Friday, July 27, 2012

Random Fanny Fern Greatness 2

"I never want to touch a baby except with a pair of tongs!"

A great example of Fern's multiple writing personas--and it made me laugh out loud. She's speaking here in the voice of an "old maid" responding to this sentiment: "FOLLY. For girls to expect to be happy without marriage. Every woman was made for a mother, consequently, babies are as necessary to their "peace of mind," as health. If you wish to look at melancholy and indigestion, look at an old maid. If you would take a peep at sunshine, look in the face of a young mother." As you can imagine, Fern has some fun with this idea. Alternatively, in other pieces, she would glorify motherhood, but that's what makes her so darn interesting. (More of the piece here.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I hosted a little badminton/cook-out event here last night and it was so much fun! A friend of mine posted this cool piece partially inspired by it. (Hope she doesn't mind me linking to it.)

House stuff...

I will never claim to be a home-design expert, but I do think things are looking kind of good around here (at least on the outside) lately.

First: the siding got powerwashed. I can't believe what a difference it makes. Everything looks cleaner (duh!) and brighter. Money well spent! Because of the heat waves and  lack of rain, the flowers out front have been a bit slow to take off this year, but you can see them peeking through in front of the shrubs. (The flowers are a lot prettier out back--and there are more of them. Maybe I'll post some photos of those later.)

Special thanks to the sky for being a lovely shade of blue today.

Second: I paid some folks to tame the thorny shrubs that had threatened to take over the entire front yard. (Well, not quite, but it had gotten bad!) I don't have any "before" pictures to give you a sense of how crazy they were, but I do have some "afters."

Front view of the bushes. Still big, but much tamer!

This whole area that is now open/clear was covered by the bush. You couldn't even see that downspout before (or that cute little statue thing my mom got me for it.)

Finally: the trim got fixed. Yay!

Good as new. And again, check out that blue sky!

And then there's this...

Zoom zoom!

Yeah, that's not a house-repair exactly, but the trim and the shrubs got done within a couple of days of each other and I was so happy about it. That happiness was quickly tempered by the surprise of a flat tire and an eventual $330 charge for two new front tires.

The expensive summer continues...

It never fails...

My sister and brother-in-law got me this very cool popcorn maker for Christmas. Because it's kind of oddly shaped and bulky, I keep it in the box it came in and store it in the hall closet. Every single time that I use it, I set the box on the kitchen table. I make the popcorn, go into the other room, sit down, begin enjoying said popcorn, and then I hear a thud. The source of that thud?

Bing in the box. Every single time.

Sometimes when I catch him, he looks a bit upset or embarrassed, like in this one:

Most of the time, though, he's like, "Yeah I'm hanging out in this box. No big deal." Regardless, it always makes me laugh.

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Dover Beach"

Since waking up to the awful news out of Colorado today, I have had Matthew Arnold's well-known poem running through my head. I know that some people have made fun of this poem a bit or feel that its imagery is cliched, its ending a bit of a cop-out, but I've always found it moving.

Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

My Daguerreotype Boyfriend

I heard about this fun blog on one of my favorite podcasts today. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A&R: Done!

We finished the fifth and final Advising and Registration session today. Everything went really well and was actually less stressful than in years past. I had two awesome A-Team leaders, too, which made things even easier.

Now to focus on my conference papers, syllabizing for the fall, and the P&T portfolio.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Trojan Women

Last Friday, I saw the Rude Mechanicals' production of Euripedes' Trojan Women. It was terrific and I've been thinking about it ever since. Because I am trying to post something every day and trying to not let two days go by without posting, I figured I'd go ahead and post about the part that moved me the most: when Andromache learns that her little son will be thrown from the walls of the ruined city. Before seeing this production, I was unfamiliar with this exact play (although I knew the basic outline of the story) but had always been moved by the tragic fates of Hector, Andromache, and their little son Astyanax. I remember very well the scene in The Illiad where Hector says goodbye to his wife and child, who is initially frightened by his father's armor. This scene humanizes the heroic Hector and makes his death even more moving to readers. And then to think of what happens to that little boy...gets me every time--even thinking about it. And then to see it acted out on stage! I am a total book/movie/play/TV crier, so rest assured, I had some tears running down my face.

Anyway, here's part of Andromache's speech: 

My child! my own sweet babe and priceless treasure! thy death the foe demands, and thou must leave thy wretched mother. That which saves the lives of others, proves thy destruction, even thy sire's nobility; to thee thy father's valiancy has proved no boon. O the woeful wedding rites, that brought me erst to Hector's home, hoping to be the mother of a son that should rule o'er Asia's fruitful fields instead of serving as a victim to the sons of Danaus! Dost weep, my babe? dost know thy hapless fate? Why clutch me with thy hands and to my garment cling, nestling like a tender chick beneath my wing? Hector will not rise again and come gripping his famous spear to bring thee salvation; no kinsman of thy sire appears, nor might of Phrygian hosts; one awful headlong leap from the dizzy height and thou wilt dash out thy life with none to pity thee Oh to clasp thy tender limbs, a mother's fondest joy! Oh to breathe thy fragrant breath! In vain it seems these breasts did suckle thee, wrapped in thy swaddling-clothes; all for naught I used to toil and wore myself away! Kiss thy mother now for the last time, nestle to her that bare thee, twine thy arms about my neck and join thy lips to mine! 

One of my former students played this role (and another student hit it out of the park playing Hecube). It's always so terrific to see them shine in a new light. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fringe Season 5 trailer...

Although I adore Fringe, I wasn't completely sure how excited I was about Season 5 taking place in the future, but this trailer (and doesn't Fringe do the best trailers???) has me so excited!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"The Icehouse in Summer"

I came across this cool (ha!) little poem today while catching up on my Poem of the Day podcast. I like how it makes you think about the coldest winter in the middle of the summer, although neither set of images is particularly comforting. 

Howard Nemerov

see Amos, 3:15
A door sunk in a hillside, with a bolt
thick as the boy’s arm, and behind that door   
the walls of ice, melting a blue, faint light,   
an air of cedar branches, sawdust, fern:   
decaying seasons keeping from decay.

A summer guest, the boy had never seen   
(a servant told him of it) how the lake
froze three foot thick, how farmers came with teams,   
with axe and saw, to cut great blocks of ice,   
translucid, marbled, glittering in the sun,   
load them on sleds and drag them up the hill   
to be manhandled down the narrow path   
and set in courses for the summer’s keeping,   
the kitchen uses and luxuriousness
of the great houses. And he heard how once
a team and driver drowned in the break of spring:   
the man’s cry melting from the ice that summer   
frightened the sherbet-eaters off the terrace.

Dust of the cedar, lost and evergreen   
among the slowly blunting water walls
where the blade edge melted and the steel saw’s bite   
was rounded out, and the horse and rider drowned
in the red sea’s blood, I was the silly child
who dreamed that riderless cry, and saw the guests
run from a ghostly wall, so long before
the winter house fell with the summer house,
and the houses, Egypt, the great houses, had an end.

By the way, Amos 3:15 (referenced below the title) reads "And I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end, saith the LORD."

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Just sent off the final (I hope!) set of revisions for my MELUS article. Commence chair dancing. Feeling a bit retro this morning, so let's go with one of my favorites by the Beach Boys.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A couple of links...

1) Jason Howard, who I met a couple of years ago when he visited Shepherd, has a new op-ed in the New York Times. A quotation from its closing: "There is no easy resolution to the fraught relationship between the coal industry and the people of Appalachia, many of whom rely on it for jobs even as it poisons their region. But it is imperative that the industry’s leaders and their elected allies lay down their propaganda and engage in an honest, civil dialogue about the issue. The stakes are too high to do otherwise."

2) A very cool Lego installation in Australia. When I was a kid, I would spend hours and hours playing with my Legos. Sometimes, I still miss them. 

3) A Firefly reunion special is in the works! Commence celebrating!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Tableau II

 Alternate title: "Bing Contemplates Nineteenth-Century American Feminism."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Random Fanny Fern Greatness

"Take your rights, my sisters; don't beg for them! Never mine what objectors say or think. Success will soon stop their mouths" (New York Ledger, 16 July 1870).

(You can expect a lot more of these as I get going on my conference paper.)

Friday, July 6, 2012


  Not a bad way to spend a 100+ degree day, but it can wear a cat out.

I've made some good progress on the MELUS article today, adding the small bits of content that needed to be added, double-checking all of the quotations and citations, and taking care of some formatting. I'm hoping to give it a final read-through tomorrow, make some final revisions, and submit it by Monday.

Monday, July 2, 2012

"The Lie"

I first encountered this poem in the September 2009 issue of Poetry Magazine and thought it was pretty darn creepy and haunting. Now I'm thinking about using it in "Creepy Lit" this fall. Thoughts? Bonus: there's audio of the poet reading it at this site.

Don Paterson

As was my custom, I’d risen a full hour
before the house had woken to make sure
that everything was in order with The Lie,
his drip changed and his shackles all secure.

I was by then so practiced in this chore
I’d counted maybe thirteen years or more
since last I’d felt the urge to meet his eye.
Such, I liked to think, was our rapport.

I was at full stretch to test some ligature
when I must have caught a ragged thread, and tore
his gag away; though as he made no cry,
I kept on with my checking as before.

Why do you call me The Lie? he said. I swore:
it was a child’s voice. I looked up from the floor.
The dark had turned his eyes to milk and sky
and his arms and legs were all one scarlet sore.

He was a boy of maybe three or four.
His straps and chains were all the things he wore.
Knowing I could make him no reply

I took the gag before he could say more

and put it back as tight as it would tie
and locked the door and locked the door and locked the door

Maybe it's too creepy? Too disturbing? Too weird? I don't know. And man...that last stanza, which inverts the rhyme scheme and then chillingly repeats "locked the door," is just so good.