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
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.


Just entered my last set of grades! Thus ends another semester, a busy and stressful one (job candidates on campus! endless meetings! snow!), but not a bad one in the end.

Unfortunately, there is no rest for the weary and I now need to A) write a syllabus for my summer class, B) write a syllabus for an independent study I am doing over the summer, C) get started reading over 60 short stories for the West Virginia Fiction Writers Competition and D) work on a proposal for a new department line. All of this (more or less) needs to be done in the next couple of weeks.

Oh right, and there's that thing called scholarship, too, right?

Summertime and the living is easy...

(Still, don't take my complaints all that seriously: a summer schedule--even with all this other stuff--is still much nicer than a regular-semester schedule.)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Friday Night Lights

I know it wasn't too long ago that I blogged that Chuck and Sarah were my favorite TV couple, but even then, I felt like I was forgetting someone (or two). Last night's premiere of Friday Night Lights reminded me of TV's absolute best couple: Eric and Tami Taylor. This show and Lost are quite simply the best shows on TV. If you haven't watched FNL, you are really missing out.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Things that make grading better...

1) Buffy Season 3 DVDs. Normally, I can't even have the TV on while grading. Buffy and Angel are just about the only exceptions. (Actually musicals work, too.) I sit at the dining room table with the episodes playing in the living room, occasionally looking up or stopping. In a way, because I know them so well, Buffy episodes are the video equivalent of "study music" for me. Note: this only works for ENGL 204 papers and--I hope--final exams. Sure, I get sucked in every once in a while, but so far, rediscovering this awesome season (it's been awhile!) has been terrific.

2) The Very Best of Nat King Cole playing on my ipod. Perfect for grading seminar papers or capstone projects. I was inspired to put this album into rotation after hearing this piece on NPR. A brief quotation from it:
"Nat King Cole's voice was liquid, soothing. His pitch was impeccable. And there's a word you hear a lot when people talk about Nat King Cole: relaxed.
'When you start listening to him, one of the most important things is he keeps you relaxed,' says Cole's younger brother, Freddie Cole.
'The amazing thing about Nat's voice is that it has this kind of incandescent quality to it,' music historian Will Friedwald says. 'It's like some kind of magic spell is being cast.'"

Absolutely. So yeah, this might make me seem like a 70 year old man or something, but it works for me.
3) This album. Yeah, I know I am late getting on board with these guys and the very fact that I think they are pretty cool means that they are already uncool for most actual cool people, but it's the best I can do. What can I say? The songs just make me happy...and the ones that don't are great songs to grade to. Bonuses: the album puts me in the summer spirit and I've woken up every morning this week to Track #1. Not bad at all.

4) One of these, vanilla-flavored, please. Surprisingly delicious and easily accessible in small-town Shepherdstown. This one can backfire, though. Yesterday I had a stomach ache all day. Not fun. That happens a lot with me and coffee.
5) An everything bagel and a soda at Panera. I've got to drive to Ranson or Hagerstown for this, but there is (for me) no better place to get grading done. Comfy seats and tables, a (relatively) quiet atmosphere, and breakfast for less than $3.00? Awesome. I turn on my ipod and can work for an hour and a half straight. (I feel weird staying any longer than that!)

6) Short blogging breaks. Like this one. And since I said "short," I better get back to work!