's greenhouses today, I thought about the flowers and herbs I long to plant. My longing spring, however--does it?

Still, it's March and not February. In eleven days it will be the mid-semester break. Spring break. So, spring.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Possibly the laziest person alive?

The work just sits there and sits there and doesn't get smaller; yet somehow my reasons for not doing it alter slightly, flickeringly, chimerical, as the hours pass by and I drift from room to room.

Today, I have, however, read the entire paper, discussed its contents with the historian, gone with him and Bruiser to the dog park, uploaded a ton of photographs to flickr, played with my grandson a little, and pondered my lassitude. Pondered it, I say. Deeply. Penetratingly. As the hours pass by.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Misogyny Police, or why I can't quit Hillary C. just yet.

As I have frequently avowed to all my friends, compatriots, and fellow travelers, in the general election I will vote for the nominee of my party, because that's the kind of person I am. I'm a party person. There will be no fetish of "independence"--those days are over, over, over for me.

However:

As part of my newly self-appointed position as Deputy in the Misogyny Police (motto: "spotting sexism everywhere"), I continue to note that, whatever you may think of HRC, it's impossible to deny that the general reaction to her, both in the media and on the ground (certainly not among my friends, compatriots, and fellow travelers--you've been vetted by the Misogyny Police) has a hint--let us say a whiff--or perhaps let's say the fetid stench--of misogyny about it. I will pass along the following two commentaries, which I thought were right on:

Exhibit A, an interview with novelist Sara Paretsky in the most recent issue of The Progressive:

Q: What is your view of Clinton and Obama?

Paretsky: I'm very torn. Barack was my state senator in Illinois, and I was one of his earliest supporters. I've always thought very highly of him. Here's what I admire about Hillary: every time I am going to walk away from her candidacy, I think, she has absorbed more hate than anyone I can think of over the past twenty years, and she hasn't cracked under it. That's a kind of iron fortitude that maybe we need in the President of the United States. People project on to Hillary because she is a woman. They either hate her for everything they hate about women or they long for her to be everything they want in a woman. It's an impossible burden.

Exhibit B, the perspicacious Tina Fey, guesting as the Women's News Correspondent on the Weekend Update, Saturday Night Live:




I found this on Slate, where the blogger Emily Bazelon notes that "this is the kind of gender satire the phenomenon of the Clinton candidacy has been woefully short on" (see "impossible burden" above).

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