Friday, April 25, 2008


Uh-oh. I am going to waste a lot of time playing this...

Zombie links...

Those who know me well know I love zombie movies. My siblings and I grew up on a steady diet of horror movies, including the Night of the Living Dead films. So it should come as no surprise that I've got this little collection of zombie-fightin' links that I've been saving up over the past couple of weeks.

Read. Laugh. Learn. It may someday save your life.

Part I: How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse.

Part II: How to Battle Zombie Hordes.

And if you are really hard-core, you can join the Zombie Squad.

Finally, it's never too early to shop for my birthday, so you might consider this little item that's been on my Amazon wishlist for a long time.

One sentence true stories...

Remember that post about six-word short stories and six-word memoirs? Well, here's a blog all about one sentence true stories. I suppose I should also include the warning that this has time-sucker potential.

When Nixon Met Elvis... was awesome.

Check out this cool exhibit by the folks at the National Archives.

Weekend Visit

I thought I'd post a couple of pictures from my parents' visit last weekend. As some of you know, my mom had a pretty serious health scare and is still quite sick (no matter how much she protests--it's true), so this trip down (one that had been postponed when my mom was in the hospital) was a bit of a symbolic victory for them. We had a nice visit, too, including a trip to see Erin, who now lives about an hour and fifteen minutes away.

My mom at dinner on Saturday.

My dad at dinner.

Erin and Eric (the boyfriend).

Erin and I. A pretty cute, picture, I think.

They say women often marry men just like their fathers. That is all.

My cat niece, Sophia. Erin has another cat, too, named Sal, but he wouldn't come out of the closet. (Ha ha.)

Springtime Post, especially for Amber...

Shannon beat me to it, but here we go anyway...Spring is probably my favorite time of the year--for many reasons. Chief among them, though, are the pretty flowers you see everywhere. This spring, I am mindful of poor Amber, way up in Canada. As I told her, though, spring showing up here in full-force means it's that much closer to Canada.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been taking some pictures of the gorgeous trees and flowers and I am finally getting around to posting them. Not all of these trees were in bloom at the same time, but they do make a nice collection.

The trees in the faculty parking lots on campus.

A close up shot of one of those trees.

A lovely tree outside of Knutti, the building where my office is.

Knutti tree close up.

The awesome tree out behind my apartment, just before dusk. This tree is one of my favorite things about where I live. It was amazing to wake up and see the blooms out of my bedroom windows. And about a week later, when the petals feel down, it would look like it was gently snowing.

Close up of the apartment tree--this time facing away from the building.

Probably my favorite tree this spring--also in the faculty parking lot. To give you an idea of the time line, I took this one on Wednesday and the photos above about a week and a half ago.

Yet another close up shot.

There's this lovely (I need a new word, I know) garden out behind Knutti and all sorts of cool things have been springing up there lately, including these hyacinths. (For the record, I think hyacinths are my favorite flowers, period.)


Ummm...some pretty flower I don't the name of...

Daffodils...I think...

Hope you enjoyed!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Frequently Asked Questions about Poetry...

...answered by former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. It's awesome.

Complete this headline: "_____ Theft Panic Hits City"

"'It's real. Just yesterday here, there was a man who was a victim. We saw. What was left was tiny,' said 29-year-old Alain Kalala, who sells phone credits near a Kinshasa police station."

What is Kalala referring to? Read here to find out.

New Orleans Part 4: Washboard Playin'!

One of the highlights of the trip for everyone was when we saw the Bourbon Street Cajuns play at Tropical Isle in the French Quarter. They are this super-fun zydeco trio that includes a guy named Timmy who plays the washboard. He also takes lots of folks from the audience and lets them play a washboard, too. So imagine our delight when he selects our very own Vogel to play with him. Awesome.

I let Kari take the camera and she went to town, capturing lots of priceless moments of Vogel workin' those spoons.

Vogel and Timmy.

Side shot!

I left this one relatively un-cropped so you can get a bit of local flavor. Check out the dude on the far left and the hair on the woman next to him.

Well, now she's just showing off a bit. Also take notice of the woman in green in the back right of the picture. She was non-so-affectionately dubbed "Butt Sweat" by our group because, well, her shorts showed a nasty big, old wet spot on her bum.

Butt Sweat was also a washboard hogger, folks. She kept trying to get another turn to play it. She literally took it off one woman and insisted she get another turn. You could tell Timmy and the band didn't like her. Once Vogel took over, Butt Sweat was not happy and shot some real daggers at our Vogsie. Kari tried to sneak a shot or two of the unhappy woman, but didn't have the greatest luck. Here she is, though, no doubt telling her group, "You see that? I have much better spoon playing ability than that bitch." But enough about her...

Hey now--whose hairy arms are those?

Is this some redneck flirting going on?

Afterwards, before we left, I snapped this photo of Waylon, the band's leader and fiddle player, Vogel, and Timmy. And you should know that right before I took this, Waylon asked if he could play "connect the dots" with Vogel's freckles. I feel icky just typing that.

Apparently, I am not the first to document fun encounters with these guys. Check out this youtube clip.

New Orleans Part 3: The Food

In honor of Amber, who creates the best "food porn" posts, I'll put together this mini-post on some of the food we enjoyed in New Orleans.

We had breakfast one morning at the famous Cafe Du Monde and enjoyed, of course, beignets and coffee.

Now I had the best of intentions to take pictures of the beignets, but what can I say? They disappeared quickly and all that was left was this huge pile of sugar.

Vogel and I each ordered a really yummy cafe au lait.

That same day, we had lunch at Drago's, a restaurant in our hotel. Someone gave us the tip to try the charbroiled oysters, so we did.

Awesome. The best thing we ordered that day, I think.

We did make a mistake at Drago's though, by not realizing just how big their po boys are.

Here's mine: a portobello mushroom sandwich with sweet potato fries. It was pretty good, but could have fed two people and then some. And each of us ordered a sandwich. You think the waitress would have warned us...

I don't have any more food pictures, but can tell you that we had dinner one night at NOLA, thanks to a recommendation from Amber's husband, Mike. It was awesome! Thanks, Mike!

UPDATE: While we're on the subject of food porn, check out this lovely blog all about lunch (and I am quite serious when I use that adjective--check out the quality of the pictures).

New Orleans Part 2: Sight-seeing

Sorry this has taken me so long, but I am finally going to create a couple more posts with pictures from New Orleans. (You can find Part I here, although it's a really short post.) I didn't take too many pictures that would fall in the sight-seeing genre, but here are a few:

The cathedral in Jackson Square. (This is a pretty typical tourist photo of New Orleans, I think.)

Another shot of Jackson Square.

Some houses/stores in the French Quarter.

A stop that really excited us as literature nerds: Faulkner House Books, a store located in the house where Faulker wrote Soldier's Pay. Of course, we did a bit of shopping there, too. I bought this book, which I am dying to read, although I haven't had the chance to start it yet. Maybe this summer?

Here's the sign on the outside of the building.

Here's Vogel posing in front of a weird statue down by the river front.

Pose Part Two: Where she displays the modesty she wishes the statue was showing. (The statue is called "Old Man River" and you can read a bit about it here.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Warning: Links to two time-suckers

1) Check out this very cool map that National Geographic has put together of regular peoples' photos from China. With all the controversy over the Olympics, China's been in the news lately (and, given its increasing power and how little we know about this important nation, it should be in the news even more, if you want my opinion). Anyway, just a quick glance through some of these photos shows how diverse, complex, and rich a country it is.

2) Or, if you aren't feeling like Chinese today, you might check out this amazingly detailed wiki about TV tropes. I imagine this as being a helpful resource for anyone writing about TV. Just to get you started, here are two to consider: "Be Careful What You Wish For" and "Applied Phlebotinum."

Consider yourself warned, though: both sites can totally suck you in, which might be bad if you have, oh I don't know...40 research papers to grade, 40 short essays, and parents coming into town for a weekend visit.

"Everybody has a story--but is it worth telling?"

That's the headline of an article on that caught my eye. Memoir has been on my mind, of course, since that's what our panel was about at 4Cs. Anyway, it's an interesting (if a bit general and superficial) little read. I like this part:

"But Vigderman, though expressing concern about the 'appeal to prurience' innate in a pop memoir, has a kinder view. After all, she says, a curiosity about our fellow human beings is as old as mankind itself.

She quotes another writer gone since the 17th century, the Japanese poet Basho, to stress her point.

'It is deep autumn,' Basho wrote. 'My neighbor/How does he live, I wonder.'"

Library Porn...

Another book to add to the wishlist: Libraries, a book of photographs of (you guessed it) libraries around the world. Read about it here--trust me: it's a pretty funny link.

In my limited experience, one of my favorite libraries is Duke Humfrey's Library in Oxford. Amazing, although the picture below (the best I could find online) doesn't do justice to the ceiling.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Shakespeare in graphic novel form...

An interesting concept, especially for younger students or non-majors. We've just started Othello in my ENG 102 courses and it can be a real struggle for these students to break through Shakespeare's language. I've actually told them to go ahead and use Cliffnotes if they need to. Does that make me a bad teacher? I don't think so--I want them to get something out of this text, and if study aides help make that possible, then that's okay. As I've said before, when I teach these introductory or general education classes, one of my main goals is appreciation: I want students who wouldn't read these kinds of works on their own to realize that these texts are actually pretty good--and that they can talk about and understand them. If graphic novel adaptations of Shakespeare can help accomplish this, then they aren't a bad idea at all.

Of course, someone has to rain on the parade:

"'If you want to use them as an introduction or a taste, that's fine," says Leila Christenbury, English education professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and past president of the National Council of Teachers of English. 'But they cannot be equated with seeing the play.'"

[Ummm...who is suggesting that? Talk about an overreaction.]

"She believes the United States as a whole has 'an affinity for superficial knowledge of the classics' and is often unwilling to stick out challenging works from beginning to end, preferring to get just the gist of the story for 'cocktail-party knowledge.' Couple this tendency with teenagers' crowded schedules, she says, and you're likely to get a bunch of students who toss the original texts (even if they've been assigned) in lieu of the more exciting abridged versions."

Again, this is true, but consider why we want students exposed to Shakespeare and the classics. The sophomore sociology major doesn't need to be a Shakespeare expert, and it's foolish to act like he should be. After all, not every English major is expected to be an expert in Sociology. And "cocktail-party knowledge" is better than no knowledge at all.

Incidentally, my students have also introduced me to something called "No Fear Shakespeare". Have y'all seen this? It would make the woman I've quoted above pass out, I think, but it's been a lifesaver for many of my students. I have mixed feelings about it, but here's what I told my classes: first, read the text as is, then go ahead and use "No Fear Shakespeare" or whatever if you need to, and then finally, look at the original again. I know I am being idealistic to assume they'll take all those steps, but once I've told them that is what they should do, I know they know what I expect of them. What they do from that point on is up to them.

Yes, I know that part of the beauty and power of Shakespeare comes from that original language. You don't need to convince me of that. But most non-majors aren't going to see that on their own. That's what class time is for. Let them do their best to get through the reading for homework and then we'll talk about the art of it all during class. And yes, maybe someday they'll be able to leave "No Fear Shakespeare" behind, but if not, at least they tried and at least they know the basic story. I've got to say, these classes are loving reading Othello, and if I have Sparknotes or whatever to thank for at least part of that, than that's fine.

Finally, here's an excerpt from that article that sounds a lot scarier than it is probably meant to:

"Writer and longtime college professor Adam Sexton is a believer — and not just because Wiley hired him to adapt the Shakespearean texts for its 200-or-so-page manga editions. When he was just 8 years old, a neighbor lent him a comic-book adaptation of "Julius Caesar" by Classics Illustrated. 'I was so taken by it that I pulled 'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare' down from the bookcase in my parents' living room and actually forced my two brothers to perform the assassination scene from the play,' Mr. Sexton says."

And now Mr. Sexton is an only child...

Real books by fake authors...

Somewhere in here is a great idea for a Popular Culture Association presentation.

And yes, I've been a life-long fan of All My Children, but I can't help but chuckle at these choice excerpts from the article:

"Kendall Hart 'is a very aspirational character for women,' Mr. Frons said. 'She’d come from a trailer park and had built up a cosmetics company, and we felt that was the stuff of good female fiction.'"

And this one:

"According to Sara Nelson, the editor in chief of Publishers Weekly, 'Since there seems to be a blurring of lines between fiction and reality on TV, in books, in politics even, it stands to reason that a fictional character could write a book that actually gets published. It strikes me as one of those ideas that’s so bad it’s good.'

That Kendall Hart could whip up a novel and get it published with such dispatch raises no credibility issues with viewers, said Ms. Leahey of Soap Opera Digest. 'Soap opera characters come back from the dead and have evil twins,' she noted, 'so in that world, it would make sense for someone to write a book in a few weeks.'"

I wonder how long it would take soap characters to write a dissertations...well, I have seen them go through medical school in a year, so probably not that long...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

4Cs Panel

Just a preview of a longer post to come: here's a picture of our panel, taken right after our presentation. We look happy, right? (Well, Rita doesn't look happy, but pregnancy is doing a real number on her digestive system and we had quite a few "Hold on, I need to run to the bathroom" moments, so maybe that explains the look on her face.)

Left to right: Kari, Rita, Vogel, and Heidi.

Rhet/Comp PhDs...

An interesting article from about a discussion at last week's 4Cs. (No, I didn't attend the session they are talking about in the piece.)

Where I work...

My friend Wilkie sent me a link to this Washington Post story about Shepherdstown. Sounds idyllic, right? So why the heck don't you come visit me?

"Those Vital Clichés"

A fun post from the Virginia Quarterly Review. Also of note, a list of the top ten titles of submissions they've received.

Judge a book by its cover...

I love this blog so much, I'm adding it to my link list on the side. That's love, folks.

Why your writing stinks...

The Willesden Herald, a literary magazine that decided earlier this year that no one was good enough to win their contest, has posted a list of reasons why your short story is no good. (I learned about this from a blog I read a lot--by a fellow UNCG grad. We didn't know each other at all, really, but I always find the coolest stuff on his blog.) A couple of my favorites:

"4. Solipsism. One miserable person being miserable. This was the most common and depressing failing. Unrelenting monotony of one single, invariably miserable and oppressive viewpoint. No sign of concern or even mention of any other character, nothing other than one person’s dreary moaning. If you are not interested in other characters, at least make it funny."

"22. Unicorns and elves, chick lit, police procedurals and bodice rippers. These should only be submitted to specialist competitions for their specific genres. The Willesden is for so-called literary stories. It’s not a pleasing term, so I would rather say non-generic stories. (I think Joyce once said that the word “literature” was used as a term of abuse.) Readers will not get beyond the first line of - and they are invariably labelled thus - the Prologue: “Nervelda gazed on the mistfields of Thuriber. Her green eyes glinted in the slanting sun, as the tribes of Godnomore straggled over the barren land.” Lord and Lady Farquahar and their servants will journey in vain to quaint villages full of worthy and unworthy peasants. I think I’ve already mentioned Inspector Craggy (promoted in the sequel) and his eager sidekicks. As for chick lit: in reading as well as in life, we may be partial to a bit of office romance, but about ten or twenty of them later and they begin to pall."

Blogging catch-up day...

So I've been swamped since I've been back from 4Cs. Actually, I've been swamped since the week before Spring Break. Now, though, with both my spring conferences behind me, my annual report and merit pay application done, and a big batch of grading completed (and that small matter of a family member's health crisis being more or less resolved!), I can catch my breath and reward myself a bit by doing some blogging. I've got tons of links I've been saving up to post, so prepare yourself, folks. I've got a lot of work to get done today, but I'm working short blogging breaks into my schedule. Bring on the randomness.

Let's start with Japanese game shows--like shooting fish in a barrel, right? Here's a link to video from a show whose point seems to be stacking as many treats on your dog as possible before they fall off or he eats them. Now, you know I am a cat person, but part of the reason I don't think I'll be a dog owner anytime soon is exemplified in this clip: I just couldn't take the love! I mean, those darn dogs are DROOLING as hundreds of treats are stacked on them, yet they don't break because they don't want to disappoint their owners. Dogs are like that--they would do anything for their humans. As a pet owner, I couldn't take that kind of pressure--I just can't meet those expectations. I have a hard enough time with the dog-like Wesley. He thinks I am the bomb, which usually makes me feel awesome, but oftentimes makes me feel unworthy. Hmmm...perhaps this says more about me than about dogs. Anyway, as the Japanese might say, please to enjoy the game show. Later on, chimps and bananas show up!