Saturday, October 31, 2009

The truth, dear readers,

is that the weeks since mid-August (let's see . . . what happened then? was it . . . right, coming back to work) have been a challenge to my inner resources. Which, like everything else around here, are kind of in an uproar. Sometimes I'm not quite sure where I've put them. When we had the last dinner party, did I stuff them under the bed? up in the closet? did I shove them haphazardly on the shelves? did they fall behind the books? At the moment, my inner resources are a little difficult upon which to lay hands.

Back in the summer, when I was contemplating this moment, I thought of several consolations: when I got back to work, I would be glad to see my colleagues more. Once I got started teaching, I'd quickly hit a rhythm and would enjoy it. I would enjoy seeing my colleagues more (did I already say that?). And as it turns out, I do enjoy seeing my colleagues, but I don't see them all that much more, at least it doesn't feel like I do. I feel just as lonely--when I feel pressed, flustered by anxious work, cut off from the work that is closest to what's most important to me--as I ever did last year when my work wasn't going well. As for that teaching rhythm--well, it has taken longer than I would have predicted for it to arrive.

Moreover, I find myself asking: whence my burnished afternoons, the ones that found me writing, editing, bringing some project to a new level? my sense of the spaciousness of time? the sense of my own powers ready to turn to some new act of making? The answer is, to each of these questions: evaporated, disappeared, gone.

But here are some indicators that lead me to believe that things might be turning around:
  • I read a big pile of student drafts Thursday morning, and they were, frankly, pretty good. So maybe I haven't been doing quite as bad a job of teaching as I had feared/suspected.
  • I had a lively, good class Thursday afternoon.
  • I've had some excellent conferences with my creative writing students.
  • I am sending my manuscript(s) off again (God bless 'em).
  • I am cooking a really good dinner tomorrow for the family.
  • I heard "Lawyers, Guns and Money" while I was doing my errands this morning.
  • today we sat out in the back yard, absorbing the drift happening in the sky, the bird flying straight under the patio shelter, the wind stirring the dying leaves.
  • we caught and released a fat little mouse.
Tonight we will visit all the local grandchildren and see them in their Halloween splendor. And before that, we will see Where the Wild Things Are. I am staring autumn, and soon, winter, right into its yellow eyes, without blinking once. This is the new real, and the new good, or good enough.

TAGS: consolatio, good or good enough, wild, flow, drift, yellow, mourning & melancholia

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cold = hibernate.

For is not the very metaphor for the love of God for mankind a cradle? aka, a bed? and is there anything at all wrong with just chilling out/checking out for an evening or so, when the weather is cold and it's also, and not uncoincidentally, dark?


Where is my motivation?

[side note: the historian thinks
that Carmelo A. is a punk.]

And on that note, I will leave you with this, from a book that arrived today. I ordered it because I no longer remember why, way back awhile ago when somewhere I ran across it and had to have it but it wasn't quite printed yet, a book called L'Usage du Monde, trans. The Way of the World. It is written by Nicolas Bouvier, and it is about the year and half (1953-54) in which he and his friend Thierry drove in their old Fiat from Geneva to the Khyber Pass:
Travelling outgrows its motives. It soon proves sufficient in itself. You think you are making a trip, but soon it is making you--or unmaking you.

Young Nicolas.

And this is where they went. Although sometimes they stopped for a bit, to linger, slouch around, perhaps . . . to hibernate? Reading on . . .

TAGS: Afghanistan, Iran, travel, hibernate

Monday, October 26, 2009

Funk'll getcha.

I have given a lot of thought to this question, and now I think I know what the internet is for: so I can be presented with the opportunity to watch this, which I have seen maybe just once, while I am grading:

TAGS: walk without rhythm

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My book group, a five paragraph essay.

What a great idea! A book group composed of my friends and friends of friends. Let's choose wonderful books and read them! and discuss them! with friends! (thesis statement:) A reading group with friends, with wonderful books, to read and discuss--there could not be a better idea.

Sometimes we all come, sometimes we don't. (examples, details, &c. & c.)

Sometimes our ideas of what are great books look different when we read the actual books.

Sometimes we finish the books, sometimes we don't. (we are all busy people, sometimes we actually start reading the book the morning of the meeting day, and by "we" I mean "I," and possible others.)

(bonus paragraph:) Are we possibly too busy for a book group? How can that possibly be? We're educated, literate people, who read, and who like to talk. And eat--let's not forget eat, because there are always snacks, and often cake. Perhaps it is just important to commit to being a part of the group, as a way of committing to reading books? and to constructing parts of our mutual friendships around this commitment to read and discuss books, and eat cake? I think so.

In conclusion, for our book group today, we read and discussed To the Lighthouse, a book I had never read and, moreover, had put off as a part of an eventual "Read Virginia Woolf" project, for which I had always believed the appropriate time, though not precisely now, would arrive and lo, it did, in the form of an e-book, which I checked out from my library after paying my fines, because all the non-e copies of To the Lighthouse--also known as "books"--were either already with library patrons, or in transit, or at libraries scattered hither and yon about the valley but not in my neighborhood: so, and ergo, today I curled up with my laptop (making today much like every other day of my regular life, in effect, although the experience of reading a novel on the laptop was a little different than reading, say, The Huffington Post or The Sartorialist--less clicky, for one thing--), and the people, I am here to tell you that To the Lighthouse is a beautiful and lovely thing, which I'm sure you already knew, but hey, it just happened to me. In an e-book. And it was great to talk about it, with my friends.

(AND: there was cake. The end.)

TAGS: book group, e-, commitment, hither and yon, clicky

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Some things you don't know about me.

And frankly, probably don't need to know:

1. My favorite flavor of gum drops is white, black, green and purple.
2. When I plan a menu, I always make at least one thing too many, and usually more than that.
3. I don't care about "fancy," but I tend toward "lots."
4. I have the most gray clothes of anyone in America. (Data source: private survey of my closet)
5. We have just reset our humane mousetraps because apparently, it's Party-time for Mice at our house.
6. I am behind in my work, and I will be behind in my work until December, when the semester is over.
7. I owe some library fines. Sadly.
8. I fight with myself not to go to Target everyday.
9. Reading The Divine Comedy when I was 22 was, in the realm of reading experiences, a big one.
10. We have two new dogs that live next door and while the jury is still out, they might be annoying. A little bit. At six in the morning when they are let out and start barking.
11. Two words: eat soup.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rue is the national herb of Lithuania, and other facts.

I meant to prune my grape vines, plant the seeds I bought late in the winter, clean out all my closets. Now that the harvest is in, the time is clearly ripe for regretting. Or not. I think: not. In mythology, even a basilisk, the breath of which could wilt plants and crack stones, could not destroy rue. Weasels bitten by basilisks could eat rue to recover and return to fight. Perhaps my tendency to regret is a talisman, but for now, I am trying not to let even a single thing in this autumn pass my notice. A couple of weeks ago, I washed the quilt that I will be using all winter, substantial, a little heavy, on our bed at night, to curl up in when doing the crossword, to wrap around me when I'm working here during the day. I am loving the light of autumn, of walking around the neighborhood with Bruiser and seeing, just seeing, the brilliance of everything--leaves tree bush flower stem berry--blazing and burning. It seems to me that the whole valley is, sometimes, glowing, not just with color but with an equinoctial slant to the light. What's the point of regret? Bruiser loves the colder air in the morning and at night. We take a bike ride around the neighborhood at dusk and it is all beautiful. All of it.

TAGS: comfort me with apples, harvest, grapes & roses

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Movie movie movie.

1. Zombieland. I read a review that said Zombieland might actually kick Shaun of the Dead's ass. I wouldn't go that far, but it was dang enjoyable. It starts with a zombie-on-human montage, with Metallica in the background, and it just gets better from there. Baby, I am getting into the Halloween spirit. I have a pumpkin on my porch, I have seen a zombie movie, and maybe I will wear my raven shirt come the last week of October. Right, back to the movie: if you're interested, there's interview with the director Ruben Fleischer, a first-timer. Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg are kind of perfection together. In conclusion, zombies! in L.A.!

2. It Might Get Loud. This documentary was quite wonderful, I thought, featuring Jimmy Page, the Edge, and Jack White, each talking about his relationship with the electric guitar, his influences, his history in music. Walking in, I probably had the easiest relationship with U2's music, and the Edge comes across as an unprepossessing, intelligent, modest guy. So I was surprised by two things: I thought Jimmy Page was just great, both in the affect he projected and the love of music he evinced, but also I guess I had no sense, really, of his career history. I kind of thought it started with the Yardbirds, but he was an accomplished session musician for quite awhile before that. And Jack White, who, despite all the critical praise, had in the past seemed to me a little bit of a poser? Awesome. Truly. He was awesome. The moment when Page played the riff from "Whole Lotta Love" was pretty much priceless. I loved this movie. I loved seeing Page, who is 66 years old, clearly still a master.

3. Capitalism: A Love Story. Has the pluses and the minuses of the usual Michael Moore efforts. Maybe more pluses than minuses though--it provokes thought and debate. It hits a nerve. As Dana Stevens of Slate says, "There's something touching, even a little bit noble, about Moore's eternal willingness to serve as our nation's shame-free populist gadfly." And, despite the inevitable logical flaws and the cringe factor, I'm still glad to have seen it and glad he keeps doing this thing he does.

TAGS: cringe factor, gadfly, poser, master, zombies

Friday, October 16, 2009

I have three things to say about this.

A. Wow.

2. This is one of THE greatest pop songs ever, bar none, including all of the Beatles.

and thirdly, why does this never happen at my place of employment? Why?

(via the Fug Girls, who, I thank deity every day! that they are alive and blogging.)

TAGS: shenanigans, BSB

Thursday, October 15, 2009

From the chronicles.

The Soup Chronicles, that is:

And verily, she did arise from her bed of affliction: and lo, there were squashes and onions, peppers and garlic galore on the tops of the counters. And she found it was Wednesday, yea, the Wednesday of pulses, and thus she must soak the remainder of the Yellow Nightfall beans in the water that ran from the tap, yea, the water that ran clear as rain.

And the chopping of the peppers, onions, and garlic was terrible to behold, but greater still was the immensity of the hellfire, aka the sauteing, though the medium was the purest of olive oil, yea, the olive oil which is called "Extra Virgin."

And suddenly, there was with the cook a multitude of the heavenly host, saying: Glory, there is soup!

IN OTHER WORDS, the people, it is again Souptopia at the Megastore, one day after another. Chili, then roasted butternut squash soup, and tonight, carrot soup with red lentils and basil.

And lo, her refrigerator yieldeth all for the good of the soup.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cold, cold, or cold medicine?

After a packed-full teaching and other faculty-work work week, after writing and delivering a paper, after seeing Bright Star, after taking a particularly emotional poem to my writing group and getting what felt to me like a small amount of gratuitous snark, I fell prey to what seems like my by-now-familiar stress-ailment--something very like a cold, with sneezing, a little fever, hot eyes, tendency to fall apart. But yesterday and today, I had no commitments, aside from some online chat appointments with students, so I was able to stay home, and found myself prone to resting. Actually prone. As in, horizontal, for much of both days.

Is it an actual illness? Is it the fact that it's a little bit cold in my house and, for that matter, outside? Or is it the generic cold medicine I took? I don't know for a fact, but the fact is, I slept a lot. And when I wasn't sleeping, I actually did a fair amount of my work lying in bed. Like, I don't know, Proust. Or Milton, or Swift; or Voltaire, Trollope, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Colette, and Winston Churchill.

I'm investigating as of this moment the feasibility of an academic discipline called Bed Studies. You study the cultural significance of beds and bed-related artifacts. In Advanced Bed Studies, you take classes and teach from bed. I am the founder of this discipline, though I give the nod to my forbears. I rest on the featherbeds of giants.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Los Angeles: the report (Part 3).

On the second day, we headed up Highway 1 to Topanga Canyon, after which we planned to hit Mulholland Drive. But first, we went to Venice Beach, which inexplicably I had also never been too.
Historian: You've never been to Venice Beach?

Me: (my life has been a hollow, empty shell.)
So we stopped. We walked on the beach. We absorbed some of the local culture. We bought two cds from guys on the strand.
Reggae guy: You will like it! I'm asking just $10, but whatever you can pay.

Me: I love music! I am happy to pay for music, especially directly to the musician.

Hiphop guy (with another cd): You will like it.

Me: Um, we just bought a cd from that guy.

Hiphop guy: I know that guy, his music is good. Reggae. Mine is very different. I speak five languages. I am from Senegal.

Me: Senegal? Cool. (pays $10 to hiphop guy)

Other musician guy: (brandishes cds)

Me: (flees)
We listened to the cds while we drove up Topanga Canyon. And that was pretty awesome.

TAGS: long billed birds, street art, iconic, hollow shell, suckers for the music

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Los Angeles: the report (Part 2).

Did I mention how exhausted we were, what with our plan to have a whole day and our "we fly at dawn" manifest? Even so, once we'd logged a little quality beach time, we decided we should locate our lodgings and then head on up the 405 to the Getty.

The people, it is worth both the time spent on the 405 (not so bad if you're going north) and taking a whole trip to Los Angeles to go to the Getty. Even if you are exhausted.

Theses about the Getty.

Thesis 1. The Getty aspires to and perhaps reaches the condition of the sublime.

Subthesis 1a. The Getty is made of travertine marble, the white of which is creamy and which contains a compression of the sun, as well as the disappearance of the flesh and veins of leaves.

Subthesis 1b. The Getty's marble is rough-hewn, as if beauty did not require polish but could be effected by sweat and the application of chisels, pry bars and ropes.

Thesis 2. The Getty's collection is beautiful, but its beauty is matched and perhaps exceeded by the design, location, and siting of the various pavilions.

Subthesis 2a. You will feel like you are someplace simultaneously ancient and out-of-time. (perhaps especially if you arrive having had an inhuman amount of sleep.)

Thesis 3. The Getty's planted environment is an enchantment into which you will want to descend and reside.

(note: I may have run out of subtheses.)

We spent a solid half-day at the Getty, where we viewed a terrific exhibit of Irving Penn's "Small Trades," any number of beautiful drawings, prints, paintings, and in a truly splendid exhibit, illuminated manuscripts.

We would absolutely go there again.

How did I miss that Los Angeles is as defined by its mountains as it is by the ocean?

tags: architecture, the condition of the sublime, that miasma, Los Angeles, the rich

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

And now let us pause for a brief television review.

While we were driving in Los Angeles, we saw a billboard advertising a new television show, NCIS Los Angeles. According to the billboard the show would be featuring the dramatic talents of Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J.

Fact: NCIS stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The show is about an agency that investigates crimes involving the Navy or the Marines. I, like the rest of the free world, have been mixing this show up with CSI, which, isn't it a lot of work for the free world, keeping these acronyms straight? When they're using the exact same letters? Television producers, get on that!

Fact: Even though the Ls in "LL Cool J" stand for "Ladies Love," as anyone in the civilized world can tell you, you don't punctuate them as you would L.L. Bean. Why? I don't know. You just don't.

Anyway, a show that's a police procedural AND it's set in Los Angeles AND has Ladies Love Cool James? I'm all about that. As I mentioned to the historian whilst driving in Los Angeles. While we were driving west on Santa Monica Blvd., I said, "I'm going to watch that show." ["Santa Monica Blvd." may or may not be the actual boulevard upon which we were driving.]

And did I look up this show to find out when it was on? And did I watch it tonight? Yes, I did.

And was the show as good as its particulars might imply? I am sorry to report that no, in fact, the show is terrible. Stagy, poorly paced, not well written, and, sorrowfully, drawing dramatic interest neither from its military nor its police contexts.

"Who thought of this?" I said to the historian, after one particularly stagy moment, "and why are they wasting the charisma of Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J?"

Also, the charisma of Los Angeles. Criminal.

Meta-blogging: I have apparently crossed a terrible and consequential blogging threshold, as I now have 2000 tags, and Blogger informs me that no blog can have more than 2000 tags. Sadly, some of the tags I need, like "Los Angeles," "acronyms," "charisma," not to mention "LL" or "the people cry out for justice," I may not add. Blogger! Why do you have to be so harsh? Can you not accept that sometimes we may need to articulate categories that exceed your limited view of what a category is? Blogger! Let my people go!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Los Angeles: the report.

Part 1.

We left at a ridiculous hour, because I didn't want us to spend part of one of our days traveling, and true to that desire, we arrived at LAX at about 8:30 a.m., got our car--a stylish Suzuki something or other, black--and drove confidently down Sepulveda to Hermosa Beach, where we got a burrito at Java Man and then went to the beach.

Exhausted and exhilarated. I loved this beach because it seemed to me, in the seventies, that it was countercultural in a way that the two beaches closer to me, Torrance and Redondo, were not. I probably went there like three times, but it is utterly vivid to me. Its symbolic value is somehow huge. Some of what I loved about it has changed, but not all.

You can see the Palos Verdes Peninsula, where I went to high school, in the distance. To the north, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo (where my dad worked), then LAX and parts north (more about this later). I know: those of you who grew up there, you know this. Those of you who live there, you know this. But I lived there for four years, and made only the sketchiest mental map of the place--the place broadly construed, the Greater Los Angeles area. I think of each trip as penciling in a few more details.

We came back down to this beach each day at one point or another, in our little meterological, demographic, naturalistic and oceanographic studies. We learned a lot:

Coming soon.

  • bulletins from L.A. (from the SLC, actually)
  • a new October header
  • Best movies 2009 list
. . . as soon as I am caught up, or can lie to myself convincingly enough that I am "caught up."


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