Thursday, May 31, 2012

Happy birthday, Walt!

"If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fiber your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you"

Happy birthday, Walt Whitman!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

First fireflies

I saw my first fireflies of the summer tonight--a surefire (ha!) sign of summer. Seeing them always brings me such a sense of nostalgia. And there are so many more here than any other place I've lived. It's lovely.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Summer School: Day One

The first day of the summer session went pretty well. I've got a small class this time (only 14 students!), which is pretty surprising. However, changes to our university's core curriculum have left the class I teach every summer (and just about every regular semester, too) no longer mandatory, but one of many options for students. I hope that this is the big drop and that next summer won't be even worse. I like the money--especially with $1100 dental bills coming in! (And that's just the first bill...)

So far, they seem like a cool group of students. So here we go!

Monday, May 21, 2012

"The Summer Rain"

Another rainy Monday, so I turn to good old Henry David for some poetic comfort.

Henry David Thoreau

My books I'd fain cast off, I cannot read,
  'Twixt every page my thoughts go stray at large
Down in the meadow, where is richer feed,
  And will not mind to hit their proper targe.

Plutarch was good, and so was Homer too,
  Our Shakespeare's life were rich to live again,
What Plutarch read, that was not good nor true,
  Nor Shakespeare's books, unless his books were men.

Here while I lie beneath this walnut bough,
  What care I for the Greeks or for Troy town,
If juster battles are enacted now
  Between the ants upon this hummock's crown?

Bid Homer wait till I the issue learn,
  If red or black the gods will favor most,
Or yonder Ajax will the phalanx turn,
  Struggling to heave some rock against the host.

Tell Shakespeare to attend some leisure hour,
  For now I've business with this drop of dew,
And see you not, the clouds prepare a shower--
  I'll meet him shortly when the sky is blue.

This bed of herd's grass and wild oats was spread
  Last year with nicer skill than monarchs use.
A clover tuft is pillow for my head,
  And violets quite overtop my shoes.

And now the cordial clouds have shut all in,
  And gently swells the wind to say all's well;
The scattered drops are falling fast and thin,
  Some in the pool, some in the flower-bell.

I am well drenched upon my bed of oats;
  But see that globe come rolling down its stem,
Now like a lonely planet there it floats,
  And now it sinks into my garment's hem.

Drip drip the trees for all the country round,
  And richness rare distills from every bough;
The wind alone it is makes every sound,
  Shaking down crystals on the leaves below.

For shame the sun will never show himself,
  Who could not with his beams e'er melt me so;
My dripping locks--they would become an elf,
  Who in a beaded coat does gayly go.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spinach pesto...

I made a half-batch of this spinach pesto tonight (about all I could fit in my little food processor) and it was really yummy--fresh and with a pretty good kick. Tonight, I had it with some pasta. I'm thinking I'll use some of what's left for a pesto pizza. [I did leave the cheese out...don't judge.]

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tooth (or lack thereof) update...

Operation "Remove and Replace #19" continues. (#19 refers to the tooth's official number.) Anyway, yesterday I saw my periodontist, who removed this weird mesh/membrane thing that had been on my gum since the extraction back in April. Now we wait eight weeks, take an x-ray to check on the bone, and then, if all is well, the implant goes in on August 6. Fingers crossed. Until then, the absent presence remains (how's that for a bit of postmodernism?)

When he looked at the gum/socket, the doctor (a fellow Roanoke grad, by the way, class of 1993) said it "couldn't look better." I am paraphrasing a bit, but he said something like, "Couldn't look more like the textbook pictures of perfection." He was actually praising the material he used (this cadaver bone graft thing you can read about here that makes the whole implant process easier), but I still felt quite proud, which is kind of ridiculous since I had nothing to do with how well things have gone.

Of course, this sense of satisfaction also speaks to my strange desire to have random people praise me for what can only loosely be called good behavior: when the same doctor, for instance, praised me for being an excellent patient during the extraction*; when I've used movers and they compliment me on being a good packer; the time a TSA screener held up my bag of approved carry-on liquid toiletries (back when this was a new requirement) for the crowd to see and said, "This is how it's done." In that way, I am still a eight year old looking for approval from the teacher.

*Which makes me wonder, by the way, what a bad patient does. Cry? Demand they stop? Squirm?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Epic" Veronica Mars Clip

SoapNet has been showing two Veronica Mars episodes a day, which makes me so very happy.  Even though I own all the DVDs, I go ahead and DVR them, so I'll always have something to have on in the background as I type or work on stuff that doesn't require total concentration. Earlier this afternoon, I watched "Look Whose Stalking," which includes this "epic" Logan/Veronica scene. I swooned all over again.


And that elevator scene at the end, after Veronica finds Kendall with Logan, is just painful to watch--in a good way. It starts at about 1:45 in the clip you can find here (although the whole clip, a compilation of elevator scenes from the show, is worth watching). What to say? Bell and Dohring kill it--the way you see her overcome with mortification, followed by disgust. His embarrassment and regret over hurting her. Her ultimate decision to look him in the eye as the doors close. Awesome.

I miss this show.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random cat pictures

Bing and Wes, post cat-toy-and-cardboard-box play session.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"It's That Time"

I came across the poem below while listening to the Poetry off the Shelf Podcast. W.S. Di Piero recently won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. You should listen to the interview with him.

This particular poem speaks to an experience I know well: listening to the silence and sounds of the night.

W.S. Di Piero

The silence of night hours
is never really silent.
You hear the air,
even when it doesn’t stir.
It’s a memory of the day.
Nothing stirs. Memory lags.
No traffic hushing up
and down tricky hills
among the camphor trees.

No foghorns, no streetcars’
shrilling phantoms before
they emerge from tunnels.
These absences keep us alert.
No rain or street voices,
nobody calling to someone else,
Hannah, you walk the dog
tonight yet or what?

Only certain things to hear:
The sexy shifting of trees,
the refrigerator buzzing
while Cherubino sings
the best of love is enthusiasm’s
intense abandon, a voice
in song that preys on no one
and is unconscious of its joy.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


14 steps that will evolve your views on gay marriage. 

#14 is my favorite (although you know I love #12, too).


After a day of reading and yard work, I had to head over a friend's house to do feed her cat. When I finished that, I got back in the car and sat in the driveway for a minute or two. I didn't feel like going home yet or doing something social.

I just felt like driving. I get these urges to drive and drive sometimes, especially in these early summer months.

Nothing too crazy--just over to Martinsburg to pick up some dinner--but that 35 minutes or so in the car was relaxing: freeing and peaceful and just a touch of something verging on the good kind of melancholy. 

My driving soundtrack, which was kind of perfect:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Coming in November...

...Baby #1 for my sister Erin and her husband, Eric. So exciting!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rainy day...

"Beloved, Let Us Once More Praise the Rain"
by Conrad Aiken

Beloved, let us once more praise the rain.
Let us discover some new alphabet,
For this, the often praised; and be ourselves,
The rain, the chickweed, and the burdock leaf,
The green-white privet flower, the spotted stone,
And all that welcomes the rain; the sparrow too,—
Who watches with a hard eye from seclusion,
Beneath the elm-tree bough, till rain is done.
There is an oriole who, upside down,
Hangs at his nest, and flicks an orange wing,—
Under a tree as dead and still as lead;
There is a single leaf, in all this heaven
Of leaves, which rain has loosened from its twig:
The stem breaks, and it falls, but it is caught
Upon a sister leaf, and thus she hangs;
There is an acorn cup, beside a mushroom
Which catches three drops from the stooping cloud.
The timid bee goes back to the hive; the fly
Under the broad leaf of the hollyhock
Perpends stupid with cold; the raindark snail
Surveys the wet world from a watery stone...
And still the syllables of water whisper:
The wheel of cloud whirs slowly: while we wait
In the dark room; and in your heart I find
One silver raindrop,—on a hawthorn leaf,—
Orion in a cobweb, and the World.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Fern, Feminism, and ENGL 360

I spent a few hours today finishing an abstract on Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall. In the abstract, I argue in part that Fern was (obviously) severely constrained in her writing of the book by widely accepted notions of feminine propriety. While looking through my notes, I came across this excerpt from an 1854 (I think) review of the book from The New York Times that confirms what she was working against:

If Fanny Fern were a man—a man who believed that the gratification of revenge were a proper occupation for one who has been abused, and that those who have injured us are fair game, Ruth Hall would be a natural and excusable book. But we confess that we cannot understand how a delicate, suffering woman can hunt down even her persecutors so remorselessly. We cannot think so highly of [such] an author's womanly gentleness. (qtd in Warren 124)

Please notice what this reviewer is saying: Fern could have written this if she were a man, but she’s not, so she shouldn’t have. How dare she seek revenge against those who wronged her? That’s for men to do. Women who are victimized should just sit there (gently) and take it. Because Fern didn’t just take it, we can’t think that much of her.

All the classic moves of suppressing women’s voices are here: shame, suggestions of a lack of feminity, and silencing. And this is in The New York Times, a mainstream publication in the nineteenth century, too.  Because Fern was awesome, though, she wouldn’t be silenced.

Anyway, this evening, while reflecting on both my abstract and the semester I’ve just completed, I wish I could share this review with some students who just took my ENGL 360: Literature and the Sexes class. For the most part, they did great work, but I was quite discouraged by how many of them were still, at the semester’s end, defending the nineteenth-century patriarchy (and, by extension, its effects which linger to this day). I also can’t believe that some of them still saw the course as engaging in some “male bashing.” It’s as if the clichés about feminism have morphed into clichéd responses from students when confronted by feminist thought.

On day, I could (and did) spend 30 minutes trying my best to eloquently explain how one might be even a bit understanding of Edna’s actions in The Awakening only to have some otherwise bright students say, “Yeah, well, she’s still a bad mother and I hate her.” On another day, I could offer the idea that John, the narrator’s husband in “The Yellow Wall-paper” doesn’t have to be an outright villain for the story to be horrifying. In fact, his rather ordinary (for his time) attitudes about his wife, her health, and his authority over  her make the story more horrifying. And somehow, the only thing some students hear is “John is a great husband!” and proceed to explain why in their final exam essays. “All he wants,” (and I am paraphrasing here from a composite of entirely too many essays that argued this point) “is for his wife to get better. It’s not his fault. And in fact, he’s right. She was sick! Who wouldn’t want a husband like that?”

It’s enough to make one a bit depressed. And I get so tired of the clichéd responses. Give me the benefit of the doubt, folks. Feminism doesn’t equal man-hate. In fact, it does a service to men who are also victims of the patriarchy (one of Gilman’s recurrent arguments). I’m not just making this stuff up or (and these words make any English professor want to scream!) “reading into everything.” So to return to the point above: artifacts like this New York Times review serve to remind us how incredibly pervasive and pernicious patriarchal attitudes were (and are). I’ll add it to my bag of tricks, so to speak, and soldier on.

Work Cited

Warren, Joyce W. Fanny Fern: An Independent Woman. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1992.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

True story...

So Bing just came and sat next to me on the arm of the chair--right behind my ipod, which was also on the chair's arm. He can't resist not touching something that he shouldn't and he must have had his little paw just so, because the next thing I know, this voice control box pops up on it. And that's how I learned--almost two years after I got the darn thing--that the ipod even has voice control. That's kind of fun.

And yeah, my cat taught me something about technology.

Friday, May 4, 2012


I woke up this morning to the news about Mariano Rivera's injury. I watched the video and found myself getting choked up. What must he have been thinking as they drove him out of there? What were Girardi and the rest of the team thinking? This can't be the end, can it?

Regardless, here's a player who doesn't owe the Yankees another pitch. Since his first game, he has embodied the very best of what it means to be a Yankee. He really was (is?) one of a kind.

Tom Verducci says it quite well: "If indeed Rivera's success is, as he believes, derived from an act of God -- the cutter, he has said, is a blessing bestowed upon him one day in 1997 -- than he will accept this injury, too, as God's will. To see him in that cart that took him off the field was to see a man not broken but at peace. The look of willful acceptance was similar to the one minutes after he blew Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, when he stood at his locker and answered the same questions over and over with patience and grace. Whether he pitches again or not, he will always be the great Rivera, and nothing less."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"What He Thought"

Just heard this one as I was listening to the "Poem of the Day" podcast (nice to listen to while cleaning the house!). Love it.

"What He Thought"
by Heather McHugh

for Fabbio Doplicher
We were supposed to do a job in Italy
and, full of our feeling for
ourselves (our sense of being
Poets from America) we went
from Rome to Fano, met
the mayor, mulled
a couple matters over (what's
a cheap date, they asked us; what's
flat drink). Among Italian literati

we could recognize our counterparts:
the academic, the apologist,
the arrogant, the amorous,
the brazen and the glib—and there was one

administrator (the conservative), in suit
of regulation gray, who like a good tour guide
with measured pace and uninflected tone narrated
sights and histories the hired van hauled us past.
Of all, he was the most politic and least poetic,
so it seemed. Our last few days in Rome
(when all but three of the New World Bards had flown)
I found a book of poems this
unprepossessing one had written: it was there
in the pensione room (a room he'd recommended)
where it must have been abandoned by
the German visitor (was there a bus of them?)
to whom he had inscribed and dated it a month before.
I couldn't read Italian, either, so I put the book
back into the wardrobe's dark. We last Americans

were due to leave tomorrow. For our parting evening then
our host chose something in a family restaurant, and there
we sat and chatted, sat and chewed,
till, sensible it was our last
big chance to be poetic, make
our mark, one of us asked
                                             "What's poetry?"
Is it the fruits and vegetables and
marketplace of Campo dei Fiori, or
the statue there?" Because I was

the glib one, I identified the answer
instantly, I didn't have to think—"The truth
is both, it's both," I blurted out. But that
was easy. That was easiest to say. What followed
taught me something about difficulty,
for our underestimated host spoke out,
all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said:

The statute represents Giordano Bruno,
brought to be burned in the public square
because of his offense against
authority, which is to say
the Church. His crime was his belief
the universe does not revolve around
the human being: God is no
fixed point or central government, but rather is
poured in waves through all things. All things
move. "If God is not the soul itself, He is
the soul of the soul of the world." Such was
his heresy. The day they brought him
forth to die, they feared he might
incite the crowd (the man was famous
for his eloquence). And so his captors
placed upon his face
an iron mask, in which

he could not speak. That's
how they burned him. That is how
he died: without a word, in front
of everyone.
                     And poetry—
                                        (we'd all
put down our forks by now, to listen to
the man in gray; he went on
                  poetry is what

he thought, but did not say.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


It's that amazing time of year: Final grades were due yesterday at 9:00. Just a couple of meetings/workshops this week. Graduation on Saturday.

Now time for a brain shift...I love that summer pace. I feel all kinds of motivated to get lots of work done: send out some articles, get some conference papers going, get started on that promotion and tenure file. Even an ambitious list of goals seems more lovely this time of year. I am teaching a course for the first summer session, but again, even that's got its own summer feel. You can sleep in a bit, stay up a bit later, make your own schedule, sit outside on nice days, fire up the grill, do some gardening. Even the clothes are more comfortable.

Lovely indeed!