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.


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