Sunday, December 28, 2008
Kelsie in her apron, ready to help Erin and I make dinner.
Aidan and Colin.
Erin and Tara.
Tara and Chris.
The kids in their jammies, after dinner and presents.
And some from Christmas Day...
Bailey, still going strong at almost 15 years old.
Friday, December 26, 2008
A couple of days before Christmas, Kelsie (my ten-year-old niece) and I worked on a little comedy show (a follow-up to our Thanksgiving effort). So here it is for your viewing pleasure (especially for Jane, who loved the first show so much). In the beginning, you'll find Olivia, Kelsie, and Erin ready to go. Initially, Aidan and Colin were supposed to participate, too, but they wouldn't sit still and decided to run all over the house screaming instead. At one point, they do try to join in, but are given the boot. And before anyone accuses us of plagiarism, I'll fess up that we found just about every joke online, except for my personal favorite about Santa flying backward, which Kelsie told me last year.
As a final note, I am a tiny bit hesistant to post this video because of the grown-ups' interference in the beginning and pretty much throughout the whole thing. Nothing says "Merry Christmas," after all, like a grandmother yelling for the kids to shut up. But it is what it is...
Monday, December 22, 2008
By the way, anyone else find it impossible to copy a youtube embed link in Windows Vista? I can do it just fine when I am working with my computer at school (which still runs XP), but when I use my laptop, it will only copy the part of the link that is visible. It drives me crazy.
UPDATE: As you can see, I was able to embed the link (finally). But I had to paste it in Word and then paste it from word to Blogger. If I go straight from Youtube to Blogger, it only does part of it. Weird! By the way, I am almost certain I tried the "paste into Word" solution before and it didn't work. Well, I won't complain. I am just grateful it works. I will say, though, there are a number of little quirks using Blogger with Vista as opposed to using it with XP.
"Is it too late to convince the President-elect not to have a poem written for and read at his Inauguration? The event will be a great moment in the nation’s history. Three million people will be listening on the Mall. Many of them will be thinking of another great moment that took place forty-five years ago, at their backs, when Martin Luther King stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Such grandeur would seem to call for poetry. But in fact the opposite is true."
He explains, "For many decades American poetry has been a private activity, written by few people and read by few people, lacking the language, rhythm, emotion, and thought that could move large numbers of people in large public settings."
That is, I think, a definite overgeneralization about American poetry. Beyond that, it's faulty logic: since Frost, Angelou, and the rest wrote less-than-inspiring poems, then Alexander will do the same? Why not give the poet the benefit of the doubt? Also, what's with his claim that only Derek Walcott is up to the challenge? What a jerky claim to make. Plus, Walcott isn't even American...
At the very least, making poetry a part of the inauguration will remind us all how very important poetry is to our lives. Besides, we have a poetry-reading, poetry-quoting President-elect...
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Anyway, insidehighered.com, which has been nothing but bad news lately for English folks, has given us two weeks of disturbing stories in a row:
1) The Adjunctification of English
2) Disappearing Jobs
The sobering news: total job listings down by 21%. And only 7.3% of total jobs were in American literature? Gulp.
The picture up above always makes me smile...The news that Betty Currie was headed back to Washington to work with the Obama administration got me thinking about my favorite member of the Clinton family, good old Socks the cat. I wondered what had happened to him since the Clintons gave him to Currie. Yesterday, I found these two articles: the first, from over the summer, is a great little piece about his life with Currie. It shows how much she loves him--and how much he loves her--and how he is enjoying his old age. The second, from last week, gives some bad news about his health. Apparently, I wasn't the only one thinking of Socks when I heard Currie's name: today ABC has a story about the poor fella's cancer battle. Socks, who is 18 years old, has had a good life and maybe his time has come, but I feel so bad for Currie and her family.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Just something I'm thinking about...any thoughts? (It's been really quiet out there is Comment-land, but I know some of you are reading...)
1) Have you seen the awesome Japanese dude who makes vegetable instruments?
2) Dance for your Ph.D. Anyone who has ever seen me attempt to dance can attest to my relief that this wasn't a requirement to get my degree.
"If there is any truth in modern advertising, it is that sex sells, whether advertising alcohol, cars, or cheese."
But then I got to thinking--can sex sell cheese? I asked Vogel about this and she said, "Sex does not sell cheese. At all."
Well, not so fast, my friends.
Or try this one:
So there it is--sex can sell ANYTHING. Even stinky cheese.
By the way, here's one more cheese commercial I found while searching youtube. It has nothing to do with sex, but it really made me laugh--and made me want to dance around my kitchen with my family singing about cheese.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I still haven't gotten a Christmas gift for my brother, who is an avid fisherman, but there is no way I would ever get him a gift with the word "boner" in its name.
I don't know much about Chicago politics, but this quotation from the late Studs Terkel seems to sum things up pretty well: "Chicago is not the most corrupt American city, it’s the most theatrically corrupt." (I had heard it before, but the Daily Dish reminded me of it.)
And if you need a little bit of help pronouncing this idiot's name, Slate has you covered.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Anyway, check out this poem by Tyehimba Jess. For the full experience, though, you've got to listen to the audio recording. It will knock your socks off. A note about the form: it's an example of stichomythia in which alterating lines (or in this case, half lines) are spoken by alternating characters. That's pretty essential to understanding the poem. The scene: 1934's MLA convention in Philadelphia, where the scholar Alan Lomax had taken the blues musician known as Lead Belly to perform. You can find more background on the people in the poem here and here.
Anyway, here's the poem (some of the formatting gets messed up in blogger--the line breaks look wonky--check out the original here):
Amazing, right? That image of a bag of ears will stay with me.
Here's Philip Metre''s take on the poem (taken from the article I've linked to above):
"Carolyn Forche’s years in El Salvador (1978–81) working as a human rights activist led to this poem, in which a poet visits a colonel who lives a privileged but barricaded existence in his country. Forche’s poem, written in prose, offers itself as a documentary retelling. It ominously begins: 'What you have heard is true.' Yet this poem is interesting precisely because it contains both a documentary veneer and plenty of hints of literary artifice. In other words, it suggests the highly fictive nature of the life the colonel leads behind his walled compound, as well as the literary aspect of all documentary poetry. In the poem, the moon itself 'swung bare on its black cord over the house,' as if it were an interrogation lamp or a stage prop."
Here's what you need to know before you watch: Kelsie loves corny, silly jokes. A couple of years ago, Erin got her this joke book that has a whole series of "doofus" jokes, including our personal favorite--one that Kelsie didn't get when she first heard it (and that only made it funnier). It's the old "how do you keep a doofus in suspense" joke, where you just stare at the person who says, "I don't know, how?" We think she finally gets it now, as evidenced by her ad-lib at the end.
Just one action shot this time since I figured you got your fill of my football photography with this post from last year.
The halftime show was kind of fun, especially for my dad. It was Gloria Estefan-themed and he's a big fan. I'm only posting this one shot, because the blond singer on the right was in my class last year and she's pretty darn good.
My parents at the game. Now you might be wondering why they aren't sitting next to each other, but the actual reason is kind of sweet. It was pretty sunny that day (with the sun to our backs) and my mom made my dad sit in front of her so she could shade him a bit (he needs to be very careful in the sun).
This excited me very much: I finally got to see Livingstone, our mascot. I don't know why he's hiding his face, but check out those horns!
The next day, my sister Erin drove over to Martinsburg and then we all headed to Charles Town Races and Slots. None of us had been there before, but I'd heard a lot about it from students and Shannon, who is a big fan. We all enjoyed it--but wouldn't make a habit of going. We bet on a lot of the horses (small bets--don't worry) and weren't all that successful.
Erin and I picked this horse because we thought he was the prettiest. He lost.
We picked this one, too, almost certainly because of his name (I can't remember what it was now). Most of our picks were based on the horse's name. Not a good strategy. He lost, too.
Ummm...so did this one.
My dad gave my mom, Erin, and I some money to go play the slot machines. We burned through it almost immediately and then went back to find my dad again. We returned just in time to see that he had picked a winner!
Here he is with the winning ticket. Don't get too excited--he won $1.80 on his $2.o0 bet. Still--it was pretty exciting.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
UPDATE: Check out this wonderful list of the reasons to love this show. It's been about three weeks since I first posted about the cancellation, and I am still so very bummed.
The Same City
For James L. Hayes
In the podcast, Hayes talks about his father hearing this poem at one of the poet's readings, and about how the two men had never before discussed the fact that he wasn't his biological dad, although it wasn't a secret. Afterwards, he explains, his father simply said, "Like that poem, man."
And "Lizard People"? Scary.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Makes me think of Melville's Bartleby toiling away in the dead letter office: "On errands of life, these letters speed to death. Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!"
2) P.J. O'Rourke on his cancer diagnosis and God's mysterious ways. It's a funny and moving essay--one that I should have linked to about a month ago.
1) The proposed bailout for American poetry. Pretty darn funny.
2) A profile of one of my former colleagues from UNCG. Dan and I were in ENG 681 together back when I was a new teacher and he was a guy with PhD who came back to school for an MFA. How's that for devotion to your calling? He's an amazing poet and a great guy so give the interview a read, okay?
3) Was Milan Kundera a spy?
4) Just how panicked were people after the War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938?
5) Have you heard about Dewey the cat yet? By the way, Dewey is a possible name for my next cat--but in honor of John Dewey, not Melvil.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Trigiani's visit was amazing. She was funny, energetic, engaging, and even inspiring. In my years as a student and teacher at colleges and universities, I've seen quite a few visiting writers, but never one quite like Adriana. From the moment she arrived on campus, she was on--and we loved every bit of it.
The Sigma Tau Delta volunteers who handed out programs and served as ushers at the Wednesday night event. They're a great group of students and I am enjoying being their sponsor.
The crowd beginning to gather for the Wednesday event. You can see Trigiani in the front row, talking to people. She was like that--she would start conversations with anyone, remember their names, and make them feel like they mattered. I can't tell you how many people she gave her email address to.
Dr. Shurbutt and Trigiani.
Desiree, one of my best ENG 204 students, getting her book signed by Adriana. The book signing events were great--Adriana talked to each person for a long time and wrote meaningful messages in each book. She and Desiree talked at length about what Desiree thought of Big Stone Gap, how she connected it to her own life, and writing in general.
Another awesome ENG 204 student, John, talking with Adriana. She loved her some John--and he seemed pretty smitten with her, too. John loved Big Stone Gap and even bought Big Cherry Holler so he could see what happens next. What a testament to Trigiani's power as a writer and a speaker! She makes fire-fighters in their mid-twenties want to read books that many have dismissed as "chick-lit."
Adriana with Laura and Kate, two Sigma Tau Delta members.
At the Thursday event, Russell Myers receives his 2008 West Virginia Fiction Writers Competition award from Adriana.
Finally, yours truly with Adriana, right before Dr. Shurbutt dragged her away so she could catch her plane.
"Yet the notion of Emily Dickinson making out in her living room is so foreign to our conception of her that her autumnal tryst with Judge Lord has never become part of the popular lore about her.
The discovery that Dickinson did not have to wait until her dotage to experience some of the pleasures of ordinary romantic companionship has so far sunk like a stone, too. A carefully argued scholarly article titled "Thinking Musically, Writing Expectantly: New Biographical Information About Emily Dickinson," published this summer in the staid New England Quarterly, has caused not a ripple.
The author, Carol Damon Andrews, is an independent scholar who has worked at the Worcester Art Museum in central Massachusetts. She told a reporter for the Amherst Bulletin that she was pursuing some family history among her Penniman ancestors when she stumbled across two intriguing entries in the diaries of Eliza Houghton Penniman, a music teacher who gave piano lessons in Amherst before settling in Worcester.
The first entry reads, in part: "I commenced teaching vocal & instrumental music when I was 16. My first pupils were Fanny Sellon daughter of Dr S. of Amherst … & lawyer Dickinson's daughter Emily." This was in 1839, when Emily Dickinson was 8 years old. Part of the understated charm of Andrews' article is that she gives as much attention to her discovery that Dickinson's musical education began six years earlier than had previously been supposed as she does to the bombshell that follows, in a later diary entry:
'In Amherst … I had a class in music: … Emily Dickinson, daughter of lawyer Dickinson, to whom Dr. George Gould of Worcester, was engaged when in college there. Lawyer Dickinson vetoed the whole affair, the Rev. George being a POOR student then, and poor Emily's heart was broken.'"
That Emily Dickinson wasn't just some weird old maid sitting in her room is a point I enjoy making to my students every semester--especially when we read a poem like "Wild Nights! Wild Nights!"--sent, in letter form, to her sister-in-law (!) who lived next door.
I look forward to reading all of Andrews' article, especially since I am very fond of the New England Quarterly, especially their December 2005 issue.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
David and Vogel at lunch at Solaris, a yummy restaurant right in Vogel's neighborhood.
After lunch, we headed to downtown Philly, specifically towards Independence Hall.
A really great shot of Vogel and David in front of Independence Hall. We didn't actually get to go in since they'd already given out all the tickets for the day, but there are tons of other fun (and free!) things to do in the immediate area, as this very helpful guide in the visitor center explained to us. We decided on two activities right away: seeing the Liberty Bell and visiting Franklin Court.
In line to see the Liberty Bell. Notice David playing with his iphone. He is so in love with that thing. He kept using it to look up where we were and give us background information. He was like a little kid with a toy he wanted us to covet. And it kind of worked...I want one.
The bell. I had seen it once before--way back in third grade, but I don't remember getting this close to it. And hey--I even got a shot of the crack. (Ha ha.)
Vogel wondering why I am taking so long to snap the picture. Sorry. But I posted this one in part because of dude in the back who is making a peace sign. What kind of adult does this in someone else's picture? It made me laugh, actually. I guess he couldn't help himself.
A much better shot.
Not sure what David is doing here. I think it's his impression of Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin holding a shotgun. (He had just watched the SNL clip of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler).
Now the non-silly shot.
After the Bell, we headed down to Franklin Court. On the way, we laughed at this sign. "Check out that funny looking lady!" I said, before my friends explained that it was supposed to be Ben Franklin in a chef's hat. Still...pretty lady-like, we thought.
"Life-size Jellybean Children and Butterflies"? Huh? Sounds terrifying to me. It was an exhibit here.
Soon we arrived at Franklin Court, where Ben Franklin's house used to stand and which today boasts an underground museum (tell me that "underground" doesn't make it sound a thousand times cooler!). Notice the white sign in this picture. It explains that Franklin would have walked through this little alleyway every day. I thought that was pretty awesome and asked Vogel and David to pretend they were Franklin walking through. Vogel, who is always happy to oblige my photo-shoot demands, did her best. David...not so much.
Here they are both next to the sign. Notice Vogel's arm. She still can't stop acting like Franklin walking home.
Franklin's house was torn down about 20 years after he died, but there are some very important markers of the structures that used to be there, like, for instance, his father-in-law's toilet.
Or Franklin's privy!
Inside the the underground (ohhh!) museum we saw lots of Franklin's inventions, including this one that impressed us the most: a chair with a built-in step ladder.
I also liked this one--a four-sided music stand so that a quartet could play.
After the room of inventions, we entered this huge space with dozens of phone and a wall of numbers. You could dial an extension and "talk" to a famous person who was influenced by Franklin in some way. It's a pretty cool way of illustrating just how influential Franklin was and is. We called Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, and Mark Twain, among others. Vogel loved the phones so much that it was hard to tear her away.
At the end of the museum there was a little theater showing a Franklin Film Festival--including Ben and Me, which I adored as a kid and would have loved to see again. But we were about 40 minutes away from the next show and David was getting hungry. He was also getting entirely too jealous of Franklin. "Man, how come I never invented anything?" he asked. So we moved on.
After a brief stop for a drink and a snack, we walked through a park where some well...interesting performance art was going on.
Now admittedly, we only stayed for a little while to listen to this guy sing about rivers (represented by the blue tarp behind him), so it could be that the show was very good. But just the part we saw left us trying not to laugh out loud (and getting dirty looks from a Ben Franklin impersonator nearby.) Let's just say he rhymed like Adam Sandler's "Cajun Man" and used works like "olfaction" and "putrification" as his end rhymes. You can read just a bit about him here.
After walking around a bit more, we headed back to Vogel's, crashed for a bit, and then had a lovely dinner here. The next day it was back to WV for me and NC for David. Still, it was a great little visit.