Thursday, January 31, 2013

The topic of this post is Steven Soderbergh,

who is apparently giving up filmmaking for painting. You got that right.

Parenthetically, remember when Daniel Day-Lewis gave up acting to learn to make shoes? That's cool, I guess--I mean, seriously, I do wish I knew how to make shoes in the manner of the Italians--but what about us, guys? What about the movie-going public? Shoes and paintings don't put a movie on the screen, my friends.

Here's a discussion from Dan Kois, who watched every Soderbergh film to that point (leaving out Magic Mike and the new one, Side Effects and also Haywire). (And here's a ranking of those films, in Kois's judgement.)

happy? or laughing diabolically at our distress?
A couple years back, Soderbergh let a daily/weekly listing of his reading and viewing for almost a full year. It's fascinating. (while you're at it, you might as well watch a bunch of little videos, with accompanying discussions, from ten different directors, of their favorite films--delicious!)

And here's a long and wide-ranging interview with the director, on Vulture.

What are my favorite Soderbergh films, you ask? There are many:
  • The Limey (perfect.)
  • Out of Sight (brilliant--based on one of my favorite Elmore Leonard novels--the two, film and book, are perfectly suited.)
  • Che
  • King of the Hill (perhaps underviewed? I heartily recommend this.)
  • Erin Brockovich (one of my favorite categories of movies: an exceedingly well-made, well-written popular/-ist film)
  • Traffic (Benicio del Toro, ladies and gents.)
--and I certainly did enjoy each of the Oceans movies, and admired The Informant!, Solaris, and Contagion. 
I hope you have a really good time painting, Steven Soderbergh. And I hope you find a great television show to direct. And I also hope--I really really hope--that you start making films again. I think that should happen in maybe five years. Five to seven years. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Megastore recommends.

1. Something that is even better than you thought it would be. Of late, I have been facilitating sessions of an ongoing, errant, wandering, itinerant, multi-parted workshop on digital storytelling. This is (yes, again, I'm still talking about it, just deal, GOSH.) partly for that damn lecture I'm giving in April. ANYWAY I decided I needed to have a microphone that would be better than those basically disposable USB mic/headset combos that I have been using for years to make video podcasts for my students.

So I asked my reliable advisor on these matters, the divine Jason M., what I should get.

isn't it cute? like a little robot.
"You should get this a [mic X], if you can afford it," he said. Funnily enough, this very mic happened to be currently co-starring in a novel I was reading. When I read about it in the novel, I immediately looked it up, to see if it was a real thing. Which it was.
And I thought to myself, whoa, why does this teenaged character in my novel have such an ultra-expensive field recorder? And why can't I have one? Which is my usual thought process.

Well, it was too expensive for me, a fact I shared with my reliable advisor.

"Maybe you could get your department to buy one?" he said.

"But then it would be theirs. And I want it to be mine." I said, also totally typical. Right: don't ask the department to get an awesome field mic that I'd be able to use on school-related projects. Obviously, it would be better to have a less awesome mic, because at least it would be mine.

(Actually, that totally makes sense to me.)

"Then you should just look for the best-rated mic in your price range," he said, and that's what I did.

So the other day when I was using it to help a workshop attendee (remember? the workshops? yeah, me either) record the narration for her digital story, I set up the microphone. We have less than optimal recording circumstances in the Pub Center--there's a heavy door (good), but a giant grate in the door (bad), so there was all manner of foot traffic and squeaky shoe soles and even a little chatter out in the hall. I feared the worst.

But when we replayed the recording, it was pristine. Score one for the highly-rated microphone in my price range! And bonus: it is mine!

this is a frying pan...
2. The end of a long, challenging slog, now in sight. These workshops?  The ongoing, errant, wandering, itinerant, multi-parted workshops on digital storytelling? I have scheduled the various sessions over the course of two weeks, and there are just two more sessions ahead of me. Who knows what all I will need to  arrange to help people actually finish their stories.
...and this is a fire.

And it has been fun, don't get me wrong. I've learned some things, I've helped other people learn some things. Their stories will be awesome.

But on Saturday--on Saturday, there will be no more workshops.

On Saturday, there will, however, be grading.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dear winter that I hoped for,

I remember very well, back in November, when I said I hope we have a cold, wet winter.

I also remember my reasoning:
  • if the winter is cold and wet, maybe we are reversing global warming? or maybe wishing for a cold, wet winter reverses the bad global warming karma?
  • a wet cold winter is, by definition, winter, and therefore to be accepted as only appropriate.
I think that was all the reasons. I think we can all see that the first reason is specious, although not without a supra-rational, wack-intuitive, magico-logical allure.

And yes, of course winter is supposed to be cold and wet.

But winter that I hoped for, I hope you won't be offended when I say: you didn't have to be so literal.

Please no more windshield scraping,


[point of clarification: I have loved the snow and I have loved this winter.] 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Position opening.

tonight, walking before maybe another storm, the moon was full full full

high in the sky, unveiling itself then disappearing into a pool of milky, cloudy light

Bruiser capered and pulled ahead, then stopped to bury his nose in snow
what's there, Bruiser? what comfit, cure, what medicine?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saturday or so.

I finished one novel and started another.

I saw a grandson play a basketball game

I saw a movie full of music. I ate lunch with my daughter and dinner with the historian.

Tomorrow is Monday, as things happen.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Tennis fiend.

When I was a mere slip of a lass, I never in my whole entire life thought I would learn to love so many different sports so much. Back in those days, I thought sports were for unintellectual types unlike myself. However, I learned to love basketball when I was at BYU, and they had good teams upon good teams, culminating in the Danny Ainge years, which were very good years indeed.

I learned to love soccer because my kids' dad played soccer in high school, and all our kids played. It is perhaps the best game of all.

And I learned to love to watch tennis because the historian loves it. I have watched a lot of tennis on television in the last several years. At the moment we are watching the semifinals of the Australian Open, and it has literally been killing me to watch Federer hit balls into the net on his tired-looking returns, even though I would feel sad if Andy Murray lost. Also, I will feel sad if Federer loses.

The historian: Well, that's it. Murray's going to win this set, and then he's going to go on to win the match. He's just playing better.

Me: He looks confident, doesn't he.

The historian: He sure does.

Me: [mulling over my vast trove of tennis legend and lore] I don't know--we've seen Federer come back in situations just like this.

The historian: ....

Me: Well, haven't we?

[Federer wins the tie-break to win the set.]

The historian: You called it.

Me: [gloating like a gloater. I wish I could say I kept it to myself. But:] I did, didn't I?

[NOTE: this was all, of course, before I realized how the match actually turned out.]

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The thing about pears.

Pears are tricky. They are beautiful in every single one of their varieties. They have an elegant, idiosyncratic shape. They smell divine.

...these pears are probably never going to get ripe.
 However, because pears do not ripen on the tree, it is never a sure thing that the pears you've purchased at the store will ripen up to their perfection.

Don't try to tell me this isn't true. Sometimes, a pear just never really ripens, and that's a fact. But I am here to tell you that there are remedies for this situation. In other words, you are not at the mercy of a recalcitrant pear. The pear is not the boss of you. That's because an underripe pear--a pear that will not give in--is perfect for baking.

Recently, I ran across to recipes that demonstrate this potential of the pear exactly. The first is a pear gratin. I ran across this recipe when I was trying to come up with a plan for a winter luncheon, aka my writing group.

This gratin is basically a bread pudding, but with pound cake for the bread, and interleaved with pears. This seems almost sinful, but it doesn't matter. You're not going to eat this every day--only on writing group day, or something similar.

I intended to buy a pound cake, but there were no pound cakes to be had at the store, so I made this one, which is very easy indeed. In fact, I went to the store, came home, made the pound cake, and assembled and baked the gratin all before noon, that's how easy it was. (You will notice when you read the recipe that the writer decorates her gratin, as she serves it, with red currants. Believe it or not, I had not a single red currant to my name. Also, I did not feel like grinding or chopping pistachios to garnish the gratin. So my gratin had a little barely sweetened mascarpone cheese whipped with a little half and half, along with some blueberries, and it was lovely, praiseworthy, and of good report.)

I wish I could convey to you how good this gratin is. So good. Ridiculous. Don't hesitate.

we ate this for breakfast.
The second recipe came in an e-mail I was deleting--one of those newsletters I subscribed to, then could only rarely be bothered to peruse. But as I was deleting it, I caught a fleeting glimpse of the words "Pear Breakfast Cake." Wait--what? I thought, and delved into the Deleted Items file to retrieve it. Because it's the historian's birthday today, and he deserved, therefore, a fancy breakfast.

Last night, I measured all the ingredients except for the milk and set them on the counter, so that I could stumble out of bed and do the mixing with hardly any thinking. This plan worked splendidly. By 8 a.m., the cake was out of the oven, the historian had opened his presents, and we each ate a piece.

Again: delicious. Pears melt, almost, as they bake, especially if there is some butter in proximity. And why wouldn't there be butter? There should always be butter.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On repeat.

Today, I was on a small quest to find birthday presents for the historian. I went to one store. Rumply shirts and excessive sweaters: no. I went to another store. Fancy neckties: no. Shirts made in China: not for the historian. There are criteria to be met: what will delight the historian? but also, what is the provenance? It isn't always easy to meet the criteria.

But that's not what this post is about. Tomorrow is the historian's birthday, and there are presents, and also I am making this cake for breakfast. (Shhhh!) I'm not telling you what the presents are--I know you can't keep a secret, the people, and don't try to deny it.

What this post is about is the fact that I got to hear the news cycle on NPR, like, three times, between the drive from work to the first store, the drive from the first store to the second store, the drive from the second store to the third store, and the fourth store, and finally drive from the fourth store to home.

So I am exceedingly well-informed about Leon Panetta's lifting of the ban on women serving in combat.

I heard Harry Reid praise the House Republicans for their gracious gesture of not forcing a debt ceiling crisis several times.

I heard Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton get testy with a senator (and each time I kind of loved it).

I noted that union membership in America is at its lowest point since the 1930s, noted it soberly.

I heard a couple of stories just once--there's a recreation of the sets from Friends in Beijing, where you can go and have coffee. Yep. Complete with Joey's apartment. And the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has an exhibit of his work at the Hirshhorn called "According to What?" I wish I could go see it.

The one story of which I only caught a few threads was about the Tuareg people in Mali (and elsewhere in that region). I heard the anthropologist from Lehigh University get started, and then I turned the car off and went into store number two for yet another birthday present fail.

I could have stayed in the car and listened, but I sort of thought I'd hear it again while I was driving around. But no. Still, I had birthday presents to seek. Also, a snack to purchase. You know, a birthday present quest requires sustenance.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My digital story.

I made this digital story in Denver last October, at a digital storytelling workshop. Since I'm working with other people on their digital stories, I thought I should share mine. It might be a little bit sentimental.

the conversation from lisab on Vimeo.

(p.s. you can make it bigger, and it sounds really good with headphones on.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

11:49 p.m., time for fretting.

Today I slept in until 8:30, which seemed like, I don't know, noon or something. No one else was up except Bruiser. Bruiser likes to get up with the earliest riser because he hopes to go outside and help get the newspaper from the driveway. When I'm the earliest, it's iffy as to the paper fetching. I usually check the news online.

In case you would like a few more mundane details from my day:
  • oatmeal
  • three comments on this blog, but more than 200 page views (I find the tracking of page views to be absurdly gratifying, don't ask me why, and I don't find it a particularly attractive form of delight on my part, which is why, of course, I am sharing it with you on my BLOGGGGGGG.).
  • walk, interrupted by yappy dog on the loose. WHY.
  • lunch (almond butter on toast + orange)
  • re-make video for class (new content necessitates remade video WHY).
  • son and I go to see Django Unchained (so much more of a film than all my fussing about seeing it seemed to acknowledge).
  • come home. eat leftover Indian food.
  • grade.
Which brings me to the fretting part. The grading, certainly, which seems cruelly early in the semester, but that is the nature of online teaching, deal with it LISA for the love.

I am facilitating a series of digital storytelling workshops which I am afraid are going to yield no digital stories or storytellers. This has an extra sauce of worry on it--more so than my usual workshops to which 2.9 people come--because I said I would do it as a part of my DFL. That's Distinguished Faculty Lecture to you, would you like an invitation? Because I need to make a list of invitees, and also confirm the title which, I don't know where they got the title they have right now, but maybe they should just go ahead and use it? Because I don't know WHAT I'm talking about in that lecture.

Right. DFL. Digital stories. I would like to use snippets of other people's stories in my lecture about narrative as a form of thought (maybe). So I'm worried.

But there you go. I'm going to go to bed and worry there, because I've done what I can do for tonight, and that's that.

That is THAT. The worry and the fret can just go to hell.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Today I bought a fox ring.

--as in: a ring for my finger that is the simulacrum of a fox head. It is wonderful.

And newsflash: I just saw this:

It is Rei Kawakubo, head designer for Comme des Garcons, about whom and which I have a small obsession. This is from the spring 2013 menswear show.

Given all this, I'm not sure I shouldn't just start dressing like an animal all the time.

That is all.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Open letter to violence in the movies.

Dear violence in the movies,

Here you are, vexing me again. In saying so, I don't mean to be confrontational. I don't have a problem with you most of the time, because you're in movies I don't much want to see, splashy and aggressive and nonsensical. When I say, I want to see all the movies, I usually don't mean the movies where you sashay around, lurid and vulgar, the "entertainment value" that completely repulses me.

 No, it's only at this time of year, when the worthy movies show up, the movies that address violence as a theme, the ones that want the viewer to think about violence, and thus implicate the viewer in the violence. These are the movies in which you vex me, violence in the movies.

Violence in the movies, I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide whether I am up to watching these worthy movies with violence as a theme. Moreover, I also have to think about when and with whom I will see them. More than one person's aesthetic and moral sensibilities are at stake. So I read and read and read some more: what is the tone of the worthy movie? Does the worthy movie and its director use violence for its own sake? And what's the frame of reference for that? is it a metacommentary? is it a sick, slick invitation to the viewer to enjoy the violence? Or does it ask the viewer to soberly contemplate this conundrum? Or does it do both?

Moreover, how should one think about you, violence in the movies? For you are not violence itself, just like reading a book with violence in it does not, in itself, constitute a  violent act. Why does represented violence bother me? I ask myself: am I, in fact, bothered by violence in the movies, or more by the sense that I should be bothered? (No, I am bothered by it. I know I am. But the fact that I question my own physical response to it--that's exactly how vexing you are, violence in the movies. You make it so I barely trust myself.)

I have thought, examined, and read myself into knots about these films, violence in the movies, and all because of you. You are like the secret of that little couplet of Robert Frost's:

You are gnomic and impenetrable and infuriating, violence in the movies. I can't bear the thought of not seeing a film I want to see, just because the film is violent. I can argue myself into and out of my own responses. I have, in fact, loved certain violent films, loved and cherished, or at least respected, them. So why these? Why these films, violence in the movies: why are they so knotty? Why do they tie me so in knots?

Soon I will see these films, violence in the movies. I just can't not see them. But the spectre of you will continue to haunt me,  before, during and after. I guess you just can't not be that spectre. Maybe that's what you're for.


Friday, January 18, 2013

The Megastore recommends: special winter DON'T edition!

I repeat: not your friend. (Although...

1. Don't get up so early! Early rising has its bonuses--seeing the sun rise; quiet streets; it's just you and the birds communing. Perhaps, however, you may gather that these early-rising virtues occur at other times of the year than the present time. Like spring. Certainly not in the gloom of an inversion. For the love of heaven, burrow down, man! The Darkness is not your friend--not now, not when there is so much of it. Stay in bed--it's safer there.

...this song is dang catchy:)

2. Don't fret because you still have Christmas stuff up. Okay, Christmas tree. It's your own house, man. You can do what you want, decor-wise. Be careful with that candle, though.

you're not seriously saying that this...
is better than this, are you?

I made soup today and I totally garnished it in this fashion. Or not.
3. Don't fear the soup. We at the Megastore keep running into people who have an irrational fear of soup. Okay, it's our own children. The youngest ones. What gives? Soup is the staff of life, kids. It keeps you warm. There's none of that extra and senseless chewing required, like when you eat two Big Macs just because the second one is only a penny. With soup, you just slurp it down. It keeps you alive. It is savory. Soup is your friend. Your slurpy, soupy friend.

4. Don't go outside! For the love of all that's holy! It's cold out there!

That's right.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The writing life.

Today in class, we discussed writing processes. I'd had them read a couple of things, then we talked, then they wrote.

Tomorrow is my writing group. I have a poem, a short sequence, I've been working on, on and off, for awhile. I worked on it some more tonight. It's not ready for my group, and unless I have a vision in the night, it probably won't be ready tomorrow either.

When I started the poem, I did like I often do these days: I started a set of notes, out of which emerged a draft. A draft that has sat there, cold and uncoddled, in my files. Like a stone.

I watched a part of a lecture by Andy Goldsworthy tonight, who is at least in part the subject--the nominal subject--of my sequence. He sometimes wraps stones in brilliant-colored leaves.

My poem is like a stone, unwrapped by brilliant-colored leaves.

He placed his wrapped stones in flowing water. Water, he says, is crucial to color.

My poem, the cold, unwrapped stone, sits in still water. Not to say fetid water. Clean, but still.

When I opened the file and touched the poem again, it was stubborn and resistant to my efforts. I opened its companion file, called Notes for [working title]. I did, as I had done before, some research. I opened a new document and wrote some lines. I investigated possible recipes for my writing group's lunch tomorrow. I considered buying a yellow cardigan.

We took Bruiser for a walk. "My poem's not going to be ready, probably," I told the historian as we gathered and donned our winter gear. Coats, hats, gloves, scarves, balaclavas. (I am not exaggerating.)

I explained the subject of my maybe-poem: "He makes ephemeral things, but the pieces I'm talking about aren't particularly ephemeral."

We got Bruiser's harness on him, gathered the paraphernalia for the walk (leash, bags, flashlight).

"In fact, they're all elements of a house. Of houses," I said. (paused:) "Actually, this"--meaning this conversation--"is pretty helpful."

Outside, the air was thick with particles, glittering, cold, almost like snow, but more like icy air. The walks were mostly clear, although with a new, thin, almost invisible sheen. Enough slippery, iced over patches to make each step a little dangerous.

I'm thinking about how a process is so breakable and impermanent and transient and unreliable. Like twigs affixed into a  pattern, held together with only thorns.

Like leaves spliced together with just spit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The story of the first day.

Are things getting worse or are they getting better? This driving question occurs to me often when I am trying to find a place to park during the first week of school. Or when I am in search of sustenance and the lines are unbearably long, or the smoke alarm goes off in the food court. Or when, despite my spark and inspiration and hard work, I'm still not entirely ready for class when the first session rolls around. There I am in my office, one hour and fifteen minutes before class is to start, and I say to myself, it's okay if all the boxes in the schedule aren't filled in yet. I don't need to have every, every thing completely ready. It's entirely all right to leave some room for discovery! New ideas! and so forth. Leaving aside the fact that I have left the AV adapter for my Mac at home, and also the fact that I don't have the damn key to the damn AV box in the classroom. So. No audiovisual work today, the first day, when one of the first things I am going to tell them is:

"There is no textbook in this class. All the readings will be online. Also, the syllabus and schedule are online. I would show you, except. Well."

--and then sweat out loud about the adapter and the computer and the Google and sound like a tragic, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time person impersonating a teacher. So: worse. Possibly things are getting worse.

But enough of that, because class went beautifully. There they all were, the students, improbably eager and enthusiastic, given the cold and the January. I walked them through the big picture of the course, and gestured around at an imaginary internet where the syllabus and the schedule and the readings live, and got us all even more excited to begin. It was swell. So: better. Things are getting better. Or things are, at least, good. From time to time.

In the afternoon, after my obligations were complete, and after I had changed my network password because the network bossed me into doing so (worse!), but I was able to do an excellent wordplay/rhyme with my old password (better!), and I was back in--after all that, I went to have tea with my darling friend, so we could talk about the movies and Downton Abbey and whatnot (better!).

I arrived at our tea place, and the countergirl said, very forthrightly, I'm only serving to-go drinks and desserts. And I was all wha? and she gave me a very full explanation, twice, of how I was, basically, the first person to come in that day, so they were closing their kitchen, and I was all but I'm meeting someone! and she was all JUST to-go drinks. and dessert. Which, finally, we were able to agree, meant that we'd be allowed to eat/drink in the teahouse, but just not eat kitchen-cooked food. Okay, fine. I think we can agree that this state of affairs means worse, because not only is this situation a little jumbly for the person coming in, hoping for soup, but now she also has to worry about the fate of the teahouse, which she loves! Why is no one coming in? Alas!

However, we had a lovely chat about movies and Downton Abbey and whatnot over to-go drinks and dessert, and had at least an hour and a half before we were told to skedaddle because they were closing for real. So: better? or okay, at least.

I drove home in not-too-bad traffic (better! or good, at least), knocked off a stupid thing I had agreed to do (worse that I agreed to do it, better that it was over), and was about to do some one or another portion of the errands on my agenda when my daughter called and said that her day had been difficult, and didn't I want to meet her for dinner? (sorry about the bad day, honey, seriously! but getting to see you, and my grandchildren, for dinner: better!)

My son was returning from his physical therapy just as I was pulling out of the garage, so he jumped in the car (better!) and we headed off. Our dinner was excellent, with a discussion of Lego guys, a Ninjago pinata, the woes of a new boss, and our means for getting through the rest of the winter.

"Every day you should say to yourself, there's a little more light every day. Like, every week, there's twenty minutes more light," I said. Because this little speech seriously cheers me up. It honestly does get me through.

My son and daughter both laughed and rolled their eyes. But it's true: every day there's a little more light. Every week. Things are getting better.

Monday, January 14, 2013

I am thinking about the following:

What might make good examples of meditative writing?

What about violent movies?

How about the sporting news? (you have to go to the end of the show...about minute 55) (also: ! )

What will I have going on in my first class tomorrow, really?

Is it possible that Downton Abbey is now too silly to be borne?

What will I wear tomorrow? What will be for dinner? Who'll be my role model now that my role model is gone?

If you have answers or hints or a general direction I might take to find answers to these questions, I will entertain them at this address. This one. The address at which you are currently reading these questions.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

At the end of the day.

When the syllabus has been sent and the links, or some of them, have been updated;

when the birthday card has been delivered and the remains of the poblano corn soup have been consumed, and for the record, it was better than the day I first made it;

when the last of Downton Abbey and The Good Wife have faded from the screen, and the walk around the block with the dog has concluded,

there's still this:

--so good night.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

And here it is:

At dinner, I said to the historian, "I'm starting to feel a little panicky about how busy I'm going to be. And how much stuff I have to do."

Well, that feeling's been at bay for a few weeks, and it's just the weekend before the semester starts. Well done, anxiety! Thanks for hanging out somewhere else for awhile.

But it's been a great day even so. I worked this morning quietly for awhile--adapted and spruced up a syllabus, worked out a rough schedule. At one, we went to Jordan High School to hear the Utah Wind Symphony Youth Ensemble play. My niece plays the trumpet in this excellent band.

They played a suite by Holst to begin, and then a gorgeous setting of O Magnum Mysterium by Morton Lauridsen. The gorgeous choir my son sang in at the University did this piece.

When the ensemble first began to play, I recognized, then placed the piece. Without words and without human voice, but with the breath modulated by the reeds and brass, I thought of the many times I had heard my son's choir sing, then of the countless times I've listened to all my children sing. I thought of the choirs I've sung in. I watched the players, all of them in high school, and so I thought also of the small miracle of musicians coming into their own. I thought of the way an instrumental ensemble can swell and fill a room with sound, I felt the sound swell, recognized how it feels in the body to be in that room when the sound surrounds you and blooms. I closed my eyes in the midst of the sound. I thought again of what it would feel like to go to church again and sing. The music thickened, surged around us. The phrases rose and fell and ended.

Something to hold on to in the weeks ahead.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Parsing the snow.

First, one must ask: is it still coming down? If so, does it just look like sparkly dust? Or is it big fat flakes?

These are purely disinterested questions, since I'm not going out in it. I only have slippers on. Slippers and socks. That's not footwear for going out in. Not to check the accumulation, not to check the mail, not to see how cold it is. I'd rather surmise that business from the window, thank you.

Still snowing? Obviously this means I'd better find the warmest room in the house and take a little nap. And then, upon waking: it seems to be date night, but having not ventured further than the threshold, I have no idea whether it's feasible or advisable or any of the -bles to drive anywhere. While I'm still waking up, i.e. cranky, we discuss the execrable state of the restaurants in West Jordan, i.e., the places it might make sense to patronize on a snowy night when there's not enough accurate information about the roads. We discuss the relative merits of the farther-away Mexican restaurant as compared to the closer Mexican restaurant. The farther-away restaurant is, as would only make sense, the better restaurant. Better enchiladas, better chile rellenos.

We put on our better pants and got in the car.

And did the snow seem to be falling thicker and harder as we drove north and east? Did the roads seem to be more caked with snow? Did the advisability of the enterprise seem more and more doubtful?

Nonetheless we ate our rellenos and enchiladas and drove home. Were there tailgating, way-too-eager-to-pass jerks driving on State Street? Yes, there were. But did the snow seem to be falling more lazily, less urgently as we drove south and west? And were the roads just a little clearer? Yes. Yes, they were.

When we got home, we cruised the zillions of movie channels we seem to have a preview of at the moment and watched a movie while getting warmer under the blankets. I felt like a person in the olden days who needed one of those pans with coals in them to stay warm.  After that, it was time to go out for the last time. No snow coming down, but it was damned cold. After a block, Bruiser kept lifting up his paw. Sometimes this means there's a little piece of ice or salt, but tonight it just seemed to mean that it was just too cold.

Snow day: out.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Endorsed by the Megastore.

It's the weather! We'll have the meeting another day! 
1. Cancellations and reschedulings in advance of snow. I love the new weather. The old weather used to be, basically, a prognostication assembled from the weatherman's lucky chickenbone, spitting into the wind or lack thereof, and someone's achy sacroiliac. Now, they got Doppler and computer graphics and our Google Overlords giving them live feeds from the Universe, so you actually know that there's a snowstorm a-comin'. These more precise predictions occasionally lead the boss to say, hmmmmmmmm! better not have that giant meeting tomorrow.

So even if I spent time at work in the morning getting ready for your part of the giant meeting tomorrow, getting the e-mail saying ALL THE THINGS ARE CANCELLED made me feel like it was a snow day when I was a kid. The rest of the day looked brighter, because I'd been released from the pressure, and I knew I wouldn't have to get up early tomorrow, maybe, and so forth. YES to the new weather, bosses calling the snow day early, and time off for good behavior!

in my neighborhood, yo.
2. The new restaurant nearby. I happen to live in the 'burbs. I am at peace with it. All the people can't live in the cool neighborhoods, now can they? No, they can't, in case you are feeling argumentative--just cut it out.

Anyway. My cultural advantages include being very close to multiple Targets, a deep familiarity with the merchandise at my nearest Old Navy, and the various chain and ethnic restaurants that are at least passable and sometimes good, and a giant multiplex full of the movies. Also a nearby dollar theater that is somehow never just a dollar anymore, but never mind. However, if you're looking for foodie kind of food, it is thin on the ground out here, and that's a fact, so it's danged exciting when a new restaurant opens up, and even better when it proves to be good. A couple of weeks ago we ate at a so-called pub that had the word "fox" in its title. I was hoping for "pub food," but whatever the food was, it was not good, and it made me mad at my neighborhood, which made me doubly mad at the restaurant. But tonight, we got ahead of the storm, so to speak, and went to take out Indian food from the new restaurant nearby, and it was so good, the people! We brought it home and it was a feast on a snowy night, which happens to be another thing we endorse.

3. Snow falling. This is why we live here, right? Snugged up in the house while it falls and falls and falls all night long.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A few facts.

fact: although I have worked like a dog, both alone and in concert with my excellent colleagues, and though I have materials and ideas and notes and links galore, I feel I am no closer to having an actual syllabus ready for class next week than I was mid-December.

well, a little closer.

(okay, like a lazy dog.)

fact: there are still movies to be seen that I haven't yet seen, but somehow, at 3 or so in the afternoon when I could theoretically shoehorn a movie-viewing experience in, it doesn't quite seem like a good time to leave the house. when there's a storm a'brewin'! and it's cold!

fact: the moment when an afternoon movie seems like a good idea/possible is quickly, quickly passing.

fact: I am still not reading a book, because none of the books sound awesome.

fact: television = renewable pleasure.

fact: sometimes a new recipe is only okay (I'm looking at you, corn and poblano soup, although to be fair I used pasilla peppers and not poblanos, so you be the judge). but sometimes a new recipe is awesome (all hail, butter kuchen!).

(dramatization of the actual facts)
fact: my Christmas tree is still up. and although I had every intention of taking it down by now, I am finding the lights cheering and magical, and thus am disinclined to be in a hurry to dismantle the whole festive affair.

fact: there should be a "whoa now, hold on a minute, now!" function that activates whenever I send in a proposal. I don't see, in fact, why that couldn't be, like, a setting on my e-mail.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

More than once.

In the last couple of days I have seen one movie for the third time, and another movie for the second. I'll spare you the specific stories that motivated the rewatchings, but it turns out that I do re-watch things on a fairly regular basis. (The eight times I watched Liar, Liar in one summer is my record, I think, although I may also have watched Cabaret a shocking number of times in a movie theater.)

I found each of the films stood up well to re-viewing. What I loved about Silver Linings Playbook--the specificity of the environments, the details of the characters, the flip of Jennifer Lawrence's ponytail and her I'm-so-tough eyeliner and nail polish, the way Robert deNiro wakes Bradley Cooper up to tell him he wants to watch football with him, his own obsession in mighty struggle with his desire to convey his love, the sweetness and watchfulness of Jackie Weaver as the mom--all these things, to me, shone with greater clarity. Sometimes what you love about a film is better when you don't look again, when you just remember it--the cracks are more evident, the wit more forced. But sometimes, what you love is burnished upon re-watching.

Anna Karenina's artifice, staginess, rigorous construction, seemed this time to melt away. It was present, it reasserted itself, but it felt less intrusive, and this time, I found the film more devastating. Which is as it should be, I think.

Who can say what shapes our viewing, or re-viewing, of a film? Is it the company in which we see them? the time of day, the pressures on us in our regular lives that exert themselves with greater or lesser insistence at a particular moment? The fact that we saw it on a holiday, or in a stolen afternoon? And some films, might reveal themselves more fully to us over time, and upon reexamination? Why would we believe that everything about a film should reveal itself in just one viewing? I have visited certain paintings, or series of paintings, every chance I get--not that often, because I don't live in a city with a big art museum--but I've looked at, for instance, a huge work of Anselm Kiefer in the National Gallery any number of times. It seems like forever that I have been visiting this painting. Whenever I'm there, I spend some time in its presence, to experience its scale, its force and dominance.

Or there's a painting at the Milwaukee Art Museum by Jules Bastien-Lepage that rivets me. I don't know if it's a great painting, but everything about it is beautiful to me. I have been to Milwaukee just two times--one more time than I needed to, probably--but each time I went to the museum (several times each visit to the city), I made sure to spend time with this painting. I loved its texture, the movement of everything, the gaze of the woodcutter. The little girl's hair.

Who knows if I'll ever see it again? If I'll have the chance to go to Milwaukee, or New York or Chicago or L.A. or Washington D.C.? And who knows if I will ever watch Cabaret again? If I have the chance to do any of these things--to return to them--I will.


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