Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I love music.

Here is one of my new favorite things:

I arrive at school about 7:30 a.m., so that I have a full two hours plus a little before my first class to get everything sorted: class plan solidified, poems responded to, etc. My office is a good office, but it's got no windows. So often I go over to the student center with my books and papers, and plug into some music. You know, like the kids do, creating my own sonic atmosphere that shuts out most of the bustle and the music playing on the soundsystem. It's like being in a little world of my own, one that's part of everyone else's world, but with better music, and lots of light.

This week I have been listening again to Sufjan Stevens' The Age of Adz.  It is brilliant. I was a late listener to Illinoise, which I also find to be brilliant. This is, as everyone probably now knows, a complete change of direction for Stevens, sonically and lyrically and in pretty much every way you can't think of. I can't quite get over how good it is, and how much better it gets once you accept it on its own terms.

"I Walked" is a song from one partner in a failed romance to another:

Lover, will you look at me now?
I'm already dead to you 
But I'm inclined to explain 
To you what I could not before

The song has an utterly gorgeous melodic line. I happen to know that, in a big busy room, when you're wearing headphones and so is practically everyone else, you can sing along softly and no one will call you on it.

"I Want to Be Well" is both plaintive and fierce:

Illness likes to prey upon the lonely, prey upon the lonely
Wave goodbye, oh, I would rather be, but I would rather be fine

I want to be well, I want to be well
I want to be well, I want to be well

Just one more song I found myself singing along with--"Get Real Get Right":

I know I've caused you trouble 
I know I've caused you pain 
But I must do the right thing
I must do myself a favor and get real
Get right with the Lord

This story gives a pretty good window into the recording.

If you haven't already given this album a listen, you can hear it all the usual places...but make sure you give it more than one chance. It will grow on you.

(p.s. blogged every day in January, in case you're keeping track.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Travel, for real.

So, despite a truly ridiculous amount of sulking when I found out I would not be going to AWP this spring (alas, I want to pout afresh! but no, I shall bravely carry on--), I am in fact traveling across America this spring. Just not to AWP.

I will be traveling with a large and representational and therefore perhaps high maintenance? group from my college to a large and official and therefore perhaps a bit high stress? conference in Philadelphia. We will be taking off at a ridiculous hour on a Saturday morning, have brief layovers--what I would, if I had booked the travel myself, have decided were unrealistically, terrifyingly, connecting-flight-missingly brief layovers--read "dashes through unfamiliar airports"--going both directions, and I will be staying four nights.

In my travel algorithms, this means

  • clothes that will make a possible nine point five outfits, because sometimes you need to choose.
  • six pairs of shoes, because you can't possibly accurately predict the precise shoes you might need, when in a foreign land such as Philadelphia.
  • various grooming products that I cannot live without I am so not joking!
  • scarves, obv.
  • pocket money to run to the drug store (oh, I have already researched the drug store nearest the hotel, yes I have.) for stuff I will have no doubt forgotten, such as my toothbrush perhaps.
  • important reading material, plus
  • magazines.
  • laptop,
  • iPod,
  • chargers galore, and
  • other stuff I can't bring to mind right now, but any one of which forgotten might make the trip an utter disaster.
Oh, and also I still have to put together my presentation.

So the real question is this: carry on? or check?

I am, as the above list no doubt screams  implies, a checker. Yes, I know you have to pay the fee. Yes, I know they lose your luggage sometimes--indeed, my luggage has been lost once or twice. Yes, I know it adds time (which is money!) to the torturous hours you have already spent in airports.

But I loathe the wrestling of luggage in the tight space of the aircraft. I loathe other people doing it around me. And honestly, I loathe the idea of doing without a single thing that I may need to feel comfortable, put together, myself, when I am so very far away from home. It is already making me a little crazy. Currently, I am considering the following options:

Plan A: carry on. For this eventuality I bought a bunch of little empty travel containers of various shapes/sizes/capacities. Pare down my clothes, etc. to the bare minimum. Try not to act squirrelly and rookie-like at the TSA security extravaganza.

Plan B: carry on. Buy almost all grooming products when I get there, at the drugstore I have researched. Wasteful, but you don't have to struggle with the little bottles, quart-size ziploc bag, the suspicious grillings of the TSA personnel, etc. Worth it, possibly?

Plan C: check. Like a sane person. Seriously.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

More river.

Today, we did another piece of the Jordan River walk, between 4800 South and 3900 South and back. Because the historian rides along the river all the time, he knows what are the charms of each segment, and he did not recommend this bit highly. "It's right up against some apartments on one side," he said, "and on the other side there's some industrial stuff."

But in this project, I am a little bit literal minded. I want to walk all the parts, pretty or no. I want to see the whole thing, preferably in order. So off we went.

It reminded me a little bit of the L.A. River, the part we walked when we were there last May, by the Glendale Narrows. Industrial/railroad on one side, residential on the other, big deep culvert with hardly any water for a lot of it, but the parts with water, deep down in the culvert, were so beautiful, and the more beautiful for where they were situated. The river today was high, so there were no dry parts as in L.A. It rushed and poured in between the apartments and the warehouses, and there were some gorgeous meanders and plant life, and a few birds.

The historian is right about this segment, but it also seemed to have its beauties.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

O! Library!

Well, ever since the new year, when all the old leaves became irrelevant and it was nothing but new-on-new, in terms of leaves, and I was just turning them over and over, the leaves, nothing but good intentions!, I have been checking books out of the library like a madwoman (so that I could "Read all the time," or whatever the resolution was, exactly). Checking books out of the library, as readers of this blog know, is of late made super-cinchy because of the library robot and its machinations, now deliverable entirely through the interwebs. So first I saved up my lists of books, to wit:

  • Jo Nesbo bookery. Recommended by several.
  • A Karin Fossum book--Norwegian, policery, good if it's as good as the others. 
  • Another Scandinavian police procedural, picked up entirely on the merits of its Scandinavian author and its cover.
  • An entire John le Carre suite of Smiley books.
  • The first of the Mist-Born series, on Middlebrow's recommendation.
  • Game of Thrones. What? Is it trashy? I don't know.
  • The beginning book of a series by Sjodahl and Wahloo, recommended by Radagast.
And then I ordered the library robot to find and deliver them to my local branch library (library robotics part 1). And then I crept into the library like a ninja and checked them out without talking to NO ONE (library robotics part 2).

(Not my library's actual robot.)
Now: of the above books, I have completed, as in "read":
  • one Nesbo.
I am also partway through 
  • another Nesbo. 
In my defense, first I had to read some books of poetry for my book group, and that one French detective novel, and that one English detective novel, and also Mindy Kaling. And also Diane Keaton.

I am now receiving notices from the robot (library robotics part 3), reminding me that some of my books might be coming due, to wit: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which I had every intention of reading before I saw the movie, but whoops, too late. And there's the Nesbo middle, which I am still in! So I can't really start a whole other spy novel, especially when I have already seen the movie. I'm sure you see my dilemma.

Let me pause to deliver a short discourse on scarcity and excess: 

A Short Discourse on Scarcity And Excess.

Sometimes there is not enough of things, such as when I wander from room to room and say, "When will Fred Vargas/Arnaldur Indridasen/etc. write another book so I can read it?" This is scarcity, and it is intolerable, or nigh unto.

And sometimes there is more than enough of things, such as when someone says, "You should really read X," and I say, "Wait a minute while I dial up the library robot!" And as a consequence of the robot-dialing, there are piles of X, I mean books, the titles of some of which I am sure I'm forgetting, and I'm not sure where all of them even are in my house! and I have already seen the movie of some of them! That is excess, and I am in the middle of it, and don't even get me started on how much I may need or not a pair of pink ballet shoes, to go with my other ballet shoes, including my other pink ballet shoes, but not this particular color of pink. That is also excess, and I am (always already) in the middle of it. And it too is intolerable, or nigh unto.

Well, anyway, I am going to go dive back into the middle of Nesbo, because I finally got a running start at it and it's kind of exciting at the moment. At the moment, there is the exact right amount of Nesbo, and it is very good.

Friday, January 27, 2012


So that, above, is how it went down today--we all made broadsides, and talked about the history of broadsides. I'm having the same, lucky experience I had last time I taught this class, which was also the first time: massive nerves before each three-hour session, and something close to exhilaration afterward. This time, I have the luck of having Dr. Write and another colleague, Kati Lewis, with me as compatriots.

After teaching, I came home, but not before losing my cell phone at Target (found and retrieved). I hung up a bunch of clothes I had heaped in the closet-in-all-but-name that is, essentially, the rest of our bedroom, and took a short nap. We saw A Dangerous Method tonight, which I loved.

Somehow, this weekend I need to squeeze in about three times more stuff than I have actual time to do it in. Huzzah for expandable weekends!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Key facts.

  • My favorite kind of reading glasses

routinely break like brittle china.

  • Ergo, I order a pile of them. So I have more when they break. Perhaps I should consider a new style/brand/Lasik? I don't know. They are my favorite.
  • It is the historian's birthday today. He has a cold. Is that fair? I ask you.
  • We are watching the Australian Open. Rod Laver and Roger Federer are talking. It's kind of great.
  • My classes were awesome today. Sometimes it feels like, if you set things up right, your courses turn into little centers of industry, with all kinds of good things happening, humming along. Or, y'know, things could fall apart tomorrow. But I don't think so.
  • Today this book arrived at my house: 

Vatnasafn/Library of Water
Roni Horn

it is awesome.
  • Even though it was a birthday, it was a work day. Where is the birthday cake? I ask you. I guess that's why birthdays last a week. They do, don't they?
  • Okay. Time to get you a little more DayQuil, honey.

Monday, January 23, 2012


The Academy Award nominations are tomorrow! Here's a list of films that might get nominated in the big fat categories (I put a * by what I think should get nominated, and a # by what I think will get nominated):
 (image: NYTimes via Getty images)

Academy Awards NOMINATIONS

best pic

Melancholia * (foreign? English-speaking...)
Midnight in Paris #
The Tree of Life *#
X-Men: First Class *
Bridesmaids *
The Help #
Rise of the Planet of the Apes *
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows *
Hugo *#
The Artist #
War Horse # (haven't seen it) 
Take Shelter * [not a chance this will get nominated, but I thought it was beautiful, maybe my favorite film of the year, so I'm putting it on the list anyway.]

best actor

Christopher Plummer, Beginners *# (or is this a supporting performance? probably)
Brad Pitt, Moneyball *#
George Clooney, The Descendants *#
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter ** (the only thing as good as this was J. Dujardin, and maybe also Brad Pitt in Moneyball)
Ryan Gosling, Drive *#
Paul Rudd, Our Idiot Brother *
Brendan Gleason, The Guard *
Jean Dujardin, The Artist ** (I was not in love with this movie, but I thought this performance was sublime)
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar ? (haven't seen)
Michael Fassbender, Shame #

best actress

Vera Farmiga, Higher Ground *
Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene *
Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia *#
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn #
Rooney Mara, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo *#
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady # (haven't seen)
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs # (haven't seen)
Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids *

supporting actor

Ryan Gosling, Crazy, Stupid, Love (or The Ides of March) * (in C, S, L, I thought Gosling was pretty much brilliant)
Michael Fassbender, X-Men/Jane Eyre
Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes *#
Matt Damon, Contagion * (of a pile of great performances, this was one of the greatest)
Jeremy Irons, Margin Call *#
John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene *#
Armie Hammer, J. Edgar # (haven't seen)
Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn * (this performance gave me such joy--so funny)
Albert Brooks, Drive * (pretty great performance)
Ralph Fiennes and/or Alan Rickman, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows

supporting actress

Viola Davis, The Help *# (deserves every possible acting accolade--she is brilliant--and is this a lead performance?)
Octavia Spencer, The Help *#
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids *#
Jessica Chastain, everything she was in *# (literally: brilliant in everything.)
Charlotte Gainsbourg, Melancholia *
Carrie Milligan, Drive and/or Shame #


Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris #
Martin Scorsese, Hugo *#
Terence Malick, Tree of Life *#
David Fincher, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo #
Michael Haznavicius, The Artist #
Lars von Trier, Melancholia *#
David Cronenberg, A Dangerous Method ? (not here yet, haven't seen)
Steven Spielberg, War Horse #
Alexander Payne, The Descendants *#
Bennett Miller, Moneyball *

special note for Jude Law, who was fantastic in Sherlock Holmes blah blah blah  and also in Contagion.

p.s. I loved this list.

p.p.s. happy birthday Amelia!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I'm back! or, Action movies, an essay.

Today, I bought eggs from Chad, went to the Roasting Co. to work on a poem (why do I have to go to another place to write a poem? another post for another day), ate lady fingers (but not really--they were actually langues des chats, and they were both darling and delicious), and cried my head off at a movie (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close--you will have to decide for yourself if a movie that insists that you cry this much is your poison, but I expected to pity and perhaps despise it, and did neither, really). But that's not what I want to write about.

What I want to write about is action movies. Yesterday, when I came home from a day in which I got up at 6:30 a.m. (boo hoo hooooooo) to go to school so that I would be ultra-ready for my 9 a.m. class, which went swimmingly thank you very much, then had a meeting and a post-meeting chat, wait: where was I? Right: yesterday, when I came home from that day (see above), I met the historian who was finishing up some dishes, and as I plunked down my burdens (computer, purse) and poked around for the entertainment section of the newspaper, and didn't find it, I asked, "Where's the movie section?" and the historian said, "I took it to work, but there's really only one movie to see, I think, and that's The Artist," after which I predictably sulked, privately, because: who says? But then I said, "Great!" because I am nothing if not a trouper (< -- patently not true). So off we went to enchiladas and The Artist, and it was good.

But this morning, as I was scanning the long-lost entertainment section for what other movies there were, I saw that Haywire had also opened this weekend, and then I was all, "What? Soderbergh!?" (because white people love to talk about movie directors, I guess.) So I went to the historian who may or may not have just been waking up, and I was all, "You know what else opened this weekend? Haywire. And do you know who directed it? Soderbergh." And he was all, "Oh!" Honestly, that's not necessarily the conversation you want to have before you've eaten your pancakes.

But then, while we were driving hither and yon on our adventures, I said, "I am lately kind of taken by action movies."

The historian said, "Oh? Why is that?" Polite like that, because he really could not care less about action movies. Even after I made the fine distinction that I was only talking about well-made action movies, not stupid ones, not the ones where stuff blows up and the hero walks away in slow motion while things are erupting behind him in sheets of flame and a power ballad amps up on the soundtrack. But whatever: I am pretty sure I will not convince him at this point that action movies are a category worth making allowances for, when your movie-going choices are on the line. At this point the historian knows his own tastes, and what he likes is (a) nothing set in a fantasy realm: no wizards, elves, dwarves, fairies, or orcs; (b) nothing where a bunch of stuff erupts in sheets of etc.; (c) no movies that are stupid; (d) small, human-scale movies that are plausible and something interesting and thought-provoking happens; (e) no gratuitous arty stuff, although he can tolerate that if the movie also exhibits characteristics of (d) above; (f) so-called little, "quirky" movies (also, see (d) above) (upon reading all of this to the historian, he points out that "little" and "quirky" are not necessarily the same category, so you can divide or merge the categories as you see fit--I'm leaving it up to you); (g) comedies that are actually funny (unlike so-called comedies that are not funny); and (h) the occasional good thriller and/or heist movie. [note: after reading this whole post to the historian, he points out another category all this leaves out, the western, and particularly old westerns, which he loves. And I also think of the sports movie, which is an action movie of a kind, but not really what I'm talking about here. Also: dance movies omg.]

I agree with most of the above, by the way: the differences between us are mostly a matter of degree. For instance, I don't love fantasy movies, and found the latter two of the Lord of the Rings films to be excessively orc-filled. But I can enjoy a fantasy element or so in a movie, if the movie is good. I really, truly loathe action movies that have the explosive elements mentioned above. On the other hand, a movie with awesome fighting or chases or kinetic forms of intrigue--that movie I will probably enjoy, and may possibly love.

For instance, I really, really loved Collateral, that Michael Mann [again with the director fetish] thing that had Tom Cruise as a killer who seemed composed entirely of nerve and muscle and an assassin's instincts. And I loved The Hurt Locker, which was both a war movie and an action movie, and the more awesome for being both. We both liked the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmeses, but one thing I liked about them was the chasing and the fighting. The Bourne movies were swell, for sure (I liked them a fair bit more than the historian did). And--this is probably the clincher--the art-house martial arts films, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers and Hero (others as well). I'm pretty sure I haven't seen any of the early great martial arts films, no Bruce Lee, none when Jackie Chan or Jet Li were in their prime. But I was absolutely riveted by these arty films. And recently, I enjoyed myself enormously at Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol--perhaps just a tad too long, but otherwise, fantastic action sequences where I marveled simultaneously at the gorgeous well-framed sequences and shots, and the spectacle of the human body in motion.

Isn't that really it? what movies can do, show us--the human body, strong, vulnerable and irrepressible, at the thin margin between life and death? When it's made well, the action movie shows us this, and it's thrilling.

I may or may not persuade the historian that he will enjoy Haywire, but I am pretty sure I will have to see it. Also, I may need to see MI:GP on an Imax screen. I hear it's mind-blowing.

Time for breakfast.

Whoa: last night, after coming home from dinner (enchiladas) and a movie (The Artist--good), I fell upon my pillow and fell asleep around 10:30 and woke up in my clothes at 1 a.m., got up, brushed my teeth, washed my face, undressed, and fell back asleep again until 8.

I did not, as you see, collect my thoughts and write a blog post. Alas. I am acknowledging this.

If we're keeping score--are we?--that means I now have a small slip on my record regarding my "blogging every day in 2012" initiative. But as I was opining on some other topic yesterday when I said "God is not a lawyer," well, neither am I and frankly neither are any of you, I don't think--if you're reading this and you're a lawyer, welcome! I have nothing against lawyers and, in fact,  kind of wish I were one--so I shall negotiate this small issue with myself and atone for it the only way I know how, which is: one post now, backdated for yesterday, and one post later today, for, you know, today.

And now I am going to make pancakes.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Notes at the end of the day.

1. Sometimes it is good to lower the bar, like when your alarm goes off at 6:30 and you think, screw it. 7:15 will be better.

2. Waking up coughing in the middle of the night could not be less delightful.

3. I like going to a meeting with people I like and kvetching about work in a friendly way.

4. That entity known as "Cling Wrap" occasionally over promises its clinginess vastly.

5. Getting in the car, ready to jet off to deliver green salad for 40, pasta salad for 20, and 120 water bottles to singing son's house, so they could take it and a half ton of more food to the Road Home for tonight's dinner, was made ever so much more enjoyable when running son came with and we listened to Coldplay and Sufjan Stevens on the way there and on the way back.

6. For, like, a year, I have been waiting for the guy and the girl to get back together on this, it must be admitted, perhaps less than stellar sitcom. A year or more. And finally it sort of happened on tonight's episode, and that was pretty darn satisfying.

7. I predict more coughing in the night. What the hell.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The curd: an inquiry into its nature and uses.

What is lemon curd? It seems like an almost existential question. I have made it several times, given it away here and there, and yet I am not quite sure I know what it's for, even though it is delicious.

I made some lovely Meyer lemon curd and gave a bottle to a friend for a New Year present. She told me the other evening that she had just finished it, and in the ensuing discussion, she said that you could put it on chicken. What? This use had never even occurred to me--although I almost never eat chicken, so there's that. I think I'm less a sweet/sour person, unless it's in the context of a dessert.

This leaves me with my questions about the curd, and my one-two-three uses.

One: put it on a muffin, or a scone, or a crumpet, or an English muffin. This means to spread it on a toasted baked good. This makes sense to me. It puts curd in the category of jam or honey. This also makes sense to me, since I generally decant it after cooking into a half-pint jar, just like jam and just like honey (except for the kind that comes in a plastic bear, but that is another category altogether). I know it's probably not good logic, to generalize contents from containers, especially when I was the one who put the thing in the container in the first place. Regardless: use one, on baked goods.

Two: make it into lemon squares. I did this tonight. Yes, I arose from my bed of affliction a couple of times, when I wasn't feeling as crappy, i.e., at the apex of the Day-Quil effectiveness  parabola. First, to make the curd (see below), and second, to make the squares. Although technically, since among my zillions of baking pans I happen not to have a square one, neither of metal nor of glass, I baked my squares in a round pan, so really they're lemon wedges. And actually, they're lime wedges, since I happened to have a bounty of key limes, so my curd was lime. Use two.

Here's how I made my wedges:  I took 1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into little pieces; 1/4 cup granulated sugar; 1 c. flour (I used King Arthur's White Wheat flour); and a pinch of sea salt. These are Ina Garten's proportions, but not her directions. I put all that in a glass bowl and microwaved it for about a minute, until the butter was softened; then I used my fingers to rub the butter into the flour and sugar, and when that seemed to be "happening," I collected the crumbs into a dough, and patted it into the round cake pan, a 9-incher.

You bake this crust for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

But before any of that, you make lemon (or in this case lime) curd. I did this earlier in the afternoon. Here's what you do:  whisk 3 large eggs, 3/4 c. sugar, and 1/3 cup lime (or lemon, depending on your citrus fancy) juice in a heavy saucepan. Whisk it good. Put this over medium heat. Now, when I made the Meyer lemon curd, I did as my recipe suggested and rigged up a double boiler. But this took for freaking ever, and I realized that, with as much attention as I was paying to that double boiler and the curd therein, I could simply pay an equivalent amount of attention to a pan directly on the heat, and probably do just fine, and I did. So whisky frequently, perhaps constantly, or almost. You're aiming for the eggs/sugar/juice mixture to thicken, like hollandaise sauce or sour cream.

When it thickens--and it will, and if you've been paying attention, it will have thickened without (a) burning or scorching on the bottom or (b) curdling (I know--ironic)--remove from the heat and add 4 T. butter, cut into small-ish pieces. Whisk that in as it melts. When that's done, add 1 T. zest to it all. Pour it into whatever container you're keeping it in. It will continue to thicken as it cools.

To make the lemon/lime squares, wedges: after the crust has baked for 15 minutes, take it out of the oven and pour your half-pint of curd over it. Spread it to the edges. It will not be thick, but it will be adequate. Put this back into the oven and bake for about another 10-12 minutes. Cool and then behold how dang good it is.

Back to the curd making: while you're pouring the curd into your chosen container, you'll find, I'm sure, that you have a pan to scrape out with a spatula and maybe a cooking spoon. You should by all means eat the scrapings/spoonings, because it would be a crime to leave any of the curd whatsoever. It is delicious. This leads me to my third and final use: eat it out of the jar with a spoon. You could probably put away an entire batch of curd in this fashion over the course of a week or two. Is it good for you? Of course it is. It's delicious and it's made of eggs (protein!) and citrus (wards off scurvy!).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Here is a fact about my secret past when I was in junior high and deeply uncool: I used to get strep throat an abnormal amount. So much so that my doctor used to swab my throat, look up with a concerned/grossed out expression on his face, and say, "And she hasn't had her tonsils out." Nope, never.

Here's another fact: when I used to have bouts of strep throat, and had to stay home for days and days and days on end while the penicillin worked its bitter magic (oh penicillin! bitter and yet so efficacious!), I watched the soaps.

I was a fan, mainly, of such soaps as The Edge of Night and Days of Our Lives. Of course, I can't remember a thing about them. What I do remember is that you could get away with watching these programs about once every two or two and a half months and not miss a beat, that's how slowly they eked out the narrative. It's like if those stories were constructed out of atoms of narrative, it would take them two years to put together a complex molecule. But that was cool, since I was wracked with fever and pretty much incoherent for at least the first two days of The Sick, so I couldn't have handled much more narrative than that. Sometimes I would ask my mom for a little tip or two as to why this or that bejeweled heiress was behaving in such a bizarre way, but mostly I could hold my own.

I can't remember if I was not allowed to watch Dark Shadows, or if I was just too nervous to ask. Maybe both. Anyway, I got through my strep phase (although there was one brutal bout of it my junior year in high school, where I was out of school for two full weeks and came back a svelter, practically tubercular version of myself, boy howdy!), and I really didn't watch soaps after that. Until now.

Now, as I lay upon my bed of affliction (who knows what rude virus/bacterium has lodged itself in my sinuses?), I watch Downton Abbey (so sorry I cannot seem to stop myself talking about this by the way you can follow a discussion about it! on Slate! (work your way backward)). And Glee, though I am predictably behind the curve here--everyone is so over Glee, whereas I am in a protracted rapture about it, swooning over it and crying at the heartbreak and majesty of the teenage-ness of it all. And, frankly, The Good Wife, which is So. Great. it cannot fully be expressed words. It started out great and has never yet let us down.

These stories are practically sprinters compared to the daily soaps of old. They leap lightly from day to season to year and much has to be inferred by the canny viewer, who perhaps is not at her best at the moment, fighting off the viruses/bacteria of wintertime. However, she laughed, she cried, she drank her tea, and also watched the Jazz win. Is it The Sick that gives her courage to watch whole games now, as opposed to giving fearful glances at the screen? Who can say? She shall not stay sick forever: and the narratives will be parsed and discussed, and the Jazz will (knock wood cross fingers) keep winning, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.

p.s. Read this.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Winter: a pro/con analysis.

Yesterday I dreamed that I took a Bichon Frise dog over to Oprah's house, along with all my youngest son's friends and I think my former was in there too. It was very bad manners, clearly--in real life I would never invite so many people plus a dog to Oprah's.  By the way, she was none too happy about that dog.

 Today, the day it snowed, I felt some irritating little illness waiting in the wings. So I read and slept and did some dishes and laundry and laid around some more. We watched a lot of Downton Abbey. The second season is even soapier than the first season. Sudsy. I can't wait for the next episode.

I hope it snows all week.

(p.s.: happy birthday mom!)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Short letters.

Dear three-day weekend,

I appreciate the way you have magically transformed Monday into a more lovely thing.

please come back in February,



Dear kitchen,

Please clean yourself. I really want to bake, but I can't when you're as messy as you are. I realize this is probably at least partly my fault, but I'm also a little demoralized.

at least get me started?


cc: my study, my bedroom, pretty much my whole house


dear impending snowstorm,


hurry up,


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Making music with my friends.

Tonight over at singing son's house, a bunch of friends and family played and sang and knocked Abbey Road out of the park. I wish I had video and/or audio to share with you. On the other hand, it's probably better that I don't--it's the kind of thing that is better in the doing than in the recording.

Here's how it works:

1. singing son notifies his family and friends that they'll all gather on a specified date. In the meantime,
2. they should study up and listen obsessively to a specific recording, so that
3. on the specified date, they can bring themselves, their singing voices and relevant instruments, so that
4. everyone can play and sing the entire recording.

It is very edifying.

So far, it's been Bridge Over Troubled Water, Rumours (Fleetwood Mac), and tonight, Abbey Road.  I have been at all three. What have I discovered?

  • everyone doing their part really does make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
  • every part doesn't have to be virtuouso, because see the above.
  • homemade music is one of the very, very best things.
  • so many talented friends!
  • (I know I'm their mom, but) my kids are awesome.
  • there is nothing whatsoever--nothing at all--better than making music with other people.
I got to play a lot of keyboard parts tonight. Highlights:  obtaining The Beatles: Complete Scores, a truly miraculously complete volume; how awesome it is to actually play and wade around in the sonic volume of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"; how great it is to slide from "Polythene Pam" into "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window" (ohhh look out!), just about as good as it is on the record; how sweet the beautiful piano parts in "Golden Slumbers" and "Carry That Weight" and "The End" are; how beautifully people sang the gorgeous gorgeous harmonies on "Because." 

As I said to the historian on the way home, there were a lot of wonderful parts. Some not wonderful parts, too, but the wonderful parts were really wonderful, and that's really the point.

Last: a friend who came to the Rumours party said that she kept trying to tell people how great it was, but after awhile it seemed like she was just bragging, so she stopped. Yep, that's kind of how this feels. But I have to tell you: it really was awesome.

In conclusion, let me leave you with this, just in case you need a refresher (we sounded almost this good):

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Possibly a little more than I bargained for.

Finicky, finicky, I am fussing over the very last of my syllabi, since the very last of my classes, Publication Studies, meets for the first time tomorrow, and God knows if there were even more time to flutter and flap and quack around that syllabus, I would take it. But just now, having added the last (ha!  no way!) reading and activity and event to the schedule, I am reckoning with the fact that, right around April, there will be a lotsa stuff a-happening, such as the new issue of Folio, my last as faculty advisor; the chapbook launch; consultations a plenty, since in December I decided in a brilliant flash that all of my students--all!--would do better if I consulted with each of them twice in the semester instead of once; and portfolios to review; and drafts to read at the very last minute; and so on and so forth.

This explains why--I'm owning up to this fact--I saw the opportunity to not be in my office this afternoon. Most Thursdays I will be in the Writing Center and then at meetings. But the Writing Center is quiet until next week, and I had no meetings, so I talked to the young poets about devices of sound, and we read the hell out of a little Bob Hickok poem, and then I checked my e-mail one more time and hightailed it outta there lickety split, to come home and finicky finicky fuss around with that last syllabus yet one more time (if by "one more time" we mean "all afternoon").

p.s. I love my delicious account. I was able to harvest a kajillion interesting links from it today as I flarfed around with the course. Yay social bookmarking!
p.p. s. College daughter...back at college. Christmas is over! We opened all the presents!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I am reading.

You may recall a recent resolution of mine to "always be reading," and I am enjoying this aspect of the adventure we're all calling "2012."

I recently finished Diane Keaton's memoir, Then Again.  Keaton isn't a stylist, but she is a collagist, and her assemblages in this book--of her own letters, diary entries, memories, juxtaposed with her mother's extensive journals and scrapbooks, make a book that is more than compelling--it's poignant and evocative.
While I was reading Diane Keaton--I had to stop at certain sad parts--I was also reading An Uncertain Place, which is a police procedural with vampiri, or people who were said to be vampiri. also, there are forays into both London and Servia, and the original vampire's name is Blagojovich, believe it or not. I love this series by Fred Vargas, with Commissaire Adamsberg. They always seem to be maybe just a little bit too whimsical and random, and then they knit together in such satisfying ways. The only problem with this series is that they don't get translated into English quickly enough. Get on it, publishers and translators!

Now I am reading a novel by Jo Nesbo, The Devil's Star. I fear that I didn't get the first book in this series, which means I will have to pull the history of this series together out of sequence, harumph. Even so, I loved the writing in this book from the very first paragraph. However, the Scandinavian detectives--they all have issues with alcohol, it seems. I don't think that's a spoiler. Also, the detective's name is Harry Hole. I'm sure that doesn't signify the same in Norwegian, but still.

I have piles of books waiting to be read when I finish off the Nesbo. There's another Nesbo and then another Scandinavian writer whose name I can't remember--it was a book/cover (and Scandinavian name) (and genre) scenario. Oh, and also another Scandinavian, but a different one. That's three Scandinavians. I also have piles of Le Carre, but possibly my motivation has slackened, since I already read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. We'll see. I will start the novel and see. I really have loved other Le Carre.

Finally, when I was at Target yesterday, not buying shoes, I bought Mindy Kaling's book. I already put a hold on it at the public library, but I was like number 1257 in the queue (< -- exaggeration). I picked up the book and read the part that talked about "BFF Rights and Responsibilities," remembering my oldest friend. But then I put the book back and said to myself, get real, this book will come out in paperback or someone else will buy it and you can borrow it or 1257 people is not so many, it'll go like [snaps fingers] that! Then I picked the book up again and read where Mindy said that the ratio of getting ready to write (organizing snacks for writing and looking stuff up on the internet and getting comfortable clothes and making tea and what not) and writing itself was about 7:1.

Oh yeah, I bought that book.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

You must change your life.

Recently I have been contemplating these:

For your consideration: cherry red velvet Dr. Marten 8-eye lace-up boots. I know: there's really no reason to have Dr. Marten's nowadays, except: velvet. And I saw this one picture where Alexander Wang was wearing velvet Dr. Marten's, and I thought: killer. (In this velvet-boot wearing fantasy, I am a slightly built Asian man, obviously.)

Awhile before the velvet boots, I was contemplating this:

This is a Pamela Love sword ring. It is badass, it cannot be denied.

What these two talismanic items have in common is that they inspire in me a belief that they will change my life. Or motivate a change in my life. A belief that I would be more awesome with this stuff. (One more thing they share in common: they cost more money than I am currently willing to pay to indulge in magical thinking like this.)

What really needs to change in my life is the belief that stuff like this will change my life. Maybe. But sometimes a talisman works, right? New basketball shoes symbolize a new season and the joy of playing ball, or so I'm told. A new haircut symbolizes a new start. New shoes . . . don't even get me started.

Today in Target while buying my college daughter a couple of last things before she goes back to college, I tried on a new pair of shoes. They were pretty gorgeous. Magenta suede (faux), very tall, absurd for everyday life. I believed in myself, for a moment, walking around in them. And then I put them back, because come on--super tall shoes? magenta? Although I may go back to get them, I can't guarantee that I won't.

When college daughter goes home, I will put my energies into my new initiatives, aka my resolutions. (I believe I may have energy to burn when she leaves, because of the sadness.) I read an article about resolutions in the Times on Sunday. To my surprise, it said that resolvers actually are more likely to make a change than non-resolvers, even with the same goal, motivation, and means. That said, the likelihood of a real change is still pretty dismal. Read it for yourself. One other thing it said is you can't resolve more than one difficult thing at a time, because you actually have a finite amount of willpower. That's right. It's not endless. So, if you're trying to stop shopping, you can't also try to lose weight. (Seriously, this idea kind of comforts me.)

I'm pretty sure, though, that I would have more willpower if I had that badass ring.

Monday, January 09, 2012

...and the teaching begins.

I know this, because last week I received several e-mails from a student, one of which said, "Still waiting for that syllabus, so I can get started." Before the semester even had officially begun, the people. I am giving myself "good teacher" points for not responding in a tart tone.

Today I published that course, and there are responses to the first discussion, so. You know. Teaching.

But I am actually looking forward--so much--to starting the semester. It's possible that I am cramming too much stuff into pretty much all of my courses. I want my students to have it all! All the learning! So we'll see how that goes.

All that remains is for me to pick an outfit. And, you know, make my notes. Like, prepare.

p.s. In my files, I found a letter I wrote to my students in an online version of the poetry class I'm going to teach tomorrow. I really loved that class. Here's some advice I gave them that I've decided I should remember myself:

"It’s all choices, and [poetic] forms give you some more choices, maybe.  Anyway, I hope that you feel your poetic means have increased as a result of the work you’ve done in the class.  As I’ve observed your work, it seems to me that each poet has done some new and surprising things as a result of these forms.  That’s something worth cherishing, in my book.

I wanted to give you some advice that’s been hard-won for me.  Maybe you get a head start on your poetic life by my sharing it with you.  Here it is:  take the feedback you get and weigh it in your own mind.  At the end of the day, it’s always still your poem, and you get to decide what happens to your poem.  One more bit of advice:  no one—and I mean no one—gets to decide for you whether you write or not.  Only you get to decide whether you write, and what you write.  You don’t need anyone else’s permission."

Cheers to all my teacher peeps. Knock 'em dead. You know, teach.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

2012 movie report, edition 1.

Last week, when I should have been creating syllabi, I went instead to Mission Impossible with Dr. Write. I must say, I found it terribly satisfying, until the very end, when it started all of a sudden to seem long. My son-in-law tonight pointed out that it was a physicist who was outrunning Ethan Hunt and bringing him nigh unto a terrible fate. A physicist--just one of several features of the film that strained his capacity to suspend disbelief. (Me: I loved Simon Pegg in that role! S-I-L: see, you have a a guy who's passed the field test, and he's a chattering moron? Me: not a moron, just nervous... ) I can see his point. Still: nothing like an extremely well-made action movie that's not wholly made out of gelignite and other explosive devices to make you feel that speed, strength, and nerve are what life is, or should be, made of.

On Friday night, the historian and I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I bemoaned the fact that I had checked out all the other Smiley novels from the library, but was still waiting for TTSS to show up. Then, the library's robot e-mailed me and said it was in! So I checked it out, but did not and could not read it before Friday night. But that's okay. I've heard some people offer their criticisms of the film. It is not, apparently, as good as the Alec Guinness version. I can see this point. But not having that film to compare this to, I must say that I found this version terrifically absorbing and entertaining, and felt it added up quite nicely. It was great: after eating enchiladas for dinner and sitting through several bombastic previews, I felt a little sleepy during the opening scenes and I thought, dang, I am missing stuff that will be important later! and so I sat up a little straighter and tried to pay a little better attention. As it went along, I realized I hadn't felt tired for quite awhile, every scene seemed to pay off in some future scene, the characters were fascinating and they were many, and Gary Oldman is awesome. In conclusion: spy movie yay!

Saturday night, we saw Tintin. We probably should have seen War Horse.  I am nervous about that movie. (a) it is a war movie (b) with horses which makes it likely that (c) I might find it unbearably sad. Layer onto this dreadful triumvirate of reasons not to see it the historian's reasons: (a) the history might be (b) bad or (c) wrong. So instead we saw Tintin. Now I have read some critiques of this film. One critic said s/he thought it was exhausting. I can see this point. However, I would argue that there is nothing wrong with this movie that chopping it into 15-20 min. long cliffhangers, and showing them before other movies, wouldn't cure. Memo to Steven Spielberg: consider doing this on the DVD.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Saturday stats.

Consumed: toast with almond butter. pineapple and pink oranges with a little mint sugar. spritz cookies, salted pecans, sugar cookies, diet Dr. Pepper. french fries. root beer. papaya salad. panang curry.

Mood: desultory.

Viewed: 30 min. of episode one, season one, Homeland. Tintin.

Listened to: Amy Winehouse. Sufjan Stevens. Julian Casablancas. Kanye/Jay-Z. Brandon Flowers. Keane. Modest Mouse.

Visited: my folks in Orem. MacDonalds (see french fries above).

In company with: my two youngest kids.

Housework: the dishes.

Read: The Movie Club (on Slate). More of An Uncertain Place (Vargas).

Waiting for me: Mistborn (at the public library).

Constitutional: (pending) walk with the dog.

Decisions still pending: what shall I make for dinner tomorrow? what shall my policy on late work be? how shall I begin the next poem? shall I hope for more snow?

Friday, January 06, 2012

Short letters.

Dear hard chairs,

Today, you were ubiquitous during the meeting after meeting after meeting I attended. You did not make my life any easier.




Dear cafeteria lunch,

I basically swore you off at the end of last year. 2012 was going to be the healthy, bring it from home food year. Yet there you were, with your BLT hack, your barbecue potato chips and Dr. Pepper. I resent you for reminding me how very weak I am.

I will not be eating you again anytime soon,



Dear all-day tall boots,

You are too cute for words, and while I was wearing you, you made me feel a little bit like a goddess. However, you wore out your welcome by 3 p.m., it must be said. Perhaps you are more like 5 and a half hour tall boots.

I will make a note of it,



Dear motivational speaker,

I wanted to do grievous harm to your PowerPoint slides and especially to how you said "bing!" when you wanted the next slide to come up. Seriously?

Never darken my door again,


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

In which I am taken to task yet again.

At breakfast:

Grandson (4 and a half years old. Conversationally):  Our tree is down.

Me:  Really? Mine is still up.

Daughter 1:  MOM.

Me:  What? I've only had it for two weeks.

Daughter 2:  MOM!

Grandson:  You need to take it down.

Me:  But I like it! It still smells good and it looks pretty.

Grandson:  Christmas is over! We opened all the presents!

Me: I might leave it up a little longer.

Daughters: [roll eyes, collectively]

Grandson: Take down it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Notes on optimism.

As readers of this blog may have perhaps heard me say from time to time, I believe that, in a democracy, it is one's duty to be optimistic. However, today as I listened to a story on NPR about the Iowa caucuses, the probable role in this election of the young people who organized for Obama last election, and that full-o-crazy slate of Republican hopefuls, I admit that my optimism flagged. A bit.

My Shakespeare professor from my undergraduate years, who had been knighted (seriously) by the Queen herself, once recounted the anecdote of the dog, who began his week-long stay at a kennel believing that all bees were flies, and ended his stay believing that all flies were bees. Point being--belaboring it--that neither optimism nor pessimism is realistic. But that's a dog, of course. What about optimism that is like an engine? that keeps you going?

Today while I was working away on my online course, I felt so hopeful that this would be a great semester. Not the kind of hopeful you have to talk yourself into--the kind of hopeful that just wells up. 

Here are a few things I am looking forward to: new episodes of 30 Rock. My son's Abbey Road party. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Reading Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Watching Mission Impossible tomorrow in the middle of my syllabus-writing. Writing every week. Making new flavors of ice cream (recent flavors: amaretto-cherry and meyer lemon). Mad Men. Teaching poetry this semester. Wearing my pink sweater. Watching the Jazz get better. 

But not, if I'm honest, the upcoming election. Just worried. Not quite pessimistic, not yet.

I am, though, way, way excited for the upcoming semester. Excited to keep going, building my courses, making plans, coming up with ideas that will make my teaching life a little more challenging and quite possibly just a little more amazing.

Monday, January 02, 2012


About two-thirds of the way through last semester, with great gnashing of teeth and rending of garments I declared that I was going to do everything differently this semester, absolutely EVERYTHING, I was going to bin every single thing I was currently doing and every premise on which I based the things I was currently doing. It was all crap and my teaching was in bad faith. Terrible.

A couple of weeks later, I realized that I always feel this same way at the two-thirds point of each and every semester. So I decided to settle right down. In this more mellow mood, I took many, many notes on several tiny pieces of paper, some of which I still have, with the ideas I had for improving the stuff I was currently doing. Like: find a few new readings; give more detailed instructions about this and that; have two consultations in the semester instead of one; set standards and enforce them, do not yield! etcetera.

Then I turned in my grades and life turned blissful. It has been thus for a couple of weeks. I explicitly told myself that I would not think about school until the new year.

Today, the people, is that new year.

Suddenly, as I look more closely at how much I need to do to be ready, my notes seem rather inadequate to the task. Alas.

However I DO have some resolutions for the new year. That is, I have resolved to

  • attend one literary reading per month,
  • plan writing time each week,
  • take a longer walk several times each week,
  • plan a family dinner once a month,
  • make more music,
  • always be reading,
and I am also going to try to take the longer view when I feel like I'm the worst teacher in the world, or the lamest writer, or whatever. The long view, the people. 2012 is all about the long view.


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