Thursday, December 16, 2010

Done!

Just submitted my final set of grades. It was a bit of a struggle getting motivated enough to finish the last few portfolios for my ENGL 377 class--I even took a snow-shoveling break--but I made it.

And yeah, we got about 2 inches of snow today. That's my kind of snowfall.

Now it's onto some other tasks including: 1) a short piece I need to write on Rebecca Harding Davis's "Life in the Iron Mills," 2) contacting and scheduling our campus visits for the search we're running, 3) writing new syllabi (already!).

Then there's that whole Christmas thing...cards to write, presents to buy. And so it goes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Facebook as personal narrative

I read this piece (through a link from the Daily Dish) last night and it gave me chills. We put so much of ourselves online these days--and I don't think that's inherently bad. One unintended consequence--Facebook creates a narrative of one woman's life and very sad death.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good music always helps...

We are having some unexpected snow here this morning. It shouldn't amount to much, but the very fact that A) no one saw it coming and B) it is sticking is enough to get people excited, nervous, or both. I don't like it, as you can imagine. But here's one (small) comfort--I am not the only one with some minor PTSD from last year's historic snowfalls. Of the four students I've talked to so far, three are also not happy campers. This isn't normal--college students LOVE snow, especially during finals. Thanks to the Snowpocalypse, we are a damaged population here.

But, as I mentioned in my subject heading, music helps. I've got a Christmas mix going on my iPod which includes my current favorite holiday (non-religious) tune, which you can find here. Other favorites include this one and this one. I am going to stop myself here, though, as no one like a big old list of links...

Anyway, back to work I go. Happy grading to my academia-living friends!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Two quick thoughts...

1) I know I should probably think this product is a bad idea, but all I can think is that it would be lovely to have some for my hot cocoa. Especially if we have another winter like last one. (Seriously--I think I have post-traumatic stress disorder from last winter...)

2) At the risk of being political in this space, I can't stop myself here. Remember when John McCain seemed to have integrity? What happened to this guy? This is as good an excuse as any to link to one of the most brilliant things the Daily Show has done lately: the "It's Gets Worse" video they made for McCain. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"We need more vampire slayers--just not more Buffy"

You must give this article a read. The comments, too. It's pretty great.

I am surprised that the author (and the comment-leavers) haven't mentioned Veronica Mars, which was, I thought, a great heir to the Buffy tradition.

Yeah, I still miss Veronica Mars. Bad.

"Perhaps the World Ends Here"

Seems like a good post-Thanksgiving poem...(complete with some lovely post-colonial/Native-American goodness.)

"Perhaps the World Ends Here"

by Joy Harjo



The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Two quick TV notes...

1) Entire Walking Dead Writing Staff Fired. I really like this show, but yeah, lots of times, the writing (in terms of dialogue especially) is awful. It's just strange that there might be no writing staff next season. Yikes.

2) I really need someone to be watching Dexter this season so we can talk about it at length. This last episode has completely gotten under my skin.

That is all...back to work I go!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"The Envoy"

 
One day in that room, a small rat.   
Two days later, a snake.

Who, seeing me enter,
whipped the long stripe of his   
body under the bed,
then curled like a docile house-pet.

I don’t know how either came or left.   
Later, the flashlight found nothing.

For a year I watched
as something—terror? happiness? grief?—
entered and then left my body.

Not knowing how it came in,   
Not knowing how it went out.

It hung where words could not reach it.   
It slept where light could not go.
Its scent was neither snake nor rat,   
neither sensualist nor ascetic.

There are openings in our lives   
of which we know nothing.

Through them
the belled herds travel at will,
long-legged and thirsty, covered with foreign dust.

"My bad side is as bad as my pleasant side is pleasant."

This poor guy. Dude, I've been there.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pause

This is the first Saturday in months that I haven't had to get up early or be somewhere. I slept in a bit (although that's harder to do these days--my automatic wake-up time has gotten much earlier in the past few years), ran an errand or two, and then headed to my office on campus to get some work done. But then, since there's a big football game today and a ton of other stuff going on, I couldn't find a parking spot. (That never happens.) I thought, "Okay, I guess I'll go home." So here I am, sitting at home on a Saturday, watching some TV, reading a bit (for fun!), and just relaxing. Gotta say, it feels good. I have some work to get to later--grading, more reading, a small research/writing project to get started on--and I will, but for now, it's quite nice to hit the pause button. I need to remind myself that that's what weekends are for.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

An hour of TV bliss...

So I'm not an Oprah fanatic, but I am so glad I remembered to DVR today's episode, featuring the cast of The Sound of Music. (I blogged about the episode when it was first announced.) It was the perfect way to unwind after a long day. Now I want to watch the whole movie. No time, though. I'll have to settle for listening to the soundtrack tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"For My Dog, Who Listens to All My Poems"

I am finally making progress on my SAMLA paper. I'm already thinking of one of the final steps before any conference: the multiple practice readings I'll perform for my always-captive-at-home audience, Bing and Wes. For as long as I've been going to conferences, this has been my ritual: a at least few days before the conference, I'll print out a copy of the paper, set the timer on the microwave, plop down on the kitchen floor and start reading. The oddness of this situation--I don't normally sit on the kitchen floor (and I don't know why I originally picked this location), and I don't often talk uninterrupted for 15-20 minutes to an invisible audience--always draws Bing and Wesley to the scene. They watch, pretty darn captivated, sometimes meowing at me as if to say, "Are you talking to us? 'Cause we're right here..."

So I am reminded of this poem by Cathy Smith Bowers, which Andrew Sullivan recently linked to on his blog.

How entranced, each time, she sits there,
her eyes, I swear,
filling with tears
at her master's

inimitable brilliance. It's
clear to me what's
bounding through her
head: The greatest,

yet, of all the generations!
My husband says
she's just waiting
for her rations.


Bing and Wes aren't quite this earnest (well, Wesley might be while Bing might just indeed be "waiting for his rations"), but God bless 'em, they really do seem to listen with something that looks a heck of a lot like interest and (sometimes) appreciation. Yes, I know that's not really what's going on, but it's awfully nice to imagine that it might be. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Yeah, that's not a word...

I'm up in my office at 4:30 on a Sunday, after already having quite a busy day. I should be on my way home, but I thought, "Let me just send out that last email...that one that has to go to the whole department." So I wrote it, proofread it, made some brief changes, and was just about to hit send when I thought, "Hmmm, better make that subject heading a bit clearer. Let me add, 'Please announce to your students.'"

Should have done a bit more proofreading. "Accounce," one of the words I actually added, isn't a word at all, and spell-check doesn't check subject headings (why not, I wonder?). So there it is--flying towards the in-box of every English colleague on campus, with a glaring typo in the very first word.

Lovely. Just lovely. The moral of the story? Just go home.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

True story...

As I work on  my SAMLA paper, these words seem so very appropriate:

“To participate in the critical discourse on Hawthorne is to step into a fast-rushing stream, crowded with fishermen of varying orientations, all in hot pursuit of a specimen that, no matter how many times it is caught, always ends up back in the water. Thus the sport of Hawthorne criticism has its pleasures and short-lived rewards, but perhaps the most characteristic aspect of the catch has not been its flesh, but its slipperiness, the accompanying sense that the canonical ‘big one’ always gets away. Textually well-supported arguments, often diametrically opposed--we might want to call them studied and elaborate fish stories--are advanced with great regularity, but only seem to incite further discourse. The famously ambiguous Hawthorne has maintained his claim on critical attention by just this capacity of his work to sustain widely disparate readings.”

Seriously. Sometimes I feel like my head is going to explode. 

Citation:
Onderdonk, Todd. “The Marble Mother: Hawthorne’s Iconographies of the Feminine.” Studies in American Fiction 31.1 (2003): 73-100. MLA International Bibliography. Web 26 April 2010.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So long, Freddy!

My dad emailed me yesterday to let me know that "Freddy Sez," a fixture at Yankee Stadium, has died. Sad news, indeed. Once he let my mom bang his pot with his spoon. (That sounds way dirtier than it should.) Anyway, it's been a year of big losses for the Yanks: Bob Sheppard, the Boss, and now Freddy. Here's hoping the boys in pinstripes can pull themselves together and get back into this series with Texas, as #28 would be a great tribute to these guys.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

TV Girl Power...

Two links that made me happy today, as I slogged through midterm grading:

1) It's the 25th anniversary of She-Ra. I still have my action figures in my parents' attic (who freely intermingled with my brother's He-Man figures). She-Ra rocked. She also inspired some of my earliest feminist thoughts, including this question: "How come He-Man can appear in 'very special' episodes of She-Ra, but she doesn't get to cross over to his show?" Seriously.

2) It's the 10th anniversary of the first episode of Gilmore Girls. I will admit that I didn't start watching this show until about the third season (and then frantically caught up one summer as I was dissertating), but what a show! I miss it still.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Links...

It's Writer-in-Residence week here at Shepherd and I've got major assignments due in every one of my classes. And my parents are coming this weekend. So long story short, I have just about zero time for anything else, but I did want to just post a few interesting links:

1) Oprah will reunite the cast of The Sound of Music. I love love love this! The Sound of Music is my sentimental favorite movie. I even like reading/grading to the soundtrack. Can't wait!

2) Maybe lots of people knew about this, but somehow yesterday I stumbled across this old (1950) Time magazine article. Kind of mind-boggling to think of Congress policing Hollywood morality. Actually, I am sure plenty self-righteous folks in Congress today would think this is a good idea. By the way, my mom was named after Ingrid Bergman, but she was born before this scandal. I wonder if my grandparents would have made the same decision post-scandal.

3) Lots of folks are talking about this piece: "Tragedy at the Virginia Quarterly Review."

4) Some good people got arrested for non-violent protests against mountain-top removal earlier this week, including Jason Howard, who I met last year when he visited Shepherd with Silas House.(In the photo, Jason is the first person on the left, and Silas is the third.) Thoreau would be proud of them. And so am I.

5) Someone needs to see this movie with me. I'll pay. I'll even buy you popcorn AND candy AND a soda. And I don't even do that for my niece when I take her to the movies. Seriously, this thing looks like so much fun.

6) "When Your Infant is Secretly Famous in Japan." To quote South Park, "Simpsons already did it!"



7) And yeah, this O'Keefe dude is a total douche. And a pervert, too. Loser.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bad aunt...

I feel like a lousy aunt (or tante, more appropriately) because today is my niece Olivia's birthday. And I forgot to call her. Completely forgot. For the first time since she's been a part of our family, I didn't talk to her on her birthday. I only realized my mistake at 10:30 tonight...and immediately let out a string of not very nice words.

I suppose it didn't help that I had another long day at work: there by 8:00 a.m. and getting home at almost 8:00 p.m. It was a day of back-to-back meetings and classes--and barely any time to answer emails, eat lunch, even use the bathroom. Still, I should have made time for that phone call.

Anyway, maybe her mom will show her this blog entry and help her read this part: Olivia is one of the coolest kids on the planet. She's funny and always full of joy and embodies the phrase "a zest for life." She's smart as a whip--so much so that she continually impresses her parents and the rest of us. And she's amazingly sweet and kind. I've never seen her do something mean. Think about that--how many kids can you say that about? I always have a smile on my face after talking to her. Plus, she can perform (singing and dancing) the entire score of Mama Mia. Not bad, right?

Happy 7th birthday, Olivia!

How dry has it been?

Answer: bad enough in my county for our governor to declare a drought disaster. Just ask my lawn... But lawns aren't really that important. The effects on our poor farmers are much more dramatic. We got just a bit of rain on (really) early Sunday morning and it actually woke me up--even though the windows were closed. That's how unusual the sound of rainfall is around here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My awesome job

I know I complain sometimes (or a lot!) about certain aspects of my job, but I also must admit, it's a great gig. On a day like today, I sometimes do feel like it's one of the best jobs on earth. Here's why: it's a crazy busy day--class, meetings, observations of adjunct classes, grading--but earlier this afternoon, a couple of current students and one recent graduate stopped by my office to say hello and to give me a little gift the recent grad (Anna) had picked up for me: this book. Pretty cool, right? And it was totally on my amazon.com wish list! Clearly, these students know I love me some Emily Dickinson, but I am absolutely touched by the idea that Anna would see the book in the store, think of me, and buy it. They also assured me that she got a good deal. (Apparently they were all at Borders together.) Sounds like they also know that I love a bargain and worry about their post-graduate economic status.

So, yeah, my job rocks. I love that I can say that, especially when so many people can't. Makes me feel very blessed and lucky.

Wow...

Check out this guy. I'd trust him with a county treasury. Totally.

This will never happen...

...but it would be so freakin' great if it did. Apparently, Kristen Bell is trying to start a twitter campaign for a Veronica Mars movie. I thought this was a dead idea, but if she's willing to push, I'll get on board. This past weekend, I re-watched the last half of Season Two while grading papers. So very good. I miss you, Veronica!

A bit of hope...

[Sticking my head out of the general "no politics on the blog" fox hole...]

Did anyone catch Meghan McCain on Rachel Maddow's show last night? I hope so. If not, take a look: Part I and Part II. Politics lately has depressed me so much that I try not to think/talk about it too much. But when I saw this interview, I felt a bit of hope for the Republican party. If young people like Meghan are the future of the party, then we should be okay.

Poor Meghan. She gets eviscerated by the right and the left, but to me, she is smart, articulate, and reasonable. Sure, she grew up entitled and wealthy, but that doesn't make someone a bad person. (This seems to be the charge from some vocal factions on the left...) The attacks from the right write themselves--the same old depressing, divisive, and hateful rhetoric that basically translates into: "If you don't believe EVERYTHING the radical right believes, then go to hell. If you say ANYTHING reasonable, rational, or charitable about the left or even the mainstream, then you are a traitor."

Maybe Meghan falls into the "woe is me"/martyr role a bit too easily, but take a look at what people are saying about her in comments on blogs, etc. and you'll see where she's coming from. (Let's not even get into the attacks on her physical appearance.)

Anyway, I found myself so encouraged by listening to her. Then Rachel Maddow had to end with the (sadly accurate) statement that moderate Republicans like Meghan are getting voted out everywhere. Way to dump some water on that spark of hope, Rachel!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Thief!

So I am not a Diet Coke addict or a caffeine-driven/dependent person. But I do like to reward myself each afternoon with a Diet Coke. I bring it in from home, put it in the tiny department fridge in the morning, then enjoy it later, usually after 3:00 or so. It's a yummy, refreshing, and relaxing part of my day. Twice this semester, someone has taken it. It is amazing how angry, annoyed, and disappointed that makes me.

I really want to channel Ross Gellar and his turkey sandwich rage. "Did you mistake it for YOUR Diet Coke?"

Ugh.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dorothea Grossman

Y'all, I think we need to be reading this woman. Read all the poems at the Poetry Foundation. Here's just one...

"It is not so much that I miss you"

It is not so much that I miss you
as the remembering
which I suppose is a form of missing
except more positive,
like the time of the blackout
when fear was my first response
followed by love of the dark.

Okay--one more: this one's a bit adult, but hilarious.

"Love Poem"

In a lightning bolt
of memory,
I see our statue of Buddha
(a wedding gift from Uncle Gene)
which always sat
on top of the speaker cabinet.
When a visitor asked,
“So, does Buddha like jazz?”
you said, “I hope so.
He’s been getting it up the ass
for a long time.”

Sigh...

It's almost 7:00. I've been on campus all day, haven't completed half of what I had planned to do, and the tasks keep piling up. Okay, Fall Semester 2010: I get it. You're here. And you're determined to be just as busy as last semester and the one before that. But we really couldn't ease into things just a little bit?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Oldies but goodies

[Disclaimer: besides actually wanting to write about the subject addressed below, this post is also the result of A) being burned out after a long day and needing a break and B) my need to push that awful tomato worm picture further down the page. Every time I see it, I cringe a bit. Why in the world did I put it up there? And yeah, I know I can take it down, but that seems dishonest or something.]

Okay, so I know I've posted about this topic before (a long time ago), but sometimes I get real satisfaction out of reading old (and sometimes really old) criticism of a work. As I work on this year's SAMLA paper--about Hawthorne's The Marble Faun and Constance Fenimore Woolson's "Miss Grief"--I am working my way through the relevant sections of J. Donald Crowley's Hawthorne: The Critical Heritage. For those outside English studies, these "critical heritage" books are great resources--basically anthologies of criticism/reviews of a major writer's texts. A couple of gems from James Russell Lowell's April 1860 review of The Marble Faun in The Atlantic Monthly:

"Had he been born without the poetic imagination, [Hawthorne] would have written treatises on the Origin of Evil." (This one makes me laugh because it's pretty darn funny and because Hawthorne already kind of does write about the "Origin of Evil.")

One more: "If you had picked up and read a stray leaf of it anywhere, you would have exclaimed, 'Hawthorne!'" I'm not quite sure what I think of The Marble Faun. It's took me two tries to really get into it and even now, it's not what you would call "fun" reading. And in lots of ways, it's very different from Hawthorne's other books. But, like Lowell says, read any page, and there's no denying it's all Hawthorne.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More garden drama...

So today I found one of these in my tomatoes.
















If you haven't seen one of these before, they are HUGE (like 3 inches long and the thickness of a cigar) and totally "ick!"-provoking. When I killed it, a substance that looked like lime jello gushed out. It was like something from a science fiction movie. Ugh. Ick. Gross.

Here's a helpful informative Youtube about the little buggers:



(The bit about the parasitic wasps is both cool and absolutely disgusting.)

I had a long conversation with my friend Vogel today about how I might not be cut out for this veggie gardening thing. (Flowers, shrubs, etc. I am pretty darn good at...) I am just too emotional and the constant vigilance is a bit wearying. It's like, just when you think you've handled one crisis (squash borers, for instance, or deer nibbling on the leaves, or collapsing tomato plants, or drought-like conditions that have been here all summer), you find a HUGE FREAKIN' WORM THAT SHOOTS BRIGHT GREEN LIQUID AND HAS A RED HORN ON ITS BUTT! (Sorry but the all-caps seem necessary here.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Quick gardening tip...

When out in the veggie garden and in need of a free hand, don't (even temporarily) put a tomato in your pocket. If you get even the least bit distracted, it might not end well for the tomato--or your shorts.

Generation gaps and stuff...

I had to put a parental block on my phone...to protect me from myself.

I had a mysterious $9.99 charge on my cell phone bill this month...for something called "Jamster." I have no idea what that is and definitely didn't intend to buy/subscribe to it. So I called customer service, told the very helpful woman on the other end of the line that I had no idea what Jamster is, and she canceled the subscription and credited my account. How cool is that?

The best I can figure is that my phone, which I keep in my work bag and which occasionally turns itself on, must be the culprit. There have been times that I take it out of my bag and find that it has gone online or something. (See, I don't even know the terminology!) The customer service rep explained, "Well usually you have to confirm those kinds of purchases on the phone's screen." I am sure she was right--I just happened to be unfortunate enough to have the random moves and jostling of my bag click "confirm" before I realized the darn thing was even turned on.

I confessed to the customer service rep that it was probably (although indirectly) something that I did, but she still credited my account. That made me happy. Go AT&T wireless!

Then, to prevent it from happening again, she put that parental control block on the phone so that I can't purchase anything over the phone. So I am all protected...from myself.

I am so not part of the texting generation. (But that doesn't mean I don't still covet an iPhone.)

Speaking of generation gaps, I posted this link on Facebook this morning and it's gotten tons of responses, so it must have touched a nerve. My initial reactions: the Buffy reference (#6) is a weird one--why refer to the movie, not the show? Also, #4 made me laugh out loud, #19 is kind of poetic, #32 is just weird, #46 is cringe-inducing, and #49 is all kinds of awesome.

About the Buffy movie thing, I get that it's probably included because the movie came out in 1992, the same year most of these freshman were born (!), but the movie references (Hemery High and Lothos) are pretty obscure compared to the show's references.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day One...

Well, the first day of classes is nearly over. I've just got the weekly Sigma Tau Delta meeting at five, and then I think I'll head home. I normally stay later on a Monday, but I've got a bit of a headache and am pretty tired. First days will do that to ya.

I do wish I felt a little more excited for this semester. Not sure why I'm not. Maybe that will come. I am excited about my ENGL 377 course. I think this one will be fun.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sad news from the garden...

Well folks, it's all over for the once-thriving and ultra-prolific zuchinni and never-quite-took-off yellow squash. The amateur gardener in me was no match for the one-two punch of squash bugs and squash borers. Both are incredibly ugly little buggers--enough to make one's skin crawl.

Interestingly, this is bugging (ha!) me more than I thought it would. Kind of depressing to watch something you were once so excited about just wilt away and die. I am not sure if I'll try growing these specific vegetables again next year. Maybe at least the zuchinni, because I love it so much.

On a happier note, the tomatoes are still thriving, the peppers are still (slowly) producing, and that last cucumber plant is hanging on.

Hitchens on his cancer...

I really respect this guy, and have for years, and this piece is well worth watching. And this one is well worth reading.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Homemade Tomato Sauce...

Since I am up to my elbows in tomatoes, I took a stab at making sauce from scratch. I used this recipe as a base. I made just a few modifications, but more or less stuck to it. At the end of the four hours of simmering, I thought it was still too watery, so I added more tomato paste and then pureed the whole batch in the blender. Overall, it was pretty good, but a bit bland. I'll have to think of how to spice it up a bit next time. More garlic, more pepper...

For tonight, I made some homemade meatballs, too. I have enough meatballs and sauce leftover for about three more meals. And I also froze two quart-sized bags of just the plain sauce. So all in all, a good first endeavor! Maybe I should try pizza sauce next...

Lisa Simpson's Wedding Day...

Remember when August 1, 2010 was way in the future?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Garden Pics...

I've got this much produce coming in every day or so. It's almost too much...
The cucumbers are making a comeback! Yay!
Tomatoes ripening on the windowsill.
I love the way this pepper is changing color--so pretty.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

101 Syllabizing: done!

I just submitted my syllabus to the copy center today, so it's (more or less) set now. Here's what we're doing: a paper on the all-campus read, a paper on the Little Albert study, a paper on this study on teacher expectations and the Pygmalion effect, and a paper/group presentations on social psychology. Each group will be assigned one of the following famous psychological study to research and present to the class: the Milgram experiment, the Stanford Prison experiment, the Kitty Genovese case, and Solomon Asch's study on opinions and social pressure.

I've only written the first paper assignment, but know (more or less) what the second and third will be, too. I'm still kicking around ideas for the last paper and group presentations, but at least the topics are set, and that feels good.

One class down...two to go. Well, technically three, but I am teaching two sections of the same class, so it feels a lot more like "two to go."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Firefox's Tab Candy

Wow...this looks awesome. A blogger/compulsive web surfer/bookmark-builders dream!

Monday, July 26, 2010

I think I need this...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer soda. You know, I do have a birthday coming up...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Roasted Yellow Pear Tomatoes

Made these last night and they were pretty darn good--worth using the oven on a super-hot day. Surprisingly sweet and so very simple!

Dexter Season Five

Check out the trailer here. Can't wait for September 26! One problem, though: my free year of Showtime will be up by then...I wonder how much it costs to get just Showtime, if that's even possible.

Two quick links: Appalachian writers taking on Big Coal

These are already a bit old, but worth posting:

1) Wendell Berry pulls his personal papers from UK over the University's relationship to the coal industry.

2) Silas House takes on an absurd, infantile, sexist attack on Ashley Judd over MTR.

Seems like a good place to include a Berry poem...how about this one?

"The Peace of Wild Things"

Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
(via the Poetry Foundation

Hmm...and let's give Silas a shout-out, too: consider buying a copy of The Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Volume II, featuring a new and very moving short story by House, "Recruiters."

Friday, July 23, 2010

It's hot...

So I am driving home today and wondering why the thermometer in my car isn't going down much from the 107 it showed when I first got in it. It dropped to 104 and then stayed there. Weird.

Then I got home, turned on the Weather Channel and saw why...

....because it's 104 freakin' degrees outside.

Not 104 with the heat index.

Not "feels like" 104.

It's literally 104 degrees.

Gross.

101 Syllabizing, continued...

This morning finds me still working on my ENGL 101 syllabus. I'm making my way through the Forty Studies that Changed Psychology, paying special attention to those Erin marked with a check in the table of contents. I start reading about one called "The Nature of Love," by H. F. Harlow. (The book actually summarizes the studies and then discusses their influence--it doesn't directly reproduce the original articles.) About a page into it, I realize what study this is: the one with monkeys and fake mothers. Can't do it. Even thinking about this study makes me depressed. Seriously. I told Erin this when we talked about it, but I guess she thought I was joking.

Moving on...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gift to myself...

Check out what I just bought myself. With my garden producing dozens of tomatoes (especially yellow pear tomatoes) and the (now recovering) zucchini and peppers coming along nicely, too, I am anticipating continuing to have more fresh produce than I know what to do with. And in the past, every time I've looked at recipes that call for intense chopping or a food processor, I just move on, since I don't have the equipment. Now I'll be in business, baby! Feel free to share any recipes for lots of tomatoes...

P.S. I'm also contemplating taking up canning. Lord help me!

101 Syllabizing...

I've got three new course preps for this coming semester: ENGL 377: Peer Tutoring and Composition Theory, ENGL 301: Introduction to Literary Study (the pre-requisite for all upper-division English classes), and ENGL 101: Written English.

Now, yeah, I've taught ENGL 101 before (lots of times), but I am shaking it up this time, using an entirely new textbook and writing new assignments. Like last year, my 101 class is part of a "learning community" with a section of Psychology 101. Last year, all I really did to link the two classes was have them talk about what was going on in PSYC 101, especially when each student took a turn leading in-class writing. We also spent some time talking about the paper they wrote for their psychology class. But really, that was about it. When my colleague and I decided to link our classes again, I decided to do better. I hope this will lead to all the goals at the heart of the learning community mission: connections between coursework in different classes, better critical thinking, and a higher retention rate for enrolled students.

So here's what I am doing: throwing out the old textbook, which is a good book (and edited by a former colleague!), but didn't allow for readily apparent connections to their psychology coursework. The old book is the required text for all 101 classes, but I can get around that rule because of the learning community. (I see it as my subtly subversive way of beginning to challenge the "required text" idea for everyone.)

For alternative class texts, I was really inspired by an article the students brought in one day about "Little Albert" and the famous experiment about conditioning. Now I gotta say, I had never heard of Little Albert or the experiment, but I was instantly intrigued. And it was one of the best discussions we had all semester. "We should be writing about that!" I thought. Why not, I wondered, just use a series of articles like that one--or a series of readings about famous psychological topics/studies--and base most of the course assignments on those? So that's what I've been working on...finding those articles/topics. For years, I've been saying that I really want to teach a composition class using less than ten readings, since I don't believe you need a big old (or even little old) reader to teach writing.

Fortunately, my teaching partner (also named Heidi) is pretty awesome and very into the idea. She pointed me towards Forty Studies that Changed Psychology, which I've been working my way through. Equally fortunate, Erin, my younger sister, is also a psychologist, so she looked through that book and pointed me towards some studies she thought students would be drawn to.

I also ordered They Say/I Say as our main writing textbook and was especially glad that I did so after my friend Aaron said how much he liked it. It's a slim little book--and almost completely focused on practical moves that good writers make. (I ordered a handbook, too, the one the whole department uses, and one that I have a soft spot for since it was the one I bought my first semester at Roanoke and used all four years--and through much of graduate school.)

My big problem/challenge now is coming up with the actual writing assignments. I think, for instance, that we'll spend some serious time talking about Little Albert, the Milgram experiment, the Kitty Genovese murder, and the Stanford Prison Experiment, but for the life of me, I can't think of freshman-level assignments about them. There's also one that Erin told me about involving false memories--I can't think of the name right now--that should also be good. Basically, I need four or five decent prompts (for essays ranging from about 3 pages to about 7) that freshman can handle.

I tried to find some inspiration from online videos...

Check out this footage of poor Little Albert. Again, maybe most people know about this study, but it was new to me. My students (lovable little jerks...) were like, "You don't know who Little Albert is?" As if they knew before they took the freakin' class. Anyway, the video...



By the way, H.P. Beck and G. Irons' 2009 article, "Finding Little Albert: A Journey to John B. Watson's Infant Laboratory" (American Psychologist 64. 7:  605-614) is one of the most intense pieces I've read all summer--it had me on the edge of my seat! I am thinking I'll base an essay prompt on it...what that prompt will be, though, I have no idea.

Then there's the Milgram Experiment, also quite depressing... I know the students will eat this stuff up, but again, what kind of essay assignments can I base on it? Anyway, here's the first clip (1 out of 3) from a recent recreation of the experiment.



And here's a link to some original footage...again, no idea how to connect this to essay prompts. Maybe sleeping on it will help.

More to come, I am sure, but for now, if you've got any great essay prompt ideas, feel free to share them!

Glee Re-Watch

It's been sort of fun re-watching Glee this summer, although I am probably as conflicted in my opinion of the show as ever. At the same time, though, I've laughed out loud hearing some of Sue's great lines again. This one got me tonight: ''...I will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat. I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat. And then on some dark, cold night, I will steal away into your house...and punch you in the face.'' That's good stuff. More Sue Sylvester wisdom here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Two Quick Links...

1) I've been meaning to post this one for a long time: the unaired Buffy pilot. Worth checking out if you are a big Buffy fan. The biggest difference, of course, is the actress playing Willow. You can get more info about the pilot here and here.

2) Holla Back DC! Fighting back against street harassment. There's at least one good 4Cs paper in here, isn't there?

"A Homespun Love"

by Alicia Partnoy

Because this humble and homespun love
— just as you see it, simple, unadorned —
is what keeps our feet on the ground,
is what engenders the fruit of our nonconformity,
and throws us a lifeboard amidst the shipwreck.
Every so often our love blazes like thousands of stars,
gets dressed up to go out and uncorks
bottles of effervescence, cases of laughter.
You see, every so often, when the moment is right,
our love recalls that is it, like we are, a survivor.

(via the Speaking of Faith podcast/website)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

That time of year...

Every July I have to do one of my least-favorite tasks: take the boys to the vet for their annual check-up and shots. In the past, this wasn't a task that bothered me. But that was before I got Wesley. Those of you who know Wesley might be shocked to hear this, but he is absolutely horrible at the vet. He's so bad that they've made a note of it in his file. Hilariously, they call him "vocal," which is a pretty great euphemism for the snarling, hissing, and growling he does from just about every second he's in there. (It's not as bad as one of my sister Erin's cats, who got the dreaded designation "Biter" in his file.)

It's so strange because Wesley is, in his home environment, absolutely the sweetest, most loving, friendly cat you'll ever meet. He's downright dog-like in his demeanor. He even seems to like dogs who visit. All of that goes out the window at the vet, though. I always try to assure the staff that "his bark is worse than his bite," and I do believe that's true--he's never actually bitten or scratched anyone or even tried to, but you can tell they aren't taking my word for it. Heck, I wouldn't if I were in their shoes.

So every year, I stand there, embarrassed and apologetic for bringing in this nasty beast. It's not fun, despite their reassurance that they deal with much worse.

And how about Bing? How does he handle it? Well, compared to Wes, he's an angel. In fact, if he does any growling or hissing, I think it's just because Wes gets him so scared. Today, poor Bing just sat on the exam table waiting, but I could feel him shaking in fear. The doctor even said, while listening to his heart beat, "You may be quiet, but your heart is racing."

Thankfully, the vet visits are always pretty short--in and out in about 40 minutes or less--because it's not an awful time for me. I know they are terrified and feel lost and uncertain and there's nothing I can do to really reassure them. Even when they cower against me for comfort or protection, that only makes me feel worse. Last year, Wes took a flying leap from the exam table, across the room, and onto my shoulder. It was impressive and sweet, but majorly guilt-inducing.

As soon as we get home, though, they snap right back to normal. It's actually quite sweet: as soon as I put the evil boxes (the cat carriers) away, the boys walk around like they are so freakin' happy and grateful to be home. You can practically hear them saying, "Yeah! My house! We're back! I love it here!"

The wonderful thing about certain animals, especially those not gifted with a whole lot of intelligence (like my dear Wesley) is that they seem to very quickly forget just who it was that brought them to the vet. He runs to me for comfort and protection and as soon as we get home, he's all over me with a story to tell. My loose translation: "You wouldn't believe what I've just been through! But I am so happy to be home with you, oh person I love so very much!"

If this is what it's like to take a little kid to the doctor, my friends who are parents have even more of my undying respect!


Bing, post-vet visit, looking out an upstairs window.


Wes, in my lap, post-vet visit.

Quick summer pics...

Ah, summer. Sometimes it brings us great things, like zucchini fresh from the garden.


I sauteed this baby--the first fruit of the season--a couple of weeks ago. Delicious! (There's another possible crisis in the garden right now...perhaps some kind of wilt. I really hope not.)

Sometimes summer brings us awful things, like last week's heat wave. This is how my car greeted me about a week ago:


How rude, right? And this was in the evening, not even the heat of the day. Ugh. Thank goodness that's over (for now.)

These past couple of days have been better, bringing us some much needed rain. We went about three weeks without a single drop falling, so you can imagine how my lawn looks right now. It's still kind of humid and a bit gross, but compared to last week, it's paradise!

Off it goes!

Major box checked off on the "Summer To-Do List."

I just emailed a copy of the Poe article to a journal (who shall, at this point, remain nameless) and will later drop two paper copies in the regular mail. I've done this a number of times before, but that actual moment of sending the email or mailing the package still terrifies me. I always take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and then let go. Gulp.

Cross your fingers, say some prayers, etc.


(This picture is from April or so. It's a pretty good encapsulation of the "Year of Poe" in my professional life. From the presentation at the Faculty Research Forum in November to the Poe Seminar in the spring semester to the final push (for now) on this article, it's been a whole lotta Edgar. And, as I write about in the paper, Wes and Bing have been a part of it all. They were, in fact, the inspiration for the paper.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Advising and Registration

This year, I am helping with (and yeah, getting paid for helping with) the Advising and Registration sessions for incoming freshman. There are four two-day sessions in all and we've just finished session 3. (So one more to go--this Friday and Saturday.) I am advising English, English Education, Spanish, Spanish Education, and Communications majors.

Overall, it's been kind of fun. Those two days are quite busy and stressful at times, but it's cool to meet the incoming students and (separately) their parents. We even get a couple of free meals in the dining hall, which rocks because A) it's free B) no cooking dinner of packing lunch those days (and no dishes!) C) the dining hall is actually pretty darn good.

Most importantly, so far, despite the paucity of General Studies offerings, we've been getting people into workable schedules. Session 4 will be tough, as it will be slim pickings. But based on how well today's session went, I am a bit more confident than I was in the beginning.

And I can't make this point strongly enough: the "A-Team" (student leaders who assist with the whole process) is awesome. What a fabulous group of students! They make me even prouder to work at Shepherd. (Hmmm..that's cheesy, but genuine!)

Sad week for the Yankees...

First Bob Sheppard and now George Steinbrenner. Looks like the boys in pinstripes definitely need to bring home that 28th championship this year to pay tribute.

Sickening...

...these Mel Gibson tapes are absolutely horrifying. I don't give a crap if the woman is a gold-digger, a cheater, whatever. There is just no excuse for what he says on those tapes. He sounds like a raving maniac, a monster, a batterer, a deeply disturbed misogynist. Oh yeah--and a racist. They are chilling. And to think there are people out there defending him...that's a whole other level of sick. And yeah, I'm looking at you, Whoopi Goldberg. (But don't forget Whoopi's defense of Roman Polanski.) Hearing people defend him makes me sad for the world. Ugh.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Emmy Nominations

So I know I've been complaining about being busy, and yet, here I go writing a big old blog post about TV. Yeah, the irony isn't lost on me.

Anyway, I've been meaning to do a quick post about the Emmy nominations and could use a break from Hawthorne. Overall, I am super-excited about some of the nominations, especially Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler. It's about time! Connie Britton needs to win this one. She just does. Did you see Friday's episode? Amazing. Also, check out this interview. Don't you just want to be her friend? Other thoughts:

All the love for Modern Family, the best new show of the season (yeah, including Glee, which I do love, but more about that below). But no nomination for Ed O'Neil? He really is fantastic on that show--a wonderful combination of funny and sweet. You buy him as a dad, a grandfather, and as Gloria's husband. Makes you totally forget Al Bundy, a character I never liked.

Nominations for more of my favorites: my beloved NPH, Michael C. Hall, Kyra Sedgwick, Glenn Close, Terry O'Quinn, Michael Emerson, and Rose Byrnne .

The nods to Lost: Matthew Fox really was a lead actor/heart of that show, so an Emmy this year would be awesome (but maybe not at Kyle Chandler's expense?). And hell yeah, Elizabeth Mitchell! Good thing I'm not an Emmy voter, because I'd have a heck of a time deciding between O'Quinn and Emerson (but would probably end up voting Emerson.)

Love that Burn Notice gets a bit of notice with the fun nomination of Sharon Gless. This isn't a superb show, but it's a lot of fun and she's terrific on it. These summer shows (including The Closer) are changing the way we think about TV. I like that.

Very happy for Julia Louis Dreyfus. New Christine was a show that was too funny to be canceled. (Ausiello's got an post-nomination interview with JLD here.) Too bad Better Off Ted didn't get any love either. Man, that show was hilarious--like Arrested Development with less of a mean streak.

Glee...well, I've been thinking a lot about this, and I am not sure how I feel about all the Glee nominations. Don't get me wrong: I love, love, love the show, but part of me doesn't believe it's superior TV. I think that what I love so much is the music. The writing can be so sloppy and cliched, some of the acting is pretty bad, and lots of times, you can't tell if it is a big old satire or serious. Lea Michelle deserves her nomination, as does Jane Lynch (someone needs to put together a gift book of Sue Sylvester insults), and Matthew Morrison's nod doesn't bother me.

The Glee nomination that intrigues me is the nomination for Chris Colfer. No one saw that coming. I'm not sure if it was his performance that was Emmy-worthy or the writing of his storylines, especially with his dad, played Mike O'Malley (who totally deserved his nomination). That was excellent stuff. A friend and I have had conversations about the character of Kurt: she hates him because he's so obnoxious and bitchy, but I think that makes him more realistic. What that portrayal shows you is that it is hard to be a gay high school boy (duh, right?) but instead of making him a sweet, always-victim, he's a bit of a brat at times. He makes a play for Finn even though he knows Finn is totally straight. That seems real. I don't know...it works for me. The same is true for Artie's struggles as a disabled person.

But other storylines (Finn's sadness over his absent dad, Rachel and Finn's on-again/off-again status, Ken and Emma's relationship early in the season) confuse me about the show's tone. It's like the show can't make up its mind about what it wants to be. (Kind of like Nip/Tuck, also created by Ryan Murphy.) Watch an hour of Glee and then an hour of Chuck. Chuck hits all the notes (seems like an appropriate metaphor): acting, writing, production, and has a sort of central theme/heart. Glee puts on a good show in terms of music and some laughs, but minute for minute, it seems to me to be the weaker show. Anyway, if any of you, dear readers, watch Glee, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this show--especially the whole satire vs. serious question.

Some snubs that bug me: No best drama for Friday Night Lights? No love for Chuck? No nomination for FNL's Zach Gilford? Nothing for John Noble on Fringe? Each of these is an absolute crime. But here's the deal: this year, it seems, there are far fewer of these types of crimes, and that's progress.

How I've been spending this Sunday...

...up in my office again, this time organizing and copying creative writing submissions for our second Sigma Tau Delta conference.

Up next, re-reading some Hawthorne (for my paper at SAMLA later this year), and after that, maybe some fall syllabizing...

I need a life, but can't find the time.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How I've been spending this Saturday...

In my office on campus, editing, editing, editing...

And now, converting my freshly-edited article from MLA to Chicago style. Three and a half pages done out of 19. Fun stuff. I need a break.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mood lifters...

So if, like me, you find yourself feeling frustrated or even slightly, to quote my nephew, "yucky" today, try one of these to lift your mood:

1) Rep. Mike Weinstein's awesome campaign ad. This catchy little tune was stuck in my head for a hour or so yesterday.

2) Six thing from history that everyone pictures incorrectly. My favorite line (about what Greek statues really looked like): "Ancient Greece looked more like someone crashed their LGBT pride parade into a Mardi Gras Festival."

Technological difficulties

I am doing my best to finally get this darn Poe article done and sent out for review. Lately, though, it seems that the universe (or at least the technological universe) is conspiring against me. First, my most recent, heavily revised version of the file simply vanished from every place I thought I had saved it. I suspect that this was actually my fault, that in an effort to copy the folder with the article and all my notes from my university network drive to my flash drive, I actually did the opposite--copied from flash drive to network drive and somehow deleted the article.

Major crisis, right? Well, it was, but thankfully, I had a print-out version, which my awesome friend David passed on to my awesome friend Aaron, who scanned it for me and emailed it to me yesterday. Yay! I shudder to think of the labor I would have had if that print-out had not existed...I still have my scribbled on, earlier drafts, but they are a mess. Plus, what makes it to the next draft is never an exact replication of those scribbled annotations, etc. So yeah, David and Aaron are awesome.

Next step: clean up the scanned version. As you might know, when you convert a pdf to a Word document, things get slightly messed up. Characters get switched, certain formatting gets lost, etc. Fixing the errors is a time-consuming process, but obviously less time-consuming than having to retype the whole thing. Plus, it makes you re-read everything again--and closely--which is always a good thing at this stage of composition.

Yesterday, after the end of Day 2 of Session 2 of Freshman Advising and Registration (more about that later, maybe), I spent about an hour cleaning up the document. It was actually kind of fun work. Yes, this is because, neat-freak that I am, I even enjoying cleaning documents. Plus, it was cool to see the progress in front of my eyes. Then the student I was doing an independent study with showed up, so I had to stop for awhile. She actually showed up about 15 minutes early, so I saved my work on the network drive, and only the network drive. This is okay (theoretically) since the network drive is super-secure and backed up every night, etc.

When an hour had passed and the independent study meeting was over, I turned back to the computer, which was displaying some pop-up messages about "network connections" being lost, etc. No big deal--this happens, then things get fixed. The document was still on my screen so I thought, "just in case, I'll save a copy on my desktop," but then Word crashed (don't know why) and that didn't work. And when I restarted my computer, the network drive was unavailable. Email wasn't working either. I eventually went home, where my Shepherd email was working (in web form) and there was an from IT explaining that there were all kinds of server problems, etc. "No big deal," I told myself, because I know that document is okay--just sitting on the network drive waiting for me to get back to it.

But now it's almost 11:00 on Friday and the network is still inaccessible. So much for getting those revisions done today. Very frustrating.

End of my technological venting session.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yeah, it's hot out there, but I want more summer...

I am already not looking forward to the (short!) walk to my sure-to-be-a-replication-of-what-hell-might-feel-like car, and am hanging out here in my nicely air-conditioned office just a bit longer. I want this "historic heat wave" to be OVER. Yet, I am also fighting off a bit of a freak-out about not getting nearly enough scholarship done (yet) this summer. Because--honestly--this darn summer is flying by and I feel like I've wasted some time. Ugh. Talk about yucky, conflicting emotions. With all that said, how about some mindlessly fun links before I get a bit more reading done and then head home?

1) From Gawker, "How to Survive the Heat Wave with No Air-Conditioning." Fortunately, I have AC at home, but I am such a mega-cheapskate that I use it pretty sparingly. Anyway, the tip about using a regular old electric fan made me laugh: "Park the fan nice and close to your face and it's double the pleasure. Pretend you're Tyra Banks at a photo shoot and your weave is just blowing in the wind." I also like their tips about losing your socks. That one is so absolutely true (right down to making sure your feet aren't all stinky!).

2) A fabulous new blog: Catalog Living, which imagines those perfect yet slightly "off" catalog photos from Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, etc through a couple named "Gary" and "Elaine." I will admit to doing some serious coveting while looking through these sorts of catalogs (or for that matter, houses in movies like It's Complicated), but then I always think, "Do people actually have houses like this?" No one I know. And when do we cross that line from "cool conversation piece/decorating element!" to "huh?" My sister Tara is actually pretty good at this. Her house is kind of amazing. I did once scratch my head at her purchase of a ball of twigs for her coffee table. "What will you do with that?" I asked. I don't think she ever answered.

3) Glenn Beck University. Just the title is funny...or horrifying. Whatever.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Youtube vs. the infomercial

So, I've seen the infomerical for the Water Jet a bunch of times and, like I always do with these kinds of commercials, I wondered, "Does that really work?" A quick google search gave me this video. How awesome is that? I love that people are doing things like this.

Maybe my mom is right...

...and academia is turning me into a crazy liberal, because (with the possible exception of the first play), I don't see anything inherently left-wing about these plays. Simply talking about race, the wars, etc. is not partisan. (You'll notice, I hope, that they are being hosted at Shepherd.) Anyway, check out this little blurb at the Corner...

The Corner - National Review Online

(I hardly ever visit the Corner anymore--I just went there today to see what folks were saying about the Byrd vacancy. Imagine my surprise at seeing SU front-and-center on the first post!)

Here's the NPR story...


And yeah, my mom isn't right on this one. Sorry, Mom.

RIP, Senator Byrd

One of the most interesting figures in the Senate has died and I could write (a lot) about his complicated legacy ("Senator Pork," the whole KKK past, his opposition to the Iraq War, real questions about just how long he should have served once his health declined), but what's struck me most today is how many of my WV-based Facebook friends are commenting on his death. And they are sad. ("West Virginia's Angel," "We'll never have a better senator," etc.) Simply put, this guy did a LOT for this state. This campus, for instance, features no less than three buildings bearing his family name. And right outside of town is the NCTC, a beautiful facility he brought here. I mention all of this quite objectively--no commenting on the appropriateness of it. It's just clear to me that this man really mattered to West Virginians, a state that has been so poor and so neglected for its entire history. Again--I'm not endorsing these appropriations or earmarks--just pointing out how much they affected people.

Also, here's a sweet little story I heard from a colleague at Shepherd: our most recent Shepherd Byrd-named building is the Erma Ora Byrd Nursing Building, named after the Senator's wife. who died in 2006. Anyway, Byrd showed up for the 2007 dedication. This colleague says that after the ceremony was over, she saw him sitting in his car, just staring at the building, a bit overcome with emotion. This image of an old, tired man, sitting in his car, missing his wife and proud of the building that bears her name, is a powerful one for me. So RIP, Senator Byrd.

UPDATE: Here's Shepherd's statement on Byrd's death, complete with lots of pictures of his legacy here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

New living room furniture...





It's finally here! And, as you can tell, it passes inspection from the important voices in this household.




Thursday, June 24, 2010

Well that was fast...

I submitted final grades for my summer class earlier this afternoon. This summer session really flew by. I had fun with this group of students, too. They were smart, funny, and pretty talkative. Not a bad gig at all. Still, I am grateful for the extra time I'll have...I really need to get my scholarship-doing act together.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Temporary Tomato Disaster!

Sometime soon, I'll post some pictures from my un-freakin' believable vegetable garden. Seriously--it's amazing (but I can't take much credit...more about that later).

But just a short story for now: my tomato plants, which are now taller than me in places, collapsed! They were in cages, but the cages got pulled out of the ground...it was like a domino effect. The big one took the other two down with him. So picture me out there, in the 90+ degree heat, sun beating down, desperately trying to get them back up! After lots of twine, several expletives, and some prayers (funny how those last two can go together), things seem to be under control. Fortunately, I could just tie the cages and some of the really big stalks to the fence. There were some casualties--lots of snapped branches, lost teeny-tiny baby tomatoes--but I think, all in all, it could have been much worse.

Ahh, the stresses and joys of gardening!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Five minutes until class...

...is enough time to post two links.

1) Check out this interactive map of where Americans are moving. You could have a lot of fun with this. I checked out, for instance, where most of the people in Guilford County, NC (where I used to live) are coming from. No surprise--lots of movement from the Northeast.

2) As a somewhat intense coupon clipper/bargain hunter, even I was quite impressed with this guy.

StoryCorps

Things have been busy (I know, I know, get a new tune, Heidi...) and sad and stressful around here the past couple of weeks. Nothing I can go into any details on, but needless to say, it's been tough. But you know what always makes me feel better--even as it makes me cry? The StoryCorps podcast. Ordinary people telling their stories to each other. It's just wonderful. This morning I actually re-listened to one of them (I've linked to it below) and it was just as good the second time. Check it out. You won't be disappointed. And maybe make a small donation to their fund?

Sharon DeLevie and her mother Joan

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Golden Girls Marathon this weekend...

Time for some serious Golden Girls watching. RIP, Rue.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Random links...

These are really just a collection of things I've been meaning to post--they are completely unrelated to each other...

1) The Drunk History series from Funny or Die. The thing is, take out some of the drunken excesses, and she sounds a bit like me teaching Frederick Douglass to my class. Or the pretentious drunken (and hilarious) conversations at any party in graduate school.

2) Louis Black on Glenn Beck's Nazi Tourette's. Awesome.

3) A 1927 map by Paramount Studios of fake filming locations (places in California that sort of look like other places.)

4) Love love love this vending machine.

5) A rare video clip of one my personal heroes, Victor Frankl, talking about man's search for meaning. (Read the book!)

6) From Saudi Arabia, the most terrifying commercial ever. Seriously, it's nightmare material...

7) To wipe that previous clip from your mind, check out this one, of a baby hearing sound for the very first time.

TV beyond Lost...

Two quick thoughts:

1) I feel obliged to state that the Chuck finale was fantastic. Everyone needs to watch Chuck. Seriously. I get that Lost was a kind of niche show--not for everyone. But Chuck has something--and something good--for everyone.

2) While I am still mourning the end of Lost, we've still got the other best show on TV, Friday Night Lights. Check out this fan promo for Emmy nominations for Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. It is a crime that they haven't been recognized yet. The video encapsulates all the reasons it is so amazing.

Lost Links...

1) Very cool timeline of the show's events. You'll still be super-confused, but it's pretty neat.

2) The Lost exhibition. Yet another reason to get up to NY soon. Can you imagine owning some of these props? (Yes, the "you" in that last sentence are my imaginary, Lost-loving readers. And I am imagining said readers responding with, "That would be awesome!" Don't kill the fantasy.)

3) An epilogue on the Hurley/Ben era? Sounds sweet. Here's one possible idea.

4) Remember those 50 questions Lost needed to answer in it's finale? Well, according to this report card, they didn't do so well. But you know what, I don't care. It was still amazing. According to this column, I was tricked into liking the finale, and that might be true. But again, I don't care.

Lit links...

1) Coming soon: Mark Twain's autobiography, which has been in a vault for the past 100 years. This is an interesting article, but I'm not sure I agree with the woman who says, "Most people think Mark Twain was a sort of genteel Victorian." Really?

2) Jane's amazing mom passed this link onto me yesterday: "Emily Dickinson's Poetry Blooms at New York Botanical Gardens Exhibit." Another incentive to try to get up to NY sometime soon!

3) To Kill a Mockingbird turns 50.

4) Sarah Palin's spoken word poetry.

Monday, May 24, 2010

"The End"

So Lost ended about an hour ago and I gotta say, I think I really liked it. I am surprised at how many questions weren't answered (I knew there would be lots, though) and I'll need to watch it a few more times to even begin to be able to have extended coherent discussions about it, but again, I think it worked. And worked really well.

What a ride. Six amazing seasons. I never gave up on you, Lost, and I am so very glad about that. I never even really felt tempted to give up--not a bit. I just had some faith (John Locke would be proud!) and went with it.

Off to bed I go! My summer class starts tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

TV Heaven...

I am trying to think of a recent night that offered anything comparable to tonight's two amazing TV events:

1) The penultimate episode of Lost. (Hope it's better than last week's episode, but even a bad episode of Lost is better than 90% of everything else on TV.)

2) The Joss-Whedon-directed episode of Glee, featuring special guest star Neil Patrick Harris. (Check out an interview with Joss about the episode here.)

The dilemma, of course, is that they both air at 9:00. Lost wins out. Thanks to my DVR, I'll watch Glee right after. After all, Glee is a good way to come down from an intense hour of Lost.

Fall TV Updates...

So the good news came last week, with word that Chuck had been renewed. Now comes some bad news...goodbye, "New Adventures of Old Christine" (a genuinely funny show), good-bye "Cold Case," the end of a Sunday night ritual for me. Sad stuff. According to Ausiello, there's still a bit of hope for "Christine," but don't hold your breath.

Right now, I'll just be happy to have Chuck stick around. Focus on the good, right?

Plus, there's this sad little hard-working part of me that's like, "Well, no 'Christine' or 'Cold Case' means an extra 90 minutes a week to get grading done." Ack.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bill Murray Reads Poetry to Construction Workers

Check it out here.

"A Cedary Fragrance"

A Cedary Fragrance

by Jane Hirschfield

Even now,
decades after,
I wash my face with cold water --

Not for discipline,
nor memory,
nor the icy, awakening slap,

but to practice
choosing
to make the unwanted wanted.

Recorded version--with some interesting context--available here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This is pretty sweet...

You might want to have a tissue nearby, but what an amazing mother...

Ummm, Arizona?

What the heck is going on with you?

Would an ethnic lit class like the one I just taught be illegal in Arizona now? Crazy and scary.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Faint Music

Why didn't I know this Robert Haas poem before? I came across it the other day and it almost stopped me in my tracks.

"Faint Music"

Maybe you need to write a poem about grace.

When everything broken is broken,
and everything dead is dead,
and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt,
and the heroine has studied her face and its defects
remorselessly, and the pain they thought might,
as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves
has lost its novelty and not released them,
and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly,
watching the others go about their days—
likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears—
that self-love is the one weedy stalk
of every human blossoming, and understood,
therefore, why they had been, all their lives,
in such a fury to defend it, and that no one—
except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool
of poverty and silence—can escape this violent, automatic
life’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light,
faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears.

As in the story a friend told once about the time
he tried to kill himself. His girl had left him.
Bees in the heart, then scorpions, maggots, and then ash.
He climbed onto the jumping girder of the bridge,
the bay side, a blue, lucid afternoon.
And in the salt air he thought about the word “seafood,”
that there was something faintly ridiculous about it.
No one said “landfood.” He thought it was degrading to the rainbow perch
he’d reeled in gleaming from the cliffs, the black rockbass,
scales like polished carbon, in beds of kelp
along the coast—and he realized that the reason for the word
was crabs, or mussels, clams. Otherwise
the restaurants could just put “fish” up on their signs,
and when he woke—he’d slept for hours, curled up
on the girder like a child—the sun was going down
and he felt a little better, and afraid. He put on the jacket
he’d used for a pillow, climbed over the railing
carefully, and drove home to an empty house.

There was a pair of her lemon yellow panties
hanging on a doorknob. He studied them. Much-washed.
A faint russet in the crotch that made him sick
with rage and grief. He knew more or less
where she was. A flat somewhere on Russian Hill.
They’d have just finished making love. She’d have tears
in her eyes and touch his jawbone gratefully. “God,”
she’d say, “you are so good for me.” Winking lights,
a foggy view downhill toward the harbor and the bay.
“You’re sad,” he’d say. “Yes.” “Thinking about Nick?”
“Yes,” she’d say and cry. “I tried so hard,” sobbing now,
“I really tried so hard.” And then he’d hold her for a while—
Guatemalan weavings from his fieldwork on the wall—
and then they’d fuck again, and she would cry some more,
and go to sleep.
And he, he would play that scene
once only, once and a half, and tell himself
that he was going to carry it for a very long time
and that there was nothing he could do
but carry it. He went out onto the porch, and listened
to the forest in the summer dark, madrone bark
cracking and curling as the cold came up.

It’s not the story though, not the friend
leaning toward you, saying “And then I realized—,”
which is the part of stories one never quite believes.
I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain
it must sometimes make a kind of singing.
And that the sequence helps, as much as order helps—
First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing.