Friday, November 30, 2007

Wes Whitman

Yesterday in my English 204 class, we were discussing Allen Ginsberg's "A Supermarket in California,"* a poem in which Ginsberg imagines moving through a dreamlike supermarket with Walt Whitman. The student responsible for leading discussion of the poem had put together a pretty cool Power Point presentation, complete with an image of Walt Whitman. Call me crazy (and I know you will), but I was struck by how much Whitman, who you know I love, bears a resemblance to someone else close to my heart, especially in this picture:

Do you see it, too? Is this just one more sign of how perfect a cat Wes is for me? Or have I been spending entirely too much time thinking about nineteenth-century American literature?

*clicking on this link will bring you to a site where you can also hear Ginsberg read the poem. Pretty cool. He isn't an amazing reader, but it's always neat to hear poets read their own work.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A couple more thoughts on Thanksgiving...

I didn't take that many pictures when I was home, but I do have a few more stray ones worth posting...

It is always great to see the kids when I go home. They are endlessly entertaining and often a lot more fun than the adults.

Doesn't Colin look grown up in this picture? He and I always have fun together. He's my godson, and I told Tara that I think we are a good match since he's a lot like me.

Of course, when you are the aunt who lives hours away, you have to be sure to be on guard against emotional manipulation of all kinds. No worries--my parents raised us rather strictly (to put it mildly), so I don't put up with a lot from the kids. Of course, when Olivia makes a face like this--"don't I look sweet and innocent?"--it's awfully hard to keep up a strong front.

My last thought on Thanksgiving? It can wear you out! I need a vacation from my "vacation" in New York. So here's a sweet picture of Jeff and Colin that sums up that sentiment, taken after dinner on Thanksgiving. Jeff knocked himself out cooking a great feast (yes, I did help), and deserves some major credit for doing so.

The next iPod generation...

A couple of months ago, I was working here in my office at school. I usually work with my iPod on, as it helps me close out distractions--and just generally puts me in a better mood. Anyway, as I was working, my friend Tim came by and laughed, saying, "Man, you are really are part of the iPod generation." Now I think part of this is because he is still shocked that I am, in his words, "a baby." (This comment came from his quick calculation of my age when I was introduced at a faculty assembly and the Dean read off the dates of my degrees). Anyway, we could blog for weeks about how iPods and MP3 players have changed the world, but I thought today I'd just blog a bit about the next generation of iPod users--users a good 20+ years younger than me.

My niece, Kelsie, got an iPod Nano from her parents for her birthday. (My mother, by the way, thinks this is a completely inappropriate gift for a nine year old, but I am not so sure. Maybe she's just a little too young for it and it is a bit on the pricey side, but didn't we have Walkmans and things like that when we were around her age? I don't know--what do you think?) Anyway, she loves the darn thing and brought it to Thanksgiving at Tara and Jeff's house. (Another side note--her winter coat has an inside pocket specifically for an iPod. How cool is that? I want a pocket for my iPod in my coat! That also says something, doesn't it, about how many kids her age have these things?)

I had been telling Kelsie how my nephew Colin's favorite song right now is "Hey there Delilah." Tara tells me she hears him singing it to himself in his room at night or as he plays with his train table. How cute is that? I got to hear him doing it a bit and it was so sweet, I almost got a cavity. Anyway, Kelsie has that song on her iPod and played it for the kids, who loved it.

Here they are listening, one ear-bud per kid.

Then Kelsie played their other favorite song of the moment--Gwen Stefani's "Sweet Escape." Olivia and Colin don't call it this, though--they call it "Woo Woo!" As soon as they heard the opening bars, they both shouted "Woo woo!" and started to dance. It is hard to dance while sharing ear-buds, though, so they had to calm down a bit.

Still, as this picture shows, Olivia couldn't help herself and danced right where she was. This picture makes me happy. Hey, as they sing in Hairspray, "You can't stop the beat."

Monday, November 26, 2007

"American Boy Doll" in Training

It's hard to believe, I know, but my niece Kelsie turned 9 last week. Since I was home in NY for Thanksgiving break all last week, one of my duties on Tuesday night was bringing her birthday presents from my parents over to her house. Her big gift from my parents was one of those American Girl dolls that so many kids go crazy for. I actually don't get it myself, but I was never much for dolls that were mostly for looking at and not playing with--in fact, I wasn't much for dolls in general. Anyway, the one she got was Felicity, I think.

Cute, right?

Aidan, her little brother, was surprisingly okay with all these presents Kelsie was opening. Perhaps that was because he was more interested in the box that Felicity came in. Seriously--he started trying to lay in the box just like the doll had laid in it. I don't think we realized it at first, but once we did, it was fun to watch him try to fit his (pretty big) two-and-a-half year old body into the box.

So, I present to you Aidan's bid to be become the first American Boy Doll.

Step One: He tries the box on his head.

Step Two: He decides to try a different approach--carefully lie down in the box. (And I have to say, I find the photo kind of creepy--it looks like he's in a coffin).

Step Three: He realizes I think this is pretty funny and he decides to ham it up.

So what do you think, America? Are you interested in buying one of these dolls? He's pretty darn cute, but he also comes with a temper and addictions to the following: Spongebob Squarepants, Diego, "No!", "Mine!", and random acts of violence. (I hope my brother doesn't get mad if he reads this--Chris, you know I love the kid!)

More Thanksgiving week photos to come!

Sunday, November 25, 2007


"Friendship renders prosperity more brilliant, while it lightens
adversity by sharing it and making its burden common."

Marcus Tullius Cicero (c. 106-43 BC, Roman Orator, Politician)

Friday, November 16, 2007


As some of you know, I was in Atlanta last weekend for the South Atlantic Modern Language Association's (SAMLA) conference. I was part of the panel sponsored by the Hawthorne Society, and presented a paper on the pedagogical rewards of teaching Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Scarlett Letter. I won't say too much more about that (unless you actually want to hear more), but I think it went very well. The other papers on the panel were quite interesting, and there was some great discussion afterwards.

The not-so-well kept-secret about conferences, though, is that as much as they are about scholarship and professional development, they are also about having at least some fun. I try to apply to conferences in interesting places and I always try to talk my friends into applying, too. This year I was successful in getting my friend David (from UNCG) to apply and (naturally) his paper was accepted, too. I flew down from WV (actually out of Dulles Airport) and he drove down from Greensboro, bringing our friend (Liz) Vogel with him.

Now you know I wanted to take lots of cool pictures for the blog, right? And I got off to a good start. Here, for instance, are a few from our balcony of our hotel room (we stayed at the Renaissance Atlanta Hotel, where all the conference events took place):

The road you see there is I-85. Gotta love that tacky Olympic torch.

Off to the left of the interstate and the tacky torch, you can see the Georgia Tech campus and football stadium (I think).

And here's the view to the right--lots of big buildings. Yup, that's all I can say about them.

So, you can see that I got off to a good start with my picture-taking, right? But then life (and the conference) intervened. We ended up having to spend most of Saturday inside doing conference stuff (and no, I am not really complaining about this--that's what we were there for, after all). We did go out on Saturday night, but I still haven't mastered using my camera in the dark. (Remember those lighthouse pictures from my trip to Cape Cod?)

I did, however, get some good pictures of my friends while we were doing what tourist do best: eating.

Here are Vogel and David at dinner on Saturday night. We ate at this very cool Chinese restaurant called Mu Lan. It was in this beautiful old Victorian house on Juniper street. My favorite dish? The honey-walnut chicken. Yummy.

Another restaurant we enjoyed was Mick's. We had dinner there on Friday night since we were looking for something on the affordable side. (Remember--some of my friends are still poor graduate students. I know--as if I am rolling in money.) We went back to Mick's for dessert on Saturday night and, perhaps inspired by Amber's food photography, I took some pictures.

My dessert: apple pie ala mode. Yummy. Side story: I was actually in the bathroom when the food arrived, and by the time I returned, the other folks had already tried it and assured me it was "delicious." Can you tell we are a close group?

David ordered this bigger-than-your-head Heath bar pie, and it too, was delicious. Seriously. Take a look at that thing: how can it not be delicious?

Vogel ordered strawberry shortcake, but the waitress dropped it on her way over to the table. By the the time she brought a new one, I forgot to take a picture. You'll just have to settle for this picture of her waiting patiently for her dessert, which was also delicious.

Sugar makes David silly, as evidenced by this picture he took of himself. I post it here only to be mean. I'm like that.

Speaking of restaurants, if you are ever in Atlanta, let me give you another restaurant recommendation: Gladys and Ron's Chicken and Waffles, (owned by Gladys Knight and Ron Winans). We went there for lunch on Saturday and oh my Lord, that was some good food! We meant to go back and take pictures, but didn't get the chance. We also wanted to go back and order the "Midnight Train," four chicken wings and a waffle. Well, maybe next time.

Okay--a couple more pictures:

Vogel and David posing in a English-style phone booth outside a bar.

Me on Saturday night. Not an awful picture, right?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Things you overhear: Part II

Remember this post from a couple of months ago? Maybe I should make it a series. Every day I hear at least one thing that makes me laugh or grimace. Here's a real gem I overheard today:

Female College Student #1: (Loudly, not not angrily) "I did not sleep with him."
Female College Student #2: (Equally loudly, but pretty casually) "I wasn't even going to imply that."
Female College Student #1: (Again, casually) "Oh, that was totally the next question coming from you."

Hmmm...remember back when we used to be private about these kinds of matters? (And not shouting about them as we walked past faculty members' doors?)

For the record, I am also a fan of (and partially inspired by) two blogs that are entirely made up of overheard conversations: Overheard in New York and Overheard in the Office.

Writer's Rooms

I've been meaning to post a link to this story for months now. I've got about 5 minutes until I have to leave for class, and rather than use it for something super-productive, I finally think it's time for this post.

Anyway, here's a very cool piece about "Writer's Rooms" from the Guardian. Although I am not a creative writer, I do spend a lot of time reading and writing and also spend a lot of time imagining an ideal space to do this sort of work. What is most interesting to me about the featured spaces is how very ordinary they seem.

Above, for instance, is Seamus Heaney's writing room. As you look through these, you might, like me, be struck by the small touches of humanity that creep into the pictures. Hey--these writers are actual people with photos and knick knacks! (Something students still seem surprised to learn.) The only thing that isn't surprising is the clutter.

Although this is a kind of cheating answer, I like Jonathan Safran Foer's picture (of the NY Public Library), too. Some of my best writing has taken place in public spaces like this one--where I am simultaneously with lots of people, but in my own mental world.

Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting read. Okay--now I should go teach! It's Faulkner day in English 204.

Vincent Van Gogh

"As we advanced in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in
fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed."

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890, Dutch Painter)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Shepherd Football Game

As I mentioned previously, my parents visited me a couple of weekends ago. We decided to check out a Shepherd football game since my dad loves the game, Shepherd's been doing really well lately, and I have a number of students who are on the team. It was a fun afternoon, especially since the Shepherd Rams beat the West Liberty Hilltoppers, 38-21.

Some photos from the day:

The field before the game started. We had had a lot of rain the week before--and you can already see where it's getting muddy. By the end of the first few plays, it was really getting torn up--and the players were filthy.

A pretty shot of the autumn trees surrounding the field.

The folks settling in for the game.

The cheerleaders doing some pre-game cheers. I have a couple of students who are cheerleaders, so it was fun to see them doing their thing. I do have to say, though, that those are some skimpy outfits they are wearing. I wouldn't like that if I were their mother. (Yikes--that makes me sound old.)

The Rams take the field.

Lined up and ready to go!

Action shot! See how muddy they are? (Especially the other team in their white uniforms!)

Action shot #2! (It was actually hard to get decent shots of things happening--because they happened so fast and because I had a hard time following the football.)

Rough stuff!

Here's a shot of one my students about to punt the ball.

I call this one "Muddy Action" because, well, they are all so muddy.

Touchdown! (You can tell because #52 looks so happy.)

I couldn't help myself, but these guys in the yellow shirts made me laugh. In my mind, I called them the "ball wipers," because, well...that's what they were. They ran up and down the field, wiping off the muddy balls. I hope they are well-paid.

The ram mascot visited the stands. I think he's just a bit scary. Apparently there is also an actual living-breathing ram named Livingston, but I haven't seen him yet.

Finally, I thought I'd include a couple of shots from the "Ram Band's" half-time show. This season they are featuring songs from Rent, which I thought was pretty cool. (A strange juxtaposition, though--a football game and a musical about young Bohemian artists! Gotta love the great combinations you get on college campuses!) I have a number of students in the band and in the Color Guard, so it was cool to see them doing their thing, too.

One last shot: this is our new President, Dr. Suzanne Shipley, doing the "Tango: Maureen" (from Rent) with a member of the Color Guard. Dr. Shipley had just been inaugurated the day before and the entire week celebrated that fact. I've only met Dr. Shipley a couple of times, but it seems like she'll make a great President for Shepherd.

All in all, the game was a lot of fun. As a faculty member, I have two free passes for every home game (for all the teams). I think I'll definitely take in more games. After all, basketball season is just starting!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Yeah, I know Halloween was last week...

My parents visited a couple of weekends ago, which gave my mother ample time to engage in her usual commentary about Bing and Wesley. To recap, Wes is the sweet one, but "there's not too much going on upstairs," while Bing isn't as friendly but is "the more attractive one," especially because "he's got a nice face." Does this give you any insights into what it was like growing up in my house? Anyway, I always feel offended on behalf of both boys, as you can imagine.

I do know, though, that my mom is actually quite fond of both of the cats. She is also determined that some feline member of our family makes it into the "Page a Day Cat Calendar." I am proud to say that time and again, she says that of all the cats, Bing is most suited to break on through and become famous, at least for a day. (He was, after all, featured in the SPCA of the Triad Newsletter, right?) She's constantly saying that I should send in that photo of Bing in the dustpan...or in the sink...or in the dryer.

This year, though, she's decided that the sure way to get a Hanrahan Feline into the calendar is to go with a holiday theme. "They love those pictures," she explained. (I think she's right about this--they do encourage holiday-themed pictures.) So, on the Saturday night of my parents' visit, my mom made me do a brief holiday photo shoot of the boys. Here, then, for your viewing pleasure, "Bing, Wes, and a Plastic Pumpkin."

Very dramatic. The pumpkin looks one way, Wes looks another.

Spooky--Bing's eyes glow like the pumpkin's!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Watch wikipedia change!

This is a pretty cool site to visit. You can watch people around the world edit Wikipedia entries in real-time (almost). I find myself using Wikipedia every day, sometimes several times a day. I used it in class today, in fact, to pull up an audio clip of "Dixie." (We were discussing Langston Hughes' "Song for a Dark Girl," which quotes lines from that song.)

I love the ethos of the entire Wikipedia project--people counting on other people to write reliable information. And for the most part, they get it right. It's neat to watch it happen right in front of you--and makes you realize there are real people with real interests (things they care enough to write about and edit) out there doing the work.

By the way, did you know that someone posted my dissertation on Wikipedia? That made me feel just a little bit famous. Then I got over myself. (And no, I have no idea who did it.)

Poe on the big screen...

Shannon forwarded me this article about plans to make a movie adaptation of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." I am not sure how this could work--one of the strengths of Poe's story (to me, at least) is its brevity. There is so much we don't know about the narrator, his victim, and their relationship--and that makes for a better story. But I'll keep an eye out for this if it comes to a theater near me. What do the rest of you think?

You might enjoy this 1953 animated version of the story. It's pretty awesome and, in my mind, the ideal way to dramatize the story.

Thanks, Shan, for the link--and for helping make Poe one of the most common topics on this blog!