Sunday, March 28, 2010

Catch-up Blogging: Aidan's birthday

Aidan turned FIVE in late February and, for the first time ever, I was in town for the par-tay. As far as party goes, it was a good one: pizza (New York pizza, thank you very much), cake, and lots of time for me to play with the kids.

Once again, I didn't get a ton of pictures, especially of the adults. I am working on a theory--my family doesn't like to be photographed. It's frustrating. Anyway, here's what I got...

Erin and Kelsie. (See, Erin lets you take her picture...she's a good one...)

Jeff and my dad. It's a bit blurry and there's a weird white blob by my dad's mouth, but it's just about the only other picture of the adults that I have. (Jeff and my dad are also usually willing to get photographed.)

Aidan and Erin.

My family has gone dog crazy. In October, there were no dogs in our family. None. Now all four of my siblings have puppies. Crazy. Here's Savannah, the new puppy in Christian, Jennifer, Kelsie, and Aidan's house. She's pretty darn cute.

Some video of the dog. Also, how loud is my family?

Aidan with his cake.

Closer view of the super-cool NASCAR cake. He looks like he's about to karate-chop it, but don't worry, he didn't.

One more piece of video, featuring the family singing "Happy Birthday." Move over Von Trapp Family singers. Seriously, bet you didn't know I have one of the best voices in my family.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Catch-up Blogging: Erin's Bridal Shower

I didn't take too many pictures at Erin's bridal shower, but here are some...

Kelsie. Can you believe how big she's getting?

Family and friends.

Kelsie, Erin, and Olivia.

Olivia admiring the cake.

Erin opening presents.


Customized glasses...really more of a present for Eric!

The hat, carefully made by Kelsie, from all the ribbons and bows.

Close-up of the hat!

Catch-up Blogging: Rocky Point Snow

Warning: skip this post if you images of winter-weather trigger your post-snowpocalypse traumatic stress disorder.

The last weekend in February found me in NY, at my parents' home in Rocky Point. I hitched a ride up with Erin and Eric on that Friday, since the latest batch of nasty winter weather was whipping up the coast and I didn't like the idea of driving through a blizzard on my own. We were all heading up there for Erin's bridal shower (scheduled for the next afternoon and Aidan's 5th birthday party, scheduled for the next evening). Fortunately, we ran into zero problems on our drive up, a combination of good luck, excellent road crews, and the fabulous driving skills of my future brother-in-law.

Once we got to Rocky Point, I was a bit restless from being cooped up in the car. Plus, for the first time this whole long winter, I found myself appreciating how pretty the snow can be. It had been snowing all day in Rocky Point and would continue to do so, but the roads were nice and clean. Given how ill-prepared my area of West Virginia was for all the snow we got, I was almost stunned by the difference. (No, this is not a criticism of WV--the amount of snow we had this winter was historic.)

Anyway, I decided to take a long walk around the neighborhood. My companion?

My dog nephew, who rode up with us for the weekend.

At certain points, he was mostly interested in eating the snow...

But he and I also had fun just playing in it, especially in my parents' back yard.

Anyway, it was a nice walk and I took some pretty pictures...

First, my parents' house.

Then just some neighborhood shots...

So yes, snow can be very pretty. But we're done with it for now, thank you.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday afternoon link-dumping...

I am giving myself a ten-minute break to clean up the bookmarks a bit and drop some links, this time all (more or less) related to books, writin', and learnin' in general.

1) What the heck, faculty at the University of Regina? Is this a fight you really want to have? (The short version: sixteen members of the faculty are objecting to scholarships for the children of soldiers killed in action on the grounds that such scholarships glorify war.) In theory, I suppose I can see where they are coming from, but come on...

2) Okay, okay, I still haven't read a single Twilight book (although I did try to make it through the movie...emphasis on "tried"), but this piece from NPR cracked me up. My favorite part (about Bella): "She's like a Smiths song without the humor." Classic. I saw enough of the movie to agree wholeheartedly with these assessments.

3) Literature scholars descend on Research Triangle Park and discuss the future of the profession. Sound thrilling, right?

4) American Book Review's piece about 40 bad books is fun to read through, even as you find yourself arguing back to the various contributors.

5) The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay has decided that switching their default font from Arial to Century Gothic will help them use 30% less ink. I love this story, but only because, cheapskate that I am, I have obsessed a bit over which fonts use more ink and thought I was strange for doing so. Now I know I am not strange (for that reason, anyway)...either that or I am just a Wisconsinite*-in-training. For the record, the best way I've found to save ink? Change your printer setting to "draft." Works just fine.

6) My alma mater, Dear Ole Roanoke, has made it to the Sweet 16 of Tough Graders. That is something to be proud of.

7) A story that just can't be true: according to a study by the fine folks at Boston University, binge-drinking the night before your GREs won't necessarily bring your score down.

*I wanted to type "Wisconsonian," but spell-check tells me that's wrong. Too bad. Wisconsonian sounds cooler than Wisconsinite.

Portfolio: update

A follow-up to that post from last October: I got my third-year review portfolio back yesterday and everything looks good. My favorite line of feedback was the one that predicted, given what they've seen so far, there are "no obstacles to tenure." Yay.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"The Talk. Or Not."

If you've got some time, check out this piece by one of my favorite professors from Dear Old Roanoke, my former adviser and the guy who helped me get into grad school. It's pretty amazing.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Break Link Dumping...

Five good ones:

1) 15 minutes of genius from John Stewart. Those of you who know me know I like to label myself a sort of libertarian, but these days, I really do feel label-less. I mean, who wants to call themselves a conservative or a libertarian if Glenn Beck is claiming to be one? I could go on about this, but it makes me agitated...and I don't want to be agitated on the last weekday of Spring Break. Anyway, watch the clip. At first, towards the end, I thought "well, it's getting a bit silly and over the top," but then I realized that makes it a perfect response to the craziness of the Glenn Beck universe. And the thing is, when Beck does it, it isn't just silly--it's scary.

2) An wonderful column about the virtues of the small academic conference, via I've said for a long time that PAC is one of my favorite conferences to go to, for many of the reasons Kevin Brown lists here. I wasn't able to go this year, but hope to next year.

3) For my friends who are still dissertating, also offered some advice for finishing up: forget perfectionism. Seriously.

4) Maryland, a state I could swim to if I wanted to (it's just across the river from campus), isn't part of the South anymore. Good to know. (Tell me there aren't at least 10 academic articles lurking in the language of this story...on regionalism, politics, state identity, tourism, etc.)

5) Jesse James, the most hated man in America. True story. Team Sandra all the way for me. Honestly, have you ever heard a bad thing about this woman?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bing's birthday...

Bing turned 8 today. That's hard for me to believe...he's getting up there, isn't he? Luckily he doesn't show his age at all. He is still playful and spry and just as cute as ever. (Yes, I am biased.)

Yesterday I went to both Petsmart and Petco to find a little present for him, but couldn't find anything that A) I knew he would play with, B) we didn't already have some version of (just how many toy mice does a cat need?) and C) didn't cost more than $10 or so. (To avoid any "crazy cat lady" labeling, let me explain that the Petco stop wasn't intentional--I was at a shopping center where there was one and figured I'd check it out...)

So instead, I just got him one of those Fancy Feast Appetizer things. I figured he could share it with Wesley when I got home from work today. Video footage below. Notice how invisible I become the second they start eating. Also notice the high quality of those Appetizers. There's a whole freakin' shrimp in there!

For the record, my decision not to buy him any new toys for his birthday was validated by his toys of choice this evening--a couple of balled-up pieces of paper. Affordable fun for the whole family!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


From the Onion...

Breaking News: Some Bullshit Happening Somewhere

Andrew Sullivan also linked to the Onion clip--and the one below, too, that I didn't see the first time he posted it. It's pretty spot on, too.

This is, of course, why it is so depressing to watch the news these days.

Generation gap...

Holy cow...Corey Haim died? I guess people will say they saw this coming, given his troubled life, but it is still really sad to think that the kid from The Lost Boys and License to Drive is dead.

Just after reading about it online, I walked into my ENGL 204 class today and said, "Oh man, guys, did you hear about Corey Haim?" And they said....(you can see this coming, right?)....


"Does he go here?"


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Long, crazy days...

It's been another long day here at the office. And a random day, too. Among things I accomplished: sent out invitation letters for possible new members of Sigma Tau Delta, graded a bunch of stuff (what else is new?), read, read, read, and read some more, sent about 100 emails (okay, a slight exaggeration), met with students, went to a meeting, taught a class, and...

...sent out formal rejection letters for the two searches I chaired this year. Human Resources actually handles the bulk of these, but I had to send letters to anyone we actually interviewed. What a strange and depressing exercise. I know I've said before how weird it is to be on the other side of this process, but this part--sending these letters and having HR sent the other notices--has been one of the hardest.

One thing the job search makes very clear (from this side) is how very lucky I was to get my job. The thing is, if my school were to re-run the search for my job next year, and I was thrown in with a whole bunch of new candidates, would I still get it? (This assumes that my department could experience a mind-wipe and forget the how awesome I've been since they hired me. Ha ha.) The answer: Probably not. That's just strange to think about, isn't it?

One other Herculean task accomplished today: I got some shoes for Erin's wedding. Believe me, shoe shopping is NOT something I enjoy and I had to take to the internet to find what I was looking for. The only requirement from the bride (the least Bridezilla Bride out there, for which I am so grateful!) was that the shoes be gold. My requirements? Comfortable! So I went with these. What do you think?

To recap, my day started off with online shoe shopping and rejection letters. Not an ideal way to get going.

But a few bits of humor helped me make it through. First, the "Academy's" Awards. The last three are my favorites:

Best Supporting Actor, Faculty: Professor Who Manages to Act As If There Are No Dumb Questions

Best Supporting Actor, Student: Student who Manages to Laugh at Every Joke by Professor, No Matter How Awful

Costume Design: award retired in honor of the MLA convention

Second, on a related note, this year's batch of "Honest Movie Titles." The line at the bottom of the Precious poster made me laugh out loud ("Don't Bring a Date, Seriously"), which probably says something bad about me. I also loved the Up poster: "This shit comes to us in our sleep." Man, I really loved Up.

Okay--back to work I go! I've got some Poe to read before heading home. And yay! Lost is on tonight!!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lucille Clifton

Ever since I heard about her death on February 13, I've been meaning to write a post about the amazing poet Lucille Clifton. Then, the other day, I was catching up on some podcasts and came across this terrific tribute from Poetry Off the Shelf. Most of the podcast a reairing of a 2007 Curtis Fox interview with Clifton.

There's great material here, well worth ten minutes of your time: first off all, you get such a wonderful sense of Clifton as a person. She's funny, eloquent, and inspiring. She says that she started writing poems as a way of answering back to Emily Dickinson (!). When asked when she realized she could be a professional poet, she answers that she's still kind of waiting to find that out. She makes the point that when her first book of poems was published, her children were 7, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1. How did she find time to write with six little kids? "Well, I did what I had to do...I started in my head. I didn't write poems down until they were nearly done...Today it's called multi-tasking...then it was just being a mother and doing what one had to in the way that one had to do it."

She reads four poems, "'oh antic god,'" "jasper texas 1998," "homage to my hips," and "won't you celebrate with me."

She and Curtis Fox discuss "jasper texas 1998" in some detail, since it is less "life-affirming" than some of her other poems. Clifton gives us a richer sense of her poetic purpose when she says "I was not put here to write pretty things," but to write about life, good and bad. She also points to the poetry's endurance in the face of violence and pain: "after something like that happens [the murder of James Byrd], that I continue to write is affirming, that poetry continues to come to me."

About "homage to my hips," she states, "I am a luxury-sized woman...In the United States...we like all kind of luxury-sized things, except women, which is very annoying." Too funny. Incidentally, about a week ago, I was talking to a colleague about a seminar she will participating in about "beauty" and I went right to this poem. I love what she says here about beauty--how she challenges the dominant standards of beauty and celebrates her own. Gotta love her response to Fox's question: "Was [the poem] a response to the feminist movement?" She laughs and says, "No, it was a response to my big hips!"

She also asserts, "I am an American poet." That's a pretty cool assertion for a woman so often called an "African-American poet" or an "African American woman poet" to make. The latter two labels do matter, of course, and are worth discussing and embracing but, as we've talked about in my Ethnic American Literature class this semester, they also threaten to cordon off writers into restrictive boxes. At one point, she states, "I am interested in writing about what it means to be a human and ways to do that with grace and courage." What a woman. What a poet. Give the recording a listen. You won't be disappointed.