Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Edging closer.

Over the past few days, I've responded to questions from some creative writing students about the place of creative writing in the world. I also responded to an e-mail or two about curriculum, which led me to first find, then to take a look at my notes from May of this year--that's right, two and a half months ago, like an eon--notes from a meeting where I started to imagine what I wanted my composition courses to look like this fall. That's right, a month from now. Less than a month.

But who's counting.

I'm also at a point where my own creative projects seem to share a margin with work I hope my students will do. I worked some more on my photo essay, which is shaping up pretty nicely. It involves images from the Scotland trip and some thoughts about ruins and ruination. I'm also using photos of the shacks from our Joshua Tree/Morongo Valley trip from last year.

It's great to work with those images and to bring my disparate thoughts about these abandoned and collapsing structures together into a series of statements with something like a coherent through-line. This is something I would like my students to be able to do, with or without the photos. Same with my video essay about feminism--assembling primary and secondary research materials, ordered and juxtaposed in a way that creates a nascent argument, with the writer's own point of view to frame and shape all of it. With or without video, voiceover, ambient noise, or a soundtrack.

But it's okay that my projects are verging on demos for what I want my students to do. It's what teachers do--find a connection between their own projects and what they hope their students might be able to do. Yep, that's me, a teacher. Getting ready to teach, although well in advance of actual syllabus making.

Today, this came to me as a recommendation from the UK Amazon:

Amazon.co.uk, you've got my number.

Monday, July 30, 2012

(not) Counting down.

The other day, driving home from the movies:

Me: ...and I just hate thinking in actual, concrete, numerical terms about things, even when those terms are realistic. Like when you say, "You still have six weeks left of summer!"--and I know, there aren't six weeks left, not even close to six weeks--thinking that way just drives me crazy, because it feels like things are shutting down. And I hate that feeling! I would totally rather lie to myself, and say, like, I still have half the summer left! or a lot of the summer left! because it makes me feel like things are still possible. Even when it's not true.

Historian: (drives. He already knows this about me. He is a concrete thinker. He is a realist. It is good for a person like me to have a person like him--in a word, him--around.)

Me: ...I don't necessarily think everyone feels that strongly about it, though.

Historian: (pauses) ...no, maybe not.

Despite my strong commitment to fantasy-calendaring, I am getting real with myself. I am thinking not in terms of weeks but parts of weeks, for cramming in the stuff I want to do before I need to get even more real with myself, and start preparing for classes.

Today was a good day. It was a quiet day. I gathered my wits. I took a bike ride in the morning and then I worked on my photo essay. I thought about the things I want to do over the next fractions of weeks. I tried to get a big picture of my day-to-day, so events won't sneak up on me and give me a rude surprise.

We are putting bags of stuff on our curb tomorrow for a charity pick-up. At the store, I bought cherries and stuff for granola and carrots and Izzys. I mailed a package. I washed the sheets and the duvet cover put them back on the bed. My granddaughter called from Scotland to chat. I worked on my photo essay some more. Tomorrow is a deadline day. Another quiet day, a day on which I will get some stuff done, yo.

In other news:

The historian: Did you know they used to have poetry readings at the Olympics? Not just at the ancient Greek games, but back when they started the Olympics up again, up into the 1940s.

Me: Well, if I were in the Olympics, the best I would do is semi-finalist or finalist. I would never win.

(Whiny, right? But the good news is, the revision and re-titling of my manuscript I did in the spring has paid off, in that this manuscript is now getting a lot of semi-finalist/finalist action. Not actually winning, but closer.)

...and lastly, today nouvelle vague filmmaker Chris Marker died. I already posted this on Facebook, but if you have never taken a half hour to watch La Jetee, I highly recommend that you do. You can watch it here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Down day.

My daughter got on a plane to Louisiana today. I went to hear my son sing in church. Then, I spent the day doing almost nothing--reading, a small nap, straightening, a little laundry. A few images from the end of the day--




Saturday, July 28, 2012

The end of July.

(--although not the very end, obviously.)

Anyone else feeling it? The doldrums, the dog days? The heat?

July is where, in terms of summer, the real collides with the myth, and it is brutal, that collision. Everyone ends up in the ER, where they don't have enough ice and the AC is busted.

Our swamp cooler, which right now is just bringing in the night air on the vent setting, sounds like it is making ice cream or something strenuous like that. It sounds effortful. It sounds earnest, and to be frank, it sounds a little sweaty. That, the people, is synesthesia, the synesthesia of summer.

Here's what we have in the house: no popsicles.

Here's what I want to do: lie on my bed, under the fan, and do crosswords. And reach over and grab my sweaty glass, and take a swig of ice water or lemonade on ice. And complain, let's not forget that. Complaining is my cardio.

Tonight, we went to Brewvies and watched a movie about which we had previously asked ourselves, every time we considered it, "Do we really want to see that? It might be terrible," and when we sat down in the theater, after having downed some lemonade and ice water and pub food, we said to ourselves ahhhhhhhh. On account of the AC. Which was stellar. The movie was not half bad, either. You know, for a summer movie.

And now it is time to walk the dog. In the dog night of summer.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dance movie.

Today, my daughter and my son's girlfriend and I went to see Step Up Revolution. I must say, it did not disappoint. Well, only a little, and only at the very end.

As you no doubt already know, the Step Up movies are all dance movies. All of them involve--as most dance movies do, I guess--a challenge for the protagonist, which s/he must meet by dancing. But not just ordinary dancing: dancing that evinces originality, authenticity, and, not coincidentally, it must also be dancing that can win.

I loved the first  Step Up, the one with Channing Tatum, who can dance for real, and I really loved the second one, which had no movie stars (that I can remember, anyway), but had awesome dancing. The third one, in 3D, had good dancing, but was 3D-gimmicky and mostly forgettable. This one had a name star, Peter Gallagher, playing a supporting role, and a couple of people from So You Think You Can Dance, or so I'm told. But mostly must a bunch of new dancers and some pretty terrific choreography.

The plot of this movie has the crew dancing not only to win a big competition and prize, but ultimately to save their community. There was some class consciousness and some lite critique of corporate greed, which I liked and which became thematized in the dancing. There was also some talking--aka "dialogue"--about these ideas, but the dancing was more persuasive and more articulate. The crew in the movie staged their dances as flash mobs, and that was also awesome--showing up in various public locales (some of them class-marked, such as a fancy restaurant and an art museum) to dance and film and tag and post to YouTube.

My daughter remarked as we walked out of the theater, high on popping and locking and modern/contemporary dance moves and crunk, "I resent the Step Up movies, because I always walk out of them believing that I can dance. And then I try, and I remember: I can't." We all laughed.

It's true: you feel like moving when the credits roll, and that, the people, is what a dance movie is all about.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Right now,

or today, at least:

watched this (and earlier today, this),
read some of this--it is so choice, and
ate here--so delicious.

Also, so tired. I have just discovered that when I have something going on in the morning, I cannot quite get to sleep the night before. This will not stand. But I am still going to finish this episode of Scrubs, featuring Colin Farrell, because I have endurance and I am strong. I am the Iron Man of television watching.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

For my daughters.

[cue: ]

Today is my granddaughter's birthday. My granddaughter in Scotland, whose birthday party was cupcake-themed, who is a writer, one who, at eight, would like to have her own blog. For our birthday present, we sent a pet hospital with a family of tiny dalmatians, because she likes all things having to do with pets and also crafts.

Today I worked on a project, a little film about feminism, that arose for me when, a couple of years ago, a blogger I read, a young Mormon woman, wrote about feminism and concluded that she probably wasn't one. (She has since reconsidered and to some extent reversed this stance. I was outraged at the first stance and so gladdened by the second--kind of absurd. But still:) I began thinking about feminism because of this blogger, and my sense (like everyone else's of my generation) that young women feel that they're over feminism--it holds nothing for them, the world has moved on, its big injustices have been rectified, or something like that. So I took my camera to a family gathering and interviewed my sisters and daughters and nieces and aunt and mother.

I put all this footage in a Final Cut Express project maybe last summer. I tried to figure out what I would do with it. What would I have to say? what stuff of my own would I add? And more: why was I making this project? For whom?

Today, I worked with the footage, adjusting brightness and blur and saturation. I watched them all. When I looked at the face of my mother, in the thumbnail for the little video clip, I thought, for my mother, who said, yes, she was a feminist, and who, along with my father, gave me a sense of my worth. And for my father, too--his father and mother invested in the education of their daughters, an attitude he carried forward.

I listened to and smiled at what my sisters said, my sisters who have both worked, one a nurse, the other a teacher, their whole adult lives, and who are both mothers. For my sisters, who are smart and tough and inspiring, and for my aunt, who has been smart and sassy presence, just ten years older than me, so cool my whole life, a musician and a mom and, oh yeah, raised two excellent sons. She gave me a roar in her interview, as in I am woman, hear me.

It's when I think of my children that my questions matter more, at least to me. I want them to live in a whole world--not only their world, but wider and farther--where there's no need for feminism, because there are good laws and cultural mores, opportunity and fairness, and no fear or hatred of women. This world isn't that world, though. I remember when my daughter was born--the daughter that made me a mother, the one who's the mother of the birthday girl--how piercingly I felt all this. How much I wanted that better world, how utterly crucial it felt. In a very real way, becoming a mother was what sealed the deal for me.

Today, it's that better world that I long for, that the better part of me works for, for my daughters and sons, for their children--this is what makes me a feminist.

Happy birthday to Miriam, baby girl now eight years old, the one who made me a grandmother. I have hope for that better world in part because of you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fireworks bike ride.

Since it's already summer vacation, a holiday is less of a big deal than it might ordinarily be to me, except that the historian gets a break, which is great. I started my day with a bike ride around the neighborhood, which allowed me to check on my favorite gardens and also think deep thoughts. The historian took his bike ride on the Jordan River Parkway, where he saw a kingfisher.

This evening around nine, I said, "Is it too late for a little bike ride?"

He looked out our window and said, "Mmm, probably...well--maybe not."

So we hurried out and got on our bikes while the light faded. As it turned out, it was just in time for the neighborhood fireworks. So we rode around while people were setting off their fireworks, little and big.



Then, later, there were a few sparklers:


...and a few more fireworks in the sky:




Monday, July 23, 2012

The Megastore recommends.

your mileage may vary.
1. Monday. Hear me out. Or rather, hear my stipulations. A Monday, in the summer, late July, when your daughter's visiting, and Tuesday, the next day, is a holiday. Monday? Under those conditions, not so bad, truthfully. Especially if your Monday contains...

Not my movie theater.

2. An  afternoon movie. One especially superb thing about my daughter being here is that she is willing, totally totally willing, to support me in my "see all the movies" quest. Today we saw Moonrise Kingdom. It's true, I saw this movie before, but it was on the day following the Great Popcorn Overeating of 2012, which meant I had had very little sleep the night before, which means I suspected that I perhaps missed a fair amount of the movie, a suspicion that was borne out upon reviewing the movie today. I liked it quite a bit more and it felt more complete, more fully itself. No popcorn, which added to the quality of the event. Plus, we had french fries on the way home. Just a few. And they were really good.

Not my family.
3. Family dinner. Add a family dinner to your Monday, and your Monday automatically gets fuller of fun. I am getting better at designing a dinner that won't defeat me, and will instead leave me capable of playing with the grandchildren, rather than staying in the kitchen finishing fancy dish 15, 16, and 17 while everyone else is having fun. So: I made some chicken on skewers with lots of chopped herbs and garlic, roasted green beans, and...wait for it...fattoush. Also watermelon. AND I baked a cake. I could have made it harder on myself by making cupcakes, or a layer cake, but I just made it an oblong and saved myself a little grief. It was a cocoa buttermilk cake, from Dorie Greenspan, with a vanilla buttercream icing. It was good, everyone concurred.

The actual Cake Boss.
4. Cake Boss. "What comes after cake?" my grandson asked tonight, after having delicately mangled the icing on his piece of cake while leaving the cake itself intact. He's not much of a cake fan, which...how did that happen? But I digress. What comes after cake is Cake Boss. Or at least that's the way I ended my day. In fact, I am blogging while watching it--as we speak, as it were. My daughter is having a hilarious obsession with this show--she's the one who got me to watch it. Tonight, the episode we're watching (Netflix, bien sur!) has both an 80s cake, and a key to the city cake. Bada bing bada boom! Right now they're making all sorts of little figures out of modeling chocolate--it's a thing, apparently.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Today, at dinner with the historian's daughter and her family--to celebrate her birthday, so happy birthday, Anna!--we were discussing a pesky wasp problem in their yard, which brought this infographic to mind:

from www.garethaveyard.com

This also reminded me that somewhere or another I read that some smart guy--some guy I probably read about in the New York Times today, but honestly, I can't be bothered to double-check--right, some smart guy has an infographic feed. Or something. He constantly consumes infographics, which is a good idea, because infographics are kind of awesome. For instance, here's some useful information about the cost of hiring a zombie:

I Hired a Zombie, or The True Cost of a Bad Hire (via Mashable)

And here's one, The History of the Internet in a Nutshell (go on, check it out--it's pretty!):

via Mashable (click here to see it full screen)

I think we'd all like to know about ten of the most expensive meals ever, wouldn't we? Hello, $145.00 hot dog!

...and that is by no means the most expensive thing on the menu.

Well, I wish I were an infographic maker. Perhaps I will become a connoisseur of them. But in the meantime, here is some other information you might like to have about stuff I want to do before I go back to school (too bad I can't/am too lazy to put it all in the form of a well-designed graphic):
  • see all the movies
  • read a pile more books
  • write drafts of ten more poems--by "drafts," I really mean drafts, not finished poems. You know, move my freewriting to the next level.
  • make two video essays
  • ride my bike in the morning fifty more days (not technically possible, but there's a spirit of the thing involved here)
  • notice everything
  • see some live music outside
  • eat some more good food
  • have dinner with some friends
  • relax some more, and then
  • relax even more than that.
Doable? YES.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Some stuff I've been

reading: this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this

watching: this

admiring: this and this

planning to eat soon: this, this and this  (yep, again)

looking forward to: this and this

hoping to wear this fall: this  (after it goes on sale)

crying about:  this and this, today (and also possibly this, a little, on television, for which there is absolutely no excuse)

listening to: this and this

finding heartstopping: this (like a time machine)

Friday, July 20, 2012

What'll I blog about?

I asked the historian while we were walking the dog.

"You could talk about how today went, your first day back home," he said.

Well, there's a topic. I think I might have addressed this topic one or a hundred times before. And you'd have a point if you said, "HTMS, you owe us fresh material. When you said you'd blog every day in the year 2012, we thought fresh material was implied."

I so agree. In fact, I said to the historian last night, when I was about to have a meltdown in the face of a combustible mixture made up of (a) my exhaustion, (b) my gladness to be home, and (c) my exhaustion, "I hate to think that I've become one of those people." There was a thin edge of panic in my voice, as I recall.

"One of what people?" he said, because he's a solid citizen and will help a sister out, when she's exhausted/glad/exhausted/on the thin edge of panic.

"The kind of person whose equilibrium is so easily rattled!" Yep, that's the kind of meltdown I have--with stage-y dialogue. Insufferable, that kind.

Well, I did go to sleep, after walking the dog, and woke up feeling quite a bit closer to restored. Then I fell back asleep some more and dreamed that my children and my sister's children were all sleeping over in a big mess of children, kind of like a nest of puppies, except that among them was one vampire child. That's enough to wake a person up a second time. That time, I got up, got showered and dressed, and went off to a meeting, and another meeting. I gave myself a little credit for this show of professional responsibility and moral character--even, I daresay,for being a person whose equilibrium is, once rattled, rather easily recalibrated.

After that, I had lunch with my daughter and her nephew--that's right, my grandson, if you're keeping track--and came home. I had highmindedly let it be known that I planned to write this afternoon, but instead I took a short nap and read some stuff and did some laundry. After this massive show of productivity, there was nothing for it but Mexican food and a movie and a dog walk and a little late night television.

The answer to everything is sleep, the people, is the moral of that story. That, and--according to my dream--the police are the ones to call when you need help with your stray vampire child.


Thursday, July 19, 2012


Thank heaven. There was an actual, rock n roll rainbow happening as we drew near Salt Lake, and the mountains to the west of the Great Salt Lake gleamed orange, reflected in the water. So so so so so very glad to be home again.

Some random airplane window pictures for you:



Wednesday, July 18, 2012


There was some terrific rain this afternoon in Boston. It took its time rolling in, then got some excellent wind and sheets of wet pouring down.






Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dear summer conference,

Dear summer conference,

It is July. Were you aware of that fact? I know you did not plan yourself, and so technically it's not your fault. But here are some things that July is supposed to be for:
  • laziness.
  • desultoriness.
  • lemonadeness.
  • iced tea-ness.
  • staying up late with the window open. 
  • hanging out in one's very own garden.
  • thinking deep thoughts.
  • thinking shallow thoughts.
  • reading nonsense.
  • going to movies.
  • making crafts.
  • wearing flip flops, or no-flops.
  • not getting dressed up to be presentable.
  • not sitting for hours at a time while people talk at you. Or fine, while they construct meaningful activities that you, the audience, are supposed to participate in.
Not to be rude, summer conference, but July is supposed to be for the opposite of what you are.

I take full responsibility for thinking it would be fun to attend, summer conference. After all, you beckoned. A summer conference, in Boston, where there are lobster rolls and the sea and outdoor concerts. And lobster rolls, did I say that already? That sounded fun. And I would be here with my colleagues who are also my friends.

But, summer conference, there we were this evening, eating divine desserts and chatting, listening to a very nice jazz trio, and before we knew it we were talking about work. Work. In a city across a continent, at a summer conference, while eating strawberry Pavlova, with pink peppercorn meringues and basil syrup and lovely strawberries. Talking about work.

There's a certain tristesse, a certain ennui, that occurs when one is far away from home in conference-attending clothing, listening to/participating in sessions in windowless rooms. This is true, even when the lobster rolls are sublime and the friends are good. One feels one should be taking late night walks with the dog, and sleeping with one's beloved, and trailing one's fingers through one's own daisies and mint. One feels this, and one longs to be home, at home in the summertime.

Summer conference, please pass along the following memo:
TO: Whom it may concern, aka Summer Conference Planners

FROM: htms

DATE: July, 2012

RE: July

Please take into account the activities for which July is ideally suited, and reconsider your plans for Summer Conference, which is a perfectly nice conference, but in July? Not optimal. Not remotely optimal. What happens at a summer conference that wouldn't be better in, say, October?

Summer conference, I trust you see my point.



Monday, July 16, 2012

I am in Boston.

Since I arrived in this fantastic and historic city, after flying across a continent all day long, I have checked into my hotel room; unloaded the very heavy bag I carried; with my laptop and other stuff I rethought all the day long, when it was too damn late to do anything about it; sought the room service menu, but instead met my colleagues and ate lobster mashed potatoes and burrata cheese with fresh tomatoes; and watched The Closer, because when your show is on, in its very final episodes ever, even though you have just flown across America, you should take the time to watch it.

Important kudos I feel I must offer:

  • to the woman sitting next to me, with the hot pink neck pillow and the awesome possibly fake tan (telltale sign: orange palms?): you slept through about 75% of the flight. Very impressive.
  • to my flight, which had fairly snappy wifi.
  • to the babies on my flight, who wailed with a fairly constant wail: I felt very sorry for them and for their parents, but since I could do nothing about it, I was glad to have my iPod to listen to, which made much of the flight bearable.
  • to JFK Airport: thank you for coughing up a perfectly edible sandwich that I pretty much grabbed and wolfed while I was walking onto my connecting flight. It was mighty decent of you.
  • to my hotel, for having truly awesome wifi, which is included in the price of the room.
  • to myself, for not freaking out about the seriously persistent seatback-kicking inflicted upon me by the child sitting behind me. HTMS: well-done you, for keeping your shit together.
A couple of admonitions:


  • to myself, for overestimating how much stuff it makes sense to carry onto a plane. When will you ever learn, HTMS? when will you ever learn?
  • to Logan Airport: wow, the walk from my gate to the baggage claim felt freakishly long. I felt like I had taken a wrong turn several times. Still: thanks for delivering my bag without incident. That'll do.

This is the view from my hotel window:

I predict I will learn a lot at my conference, sleep well, and eat as much lobster as it makes sense for a person to eat, plus perhaps a little more.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Jetsetter, yo.

today, I got home, frolicked with the Bruise-man, unpacked my one suitcase, fetched my other suitcase, moved my sleek bag of edited toiletries from one bag to the other, packed my conference-going clothes (i.e., two outfits for every one I will actually need), and printed out my boarding passes. My next posting will be from Boston, assuming everything goes well. I am hoping for seafood, a good presentation on my part, not-too-stressful travels, and no lost luggage, since I will be checking my bag, obvs.

Lovely things from the last couple of days.



needing a moment.

at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
At Big Springs.

Duke finds the water a little dubious.
Elk Nation.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

The lower falls.

At the lower falls.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The river.

Today, we went to the boat launch at the river. It's just around the corner, so to speak, if there were actual corners around here.

The boys collected rocks to throw, to make big and little splashes with. I rolled up my pant legs and got in with them. They got thoroughly soaked. I dropped my glasses in the water, twice, but was able to retrieve them both times. I found some truly choice rocks for the boys, including one that was shaped like an arrow head.

After we were way wet and and had had about as much fun as was possible, we walked back home.






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