Friday, December 30, 2011

The year in movies, 2011.

This year, I saw the following movies, not in order (notes on each, with "!"s where I particularly liked the film):

hangover two: if I laughed at the first hangover and was a little ashamed at myself, I can at least congratulate myself that this movie was (a) no hangover part 1, and (b) crappy in its own right. sequels can go to hell, based on this evidence. my only defense is that I saw this with friends.

pirates of the caribbean: on stranger tides: for heaven's sake. a waste of whatever it was that they made this out of--those little paper umbrellas, plastic sword fruit skewers, and recycled soda pop bottles, I guess.

bridesmaids: !!! one of my favorite movies of the year, and also one of my all-time favorite comedies. if for whatever reason you have not yet seen it, rectify that situation asap.

something borrowed: another wedding themed movie, not nearly so good as bridesmaids. kate hudson was amusing as the narcissistic, bitchy friend. whatsisname was pretty as the love object. blah blah blah they did a lipsynch. it's not that I didn't enjoy this. I saw it with my daughter, and we had fun. moving on.

hanna: !! I really, really liked this movie. there are certain types of movies that I wish they could make again and again, and this--spy thriller action with excellent young actress, not horrifyingly violent--is one of them. that saoirse ronan--she is good. with an excellent eric bana as well.

source code: my son got it right about this movie--it was pretty good, but for heaven's sake, why wouldn't the vera farmiga character just tell the jake gyllenhaal character what was what? why not? head-smackingly obvious. but, you know, if that kind of thing doesn't bother you, then you might like this movie. it was actually pretty affecting.

the adjustment bureau: coupla cute kids try to hook up but the eponymous adjustment bureau, bosses of your fate wearing trench coats and fedoras, won't let them, because it's supposedly a bad thing. for both of them and maybe the whole world? I don't know. all I know is, matt damon is cute and so is emily blunt, and terence stamp can be purty menacing. diverting and that is all.

rango: ! I thought this was pretty imaginative and visually arresting, and I dug it. we took some grandchildren--I'm not sure they felt the same way. johnny depp's performance as a lizard was way better than any other johnny depp performance I saw this year (jack sparrow and whatsis hunter s. thompson standin, I'm looking at you).

cave of forgotten dreams:  !!  I read a bunch of stuff about this film--some people hated the sound track and called it new age-y; others thought the filming didn't do justice to the cave paintings. I really loved the experience of this movie, with technique and so forth being sort of beside the point, since I was seeing something that, literally, I had never seen before. highly recommended.

jane eyre: !! I loved this, full stop. some of my friends thought it was florid. I did not. I loved fassbender as rochester and mia wasikowska is swell. judi dench, as always perfection. I loved its gothicism along with its stringency. 

the music never stopped: ! this movie is sentimental, sure, and so on. but I loved it all the same. the grateful dead as redemption--not a fan, really, of the dead, but I was persuaded that it could be so.

certified copy: ! odd and interesting. what is the nature of the relationship between juliette binoche and william shimell? what is the nature of any intimate relationship? ambiguous and a little unsettling.

blue valentine: ! the disintegration of a marriage. really, really sad. but also very, very good.

the dilemma:  remember when vince vaughn was in into the wild? and how good he was? I think he is actually an actor, but he needs to pick better movies and parts. this isn't awful, but it's not really good either. with winona ryder, quite good, and that's something. also kevin james. who can resist him? (well, maybe me, in that one zookeeper movie. but otherwise.)

i love you phillip morris: ! quite enjoyed this movie, which was predictably hammed up by jim carrey (I actually don't have a big problem with that), but made sweeter by the adorable and versatile ewan macgregor (see also beginners below).

somewhere: !! my daughter thought this was a terrible, terrible bore. I thought it was lovely, beautifully composed and acted, a poem of a movie. set at the chateau marmont. not, however, as good as s. coppola's first two movies. I still haven't seen marie antoinette. shall I netflix it?

morning glory: ordinarily this kind of thing is right up my alley, and mostly it was. diane keaton was awesome and hilarious, and harrison ford was harrison fordian, in the best sense of this term, which I just made up right now. the movie lost me when the ever adorable rachel mcadams runs down the street for a big-network job interview wearing a floaty sundress and strappy, perilous high heels. bull shit, I say. give me a break. that's right: I lost faith in the movie because she wore an inappropriate outfit. this, however, didn't stop me from seeing it a second time with my daughter. because I like to give a movie a second chance, when I can.

fair game: based on the valerie plame affair. let me say two things: (a) I pretty much straight up love Sean Penn, can't help myself. (b) naomi watts may or may not be a good actress. based on this movie, I say: not. you be the judge.

the switch: ! here's an example of how a romantic comedy, almost any romantic comedy, will do in a pinch. that said, jason bateman plays such an unlikely romantic lead that it's kind of awesome, in a small way, how unromantic this romantic comedy was. jennifer aniston is reliable and charming. I am still on her team (but see tree of life and moneyball below, for evidence that I am also on brad's team).

barney's version: ! freaking good. well, pretty good. too saga-ish. a paul giamatti performance is still to be treasured. whatsername, rosamund pilch, is beautiful and swell as his wife. good enough.

the company men: ! square and good. it has chris cooper, tommy lee jones, and a slightly less smirky-than-usual ben affleck. go team! (also: kevin costner, whom I am cherishing in his paunchy middle age.)

cedar rapids: !! good good good. john c. reilly with big fish/small pond swagger is great, and Ed Helms--funny, sweet, hilarious. anne heche--very nice. also, alia shawcat, aka maybe funke, does well.

red riding hood: as I said earlier this year: "a fantastic hot mess of a movie, much in the vein of the first Twilight, and what do you know? The wolf is no wolf. No, the wolf is a WEREwolf. Of course. Amanda Seyfried looked very fetching in her cloak. Julie Christie was beautiful and a little scary as the grandmother."

win win: !! good good. again with the great paul giamatti performance. this one is rather superb, and also features the perfection that is amy ryan. wonderful.

the lincoln lawyer: ! why not? perhaps an only serviceable michael connelly novel gives rise to a swell matthew mcconaughey movie. yay! even better, there's marisa tomei and possibly dastardly rich people. fun for everyone!

midnight in paris: ! people raved about this, and I did see it twice, once with my oldest friend, once with the historian and some friends. here's what I liked about it: owen wilson made a graceful and beneficent fill-in for the woody allen figure. adrien brody was hilarious as dali. the guy who played hemingway--funny. and darling alison pill was perfection as zelda fitzgerald. what I did not like about it: why did the rachel mcadams character need to be such a bitch? it was entirely unnecessary and added a sourness to the whole affair.

kung fu panda 2: !! 'swonderful, 'smarvelous, 'sgo right away if you haven't already!

the tree of life: !! well, I pretty much think brad pitt is a great movie actor. yeah, he's pretty, but he's no longer at the prettiest phase of his career, and he is absolutely mesmerizing to watch, and revelatory too. the historian said of this movie that he didn't think he had ever seen a better portrayal of a boy's childhood--the pleasures and dangers of it. I forgive this movie, pretty much, its weirdnesses, if forgiveness is even called for. it was an entirely original and beautiful thing, weirdness and all. (jessica chastain also gives one of her several gorgeous performances this year.)

beginners: !! loved. christopher plummer was and is almost always great. ewan macgregor was lovely. the story of a boy coming to terms with his father late in life--very moving. and a special pleasure: goran visznjic, who is just wonderful. beautiful and wonderful. also featuring a soulful dog.

X-Men First Class: ! loved. my favorite by far of the x-men franchise. snappy pacing and soulfulness on the part of both the leads. kevin bacon as a bad, bad bad guy.

Super 8: ! charming. perfect for a summer movie. add to your list of movies about kids who make movies (son of rambow) or maybe just good movies about kids.

The Trip: !! an odd, rambly little movie with steve coogan and rob brydon, taking (wait for it!) a trip around England to visit odd little inns and restaurants, then write about it. the actors play versions of themselves, and there are parts of it that are sublimely funny, and parts that are curiously melancholy. worthwhile.

Buck !!  lovely and moving. here are some things I learned: horses are amazing. this guy knows his way around a horse. it's possible for a person to emerge from a childhood of suffering to become an adult with great intelligence and gentleness, but it is nonetheless a heartbreaking story. some people don't know what to do with a horse. robert redford can be fairly inarticulate, if also kind of a riot to listen to. in conclusion, this was a very good movie, and you should see it if you love horses or people or life itself.

Larry Crowne: well, I hate to say it, but this movie is kind of a trifle, and probably not worth your time. tom hanks should not be making this movie, and neither should julia roberts. yet we saw it. well, some things just defy explanation.

Horrible Bosses: ! funny, and as I have gone on record many a time saying, all I require in a comedy is that it make me laugh, and this did, plenty. it was no bridesmaids, don't get me wrong, but it was funny, and charlie day, from the inexplicable it's always sunny in philadelphiaso funny.

Tabloid: weird. weird, sad, funny. the story of joyce mckinney, who went to England to "rescue" her Mormon missionary boyfriend from the clutches of missionary-dom and tied him to a bed for the weekend. there are more oddities to this story than can possibly be summarized. it's errol morris, it's an original, you should probably see it. but first put the kids to bed, it'll weird them out.

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows !! like everyone else in the world, I saw this last summer. I made this note: "In July, a bunch of people, including my daughters and me, went to see the most recent Harry Potter, I pretty much full-on sobbed when (seriously? you haven't seen/read it yet? what is wrong with you? spoiler alert) Snape died. After the movie ended, my daughter with the wicked wit said, "Are you okay?"."  yes, I was. I thought the movie was a fitting end to the franchise. I am, I confess it, a little sad that there is no more harry potter, neither book nor movie.

Friends with Benefits ! surprisingly funny. perhaps you are of the camp that finds justin timberlake a little smug. I have heard this may be true. however: I am more of the camp that finds him funny and attractive, the camp that is grateful to him for bringing sexy back. mila kunis is, of course, terrific. I add this to the "happy surprise" category of romantic comedies, and I am always grateful for an addition to that short list.

Sarah's Key: both this and incendies have a similar problem: each is a movie about a horrific crime of a past war, with a parallel in the present-day. each, therefore, finds itself with a problem of allegory: the present-day dilemmas of the characters who investigate the past cannot bear the weight of the comparison. that said, I found this film moving and sorrowful. your mileage may vary.

Incendies ! see above. this was a better film than sarah's key. based on a play of the same name. very good performances.

the future ! the vexing Miranda July. a striking and disquieting film. good. not like anything else I've seen, quite.

Crazy, Stupid, Love oh crazy, stupid, love, with your excessive commas and one romantic subplot too many: you had a lot going for you, so it was annoying when the surplus love story kept coming back up. where was your discretion, your aesthetic sense, your narrative balance? why squander the two compelling love stories by throwing another into the hopper? where was your restraint, your judgement, your modesty? why do I have so many questions for you? weren't your excellent leads (Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling) enough? well weren't they?

The Guard !! a little thing, but a pleasure. I have quibbles about it (call me a prude, but I am mostly not interested in hilarious call girl scenarios), but mostly I just loved this. brendan gleason and don cheadle, so very good. one of my favorites. on the strength of my enjoyment of this movie, my youngest son finally got me to watch in bruges, which was also pretty darn good.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes ! so much better than I thought it would be. andy serkis's chimp = perfect.

The Change-Up: one small piece of evidence that Jason Bateman can do wrong. ick.

The Help ! : I liked this. Its great, great strengths are the wonderful performances given by viola davis and octavia spencer. everyone acquits herself quite beautifully, including Allison Janney and Jessica Chastain.

One Day: in an open letter to the movie studios of america, I wrote the following regarding one day:
It was certainly our own fault that we chose One Day as our Friday night movie option. However, having now viewed this film, we have the following constructive criticisms to make, in the spirit of better movies for everyone: 1. You should hire somebody who can tell you how to make a movie better, because pretty much any fool could have told you what you should have done to make One Day a better movie.  2. No amount of bad haircuts, Doc Martens, and wire-rimmed glasses will make Anne Hathaway the "plain" girl. Also, sorry and no offense, but Anne Hathaway's accent sucked. Shoulda hired a British actress. Sincerely, htms.

Brighton Rock: I literally could not believe that there were characters this stupid in literature or in life. featuring the incomparable helen mirren wearing excellent lipstick and convincingly embodying worldliness and common sense, in exceedingly short supply in this story.

Higher Ground !!  loved. the splendid vera farmiga in a movie about belonging and not belonging to a fundamentalist religious group. one of my favorite movies of the year.

Our idiot Brother ! gentle and sweet. paul rudd could not be more appealing or cuddly, and all the women who played his sisters--perfect. a slimy steve coogan, very funny. and the darling adam scott as rachel mcadams's love interest. what could be better? hardly anything, that's what.

The Debt: oh, fine, but this is not all that great, is it? just because it has helen mirren (always perfect, I admit it). get over yourself, I mean it. (but jessica chastain--in every movie possible this year--is always very very good.)

Contagion ! chilly and chilling. scary. I liked how many movie stars there were in it, and how no one, not a single person, seemed movie star-ish. matt damon, who keeps getting better and better, is very good. laurence fishburne. kate winslet. jude law. jennifer ehle. all superb.

Moneyball !! I looked forward to this and was not disappointed. so much fun. who loves seeing brad pitt's big face on a big screen? I know I do.

50/50: good, if a little conventional. I guess it's possible to have too many movies where people learn life lessons because they get really really sick. but if they are well-acted movies this story can still work, and I thought this was good. I loved anjelica huston as the problematic mom. I love love love joseph gordon leavitt, and seth rogen was quite good. but you can decide for yourself if you are allergic to this kind of uplift.

The Ides of March:  I liked this, but it felt a little smug to me. I don't like it when I have to say that about george clooney, but I feel I have to say it: his performance was a little smug. boo to that. (but see the descendants below--george redeems himself.)

Take Shelter !!:  this movie was the best one of the year, in my book. gorgeous, unpredictable, extremely well-acted, full of dread--great, great, great. I loved this movie.

Footloosesaw this with friends--good dancing, not that great acting. but good dancing. so there's that.

Margin Call ! sharp little financial thriller (if you never saw the boiler room, I recommend it as well in this category). a fairly lucid dramatization of how the financial crisis of 2008 went down. smart and well-executed.

Martha Marcy May Marlene ! creepy and slightly mesmerizing nonetheless. must note that john hawkes gives a great performance as the patriarch of a cult.

The Rum Diary:  gaaa why? johnny depp: stop this crap.

Melancholia !! ponderous and still pretty amazing. gorgeous film, a wedding fallen apart, and then the end of the world. also unlike anything else I have ever seen. a splendid kiefer sutherland and charlotte gainsbourg...well, there's no one who isn't fantastic.

The Descendants !! thought this was just great. a special note for a nice beau bridges performance thrown in there. also: matthew lillard from slc punk and, let us not forget, she's all that.  george c. is all that he should be and more. really good. one of my faves from this year.

The Muppets ! YES. the true question of the year: are you man? or are you a muppet of a man?

Hugo !! some people thought this was overwrought, but I did not. I thought it was magical. so there.

My Week With Marilyn ! good for the performances: a lovely michelle williams, and an hilarious kenneth branagh as olivier. there is one delicious moment when branagh bestows his benediction on the script readthrough with an invocation to "motion pictures," where he pronounces "motion" with a soft "s"--it is priceless. if you're the kind of moviegoer who treasures this sort of thing, well, there's plenty to be had in my week with marilyn.

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows ! a.o. scott says that this is the latest installment in the decline of sherlock holmes into action picture territory, courtesy of guy ritchie and robert downey, jr. oh, boo, a.o. loosen up your cravat a little and have some fun. which I did at sherlock holmes: game of shadows. kudos especially to jared harris as professor moriarty. I so enjoy him.

Young Adult ! I thought this movie was good, but it bummed me out. best part: patton oswalt. a beautiful, funny, and fully human performance.

Le Havre ! a working class comedy, I guess, of manners, or something like that. quite lovely and idiosyncratic.

We Bought a Zoo is this your thing--a family movie, by which I mean a movie about a family, who (you'll never guess!) buys a zoo? I weighed it in the balance: it's cameron crowe; but it could be so sentimental!; but I am kind of a sentimental gal; it's about a zoo, for heaven's sake!; so...there might be lions? etc. in the end, I went with my daughter, and loved it. pluses: there are lions and tigers and bears. matt damon. scarlett johanssen, very good. a cute child actress. patrick fugit. minuses: oh, I don't know--were there any, really?

New Year's Eve: I saw this with my daughters. we enjoyed ourselves and had popcorn. none of us deluded ourselves that it was anything but a product. the end.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo !: the last, or next-to-last, movie of our movie-going year. I have quite looked forward to seeing it, and it's a better-made movie than the swedish ones. I liked noomi rapace a lot as lisbeth salander in the swedish ones; I very much liked rooney mara in this one. and yet, this movie was not the grand improvement on the serviceable swedish films that I thought it would be. some reviewers said that in the end, fincher couldn't triumph over the source material--but the source material is lurid, pulpy, sensational, and gripping--this movie didn't quite grip. it was good but not great. let me add that I think daniel craig makes a very good mikvael blomquist, and stellan skarsgaard is splendid almost always. but rooney mara: she is just terrific.

That is all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A walk on the river.

The historian and I are planning to walk the length of the Jordan River Parkway over the next few weeks. This was the first section. Actually, it was partly doing a little walk by the L.A. River last spring that made me want to do this--something about an urban/suburban water way, its very presence in the cities and towns in which we live--seems worth knowing more about.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The baking commences.

And you know what that means--the grading has ceased! Last night at about 10:15 p.m., I finished my reading, for better or for worse, of the revisions (or "revisions," in the case of more of my students than I would have liked) and portfolios and final projects and exams. C'est fini, and I feel, frankly, okay about it all. The reckoning was prolonged but it was just.

Therefore and thus, as we speak there is babka a-rising (pictures to come). And the people, there is butter in my refrigerator and it shall not be spared! In fact, more butter than I presently have is called for, and thus there will be store runs for butter and other sundries. Powdered sugar. Maybe some more sprinkles. Cream? Because there will be cookies galore, and more caramels, this time not slightly overcooked, and Christmas breads of various kinds.

One of the three out-of-town children has come home to roost. She is waiting for me to watch another episode of Glee with her. Two more come home tonight. The tree is fresh and it smells good. There are poinsettias. The goose is getting fat, the people. FAT.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Me and Almost Famous had brunch together at the Oasis, but I still don't have a Christmas tree.

Yesterday, at the Oasis, I saw Patrick Fugit. I had to put on my glasses to double check. I said to my companion Kati, "I'm not sure, but I think that's Patrick Fugit!"

She put on her glasses and said, "That is Patrick Fugit!"

Now, Patrick Fugit and I go way back. He plays, basically, the doppelganger of Cameron Crowe in Almost Famous, a movie I love because it's basically about my life, if I had been a boy and had started writing for Rolling Stone when I was 15. But Cameron Crowe and I are almost the exact same age and really essentially have lived the same life. (if I had become a writer for Rolling Stone and gone on to direct movies such as Almost Famous. A movie I love. I think you can see my point here. CC=LisaB., but for minor differences barely worth pointing out.) Also, Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous looks almost exactly the same as I did in my yearbook picture, junior year. My daughter tells me that I look like Almost Famous, which only makes sense, given all of the above.

Speaking of this daughter: a few months ago, due to the vagaries of luck, fate, etc., she got to go to L.A. and stay at the Chateau Marmont with her niece. I made her promise me that she would text me all her celebrity sightings:

"janice dickinson looking like an old paper bag at the polo lounge at the beverly hills hotel."
"jessica lange checking out next to us!" [me: how'd she look?  daughter: she looked old and beautiful.]
"ryan phillipe and his two kids at fred segal."
"just now we rounded out the trip with mischa barton."
"at the pool with the world's most annoying actor john leguizamo."
"dining across from elizabeth moss. also kevin dillon. both smoking up a storm."

So I think we can all agree that when I spotted Patrick Fugit at the Oasis, I owed my daughter a text. But when I reached for my phone, this text was waiting for me, as if preemptively:

"You have five hours to get a tree before I show up with a fake tree. This is for real."

To which I replied:

"I am at the Oasis and almost famous, aka Patrick Fugit, is here! Take that, Chateau Marmont! (p.s., I am getting a tree for reals tomorrow.)

To which she replied:

"Tomorrow! If you have time to be star struck you have time to get a tree! (Tell him he looks like you as a teenager.)"

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Enough with the not posting.

Here's what I've been doing:

1. getting ready to grade
2. chasing after rainbows, by which I mean the chimerical student with his/her final project(s)/exams in hand, trying to entice him/her to give it up already so I can grade it.
3. grading
4. watching Glee (old episodes) while grading
5. thinking about baking
6. hacking off slices of caramel from the batch I cooked just a wee bit too long
7. contemplating AGAIN the purchase of a Christmas tree which protraction of a joyful event leaches pleasure from it WHY do I do this every year WHY?

But anyway.

Soon my family will descend upon mi casa and that will be fun whether I'm ready for it or not.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

My men and my women:

On Sunday, I noted the faintest dust of snow drifting lazily down and asked myself: shall I go out or shall I stay in? and more importantly, shall I bake? As it turned out, I went into the wild world to try to find fancy dresses for granddaughters, and came back sort of wasted. But in the meantime, an idea set my head on fire (sorry, just now watching Glee) and the idea was this: apple turnovers.

Maybe I looked at Tartelette, and there was a recipe for crazy mille feuilles, along with a rough puff pastry recipe, whoa. Maybe it was that there's a bucket of apples in the garage that came from our very own trees.

Maybe it's that every weekend of late, we say "Let's make applesauce!" and then we never do. And maybe, periodically, I need to wrestle with some complicated pastry to prove that pastry is not the boss of me. I don't know.

But that rough pastry recipe called my name. And the context in which it called my name was the turnover.

I have some history with the apple turnover. I think you can still buy those turnover kits made by, what, Pillsbury, in the refrigerator case. Which I have done in the past. In the past, when I was a teenager, I may or may not have made some of these turnovers for a crazy church event where girls brought a picnic something or other and boys bid on the picnics? Can that be real? I think it was, and I'm pretty sure I had some vaguely French-slash-bohemian fantasy that also may or may not have involved some kind of unusual cheese. Okay, closing that memory up for good, and moving on. Where was I? Apple turnover, right.

So, this pastry. After you make the basic dough, all puff pastry requires multiple rollings out, foldings into thirds, rests in the refrigerator, then more rolling out, etc. This is what builds the layers. For classic puff pastry, you make a square of butter and enfold it in the dough, then roll it out, etc. But with rough puff pastry, you incorporate the butter into flour, as if you were making pie crust, add water, gather it into a ball...and then you roll it out, fold, rest, etc. Does this rough version sound easier than the classic? Not really, am I right? Are you even still listening?

Well, let me say that upon the first assemblage, the dough was very rough looking, and I questioned indeed whether it would be puffy at all or whatsoever, or if instead it would be a tough, horrible catastrophe of a dough that would make me sad that I had ever had the apple turnover idea overtake my mind like a fire. But guess what? After the second rolling out, it started to kind of look suave and as if it might contain the possibility of puff.

(but flat, right? can you believe that the above would ever expand into delicate and sophisticated layers? me either, to tell the truth.)

But after the third rolling out, I was all, let's get the apples!

And here's how it all turned out in the end:

Untidy perhaps, but undeniably flaky and delicious. Apple turnovers YES.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

In summation.

Me, to the historian, while the television is muted during a commercial break whilst watching The Good Wife: Guess how much work I got done today?

The historian: How much?

Me: Not any.

The historian: [expletive.]

Saturday, December 03, 2011

But who's counting.

Still have drafts to read, assignments to grade, comments to bestow, consultations to hold, but today I made waffles for breakfast, which we lingered over; picked up eggs and kale and apples from Chad; browsed Sophia's Christmas fundraiser boutique (for a worthy cause); admired the Spiderman detachable arms (can't possibly explain this) applied to another action figure by Deacon; shopped for Christmas presents for the Scotlands (denied!); and bought delectable assorted groceries and flowers. And talked to the oven repair guy (news: not good). And saw Hugo. Which we loved.

With the Folio reading over with, I feel a small window of not-panicking. All last week my lower back was aching; two nights I could barely sleep; I felt, sometimes, like I was only barely keeping it together. No more. Thursday night I slept the sleep of the blessed. And Friday, even with multiple consultations, a short presentation, a meeting, and appointments to help three students bind books, I felt released. Free.

Obviously, the grading/consulting/commenting regime reimposes itself, like, tomorrow. But I am also going to take a long walk and I am going to remember to breathe the December air. I will cook something delicious, maybe some things. And on Monday I am getting a Christmas tree. The end.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Sometimes, everything is okay.

Like today, for instance.

Knowing that there was a race against the clock, printer-wise, and that while there was a good faith promise to get a printed magazine delivered by 4:30 p.m., there was on the other hand every chance in the world that things could go awry, I was unable to sleep last night, which meant that I was behind, just a little, in all my appointments, etc. today.

Yet after all--after the fouled-up print job and the promises, after the not-enough-sleep and the ten-minutes-behind day--after all this, the book was delivered a half an hour early, it was exquisite, and the reading--the whole event--was just splendid.

Here's what the internet said about it:

And just in case you want to check it out--you can go here to see the whole digital edition, and here to see the pdf of the print edition. If you want yr own book, you can come to my hall at the SLCC to pick it up for yourself. It's a beauty.

(It's possible that I am filled with love for humankind at the moment. Just saying.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It goes a little something like this.

Today, the issue of Folio arrived from the printers. The student staff and I were kind of excited to see it. Tomorrow is the issue launch and reading, after all. It's possible that we sent an excited inquiry over to Print Services, who is now our middleman. And maybe a phone call, after which our design editor put her coat on and went over to take a look.

"Is there something wrong?" we asked her. She looked concerned.

"Maybe something aesthetic, not content," she said, like a mysterious Zen master of design. And off she went. We went on planning the issue launch slash reading slash web issue unveiling slash multimedia extravaganza (there will be refreshments!).

Fifteen minutes later, Zen Design Master came back. She did not have an air of equanimity. Her face looked a little stormy.

Issue (a). One page was bound in the book upside down.
Issue (b). That page was a repeat of a page about seven pages earlier in the book, where said page was bound right side up.
Issue (c). Page 70 is missing.

What. we said. We said What. The. Hell. We really couldn't believe it. I, Faculty Advisor, had gone through the book before sending it to the printer. The Design Editor had surely gone through the book only about a zillion times. She and the Print Services middleman liaison person went through it together before sending it off. This was not an advisory oversight problem. This was not a layout problem. This was not a middleman liaison person problem. This was a printer problem, one with only a little more than twenty-four hours to turn it around.

The Print Services middleman had what I can only imagine was a terse, perhaps even spiky, conversation with the printers, who are now reprinting the book. Her followup e-mail to me even said something like "as we speak," which I can only hope was literally--and I mean literally literally--true. We agreed to have a less-matte finish than we had originally ordered on the cover (WOE!) and they agreed to have the book to us by 4:30 p.m. Which is precisely 90 minutes before the reading slash issue launch slash multimedia showdown slash web issue extravaganza is supposed to start (there will be tea!).

Meanwhile, I have about 30 photographs, illustrations, drawings, prints and paintings in my office, which will need to be carted over to the venue, along with the putative magazine. Catering will be delivering crackers, cheese, fruit platters and assorted tea bags along with what we hope will be very hot water, to celebrate what may be a phantom book.

But by golly come to the event! It's an issue launch, art and multimedia gallery, web-issue debut, and reading. With refreshments! And hopefully a magazine!

Monday, November 28, 2011


Sundance Catalog: why fingerless gloves?


Tinychat: what is "please do not spam/flood the chat"?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A couple of dyspeptic memos, with feelings in them.

TO: Student, whom I like quite a bit and who is still in the game at this late point in the semester, so...there's that.

FROM: Professor, easily appalled because of this same late point in the semester.

DATE: Today

RE: What you said about Chekhov

When you said you loved Russian writers but you also thought that writers from this period tended to make small details "unnecessarily long-winded" and that Chekhov was "no exception," I felt a little murderous.

Chekhov was, well, first of all, Chekhov is Chekhov, for heaven's sake. Secondly, sir, he was a Russian writer. The winters in Russia are long. What was there for Chekhov to do but write long, elegant, wintry sentences?


TO: Student, whom I like but who always disagrees with me in every damned online discussion, literally EVERY single one.

FROM: Professor, who's a little tired of this nonsense, at this late point in the semester.

DATE: Today

RE: Your critique of me

Today, when I read your critique of the question I asked in the online discussion, particularly where you told me I should write more clearly and my questions shouldn't have so many parts, I felt annoyed.

My dear, you may be right. But I shall continue to ask my many-parted questions until forever or when I find a simpler way to ask them. You go on thinking every question can be asked in a single, straightforward, uncomplicated clause. You'll probably make piles of money and I will still be a community college professor. But I will have my dignity. And my fat, gnarled questions. And this tiny bit of rancor that I shall cherish, a minuscule needle that I will keep in my satchel of teaching memorabilia.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The sparkly: a love story.

When I was little, the thing I wanted most out of all life was a pair of red shoes. And also to be Mary Poppins, which I think we can all agree is a contradictory set of desires. (Also to be Maria Von Trapp, both before and after she was a nun. Fine, novice.)

Red shoes are, of course, less sensible than a brown or a black shoe, just for the "what will this go with?" factor. So it was right that my shoes be brown or black, or perhaps a sassy navy blue. I'm pretty sure, however, that I remember trading shoes with a girl on the playground, and I'm pretty sure her shoes were red. You can imagine, I'm sure, my mother's bafflement-slash-horror when I came home with some other kid's shoes. But because you just didn't hop in your car for no good reason back in the day, I got to wear those shoes for one glorious night. At least I think I did. Maybe I'm making this all up. Either way a memory/fake memory of borrowed red shoes is a key dimension of my own narrative. I think you can see where I'm going with this.

Point is, colorful is better than not colorful. And better than colorful--better by far!--is the sparkly.

I remember sitting with some lovely women a couple of years ago, and one of them said to the other, "You can't find a sweater without sequins on it," making it clear that the word sequins did not describe a good thing. But I thought, secretly, because I wasn't prepared to out myself yet for the magpie that I was/am/always will be, How piquante et amusante, because I am looking for that very thing: a sequined sweater. A cardigan, to be exact, not just embellished but encrusted with sequins. I was looking not for a restrained sparkle but a full on bedazzlement, a cardigan that, were it hoisted into the heavens, would be capable of guiding ships home from the sea.

Did I find this cardigan? Why, yes I did. It was gray, merino wool, with the whole front covered in tiny little sequins. Did I pay a small fortune for this sweater? Possibly. It turns out that I was ahead of my time, as is true in so many fashiony things.

I have, since the Great Sparkling Cardigan Acquisition of 2009, bought many, many new sparkly things. I talked myself out of rainbow colored sequined ballet flats, and then talked myself back into them when they were on sale. These shoes are absurd and they are glorious. It tickles my soul to see them in my closet, and it makes me feel like a ballerina princess from Shinyland when I wear them. I also have several sequined shirts, and a sequined dress and, recently, I acquired a sequined skirt. It is pink and fantastic. The sequins, they are everywhere, and I am laying in the shiny for the lean years, when I predict everything will be matte and we will all drown in our own gloom.

Most recently, I saw these and gasped:

Reader, I bought them. Obv.

It is better to sparkle than not to sparkle. Words to live by, the people.

Monday, November 21, 2011

In the middle of the middle of the end.

Why does blogging seem like a big question mark, wrapped in briars, right now?

I don't give a damn about the blogging zeitgeist. I have loved this space as a little art gallery, as a place to try things, as a small space to speak. I think I still do love it. I'm sure I still love it, but something is getting in the way.

Is it that the many ways to enter this space--visual, textual--crowd its entrance?

Is it that life itself seems thick with sadnesses, potential and real?

Is it that the marker of my work life, the semester, is at its most crushing point?

Oh, let's focus on the semester. By all means, the semester, with its thicket of grading, its consultations, its many indicators that my optimism may be unwarranted, that I am not, as it were, succeeding in aiding my students toward their achievement of the course outcomes? Is it that school life is filled not with nouns but nominalizations? Is it that the semester's weather has finally settled into its wintry trajectory?

I want and do not want to talk about the many deaths that seem to be accompanying me along my path. They're not my deaths--am I even allowed to talk about them as if they were my own story? The walk alongside a loved one, if briefly, in the valley of the shadow, as it is said--not my story. My own age pressing on me--this is my story, but it is not delightful.

I know I have delightful stories to tell. I live them almost every day. I'm sure I have small amusing anecdotes to tell about the inventive definitions my students are concocting for syntactical terms. Pictures to post. Things to celebrate. I have them. They spill out of my handbag whenever I go looking for my lipstick, and fall out of my pockets with the small change, and trail behind me, an invisible vapor, when I walk from here to there.

I feel like I just had to say this: it has been a long year with much grief, some of which feels very close to me and which I don't have the blog-language to talk about. Maybe I can say it in poems, but only maybe; and if I don't say it here, anything else I do say would feel dishonest to me. So tomorrow, I hope to be able to set this all to the side, at least for the moment, having acknowledged it, and get on with the business of joy, which business I want to choose every day if I can.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top five favorite things at this very moment.

1. there are two kinds of bread at our house.
2. the movie Take Shelter.
3. that there is a French detective novel waiting for me to read it.
4. that Friday is just a couple of days away.
5. my bed my bed my bed.

(plus the top one: each and every one of my beautiful children is alive and well and on this planet.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Autumn light.

At home, 4:30 p.m., after a long long long day.

Me, already prone, reading: Will you turn on that light? No, wait.

Historian, with hand on the lamp: Are you sure?

Me: I just want to enjoy that natural light (gestures vaguely at window) for a few minutes longer.

[seven minutes later]

Me: Okay, turn it on.

In other news:

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

On the other hand, hot cheese.

As of late, I have found myself marching across the quad with purpose round about lunchtime. I have two basic lunch options:
  1. the BLT hack, wherein I order the optional bacon (an extra .75) with all the veggies and some pesto mayo, which against all condiment-related odds, tastes fantastic. I fill out the order form, hand it to the sandwich guy, who computes all the little ingredients I have checked off, then says: "No meat? or cheese?" and I say (defying the obvious point that bacon *is* meat, because I know he means "no meat-for-the-regular, i.e. -included-price?"), "No," and then he's all, okay, I will erase the "bacon-for-an-extra-charge" mark you put on your order sheet, and I'm all, thanks dude, and the upshot is that there's a BLT, basically, with chips and a drink for less than $5, take that, Subway! Plus: pesto mayo, who'd a thought, because mayo, the most blighted of all condiments, is unexpectedly enhanced by "pesto," please don't tell me what's really in it.
  2. cheese pizza.
This pizza, which I eat on the average of two times a week, is Chef Tom's, and it's foldable, and it's kind of greasy, garlicky, and moreover, it never lets me down. I usually sprinkle it liberally with those red pepper flakes and wolf it down before it gets even lukewarm, because its true essence is only delivered for the two minutes, three minutes tops, that it's piping hot and thereby--and here's a conundrum for you if ever conundrum there was--risking roof-of-mouth burn.

Hot, melted cheese is one of the all-time indicators that human civilization is not just a giant and cynical joke. I refer also to the melted cheese open-faced sandwich, as well as the grilled cheese sandwich. These are no laughing matter, ladies and gentlemen. Rather, they illustrate that the application of heat to food is--and I'm just spit-balling here--as sublime as, say, great literature, maybe not Shakespeare, but Tennyson. Or symphonies. Or Rodin. Can Rodin warm you up on a cold winter's night? or after Writing Center hours, or Discussion Team, or strategic planning? I submit to you that Rodin cannot. But cheese pizza can.

I also submit to you perhaps the apotheosis of hot cheese dishes: Green Chile Quiche. This was a dish that rotated into the family recipe canon later--i.e., I did not grow up eating it, but my mother made it, and now the recipe has a place in my generation. The recipe involves cottage cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, green chiles, eggs, and a little butter and flour to make it meltier and simultaneously bind it together a little bit more. This is a crustless quiche, and thus it can be made in a single bowl and then poured into a lightly greased casserole, baked at 425 for 10 minutes and then 375 for 40 minutes more, give or take.

This quiche, with a side of salad or broccoli or God forgive us corn, will warm your very soul. If you don't think there is such thing as a soul, this quiche, with said sides, will prove the soul's existence. And the people, when there are leftovers for breakfast? this quiche will prove to you that there is an organizing principle in the universe. That there is order, and goodness, nourishment, light, and truth. This, the people, is the power of hot cheese.


Sunday, November 06, 2011

From Rilke.

" In the end, those who were carried off early no longer need us:

they are weaned from earth's sorrows and joys,
as gently as children outgrow the soft breasts of their mothers.
But we, who do need such great mysteries,
we for whom grief is so often the source of our spirit's growth--:
could we exist without them?"

(go with God, John Fritz.)


This is a quince.

From this photo, you can deduce that the quince is fuzzy, but you probably you cannot tell that it is hard. Like unto a rock, albeit a rock with a lovely perfume.

I found this out when I embarked on a quince tart today for my writing group. Luckily, I had my chef's knife* back, from when I left it at the cabin in, like, July. I hewed the hard fruit into quarters, after having washed its fuzz away, then cutting it into lovely slices, which I then cooked for awhile in a maple/butter caramel sauce**. The thing about a quince is, you have to cook it to make it edible.

After bathing the quince slices in caramel, I arranged them in a pretty-ish concentric pattern in the fancy tart dough. I lightly poured a little of the caramel over the quince and put it in the oven to bake, whereupon I went to work a little more on my poem, whereafter I kind of forgot about the quince tart.

It baked a little past the point I would have likely taken it out had I not forgotten about it--maybe five to seven minutes longer--but that all turned out for the good: the quince turned pinkish, which it is supposed to do; the crust was perfectly crisp and buttery; the whole thing smelled divine. I whipped some cream with vanilla and a little sugar, and served it up, and it was about the prettiest and most delicious thing ever divined by persons with an interest in tarts, such as myself.

This is a quince tart, half-eaten:

*Here is the trajectory of my chef's knife this summer and beyond:
  1. it drove with us from Salt Lake to Idaho, where we used it to make all kind of dinner and deliciousness.
  2. we left it in the knife drawer. Perhaps others used it, who can say?
  3. we came back up to Idaho and left it in the knife drawer again.
  4. I asked my mom and dad to bring it back with them when they close the cabin for the winter. Which they did.
  5. awhile later, I went down to Utah County for a visit and a birthday pedicure. I developed a quick-release cold, so the sneezing &c. therefrom prevented me from remembering to take home my knife.
  6. my sister brought the knife up to me when we had breakfast, but I left it in my daughter's car when she dropped me off.
  7. FINALLY on Halloween, I retrieved the knife and brought it safely home,
where I could use it to make quince tart.

**--ingredients of the maple/butter caramel sauce: maple syrup and butter.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


This year, for some unknown reason, I have set aside my usual and time-honored antipathy to Halloween. I wore my raven tee shirt for two days running, because it is awesome and because I got compliments the first day I wore it. I bought pumpkins although I did not carve them. The weather yesterday was so sublime, and as the light faded, that spooky All Hallows feeling--go figure--felt kind of delicious. And what's the point of resisting, really. All the reasons I never so much loved Halloween--pressure to make an awesome costume, the balance between being at home and going out, going out in bad weather, general grouchiness--seemed so beside the point. Who cares? Might as well give in.

We split the difference between home observance and family visits, as we always do with any holiday, because there are children and grandchildren scattered hither and yon all over the valley. In this instance, we poured a bunch of cheap candy into a big bowl and made a little sign that said "BOO" in orange oil pastel, taped to a pair of Chinese takeout chopsticks. We put the bowl and sign on the front steps, and headed out to see the scary creatures at four different households.

First, we stopped at the house of Spiderman Will and Batman Van. We also had a little bit of penne and tomato sauce--delicious. Spiderman had a small brontosaurus in hand, which roared, only adding to the scary.

Next, we stopped at the house of a princess, a vampire princess, a ladybug and a cupcake. We were able to witness a little trick or treat action at the neighboring houses. The trees in this neighborhood were ablaze, the light waning, the jack o' lanterns aglow. The cat, Sheen, who lives at this house wanted to be a part of things. He scampered in and out of the shrubberies, venturing up the step on a porch, the little family familiar.

After that, we went to the house of Bumblebee the Transformer, so high spirited in a brief hiatus in his trick or treating that he called the historian Optimus Prime and me Megatron. We had a bowl of minestrone there to sustain us.

Last of all the game, we visited Obi Wan Kenobi (or Kenobio, as a little brother called it), a ninja, Mario, and a tiny frog. Here, too, we assisted briefly in the trick or treating. It was dark. The moon drifted in a cloudy sky. The neighborhood decor flared as we turned a corner or stepped up a walk.
Earlier in the afternoon, I gathered my wits and mailing supplies about me to put my manuscript again into play. Here's how that went: I submitted to two competitions online, and four IRL, which necessitated the following analysis of supplies:
  • four manuscript-sized kraft brown envelopes. Check.
  • four long regular envelopes, for notification of results. I had three.
  • four stamps for long regular envelopes. I had three.
  • four binder clips, except that as of late, three competitions specify that they would like the manuscript to be submitted in a folder with no other binding implement. Did I have folders? I did not.
This meant going to the Office Max to
  • copy the manuscript;
  • buy envelopes;
  • buy folders.
Then, I wrote checks for each of the entry fees; figured out how to fit a folder-enclosed manuscript into a slim-fit manuscript-sized envelope (here's a clue: you have to fold the folder); binder-clipped the one manuscript for the competition that allowed binder clippery; made sure all the parts of the submission were matching; then used all available saliva (just my own--sorry, gross) to seal the envelopes.

AND THEN at 9 p.m., we went to the P.O. to engage with the P.O. robot, so that the manuscripts can be sent. But first we had to buy stamps, so the one envelope for return of results could have a stamp on it.

That's how it goes, though. What's the point of resisting these steps? You just make the trips, buy the stuff, copy the manuscript, and send it off, all the while trying not to allow the pointlesspointlesspointless mantra to take hold. And why think about pointlessness, anyway? All the reasons--the overwhelming negative odds, the expense, the hassle, general grouchiness--seem, today, so beside the point. Who cares? Might as well submit.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The show.

This week felt like a long, very busy one, but we found time to watch the World Series. I can't remember how long it's been since I watched baseball--maybe that series in 2001, right after September 11. I was in an artists' colony in Vermont. There were a host of New Yorkers who made the argument that it would be so important for the Yankees to win--it would lift the spirits of the city. Churlishly, I did not agree, though I mostly kept that sentiment to myself, I hope. I remember being taken by the freakishly long-bodied Randy Johnson, who threw like some kind of ancient raptor (that's how I thought of it, in any case), and I was stony-hearted against the charms of young Derek Jeter.

The historian has always tracked the Cardinals, if he is not an active fan. That's because his favorite player ever is Stan "the Man" Musial, who was a great player to be sure and also "a good lefty," as the leftist-and-a-half historian likes to point out. So we were, of course, rooting for the Cards. It was fun to watch, for me, since I had really no stake whatsoever in the game, and nonetheless a team to root for. In sports, there's not much more beautiful than a great pitcher hurling the ball, than a great hitter settling into his stance, then connecting with the ball. That sound is a wonderful sound (much like the sound of a basketball going through a net--heaven.). And I have a special admiration for a great fielder--the absolute attention he gives to the ball arcing toward him, the way he moves to be under it, the stillness just before the ball hits the pocket of a glove, or the lateral dive to snatch it before it hits the ground. And I love feeling the vicarious elation of a winning team, and more, a winning town, since St. Louis clearly loves that team; simultaneously, I find it a little heart-rending to see the dejection of the losing team. It's a great spectacle. I was glad to reconnect with it.

This weekend, after something of a movie hiatus--several weekends with illness, more illness, social engagements, fall break--we saw a double-header, 50/50 and The Rum Diary. (In between, in case you're wondering, there was curry.) There was no good reason to see The Rum Diary, and the reasons we did see it can be summed up by the names of movie stars, and also the fact that it was at the same theater in which we saw 50/50, and we wanted to see two movies. Back to the movie stars: honestly, it wasn't the acting that did this movie in--it was a story that begged to be told with more verve and brevity, and instead it was made with slog and long-ass-ery. Sad. But not that sad. Again, no stake in it. It was a movie. Although it must be admitted that one of us turned to the other at about the three-quarters mark and said, "Is this long?" Okay, it was me. Point being, I don't know how long the movie actually was, but it felt long.

But 50/50 was actually not half bad. In fact, I would say it was pretty good, and very good if you minus out an unnecessary romance. There were passages in this movie when I wept (big surprise)--cancer is scary, more scary in real life than in movies, and there was a lot of this movie that got that scariness pretty close to right, both the historian and I agreed. The movie also got this right: that we have the chance to show up for each other in all kinds of ways. That it's worth it, both the showing up and the noticing.

This week, I have been thinking about how hard it is to pay attention to what is there, right in front of us. For a month now, we have had one car between us, and there are moments when what feels like dependency and constrained mobility and, you know, lack of freedom has grated sorely on not just my nerves but my sense of self. It has felt so trying to me. But it's also the kind of thing that makes me ask myself: it's a car, so what? You can't stop at the store on the way home, you don't have that buffer of solitude between home and work, between work and home. Can't you just adjust?

My daughter, on her blog, wrote this week about longing for something missing. But ultimately, she finds, what she has is enough: ultimately, she says, "I do not want to spend my days longing."

I have been thinking about her words during these golden autumn days, days so blessedly beautiful, full of light and warmth and a splendid chill in the mornings and evenings. This morning we planted tulip and daffodil bulbs together. We took Bruiser to the playground for a romp. I made us oatmeal. I want try harder to just be there for whatever fills these days, for all the days we--all of us, beloveds and friends--have together.

Monday, October 24, 2011

One thing at a time.

Today I took direct action like a Wobbly, as opposed to working through the system: I bought a new printer. But that's actually (almost) the end of the story. Let me start over.

Have you ever felt like the odds against you--the forces armed against you--the lack of inner resources that you bring to an almost insurmountable task--might slay you before you even get out of bed in the morning?Well, that is exactly how I've been feeling with regard to readying my house for winter. And by "house," I mean my whole life, obviously.

Here are some things that need to happen:
  • tulip bulbs: plant them.
  • perennials: trim them.
  • apples: sauce them.
  • grapes: juice them.
  • mice: eradicate them (this will never happen. Obviously. We live by a field, and we will not poison them. Hello mice my old friends, I've come to send dark thoughts your way again.)
  • kitchen table: for the love of heaven, keep it free of stuff!
  • poems: write them, revise them, publish them for the love!
  • grading: get caught up.
  • weatherstripping: put some on so the wintry drafts do not veritably chill our very souls come December.
  • blog: write more regularly.
  • spending: whip it into shape. And conversely,
  • buy: this one thing that is *obviously* an exception to "spending" above.
  • car: OMG get one before I lose my everloving mind.
  • vacuum cleaner: fix it.
As you can see, there is enough on this list to flummox a person of regular powers. Or, you know, maybe a person of regular powers would just start with the items on the list and do them. In an orderly fashion. Whatever. Maybe I am just lame. I certainly feel that way.

For instance, I did a little book review project this summer for a little cash. A nice little piece of cash that could aid in any number of the above projects. Or I could spend it. Whatever. But because I did this project in the summer, and because my printer was acting like a prissy little diva, and wouldn't print, and because I did not want to go into work just to print, or at all, it is now OCTOBER and I have still not sent in the forms so I can get paid.

Not to mention that I do have a few poems in progress that I could be working on. But because I am sick sick sick of screens--online teaching you are my nemesis!--I thought, I just want to print them out. But did I print them out before leaving work? No. Did I have a car so I could go somewhere to print them? No. Did this make me feel like giving up on life and simultaneously pitching a huge fit like a child? YES.

The people: I got up this morning and went to Target directly upon its opening hour, bought myself a printer, set it up LIKE A BOSS and now I can print, and wirelessly. And all of a sudden, everything else seems manageable.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

The facts.

The thing about October is, it's different wherever you go.

Idaho Falls, where my father was raised and my grandparents lived, is about 10 degrees cooler, generally, than Salt Lake City. And Island Park is generally 10 degrees cooler than that. In Yellowstone, the days are in the 40s. The sky is quilted with cloud.

Because of this general sinking of the year, which is further along the further north you go, the roads and byways of Yellowstone are blissfully unbusy.

The same beautiful rivers, forest, flumes of thermal steam and geyser. The inveterate fisherpeople, who must have to catch and release, but still stand for hours, hip-deep in the Madison. But almost no one else.

Everything is slower.

We're going a few places we haven't gone--the Porcelain Basin, with its siliceous sinter which makes everything opalescent and the pools a serene, rather chilly blue.

The road between Canyon and Tower is closed. There was snow earlier this week and the Dunraven Pass is just too high. Tomorrow we hope to get up early and drive to the Hayden Valley, and see what we can see.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The sick, which is the enemy of going to the movies.

I am better now. However, in the gift economy that is unique to marriage, the historian was stricken with the very same sick. This means that for two successive weekends: no movies. The horror.

The sick has also given me, us, our pack of three, opportunities to contemplate things like:
  • how much dust there is everywhere.
  • how much money I have spent on stuff.
  • how things like buying a car to replace the smashed Camry or grading seem completely monumental when considered from a prone position.
  • that I am mortal and we are all going to die.
It is good to be on the upswing from the sick. Really good. It's good to take a walk in the afternoon with Bruiser and admire the weather, which itself is on an upswing from the rain/snow of earlier in the week. We have figured out how to buy the car, or The New Camry, as I like to refer to it. I am grading, or blogging, same thing, right now, and it seems possible that I can dig myself out of the grading hole, or hell, same thing, that I am in now.

Maybe that's the best thing about being sick--when you get better, you just feel grateful for what is. Getting back the ability to not feel defeated by your life.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Complaint: a litany.

I feel sweaty and sniffly, and am nonetheless in my office, hiding behind a firmly closed door so that I can get some online grading done, because

the internet at my house is out.


I called the helpful folks at my ISP, and they said

"unfortunately Ms. HTMS, the red power light means your modem is broken. It's what we call "a hardware issue," and no amount of phone-based troubleshooting will alleviate what ails you. However, we can send you a new modem, which will be $99. And it will arrive far too late for you to stay home and nurse your cold for one more day, because you will have to go into your office to use the internet there, since you really, really must get on that online teaching you didn't do this weekend because you felt sick, and you wasted your Friday going to a meeting."

Thanks, helpful folks at my ISP. No, seriously.

Sweaty, sniffly, hot-eyed. Internetless. Broken modem'd. Be-Dayquil'd. Vicksed up.

Also, my e-mail box is possibly at its limit of over-fulness.

Uncomfortable chair.

Way, way behind in my work.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Adventures in British television, starring Idris Elba.

We've been watching Luther, a darn good police procedural in the vein of the troubled detective who wrestles with the existential moral dilemma of the thin blue line, not always being sure if he's so much better than the violent, murdering criminals he must bring to justice.

My friend Ann recommended it, and the historian and I have watched an episode each night this week, and two on Friday, aka tonight (streaming on Netflix!). We have enjoyed it. Note: British TV gets away with a fair amount of gore in the pursuit of justice. It stars Stringer Bell, or Idris Elba if you prefer, and he is very good. There are an assortment of psychopaths, dirty cops, and unfinished romantic business. Very good stuff.

One of the great things--as with The Wire and Mad Men--there are amazing and always perfectly apropos songs to end each episode. Here's the song that ended Episode 6:

Now, when I heard it, I couldn't figure out who it was. Also, it took a minute, and also a tiny Google search, but who's counting? to remember that the version I had heard of this was done by The Animals.

The historian: Who's singing this?

Me: Dunno. Let's see who did the original. (google google google). (pause:) Huh.

Turns out, this song was written expressly for Nina Simone, who recorded it in 1964. And The Animals recorded it the following year. So, see? Television + Google: they're for educating minds.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dear grading.

Dear Grading,

I am in the middle of you, and I am not speaking metaphorically.

As a bonus thought, I will be in the middle of you until December. And then it will be Christmas, and there will be Christmas stuff to be in the middle of. And then, January, and by January 20th, say, I will be in the middle of you again. Until May.

Grading, you have a large, all-encompassing morass of a middle.



Friday, September 23, 2011


I am writing. As in, this morning, I wrote. A poem. I am still working on it. Also, there is a new poem percolating in my brain.


At night for the last month, we've been hearing the crickets singing away.


I bought a little earring--a brass wasp, a tiny stud. I had it in my earlobe last night while we were walking Bruiser. In checking it obsessively, I brushed it away and it is gone. Tiny little brass wasp, gone.


Moneyball is here. I can't think of a recent movie I have been more excited to see. There are also worthy movies showing currently at the Broadway. By "worthy movie," I mean the kind of movie that will make you feel like a better person, a more virtuous person, if you see it. Tonight, we are going to see a worthy movie. It will probably be pretty good. I will, I'm betting, in fact feel like a better person for seeing it. But tomorrow night, we're going to see Moneyball. I'm thinking of it this way: if we wait one more night, that's one more night I can look forward to seeing it.


Last week, rather than see Drive, we went to see The Guard again. I really, really love that movie. Anyone who has seen Drive--was I wrong?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

And there's a barrel that I didn't fill.

Autumn is my favorite season, I'm pretty sure. Paradoxically, autumn makes me anxious.

We went to the farmer's market today, and it was the very essence of the season: peaches everywhere, and tomatoes, and all the things that go with tomatoes--basil, eggplant, peppers, garlic. Corn. And grapes, berries of every imaginable variety, the beginning of the onslaught of apples. It's utterly beautiful. You can smell everything, too, there's that much of all of it. Brilliant, heaped in baskets and boxes and on tables.

We bought a box of tomatoes, for roasting. I am thinking about peaches--if I want to make more jam; if I want to bottle some. Or if we should just eat them as they are, as many as we can, until they're gone.

There are two poets for autumn, or maybe just two iconic poems: Keats' autumn ode, and Frost's "After Apple Picking." Both of these poems I read when I was much younger, though they have more power for me now.

Frost says,

I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.

"Anxious" seems to mark things these days. Weary, too, but also anxious: how shall I spend these days? What shall I put by?

The last stanza of Keats:

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

The music is beautiful. It is wailful, it is rumbling, there's nothing for it but to let it sing.


Related Posts with Thumbnails