Monday, January 31, 2011

little blessing.

Even though I was sick enough to stay at home, work at home, fall into a sick afternoon nap wherein I dreamed that a mouse ran across the covers and flicked my cheek with its tail, and even though my getting through the day required copious amounts of tea and DayQuil, this afternoon I looked up from adding files to my post-tenure review portfolio to see this:

Untitled from lisab on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

This weekend I

had a beautiful dinner with the historian and his children to belatedly celebrate his birthday (happy belated birthday to the historian!); took the dog for several walks; faded into a nap or so; did a crossword or two; read some of my novel; read some of my book of poems; spent plenty of time with my bff the internet; (not really my bff); went to Target twice; wore some tall shoes out on a date; saw Blue Valentine and cried a little; did some laundry for the good of all mankind; made some killer linguine; watched the SAG awards while I whittled away at work-y stuff; rescued college daughter whose car would not start; ate Mexican food; wished someone would finish putting my post-tenure review file together; taught a little online; wished my son-in-law a happy birthday; wondered at the bad air; thought perhaps that I might be coming down with another cold, which seemed vastly unfair; saw Megamind with a son, a daughter, and a grandson; had another son and another grandson over tonight for some rousing conversation and the aforementioned linguine; wrote the phrase "the aforementioned linguine" and liked it, quite a bit; and went to bed (wrote the phrase "went to bed" and wished it were so--and so it will be).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Open letter to Los Angeles.

Dear Greater Los Angeles Area,

I know that you hogged up all the water and that you are pocked with areas of shocking blight. When we drove through Watts, for instance, trying to find the Watts Towers, we counted liquor stores and storefront churches. Over and over. Also, payday loan shops.

There is no way to make sense of you, Greater Los Angeles Area. Are you a city? or are you a hegemonic force? Even so, when we drove up Western Avenue, all the way to Griffith Park, there was Koreatown and Little Armenia. I can never know the half of you.

When I think of the place I'd most like to go to recoup my losses or gather my wits or retrieve some long-lost part of myself, you are what comes to mind.

Dear Los Angeles, I think of you as radiating out in waves from the port, and so I include the San Bernardino mountains and the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea and Indio and all the deserts beyond. These are the places people go to escape you, to get beyond you, but for me all of it retains the tang of you.

As for your vaunted fake shine: it is something I have seen on television and read about in magazines, more a story than anything I really know. I think this is because what I think of as Los Angeles--you--is not really. Once, an old friend said, "We never ventured into L.A.," meaning, I think, that we from the South Bay were a kind of provincial--our beaches, our malls, our peninsula were not Los Angeles proper.

But I never knew that. I had come from Tucson, Arizona, and before that, from Japan. The South Bay was L.A., it was that simple. It took years for me to parse that geography. I am parsing it still.

So out in the desert, it is still, somehow, L.A. Somehow you. At Point Vicente, where we know the earth shifted and shifts still, where there is evidence of the Tongva people. In the great ports to the south of that. Even the Port of Los Angeles--it's in Long Beach, in San Pedro. Even what you are, you aren't.

Or something like that, but it doesn't really matter. I want, I long for you. I want to stand on the ground where the wind turbines whirl at the San Gorgonio Pass. I want to drive on the Twenty Nine Palms Highway again and eat Mexican food at your not-illustrious cafes. I want to see the Salton Sea. And I will call it all by your name.


Lisa B.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My prognostication skillz are purty good.

I made this list on January 19.

* indicates I thought the film would probably get nominated

X = the film did get nominated. 8/10. Plus a few outliers.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A little elation at midnight.

Or: fraudulence has its moments.

How did it happen that I am teaching a Publication Studies class this semester? I can trace the genealogy of that decision, which goes a little something like this:
  • Scotland daughter did a master's degree in Publication Studies at a university in Aberdeen.
  • I thought, Publication Studies? That sounds awesome.
  • I asked my daughter to send me a list of her courses which I wrote on a Post It note and stuck it on my credenza at work for several years.
  • Meanwhile, I said to this and that person, "Wouldn't it be cool if we had a Publication Studies class?" When asked what this course might comprise, I said, "Well, we'd make books, and talk about the production and circulation of books, and stuff."
  • Meanwhile meanwhile, our department developed a writing certificate program. Perfect opportunity for a Publication Studies class!
  • So, Dr. Write and I, along with another of our colleagues, developed a Publication Studies course, with a sample syllabus.
  • Et voila! I am teaching a Publication Studies course!
Am I an expert in anything whatsoever related to publication? Hmmm. I guess not.

Yet tonight, I figured out how to make this little layout in InDesign:

--which will enable me and my class to make little instant books tomorrow, in which we will write short "autobiographies in four books" (a thing I just now made up), and frankly, I could not be happier if I actually did know something about publication and books and circulation and stuff.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The things I happen to be reading.

"When plain pancakes no longer thrill." was the headline for an article in today's New York Times, by Mark Bittman, The Minimalist. These words, of course, gave me pause. I am generally always thrilled with a pancake, plain or otherwise, although mainly when I am doing the cooking--other people's pancakes are dubious.

This inflammatory headline was in the print version. The online version was less provocative:

I have a well-documented swoony crush on pancakes. I remember back when I used to subscribe to Cuisine, the late, still-lamented Cuisine, there was a whole article about pancakes. Oh! the pancakes of my young wife- and motherhood! I still have the handwritten copies I made of those recipes for Johnnycake and Flannel Cakes, the latter of which required extensive and perhaps obsessive beating of eggs, leading to a velvety batter and lovely, light pancakes. Also, I am quite fond of a pancake made from cottage cheese and separated eggs, the whites of which are beaten until light and the whole affair scented with freshly grated nutmeg. If I could, I would eat pancakes every single day of my life for breakfast, and sometimes for dinner and occasionally for lunch. With jam, with syrup, even sometimes by their charming selves. Bittman's recipes, particularly for an oat pancake with cardamom, inspire optimism.

Coincidentally, tonight, while we were eating a sturdy and, it must be said, uninspiring dinner of a Boca burger and oven fries, I happened to glance at the mail, and there was the alumni magazine for my alma mater. Oh, all right, BYU. The first article, by the university president Cecil O. Samuelson, took me right back--it was the absolute quintessence of my BYU experience. At least some aspects of it.

I have tried to find an actual screen shot of the T of C, but alas, in vain, so it will have to suffice to give you the title--

"Appropriate Zeal"
--and the blurb:

"If we are not careful, our zeal for good things can exceed proper boundaries, and we may miss the mark."

Let me pause to add that among the other things BYU gave me are a working acquaintance with classical rhetorical devices and the OED, love of a university library, and an appreciation for basketball. And let us also pause to note that when BYU has a good basketball team, there is much rejoicing in the land. I cannot help myself in the rejoicing.

Also, I used to play the piano for four hours a day when I was at BYU, and that's no joke.

Anyway, back to the magazine: I am happy to report that on the very same Table of Contents page, the one with the cautionary message from my BYU past, there was also a picture of a waffle, with berries on it, with the promise of a recipe inside. Promised and delivered: and, the people, that waffle did comfort my very soul, and it did not miss the mark.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Son: What's for dinner?

Me: Thought I'd make soup. (chopping)

Son: . . . soup seems so . . . 50s to me.

Me: (laugh/chop)

Son: . . . like, it just seems kind of old-fashioned.

Me: (now sauteing/laughing)

Son: . . . when I hear "soup," I think of one word: Depression.

The week.

It starts on Tuesday, so there's that.

Only one stressful meeting--a bunch of non-stressful ones--and my poetry group at the end of it. So there's that.

My goals are:
  • relax already.
  • play the piano and sing every day.
  • have a great class on Friday.
  • make a little progress on a big outstanding issue for the faculty.
Also wrest a poem from my notes for the poetry group.

Also: relax already. Maybe if I keep saying it, I will.

And now I am off to record the narration for a little presentation for my online class. Good times! (relax already!)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wonderful things.

1. Last night, my son celebrated his birthday by inviting friends and family to his house to re-create Bridge Over Troubled Water. There were a bunch of us--maybe 14 or 15--and lots and lots of instruments: a Kurzweil keyboard that was pretty awesome, a 6- and 12-string guitar, a bass, a drum kit, lots of congas and other small percussion instruments, mics, and a recording set up. (I'm forgetting other things, I'm sure. Tambourines.) Everyone prepared by listening to the original recording, then we all contributed to almost every song. Most of my kids, save Scotland daughter and soccer coach son, were there, and many of my son's musician and musically-inclined friends. It was so much fun. I have come away with the resolve that I (a) must find a way to sing more this year, because I love to sing, and (b) I must play the piano every day. Why not? There it sits, waiting for me.

2. We went to a wonderful concert at the Cathedral of the Madeleine yesterday afternoon, part of a collaboration of my employer and the Cathedral to celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday. A baritone, Robert Sims, performed a wonderful recital of American songs--protest and civil rights era songs, spirituals, and hymns. He was accompanied by a terrific pianist, Paul Hamilton, and, on a handful of songs, Michael Lucarelli, a local guitarist. It was uplifting and inspiring. The acoustics of that place give everything an almost otherworldly feeling.

3. Over the past week, I had the chance to hang out with two of my grandsons, one at a time. What a joy! Listening to them talk their way through drawings and paintings and building with blocks and Lincoln Logs--they're happy to be at my house, and when their parents return, they're happy to see their parents. This takes me out of my usual worries and it is entrancing.

4. My brand new Publication Studies class? Full of great students with creative project ideas, and I am completely thrilled, optimistic and thrilled.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Whoa, kids, busy already.

So, back to school.

I have met with the literary magazine class once. It was great. I love them. My other class, I have not met with yet--that's tomorrow, for three hours. Good times! Excited about it!

Just in case you were worried that, based upon the previous evidence, I, a public servant, am not really working, I shall now fill you in on my activities for the week:

a. finishing and fine-tuning syllabi (of course).
b. meeting with senior administrators.
c. meeting with a group of faculty on another campus.
d. Board of Trustees meeting.
e. Discussion Team meeting.
f. meeting with the Teaching and Learning Center director
g. conversation with faculty member on another another campus.
h. conversation with faculty member in my office.
i. meeting with chair, dean, and colleague.
j. meeting of the Faculty Association Executive Board
k. meeting with the Provost.

(for items c, d, e, f, j, and k, Middlebrow was also in attendance, the lucky bastard.)

Personally, I like to slide into the semester unannounced and browse for a little while before it notices me and grips me in the iron grip of its grippy paws and squeezes the life out of me.

But no.

And now, a few last touches on the syllabus for tomorrow.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

My daughter called last night.

"Hello?" I said. Croaked.

"You're still sick?" she said, alarmed.

It has lasted and lasted, the sick. I think now I'm definitely better. Except that "better" still requires some ibuprofen. On a regular basis.

We had a two-birthday dinner to celebrate tonight. (Happy Birthday to I. and S.! and while I'm at it--happy birthday to all my December and January birthday kids!)

Actually, it was pretty easy, as two-birthday dinners go. One pasta dish, one green salad, a couple of vegetables, store-bought (but excellent) bread. Pineapples, cut up. And cake. Still, that croaky voice put the whole celebratory gig in doubt.

"No, I'm fine," I reassured.

I wish it hadn't been such a long day on Friday. I wish I hadn't left my purse at this one store on Saturday, which added another half hour to my appointed rounds. I wish there were about three more grace days before school starts. I wish I were about an hour deep into a very restful sleep right now.

But it starts tomorrow.

(Luckily, at least one of my syllabi is finished.)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Unfinished 2010 business.

Tonight, we saw I Love You Phillip Morris, which I quite enjoyed. But enjoying it isn't the reason I mention it here. It's because it's a 2010 film, and I have now seen it . . . in 2011.

Frankly, I finished a couple of things for my last-semester class (2010), like, two days ago (2011), and I have a bunch more stuff I thought I would finish before the calendar turned (2010), but did not (2011). Here is the laughable list I composed before I even started grading (2010). I called it "big fat Christmas list":

The things that aren't crossed off are things I have not yet done (2011). Also must
  • read a little Dickens for my book club,
  • finish another book,
  • see a bunch of 2010 movies, like maybe that arm-losing 127 Hours, even though the prospect makes me nauseated,
  • clean some more stuff in my house (go ahead, just laugh),
  • and plan the training/workshop agenda for the Publication Center,
  • and organize my sock drawer (just kidding, already organized),
  • and listen to the music I bought in 2010,
  • AND finish those syllabi omG.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

As long as it takes.

is how long it is taking me to write a syllabus. I am in the stage, right now, where my mind and what is about to "happen" in the new "semester" have an opposite electrical charge, so they basically repel each other.

Let me illustrate:

In other news, I did help someone else with his syllabus. And had tea with Dr. Write. Also, my throat still hurts, but less. And tomorrow is Thursday, also known the world over as Finish Your Syllabus Day. I plan a full observance of this event.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

What is a syllabus?

Is it the skeleton of the course, that structure upon which the flesh and musculature of the days and weeks will rest?

Is it a promise?

Is it a contract? a recipe? an agenda, a calendar, a game plan?

Is it a sketch, preliminary to the painting that will emerge? A musical score, which the class and I will perform?

What I'm really asking is, can I just call what I have good enough, and let it go? or do I have to keep working on it?

Monday, January 03, 2011

The kind of sick.

I have the kind of sick where it hurts my throat to eat toast. Toast, the people! one of the basic food groups!

It's the kind of sick that doesn't allow you to go out to tea and a movie with your friend, which you had heretofore planned, but which does allow you to stay home and do work on your laptop, like writing drafts of reports and thinking about syllabi.

It's the kind of sick that you just have to freaking endure, knowing that it will abate, but it's going to take its own sweet time about it.

It's the kind of sick where, even though you have leftover cake from your dinner party two days before, the cake must languish because, like toast, it hurts to eat it. Yes, I am saying that in my present condition, cake--very good cake, if I do say so myself--is as toast, no offense to toast, because both of them are anathema to my throat. It's the kind of sick that calls for tea. Lots and lots of tea.

It's the kind of sick that wakes you up at 4 a.m. for more ibuprofen.

It's the kind of sick that visits you during the last few days of a break. Alas, break! you are nearly over and I am sick.

Tomorrow, it will be the kind of sick that helps me write two syllabi. O my syllabi: you will be redolent of contagion.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

On and about the new year.

On New Year's Eve, I went out with my well-padded list to the expensive grocery store to buy the food for our New Year's Day family celebration; bought a camel-colored scarf; put gas in my car; and stopped at Target for dishwasher detergent. Then, we rang in the New Year with two movies, True Grit and The King's Speech, with Mexican food in between. Before bed, I baked the cake layers, made Honey Sesame cookies for good luck on New Year's Day, and made bread dough.

On New Year's Day, we baked the bread, iced the cake, made the white lasagne with mushrooms and artichoke hearts, tossed the lovely and spritely salad, cut up three pineapples and divested two pomegranates of their seeds. We had about 30 people at our house. It was rambunctious and the food was good and at the end of it, we collapsed.

Today, the day after New Year's Day, it is my daughter's birthday. She is in St. George for a few days--happy birthday, S! As for myself, I spent the day in the company of my good friend ibuprofen and a sore throat. I read the paper, did the crossword, read some of a couple of books, and lay abed whilst moaning softly. But my outlook is good. It is a new year, I have a new year calendar, and I already have a new year agenda. How about you?

In the new year, I hope to see the friends I miss seeing a little more often; play the piano and sing more; write regularly (I feel I have a little leg up on this, with the couple of dedicated sessions I spent on a couple of weekends); make some movies; walk a little longer and a little more frequently; and really pay attention to the people I love when I am with them. All of that will, I believe, make the new year grand.


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