Wednesday, September 30, 2009

None dare call it break.

Frankly, I have no business leaving town for even a minute, what with all the stuff I should be doing, staring me in the face accusingly. Also, I seem to have caught my first cold of the season (Me to myself last week: I better start taking that Emergen-C before I catch a cold!). So my judgment is impaired. I can't be held responsible for all the stuff I have to do. I'm sick. Also, I have a plane ticket.

So we're going anyway. If you happen to be in Hermosa Beach tomorrow, stop by and say hey.

In other news: happy birthday to Will, whose first birthday it is.

In other other news: soon it will be time for the best movies of the year post. Wait for it . . . wait for it . . .

Monday, September 28, 2009

El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula.

Today I concluded my last of the conversations with random and important people on campus who might be able to give me insight into how I do my faculty leader job. I am full of notes and advice and ideas. Now, I need about two weeks to catch up with all my stuff like, y'know, teaching.

Since that's clearly not going to happen, unless there has recently been a breakthrough in the space-time continuum--has there been? if there has and someone failed to tell me, I am going to be mightily put out--I think I will instead take a trip with the historian to L.A.

L.A.! City of my youth that I barely discovered, and name of my new project: the L.A. Project! This project entails:
  • seeing places I've never seen except in movies (Griffith Park),
  • seeing places I should have seen by now (Olvera Street, Union Station),
  • seeing places I have only read about/seen in movies (Mulholland Drive),
  • seeing places Joni Mitchell used to live (Laurel Canyon),
  • seeing places lots of other famous 60s and 70s types lived (Topanga Canyon),
  • hanging out at the places where my more free-spirited friends had fun in the 70s (Hermosa Beach).
  • going to the beach both early and late in the day,
and also going to the Getty. And probably eating a lot of Mexican food.

We are going over fall break. The L.A. Project will probably have multiple chapters, since there are whole San Fernando Valley (not technically part of L.A., but by extension) aspects to cover, as well as desert stuff, and so on and so forth. If you have suggestions for me, I highly recommend that you fax them right over. Or put them in the comments section of this blog posting. I will give you credit as an advisor for the Project. You know you want credit!

L. A.: there will be video essays. I hope.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

So hungry, seriously.

Today my day started as I arose at 6 a.m. Okay, 6:10 a.m., because I did push the snooze button and then put my cell phone under my pillow. But then, I was up, which is how you spell "too damn early" in my language. I was at school at 7:30 a.m., which, on the one hand, hello, park wherever you want to, and go ahead and get started on your work with no one bothering you. On the other hand, of course, there's, why the hell am I at work so damn early? Because I got up at 6, that's why. Okay, 6:10.

I bought a bagel on the way to work and also a bagel for lunch. Just a bagel, no filling. Also, there was an Asian pear in my purse. So let's talk about what that paltry amount of food was supposed to fuel:
  • higher mathematics (figuring out what 5% of the faculty FTE is, then what proportion of that is supposed to be fixed reassigned time allotments and what is supposed to be flexible. Seriously, I broke out in a sweat.)
  • high-stakes arguments (discussions with members of the administration about all sorts of issues, in behalf of the faculty)
  • high-speed draft-reading
  • teaching
  • discussion with other dept., the ones who fund the student literary magazine--hey! they're all out of money!
  • discussion with some faculty about the seriously demoralizing conditions in their academic unit
  • prepping 10 lbs. of tomatoes for roasting
  • roasting the tomatoes
  • going out for a literary event.
As I left work, pretty bummed after the conversation with the demoralized faculty, I said to my office mate, "I need some french fries," to which he replied somewhat ungallantly, "They'll go straight to your hips." I said, "Bleep that." Because, the people, I totally did need some french fries. My hips needed some french fries.

So, after the literary event, I had some. And a Coke. And now, you may observe me and my hips while we collapse.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Speaking of breakfast for dinner; or, corn salad and its discontents.

I've had more corn this summer, for some reason, than in summers past. Well, actually, I know the reason--I bought some, then we got some from the farmers. Anyway, it's been a bumper year for corn around these parts, which has necessitated The Great Corn Strategy of 2009, also known as: Corn Salad.

This, in case you're wondering, is basically fresh corn relish, but consumed in saladly quantities rather than in dainty relishy dollops. Scoops of it. And here's how it goes:
  1. You take your corn. You take your rapidly boiling water. You shuck your corn in view of the rapidly boiling water. When it is shucked, casually or meticulously, take your pick, baptize the corn in the boiling water. But briefly. Corn does not need to be cooked very long.
  2. Remove the ears from the water. Let them cool for a minute or ten. Then take a big, sharp knife, and shave the ears closely. Put the corn in a bowl worthy of it.
Let's pause here, shall we? Because after this is where things get optional. For instance:
  • dressing
  • adornments
  • frippery
  • dicing and mincing
  • seasoning
I have made several corn salads this summer, and this may be un-American, but all of them were not created equal. I am not going to disrespect any of these salads. But I knew--some of them had room for improvement. Some of them had many little diced and minced items, to wit: celery, green onion, peppers of various kinds, tomatoes. Some of them had fewer items in the diced/minced category, and sometimes the balance was darn good and sometimes it fell short of the glory of the Lord. All of them I dressed with olive oil and sherry vinegar. In the frippery category, your herbs. In my opinion, the herb balance is tricky to achieve: parsley, no doubt, but what is the prevailing view of mint? in this context, is it going too far? &c & c.

However, I made the best corn salad that ever was for my writing group this weekend, and I am going to share this goodness with you, the people:
  1. Chop goodly, and roughly equal, portions of the following herbs: parsley, basil, mint, and cilantro. Chop it hard. Chop it like there's no tomorrow. Chop it just short of it becoming a green pulp. Put that herbal madness in there, in the worthy bowl, with the corn.
  2. Chop up some green onions. Chop up a clove of garlic. Add it to the splendor.
  3. Chop up a medium hot pepper--a jalapeno, for instance. You can have half a pepper, or you can have a whole pepper. You choose--I don't know your life.
  4. Dress with olive oil and sherry vinegar. I know there are some of you who feel that balsamic is the be-all and end-all of vinegar. But in this case, I say, back the hell off with that balsamic. It is too powerful for this salad.
  5. Salt. Pepper. Stir.
And that, my friends, made the perfect corn salad: herbal, perfectly balanced, fresh tasting and full of the goodness of American corn.

Now: there was some left over from the writing group, so tonight, I made omelets with this delicious salad inside them. We had some chopped tomatoes on top, and some hashed browns to go with. This dinner was good, with a side of virtuous, because: using up the leftovers.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Very sad words.

These are sad words: "We are out of potato chips."

These are sadder words: "Economic downturn."

Also very sad: "No time for breakfast." At least I can almost always do something about this tristesse.

This past year, I have had pancakes for breakfast at least once a week. It's one of the few foods I like a store-bought mix for. I have loved this one, but when I couldn't find it at the store where I was shopping, I bought this one, and now have figured out tips and tricks to make it work--even though it tells you to reconstitute with water, use an egg and a little canola oil, and substitute milk for the water, because this all makes a better pancake. It just does.

I actually timed myself today, and it took me ten minutes from the moment I got out the bowl to when the cakes were on my plate. Pancakes, ten minutes, and that, the people, is a better day in the making, right there.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


We were pretty industrious today. In fact, I think of this time of year as particularly industrious, what with the harvest--or in our case, the purchasing of other peoples' harvests--the provisioning and preserving of food, the cleaning out so that we can at least start ahead of the enclosing of everything when we hole up for the winter.

After we got back from the farmer's market, and we took Bruiser for a walk, and the historian went for a bike ride and I contemplated my options, we got to work. The historian worked away in the backyard, trimming and cutting back, while I pulled out some of the baskets and boxes that have been collecting rejection letters, magazines, old greetings from friends, bank statements for the children who are away, old agendas and notebooks. I threw away a huge amount of stuff, enough to make a dent in the rest of my accumulation, enough to make me realize that, if I had in mind to control the accumulation, I would need to spend regular time doing the same for, well, the rest of my life. I think some people call that "housekeeping." Am I signing up for it? Well, provisionally. Check back with me in awhile.

Bruiser was very watchful during all these activities. What with dogs living to the west and the east, he has a lot of policing to do. Not to mention the dangerous little old ladies, school children, and UPS trucks there are to announce. Doing his job, and very effectively, I might add.

After our labors, which are not finished and which will never be finished, we went to a family gathering at a park. My cousin and her husband recently adopted a boy from Ethiopia. She met him there when she was part of a humanitarian mission (she's a nurse). The gathering was so we could meet him. The weather and the light could not have been more beautiful. The kids played some soccer and some basketball, we all chatted and visited, and Will crawled around after a ball. These days, September and October in Utah, are some of the best days ever. It's like cherishing the last peaches or cherries or celebrating when the asian pear guy is at the market. It's brief, it's wonderful, it's going going gone.

(picture of Will taken by college daughter--thanks!)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Small shrine.

Here's some of my stuff. If you're me, it has a small aura of the sacred:

This weekend, we had to have our cat put down. Only a couple of weeks ago, she was out in the field, hunting mice, looking very spry for her rather advanced age. But very suddenly, she lost weight. So we took her to the vet, she got hydrated, and we discovered that her kidneys were failing.

We brought her home with some cans of special food, a syringe to feed her with, some medicine, lots of instructions, and many many what-if scenarios to consider. Or if this, then this scenarios.

When we woke up Sunday morning, she was hiding under a futon we have out on the enclosed porch, where we had ensconced her in a nest of toweling so she'd be comfortable. Hiding, I think, in case an enemy sensed her weakness and attacked.

When I was little, we lived in Japan. One night we spent the night at our housekeeper's place. She had a little shrine with the picture of her father, and a small altar for an offering. I need something like that--a little dish in which to place a branch of catmint, the effigy of a mouse. A bouquet of stray bird feathers.

There's a knot right at my solar plexus that keeps coming undone when I think about her, when I go out to that porch to do a load of laundry, when I walk by the chair where she often slept, tucked into the corner of seat and back. Her dish on the floor.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Open letter to my bed.

Dear my bed,

Oh my darling clementine, my bed, you are, at the end of a day like today one of the brightest ideas ever to issue forth from the mind of humankind. What was that like? Once, humankind slept on the dirt, trying to do the New York Times crossword puzzle and change the channels with the remote and hold up a heavy novel whilst reclining upon rocks. Then humankind sat straight up and said, "I have an idea. There should be a construction made of heavy duty, quilted polyester and springs and other stuff that holds up in a shape--let's call it "mattress"--that we shall repose upon, while we slumber, and also while we eat potato chips and watch 30 Rock."

Later, in the evolutionary way of all things upon the earth, humankind also thought of bedding and high thread-count sheets, multiple pillows, duvets, and memory foam. Maybe not in that order--I'm no historian. I'm just saying, things evolved. And got better. So, from the olden days when they maybe stuffed the mattress-shaped construction with small pebbles and dried seaweed, still, there was the Platonic idea of a more lofty, and modern, fluffiness. The pebble/seaweed stuffing combo aspired to the condition of the fluffy. And the modern.

I'm just saying, my bed, there's an archaeology, in the Foucauldian sense of that word, to what you are. You are epistemic, and you are, in the order of things, one of those belonging to the Emperor, and fabulous, and etcetera. And I want you to know that I appreciate that about you. I feel it when I lie down upon you after a long day like today. I feel the archaeology of the idea of a bed, and it enhances my whole bed experience. Thank you, my bed, for being so deep, so full of history and evolution and the Platonic aspiration to be fluffy. You are so philosophical! You are l'un des philosophes, my bed, and don't you think I shall ever forget it.


lisa b.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Yesterday, I found this strip that I made a couple of years ago using strip generator, which Middlebrow found way back then (two years is, like, 12 web years). I was thinking I might make a new strip for a presentation I was developing for my composition course, which is a fancy way of saying "I was wasting a lot of time on the internets," which, if they gave a Ph.D. in that, I would totally be Dr. Internets.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What is the sound of summer ending?

Oh. My. God. the way a diminishment, evanescent summer waving goodbye, echoes so loudly I can't hear another thing. Also: I never thought it would happen, but I am practically speechless, or blogless, anyway, and when I'm not speechless, I am being a general whiner and pain in the ass.

Today, I had a day without meetings or classes, and I figure those aren't going to come around all that often as the semester, nay, the year progresses, so I stayed home to do my work, and as I just now whined to the historian, because the day was entirely mine to shape, and because I had an agenda of things to do, I felt like I could approach the work without too much stress, just proceed at a deliberate but not frantic pace: but as the end of the day drew near, and as I noted the progress I had made on each and every item, I felt even so not a lessening of anxiety but a burgeoning of it:

Lo! the anxiety flowered like a rude, fat dandelion going to seed, and now, look, a puff of wind! and each little piece of anxiety separated and lofted and eureka: ever so much more anxiety! with potential for growth!

I am going to have to figure out how to handle this better. Because I can't even stand myself. It's come to this: vacuuming dust bunnies and sorting shoes and reading the columns in the Oprah magazine. This is what I've retreated to. Luckily there was some bike riding and dog walking

And now, I am going to pick an outfit to wear to the Board of Trustees meeting.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Current enthusiasms.

Lorrie Moore. Lorrie Moore's new novel. Clearance jewelry @ Target. Late evening walks with Bruiser. The New York Times crossword puzzle. Going to Idaho. All the fall fashion mags. Piles of new poetry books. My Mac. Tomatoes. Peaches. Tomatoes. Almond butter. Little white nectarines I got at the market. The market. The historian. The kids. The grandkids. My kids' blogs. Go Fug Yourself. Screenr. Work meetings with people who are my friends. The students. Good days. Leaving town. Coming back.

Or, to put it another way:

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Talking points.

For an all-purpose talk:
  1. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you on the subject of [ ].
  2. Here is my premise: [ ].
  3. Here is my evidence: [ ].
  4. Would you like to see my bona fides? I have lots. Lots and lots of bona fides.
  5. Here is my evidence, now represented in some mathematical form, as "data": [ ].
  6. I think you'll agree that all thinking persons must, in the face of reason, logic, and the irrefutable evidence and mathematical data I have placed before you, agree that [ ].
  7. How very interesting, to hear you offer your opinion. I shall listen, and then I shall retort.
  8. While I am willing to grant [ ], you must concede that [ ].
  9. Your assertion--that [ ]--is patent nonsense.
  10. No.
  11. Not at all. Not even. As if.
  12. You, if I may be so bold, are Absurd, and also kind of a butthead.
  13. Perhaps you have forgotten my many, many bona fides?
  14. I believe it was I--myself, moi--who called this meeting. Therefore, pipe down, you.
  15. Very well, have your say.
  16. There is a word, sir, for what you are. That word is "demagogue." Look it up.


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